Albuera – A Volley and Bayonet Scenario with help from Jeff Glasco

Here is my first attempt at a Volley & Bayonet scenario for the Battle of Albuera (16 May 1811). The Order of Battle is by Jeff Glasco and I contributed the rest.

Introduction

I have become impatient and want to bring my Albuera Project to fruition. The project has been stewing rather unproductively in the “I’ve got a few figures painted but there are masses more to do and I’m not sure what to do about it” stage for quite some time. I thought I’d force the issue and post a scenario.

So here it is. Of course, being for my Albuera Project, the scenario is for the Battle of Albuera (16 May 1811). The game features a large mixed British, Spanish and Portuguese force facing elements of the French Army of the South at the small Spanish village of Albuera, about 20 kilometres south of the frontier fortress-town of Badajoz. Historically it was a bad day for all concerned. Except, perhaps for the Spanish who, all things considered, made rather a good showing.

I’ve gone for Volley & Bayonet for several reasons that I’ve explained before.

Because I’ve not had the time to convert my Orders of Battle at the Battle of Albuera for a V&B scenario I’ve used Jeff Glasco’s Albuera Order of Battle for V&B. Glasco only provides a Orbat so I supplemented with other material to round it out.

Historical Situation

Setting: Albuera, Spain; 16 May 1811

In October 1810 Wellington’s Allied forces were entrenched in and behind the Lines of Torres Vedras. Marshal Masséna’s Army of Portugal was facing them, but lack of supplies meant the army began to waste away.

In early 1811 Marshal Soult led an expedition from Andalusia into Extremadura in an attempt to lure the Allies away from the lines in Portugal. But Soult moved too late to help Masséna. The later had already begun his withdraw towards Spain. Soult did, however, capture the fortress at Badajoz from the Spanish. Later, in March following Marshal Victor’s defeat at the Battle of Barrosa, Soult returned to Andalusia. However, Soult left a strong garrison in Badajoz.

Napier Albuera Strategic Situation

Albuera Strategic Situation (Napier)


In April 1811 General William Beresford, with the Anglo-Portuguese 2nd and 4th divisions, set out to retake Badajoz. The Anglo-Portuguese cleared the surrounding area of French and began the siege.

Soult marched again, this time to relieve the siege. His army consisted of elements of the French forces in Andalusia supplemented by troops retreating before Beresford. Soult’s plan was to interpose himself between Beresford and General Joaquín Blake’s Spaniards. Unknown to the Marshal, the Spanish army had already joined Beresford’s Anglo-Portuguese force. This union gave the combined Allied army 35,000 men. Soult had only 24,000 men but he believe the valour of his troops would compensate.

The clash occurred around the village of Albuera on 16 May 1811. The battle was a blood bath with both sides suffering heavily. Soult feinted down the main road towards Albuera itself but sent the bulk of his forces on a flank march to the left. Unexpectedly Blake’s Spanish met and held the French flank attack. The British moved up to support their Allies, engaged in a gruelling firefight with the French, and eventually drove them off.

On 18 May the French withdrew. Otherwise the battle had little impact on the strategic situation. In June 1811 the reconstituted French Armies of Portugal and Andalusia forced the Allies to abandon the siege of Badajoz.

Battlefield

I haven’t drawn a specialised wargaming map for this so the map is of the historical terrain.

Battle of Albuera Map by Steven Thomas

Map of the Battle of Albuera

The published ground scale of Volley and Bayonet is 1″ on table = 100 yards. So the map is almost perfect for a 6’x4′ table. Admittedly this is a small battlefield by Volley and Bayonet standards but the map takes into account quite a lot of area that other rule systems ignore (for example, the Shako Scenario for Albuera covers the ridge and the only part of the river line).

The Allies deployed on the ridge to the west of Albuera. Apparently this was undulating terrain and good cavalry country. The Northern and Southern Knolls were high points, relative to the surrounding terrain, but not “heights” as such.

The French approached from the south-east. Large wooded hills obscured the French advance and subsequent flank march.

The village itself is at the confluence of the River Albuera and two tributary streams (Nogales, Chicapierna). A third stream, the Valdesevillas, was to the west of the ridge. All of the streams contain a mere trickle of water. The River Albuera was more substantial but carried little water at the time of the battle. On paper none of the waterways should be a major obstacle to troops, however on the day they had a major impact on the battle. The Nogales and Valdesevilla should not be a serious obstacle to troops but should inconvenience cavalry and artillery. Both the Chicapierna stream and the River Albuera should pose greater obstacles and channel troops towards bridges and fords – as happened historically.

The following terrain types are present:

  • Chicapierna Stream and the River Albuera: Both are “rivers” in V&B terms so impassable except at bridge or ford
  • Nogales and Valdesevilla Streams: Both are “stream” in V&B so cost half the movement allowance to cross
  • Vegetation: All vegetation is forest in V&B terms so movement costs of massed brigades is doubled (but not of infantry skirmishers or commanders).

The respective Lines of Communications (LOC) are the road to Valverde (Allies) and road to Santa Marta (French). The Valverde road in question is more northern of the two, which was the main road to Valverde and the road Beresford paid particular attention to when he thought about retreating from Albuera.

Allied Player (Defending)

Deploys first. Moves second.

Objective

Prevent French capturing the main road to Valverde and destroy the French army’s offensive ability.

Forces Available

The Allied player has an Anglo-Portuguese army and parts of two Spanish armies. Beresford is the overall commander.

Anglo-Portuguese Army (Beresford)

  • Army Troops Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 1st KGL Light Infantry Bn (588) M6 [s]
    • 2nd KGL Light Infantry Bn (510) M6 [s]
    • Collins’ Portuguese Brigade (985) M5 [ ] [ ] linear stand, Note 1
    • 5th Cacadores Bn (400) M5 [s]
    • Hawker’s (British) 4th Bn/RFA M6 [ ] Field
    • Lefebvres (British) D/Troop/RHA M6 [ ] Field, horse
    • Cleeves’ 2nd Co/KGL FA M6 [ ] Field
    • Sympher’s 4th Co/KGL FA M6 [ ] Field
    • Arriaga’s (1st Portuguese) FA M5 [ ] Field
    • Braun’s (2nd Portuguese) FA M5 [ ] Field
  • 2nd British Division (Stewart) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Colborne’s (British) Brigade (2066) M6 [s] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Houghton’s (British) Brigade (1651) M6 [s] [ ] [ ]
    • Abercrombie’s (British) Brigade (1597) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 3 cos/5th Bn/60th Rifles (146) M6 [s]
  • 4th British Division (Cole) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Myer’s (British) Brigade (2180) M6 [s] [ ] [ ] [ ] Shock, Note 4
    • Harvey’s (10th Portuguese) Brigade (2355) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Light Bn/Loyal Lusitanian Legion (572) M5 [s]
  • Portuguese Division (Hamilton) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Campbell’s (4th Portuguese) Brigade (2390) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Fonesca’s (2nd Portuguese) Brigade (2429) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
  • Cavalry Division (Lumley) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Otway’s Portugese Brigade (849) M5 [s] [s] Light, Note 5
    • De Grey’s British Brigade (761) M6 [ ] [ ] Heavy, Note 6
    • 13th British Light Dragoons (403) M6 [s] Medium, linear stand

Notes:
(1) Collins’s Portuguese Brigade is represented by a linear (regiment) infantry stand due to its low strength. This brigade fires and melees as a linear stand but moves as a massed stand. All other British and Portuguese infantry is represented with infantry massed (brigade) stands.
(2) All British and Portuguese Infantry brigades have elites (grenadiers) present.
(3) Elite British Infantry brigades (M6) can detach a 1 SP skirmisher which is morale 6.
(4) Myer’s British Brigade counts as shock troops as it was composed entirely of fusiliers (1st/7th, 2nd/7th and 1st/23rd).
(5) Otway’s Portuguese Cavalry Brigade may break down into two cavalry skirmisher stands (1st and 7th Portuguese Cavalry Regiments).
(6) De Grey’s British Cavalry Brigade moves as “cavalry” rather than “heavy cavalry” despite its rating.

The Allied army also had elements of two Spanish armies (4th and 5th) under General Blake.

Blake’s Spanish Army: Blake (AC)

  • Army Troops:
    • Army Artillery (8-pdr) M4 [ ] Field
  • Advance Guard Division, Lardizabel (DC) (2398) Exhaustion [ ] [ ]
    • Campomayor Light Infantry Bn. M4 [s] NE
    • Canarias Infantry Regt. + 2nd of Leon Regt. M4 [ ] [ ] PT, NE
    • Murcia Infantry Regt (2 bns) M4 [ ] [ ]
  • 3rd Division, Ballesteros (DC) (3525) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 1st Catalonian Light Infantry Bn. M4 [s], NE
    • Barbastro Light Infantry Bn. M4 [s], NE
    • Pravia, Lena, Cangas de Tineo Inf. Regts. M4 [ ] [ ] [ ] PT
    • Castropol + Infiesto Infantry Regts. M4 [ ] [ ] PT, NE
  • 4th Division, Zayas (DC) (4882) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 2nd, 4th Bns/Spanish, 4th Bn Walloon Gds M5 [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Irlanda Infantry Regt. (2 bns) M5 [ ] [ ]
    • Toledo Infantry Regt. (2 bns) M4 [ ] [ ]
    • Patria/Legion Extranjera/Ciudad Rod. Regts. M4 [ ] [ ] [ ] PT, NE
  • Cavalry Division, Loy (DC) Exhaustion —
    • Santiago Line Cavalry Regt. M4 [ ] Medium
    • Hussars de Castilla + Granaderos Cavalry M4 [s] PT, Light

Castanos Spanish Army: Castanos (AC)

  • Army Troops:
    • Army Artillery (8-pdr) M4 [ ] Field
  • Infantry Division, de Espana (DC) (1778) Exhaustion [ ] [ ]
    • Rey/Zamora Infantry Regts. (2 bns each) M4 [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Voluntarios de Navarra Light Infantry Bn. M4 [s], NE
  • Cavalry Division, Penne Villemur (DC) (721) Exhaustion —
    • Guard Carabiniers, Reina & Borbon Regts. M4 [ ] Medium
    • Algarve, Lusitania, & Hussars de Extremenda M4 [ ] Medium

Notes:
(1) All Spanish infantry is represented with either infantry linear (regiment) or infantry skirmisher stands – no infantry brigade stands.
(2) All non-Poorly Trained (PT) Spanish infantry regiments have elites (grenadiers) present, the others do not.
(3) The targets of Poorly Trained (PT) infantry skirmishers receive a saving throw from fire from them but not hits from melee.
(4) All Spanish cavalry is mounted on linear stands.
(5) Regardless of rating, all Spanish Cavalry moves as heavy due to the poor quality of their horses.

Deployment

The game starts with the troops on both sides deployed as they were on the morning of the 16 May 1811. The Allied forces must deploy between the River Albuera and the Arroyo de Valdesevilla, and north of the North Knoll (at least 6″ away from the knoll).

Cole’s Division arrives in March Column on the Badajoz road.

Reinforcements

None unless Cole’s Division can’t fit in which case it arrives as reinforcement on the Badajoz road.

French Player (Attacking)

Deploys second and moves first.

Objective

Capture the main road to Valverde. Of course you have to go through the Allied army to do that.

Forces Available

French Army (5th Corps) (Soult)

  • Army Troops Exhaustion [ ] [ ]
    • Converged Grenadiers (1100) M6 [ ] [ ] Shock, linear stand, Note 1
    • 27th Chasseurs a Cheval (431) M5 [s] Light, Note 4
    • Army Artillery M5 [ ] Heavy
  • 1st Division/5th Corps (Girard) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Brigade Brayer (34th/40th Line) (1847) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Brigade Heilande (64th/88th Line) (2157) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Division Artillery M5 [ ] Field
  • 2nd Division/5th Corps (Gazan) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Brigade Pepin (21st/28th Leger) (2215) M5 [s] [s] [s] [s]
    • Brigade Marandin (100th/103rd Line) (2028) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Division Artillery M5 [ ] Field
  • 5th Corps Cavalry Division (Latour-Maubourg) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Brigade Briche (2nd, 10th Hus., 21st CaC) M6 [s] [s] Light
    • Brigade Eclats (14th, 26th Dra, 4th Sp. CaC) M5 [ ] [ ] Medium
    • Brigade Digeon (17th + 27th Dragoons) (567) M5 [ ] Medium, linear stand, Note 4
    • Composite Brigade (4th + 20th Dragoons) (533) M5 [ ] Medium, linear stand, Note 4
    • 1st Polish Vistula Lancers (591) M6 [s] Light Lancers, linear stand, Note 4
    • Division Artillery M5 [ ] Light, horse
  • Brigade/4th Corps (Werle) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 12th Leger Regiment (2222) M5 [s] [s] [s] [s]
    • 55th Line Regiment (1815) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 58th Line Regiment (1625) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • Division Artillery M6 [ ] Field
  • Brigade/1st Corps (Godinot) Exhaustion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
    • 16th Leger Regiment (1673) M5 [s] [s] [s]
    • 51st Line Regiment (2251) M5 [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]

Notes:
(1) All French infantry is represented with infantry brigade stands, except the converged grenadiers which are mounted as a linear (regimental) infantry stand.
(2) French Leger infantry regiments may break down into skirmisher stands.
(3) All French infantry counts as having elites (grenadiers) present.
(4) French 1 SP cavalry units are mounted as linear cavalry.

Deployment

The game starts with the troops on both sides deployed as they were on the morning of the 16 May 1811. The French deploy from the River Albuera through to where the road from Santa Marta leaves the table. Units within 12″ of a bridge or ford can be deployed in any formation and off road, but other units must be in march column and on the road. Any troops that cannot fit arrive as reinforcements.

Reinforcements

Any troops that could not deploy on table arrive as reinforcements on the road to Santa Marta in march column from Turn 1.

Victory Conditions

The game begins with the 0800 hours turn, and runs through to the end of the 1400 hours turn, a total of seven turns.

If either player holds his opponent’s line of communication at the end of the game, that player wins. The British line of communication is the main road to Valverde. The French line of communication is the road to Santa Marta.

Failing that, the player with the fewest exhausted divisions wins.

There are no draws; the Allied player wins all ties, so the burden of attack is on the French player.

Scenario Special Rules

All the special rules are mentioned about, particularly in the Orders of Battle.

Notes

Although I have problems with Jeff Glasco’s Order of Battle as it relates to the Spanish, in the interests of getting a scenario published I’ve left it unchanged. I will elaborate on my concerns in a separate post.

One specific grievance to note is that Jeff Glosco’s Orbat has the Spanish separate from the Anglo-Portuguese. However, the Spanish cavalry operated under British command during the battle. Prior to the battle they cooperated with Long and during the battle they fought under Lumley. So Loy and Penne Villemur should be under Lumley’s command, not separate.

In reality the road to Badajoz were also part of the Allied lines of communication. It might be possible, but more complicated, to factor that into the victory conditions.

10 comments to Albuera – A Volley and Bayonet Scenario with help from Jeff Glasco

  • Jeff Glasco

    I’m glad those orders of battle were of some help to you. You have done a great job turning them into a full scenario.

    • Jeff Glasco

      I should add that the ratings for the Spanish were based on Frank Chadwick’s guides for Volley and Bayonet. As you have noted, they might have been better troops in real life.

      • Steven Thomas

        Thanks for dropping by Jeff. Although I’ve got issues with the orbat you certainly gave me a head start on the scenario. I understood from a discussion on the VnB Yahoo forum that Frank was the originator of the (rather uncomplimentary) Spanish ratings. I would like to revisit the order of battle in the future and make the Spanish in the scenario more representative of their performance on the day.

  • Steve,

    I look forward to your revised ratings for the Spanish. I argued with Frank for several years that the Spanish should be based on massed bases, but he seemed unconvinced despite the historical evidence.

    • Steven Thomas

      I’m still building up my armies. Spanish and Portuguese are done. French line infantry, cavalry and artillery done. French Light infantry todo. British todo. Nearly there.

      Once the armies are done, I’ll revisit the scenario. It might squeeze into 2015 but more likely to be 2016.

  • miltiades

    HAPPY NEW YEAR ! We, Greek V&B team, are going to play this scenario and Order of Battle soon in January 2016, we will send you battle report if interested

  • miltiades

    Hello,
    After a year and a half, I finally made it and on the 1st of July 2017, I played the scenario of Albuera using VnB. It was an interesting game. However I do have a few remarks. First, the terrain was very tight. I mean there was little space left for the troops to move. This is actually a problem with most VnB scenarios. In Albuera it was very obvious. Another problem was with the ground. With Nogales a stream and vegetation considered a forest for movement, the French [even in march column] had to spend at least 3 rounds to pass the other side of the ford . As a result of this, the French cavalry managed to pass the ford at the end of the third round and only one french Infantry Division managed to pass the ford by the end of the fourth round. As you see outflanking move [the key-move of the battle] became impossible. But if you play Albuera without Soults outflanking move then you dont play Albuera, you play something else… Anyway: the French managed to capture both knolls. The Spanish tried to resist but were dispersed by the French cavalry. YES, they are weak by Jeff Glasco’s OOB, but if they were a little stronger then the French would never ever had a slightest chance of success. Two Spanish divisions were exhausted. However the Spanish cavalry managed [with a lucky dice] to destroy a French cavalry brigade. And then the British came. In the final turn [end of turn 7] the French cavalry, that had done all of the fighting without any support was almost exhausted. Only one infantry division had managed to cross the ford and was established on the Northern knoll [stationary]. There were 2 Spanish divisions and only one French division exhausted. And then Stewats’ British division charged on the knoll. It was a desperate charge: British had nothing to lose since Stewarts division wass fresh and this was the last turn of the battle. It was proved to be the right choice because they managed to score 4 [!!!] hits bringing to exhaustion the Gazan’s Division. In the collapse test that followed the Division collapsed and so we had 2 Allied exhausted divisions vs one exhausted and one collapsed division for the French. A marginal Allied victory. Perhaps we should see the scenariohaving the french cavalry [or at least half of it] out of the ford and make it easier to pass [ no movment penalties between Nogales and Chicapierna stream?]

  • miltiades

    …In case anybody’s interested, here are a few pics of the battle
    : http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=102032.0

  • Steven Thomas

    Thanks miltiades for both the comments and photos.

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