Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Saturday 13 May 2023

Polemos Ruse de Guerre: The Battle of Talavera

The next game in my occasional parallel games with the Napoleonic Miniature Wargames Society of Toronto was The Battle of Talavera 1809, using the Polemos Ruse de Guerre rules.

I used a (slightly modified) order of battle from Glenn, along with some scenario details from Michael Hopper's Rise of Albion scenario book.

Orders of Battle:

Dermoncourt's Bde: 3 bases of Cavalry 
Artillery: 3 bases of 8pdr Field Artillery
Victor's I Corps:
Artilley: 3 bases of 8pdr Field Artillery
Beamount's Bde: 3 bases of Cavalry
Ruffin's Division: 3 bases of Light Infantry, 6 bases of Infantry
Lapisse's Division: 3 bases of Light Infantry,  9 bases of Infantry
Villatte's Division: 3 bases of Light Infantry, 7 bases of Infantry
Sebastiani's IV Corps:
Artillery: 3 bases of 8pdr Field Artillery
Sebastiani's Division: 13 bases of Infantry
Leval's Division: 10 bases of Infantry, 1 base of 8pdr Field Artillery, 1 base of 4pdr Horse Artillery
Merlen's Bde: 4 bases of Cavalry

2 bases of 9pdr Foot Artillery, 2 bases of 6pdr Foot Artillery, 1 base of 3pdr Foot Artillery
Fane's Brigade: 4 bases of Cavalry
Anson's Brigade: 4 bases of Cavalry
Cotton's Brigade: 3 bases of Cavalry
Sherbrooke's Division: 3 bases of Guard Infantry, 5 bases of Infantry, 1 base of Light Infantry
Hill's Division: 1 base of Light Infantry, 5 bases of Infantry
Mackenzie's Division: 1 base of Light Infantry, 5 bases of Infantry
A. Campell's Division: 5 bases of Infantry

1 base of 12pdr Foot Artillery, 2 bases of 8pdr Foot Artillery, 1 base of 4pdr Horse Artillery
Henestrosa's Division: 8 bases of Cavalry, 4 bases of Poor Cavalry
Albuquerque's Division: 4 bases of Cavalry, 4 bases of Poor Cavalry
Iglesias' Division: 8 bases of Poor Infantry
Portago's Division: 6 bases of Poor Infantry
Mangiano's Division: 4 bases of Infantry, 4 bases of Poor Infantry
Bassecourt's Division: 1 base of Elite Infantry, 6 bases of Infantry

The other Spanish and French formations are deemed to be watching each other to the South, or held in reserve by King Joseph and not to be used (as was the case historically).

The Set-Up:

The Anglo-Spanish forces (bottom) defend against the French (top) approaching from the East

The Spanish are concentrated on the Allied Right, anchored on Talavera; Mackenzie's Division is on the left of picture, with British and Spanish artillery in the redoubt (centre-top)

The Allied Centre, with Hill's Division (left), Sherbrooke's Division (centre) and Mackenzie and Campbell's divisions (right); a mixture of British and Spanish cavalry are in the rear

Bassecourt's Division guards the extreme left

The advancing French: Rey's Division

The remainder of Victor's Corps

And Sebastiani's Corps

A look along the brook towards Talavera

And back from Talavera towards the cerro to the North

The Battle: 

(there are fewer photos than I would normally do for a battle this size, some I forgot to take, some didn't turn out usable)

The French attack started with Rey's Division; however Bassecourt's artillery heavily weakened it during its advance and then the Spanish cavalry timed its charge to perfection, routing one of Rey's brigades.

The remainder quickly became discouraged; French cavalry move up to restore the situation

The remainder of Victor's Corps advance towards the brook, deploying their artillery to try and counter some rather effective British artillery fire against it

Lapisse's Division also advancing, also taking losses (note the gap in the ranks!)

Meanwhile, Sebastiani's Corps is also developing its attack, altough the British have moved up some infantry to support the artillery in the redoubt

Leval's Germans appear to moving against the Spanish in Talavera itself

No feint; the German coldiers try and break into the city, their muskets and shiny bayonets causing the Spanish artillery to prudently retire deeper into the streets!

British artillery and musketry throws back a French attack on the redoubt, although the purusing British (left) are unceremonioously thrown back in their turn

Lapisse's Division tries to develop its attack further across the brook in the face of British fire

The French Right is struggling a little to get orgainzed having been disrupted quite heavily by British artillery on the way in

It isn't quite causing the same degree of damage, but French artillery is forcing Sherbrooke's leading battalions back (centre); but the British artillery is having a literal field day, detroying the French as they approach the brook in this sector

Another failed assault on the redoubt; the only comfort for the French is that yet again the British counter-attack is going to be defeated and forced back

More of Leval's troops are pushing up against Portago's spanish, causing some losses

Leval's Germans are fighting fiercely at the gates of Talavera but just don't seem to be able to fully break in

Another shot

A third failed assault on the redoubt and a third failed British counter-attack!!!

Despite suffering further heavy losses, Lapisse has just about managed to get his leading elements across the brook

The Spanish cavalry are engaged on the left, but very surprisingly manage to give as good as they get!

Liger-Belair's brigade has suffered massive losses around the redoubt, which is still in Anglo-Spanish hands

The Germans momentarily got into Talavera, but a surprisingly strong counter-attack  pushed them back out

At this point, the battle ended - the French losses were just too heavy to continue: four divisions have been eliminated as effective formations and Allied losses have been far less severe

The Allied Left - note the lack of French infantry left in the game at this point

The Allied Centre-Right

and the Allied Right

Game Notes:

A game that wasn't a million miles in form from the original but with even heavier losses for the French and much lighter losses for the Allies, especially the British. The British artillery was just so effective in this battle it was quite bizarre: lots of the French units were 'quick-killed' by the British artillery, or suffered quick-elimination when trying to rally; the French artillery on the other hand didn't do nearly as well.  The only thing that kept the French in the game at all was their (relative) prowess with the bayonet in the close assaults.  Added to that, the Allies won the intitiative on all the most key turns, so it was a long day for the French.

I really enjoyed it once I got into it. It was the first time I have set-up a battle on my new bigger tables, this was a 6'x4' (extendable to 8'x4') and it was nice to get lots of toys onto the table. On the other hand, it was also a bit harder work than usual because I was playing quite a large scenario and there is only me to keep track of things.  Polemos Ruse de Guerre isn't a particularly heavy system, but these scenarios for RdG are really better for multi-player games I think.  The mechanics of the game stood up well, but the accountancy required to keep track of tempo points was a bit of work. I think I need to do more to optimize my set-up visually to make that easier: more game-state indicator bases if you will.  Even though Ruse de Guerre doesn't have a particularly complicated unit classification system, it is still a bit more complicated than DBA or Neil Thomas or suchlike.

The actual game was dominated by very good British artillery firing dice and very poor French rallying dice.  Between those two things, the French were leaking away units from the start of the game and even when they had got their own artillery up, they weren't so lucky and caused a much lesser degree of damage.  I think they might have done better with Polemos Napoleonics, since being quick-killed by artillery bombardment (or musketry for that matter) alone is nigh-on impossible in that game: close assault is much more decisive; although it is really a bit big for General de Division. So overall a very good day's play, although I can see why I keep the bigger games to 'every so often': the extra administrative overhead in compensation for the extra spectacle and the extra interactions is a treat, not a staple (for me).

Figures by Baccus 6mm, the buildings are mainly from Total Battle Miniatures.


  1. Greetings from Peterborough, Ontario! I enjoyed your report - nice to see the entire battle played out at once, with your 6mm figures snd buildings looking very nice on the terrain mats. You may have noticed we have been playing the same battle these days, but in larger scale and with a series of scenarios.
    Thanks for the report.

    1. Thank you, it was good to play a full-dress Napoleonic encounter, it has been a little while. You mean these games? they look very nice, AARs make them sound very exciting!

    2. Yes- sorry, I thought my name was going to show up with the comment. Those are the games!

    3. Hi Bill, Glenn has been in touch with me to say that they (the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargames Society of Toronto) have some members in your area, and wondered if you might like a game? Glenn has given me permission to pass on his email address in case you are interested:

  2. That was a pretty big battle, quite a change from the usual! It looked like fun, but a lot of stuff to keep track of on your own.

    1. Precisely correct in all particulars! I did have a couple of minutes when I was setting up asking myself if I really wanted to do this - but I am glad I persevered. What I did do was not play 100% optimally for both sides, i.e brigades were pretty much left to fight as brigades and I rarely moved indidividal battalions/regiments (only for attacks really). It did remind me that these games need a bit of thought in terms of 'display' options - status markers and suchlike. Incorporating all the info you need at a glance is an artform, especially if you are trying to minimize intrusive table-clutter! I think I will try and give it a go with HFG, see how that compares.