Monday, October 8, 2012

NAP: 2nd Salamanca or The River Tormes 12 November 1812

I was away this weekend at the Manor House hotel at Lundin Links  in Fife for a large scale 28mm Napoleonic game. It was played by 10 gamers from AB1 group, largely members of the SESWC,  over 2 days and was a hypothetical battle set during Wellington’s retreat from Burgos and Madrid in November 1812.   The rules used were Black Powder with the revised  turn sequence. It was great fun with masses of troops.

We fielded 132 infantry battalions, 36 cavalry regiments and 50 guns - an approximate total of 4,000 figures.  The table was 27ft long by 6ft wide.

Clausel launches the Chasseur Brigade towards Calvariza....
My original idea was to refight Salamanca but as we had missed the 200th anniversary I came up with this hypothetical scenario set near Salamanca in November 1812.  It is a what might have been battle.  It assumes that the combined French armies facing Wellington army decided to adopt the aggressive plan of Marshal Jourdan rather than the  historic distant flanking movement of Marshal Soult which forced Wellington to retreat to Cuidad Rodrigo without accepting battle.

Right flank - British still hold Cristoval and threaten to recover the ford
I will add a separate page to the blog with all the background, player briefings, OB, deployment limits and map of the table game. 

More photos and descriptions at

Here is the real historical background.
Following the victory at Salamanca on 22 July 1812 Wellington went on to liberate Madrid and then leaving Hill with half of the allied army to hold Madrid and Toledo turned his attention to the siege of Burgos. 
Lacking sufficient heavy artillery and the skilful defence of the castle by Dubreton this proved beyond the powers of his army.  Threatened by a reorganised and reinforced Army of Portugal under Souham Wellington raised the siege of Burgos on 21 October. He quietly slipped away, undetected by the French until late on 22 October. The drawn Battle of Venta del Pozo was fought on the 23rd. Between 25 and 29 October, Souham and Wellington fought a series of actions along the Pisuerga and Carrión Rivers at Palencia, Villamuriel de Cerrato, and Tordesillas which are collectively called the Battle of Tordesillas. When the French seized the bridge over the Duero River at Tordesillas on the 29th, Wellington was compelled to order a further retreat.
On 29 October, Hill received Wellington's positive order to abandon Madrid in the face of the advance of the combined forces of Soult and King Joseph from Valencia and march to join him.  After a clash with Soult's advance guard at Perales de Tajuña on the 30th, Hill broke contact and withdrew in the direction of Alba de Tormes. Joseph re-entered his capital on 2 November. Anxious to destroy the British, Joseph and Soult rushed after them without bothering to leave a large garrison in Madrid.
The Allied retreats continued until Wellington and Hill joined forces on 8 November near Alba de Tormes south east of Salamanca.  By 11 November, the combined French armies faced Wellington's Allied army near the old Salamanca battlefield.   This is the starting point of this game.

View of French centre and right - Spanish about to attack near windmill
General Briefing
The Anglo/Portuguese/Spanish army is deployed in a line with the right at Alba de Tormes on the river Tormes, the centre on the low ridge at Calvariza Ariba with the left separated by the Tormes from the centre at  San Christoval.   Note that Alba de Tormes itself is of the table to the south.    The combined French armies are deployed on the east bank of the Tormes and to the east of San Cristoval north of the line of the Tormes
The River Tormes runs north behind the east edge of the table before veering west across the table towards Salamanca which is of table to the west.  The Tormes is fordable at many points above Salamanca towards Alba especially on its northern run between Huerta and Villa Gonzalo.

View from French left - Jourdans attack well underway - despondent Brits in background
The Setup
The British players from south to north were Chris Henry (Clinton), Angus Konstam (Ned Packenham), John Glass (D’Espana), John Perkin (Wellington and Leith) and Chris Stone (Lowry Cole).   The French players from south to north were Ken Pearce (Jourdan), Dave Imrie (Clausel), myself (Soult) and Jack Glanville (D’Erlon).  Donald Adamson (King Joseph) based his headquarters in the fine buildings of the convent of Huerta beside my command.

The British had 12 brigades deployed on the table at the beginning of the game split equally across its 3 quarters.  They had a further 6 brigades in local reserve with a distant reserve of 2 more brigades under Wellington’s direct command. 

The French had 20 Brigades in their initial strike force with 6 on each flank and 4 in each of the centre commands.  Some of these brigades began on table and the others could be attempted to be ordered on one per turn per table quarter.  The French had a further 7 brigades in  a general reserve with 2 allocated behind each flank and 3 to the centre.  The French plan was a double envelopment with their massed forces on the flanks with the centre acting defensively except Clausel who also had to support Jourdans attack in the south.

Spanish develop attack in centre.  King Josephs guard hold firm....
The River Tormes where it dissected the table was only crossable at the ford south of  Cristoval.  However event cards allowed other fords to become usable when the river ran low.  The hills were good going, blocked line of sight and allowed overhead fire by artillery.  The woods could be crossed by formed troops at half speed.  The villages were each represented by a single Black Powder built up area, while the windmill and watermill that appear in many of the photographs were just for scenic effect.

How the game played
As planned the French launched their attacks on each flank.  Only in the centre right (my command) was the build-up of the strike force effected by poor command rolls .

Vistula legion veterans lead Derlons advance....
On their right flank in the north beyond the bend of the River Tormes under D’erlon the French made good progress - their overwhelming numbers fairly rapidly destroyed a British infantry brigade.   The British commander retired 2  battalions south of the ford to hold the river line whilst leaving a reaguard of a battalion and a gun in Cristoval.  A gallant cavalry action between the British light dragoons and the Polish lancers lasted many turns on the far flank until finally both the British regiments broke and fled.  The Lancers played little further part in the action as both regiments were shaken and their brigadier repeatedly failed to rally them.  The French brought up 6 battalions to attack Cristoval but due to poor coordination their attacks failed.  Late in the game the British brought 2 reserve infantry brigades onto the table on the flanks of  Cristoval and they provided support to the heroic garrison who were still holding out.

Lancers versus light dragoons - a long struggle of charge and countercharge
Marshal Jordan’s attack in south on the French left flank made good progress and drove deep into the British line.  The large number of French infantry committed on this front restricted the space available to commit their cavalry reserve.  Wellington committed most of the British heavy cavalry and veteran infantry in reserve on this front.  These additional troops steadied the British line and at the end of the day they had regained a large part of their initial position though at the cost of most of the heavy cavarly . 

British hold firm but French still have the numbers....
On the French centre left Clausel launched an attack in the area of the Watermill to distract British troops from Jourdan’s main blow.  They became engaged in a long fire fight with Portuguese and  British infantry under Pakenham which lasted until the end of the game.  The entire French foreign brigade was lost in this interminable action. 

With this attack stalled Clause then launched his Chasseur brigade forward in an impressive 4 battalion massed column against the Portuguese defending near the church of Calvariza.   The eventually drove back the front battalion of Portuguese but at the end of the game the Portuguese were still facing them in warlike formation and firmly held the old church building.

Portuguese holding firm at Calvariza....
In the French centre right, where I commanded as Soult, the early part of the game was very quiet with some skirmishing and artillery duels.  With the worsening situation on the allied flanks Wellington decided on the second day of play to launch the Spanish supported by a British brigade in an attack on this sector to break through the French centre and so relieve pressure on the flanks and win the battle.

My 2 French infantry brigades made a brave defence even breaking charging British and Spanish infantry with steady closing fire.  My brigade near Huerta was reduced to a single battalion but it was reinforced by a brigade of D’Erlons which crossed the river by a secret ford and was led into the action by King Joseph himself.  I confidently committed my French dragoon brigade against the Combined Portuguese and Spanish cavalry but a shaken stationary Portuguese light dragoon regiment managed to defeat both my regiments in turn.  Eventually after some urgent rallying of the dragoons they succeeded in driving the Spanish horse back beyond the ridge of Calvariza.

Dragoons ride to their initial defeat by the Portuguese.....
In the end I declared the game a draw on the day but the British considered that it was a winning draw on their side.  That might be the fairer result.  The main French attacks had been held and they had not taken any of their objectives.  The Allied counter-attack in the centre had stalled and the French still held a considerable numerical advantage especially on the flanks.


  1. Looks like a fantastic game Bill!!

  2. What a fantastic looking game followed by a great report and background! Well done!


  3. Bill great battle and report-your cards looking interesting besdies some units what was on them? Peter

    1. Peter
      There were 2 types of cards.
      1) John who played Wellingon produced cards for each of his brigades as an aid to the commanders like the following example:
      9th British Inf.
      3 Btns. + Sks.
      V (for Veteran)

      2) There were also my event cards which some players put on the table as a reminder to use them or were there as they were being played.

  4. Thanks bill -what event card types had you devised for he battle please

  5. Peter
    None of the cards were game changing. Some examples:
    First fire or made troops poor shots. These also worked for artillery.
    Reroll of a miss in hand to hand combat - split between cavalry and infantry.
    Reroll a break test.
    Recover disorder on a +4 at start of turn - so like ELITE
    Recover a casualty on a 4+ so an extra type of rally.
    Charge a square - allowed cavalry to charge a square and also get all their charging plusses.
    Tardy Brigadier - only single moves by this brigade.
    These cars were kept by the commanders (up to 3 in their hand) and played when they wished on their own troops or the enemy. The cards only worked on a single unit or command and only for 1 turn. Some of the cards were specific to nationalities.
    In addition there were events which effected the arrival of reserves on table which effected everyone on a given side for a single turn.
    These gave a +1 or -1 on commands for the arrival of troops.