For regular followers of the blog, this game is the culmination of twelve months work putting together the units and terrain items necessary to re-fight a battle that saw about 20,000 British and Portuguese troops take on 13,000 French troops. The end result of the actual battle saw the convincing defeat of the French force although not complete as the British commander was restrained from pursuit. The French reported losses of about 1,800 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner of whom about 300 to 400 fell into the latter category. The Allies had far fewer losses at 720 officers and men with 131 men killed, 534 wounded and 51 missing.
My preferred set of rules, Carnage & Glory II, was set up to run the game. These rules, in my experience, really tick the "simulation vs game", box for me and once you understand the thinking behind the design, which Nigel Marsh happily explains in the rules and communication queries he receives from people like me, you really get the full on experience of just playing the tactics of the period rather than the game system. The computer takes on all the force/game management, allowing the commanders to direct the model units. The "granularity" I am looking for is all there, with numbers of men, ground scale, named officers, casualties in numbers of men with prisoners recorded separately, just perfect for a Napoleonic fan like me but still a game with all the entertainment value that description implies. Just because it provides a simulation doesn't stop it from being fun.
As an umpire, the pleasure of seeing events unfold on the screen that the commanders are very often unaware of at first, but soon experience as units start to react to situations, is a real delight. I know computer rules are not for everyone, and there is a time commitment involved in setting up the game, but I think that investment in time, after putting the models and terrain together, well worth it, and if you are in two minds about trying these rules, just give them a go.
So to the battle. The scenario "Vimiero Full Fat" is and has been available as a PDF down load in my downloads bar on the right column of the page for some time now and feel free to have a look to understand the set up and victory requirements. This was the first playing of this scenario and I learnt things from it which I will include in a second version of the PDF together with all the ID tags and other stuff I used to run the game. So if you do decide to do your own version you will have everything you need.
|The map captured from Cyberboard showing the British hidden set up|
Part of the set up for our game included the use of "blinds" to represent un-spotted brigades on the table. Given the British are staying out of sight behind a ridge and the French may attempt a flank march, this is quite a key element to simulate. However I decided that the British had a distinct advantage from their ridge line position in that they would see the French movements more readily and that their units behind the ridge should remain completely hidden with no blinds giving away their likely positions.
So I turned to my trusty "Cyberboard" software and transferred my game map to it and produced scaled blind markers to allow the British commander to place his blinds on the computer rather than the table as the French would do. The map above is a screen capture of that map with my additions of names and French direction of attack arrows to show you that initial set up From it you will see that Sir Arthur was concerned about a French flank attack and thus weighted his brigades more to the centre and his left to counter this threat with the Allied cavalry out of sight in the valley on the extreme Allied left. The flag placement is a simple way of indicating formation and facing. Thus if the flag is in the centre broadside on the brigade is in line facing that direction. If the flag is at the end of the marker, the brigade is in column of march facing in the direction of the position of the flag marker. Simples!!
|The table interpretation of the map above looking to the North corner|
Sir Arthur' s Plan:
So Gentlemen, as you know I don't hold much with French methods, and my plan is simple. Deploy behind the ridge line and wait for the French to crest the hill, then shoot them until they run away. I want all guns and light troops deployed forward, "woughing them up" as they come on.
Note; Sir Arthur, always a man of few words, shows his thinking in his deployment and the map above illustrates his concerns.
General Junot's Plan:
These Rostbeeefs always head for the boats at the slightest of attacks so we will have nothing to fear from being bold going forward. I intend to stretch the British line with an all out frontal attack on Vimiero Hill and the Eastern Ridge, relying on my Reserve Grenadiers to turn the British flank and roll them up. Vive L'Empereur.
|General Loison's division was soon spotted by the British pickets as the French moved up the Lisbon road at 9.30am.|
However the blinds on show indicate that the French numbers were not entirely confirmed.
|As the French advanced into the valley it became clear they were in force, supported by cavalry|
|The 1/70me Ligne (unit 101), under GdB Brenier move into Toledo village with the 3/82me Ligne (unit 112) and the 3/32me Ligne (unit 111) of GdB Charlot off to their left approaching the outskirts of Vimiero.|
|The Dragoons of GdB Margaron support the infantry of GdD DeLaborde|
|The voltigueur screen of the 86me Ligne (units 105 and 106) about to move up an on to the Eastern ridge above Toledo to their left.|
|Royal Artillery Battery B's medium six pounders support Fane's Light battalion as they screen Vimiro Hill|
|The first of many British round shot plough through the ranks of DeLaborde's infantry and on into Margaron's Dragoons|
|As the French main force attack develops on the British right and centre, the British defence in depth becomes clear|
The British Light battalions really fulfilled their role perfectly, withdrawing in the face of the French columns whilst skirmishing and then reforming behind the infantry lines behind. The only mishap occurring when Bowe's Light battalion was nearly caught by a sudden charge of French dragoons, and although near enough to its infantry supports to get clear, lost its nerve and lost several men as they threw down their arms and surrendered to the onrushing French cavalry. General Bowe's tried desperately to recover his Light Bobs, but they never got over this scare and dispersed to the rear.
|General Margaron directs his dragoons to the left of Vimiero hill to help support General Solignac's infantry attack|
Meanwhile the French dragoons supporting this attack charged in on the flank of the hill driving off and dispersing Bowe's Light battalion but being met by a volley from the corner of the square formed by the 32nd (Cornish) Foot losing about 30 of their number to French sabres but dishing out 60 casualties on the dragoons and forcing them to retire in disorder.
|In the centre the French bring up the bulk of their guns to mass them on the Eastern Ridge, whilst the skirmish battle is in full sway.|
Behind the French infantry in this sector the French commander had decided to support his attack by massing his foot artillery. As always, attacking with artillery, especially foot artillery, proved how difficult it can be to get the guns into the action when required. Eventually an imposing gun line was set up on the spur of the Eastern ridge beside Toledo village, but a combination of the British brigade commanders keeping their lines back on the rear slope and French infantry impeding their gunners view of the action prevented this gun line having much effect.
|The guns cannot advance until the French infantry have cleared the slopes of British "Light Bobs"|
|The brigade of General Anstruther in two lines with the brigade light battalion forward in open order and the 2/52nd Light Infantry supporting the 2/9th nearest to camera. Further on the 97th Foot support the 2/43rd Light Infantry|
The French commander ordered his two supporting battalions to charge at the same time. The Swiss battalion was having none of it and stood firm but would not advance without the General coming with them. The 2/86me Ligne just said "Non" and refused to charge.
|General Anstruther in the centre of his brigade observes the French attack on his end of the line|
By the time Brenier's brigade were getting close to being able to attack the British centre, both French flanks were in rout and retreat, with French General Officers galloping from unit to unit trying to restore order.
|Royal Artillery Battery A supports the defence of Vimiero Hill (extreme right) with General Nightingale's brigade holding Vimiero|
|The attack on Vimiero Hill reaches its climax. The 5/60th Rifles (502), 2/95th Rifles (503) are supported by the 50th Foot (501) of General Fane's brigade|
|The French artillery is able to deploy as the infantry of GdB Thomiere press forward towards the British line|
|As the Battle for Vimiero Hill develops General Margaron's (106) French Dragoons move out to the flank whilst General Solignac (109) observes the progress of his men|
|RA Battery A fire on the 3/32me Ligne (111) and the 3/82me Ligne (112) under the control of GdB Charlot (110) as they climb the Eastern Ridge above Vimiero|
|The French break under the mass volley fire of the rifles on Vimiero Hill|
|General Anstruther steadies his men as the French cross the ridge line to meet a wall of Redcoats|
|The French attack all along the line as they feel for a weak point above Toledo village|
|The 1/78th Highlanders (518) calmly await the French as Lt Col Robe (510) oversees the withdrawal of Btty A RA (510) as they come under French skirmish fire.|
|New arrivals! General Kellerman's Grenadier Division finally appears on the road at point C. Too little too late.|
|Colonel Taylor's Anglo Portuguese cavalry brigade (20th Light Dragoons & Portuguese Light Dragoons) supported by General Crauford's brigade (1/45th & 1/91st) hold the valley behind the Eastern ridge ready if needed.|
|The French attack breaks in front of Anstruther's position at Ventosa Farm, the 4th Swiss bottom left retire down the ridge|
|The French are stopped all along the line, with Junot and his staff desperately trying to control the morale of their men|
|Vimiero town never threatened by the French was securely under British control|
|With the attack on Anstruther stopped the French in the centre were looking stranded|
|One last French attack is stopped in its tracks|
The game had run smoothly and once everyone had got use to the sequence of events, had moved along at a good pace allowing for four turns in the morning and afternoon with an hour's break for lunch.
The common consent was that Vimiero is very hard battle for the French to get anything from. The contempt for his enemy that Juno displayed together with a lack of adequate reconnaissance and being significantly outnumbered, forces our modern day French commanders to deal with a very unfavourable position.
The Reverse Slope Tactics modelled in Carnage and Glory and covered in a tutorial on this blog worked perfectly during the game and left our table-top commanders scratching their heads pretty much like Juno, Loison, Delaborde et al on how to overcome it. As Nigel Marsh mentioned in a comment to a previous post, "Carnage & Glory II, Peninsular War Training Mission" posted on the 28th of May this year, the French spent the Peninsular War thinking about ways of neutralising British tactics with limited success; Albuerra and Fuentes d'Onoro being battles where, by turning the British flank, they came close.
|British Post Battle Summary|
|French Post Battle Summary|
The game will have a second play next month with different commanders bringing their ideas to bear on the problem of beating the British in a Reverse Slope Defence. Once that game is completed I will release a revised version of the scenario.