Sunday, 26 September 2021

Spanish Cuidad Real Campaign


Cuidad Real campaign map

Given my recent work on orders of battle for the whole campaign, this next phase set in southern Spain has come at a very appropriate time.

Over the past week I have spent a lot of time trying to reconcile the strengths and weakness of the French and Spanish armies.   Having made the campaign maps and plotted the corps, depots and garrisons it is all starting to take shape.


The strengths of the two armies are closer than ever before.

French have 30 infantry brigades, 7 cavalry brigades and 6 artillery brigades

Spanish have 36 infantry brigades, 4 cavalry brigades and 6 artillery brigades

 

The French field army is six corps each having 4 infantry brigades, 1 cavalry brigade and 1 artillery brigade

There is also a reserve corps of 6 infantry and 1 cavalry brigades who provide garrisons for the French rear area

 

The Spanish field army also has six corps.

4 corps have 4 infantry brigades, 1 cavalry brigade and 1 artillery brigade

2 corps have 4 infantry brigades, no cavalry and 1 artillery brigade

There are also 12 milita brigades who provide the garrison of the 12 towns in the campaign.

 

The map covers half of two military districts

Cuidad Real is on the left, and Albacete on the right

The centre of the map is the district border

 

Albacete is the French rear area.

Garrisons are provided by the reserve corps

However when they occupy a town in Cuidad Real district the field army must provide the garrison

There are six towns in Albacete district, all are occupied by the French

Their Spanish garrisons are now six guerrilla bands

As soon as the French field army marches into Cuidad Real district they will attack garrisons

 

The two field armies are fairly even.

The French have 24 infantry brigades, six cavalry brigades and six artillery brigades

The Spanish have 24 infantry brigades, four cavalry brigades and six artillery brigades

 

The French infantry are slightly better quality than the Spanish

The French cavalry are stronger and much better quality than the Spanish

The French artillery are slightly better quality than the Spanish

 

Both sides have large numbers of C quality brigades in all three arms

 

One big difference is the maximum number of supplies each side can hold

The French can carry a maximum of four days supplies (if available)

The Spanish are restricted to a maximum of three days

It does not seem a big difference but it actually is

It means the French can operate away from their base for longer than the Spanish

 

On the other hand the French have long lines of supply

The further they advance the more of a problem they become

The more the Spanish retreat the easier their supply problems become.

 

The other problem, for both sides, is keeping within supply range of their depots

 

The French are allowed a maximum of 30 days supply

This is four for each corps, plus one day reserve for each corps

 

The Spanish are allowed a maximum of 24 days supply

This is three for each corps, plus one day reserve for each corps

 

Each day each depot forage and collect one days supply.   The balance is delivered to the army main supply base each day.

 

To resupply a corps must be within three map squares of a base.   But with two corps in each of the three armies, this is difficult to achieve.  If the army is concentrated they are usually only within that distance of one depot.  So supplies have to be constantly ferried between rear and forward bases.   This makes them very vulnerable to attack by the Spanish guerrilla groups.

 

Supply movement and guerrilla activity is not wargamed.  It would be too boring.   Contacts are decided by the roll of a dice.

 

Each guerrilla group is allowed a maximum of three days supplies.   They get this from any town, village or farm marked on the map.   But to attack they have to move to a French held garrison or convoy.   The movement takes two days, so they can only attack one day in three.   If they run out of supplies and cannot reach a friendly village or town they lose 10% casualties for each day they are out of supply.   This would immediately reduce their combat effectiveness and it would take one day to replace each 10% loss.

All of this sounds much more complicated than it actually is.  I plot all movement on the map shown above each day.   I have three rosters.  One is supply and movement for both armies.   One is French casualties and morale.   One is Spanish casualties and morale.   So I can easily check the current strength and morale of each of the 42 French and 46 Spanish brigades in the campaign

This system has been developed over the past 12 years that the campaign has been running.  It is quite easy to set up, and very easy to amend.   And even more simple to operate.  The roll of 1D6 decides all guerrilla combat.   Everything else is decided by a 12 move wargame.

I am very pleased with the reorganisation of the orders of battle.  And I am now quietly confident that the much different tactical problems in Spain are also ready to test run.

It should make for a really interesting campaign phase.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Balanced Wargame Armies


My 1813 campaign is designed to produce interesting battles to wargame.

My wife Jan and I wargame all of the battles, and have done so for many years.   I have written wargame rules which allow the type of fun games which we both enjoy.   They are not an attempt to recreate historical battles, and above all else each game must be enjoyable.   We both have a comprehensive knowledge of the rules, and what works and what does not.   We can also anticipate how the other will react in given circumstances.  So the only way to keep games fresh and challenging is to rely on the dice to achieve the unexpected.

In the past I have always used a form of “national characteristics”.   For example French infantry are good at skirmishing, British infantry are good at firing.   Whilst this works in general, it does create problems when using elite formations.  For example the Imperial Garde are good at everything, making it very difficult to field any other corps against them.

I have recently reorganised my armies from four to six corps each.  This has increased the number of brigades in each army group, and has prompted me to rethink combat and morale.

In my rules infantry have three different abilities.   They are class, fire ability and skirmish ability.  Each are graded A, B and C.   A get plus one and C minus one.  

I now have 24 infantry brigades in each army group.   There are three A class, 15 B class and 3 C class.   This ratio applies to all nations, except the Spanish.   So the French imperial garde could have three A class infantry brigades, but the other five corps would not have any.

Even I could not accept that the Spanish infantry should have such high performance.   They have 33 infantry brigades.   There are 18 B class and 15 C class brigades.   In addition they have 12 militia brigades, all are C class.   All skirmishers are C class.   So there are lots of infantry brigades, but they do not fight very well.   The end result should be that they do not do well in formal battles, but make up for it with their militia/guerrilla brigades disrupting the French lines of supply.

All of this works well in theory, but has yet to prove itself in practice.   The big problem will be the luck of the dice.   The Spanish can afford to be unlucky, they have to numbers to compensate.   But the results will be dramatic if the French have a run of bad dice.

 I may well have to adjust the number of regular Spanish infantry.  But to do so will mean that they stand no chance at all in formal battles.   And, of course, wargames are always formal battles.  

I may have to accept better class Spanish infantry, but then I would have to reduce their militia/guerrilla brigades.  And that is what gives our Spanish campaign such interesting problems for the French player.

It will be interesting to see how things work out.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Review of Lubeck Campaign Phase

Campaign Phases

 

This is our current campaign map of Europe.  

Each square is a military district, the area of a campaign phase

Each red square is a military region.

Each star shows the location of a campaign phase

The colour of the star indicates who won.

There are 79 stars

This map records the history of the campaign since it started in April 2009

Battles fought during Lubeck campaign phase

Lubeck was the 36th campaign phase in the sixth revision of the campaign.

This was the last time the campaign was redesigned in June 2020.

It was also the 15th phase fought in northern Germany since 2009

It was the sixth time that Napoleon defeated Blucher

However it is a reminder that Blucher beat Napoleon seven times

So it has not all be entirely one sided.

 

Napoleon won five of the six battles fought in this current phase

This would appear to indicate that the campaign was very one sided

However many of those wargames were very close, and either side could have won

It is also significant that the only battle the Prussians won was against the Imperial Garde.

 

There have been 403 battles fought since 2009.

At one time I did keep track of how many were won by each side in each campaign area

That has long since become too complicated, and I now just record who won each campaign.

But I do recall that when I did keep those results both sides were more or less equal

And the fact that the Prussians won more campaign phases indicates that they also won more battles

 

At the end of each campaign phase I update the campaign records

And this helps me to review the progress of the whole campaign

This process has resulted in many changes to the campaign over the years

Initial deployment for Lubeck campaign phase

This map shows the campaign area

Each square is a 2x2 foot scenic square on the wargames table

Nine of them (3x3) are a wargames table, and one days march in the campaign

You will note that the map is four tables wide and three tables deep

 

The map shows the initial deployment of each corps and depot

You will see that each side has three armies each of two corps

Each army is deployed in an area covered by a wargames table

 

This map and deployment results in three separate army engagements

Top, centre and bottom.   Each with two corps per side

 

This major change in the organisation of the campaign armies has worked well

It allows for one battle to be fought each campaign day

For example 2nd French and 1st Prussian armies (top of map)

They fight on day one, regroup on day two and resupply on day three

On day two the centre army fights and on day three the bottom one.

On day four 2nd French and 1st Prussian armies can fight again.


The main question raised by this campaign phase is relative strengths of corps

The uneven result of five French wins to one Prussian one has raised this question

On the surface it would appear that the French are too strong

However earlier comparison of total battles throughout the campaign do not support this


It is all too easy to jump to conclusions and upset the balance

However it has given me something to work on for future campaigns


Sunday, 5 September 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 7


19 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 7

 

Blucher orders the Prussian army to concentrate at Wismar, Schwerin and Ludwigslust.   This will take them east of both the

Wismar/Lubeck border and also the river Elbe.

Napoleon orders First French army to retreat closer to the border, but to hold the border towns of Boltenhagen, Gadebusch and Fletchingen.

The French are low on supplies, and their lines of supply are over extended from Lubeck.   To ease his supply problems he must move his army west until he can reorganise his supply system.

The French have won a significant victory in the Lubeck campaign, but they are not yet ready to move into Wismar district.

Comments

This is the second campaign phase in northern Germany, and once again the French have won.

From a technical point of view this campaign area is very challenging.   This is because one of the six French corps is the Imperial Garde.   I have mentioned before how difficult it is to make the guard special, but not too powerful.   It is also difficult to confirm whether I have the balance right or not.

Because our wargame rules rely so heavily on the luck of the dice, it is easy to mistake a run of bad (or good) dice for a weakness in the rules.  

I always insist that we accept the outcome of each wargame however lucky, or unlucky, one side has been.   It is very tempting to say just ignore that dice throw or it will ruin the game.   But the whole essence of the campaign is that each battle is decided on the wargames table.   And the whole purpose of dice driven rules is to allow for those unusual outcomes.   The guard cavalry may be beaten by a line hussar brigade because the French player rolled a total of 2 with 2D6 for the melee, and then rolled a total of 1 with 1D6 for the subsequent morale test. 

But without these highly unlikely outcomes you might just as well do away with the dice and rely on plus and minus points for combat and morale.  And of course the player with the Imperial Garde is bound to defeat the player with a standard Prussian corps.

So it is important to accept the luck of the dice, however unlikely it may be at the time.

Despite the above I always spend a lot of time pondering the relative strengths and weakness when such a thing happens.  And never more so than when the Imperial Garde is in play.    And this campaign phase has been no different.   It has prompted me to review the whole balance of plus and minus throughout all ten armies in the campaign.   More of this later.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 6


18 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 6

Having secured the north and centre, Napoleon has effectively won the campaign.

The Prussians are strong south of the river Elbe, but must retreat or run the risk of being trapped there

All Napoleon has to do is wait for Blucher to order 3rd Prussian army to retreat.

However Napoleon is determined that his guard should have a victory to offset their earlier defeat.     

Battle of Fletchingen end of move 8

Fletchingen provides the victory that Napoleon desires.  

First French army has two corps, 1st and 3rd.   1st corps is the Imperial Guard. 

3rd corps is given the task of pinning the Prussian right flank.   1st corps and the French reserve are to crush the enemy left flank and then swing towards the centre and take the town.

The result is everything that Napoleon could have wished.   All of the fighting was done by the guard, and for the loss of just 100 casualties they broke 5th Prussian corps.  

At nightfall the town was still held by Blucher.   But with both of his corps in rout he could only order a general retreat and abandon Fletchingen. 

Comments

The outcome of this final battle of the Lubeck campaign was exactly what Napoleon wanted.  But it was pure luck.

The game only lasted eight moves.   At the end of move six it was completely open, and either side could have won.

The French needed their artillery to weaken the enemy infantry before launching their own attack.  The gunners of both corps let them down badly.   The first artillery fire of the campaign was directed at the French guard artillery.   The Prussian gunners required 10 with 2D6.   They rolled two sixes!.   The French gunners failed their morale and were shaken.   Fortunately they passed the second test.  But they lost two game moves.   In the next two moves they failed to cause any casualties, even though they were within short range of the enemy.

The Imperial Guard were outnumbered by Prussian infantry.  Most brigades on both sides already had battle casualties.   The guard cavalry moved forward to protect the infantry.  As luck would have it they moved first, and the Prussian cavalry were able to charge them.   This gave the Prussians a slight advantage, but this was balanced by having more casualties.   A Prussian victory would have been the end of the French attack, and would have resulted in a French defeat.   But the French won.

The rout of the Prussian cavalry quickly spread to their supporting infantry and then throughout the whole army.

Napoleon had achieved his much desired victory.   The Imperial Guard had restored their honour.   But it could so easily have been a completely different result.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 5


17 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 5

 Having lost three of the four battles, Blucher is desperate to regain the initiative

 

He orders 1st Prussian army to attack Boltenhagen

A victory here would secure the borders and take the campaign into Lubeck district

 

2nd Prussian army has been forced to retreat to Schwerin.

They are short of supplies, and must stand and fight if 3rd French army pursue

 

South of the river Elbe things are looking better for the Prussians

They have occupied Fletchingen and forced the French to retreat to Wolfsburg

Battle of Boltenhagen end of move 10

The battle opens with 2nd French army deployed in front of the town of Boltenhagen.

Augereau has combined three infantry brigades as a reserve and deployed them in front of the town.

Bulow has also created a reserve which he also posts in the centre.  His consists of two elite grenadier brigades and 2nd corps artillery.  As they advance the French reserve quickly withdraw into the safety of the town.

The Prussians are particularly unlucky in this game, or perhaps the French are exceptionally lucky.   At one critical stage the French cavalry roll 11 with 2D6, in response the Prussians roll 1 with 1D6!  With luck like that it is not too surprising that the Prussians suffer a crushing defeat.

Both sides suffer heavy casualties.   The French lose 3800 men, but the Prussians lose 6000.   Both Prussian corps are shattered and rout.  It will take the French about four days to rally, resupply and regroup.   However it will take the Prussians at least a week.  

Comments

The later battles in a campaign phase are always the more interesting and challenging.   By then both armies have suffered considerable battle casualties, and at least one is experiencing supply problems.    It is not surprising that the loser usually has more casualties.  But this is often countered by the winner have more serious supply problems.   Having won earlier battles the winner pursues the retreating loser.  This takes him further from his main supply base, and his supply route is longer.   The loser usually retreats closer to his main supply base, making it easier to resupply.

But the most challenging aspect is casualties.   Before the battle both sides will usually have consolidated their infantry casualties into one brigade per corps.  But cavalry and artillery casualties must be replaced, and this takes time.   For each day that a corps is not moving or fighting they will receive 10% of one brigade in reinforcements.   So the losing side will usually start the battle with more casualties than the winning side.  But they are usually well supplied and in defence.

All of this applied in this battle.   But the final element, which is luck, won the day.    When both sides are weakened by casualties they are very vulnerable to morale tests.   One bad dice can rout a brigade, and then every friendly brigade within 4” has to test their morale.  It is not unusual for the rout to spread very quickly.  

This is what happened in this game.   At one point the Prussians had the upper hand.  They had broken the corps to their front, and were redeploying to support the centre.  Their had to move their artillery to engage the new enemy, and once they had done so could expect to break them quickly.   But they only had one landwehr brigade to support the guns.   We use alternative move sequence, decided by picking a poker chip from a hat.   At critical points in a game the one who moves first has a huge advantage.   In this instance the French moved first.   Their regular infantry brigade charged and broke the landwehr brigade, who routed through the limbered artillery.   The gunners had no further support and were disordered by the fleeing infantry.  They needed at least 5 with 1D6.   They rolled 2 and joined the rout.  

The game would go on for another three moves, but that was the point at which the Prussians lost.  

An interesting game, particularly for me as the Prussian player! 

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 4

 

16 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 4

1st Prussian and 2nd French armies both regroup and resupply

In the centre 3rd French army attack 2nd Prussian army at Gadebusch

1st French army retreat to Wolfsburg, followed by 3rd Prussian army

Battle of Gadebusch end of move 12

Both armies start the battle with considerable casualties, particularly in the cavalry.  

The campaign is going bad for the Prussians, and Blucher must hold Gadebusch until he received confirmation of what happened at Fletchingen.

The casualties made individual brigades very brittle and prone to lose morale tests.    However because they applied to both sides, they largely cancelled each other out.

This may explain why the wargame went the full twelve rounds

And until move 11 it could easily have gone to either side

But as soon as the tide turned against the Prussians it soon became a rout

Comments

Making each army group larger and having three armies per side in the campaign is really working well.

When there were four corps per side in each campaign area games tended to be smaller, usually one corps per side.   The aim was to develop the campaign into slightly larger games and finally one big one with all four corps per side.  But that was difficult to achieve, and I only managed it once or twice.

 Having three armies per side, each with its own campaign area, is more artificial.   It means that all movement tends to be left to right.   But it does clarify lines of communication and supply.   It also makes it easier to have a battle every campaign day.   An army fights on day one, loser retreats day two, both sides resupply and regroup on day three then fight again on day four.

 It has also solved one of the most annoying aspects (for us) of having all wargames created by a single campaign.   At the end of the wargame I then have to complete the administration for that day.  This includes typing up battle reports, completing the campaign diary and adjusting orders of battle to show new casualties.  All of this takes at least one full day, often two.

I  have to start the administration for the next day.  This includes updating the supply situation of both corps and depots then writing orders for each corps.   These orders are then plotted on the campaign map.  If a battle results I have to create the initial battle report and battle maps.   Casualty lists have to be amended to show current strengths and the wargames table has to be set up and the figures deployed from the map.   This requires at least one more day. 

So there were often many days, or even a week, before the end of one game and the start of the next.

With the new system I know in advance which of the three areas will be the location of the next battle/wargame.   Before the current game has ended I can prepare the administration of the next day for that particular area.   I can also update the order of battle for the two armies and even prepare the battle/wargame map for the next game.

This was all part of the general plan when I increased the orders of battle from four to six corps in each phase.  But it has worked much better in practice than I had dared hope.