Saturday, 26 October 2013

1814 PBEM Campaign – Command Vacancy

I have a vacancy in my PBEM campaign for the role of Marshal Soult.

The Fifth French Army has the role of containing Wellington and his Anglo-Portuguese-Spanish army in the western Pyrenees.

For the next phase of the campaign he has concentrated five Armee Corps along the French border with Spain.   He orders are to invade Spain and take Wellington’s supply base at San Sebastian.   At the same time he will have to protect his long lines of communication from his base at Bayonne.

This is a fictional campaign designed to provide interesting and fun wargames, which will be fought by my wife and I.    The player will be responsible for all aspects of the map campaign; we will take over when a battle is declared.

The aim is to play one campaign day each week.   Each player is required to write orders to each of his five corps commanders once per week.  This task should take no more than half an hour.   The campaign rules consist of five A4 size pages, and are for reference only. 

No previous experience is necessary.  There is no need to learn complicated rules.  

You can find more information on the campaign diary blog which you will find here

To join the campaign you will have to join the campaign yahoo forum which you will find here

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Campaign Diary

Tactical map of Western Spain for 10th March 1814

I have been unable to use my desktop computer all week due to a virus.   All of the campaign files are on the desktop, so it has made it difficult to keep the campaign administration up to date.

To keep me occupied I redesigned the campaign diary blog.

The blog contains a record of the PBEM campaign, including battle reports and a daily diary.   I have to be careful not to give away too much current information on the diary, and consequently it does not serve very well as a history of the campaign.

I decided that I would produce new maps which were similar to the campaign tactical maps, but which did not have as much detail or the grid.   

Campaign Diary map of Western Spain for 10th March 1814

The entry for each day has six maps, one for each of the campaign areas, with a very brief summary of what has happened on that particular day.

The blog has an index, based on the labels.   To read a daily history of the campaign you need only click on Label 03 Campaign Diary for the current one.  To read them all you click Older Posts bottom right until you get to 1st March 1814.

The problem is that we have already completed ten campaign days, so I had to do quite a lot of research, make six maps and update each of them ten times.   It has taken all week.   Not sure how much it will be used by the players, but it will be very useful for me as a reference.

If you would like to see the campaign diary blog you will find it here

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Different Sized Corps

French Army of four corps

Many years ago I reorganised my armies in corps of four infantry brigades, one cavalry brigade and corps artillery.   This was to fit my 1813 solo campaign, which was designed to provide good wargames for Jan and me to fight.   Each army had four such corps, and I could manipulate the map movement to provide suitable battles.

Then I changed the campaign to PBEM, and real people started making campaign decisions about who should fight where.  One particular problem soon became obvious, and that was uneven battles of two or more against one.   Using my wargame rules at such odds the weaker side is pretty well certain to lose.

Until now I have overcome this problem by simply avoiding such uneven battles.   Either the weaker side would retreat on the map, and thus trade ground for probable defeat.  Or if they had to fight a battle, I would allow the weaker side to retreat on the table as soon as the odds became obvious.
I spent 10 days in UK recently, and had lots of time to think about the campaign – as opposed to just spending lots of time running the campaign.   During this enforced break I worked on how to allow uneven odds, but not at such odds as two to one.

The result is using the same number of wargame figures to provide five corps, or perhaps three corps and two large divisions.   Each army would still have three corps as at present.   The fourth division would be split to produce two new corps/divisions.   One corps/division of two infantry and one cavalry brigades.  The second would be two infantry brigades and (one) artillery.

This would allow more possible variations without the resulting overwhelming two to one odds.  For example you might add the first to an existing corps and the result would be six infantry brigades, two cavalry brigades and one gun.  These are reasonable odds against a standard corps of four infantry and one cavalry brigades and one gun. 
With our rules this would give the attacking corps sufficient extra manpower to overcome the defender advantage mentioned in my last post, but not overwhelm the weaker defender.
As always the proof will be in the playing.   One of the six campaign phases has just finished and will be a good opportunity to try out the new order of battle.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Attackers Advantage

Four Austrian corps v three French

We have fought more campaign battles than usual in the last three months, mainly due to our new campaign system of six campaign areas each with its own French and allied armies.  In that time we have fought 16 battles. I tend to take on the attack role, and Jan the defence.  So I have had a lot of experience of the disadvantages of mounting an attack.

When I designed the campaign I gave all twelve armies the same order of battle.   Four corps, each with four infantry brigades and one cavalry brigade plus one artillery battery.   The command, combat and morale ability differ a lot between the different nations, but the numbers are the same.  This is to allow each player an equal chance of winning in his one of the six different campaign areas.

I have found two particular problems in being the attacker.   First you have to move more brigades more often, and this puts you at a distinct command disadvantage.  In our rules each corps gets one command point for each brigade which is not shaken or in rout, plus three for a gifted commander, two for average and one for poor.   Fine if everyone is halted in defence, more difficult if everyone has to advance, and orders changed.

The second is the luck of artillery fire.   We roll one two D6 and require 8 for a hit at long range.   It’s essential for the attacker to cause more casualties on the defender before it comes to close quarter combat, particularly as the defending guns only require a total of 6 at close range.

The attacker also has to be careful not to lose cavalry casualties, or worse still a cavalry combat.   There is only one cavalry brigade per side, and if the attacker is left with no cavalry his infantry have to form square against the enemy cavalry.

One solution would be odds of two to one, by only attacking when one side has two corps against one.   But this always results in heavy casualties to the weaker side.  Consequently it always retreats off the table before the attacker can close and destroy them.

I am working on a reorganisation of the orders of battle to allow more options.  

Instead of the standard army of four corps each of four infantry, one cavalry and one gun, there would be different options.   There would be three standard corps of three infantry, one cavalry and one gun.   There would be a fourth corps of three infantry and one gun.  Plus a fifth corps of two infantry and one cavalry.    This would allow the attacker to combine either the fourth or fifth corps to create a much larger corps to attack.

I am still working on the details, but I hope to introduce this new system at the start of the next segment of the campaign.