Monday, 18 November 2013

Vimeiro 1808 - Carnage & Glory II, Game Two

Today saw the second play of the Vimeiro scenario with the changes outlined in my previous post looking to tweak the objectives to drive a better game.

Vimeiro - Part Two, Scenario Tweaks

Well if the game we played today is any guide to a better play balance then I think we have got an interesting scenario with enough variability to give it replay value.

The initial set up and plan
Based on the experience of the game last month I was keen to have two experienced players used to Carnage & Glory leading both teams and so had my son Tom take the role of Junot and my old friend Steve M take on Sir Arthur Wellesley's command.

In addition  Tom and I took time to think through the options for the French and quickly concluded that the flank march gave the best opportunity of unhinging the British defence as it, if being able to get up on the Eastern ridge, would negate the reverse slope benefits and give a great chance of grabbing Ventosa Farm, before the British could reinforce it. Given that this attack would take time to develop it was important to pin and engage the British units near Vimiero and if possible grab the town by assault. It was decided to use the grenadiers supported by a pre bombardment of the town by the French foot artillery once the defenders were softened up and to coordinate both attacks to help stretch the defences. The secondary attack on Vimiero Hill would help to to stop forces on that side supporting the defence of Vimiero and, if cavalry could get around it, stop reinforcements reaching the town in time
General Loison's lead battalions approach Vimiero Hill
For the British, the two objectives meant that they had to be responsive to the situation and look to defend but be ready to counterattack if the French managed to get a hold of either or both. The ground in between was of no value other than to provide possible jump off points to support the units detailed to defend the objectives, and to prevent incursions by French cavalry interfering with British deployments. As we shall see in this game Wellesley was forced to order brigades over to the attack as the French manoeuvres quickly developed into major threats. The map above showls where the various brigades were located.

As the French forces deploy before Vimiero, just the British artillery is visible to them
The French forces detailed to assault Vimiero and Vimiero Hill entered at points A to B on turn one and by turn two all blinds had been spotted and the Royal Artillery batteries were able to play on the columns and limbered artillery as they laboured into position. Unlike last months game the French force was in no hurry to assault the hill or Vimiero and took advantage of the minimal cover offered by Toledo village, the cork groves and dead ground close to Vimiero Hill, happy to skirmish with the British light battalions, and approach the ridge line cautiously, changing into mixed order on the climb to the crest.

As the British guns open fire Kellermann's grenadiers are observered approaching Toledo
As the attack on Vimiero Hill developed, the French foot artillery deployed off the march on the Lisbon road and commenced a rapid bombardment of Vimiero town. After three turns of firing their incendiary shells the the howitzers found their mark and the town started to burn forcing the 82nd Foot to abandon the buildings and to fight the fires. (as the fire was not out of control we deemed that the British could remain in the town getting medium cover rather than hard cover).

General Kellermann oversees the combined grenadier battalions as they enter Toledo and make good use of its cover
The damage to Vimiero was the signal for the Grenadier division under Kellermann to leave the shelter of Toledo and move down the road. However, instead of assaulting the ridge to their front they swung left down the road and made straight for Vimiero town, skirmishing with Anstruther's and Nightingale's Light battalions as they marched.

Loison's infantry, led off by General Solignac's brigade, prepare to advance on Vimiero Hill
As the two attacks around Vimiero developed the fire from the Royal Artillery slackened as batteries were forced to limber up and retire to rest their crews who were fatigued after an hour of bombarding the French approach. (Carnage & Glory is able to simulate fatigue in a seamless way that takes account of firing and movement together with the stress of combat, all causes that degrade the ability of units to fight on endlessly, something that is often seen in other rule sets). This effect encourages players to keep reserves able to replace fatigued units whilst they recover

Anstruther's  light bobs and artillery greet the French advance on Toledo
The attack on Vimiero Hill seemed likely to fair no better than its predecessor from a month ago as the lead battalions were halted by the fire from Fane's battalions arrayed in line. However the British battalions opened their fire at 150-200 paces which reduced the casualty count, and with multiple battalions arriving on the crest line simultaneously, spread the fire reducing the casualties on each battalion still further. This multiple unit attack also caused the British commander to put all his units in the line with no reserve available to plug any gaps should they occur. This was to prove a problem later on in the battle. (British methods proposed that brigades should deploy in two lines with the supports providing depth and a reserve)

This allowed the French to maintain their foot hold on the hill allowing their follow up brigade to approach practically unmolested.

The French attack towards Vimiero Hill (top right) develops whilst the grenadiers in Toledo (far left) seem happy to pause.
Meanwhile the two lead Grenadier battalions charged into Vimiero. One battalion faltered under the defensive fire, but the other kept going and the 82nd Foot stood firm ready to repel the assault among the smoke and flames. With minimal casualties to both sides, after a short melee, the 82nd Foot withdrew disordered from the town leaving the grenadiers to see off a support charge from the 29th Foot who were also driven off leaving the French in possession of the town and Nightingale's brigade in disorder on its outskirts.

The French seemed as amazed as the British that Vimiero was in their hands, but there was no time for an analysis of what had just happened as the fighting on both flanks intensified.

Anstruther's Light Battalion observe the French in Toledo
The fight for Vimiero Hill seemed to take a predictable swing in favour of the British as the 50th foot finally delivered a telling volley on the 3/12me Ligne forcing the French battalion to fall back. The French brigade (GDB Solignac) was on a "cautionary" status indicating that the casualties and fatigue suffered on the approach to the hill were taking effect. However as things seemed to be taking a turn for the worse, General de Brigade Charlot arrived at the extreme left flank of the French line and charged its two battalions (3/32me Ligne, 3/82me Ligne) at the 95th Rifles.

The Rifles already fatigued after seeing off the first attack let off a ragged volley at the 32me and 82me Ligne that failed to stop their momentum. With that the Rifles fell back off the hill exposing the flank of their comrades in the 60th Rifles.

The French artillery (top left) prepares to bombard Vimiero and its defenders. Nightingale's Light Battalion occupy the vinyards on the approach to the town

Hill's brigade occupies Ventosa Farm
The time was 11 am - turn 6 as the battalions of Hill's brigade holding the extreme left of Sir Arthur's line at Ventosa Farm were forced to change their facing to their left as the forces under GdD Delaborde arrived on the road atop the Eastern Ridge.

With these multiple events happening almost simultaneously it seemed the British line was threatened on all points and where the final reserves went would be critical.

French cavalry (1st Provisional Chasseurs and the 5th Provisional Dragoons) lend their support to the attack on Vimiero Hill
With the arrival of Delaborde's men, the British found their reverse slope position compromised as their reserves became visible to the French. With only an hour remaining before Sir Harry Burrard turned up to spoil the fun, Sir Arthur had to react to salvage the situation and repel these French incursions on his line.

The French guns start fires in Vimiero as the infantry of Thomiers brigade await the order to advance
At 11.15 am Sir Arthur issued new orders to Generals Antruther, Crauford and Ferguson to put their brigades on attack to deal with the French forces in and around Vimiero. Colonel Taylor with the Allied cavalry would stop the newly arrived French cavalry from moving into the valley behind the Eastern ridge, whilst the other brigades held their positions.

It was now that we saw the depth of the C&G system as it dealt with the flurry of orders emanating from Sir Arthur's HQ. The couriers are limited in number, with eight available to Sir Arthur, one of them managed to get lost so another was sent in his stead. On arrival at General Anstruther's HQ it was found that the General was resting and could not be disturbed at that time. The new orders would have to wait. "Cest la geurre!!"

The French find the defenders (Fane's Brigade, 95th, 60th Rifles, 50th Foot) on Vimiero Hill set up and ready, but the line is stretched without a reserve!

The 50th Foot present arms as the columns approach
With orders dispatched the British commanders set about pulling the game back in their favour. The fight for Vimiero Hill was in the balance with both sides teetering from fatigue. Their were no reserves for the French other than their two units of cavalry, which attracted a lot of rifle fire and round shot each time they probed the extreme right of the defenders on Vimiero Hill.

In their rear the British had at least the comfort of seeing General Crawford's brigade descend the Western Ridge and approach the outskirts of Vimiero.

Delaborde's flank attack arrives in the right place at the right time and his horse guns open fire on Ventosa Farm as the 4th Provisional Dragoons prepare to advance

Hill redeploys his brigade to meet the new threat as Taylor's cavalry move into the valley in support
Although unable to attack the French around Vimiero on the other side of the town, the troops under General Anstruther were by their continual firing causing much distress to the Grenadiers in occupation, so much so that both brigades were under cautionary status and would surely retreat at the next attack on their position.

More defenders deploy around Ventosa
However the focus of the game was now firmly on events around Ventosa as Generals Hill and Delaborde contested the approaches to the the Farm, with the French taking advantage of the large cavalry force.
As the French horse artillery and skirmishers attempted to degrade the British infantry defence in the farm complex, the cavalry moved off the ridge looking to cut the hamlet off from any support and fall upon wavering defenders in its outskirts.

As Vimiero burns the grenadiers make their attack
Meanwhile the Allied cavalry moved forward to contest the French moves with Colonel Taylor's own regiment moving into the valley with the Portuguese staying up on the ridge in support.

As the fight develops in Vimiero, Wellesley (extreme right) is forced to bring up reserves to help the defence

Brigadier Crauford  moves his brigade forward to support either Vimiero Hill or the town as needed

The fighting in Vimiero is close up and personal as the 91st Highlanders await the call for support

Close combat in the flames
With bugles blaring out the charge the 20th Light Dragoons trotted forward, gathering speed as they approached the oncoming 4th Provisional Dragoons. On their right the 3rd Provisional Dragoons looked to deal with the Portuguese on the ridge above and declared a charge in support of their comrades, forgetting the effects of the broken ground as they climbed the ridge to attack. Their charge fell short of the Portuguese line, and Colonel Taylor ordered a charge on the stranded French. The Portuguese refused and remained at the halt.

The French occupy Vimiero, as the Highlanders deploy to make ready to rest it back

I told you that line lacked a reserve! French persistence on Vimiero Hill finally forces the 95th Rifles to fall back exposing the flank of the 60th Rifles, with unit 111 the 3/32me Ligne gaining honours for this battle

British brigades move over the ridge to choke off support for the French in Vimiero
The 20th Light Dragoons were on their own and after one clash of sabres lost heart and turned tail retreating back up the valley from where they came. It seemed that General Hill's brigade in Ventosa were now also on their own.

The 20th Light Dragoons are driven off leaving Hill's brigade to defend Ventosa as best they can

Colonel Taylor urges the Portuguese to charge but they refuse and remain halted
With the defeat of the British cavalry, it was the end of turn 9, 11.45 am and 5.30 pm real time. We had been playing since 10 am with an hours briefing before that. Sir Harry Burrard would be at Sir Arthur's side by midday, leaving only one more turn for the British to change things in a dramatic way, not impossible, but leaving the game on a "knife edge".

It was time to stop with people needing to get home and thus our game ended. The French were in an excellent position around Ventosa and with a their forces occupying Vimiero, threatening Vimero Hill but tiring it was certainly a very creditable performance.

Delaborde prepares to assault Ventosa with ample cavalry support
The victory objectives were for the French to control either or both Vimiero and Ventosa before game end at midday with the arrival of Sir Harry Burrard. The casualty bill would then determine the level of French victory. With Vimiero in their hands, the French were on a win.

As you will see from the casualty lists for both sides the French were on the receiving end, not surprisingly, having to attack. However the level of casualties only gave a minor victory to the British which shifts the French objective victory one level down to cause the game to be, inconclusive, that is a draw, but better than the historical result.

[W] denotes no advance
[R] denotes halt/retire
[Y] denotes rout
[D] denotes dispersed

The result was certainly better than Junot achieved on the day and the French will have to seek terms and be forced to evacuate Portugal but, given the result, taking even more loot back with them than the last time.

This was a very interesting game with the "tweaked" objectives causing both sides to fight this battle differently than the first. The French game plan worked like clockwork and the British were forced to respond to the French attacks as they developed in intensity. The French force, especially around Vimiero was tiring rapidly and it is a moot point whether they would have been able to see off a British counter attack, however with Anstruther not responding to his attack orders, would Crauford's brigade have been enough to retake Vimiero in time? All in all I was thinking of leaving the game set up to play out one more turn to decide the out come, but given that all the original players would not be involved I rather like to leave this one hanging for posterity with both sides being able to say, "yes but what if".

Many thanks to Tom, Chas, Clive and Jack (The French) and Steve M, Nathan, and Ian (The British), for a great day's fun. A game to definitely savour in the years to come.

So that concludes the Rolica/Vimiero series of games. The full set or army lists and orbats together with the scenario briefing and unit labels will be available in my downloads section. With Christmas looming and Sir Arthur's recall to answer for the Treaty of Sintra, we turn our attention to Sir John Moore's Corunna campaign and the saving of the Spanish Insurrection against Napoleon himself. I aim to play this game over the Christmas holiday and then start the new year focusing on the events and battles after Sir Arthur's return in 1809, the Oporto and Talavera campaigns.


  1. Jonathan superb AAR on a beautiful table with stunning figures. The tweaks as far as i can tell are with the scenario itself i.e. the flank attack. Did you feel from your refight a need to tweak the army lists themselves? (I've looked ta current and previous list but cannot see any obvious tweaks?) Are you intending to refight the Peninsular battles in sequence? And for a break will you refight Maida? Can't wait to read the next installment!

    1. Thanks MM.
      The tweaks,as such, was to recognise that the original objective for the French to have control of the Eastern Ridge by having more units on it than the Allies was to high an ask, given the large disparity in numbers against the French.

      The change was to go back to what Junot actually achieved on the day and measure the tabletop result against that performance with an added time constraint of having Wellesley's command ended with the arrival of Sir Harry Burrard. This time constraint mirrors the end of the actual engagement, so if the French can take and hold either or both Vimeiro and Ventosa then they will have done better than the actual result.

      The order of battle remains as was, as these are the forces that were present. The only change was to randomise the brigade the British are forced to detach if and when the French flank march, simply to prevent the choice falling on the weakest brigade based on the stats in C&G.

      The new scenario brief incorporates these changes and, if Sunday's game is any indicator, certainly cause both sides to approach the battle with a different mindset.

      My plan is to work through the British battles in a time sequence, which will allow me to add to my forces as required for each scenario. Inevitably I will add more Portuguese to the Allied forces and with Talavera I have several Spanish units in the "to do box". Eventually I would like to dome some purely Franco-Spanish battles as a complete change of tack.

      After Corunna, it is Oporto, followed by four scenarios covering Talavera, one being Victor's night attack. I don't have plans to do Maida but I wouldn't say never as the earlier British battles are an interest, as is the War of 1812. As ever so much to do, so little time.

      Thanks for your comment and stay tuned


  2. A great report for a great battle! Beautiful pics, figures and terrain...

    1. Cheers Phil, glad you liked it. It took a whole afternoon to pack all the figures and terrain away!! It's now full speed ahead in getting the remaining troops together for Oporto to get her with some key terrain items. More posts to follow.