Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Condensed Battle of Albuera 16th May 1811

Or another run out for our Napoleonic Rules. Yes I said our, no longer do I think my rules given the input from Lee. It would be wrong to think otherwise. Lee has done a great deal to shape and reshape parts of the rules and whilst Barry was in at the start was quite agreeable to how the rules went so few changes happened. Only the Artillery were shaped by Barry's influence and until recently they have remained constant with little change. Only now are they starting to be fiddled with but even so the core of the artillery rules remain constant.

Before we get into the game it's a good point to talk rules. I have already mentioned I am planning making these rules free to those who want them and one of our bunch has a program to turn the word doc into a snazy PDF. I will be taking him up on his great offer to do this so you can expect photos of our figures to be splashed about in the rule set. What else we need to do is re-write the rules so that they are understandable to those who have yet to play them as well as finish the army lists etc.

I am leaning towards just using the one set of army lists for the quick play version but adding a not in the appendix for how to play a greater detail game, indeed I think the rules could stand up to being played to 15mm and would still work.

No major changes were made to this version of the rules before play but a number of minor changes happened due to the game. We also set up a few trial changes that should have a greater impact on the rules for the next game. These will further speed up the game but the jury is still out on if they will be kept, watered down or removed.

I just took a segment of the battle rather than the whole thing, mostly as we just don't have all the troops to fight it yet. We need to get the Spanish and the Portuguese. Iberia is such a rich area for the Napoleonic Wargamer I would imagine it's one of the most popular settings. 

Anyway the action that we depict is the battle around the town itself and some of the flanking hills. Lee is not aware what battle we are playing so the trick I am planning will be a surprise.

My French set up hard right facing the town in depth. Obviously my plan is to smash through the British holding the small town, this is always a tough job but given the numbers it's possible.

All my cavalry cover my infantries left flank. I have more cavalry than the British but he has the best quality so a battle between the cavalry could go either way.

Lee takes the bate, the infantry behind the buildings are actually in the town defending the front edge. The troops in the town and those in reserve behind it are frozen in place and unable to move until late in the game.  All other troops have freedom of movement. This is to represent the British Divisional commanders refusal to move from the town or move his reserves as he thought his location was the focal point of the attack when in fact it was a diversion.

The far right of the British position, note the woods are fairly open and olive trees so even mounted horse can move through them but you can only see two base widths (musket range) into them.

The truth is somewhat different. I move the whole rear ranks to the middle and left of the boards. My real aim is to take the hills making the village a death trap as the British will not be able to retreat from it. Lee is fortunate that his cavalry are formed up so as to be able to take advantage of their strength but his light infantry formations are weak and vulnerable out in the front.

First blood goes to Lee as he forces the 21st Chasseurs to drop a level of Cohesion. Under the new army lists this is a big deal as another level drop will cause them to withdraw. With the advantage of numbers I can just sit this one back and remove the cohesion loss with a commander (if I roll equal or below the morale, in this case 8)

We have doubled the number of guns for a battery over the last couple of games and now they tend to do a fair bit more damage. Now you have to respect them and added to the reduced cohesion you really don't want to sit in front of them for a whole game, well chances are that you won't sit in front of them all game, well not with the same troops anyway! Lee was making good use of his guns as one after anoother of my units lost cohesion to them.

The British Light Infantry make a stand refusing to form square before I charge in. Some excellent firing saw one Dragoon regiment get mauled on the way in, even losing a morale level. Did the infantry not realise they were supposed to die? The second Dragoon regiment started with just a couple of squadrons so had a lot less hitting power but got into the Brits without loss but would have to also fight the supporting Light Battalion.

The British cavalry responded against my Infantry on my far left. I tried to form square, one Battalion refused whilst the second formed such a ragged square they would have been better staying as they were. The same result for both as they were routed from the field! I at least had caused the British lights to also retire from the battle as two of the units were put to rout

My second line was about to get charged by the British cavalry who were not being slowed down from the previous charges as they still had to take any cohesion loss. I formed another square and again rolled just enough to get them to form, which means another disordered square, that's not good. My guns had a great position to hurt the British cavalry but they failed to case a single cohesion loss, I guess seeing them ride through two Battalions of infantry was putting the wind up them.

At this stage my phone stopped taking pictures but did not bother to tell me! The guns were charged and the canister failed to stop the cavalry in it's tracks losing me the guns, however they did manage to drop the cavalry charging them a cohesion level.

As you can see from the photo above the British had carved a path right into the centre of my left flank but this was also their undoing as I now have them bottled up. Lee started the game with three regiments of cavalry and soon had his light dragoons routed. Once I had one of the two heavies in retreat the cavalry was a spent force and soon sent running. Of course if he could just rally the retreating unit back he would be back in the game though very vulnerable. I did not give him the chance, routing a second regiment to make sure they could not come back.

Next up for my cavalry was a nice little rest as I recovered cohesion and made them effective again. A core part of the rules is the ability to regain cohesion and commanders who can or do take units or formations out of the front line to rally them back tend to do better in the game than someone who want's just one more charge. 

My infantry on my left flank was still a fighting force but all the Divisions had taken enough lost battalions that attacking was becoming a bit dangerous. My only realistic strategy was to attack the remaining British Infantry in the centre with a combined attack. Use the cavalry to force the British into squares and then attack with the infantry. 

At about this point the rain started, it was so heavy that only guns could fire and then only at a range of 4 base widths (I think). Lee spotted his chance and attacked out of the town (finally being allowed to move them). Strangely I felt at this point he would have been better staying put. Just before he made contact the rain stopped and I was allowed to fire into his advancing troops. I managed to force a few cohesion loss and in the following few turns diced him good and proper. In fairness I had the inside track at this point in the combats and so Lee really needed the luck not me.

So quickly Lee was in a position that he needed to retreat back to the Town and use the fresh troops he had to hold it whilst his spent battalions recovered. I was making no progress on my left at this point as I was slow to recover my cavalry and was still bringing the infantry back into usable formations.

So we called it a draw and it more or less finished as the actual battle did. If we had played on I am fairly certain I would have won the battle in the centre, which in turn would have allowed me to trap the last of the British in Albuera. This though was all subject to dice and time, neither could be counted on so a draw sounds fair enough to me.

The rules stood up well. I was tearing my hair out about the squares as I just could not get them to form. The only bright spot was this was down to horrendous dice throwing on my part. Squares can indeed be very dodgy to form but that tends to be when the enemy cavalry are up close and supported by infantry and or guns. Forming square whilst being charged is asking for trouble!

Post game we discussed what we wanted to change to make them better, below is the changes.

Added a long range to the guns. This is the same as skirmish fire, just on the 2FP table and low odds but whilst all guns have the same distance for effective range (eight base widths) the long range is gun dependant.

Move distances and charges have been increased. Not everything but most. This will get troops into action quicker and at the same time allow some sweeping moves. I am not sure I like the extra distance as is but we need a few battles before we make further changes (maybe need a little shaving off?)

Artillery firepower has been reduced. The reduced cohesion and increase in guns in a battery seem to be a stage to far. Guns will be just a little less dangerous but you still will not want to spend too long under fire from them.

Cohesion Levels. The idea of lowered cohesion worked, the game was far tighter than previous games and it looks like the rules will work with a larger number of units, as in much larger. The real test will be when we try a game with thirty to forty infantry units per side with guns and cavalry to match. That will be a game to test not just the rules but a whole lot more.

Lee has been talking about putting on a display game next year just to try all this out with the added pressure of punters asking questions and hopefully taking copies of the rules away! The bonus in this is that we do not have to move away from what we are doing for the following year as it's linked to the battle and the truth is that if we don't have the troops for the proposed game we won't be doing Waterloo the following year as we will be well behind by then. So news on that to follow.


  1. Interesting BatRep. Could you post a bit about your rules' design and design philosophy to give readers a better sense of the mechanisms?


  2. Very nice AAR, we have played this battle in 15mm, and I have the pleasure to discover great pictures in 6mm! Nice, very nice work!

  3. Good read Ian and for some reason 6mm is tempting!

  4. @ Johnathan, Point taken, see tomorrows post regarding the rules

    @ Phil, Thanks Phil, one day we will fight the battle including the Spanish etc. this was just a taste of the battle but it has a lot more going off in the full game.

    @ Fran, been a lot of 6mm madness here recently for some reason, but I have to say for me 6mm is the best way of playing Napoleonic's, not sure it suites many other periods half as well, not that I am saying other periods don't work in 6mm but Naps seem to be for 6mm. Unless of course you have giant tables