ESPANA 20 VOL 2
THE BATTLES OF BUSSACO & TALAVERA
Laser-cut counters still in their frame
A close-up of a some of the British at Bussaco
So, to the very latest in the series, Espana 20 : Vol 2 and the battles of Bussaco and Talavera. If you've already seen or bought Vol 1, you'll know that we're into the realms of VPG's larger productions with two maps, each made up of 2 panels to produce a 17" x 22" map for each game. These cardboard maps are superb in every way. Terrain is crisp and clear with a predominantly brown/ochre background that appropriately evokes the dusty plains of the Iberian peninsular familiar from my reading and watching of the Sharpe series. The unit counters are a delight in substantial quality and strong colours and sit well in the good sized hexes.
Bussaco and the ridge the Allied troops will defend.
Even movement remains at the simplest level: a single point to enter any type of terrain; the only proviso being that some types of terrain stop any further movement, unless you are travelling along a road. The rare modifiers cover minor rivers at +1 and +1/+2 to cross different degrees of slopes. We really are dealing with the most basic early moves provision. The only concept that strays from those rudiments of early design is that the game does not use the first simple ratio-based CRT [Combat Results Table] which used the ratio between Attacker and Defender's strength and the roll of a six-sided die. Instead, the equally simple, but next to be devised CRT is the chosen one - a differential style CRT. Oh, and I suppose I ought to admit that using a hex grid map was at one time a revolutionary advance over the very first board wargames which used squares!
Initially, Random Events for this series took the simplest line too and were controlled by a table to roll on. That has been replaced for some time by the current liking for Random Event cards and these are a very nice addition to the Napoleon 20 series, both in quality and the ability to introduce both generic situations applicable to most battles and very specific ones relating to these individual battles. This will be seen to be especially important when I look later at the historical situation being enacted in these battles.
Just one of the many potential Events.
Along the way, you'll take in very easily a surprising level of additional detail: unreliable or reluctant units, elan, Guards and their cost to enter enemy ZOCs, commitment of reserves to combat, rules for rout and hazardous retreats, rallying units at night and many more elements. Yet all are of an ease of play that keeps these rules nearer the early NAW [Napoleon at War] rules and a long, long way from systems like La Grande Bataille or the Napoleonic Brigade series.
However, with the addition of a 24 page Scenario booklet, 10 devoted to Bussaco and 14 to Talavera I don't think this is the best starting point to encounter the series for the first time.
Rule book, Scenario Book and just about everything else!
Talavera - main scenario
"both sides squarely facing each other"
Both battles have a considerable amount of chrome and though it takes far longer to read than execute these additional rules, there are a few contradictions and uncertainties. Bussaco presents an indolent Massena dallying with his mistress in the village of Cordiera and so few of his units are likely to initially be able to engage with the Allied enemy.
Opening position at Bussaco
A closer look at the centre of Wellington's defence
[note the steep slopes and the convent of Bussaco]
At start Massena abed in the village of Cordiera
Staring down the muzzle of the gun.
A closer look at the broken Allied centre,
with the French in a strong position
My final thoughts are first and foremost in buying Espana 20 Vol 2 you're getting an excellent set of rules of tried and trusted quality and ease of play. Excellent production values in all the physical components. Two interesting battles - one of which [Bussaco], I have some reservations as to replay value, the other [Talavera] is a cracker of cut and thrust action and a real bonus in having an additional scenario starting the battle a day early. A very worthwhile addition to my collection.