Friday, 15 November 2013

Vimeiro Part Two - Scenario Tweaks

This Sunday will see the second play through of Vimeiro with a different set of commanders and a change of objectives and set ups based on the playing of the first game.

The Vimeiro table with Vimeiro town and Ventosa farm identified as objectives and the British (to the left and behind the red line) and French (Between points A and B at start or arriving on roads C and D) set up positions marked.
It is interesting how the old maxim of "the plan changes on first contact with the enemy" can apply to wargame scenario construction, in that you only really get to see what works and doesn't when you see the game in play and how the commanders react to the situation the scenario presents them with.

As a confirmed player of historical scenarios, the thing that really interests me about playing out battles from the past is the test of asset management that comes with the constraints of the terrain and forces that were imposed on the historical commanders. In other words, can you do a better job than General A or B given the same circumstances.

With Rolica, the game parameters meant that the French had to withdraw from the table. The questions that the scenario presented was, could they stay on the table as long as General DeLaborde managed on the day and could they cause more damage before forced to leave? Likewise for the British, could they frustrate this French game plan and get a better result than Wellesley? The game was time limited based on how long DeLaborde managed historically.

With Vimeiro, the situation facing the French is about as difficult as they come. A smaller force is tasked with attacking an enemy on ground of their choosing with a quality force in defence that is more than capable of counterattack. The situation calls for circumspect and careful reconnaissance, all the qualities that General Junot lacked during this battle. Those sword blows the general took to the head probably didn't help.

If, based on the historical outcome and the situation, we conclude that it is very unlikely that the French force will be able to break the Anglo Portuguese army, then we need other parameters to compare the results to and that will challenge both commanders to match. Thus my original thinking had the best outcome seeing the French gaining control of the Eastern Ridge (the high ground between Vimeiro and Ventosa). Given the force disparity, this is an extremely tough ask for the French.

So, back to the drawing board.
1. The Battle is naturally time limited to about midday due to the arrival of Sir Harry Burrard, who on hearing the cannonade arrived to see the beating of the French attacks and to put a halt on any plans that Wellesley had of counterattacking. Thus we can build this end point into our scenario. In addition, with the arrival of Sir Huw Dalrymple, much later, the French get their "get out of jail card" as he set about agreeing to letting them leave Portugal with all their loot. Obviously the terms of this agreement will be heavily influenced by how well the French have done. Given that Junot plumbed new depths in how to get well and truly drubbed a long way from home without any hope of relief, the deal he got was a mark of the level of idiocy displayed by Sir Huw, and the level of negotiation displayed by General Kellermann, the architect of the Convention of Sintra.

2. In the actual battle, the French attempted to take control of Vimiero and Ventosa, managing to contest the former and give the 43rd Light infantry a tough fight. It would seem reasonable to see if our tabletop French commander can go one better and take and hold either or both of the objectives, within the time frame of the scenario. These two objectives would seem more practicable that asking the French to have more units than the British in occupation of the Eastern Ridge and the terrain benefits to a defender offered by the objectives make them defendable once taken by a smaller force.
The uncertainty of where the French attack will fall and with what strength will keep the British commander on his guard and force him to defend against either or both attempts. In addition any French attack on Ventosa would benefit from having a force arrive on road D, turning the Anglo Portuguese defence and reducing the impact of their reverse slope position. This should encourage a French commander to keep open the option of going for the flank attack, whilst pinning units to their front. Time is limited though.

3. Sir Arthur was concerned to protect his flank when he observed the French flanking manoeuvre and to reflect this in the game the British commander is forced to detach a brigade to support the Portuguese under Colonel Trant. I think it likely that Sir Arthur didn't detail the force he chose based on the precise strength and combat factors of the brigades under his command. He would have had an idea of which were his best brigades and then the rest that made up the majority, part of which he selected to move out. In an attempt to stop the wargamer in all of us selecting the brigade they can most afford to lose, we will randomise the choice of brigade to be ordered off excluding the obviously key brigades such as Anstruther's who would have formed the core of Sir Arthur's defence of the Eastern Ridge. This then provides a level of uncertainty for the British command.

These three points will be play tested on Sunday and just as in the first game will stand or fall based on "contact with the enemy".

If you have any thoughts on these ideas or the scenario as a whole please share them on the blog and add to the discussion for the weekend. A full AAR will follow the game on Sunday together with an updated scenario briefing and all the labels for Carnage & Glory II available in my downloads.

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