Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Battle of Helmstedt

There is an old saying, something about “be careful what you wish for”. In my last post I bemoaned the lack of feedback on the PBEM campaign, well I have now got my wish.

It all started with the first battle of the campaign.

I thought that I had made clear before the campaign started that Jan and I would fight the battles/wargames as we thought best, but taking into account the current campaign orders. I was therefore quite surprised to receive feedback that one corps was not doing what the campaign player wanted it to do.

The corps in question was ordered to move to the south. The enemy corps commander ordered a surprise, or at least unexpected, attack on the town the first corps was leaving. This I thought would provide an interesting battle/wargame. And one which I would not have encountered in the old solo campaign.

Jan commanded the corps moving south. I commanded the one attacking. It seemed to me that there was a good chance that Jan’s corps could well be destroyed if attacked in the flank. Despite this I stipulated that Jan’s corps must move first, and must follow the campaign orders to move south. They would not be allowed to react to the threat to their flank until my corps actually came on the table.

In the first part of move one Jan set off south, and her leading brigade reached their objective. My corps came on after she had moved, and attempted to attack her flank. However the dice were against me, and I only made slow progress.

At the start of move two Jan ordered her corps to turn and face the threat, and her rear brigade to return to the town that they had just left to protect their left flank. It was at this point that I started to receive email because I, or rather Jan, had not followed the letter of the campaign orders.

I expected my explanation, along the above lines, to suffice but it was not to be so. The player seems unable to accept my explanation, and seems to think that I have deliberately upset his whole campaign plan.

I suggested that he post on the campaign forum, and that has sparked a good response. Fortunately, so far, most of the comments are in support of what we have done. But it has caused me to consider whether I need to change the command responsibilities in the campaign.

The whole campaign is designed to provide good wargames for Jan and I, and an enjoyable and fun campaign for the players. Clearly it is not working to everyone’s satisfaction at present.

At present I fill the role of chief of staff, to save the players having to do their own admin. I am wondering whether it might be better if I also performed the role of commander in chief. This would allow me to handle the campaign grand strategy, and give each corps commander the ability to plan his own little part of the campaign. The only problem is that this style of command is not at all Napoleonic – or at least not at all French Napoleonic.

I am toying with the idea of placing the next mini campaign in Eastern Spain. The allied players would all be Spanish, and be completely independent. The French players would have semi independent commands, and would have to communicate via the umpire.

It has the makings of a great campaign. But then again they all do until I hand it over to the players! I had no idea what a can of worms I was opening by allowing Jan to abandon the campaign orders in the light of developments on the wargame table. Who knows what might happen with eight players all doing their own thing in Eastern Spain?

I suspect that my current Hanover campaign will not be long lasting. I do not mind that at all, providing everyone enjoys the experience. But the current storm clouds do not look very promising. I hope that I am proved wrong, it would not be the first (nor the last) time.

And the wargame itself? Well Helmstedt proved to be one of our most enjoyable wargames for a long time. The advantage changed with each move. My well planned attack fell apart due to a particularly poor dice (not for the first time either). And, ironically, both corps achieved their orders. Jan's corps ended up where the campaign player wanted it. My corps took the town as ordered, but only just. Both sides suffered medium casualties, but both could fight again next day. Everything is still to play for.

On the campaign forum the debate continues!

Link to campaign forum

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