Posted 18 Nov 2008
James Falkus, Rich Wilcox, Chris Harrod and I wanted to try out Shako II. Because of my recent enthusiasm (Spanish Units at Albuera) I suggested the Albuera scenario from Fields of Glory (FOG). FOG is for Shako I and some aspects of the scenario bug me but nobody had the energy to make up a different scenario and we hoped it would be a good game anyway. It was!
James and Rich had played Shako I a lot but many years ago. Chris and I hadn't really played Shako I at all but had played one game of Shako II recently. James and Rich picked French - a choice I suspect was based on their previous experience of Shako. I took Spanish leaving Chris with Anglo-Portuguese. So two novices against two hardened French veterans; in hindsight the outcome might have been predictable.
In Shako the troops are plonked on the table before orders are written.
You can see the French flanking forces massed on the near edge of the table. Latour-Maubourg's Cavalry division on the left and three infantry divisions on the right (Girard, Gazon, Wrele).
The remaining French division (Godinot's) is in the top-right of the photo sandwiched between Albuera village and the wood.
Here's a shot of the whole table. Anglo-Spanish on the left and French to the right.
Lumley's Anglo-Spanish cavalry division is facing the French horse in the fore ground. Zayas's infantry division is facing the flanking French infantry. Ballasteros is on the hill behind Zayas and facing Godinot. Alten, with only one battalion of Kings German Legion, is in Albuera. He is backed up by Hamilton's Portuguese division on the hill near Albuera. Stewart and Cole are on the road at the left of the photo.
|James painted the buildings for Albuera village. Very nice they are too.|
Phase 1: French approach
|Two of the French infantry divisions (Girard, Wrele) advanced furiously towards Zayas. Gazan stayed in the rear as reserve.|
Phase 2: Lumley's Hill / The Cavalry Battle
Phase 3: Zayas's Hill
|On the hill the French skirmishers and artillery were beginning to take their toll amongst the Spanish infantry.|
|By this time Allied reinforcements were flooding towards the front. In contrast to Stewart's ordered lines in the foreground you can see Ballasteros's division in disordered columns on the hill.|
Phase 4: Stewart's Hill
While Zayas was facing the French infantry Stewart was facing Latour-Maubourg's cavalry on
Lumley's orginal position (now renamed Stewart's Hill). Chris was tempted to go into square
but I said "No, just shoot him off". It almost worked. Chris got in a volley in as the
Frenchies charged and did considerable harm (he staggered both attacking regiments and
inflicted kills). But then the melee dice failed him completely, despite very favourable
odds, and he lost both of his front line battalions.
None-the-less, at my urging, Chris bravely pushed on with his remaining two battalions and took the hill from the disordered French cavalry.
|Now, however, he had both Latour-Maubourg's cavalry and Gazan's infantry to worry about. As the French cavalry dressed their ranks the British lines on the hill successful drove off an attack by the French elite infantry. (OK, Stewart had some help from the British Dragoons.)|
Cole's division began to arrive as Stewart was fighting it out on the hill.
(You might notice the Spanish flags of these "Red Coats". Actually they're British Auxiliary Legion from the First Carlist War. I'd told James to bring too few figures so we improvised.)
|The French were massing more and more troops on Zayas's hill but the drama was played out with Stewart's division.|
|The game ended when Stewart's division dispersed. A "Glorious" French victory.|
As I mentioned in the introduction the scenario bugs me. Chris Leach does no favours for Zayas's division and the British Fusiliers in terms of morale. Zayas's men were well trained and included Guards units but get rated as REG and SR. And the Fusiliers were considered elite troops but are rated as REG. In contrast Gazan gets a battalion of EL; I assume this is the 11 coys of Combined Grenadiers in the division, although they were actually with Godinot's brigade in the real battle. Chris also halves the number of troops on the table. But really these are just quibbles.
The scenario was actually a pretty good simulation of the original battle and made for a fantastic game. It looked great and was immensely fun. The action was furious and there was no opportunity for boredom. The number of troops was manageable - more would have been a struggle.
Our recreation overturned history in a few ways:
- French victory (three Anglo-Spanish divisioned destroyed against no French divisions)
- Relatively few French casualties (just four units lost)
- The Polish Lancers were ridden down by the British Dragoons and didn't get to slaughter any British infantry (although other French regiments did a fair amount of slaughtering)
Three blitzed Anglo-Spanish divisions actually gave the French a "Glorious Victory". This might actually be an understatement. But the result reflects the better ability and luck of James and Rich.
And perhaps most importantly I learnt some valuable lessons about Shako
- You have to watch those ultra-maneuverable French columns. Particularly when they are anywhere near your flanks.
- Plan ahead so that your divisions are in the right combat deployment when you need them to fight.
James has this to add
A really fascinating read, especially as history is normally written by the victors. From a French perspective we decided to be aggressive as possible to keep the Brits on the back foot and the timed moved with the division facing off the village worked a treat. A small inaccuaracy - it was Hussars from that division that rode down two Spanish units in line, not the Polish lancers. They were wiped out earlier by the very resilient and gallant British cavalry.
Our only real error was delaying the French divisions advance towards the hill on our far left. It was timed to allow our cavalry to first wipe out the Brit cavalry which they avoided by a cowardly but timely retreat. If they hadn't started the game facing away from us we would have caught them in the rear, so I tip my hat to whoever worked that one out. Our plan was simple and didn't need much adjustment. The schwerpunkt was the two Spanish divisions defending the hill and that's where we concentrated our forces. By the time the British rolled up the defensive line was pretty much broken and the reinforcements were just getting caught up in the rout of the Spanish. If we had delayed the rolling volleys of the British would ha ve sent us back to froggie hell. A very enjoyable game and in the balance for most of the battle.
Leach, C. (1997). Fields of Glory: Napoleonic Scenarios for Shako Rules. Quantum Printing.