Friday, 31 December 2010

Christmas and Presents


We are spending Christmas in the frozen, snow covered, winter wonderland that the area between Newcastle and Scotland has been for the past month. It came as quite a shock after our mild winter (so far anyway) on the Costa Blanca.

It’s always a pleasure to visit my son and his family, and Christmas would not be Christmas without the grandchildren. But it does mean adjusting to ten days without the toy soldiers and the opportunity to pass an hour or two on the wargames table.

Our PBEM campaign has hit a quiet patch. Partly due to the festive season and partly due to catching up after two campaign battles. I brought the lap top on holiday in the hope that I would be able to spend a day or two sorting out the campaign. But some players have been slow in forwarding their orders. Possibly due to being away from their own computers, possibly due to being involved with their own festivities. Most have replied to the campaign update, just waiting for two more to send in their orders.

Meanwhile I have had lots of time to study my Christmas present. I am sure that I will not be alone in being very grateful to Santa for a copy of Colonel Nick Lipscombe’s excellent “The Peninsular War Atlas”. My son is always at a loss to get me a suitable Christmas present, so we were both pleased when I read a very good review of this new book.

For the relatively cheap price I was not expecting too much. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the present under the Christmas tree was large and heavy. And even more pleasantly surprised when my grandson helped me to open it on Christmas morning and I had my first opportunity to flick through the pages.

First impression was beautiful maps. Not just one map of each battle either. In some cases, Talavera for example, there are five maps devoted to one battle. There is a large scale background map of before and after the battle. Then two maps showing the actual battle, one showing the early stages and a second the main engagement. Finally a three-dimensional map showing hills and valleys.

Then there is the fact that all battles of the Peninsular War are shown, Spanish as well as those in which Wellington fought. This is a most unusual, and very welcome, addition to my reference library.

I do wish that I had this wonderful book when I visited the Spanish and Portuguese battlefields about ten years ago. At that time I did not attempt to explore any of the Spanish battles, because I could not find any suitable maps to help me walk the ground. But with this addition I am really tempted to explore them now.

I have not yet had time to read much of the book. It is not really bedtime reading material. The book is heavy to hold, the writing quite small and the detail quite dry. But I have read the introduction and found the style to be easy to read and understand, despite frequent interruptions from the grandchildren!

If you have not already got your copy, and are wondering whether it is worth buying another book on the Peninsular War, don’t delay – buy it today. You will not be disappointed.

Just a few more days of snow and ice, then it will be back to sunny Spain. Goodbye to walking the grandchildren down to the frozen local park to feed the ducks, back to walking and wargaming. Of course we will miss the family, but it will be good to be back in our much-loved routine.

Wishing you and yours all the very best for 2011

Paul and Jan

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Crunch time for PBEM campaign


The PBEM campaign is now reaching what I expect to be the critical phase. You will remember that I am running a test PBEM campaign to see whether I can convert my solo 1813 campaign to a PBEM one. There are 10 players, and the campaign has been running for about three months. About a month ago it produced the first two battles. Jan and I have wargamed them, and I have posted a move by move record of them on the PBEM blog to keep the players involved.

I keep the players informed of developments by sending them a (campaign) daily report as their chief of staff. This is written as at 2100 hours each campaign day. It confirms the location of their corps and any intelligence received. A report is sent to each corps commander, with a copy to each commander in chief.

Each commander in chief then sends each of his corps commanders their orders for the next day, including an update on the general situation. Each corps commander then writes detailed orders for their corps.

When all ten reports are received I then plot what has happened and fight any battles which have resulted. I then write up reports and the sequence starts again.

The first three
days went smoothly, as I had expected that they would. But on the fourth day there were two battles. One was a simple encounter battle, and involved little work other than to convert it from the campaign map to the tabletop.

The second involved five corps. First I had to read each corps commander orders to confirm what he wanted to do. I then had to plot each corps movements on the wargames map to see where two corps clashed, at what time the battle would start, and when reinforcements would arrive. The wargames map has three squares for each day, representing three squares on the wargames table. A campaign day lasts 12 hours and each move on the wargames table represents one hour. So it is easy to calculate who arrives on the table and when.

It was more difficult to decide how corps would react to nearby fighting. There was one particularly difficult decision to make. It was very similar to Grouchy at Waterloo. One French corps had orders to hold a small town. Two Prussian corps has orders to attack the town. So far so good. But a second French corps had orders to attack a nearby town, which had been occupied by one of the Prussian corps attacking the other French corps. You can see it is starting to get complicated.

Eventually I followed the "Grouchy principle". The corps commander could hear the sound of fighting at town A (which was out of sight behind a range of hills). He had clear orders to march to town B. He followed his orders.

I very much want to keep the players involved in the decision making, and make them aware of why things went right or wrong. In previous campaigns when I had taken part as a player this is the stage where things went wrong, indeed in both cases the campaign just stopped - no reason, no explanation. I am determined that this will not happen this time, at least not from my end.

But it is a lot of work to read 10 sets of orders, some of which have not anticipated that there might be a battle, and to try to make a comprehensive and acceptable outcome.

The ten players have had a break of about three weeks since they last wrote any orders. Some will have followed events on the campaign blog, but no doubt others may not. So it is quite possible that the campaign in which I am investing large amounts of time and energy may be a distant memory to some of them.

I have just sent out the chief of staff reports for the night of the two battles. I had pondered whether it might be better to leave it until after the distractions of Christmas and the New Year. I finally decided that it would be best to maintain the impetus. To those who have been following the campaign blog they have had something to read each day, and they will be up to date. If I were one of them I would be anxious to get the chief of staff update and write my orders for the next day.

So I am anxious to see what response I receive to the reports. I am also aware that some of the players may not have access to computers or email over the holiday period. So it may be a long wait to see whether the campaign survives this critical phase.

Jan and I are spending Christmas with our son and his family in the lovely northumbrian village of Rothbury. Over the past few weeks we have been hearing reports of heavy snow and much travel disruption, particularly in that area. And this weekend the artic weather has spread to southern England with cancelled flights and thousands of stranded passengers in Heathrow. Perhaps not the best time to be taking a flight to UK!

As there will not be another blog entry before Christmas I would like to wish each of you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas and a very Prosperous New Year from Jan and I.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

PBEM or Solo Campaign


I have just finished the Valladolid Campaign, which is the last of the five mini campaigns in my solo 1813 campaign.

The campaign was designed to allow me to fight multi corps battles on my 6'x6' wargames table using the figures and scenery in my collection. There are five mini campaigns and each one features one of my allied armies and a selection of my French and allied armies. Three are in Germany and two in Spain. The different locations allow me to use the different buildings in my collection.

The campaign started in April 2009, so it has taken me 20 months to complete the first complete phase. It has been a great success because it has allowed me to channel all of my energies from mainly collecting and painting model soldiers to pure wargaming.

For more than 40 years I collected and painted model soldiers. Most days would find me painting for at least two or three hours. I built up a large Napoleonic collection of 25/28mm, 15/18mm and 6mm, which were replaced time and again.

Airfix has been replaced by 20mmHinton Hunt. They had been replaced by 25mm Minifigs. They had been replaced by 28mm Connoisseur. They were replaced by mostly Front Rank. 15mm Minifigs were replaced by 18mm AB. The original 6mm Heroics and Ros were never replaced, nor indeed were they used on the table much.

For more than 20 years I have wargamed on a 12'x12' wargames table. In 2000 Jan and I decided we would retire to Spain, and that we would restrict our wargaming to just the two of us. Wargaming would play a large part of our retirement, but it would be on a 6'x6' table, which is large enough for two players. So I would not need such large armies.

At that time my larger figures were a mix of early 28mm figures. My 15mm were all Minifigs. I decided that I would sell off all my collection and replace them with Front Rank 28mm and AB 15mm. I designed a new army of French, Austrian, British, Prussian, Russian and Spanish in both 28mm and 18mm. The sale of my old figures would pay for their replacement with half as many new figures.

This project took about four years to complete. I now had a large army of both scales which had been bought to plan. I knew that I would never want to face such a big painting job again, and I decided that I would convert my interest from painting and collecting with occasional wargames, to campaigns and wargames.

I spent many months planning the 1813 campaign, so that I would be able to use all of the figures and scenery in rotation. I had designed each national army to fit on the wargames table, so I knew the maximum number of figures I would have in each battle.

I now designed a set of rules which would allow me to fight multi corps battles with that number of figures. I designed an order of battle for each nation, and planned the five mini campaigns within the 1813 campaign.

I am really quite surprised that the whole thing worked. Not only did I not miss the painting, but I found the campaign wargames much more enjoyable than our earlier games.
Then I discovered Blogging. I had never done so before, but it seemed a good way to provide a permanent record of the campaign. I am amazed how much it has become a part of my hobby. It makes me stick to a routine, and adds an extra dimension to the campaign and wargames.

During the past year I have dabbled with Play By EMail campaigns, both an an organiser and a player. I have mixed feelings about them. First I tried to open the 1813 campaign to PBEM, but it was not designed for that purpose, and was not suitable.

Twice I participated as a player. Both were abandoned by the GM/Umpire without explanation or apparent reason. A few months ago I decided to see if I could redesign my 1813 to be suitable for PBEM.

This involved writing new campaign rules. I have tried to keep these simple, like my wargame rules. It is early days, but it seems to be going well so far. Certainly I am enjoying it so far.

So far I have run both the solo and PBEM campaigns. The first to provide Jan and I with wargames, the second to see whether I would enjoy the extra work required for PBEM.

Now that my solo campaign has completed its first cycle I have decided to put it on hold until I decide whether to continue on the solo track or convert to PBEM.

The 1813 campaign will continue. It works too well to abandon. The only question to answer is whether it will be solo or PBEM.

The blog for the PBEM campaign is

http://pbemhannovercampaign.blogspot.com/



Thursday, 9 December 2010

PBEM Test Campaign Update

The battle of Colbitz

I am very pleased with the way the test PBEM campaign is going.

Jan and I have just finished the first battle/wargame and the campaign system and battle report seems to have been well received by all ten players. I have asked for comments on the battle report, and all have been favourable.

We have now started the second battle/wargame. Unfortunately it takes place on the same campaign day as the first battle. So we will have to complete both before we can see how well the results transfer back to the campaign.

This will be the real test of my new rules. I have designed them to be simple and fast moving for the players, and so far no one seems to have experienced too much trouble. But they are proving much more work for me that I expected. The whole campaign administration is done by hand. With so many players there are a lot of emails with orders, comments and questions. I do use the computer to keep copies of the orders, and it was not too bad setting up the first battle/wargame.

But this second one involves five corps, and it took a lot of effort to coordinate all the different orders, corps status and order of march. Each had to be compared on the map to see who should take part in the battle and who not.

The players are only now finding the outcome of my labours, and it will be interesting to see whether they are happy with my decisions or not.

My main concern is the long gap for the players whilst the battle/wargame is fought. It is for this reason that I publish one move each day on the blog. This allows Jan and I enough time to fight the wargame, and for me to transfer the battle casualties back into the campaign. So the players have something to follow, and they can better understand the battles. But it is still a long time between map moves. I just hope that they can maintain their interest.

It looks like the second battle will take us up to Christmas, and there will then be a short gap as everyone will be too busy to think about a wargame campaign over the festive season. so "crunch time" will probably be delayed until the new year.

If you would like to follow the second wargame you will find it at

http://pbemhannovercampaign.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Napoleon in Italy


I have just finished the blog on Napoleon in Germany, and it was a real labour of love.

I must admit to a little surprise that there is not more interest in this series of blogs about our visits to Napoleonic battlefields in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Austria. I have a counter on the more recent of the seven blogs, and most weeks they get ten to twenty hits.

There is also a sort of master blog, called "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields". This is a sort of reference to the other blogs. Each week I do a short description of the current battlefield. Now this blog is very popular, and has had more than 9000 hits. But its strange that most do not follow the link to the full blog.

This is not a complaint, or a moan, just commenting on something which seems strange to me.

Its always nice to see how many hits there are on a blog, its encouraging to know that so many like minded people are interested enough to bother to read my ramblings. But that is not the reason I do them. The blogs have become a sort of way of life, and I would be lost without the incentive of publishing at least one entry on each blog each week.

But there is an additional incentive in the battlefield blogs. They involve reading through my old diaries and photograph albumns, and that it great fun. I really didn't realise when I started this series of blogs just how many battlefields we had actually visited, and writing up a blog on each visit brought back many happy memories.

The next blog is about our two week holiday walking the Napoleonic battlefields around Lake Garda. We stayed in a caravan on the edge of the lake, with beautiful views of the lake and distant mountains. We had magnificient weather and spent many happy hours walking Rivoli, Castiglione and Arcola. We also managed to visit Verona, Mantua and spent a day on Lake Garda. One of our most successful and enjoyable holidays.

The first blog deals with the planning and preparation

http://napoleoninitaly.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields


Just completed the blog on our visit to Lepizig, which is the last battlefield we visited during our Midas Battlefield Tour entitled "Napoleon in Germany". It was the last commercial battlefield tour we went on, largely because we were so disappointed with this tour.

In August 1999 we spent a week visiting Jena, Auerstadt, Dresden, Bautzen, Lutzen and finally Leipzig. It was the second tour we did with Midas, and we had high expectations. Although it was a guided tour I did lots of preparation in the six months before the tour started. I read all of the books I could find, I photocopied maps and even pages of books. I did just as much preparation as I would have done had we been going on our own.

We had already done a walking holiday of Austerlitz with Midas. It poured with rain, and the ground was very muddy, but the whole weekend was a great success. Our guide was very knowledgeable and obviously knew the ground well.

This holiday started badly. We were scheduled to fly to Leipzig, but at the last moment it was changed to Prague. When we arrived we had to wait a couple of hours for our coach, which had gone to Berlin to collect a couple of the group. We then had a very long drive from Prague to Gera, where we arrived very late and very tired.

The first battlefield was Jena, which was very well done. Despite an overcast day with light rain we spent sufficient time on the ground and got a good feel.

Auerstadt was, I felt, a little rushed. But we did explore Hasselhausen and did justice to the French position. Less justice was done to the Prussian side.

We were given a lot of "free time" in Dresden, which I always feel is a "cop out". You don't go on a battlefield walking tour to waste time walking around a city. There was a rumour that our guide had gone off to recce Bautzen.

Bautzen was good, though it is a large battlefield and I felt we could have spent more time on it.

Lutzen was excellent. We walked the whole area and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent there.

But Leipzig, the jewel in the crown, was a complete disappointment. We had a whole day for this very large battlefield, but only spent a morning touring it. There were two locations, which could have been anywhere. Then a long visit to the monument, which was good value. We then went for a long lunch and were told that we had another "free afternoon".

I have not read any accounts of visits to Lepizig battlefield, so I don't know how much more there is to see. But I am sure that there must be more than the very short time we spent walking the ground. There was a feeling amongst some of the group that not sufficient time had been spent by the organisers in recce prior to the tour, and that we were paying the price for this lack of preparation - particularly at Leipzig.

Whatever the reason, this would be our last commercial battlefield tour. Our future visits would be on our own, and would prove much more satisfying and enjoyable.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Another defeat for Wellington in Spain

French held city of Valladolid

The new PBEM campaign has taken up most of my time and attention over the past few weeks. But behind the scenes my long running solo 1813 Campaign has continued in north west Spain.

Wellington has begun his advance to drive the French out of Spain. His first objective is the city of Valladolid. The first battle of the campaign resulted in the defeat of the light division! the second was another failure. At least it proves that the British do not always win with my wargame rules!!

His campaign strategy is to take Valladolid before the French can concentrate their armies against him. The first battle was an attempt to isolate the city. Having failed he has now made a frontal attack.

The failure to take Valladolid is a serious set back to Wellington.

The casualties on both sides have been light so far in the campaign, and Wellington has managed to cross the river Douro. But he has been unable to force the French to withdraw to the east and allow him to consolidate his hold on the river crossing. He will have to bring his army over the river Douro further west than he wanted.

Soult must now decide whether he is strong enough to go on to the offensive and drive Wellington back across the river, or whether to retreat to Plaencia and concentrate his army there.

It is proving an interesting campaign and anything but a walkover for Wellington.

You can read the battle report here

http://1813valladolidcampaign.blogspot.com/

Friday, 19 November 2010

Busy Blog Week


Being retired I have never found it difficult to keep the blog up to date, particularly as wargaming has played a much larger part in our life since we retired and moved to Spain four years ago.

Last week we were to Morocco on a week's holiday with a group of friends we walk with regularly. We hired a coach and visited Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Marakesh and Fez. The company who supplied the coach run regular tours of Spain and Morocco, and organised the whole thing. So all we had to do was enjoy ourselves.

I thought that I would miss the computer and the blogs, but to be honest I didn't. There was so much to see and do that I only gave an occasional thought to the PBEM campaign.

But returning home last Saturday I realised that all of the blogs were out of date, and I would have to catch up on them. I say "all" because there are five which I post on at least once a week.

First, and foremost, is of course this one. This is a summary of anything that is happening and tends to cover the thing I am currently most occupied with.

Bautzen battlefield 19 August 1999

Second is "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields". I have been doing this one for over a year. It is a record of all the battlefields Jan and I have visited, and I am quite surprised to realise how many that is. The series has already covered five holidays so far, three in Portugal and Spain, one in the Pyrenees and one at Austerlitz. The current one is a visit to what used to be East Germany and includes Jena and the 1813 Campaign. The latest blog is about our visit to Bautzen.

http://napoleoningermany.blogspot.com/


Jan and I outside the Casablanca Mosque

Third is "Jan and Paul in Spain 2010". This series was started to keep friends and family in UK up to date and what we were doing since we moved to Spain. It is now read by many of the two local walking groups we walk with each week. This is the one which has kept me most busy this week, as I try to catch up with our holiday in Morocco. This blog is also a record of our weekly Monday Club walks, and informs all of the group of the next walk. I normally publish it by Tuesday, but I want to finish the Morocco series first. I am hoping to publish last Monday's walk by Sunday!

http://newjanandpaulinspain2010.blogspot.com/


Table at start of Battle of Valladolid

Fourth is 1813 Valladolid Campaign. This is the latest in my ongoing 1813 campaign. Fortunately we have a battle report in hand, so I did not have to do any work on it, just publish the latest instalment of the Battle of Valladolid.

http://1813valladolidcampaign.blogspot.com/

PBEM Campaign latest situation

And fifth is the new PBEM 1813 Hanover Campaign. This is a test campaign to play test the new campaign rules to transfer my 1813 campaign from solo to PBEM. The rules are working well, but there is a big job keeping track of the ten players and ensuring that their orders are in the correct format and agree with the rules. This is only to be expected with a new campaign, new rules and new players. But it does involve a lot of work. I have just finished the third campaign day, and posted the campaign diary for the second day

http://pbemhannovercampaign.blogspot.com/

When I was working I remember that older friends who had already retired used to say things like "I don't know how ever got everything done when I was working". If I was not sure what they meant then, I certainly know now!

But it is, as they say, a labour of love. Its a great way to share the hobby, and it never ceases to surprise me how many people read the blogs. I was particularly surprised to find that more than half the hits on Jan and Paul in Spain are from the USA. I assume that they follow a link from this blog, or perhaps one of the campaign blogs. Its strange to think that all of those people I have never met or even exchanged mail with would be interested enough to do so.

Anyway all of the blogs are now up to date. I can take a well deserved break as Jan and I sit on the naya with a cup of coffee (its too early for anything stronger) and a good book.

Thank you all who bother to read the blog. Without your (mostly silent) support I doubt that it would still be going after almost two years.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign


Jan and I have just returned from a weeks holiday touring Morocco.

Before we left I sent out an intelligence update to all ten players taking part in the PBEM campaign. I asked the two CinC to send their orders direct to each corps commander, with a copy to me. I also asked the corps commanders to write their orders and send to me.

We returned last night, and I fully expected to find ten sets of orders waiting for me in my email. There were lots of email, but only three connected with the campaign! All were French, and all were wrong in one way or another. There was no sign of the Prussian CinC orders, so the Prussian corps commanders could not have done anything anyway.

A couple of email last night put the system back in order, and this morning the orders were filling my inmail.

But once again they are incorrect. Despite a reminder on the campaign forum to use the wargames map, all had failed to do so.

Those who have been following the campaign will know that there are two maps, one a tactical map showing the towns, rivers and mountains. The second is a detailed wargames map showing the same squares as are used to make up the wargames table. The idea of the second is to allow the players to set the battlefield (or wargames table) to suit their campaign plan. Jan and I will then set up the table from their map deployment and fight the battle/wagame.

All had used the tactical map. Obviously a break down in communication, but I am not sure whether I have not explained it sufficiently, or whether they have just not read the orders.

It will be interesting to see how the campaign develops now that the two armies are getting close and the first combat may well take place on the current campaign day.

Friday, 5 November 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign


Its just as well that I allowed a full week to do each campaign day, because that is how long it has taken.

My role in the campaign is that of Chief of Staff to each player, whether Army or Corps commander.

At the start of each move I send each corps commander a report confirming the location and condition of his corps and any contact with the enemy. A copy of this report is sent to each commander in chief, together with a map showing the location of each corps and contact. They also receive occasional reports from agents behind enemy lines.

There are two maps in use in the campaign. The tactical map shows towns, rivers, roads and mountains. This map is used for the commander in chief report.

The second map is a wargames map. This shows the exact terrain squares which will be used if a battle is fought. This map is used by each corps commander to plot his daily moves. This allows him to choose the type of terrain most suitable to his plans.

The first week has gone well. The commanders in chief sent their orders to me, and I sent them on to the corps commanders after I had checked that they were in accordance with the rules for writing orders.

The corps commanders then wrote their orders and sent them to me. I again checked them against the campaign rules, and returned them for amendment as necessary. There were only a few minor errors, which is only to be expected with a group of players using a new system for the first time.

My rules and outline for the campaign are going well - at least so far. I have not had to change anything as a result of the first days sequence.

I am playing around with how best to record each days orders and movements. At present I plot them on two master maps, one tactical and one wargeme. I then amend the French and Prussian master maps, which show what each side would know. These are then used to write the chief of staff report for each player.

I have no idea how the "fog of war" is working for the players. This is one of the most difficult things to get right. They must know enough of the enemy locations and intentions to be able to plan their daily movement. But there has to be sufficient "fog" to allow for some nasty surprises. I will not know how well that has worked until we finish the test play and I get their after campaign reports.

Its been an interesting week for me, and I hope it has for them too.

I am also working on some way that I can publish a campaign daily diary, without giving too much information about the enemy. I have alreay done the first day, but will not publish until they have sent all of their daily orders to me and it is too late for them to react. I will publish a copy of the map on the next PBEM campaign update.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wellington loses first battle of Valladolid Campaign

Battle of Duenas


Although most of this week has been taken up with the new PBEM campaign, my solo 1813 campaign is carrying on in the background.

Jan and I have just finished the first battle of the Valladolid mini campaign, and Wellington has lost. I was Wellington, and I had the best of the four corps - including the Light Division. So I was pretty confident that I would win. In the end it was down to a bad dice throw - or so I keep telling myself.

Those of you who have been following this blog, and the 1813 campaign blog, will know that it is a feature of my wargame rules that the dice plays an important part. For someone who likes to think he is recreating the feel of a Napoleonic battle it may seem strange that I actually enjoy the random result of a dice throw, but it adds such a lot to our wargames.

It can spoil a good game if one side rolls too many bad dice, and that has happened. But when it does Jan and I usually agree to regame the whole battle. There is no fun, or enjoyment, in winning just because of excessive bad luck. But I enjoy the luck element in our rules because right up to the last move of a game the whole thing can turn on its head.

Many wargamers seem to be obsessed with trying to recreat the tiniest details of a battle or a tactic. Endless discussion takes place on TMP about how to recreate minor tactics, and some get very heated indeed. Yet anyone with any experience of military service, or even experience of wargaming, must realise that wargames could never hope to recreate more than a passing resemblence to actual battle.

Or perhaps its something to do with progress through stages of wargaming. I often find that older wargamers hark back to the fun of simple wargames like they were "in the old days". I am not sure that they ever were that much fun. I can well remember trying to find the "holy grail" of wargame rules - and always failing. My taste in rules has gone from the fun of "Charge" to the mind boggling charts and concepts of WRG, and back again to the fun and unpredictable rules we now use.

Perhaps it just takes some of us a long time to realise that it really is just a game, and that it really should be an enjoyable game.

It you would like to read the battle report you will find it at

Link to battle report

http://1813valladolidcampaign.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign


The campaign rules are compelte and have been posted on the campaign forum.

My intention was to make them simple and easy to understand. Time will tell whether I have been sucessful or not. At least they are not too long. There are only six A4 pages, plus two pages of summary.

The six pages of rules cover

Role of Commander in Chief
Role of Corps Commander
Corps State of Readiness
Maps and Movement
Contact with the Enemy
Fortress and Sieges

The idea is that once the players have learned how the campaign works, they should find all of the information on the one page. For example the role of Commander in Chief explains what the player is required to do, and an example of how to write his daily orders.

All of ten campaign posts have been filled, and the campaign brief sent to each player. There is one set for the French and one for the Prussian. Each French player has been sent

French campaign brief
French order of battle
How each Army is organised
A description of troop qualities
A tactical map
A wargames map
A map showing initial French deployments

The order of battle is the same as my solo 1813 campaign, so I felt that a simple order of battle might not make much sense. So I had to add an explanation of Army organisation for my campaign and an explanation of what the fighting capabilities of each brigade. I would have preferred not to have to add such detail, but it is quite important that the players understand how their corps works and which brigade is better for which task.

I am now waiting for each player to confirm receipt of the campaign brief email. I will then put each team in touch with each other and we can then start the campaign. Then I will find out just how sucessful my weeks preparation has been.

If you would like to see the rules you can find them on the campaign forum

Link to campaign forum

http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/napoleonicpbemcampaign

Sunday, 24 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign


I have been really motivated by the excellent response. I now have eight players confirmed, so all of the command posts are filled.

I had not done much preparation until I was sure that there would be sufficient interest and support. So I have been very busy over the past few days writing, and rewriting, campaign rules. I know what I want to achieve, but getting it down on paper is a different matter.

My intention is that the rules layout should be similar to my wargames rules. One page for each subject. For example there will be a description of the role of corps commander, and I want the player to be able to understand his role by just reading that one page. Easier said than done!

My post on the Campaigns of Napoleon announcing the new campaign resulted in a flurry of postings there as well. The forum has been very quiet lately, and I had almost given up on it. But a chance remark about infantry forming square when threatened by cavalry has sparked a long exchange. I am really pleased, as that is the reason I started the forum last year.

This PBEM campaign will not be part of my ongoing 1813 campaign. I am still fighting the Valladolid campaign with Jan, and there is lots of life in it yet. But I will be using the maps which I made for the next stage of my solo campaign, which is set in northern Germany again. If the PBEM is successful I will convert my solo 1813 campaign to PBEM, and we will use the same maps to fight the next stage, which will be a Prussian advance on Hannover.

Meanwhile I am full of enthusiasm for the coming PBEM. Some players had expressed concern that they might not be able to meet a 24 hour turn around. So I have decided to allow one week real time for each campaign day. This will allow plenty of time for the exchange of orders between CinC and corps commanders. It will also allow me plenty of time to work on the administration - which does not exist yet.

I was concerned that it might be difficult to maintain interest and enthusiasm amongst the players if they had to wait a week between moves. So I have started a new blog, similar to those I use for my solo campaign. The difference is that I will have to be very careful not to give away anything that might be of interest to the players. That may well be quite a challenge.

I will also use the blog to post a move by move report on each battle. I am hoping that this will solve the PBEM problem of convincing players that the battle result is fair. By following the wargame on the blog they will be able to see exactly what went right, or wrong.

Link to PBEM blog

http://pbemhannovercampaign.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 21 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign


I am really pleased that I have received eight requests to take part in my latest project to turn my solo 1813 campaign into a PBEM campaign. This response have convinced me that there is sufficient interest, so the project will go ahead.

I ran two PBEM campaigns last year with this intention. They were fun to run, but I was not convinced that they would offer sufficient interest to the players to make it possible to keep it going as a long term project. This was partly due to the maps I was using, and partly because I was not really prepared to create a new set of campaign rules.

Now that I have the ProFantasy maps I can make, and amend, them as required. This should make it more user friendly for a PBEM campaign.

The rules are a different matter. I have no campaign rules at present. I am umpire, CinC and all the corps commanders. I just move the symbols around until I get a suitable battle to fight as a wargame. My only interest is in the wargame, so the mechanics of the campaign do not matter.

However a PBEM is a different matter entirely. The players satisfaction comes entirely from the campaign, so it must be challenging and fun. It must also make sense. So before I can start a PBEM I will have to develop a set of rules.

I want them to be similar to my wargame rules. They should be easy to learn, provide Napoleonic command challenges and not require too much commitment from the players. It sounds quite easy, but it very difficult to achieve.

One of the biggest problems with PBEM, apart from players disappearing without any notice, is when a battle has to be resolved. I plan to overcome this by running a blog on the campaign. It will be similar to the campaign diary for my current solo campaign, but will have to avoid giving too much information as both sides will be reading it.

I plan to post a summary of each campaign days progress. When there is a battle to be fought I will post a move by move report, with photographs and a brief explanation of the rules as they affect the game. In this way the players will be able to follow the progress of the battle, and understand why one side lost. It should add to their enjoyment of the campaign, and will keep them interested whilst Jan and I fight the wargame.

I have posted an out line of the campaign on my PBEM forum, and asked for bids for the role of CinC and corps commanders. The forum will also be used to keep everyone informed of the progress of the rule development and the test campaign once it gets going.

If anyone would like to take part in the campaign, or just follow its progress, just follow the link

http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/napoleonicpbemcampaign

Friday, 15 October 2010

1806 PBEM Campaign


About two months ago I got involved in an 1806 PBEM campaign. My interest was in trying to develop a set of "stand alone" rules which could be used by campaign players and avoid them having to learn the complicated rules being used by the umpire.

For this project to work it would be necessary for the player rules to interface with the umpire rules. I did not have a copy of the umpire rules, but was assurred that they did indeed interface.

We set up a campaign to play test my player rules. I opted to play the role of Napoleon, as this would be the most challenging roll and would give me a real feel for how well my player rules were working. It all went well for a month or so, and then the cracks began to appear. It soon became obvious that some major aspects of the umpire rules were not included in the player rules I had devised. I suggested ending the campaign, as the whole purpose of the campaign was to play test the player rules, and they clearly did not work anymore.

The other players, and the umpire, wanted to continue with the campaign. I agreed on the understanding that my rules would no longer be used, and the umpire would answer any rule questions raised. More and more of the questions went unanswered.

Two weeks ago the campaign reached the stage where the first battles would be fought. The umpire promised that they would be resolved within a few days, then a longer delay and finally silence. Despite a request for confirmation of what is happening, no reply only silence.

Its beginning to look like he has abandoned the campaign. No reason or explanation, only silence. Of course there may be a very good reason for the silence, it may be real life getting in the way again. But what a pity some umpires will not take a few seconds to send an email to the players to explain what is happening.

Apart from an attempt to make my 1813 campaign work as a PBEM, I have only been involved in two other PBEM campaigns. And each time this has happened. Perhaps I have been unlucky, but it does make me wonder how many other campaigns have ended in a similar way.

Its such a shame, because in both cases the umpire obviously put a lot of work into the early stages of the campaign. I suspect that resolving the battles just proved too much, and it was easier to walk away from the campaign than to explain what had gone wrong.

It has not put me off PBEM, but it has put me off taking part in one run by someone else.

I am working on the next stage of my 1813 campaign, and am again considering whether I could make it into a PBEM.

The problem last time was the lack of suitable maps. Now that I have ProFantasy I can solve this problem. However I am still uncertain whether I want to put our wargames at risk by opening the campaign to PBEM.

The whole reason for my 1813 campaign is to provide Jan and I with good wargames. It works extremely well in this respect. However it does get a little boring running the whole campaign myself, and it would add another dimension if there were outside players to do the map moves. The problem is that they would not want to have even handed wargames. They would be looking to bring superior forces to bear. And that scenario does not result in an enjoyable wargame.

We are still busy with the Valladolid campaign, so there is no rush. I have almost completed the maps for the next stage, which will be set back in northern Germany possibly around Hanover.

The other option would be to go for a seperate campaign. I have already worked out a set of rules, which include a method for resolving battles without fighting a wargame. But I am not sure that I want to devote the amount of time that would be necessary. Particularly with my earlier experience of the tendency of some PBEM players to just disappear.

Anyway that is what will be occupying my thoughts this weekend.

Whatever you are doing - have a nice one!

Monday, 11 October 2010

1813 Valladolid Campaign


North east Spain July 1813

It is a great relief to be starting a new campaign, and the prospect of new wargame, after all the weeks I have spent working on the ProFantasy maps for the 1813 Campaign Diary.

The diary is the main day by day record of the whole campaign. However each phase of the campaign, or mini campaign, has its own blog. They now contain the main features of the campaign, plus the full battle reports.

This will be the fifth phase, and deals with Wellington's attempt to take Valladolid. When this mini campaign is completed I will have fought a campaign in each of the five campaign areas, and will have used all of our 28mm soldiers to do so. That was the aim of the whole 1813 campaign. I had planned to use the three different scales, but have only used the 28mm figures so far. This is partly because they are easier to photograph than the 15mm or 6mm.

It is the first time I have used the 28mm figures for a few years and both Jan and I found that we really enjoyed seeing and using them again. We have also found that each mini campaign was fought without all four corps on each side joining forces. So we could fight them quite easily on our table in 28mm.

I am not sure what will happen when the Valladolid campaign is completed. Whether I will start a new campaign, or whether I will just carry on with a second phase in each of the campaign areas.

Meanwhile the new campaign is under way. The first entry is the background to the campaign. The second the Anglo-Portuguese army order of battle. The third will be the French order of battle and then the battle reports.

Link to campaign blog

http://1813valladolidcampaign.blogspot.com/

Friday, 8 October 2010

New 1813 Campaign Diary


I have finally completed the new 1813 Campaign Diary, complete with the new ProFantasy maps.

This blog will replace the old 1813 Campaign blog.

It will be a daily diary for the whole of the 1813 campaign. There will continue to be seperate blogs for each stage of the campaign, and there will be a link on the diary blog to each one.

If you would like to follow the campaign, or just see the new maps, please follow the link below.


Link to 1813 Campaign Diary

http://new1813campaignhotmailcouk.blogspot.com/

Monday, 4 October 2010

Fuentes de Orono


Fuentes de Orono

We have just started a wargame based on Fuentes de Orono.


This is the fifth of an occasional series of wargames based on Wellington’s battles in the Peninsula. The previous games were Rolica, Vimerio, Talavera and Busaco.


These games do not attempt to follow the historical orders of battle or recreate the exact terrain. They are fun games based on the historical battle, but using our own orders of battle, our eight figure units and our rules designed to allow large 28mm battles on a 6x6 foot table using relatively few figures.


I have just published the game set up on the blog. We usually play one or two moves each day, and I will post them as they are played.


Link to blog

http://wellingtonsbattles.blogspot.com/

Friday, 1 October 2010

Free Wargame Rules


Jan checks our blog counters most days, which I suppose is pretty sad. Even sadder is that she tells me what is currently popular, I check it out and feel quite pleased that someone is reading what I had posted!

Last Tuesday we were both amazed to find that our wargame rules blog had 288 hits the previous day. It usually has about 10 a week, so this was quite exceptional. Sometimes when I post something about the rules on this blog there will be an extra two or three hits - but 288 is something else.

Next day there were 219 hits, and I posted a query on the Wargame Rule blog to ask if anyone knew what had sparked the interest. I was quite surprised to hear that a link to the blog had been put on a site called "freewargamerules". I have a vague memory of hearing about a site for free wargame rules, but I had not bothered to put my poor attempts on there. Jan and I, plus our occasional wargame visitors, have had a lot of enjoyment with my rules. But I am quite sure that they are not main stream. For a start most wargamers seem to go for large battalions and would find my 8 figure brigades very strange indeed.

I dont know who put the rules on this site, but I am quite pleased that they have generated so much interest. Mind it is obviously fleeting interest. In less than a week there have been 1024 hits - but not a single comment. And the daily rate of hits is down below 20 now.

It is nice to think that so many have taken the trouble to read the rules, and it would be nicer still to think that some may have been interested enough to take on some of the ideas contained there. But it would have been even nicer still if at least one of them had left a comment.

Not that I really mind. I doubt that anyone writes a blog to receive a response, and if they do then they are probably disappointed. I think of it as being similar to writing a diary, but one that is open to one and all to read.

The discipline of writing a regular blog often prompts me to explore new concepts of wargaming. And once mentioned on the blog I feel an added responsibility to keep it going. Certainly my 1813 campaign owes a lot to that sense of responsibility. I am quite sure that were it not for the blog I would have changed the concept months ago. I am also quite sure that the campaign has benefited from this reluctance to change for the sake of change.

So thanks to each of those 1024 who took the trouble to read the Wargame Rules blog. I hope that you enjoyed it and that it has added in some little way to your enjoyment of this satisfying hobby. Shame it has been a one way experience.

http://napoleonicwargamerules.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Update of Passau Campaign

Locations at start of Passau campaign

When I decided to replace the hand drawn maps on my 1813 campaign with ProFantasy maps I did not realise what a long job it would be. There are four mini campaigns, each with their own blog. I had used two types of hand drawn maps to illustrate the daily movement and the battles.

It has taken me a couple of months to replace the first three campaigns, and I have finally started on the fourth. I am please with the result, but not sure it was worth the effort of replacing them all.

ProFantasy has proved to be a really good investment. I spent hours making different maps, particularly with my latest project of setting up a PBEM campaign. I have done five different maps, and am not really satisfied with any of them. But the great advantage is that I dont have to start from scratch. The major towns and rivers do not change, and I have saved a master map with those details. So I only have to fiddle with the roads and hills to make a completely different map. Great fun!

Anyway I have started updating the Passau Campaign. If you would like to follow its progress you can find it at

http://new1813campaignhotmailcouk.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 26 September 2010

New PBEM Campaign Rules


The 1806 PBEM is still going, but has slowed down a lot. This is mostly due to late submission of orders. This is something which happens a lot in PBEM, particularly after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It usually sets in when the two armies come together and there is the prospect of a battle. I suspect that it is often the result of one, or more, players realising that their grand plan is not working and are then unsure what to do next. And, of course, it is easy to just fade away when the only connection between players is an internet game. This is perfectly understandable, but very frustrating for those players who want to get on with the campaign.

The problem is then what to do next. There are really only three options. The first, and in my opinion the best, is to have a CinC player on each side who is planning the grand strategy for his side. He can then step in for the absent player and issue orders to his corps/army.

The second option is to ask a new player to take on the role. This I feel is very unfair. He may well have to take on a command which is already in a mess and beyond any chance of winning.

The third option is for the umpire to take over the command of the missing player. This is quite difficult to do, for it is pretty well impossible for him to ignore the information he has about the other side. And unless he is a saint, he will use that information - particularly if the game is in danger of coming to an untimely end and he wants to keep the campaign going.

I am not suggesting that this is the reason our present campaign has slowed down. It may well be the other common reason, namely that real life has presented one, or more, players with a more pressing problem.

I on the other hand, being retired and very much a "wargame anorak" am always amongst those left with a strong interest in the campaing. This results in intense frustration and a determination never to take part in a PBEM again. This resolve usually lasts until someone asks for volunteers to take part in another PBEM!

The other solution is to run the PBEM yourself. This does not prevent other players from dropping out, but it does mean that you can use one of the three options mentioned above to avoid an abrupt end to the campaign.

I mentioned last time that I was writing a set of campaign rules, which would include a method of fighting battles without wargames. That is going well, and the first draft of the rules are now completed.

I am play testing them myself, which is a very boring process. But I want to be reasonably sure that they work before I ask others to become involved. They seem to work ok, but I will not really know until I open them to other players. That is really the only way to discover the weakeness of any set of rules.

If anyone out there would like to help out I could do with two players, one French and one Prussian. But be aware that the rules are completely untested, and I may even have to change them as the game is ongoing.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Campaign battles without wargames


The PBEM campaign has hit problems faster than expected.

You may remember that I am trying to develop a set of Player Campaign Rules. These would be a sort of "fast play" set for use by the players. It would avoid them having to learn the full set of rules which would be used by the umpire.

The problem is the obvious one, the interface between the players rules and the umpires rules.

I sent a suggested set of rules to Carlos, who offered to umpire the campaign. He agreed them, with additions.

Once the campaign started it soon became obvious that the players rules bore little similarity to the umpire rules. I tried to resolve the difference, but this proved impossible. So we have agreed to continue the campaign without the player rules. Not a good solution, but the only one available short of calling an end to the campaign.

The campaign was fought as a learning experience. I have learned that the only one who can write the player rules is the one who wrote the umpire rules. Or at least have a very good understanding of them.

So I have reluctantly decided to write my own PBEM campaign rules. I am reluctant because I have a perfectly good set of rules for my solo 1813 campaign. In addition I do not want to distract too much from my solo campaign, which provides Jan and I with our regular wargame fix.

The real probem I have with a PBEM campaign is fighting the battles. It would not be possible with my current wargame rules. So as a first step I am trying to develop a system for fighting campaign battles without fighting a wargame.

I have put my first attempt on Campaigns of Napoleon Forum and asked for constructive criticism. If you would like to see them, and perhaps comment, you will find them at:

http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/Campaigns_Napoleon/

Monday, 13 September 2010

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Burgos Castle 1995


I have just finished the blog on Walking Austerlitz.

http://walkingnorterneurope.blogspot.com/


This was our first visit to Austerlitz and was also our first tour with Midas Battlefield Tours.

It was a four day visit in September 1998, and it rained most of that time. Being a group of "Brits" we were all very stoic and "soldiered on". It sounds quite miserable, but in fact was very enjoyable despite the weather.

Writing up the blog is a little like looking at old photographs albumns, its very nostalgic. Looking through the photos and reading the diaries brings it all back. Not only the damp clothes and muddy boots, but also the good company and the excitement of walking over the very ground where Napoleon fought this historic battle.

This is the sixth of the series. Previous ones have been Waterloo, Spain and Portugal with Holts, Spain and Portugal on our own, Northern Spain and The Pyrenees.

I started the blog in April 2009, and have done an entry covering one battlefield pretty well every week since then. It became such a big job that I started a seperate blog for each tour and a central blog as an index to each walk.

http://walkingnapoleonicbattlefields.blogspot.com

And there is lots still to come. Next is Walking Northern Europe, which will include Jena, Auerstadt, Dresden, Bautzen, Lutzen and Leipzig. This will be followed by walking in Italy and southern Germany.

So if you are interested in exploring Napoleonic Battlefields make a note of the central blog, which contains links to all of the walks.