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The Battle of Vittoria, 1813


The Napoleonic Wars, Black Powder, 28mm

The first problem with Vittoria is how to spell it. Many modern histories drop the second “t”, as that’s the way the Spanish spell the place. I’m afraid I stick with the “old school” spelling…vittoria-017By any standards this was a big refight. Apparently there were upwards of 3,500 figures on the table, although at times you were hard-pressed to see where they all were. As you all know, this was the last major battle fought by Wellington in Spain during the Peninsular War, and involved a two-pronged attack on the French – the main one from the west, and the other from the north. Our refight was the same, with one very long table covering the western sector, while the attack from the north was played out on a second table. In theory, one “battlefield” was close to the other, but of course in our refight they became two separate battles, linked only by a grand strategic plan.vittoria-016The onus was on the Allies to attack on both tables, which is exactly what they did, even though the balance of troops wasn’t as favourable as it might have been, with few Allied troops on the table at the start, and reinforcements marching onto the field as the battle progressed.vittoria-029 By contrast the French pretty much had everything on the table at the start – or so we Allies thought. I was given the job of playing Wellington, but to keep me amused I was also given a small command in the Allied centre. On the right General Hill’s troops and their Spanish allies tried to winkle the French defenders out of a string of fortified villages (even though I don’t remember reading about them in the real battle), while on the left flank General Picton was doing the same, supported by the British Light Division. Defended villages also dominated the battle being fought out to the north of the River Zadorra, where General Graham and his Spanish allies were trying to threaten the French rear.vittoria-004It was only on the northern table that things still went according to plan – and history. The French were pushed back to the River Zadorra, and with this watery defensive line breached the Allies were poised to capture the lucrative French baggage train that lay just off the table, and more importantly cut the rest of the French army off from their supply lines back to France. At that point the game came to an end, with both sides claiming victory.vittoria-015The crowing French commander claimed to have won the battle on the western table, although his infantry were now facing the “meat grinder” of winkling troops out of the strongpoint villages. Giving him his due, his mass of cavalry did rule the roost south of the knoll of Arrinez in the centre of the tabletop, where the British still stood firm, and maintained a link with Hill’s troops to the south. Poor Picton was thrown onto the defensive, and what remained of his command would have been hard-pressed to hold on much longer. The Allies of course claimed victory because of their strategic position, athwart the French lines of communication. Even the French commander admitted his army would have had to retreat, which in my mind was tantamount to him admitting defeat!vittoria-007We used Black Powder for the refight, and the rules worked reasonably well, allowing us to move thousands of figures around, and complete almost two dozen turns in the day and a half of gaming. While I much prefer General de Brigade for Napoleonic games, I have to say we would never have got through so much, or been able to use so many troops if we hadn’t used Black Powder instead. Of course, it would be nice to refight Vittoria historically some time, without the changes to the French order of battle, and a more neutral umpire (ours also commanded the French cavalry)! Still, everyone had a great time, and it’s always a pleasure to take part in a multi-player game with so many nice toys on the table.

Th

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