Sunday 24 September 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 6

Campaign Map

French retreat from Avila

French attack Talavera
Guerrilla attack Valdemoro and two convoys


1st British army regroup and resupply at Avila

2nd British army attacked at Talavera

3rd British army resupply at Torrecilla


10th French army retreat to Villacastin

11th French army attack Talavera

12th French army regroup and resupply at San Martin


12th guerrilla attack Valdemoro, garrison lose 10% casualties

13th guerrilla capture convoy from Mostoles to Maqueda, escort lose 10% casualties

15th guerrilla capture convoy from Valdemoro to Carranque, no casualties to escort

Battle of Talavera

Talavera is Wellington’s main base and the French campaign objective.

8th Spanish corps are the city garrison, with two British corps in support

4th British corps is deployed either side of the river Tagus, on the left

3rd British corps is behind the walled farm on the right


Both the British and French armies start the battle with considerable casualties

All brigades in 4th British corps have 10% casualties


The French will arrive on the table at the start of move one

End of battle

On the left the Italian corps have routed the light division on the left of the river

However they are unable to take Wellington’s reserve between the bridge and the city


In the centre the Westphalian corps have taken half of the city

The Spanish still hold the other half, but are heavily outnumbered


On the right the French corps have broken 3rd British corps

The British are in retreat, and the French are moving left to support the Westphalians


Wellington orders a general retreat – the French have won the battle.



Once more the French have won the game, but run out of time to take the city

This has been a recurring theme in recent battles.


Each game last 12 moves, which are equal to 12 campaign hours – one campaign day

Each wargame is a campaign battle, and must run to the same time frame.

Both campaign and wargame runes are designed to meet this vital requirement.


A battle always starts with one map square between the two armies

This transfers to the table as one wargame square of 24”

An infantry column moves 6” each move, taking four moves to cross a square


The attacking army normally takes 4 moves to advance and deploy within artillery range

In the next 4 moves they must weaken the defence in order to gain an advantage

They can do this by gunner casualties by their own artillery or cavalry

Or they can defeat the enemy cavalry and force their infantry to form square

The attacking infantry then have a reasonable chance of making a successful attack


However this only allows 4 moves for the critical infantry hand to hand fighting

In a town (two built up sections) this is difficult if the defenders have a reserve

In a city (four built up sections) it is pretty well impossible, even without a reserve


I have tried different tactics to allow the attackers more time for the melee

Whatever tactics are used it will always take the attacker 4 moves to reach the defenders

It will also take 4 moves to take the town and allow for a counter attack

This leaves only 4 moves to weaken the defenders before the attack


Both armies start the campaign with equal numbers of cavalry, artillery and infantry

The attacker will always have to advance into long, and then short, artillery range

So they will always suffer more casualties than the defenders during that 4 move period

To have any chance of winning, they must either weaken the defenders or roll GREAT dice


The whole campaign concept is to allow both players an equal chance of winning

Given experienced players that will always rely to a large extent on the luck of the dice

But it should also reward good tactics and punish poor tactics

In our games that is usually a minor lack of attention rather than a major mistake

For example failing to keep supports in supporting range, which is 4”

Or failing to keep the corps commander close to a brigade in danger, again 4”

Each will only be a minus 1 on the morale dice throw

But it can often start a chain of events which results in winning or losing the game


I will continue to ponder how to resolve this problem of attacking a built up area

But I have struggled with it for a long time, and cannot see any solution at present

Until I do so I will have to either fight a second day, which makes for a very short game

Or abandon a town which is still in dispute and being fought over

At present the second option is usually my choice

But it is an unsatisfactory one.


Sunday 17 September 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 5

Campaign Map

In the north the French attack Avila

In the centre the French advance towards Talavera

In the south French retreat having lost the battle of Torrecilla


Guerrilla bands attack El Casar in the north

Also convoys in the centre and south

They lose 30% and rout at El Casar

They fail in the centre and lose 20% casualties

But they take the convoy in the south and the escort lose 10% casualties

Battle of Avila

Avila is a walled town, and as such is a tough nut to crack

It is held by the Spanish, and they need all the help they can get

British corps are on the left and right.

All three corps have casualties from earlier fighting

The French also start the game with casualties

They will arrive on the table at the start of move 1

End of battle

The French artillery are more effective than the Anglo-Spanish

However they are not as lucky with their dice throws

So they fail to soften up the Spanish garrison of Avila

The French do take the right half of the town

But the Spanish immediately counter attack

And there are two British brigades in support

Both armies suffer similar relatively light casualties

At nightfall the Spanish still hold half of the town

The British still hold the flanks, though they have had to withdraw

The French have failed, Wellington wins the battle


Only three of the nine towns in this campaign are walled, and Avila is one of them.   Normal built up area rules apply, but in addition they get a plus one for enemy artillery or skirmish fire or for melee. 

Artillery require a 6 at long range, or 5 or 6 at short range.   If the artillery have 10% casualties they have minus 1, so cannot hit at long range and require 6 at short range

Skirmishers require 6 to hit.   C class have minus 1 so are unable to hit at all.

All built up areas are difficult to attack, but walled have an additional minus 1 for the attackers.    The melee rules are complicated, but attackers normally must be able to attack two sides of the building at the same time, and even then the defenders need to have at least 10% casualties or be C class for the attack to be likely to succeed.

Normally the attacker waits until the defender has received at least 10% casualties, or they have been shaken or routed by casualties.   Only one brigade is allowed within each town section, and will often have taken casualties.  They are then vulnerable to a counter attack.

Often the battle will be decided by the fighting outside the town.   Or the battle will end with one side holding halt of the town.   A decision is then taken on which commander will order a retreat – taking all circumstances into account.

At Avila it was agreed that the French were too weak to continue for a second day.  Not only on casualties, but also because they only had one days supplies left.

Sunday 10 September 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 4

Campaign Map

In the north 1st Anglo-Spanish army regroup at Avila

10th French army secure their lines of supply and advance towards Avila


In the centre 11th French army occupy Maqueda

2nd Anglo-Spanish army retreat to Talavera


In the south 12th French army attack Torrecilla


No guerrilla activity today, after two days of extensive attacks on French lines of supply.   All groups retreat to their safe areas to resupply, regroup and replenish casualties

Battle of Torrecilla

General Picton has been tasked to hold the town of Torrecilla.   To do so he has one Spanish and two British corps.   All three have suffered heavy casualties during the fighting at San Martin.  The Spanish hold the town, and the British the hills either side.   Picton has taken command of the two best British infantry brigades and formed a reserve behind the town.

Marshal Marmont has orders to attack the town.  He has two French and one Polish corps.  They have also suffered casualties at San Martin, but much less than the Anglo-Spanish.   Their artillery are also much more effective than the enemy.   They have however had to detach one infantry brigade to garrison San Martin.    They will arrive on the table at the start of move 1.

End of battle

Marmont has concentrated the artillery of 35th and 36th corps in the centre, and used them to weaken the town garrison.  However this has taken longer than expected.   When he does storm the town the Spanish garrison rout.  Picton counter attacks with his reserve of elite British infantry.   They rout the French attackers, but come under fire from the French artillery.  Despite casualties they both hold at nightfall.

Confused fighting on the left between the Vistula and 6th British corps ends in a draw.   At nightfall a Polish square holds the British dragoons at bay.   The remaining infantry brigade is still exchanging fire with the last British brigade.

The French have more success on their right, where they outnumber 5th British corps.   By nightfall they have occupied the British held hill.


This was an action packed game, with plenty of surprises.  

Both sides had their share of lucky and unlucky dice.   With my new rules a roll of 1 or 6 can destroy the most careful plans.   This was particularly so with the superior French artillery.   Once in range they needed 6 for a hit on artillery, or 5 or 6 to hit the town garrison.   For the first 10 moves they had very little success.   However on move 11 they hit both brigades in the town, and one on the left.  

The new morale rules had an even greater influence.   A roll of 5 or 6 (adjusted by a table reflecting morale, casualties, supports etc) is required to pass.   Any other result will mean a fail, and anything from disordered to retreat to rout.   However it also means that a routed brigade can rally if they roll a 5 or 6.  

With our previous rules most combat resulted in low casualties, both sides passing their morale tests and continued rounds of melee or firefight.   Once a brigade routed it was almost impossible to rally them.   Consequently once one side started to gain an advantage it was very unlikely that the other side would recover.

With our new rules a brigade will often retreat either disordered or shaken.  But they will often quickly rally and advance again.  However they may well have caused serious problems for their commander by this unexpected loss of morale.   On the other hand a routed brigade can rally and return late in the game to add unexpected strength to a weakened corps.

We are still struggling when we are on the end of a bad dice roll, but quite happy when it happens to the other player.  Fortunately this type of unexpected result has been evenly spread between both of us.   On balance I think we prefer it, because it removes the previous chess like predictability of our games.

Talavera Campaign – Day 3

Last week’s blog entry contained a typing error.  

The title of the first photograph was Battle of Villacastin, it should have been Battle of Maqueda.   The rest of the text was correct.   Most of you will, no doubt, have missed this error.   However Bob Cordery (Wargaming Miscellany) did notice, and was kind enough to point it out.  Bob also reads my 1813 Campaign Diary blog, which is updated the week before this blog.   Both blogs covered Day 3 of the Talavera campaign phase, and Bob noticed that the battles were different.

Thanks for pointing out the error Bob; I have now emended last week’s blog. 

Sunday 3 September 2023

Talavera Campaign – Day 3

Campaign Map

In the north the French Occupy Villacastin and the Anglo-Spanish retreat to Avila

A different guerrilla group attack a convoy between El Casar and Segovia.

They capture the supplies, but the escort escapes without any casualties


In the centre the French attack Maqueda.

A second guerrilla attack on a convoy from Madrid to Mostoles also captures the supplies.

Once more the escort flee without casualties


In the south 3rd Anglo-Spanish army rallies at Torrecilla

But 12th French army are already advancing from San Martin

A third guerrilla attack on a convoy from Valdemoro to Carranque is successful

The escort put up a fight, and lose 20% casualties before routing

Battle of Maqueda

Normally the game objective is in the middle of the table, but this time it is top centre.   This will make it difficult for British and Spanish brigades who rout to rally before they reach the edge of the table and are removed from the game.

It is also a much more open battlefield, which should help the attacking French.   No movement penalty for moving on hills and they should reach the town much quicker.   However the river on the left is a problem.  It reduces the deployment area for the Italian corps.   It also requires a decision whether to split the corps on both banks, which they have done in this game.   The British corps have only placed their cavalry brigade on the left bank.    The river can only be crossed via one of the three bridges.

End of battle

On the left 4th British corps includes two rifle brigades, so I would have expected great things from them.   However the dice gods did not favour them, and they lost the opening cavalry melee.  Due to shortage of space the routed hussar brigade did not have space to rally.   Without cavalry support the two infantry brigades had to form square, and retreat from the advancing Italian infantry columns.    

The French have more effective artillery than either the British or Spanish; however it did not make any impression in this game.   Eventually the Westphalian cavalry had to drive off the Spanish gunners before their infantry could attack the town.   Despite skirmish casualties the Spanish garrison put up a better fight than expected, and a counter attack by the reserve British brigade also slowed down the attack.  But by nightfall the Westphalians had taken the town.

The Young Guard corps on the right were slow to gain an advantage.   Their cavalry lost the initial melee and had to be rallied and brought forward again.   The British dragoons were driven off by fire from a French square.  So it was late in the game when the Young Guard infantry finally advanced against the hill.  Their cavalry routed the British gunners and without cavalry or artillery support the British infantry retreated.

A third French victory, but not as comprehensive as they would have hoped


What a different result for the Spanish guerrilla.   Yesterday they lost all three combats.   Today they won all three, and inflicted heavy casualties on the southern escort.   I have never lost so many supplies, and don’t really know how much effect it will have on the advancing French armies.   It will certainly cause a prompt change in the French campaign strategy.

We used the new morale rules for this game, and it gave some most unexpected results.   It required 5 or 6 with 1D6 to pass the test.   Quite often fully strength brigades would retreat disordered.   They would rally automatically at the start of their next turn, but it would disrupt both an attack or a defence.

I like the unpredictability of the new morale rules, but Jan has more misgivings.   No doubt because on balance they favoured me more than her.   This was due to the dice rather than tactics.   And on balance it was spread between the two armies.   But you always notice bad dice more when you throw them. 

We will continue to play test the new Morale rules for another couple of games before making any decision.