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"Over the Hills - Talavera, Afternoon Attack Play-test" Topic

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carojon29 Oct 2017 12:36 p.m. PST

This weekend saw the second scenario play-test using OTH and a lot more figures with all the extra rules added in for good measure.


If you would like to see more of this game and thoughts on how it played then just follow the link to JJ's


Jonathan (JJ)

Sgt Steiner29 Oct 2017 1:45 p.m. PST

Excellent stuff with a very good set of rules

Shedman29 Oct 2017 3:10 p.m. PST

Wow – impressive – as always

Codsticker29 Oct 2017 7:21 p.m. PST

Impressive looking game. thumbs up

marshalGreg30 Oct 2017 7:21 a.m. PST

Good looking battle and collection.
Good to know the Rules address a column attacking fresh British lines to a historical sense.
So now what happens if the French use more tactical finesse and start Fire Fights etc in line then sending the second units in, in column or line, as they planed to do but were not able due to significant ridges/ reverse slope ploy the British were notorious to use in their favor?
Can the French possibly win this scenario then?
I am not familiar as to the significance of reverse slope that were available at Talavera. Need to do some more research.

Looking forward to some change to the classic col vs Line.


carojon31 Oct 2017 1:09 a.m. PST

Thanks chaps, glad you enjoyed it.

Hi MG,
Interesting ideas, but if the French start to fight like a 'linear army' they encounter a few problems around time, quality and training vs the British, maintaining the momentum of the attack and space to deploy with only a mile of frontage to work with.

I would suggest that the better option, as we concluded from playing this, is to use the tactics that the French troops did but add the 'finesse' to the way you go about it.

That is choose where and when to hit the British line selectively, I'd leave the British Guards to last where possible and have them reacting to neighbouring brigades breaking under the attack when they themselves are being attacked.

Revert to the tactics of the Republican armies by using all arms up front with cavalry and artillery in among the columns, as Steve was doing on his right flank if you look at the pictures, where the two KGL brigades were a move away from breaking, facing columns of infantry, Dragoons and horse artillery. As highlighted in the post we finished the scenario three turns before it actually concludes so there was still a lot to play for.

Don't forget the French came closest to winning Talavera in this sector of the line and following this test game we have found a few other tweaks to the British that will better model their behaviour on the day that should only add to the French potential.

Of course the nice thing about playing scenarios is you can try out the what ifs but Victor, Jourdan and Sebastiani knew their stuff and this was the Grand Armee that had only just finished off the Austrians, Prussians and Russians in the preceding four years using the very tactics they did at Talavera.

There was no classic reverse slope at Talavera as Wellesley was forced to fight on this line due to the Spanish General Cuesta refusing to attack Victor on his own about three days previously allowing the French Marshall to escape to join up with Joseph and Sebastiani.

Finally even if you add the finesse and you don't get a result against a British line you shouldn't feel to bad as not even Junot, Soult, Massena, Marmont or dare I say Napoleon himself, ever really cracked the problem, but it is mentally stimulating trying and should you succeed very gratifying.


marshalGreg31 Oct 2017 5:16 a.m. PST

I am just wondering if you are handicaping the French to much to the same mistakes the commanders were making, that the British were able to take advantage of at the time and not allowing the player to address these short comings as they should be able to.
Point being, French in 1809 were veterans of the earlier war, well dressed to linear warfare, which help in beating Austrians, then Prussians and with more difficulty the Russians. Where the reverse slope tactic is employed, along with the stout skirmish screen of the Lt Bobs should make for a challenging nut to crack for the French. But simply forcing the French player to blindly do the same poor action, that cannot be successful, does not seem to put things in balance and is perhaps why, in the CnGII group in the US the French have near matched the British in victories. The fact that the British have not been able to utilize the terrain as well as the historical counter parts, does have some impact to this fact for the US play.
I believe that this battle is what enlighten Wellington to utilize the reverse slope more (seen more so further in the campaign) as he experienced the potential wreckage the French were capable of (but fell a little short at Talavera). The British received a pretty good bloody nose here, IIRC!
So what happens if the same Battle/scenario is fought and the British are swapped out for… say Prussians. Would the French still be clobbered, I am afraid they would, if the same handicap is still in affect.

just saying


carojon31 Oct 2017 11:34 a.m. PST

I think the way we are fighting these scenarios is to challenge the players, I include myself in that description, to perform better than their historical counterparts, grappling with the issues that they were confronting and using the tactics and troop types at their disposal, that they would have been familiar with, thus exploring the historical context.

Thus the exact units that were involved, at the strengths they were, on the ground scaled to that of the terrain at the time (as close as), are modelled to allow us to do that.

There is no deliberate handicapping or forcing a situation, the fact is that if you want to play a simulation of the actual battle, then fighting the French using linear tactics, and I use that term loosely to describe a force that classically fought in company column and line as per the British and Prussians, all be it with subtle differences, may well produce a result in favour of the French, although I think unlikely, but cannot be said to be simulating the actual combat or reflecting the historical commanders choices.

There is much satisfaction to be had from using the troops in the way that their doctrine and tactics predisposed them, to get the best results, but in such a way that obtains a better result that Messrs Victor and Sebastiani were able to achieve.

That said if the fancy took us to go the route you suggest, there would be nothing to prevent that choice in the scenario design other than the issues I have outlined above, that is unlikely to help any such French attack using those methods. That is not the fault of the scenario or our choices that is just how it was for the French troops at the time.

Thus we are not blindly following any set format, but simply fighting using the tactics and doctrines of the two armies involved.

If you look at most rule sets their design is such to encourage that approach by rewarding the use of the column by the French and the line by the British, that is standard practice. There is nothing stopping you doing the reverse but any handicap will be the players choice, not being able to gain the benefits designed into the rules by not playing the tactical methods of the time.

This battle probably didn't add to Wellesley's understanding of the benefits of the reverse slope, he had already demonstrated his mastery of that tactic a year earlier at Vimeiro and as I said he was forced to fight a defensive battle on this ground as it was the best available given the situation. The British casualties reflect that together with the inexperience of the British troops and the excellence of the French veterans they faced.

I doubt, given the differences between the Prussians of 1806 and the British of 1809, reflected in OTH and C&G, that the Prussians would perform at all well in trying to hold this position against this force of French columns screened with massed voltigeurs.

I hope that explains better the way we are designing these games and the choices we are making and I completely understand and respect your point of view if that would not be the way you would choose to play them, but then that is what the hobby is all about, namely the choices we make with the games we play.


marshalGreg31 Oct 2017 1:14 p.m. PST

I do not believe it is the scenario, unless it states what the French are allowed and not allowed to do, which w/o an actually copy of your scenario is hard to to see, but from the games seen so far, seems to be the case "to be a hold French in columns" which I am referring to as " handicap".
My understanding, especially prior to 1813, French Doctirne was to move quickly in attack column, push opponents Lt screens back with cloud of skirmishers, then deploy Line to deliver volley (s) to then destabilize the opponent> This was done by starting with in 400 meters ( much closer than any of the other nations). The myth created by historian of the Peninsula war( can't think of his name) has been dispelled regarding actual intent of the French columns …to stay in column regardless. If there is evidence of the "destabilization" then by choice, the Colonel could order his battalions to stay in column, and continue push forward by bayonet.
I do not think that makes them a linear army and at the same time not a columnar army either (prior to 1813)!
Some 40% or more of French attacks were made in Lines per Nazfigar. This was clearly supported many times at 1805, 1806 and 1809 campaigns in CE and was to some degree possibly present at Talavera (since troops are from those early armies and did so whether in mix order or mostly line with columns in support)! What I don't have is the evidence yet to confirm or dispel for this battle.
So unless LOC is affected and British were utilizing reverse slope ( which was not quite set at this battle) for the scenario design the French very much could/should be forming lines and fire fighting. This is not present or very, very little happening in these games.
Well designed rules make a column vs a line (when both fresh) a poor expected result for the column and most of the time. These are rules that are supporting your scenarios. Therefore, why as the commander would I have to do such a "not so smart of a move"?
I hope this clarifies my point.

If I understand it from your latest reply and w/o additional reply to clarify, you saying the players are choosing to go forward in mass of columns, regardless of the situation/LOC/etc, and that is what I am seeing?
If that is correct, then I have an additional question and that is…what are they hoping will change for a better result?


carojon31 Oct 2017 3:37 p.m. PST

I think we will have to agree to disagree on your description of French tactics as there is to my knowledge very little evidence to support your assertion.

French commanders became very reluctant to allow their troops to shake out into line on the assault because they were well aware of the problems of getting their men to move forwards once they engaged in a fire-fight.

I think it would have been difficult to persuade Victor to change winning tactics of advancing in column behind a strong screen of voltigeurs to trying what you suggest when that was not the method of attack that had won them victory after victory. This was the first time Victor and his troops had fought the British and their opinion of them, certainly following the surprise attack at Casa de Salinas and the night attack on the 27th July was contemptuous. It seems Victor put the failure of the dawn assault down to lack of numbers rather than column tactics versus the British line. If you study their tactics throughout the battle it follows the book by having a preparatory bombardment of 45 minutes to an hour with mass columns moving forward behind a strong skirmish screen and absolutely no attempt to approach the British in the last 400 metres in line, no example whatsoever.

The historian I think you are referring to is Sir Charles Oman who first proposed the line vs column theory and his thinking about British fire-power winning these contests and British cavalry making uncontrollable charges which have long been shown to be unsustainable.

The principle occasion when the French and British fought a line on line battle was at Albuera brought on by the fine defence put up by the Spanish that surprised the French columns forcing them to deploy in line. It was these lines that were met by the British advancing through the Spanish and about the only time a British volley was not followed up by a charge of bayonet until the Fusilier brigade turned up.

My point is that the French invariably relied on weight of numbers and a demoralised enemy line softened up by artillery and skirmishers. This did not work in any of their encounters with British troops who continuously defeated those tactics with skirmish screens of their own, use of terrain or, as at Talavera, lying down under artillery bombardment to mitigate the effects of the artillery.

To my knowledge there is absolutely no evidence that describes the French columns forming into line after advancing at Talavera other than the odd occasion such as the German Division troops who, brought up by enemy volley fire, attempted to form into line as a reaction (Note both C&G and OTH model this by causing troops in column brought to a halt to attempt to form line in response). If, as you suggest, reverse slope tactics are the reason the French very rarely attacked in line because the British were out of sight then you would have expected to see them do it at Talavera where two thirds of the British line was in full view of the French and yet they persisted in attacking in column.

So to your last point, what are the players hoping to achieve by advancing in column.

Well I will refer you back to the report of the game that showed that Cameron's brigade, although having stopped the attack of the French columns to its front was so badly shaken in the combat that the brigade was broken leaving a hole in the British line ripe for assault by the follow up units including cavalry and horse guns.

Not only that but the sight of a broken brigade withdrawing affects those units in sight of it, particularly when they have to stand against a follow up assault, hence my point about finesse and choosing who to attack and when and by ensuring those attacks are combined arms, the very same tactics that the French used very successfully across Europe.

If you also refer to the AAR you will see that the KGL battalions were also badly mauled in the French preparatory skirmish and artillery attacks and were in no fit state to stand an attack by the six French columns and four squadrons of dragoons bearing down on them.

The French principle error was to hit the Guards battalions first as I have stated and it would have been better to leave them alone for as long as possible as the rest of the British force crumbled around them.

All this, with absolutely no need to change the French tactics to a line attack.


Glenn Pearce02 Nov 2017 11:53 a.m. PST

Hello JJ & MG!

I think I told you this before JJ, your games are just brilliant!

If I could just comment on your interesting discussion. For 32 years we played Napoleonic games that were very similar to yours. Over the last 20 years we have played only modern style Napoleonic games where unit formations are not really considered to be that important and are handled at a level below that of the player. These games emphasize other factors over unit formations. Such as the formation of the brigade, quality and condition of troops, effects from skirmishing, artillery, any type of flanking fire, support and the terrain, etc.

The players do, however, simulate to some degree the effects of the formation by firing if representing a firefight situation or not if representing a column or cold steel attack. So basically the players are free to design their own style of attack, defense, counter attack, etc. This helps a lot to embellish the concept that as a player can you do better than what happened historically. Which is the main reason a lot of players are attracted to these kinds of games.

What we have found that as long as the players do similar things that happened historically the outcomes are almost always similar as well. And that's regardless to some degree of how they structured their attacks.

At times even when the players try to put a different spin on things they also end up pretty close. So there seems to be a certain destiny to a lot of battles that are rarely disrupted by the little things. All kind of strange to some extent as the vast majority of Napoleonic players think that unit formations are the cornerstone of the era.

Best regards,


carojon05 Nov 2017 7:28 a.m. PST

Hi Glen,
Thank you.
Yes indeed there are many ways to go about Napoleonics and different rules and ways of playing suit different folks. In this case we are striving to produce a look with the game that is visually appealing as well as informative as to the tactics and deployment options that this way of playing facilitates.

Personally, I really like to see lines, columns and skirmish screens when looking at a Napoleonic game, irrespective of the ground scale compromises that are inevitably made to achieve that look.

The interesting thing is that we to have found that, generally, if players follow the historical plan the results seem to often tally with the reality, which is a good feeling when looking at rules.

That said it is interesting playing with formations especially when you see the French in particular trying to think up new ways to go at a British line.
A case in point is looking at D'Erlon's attack at Waterloo, he being a Peninsular War veteran, sending his battalions forward in serried ranks of battalion lines rather than columns causing each of his divisions to look like one giant column with the front of a line ready to fire at any British line encountered on the way. Unfortunately it was not a great formation to be in when attacked by heavy cavalry!


Bill Slavin Inactive Member06 Nov 2017 7:14 a.m. PST

A really interesting discussion!
The game looks great, as always, JJ, and I look forward to reading the report cover to cover soon.
A relative newbie to Napoleonics I'm curious about the thick skirmish screen put in front of advancing columns as employed by the French and what that role actually achieved. In the rules we play (AOE, brigade level being the key unit) skirmishers are synthesized into combat results rather than represented on the table, but mostly figure in fire combat by adding to the effective range of that unit. I know the skirmish screen would drive back enemy skirmishers into their lines, protecting the following troops, but did they actually have any effect in reducing casualties in regards to artillery fire? What exactly was their role?

adymac2650 Inactive Member06 Nov 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

As usual a top report

carojon06 Nov 2017 11:31 a.m. PST

Hi Bill/Ady, thank you,

Bill – The role of the skirmish screen was an offensive and defensive one, in that, as you say, having an adequate well trained screen protected your formed troops behind the screen from the attentions of the enemy light troops.

Likewise a well organised effective screen allows the potential to soften up the enemy before the contact between the opposing sides formed infantry formations.

The casualty count might not be that high but well trained light troops were trained to pick off NCO's and officers who would make the difference in how the enemy formed troops would react when the decision point arrived in any attack. this is modelled in OTH by the accruing of fatigue to units and their formations moddeling the effect of those officers and NCO's being rendered hors de combat.

The skirmish battle is a battle in its own right and there can be great satisfaction had by wielding the brigade and regimental screens to try and achieve superiority in a part of the line and thus create points of likely weakness for the coming battle between the formed troops. To facilitate that battle within a battle we model the screens at brigade (British) and regimental (French) level where often the companies from 2-4 battalions would be almalgamated into a light battalion often under the command of a specific officer and in the case of the British reinforced with a company of riflemen for good measure.

The screens would not do much to interfere with artillery fire and rules such as OTH model this with bounce through effects as the shot ploughs through the screen into the rear areas.

The reason why Spanish or as suggested Prussian linear trained armies would struggle to defend the Talavera line as was, is the lack of enough well trained skirmish troops to fend off the French Voltigeurs who would rapidly cause a degrading of the line before the French columns closed to tip the disorder into a rout.

The British screens were that thick that French observers report mistaking it for the British line only to find that other part waiting patiently behind a ridge as the screen retired to the rear.

Glenn Pearce07 Nov 2017 8:47 a.m. PST

Hello JJ!

Thanks for the insight.

Actually our games look very similar to yours. We have lines, columns and skirmishers. The only real difference is players don't have to deal with formation changes for a hundred different units every turn. We have found that the actual formation of the brigade is more important. It also reduces the 100 foot general perception to some extent as players have no idea what actual formation the units are in until the last moment when it's too late to play rock/paper/scissors.

We have played Waterloo a number of times and the Allies usually win. The French have pretty much lost the battle even before it starts. Which falls in line with my previous comments that if you follow in similar footsteps the outcome will be similar. The individual unit formations of line vs column don't seem to have any real effect.

Best regards,


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