Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maida 1806 - A Black Powder refight.

In the snowy depths of November (eh? new Ice Age on its' way perhaps). We arranged a refight of another small battle of the Napoleonics Wars; a classic British victory on Italian soil Maida:

The account of the battle was drawn from Richard Hoptons' book, which covers the battle in plenty of detail, including the relative merits of both sides commanders, troops and deployments. The map below serving as out plan for the day.
As is our preference, we used that as a launching point for the refight, with no more than a hope, for myself and Martin, to emulate the British victory. Both sides were on the day of more or less equal size, the British having a marked superiority in artillery, whilst the French had a couple of squadrons of Dragoons. High ground presented itself for both commanders but it was of less historical advantage to the French.

Battle began with the French moving their best troops and cavalry around the British left, whilst their own left made limited progress along the shallow riverbank. Their centre failed to move.

The British by contrast formed a square on their left to resist any charge by the French. Skirmishing between specially trained 'flankers' (precursor to true Light Company troops) and French Voltiguers opened on the right bank of the river. Meanwhile the French sensing a threat here deployed a battalion of Leger to cross the River.

The British responded by advancing in line and enfilading the Leger with brutal fire, pinning them down to the river bank. At the same time British artillery opened upon the French regimental columns.

At the start of the British 2nd turn a roll of '1' (in other words lower than the current turn number) heralded the arrival of the 20th Battalion, from their duties guarding the shore. Their appearance behind the French cavalry caused Neil not inconsiderable consternation.

The French tried to get the cavalry to evade, but instead led them right into the path of the 27th foot. Who would smash them with fire. In the centre they also sent forward one Polish battalion alone in a piecemeal attack, that seemed as laughable as it was tragically suicidal for the Poles. The 20th, not needed in the destruction of the Dragoons, instead concentrated on another French Leger battalion.

At this stage the French plan was going spectacularly badly, and it was hard to see the battle taking more than the original 'fifteen minutes of glory' to become a historic British victory.

The French threw their Commander in Chief into the Fray in the hope of making the attack press home and give time for his fighting lines to reform. And at this stage the French had to form line to fill huge gaps in their ranks.

On the far side of the river the engagement had become entrenched, but it seemed the Battalion of Leger would not be needed; however they themselves remained pinned down by Artillery.

A French emulation of British orders and a blundered command were the beginning of the undoing for the British plan. The Light troops on the British right succumbed to concentrated French fire; but reserves filled the line in timely fashion.

Sadly their order made it unclear where to check their advance, and seeing the Polish destroyed after a long fight they rushed to pursue. leaving themselves wide open to enfilading fire that devastated their ranks.

On the left though the British redcoats had broken one French brigade and were turning on the next. And yet the plan was under strain, as the British reserve tried to fill its' gaps.

More confused orders saw the untried 78th Highlanders withdraw whilst the 20th tried to move around the small copse on their left. The French line and its supporting column saw their chance and began to advance, finding another opportunity to fire down the serried ranks of redcoats.

It was more than the British could bear and at the same time as 2nd Polish battalion exacted revenge from the 81st, the French destroyed 58th too.

At this stage myself and Martin were left scratching our heads wondering where it had all gone wrong. Our chances of pulling a victory were slipping away, the British Brigades being too small to sustain repeated losses.

The last straw was the Voltiguers clearing the Flankers away, leaving them free to cross the river behind our lines. And the Leger rallying from the river bank outflanked the final reserve, resulting in yet more smashed British troops.

The British were left outnumbered two to one on the field by unbroken French troops. Somehow Neil had turned a terrible start around and transformed history. Whilst for us Brits it had all gone horribly wrong, after all in the first three turns we couldn't put a foot wrong.

This was the last game with Neil for the foreseeable future with Neil, as he has now headed down south (away from the dark satanic mills, for the money!). Hopefully the refights can continue when I assemble a few more French troops of my own. And a chance for the British to exact revenge shall arise...


  1. Great AAR, thanks for posting. My mate and I have just wrapped up painting a Brit and French division in 15mm, and we've been eyeballing Maida as our premier scenario using Lasalle....

  2. Looks like a good game. Thanks for the report.

  3. Black Powder is not a set of rules that springs to mind when thinking of Naopleonics. It's too fluid for any attack to be co-ordinated and to use support effectively. Sounds like a fun game though.

  4. On the contrary Paul, I think the fact that BP allows players a lot of freedom is hand in hand with risk if they so choose to use it. A wise commander in BP coordinates his attacks by being sensible anda little more catious than the rules extremes would permit.

    We have found that whilst the rules may allow for three moves, these are seldom conducted purely as movement and both rare and foolish id the commander who uses it that way. Neil did in fact, and the 1st Polish paid the price. Organising a coordinated attack requires forethought and planning as well as the wise use of all available commanders...