Sunday, 30 June 2013

1814 PBEM Campaign is Go

Six campaign areas in the 1814 campaign

This time last week I was busy completing campaign maps, typing up orders of battle and trying to recruit twelve army commanders.

This week all the command posts have been filled, starter packs sent to the twelve commanders and I have received the first set of orders back from them this morning.

So a very busy week, but also a very satisfying one.

The twelve players are a very mixed bunch.   One has taken part in all twelve previous PBEM campaigns.  Five more have signed on again having taken part in the last campaign.   Three are taking part in my campaign for the first time.  Three have returned having taken a break.   So a good mixture of old hands and new blood.

Also, of course, from all over the world.   I have encouraged them to post a short introduction on the campaign forum, and most have done so.  It’s very interesting to be able to put a little background behind the name. 

Not sure why some have not done so.  Perhaps they were too busy.  Perhaps they just don’t want to share any personal knowledge on a public forum.   I respect their choice.   I find it very easy to jump to conclusions dealing with people you have never met except online.  I have also found that more often than not the conclusions are completely wrong.

For example this week one of the new players raised some queries about the campaign rules on the forum.   He had tried to find the answer in the rules, which are published on their own blog.   I replied that I was impressed that he had tried to find the answer online first.   I did so because I thought that relatively few people read the Campaign Rules.  I have a counter on each of my blogs which records any visits other than my own.  The campaign rules have had 1562 visits in the past four years, the wargame rules 20840.  I concluded from this that the campaign rules are not consulted as often as might be expected

Two members of the forum, one not currently taking part in the campaign, responded that they had copied the rules from the forum to make it easier to consult them.   This had not occurred to me, though it is obvious when you think about it.   And it does illustrate how easy it is to jump to the wrong conclusion online.

Meanwhile still a lot of work to do on the 1814 campaign.

I have posted all of the background on the new campaign blog and have completed most of the maps.   I still have to make suitable maps to record the progress of the campaign on the campaign diary blog.  As you can see from the map above it covers a very large area, and the detail on the map of France is too small to read or follow.

I also now have to process the first set of orders.

My role in the campaign is chief of staff to each of the twelve army commanders.   Each campaign day I have to produce a report for each of them which includes an updated map, a current order of battle, the current supply situation and any contact reports from their corps commanders.   All has to be done manually, and setting it up the first time is very time consuming.  Once it’s all done it will be relatively easy to update each week.

It’s a lot of work, but what else would I do now that I am retired.   And it keeps me occupied now that we are into the hot summer months here in Spain and it’s too uncomfortable to do any mountain walking.

Keep an eye on the campaign diary blog for the regular progress reports on the 1814 campaign.   You can find it here

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Commanders required for 1814 Campaign

 Battles fought in the Linz Campaign

The Linz campaign has come to an abrupt, and rather unexpected, end with a French victory.  It is a natural end to the campaign, but it came a little earlier than I expected.

The campaign ran very smoothly and produced nine wargames for Jan and I to fight.   Most were unusual, all were very enjoyable.  None were the sort we would have planned for ourselves.  Sometime the odds were very uneven, and the result certain.   Most arrived on the table in an order of march I would not have selected.   Reserves were often not very well placed to support the battle.  But all of this led to different and challenging wargames.  And that is the whole aim of the campaign.

So a successful campaign.  And a fitting end to our 1813 campaign, which has run for four years.

Work on the 1814 campaign is almost complete.  I had hoped that the 1813 campaign would run for another two weeks, and the next one would then have been ready to start.

The next campaign is much more ambitious in size and content.   It will include six different campaign areas all running at the same time.  There are twelve command posts, and each one is an army commander with four corps under command.

I have started a new blog for the campaign.  So far it includes an introduction, details of the allied plan and a map of the initial campaign areas.   Next week I hope to post detailed maps of each campaign area and photographs of each of the twelve armies.   You can find the blog here

Recruiting commanders is going well.  I asked for volunteers last week and have filled eight of the twelve posts.  I can start without the full twelve commanders, but it would be better if I could fill them all.  If you would like to take part you would be very welcome.  No previous experience is required.  The initial commitment is for about three months and during that time you would have to write orders once a week.  

If it appeals and you would like to take part the first step is to join the campaign forum here

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Next PBEM Campaign - France 1814

The planning for the next campaign is going well, despite constant changes in plan.

My first plan was a fictional 1812 campaign, based on the Austrians and Prussians joining with the Russians to prevent Napoleons invasion of Russia by attacking France in January 1812.   I did a lot of work on maps and orders of battle before deciding to abandon the project.

I wanted to keep some link with the current 1813 campaign, and clearly that would not be possible if the next campaign was based a year earlier.   So instead I decided that the next campaign would be based on the 1814 campaign in France.

The link works well.   Napoleon has suffered more defeats in my fictional 1813 campaign than victories.   He has lost both Hannover and Gera in the mini PBEM campaigns.   So it is not unreasonable for him to call an armistice in late 1813 to allow him to build up his armies.   The allies demand that he retreat to the river Rhine before they accept a cease fire.   That is the background for the 1814 campaign.

The big job is to make new maps, in particular a new map of all of France.  

My first draft of the map is above, and shows my initial thoughts on the proposed campaign.

There will be six armies on each side, so the orders of battle will be another big job.

It’s a very ambitious campaign, much larger than any of my previous ones.  

Each player will be an army commander and will command four corps.   There will be twelve command posts, which is a lot of players to find.

There is a forum for the campaign which you can find here

As the planning progresses I will post updates on the forum and put documents and maps in the files section

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Infectious Rout

Six French/Baden infantry brigades break and run as the 7th Austrian division advance.   The routs are marked by the red markers, which also show the number of casualties.   The Austrians have suffered 20% casualties on the jager brigade, who have however made their morale.

The Linz PBEM campaign is providing its fair share of battles/wargames.

It is only 10 campaign days old and already has produced nine battles, well above the average for one of the campaign phases.   This is partly due to the campaign map, which was designed to produce more battles.   But it also owes a lot the “gung ho” attitude of the corps commanders.

Right from the start most appear to have worked on the principle “if in doubt – attack”.  This provides lots of battles.   It can also provide very brittle formations.

In our wargame rules each battle casualty resulted in 10% casualties to the brigade concerned.  To anyone who does not understand the rules, this may not seem very drastic.   However each casualty results in a minus on morale and combat tables.   So even one “hit” will reduce the effectiveness of the brigade.

At the end of the battle each division will receive casualty replacements providing that they are not in contact with the enemy and do not move.  These replacements are the same as one cavalry or artillery hit, or two infantry hits.   The corps commander is notified in the daily umpire report how many replacements each division has received, but he has to confirm which brigade he wants them to go to.   Surprisingly more than one player has failed to do so.   He gets another reminder next umpire report, but if he has to fight a battle the next day the division will do so without the replacements.

In addition it is possible to concentrate all infantry casualties in one brigade in each division.   Despite a reminder of this rule on the forum, most players have failed to do so.   Most casualties are spread between brigades, and failure to concentrate them means that all such brigades will be affected.

For example four brigades with one casualty, or 10% casualties, will all suffer a reduction on morale or combat tests.   But were all four casualties, or 40% casualties, concentrated in one brigade this would greatly increase the morale and combat effectiveness of the division.   One brigade would be non operational, but the remaining three would be normal.

In our most recent wargame this has happened.  

Four infantry brigades in one division started with either 10% or 20% casualties.   All went well until one of them received artillery casualties.   They immediately failed their morale, broke and routed.   All brigades within 4” have to test for the rout, all failed and also broke and ran.   The rout spread across two divisions and the whole French attack broke down.

The nine battles which the campaign has produced so far have proved an interesting and varied lot.   Not a single one was of “line both armies up on the side of the table and charge each other” type.   Each table is laid out from the campaign map.   The armies start in the order of march decided by the player, and with his declared reaction on meeting with the enemy.   This is often changed immediately by Jan or I, but that in itself imposes a delay and allows the opponent time to react.   It is not unusual for one side to spend 8 of the 12 moves in a game/campaign day just marching towards the enemy.  

Often the two divisions of the corps will be out of supporting distance of each other.   The leading one may have orders to attack the two enemy divisions on the table, whilst the supporting division may not arrive until the start of move 5, or even move 9.

It all adds to our enjoyment of the resulting wargame.   Neither of us mind much who wins and who comes second.   The only disappointment is when a game is decided by too strong a run of good, or bad, dice.   An element of surprise adds a lot to a game, but a long run of bad luck spoils it for both of us.

On balance no complaints at all.  We have enjoyed all nine wargames, even the two where the outcome was obvious from the start.  I refer to the two games where a player insisted on fighting at odds of two to one.   The game can be enjoyable given the luck of the dice, even though the end result is never in doubt.

I suspect the campaign will not run for much longer, but it is already one of the more memorable.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

New Map of Germany

At first sight the new map looks similar to the old one.   But there have been significant changes which will have a considerable bearing on the new campaign.

The previous map was based on a modern road map of Germany.  I drew a grid system on the road map to ensure that rivers and towns were in the correct place.  This has not changed.

I then entered a road system which connected major cities.   However a lot has changed since 1813.   Strategically important towns of that period have now been bypassed and are insignificant.   Minor and unimportant towns of that period are now major cities.   So the previous road system did not encourage using the same road system as was used by Napoleon.

I have kept the same grid system, so the towns and rivers are in the right place.  But I have changed the major cities.   First I plotted the capitol cities of each region, and connected them by the red road system.  This is the major supply route.   I then entered the other major cities, and connected them with the yellow road system.

There are still three main campaign areas in the new campaign, and they have been outlined in white on the map.   You will see that each one has one major road running east to west.  This will be the main campaign objective in the new campaign.

Each campaign area will have its own French and allied army.    Each army will have four corps.

Northern Germany will be French v Prussians.

Central Germany will be French v Russians

Southern Germany will be French v Austrians.

Each campaign area will have its own tactical map, which will cover five towns east to west and three towns north to south.  Each square on this map is 15 miles square, so each campaign area will be 75 miles by 45 miles.   The centre town on each tactical map will be the objective.  Once taken that will be the end of the mini campaign.   The next campaign will move east or west depending on which side won.

There is still a lot of detail to work out, and in particular the campaign rules will have to be amended to reflect the new maps.   But it’s all taking shape nicely and I expect to have it all complete by the time the current Linz PBEM campaign ends.