Sunday, 18 November 2018

Campaign Diary Blog

Current Campaign Strategic Map

I started the Magdeburg Campaign blog in April 2009.  

I had spent months preparing and setting up what would be my long running 1813 campaign.    It was always my intention that the campaign would provide interesting battles to wargame.   It was never intended to be a historical campaign.  The aim was to use all of my collection in rotation, and to do so I had designed a campaign which would have five areas.  Three in Germany and two in Spain.   Each would have an allied and French army.   The campaign was designed to be fought in phases.   Each phase would be similar in size to the Waterloo campaign.

The first phase was set in Magdeburg in northern Germany and would feature Marshal Davout v Prince Blucher.   I wanted to record the campaign, and decided to do so by using a Blog as the campaign diary.

I would have a different blog for each campaign phase.   The blog would cover the campaign background, the orders of battle of both armies, a diary of each campaign day and a report of each battle.   I had hoped that this might prove useful if anyone else wanted to set up a similar campaign to provide wargames.

This first campaign lasted two months and provided four battles to wargame.  It took ten posts and has had 5811 page visits.  It worked very well, and provided a good template for all of the campaign phases to follow.

In October 2009 I changed to a PBEM campaign, with ten players each representing an allied or French army commander.   It would continue as such until February 2016 when I reverted to solo again.   During this period the blog provided a daily update of the campaign.   With five areas in play at the same time there was a huge increase in administration, and consequently in posts on the blog.   There was also a permanent backlog of battles waiting to be gamed.  

I enjoyed running the campaign.  It was a big administrative task and constant pressure to complete wargames to avoid slowing down the pace of the campaign.   The aim was to game one campaign day each week.  To do so I had to rely on the players to send in their orders promptly when they received the weekly report.   By far the majority did so, but as always there were exceptions.

However it was the standard of battles which eventually caused me to revert to a solo campaign again.   Most players only took part in one or two campaign phases.  So there was a constant stream of new players entering the campaign.   Each had complete freedom to write daily orders as they wished, and each kept making the same basic mistakes.   Consequently most of the campaign battles were one corps per side.  The uniforms would change, but not the style of game.  

I longed for more complicated battles, and eventually decided the only way to achieve that was to revert to a solo campaign.  I have continued to play solo since February 2016.

The early phases each had their own blog.  But when I converted to PBEM there were five phases on the go at the same time.   All were posted on the same blog, and only changed when there was a major change in the campaign concept.   Consequently it has proved too difficult to calculate how many visits there have been to each, or indeed all, of the blogs dealing with the campaign.   But there have been 69 campaign phases, each an independent campaign.   And in total they have provided 252 battles to wargame.

But far more important the campaign has provided a framework for our wargaming for the past nine years. 

And the Campaign Diary Blog has provided a permanent record of each move and wargame throughout that same period.   Using the index I can easily find any of those 69 phases, and even any of those 252 wargame reports.

You will find a link to the 1813 Campaign Diary blog on the right

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Exploring Napoleonic Battlefields

Jan and I had spent many a happy summer holiday walking Napoleonic battlefields throughout Europe.   This had been partly inspired by reading Don Featherstone’s book “On Campaign with Wellington and Featherstone”.   This excellent book has a chapter on each of Wellington’s campaigns and battles, and a short summary of Featherstone’s visits to each of the battlefields.

Having started the two blogs about our current interests, I thought it would be a good idea to record our visits to the battlefields.   I had kept a photo album of each of the holidays, together with notes of the battlefields, so it would be relatively easy to create a blog of each holiday.

Waterloo 1971
This was our first visit to a Napoleonic battlefield.   We were serving in Germany at the time, and Waterloo was only four hours drive.   We had been wargaming (and married) or two years, and had just seen the iconic film Waterloo.   I had done months research and we had a great holiday.   This was a  good one to start with, because it was also the easiest battlefield to explore.

Spain and Portugal 1991
Twenty years later I read Don Featherstone’s book and was determined to follow in his footsteps to the Peninsula.  But I was not confident enough to do it on my own.  So we booked the holiday with Holts Tours.   An expensive way to do it, but well worth every penny.   We drove from Lisbon to Madrid by coach and visited many battlefields on the way.  

Spain and Portugal 1994
The Holts Tour gave me the confidence to plan a self-drive holiday.   This was before the days of easy internet access and booking online.   We had to book accommodation through a travel agent and were restricted to 4 star hotels and Parador’s.  Again expensive, but a great experience.   We flew to Lisbon, collected a hire car and drove north to Busacco, east to Salamanca and back to Oporto to fly home.   The holiday was “interesting”, as we spoke not a word of Spanish or Portuguese.  And we were far from southern Portugal favoured by the UK tourists.   But it did give us a lot of confidence to carry on with the project.

Northern Spain 1995
We took our own car to Santander to drive north to explore Burgos, Vitoria and the Pyrenees.   Again we had to use expensive Parador’s which seemed a waste, because we only slept in them.    The Pyrenees proved much more difficult than expected.  For me at least it proved impossible to work with historical and modern maps.   In particular we spent a very frustrating day trying to follow the progress of the battle of Roncevallies.

The Pyrenees 1996
Better prepared we returned to carry on our explorations of the Pyrenees.  This time we drove through France to the border village of Sare.   We had a great holiday and spent many happy hours walking through the Pyrenees.  But on the way back we had a traffic accident with a coach, which could have ended in disaster.  It happened on the last day as we drove to the ferry.  Within an hour of leaving our Gite we had written off the car, but fortunately we were both ok.  

Austerlitz 1998
We booked a coach tour with Midas Tours for this holiday.   A more budget holiday than Holts Tours, but a much more like minded set of fellow travellers.  Unfortunately we had terrible weather.   We had personal experience of how difficult it is to move through the sticky mud of Austerlitz.   We felt very guilty arriving at our hotel in Brunn each evening covered in mud and dripping all over the carpets

Germany 1999
We booked again with Midas Tours for this tour of eastern Germany.   Fantastic list of battlefields from Jena to Bautzen to Leipzig.  Unfortunately the lack of knowledge and preparation by the tour guide was very obvious, and reduced our enjoyment of the holiday.   We had to wait hours at Prague airport whilst he drove to Berlin to collect two tourists.   Then we were left to our own devices half way through the tour whilst he did a recce of Bautzen.   Despite this it was interesting to see the battlefields, but it would be the last time we relied on someone else to prepare a visit.   It guess it is true that you get what you pay for.

Italy 2000
This one was inspired by a book called Castiglione 1796 written by Bernhard Voykowitsch.   We met him at a book exhibition in London where he was selling them.   He told us that it was the first of a series he had planned to cover all of Bonaparte/Napoleon’s campaigns. He had funded the whole thing himself, and was hoping that he could make enough profit to continue with the series. I never heard of any further publications.   It’s a shame because though a relatively cheap paper back it had excellent illustrations and covered the campaign extremely well.  There was also a short chapter about visiting the battlefields.   We booked a caravan on the edge of Lake Garda and spent a fantastic two weeks exploring the area.

Aspern/Austerlitz 2002
When we were at Austerlitz in 1988 we visited The Posthouse, where Napoleon had his headquarters the night before the battle.  It is now a protected historical building, but has a very modern motel attached.   Because the weather had made the earlier visit such a problem, we were keen to return.  Again we would arrange the whole thing ourselves, and would start with Aspern/Essling.   We flew to Vienna, collected our hire car and drove to a hotel within sight of the church at Aspern.   We had arranged to hire cycles for this first part of the holiday and found them very suitable to explore the large, flat expanse of the Marchland.   A great holiday, and a fitting end to our project.

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields
I started “Walking Waterloo” in May 2009, and finished “Walking Italy” in February 2011.   Each Blog followed the standard layout of one blog for each holiday, and an index of each battlefield visited.   We covered 98 battlefields in those nine blogs, though some were visited and covered twice.

I wanted to make them to be as easy to find as possible, so I decided to do a final blog.   “Walking Napoleonic Battlefields” would be an index to the whole series of blogs.   There would be a short description of each blog, and a link to each one.   I completed this final blog in May 2011.   Two years after I started “Walking Waterloo”.

It is difficult to determine how many visits all of the blogs have had, because there is a counter for each one.  I had never totalled them all before, but I did so for this post.   The overall total visits is 210427.   By far the most visits have been to the summary which has had 77313.

I am really pleased to feel that this project has been read by so many, and I hope that it may have encouraged them to try it themselves.   For any wargamer there can be no greater thrill than walking the actual ground his model soldiers fight over.   And it is a huge learning experience to do so.

But even more than pleasure at the number of visitors is the knowledge that all of the blogs are still visited regularly.

If you would like to find out more you will find a link to “Walking Napoleonic Battlefields” on the right, under My Blog List.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Living in Spain

“Napoleonic Wargaming” was my first blog, but only just.  

In April 2009 I started a second blog called “Jan and Paul in Spain”.   The aim is in the name as they say.   This one was to keep family and friends in the UK informed of what we were doing in Spain.   We had moved there in March 2006, and the first blog entry was for 26 March 2006.   I had a lot of photos of our first three years in Spain, and was able to illustrate each entry in restrospect.

Once more the intention was to keep a permanent record of our experiences.   To do so I decided to start a new blog each year.    The index to each entry would again be by using the Labels.

Our second great love, after wargaming, is hill walking.   We choose this part of Spain because it is a very popular walking area.    It is also very popular with British, German and Dutch ex pats.   We choose a small village about 15 miles from the coast because we wanted to live in rural Spain.   But we choose the Costa Blanca because we wanted to have access to a British speaking community when we wanted it.   Living 15 miles inland from Denia, Javea and Calpe was perfect.

Within weeks of our arrival we had joined a popular walking group called Costa Blanca Mountain Walkers.   They had developed a wide range of walks all within 20 miles of Parcent.   They offered guided walks twice a week, and we were soon regulars walkers.  

Within a couple of months we had also joined a smaller group, who met weekly.  So we were soon walking twice a week.   It was a great way to explore the beautiful inland region of the Costa Blanca, and also to make lots of new friends.

Because so much of our time was spent walking, this soon became the main subject of posts on our new blog.   We also recorded exploring this part of Spain, including visits to Granada, Seville, Barcelona and Valencia.   But the bread and butter entries concerned the many new walks we were discovering.

We are now on our fourteenth annual blog.   It varies from year to year, but usually I post 50-60 times a year.   Most posts record our walks, and it is too hot to walk between June and October.   For the rest of the year I now post twice a week, because we are now leading two U3A walks each week.

I don’t normally keep a record of blog visits, because the stats are spread between 14 blogs.  But I counted them yesterday and they are quite impressive.   I have posted 755 entries and have had 97926 visits.

You will find the 2018 blog here

Despite these impressive stats, I have had hardly any comments on any of these blogs.   I get a lot of feedback by email, but less than 50 blog comments since I started.   We have friends who run a walking holiday business locally, and they confirm that quite a few of their clients have heard about the area from our blogs.   I was tempted to ask for commission, but didn’t want to lose friends!

These blogs have nothing to do with Napoleonic Wargaming, but I have mentioned them to explain that since 2009 I have been posting three blog entries most weeks, except for the summer months.

And as I shall explain next week, this has not been the full extent of my blogging.