Sunday, 12 September 2021

Review of Lubeck Campaign Phase

Campaign Phases

 

This is our current campaign map of Europe.  

Each square is a military district, the area of a campaign phase

Each red square is a military region.

Each star shows the location of a campaign phase

The colour of the star indicates who won.

There are 79 stars

This map records the history of the campaign since it started in April 2009

Battles fought during Lubeck campaign phase

Lubeck was the 36th campaign phase in the sixth revision of the campaign.

This was the last time the campaign was redesigned in June 2020.

It was also the 15th phase fought in northern Germany since 2009

It was the sixth time that Napoleon defeated Blucher

However it is a reminder that Blucher beat Napoleon seven times

So it has not all be entirely one sided.

 

Napoleon won five of the six battles fought in this current phase

This would appear to indicate that the campaign was very one sided

However many of those wargames were very close, and either side could have won

It is also significant that the only battle the Prussians won was against the Imperial Garde.

 

There have been 403 battles fought since 2009.

At one time I did keep track of how many were won by each side in each campaign area

That has long since become too complicated, and I now just record who won each campaign.

But I do recall that when I did keep those results both sides were more or less equal

And the fact that the Prussians won more campaign phases indicates that they also won more battles

 

At the end of each campaign phase I update the campaign records

And this helps me to review the progress of the whole campaign

This process has resulted in many changes to the campaign over the years

Initial deployment for Lubeck campaign phase

This map shows the campaign area

Each square is a 2x2 foot scenic square on the wargames table

Nine of them (3x3) are a wargames table, and one days march in the campaign

You will note that the map is four tables wide and three tables deep

 

The map shows the initial deployment of each corps and depot

You will see that each side has three armies each of two corps

Each army is deployed in an area covered by a wargames table

 

This map and deployment results in three separate army engagements

Top, centre and bottom.   Each with two corps per side

 

This major change in the organisation of the campaign armies has worked well

It allows for one battle to be fought each campaign day

For example 2nd French and 1st Prussian armies (top of map)

They fight on day one, regroup on day two and resupply on day three

On day two the centre army fights and on day three the bottom one.

On day four 2nd French and 1st Prussian armies can fight again.


The main question raised by this campaign phase is relative strengths of corps

The uneven result of five French wins to one Prussian one has raised this question

On the surface it would appear that the French are too strong

However earlier comparison of total battles throughout the campaign do not support this


It is all too easy to jump to conclusions and upset the balance

However it has given me something to work on for future campaigns


Sunday, 5 September 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 7


19 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 7

 

Blucher orders the Prussian army to concentrate at Wismar, Schwerin and Ludwigslust.   This will take them east of both the

Wismar/Lubeck border and also the river Elbe.

Napoleon orders First French army to retreat closer to the border, but to hold the border towns of Boltenhagen, Gadebusch and Fletchingen.

The French are low on supplies, and their lines of supply are over extended from Lubeck.   To ease his supply problems he must move his army west until he can reorganise his supply system.

The French have won a significant victory in the Lubeck campaign, but they are not yet ready to move into Wismar district.

Comments

This is the second campaign phase in northern Germany, and once again the French have won.

From a technical point of view this campaign area is very challenging.   This is because one of the six French corps is the Imperial Garde.   I have mentioned before how difficult it is to make the guard special, but not too powerful.   It is also difficult to confirm whether I have the balance right or not.

Because our wargame rules rely so heavily on the luck of the dice, it is easy to mistake a run of bad (or good) dice for a weakness in the rules.  

I always insist that we accept the outcome of each wargame however lucky, or unlucky, one side has been.   It is very tempting to say just ignore that dice throw or it will ruin the game.   But the whole essence of the campaign is that each battle is decided on the wargames table.   And the whole purpose of dice driven rules is to allow for those unusual outcomes.   The guard cavalry may be beaten by a line hussar brigade because the French player rolled a total of 2 with 2D6 for the melee, and then rolled a total of 1 with 1D6 for the subsequent morale test. 

But without these highly unlikely outcomes you might just as well do away with the dice and rely on plus and minus points for combat and morale.  And of course the player with the Imperial Garde is bound to defeat the player with a standard Prussian corps.

So it is important to accept the luck of the dice, however unlikely it may be at the time.

Despite the above I always spend a lot of time pondering the relative strengths and weakness when such a thing happens.  And never more so than when the Imperial Garde is in play.    And this campaign phase has been no different.   It has prompted me to review the whole balance of plus and minus throughout all ten armies in the campaign.   More of this later.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 6


18 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 6

Having secured the north and centre, Napoleon has effectively won the campaign.

The Prussians are strong south of the river Elbe, but must retreat or run the risk of being trapped there

All Napoleon has to do is wait for Blucher to order 3rd Prussian army to retreat.

However Napoleon is determined that his guard should have a victory to offset their earlier defeat.     

Battle of Fletchingen end of move 8

Fletchingen provides the victory that Napoleon desires.  

First French army has two corps, 1st and 3rd.   1st corps is the Imperial Guard. 

3rd corps is given the task of pinning the Prussian right flank.   1st corps and the French reserve are to crush the enemy left flank and then swing towards the centre and take the town.

The result is everything that Napoleon could have wished.   All of the fighting was done by the guard, and for the loss of just 100 casualties they broke 5th Prussian corps.  

At nightfall the town was still held by Blucher.   But with both of his corps in rout he could only order a general retreat and abandon Fletchingen. 

Comments

The outcome of this final battle of the Lubeck campaign was exactly what Napoleon wanted.  But it was pure luck.

The game only lasted eight moves.   At the end of move six it was completely open, and either side could have won.

The French needed their artillery to weaken the enemy infantry before launching their own attack.  The gunners of both corps let them down badly.   The first artillery fire of the campaign was directed at the French guard artillery.   The Prussian gunners required 10 with 2D6.   They rolled two sixes!.   The French gunners failed their morale and were shaken.   Fortunately they passed the second test.  But they lost two game moves.   In the next two moves they failed to cause any casualties, even though they were within short range of the enemy.

The Imperial Guard were outnumbered by Prussian infantry.  Most brigades on both sides already had battle casualties.   The guard cavalry moved forward to protect the infantry.  As luck would have it they moved first, and the Prussian cavalry were able to charge them.   This gave the Prussians a slight advantage, but this was balanced by having more casualties.   A Prussian victory would have been the end of the French attack, and would have resulted in a French defeat.   But the French won.

The rout of the Prussian cavalry quickly spread to their supporting infantry and then throughout the whole army.

Napoleon had achieved his much desired victory.   The Imperial Guard had restored their honour.   But it could so easily have been a completely different result.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 5


17 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 5

 Having lost three of the four battles, Blucher is desperate to regain the initiative

 

He orders 1st Prussian army to attack Boltenhagen

A victory here would secure the borders and take the campaign into Lubeck district

 

2nd Prussian army has been forced to retreat to Schwerin.

They are short of supplies, and must stand and fight if 3rd French army pursue

 

South of the river Elbe things are looking better for the Prussians

They have occupied Fletchingen and forced the French to retreat to Wolfsburg

Battle of Boltenhagen end of move 10

The battle opens with 2nd French army deployed in front of the town of Boltenhagen.

Augereau has combined three infantry brigades as a reserve and deployed them in front of the town.

Bulow has also created a reserve which he also posts in the centre.  His consists of two elite grenadier brigades and 2nd corps artillery.  As they advance the French reserve quickly withdraw into the safety of the town.

The Prussians are particularly unlucky in this game, or perhaps the French are exceptionally lucky.   At one critical stage the French cavalry roll 11 with 2D6, in response the Prussians roll 1 with 1D6!  With luck like that it is not too surprising that the Prussians suffer a crushing defeat.

Both sides suffer heavy casualties.   The French lose 3800 men, but the Prussians lose 6000.   Both Prussian corps are shattered and rout.  It will take the French about four days to rally, resupply and regroup.   However it will take the Prussians at least a week.  

Comments

The later battles in a campaign phase are always the more interesting and challenging.   By then both armies have suffered considerable battle casualties, and at least one is experiencing supply problems.    It is not surprising that the loser usually has more casualties.  But this is often countered by the winner have more serious supply problems.   Having won earlier battles the winner pursues the retreating loser.  This takes him further from his main supply base, and his supply route is longer.   The loser usually retreats closer to his main supply base, making it easier to resupply.

But the most challenging aspect is casualties.   Before the battle both sides will usually have consolidated their infantry casualties into one brigade per corps.  But cavalry and artillery casualties must be replaced, and this takes time.   For each day that a corps is not moving or fighting they will receive 10% of one brigade in reinforcements.   So the losing side will usually start the battle with more casualties than the winning side.  But they are usually well supplied and in defence.

All of this applied in this battle.   But the final element, which is luck, won the day.    When both sides are weakened by casualties they are very vulnerable to morale tests.   One bad dice can rout a brigade, and then every friendly brigade within 4” has to test their morale.  It is not unusual for the rout to spread very quickly.  

This is what happened in this game.   At one point the Prussians had the upper hand.  They had broken the corps to their front, and were redeploying to support the centre.  Their had to move their artillery to engage the new enemy, and once they had done so could expect to break them quickly.   But they only had one landwehr brigade to support the guns.   We use alternative move sequence, decided by picking a poker chip from a hat.   At critical points in a game the one who moves first has a huge advantage.   In this instance the French moved first.   Their regular infantry brigade charged and broke the landwehr brigade, who routed through the limbered artillery.   The gunners had no further support and were disordered by the fleeing infantry.  They needed at least 5 with 1D6.   They rolled 2 and joined the rout.  

The game would go on for another three moves, but that was the point at which the Prussians lost.  

An interesting game, particularly for me as the Prussian player! 

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 4

 

16 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 4

1st Prussian and 2nd French armies both regroup and resupply

In the centre 3rd French army attack 2nd Prussian army at Gadebusch

1st French army retreat to Wolfsburg, followed by 3rd Prussian army

Battle of Gadebusch end of move 12

Both armies start the battle with considerable casualties, particularly in the cavalry.  

The campaign is going bad for the Prussians, and Blucher must hold Gadebusch until he received confirmation of what happened at Fletchingen.

The casualties made individual brigades very brittle and prone to lose morale tests.    However because they applied to both sides, they largely cancelled each other out.

This may explain why the wargame went the full twelve rounds

And until move 11 it could easily have gone to either side

But as soon as the tide turned against the Prussians it soon became a rout

Comments

Making each army group larger and having three armies per side in the campaign is really working well.

When there were four corps per side in each campaign area games tended to be smaller, usually one corps per side.   The aim was to develop the campaign into slightly larger games and finally one big one with all four corps per side.  But that was difficult to achieve, and I only managed it once or twice.

 Having three armies per side, each with its own campaign area, is more artificial.   It means that all movement tends to be left to right.   But it does clarify lines of communication and supply.   It also makes it easier to have a battle every campaign day.   An army fights on day one, loser retreats day two, both sides resupply and regroup on day three then fight again on day four.

 It has also solved one of the most annoying aspects (for us) of having all wargames created by a single campaign.   At the end of the wargame I then have to complete the administration for that day.  This includes typing up battle reports, completing the campaign diary and adjusting orders of battle to show new casualties.  All of this takes at least one full day, often two.

I  have to start the administration for the next day.  This includes updating the supply situation of both corps and depots then writing orders for each corps.   These orders are then plotted on the campaign map.  If a battle results I have to create the initial battle report and battle maps.   Casualty lists have to be amended to show current strengths and the wargames table has to be set up and the figures deployed from the map.   This requires at least one more day. 

So there were often many days, or even a week, before the end of one game and the start of the next.

With the new system I know in advance which of the three areas will be the location of the next battle/wargame.   Before the current game has ended I can prepare the administration of the next day for that particular area.   I can also update the order of battle for the two armies and even prepare the battle/wargame map for the next game.

This was all part of the general plan when I increased the orders of battle from four to six corps in each phase.  But it has worked much better in practice than I had dared hope.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 3


 15 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 3

1st Prussian army retreat towards Wismar

2nd French army occupy Boltenhagen

 

2nd Prussian and 3rd French armies face each other at the border

Both are regrouping and resupplying

 

South of the river Elbe 3rd Prussian army attack Fletchingen

The town is held by 1st French army, including the Old Guard corps

Battle of Fletchingen end of move 10

The French have to deploy their two corps over a wide distance

Napoleon forms a reserve of three infantry brigades to hold the centre

This weakens both corps on the flanks.

 

Blucher also forms a reserve, but of two infantry and one cavalry brigade

He also deploys them in the centre.

His intention is to hold his right flank (on the river) and attack in the centre


Napoleon must decide whether to put two brigades inside the town

Or to keep all three brigades outside to counter the Prussian reserve

He decides on the former, making an attack on the town unlikely

Blucher can now concentrate both 5th corps and his reserve on the area between the town and the farm.   This area is held by 1st (Old Guard) French corps.   5th corps pin the French infantry in and around the farm.   The Prussian reserve attack the guard infantry and cavalry holding the centre.   When the French lose a cavalry melee they also lose the battle.  Their gunners seek shelter in the farm and the Prussian artillery can move into close range and bombard the garrison.

The French deserved to win, but wargaming is never fair.

Comments

This was a great wargame, and one which demonstrated how the better army does not always win.   Jan commanded the French (including the Old Guard), I had the Prussians.

We actually fought this wargame three times, something which has never happened in the campaign before.   The first attempt was a walk over for the French.   The Old Guard consisted of two A class infantry and two B class.  Both artillery and cavalry were A class.   This was reasonable for the Old Guard.   5th Prussian corps had one A class, one B class and two C class infantry brigades.  Both cavalry and artillery were B class.  

Not only were the French overwhelmingly stronger, they also held a very strong defensive position.   A crushing victory was not too surprising.  However lucky French dice, and particularly poor Prussian dice, made matters even worse.   The result would in fact mean the premature end of the Lubeck campaign.

I amended the combat tables to give a quicker result.  The previous one often resulted in long melee or firefight.   But I got the balance wrong, and the second game resulted in a crushing Prussian victory.

This prompted a quick review of the distribution of troop types in different armies.   The immediate result of reducing the cavalry and artillery from A class to B class.   I now need to do a more comprehensive review, and hope to do so before the next campaign phase.

Meanwhile the third game resulted in a Prussian victory.   But this was due to the French being too cautious and leaving the guard cavalry and artillery to hold the centre, with their reserves being too far back and in the town.   They could still have pulled it off, but losing a cavalry melee resulting in them losing the centre and the Prussians being free to move their artillery into close range.

Another very enjoyable wargame, and one that will lead to a major overhaul of the orders of battle for all ten army groups.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 2


14 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 2

In the north 2nd French army attack Boltenhagen.   The Prussians lose both cavalry melee which open the battle and retreat before the French can pin them

In the centre 2nd Prussian army retreat to Gadebusch having failed to take Wittingen.

In the south 1st French and 3rd Prussian armies face each other at the border.

Battle of Boltenhagen end of move 8

The Prussian artillery proved to be very ineffective, but no less than their cavalry.   The Prussian gunners opened the battle, but failed to inflict any casualties.   The French cavalry then attacked on the flanks.   The Prussians lost both melee and ran away.

By the end of move 8 the two Prussian cavalry brigades, one infantry brigade and half of their artillery were in rout.  Facing certain defeat the Prussian commander ordered a general retreat and abandoned Boltenhagen.

The Prussians lost 1300 casualties, the French 700.

First two battles to the French, not looking good for the Prussians.

Comments

I have recently done a major rewrite of the wargame rules.  This was largely to avoid prolonged melee, which have dominated the last half dozen wargames.   The previous rules were designed to allow more than one round of melee.   But in fact it often resulted in two or three rounds, with both sides only breaking when they reached 40% casualties (an automatic rout).

The new rules were designed to allow a faster decision, most likely in just one round of melee.  But usually with less casualties.   This would reduce long period of inactivity whilst both sides replaced heavy cavalry casualties with campaign replacements.

Unfortunately the dice resulted in more extreme results in this game.  Melee only lasted one round, but casualties were 20% to 30% for all four cavalry brigades.  This was due to extremely good (or extremely bad depending on which side you were on) dice.

The result a second Prussian defeat, and an unexpected one.   They are the aggressors in this phase, but are already in serious trouble after only two campaign days.