008 Bussaco (Ney's Assault) (27 September 1810)
Bussaco (Ney's Assault) - 27 September 1810
Uncertain how his army of 50,000 troops, composed of equal portions British and Portuguese, would deal with another open clash with the larger French army, Wellington had deployed most of his forces on the reverse slope of Bussaco ridge and awaited attack. Marshal Andre Massena did not let his uncertainty of the Allied position deter him from attacking. He planned a two-phase attack, first with Reynier’s Corps on what Massena believed was the British right flank, followed by Ney attacking the left after Reynier met with success. Massena kept Junot’s corps in reserve, to exploit success wherever it happened. Reynier’s disjointed attacks were beaten back, but hearing the heavy gunfire, Ney assumed Reynier’s men were enjoying success and ordered his attack. Just after 8am, Ney sent Loison’s and Marchand’s divisions against the British left. Loison’s Division forced back a stubborn enemy skirmish line and then advanced to capture a troublesome British battery. Two concealed British light regiments (the 43rd and 52nd) awaited the French. As the French neared the battery, Crauford ordered these troops to stand and pour murderous volleys into Loison’s columns. Within minutes, Loison’s Division was streaming back down the hillside in full retreat. Meanwhile Marchand’s Division had advanced to the foot of the ridge, but after several unsuccessful assaults up the hillside, Ney called off Marchand’s attack. Massena accepted the futility of making any further attempts to storm the ridge and withdrew. Massena’s cavalry subsequently found a road leading past Wellington’s army and when Massena advanced along it, Wellington resumed the retreat to the fortified Lines of Torres Vedras.
The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. Can you change history?
• Commander: Wellington
• 6 Command Cards
• Optional 6 Tactician Cards
• Commander: Massena
• 5 Command Cards
• Optional 5 Tactician Cards
• Move First
So the French start their advance. An initial success was some Light infantry moving into the woods left of centre. Their shooting pushes the Rifles back in the town of Sula. However, this leaves room for the British Light that was in the open to sprint into the town. A second British Light infantry moves up to support the Portuguese Lights in the wood right of centre.
The French Lights demonstrated their marksmanship again, damaging the British Lights now in Sula. Good job they weren't in the open.
The British advance their left wing [Assault Left] towards the woods that separate the two armies here. The French respond [Counter-attack] by advancing their own troops, getting some of their Light cavalry onto the battlefield. One British Line infantry goes a bit too far and is devastated by more accurate fire from French Light infantry. The remnant is lucky to escape the following cannonballs of the French artillery. This prompts the British left wing to retire back to the hills.
A French advance right of centre sees two Line infantry push the Portuguese Lights out of the woods, starting a continuing engagement. This ends with a French Line infantry eliminated, the other retreated and British Lights occupying the woods. [0:1 to the Allies]
Left of centre, more accurate shooting from the French Lights chases the badly damaged British Lights out of Sula to the woods behind.
A more concerted French advance in the centre [Force March] sees two more Line join the exchange right of centre with the unit already there taking the woods from the British Lights. Left of centre, the French Light infantry moves towards Sula and forces another forward British unit to retreat.
The engagement centre right continues with the French Light cavalry now joining in. Musketry finishes off the Portuguese Lights. The British Lights scatter in front of the cavalry and are ridden down. The cavalry charges on to force a French Line into square. [2:1]
However, this puts the cavalry under the muzzles of the British artillery and they are blown away. [2:2]
A lull sees both sides re-group, enlivened by the Rifles' long-range sniping. However, they run out of ammo and have to fall back to find more. [Short Supply]
The French right wing advances a bit further, while the Grenadier Guards and Heavy cavalry get into position on the British right.
A British Line moves forwards in the centre and damages an already battered French Line infantry. The Brits provide a target for the second French Light cavalry, but the horsemen bounce off the square that forms. The infantry comes out of square to drive off the cavalry with musketry, but they return straight away and the infantry goes back into square, taking no casualties from the French Line that moves into range.
An artillery duel starts on the right, then the French Line lets go a full volley [Fire & Hold] at the square, destroying the entire unit [5 dice, 4 hits!]. [3:2]
French infantry advances further on their extreme right, looking to outflank the Allies on the hills.
Then the British Heavy cavalry charges [Cavalry Charge] the massed French infantry in front of them (extreme left of the French lines). Taken by surprise, the unit that they attack fails to form square, but survives the attack to inflict some damage on the cavalry. Then they move left into the woods, allowing three infantry units and the artillery to open up on the cavalry. They have some effect, but what's left of the cavalry is able to retire into the village of Cerquedo behind them and then retreat further.
Musketry from the French left of centre pushes some Portuguese infantry back while the artillery duel continues. Then the French artillery runs out of ammo and pulls back. [Short Supply again]
The French launch the right flank attack, a Line infantry marching up onto the hills and wiping out [5 dice, 4 hits ... again] the Portuguese infantry they meet - the suppporting units have nothing to shoot at. [4:2]
A half-strength British Line attacks the victorious Line unit, causing hefty casualties, but being eliminated by the counter. [5:2]
The Grenadier Guards finally move into the action on the Allied right, only to take heavy casualties from French fire. The French Light infantry in Sula finish off the British Light behind the town and the French Lights on the extreme right remove what's left of a British Line sheltering in the village of Mondo Novo. [7:2]
It was a tougher fight than that scoreline suggests, leaving the French forces scattered across the battlefield and the Allies battered. How will the return match go?
I was quite lucky first time, the Light Foot dominated the centre of field to great effect, and French were mostly defeated there. The second game was more even across flanks with the British Guard Grenadiers coming up via La Grand Manoeuvre, So overall I came out ahead across the games.
I played French first. Pushing forward in the centre forced the Allies out of their advanced positions - and a lucky die roll gave me my first banner. The two armies manoeuvred into pretty much two lines across the battlefield. The French now advanced both flanks. On their left, the Grenadier Guards countered and were beaten back. The Heavy Cav advanced and came under musket fire that damaged them, but put a unit into square. The British counter on the French right chased off the cavalry, but took casualties. The French countered, taking out the infantry and allowing their cavalry out. They forced some British inf into square, but got mauled. A French attack on the left took out a unit and a leader, but the Brits rallied. A final flurry in the centre saw the French win 7:5, the battlefield strewn with damaged units.
Reversing the roles, the scenario again started with a French advance in the centre, removing the advanced Allied units - not least because I chose to retire. A French advance on their left got a bloody nose from the Grenadier Guards. A strong advance in the centre saw the French destroy the British artillery, but take some damage themselves. More manoeuvring followed with the final skirmishing on the French left giving them the win 7:4. This time, however, both sides had plenty of full-strength units and had retained their formations. And John won the encounter 12:11, damn his eyes!
Final result was a French win 7-6 after the Allies got an early 4-0 lead.
Early French advances in the centre were shredded by musket and rifle fire from the Allied light troops.
Slow advances on the French left got similar treatment and a timely Rally draw and play by the Allies made it harder for the French to finish off depleted units. The Allies then got a fifth banner before the French finally "got off the mark".
Timely First Strike cards by the French helped stave off defeat when the Allies had isolated units ripe for the picking.
A couple of closely played French Bayonet Charges then evened the score and then gave the French the lead 6-5.
Despite some counters by the Allies poor musketry let the French off the hook (6-6) and they finally overwhelmed the centre of the Allied line to get the win (7-6).