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.


  1. Thistlebarrow,

    I read the detailed version of your battle report on your campaign blog as well, and found it very helpful as it put some meat on the bones of this post.

    It was good to see that the Spanish can hold their own against superior troops if they are placed in a defensible position and not expected to attack them in the open. It certainly indicates that your new rules work well.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob

      Thanks for your comments

      I have always found the Spanish to be the most difficult army to wargame. I suspect I may not be alone in this. Many, many years ago I bought my first (Minifigs) Spanish army. I have always been self sufficient as a wargamer, and always bought both French and allied armies. But most, if not all, rules make it very difficult to win a game with a Spanish army. So my very colourful Spanish troops spent pretty well all of their time on the shelf. It was only when I started my 1813 campaign, with the clear objective of using ALL of my wargame figures in rotation, that I finally set to tackling this problem.

      I am not sure that even now I have got it completely right. Even in this campaign they are really only the weak part of Wellington's army. As such they have performed well, at least so far. Allocating them the strongest part of the defence line (usually the built up area) works well - as it did in real life at Talavera.

      But the real test will come when I next have a campaign phase in southern Spain, and the whole allied army will be Spanish.

      I am quite pleased that even after all of this time wargaming Napoleonic wars I still find it a real challenge, and a very rewarding one, to struggle with this type of historical problem.

      best regards



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