Sunday, 20 April 2014

Wargame Building Project

The latest addition is this northern Europe style farm complex.   It is not modelled on any particular farm from any particular battle.   We spent a few years in Germany many years ago, and travelled around Holland, Belguim and France.   And we saw lots of this style of farm complex in all four countries.
The aim of making our own wargame buildings is so that they all fit on our standard 8”x8” felt scenery bases.   I also wanted to be able to use each of the buildings in as many combinations as possible, so both buildings and walls are free standing.   Finally we remove buildings to allow measurement of troops moving into towns or farms, and also to calculate fire fights and hand to hand fighting.  

Our next project is a church for northern Europe. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Artillery in Wargames

French gunners left to face the music

We have been using our current “house “ wargame rules for about six years.   Over that period they have been “tweaked” a little in response to problems encountered on the table, but by and large have remained the same.   I am quite surprised that they have survived so much practical wargaming over such a long period, and still provide a very enjoyable wargame.

We spend an hour or so wargaming most days, certainly five days a week.   All of our wargames are based on our 1814 campaign.   So each game is 12 moves long, to match the 12 hour campaign day.   If necessary we will game an extra move to resolve a close run battle.   Our aim is to finish one wargame a week, to avoid undue delay in the pace of the campaign.

Even after all of this time we still have the unexpected action, which requires adjusting the rules.  This week it was artillery in general, and infantry v artillery in particular.

Most of our wargames are decided by morale.   One side starts to fail morale, which often has a knock on effect.  Within one or two moves part of one army is running away.   Our morale rules call for a 3 or more with 1D6.   The initial dice roll is adjusted by plus or minus to reflect the status or casualties of the brigade concerned.   Generally a full strength brigade will function well until they have lost two or more “hits”.   One rout affects all brigades within 4”, so a knock on effect is quite likely to happen.

Gunners seem to be particularly prone to this problem.   Loss of a nearby infantry brigade will leave them without support, which is another minus on the morale charge.   When they rout they abandon their guns.   At the end of a game it is not unusual for two or more of the four artillery crews to be in rout.

Normally gunners are most at risk from enemy cavalry.    Infantry have not proved a problem, until our last wargame.   The gunners have three, or possibly four, opportunities to fire at an approaching infantry column.  The last one at short range.  So it is quite unusual for the infantry to get close enough to engage the gunners.   When they do, we allow them to skirmish, but not volley fire.   So average infantry, with no casualties, would roll 1D6 and require 5 or 6.

This week the gunners missed the infantry, then the infantry missed the gunners, then the gunners missed again and the infantry missed again.   I had not anticipated that the infantry could be so resilient, yet such poor skirmishers, and our rules do not allow actual hand to hand fighting.

We have a section in the rules called “Quick Results”.  It deals with such things as brigades caught in flank or rear by the enemy.   It provides an instant result without using the dice.   Usually cut down or rout with 50% casualties.   It now includes infantry v artillery combat.   When the infantry are 4” from the gunners the latter rout, but take their guns with them.   Nice simple answer.   No loss of guns or heavy gunner casualties.  And sufficient risk to encourage the gunners to withdraw before the infantry can get to close contact.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Campaign Resupply

Campaign Map with corps and supply depots

Most campaigns seem to spend a great deal of time and energy on supply and resupply.  
I can understand why, most commanders also spent a great deal of time and energy on it.
And with an historical campaign it is critical to get it right.

With a campaign like mine, which is fictional and designed to provide good wargames, it is less important.  Or so I always thought.

It started as a solo campaign, and I could just fit in supply problems as and when I felt like it.
I could create an objective based on supplies without any need to justify it.

When I changed to PBEM campaign supply was not even included in the campaign rules.
Most players seemed to accept this without comment.
It made their life easier, and meant less administration for me.

As the PBEM campaign progressed and evolved I felt the need to introduce supply rules.
The first attempt was very simple, and designed to stop corps racing around the map

Each corps had to be within 15 miles (three map squares) of a supply depot to resupply
They could establish a supply depot in any town.  
It took one infantry brigade one day to do so
The brigade had to remain there as garrison.
Each such depot could resupply two corps.

At least one player found this too complicated.
I remember an email which informed me that
“commanders did not bother with supplies, they had staff to do all of that”

New supply rules have now been introduced.
The campaign starts with each corps having five days supplies
A further five days supplies are held at the main supply depot
That depot will receive two days supplies each day from “the rear”
That depot will also receive one day’s supplies from each depot with a garrison
So each army will need three depots (plus the main depot) to maintain that situation.

This seems pretty simple and straight forward to me.
But then it would – it was my idea.

It seems to be much less simple to some of the campaign players

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Wargaming with a Spanish Army

The British rout at Gerona

When I reorganised our wargame armies almost ten years ago, I was determined to make use of all of our model soldiers, plus the wide range of scenery we had collected over the years.

To do so I started my 1813 campaign, which included six French and six different allied armies.   The allies are Austrian, British, Bavarian, Prussian, Russian and Spanish armies.
The French have Italian, Polish and Westphalian contingents.

I choose 1813 because all of the Napoleonic nations were involved, and also because all of the armies were more or less equal.   I wanted each army to have a chance of winning in their geographical area.

This became even more important when I changed from solo to PBEM campaign.   It would be difficult to keep players interested if they did not have a reasonable chance of winning  with their army.

It was clear from the start that the Spanish would be difficult.  They had to be poorly trained and poorly led if they were to bear any relation to the historical Spanish Army.   Fortunately there was a British contingent supporting the Spanish Armies in the north east.   So I replaced one of the four Spanish corps with a British corps.  

Our (house) wargame rules rely heavily on the luck of the dice.  This is necessary because Jan and I have wargamed together for so many years that we know what each other will do in any given circumstance.    This makes for predictable wargames, where no one makes many mistakes.   To speed things up, and to allow for the unexpected, I increased the influence of the dice.

The Spanish had to be poor quality troops.  This meant that they were more likely to break and run, given average dice.   To compensate I increased the size of the Spanish Army from four to five corps, keeping the British as one of them.

It should always be daring for such a poor quality army to attack.  But campaign players do not want to play boring defensive campaigns.   Our latest game in Spain had the Spanish attacking.

The five corps advanced, and headed for the French open left flank.   They were unaware that another French corps was advancing to fill that flank.   By the time the French arrived on the table the Spanish were committed.

The French attacked with their better, and stronger, cavalry.   The brunt of the attack fell on the British corps.  It was ironic that they would throw a string of really poor dice.  The result was the rout of the British corps, which quickly spread to the nearby Spanish who joined the rout.

A very typical, and historical, result for a Spanish v French army.   

But disappointing that it was caused by the rout of their best corps.