Monday, 27 July 2015

French Line Infantry Painting Tutorial Part One - The Base Colours

The illustration helps to show the effect I am trying to achieve with the
variation in shade as the light hits the more exposed areas of the uniform

It's been a while since I went through a painting tutorial, and now being very much involved in adding significant numbers of French line infantry into the collection and with the 206th anniversary of the Battle of Talavera tomorrow, I thought it might be of interest to illustrate the process and colours I prefer to use when painting these troops.

Getting efficient at producing a nice looking unit is what this series of posts will be a about and lets face it, if you are into Napoleonics you are probably going to want some of these chaps in your collection and probably a lot of them.

The battalion shown below was waiting for the first colour to dry on the groundwork as I began work on the base colours for the third battalion to complete my second regiment, the 96e Ligne. It occurred to me to photograph and record the work to illustrate my method.

The 2/96e Ligne on the desk with the ground work to be finished 
I tend to have two battalions of French primed with undercoat at a time to allow work to proceed seamlessly from one to the next as we want to get on with playing as much as we enjoy painting.

My battalions are in units of twenty-eight including the four skirmishers and my senior or first battalion would normally have the mounted colonel on the command base, my second battalion a sergeant with the fanion group and my third with a pioneer with the fanion group. In addition I like to put in the odd personality figure like a cheering soldier, or in this case a fusilier falling wounded.

First stage base flesh and coat colours
The first stage is to apply the base flesh colour, which I tend to do with Citadel Ratskin Flesh. I find this colour gives a really satisfactory dark base to my flesh and although I have experimented with adding Citadel Riekland Fleshshade wash, now only use this on bareheaded individuals to contrast their hair from the rest of the face. To see the effect of the wash then follow the link to the 2/96e Ligne to see the cheering soldier.

At this early stage I am focused on making the greatest progress and getting the work done in the right order. The right order of putting colours on takes a bit of time to work out, but when faced with working through multiple units it becomes an important aspect. I will write down my sequence so I can come back to a project and pick up where I left off without having the painful process of re-learning it.

Next base colours to add, browns and greys. Greys include lapels, trousers, great-coats and shako covers. Note I will do straps and lace in grey at a later stage
So in this case, the last major colour to apply will be black because black gets applied over the top of other colours to finish off the base set up, such as black musket barrels over brown wood-work. Not forgetting of course that black is not a colour!

After the Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue jackets, I applied Coat d'Arms Dark grey to some great-coats, some trousers, all lapels and waistcoats, metal mess bowls and water bottles.

Brown include trouser, great-coats, back-packs and bayonet scabbards - fusiliers carry bayonets on the right, elite company on the left with their sabre-briquet 
Next colour on was Vallejo Burnt Umber to my Spanish cloth clad trousered soldiers and all the back-packs.

I then took Vallejo Chocolate Brown and applied that to the muskets, other great-coats and bayonet scabbards - yes French bayonet scabbards are brown, not black, as shown in the header illustration.

"Blacking up" - shakos, musket metal work, boots, swords and scabbards and ammunition pouches
The final large colour - shade, call it what you will, is the black over the primer to finish off the boots, shakos and peaks, musket and sword metal work, sword scabbards and ammunition pouches.

For variety I do shako covers in black, grey and white, thus for a white cover I would use a base coat of Vallejo Buff
With the black work done, the base boundary colours start to take shape and you feel you are making good progress.
All the black done, completes the first main base colours
With this big chunk of block work done it is time to go and make yourself a well earned cup of tea before getting stuck into the final base coat preparation covering the straps, laces, cuff/collar/shoulder straps/plumes and water bottle work before we can start to make these chaps come alive.

If you are interested in your painting skills, I would really recommend checking out the article published in Wargames Illustrated 287 which was available as a downloadable pdf called "The Four C's of Painting" by Joe Sleboda that covers off Colour, Composition, Contrast and Correction and is a very good summary of the basic skill set on deciding what you are going to do, where and correcting those little errors that can creep in to brush work.

So whilst prepping these guys I have been thinking about the groups of four figures that will be together on a base. The stick is organised so each group of four are together and I can make sure that there is plenty of variation in the group as far as castings and colour choices. In addition I will correct errors in the painting as I go ending up a little bit Obsessive/Compulsive but at least I can walk away and do something else afterwards, because I know the job has be done right! - "calm down Jon, step away from the figures!!!"

All the base colours added and stage one complete. Here the four elite figures in my Voltigeur base can be seen together on the stick with three figure variations and different colour combinations to provide variety for the eye
The final stage of getting all the base colours on to your figures should leave your models looking like the picture above. Having done all the large areas we are now doing the smaller detail areas such as small straps, lace, chords, musket slings, turn-backs, plumes, pompoms, brass/gold metalwork and water canteens.

Hopefully my pictures of the finished base coat figures will show you the colours I use for these little areas. Others that I noticed I hadn't highlighted include the raised gold buttons on the backs of the officers habite jackets that are found at the back on the waist line. I touch these in the Camo Black Brown as they will come up a treat when tipped with gold.

Note also that, unlike the British, the French didn't have a standard water canteen and so these figures carry three examples, the ghorde, the whicker framed bottle and the metal canteen, each requiring a different paint job. The four fusilier companies are represented with three groups of four fusilers having blue, orange and purple pompoms. I represent the first company with my drummer having a green pompom. The staff (officer and fanion bearer) have white pompoms and the elites including the pioneer either in grenadier red or voltigeur green/yellow. Note also that my elites carry distinctions peculiar to the 96e Ligne, hence the illustration at the top of the post as another reference to commonalities between regiments.

The volitigeurs of the 96e Ligne wore yellow cuff slashes as seen above, instead of the more standard white. Note that I haven't done all the piping, such as around the collars, some cuff slashes, turn-back and lapel piping. These will get done in the next stage as they can get in the way of the primary highlighting and it is simpler to add them later in the process. Likewise there are some small straps across the front of some of the fusiliers from which the water bottles are hung and are easier to apply later in the job.

So that is the base coat finished and now we can move on to the really fun stuff of shading up to a third coat to try and make these little chaps pop. However it is worth stressing that a good result relies on the foundations laid in the first stages, undercoat and base coat and attention to detail at this stage will reward you later.

The other aspect I would highlight here is that of colour selection. The predominantly blue coats of the French lends itself to a "cold" white, hence I have based my white areas on a grey. The British and Spanish in the red and brown coats lend themselves to a "warm" white and thus I would tend to base coat the white areas with a buff base coat.

You will note that the figures look dull in their dark colours. This is deliberate as these dark shades will underpin the more vibrant upper shades and provide the contrast in the shadowed areas. This technique is the same for painting 28mm figures and we are not relying on any black lining to delineate colours or areas of shadow.

Next up - Part Two and the first highlight colours

Sunday, 26 July 2015

War Artisan Model Ships

My War Artisan 64 Gun Ship of the Line

I have always entertained the idea of playing through the excellent little naval campaign written by David Manley covering the fascinating naval war within a war which was the tussle for control of the Indian coast during the American War of Independence between the French Admiral Suffren and British Admiral Hughes.

I have several of the model ships built using Langton models with other awaiting fitting out and have run games covering the battles of Sadras and Providien using them.

A big part of the enjoyment of fighting age of sail games for me is constructing the models themselves and I have been attracted by the amazing paper kits designed by Jeff Knudsen.

The pull in for me is that Jeff offers free kits to try out on his site so you can test your skills at putting them together. The instructions and guidance on the site with rigging tutorials and loads of gallery pictures help the first timer get their head around the build process.

There is even a set of rules "Admirals" that can be used for fleet actions of the kind I have in mind to go with the lines of model kits once they are built.

In addition there are sets of flags for most of the nations to bedeck your models with once built.

So with a bit of spare time to hand this week I decided to work through putting the 64 gun SOL together. I used cocktail sticks for the masts, paper clips for the spars and 0.3mm black nylon coated steel jewellery wire for the rigging.

The whole thing went together surprisingly easily and took longer than it needed too as I spent time on working out the best way of doing things, the whole purpose of the exercise!

The key learning points for me were:
  • Drilling out the holes for my masts, pre construction of the hull, using my pin vice. I did the drilling after constructing the hull and it put a stress on the card causing a slight crinkling to the hull. (note to self).
  • I still have to decide how I am going to base these models. I might just get some mdf from Warbases and paint then to the colour of the mats I a planning to put together.

The campaign requires a collection of 5 x 50 gun, 19 x 64 gun, 11 x 74 gun, 1 x 80 gun, 6 x East Indiamen and 10 x Frigate. With the 64 gun models offered as a free kit, War Artisan models make this a very affordable option for a lot of gamers and a lot of scratch build satisfaction, especially when seen en mass. These kits also offer a huge opportunity for purpose built specials like shot up versions with rigging lying over the side. The beauty of being able to produce multiple copies really opens up new ideas.

Ok, just to manage expectations here. I aim to build this collection over time as we get the Talavera project finished, plus the Roman and Dacian collection to do. The nice thing about these kits is that I can carry a little modelling box of scissors, glue, paper clips etc and put them together pretty much any where, so it will make a nice little "down time" project.

If you have been toying with the idea of having a go with these kits, then get one of Jeff's "freebies" and try it out, I think you will be impressed with the quality of the models and the ease of putting them together.

Next up Painting French Line Infantry - Part One

Friday, 24 July 2015

2/96e Regiment de Ligne

In the first post about the 1/96e Regiment de Ligne, I covered off the history and early campaigns of the regiment prior to its involvement in the Peninsular War. With the completion of the 2/96e Ligne the story of the regiment continues with their involvement in the Peninsular War leading up to Talavera.

Map to illustrate the actions that Victor's I Corps d'Armee fought up to Talavera

The mustering of Marshal Victor's I Corps d'Armee in Bayonne in the autumn of 1808 for Napoleon's re-invasion of the Iberian peninsula would be the first involvement of the 96e Ligne in the war.

Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros

Napoleon left Erfurt on the 14th October and reached Bayonne on the 3rd November, by which time Victor's corps was already in Spain. By the 11th of November the regiment had had its first major engagement with General Blake's Spanish army at Espinosa and the return below for the 15th shows the three battalions of the regiment with 1,886 men in total, or just over 600 men each.

I Corps: Maréchal Victor - 15th November 1808, source Oman
1st Division: Général de division Ruffin
Brigade: Général de brigade Labruyere
9th Légère Regiment (3)(57/1,558)
24th Line Regiment (3)(56/2,046)
Brigade: Général de brigade Barrois
96th Line Regiment (3)(64/1,818)
6/1st Foot Artillery
7/1st Foot Artillery
8th Artillery Artisan Company

At this time the regiment was led by Colonel Jean-Chrisotome Cales who took command in 1807. Colonel Cales was wounded on the 30th November at the forcing of the Somosierra pass when the 96e Ligne was placed on the road to follow up behind the assault of the Polish light horse and secure the position whilst the 9th Legere and 24e Ligne cleared the sides of the valley. Colonel Cales, obviously a leader who led from the front, would be wounded a second time at Talavera on the 28th July.

By the 15th December 1808 Victor's corps was in and around Madrid as Napoleon's forces sought to close in on an unsuspecting British army under General Sir John Moore. The strength of the regiment was little changed at 1,878 men all ranks.

lst Division: Général de division Ruffin - 15th December 1808 - Source Oman
lst Brigade: Général de brigade Lefol
9th Légère Infantry Regiment (62/l,527)
24th Line Infantry Regiment (6l/l,852)
2nd Brigade: Général de brigade Barrois
96th Line Infantry Regiment (6l/l,8l7)
6/1st Foot Artillery (2/4/88/)*
7/1st Foot Artillery (1/3/34)
8th Artillery Artisan Company (0/0/6)

Whilst Napoleon was off to the north west in pursuit of Moore's army, his brother Joseph was establishing his hold on Madrid becoming increasingly aware of the old Spanish army of the centre badly beaten at Tudela on the 23rd November 1808 and previously commanded by Castanos, now under the command of the Duke of Infantado regrouping close by at Cuenca.

After re-organising his 20,000 strong army, the Spanish commander began a leisurely advance on Madrid on Christmas Day 1808 and failed to take advantage of King Joseph only having 9,000 French troops in the capital following his brother stripping the garrison to pursue Moore and Lefebvre, disobeying orders, taking his IV Corps north to Avila instead of remaining near Talavera.

With the arrival in Madrid of Marshal Victor's 16,000 men on January 8th, Joseph was in a position to confront Infantado's Army of the Centre, and on the 13th of January the Marshal managed to engage the vanguard of the Spanish army under General Venegas (9,500 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 4 guns) arrayed on a ridge either side of the village of Ucles.

Battle of Ucles (1809)

Ruffin's division ended up little engaged in this one sided action that saw Villatte's division turn the Spanish left flank and roll their line up to Ucles The 96e Ligne and the other battalions in their division were mainly involved in closing the escape route of the beaten army and rounding up the prisoners. Victor's troops sustained barely 200 casualties, whilst taking 6,000 prisoners and inflicting 1,000 killed or wounded.

Following this defeat Infantado fled into Murcia with the other half of his army, hotly pursued by French cavalry who caused them to lose their remaining cannon in their retreat.

Victor now turned his attention westward and his planned support of the second invasion of Portugal by Marshal Soult's II Corps from Galicia. Ahead of him lay General Cuesta's Army of Estremadura with 15,000 men in three divisions being shadowed by General Lasalle's cavalry close to Almaraz on the River Tagus where the Spanish succeeded in destroying the bridge and used the river to cover their front.

Victor at first was not convinced his force of 22,000 men was sufficient to take on Cuesta and invade Portugal, but after procrastinating about his orders, he was eventually compelled by King Joseph to get on with it and crossing the Tagus at Talavera and Arzobispo, turned Cuesta out of his position and pursued him south, where, reinforced, the Spanish general offered battle at Medellin on March 28th 1809.

Battle of Medellin

The Battle of Medellin saw the overthrow of the Spanish cavalry by the French cavalry who attacked the Spanish infantry to their flanks and rear as they were attacked by French infantry to their front. The rout when it came left 8,000 Spanish troops dead and 2,000 taken prisoner. The 96e Ligne as part of Ruffin's division was held in reserve throughout the battle.

Cuesta and the remains of his army retired to Badajoz to lick their wounds. Victor advanced on Merida where he halted and commenced a barrage of requests to Joseph for more resources before he would undertake any invasion of Portugal. These demands fell on deaf ears and thus Victor played no part in the march on Lisbon and would be forced by starvation to fall back on Madrid as Wellesley began his march into the Tagus valley that summer.

My 2/96e Ligne is composed of figures from the AB range and the fanion is from GMB.

Other sources used in this post;
Napoleon's Line Infantry, Osprey Men at Arms - Philip Haythornthwaite, Bryan Fosten
French Napoleonic Line Infantry - Emir Bukhari
Napoleon's Soldiers, The Grande Armee of 1807 (The Otto Manuscript) - Guy C Dempsey Jr.
Napoleonic Armies, A Wargamers Campaign Directory - Ray Johnson
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field

Next up the 3/96e Ligne and more. With the 206th anniversary of the Battle of Talavera fast approaching I thought I would do a series of posts on the construction of the 3/96e as a painting tutorial on French Line Infantry.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

WWII British Motor Torpedo Boat - Exeter Canal

Today, Carolyn and I thought we would check out our new cycle path that runs around the River Exe estuary from Exmouth to Dawlish, though we intended stopping at Starcross and getting the ferry back across to home. The link below gives more information about this fantastic route that now boasts purpose built paths for cyclists with great views of the Exe estuary and the associated wild life.

After crossing the river just below Exeter we followed the canal out towards Exminster. As we came around the bend in the water I saw this museum piece on the opposite bank. I'm not an expert on WWII British MTB's but the hull's distinctive shape would suggest this to be a Fairmile boat as shown in the photo above.

It's great to see a craft like this in local waters as the English Channel was the front line for these coastal forces with significant groups of boats operating from places like Plymouth and Dartmouth in their battles with German E boats operating out of Cherbourg. Indeed it was from the French harbour that the German boats responsible for the attack on the US landing ships off Slapton Sands during Operation Tiger came out from and caused such devastating losses pre D-Day.

Next up 2/96e Ligne

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Attack 2015 - Devizes

I had a very pleasant day out attending the Devizes and District Wargames Group show, Attack 2015. After a long period of not visiting Devizes, I travelled up to the show last year and found it at its new venue, well new to me, as I remember it being held in the Corn Exchange building, and found it as I remembered it, a very nice club show to visit.

The weather last year was a real "hum-dinger" of a summer storm with thunder, lightning and "stair-rod" rain so it was really nice to travel up with Steve M doing the driving and Tom in balmy sunny weather.

We also met up with other friends from the DWG who had travelled up, and spent a nice afternoon wondering around the stands and checking out the games.

As usual I thought I would take some pictures of stuff that caught my eye and first up is a game I saw last year but didn't take some shots of it, so I thought I would make up for that this time round.

This Wings of War game was staged by the Wings of Glory Aerodrome chaps who I spoke to last year and they really go the extra mile with their collections of aircraft done out in particular squadron/jasta markings together with all the kit to present a very eye-catching game.

As the game progressed and the Albatross caught fire, that bundle of flame came attached with LED to give a very impressive flame out.

I also liked the attention to detail with the crashed and burned markers dotted about the play mat to show where past victims had gone down.

I have never got around to build a proper WWII Russian Front collection, but it is a period that I really enjoy playing and, particularly with the giant urban battles that occurred, can present a very unique game to put together.

This Stalingrad game presented by the X-Herford E-Class gamers (I'd love to know where that name comes from) entitled "Operation Hubertus, Red October Factory, Stalingrad 1942 was obviously a labour of love and a very inviting stage set to battle over.

Whilst looking around the stands I took some pictures of the Donnington 15mm Hundred Years Wars figures that I first saw a few years ago now, but always enjoy admiring. For this scale, these are very well done and really do present a feast for the eye.

Donnington Miniatures 15mm Hundred Years War Range

I have considered 15mm medieval, but I think my eyesight requires me to up-scale to 28mm for any future projects. However you could do a lot worse that these lovely sculpts for this scale.

They also had some very nice larger scale stuff painted up, which gave a very good idea of what they can produce for their paint to order service.

Thanks to Steve for doing the driving and to Tom for helping his Dad find the paints he needed.

Next up 2/96e Ligne

Friday, 17 July 2015

Talavera - Dawn Attack, Game One

"a tremendous cannonade - shots and shells were falling in every direction - but none of the enemy were to be seen - the men were all lying in their ranks, and except at the very spot where a shot or shell fell, there was not the least motion - I have not seen men killed in the ranks by cannon shots - those immediately around the spot would remove the mutilated corpse to the rear, they would then lie down as if nothing had occurred and remain in the ranks, steady as before. The common men could be brought to face the greatest danger, there is a spirit which tells me it is possible, but I could not believe that they could remain without emotion, when attacked not knowing from whence. Such, however, was the conduct of our men I speak particularly of the Brigade on the 28th July, and from this steadiness so few suffered as by remaining quiet the shots bounded over their heads."  
An Ensign in the Third Guards describing the dawn barrage on the 28th July 1809 at Talavera

Dawn Attack scenario map showing the units and objective points for the French. The divisions of Villate and Ruffin are supported by Merlin's and Beaumont's cavalry
The attack on the Cerro de Medellin by General Ruffin's division at Talavera is like the attacks made by Ney and Reynier's troops at Busacco ridge almost exactly a year later a seemingly thankless task for any prospective French commander.

The prospect of marching up a steep slope through a screen of British light infantry, getting shot by British guns only to get volleyed and charged back down said steep slope by a British line, does not seem that appealing to most aspiring French commanders.

We of course have the benefit of two hundred years of hindsight and analysis that influences our thinking. Generals Ruffin, Ney, Reynier and the troops they commanded were not so informed and thus recreating the situation they faced in the vain hope that our well read wargamer will follow in their footsteps and reveal hidden truths on the tabletop, is a challenge to the scenario designer, to say the least.

The plan of action that Marshal Victor came up with on July 28th 1809 was based on his experience of battle too date facing the Austrians, Prussians and Russians that clearly showed that a rapid advance by his infantry in multiple columns screened by his light troops and with a preparatory bombardment of the enemy line by his massed artillery, coupled with the élan of his veteran infantry, used to victory, would be all that was needed to overcome the British defenders on the Cerro de Medellin. 

At this stage of the Empire, the rapier had given way to the bludgeon and as manpower was in plentiful supply, he ordered that both Ruffin and Villatte's divisions, twenty-one battalions, should make the assault.

The French artillery commence their barrage with half their batteries as they attempt to get the range
Our scenario was prefaced on this original plan and assumed that Villatte's division is alongside that of General Ruffin's ready to reinforce the success of assaulting the summit with a follow up attack on the lower slopes in the centre of the British line enabling French forces to turn the whole Allied  position and leave them exposed to the massed ranks of French cavalry ready to take up the pursuit. This is the first play-test with the emphasis very much on test designed to throw up more questions about what is needed to make this an interesting challenge for both players.

General Villatte could only advance into the attack once Ruffin's men had established themselves on the summit and the whole operation had to be completed in slightly under four hours to replicate the original design.

In reality, for some unknown reason, Villatte never made the supporting assault and Ruffin's troops were bloodily repulsed losing 1,300 men in little over forty minutes. I think possibly the effect of seeing his veterans running back down the slope they had only previously gone over must have come as a distinct shock to Victor and perhaps just stayed his hand before launching his second division into the attack.

To aid General Ruffin in his task, the massed guns of I Corps plus the light cavalry brigades of Beaumont, Ormancey and Strolz were at his command and he could design his barrage to last for thirty or forty-five minutes before advancing to the objective.

The French guns having found the mark pour on the fire at full effect causing a retaliatory response from the KGL brigades on the forward slopes of the Medellin. The red halt markers indicate the stress felt by the light battalions arrayed across the forward slopes
With the signal gun fired at 05.00 the early morning dawn was shattered as French guns fired along the line. In front of the Medellin thirty eight cannon blasted the British position and the brigade light battalions, artillery brigades and those unfortunate forward battalions started to take casualties

The 1st Battalion of Detachments fall back over the crest to take cover alongside Stuart's Light Battalion
Within fifteen minutes of the first salvo the barrage reached a crescendo as the the French gunners went to work bringing in all their guns aligned to their first ranging shots (C&G rewards attention to detail and by only firing the batteries at 50% the fatigue on the gunners is reduced whilst their accuracy rises to full effect on the second turn of firing, when a 100% gives the greatest number of hits.)

After a forty-five minute barrage the French guns fall silent as the 9e Legere advance across the Portina, supported by Beaumont's light cavalry
General Ruffin (Tom) had opted for a full forty five minute (three turn) barrage of the forward British/KGL units and two of the light battalions fell back over the crest with General Hill (Steve) pulling the 1st Detachments back on the crest following early casualties.

Stuart's Light Battalion move out over the crest supported by the fire from the KGL guns
Just as quickly as it had started, the barrage suddenly stopped replaced by the steady methodical beat of the pas de charge as the 9e Legere moved through the gun line and down into the Portina valley.

The KGL batteries of Rettberg and Heyse plied the French troops with 6lbr shot but the columns simply closed ranks and continued on leaving a trail of blue clad shapes littering the ground in their wake.

The light company men of Stuart's Light Battalion had been badly shaken by the French barrage. None of the men had ever experienced such a shock and the veterans of Vimeiro were equally as astonished by the violence as the newest recruits. The battalion fell back in considerable disorder and drew the attention of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who joined the battalion and pointed out that they would have experienced much worse in 1803 at Assaye and to return to their positions. Immediately galvanised into action the light bobs worked their way back down the forward slopes, calmly finding cover and watching the French infantry approach.

Beaumont's cavalry moved up to Valdefuentes Farm in support of the Legere
From his crest line position General Hill eyed the French columns and took note of multiple ranks of French cavalry moving behind them in squadron column, picking their way carefully along the floor of the valley, with artillery moving in their wake.

At that moment Wellesley trotted up along side and passed his compliments.
"I trust you had a good night following the spot of nuisance from our French friends, General Hill?"

"Capital my Lord, capital and I fancy we are in for more fun and games before the morning is out if that French cavalry and artillery are any sign."

"Mmm, I think we may be wise to match their cavalry with a little of our own. Captain, my compliments to General Payne and please ask him to send me General's Fane and Anson's brigades to this side of the hill under my command."

Wellesley redeploys Fane's and Anson's cavalry brigades to his threatened flank. The 3rd Dragoon Guards charge the 1/9e Legere at Vadefuentes Farm
The first hour of the day had started bright enough but gradually gave way to an overcast sky with light rain, that together with the cannon smoke that had accumulated in the valley greatly reduced the visibility and the British gun fire became sporadic as the French columns disappeared into the murk, their approach marked only by the steady beat of their drummers getting closer.

As the British artillery reduced its outputs, the battle was taken up by the light battalions of both sides as muskets and rifles cracked away and individuals could be seen to fall. As the French troops appeared to be working their way down the valley, Rettberg's brigade limbered up and moved off along the ridge with orders to support the cavalry brigades assembling under the command of General Wellesley.

Charge and react markers blossom as the action gets close and the tension mounts. The battle reaches a climax, as the lines and artillery deploy
It was about 0700 as the first voltigeur screens started to climb the northern slope of the Medellin as the 1/9e Legere shook out into line near the small farm as the French skirmish line reached the crest it progress was checked by a sudden volley from the 1st Detachments supported by Stuart's light bobs.

On the other side of the farm the 2e Hussars and 5e Chasseurs a Cheval were shaking out into line. Suddenly a shout of warning rang out from the Legere as out of the mist loomed two squadrons of British heavy dragoons who were gathering speed as they approached from off the crest.

With British infantry above them and British heavy cavalry charging to their front, Major Dauture commanding in the place of Colonel Meunier, promoted to brigade commander, ordered the "Incomparable" to present arms. The British cavalry looked irresistible until the volley was unleashed, but the French commander was unable to prevent his men from backing away.

The volley had stopped the charge fifty paces short leaving thirty of the red-coated cavalrymen dead or wounded and the the heavy dragoons disordered next to the farm buildings. The 9e Legere however were equally disordered and by falling back had uncovered the flank of the 1/3e Artillerie a Cheval as they unlimbered in preparation to bombard the British infantry on the crest with canister.

The 1st Detachments fire into the voltigeurs screening the 9e Legere, just before charging downhill and upsetting the whole French attack plan
With his supporting squadrons and those of Anson's brigade moving up, General Fane was quick to rally the 3rd Dragoon Guards who promptly smashed their way into the French horse gunners taken completely by surprise. At the same time the 1st Detachments, charged through the voltigeur screen to take the 1/9e Legere in the flank, driving them back, with the French being saved by the tiredness of the British troops; having been in action and marching most of the previous night.

The French bring up horse artillery to support their attack on the ridge as the 24e Ligne approach the lower slopes
As the British launched their counter-punch before the French attack even got going, they also moved Tilson's brigade in behind Stuarts presenting the French command with a double wall of redcoat lines supported by artillery at each end and elite British cavalry threatening to roam at will along the northern valley.

Both sides rush supports to the threatened area around Valdefuentes
To their credit, the 9e Legere held their discipline and their ground as they recoiled back from the British attack. The French horse gunners were equally determined to stand their ground and were almost wiped out bar one corporal who made it back unharmed with the only gun salvaged from the other five that fell into British hands.

Suddenly the battle turns. The 3rd Dragoon Guards strike the French horse guns as the French infantry are driven back by the tiring Detachments
We had played ten turns out of the fifteen planned and self evidently the French would not be able to force their way on to the Medellin in time and settled for a withdraw back into the mist covered by their cavalry.

British cavalry move threateningly off the slopes of the Medellin
Just as it seemed the mornings action was over, General Francois Ormancey had to be relieved of his command after suffering what his officers described as a nervous break down during the latter stages of the battle, with General Merlin assuming command of the covering force as the French troops fell back to the Cascajal (This is the first time C&G has thrown out this kind of issue with a General Officer and it immediately put the Vistula Lancers and Westphalian Light Horse on a "No Advance").

With only five turns remaining and the French assault stalled, we called it a night
The butchers bill below, for the mornings action, shows the small scattering of casualties distributed among the various units because of the artillery and skirmish attacks going on throughout the two and a half hours of fighting. The heaviest casualties falling on those units caught up in the British counter-attack.

The 1st Battalion of Detachments, a mongrel battalion, performed admirably, particularly after getting caught in the first fifteen minutes of the French bombardment and with it carrying the fatigue from the previous nights fighting.

The change in the early morning weather to include a drizzle that reduced visibility to 400 paces at one stage, severely limited long range artillery and the use of bringing up horse guns for a bit of close range work seemed to have been a particularly inspired move by Tom until they got chopped up by the 3rd DG.

This first test has given an early steer towards making this a challenge for both sides. Clearly the French command would be acutely aware of any change in the British defence in response to their first moves. This position was not the classic "Wellingtonian" reverse slope with the ability to reposition troops unobserved and thus it seems likely that troops moved to defend against Ruffin could trigger an attack from Villatte. This needs to be built in to create a similar pressure on our tabletop commanders. Thus a successful attack from Ruffin could be getting on to the ridge or drawing away troops from the British centre, which would trigger a reinforcement.

Our battles are going to get larger as we progress and we need to improve our playing methods to allow more efficient use of time. With more play experience with C&G we are much quicker cycling through the sequence, but small things like introducing the coloured counters add greatly to making command and control simpler for the players and worked well. We used white for no advance, red for halt, red with a casualty figure for retire and yellow for rout.

I am looking at producing a simple little laminated card that can be used by players to quietly let the game master know about any change of orders without alerting the opposition.

Tom, taking the French, played a very safe and limited game and was reluctant to go hell for leather at the Medellin in daylight, however the attack needed to be pressed and the 24e Ligne should have set off with the Legere to pin Tilson's brigade. We were acutely aware that Steve playing the British was too knowledgeable about the constraints placed on the French and knowing Villatte would not attack whilst Ruffin was kept off the crest allowed him the comfort to shift his assets more freely than Wellesley would have felt, and a level of uncertainty as discussed above needs to be created to keep the British commander honest. I am keen to allow the French commander to go for a minimalist assault as this would work well in a linked campaign where the French commander would want to strive to reduce his casualties but be rewarded for doing better than the historical attack, Thus getting away with a minor British victory would be a reward with the main attack still to come. To qualify as a minimalist attack, it would require the French commander to commit (to be defined) all nine battalions of Ruffin's division as was the case and perhaps there should be a penalty in a series of linked games for not reaching that minimum level of compliance with Victor's orders.

Still this was the first test and I feel I have a better idea on timings and mechanisms that could be included in test two. In addition I think I need to see if we can play out fifteen turns up to 9am with a full out attack to gauge the limits of this scenario. Perhaps I'll have to get Tom up on the Medellin and see if his old Dad can get him off.

Talavera - Dawn Attack

[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing

Army Sir Arthur Wellesley
[501] Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley - Active A [1500 paces]
[550] Eliott's Brigade 0/ 151 [ 6] C Good Fresh
[551] Rettberg's Brigade 12/ 132 [ 6] C Good Fresh
[552] Heyse's Brigade 0/ 149 [ 6] C Good Tiring

Division William Payne - Defend
[503] Lieutenant General William Payne - Active C+ [725 paces]

Brigade Henry Fane - Defend
[504] Brigadier General Henry Fane - Active B- [400 paces]
[501] 3rd Dragoon Guards A 28/ 227 C+ Good Tiring
[502] 3rd Dragoon Guards B 0/ 273 C+ Ex'lent Fresh
[503] 4th Dragoons A 0/ 279 C Good Fresh
[504] 4th Dragoons B 0/ 271 C Good Fresh
Brigade Stapleton Cotton - Defend
[505] Brigadier General Stapleton Cotton - Active B+ [500 paces]
[505] 14th Light Dragoons A 0/ 240 C [sk] Good Fresh
[506] 14th Light Dragoons B 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
[507] 16th Light Dragoons A 0/ 253 C [sk] Good Fresh
[508] 16th Light Dragoons B 0/ 271 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade George Anson - Defend
[506] Brigadier General George Anson - Active B- [400 paces]
[509] 23rd Light Dragoons A 0/ 229 C [sk] Good Fresh
[510] 23rd Light Dragoons B 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
[511] 1st Light Dragoons KGL A 0/ 220 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[512] 1st Light Dragoons KGL B 0/ 228 C+ [sk] Good Fresh

Division John Coape Sherbrooke - Defend
[507] Lieutenant General John Coape Sherbrooke - Active B- [800 paces]

Brigade Ernest Baron Langwerth - Defend
[510] Brigadier General Ernest Baron Langwerth - Active B- [350 paces]
[519] 1st KGL Line Battalion 0/ 544 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[520] 2nd KGL Line Battalion 0/ 610 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[521] Langwerth's Bde. Light Bn. 14/ 220 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Sigismund Baron Low - Defend
[511] Brigadier General Sigismund Baron Low - Active C+ [450 paces]
[522] 5th KGL Line Battalion 20/ 529 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[523] 7th KGL Line Battalion 34/ 467 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[D] [524] Low's Bde. Light Bn. 33/ 84 C [sk] Poor Tired

Division Rowland Hill - Defend
[512] Major General Rowland Hill - Active B- [950 paces]

Brigade Christopher Tilson - Defend
[513] Brigadier General Christopher Tilson - Active C+ [350 paces]
[525] 1/3rd Foot 0/ 671 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[526] 2/48th Foot 0/ 510 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[527] 2/66th Foot 0/ 473 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[R] [528] Tilson's Bde. Light Bn. 38/ 199 C [sk] Good Tiring
Brigade Richard Stewart - Defend
[514] Brigadier General Richard Stewart - Active B [450 paces]
[529] 29th Foot 0/ 538 C+ [sk] Good Fresh
[530] 1/48th Foot 0/ 726 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[531] 1st Battalion of Detachments 92/ 456 C- [sk] Good Tired
[532] Stuart's Bde. Light Bn. 77/ 125 C [sk] Good Acceptable

Brigade Rufane Donkin - Defend
[516] Colonel Rufane Donkin - Active B- [350 paces]
[537] 2/87th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[538] 1/88th Foot 0/ 539 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[539] 5/60th Rifles 0/ 220 B- [sk] Ex'lent Fresh
[540] Donkin's Bde. Light Bn. 0/ 175 C [sk] Good Fresh

308/ 7625 Bayonets
28/ 2944 Sabres
12/ 432 Artillerists
0/ 18 Cannon
348/ 11001 Total of all arms
Talavera - Dawn Attack

[D] denotes Dispersed and removed from the field
[W] denotes No Advance
[R] denotes Halt or Retire
[Y] denotes Routing

Corps Claude-Victor Perrin
[104] Marechal d'Empire Claude-Victor Perrin - Active B- [1300 paces]
[101] 6/8me Artillerie a Pied 11/ 182 [ 8] C Good Fresh
[102] 2/6me Artillerie a Cheval 6/ 150 [ 6] B- Ex'lent Fresh
[103] 1/8me Artillerie a Pied 0/ 195 [ 8] C Good Fresh

Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Attack
[105] General de Division Francois Amable Ruffin - Active D+ [650 paces]
[190] 4/8me Artillerie a Pied 6/ 203 [ 8] C+ Good Fresh

Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Attack
[106] General de Brigade Claude-Marie Meunier - Active B- [400 paces]
[191] 1/9me Regiment de Legere 67/ 400 C [sk] Average Acceptable
[192] 2/9me Regiment de Legere 27/ 470 C [sk] Good Fresh
[193] 3/9me Regiment de Legere 0/ 491 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[194] 1/24me Regiment de Ligne 10/ 462 C [sk] Good Fresh
[195] 2/24me Regiment de Ligne 23/ 448 C [sk] Good Fresh
[196] 3/24me Regiment de Ligne 7/ 490 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[Y] [197] 9me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 108/ 200 C [sk] Poor Acceptable
[R] [198] 24me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 33/ 275 C [sk] Poor Exhausted
Brigade Pierre Barrois - Attack
[107] General de Brigade Pierre Barrois - Active B [450 paces]
[199] 1/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 513 C [sk] Good Fresh
[200] 2/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 507 C [sk] Good Fresh
[201] 3/96me Regiment de Ligne. 0/ 476 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[202] 96me Regt. Voltiguer Bn. 0/ 288 C [sk] Good Acceptable

Division Eugene Villatte - Support
[111] General de Division Eugene Villatte - Active B [875 paces]
[120] 2/8me Artillerie a Pied 3/ 195 [ 8] C+ Good Acceptable

Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Support
[112] General de Brigade Baron Louis-Victorin Cassagne - Active C+ [400 paces]
[121] 1/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 424 C [sk] Good Fresh
[122] 2/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 409 C [sk] Good Fresh
[123] 3/27me Regiment de Legere 0/ 428 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[124] 1/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 432 C [sk] Good Fresh
[125] 2/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 411 C [sk] Good Fresh
[126] 3/63me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 422 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[127] 27me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
[128] 63me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 261 C [sk] Good Fresh
Brigade Jacques Puthod - Support
[113] General de Brigade Jacques Puthod - Active C [350 paces]
[129] 1/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 414 C [sk] Good Fresh
[130] 2/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 434 C [sk] Good Fresh
[131] 3/94me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 441 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[132] 1/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
[133] 2/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 447 C [sk] Good Fresh
[134] 3/95me Regiment de Ligne 0/ 419 C- [sk] Good Fresh
[135] 94me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 251 C [sk] Good Fresh
[136] 95me Regt. Voltigeur Bn. 0/ 250 C [sk] Good Fresh

Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Attack
[114] General de Brigade Louis Carriere, Baron Beaumont - Active C+ [400 paces]
[Y] [137] 1/3me Artillerie a Cheval 143/ 1 [ 1] B- Average Tiring
[138] 2me Regiment de Hussards A 0/ 228 C [sk] Good Fresh
[139] 2me Regiment de Hussards B 0/ 243 C Good Fresh
[140] 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval A 0/ 259 C Good Fresh
[141] 5me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval B 0/ 255 C [sk] Good Fresh

Division Antoine Christophe Merlin - Attack
[123] General de Brigade Antoine Christophe Merlin - Active C- [725 paces]

Brigade Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Attack
[124] Colonel Jean Baptiste Alexandre Strolz - Active D+ [300 paces]
[178] 10me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 327 C [sk] Good Fresh
[179] 26me Regt. Chasseur a Cheval 0/ 216 C [sk] Good Fresh
Division Francois-Leon Ormancey - Attack
[125] Colonel Francois-Leon Ormancey - Active C- [650 paces]
[180] 1st Vistula Legion Lancers A 0/ 224 C [sk] Good Fresh
[181] 1st Vistula Legion Lancers B 0/ 206 C [sk] Good Fresh
[182] Westplalian Light Horse 0/ 210 C [sk] Good Fresh

275/ 11171 Bayonets
0/ 2168 Sabres
169/ 926 Artillerists
5/ 39 Cannon
444/ 14265 Total of all arms
7 Standards present

Talavera - Dawn Attack
Minor victory for the British Army

The British Army has suffered losses of:
[3%] 432 men of all arms
[2%] 332 dead and wounded
[0%] 84 missing
[0%] 16 prisoners
[4%] 392 bayonets
[0%] 28 sabres
[2%] 12 artillerists
Honours: [ 531] 1st Battalion of Detachments

The French Army has suffered losses of:
[4%] 645 men of all arms
[2%] 427 dead and wounded
[1%] 201 missing
[0%] 17 prisoners
[4%] 475 bayonets
[0%] 0 sabres
[15%] 170 artillerists
5 cannon[s] lost
Honours: [101] 6/8me Artillerie a Pied

Next up, I'm off up to Attack 2015 in Devizes this weekend following a thoroughly enjoyable show last year, so report and pictures to come, and the 2/96e Ligne is on the painting schedule.