Saturday, 16 May 2015

Talavera - Night Attack, Game Three

"We had already reached two thirds up the height without meeting any enemy when suddenly we received a terrible discharge of musketry, that in an instant caused us to suffer a heavy loss: nearly 300 men and 13 officers, among which our Colonel, my Chef de Bataillon, our two Adjutant-Majors and our two Carabinier captains, in a nutshell, the principle commanders of our two columns were put hors de combat".
Lieutenant Girod 9me Legere

Last night we played the third and final play test of Talavera - Night Attack to test out some final changes to the play. You can follow the progress in developing this game by checking out the previous two play tests.

Talavera Night Attack Game One

Talavera Night Attack Game Two

I think I might have said this previously, but every now and then you play a game that is so good you know you will remember it long after the event and last night's game definitely falls into that category and I am really excited about this scenario with the changes we have made.

As I write this post, I am talking to Tom, who played the British, and we were talking through the game yet again; and I found myself describing the action in terms of two heavy weight boxers pummelling each other on the ropes and with the fans not knowing who was going to go down first.

The table set up with the blinds and table limits in position
So to set the scene, the table was all laid recreating the positions of the troops involved when the men of General Francois Amable Ruffin's division descended into the valley of the Portina Stream at 22.00 hours, 27th July 1809. This was changed slightly with a tighter set up French formation to test the effects alongside a greater risk of misdirection during their approach march (See Game one for the historical set up).

The British on this occasion were commanded by Tom and the French by Mike, both experienced with playing Carnage & Glory II.

All quiet in the British positions, Donkin's brigade, nearest camera, straddle the objective area
(the four ground markers in a square)
As the whole table is now set up, we were using artillery range sticks to indicate the parameters of our table, with the principle objective of showing when a unit had left the battle. This is particularly important as the units are moving in darkness with visibility down to 100 paces (about 75 yards) and a distinct possibility of becoming disorientated and lost.

Turn 1, 22.00 - The view of our area of play in relation to the battlefield as a whole. The French attack formation is much tighter than historically  which was part of the test.
The scenario is designed to recreate the circumstances of the night attack which started at 22.00 on the 27th July and finished with French troops back in their lines by 01.00 on the 28th. The same French troops would be repeating the attempt in daylight at 05.00! You have to respect the abilities of these men.

Turn 4, 23.00 - The French columns approach the lower slopes of the Cerro de Medellin
It was over an hour of careful marching, with Chef de bataillon's desperately trying to keep their columns coordinated as the darkness closed in reducing visibility from 200 to 100 paces.
Despite the concentration, the 3/24me Ligne found itself alone with just the outline of what appeared as friendly columns close by, but that failed to respond to their calls.

Suddenly shouting broke out ahead of their column as shapes in human form could be seen running to and fro and the realisation dawned that they were in amongst the English camp.

Turn 5, 23.15 - First contact, the 3/24me Ligne (unit 196) hopelessly lost "bump" Low's KGL brigade
Off in the darkness to the right of the 3/24me Ligne, the other two battalions of the regiment had by-passed the lines of Low's 5th and 7th KGL battalions and were themselves becoming aware of dark shapes moving about ahead of them.

Turn 5, 23.15 - First contact, the 1/24me Ligne with General Meunier attached contact the 5/60th Rifles of Donkin's brigade
Suddenly firing erupted in the two distinct areas almost simultaneously and was answered in kind by the men at the head of the French columns. With the surprise of their advance now revealed the French officers were keen to take full advantage of the ragged fire coming from the enemy and equally determined not to allow their men to stop advancing to issue fire.

"En avant, Vive l'Empereur" was the shout as the two French columns charged in amongst the KGL and 60th Rifles. Unable to coordinate any sustainable resistance the two British battalions still had the influence of their officers and nco's to enable a withdrawal and to inflict casualties back on the French as they did so.

Turn 5, 23.15 - First contact, British musketry vastly reduced to recreate the surprise factor, the French columns firing at 33% of their strength.
With the first firings issued both sides were on full alert and keen to call on supports to gain control of the situation.

The French regiments had arrived on the forward slopes of the Cerro de Medellin in two distinct groups of three battalions each, with one group caught up in a battle to drive back the four battalions of KGL infantry under Generals Low and Langwerth, whilst another three were taking on the two and half battalions under the command of Colonel Donkin atop the Cerro.

Sadly for General Ruffin, three of his battalions were no where to be seen and the 9me Legere and 24me Ligne were split between the two groups.

Both sides used the experience gained from previous games and commanders attached early 
The tighter set up for the French caused them to arrive in numbers if a little mixed up
Whilst the French were making do with the troops they had in the positions they were in, the British/KGL brigades were desperately trying to slow the advancing French columns by gathering more men into the firing lines as they were hit by successive charges. It was to their credit that although being relentlessly pushed back, the British battalions refused to break and simply established a new line 150 paces back from the previous one and, under the watchful eye of their respective officers. However this could only last for so long as the French were getting the best of every close encounter and men were throwing away their arms and kit as they sought sanctuary away from the fight in the darkness. 

Turn 7, 23.45 - With the KGL and Donkin's brigades giving ground reluctantly, General Hill with Stuart's brigade arrive ahead of time, far right
General Sir Rowland Hill, known and referred to affectionately amongst the men under his command as "Daddy" due to his paternal command style had had a tiresome night. Struggling to get a Spanish general officer to understand that the Spanish were deployed in the wrong place, he suddenly realised that it was his own troops who were in the wrong part of the line and had spent the last hour and a half picking his way through the rear areas working his way past the cavalry and artillery lines towards the silhouette of a hill known locally as the Medellin.

Conversing to General Stuart as the two officers led the troops through the endless olive groves with the pleasant sound of chirruping cicadas accompanying their progress. The Generals turned their gaze to the hill ahead as the sound of musket volleys split the night. 

"General Stuart, ready the men, I expect it's the Old Buffs annoying the French by getting lost, but after the night I have had let's not take any chances"

Donkin's men are pushed towards the back of the objective, as the KGL fight desperately ahead of them to their right
It was 23.45 when Colonel Rufane Donkin checked his pocket watch. His men had recovered from the initial shock of finding French troops  in among their lines and had been fighting desperately to stem the French advance. His men were badly disorganised with companies mixed up taking commands from officers and sergeants they didn't recognise. His soldiers could still shoot straight and would rally to the colours, but without a chance to break contact and reform he knew it was only a mater of time before they would break and be driven off.

Suddenly the 2/87th fell back leaving the 60th Rifles, only about 200 men strong, and the 1/88th to hold the line. Donkin rode along his ragged line as the Connaught Rangers braced themselves for yet another French charge calling out encouragement to hold their fire as he passed. Suddenly a voice from behind caught his attention "Well done 60th, well done the 88th, hold fast, the second division are here to lend a hand if you will allow us".

Colonel Donkin turned in the saddle, "Good evening General Hill, your assistance would be greatly appreciated"

With the 2/87th (Donkin's brigade) reforming after being pushed back, General Hill lends a hand as he direct Stuart's brigade forward
The arrival of General Hill with Stuart's brigade, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule (historically Hill arrived around midnight so we had a variable arrival time set at half an hour either side of that time) threw a life line to the beleaguered British defence. The French forces were tiring, but the British were in a worse state and showed no sign of being able to turn the relentless assault back. For them it required them to stand for at least another half hour as Stuart's battalions replaced them on the front line, able to deliver their steady massed musketry. Equally the French were determined not to allow that to happen by breaking the front line British brigades and cementing their control.

It was now that the missing three French battalions threatened the success of the attack as their fresh troops were sorely missed

Turn 11, 00.45 - Low's KGL are finished and reluctantly surrender the ground allowing the French to "mop up"
The 9me Legere and 24me Ligne with General Ruffin and Meunier in close attendance focused their attention on Donkin's brigade. The charge when it came drove the 2/87th out of the line and managed to catch the 5/60th Rifles in open order trying to evade, wiping out half the unit as they broke back behind the 1/88th.

The 88th held their ground issuing the best volley of the night from the original defenders and grudgingly giving ground as the French infantry stopped to reform.

Donkin's brigade (nearest camera) and Langwerth's KGL get a respite as the 29th and 1/48th (Stuart's brigade) move through them to take up the fight with the 24me Ligne and 9me Legere

With the end of game approaching at Turn 10, 00.30, and with two turns remaining, the game was finely balanced but looking like a French victory with the British force teetering on an army morale collapse at 78% and the French, battered and bruised, on 82%, but dominating the crest of the Cerro de Medellin.

(Army morale is calculated continuously in C&G as it assesses the effects of casualties and fatigue on the forces and is deemed to collapse when it drops below 75%. The effect is to cause a rapid break down in the morale of units, if players press on regardless. Thus it makes a good victory test parameter.) 
Stuart's brigade in a line move up to contest a tired French force occupying the summit, as Donkin and Langwerth try to hold their battered brigades together
With the successful attack on Donkin's brigade the French looked set to break the 1/88th with just one more charge. The two KGL brigades had fought themselves into the ground and Low's men dispersed into the olive groves to evade capture. General Stuart's brigade was now tantalisingly close to engaging the forward French columns but needed one more turn to make their effect felt.

As if anticipating the impending British counter-attack, the French columns shook out into line occupying the objective area and the General officers attaching to the forward battalions. They were confident of dealing with the shaken and disrupted 1/88th with fire power alone, and needed to break them to avoid a stand up duel with the 29th, 1/48th and Battalion of Detachments.

Turn 11, 00.45 - Fire! A crashing volley vomits on to the forward French battalions causing French soldiers of all ranks to fall
The final confrontation when it came had everything to play for, with the British on 76% army morale and the French on 80%. The three British battalions of Stuart's brigade were imperious as their first volleys let fly dreadful carnage on the French battalions with two of them breaking under the attack and General Ruffin falling mortally wounded from a shot to the head and General Meuniers aide killed outright. Even the 1/88th seemed galvanised by the British fire to stand its ground and add its own trifling volleys as an applause.

Despite their enormous casualties in the preceding turn, even the 60th Rifles seemed rejuvenated allowing them to rally behind the line of redcoats.

The French return volleys only emphasised the difference between these fresh reserves taking on the now very tired French assault battalions who had been marching and fighting for nearly three hours.

And then the game was over, the rally phase revealed the damage done to the French force and left only the end of battle check to establish the victors given that both sides were still contesting the objective at game end.

Imagine our surprise to see that, not unexpectedly, the added casualties and another turn of combat had tipped the British force into an army morale collapse situation at 65%, but that the massed British volleys had also tipped the French into a similar predicament at 74%. The British would reoccupy the Medellin, but both armies would be licking their wounds overnight.

Now that it what you call a Pyrrhic victory!

As the crashing British volley opens up along the line, General Ruffin is mortally wounded with a shot to the head
The butchers bill at the end of Turn 12, 01.00

Carnage&GloryII - Napoleonic Tactical System Module - © 2001-10, Nigel P. Marsh
Talavera Night Attack
End of Game Turn: 12

[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing

Division Rowland Hill - Defend
[ 512] Major General Rowland Hill - Active B- [950 paces]

Brigade Ernest Baron Langwerth - Defend
[ 510] Brigadier General Ernest Baron Langwerth - Active B- [350 paces]
[ 519] 1st KGL Line Battalion 0/ 604 C- [sk]
[D] [ 520] 2nd KGL Line Battalion 125/ 553 C- [sk]

Brigade Sigismund Baron Low - Disengaged
[ 511] Brigadier General Sigismund Baron Low - Active C+ [450 paces]
[D] [ 522] 5th KGL Line Battalion 65/ 545 C- [sk]
[D] [ 523] 7th KGL Line Battalion 72/ 485 C- [sk]

Brigade Richard Stewart - Defend
[ 514] Brigadier General Richard Stewart - Active B [450 paces]
[R] [ 529] 29th Foot 46/ 552 C+ [sk]
[ 530] 1/48th Foot 27/ 780 C- [sk]
[R] [ 531] 1st Battalion of Detachments 42/ 567 C- [sk]

Brigade Rufane Donkin - Defend [No Advance]
[ 516] Colonel Rufane Donkin - Active B- [350 paces]
[ 537] 2/87th Foot 24/ 575 C- [sk]
[ 538] 1/88th Foot 35/ 564 C- [sk]
[ 539] 5/60th Rifles 98/ 175 B- [sk]

534/ 5400 Bayonets
534/ 5400 Total of all arms
16 Standards present


Talavera Night Attack
End of Game Turn: 12, 01.00

[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing

Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Attack
[ 105] General de Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Mortally wounded D+ [650 paces]

Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Attack [No Advance]
[ 106] General de Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Active B- [400 paces]
[R] [ 191] 1/9me Regiment de Legere 309/ 278 C [sk]
[ 192] 2/9me Regiment de Legere 0/ 587 C [sk]
[ 193] 3/9me Regiment de Legere 39/ 548 C- [sk]
[D] [ 194] 1/24me Regiment de Ligne 186/ 401 C [sk]
[ 195] 2/24me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 587 C [sk]
[ 196] 3/24me Regiment de Ligne 15/ 572 C- [sk]

Brigade Pierre Barrois - Attack [No Advance]
[ 107] General de Brigade Pierre Barrois - Active B [450 paces]
[R] [ 199] 1/96me Regiment de Ligne. 135/ 452 C [sk]
[Y] [ 200] 2/96me Regiment de Ligne. 193/ 394 C [sk]
[ 201] 3/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 587 C- [sk]

877/ 4406 Bayonets
877/ 4406 Total of all arms
3 Standards present


Talavera Night Attack
Pyrrhic victory for the French Army
End of Game Turn: 12, 01.00

The British Army has suffered losses of:
[ 35%] 2117 men of all arms
[ 7%] 417 dead and wounded
[ 26%] 1583 missing
[ 1%] 117 prisoners
[ 35%] 2117 bayonets
Honours: [ 538] 1/88th Foot

The French Army has suffered losses of:
[ 31%] 1672 men of all arms
[ 14%] 777 dead and wounded
[ 15%] 795 missing
[ 1%] 100 prisoners
[ 31%] 1672 bayonets
Honours: [ 191] 1/9me Regiment de Legere
Losses include 1 General[s]:
[ 105] Francois Amable Ruffin - Mortally wounded

Well played by Mike who as General Ruffin, kept pushing and pushing only to be cruelly shot down in the final attack and well played by Tom who spent the evening moving his general officers about in a desperate struggle to keep his army in the fight. As the observer it was a great night's entertainment with a big surprise to end and the pleasure of knowing we have produced  a really good scenario.

Next up the 4th "Queens Own" Regiment of Dragoons


  1. With my own Peninsular project about to kick off I can see me visiting your super blog quite often.



    1. Hi James, thank you.
      It was blogs such as your own that got me started doing all this photography and tapping away at the keyboard.

      I love the Seven Years War, WWII Desert and Punic collections you have put together and though I am focussed on 18mm for my Napoleonics intend to get back into the Early Imperial Roman 28mm stuff so I can start to produce games like yours.

      Welcome to the delight that is the Peninsular War, I'm keen to attract as much attention as I can to what I think was one of the most pivotal wars in history and certainly has some great looking troops taking part.

      I look forward to seeing your new collection and sharing insights.


  2. Cracking game well told, more, more I cry !
    Regards Furphy .

    1. Hi Furphy, thank you.
      I'm glad you enjoyed my prose. Plenty more to come with the "Dawn Attack", "Pajar de Vergara" which I trialled at the Devon Wargames Group last weekend, but will be rolled out here using C&G.

      I'm working on a cut down afternoon attack on the Medellin and then it will be the full monty with the afternoon attack as a whole.

      At some stage we will play a mini campaign that links them all together.

      So lots of fun to come

  3. Fantastic! Intense and beautiful, a great report...except for general Ruffin!

    1. Hey Phil, thanks mate. Yes, poor old General Ruffin, he got a great write up in my review of "Incomparable" The history of the 9th Legere and I felt his loss as he went down in that hail of musketry. It was always likely to happen as both sides were keeping their general officers in the thick of it just to keep their respective forces in the fight.

  4. Marvellous stuff. Great to see your WBQ article turning into the "real thing"!

    1. Hi Michael, thank you. Yes the project is rolling along with about two thirds of the forces involved completed. Just the Spanish under Bassecourt to get into and twenty four battalions of French line infantry. So plenty of painting to do in the second half of the year interspersed with scenario development play as we lead into the big game.

  5. Very enjoyable BatRep, Jonathan! The scenario seems to improve with each replay. I often find the same and think, "how could I improve the results if I tried it just one more time!" That line of reasoning often sees the same game out on the table for months at a time.

    1. Hi Jon, thank you.
      Yes you are spot on. I like to try out various options to see how the balance changes without completely losing the historical underpinning. After these tests I can now say if you choose option A B or C the scenario moves in favour one way or the other or gives both a chance to do better than the actual event.

      It's the best part of playing historical scenarios.

  6. Well written. Amazing game. Games that play out like that are the best. Great job setting up such a good scenario and to those two commanders who enabled it to play out to its full potential, especially in C&G which is unforgiving of tactical mistakes.

    1. Hi Adam, thank you, glad you enjoyed the read. I was keen to impart what a great game this turned out to be. Both commanders were kept vey busy, trying to overwhelm the other or avoid being overwhelmed to allow a fight back. I thought there was the potential to create this kind of game so it was nice to get it to work.

  7. Very different sort of battle, interesting stuff and looks very nice too! :)

    1. Thanks Chasseur. The scenario has developed with each play test. The various options we have played will allow variations to be included in the final design

  8. A very interesting battle Jonathan and lovely troops plus terrain.

    1. Thanks Paul. We have had a lot of fun developing this scenario, and I'm looking forward to linking them all up.

  9. What rules system were you using?