Monday, 17 September 2012

Campaign Logistics

Campaign map at the start of battles of Jena and Bad Kosen


After a long period of inactivity the PBEM campaign has suddenly taken off again.

The campaign opened with four battles in the first 6 moves, three of them fought at the same time and adjacent to each other.   Then we had 5 moves when both sides resupplied and regrouped.   Now another two battles, again adjacent to each other.

It’s a pity that I could not fight the first three battles on one table, or indeed the two current ones.   But each square on the campaign map is a 2x2 foot scenic square on the wargames table.   So even though I have all the armies in 6mm and 15mm, as well as 28mm, I could not recreate the map on the table.

At nightfall I clear the table for the first battle, and set it up for the second.   It works well providing that there is a clear winner, or indeed loser.   Then the loser retreats for three moves (one day) and the action moves to a new location.   But if the result of one or more battles is a draw I then have to fight the first three battles, and set the table up again for day two.   This happened at the second battle of Possneck on move 4. 

Fortunately the scenic squares are all numbered, so setting up the same table is not a problem.   All of the buildings are also numbered, so I can make sure that the same ones are used to create the town.  But I have to make a decision where to place the figures.   It’s impossible to mark exactly where each regiment was at the end of the previous game, and anyway it would not work well if they started a new game in close combat.  Too much would depend of who moved first, and how lucky they were with the first dice throw.

But an even bigger problem is putting the campaign on hold whilst the battle is fought.   Each campaign move is four hours.   Each wargame move is one hour.   There are three campaign moves in one day, and 12 wargame moves works well on the table.  If the two armies start one square apart there are four moves for manoeuvre, four for musket fire and four for melee to decide the outcome.  So the logistics of the campaign work well.  But it is a long time for the players to wait.

I have recently increased the actual time allowed for each campaign move to one week.   So it would take three weeks to play one campaign day.   This is plenty of time to fight one battle, just about enough to fight two but not long enough to fight three.

Then there is the problem of umpire reports between each campaign move.    This confirms to the corps commander what has happened during the last campaign move.   So if there are three battles being fought I cannot write the umpire report for the first campaign move until the first two battles have been fought and at least move four of the third.  

I think it has all worked well so far, but I am always aware that there is a danger players will lose interest if there is too long a break between campaign moves.  It was for this reason that I used to publish one wargame move each day on the campaign diary blog.  But recently I have found that hardly anyone reads the blog.  It was a lot of work to take photos of each move and write up a detailed battle report, so I have abandoned it for a shorter battle report which will be published at the end of the battle.

I don’t suppose many of the campaign players know, or even care, just how much work goes on behind the scenes.   The administration of the campaign has developed a lot since I started this, my first, PBEM campaign three years ago.   It often reminds me of a swan on a lake – calm and graceful on top but paddling like mad below the water line.

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