Wednesday, 25 August 2010

1814 PBEM Campaign

For some months now the Campaigns of Napoleon Forum has been very quiet, lucky if it received one or two comments a week. Usually from me, or one or two others giving an update on their current campaign.

After a very busy start, the forum received great support for a couple of months. Then for no obvious reason the forum started to go quiet. I posted a comment that if anyone was interested they should contribute, as "if they dont use it they will lose it". I was quite surprised to receive some aggessive replies along the lines that if they wanted to post they would. This struck me as a very strange attitude. Why join a forum if you don't want to contribute to it?

One member even suggested that if I no longer wanted to run the forum perhaps someone else should take it over. Completely missing the point that I was more than willing to continue to run the forum, but that unless members contributed there would be little point.

Anyway the posts continue to decrease and I gave up posting, as there was little or no response when I did. The blog provides an excellent space to explain what I am getting up to, and I never expect any response here anyway. I had started the forum in the hope that I might be able to engage in a regular exchange of views on Napoleonic campaigning. But it appears that there was little interest in doing so.

Throughout this time I received one or two applications a month to join. I always send out a welcome email asking new members to contribute, but few did.

Then a week or so ago it all changed. At my suggestion a new member asked for volunteers for a new 1814 PBEM campaign. As it was my idea that he use the forum, I felt it was only reasonable to offer to take part.

Within one day he had the three players he needed, and suggested that I take on the role of Napoleon. Out of all of Napoleons Campaign's, that of France 1814 is the one I know least about. I did know that he was greatly outnumbered, and that it was considered one of his best fought campaign's. So no pressure there! Particularly as the allied commanders could not be expected to follow Blucher's reluctance to fight Napoleon face to face, nor Schwartzenberg's reluctance to move too far too fast.

I was prepared to do some research, especially as I already had a couple of reference books for the campaign. Apart from Esposito and Eltings excellent West Point Atlas with its detailed maps, I also have Petre's "Napoleon at Bay 1814".

I bought this excellent book about 8 years ago. Jan and I had just come back from a week walking Napoleon's battlefields in Italy, and were looking for somewhere new for the next year. I had never visited any of the battlefields in northern France, and they were easy to get to, so it seemed like a good option. It never happened because I was unable to find sufficient local information for me to feel confident that I could actually find my way around the battlefields.

The first battlefield Jan and I tried to explore was Minden. We were stationed in Herford at the time, just a few miles away. I got a book about the battle, with a couple of line drawing maps, from the Army library. I also obtained one of the excellent and well detailed BAOR maps, similar to an Ordnance Survey Map. I thought it would be quite easy to explore the battlefield. A day driving around Minden trying to relate the ground to the battle map in the book made a lasting impression. It is really essential to know where to park and what to look for to find at least one spot on both your battlefield map and your modern map.

Anyway, Petre's book remained unread on my library shelf for almost ten years. And this offer to play Napoleon is a PBEM campaign of 1814 seemed a good incentive to read it at last.

Then I received the player brief. They contained the usual mass of rules, maps and orders of battle. All of which are completely new to me. I am very slow at digesting new rules and can only do so by play testing two or three times. This would of course take many weeks. The brief went on to say that the campaign would start next day, and first orders should be submitted immediately!

So the last 24 hours have been hectic and panic striken. I have just sent off orders for the first day. I don't expect to be able to follow Napoleon's masterful campaign. I will be very happy if I manage to avoid making a right "pigs ear" of the whole thing.

Despite all of the above, I am really pleased to be taking part in a PBEM once more, and very much looking forward to playing my part as best I can.

I understand that the umpire will be posting the occasional report on Campaigns of Napoleon forum. If you would like to follow them you would be very welcome at

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