Thursday, June 28, 2012

Salamanca (French Left) 22nd July 1812 - Part One

Mr E looks skeptical as he looks over the battlefield, though this is not uncharacteristic. 
He is a skeptical fellow. 

Command & Colours: Napoleonics has two Salamanca scenarios, one which deals with the French right, which we've played several times. I was casting about my Peninsular Battles page, when I realised that we had played the scenario covering the French right and played a version where the two scenarios were put together in order to make one large one, I'd never actually played the French left as a straight two player game. Fortunately, Mr E was able to oblige and we set to.

"Phew", thought the British infantry at least those fellows are quite a distance away....

I usually umpire at these evenings and it's something that I really enjoy doing. It has been remarked upon that I seem to enjoy organising wargames as much as playing them. "Kinch likes to watch," is how Savage put it - he really is a vulgar, greasy little oik - but there's some truth in the observation. That was not going to be the case today and I sat thinking about how I was going to develop my attack. I had an adequate hand, but I would need to use up some of the more mediocre cards to built the kind of hand that would allow me to put in an attack that the French wouldn't tear to shreds with a counter attack.

 Good Lord!

But, it wasn't to be. Mr E with typically Napoleonic decision, decided that the best defence was a good offence and used a special card called "Le Grande Maneuvre" to throw all four battalions of the 1ieme Swisse forward. This allow him to move four units four hexes, a huge distance in Command & Colours terms and place them in contact with my redcoats. In doing this, he seized the high ground, nullified the effects of my superior musketry and put his own men in a position to hit me with the bayonet the next turn. I would have to think fast. 

 Well this is a pickle...

As to what exactly this special card represents is open to debate. Was the British commander caught napping? Probably, either that or his own orders to move infantry onto the ridge line went astray. However, the matter at hand was that the French were right on top of me and the battle had suddenly taken a very differant turn then the one I had expected.

 Volley fire drives one battalion from the field

The Rifles and the Halberdiers fell back firing, which caused some casualties, while the Fourth Foot launched a bayonet charge that broke one of the French battalions. With one down and one weakened by fire, things were looking better but a well timed charge from Mr E could spell the end.

As the casualties are carried away, I await the inevitable counter-attack - the Swiss, much like the French are dangerous at close quarters

I'd weakened one unit and wiped out a second, but my plan was in shreds and I was certainly on the back foot.  An older colleague of mine once told me that one of the most important aspects of any fight is realising what sort of fight one is in, that and that no-one who has to risk his skin thinks fights should be fair. I believe the risk was about equal at this stage, Mr E would require good cards or good luck to crush my left. But, I had come prepared to attack and was now scrabbling to muster a defence. "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace," had served Danton as far as it went, but it remained to be seen whether Mr E would profit by it.

 General E as a wise man supports the attack with cavalry and feeds more troops in

For his next trick, Mr E moved forward infantry supports and two squadrons of cavalry while skirmishing with the 4th Foot. This was in many ways a bigger problem as it meant that the attack would be well supported and that while I might be able to defeat the Swiss, there was every chance the fresh troops would roll over me. 

 Rifles are slow to load...

...and they fare poorly close up. The Swiss fell upon the 60th Royal Americans with a will and though they took a volley on the way in, an infantry symbol and two crossed swords finished the Americans in one fell swoop. 

The British redcoats pause, having fallen back for mutual support

My return fire caused some casualties, but it was pretty poor stuff and there were a worrying number of cavalry coming towards me. I also knew that if my left flank folded, Mr E would simply sweep into the vulnerablle Portuguese infantry in the centre, rolling me up before I could hit him back.

1 Regiment Swisse

We shall pause for a moment and regard these fellows. Newline French infantry, they're lovely models, though a little small - though I got them as part of a deal of 100 castings for €50 or thereabouts. These fellows are painted for my perpetual obsession, the battle of Maida, though I have four units of them as the French fielded Swiss at Bailen too and it would be a little unkind to deprive the Spaniards of suitable opponents. In the Bailen scenario, they are a little more fearsome, but normally I just field them as French Line Infantry.

The Hussars of Conflans move forward pinning the Halberdiers in square while the Chasseurs do the same to the 4th Foot

And this is where it all began to go a little squiffy. I was sitting on a good card that would allow me to counter- attack and do so comprehensively. A bayonet charge card that would allow to cut the retreat of the French horse and slaughter them. In Command & Colours, cavalry may fall back from an infantry charge substantially reducing the chance of casualties. I was worried that if I went into square, Mr E would take the one card in six that could do him serious harm.

The Fourth Foot took the charge of the Chasseurs in line and paid dearly for it. They managed to halt the French charge, but at the cost of near extinction. The Hussars of Conflans charged and I lost my nerve and formed square. Mr E reached out and like a revenger in a Webster play, took my Bayonet Charge. It was a disastrous turn. I had one battalion teetering on the edge of destruction, while another was now tied up in square. My effective counter had been snatched from my hand. But as Peter O'Toole put it in Laurence of Arabia, "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

The 7th Dragoons move forward, hoping to draw off some of the pressure

I was losing on my left flank and there was damn all I could do about it. I could make poor use of a good card in an attempt to shore up weakness or I could try to take the pressure off by exerting a little pressure of my own. I moved my Portugese cavalry, the 7th Dragoons no less, forward on the right. I had a six cards (now five) to Mr E's five and I wagered that he'd be less then happy to see his Legione Irlandaise run to ribbons by my cavalry. He could either trust to luck, which was unlikely or form them into square which would restore my card advantage. Either way, if he was playing cards on his left, it would draw his attention away from my now almost paralysed left and give me time to dig a way out of the hole.

Three British battalions held in square, this was going to be tricky

The Legion Irlandaise took it on the chin, while Mr E quite wisely pressed the attack where he was winning, forcing both battalions of the Fourth Foot into square. This took two additional cards from my hand and narrowed my options considerably. The only saving grace was that I had badly damaged his infantry before I had been forced into square and the only fellows in a position to take advantage of my discomfiture were a ways away.

Still, it was looking grim for General Kinch and his redcoats.

Part Two tomorrow.


  1. Exciting stuff. Being forced into square really hurts your options!


  2. The second half will be up shortly.

    Being in square really limits your options but it does beat being dead.