This is the scenario that was used for a re-fight of Albuera at Albancih 2015 on the terrain boards described in a separate post:
On 4th May the British under General Beresford besieged Badajoz with a small army of around 20,000 British and Portuguese. Marshal Soult had just finished putting down a rising in Andalusia and had gathered together a French army of ~25,000 with which to raise the siege. Having tricked the British into thinking he was preparing defensive positions he marched as quickly as possible towards Badajoz with the intention of defeating the Spanish army under Blake and Beresford’s British/Portuguese in detail.
Beresford learned that Marshal Soult had set out to relieve the fortress. He therefore decided that it would be better to meet this threat in the field, raised the siege and arranged to join with a Spanish army under General Jochim Blake at the semi-deserted village of La Albuera.
The scene was set for a pivotal battle in which Soult’s magnificent flank attack and sweeping cavalry charges by the Vistula Lancers were defeated by stubborn, brave British and Spanish soldiers standing their ground despite the odds.
This is a fairly large battle and the scenario as written/used was based on representing 800 men as a Battalion /400 cavalry as a regiment /8 guns as a battery, but you could alter this as needed to suit what you have available. The strength of each Battalion / Regiment / battery is given in the attached files to help you do this. Note that we made some adjustments to suit the scenario for example the two Battalions of Kings German Legion are represented by one large Battalion but we could have equally decided to represent them as two small Battalions. Also, arguably French light infantry should be treated exactly the same as line infantry, however, we like the difference…When you play it you can do it your way :).
The scenario starts before Soult’s flank attack and gives the French player the option of entering from directly in front of Albuera and attacking as Beresford expected.
Deployment maps and OOB are given in the attached files, play sheets are included to make life easier…
There are some ‘special rules’ to cover interpretations of the terrain. Note that these are partly based on the terrain boards we used depending on how you choose to represent the battlefield you might want to changes/ignore some of these. In particular it would probably be better to extend the battlefield beyond what we represented to show the start of the wooded area North of Albuera and the rickety bridge thus avoiding the entry requirements for Hamilton. An additional scenario rule that potentially allows the bridge to be used might add a bit of flavour and may mean the Allied player deploys Collins to watch this flank as he did historically.
The Battle As We Played It At Albanich 2015
Some things in the photos that might need a little explanation…we use four 30mm x 30mm stands of 6 figs to represent an Infantry Battalion. Skirmishers (when deployed) are represented by an additional ‘skirmisher base’ that has a frontage of 60mm and 3 figs occasionally we will leave the skirmisher base on the table but move it to the rear of the battalion if they are not deployed, it depends on how much confusion there is at the time and what we think looks better at that point in time.
For light infantry we have an additional two skirmisher bases, sometimes modelled with 4 figs, when the entire Battalion adopts open order we deploy both of the skirmisher bases and remove two of the close order bases. To help us keep track of what is where…we tend to keep the four bases in base to base contact.
Cavalry Regiments are depicted using six 30mm x 30mm bases of 2 figs, that we like to field in two ranks to represent a Regiment in successive lines.
Initial Allied deployment:
Spanish on the left…
British in the centre and Hamilton’s Portuguese on the right.
Portuguese cavalry watching the river crossing.
Godinot’s division enters and begins to cross the bridge over the River Albuera. The 27th Chasseurs a Cheval and 4th Spanish Chasseurs à Cheval lead the way and guard the open ground to allow artillery to deploy in a forward position but receive the unwelcome attention of the KGL firing from the buildings of La Albuera . The long snake of infantry trudge along behind…
Meanwhile, to the South Latour-Maubourg’s cavalry division moves to seize the high ground on the open plain.
Godinot deploys light infantry to support his artillery but a surprise attack from the rash British cavalry sweep them from the field. The cavalry are then badly mauled and retreat back to the British camp where they spend the rest of the battle tending their blown mounts and injured troopers (missing photos due to the high level of excitement…). A gaping hole opens in the French front as their infantry desperately try to get over the bridge (repeated failed command rolls/blunders). British light troops (rifles) come forward to harass the deployed French artillery while the line infantry behind them struggles to get organised. (many failed command rolls…). A few Battalions (Werle) have made it to the high ground to the left of the artillery but the collapse of Godinot on their right and the long delay of Gazan to come into the action has made it impossible for them to attack.
On the French left flank… The cavalry division has entered and deployed in an orderly fashion in preparation to launch a sweeping attack on the weak Spanish flank of the Allied army. Another (Girard?) infantry division enters and moves to occupy the high ground to support the attack. It is looking like an unstoppable force is about to be unleashed and the Spanish commander is feeling decidedly nervous. His infantry even more so as they refuse to obey commands.
The French cavalry division sweeps down on the Spanish army… charging ahead of their supporting infantry that are still in March column
But the Spanish cavalry puts up a bravely counter charges (!) and despite heavy Spanish losses and the French successfully taking the high ground they have suffered greatly and the attack grinds to a halt (as the French desperately try to overcome disorder and rally key regiments to stop the division becoming broken…).
But the French cavalry attack opened the way for Werle to attack in the centre! The Spanish are teetering on the very brink of collapse but refuse to run and against the odds they hold back the surging French infantry inflicting casualties and sowing disorder in the French line.
Girard’s French infantry are struggling to keep pace with the ferocious cavalry attack and can’t deploy quickly enough to press home the fleeting advantage…(more failed command rolls, only getting the single free move for being in column of march).
Finally the British and Portuguese get into order and begin to advance on the French column that is struggling to get across the bridge and ford. Godinot’s division is on the brink of being broken as a Portuguese hammer approaches…
And that was as far as we got…always the way when trying to have a game at a show with so many shiny items on stands to browse rather than playing the game. It was fun though, even though I was umpiring rather than playing.
Dean and Bob were the French commanders of the day and they had a spectacular run of bad command rolls with entire divisions sitting stationary for turn after turn, except the French cavalry attack which surged forward at break-neck speed. The luck was not much better for Nigel, Brian (Spanish + British) and Chris (British + Portuguese) but at least it actually meant we had a game of it rather than them surging forward and crushing Godinot/Werle at the ford.
As usual Black Powder provides a nail biting game even if we didn’t get to a conclusion. It was looking very bad for the left flank of each army!
For the Albanich 2016 show (Dumfries) we, and by ‘we’ I mean Nigel…decided that doing a re-fight of the battle of Albuera from the Peninsular War would be a good idea. The theme at Albanich was horse and musket to celebrate the 200yr anniversary of Waterloo. The scenario details and OOB will be in another post.
I am writing this about a year after the event. At the time I did a lot of research into the battle and the layout of the key features on the battlefield. It was my original intention to write a detailed account of what I concluded and include links to where I got the information from and arguments as to why I concluded certain things. However, I have left it too long and now I can’t remember, and I have put my notes in a safe place that I now can’t find :(. So apologies to all those excellent web resources I found and also if you have stumbled upon this looking for more, all I can do is tell you that Google is your friend and there is a wealth of material that is easily found on this battle. Nevertheless I hope this will be of some use regardless.
Our initial thoughts were to use a published scenario from Fields of Glory scenario book for Shako rules, and for me to build a suitable terrain board. We already had a good amount of 15mm Napoleonic miniatures between us and to keep the cost down we would use that (even if the uniforms were not quite accurate). The rule system of choice for us is Black Powder so we would need to adjust the scenario to fit but it had a modest number of battalions in the scenario so all seemed very doable, with little headache / expense. At least that was the plan…but then I got a bit carried away.
The initial scenario required modelling both sides of the valley and began at the opening of Soult’s feint towards Albuera and after Blake’s Spanish have moved into position to oppose them. This sets the scene for Soult’s impressive flanking attack.
Here is my first sketch of how the terrain board was going to be laid out. It’s a bit hard to make out because the text has not scanned too well (and I have compressed the image), but the general gist is that it will require a 9ft x 5ft table. The terrain around Albuera is gentle rolling hills so contours were to be ~10mm in height
It was all looking very straightforward and then this happened… http://www.peninsularwar.org/albuera.htm
I discovered a very detailed map and as a result of doing more research I also learned a lot more about the battle, the initial movements of the various armies beforehand, and the soldiers involved.
So…I started again. This time using the more detailed map from the web page above, the one that shows the initial starting dispositions I changed the area of the battlefield that we would fight over.
For Black Powder we use four bases of 30mm x 30mm to represent a Battalion. This gives a frontage of 120mm on the table-top, which is roughly equivalent to 150yds. Now, I can’t find any of my previous notes or the sketches of the terrain board I made before making it, but I used this as a basis to determine how much of the battlefield to model and what ground scale to use. It won’t have been precise though as there needed to be some compromise to make the game/scenario playable. Also it was fixed to be no more than 9ft x 6ft as we had a 10ft x 6ft table at the show, and you need a little bit of space each side for keeping rubbish (and drinks) off the battlefield.
I also changed the scenario…more on this later.
The table was to be made up of 3ftx2ft boards for ease of carrying and fitting in my van. Previously (River Bug game) I had made 5ft x 2ft sections but this then needed me to make a frame for transport which was something I was keen to avoid this time. The boards were made from 6mm ply wood using 2″x 1″ planed wood, frame and strengthened with a central batten. Raw materials awaiting attention.
This is where I made my first mistake…I measured to the wrong side of the circular saw blade and made all the boards 2mm shorter than intended!
I then arranged all the boards and drew out the terrain in pencil. I coloured the features so that I could make sense of it but really there was little point in doing this as it was all going to be covered. It felt good to stand back and look at it though :). I couldn’t resist putting a few minis on the board and some 6mm scale buildings just because they were all I had. This is actually Godinot’s Division in its starting position, for a sense of scale.
Although I have not been able to share my planning stages, you can hopefully now see that the battlefield is quite different to that in the original scenario. It is a bit easier to see later on when the boards are built but just in case you are wondering, the battlefield has moved significantly West to cover the shallow valley behind Albuera where the Allied armies initially deployed. This was at the expense of covering all of the valley to the East of Albuera, but it was a wooded area that concealed Soult’s movements anyway so I considered making this bit ‘off table’ would have little impact on the scenario.
My second mistake though…If I had extended just 6″ further North (so that Albuera moved 6″ towards the centre of the board) it would have taken the battlefield to the natural edge formed by the woods to the North, giving enough ground for Hamilton’s Portuguese to deploy on table :(.
The next stage was to glue blue foam onto each board and shape the contours. Unfortunately you have to buy the blue craft foam by the box. So to save money I bought a box of 5mm thick foam in 600mm x 600mm sheets. This gave me a 5mm base layer all of the boards so that I could cut out the river with shallow banks but meant I would have to laminate the sheets for all the other contours. It is a bit of a pain doing this as when sticking the sheets together with PVA glue it doesn’t set very well in the centre of the sheets and you end up faffing on with pulling them apart in some areas, or cutting out the middle that has not set and then re-gluing them. Using 10mm thickness sheets would have saved a lot of heartache but also doubled the cost for the craft foam.
There was a decision to be made of which of Nigel’s bridges to use for the main bridge. After positioning them each on the developing terrain it was decided that the bigger bridge would be better, even if it was a little out of the ground scale.
Next stage was to draw out all the roads and other features.
Third mistake… I thought I was using a permanent marker. It turned out to be a water based marker that then bled through when I got to the painting stage :(. Should have just used pencil.
The next stage was to put some texture on the boards.
I used polyfiller for the roads, this was painted on with a 1″ brush in the direction of the road to give an impression of cart wheel ruts.
The rest of the board was coated with PVA and then sprinkled with dried sieved sand. I also mixed up a paste of sand/PVA and this was then pushed into the gaps between the craft foam sheets to hide the joins between contours. Second photo shows the boards at the back being weighted down while the glue dries (after afore mentioned patching of un-set areas). Incidentally – the bottle of beer is mine, the crap larger was left at our house following a party by somebody to embarrassed to come back and collect it afterwards…
Once dry, the boards were all painted with emulsion paint. I used ‘Dancing Bear’ from the B&Q range, followed by a dry-brush with ‘Lions Slumber’. Everything was painted the same, then the river was painted with several coats of a very dark green called ‘evergreen’ (rivers are either brown or green in my experience…even though it looks a bit blue in the photos). The white roads are where I have gone over them again with the polyfiller. I was relying on the change in texture between the sand and polyfiller to provide a good differentiation between the road and other ground so that I would not have to ‘sink’ them into the terrain.
Although these boards were being made for a specific event IP wanted them to have a bit of longevity and flexibility for use in other games. Therefore the terrain elements other than the main contours were all modelled separately. To the East of Albuera there were olive groves. These were made in the same way as the boards using 3mm ply cut and shaped as required. I chamfered the edges and added some stone walls made from strips of cork wall tiles. These were a pale brown colour so I didn’t even need to paint them, I was not very careful about painting the ground around the walls as this helped tie them into the ground.
For olive trees I picked up some cheap trees from e-bay and mounted them on washers using hot glue. They were also based using the sand/PVA paste that was used to hide gaps between the craft foam sheets. A tip here is to mix a bit of paint in with the sand/PVA it makes painting the bases a lot easier.
Next, the entire board was given a dry brush with ‘Moroccan Sand’ emulsion from B&Q. This was applied heavily on the roads and other contour areas where I wanted the contour to stand out, for example the river cliffs below Albuera. The walls of the olive groves were also picked out with this.
The River was given several good coats of the ‘evergreen’ paint. When dry brushing the roads I allowed the brush to lightly go over the river to give an impression that the water was shallow at the fords. The river was then coated several times with clear nail polish that I ‘borrowed’ from my eldest daughter – thanks Bridget…to give the water a shine and a transparent film to give the impression that the colour came from depth.
Stone chippings were glued along the banks of the river, these were also dry brushed with ‘Moroccan Sand’. Finally, some foam flock was glued along the banks to represent increased vegetation. I was considering using lichen to show small trees/unruly bushes but I decided this would be better as scatter rather than a fixed part of the boards.
Albuera was not intended to be a representation of the town itself and was based on buildings that Grahkam already had in his collection. The base was made in exactly the same way as the olive groves. It did initially start off as very regular looking but ended up a bit more interesting.
The main elements of the boards were now completed and all that was left to do was the addition of flock. Now was the time to make sure that I had made something that would fulfil its purpose and accommodate the necessary battalions included in the revised scenario. So I made cardboard counters for each unit of the Allied armies and positioned them on the developing board in their starting positions, luckily everything fitted. Or at least it did more or less, this was when I realised my mistake with not allowing enough space for Hamilton to deploy. I did consider making an additional board, but in the end decided to just go with what we had. Hamilton would just have to ‘enter’ the battlefield…(You can see Hamilton as the column of bases on the right of the photo…it should be a line extending to the edge of the wood 6″ off the board edge).
The big flock was next… I used a mix of all kinds to give greener more fertile looking valleys and parched looking hills. Especially the area to the top left of the photo. I added some flock around the base of the walls in the olive groves and also some to the walled areas in the town to give an impression of gardens.
The area around the town of Albuera has fields but these do not have hedges/fences around their borders. The borders would be made up of the stones that have been removed from the ground during ploughing. So I made up some fields using the same principals as used for the olive groves but using the PVA/sand paste to build up the edges.
I also made up a separate piece of terrapin to show a marshy/boggy area that was shown on some of the maps I had seen.
And here are the completed boards:
EDIT: The white dots beside the road (upper right) are tents of the British encampment. They were made using folded paper…very simple.
This was the last photo before they were packed for transport to the show. On the day we added scattered lichen to show scrubland, but you can see that in a separate post that will include details of the scenario/OOB and some photos taken on the day.
Thanks to Nigel for the enthusiasm that sparked mine, the bridge and to Graham for the buildings.
Also thanks to Chris for the moral support and air-brushing the trees to make them look a bit more like olive trees.