Saturday, April 8, 2017

Battle of Albuera after action report

The group played the Battle of Albuera last night. The French were led by Double D, Ben, and Johnny War Monger.  The Allied forces were split between four players:  Cheatin' Bob and Brian played the main Anglo-Portuguese command, John played a small Anglo-Portuguese command in Albuera, and the Hammer commanded Blake and the Spanish.

 It was a close-run game throughout -- at different times all players felt like they would have no chance at victory. In the end, much like the historical battle, both sides suffered heavy losses.

This sums it up pretty well:
Reviewing Beresford's after action report, Wellington was unhappy with its despondent tone and commented to a staff officer "This won't do. It will drive the people in England mad. Write me down a victory." The report was duly rewritten, although Wellington privately acknowledged that another such battle would ruin his army. Soult, on the basis of higher allied casualties, also claimed "a signal victory". He generously paid tribute to the steadfastness of the allied troops, writing "There is no beating these troops, in spite of their generals. I always thought they were bad soldiers, now I am sure of it. I had turned their right, pierced their centre and everywhere victory was mine – but they did not know how to run!"

The above is from the Wikipedia page on Albuera.

The game ended after about 10-11 turns when the French side felt they could no longer press the attack, and decided to withdraw.  The French were very beat up, but had ample artillery and one or two solid brigades in reserve to cover a retreat without it becoming a route.  Further, the Allied armies suffered very heavy losses, and were in no condition to pursue the French.

French losses were 2,880 cavalry and 12,400 infantry, giving up 44 victory points (VPs) to the Allies.  The French were also unable to secure either section of Albuera, and so gave up 100 VPs for terrain, for a final total of 144 points for the Allies.

Portuguese losses were 2,800 infantry worth 28 VPs.

Spanish losses were 1,620 cavalry, 10,400 infantry, and an artillery battery.  The combined VP value was 72, for a running French total of 100 VPs (28 + 72).

And British losses were 1,260 cavalry, 5,200 infantry, and an artillery battery.  The VP total for the British forces was 105 VPs, and so the French grand total was 205 VPs.

In terms of rules it felt like most things were working well.  It can sometimes be confusing to know which side is the Active side if the turn has a lot of react moves and combat; we fixed this with a marker to keep track of the Active side.  May also tweak the Artillery rules a bit to address a few things noted by the players, and some things I've noticed that don't seem to match up with the historical records.

A pictorial tour of the AAR:
The remnants of Godinot's skirmishers.  The British ran a cavalry regiment across the river to threaten them, so they squared.  The British then pounded the square with artillery for hours. Albuera is in the distance.

The French center.  The divisions of Girard and Gazan burned themselves out against the British and Spanish. 
The French left. Soult surveys the field.

The French far left.  The 3rd brigade of Latour-Mauborg's cavalry division is one of the few French units in pretty good shape.

The Allied right. You can see why Beresford would have written such a glum report.  The remnants of several Allied units gather on a hill.  Each one is pretty close to the breaking point.

Blake looks over the Spanish positions.  Again, there isn't much left.

The Spanish left, and the overall Allied center.  Only a few small units remain.

Albuera and the Allied far left.  This is the command that took the fight out of the French at the end.  The French felt that even if they could have swept the remaining units on the Allied center and right out of the way, they would not have enough left to deal with this.  There is a small light cavalry unit, two small light infantry units (including the KGL), and Hamilton's Portuguese division.

A bird's-eye view of the battlefield.  French are on the right.  The no-man's land between the two battered armies consists mostly of artillery batteries.  Counter-battery fire is largely ineffective at destroying enemy batteries in this system (which feels right to me, and matches the historical records I have found), and without more fresh infantry or cavalry, there isn't much either side can do to advance.

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