A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Napoleonics: Albuera, 1811


We recently fought a 15mm game of Age of Eagles, using a scenario for Albuera.  The combined armies of Beresford (British and Portuguese) and Blake (Spanish) faced the resourceful Soult (who attacked without knowing that the allies had combined forces).  I commanded Beresford's Anglo-Port troops, while "El Guapo" commanded Blake's Spanish.  The players leading the French will remain anonymous....

We had some mixed feelings about the scenario afterwards, but I will hold those comments until the end...

From the French lines.... Albuera and surrounding heights at the top...
From the French right "feint"... Albuera just on the other side of the river, held by British troops.  Portuguese division holding the Allied left flank.

The Spanish hold the heights in number.

Anglo-Portuguese division marching to Albuera, while combined Spanish and British cavalry hold the Allied right flank.

The French begin forward movement, including a strong left punch with cavalry.  In an effort to destabilize the French cav, the lone British cavalry regiment smashes into the center French cav unit, sending it reeling.  A breakthrough attack against the Polish lancers is ineffective.

The Portuguese can not contain themselves, and advance against the French right.  The French are massing artillery on this flank, punishing the Spanish in the center.

The Portuguese Dragoons smash the French cavalry, then coordinate with the Portuguese infantry to roll up the flank...

The French assault in the center continues.  Despite heavy enemy fire, the blue columns advance...

After charges and countercharges, the Spanish cavalry and British cavalry have taken heavy casualties.... but so have the French cavalry. 

The Spanish hold firm, repulsing most of the French infantry attacks.  British and Portuguese units begin plugging holes in the line as needed.

On the French right, the Portuguese have destroyed all 3 batteries and the cavalry unit... they begin lining up a finishing attack on the French infantry.

The Portuguese Dragoons ride home from the rear, while Portuguese infantry close in from the front (for some reason I can not make this image turn).

It is no surprise that the entire French unit is either killed or captured.  the entire French right flank has been destroyed to a man.

There is some fighting near Albuera, with British troops being pushed back, but holding the French from the town, but the battle is over.....

From the French lines.... there is almost no French army left!  That largish unit crossing the river on the right is Portuguese.  Soult will dine alone this night.

In the end. this battle was completely lopsided.  We did not bother to count casualties it was so bad.  I feel a little guilty, as I had chosen this battle and scenario to use.  On paper I thought it looked even enough, and really liked the mix of all three Peninsular Allies combined. 

The Spanish fought well at this battle historically, but for the scenario were perhaps rated too highly across all of the formations.... a single Regular or Elite infantry regiment (Zayas), with the rest being conscripts, would have been better.

The British in this were not all elites (refreshing)... so I don't think that was a problem.  And I liked fielding the British under a commander other than Wellington (again, refreshing!).

I think what may have been lacking was more fog of war for the allies.  As a player I knew the French right was weak, so had no delay at all in launching the Portuguese division in an all out assault.  Perhaps these Portuguese troops (and the British in the center) should have been held in place until released by specific events (attacked in melee, outflanked, or when a specified turn was reached... like turn 5 or something).

As players, gaming historical battles, we should not need or want "even battles"... however, this scenario may have been a bit more uneven than we would have liked.  Historically, Albuera was a bloody, but even, fight for both sides.  Our game was a near complete destruction of the French for very few allied casualties.... and though the French players gamely tried their best, they may not have had any real chance of even a marginal victory.

Since there are so many other Napoleonic battles to be fought, we are unlikely to fight this one again soon.  If we do, we'll change some things up, or, I'll play the same game from the French side as penance :)


  1. Not a good day for the French Army! Anyway, nice report, breautiful pictures...

  2. Soult was outnumbered 3-2 and on the attack. Unless Beresford's hesitation is modeled, the Allies will simply thrash the French. Beresford was planning a withdrawal when his chief of staff committed the last infantry division on his own initiative. I keep the Anglo-Portuguese units rooted until the historical times they began moving to the flank or when the French are silly enough to attack them. I would rank Zayas' Spanish infantry as elite/line and most of the rest as conscript. Spanish and Portuguese cavalry were outclassed by French cavalry. I would say the problem of most Spanish infantry (other than Zayas' division) was inability to maneuver in the face of the enemy rather than lack of courage.

  3. Curious if the scenario was from the "Power is my Mistress" book or another source?

    1. Yes, it was one of the PIMM scenarios. Since we are giving Albuera mixed reviews, I didn't feel as comfortable naming the source.

  4. I'm the creator of PIMM, but don't worry I don't take offense to any intelligent criticism. The Spanish rating is a tricky decision, based on their historical performance. The last time I gamed Albuera we gave all the Spanish Regular break ratings 'F/W/S', but only Zayas' troops were Regular and the rest Conscript. Seemed to be more accepted by players. But haven't made an official change to PIMM yet.

    1. We may game this again sometime... the mix of all three Iberian allies is a draw for this battle, that and Wellington not being here. We would change some of the ratings, but also, we think the Port flank needs to be held in place for a while, until the allied command learns that the main attack is not arriving on their left flank. Its the old question of how do you effectively introduce fog of war without making the game too cumbersome. In this case, locking the Portuguese on their side of the river until "x" happens is one way to force fog of war on the allied players.

      In any event, this is a tough battle for the French, no matter how you write it up. Soult had his hands full during the real thing... though, he did fairly well, all things considered.