Sunday, July 22, 2012

Salamanca - recreations then and now

Salamanca or Los Arapiles is a peninsular war battle that I have recreated on the table top many times before.

Cover of the Autumn 2003 Arcadian Guild Quarterly
These past games did not have many photographs.  One, from 2003, did have many photos taken during the game, sadly the computer that they were stored on was destroyed in 2004 and I did not get any data from it archived onto CD's before the electrical storm that fried the whole computer struck.

The game featured on the cover was run in 15mm with Kelly Jones' collection, soon after he moved to Victoria.

summary of the re-fight of Salamanca from Autumn 2003 AGQ

Today I was inspired to pull out my 15mm minis, that are all setup for doing a Napoleonic version of Hordes of the Things, and put together a re-creation of the battle for this scale - using my own homebrew DBN rules.

I have a set of 12"x12" boards that have pre-set terrain on them, I have also made up a set of map generators, with a parchment feel, for setting up campaign game battles - formerly via e-mail (I did a series of Waterloo campaigns with them that worked out quite well - more about that some other time).

a parchment version of the map used in today's refight of Salamanca

The parchment blocks are not 'exact' copies of the boards, so the planning stages can have some unpredictability about them.

tabletop terrain and troops laid out 2' x 3'
This battle did not go so fast for the British, as their command die rolls were repeatedly horrible - for the first 4 turns (about one hour) they could only manage to move about 1/3 of their forces.  By turn 5 the artillery of both sides was finally able to come into action.

Artillery in a duel
Far on the British right, French left, the French cavalry had assembled and fell onto the flank of the British line.  The tactic almost worked, however it left the French cavalry in a vulnerable position backed into rough terrain.

The counter-attack from the British and Portuguese cavalry was enough to eliminate all of the French cavalry ... half way to victory!

raging artillery duel continued while British cavalry cut up their French counterparts
French lines continued to be broken up by the British artillery and the counter attack on the French right was not making any progress.  Every time they came to firing with the British, the French would come out on the loosing end of the die rolls.

British and Portuguese cavalry fall back, having lost 1/3 of their forces, meanwhile the French cannot get any effective fire into their counter attacks

Then a critical decision is made, the French commander moves into the line - preparing to make a push along with the left flank and at least take out one force of British foot.  This would put the commander into artillery range for one salvo at least ...

The British artillery did not miss!  Command was broken for one turn before devolving to the flag carrying infantry formation on the other side of the massed batteries.  Score was now British 3 : French 1

new French command is temporarily disordered from artillery fire (spiral marker)

New command took time to maneuver the line back into a battle ready action formation, meanwhile the British command rolls continued to be terrible.  Keeping the British from doing much more than get ready for the next French attack.

The line re-formed and charged, this time it did not fail and one British line unit was routed.

The counter attack and artillery barrage put the final nail in the coffin for the French as they lost one more unit of infantry ... final score British 4 : French 2, the French were forced to retire from the field - just as historically happened 200 years ago.

with only 3rd battalions of infantry to cover the left flank the French were obliged to start withdrawl

While searching for the old pictures of Salamanca, I came across this Larry Leadhead classic:

when was the last time you searched your 'lead mound'?

There were other great items for campaign work and game action photos that I have also found ... giving me more food for thought and some great 'looking back' material for future posts here with MurdocK's MarauderS


Archduke Piccolo said...

What I like most about this account is that it shows you don't need thousands of figures to refight big battles.

And I can well understand Larry Leadhead's attaitude. I find these days I am very uncertain of what I have in my inventory; but sell any of it off...? No way, "Hozay"! How can one be so heartless? (I will swap stuff, though...).

Rafael Pardo said...

Luckiliy the history has repeated itself...

MurdocK said...

Yes Ion, I have been doing discovery of using less minis for 'representing' the big battalions. Or in the case of Fast Play Grand Armee, brigades.

I have sold off parts of my collection in the past, particularly when storage space suddenly became limited and I had to reduce, so out went the 1806 Prussians and all of the Austrians. Fortunately I can re-cast them in the future...


Yes the 'strung out' nature of the French at Los Arapiles makes it nearly impossible to recover, though most of the early French moves in my game yesterday were very conservative, pulling back from the British, getting the cavalry together on the flank, maneuvering my artillery to an effective position.

The problem is one of 'exterior' vs 'interior' lines of communication, the French are just too far spread out ... the British had a nice tight inner circle, this makes the British moves easier and the French ones take longer to complete.

Marmont was truly 'caught with his pants down' in this battle.

Phil said...

Looking very nice, I do like this battle! Great pictures.