Monday, 25 October 2021

Salamanca - Napoleon 20


This is one of four games that comes with GMT's 'Fading Glory' quad, covering the battles of Salamanca, Smolensk, Borodino and Waterloo.

The '20' series is a collection of napoleonic titles that work to a series rulebook and each battle usually has no more than 20 counters (units) on the table, which for most of the games are each representing corps.

In the Salamanca game, the units mostly represent divisions. The historical scenario puts you straight into the action, which gives a short game, ideal as an introductory scenario.

Today however, I have gone for the 'full' three day battle. This begins with an empty battlefield and units from both sides start arriving on turn 1. It gives an open canvas for the battle to develop in different ways.

The rest of this this post just gives a brief overview of that game. Please use the 'read more' tab to continue.

There is an Army Morale Track and each army starts at 8 morale points. During play, some routs, all units breaking and some other functions such as Forced March etc. will reduce a player's morale status. Once the morale of a force reaches the zero box, they instantly lose the game.

During daylight turns, once units make contact, they can't voluntarily disengage and attacking is compulsory, so care and thought needs to go into at what point you are happy to engage the enemy.

During night turns the opposite is true, units can disengage and can't make a fresh contact with the enemy. Also, units will recover 1 morale level from resting and there is a chance to bring some broken units back into play via a rally sequence.

At night, you can also lower the enemy morale by occupying their victory objective(s). For the Allies, they need to  protect Salamanca and Las Arapiles. The French need to protect Calvarrasa de Arriba.

So on with the game .....

It is the morning turn on 21st June. Both armies start to enter the board and they are naturally drawn to protect their respective victory hexes of Las Arapiles and Calvarrasa. 

By midday, Wellington advances through Salamanca, on the
road to Las Arapiles

The allies hold some forces back to protect Salamanca from a sudden attack from the French right wing.

However, Marmont only threatens Salamanca with a small force and the bulk of the French army is moving to concentrate nearer Las Arapiles - Wellington may be in trouble!

Morning 22nd July - Wellington has occupied the high ground in front of the town. His forces around Salamanca also start to move down to join him, putting pressure on the French right.

Marmont decides to attack at once, before the British can fully concentrate. His frontal assault is bloodily repulsed. His 6th Division break and Marmont temporarily leaves the field, trying to recover them.

For Wellington, this is a golden moment to counter-attack, but it all goes disastrously wrong, they lose 5th Division and both 1st and 4th Divisions rout!

By the end of the day, they have fought each other to a standstill. Casualties had been very high, especially due to a series of unlucky 'Exchange' results. The Allies have lost 3 units and the french 4. Wellington's Morale Level is down to 2 and the French are sitting at 4.

Worse - after capturing Las Arapiles in the morning, the French had been kicked out by late evening. As night draws in, both sides are down to just one Morale Point each, so both sides are just one adverse event away from total collapse.

Interestingly (and annoyingly for them), this means that had the French managed to hold on to Las Arapiles into the previous night turn, the Allies would have lost another Morale Point overnight and lost the game with their morale collapsing.

Morning 23rd July - Being in the slightly stronger position, Wellington attacks, breaking French 3rd Division and surrounding 5th Division, which then routed.

Final moments.

It was all enough to send the French Morale Track crashing down to zero and they immediately lost the game. The scenario potentially lasts for 5 more turns (to get to the final night turn), but I think over that time, the French might have struggled even to hold onto Calvarrasa de Arriba. 

Conclusions. The successful '20' series has a big fan base, but also divides opinion, with some gamers feeling that it does not have enough 'simulation' value. 

Regardless, it is a fun game with lots of local tactical nuances, giving a full game in a single sitting that will engage both players throughout (it can be played solo, with the gamer operating both sides). 

One of the strengths is that it makes a good campaign base to generate smaller battles that miniatures players can then move to the tabletop. So something like our game today saw action around a bridge, against high ground and an assault and counter-assault on a town.  Each of these smaller slices of action from the big battle can be fought by those with smaller tables and smaller collections (me). 

Once I get my 1809 stuff painted up, I quite fancy using the The Danube 1809 '20' game to generate the various Wagram / Essling situations.

Anyway, a very enjoyable game that I played solo, to re-familiarise myself with the system, ready for a face-to-face game this Thursday.

Resource Section.

An earlier blog article that spends a bit more time explaining the system, covering the battle of Borodino. LINK

Commanders is my sister webspace. It is more snippet based than here and follows various projects and games. LINK


  1. That's a nice sized game and good that it can be played to conclusion in an evening. I like the idea of it generating smaller scale actions to be played out on the table, which is true of many of the games you've showcased over the years.

    1. Hi Steve, there is an even quicker game to be played by using the historical set-up, which removes the pre-manoeuvring of the previous day. The smaller game actions can be inspired by situations in this game, while still leaving the player with a flexible approach to creation on the tabletop.

  2. Always a good idea to go over the rules before a F2F game; and having a solo game is a fun way to do that! 😀
    Seemed like a fast battle. I was set up for a 3 day battle but it seemed over in a day and a morning unless I misunderstood.

  3. Hi Stew, I have played this several times before, but we do so much stuff that even rules read 6 - 9 months ago, need a re-boost for this brain! I will just make sure that I fully brief my opponent, so that I don’t have an unfair advantage.

    I played two full days and then the morning of the 3rd day ….. at which point it totally unravelled fir the French.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the play, Norm! Yes, the game was designed for flexibility with the quick-smash-and-bash historical scenario and the 3-day maneuver meeting engagement.
    Lance and his team did a fine job with development and playtesting, too.

  5. Hi, thanks for visiting. Yes, you put a nice game together, a fine addition to the series.

  6. Sounds like a good game, I am of course really interested in the 1809 Danube game,how's the Austrians coming along? I just finished assembling my first unit of Victrix Landwehr,slightly more fiddly than Perry but lots of character!
    Best Iain

  7. Hi Iain .... slowly, but I bought a box of Perry Elite Companies French Infantry 1807 - 14 last week and also ran a game of Shadows of the Eagle with unpainted 15mm lead, so the interest is still bubbling.

  8. Nice little game Norm! Looking forward to the eventual 1809 chapter.

  9. Thanks Mike, I do like the 1809 campaign and have just picked up two Osprey Campaign books to ready myself for scenario creation. The first is Egmühl (Eckmühl) and the second is the Wagram / Essling title.

  10. Interesting to see the situation I may be running into this coming Thursday evening, especially as I don't know which side I'll be playing!

  11. Hi Mike, I will give you the choice of sides, both are starting off board. We have played this once before, but it was some time ago, I seem to remember that the Allies got the harder time of it.

  12. Ah, Salamanca - a great battle - included so many famous units and hard fighting. 1809 Campaign is great too!

  13. Hi Dean, I like your Russian force, I hope to get my 1809 stuff properly started soon.

  14. Interesting post Norm. Normally I run a mile from board games but clearly there both fun and thoughtfulness to be had from this particular series. I particularly like your idea of using the game as a campaign base for a non-historical miniatures game that would nevertheless now have some back-story...

  15. Hi, I see the boardgame and figure game as complementary aspects of the hobby, more so these days because the visual and material quality of boardgames has significantly improved. My biggest problem is having the time to service both :-)

    With figure games, most of us work within a few favoured set of rules and I have come to understand that that sort of discipline is needed on the boardgame side of things, so I tend to go for ‘series games’, that have a common system that is applied across several modules / battles, so that you are only learning the one set of rules for that genre.

    Yes, I like the idea of a boardgame generating plausible situations and then transferring that situation to the tabletop.

  16. Interesting and informative post Norm. Timely too as I have finally started to move on a new project 👍

  17. Hi Matt, this particular system would be real interest to you. It is very playable and would complement your C&C games well.

    New project and a napoleonic boardgame ….. can’t wait to see that.

  18. What a fantastic game. Small, compact and a manageable number of figures. I thoroughly enjoyed your post- great idea for a game. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Thanks John, I think you post came here instead of the 'Rex' post - no worries.


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