Saturday, 28 January 2012

Three Campaign Battles

Campaign Map 10 August 1813

It has taken 10 moves, and two months, to arrive at the first campaign battle. This is mostly because I have changed the campaign rules to allow each corps commander more freedom of choice, and they are all being somewhat cautious. Perfectly understandable, but it has meant that Jan and I have not had a campaign wargame to play since November.

The first battle, at Torrente, is the result of 16th Italian corps advancing to relieve the garrison at Flix, and being confronted by 3rd Spanish corps, and 4th Spanish corps about to cut their communications with Torrente. The Italians then have to carry out a hasty withdrawal to avoid being cut off. The battle started on Move 10.

Move 11 resulted in two more battles.

8th French corps attack 2nd Spanish corps who are laying siege to Miravat.

The garrison of Miravat belong to 17th French corps, who have left a small garrison at Tortosa to raise the siege of Miravat. When Suchet hears of this he orders them to return to Tortosa and leave the relief of Miravat to 8th French corps. They arrive back at Tortosa just as 1st Spanish corps is about to attack.

This posed a problem for Jan and I how to fight the wargames. We were already fighting Torrente when the second two battles were declared. Obviiously we will have to finish that battle first.

The second two start at midday on 10 August. This means that there will only be 8 hours/wargame moves to nightfall. So if the first battle is not resolved within that time we will have to decide whether to clear the table and fight the second, or carry on with the first battle for the next day.

To keep the campaign and wargame in the same time frame each day is 12 hours and each wargame 12 moves. So one hour is one move. Each campaign move is four hours. This was done to allow nearby commanders move to join a battle if they wanted to. If the battle/wargame starts at 0800 in the morning, then there are 12 wargame moves. Quite sufficient to resolve a wargame. But if they start at 1200 there is only 8 moves, not really long enough.

During the battle/wargame Jan and I command the corps, but at the end of the battle command goes back to the corps commander. If there is a clear winner I judge that one corps will remain on the battlefield and the other retreat. But if the battle is undecided it is down to the corps commander.

We will just have to fight the three wargames and hope that all three result in a clear winner and loser. Otherwise we will have to leave it up to the corps commanders and if necessary relay the table to fight a second day or one or more battles.

If you would like to follow the battles you can find them at

http://1813campaigndiaryparttwo.blogspot.com/

Monday, 23 January 2012

PBEM Player Commitment


Thanks for the feedback on my last post. Its always interesting to read the experience of others, and their suggestions to improve my PBEM campaign.

Campaigns seem to be like Napoleonic Wargame Rules. Everyone has a different view of what makes a good game/campaign. Even worse with campaigns because there are so many different types and objectives. And most of us are just doing the best we can. Unlike wargame rules there are no real guidelines, or suggestions on how to run the perfect campaign.

I have a very firm idea of what I want from my campaign. It must produce good wargames for Jan and I to fight. That is easy to achieve with a solo campaign, but much more difficult that I had anticipated in a PBEM campaign.

The real problem is player commitment.

I try to achieve this by explaining what is required of any player. There is only one rule. They must be able to respond to my emails within 48 hours, or let me know if they are unable to do so.

In return I try really hard to produce the sort of campaign which I would love to take part in. The problem is that what I would like from a campaign is not necessarily what someone else would want.

I try never to expect more than I have asked for. In general terms a player in my campaign should be able to commit for about four months. He should be prepared to spend half an hour a week writing his orders. He must answer my mail within 48 hours. Not a lot of commitment in my opinion.

In return I run a campaign forum and a campaign diary blog. I respond to every email I get within 24 hours. I try to keep the momentum of the campaign going by publishing something on the forum, on the diary blog or send reports or messages every day. Certainly at least once a week each player will receive a complete update on his performance and any messages due. The turn around for a campaign move is never more than one week, often slightly less.

Yet I seem to have never ending problems due to lack of player commitment. The most common one is not responding to my mail within 48 hours. Every week I have to send a reminder to at least one, and often two or three, players.

Fortunately I don't lose players very often. But when I do the problems really start.

Just over a week ago one of my long term players, who has taken part in three campaigns, told me he had to quite due to work commitments. This is perfectly understandable, and we parted on good terms with my assurrance that he would always be welcome to take part in a future campaign.

At that time I had four reserve players. Two were filling the role of Chief of Staff. This is a non playing role in the campaign. There is one for the allied army and one for the French. They receive copies of all reports, updates, orders and messages for each of their four corps commanders. This is so that they can keep up to date with each of their corps. If a corps commander is unable to write orders, or has to drop out of the campaign, they are asked to fill his post.

In addition I had a further two reserves. They had asked to join the campaign, but I did not have a role for them at present.

In those circumstances you would think replacing my French commander would be easy.

I offered it to the French chief of staff. He could not do it for very good personal reasons.

I then offered it to the Spanish chief of staff. He did not want to take it on, as he had spent a lot of time under studying the Spanish corps commanders

I then offered it to the first of the non committed reserves. He agreed to take it on. I spent two days sending him a mass of reports, maps, orders and a brief on what had happened since the start of the campaign.

Two days later I asked him to write orders for the next move. I also explained how to do it. He replied that it might be better if I did it, as he had not received critical documents. I sent the documents again, and explained that it defeated the whole object if I wrote the orders. He then told me that he could not open the attachments I had sent him. I asked him to confirm that he has been unable to read any of the documents I had sent. He replied that in the cirucmstances he did not want to take part!

Why I wonder did he ask to join in the first place? Why did he not tell me he could not open attachments as soon as he received the first one? Had he done so I would have printed the documents on the email rather than send them as an attachment. But who would ask to take part in a PBEM if they could not open email attachments?

PBEM wargaming should be the answer to the army of solo wargamers who can not find an opponent near them. Its so easy, and so much fun. Before I took on PBEM I could not understand why it was not more widely used. Now I understand all too well.

Over the past two years I have communicated with a lot of organisers of PBEM campaigns and this player commitment seems to be the main reason for them abandoning their campaign. Sometimes it is an abusive player. Sometimes it is lack of response from one or more players. Sometimes it just all proves to be more trouble than it is worth.

I have been fortunate that my own experience has, on balance, been much more positive than negative. PBEM adds greatly to my enjoyment of my campaign. Given the choice I would prefer to have nine neighbours who all wanted to take part in the campaign as corps commanders. But that is not going to happen. PBEM is a very good alternative. But it can be VERY frustrating.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Campaign Manning Problems

In my earlier experience of running a wargames club I have found that it is not unusual for one or more members to lose interest if there is a break in the routine of the weekly meetings. So I was not greatly surprised to find that the same thing happened with the PBEM campaign following the two week break for Christmas/New Year.

The first was one of those failures to respond to an email, and again for the follow up email. Fortunately I had a reserve ready to step in. But I was shocked to hear that the reason he had dropped out was that he had been involved in serious traffic accident. The problem with organizing things on line is that you have very little personal contact with the players. And there is always a tendency to think the worse if they do not reply to an email. So this event has taught me not to jump to conclusions.

I was less prepared to lose another player within a week. This second one had taken part in all three of the PBEM games I have run. But for most of the current game he has been late sending in his orders, and has had to be reminded. I was about to write and ask if there was anything wrong when I received a mail from him that pressure of work had made it impossible to continue.

As always I accept that real life often makes taking part in a game difficult or inconvenient, so there were no hard feelings. If players tell me that they wish to withdraw from the campaign they are always welcome to join again at a later date. And once again I had a reserve ready to take part. He was also prepared to write a brief of his corps activity for the new player.

But I was very surprised, and more than a little concerned, to find that the game had not gone well for him at all. I have changed this campaign considerably from the previous three. The major change was to allow the corps commanders much more freedom of choice. But also there was the introduction of detachments, garrisons, sieges and lines of supply. All were in response to comments after the last campaign. All were intended to make the campaign more enjoyable for the corps commanders. But clearly they had failed in this particular case. It was clear that he preferred the earlier type of campaign.

It is always difficult to get feedback on how players are enjoying the campaign. Or what could be done to improve it. I suspect that most players do not want to appear ungrateful or negative about the campaign by offering criticism.

But I was concerned that this feeling might be wide spread amongst the corps commanders. So I have posted his comments on the forum, and asked each player to let me know how they feel about the new systems and how this campaign compares with earlier ones.

I really don’t like to change anything mid campaign. But if this feeling is wide spread then I will have to consider doing so. It’s a lot of work for everyone concerned, and I want to make sure that everyone enjoys the experience. It would not be difficult to reintroduce a greater degree of control by the two CinC, and to make the task of the corps commanders less demanding. But I don’t want to do so unless I am sure that this is what the majority of the players want.

If you would like to follow the discussion you will find it on the campaign forum at

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

Monday, 16 January 2012

Battle of Torrente

Wargame area outlined in white

It has been a long wait for the first battle of our PBEM Spanish campaign, but it looks like it will have been worth the wait.

We have completed nine campaign moves, over four weeks plus two off for Christmas, and have finally produced a battle. And its quite a complicated one. The Spanish have laid siege to an Italian brigade in an isolated village.

General Severoli, the Italian corps commander, ignores his orders to hold Lerida and marches to relieve the garrison. As he nears the village he finds the way barred by a Spanish corps, and receives reports of a second Spanish corps moving to cut his communications with Lerida. To add to the mix a small band of guerrillas have set an ambush. Try transferring that lot from the map to the wargames table!

As the wargame starts Severoli has ordered his rear guard to abandon Torrente and his main body to retreat accross country to join them on the Lerida road just east of Torrente.

In a wargame the retreating side always has an advantage, especially if they move first. The attackers have to move carefully and in column of attack. The retreating side can move must faster in column of march. Also the Italians have cavalry, and the Spanish do not.

To ensure that the Italians do not just outmarch the Spanish, I have stipulated that they must hold at least one square of the wargames table until nightfall. The game starts at first light, so there are 12 hours/wargame moves to nightfall.

Nothing is ever predictable with our wargame rules, but I am hoping that this game will live up to its early promise.

The battle/wargame plays an important part in the PBEM campaign, so I take photographs of each move and write up a move by move battle report on the Campaign Diary Blog at the rate of one move each day. This gives Jan and I plenty of time to fight the wargame, and keeps the corps commanders involved in the progress of the battle.

If you would like to follow the battle you will find it at

http://1813campaigndiaryparttwo.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Major Review of our Wargame Rules


Reason for Review

The rules were designed to fight large battles with three or four corps per side, and with all brigades starting the battle at full strength. We have used them for this type of game for five years, and we enjoy the game they produce

However the PBEM campaign has resulted in more battles with just one corps per side, and often with heavy casualties at the start of the battle. This has created a number of problems with the rules, and for some time we have adjusted them to suit the new style of game.

The time has come now to review the whole rules to make them more suitable for the type of games produced by the PBEM campaign.

I want to keep changes to the mechanics of the rules to a minimum, and only bring in changes where absolutely necessary.

The two major problems at present are the use of Poor Card and use of the Command Points.

Review of Command Points

At present there is a real problem for the attacking player. The allocation of CPs are just too few to move and fight the six fighting elements. This is a pretty central part of the rules, and any changes will be far reaching. So its important to test play them to make sure that changing them does not create more problems than it solves.

The present rules are designed for five commanders per side, one CinC and four corps commanders. The CinC only commands the four corps commanders. Each corps commander commands six fighting elements.

The new games often have only one commander. He still commands six fighting elements, but they often start the game with casualties from previous games. Worse still at the end of the last campaign some commanders had to fight with just one or two fighting elements.

First Proposed Solution

Not only the corps commander, but also the six command elements, will roll for CP.

The corps commander CP will issue general orders to his brigades.

The brigade CP will decide whether they can move, change formation fire or fight when required to do so.

The corps commander will get an extra CP if Gifted, and lose one if Poor

The brigade will get an extra CP if A class, but lose one if C class. In addition they will lose one for each casualty. So when full strength they will do most of what is required, but as the casualties mount they will be unable to do so.

This will create an interesting problem when the corps commander is planning his battle. He will have to consider where to place his best, and worse, brigade

If you would like to follow the development of the rules you can do so at

http://napoleonicwargamerules.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Project for 2012


My project for 2012 will be a complete overhaul of my 1813 campaign.

Having spent 2011 converting the campaign from solo to PBEM, and having fought two mini campaigns, I am now convinced that PBEM is the way to go for the future.

The campaign, including our wargame rules, was designed to suit Jan and I. To provide the sort of wargames we wanted to play and to make full use of the wargame table, figures and scenery we had available. It was designed to be run with the minimum of administration and both the wargame and campaign rules were short lists rather than full rules.

Despite this the conversion to PBEM has worked quite well. However the mechanics have had to be changed drastically to meet the requirements of eight campaign players. As a solo campaign I could easily provide battles when I was ready to fight a wargame, and of a size which suited the rules I was using. This has proved impossible with the PBEM campaign.

Our wargame rules were written to fight battles of four corps each with a model soldier strength of 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and 1 gun. This was because our 6x6 foot table was just right for 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 guns per side. My earlier large collection of model soldiers had been reduced to provide suitable armies of French, Polish, Bavarian, Italian, Westphalian, Austrian, British, Prussian, Russian and Spanish armies of that size.

The same size armies are used in the PBEM campaign, but instead of one player commanding all four corps within the army, each player only commands one corps. In the solo campaign each corps moved and fought as part of the whole army. In the PBEM corps each corps operated separately. Furthermore each player wanted to have some choice as to how he should deploy and fight his corps.

This resulted in much smaller wargames. Usually only one corps per side. Sometimes two or even three, but never four. The wargame rules which had been designed for four corps per side required some adjustment to fight with just one corps.

In addition the more freedom I gave the eight campaign players, the less control I have over when battles/wargames will be fought. This has resulted in more interesting campaigns for the players, but less wargames for Jan and I to fight.

So over the coming months I am going to work out a campaign designed for PBEM. The size of armies will remain the same, but I want to be able to consider how best to play the actual campaign. Perhaps each player will have command of a four corps army, rather than just one corps.

I also want to rewrite my wargame rules to make then suitable for single corps battles. I like the rule mechanisms, so I will not be changing them too much. Mostly it will be the command and control section.

I will also write a new set of campaign rules to suit the new campaign concept. I also want them to be an extension of the wargames rules. Or perhaps the wargames rules to be part of the campaign rules.

Not sure how I can engineer more battles/wargames. I might have to run a series of one off wargames, similar to our Wellington’s battles. We have nearly completed that series, so I might start a new one based on Napoleon’s battles.

It will be a lot of work, but I have plenty of time. And I am really looking forward to starting the whole thing again from first basics.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Review of 2011


We have just returned from an extended Christmas and New Year visit to our grand children at Rothbury. It’s a small village about an hour north of Newcastle, and we had heavy snow for the last two years. This year no snow, but very cold. So it’s lovely to be back in Spain with clear blue skies and daytime temperatures of 20c plus.

It felt strange to be separated from our wargames table and 1813 campaign, but it did give me a chance to consider our wargame activities during 2011.

Its more than six years since I painted my last wargame figure, and considerably more since I bought my last figure or piece of wargames scenery. This, combined with retiring six years ago, has meant that we spend much more time actually fighting wargames.

Blogs have played an important, and increasing, part in our wargame activities.

This is the oldest, and most, important Blog. It covers all aspects of our wargaming. It also provides a central reference point for all of the other Blogs. During the year I have posted here at least twice a week, a total of 89 posts. There have been a total of 39029 visitors since it started in 2009.

The 1813 campaign has a total of 13 Blogs. They cover everything from photographs of each army to campaign and wargame rules to individual Blogs dealing with each phase of the campaign. This was done to make it easier to access any part of the campaign. Each phase has its own diary and detailed battle reports. The Hannover Campaign was the main Blog for last year. It has a total of 202 posts. There have been a total of 35046 visits to all 13 Blogs since they started in 2009.

Wellingtons Battles provide one off wargames based on Wellington’s battles in the Peninsula. It has been running since 2009, and last year had 66 posts. The Blog has had 6800 visitors.

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields was also started in 2009. I published the last Blog in May. There were 104 Blogs in all, one for each battlefield. Last year the last 19 were completed. This Blog has been visited 35847 times.

In addition to the wargaming Blogs, I also do a series about living in Spain. There are now six of them, one for each year we have lived here. In the past year I have posted 67 times and there have been 12291 visits since they started in 2009

So during the year I have been running five or six Blogs at any one time and I have posted 443 entries. It has been great fun and has kept my interest in the hobby alive and well. There have been an amazing 129,013 recorded visits to these six Blogs since 2009. I do not know how many were during 2011, but visits have increased during the year and it must be at least half, which would be 64,506.

I am very grateful to each and every visitor. Although I get very little feedback on any of the Blogs, it is great to think that there are so many people who are interested enough in what I am doing to want to read about it. The totals are individual visits, but obviously most will be repeat visits by the same people.

There are 60 members following this blog, and I am particularly grateful to them. Its like belonging to a large club who all share the same interest.

Now that I am back in Spain and back in my routine, I will be posting again at least once a week. Over the next few days I have to catch up on the PBEM campaign. I will then give some thought to my plans for 2012, which will be the subject of the next post.

Thanks again for following my ramblings. Best wishes for 2012 to you and your loved ones.