Sunday 27 August 2023

Wargame Rules – Morale

I have felt for some time that our current morale rules make it too easy to pass when casualties are received.

They are decided by 1D6, plus or minus from a short chart.  The most important plus is 1 for a general within 4” and the same for a formed brigade in support.   The most important minus is 1 for C class troops and for each casualty.   The current morale chart is:

3 or more – pass test

1 or 2 – fail and shaken

0 or less – fail and rout

In general most brigades pass test with 1 or 2 casualties.    When they lose 3 casualties they automatically rout.   This usually results in melee lasting at least three rounds, when both sides often rout with 3 casualties.

I wanted to provide a wider range of possibilities.   First to reduce the number of rounds of melee, but also to introduce more uncertainty into the game in general. 

The new rules are also decided by 1D6, plus or minus from the same chart.   The new morale chart is:

6 – past test

5 – pass test

4 – fail and disordered

3 – fail and disordered and retreat full move

2 – fail and shaken and retreat full move

1 – fail and rout full move

Disordered - rallied automatically at the start of their next move

Shaken - has to rally by passing morale test next move

Rout - causes brigades within 4” to test morale


We have only used these new rules in one wargame, and the result has been dramatic.

First brigades are more likely to rout

Second they are quite likely to retreat either disordered or shaken


Trained brigades with no casualties almost always rally next move

But it does cause considerable disruption for the defending player

And it can cause delay for the attacking player


I am not sure how much I like these new morale rules

It does reduce the number of melee considerably

And I quite like the unforeseen consequences of a low dice throw

But I am not sure whether either of us like being the one who rolls the low dice

It will take a few games to confirm whether the balance is right

And it has given me a project until we start hill walking again in September.

Sunday 20 August 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 2

Campaign Map

In the north the French attack Villacastin

Guerrilla attack a convoy from El Casar to Segovia

They are driven off with light casualties, supplies delivered to Segovia


In the centre 2nd Anglo-Spanish army concentrate at Maqueda

Guerrilla also attack a convoy from Madrid to Mostoles

They are also repulsed with light casualties and the supplies delivered to Mostoles.


In the south the French occupy San Martin

3rd Anglo-Spanish army retreat to Torrecilla

A third guerrilla group attack a convoy from Valdemoro to Carranque

They suffer heavy casualties and again the convoy arrives safely at Carranque


The Guerrilla take advantage of the French advance to attack their lines of supply.

However all three attacks fail, and the Spanish suffer casualties

All three convoys arrive safely and without any casualties

Battle of Villacastin

The town of Villacastin is situated on a crossroads in a valley with mountains to the east and west, it is occupied by 7th Spanish corps.    1st and 2nd British corps occupy the high ground to the west.


General Vandermaesen has orders to take the town.  To do so he has two French and one Polish corps.   He has high ground to cross in order to reach the town  On his left 13th Polish corps must cross a large hill.   29th French corps must advance through the pass in the centre.   28th French corps has open ground, but dominated by a farm.

End of battle

This was a costly battle for both armies.  

The Poles bore the brunt of the fighting.   By nightfall three of their six brigades were in rout.   1st British corps also lost heavy casualties, and also had three brigades in rout.

On the opposite flank 28th French corps were expected to be the main attack, due to the open ground.  However neither side could gain an advantage and at nightfall the French attack was called off.

General Vandermaesen created a reserve from half of the Polish corps, including their artillery.   He supported 29th French corps and their attack on Villacastin until their infantry stormed the town.  He then redirected the reserve to support the Polish attack on the left.   The French took the town, and held it despite a determined counter attack by the British.

At nightfall both sides have six brigades in rout and have suffered heavy casualties.   But the French take the town and win the battle.  


The Spanish guerrilla made an early appearance in this campaign.   Providing there are no French corps within two squares they are allowed to attack either convoys or garrisons.   These engagements are decided by a simple dice throw as follows:

01 guerrilla rout with 30% casualties

02 guerrilla rout with 20% casualties

03 guerrilla rout with 10% casualties

04 guerrilla capture supplies, escort no casualties

05 guerrilla capture supplies, escort 10% casualties

06 guerrilla capture supplies, escort 20% casualties


The guerrilla were particularly unlucky with dice rolls of 3, 3 and 1

The new rules allow for a fast moving, and unpredictable, game.   However it would appear that hand to hand fighting does tend to be prolonged, often lasting two or three moves.   This is because at the end of each phase any brigade which received casualties has to test their morale.   Usually both sides receive casualties, and both sides pass their morale test.   There is no reward for breaking off the melee and retreating, so both sides continue until one side, or both, rout.   A brigade with three casualties automatically routs, causing friendly brigades within 4” to also test their morale.

I will have to look at both the melee and morale rules to see if I can solve this problem.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 1

Campaign Map

The start of the Talavera campaign on a complicated looking campaign map.   Three French armies on the right, three Anglo-Spanish armies on the left.   French garrisons and supply trains on the left (blue), plus Spanish guerrilla bands (yellow).   The campaign opens with the French attack on San Martin (centre bottom).

Battle of San Martin

Spanish corps occupy the walled town of San Martin in the centre.   British corps in reserve on the left and right.   Three French corps will arrive bottom of table at the start of move 1.

A walled town adds plus 1 to the garrison for melee and firing casualties.   This makes it a very tough nut to crack for the attacking army, and usually means it is left until the end, with the main attack on the corps either side.   However in this case it is held by the Spanish, who are the weak link in Wellington’s army.   They can melee OK, but not skirmish, so they have no reply to French skirmish fire.   However they do have plus 1 for morale, so are hard to “wear down”.

End of battle

The Polish lancers lost the cavalry melee early in the game, which prevented the Vistula legion from pressing home their attack.   Officially a draw, but really a British victory.

Very interesting fight for San Martin.   It took 8 moves for the French to take the left hand section of the town, only to lose it again on move 9 to a Spanish counter attack.  However the whole town was taken on move 10 by a determined (and lucky) French attack on both town sections.

Convincing French victory on the right.   The French cavalry also lost the melee on this flank, but the French artillery were more effective and softened up the British infantry for the French attack.   Two French brigades routed, but all six British brigades routed.  


The key to the battle was San Martin.   The Spanish put their two best infantry brigades into the town and the remaining two brigades in reserve.   Artillery were on the left and cavalry on the right.   The artillery proved ineffective and were soon forced to withdraw.   The cavalry were routed, but rallied again – however too late to take any further part in the battle.   The French were free to send their infantry forward to attack the town.

By move 4, the four French infantry brigades were firing on the garrison.  In the new rules only skirmish fire is allowed, and C class skirmishers were ineffective.   The Spanish infantry were all C class, and one of the four French brigades.   Because of wall around the town, the French skirmishers required a roll of 6, with 1D6.   The French artillery also required a roll of 6, with 1D6.   So each move the French had four opportunities to hit the garrison.  

On the left they caused two casualties by move 8 and took the left town section by storm.   They had caused no casualties to the garrison of the right town section.   On move 9 a Spanish counter attack routed the French brigade.   It looked like the Anglo-Spanish would win the game.   But on move 12 the final French attack took the right side of the town and the garrison of the left side failed their morale and also routed.

I am very pleased with this wargame.   It has proved that the Spanish can hold their own, providing that they are given an easy to defend position.   It also proved that the British and French were equal in combat ability.  The British had held on the left, but lost on the right.

As always the whole thing depends on the luck of the dice.   But this felt like a really even handed game, where either side could win.   At the start of move 10 it seemed very likely that the French would lose.   At the end of move 12 it was clear that they had won.

Sunday 6 August 2023

Talavera Campaign – British Order of Battle

1 British corps

One of the most important principles of our 1813 campaign is that all ten armies should be evenly balanced in their combat effectiveness to ensure that both wargamers have a level playing field.  This is to say that neither side should have a wargame army that is very likely to win most, in not all, wargames.

There are five campaign areas in the 1813 campaign.   In northern Europe there are three French, one Prussian, one Russian and one Austrian.   By 1813 all of these armies were more or less equal.   The Russian campaign had destroyed the “old” French army.   Most of their replacements were newly recruited conscripts.   I have used artistic licence to redress the lack of French cavalry.   So all six armies have equal numbers of infantry, cavalry and artillery.  And each have a national strength and weakness.   For example the Russians have good artillery but poor skirmishers.

2 British corps

However Spain is a problem if I want to maintain any semblance of historical ability.   Wellington won all of his formal field battles.   The Spanish lost all of theirs.   There are lots of reasons why this was so, and none of them help me to achieve balanced wargame armies.  

Wellington’s army was Anglo-Portuguese.   By 1813 his regular Portuguese brigades were considered good enough to fight alongside his British brigades.   However in my campaign they are mostly C class.   There is one Portuguese brigade and three British brigades in each corps.   The British are either A or B class.

This would normally be sufficient to balance the combat ability of the French and British corps.   However in Spain the French also have the added burden of their supply lines and Spanish guerrilla activity.   This requires the French to detach brigades to guard their lines of supply.   It also disrupts their ability to maintain a constant supply to their forward corps, and can cause them to abandon their advance to sort out the rear area.   This is all historically correct, but it makes it difficult for the French to win a campaign based on wargames rather than real battles.

3 Spanish corps

The British and Spanish each have three armies of three corps each.

As an experiment I have removed one British corps in each army, and replaced it with a Spanish corps.   Two infantry brigades are B class, the remaining two are C. All four are C class firing and skirmish.  The cavalry and artillery are also C class, but they have 12 pdr guns which are superior to most of the French.

I think I can get away with this on historical grounds.   In the latter part of the Peninsular War Wellington was appointed as Commander in Chief of the Spanish armies.   He found this more of a disadvantage than an asset.   In fact his Spanish troops behaved so badly when he invaded France in 1814 that he sent them back into Spain!     

The intention is that the Spanish corps will be a permanent problem for the British wargamer.   It will be one third of his wargame army, far too big to be ignored.  It will have to fill one third of the battle line in each battle, and will always be a weak spot.  

However I don’t want the British player to lose every battle, so we will have to see whether this is too much of a disadvantage.   We can only do so by play testing it on the table.   By the end of the Talavera campaign we should be able to confirm whether it is a temporary error or should be a permanent feature.