Today Baron Stryker, Count Goya and I fought the Battle of Talavera, as promised in my last two posts. Of course it wasn't really the Battle of Talavera, it was just a game which had certain similarities. The set-up was mostly derived from a Commands & Colors user website scenario. I'm always a bit dubious about published scenarios - not that there is necessarily anything especially wrong with them. It's simply that, typically, they are designed to give both sides a fair chance of victory. In my experience, one of the risks then is that a closely balanced fight can develop into a slugfest, and little of interest happens until attrition has worn down one side or the other to a point where something decisive might become possible.
|Definite signs of visiting generals - first session before lunch.|
|Looking along the field from the Allied left flank, at the outset. Spanish |
battalion in the farm in the foreground.
|Allied right, with the Spaniards defending Talavera|
However, fear not - today we had an absolutely cracking game - it had everything. History was overturned yet again - the French won - just about. I was the unfortunate Cuesta, commander of the Spanish force, whom history has not remembered kindly. Typecasting again, I know. Stryker was an impressively dynamic Marshal Victor, Goya was Wellesley, with most of the work to do on the Allied side (since, historically, he had restricted the Spanish army to a defensive role, on the flanks) and with the constant frustration of not being able to bring enough force to bear where he needed it (as a direct consequence, so it serves him right!). We had a tweak in the rules: this was a battle of three armies - the British and Spanish could collaborate on the card play, but, since they had separate turns, could not co-ordinate any action directly. This worked out pretty well - by the time the battle was lost, The Spaniards still had more than enough troops to help turn the day, if they could only have been employed more usefully.
If this sounds like a gruelling session of frustration and frayed tempers, nothing could be further from the fact. The game had lots of movement - feint attacks, very exciting cavalry fights, astonishing, show-stopping volleys and even more astonishing complete misses - all conducted in a splendid spirit of enthusiasm and good humour.
The battle involved over 60 units - around 1100 castings - on a table of ten-and-a-half feet by five. We got properly started around 11:30am, and the game came to a clear conclusion at about 16:30 - and that included a sit-down lunch break of about an hour and a half, which is not bad going at all. The armies were tied on 12 Victory Points each near the end, but at the last Victor forced enough units onto the British-held ridge at the Cerro de Medellin to gain the necessary 3 bonus VPs, and it was a 15-12 win for the French. Very, very close - it really could have gone either way.
My thanks and sincere appreciation, as ever, go to my worthy collaborators. It was such a lot of fun that I didn't even mind about those deplorably streaky French dice rolls.
Well, maybe just a bit.
|On the Allied right, Cuesta sees the German troops opposite starting a general |
advance through the woods - this caused much alarm, but turned out to be a feint attack.
|In the centre, the key defensive point was the ridge at Cerro de Medellin - here three |
companies of the 5/60th Rifles splash their way across the stream in front of
the ridge. They had a difficult day.
|The French set about forming an attack here, but initially made slow progress.|
|They were replaced by the Voltigeurs of King Joseph's Guard, who made a |
much better job of things, and held the place for the rest of the day.
|The French are still making little progress in the centre, as Wellesley brings |
up the Coldstream Guards.
|By this time, the Confederation troops opposite Cuesta have quietened down a |
bit, so the Allied right flank has not very much going on.
|But what's this? - Victor turns up some very heavy cards, and things start to happen.|
|Sudden, very rapid advance in the centre by the troops of Sebastiani and Lapisse.|
|Yes, this is looking serious.|
|To make sure their photo is in the report, the 15e Chasseurs pop up again, |
this time on the end of the ridge, in order to (briefly) claim one of the bonus
VPs available. It didn't last, but the point was made.
|The French suffer a few reverses in the centre, and the British defence of the |
ridge looks secure for the moment, though losses are creeping up.
|Suddenly, there is a rush of cavalry on the French right, near the farm. This is the |
area where the British light cavalry fell down a ravine in the real battle, but
we didn't have anything like that.
|What we did have was a sizeable clash of cavalry. All sorts of celebrity units - Vistula |
lancers, KGL Hussars, even a unit of British Dragoon Guards. Very exciting.
|The British cavalry was very successful initially, until they came up against |
the dreaded 15e Chasseurs again, and everything stopped dead.
|Over on the Allied right, Cuesta's infantry made a demonstration against the |
Confederation boys in the woods. It didn't necessarily start off as a demonstration,
but it didn't go very well, so it became a demonstration quite quickly.
|Victor appears to be calling down a thunderbolt on to Wellesley.|
|French now splashing through the stream, trying to get some purchase on the |
ridge, and suddenly a few of the British defenders were dislodged. 12-12 in
VPs at this point - if the French can get 3 units on the ridge they've won the day.
|Lots of desperate action from the Brits, while their Spanish allies are doing |
very little on the flanks.
|Here they come - the French are on the ridge, including - most impressively - |
their astonishing charging foot artillery.
|It no longer matters, but Cuesta is still disputing the woods on the right.|
|Heroically, but to no avail, Wellesley brings up the 16th Light Dragoons, his final throw.|
|Over on the right, Cuesta's Spanish troops have kept the town of Talavera |
safe and secure, which is exactly what they were ordered to do.
|Opposite Cuesta the French forces look solid enough - Milhaud's heavy cavalry in |
reserve and everything.
|This photo to go to the Daily Mail, I think - and maybe Horse Guards - |
Henry Campbell wondering if this was the right address - the game is over.