Tuesday, 22 March 2011

PBEM Campaign Time and Motion

Tactical map at start of campaign

Because the 1813 campaign was only designed to produce good wargames, and because it was a solo game, I have always had a very relaxed approach to communication between commanders. In fact it has always been instant communication.

When I started to convert the campaign to PBEM this aspect was overlooked by everyone, including me. No one seemed to notice, and certainly it was not raised. When I asked for comments prior to the start of the current campaign, this was not raised.

The campaign rules were rewritten and issued. The maps were redrawn and issued. The first campaign move was completed and we had started on the second move before it was raised. As often happens it was along the lines that this would not happen in real life. Which of course it wouldn’t. But then again a wargame campaign is NOT real life.

But once raised, it is difficult to ignore. The player who raised it asked the question “am I alone in thinking…” The complete lack of response from other players seemed to indicate that he was alone. Indeed the only response was to say it didn’t matter. But to me it did matter. Once the question is asked, it’s hard to just dismiss it. Even though that would probably have been the best thing to do.

So I set about finding a solution. It was only then that I realised how difficult it would be. The campaign is based on one move a day, and with the new smaller maps there is only four days move on the whole tactical map. This allows plenty of space to march and fight, but not sufficient to allow time for messages to be delivered. So we would either need a new map, or a completely different solution to the length of time it would take to deliver a message. The whole campaign area is 60 x 60 miles, and an ADC on a fast horse can cover 5-7 miles per hour. So he could ride from one side of the campaign area to the other in say 10 hours! If each campaign move is one campaign day then clearly it would mean instant communications!

But worse still, it would mean changing the campaign just as it was getting started. And it would mean a major change. I would have to write new campaign orders and devise a daily routine. Then I would have to explain it all and try to impose a new system without destroying the campaign.

The solution I have come up with is that each move will be four hours, or three moves per day. This works quite well, because in the wargame 12 moves is a day, and in the campaign 12 moves in a day. Furthermore if my ADC covers 5 miles per hour he will cover 20 miles or four squares in one move. This change from one move equals one day to three moves equals one day means that the campaign will slow down considerably. But it will also allow the corps commanders more reaction and the ability to exchange communications.

It took a full day to write orders and try to consider the pitfalls. I managed the first, though no doubt with undiscovered typing and other errors. Not at all sure about the second. I strongly suspect that the pitfalls will only become obvious once the campaign is under way again. Much like the original communications problem in fact.

My poor corps commanders have been very quiet throughout this upheaval. They have been bombarded with a quick succession of lengthy emails and forum posts to explain what is happening, and how it will affect them. Whether this is the quiet before the storm, or whether it indicates their complete lack of comprehension I am not sure.

It is only 36 hours since the post arrived on the forum. And in that time the campaign has been turned inside out, three campaign rules have been rewritten and two new ones added. A complete set of umpire reports have been sent to each corps commander, and the first replies have already been received.

Whatever else the PBEM campaign may be – it is not boring!


Caliban said...

Perhaps your Corps commanders are happy with your solution?

Good luck with the rest of the endeavour!


thistlebarrow said...

Hi Caliban

I hope so, and indeed have no reason to suppose otherwise.

However I have a feeling that some internet players do not have much patience with complications. I can quite understand this attitude. They have signed up for a simple, uncomplicated and enjoyable game.

The change was put in place very quickly, and I have not had any adverse comments - yet.

Time will tell