Welcome to Marauder Moments - a chronicle of the Mortimer Street Marauders; the games we play, the rules we use, the figures we play with and the scenery they fight over. Hope you enjoy these pages and maybe call back to catch up with our escapades.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Battle of Vitoria 1813 - Day one

Big games are what excite me most about Napoleonic wargaming! The planning, the deadline to finish some new toys, the excitement, the drama and the scale of the spectacle all combine to provide a weekend which can't possibly meet the unrealistically high expectations I set for them, surely? Well this time Rich had stepped up to the mark and done all the work for us, so all I had to do was turn up with the right toys and play the game. What luxury!!!

We booked a 16 x 6 foot table for two days at Triple Helix Wargames near Westbury, Wilts. We then booked another 6 x 4 to put boxes and books on, dead toys, drink & lunch. Great venue, many thanks to Steve, Charlotte, Tom & most of all to Adrian for opening up on Sunday to let us play & waiting on us hand and foot, you are a star Sir.      

Chris was unexpectedly off courting so I was to play the French on my own against Rich and Tony as the Brits in the Peninsular. However there was no time for a leisurely lunch and siesta with a flagon of Rioja in the shade. I was tasked with conducting rear guard action against both Wellington and Picton with a sea of redcoats and some local Iberian talent. Yes Rich had cast me as Joseph Napoleon at Arinez some miles west of Vitoria on 21st June 1813. Luckily for me I was playing defensively with the French as handling such a large formation in an attack would have been beyond me. As it was holding a ridge and then conducting a series localized counter attacks with late arriving reinforcements over two days was quite enough for my work wary brain and frazzled nerves!

Looking south from the crossings on the River Zadorra towards the ridge & village of Arinez in the far distance.

The first Brigades of Picton's force cross the Zadorra. The flimsy foot bridge simply marks the ford. 
 For once the Brits are attacking which is kinda why we chose this scenario. Orders of battle, special rules, terrain and reinforcement schedules all came from the General de Brigade Scenario books. Of particular note is the friction between Wellington and Picton. Rich added to the special rules by following Picton's action on the day, he attacked more or less straight away without consulting Wellington and long before Wellington was in a position to support him. Both British generals had to cross the Zadorra before deploying in front of the long ridge which formed the northern end of the French position. Far to the south in a pass lay the village of Arinez and the road from the east upon which the French reinforcements would arrive.

Wellingtons first brigade deploys across the Zadorra with rifle armed skirmishers to the fore.
The "folds in the ground" didn't seem as prominent on the day as the photos now reveal.
This is at about lunchtime and the British are starting to deploy for an attack. Notice limbers moving up and Picton in his top hat giving orders top his general staff. The French, me, have deployed a light cavalry brigade with two horse guns just off screen left. This was to harass the British flank and enfilade them as they crossed the open ground to assault the ridge. Typically Rich put a foot battery and marksman on the other bank to shoot me up with impunity - which they did!     
Nice shot from behind a French foot battery covering the British assembly area and line of attack. A few rounds of canister stopped the first two attacks stone dead. I really felt very thinly spread along the ridge line; rather like a balloon - totally hollow inside! See the massed cavalry moving towards the bridge in the back ground.  
A fuzzy piccy from behind the redoubt looking down over Wellington's formations. The engagement here was hampered by the vineyards which kept the skirmishers in cover but prevented the British lines closing the range to really damage the defenders. As a result a very lengthy fire fight ensued during which only a very few casualties were inflicted. The battery shown ran out of ammo after three turns and was withdrawn from the line. This left a battalion of loyal Wurtemburgers to occupy the redoubt alongside the two Swiss Battalions seen here beside the guns.

The extreme French left seen from the British side. The village of Arinez sits in the pass at the end of the ridge. Joseph had to hold both the village and the ridge. Whilst there were initially no allied troops deployed to attack Arinez it was vital as it covered the road from Vitoria where my reinforcements were coming from. I put the Spanish in here, (played by my Italians on the day).  Despite being second class or worse they had a strong battery and a good defensive position - and no opposition which helps! A second infantry brigade and two of cavalry are arriving at the rear via this all important road, best to hold it methinks! Sure enough the wily Wellington was soon moving severe quantities of troops, guns and cavalry towards Arinez...      
  For a while it looked as if the Brits might just walk into my position and we could reset the toys and start again. Everything went wrong for me...My light cavalry brigades covering the right were shot to bits by skirmishers from across the river Zadorra and eventually both regiments broke under frightfully accurate skirmisher fire. Then a battery run out of ammo just as Wellington began to sort out a charge, then the Italians decided to retire from Arinez and finally General of Brigade Monquary(?) was shot. Luckily he was taken to the rear, given a stiff drink and Sent back for more - I think I needed that brandy more than him! Things weren't all bad, two big charges were seen off with four enemy columns unformed or faltering - maybe a better general would have fitted bayonets and charged down the hill to rout them. My view was that we weren't even half way through a two day, 20 turn turn game and a counter attack now might be locally successful but cost me a lot more long term - who knows?   

Picton stalls in front of the guns and the log jam begins to grow. 

Down at Arinez my reinforcements began to arrive, a brigade of three battalions of Spanish conscripts, a Spanish light cavalry brigade with 2 regiments of conscript hussars led by an "excellent" general, (crazy dice)        and a French cavalry brigade with two Dragoons regiments on inferior mounts led by a "poor" general - Vive etc! Despite all this we held on.  

"Log jam" - we have grid lock! Note the pesky skirmishers on the left, - they have already dispatched one Regt Hussars!

Picton/Rich was struggling with how to get so many troops to attack quite a small area of ridge without artillery support. The guns were stuck on the north side of the river with the hookers and hangers on, (not so daft). However he had got a frightful amount of men over the river including six, yes six, regiments of light cavalry. 

Wellington urging his men up the ridge - he wasn't afraid of a frontal assault when needed.   
Wellington was happily taking pot shots at the redoubt and the ridge line eventually causing one Swiss battalion to be pulled out of the line before it got serious. However, behind the front lines he was moving towards Arinez with more than just a tourist's curiosity...

The British commanders looking for a way through. They had all the toys but just couldn't make it count, yet...

Finally the tipping point came. With four charges repulsed in this sector (including a British Guards battalion) the fifth found a way through the point blank range volleys and hails of cannister. This British battalion braved a charge into the French battery which was cut down. They reformed on the spot and charged the flank of unhappy Legere seen above. 

What a predicament! The position was undone! French and Bavarian units started to rout which created the space for more British units to climb the escarpment and chase them down.

The last intact French battalion on the northern end of the ridge prepares to cover the retreat of its fellows as Redcoats occupy their former positions.

Arinez is reinforced and my attack is about to launch. Note Spanish hussars circling in the far distance. 

So at this pivotal point in the game we all jumped into our cars and went home to our far safer realities.
Day two to follow shortly.


  1. very nice battle report great pictures awesome looking figures

  2. Glad you liked it. Pop back for day two sometime Galpy.