Taiping Era goes to Palikao

The largest battle of the 1860 campaign in China was the attack on the bridge at Palikao on the 21st September. Here the British and French forces met the might of the Qing Empire, with Mongols, Manchus, Green Standard and Bannermen in abundance. It was a stunning success for the Europeans, and the French commander, General Montauban, was created the Count of Palikao by Napoleon III afterwards.

The documentation for the battle is a bit all over the place, but I reckoned I had enough to give it a go. I had two issues. I probably didn't have enough in the way of Mongol Cavalry, and I probably needed the entire length of my table, plus a bit more, and I was alas using the far end to store Battlefield Society literature.

Even so, I think I made a decent fist of it. The Allies are marching along the length of a canal, leading up to Palikao Bridge, with the French closest to the canal. The British are off to their left. The French are to engage the centre and left of the Chinese position whilst the British turn their right flank, being in possession of the only battlefield cavalry the expedition has. The frontage of the battle was about 3 miles, with the Chinese holding three villages. The area was also wooded. In the end I was unable to find a good map of the area, so I made a number of guesses.

My Bellona bridge stood in for the eponymous bridge of the battle. It needs some repair work. It is occupied by some Imperial Guard Banner troops.

This is the French corps advancing onto the table. In the actual battle the French commander sent forward half his Chasseurs, together with the voltiguer companies from his line battalions, and merged the rest of the Chasseurs into the line regiments to bring them up to strength. I just deployed the Chasseurs in open order to get the same effect.

Over on the left you can see the British, with Probyn's Horse in the centre, and Fane's on the right of the picture.

As the French advanced, the Chinese commander diverted some of his horse to support the centre.

Although heavily outnumbered, the Indian "Irregular" cavalry advanced. I put irregular in inverted commas, as they seem to fight like line cavalry in this engagement.

As I'm soloing this I some times forget to take pictures. Fane's horse have managed to charge some Manchu cavalry in the flank. Probyn's have been charged by the Mongol horse, but one of their units refuses to charge home (I've left the dice they rolled to pass their "Moral Vigour" (MV) test next to them as a reminder they can't be moved).

In fact it is a bit of a bust for the Mongols on this flank, as the other two units refuse to charge the British infantry advancing in line towards them.

The Manchu horse facing the French were also a bit leery of charging. Things weren't going well with the Chinese.

The British foot opened fire on the Mongol horse that initially wouldn't charge. As I was losing track of who'd done what I deployed some of my smoke markers from my WSS game.

Firing had broken out all along the frontage. The Europeans were getting the better of the duel.

Fane's inflict a lot of damage on the Manchu cavalry. They now need to recoil away from the direction of charge. Their recoil path is blocked by the village, so they need to test again to stand. They fail, which means they need to test again.

 A cascade of disastrous MV tests means they break and flee, but their colleagues pass their test and stand.

Probyn's are finding the Mongols a tougher prospect. Although they lose the close combat, they are braced in position by the supporting unit.

More firing. More smoke markers.

More volleys from the French infantry repel their mounted opponents. Historically the French were forced to form square, although some troops survived by lining the ditch at the side of the road. The French also did considerable damage with their artillery firing canister or grape shot. This is one of the places where I may not have got things completely right, in that it was too easy, both here and on the left flank, to deploy in line with flanks secured. Then, with rifles, develop sufficiently heavy fire to repel the cavalry. I don't have a problem with rifles shooting off cavalry, even pre breach loaders, but the inability of the cavalry to flank the position is a problem with the layout.

With their cavalry driving back their opponents, the British infantry closed on the infantry and guns defending the village. The 60th Rifles performed excellent service as a skirmisher screen.

On the right, the French infantry cross the road, and the Mongols charge home again. In the centre you can see French infantry preparing to storm the village.

"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre" one might say, as the Mongols take a lot of damage charging home against formed infantry with modern rifles.

In Attack Column the French infantry press home their charge on the village in the face of artillery fire and musketry.

The Chinese right is crumbling, as Fane's horse continue to press home their advantage, and Probyn's drive their opponents back.

The French capture the village in the centre. Many cheers of "Vive l'Empereur" and "Vive la France".

The Mongol cavalry is driven off by the French on the right.

Whilst over on the left more and more of the Mongol horse starts to leave the field.

I hasn't finished by the time I wanted to stop for the evening. I'd been at it for 2 hours, excluding set up time, and that's more than enough of my own company for me to endure. I'm really pleased at how much has happened in two hours, with me moving all the bits and with lots of figures and terrain on the table. I will hopefully find time to go back and finish off the game.

The issues with the game were in the set up, the rules performing admirably. It is hard to see how the Chinese can win. Their defensive position is deep, but it is not tremendously strong. They really need good strong walls and ditches, and massed artillery. Either that or a lot of space to develop the use of their cavalry. In any event, the technical advantage that the Europeans have with the modern (for the time) rifle - the British are using the Enfield - means that they can engage the enemy at range and cause a lot of damage before closing. They didn't even need to deploy the Armstrong guns. Or at least, not so far.

For those of you who don't own them yet, the rules are available from Amazon and Wargame Vault, for the very reasonable £14.99. Go on, treat yourself.


  1. There will always be table problems allowing for the infamous 'safe edge of the board' flank etc. but otherwise I'd say the battle turned out about like it should have. Let's face it the Imps have enough trouble with the Taipings let alone being able to defeat European armies.
    Im looking forward to trying my first scenario using your rules next week with a buddy of mine on Wednesday.

    1. It wasn't that bad, I suppose. Let me know how the game goes. The rules aren't setting the world on fire at the moment.

  2. Will do. In all fairness to you and the rules, I think they could be the greatest rules ever and you probably still won't get a lot of sales - it is such a niche subject. I only know of a couple people besides me who even have Taiping collections here in the states.

    1. I realise it is a niche, but the Perry's did a range so.... What has surprised me is I didn't think the niche was as small as the 1879 Pacific War, and sales are behind them by quite a bit. I'm working on an Indian Mutiny supplement to give them a bit of a wider appeal.

  3. We do seem to be a small band. Eric Burgess, Joseph above, you and me and two other chaps are all I'm aware of.

    Things do change though. I think of what Barry Hilton did for the popularity of the League of Augsburg period and I take heart.

    1. Sales have picked up recently, with Amazon getting their act together. We're now comfortably into double figures, and there's been some chat picked up on some of the forums. I got a decent number of blog hits from the TMP posting. Word is spreading. It needs a nice looking game and favourable review from a top quality figure painter.

  4. Got my copy today.

    Well done Trebian. You clearly put a lot of work in and it looks to me as though it has paid off.

    I've only had time for a quick read through so far. My first thought was if you were newly interested in the period this is where to start.

    I'll be looking at Taiping Era more closely this week with a review in mind. I'll let you know when it's done.

    Excellent value for money too. The flags and uniform details are a nice touch.

    1. Phew! Thanks for your kind words. If you wouldn't mind posting a review on Amazon, that would be much appreciated!

  5. I'm rather taken with the padoga. Where did that come from? Opium wars are screaming out for a pony wars variant like the Sudan. I modified Age of Eagles.

    1. The pagoda came from a souvenir stall half way up a mountain in China.

      I must disagree on the Pony Wars suggestion. Chinese armies were led, organised and fought completely differently to the forces of the natives of the plains of North America and the Sudan. When Europeans are involved the warfare is not colonial warfare as you would recognise it elsewhere. That's why I wrote "Taiping Era" (you can get it from Amazon or Wargame Vault), as it requires special treatment.

  6. ok Graham, I have bought the rules and await their arrival. Could be fun to game from the posts I have read over last few weeks. I may adapt my 6mm British / Sikh wars to add TaiPing and others or my 20mm Colonial French / Brits etc to create TaiPing army. I bought some Orion plastic figures with this in mind.
    Trying to find buildings is difficult as most are aimed at 28mm (Boxer Rebellion). Do you know a source for the card buildings you built? Carl

    1. I just answered the building question on the other post you commented on, didn't I??? Yes, buildings generally are a problem. Towns are walled and walls are painted white, so do a lot of that. You can get pagodas in per shops, I'm told for aquariums. As figures, the Boxer Rebellion figures on the PSR site all look usable.


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