A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Grand Tactical Game - Salamanca Battlefield

Having put together a first-cut OOB, the next task has been to draw up a battlefield diagram and see if it is possible to get everybody on! Here is my first attempt - I learned a lot in the process, and found some things where I need to decide on some rule changes.

This is all a fudged approximation, based on my understanding (such as it is) of maps in Oman, Marinsin, Ian Fletcher's Osprey book, Rory Muir's excellent study and various other sources. I also consulted the set-up instructions for Maplay Games' Salamanca boardgame and for the Simtac Los Arapiles game.

You will see Thomieres heading off to the left, his orders based on the incorrect assumption that the Allies were retreating in that direction. The Allied 3rd Divn is moving down to attack him. Green hexes are woods, green troops are Portuguese.

Behind Point A are Bradford's Portuguese Brigade, De Espana's Spanish division and George Anson's Light Cavalry Brigade.

Behind Point B are the Allied 7th Division.

Some slight changes in the OOB - no doubt there will be more:

(1) Victor von Alten was wounded early in the day, and his brigade is commanded by Col Arentschildt of the 1st KGL Hussars. For convenience, I propose to include D'Urban's small brigade of Portuguese dragoons in Arentschildt's force.

(2) French 15th Dragoons were detached, off the battlefield to the French right, so I propose to amalgamate Boyer's 3 remaining dragoon regiments into a single brigade, as shown.

(3) Bock's KGL dragoons are also detached, somewhere off the table on the Alled left, so I'll omit them from the OOB.

(4) Just for commonsense, I'll give one of Thomiere's batteries to Bonnet.

Now - Artillery. Shock horror. I have suddenly realised what was probably obvious from the outset, which is that scaling down the numbers of infantry and cavalry units while keeping the artillery unchanged results in the table suddenly becoming covered in artillery. Why didn't I think of that before?

If I try to deploy all the artillery in its own space, the table gets swamped again. Hmmm. You will notice that this first attempt at the battlefield shows no artillery at all, while I decide what to do about them.

First thing I did about them was I did some more reading of other people's rules. Sam Mustafa's Grande Armee, which is of a similar scale and approach to MEP, makes no attempt to represent divisional-level artillery on the table at all - they are simply assumed to be part of each division, and the only guns that are explicitly deployed are reserve batteries. I can see how that would work, but it doesn't appeal. As with the skirmishers, I'd rather have the divisional guns visible on the table, but in some way that isn't a nuisance.

So my current idea is that a divisional battery just squeezes into a hex with one of the brigades. I'm still thinking this over - a hex is about a quarter of a mile (500 paces). What's the frontage of a 6-8 gun battery? Maybe 100 paces - maybe a bit more? Would it be possible to squeeze them in like this?

I'll do some more reading on the subject - as ever, I'd be delighted to receive advice here. I'm also intrigued to know what Marmont did with his artillery - there are some odd references to the work of divisional batteries - supporting Thomieres, for example - but I've never seen any reference to the reserve batteries, and there were 5 or so, as far as I can see. Further, I've never seen any map or depiction of Salamanca which showed any positioning of French artillery.

Since Marmont started the day assuming that his army was about to resume their march to keep pace with Wellington's retreat, maybe the artillery reserve was simply limbered up in order of march, ready for a long trip. I'd like to get a bit more detail on some of that. So - back to the books.

More soon.


  1. Ah! I love the planning and plotting phase.

    re artillery, not being a Napoleonic expert, 6-10 yds per gun is I think average, and it seems to have been thought inadvisable to deploy guns without infantry support. Grand batteries would presumably be an exception.

    In translation, if a gun could be squeezed into a hex with an infantry brigade, that would seem an optimum choice to me. Now no problem with a battery firing cannister in close support but would one have to choose between a longer range artillery attack or a skirmish attack?


  2. Looks good, I would advise sticking the gunners in with the PBI so that they can remain on the field without completely taking it over.

    I've been looking at your boards, what size are your hexes? You seem to be able to cram alot of figures into them.

  3. Hexes are 7 inches across the flats (18cm) - I wish they were 6 inches, but there we are - it seemed a good idea at the time. Artillery batteries (one model gun, in this game) are quite big - 60mm wide x 80mm, about 150 paces in the grand tactical ground scale, which I suppose leaves plenty of space for the train and all that.

    Thanks for thoughts and input - appreciated. I'm working on rule amendments to cope with artillery sharing a hex with a unit (brigade) from the same division - nippy bits are (1) if they wish to evade, they do so independently of the neighbour unit (2) if the neighbour unit is attacked, the battery doesn't have to be (working on this) (3) detail of how, and if, they support combat and skirmish attacks carried out by their neighbours (4) if the neighbour unit is forced to retreat or run, the battery may be lost (5) some less irritating term is required to describe the neighbour unit!

    New draft of rules will be ready in a day or two. One thing which is slowing things down is that I'm using this exercise as an excuse to re-read Rory Muir's marvellous Salamanca book. This battle seems notable for a number of key incidents which are all far too fiddly to be covered by anything as grandiose as grand tactical rules.

    Which all goes to show something or other.

    Thanks again