Sunday, 25 October 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 1

 

Town of Weissensee

The first day of our new campaign involved a battle for the town of Weissensee.   It highlighted the difficulty of having simple rules for fighting in BUA.

 

On our wargame table BUA are represented by 6x6” squares of felt.  Suitable wargame houses are placed on them to represent villages (1 square), towns (2 squares) and cities (4 squares).   These buildings are removed to allow us to measure distance when troops enter them.

 

Our latest game involved a town, which is two squares.   Each square requires one infantry brigade to garrison it.   All casualties, morale and combat are calculated on one square.  So a city requires four combats, one for each section.

Move 4

The French commander has detached two infantry brigades to attack the nearest section of the town.   The leading brigade has just entered the town, and a couple of buildings have been removed to ease measurement.   Only infantry can enter a BUA, and they move at 4” per move, which is half of column speed.

 

A second brigade is moving up in support.   Only one brigade can fight in a BUA, and one of our big problems is trying to write simple rules to cover supports.

 

Towns can only be attacked by artillery and infantry.  Artillery roll 2D6 and require 10 at long range or 6 at short range.   Minus 1 for each casualty and if the guns fired last time.   So you can spend a lot of time firing at a town and doing no damage at all, especially at long range.

 

Infantry can skirmish a town, roll 1 D6 and need 6. Get plus 2 for B class skirmishers.   Minus 1 for each casualty and also for target in hard cover.   So again it can take a long time to inflict any casualties.

 

Infantry can storm a town.   The garrison get plus 2.   If two brigades attack together the get plus 1.   The garrison usually wins unless they have casualties or are poor quality troops.   Elite troops in garrison are a real challenge.

 

But the latest problem is for fighting inside the town

 

Move 8 

Previously we only allowed one brigade inside each town section.   Supports had to wait outside.   However it takes two moves to get  from one edge of the square to the other.

 

In our first attempt at Weissensee we followed that rule.   Both sides moved to the far edge of their town and the French charged the Russian brigade.   The first combat was a draw, both lost 10% casualties.   The second, third and fourth was the same.   In a draw both brigades are disordered, but carry on the melee.   When they reached 40% both brigades were automatically routed.   So after four moves of fighting both ran away!    By the time the reserve brigade came into contact it would be at least  move 10, too late to resolve the combat.

 

We then tried it with the reserve brigade allowed inside the town section, but not allowed to fight unless they moved through the forward brigade.  This would mean that if the forward brigade routed, the reserve brigade would require a very good dice throw to stand.  And even if they swopped over, both would be disordered for two moves.   Swopping could only work if there was a lull in the fighting.

 

It should not be a surprise to hear that after just one round of melee the forward French brigade routed.   The reserve brigade rolled their dice, and got 1.   They also routed.

 

Clearly we have not yet resolved the problem.   But we will continue with the reserve brigade allowed in the town, but not allowed to fight until swopped over.  I may have to adjust the rules, because they should have at least a 50% chance of being able to do so.

 

Never a dull moment!

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Central Germany – Erfurt Campaign


Regions of Germany

The next campaign is set in central Germany.

This is the second campaign phase of the new campaign

It shows that the French have occupied Brunswick at the end of the last phase

 

There are nine regions in Germany, and three in central Germany.

This phase is fought in Erfurt, the central of the three

This map is used for planning and shows the location of each army

Each square on this map is three wargames tables.

Erfurt Region

This map shows the main geographical features of the region, and also the location both armies and their supply depots.  

 

There are nine towns on the map.  Each is a military district.   Each is also a possible campaign phase. 

 

The Erfurt campaign phase is the nine squares in the centre, with the white star in the centre.

 

Each square on this map is also one wargames table

Erfurt District Campaign Map

This is the campaign map, used for movement and transferring to the wargames table.    This map shows considerably more terrain features, such as villages and farms.   I use this map for the campaign movement.

 

Each square on this map is a 2x2 foot square on the wargames table

Erfurt District Wargame Map

This map shows the same details as the previous one, but shows the actual terrain as it will appear on the wargames table.   For example the hills cover the same area, but are shows as they will look on the table.

 

Each square is numbered the same as the 2x2 foot scenic terrain.   Villages and farms are also numbered to identify the wargame models.   Where appropriate hedges and stone walls are also noted.

 

You will note that the strategic campaign planning maps, such as Regions of Germany, are in the new grid system.  The aim is to make it easier to identify the new military regions and districts.   Terrain features are not important at this level of planning.    These maps are used to decide where the next campaign phase will be fought.

 

The rest of the maps are more traditional.  They shows different levels of terrain features, because they are very important in the campaign and on the table.   The last map is designed to show exactly what the wargames table will look like.

 

With our summer routine we spend a lot more time on the campaign and the wargames table.  With the cooler weather we resume our two hill walking groups, and we have much less time for wargaming.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Thoughts on the Toledo Campaign

 

 


Map of Spain

The Iberian Peninsula has long been my favourite of all the Napoleonic campaigns.  

 

In 1969 I knew almost nothing about Wellington or the Napoleonic Wars.  Finding Jac Weller’s Wellington at Waterloo led to me to the companion book Wellington in the Peninsula.   This excellent introduction was followed by a long reading list, not least Napier and Oman’s excellent histories of the conflict.

 

Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe series were read with equal enjoyment.   The subsequent TV series followed with somewhat mixed enjoyment.

 

I have always enjoyed painting the British and Spanish armies, the Portuguese less so.   In particular the variety of Spanish regular and irregular uniforms were a welcome relief to the never ending red and blue of the British and French.

 

But I have always found wargaming the campaign very disappointing.   Using a variety of commercial wargame rules over the years always resulted in the Spanish armies running away almost before the French reached them.   The French in turn almost always lost to the superior firepower of the red coats, and the remarkable efficiency of the riflemen.

 

It was only when I developed my own wargame rules, and even more the campaign rules, that the Spanish at last had a chance of holding their own.

Map of Seville Region

In my rules the Spanish cavalry are very ineffective.   Not only are they low quality, but there is not very many of them.

 

The infantry are almost all low quality, but there are a lot of them.    They are supported by a large number of militia/guerrilla who are equally poor fighters.

 

The artillery are the pride of the Spanish commander.   They have the same morale and combat ability as the French gunners.

 

Spanish field armies are usually defeated.   But that is ok providing that they damage the attacking French brigades at the same time.   The further the French advance, the longer their lines of supply, and the more vulnerable to the many guerrilla brigades.   They usually lose against the French garrisons and supply convoys.   But they only have to win once, the French have to win every time.

 

All of this results in a historically correct to the campaigns fought in Spain.   Or at least I think so.

Map of Toledo District

This was the first campaign phase in Spain since I reorganised the overall campaign.

 

The concept is that each region will have nine districts, and each district would provide one campaign phase.   All of these phases would be stand alone, but would have a narrative which provided an overall direction to each phase.

 

This resulted in my first error.   In the past each phase was stand alone.   There were the same nine towns, each of which was also a wargames table.   The French would start in control of three, the allied army another three and the final three would divide the two armies.   Thus is one side lost the opening battles, they would have space to retreat and regroup. 

 

Toledo district is the centre top on the regional map.   The French enter the map at the start of the campaign.   I had assumed that they would win at least one or two of the opening battles.   This would give the Spanish corps the maximum amount of map to retreat, and ensure the French would have to maintain a long supply line.

 

I had not anticipated that the French would be unable to break through the three northern towns, and would have to retreat off the map when they failed to do so.  In our campaign rules any corps that retreats off the map may not enter again during that campaign phase.   This is to ensure that the phase is concluded within a reasonable time frame. 

 

This led to an unexpectedly short campaign of only five days and four battles.

 

On the other hand all four wargames were different and very enjoyable, despite my being the French player and losing the campaign.   I won two of the games, and lost the other two.   I should have won all four, but over confidence led me to be unable to respond to unexpected setbacks (that is to say low dice throws).

 

I usually command the French armies in southern Spain.   Although they usually defeat the Spanish regular corps, they have great difficulty with the guerrillas.  However this time I lost two battles due to my own tactical skills, and lost the campaign phase due to equally poor strategic skills.   By the end of felt very much like Dupont must have felt at the end of the battle of Baylen.

 

But I am really pleased that it has confirmed, for me at least, that both my wargame and campaign rules do exactly what they are designed to do.   Provide a fun wargame, in no more than 12 moves and allow both commanders an equal chance to win.   Whilst at the same time produce not only a series of games, but also a campaign, which feels distinctly Napoleonic.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Toledo Campaign – Day 5

 

13 March 1813 – Southern Spain - Day 5


The failure of 15th Vistula corps to take Albareal has made it impossible for Suchet to continue his invasion of Andalusia.

 

7th French corps have already retreated to Madrid, and it will take two more days for them to rally, reorganise and become operational again.

 

15th corps also requires time to rally and recover.  If they try to do so at Torrijos they are in danger of being attacked by 1st Spanish corps.

 

That leaves just 16th Italian corps to face four Spanish corps

 

Rather than risk the loss of his whole army, Suchet orders 15th and 16th corps to retreat to Madrid.

 

Two of the four Spanish corps are now out of supply, and will lose attrition casualties until they resupply.   Therefore Giron is in no condition to pursue the French until he can reorganise his army.

 

Comment

This most unusual outcome was not anticipated.   The French army is still largely intact, and should be able to recover and continue their invasion of Andalusia.   However it would take three days for them to be ready to resume the invasion.   And in the meantime there was a real risk they would be destroyed by the Spanish.

 

The defeat was a technical, rather than a tactical, one.   The French should have been able to secure the three northern towns of Torrijos, Bargas and Mocejon.  They could then have halted to open supply depots and regroup.   They could then have continued to attack the Spanish and open the road to Seville.

 

Normally when a corps is forced to retreat off the map they are not allowed to enter again, and are out of the campaign.   However I was prepared to allow 7th corps to do so.  This was because their retreat was necessary after a defeat, but it was only a minor defeat.  It was my fault for not allowing for this when I set up the campaign.  I should have started with the French in occupation of the three northern towns.  The fighting would then have taken place against the three centre towns.  Either side would then have had map space to retreat and rally after a minor defeat.

 

However even without this technical problem, it was the right time to end the campaign.   With the failure of the Poles to take Albareal there was only one French corps left to hold four Spanish corps long enough for the other two to regroup. 

 

Two of the Spanish corps were already out of supply, and the other two down to one days supply each.   So the Spanish would also have required a couple of days to rally and regroup.   This would have meant three days when nothing was happening.  

 

At this stage of a campaign I normally end that phase to allow both armies to recover, and move on to the next phase with two fresh armies.

 

I enjoyed the campaign, and was quite pleased that the Spanish did so well.   Particularly so with the last  battle, when a very weak Spanish corps held the Vistula at bay for nine moves and allowed the fresh 1st Spanish corps to arrive to support them.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Walking Season



If wargaming is our first love (and it is) our second is hill walking.   We are very fortunate to live in a beautiful part of Spain which is well known for its walking opportunities.   That is the main reason we choose this area, and one of the first things we did when we arrived fourteen years ago was join the very popular Costa Blanca Mountain Walking group.   It is a mainly ex pat group of Brits, Dutch and Germans who meet twice a week to explore the hills and valleys.

 

About five years ago we started a weekly walking group for our local U3A.  It was so popular that we formed a second group a couple of years later.   Organising, and taking part in, two walks a week requires a considerable amount of time.  I also do a blog of each walk, and post on Facebook recruit new members. 

 

All of this comes to an abrupt end during the hot summer months.   This year we have done one walk a week in June and September, but none at all in July and August.   So we have a lot of spare time on our hands.    And because it is too hot to walk, it is also too hot to do much else between mid morning to late evening.

 

During the walking months our wargaming comes a poor second to the walking.   But from June to October the campaign and the games it produces becomes our main source of activity and enjoyment.   Instead of two or three afternoons a week, I devote a large part of every day.

 

One result is that I usually take on a new project to fill the long, hot days.   This year I reorganised the whole campaign.  That involved creating a higher level of command, a sort of grand strategic level.   It also involved making a whole raft of new maps.  All was completed just a few weeks ago, just in time for the start of the walking season again.

 

You will all be well aware that this has been a trying and difficult year for us all.   For Jan and I here in Spain it means that our walking season ended in March.   Overnight we were confined to our house overnight.  We were only allowed to leave to do essential shopping or visit the doctor, and then only one of us.   No such luxury as being allowed to exercise once a day.   You can imagine how difficult this was, when we were used to doing two 5-6 hour walks each week.

 

From July we have returned to the “new normal”.   Here that means that we have to wear face masks every time we leave the house.   But at least we can leave together.   And there is no restriction on movement or what we do.   We are allowed to meet in groups of 10, either at home or outside.   And, joy of joys, we don’t have to wear face masks when we are “in nature”.   The definition of “in nature” in unclear.   But it is generally accepted that we can meet 10 friends to walk in the hills, and can remove our face masks as soon as we leave the town or village.

 

The situation is getting bad, particularly here in Spain.   We have the highest rate of infection, hospital admission and deaths in Europe due to coronavirus.   Parts of the country, particularly Madrid, have much stricter restrictions.   But we are fortunate to live in a lovely little village 20 miles inland from the busy coastal towns of Denia, Calpe and Benidorm.   Here we live a reasonably normal life, and count ourselves very lucky indeed to be able to do so.

 

But we won’t be able to visit our grandchildren in the UK for Christmas.   We have already missed their normal summer holiday with us here in Spain.   And, most of all, we fear that during the coming winter months we may return to the harsh restrictions which made life so difficult in the spring.

 

Fingers crossed that we will continue to produce one blog entry each week, rather than the two or even three of recent months.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Toledo Campaign – Day 4

 

12 March 1813 – Southern Spain - Day 4

Giron orders his army to concentrate between Albareal and Toledo

He sends 1st corps to support 3rd corps at Albareal

 

Suchet orders 16th corps to move to Bargas and abandon Mocejon

This is to protect 7th corps as they try to rally and regroup

He also orders 15th corps to attack Albareal

This is to distract the Spanish from the weak French centre

End of Move 9

Albareal should have been an easy French victory

It is held by a weak 3rd Spanish corps, who have run out of supplies

They are reduced to two infantry brigades and corps artillery

There is also a militia brigade in garrison in the town

And a guerrilla brigade resting in a nearby village

 

The Poles are not aware that there is a full strength Spanish corps approaching

Despite this they launch an all out attack on the weak 3rd Spanish corps

Their cavalry charge the gunners, but are routed with 20% casualties

The gunners then concentrate on the approaching infantry, and rout one brigade

The Polish infantry press on and rout the two Spanish infantry brigades

 

At move 9 (out of 12 moves) they spot 1st Spanish corps arriving

Without cavalry support, and with one brigade in rout, the Poles halt

It is clear that they could not reach the town before 1st Spanish corps

And to do so they would have to abandon their broken infantry and cavalry

This would allow the guerrilla brigade behind them to attack the routed troops

 

A second defeat for Suchet and the whole campaign looks in danger of collapse

After four days and four battles his army must now halt, resupply and regroup

 

The Spanish army is not much better off

3rd corps has already run out of supplies

They will lose 400 infantry or 100 cavalry or gunners each day until they resupply

The other three corps are down to one days supply

 

Each French corps can carry a maximum of four days supplies

The Spanish corps can only carry three days supplies

So the Spanish need to halt and resupply more often than the French

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Toledo Campaign – Day 3

5 March 1813 – Southern Spain - Day 3

With his flanks secured by the battles of Torrijos and Mocejon, Suchet leads the main French attack down the main Madrid to Seville road.   The town of Bargas commands this road.  It is held by a militia brigade and supported by the full strength 2nd Spanish corps.

 

Suchet has 7th French corps, plus two infantry brigades from the army reserve.   He outnumbers the Spanish in infantry, and is confident of an easy victory

End of Move 4

Suchet moves forward with six infantry brigades in the centre, cavalry on the left and artillery on the right.  

 

His gunners advance with confidence to deploy within short range of the Spanish artillery.   They are unpleasantly surprised when the Spanish open fire and hit them at long range, and again as they unlimber at short range.   The French gunners pass their morale test, but will now be minus two each time they fire.

 

Meanwhile the dragoons advance on the French left.  They are pleased when the Spanish guerrilla cavalry move forward to meet them.

End of Move 10

The French dragoons on the left flank have an easy victory against the guerrilla lancers.  The supporting Spanish infantry move back in square, leaving the dragoons helpless to exploit their victory.

 

The French gunners continue to fire at short range, but with minus 2 calculating hits they cause no casualties.

 

So the French infantry must attack unsupported.

 

On the left Suchet leads two conscript brigades against the left halt of the town.   The Spanish garrison is also a conscript brigade, but have the advantage of hard cover.  And though outnumbered two to one they hold on.   One French brigade is routed with 20% casualties, and the second withdraw disordered with 10% casualties.

 

In the centre the French have more success.   They rout the militia garrison with 30% casualties.  The French receive 10% on each brigade.

 

Meanwhile the Spanish gunners continue to fire on the right of the French line.   Two brigades are sent to engage the gunners and the infantry brigade supporting them.   Once more the Spanish gunners do great damage.  They halt the leading brigade with their first volley, and then pound them until they rout with 30% casualties.

 

The second French brigade engaged the supporting Spanish infantry.  But both are conscript and the Spanish held their ground.   When the leading brigade broke and routed, the second brigade had to test their morale.  They failed and joined the rout.   The gunners, who had already suffered 20% casualties, now also had to test their morale because of the rout.  They also failed and joined the rout.

 

By nightfall three of the six French infantry brigades were in rout, plus the artillery.

Only one brigade, and the cavalry, were still formed.   Suchet ordered a retreat to rally, regroup and consider his options.

 

This was a real setback for the French invasion of Andalusia.   It was the first time that the French had lost a set piece battle with the Spanish.   And it was particularly unexpected because the Spanish has less infantry than the French.

 

This comes on top of the heavy French casualties at Mocejon.   It is not a very promising start to the French invasion.