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Combat on the Coa

A small engagement set during the Peninsular War,
for the Shako rule set.


July 23rd, 1810, near Almeida, Portugal.

During the winter of 1809, Wellington's army wintered in North Portugal, except for the Light Division, led by Robert Craufurd. The Light Division spent the winter in the vicinity of Almeida, in constant contact with Marshal Ney's 6th Corps. This position, 40 miles in advance of the main army, was a dangerous one. But it was important to keep an eye on the enemy forces, and Ney had never attacked Craufurd with more than a Division all winter. Craufurd guarded a front of forty miles, outnumbered six to one, for three months. His lines were never penetrated in all that time.

When the fortress town of Cuidad Rodrigo finally fell, some 21 miles from Almeida, Marshal Massena ordered Ney to drive Craufurd's men out of the area. Craufurd reluctantly blew up Fort Conception on the frontier and withdrew to a position in front of the River Coa, with his flank on the fortress of Almeida. Wellington strongly urged Craufurd to withdraw behind the river. But Craufurd was confident and decided to hold the far bank of the river as long as possible.

The position he chose was a bad one. The River Coa was swift and was bounded by sheer cliffs of rock in this stretch. The ground fell away steeply from Almeida to the river, with only one road leading to the bridge. The road was so steep that it switched back on itself as it neared the crossing. Marshal Ney, showing more energy and determination than he had during the entire winter and spring, attacked with his entire Corps.

Order of Battle

British Forces

General Craufurd's famous Light Division

The Division must deploy under Defend orders in a line of battle covering the area between the bend in the river (point 1 on the map) and the Windmill, in front of the stone enclosures, facing Southeast (except the battery in Almeida fortress).

General Craufurd may issue new orders to his own Division in the Command phase of Turn 1. The Light Division is composed of veteran light infantry. Therefore, General Craufurd has a Command Radius of 18". He may be deployed anywhere in the battle line (but all of his units must be within his Command Radius).

French Forces

Elements of Marshal Ney's 6th Corps

General Loison and his two aides enter the table at any point on the Southeast edge. General Loison may not issue new orders to any of his Divisions until the Command phase of Turn 2.

Ferey's infantry Brigade (a Shako Division) enters under Attack orders, on a Command Arrow running straight Northwest from point 2, ending at the road from Almeida across the bridge.

Simon's infantry Brigade (a Shako Division) enters under Attack orders, on a Command Arrow running straight Northwest from point 3, ending at the road from Almeida across the bridge.

Lamotte's cavalry Division enters under Attack orders, on a Command Arrow running Northwest along the road entering the table at point 4, and following the road as it turns in front of Almeida and descends to the bridge. This Attack line ends at the bridge over the Coa.


The table is 4' x 6', each square being 1' on a side.

Scenario Map Image

Terrain notes

The fortress of Almeida is in the Northern corner of the table. Only the Heavy Gun battery may be placed in the fortress initially. It should be placed at the Southeast tip of the fortress, facing Southeast. Any unit in the fortress counts as if behind a Redoubt offering a -2 bonus to Small Arms and Artillery fire. All other rules for Redoubts apply as well.

There are two other buildings on the map; a stone windmill (building A) and a convent (building B). Both are treated as single section Shako Towns.

The ground falls away from Almeida to the Coa river. The slope is gradual at first, becoming quite steep near the river. To represent this, the Northeast half of the table is open ground, broken up only by the stone wall enclosures. Directly Southwest of this open plain is a terrace of Gentle Slope terrain. The next terrace west is a Steep Hill. The river gorge itself has clifflike walls and is impassable except at the bridge. The far bank rises in two more terraces of Steep Hill.

The terrain does not, in fact, descend in terraces to the river. Instead, the slope gets gradually steep the closer one gets to the river. Treat any unit Northeast of another unit as being uphill for purposes of awarding the bonus when resolving close combat.

The first Steep Hill terraces on the either side of the river are covered with scrub brush and lone fir trees, and gets rockier as the river is approached. Therefore, these entire terraces are considered Rough Ground.

Any units in Column on the road (and any limbered artillery batteries) ignore the Rough Ground movement penalties but DO pay any movement penalties imposed by the slope of the terrain through which they are passing.

The stone walls which line the road from Almeida to the river and which make up the enclosures are tall and made of piled rock. Cavalry and Artillery may not cross these walls at all. Infantry (including Skirmishers) lose 1/2 of their move when crossing these walls. The walls block same-level line of sight. Any unit defending one of these walls (facing the wall and adjacent to it, with the enemy on the other side) counts as in Cover for the purposes of resolving Small Arms and Artillery attacks against the unit, and may count the Terrain Advantage modifier is attacked across the wall in Melee.

Special Rules

Several special rules are included in the Orders of Battle section above. In addition, Skirmisher stands in Rough Ground DO Support friendly, Formed infantry in other terrain (subject to the normal formation restrictions on the supported unit, per national Doctrine), so long as either the flank or rear lines of the supporting Skirmisher stand and the supported Formed unit mutually intersect each other.

Scale Note

All measurements are for 15mm scale. Multiply by 1.5 to play the scenario in 25mm scale.


Vastly outnumbered, Craufurd almost immediately ordered the artillery and cavalry to retreat over the bridge. The infantry would try to hold off the advancing French long enough to cover the withdrawal of the guns and horse.

The ground offered numerous positions from which a small number of riflemen could offer fire, then withdraw a bit. Yard by yard the British light infantry were forced back toward the road. French cavalry turned the left flank, and for a time rode up and down the road from Almeida to the bridge, sabering anyone who they came across. Determined rifle fire eventually drove off the cavalry, and eventually the British infantry withdrew to the far side of the river. Here they took up another defensive position, with cannon covering the stone bridge itself. Marshal Ney ordered several infantry charges over the bridge, but all were met with bloody fire, until the bridge was piled to its parapet with dead and wounded. About four in the afternoon, a thunderstorm broke overhead and put the carnage to an end.

Victory conditions

The British win if they have withdrawn at least two of their cavalry or artillery units (except the guns mounted on the walls of Almeida, of course) over the bridge, and there are no Formed French infantry on the far bank at the end of 15 turns. Otherwise, the French win the game.


"Campaigning with the Duke of Wellington and Featherstone" by Donald Featherstone. Emperor's Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1993. ISBN 0-9626655-9-2

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Page last updated: January 13, 2003
Copyright ©2003, William Scarvie

Any advertisements below are placed there by Angelfire, not by me. Companies or links advertised below do not imply my endorsement of these places. For the places I like to visit, please see my Links or Rocketry Links pages.