On a drizzly day in August, 12 wargamers gathered at Rob’s War room to re-fight the battle of Talavera. They came from places far and wide and included James, a long lost comrade returning from the thrusting real world to the gentle world of the old farts and young fools we wargamers inhabit. Rob had laid out an impressive battlefield terrain with a range of hills towards the ‘northern’ end and a long line of entrenchments stretching away at the ‘southern’ end .
The armies were divided into commands, which were assigned to the players on some basis or other that I can’t remember.
Francis, having arrived late after some trauma crossing the Thames at Wandsworth I believe, drew the short straw being given command of the Spanish forces at the very northern end of the line - they seemed a mite exposed with no defences to bolster them. Mike commanded the central compound and adjoining forces and is always happy to defend as long as he has his artillery. Noel was the other Spanish general and possibly fancying himself as the unpredictable and unreliable Cuesta was threatening to live up to that expectation.
As an ex-Household Cavalryman, Scotty was keen to take charge of the Guards and Highlanders and regaled us during the day with tales of the amazing feats of spit and polish required to attain the superb turnout expected of the Household Cavalry. Of the 3 British commanders, Scotty, Simon and Chris none seemed to actively take on the role of Wellesley - in fact the British deployment seemed very unWellesley like – not a reverse slope to be seen.
Whilst the British and Spanish gathered outside in the drizzle, and failed to make any recognisable plan, the 5 French commanders, Peter, Rob, James, Brian and Jonathon surveyed the battlefield under the leadership of Peter in the roles of either Marshall Jourdan or King Joseph - depending on frequent dice rolls. A plan was agreed which was the opposite of the historical one – obviously arrived at with either the benefit of hindsight or a complete failure to identify the main objective of defeating the British. The French intended to not attack the British at all, but to go for the Spanish in the centre and on the northern flank – so much for the initial deployment.
Meanwhile the British and Spanish plan was summed up when Cuesta (Noel) trod in it – literally – was that dogshit or just mud – we will never know.
At our club Phil’s 15mm Napoleonic collection is legendary and he is now adding to his forces some of the more obscure armies and units. His latest addition to his Napoleonic collection is the very colourful Neapolitan army. Although they looked the part, being dressed by Murat, their fighting reputation did not match their famous commander by any stretch. The Neapolitans were going to have the first outing against the British Redcoats. Using Phil’s homemade rules which have a strong connection to Shako this was the only army that we have played with that fielded units with a MR of 2.0!
The scenario entailed a small Anglo Portuguese force returning from a punitive raid with their loot to get across the table. They were being stopped by a much larger Neapolitan army. The terrain was set up to form a valley with the Brits moving through the valley. Facing them was a Division of Neapolitan Infantry. Off table for the Neapolitans were two cavalry divisions, one further infantry division and a Guards division. The Brits had 2 small Infantry Divisions and a small cavalry division. The Brits started in column of March in front a small village in the valley. Rob and Mike commanded the Anglo Portuguese whilst Noel, Simon and Jonathan commanded the colourful Neapolitans.
Rob scarred from his recent Saxon experience in similar situation tried to move his forces quickly through the valley. The Brit army was attacked by some angry citizens from the village which were swiftly crushed. The Brit cavalry sped off down the valley leaving the infantry behind. Whilst halfway down the valley the rest of Neapolitan army arrived unseen to the Brits left flank and rapidly moved to intercept the Brits. The Brit cavalry decided to get off table rather than support their infantry. The Brit commanders hoped the fabled redcoats would brush aside the weak opposition. However without cavalry support they were soon forced into square and after losing a key initiative roll had several of the battalion destroyed in the flank whilst still in line. Game over by 9.30pm! Red faces all round for the Brits. We replayed the game again with Noel taking on the Anglo-Portuguese who put a much better fight seeing off 3 Neapolitan brigades but his casualties (large numbers caused by victory casualties) reduced his force too much to get enough units off table to secure a Victory under the scenario conditions.
Noel brought along his fabulous 15mm Spartan and Theban army. The later equipped with their infamous Sacred Band. We used a version of Armati for rules with a few modifications made by Noel. We had a fair basic terrain layout with a few hills and woods. We used some old estate agents boards to split the table in half to allow both sides to deploy without seeing their opponents forces. The Theban army which had more cavalry (Led by Simon, Mike and Rob) opted to deploy all of their heavy cavalry (save for a few light cavalry units) on their left flank.
The Theban cavalry charged forward on their left flank and were met by the Spartan cavalry. On the Spartan left their cavalry advanced towards the Theban right flank which was only covered by a few weak light cavalry units. The Theban infantry advanced towards the Spartan lines. The Theban cavalry on their left were not able to use their superior numbers to brush aside the Spartan cavalry. In the centre the light troops engaged in missile fire. The Spartan light Infantry completely out classed its rivals (thanks to particular good die rolling for the Spartans and woeful dice rolling by the Thebans). Richard skilfully manoeuvred his Spartan cavalry on their left wing and proceeded to rip a huge hole in the centre of the Theban light infantry and then went on to destroy the Theban light cavalry covering its right flank
The destruction of the Theban light infantry allowed the Spartan light infantry to soften up the Theban heavy infantry as it advanced to meet the Spartan phalanxes. The two heavy infantry lines met. The Theban Sacred band lived up to its name destroying the Spartan allies opposite it. However the main Spartan phalanxes crushed the Thebans opposite. To compound the Theban problems further the Spartan cavalry had got around the rear of the Theban army and were destroying its second line. The Theban cavalry on their left wing finally overcome the Spartan cavalry in front of it but were too late to save their infantry. A great victory again for Sparta. The deployment gamble of putting all of the Theban heavy cavalry on one flank did not pay off.
I was recently given (by generous ex club member) some Foundry Wild West figures which were painted for me by a talented painter called Jim. It is a period that has not really grabbed me in the past but after seeing them painted and seeing a few articles on various Wild West games I was keen to get them on the table. This was further fueled by the buildings 4Ground make under their Dead Man’s Hand range. My collection started with a few buildings to see what they were like and I ended up buying most of their range.
I set up the game with 4 gangs The Lawmen (Noel), Desperadoes (Jonathan), Renegade Indians (Phil) and 7th Cavalry (Myself / Adam). The Desperadoes mission was to Rob the Bank, The Indians to rescue a captured squaw held in the Sheriff’s Jail. The Lawmen were to protect the bank and keep the squaw safe until the 7th Cavalry arrived to take her away for questioning. The Lawmen placed their figures first. The Desperadoes were put half in the Saloon and half in the Hotel. The Indians were to come on from the edge of the table with the Cavalry coming on much later from the table edge. The Desperadoes got stuck into the Lawmen very early, however their shooting was particular poor thanks to lady luck deserting Jonathan on his shooting rolls. The lawman on the other hand had some early success with one particular lucky long range shot felling a Desperado outright! The Desperadoes did however fare much better in coming to grips with the lawmen when they got stuck into hand to hand fighting.
The Dead Man Hand’s card system worked well which kept the Desperadoes in the game despite being up against some great shooting by the Lawmen. The card system really gives the game its edge and judicious use of the cards produced some great moments with various figures either stumbling or being incapacitated by being drunk at key moments. The Indians advanced slowly and with hindsight they should have come on much closer to the Jail in the light of the movement rates. The Desperadoes finally reached the bank and for once the Lawmen’s shooting dice failed and despite close range shotgun fire they had almost broken into the bank. They were being held off by one upstanding female citizen armed with a shotgun. By the time the 7th Cavalry arrived it was unfortunately time to pack up. The Lawmen were close to a big nerve test as they had lost 4 of their 9 strong gang including their leader. The rules worked well and with a few more games I think they could prove to be a big hit at the club. With hindsight for the first game I should have kept to 2 gangs to ensure the game speed was kept up until we learnt the rules a bit better.
Noel brought along his fabulous 28mm Saxon and Norman figures and we used Hail Caesar rules to play this game. The scenario was that Saxon army needed to get off the far table edge. The Saxon army was being pursued by a Norman army to its rear and to get off the table edge they needed to break through a smaller Norman army guarding a ford. The Saxon army outnumbered the defending Norman army just under 3-1. At the start of the game the Saxons were aware of one ford but was not sure whether there was others.
The Saxon advanced on the flanks as quickly as they were permitted by the Hail Caesar rules whilst the centre advanced more cautiously. The Norman army repositioned itself defending the ford. Jonathan joined the game and took control of the Saxon flanks. The Saxon left flank with its cavalry arrived at the river but could not find any additional fords. The right flank took much longer largely down to my earlier poor command dice rolls and slower movement rates. As the main body approached the ford unknown to the Saxon players a large force of Norman cavalry arrived on the table to its rear…a few Anglo Saxon expletives were uttered by the Saxon players. The Saxon centre was forced to crash into the Normans at the ford as soon possible.
Fortunately for the Saxons the Norman cavalry under Patrick had some shocking command rolls, including a few amusing blunder orders – giving them some more time! The Saxon centre crashed into the Normans at the ford and at the same time the right flank found another ford. The Normans defending the ford benefitted from the terrain and their special status as tough troops held the Saxons. At long last the Norman cavalry finally got their act together and hit the rear of the Saxon army. The “wheels were coming off” for the Saxons. A fierce battle raged at the ford but the Saxons could make no head way at either ford. The Norman cavalry managed to out flank the Saxon army resulting in its complete destruction. With hindsight the Saxons should have moved quicker towards the ford but even when they did engage they were not strong enough (inferior dice rolling) to get across. A great game.