Saturday, 11 April 2015

The PBEM Campaign Supply System

Deployment and depots at start of campaign

The administration of our PBEM campaign is entirely manual, so the supply system has been kept simple.   Despite this some of the players seem to find it difficult to master.   It is not unusual for corps to run out of supplies, and suffer the consequences in loss of casualties due to attrition.

Each player is an Army commander with four corps.   They start the campaign with each corps holding four days supplies, and a reserve of sixteen days in the depots.

To resupply a corps must be within one day’s march of a depot.    They must halt for 24 hours and not fight with the enemy.

Depots can be established in any town controlled by the Army commander.   To do so takes one full strength infantry brigade one full day.   A brigade must remain in the town as the garrison.   Each depot provides one days supplies each campaign day.

Army commanders can move up to four days supplies between depots each day.

Each army uses four days supplies (one per corps) each day.   So to maintain the supply levels that they start the campaign with they would require four depots.

The aim is to present each Army commander with a simple solution to his supply problem.   However he must balance the following:

To maintain his supply level he must devote one quarter of his infantry to garrison duty.

He must control the issue of supplies by confirming which corps is supplied from which depot with how many days supplies.

He must ensure that his depot system keep within one days march of each corps.

The aim is to reward the player who plans his supply system, and punish the one who does not.   When a corps runs out of supplies they lose 10% of one brigade to attrition each day until they are resupplied.

A corps cannot resupply during a battle, nor on the day following a battle (because the loser has to retreat and the winner has to regroup).   So it is advisable to ensure that all corps have the maximum four days supplies whenever possible.

Obviously the corps have to manoeuvre and react to the enemy movements.   So there is a constant balance between wanting to move a corps, and maintaining maximum supplies.

Given such a simple supply system, it is surprising how often corps are allowed to run out of supplies, and to suffer the consequences.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Cavalry Divisions in Wargames

We experimented with using combined cavalry brigades in this week’s wargame.

It was a medium sized wargame, with three corps per side.   But the terrain was very crowded, with hills and a large town reducing the space available to deploy.   The only space available for the cavalry was in the centre.  

The Russians (right in photo) attacked in three columns, one in each scenic square.   1st and 4th corps cavalry brigades were combined to attack 4th Russian corps attack in the centre.   The French (left in photo) combined 2nd and 20th cavalry brigades to counter the Russian cavalry division.
As the Russian infantry neared the town, the leading French cavalry brigade charged them.   The infantry failed their morale to form square, broke and routed.   They took the reserve infantry brigade with them (top to white stars in photo)

The leading Russian cavalry brigade charged the disordered French cavalry.   The French retired shaken behind their support brigade.   The second French cavalry brigade now faced the leading Russian brigade.  Both were disordered.   The Russian reserve brigade was still formed, but blocked by their leading brigade.

Our morale rules allow disordered brigades to become formed at the end of the move.   Thus the forward French and Russian brigades would be able to charge again at the start of the next move.   The shaken French brigade would have to pass a morale test to rally to disordered.  If he had a poor dice he would remain shaken or might even rout.

So far so good.  If the Russians lose the next round of melee, their reserve brigade will be able to cover the retreat of their forward brigade.   If the French lose they will have no reserve to cover their retreat.

It would be much better if there were space to deploy both cavalry brigades in echelon, so that the leading brigade would be able to retire, or even rout, without making the reserve brigade disordered.

I am pleased with the use of larger cavalry formations in this first wargame.

In future games, with more space to deploy, it should be even more decisive.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cavalry in Napoleonic Wargames

Throughout my long experience in Napoleonic wargaming (almost 50 years) I have always struggled with representing large bodies of cavalry.   I have used many rules over the years, both commercial and house rules, but have never really mastered how to use them.

I am well aware of the historical use of cavalry, particularly in the French army.   I know that the heavy cavalry, in particular, was grouped together in large bodies of divisions or even corps.   I have read many, many books about the use of cavalry on the battlefield.  Yet I have never been able to incorporate it into my wargames.

The rules I used over the years never really seemed to take cavalry tactics into account.   Or perhaps I was just reading them wrong.   Whatever the reason I have always used cavalry, but only in brigades or divisions.

In fact when I did my last reorganization of my wargame armies I deliberately reduced my numbers of cavalry.   In terms of model soldiers each of my armies has just 16 cavalry to 128 infantry.  

The above photo shows one of my Armies.  Each Army has four corps.   Each corps has four infantry and one cavalry brigades, plus corps artillery.   32 infantry figures and 4 cavalry figures.

The cavalry play a vital role, and the rules allow them to skirmish or attack.   But they represent corps cavalry only – not cavalry corps.

I am now playing with the idea of grouping two or more cavalry brigades to form a division, or even a corps.   I suspect that there would never be more than two brigades together.  This is because our table is wide enough for three corps side by side, with a fourth in reserve.   So it would make sense to combine the reserve corps cavalry and the forward corps which they support to provide an independent cavalry division.

I could well be opening a real can of worms.   I decided about ten years ago to replace all of my 25mm wargame figures with 28mm, mostly Front Rank.   I planned it all carefully, and the result has stood the test of time.   I painted my last figure about eight years ago, and since have wargamed with the planned orders of battle.

If I now find that I can use larger bodies of cavalry, the temptation would be to reorganize my orders of battle to include a cavalry corps with each army.   I could do so by removing the brigades from each corps.   But it would make more sense to leave one brigade of light cavalry with each corps, and add a corps of heavy cavalry to each army.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Commanders in Wargames

Napoleon with First French Army

Our “house” wargame rules are derived from LFS, so command and control plays a large part.  

There are two command roles, the commander in chief and one corps commander for each corps.   Whether the commander in chief takes part in a wargame, or not, depends on where he is on the campaign map.

The role of the commander in chief is to issue orders to his corps commanders.   To do so he has to use his command points.   Each move he rolls one average dice, and adds one if he is Poor, two if Average and three if Gifted.  He uses his points to move around the table, and to issue orders to corps commander.  It requires one for a Gifted corps commander, two for an Average one and three for a Poor one.  

There are four orders he can issue, which are Attack, Engage, Hold or Move combined with an objective.    For example “Attack the hill in the centre).   The corps commander cannot change these orders, but he can replace them with Halt.  

The corps commanders issue orders to their five brigades and corps artillery.   They also use command pips.   They receive one pip for each formed brigade.  They also receive one, two or three additional pips depending on whether they are Poor, Average or Gifted.

The result of this simple command and control is that corps commanders never have enough points to do everything that they want to do.   Also they have to wait for orders from the commander in chief to change their game objective.

I wanted to give the Commander in Chief a little more direct influence on the behaviour of brigades, similar to Wellington moving around the battlefield to inspire his brigades.   But I did not want that influence to be too great.

As an experiment we now allow brigades to add one plus point to morale tests if the commander in chief is within 4” when they take the test.   This is not sufficient to have too great an influence on the overall game.  But it does allow a slight advantage if the player has taken the trouble to position the commander in chief figure in the right place at the right time.

We thought about increasing the addition depending on the quality of the general.   For example Napoleon, who is Gifted, would add three points.   A poor commander would only add one point.   But we agreed that three points on a morale test would be far too much.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, difference this makes to our wargames.