Thursday, 6 January 2011

A look back on 2010

Albuera on the right, Spanish Hill in the centre

Its that time of year again, when you look back on the old year and forward to the new one.

2010 was a good year for us, both in our wargaming and personal life. As ever the former played a large part in the latter. For most of the year we had a game in progress on the wargames table, and most of my time was spent either walking in the local area or planning new projects.

The solo 1813 campaign has proved a great success, and has provided hours of enjoyment for Jan and I. Covering all of Germany and Spain as it does, it was the most ambitious project I have undertaken yet. The first set of maps took months complete. They were hand drawn and copied from an AA Road Atlas. Then I had to make a second set of maps to represent the wargames table, and I made one map for each of the five campaign areas. Finally we fought a campaign in each area. Being a solo campaign, it was easy to adjust as I went along. I was quite surprised at how few adjustments were necessary.

Early in the year I discovered ProFantasy, which is a map making software. It is really designed for what I would describe as fantasy wargaming, and at first I dismissed the idea of making my campaign maps as too difficult. Then I discovered a set of Napoleonic campaign maps made using Profantasy. A member of my Campaigns of Napoleon forum put a set of them in the files section and, like other members, I was greatly impressed. Unfortunately they were not suitable for my campaign, as the road system would not allow me to make wargame maps which could be transferred to the wargames table. I contacted Malcolm, and he was very helpful and encouraged me to buy ProFantasy and give it a try.

Jan bought it for me for an early birthday present, and I was hooked. I do not easily understand computer programmes, and particularly when they are not really designed to do what I wanted to do. So the first month or so was a steep learning curve. But I was soon hooked, and transferred all of my hand drawn maps for the 1813 campaign to Profantasy maps. I even reissued the campaign diary blog using the new maps.

Throughout the year I had been dabbling with Play By EMail campaign games. I ran a couple using my solo campaign maps and simple rule system to see whether I could convert it to PBEM. It worked reasonably well, but not good enough to transfer.

Then I took part in a couple of PBEM campaigns as a player. This was much less enjoyable. I always throw myself into anything I undertake, and in both campaigns I put a lot of time and effort. So I was very disappointed when both campaigns just stopped without reason or explanation. In both cases it was when the first battle had to be fought, and I suspect that it just proved too much for the two different umpires to manage the transfer from map to tabletop.

Far from putting me off PBEM, this made me more determined to convert my solo campaign. I wrote a slightly more comprehensive set of rules, and adapted one of my mini campaign maps. I was pleased that most of the players in my earlier PBEM campaign were prepared to take part in a test campaign. One of the big problems in my earlier attempt was that I tried to do the turn around of orders too quickly. So this time I am aiming at one campaign day in one week.

I knew that the early map moving part of the campaign would go well, and that the problem would arise when I transferred it to the wargames table. I was not worried about how to do it, as there is a campaign map showing table squares. So I only have to decide which squares to use for the wargame. But I was concerned that the ten players would lose interest whilst I set up and played the game.

I run both a forum and a blog for the PBEM. The forum is to answer any questions on the rules, and to notify players when orders are due. The blog is to run a campaign diary and also somewhere to keep the rules, orders of battle and maps readily available. I decided to also post a battle report on the blog.

I was unsure how complicated or simple the battle report should be. I wanted each player to understand how the battle went, and if they wished to be able to follow it move by move. So I decided on one wargame move each day. I took four photographs of each move, and wrote a full battle report.

Each game can last up to 12 hours, which would be 12 days. This would give Jan and I plenty of time to play the game, and still give the players something to read each day on the blog. I enjoyed it, and I hope that they did too.

As luck would have it, there were two battles on the same campaign day. So there was a long break for the players. Worst still, the battle reports finished in the week running up to Christmas. I was tempted to leave it until the new year before getting back to the map movement, but I didn't want such a long break.

So I brought the campaign up to date and notified each player of the situation of his corps after the two battles. I do this in the role of Chief of Staff. I write a report on the days activities for the commander in chief or corps commander. They use this update to write their orders for the next day.

I was am now waiting to see how it works. I have just sent out the COS reports, and am waiting for each CinC to write his corps commander orders, and then for each corps commander to write orders for his command.

During the play testing of the PBEM concept there has been a shortage of wargames for Jan and I to play. When it was a solo campaign I could do three or four camapaign days movement in half an hour. It now takes a week for just one days movement. So we needed something to fill in the time.

Last year I thought it would be fun to refight each of Wellington's battles as a wargame. Not a real refight with historical orders of battle and trying to recreate the terrain. But a wargame based on the historical battle. We both enjoyed them, and now use them as a fill in between campaign battles.

We have already fought Rolica, Vimerio, Talavera, Busacco and Fuentes de Orono. We are currently fighting Albuera.

So that is the year just gone.

Not sure what 2011 will bring.

We returned to Spain on 2 January, and since then I have been busy updating my blogs. There are currently six of them, namely Walking Napoleonic Battlefields, Napoleons Italian battlefields, Hanover PBEM campaign, Wellingtons Battles, Paul and Jan in Spain and this one. I try to do one each day, but wanted to update them all as quickly as possible after our visit to UK for Christmas with the family for 10 days.

My main interest at present is converting the PBEM campaign. I am currently working on new maps, to make them more user friendly for a PBEM campaign. But I dont want to do too much until I am certain the transfer will work.

So first I have to work on the campaign itself. At present the administration is much too complicated, and I will have to find an easier way of running the campaign. That will not be too difficult. But I will not know until the test campaign is finished what needs to be improved from the player point of view.

So I am still full of enthusiasm for the hobby and the campaign as we enter 2011. And I am pretty sure that this hobby will play as important a part in our life in 2011 as it did in 2010.

Thanks for following the blog in 2010. I hope that you will continue to do so in 2011, and that you will be encouraged to post comments when you read something of interest. I do thye blog for my own satisfaction and enjoyment, but its always nice to receive feed back.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

Paul and Jan

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