C & C Napoleonics: Battle of Vimeiro

The battlefield.  That is Fane and Anstruther's brigades in the center for Wellesley and hiding behind the hills to his north are Bowes and Nightingalls brigades.  Junot's French forces (blue) are advancing down the Maceira River Valley.  In the upper left corner you can just make out Solignac's Brigade of French Light and Line infantry as they head for the village of Toledo.  The fighting further north of Vimeiro at the Ventosa farm is not represented here.

On August 20th, 1808 Sir Harry Burrard arrived off of Port Novo, Portugal aboard HMS Brazen.  The newly appointed senior commander of the Army of Portugal sent messages ashore for Lord Wellesley, the current commander, who met him aboard Brazen to discuss the transfer of command.  It was determined that in the morning Burrard would assume command but until then he would sleep aboard ship.

The French had plans too and on the morning of August 21, 1808 they attacked the British positions at the sleepy village of Vimeiro before the British transfer of command was complete....

The battle of Vimeiro is probably my favorite battle of the Napoleonic war.  The 95th Rifles (think Sharpe) are present and so is Wellington. The French forces are cavalry heavy with a minimal component of British cavalry which makes for a nice contrast in tactics. The French commander General Junot attempts a wide flanking maneuver with two of his more experienced divisions which Wellington meets and turns in a climactic battle on his left flank.

Vimeiro is a good, early example of Wellington's tactics and battlefield leadership.  His tactical positioning in and around Vimiero is spot on and as was his habit, he personally scouted each of these positions the day before the battle.  He also hides his men behind the the prominent ridges north and west of the town as he did famously at Waterloo. The French general Junot, like Bonaparte, in 1814 is fooled by this and splits his force in three thinking he was before a smaller force.

And finally, and for me most interesting, the fact that Burrard was not in command because he chose to sleep aboard ship and that Wellington was, is in my opinion one of the greatest accidents of history during the Napoleonic Wars.

Prior to the Portugal campaign Wellington was highly regarded for his service in India but it is his defeat of Junot at Vimeiro that propels his career forward and ultimately to the fields of Belgium and the battlefield of Waterloo. Had Burrard been more aggressive in taking command or had he arrived one day earlier, the Portugal campaign might have ended very differently.

About the Game:

This is a modified version of C&C, where in an effort to expand the size of the map,  I have removed the board and the plain terrain hexes and only added interesting terrain features to a tabletop.  I've also doubled the number of units involved compared to the C&C scenario.  The placement of my troops on the map is based on Rene Chartrand's Osprey Campaign Title of Vimeiro 1808 which I highly recommend as a good primer for the battle.

My battle:

C&C I am learning is card driven.  The ebb and flow of the battle is dictated by the command card you play each turn. Skilled commanders like Wellesley have a greater number of cards from which to choose, but each side may only play one card per turn.

So my battle begins with the French probing the British flank around the ford.  Anstruther's men know their business and turn them back with heavy losses.  In the center, the French attack comes off disjointed from the cards I play and consists of one advancing regiment and artillery fire that takes a toll on the 95th Rifles and the 50th Foot of Fane's brigade.

The French approached Vimeiro like a Roman army spread out on the field of battle with their phalanxes of resplendent infantry marching forward and the mass of their light cavalry trailing to the rear.  They funneled down the Maceira river valley striking early in the morning as the British watched them advance into range.   Above, hours after first contact, the 20th Light Dragoons are advancing over the bodies of Kellerman's Grenadiers whose attack against the ford south of the village failed in the face of volley fire from the 9th and 43rd Foot of Anstruther's brigade.

The 20th's attack over the ford carries them forward.  They charge the fleeing elements of Kellerman's grenadiers who form square in a desperate attempt to save themselves.   Overrunning them, they conduct a cavalry breakthrough attack on a battery of adjacent French guns and these guns are also overrun.
Junot counters the 20th with a cavalry charge of 2 regiments of Dragoons  The 20th suffers heavy losses and is driven back towards the ford.

As I said cards are everything in this game.  Fanes' brigade and Bowes' and Nightingall's brigades to the north have all been frozen because I lacked the cards to conduct attacks in the center and on the left.  The French though draw a bayonet charge card which allows them to assault the British center with three line regiments.  My artillery battery in Vimeiro is knocked out as are 3/4 of the 60th Foot which flees through the village.  To cover their retreat I send the 50th Foot forward and launch a melee attack which shatters the French line.  You can also see I've advanced the 9th Foot forward to hold the ford.  Fortunately, I am also able to extricate the remaining company of the 20th Light Dragoons back over the Maceira.
And just as the British and French lines clash in the center, fate intervenes for both sides as my daughter awakes an hour early and I am forced to end my battle.  A white flag of truce is sent by Junot which Wellington gladly accepts. Litter bearers crisscross the field removing the wounded to safety (or a gruesome death at the hands of an early 19th century medical professional) and Wellington, hat in hand, is rowed out to Brazen for a final glass of Madeira with Burrard before Sir Harry takes over the command.

British losses are heavier.  Despite the better positioning on the battlefield and having numerical superiority, a poor hand of cards, the French artillery and a well organized French counterattack with 2 Regiments of Dragoons have inflicted heavy casualties among British brigades and the 20th Horse.

That is Kellerman's entire regiment of Grenadiers lying dead upon the battlefield as well as a  full regiment of line infantry that attacked the center.  The church in Vimeiro sits on a slightly elevated position with a stone wall around it and the British used this ground very effectively to pour a murderous fire on the bunched up French as they entered the village.

I am really enjoying C&C Napoleonics and can't wait to fight another battle.


Doug Miller said…
Looks interesting and I almost grabbed a copy at Gencon. I guess I'm just too much of a chit shuffler - the whole blocks and cards thing just isn't grabbing me. I'm interested in reading more of your thoughts as you play it some more.
Chris said…
Hi Doug. I get that. It has an almost Stratego feel to it (a game I loved as a kid) and does not come off like a serious wargame.

I think that Napoleonic card game I was working on (the cards are really giant counters with six data points) has a better combat system than C&C.

That said I think the C&C mechanics are well thought out and the game itself is visually pleasing. Also, the ease of jumping right in is nice. You can learn the rules in 30 minutes. Whereas my Regiment rules are clunky and only for a real data nut like myself.