Sunday, 11 December 2011

Change to the Campaign Rules


I had promised myself that I would not amend the new campaign rules until we had finished the campaign, but “needs must” as they say.

The problem has arisen with the infantry brigade detachments as garrisons. I had resisted requests to allow detachments, because it weakens the corps which has always been the main building block of my wargame rules. The best wargames are when there are four corps per side taking part, three in the front rank and one in reserve.

However as each campaign player only commands one corps, I could understand their wish to detach brigades to allow them more freedom of movement. And isolated French garrisons in Spain fits very well with the historical strategy of the campaign.

As with all new rules, it all seemed quite fool proof in theory. The start brief made each French commander detach three of his four infantry brigades as isolated garrisons. The theory was that they would then call them in to concentrate their corps before taking on the Spanish mixed corps.

I was, and am, quite pleased with the rules for sieges and storming a garrison, but I had not anticipated that the French would just leave their garrisons spread along the whole length of the river Ebro. This was possible because I had not allowed any sort of attrition whilst the siege was in place.

Each town can hold out for six days, and if not relieved will then just surrender and the brigade will be taken prisoner. Six days is reasonable from a historical view point. But it is 18 campaign moves, which is about 9 week’s real time. A very long time.

Worse the commanders of the two forward French corps made no attempt to relieve their garrisons. Worse still because all of the roads were now blocked it was impossible for the Spanish commanders to advance beyond the river line.

So I have had to amend campaign rule 17, which deals with towns and garrisons. After three moves, or one day, of siege I roll 1D6 each campaign move to see whether the garrison has lost a casualty due to “attrition”. This includes enemy artillery fire, lack of supplies, skirmish and other limited attacks. A roll of 6 will result in a casualty on the second day, a 5 or 6 on the third and so on.

Not only will this prompt the French commanders to raise the siege before their brigade suffers too much. But each casualty will make it easier for the Spanish commander to storm the town.

It will be interesting to see how it affects the French strategy.

The campaign rules can be found at

http://napoleoniccampaignrules.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The battle of Orthez

Table at the start of Orthez wargame

The PBEM campaign is developing well, and is both fun and very time consuming. But it is proving reluctant to produce a battle for Jan and I to wargame. I suspect that this is because I have allowed the corps commanders much more freedom of choice than in the previous campaign. I sense that they are a little reluctant to commit to a full battle, which is perfectly understandable.

However it does mean that Jan and I have gone a week without our wargame fix. So we have decided to fit in one of our Wellington in the Peninsula battles. We planned these one off games to be a bit of light relief from the more serious campaign games.

Orthez will be game number twelve in the series. It’s hard to believe that it was almost two years ago that we played Rolica, which was the first.

We had previously walked all of the battlefields in the series, which made it even more interesting to play as a wargame.

I have published the game set up and will be posting one move each day as we fight the battle. You can find it at

http://wellingtonsbattles.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Campaign Fog of War


I am not sure whether it is just my impression, but the fog of war seems to be working well in this campaign – perhaps too well.

The corps commanders have been given must more freedom of action in this campaign than in the previous one. This is particularly true of the Spanish. They are given a general objective at the start, but left entirely on their own as to how they might achieve it. The result is a mixture of caution and excessive daring.

The Spanish have a short window of opportunity to take advantage of isolated French garrisons, before the French commanders can concentrate their corps and engage the Spanish. All of this is new to the campaign, and neither the corps commanders nor I have any previous experience to guide us.

I have made it almost impossible for a Spanish corps to take a town by assault, unless the garrison has suffered earlier casualties. Obviously at the start of the campaign all of the garrisons are full strength.

The second option is to lay siege to the garrison. This will work, providing the French do not appear to raise the siege. In that case the Spanish commander will have to decide whether to risk a battle or abandon the siege.

So the Spanish problems are obvious.

Not so obvious the French ones. They have had to detach three of their four infantry brigades as garrisons at the start of the campaign. That only leaves them with one infantry and one cavalry brigade, plus artillery. Not enough to take on a full Spanish corps. So they have to calculate how long they can spend calling in outlying garrisons, against leaving a siege in place too long and losing the garrison.

And then there are the increased umpire problems. Last campaign I only had to control eight corps on the campaign map, plus a few cavalry brigades on recce. At present I have nine corps and about fourteen independent brigades. Then there are the supply depots, and ensuring that everyone is within range of their corps depot. Last, but not least, trying to keep track of the mass of messages. After just four campaign moves the register shows sixty nine messages.

I am not sure how the corps commanders are dealing with their fog of war. I do know that I am having problems keeping track of everything – even though I have them all plotted on the master map.

My only regret is the lack of battles. This is perfectly understandable, as no one wants to commit to battle unless they are confident of winning. But it does mean that Jan and I do not have any wargames to fight. So it looks like we will see a return of our Wellingtons Battles series to keep us occupied.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

First Impressions of the Tortosa Campaign


The campaign is only 10 days old, but already we have completed three moves and are writing orders for the fourth move. Not bad going, particularly with nine players spread throughout the world.

This campaign has changed greatly from the previous one. In particular allowing detached garrisons is proving a challenge - for me as well as the corps commanders.

The idea of detached garrisons was to make it more difficult for the French to immediately crush the Spanish armies. Each corps had to detach three of its four infantry brigades prior to the start of the campaign. Each brigade was 3-6 squares (15 to 30 miles) from corps HQ. This meant that any orders for them had to be sent by message. In the previous campaign all brigades had to remain within command range of corps HQ.

Each corps is only allowed one message each turn. So they have to decide whether to write orders to a detached brigade, and if so which one. Or whether it would be better to write to a nearby corps commander and try to coordinate their battle plan.

If they order a brigade to return to corps, which most have, then I have to keep track of the brigade until it gets back. This has caused a problem, as I had not anticipated it would require an additional order system. It meant that after two moves I had to change the whole message system.

Then there is the problem of how a Spanish corps can tackle a fortified town. The rules make it clear that it is almost impossible to do if the garrison is full strength. A full Spanish corps would need a dice throw of 6.

I did anticipate that there might be problems here, so I posted on the campaign forum that it would be difficult, and that they should consult the campaign rules before attempting it. Despite this two of them went ahead and attempted to storm a town, with the predictable result that both lost casualties and had to withdraw.

Which just goes to show that it is not necessary to have complicated rules to create confusion, just allow the players a little more freedom of choice and they will produce it themselves.

It is all adding greatly to the feel of the campaign, which has a distinct Spanish flavour of confusion and fog of war.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fire and Sword


Its taken me a long time to get around to reading the third book in the Simon Scarrow series about Wellington and Napoleon. Not sure why that is so. Perhaps because there is less opportunity to read now that the long lazy summer days are gone. Or more likely because I did not enjoy The Generals, the second in the series, as much as I did Young Bloods, the first.

Fire and Sword deals with the period 1804 to 1809, much more interesting to me than the early Napoleonic era. I find Scarrow very easy to read, and I was impressed that there is very little fiction in these novels. I am not saying that it would be difficult to find parts when he lets his imagination run a little wild. But they are close enough to the truth not to offend too much.

I have read a lot of books about both the military history of the period, and the personal life of Napoleon. Less so about Wellington, as there is less available. But I still enjoyed this book. And I would recommend it to anyone not too well read on the period who wants an easy introduction.

Perhaps I will not leave it so long before I read the last volume.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Running the PBEM Campaign


I was asked to explain how I run the campaign on the PBEM Forum. I know some of you follow my 1813 campaign blog, and I thought you might find it interesting.

I run the campaign on my computer, but there is no programme for it. It’s all done by typing and filing in folders. This is why I ask for you to use the standard format for move orders and CinC reports. With nine sets of reports to transfer onto the map and then write individual umpire reports you should not be too surprised if there is the occasional mistake.

The whole administration depends on a series of folders, which I use like a simple filing system. There are four main folders

Move Folder. There is one folder for each campaign move. Inside there are two folders, one for orders and one for umpire reports. I put a copy of each corps movement order in the orders folder as I receive it. When they are all in I plot the moves on the master tactical map. I then type an umpire report for each corps commander and place it in the umpire report folder. When all are done I send an umpire report to each corps commandeer.

Message Folder. There is one folder for each campaign move. When I receive a message I calculate on the tactical map how long it will take to reach its destination. I then place a copy of the message in the appropriate folder for delivery. At the end of each move I send all messages in the next folder to the recipients.

CinC Folders. One for the French and one for the Allied CinC. Each contains the following

Strategic Map - updated by reports from spies and agents

Tactical Map – updated by reports from corps commanders

Message Log – a list of all reports received and orders sent

Messages In Folder – contains a copy of all reports received

Messages Out Folder – contains a copy of all orders issued

There are another 8 folders for such things as campaign rules, copies of strategic and tactical maps, battle reports, campaign players, campaign blog and campaign diary. But they are background, rather than used for running the campaign

It’s not really as complicated as it looks, but it does involve a lot of work. Perhaps someday someone will come along who will write me a computer programme to run it all. Not sure I would really want that, because it’s easy for me to change things as they are now, and the campaign is constantly changing and, I hope, improving.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tortosa Strategic Map showing initial deployments

The Tortosa campaign has now started.

I have managed to find a replacement for the drop out. There are nine command posts, and all are filled at present. However from past experience it is likely that some of the players will drop out, and always at short notice. So it would be good to have a small reserve of suitable players ready to take on a command.

The player commitment required to take part is not great. All players are required to reply to campaign mail within 48 hours, or to let the umpire know that they are not available. We aim to achieve one, or possibly two, campaign moves per week. Writing orders, reports and messages should not take more than an hour each time, so a maximum of two hours per week.

No previous experience is required, just an interest in Napoleonic warfare in general, and sufficient interest to commit to a three to six months campaign. Most important is being able to stick to the 48 hour turn around on campaign moves.

There is a campaign diary blog on which I publish a summary of each campaign move, and a detailed battle report. The Tortosa diary blog can be found at

http://1813campaigndiaryparttwo.blogspot.com/

If you would like more details you should visit the campaign forum at

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

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tortosa Campaign Drop Out


The campaign has not even started, and already I have had the first player to drop out!

Over the past two weeks I have filled the nine command posts. Mostly from players from the Hanover campaign, but topped up with new players. I make an issue of explaining the problems caused by players dropping out without telling me, and all players have agreed to the condition that they will reply to all mail within 48 hours, or confirm that they will not be able to do so.

All the players accepted this condition. All were sent their starter pack with maps and starting instructions. All were asked to confirm receipt of the mail. Eight did, one did not. I then sent two reminders, asking for an immediate reply if he wanted to remain in the campaign. Again no reply.

As luck would have it, he was to command one of the two French corps closest to the Spanish army. As such he is likely to be one of the two French commanders in action soonest.

The four French commanders were asked to let me have their initial deployment as soon as possible, as these must be plotted before the campaign can start. Again three did. The same one did not reply.

I have not got any reserve players, so I must now either find a replacement for the offender, or take on his corps myself. I would rather not take on that particular corps, because it is important that the commander deals with the initial "fog of war".

One of the four French corps are at Barcelona, which is about five days march from the river Ebro, which is the front line. So I have asked that player to take over from the missing one. He has already sent me the deployment for his own corps, so I have asked if he will take on command of both corps. Otherwise I will run the Barcelona corps until I can find a replacement.

It is very disappointing that this sort of thing continues to happen, despite my best efforts to make the commitment a clear and obvious requirement for joining the campaign. It may be that he has problems with his computer or email and that he has either not received the starter pack or is unable to reply. But I fear that this is unlikely. When this has happened in the past I have never again heard from the offending players.

Anyway I am not going to let it spoil the campaign. Just having a moan on here has got it out of my system!

Hopefully the next mention of the campaign will be that it is up and running and all is going well.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New Blog for Tortosa Campaign


I must admit to being just a little excited to have finally started the Tortosa campaign.

This is the seventh phase of the 1813 campaign, and the second which I have run as a PBEM. The initial player packs were sent out this morning to each corps commander, each containing a strategic map, a tactical map, corps order of battle and the initial briefing document for the corps commander.

Next step is for each French corps commander to confirm his deployment. Each is responsible for four towns, plus their own lines of communication/supply. At the start of the campaign I have nominated the towns which must have a garrison, and they are now deciding which of their four infantry brigades should occupy which town. Once the campaign starts they must decide which towns to hold, and which they can afford to leave without a garrison. If they try to hold all of the four towns they will be too weak to hold off the Spanish offensive. I am REALLY looking forward to seeing how the four different commanders tackle this problem.

I am also waiting to see if I have made any major error in the administration of the campaign. There are so many changes in this next campaign that I have had to rewrite the campaign rules from scratch. I have read through them a number of times, and they seem ok. But the real test is whether they make sense to the corps commanders who have only now received them.

I have started a new blog for Tortosa. This is to make it easier to find posts as the campaign gets going. At present I am posting one entry for a brief history of the 1813 campaign and another one for each of the previous six phases. Then I will start the diary of the Tortosa campaign, with one entry for each campaign move. And finally a seperate tag for each battle report. If you would like to follow the campaign you can find it at

http://1813campaigndiaryparttwo.blogspot.com/

Monday, 14 November 2011

Successful conclusion to the Hanover Campaign


When I started this campaign in March 2011 I expected it to last about three months. Eight months, and 45 moves, later it ended in grand style. It was my third attempt at running a PBEM, but the first one I felt confident enough to include as part of my two year old solo 1813 campaign. It would prove a much greater success than I had dared to hope.

The first PBEM was an attempt to run the solo campaign using exactly the same rules, but handing control of the two commander in chief and eight corps commanders to player I had never met and recruited over the internet. It came as no surprise that it did not work well. It ended early and in a shambles. But I did learn a lot of valuable lessons. Most important was that I could not just hand over control of the whole campaign and expect it to work. I would have to keep control of the direction of the campaign and I would have to ensure that if a player dropped out it would not throw the campaign into disorder.

So for the second PBEM I played the role of both commander in chief, and restricted PBEM command posts to corps commanders. It worked much better, but I soon found that the solo campaign rules did not allow sufficient choice to make it enjoyable and challenging for the corps commanders. Again I learned a lot of lessons, and now felt it was time to try a “proper” campaign.

The Hanover campaign was the result. It worked smoothly from the start and the players obviously enjoyed it because five of the original eight remained with it to the end. By sending an umpire report to each player at the end of each move I could keep control of what was happening. And if a player dropped out I could easily replace him by taking command myself until I found a replacement. The umpire report was an update on each corps at the end of each turn, and it contained everything needed to take command of the corps.

Our purpose in running the campaign was to provide good wargames for Jan and I to play. With each solo campaign I could manipulate each move to produce the size of battle I required. With a PBEM this was not possible. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the wargames it did produce were much more challenging and fun to play than the ones I had arranged myself. And most presented unusual circumstances which I would not have considered would provide a good wargame, but in fact did.

The campaign blog played an important part in maintaining the momentum of the campaign. I published a short summary of each campaign move and a very detailed move by move account of each wargame. When a battle was being fought I would publish one move each day. This meant that both the players and I had a 12 day break from the campaign movement. It also allowed Jan and me to find time to fight the wargame. And as something was published each day it meant the players had something to read each day. It worked very well.

I feel I can say that, because five of the eight players from the Hanover phase have signed on for Tortosa in Spain, which is the next phase.

The final post on the campaign diary blog is a summary of the campaign. This consists of a map for each day of the campaign, plus a brief description of each day. This is the first time that the players have seen what the other corps were doing on a day to day basis. By clicking on the first map on the summary it is possible to do a sort of slide show of all 15 maps.

The summary is a good way to get a feel for what the campaign was all about. If interested you an find it at

http://new1813campaignhotmailcouk.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 12 November 2011

New Campaign Rules


I have finally finished the new campaign rules, and have started a new blog for them.

http://napoleoniccampaignrules.blogspot.com/

This revision is in answer to requests raised during the current PBEM campaign for off road movement, more detailed supply, infantry detachments and sieges. None of this was covered in the original solo rules, on which the previous PEBM rules were based. The whole campaign started with the intention of providing wargames of one to four corps. I wanted to keep the campaign simple and easy to run.

It was soon obvious that converting to PBEM would mean major changes. Our interest in the campaign remained the same, but the corps commanders understandably want more choice and options.

I am quite excited about the new campaign. It will either be a huge improvement on the previous ones, or it will be a shambles! I have spent a lot of time working on the new rules, and tried to anticipate problems. But previous campaigns have taught me that once they are used by real players the faults soon appear. Despite this I think it is necessary to "up my game" on the PBEM, and I think that this will do it.

I am working on the final moves of the Hanover campaign, and I hope to be able to start the new campaign next week. All of the command posts are now filled, all of the administration is done and I just need to tie up the loose ends in Hanover before we start.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

New PBEM Campaign


I am still completing the final moves of the Hanover campaign. The French have lost, but now have to try to evade Blucher’s attempt to cut them off from their new base at Hamburg. I expect to finish it within a week or ten days

Meanwhile I have the next phase of the 1813 campaign ready. It will be set in northeast Spain and will deal with the Spanish attempt to take Tortosa. There are four Spanish and four French corps. In addition there is a British corps travelling by sea from Alicante to support the Spanish.

The campaign rules have been completely rewritten to address the problems encountered during the Hanover phase. I wrote them after consulting the existing players, and they seem good in theory. It will be interesting to see how they manage in actual campaign play! I will be starting a new blog for them shortly; similar to the existing wargame rules blog.

Five of the existing eight players on the Hanover campaign have asked to take part in the new campaign. There will be nine commanders in the new campaign. A further three members of the campaign forum have asked to take part, and I have sent them details of the player commitment rules so that they know what to expect.

So I still have at least one command post to fill.

If anyone would like to take part they should join the campaign forum and apply there. The forum can be found at



Saturday, 5 November 2011

Decisive Prussian victory at Peine

Table at the end of the second battle of Peine

The second battle of Peine has ended in a decisive victory for Prince Blucher.

Neither Davout nor Blucher expected to fight again on 5 August 1813. Having been beaten on the previous day Davout was retreating towards Celle. Blucher allowed his weary corps to rest during the night and ordered a redeployment at first light. He intended to send one corps to follow Davout to Celle, a second to take Hanover and a third to hold Peine. He was aware that IV French corps was at Brunswick, but he expected them to retire when they received news that Davout had lost the battle and was retreating north.

At first light IV French corps marched west from Brunswick to attack Peine. This unexpected move caught the Prussians by surprise, but they quickly recovered and deployed to meet the threat.

Davout immediately halted his retreat to Celle, and brought his two weak corps back towards Peine to support IV corps.

The battle was short and sharp. By late afternoon IV corps was in rout back towards Brunswick and Davout also in rout back towards Celle.

This shattering defeat has left the road to Hanover open to the Prussians, and must signal the end of the campaign. It is now no longer a matter of who will win the campaign, but how badly the French will lose.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Battle Reports


I publish the battle reports from the PBEM campaign on the campaign diary blog. The blog itself has just passed 32,000 individual hits, and when the battle reports are being published gets between 20-60 hits each day. There are only eight players in the campaign, so obviously a lot of the visitors are not taking part.

One of the players recently queried the battle report regarding a cavalry melee. The entries on the blog are never more than one or two days old, so I could remember what happened. But I wanted to check the report to make sure that I had the details right. It was then that I realised how complicated and technical the reports actually are.

When I first started to publish the battle reports they were much less detailed. They were part of a solo campaign then, and I just wanted a record of the wargames we had fought so that I could read back through them in the future. I assumed that anyone else who read them would not really be interested in a lot of detail.

But when the PBEM started I wanted the players, and particularly those involved in the battle, to be able to follow each step. As the battle reports became more detailed, I started to put a reference to the rule concerned in notes at the end of the report. This has led to a lot of visits to the wargame rule blog, which is currently at more than 12,000. Not bad for a set of “house rules” only 18 months old.

Having concluded that the present report are too complicated, I posted on the campaign forum to ask whether readers would prefer the present complicated battle report, or a more descriptive and less technical method. Given the number of visits to the campaign diary I was surprised to receive only two replies. Worst still one was in favour of the present system and one preferred a less technical style. Presumably the remainder did not care much for one or the other.

Given that there is a considerable amount of work involved in the current reports, it hardly seems worth the extra effort for just one reader. So when the new campaign starts I will use a more descriptive, but less time consuming, method.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Day Two at Peine

First light at Peine

The battle of Peine ended in a clear Prussian victory. XIII Polish corps ran from the battlefield on the road to Hanover. V and VI French corps had not played much part in the battle. Both were already reduced to half strength. The Prussians outnumbered the French by two to one. At midnight Davout ordered V and VI corps to fall back towards Celle.

Blucher was delighted with the outcome. Only one small nagging doubt. IV French corps had arrived at Brunswick, which cut his communications with Magdeburg. He ordered his army to rest during the night, and prepare to pursue the two retreating French columns at daybreak. He was rather surprised when IV French corps attacked him at first light.

Davout was overseeing the retreat of V and VI corps from a hill north of Peine when he observed the approach of IV corps. He thought that they were somewhere to the north of Celle. He ordered V corps was already off the battlefield heading for Celle. He ordered VI corps to halt, and rode off to bring V corps back.

That is the opening situation for the second day of the battle of Peine. And it is a good illustration of the advantage of PBEM campaigns. I would never have dreamed up such a complicated scenario for a solo campaign. Yet this is only one of the many excellent wargames which the Hanover PBEM campaign has produced.

The downside is that there is a tendency to fight to the last brigade. In the present battle three of the six corps are below half strength. This is caused by the campaign commanders wanting to “do something” rather than just rest their corps and let them recover from the last battle. Each campaign move that the corps is not fighting or moving they receive one casualty replacement. For most corps this would mean they must rest for 6-9 moves, which is two to three days, to recover all of their casualties. But at the rate of one or two campaign moves per week that is a long time.

Apart from this one drawback the campaign is working much better than I had dared to hope. I thought that it would last about three months, and produce about 4 to 6 battles. So far it has lasted seven months and produced ten battles.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Campaign Fog of War

map used for council of war


The campaign has taken a very interesting turn, and highlighted the advantage of the fog of war capable with PBEM.

The battle of Peine was the ninth battle of the campaign. The French had suffered a number of defeats, and only one corps stood between Blucher and his campaign objective – the capture of Hanover. He was about to attack Peine, the last defensive position east of Hanover, with three corps

The French commander at Peine decided to stand and fight. Davout was within supporting distance but only had two weak corps. His IV corps promised to arrive in time to take part in the battle, and on that understanding Davout ordered his army to march to join battle at Peine.

The commander of IV saw an opportunity to cut the Prussian lines of communication by marching south and taking Brunswick. This would also prevent a Prussian retreat should they lose the battle of Peine. He sent a message to Blucher, but it was delayed by the presence of the Prussian army between him and Davout.

IV corps did not take part in the battle, and the French lost. The corps at Peine was sent reeling back to Hanover and Davout had to decide what to do next. He had two weak corps left, and was facing a Prussian army twice his size. He was still not aware that IX corps was only 15 miles away at Brunswick.

As umpire I knew all of this. But as Davout I did not want to take a decision because it would be difficult to ignore all of the implications. I decided to hold a council of war with the two corps commanders at Peine. The decision would be left to them.

They were divided, and I had to use my casting vote to order a withdrawal towards Celle. The next morning IV corps attacked Peine from Brunswick. But that is the subject of the tenth battle in the campaign.

Details of the council of war meeting are on the latest campaign diary blog

http://new1813campaignhotmailcouk.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Spot the Difference

New Campaign Tactical Map

I recently suggested that the latest battle might be the end of our PBEM campaign, but far from it.

Peine was an excellent wargame, and concluded with a resounding Prussian victory. However not in the end of the campaign as expected.

Three of the four corps on each side were fighting at Peine. The Prussians won, and one French corps routed towards Hanover. The remaining two corps withdraw north to Celle. But the fourth French corps has appeared at Brunswick, cutting the Prussian lines of supply. The position of the Prussians prevent the French communicating with each other, so the players have to decide whether to attack or retreat using only the information available to them. Complicated enough so far. But it gets worse.

The French corps retreating to Hanover may decide to fight there, but the tactical map does not cover that city. So I have had to make a new campaign tactical map. I am sure that ProFantasy must be capable of amending the previous one, but I am not capable of doing it. I did ask for, and receive, advice on their forum. But it all proved too complicated for a simple soul like me. So I have copied part of the old map and added a new section. In doing so it is quite likely that I have made some errors.

The new map is above. The old one below. If you have nothing better to do you might like to compare them both. If you find any errors do let me know.

Old Tactical Map

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Rewriting history

Red chips indicate the four infantry brigades in rout

The current battle in our PBEM campaign has reached a critical stage. Plus the battle itself could well decide the whole campaign. So it is not too surprising that the corps commanders have been following the battle report pretty closely.

I have taken some pains to make the battle reports comprehensive and easy to follow, for those players who want to do so. First I take a photo at the start of each move. Then I make notes of what has happened during each corps turn, and take another photo at the end showing the position of the corps. After the game I transfer the photos to the computer and type up the battle report of the move.

Each day I post one move of the battle report on the campaign diary blog. The idea is to keep the players interested in the progress of the game, and allow Jan and I time to fit in the playing time. It is usually one or two days after the move that it is published on the campaign diary blog.

Late last night I checked my emails before I went to bed, and found one containing two questions about the latest diary entry. One was about the wargames table in relation to the campaign map, and the second was about morale throws for one of the corps involved.

I keep copies of all the battle reports until the campaign has finished, so it was easy to check the table and map query. To set up the wargames table I make a rough diagram of the squares on the map to be transferred to the wargames table. Each map is one scenic square on the table, and each is numbered. So it is quite easy to set up the table. Unfortunately I had placed the scenic square upside down on the table, and a hill which should have been north of the main road ended up south of the road! The question was whether it would have made any difference. The answer was yes it would, but we had already spent ten days fighting the game, and published ten moves of the battle report. I had to admit my error and put it down to poor staff work. Fortunately the area had not been chosen for the geographical features, it was chosen for the strategic importance of the town.

Worse was to come. I had made a complete hash of describing the incidents which had taken place during move 10 for one of the six corps involved. I had listed seven morale checks when there had only been four.

It was only two days since we had fought that particular move, and we had done two more moves since then. I could not remember the sequence of the morale tests, and the table had changed considerably so I could not just check on the table.

The notes I had made were still in the waste paper bin, so I was able to recover and check them. They were the same as the battle report, so not much help. Comparing the first photo of moves 9, 10 and 11 I was able to work out what had happened to each of the four brigades during each of those three moves. So I was able to amend the battle report. But it did take me more than an hour, and it was well past midnight before I got to bed.

But the most important part of the whole sorry story is that it made me consider just how accurate are eye witness accounts of battles, particularly if they are written down many months or years after the event. If I had so much trouble remembering a fairly simple sequence of events after just two days, how reliable are those accounts on which historians place so much importance.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Map Making

1813 Campaign map of Spain

I am certainly getting my money’s worth out of my Profantasy map making system. It only cost about £30, and I have had months of enjoyment out of it already.

I am sure that, like the computer, I only use a fraction of its possible use. But, again like the computer, having learnt how to do the basic jobs I want I do not put any effort into finding out what else it can do.

It seems to have been designed for fantasy wargaming, and most of the additional software if for producing dungeons or fantasy worlds. But it is perfectly adequate for my purposes. Certainly it is a vast improvement on my old hand drawn maps.

No doubt it is an age thing, but I find it very difficult to master computer games. Just mastering the basics is often beyond me, and I just give up. Empire in Arms is a good example. It is based on a popular board game, but not one that I had ever played. It is a world wide campaign game set in the Napoleonic period. The write up was so convincing that I ordered a copy. Many frustrating weeks later I just gave up. I could not even get a basic game going. I joined their forum in the hope of getting some assistance, but that was a complete waste of time. It seemed to consist of two groups of people. First those who had played the board game, and been involved in the development of the computer game. For them it could do no wrong. Then there were those like me, who could not make any sense out of the mechanics.

That experience put me off buying Profantasy when I first heard about it. But then I found an online tutorial. This was a very simple, step by step guide to doing all the things I wanted to do. Creating a coastline, roads, hills, rivers and towns. I paid my money and after just a couple of days hard work could make a reasonable map of Germany and Spain.

And the more I use it, the more I enjoy it. It’s a bit like doing a jig saw puzzle, its very satisfying to see it all taking shape. And the best part is that you do not have to start from scratch. I keep a copy of each stage as I complete it. First the rivers, hills and major cities. Then the major roads, followed by minor ones. And finally all the towns and villages.

Every so often I come across a map which gives me more detail, or more often different detail. For example historical road system. I then work on the map with rivers, hills and cities, and put in the new road system. Great fun, and I have spent many enjoyable hours doing it.

My latest attempt is a new road system for Spain. This was prompted by Miguel, who sent me a copy of a map he had made, which was based on the historical road system. It was completely different from my roads system, which was based on a modern road atlas. It meant that I had to change a lot of the preparation for my next campaign, which is set in eastern Spain. But the current Hanover campaign is taking longer than expected to finish, so I have plenty of time to complete it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Battle of Peine

Hanover Campaign Tactical Map

This looks like being a very interesting wargame.

This is the latest battle in our 1813 PBEM campaign. The Prussian objective is to take Hanover, and Peine is the last opportunity for the French to stop them. Peine is occupied by a Polish corps under the command of Poniatowski

XIII corps fought, and lost, a battle just four days earlier at Helmstedt. They retreated to Peine, pursued by the Prussians. A French counter attack on Helmstedt forced Blucher to recall the pursuit. The Prussians won the second battle at Helmstedt. They then resumed their march on Peine.

As they neared Peine their advance guard was driven back by a Polish cavalry brigade, who then discovered that they were facing two, and possibly three, French corps. The nearest French reinforcements were one days march away, and had suffered casualties at the second battle of Helmstedt.

In the umpire report for move 37, when the cavalry melee was fought, Poniatowski was advised what he was up against. He also received orders from Davout to hold Peine if at all possible, but to retreat north to join the main army if unable to do so.

Janson, who is playing Poniatowski, was asked what he wanted to do. If he retreated north the Prussians would take Peine, and with it an open road to Hanover. They would have won the campaign. He immediately confirmed that he would stand and fight.

XIII corps have recovered from their battle casualties and are now full strength. The leading Prussian corps has light battle casualties, and the second corps heavy casualties. In fact there is one and a half corps against one. The third Prussian corps, which also has light battle casualties, will arrive at the same time as the first French corps, which has heavy battle casualties. A third French corps will arrive just as night is falling.

Not a game I would have set up as a “one off”. Nor one that I would have fought as part of my previous solo campaign. But one that looks more interesting and challenging the more I look at it.

The first part of the battle report has been published on the 1813 campaign diary blog

http://new1813campaignhotmailcouk.blogspot.com/

Jan will play the French, I will command the Prussians.

This is a game that I am really looking forward to playing – win or lose.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Planning the next PBEM campaign

Strategic map for 1813 Hanover campaign

Pretty well all of this week has been spent thinking about the next PBEM campaign, and tying out ideas. And at the end of the week, and after many hours spent map making, I have ended up where I started.

Once again it looks like my 1813 Hanover campaign is drawing to a close. I have said this before, and been proved wrong. When I set up the last battle/wargame I was convinced it would end the campaign. The Prussians had thrashed the French and sent off north with their tails between their legs. The road to Hanover was held by just one French corps, who had suffered a heavy defeat five campaign moves earlier. I was confident that the French corps commander would abandon Hanover to save his corps. He decided to stand and fight. Out of nowhere the two thrashed French corps appeared on the horizon. Suddenly we have another battle. And one that looks less of a walk over as I work out the orders of battle. I am amazed what a difference PBEM makes over a solo campaign – even for the umpire.

Anyway last Sunday I sat down to consider the pros and cons of the same PBEM campaign. I am completely sold on the idea of PBEM, so another campaign is not in doubt. But I wanted to see how I could improve the model based on my 6 months experience of this one.

From my point of view it has mostly been a great success. I have managed to keep a team of eight players going for 37 moves, and provided nine wargames. It has been great fun, and a great challenge. The only disappointment is in losing three players, all without reason or explanation. Fortunately I have been able to replace them, and the flow of the campaign has not been affected at all.

I have completely rewritten the rules for the next campaign. It will cover many aspects of supply, off road movement and detachments. I have written the rules, but whether they will work or not remains to be seen.

But the thing I really wanted to change was player involvement. In particular I wanted a system where each player would have more corps and responsibility. This would work well with the campaign concept of five armies in five campaign areas. But when I got to working out how it would all work I realised it would involve a huge amount of extra work for the umpire – me! Worse if one player dropped out it would either stop the campaign for his opponent, or I would have to take it on.

The week was spent making five maps, one of each campaign area. Then working out revised orders of battle for each area. But the more I worked on it, the more obvious it became that it was not going to work.

It did not matter too much when I thought that the current campaign was coming to an end. But I suddenly realised there is another battle in this campaign, and we would have to fight it next week.

So it’s been a busy week, with pretty well nothing to show for it all at the end. It has all been put in a pending file, whilst I work out the “last battle” of the Hanover campaign. But it has been hugely enjoyable trying to make it work.

Meanwhile the PBEM battle looks like being very different. Most of the corps involved start the battle with heavy casualties. This is not something I would have tackled for a one off game, but can not be avoided in a campaign game. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

More news of the battle shortly.