Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Battle of Bussaco AAR The Wargames Holiday Centre Style

First up sorry for the delay in getting this posted, whilst the weekend was fantastic it managed to knock me about a fair bit and I have been either to tired or in too much pain to get anything written about the games themselves. Now I will put that right with a battle report of the first game.
In total the Anglo-Allied have 6 divisions with 60 battalions of infantry, 6 9pdr foot batteries of three guns each and some Dragoons on a walk about with horse artillery attached. These did nothing all game so it's OK to forget about them now. You have? Good.
I now know facing us in three Corps were 51 battalions of foot, 5 8pdr foot batteries each of four guns, 6 regiments of light horse and 3 more of Dragoons, these with three 6pdr guns. Both sides had mixed quality of troops between Elite and 2nd Line. Also plenty of skirmish troops per side which are rather powerful in their own rights.
Originally we were to share these troops out between 8 players but with the two no shows we had to pick up the slack. I started with 3rd Division Picton, 4th Division Cole and 5th Division Leith for a total of 30 Battalions, yes half of the at start troops! I had been saying all throgh the planning that I should have less but it was only from turn two that the 3rd Division was taken off me and this was the smallest of the three! Well as I was to have part of the massive VI Corps and the much smaller II Corps thrown against me I was to be busy all game.
QRC's that are about 5 foot long!
As can be seen at the bottom of the picture we start with rectangular tiles that represent either dummy units or one to two real units. This adds a nice fog of war that through ASL I fully grasped. Seems the rest of my team did not as the  dummies were advanced right into site of the French and removed in just a few turns where I kept the dummies in the second game for as long as possible. Adding to the fog of war was a very real mist that covered the French advance but fortunately for us was lifted when a French player managed to roll a 6 at the end of the second turn and thus reveal a whole lot of French columns.
Red tiles behind cover awaiting the placement of the French tiles.
French Columns coming at my troops, these commanded by Adi
I used the river to secure my right flank and sent skirmish troops into the houses (these are too small for Battalions who can only enter towns). French light cavalry were the first troops I encountered and their job was to scout out my frontal defences but seeing the outlying buildings already getting garrisoned turned and went looking for trouble elsewhere.
French Cavalry try to gain information.
Due to my placement of the skirmishers I was soon rewarded with information on French numbers and direction of attack. A couple of French Light Cavalry cross the river at a ford in the hope of getting behind my flank.
French mass for first attack.
All my forward troops were British with the Portuguese providing support. The main reason being that at this point all my Portuguese were 2nd line troops and I hoped to win the day with steady fire from the good old Brown Bess.
British it steady lines supported by guns and Portuguese (red tiles).
Lee was approaching the hill which would be a tricky place to attack. As his columns marched up the hills they would become unformed and subject to constant fire as they slowly climbed upwards. Lee though had a plan, mean wile Adi was closing on the village and taking casualties from my skirmishers.
Portuguese fall into position behind the British  ready to lend a hand were needed.
Towards the centre of my position my artillery started to make it's prescience felt as it caused a couple of French units to loose troops and regular tests to keep moving forward. I was doing enough to slow down Lee in my area that my short owned 3rd Division under Ken's command started to go onto the attack.
The guns mark the boarder between my troops and Ken's.
Much talk was had regarding the possible weak point between our Divisions, I had to smile to myself as we had a special rule that allowed support between Divisions if Wellington was in the neighbourhood. I also have learnt you can learn a lot by looking at the battle from the enemies position so off I trotted to look at my positions from the other side and was struck by how formidable my position looked.
Standing in Adi's shoes. The white ring is a French trooper not going home.
One thing that struck me was that during the game I often had no idea how it was going for the other players involved in the battle. Just looking down the length of the table did not help as it was hard to tell who was moving forward and little evidence to the damage done. This was great in my mind as it really gave a great feel for the game. The whole experience of the weekend screamed NAPOLEONIC at you that went far further than just the model figures. I went looking a few times at the table but mostly I was so engrossed in the action in my part of the table I just did not think to go looking.
The opposite flank to me from the French side of the battle.
The view down the length of the table was a thing of beauty. Here was no straight line facing the hammer blow of the French column. No here we had islands of redcoats blasting gaps in French columns and for all the talk from Lee and Adi that if they were the French they would deliver a single punch all down the line, the blows were going in staggered as terrain slowed down some units whilst others moved as fast as possible to try and limit the time they had to face British musket.
The French attack breaks down to individual struggles.
In the centre Ken made a dash for a village beating out the French but being unable to support it straight away he lost the best part of the Battalion which was sent packing after a few turns of vicious fighting. It was Lee who gave Ken the punch on the nose and did so as he saw Ken's mistake as Ken was making it.
The Centre starts to warm up.
Adi in an attempt to take the pressure off the oncoming columns charged a squadron of light horse at a British double line. It was already down a single figure but lost another two from the volley and never made contact turning and fleeing back to their own lines. They did rally but for them the battle was over as they became a liability as other units morale started to become shakey.
Seeing off the French Cavalry.
The village was starting to look very tough to take. Adi used his artillery to kill the skirmishers holding the most forward of the houses but having no skirmishers in this area, (they were dying on the hill to my left) he could not take the building so I just stayed behind it ready to attack anyone moving round into view. I had interlocked units that could fire on the flank of any unit attacking another head on. The flanking cavalry thought better of it once I had a Portuguese regiment line the near bank. Due to impassable terrain they would have to spend two turns in effective range, chances are they would be forced to route before getting past my line.
However Lee was using the road to send attack columns against the hill. To his left he kept my infantry busy with a screen of skirmishers that are nasty!
Skirmishers refusing to play the game and die.
The French columns charge at two regiments that happen to have part of their bases on the road. This was a bit desperate as the French should be cut down by the British fire and if they did get in the shooting casualties would have made the melee tough for the survivors to win. The problem was that the fire was mostly at long range due to nervous tummies and the act of firing unformed both units. This lead to a chance for the French and they did so well that my troops fled after just one round of melee instead of the usual three. Both rallied at first asking but the damage was done. Lee still had fresh battalions behind this one.
Paper does not wrap stone on this occasion!
I managed to halt Adi as he tried to support in the middle but due to some poor shooting rolls and good morale rolls Adi saved two units that were fully expected to rout which if they had would have given me some spare units and made Adi's command very brittle. Give me a couple more turns and I think I would have got them running but by this point half of my artillery had fled the ridge and Lee was about to punch further through though I had the Portuguese in position to fight . Certainly I felt I was starting to loose control but Ken had by this point turned the French round and secured his part of the ridge and was in position to send troops into the flank of Lee's attack.
The Portuguese stand as the British rout past.
At this point we had to make a decision, stop here and start again and expect to get a second game played out through the rest of the Saturday and Sunday (it was mid afternoon) or carry on to a conclusion which would probably take us to Sunday Lunch. We choose to make a second game out of the weekend so Mark called it. French Victory, but close. Rather a shock, especially to the French who though we had won.
Actually all of us had as the game was great fun and whilst I would have loved to carry on to the end I understood that it would be a better call to go for two. So all the figures were put back on trays and we swapped sides. That though is another story and I will tell it in a few days.


  1. For someone who paints a few miniatures on the corner of the dining room table to see a game on this scale is just awe-inspiring!

  2. Agreed, this looks awesome. One day, perhaps...

  3. Stunningly large and beautiful, nice one Ian!

  4. Great AAR, that. I do envy you getting down there and having such a titanic clash!

  5. Great batrep Ian and from the look of that table, it was well worth the exhaustion and the pain. Feel well soon!

  6. wow that is a huge battle!!! I wish I could have been there

  7. Excellent report Ian!

    Table looks awesome with all those figures, and I like how you were so immersed that you lost sight of the overall battle. Very realistic danger!

  8. Excellent report and pictures! Thanks for sharing!


  9. @ Michael, this was one of the small games, a few weeks before they had at least double the troops laid out. Iwas looking at all the racks still in place with a great deal more Naps that were not needed for the game!

    @ Peter, yes I know I am a lucky chap. Lee last year managed a game a month there, this year he has managed just 5-8 bless.

    @ Anne, yes well worth it, pain has mostly gone but very little energy, but I have managed some good bursts at the painting table but even that has been less than normal.

    @ Jackster, Yes it was, the second game also suffered from this but the effect was far greater.