Saturday, March 4, 2017

Battle of Buçaco after action report

We gamed the Battle of Buçaco last night.  We finished 8 of 14 turns.  (We called it a night after the 1pm turn.)  The Anglo-Portuguese were ahead on points when we stopped, but the players felt like this would have swung in the French favor had we kept playing, and finished the last six turns.

Initial deployments:

French side looking to the southwest.  The ridges with the British and Portuguese deployed in "reverse slope" are in the distance.

French side looking northwest.

The French artillery reserve near a primary west-to-east road.

The French VIII Corps under Junot.  They would not see action in this battle. 

Extreme north (left) of the British line.  Cole's 4th Division.

British center.  Craufurd's Light Division is in the background on the reverse slope of the ridge (yellow tags). Four independent Portuguese brigades and three independent batteries are in the foreground.  

British center-right.  Spencer's 1st Division. 

British right.  Picton's 3rd Division. 
British right.  Leith's 5th Division.  Or at least this is where early recon thought they were!  As the battle started, Leith's division was actually on the left side of the British line.

British extreme right.  Hill's 2nd Division. 
Looking south to north along the ridge line.

Looking north to south along the ridge line.

The French were led by Brad and John.  Brad played Masséna, and also Ney's VI Corps.  John played Reynier's II Corps and Montbrun's Reserve Cavalry Corps.  Junot's VIII Corps saw little action, but some of the individual brigades were ordered towards the front.

The Anglo-Portuguese were led by Johnny Warmonger, Cheatin' Bob, and the Hammer.  The Hammer anchored the British left, and both inflicted and received the most casualties.  This is where the main force of the French attack fell.  Johnny Warmonger played Wellington and the British center.  And Cheatin' Bob played the British right, which was a relatively quite sector.

The French led their attack with Ney's VI Corps assaulting the British left flank.  This was a hard-fought sector with both sides taking heavy casualties, but with the outright destruction of only a single unit (a French infantry brigade), not counting artillery batteries.

In the center the French pushed forward with Reynier's II Corps, grinding down the British in the hopes of pushing some of the French cavalry through the gaps in the ridge.  (The French had a massive edge in cavalry, but were not able to use it in the battle since the Allies tended to stay on the safety of the rough-terrain ridge.)

Final positions:

At their new extreme right the British plug a gap in the ridge line with an Infantry brigade.  The rest of the right prepares for a possible assault by the French cavalry. 
The French have seized the ridge on the right, and have nearly captured the one on the left too.  A sole British infantry brigade contests that ridge.

The extreme British left.  The ridge on the right is contested.  The ridge on the left had been the scene of much hard fighting, but both sides have been so bloodied that no one dares to climb it now. 
The French right.  Ney has lost a good portion of his artillery, and many of his units to the near side of the road are pretty beat-up.  He is still strong in the center of this scene, and some of Junot's VIII Corps is starting to arrive.

The French left.  Montbrun's cavalry is ready to race through one of the gaps in the ridge line.  Reynier's light infantry have seized the ridge to the right.  Three batteries of the reserve artillery screen the cavalry reserve.

Points at the end of play (end of turn 8 of 14):

The French held 75 points for objectives (three villages), and scored 58 points for casualties, for a total of 133 points.

The Anglo-Portuguese held 150 points for objectives (five villages and the convent), and scored 78 points for casualties, for a total of 228 points.

The Anglo-Portuguese side believed, and this was likely, that had we continued play, the points for objectives would have shifted in favor of the French, AND the French would have also fed in fresh troops.  The fresh troops would have likely routed or destroyed more of the Anglo-Portuguese formations than they would have lost, further moving the needle in favor of the French.


Portuguese:  7,600 infantry, 0 cavalry, and 2 batteries.

British: 8,000 infantry, 180 cavalry, and 4 batteries.

British-Portuguese total: 15,600 infantry, 180 cavalry, 6 batteries.

French: 12,400 infantry, 180 cavalry, 4 batteries.

Monday Morning Analysis:

The French attacked en masse all along the line, making the most of their two powerful corps under Ney and Reynier.  This was a much better plan and showing than historical.  The French had very hot dice, destroying a significant amount of the Allied artillery in just the first few turns.

The Allies made the most of their terrain, keeping the cavalry out of the game.  They were also able to counter-punch in select places to inflict timely losses on batteries and isolated brigades.  They may have needed to accept more risk - maybe too much - to shift more troops to their left and left-center to achieve local superiority in firepower.  The Allied luck also ran hot and cold, alternating between highly effective rolls that would wipe out an entire brigade, but punctuated with long periods of totally ineffective firing and combat.

With such uneven luck, chance favored the big battalions, and a probably French victory.

Here is a link to a Google Sheet with the OOB and a turn record chart.