Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Battle of Talavera at Historicon 2018

I ran my Talavera scenartio at Historicon Friday night; we had as full contingent of 10 players for the game. Barry was a big help,as usual,  assisting me with setting up the table and troops. The scenario for the game was posted previously. The battle was fought on July 28th, 1809, between the British under Sir Arthur Wellersley (who would win his title "Viscount Wellington of Talavera" as a reward for his victory here) and the Spanish under the testy and not especially competent general Cuesta on the one side, and French 1st Corps (Marechal Victor), 4th Corps (General Sebastiani), and Cavalry Reserve (General Count Latour-Mauborg). The Madrid Garrison, committed by a desperate King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan, is on its way to the battle and will arrive along one of the two roads from the West.

View of the Deployment from the South. The French 1st Corps and cavalry to the South, the 4th Corps to the North. For the Allies, the British are to the South, and the Spanish, all 400+ of them painted since Historicon 2017, are to the North. 

View from the North; the unfordable Rio Tagus is in the foreground, along with the Spanish held town of Talavera de la Reina, with its walled gardens and the Pejar de Begara redoubt to the South.

French players from far to near (not all shown here) were Brett ( a veteran of a number of my past games, but not seen at a Historicon in quite a few years) and Erik playing as Sebastiani, Roger and  Michael  playing as Victor, with Hugh as Latour Mauborg.  Allied players were Terry and Dan playing the Spanish, with Todd,  Glen, and Brad playing the British. 

A rare shot with me in it, taken by Tim (standing, grey cap, blue and black striped shirt).

Mark and Hugh.

Sebastiani (Brett and Erik) lost no time in advancing upon the Spanish. The Madrid Reserve can be seen entering in March column along the road to Talavera. 

Latour Mauborg (Hugh)  sought to make use of his superior cavalry to sweep away the British horse, and then threaten the Allied left flank. 

Rifles on the Hill taking pot shots with their superior range. 

Victor's Divisions also advanced, albeit more cautiously.The effective fire by the sole rifle unit posted forward on the crest of the  Cerro de Casajal further encouraged caution on the part of the none too aggressive by nature General Lapisse.

Lapisse pulls his infantry back and brings up his guns to try to discomfit the Rifles. 

French advancing on the Pejar redoubt. 

French attacks on Talavera and the walled gardens.

General Zays is hit by a musket ball, and goes down on the Leader check that is part of the Army Morale Card actions. Due to the dual sequence deck, Terry would be a long time waiting for a replacement officer for his command!

Charge and counter charge on the Allied Left!

The British cavalry is fighting well, but numbers are telling. They look for some help from the British infantry!

Brett's attack on Talavera - my beloved Badeners are in the foprefront, along with the newly painted 2nd Nassau regiment of the Rhinebund.Spanish Grenadiers hold the strong point of the Church, with light infantry and regulars in the other buildings. The Militia stand behind, out of harm's way in reserve!

Fighting at the Pejar Redoubt.

The evolving Cavalry battle tips ever more to the French side. 

The attack on the Bejar Reboubt meets sharp fire from the Spanish defenders.

British infantry have to step in to make up for the gradual; defeat of their cavalry. Seen are the only British infantry regiments with Orange and Purple facings, respectively!

Heavy fighting at Talavera - ordinarily, the Leadership card would result in a new commander being appointed to replace Zayas... but the "bullet" on this card indicates that it applies ONLY to the British; the Spanish cannot use it. Thus Zayas continues to lie on the ground, bleeding and moaning. 

Overview of the Southern players and battlefield. Czar Barry looks on!

Tim gives some tactical advice. Maybe it's good, maybe it isn't!

Overview of the center; Piquet/FoB veterans Gabriel, Jeff, and Freddie converse in the background.

The French cavalry get a whiff of British gunpowder. It seems they woukld have preferred some snuff! The rifles and their superior range of fire continue to intimidate the French - 1 unit opposed by at least a dozen!

Heavy fighting at Talavera; Spanish Firepower has driven off one unit of Poles and one of Badeners. 

Glenn turns his artillery and forms square with some of his infantry to guard against the threat posed by the French Dragoons, as the British cavalry crumbles.

The 2nd Nassau regiment assaults and takes one of the buildings of Talavera, and the French receive 3 bonus Morale points for the feat. 

Another view of the rooftops of Talavera.

View of the British defensive line. Thus far, the French have been cautious about closing on them. Todd, whose troops haven't seen much action, marches the Spanish Cavalry of his command to the South, seeking to remedy the developing deficiency of Allied cavalry there.

Heavy fighting at the redoubt and walled gardens.

Reinforcements from the Madrid garrison close on Talavera.

The French are finally closing on some of the British behind the stream. 

View from the South.

Another Spanish general is placed hors de Combat!  Not too long after that, we ended the game. The British were down to 10 Morale points, while the French had 17 - most of the extra being from successfully taking two of the buildings of Talavera, and the redoubt. The game thus ended in a marginal French victory. 

About 2/3 of the way through the game, one of the HMGS announced that the game had been given a PELA award. As usual, those are at least as much a tribute to the spirit of fun created by the various players as the GM. Thanks to all of you for playing!

So THAT's what he had in his pocket!

The title of these awards is (intentionally) a bit ironic, as it refers to the judicial execution of British Admiral John Byng, in 1757, for "failing to do his utmost to defeat the enemy." Byng's execution was satirised by Voltaire in his novel, Candide. Candide witnesses the execution of a British officer by firing squad and is told that "in this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others" (Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres)


  1. Marvelous game, Peter! With all of your work at Historicon, did you leave any figures at home?
    Congratulations on your well deserved award!

  2. Thanks, Jon. I was very happy with how it looked and played. As for troops left behind -
    None of the ones I needed! :-)
    Otherwise just 10,000 plus...

    1. Well Done! I recognized Wizardcraft rivers and lots of other goodies. The game must have taken some time to set up. What is the dog/sheep doing on the roof?

    2. Keeping the troops company, of course, ;-)

      In my games, at least with Field of Battle, a sheep of other animal (collectively referred to as “chickens” indicates the unit is Out of Command (think shaken). I suspect the sheep joined the command stand if the garrison to make it easy to see which unit was affected.

  3. Good looking game. Nice to see some of the PK crowd in the mix.

  4. Yes, there were quite a few familiar faces there!

  5. A nice looking game and well done with the award. We played Talavera ourselves a few years ago and the one thing that struck me was how outgunned in terms of artillery the British were, and how much better the French may have done if they had prolonged their opening bombardment.

    1. Thanks, Lawrence. Talavera would certainly seem to be one battle where the French could have prevailed. As it was, British losses were quite high.

  6. Great job Peter, congrats on the award, and thanks for the bigger photos too! :)

    1. Thanks, Mark! I agree, the smaller kB photos were too hazy,

  7. Great looking game and congratulations on the award, nice to see all your Spanish out on the table,I used to live down the road from Byng's country house,you have to say naval leadership improved after his execution so maybe Voltaire was correct!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you, Iain. The pertinent section in the articles of war was eventually changed to allow for the imposition of lesser penalties.

  8. Super looking BIG game and great to see all those Spanish figures in action

    1. Thanks, Garry. This is what I painted them for!

  9. Nice award for all you did, Peter. Too many troops in this game--everything is a frontal assault. I see that despite unluck with the rules, the Spanish rabble held most of the town and both road exits. The town simply can't be taken.

    1. Yes; there are a lot of troops. Yes, the main action is a frontal attack That’s the thing about historical scenarios - there is only so much you can do within the constraints of what happened or might have happened. As it was, had play continued, I am fairly certain all of Talvera would have fallen; the Spanish had already lost their best units, and their quality goes downhill rapidly from there. Taking the road exits would have been a stretch for sure, but not impossible. The British left was in trouble once the supporting French infantry arrived. On the other hand, as the French closed on the main line, heavy casualties could easily have resulted.

    2. So, given that the forces were fairly equal (there were actually more allied troops, it more than half of them were Spanish), why did they fight at Talavera? The French fought because they needed to stop the allied advance from reaching Madrid. The British fought because they had the support of the Spanish, which might not be true next week. I also rather suspect that Wellesley wanted to show that even the relatively small British forces committed to the Peninsula could achieve meaningful results (he had already retaken Oporto), and thus vindicate his strong advocacy for the return to the Leninsula, as well as encouraging the government to support him with more troops. Finally, this all took place in the wider context of Austria’s declaration of war

  10. In April 1809; although the battle of Wagram had already been fought by the time of Talavera, tying down French troops in Spain so that they could not be used in the Danube theater was an important strategic consideration, especially when Wellesley first arrived in late April, 1809. But that’s what the campaign in a day was all about! :-)

    1. John's assistance in play testing the scenario at home was a bog help, by the way, and his suggestions, along with some by Jared and Mike,lead to changes to the scenario that made it much better game.

  11. A grand game of Talavera Peter. It sounds like the players on both sides got 'stuck in' and it was a fine contest.
    That award is richly deserved. You inspire not only the others at Historicon, but 'others' more broadly with this super blog.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, James. Yes, pretty much everyone was engaged, some more than others, of course. I would have played another hour to a definite decision myself!