The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm
This fictional battle was staged in Edinburgh wargamer Hugh Wilson’s house, fought out on Hugh’s unusually long table using figures from several collections. The scenario was concocted by Bill Gilchrist, who also supplied these photos and the cool little map. The idea was that the British army was in retreat along a road running across the width of the table (running east to west) while the French were converging on them from the north and south. The aim was to hold the central ground long enough for the British wagon train to transit the table and escape off its western edge. Two infantry brigades (one behind the other) guarded the southern approaches, while a third brigade held the line of a stream to the north. A British light cavalry brigade was kept back in reserve.The game began with the French Army of Portugal debouching onto the southern table edge. There seemed to be masses of them, but in fact the attackers only had three infantry brigades, supported by two brigades of cavalry. The defenders repulsed one of the leading brigades with ease, but a second brigade on the French right flank slammed into a solitary British infantry battalion, and the French emerged victorious. With that unit gone the British flank was hanging in the air, and the French promptly swung round to roll it up. Meanwhile another two brigades from the French Army of the North appeared on the northern table edge, supported by another brigade of cavalry.In the south the British held their ground, despite the pressure on their left flank. Another two French battalions were seen off, forcing the French commander to bring up his third brigade of foot, supported by a brigade of dragoons. The French cavalry charged a skirmish line of British riflemen, who – against all the odds – gave them a bloody nose, and then retired in good order. Plucky stuff! Eventually though the British defenders were forced from their central hill, and the survivors withdrew behind the next line of British, deployed on either side of the church, just to the south of the road used by the British wagon train.In all this struggle cost the French 6 infantry battalions – half of their force. The defence of the British 2nd Brigade effectively took the wind out of the Army of Portugal’s sails. It spent the rest of the game “demonstrating” against the British 1st Brigade, but it didn’t have the strength to attack it. This meant that victory or defeat would be decided in the north.That was the point when I had to leave. The trains weren’t running due to bad weather, and so I had an unexpected house guest to meet. By then though the leading Polish-German brigade of the Army of the North was trying to storm the bridge – and getting repulsed – while the rest of the army was manoeuvring forward towards the line of the stream. it took several turns, but eventually the second brigade – Bavarians – crossed the stream, drove back the defenders, and effectively broke the British 3rd brigade. The real heroes of this part of the battle were a battalion of Saxons, who charged and captured a British gun battery, and then saw off a battalion of Briitsh line, all without suffering a single “hit”! The breaking of the British 3rd brigade should have handed victory to the French, but the British had a surprise in store.A 4th British brigade had been marching along the East-West road, as part of the wagon train, After please from the local British commander it wheeled out of the column and deployed in line to the north of the road. This meant the British had a second chance. They also had their small brigade of light cavalry in play, covering the eastern exits from the marsh-lined stream. The Bavarians assaulted the British line, but were thrown back. It looked as if the evening might end in a British victory, but everyone had forgotten the battered Polish-German brigade, licking its wounds around the bridge. It pulled itself together, and then launched an unexpected forced march along the western table edge, cutting the western end of the east-west road on the final turn. That handed the victory to the French, whose army had achieved its objective – the cutting of the British line of retreat. It was a good see-saw battle, and a particularly bloody one, but everyone seemed to enjoy it thoroughly.