Wednesday 30 September 2009

New PBEM Campaign

I have enjoyed taking part in the 1806 Campaign so much that I am considering whether it might be possible to play one of my 1813 campaigns as a PBEM (play by email) campaign. It would be nice to have some outside involvement in the campaign.

So far I have done no more than ask on the Campaigns of Napoleon Forum whether anyone would be interested in taking part. If there is sufficient interest I will look at how it might be done.

If you would like to take part have a look at


Monday 28 September 2009

The Battle of Rohenburg - Second Game

The result of the second game was very similar to the first - another Russian victory. So all the heart searching about whether to accept the result of the first game, with its good dice-bad dice, was resolved for us. And as the result was the same I didn't have to feel guilty about changing the effect on the campaign

The greatest effect of this game was its effect on the artillery rules. We decided that the artillery had too much influence on the battle, and was the major influence on the result. Its strange how you can play with a set of rules for months and months quite happily, and then suddenly realise that they are unbalanced.

As a result of the changes to the rules, the infantry will now be the deciding factor in future games. It will still be largely down to the dice, and the decision whether to skirmish, enter a fire fight or charge home and hope for the best. But who gets to deploy their artillery last will have much less influence on who eventually wins the game.

Counter battery is now largely ineffective, requiring 11 on 2D6 at long range to hit the enemy artillery. However at close, or cannister, range they become much more effective.

We have used the new rules for a couple of weeks now, which included a large game with four batteries per side, and they seem to be working well. Mind before this game I thought they were working quite well as they before!

Click on 1813 Halle Campaign on the right to read the full battle report.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Cool enough to walk

Its been a very long, and very hot, summer here in Spain. The locals say the hottest they can remember. So our second favourite hobby, hill walking, has taken a back seat. In fact we have not had a "proper walk" since early June.

Yesterday some friends asked us to show them a local walk. Its about 8 miles return, and ideal for the first walk of the season. The temperature was down to 28c, with a cool wind. Pretty well ideal for walking.

The "official walking season", when the local walking groups start meeting again, is still two weeks off. But I suspect that now we have got our walking boots on again the wargaming will take second place. We will still play two or three times a week, but not every day as we have during the summer when it is too hot to do anything outdoors.

If you would like to see more photos of our walks click on Paul and Jan in Spain 2009 on the right.

The Battle of Colbitz

This wargame was the second battle of a mini campaign we played in November 2008.

It was yet another victory for Jan, and part of a run of bad luck which I was having - or at least that is my excuse.

You can read the battle report by clicking on "Wargames in Spain" on the right.

Thursday 24 September 2009

The Halle Campaign

The battle of Rohenburg was the fifth wargame in this phase of the 1813 campaign. It was also the cause of the "Good Dice, Bad Dice" question. You may recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned how a game had been lost due to a couple of bad dice, and whether the result should be allowed to bring the campaign to an early conclusion. Well this was the wargame that caused the subject to be raised.

In fact we fought the battle again, and I will post that battle report shortly.

Meanwhile to read the first battle report click on 1813 Halle Campaign on the right.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Vimiero Battlefield

On 2 September 1994 Jan and I spent an afternoon walking around the battlefield of Vimiero. I remember it as being a lovely warm summer afternoon, and writing up the visit and looking at the photographs brought it all back .

There is a large monument which dominates the village, so I imagine that they must have quite a few visitors. But as we walked around the deserted village that was hard to believe. And they were obviously not used to English speaking visitors in the small cafe where we had a light snack.

Our pathetic attempts to order a snack was our first experience of trying to communciate without a word of Portuguese, and made us realise how difficult it was going to be. Obviously the hotels would not be a problem, because the receptionists all spoke excellent English. But we were now well off the tourist beat, and during the day we would be lucky if there was anywhere to get a coffee, let alone a menu in English. Fortunately we had planned to have picnics on the battlefield each day, and if necessary we could buy a snack at a petrol station travelling from one battlefield to the next.

Some of our happiest memories of this holiday were our contacts with various locals, who all proved to be extremely patient and helpful despite having very little idea of what we were talking about!

You can read about the visit by clicking on Walking Napoleonic Battlefields on the right.

Monday 21 September 2009

The Fog Thickens

We have now done about 6 or 7 weeks of the PBEM 1806 Campaign, and the long awaited battle is still awaited. I was really sure last week that we were about to cross swords with the Prussians around Jena, but they have disappeared.

I have had quite a bit of success with the Game Master, who has finally let me have an order of battle for the Prussian army, give or take 10% and six days old. But at least I have some idea what I am up against.

We are using the umpire map, which is quite adequate when we were many days march apart. But now that we are within 10 miles of each other you need a lot more details, and that is not available. So there are constant questions about woods, hills, bridges and fords. I have just checked the email folder for mails to and from the umpire, and there were nine pages.

As Napolelon I get a weekly situation map, which is a daily situation map in campaign terms, which shows the locations of my formations and any identified enemy. This map, and subsequent questions, take up about 8 of those 9 pages of emails. I had finally got confirmation that there was a large body of Prussians, about 4 infantry divisions and perhaps 3 or 4 cavalry brigades. All of last week was spent planning some very clever moves on my pretty inadequate map. I was convinced that we would have a battle today/this week, and told my wing commanders so. They advanced to recce the field, only to discover that the Prussian horde had disappeared!

Its very interesting to compare this PBEM campaign with my own 1813 campaign. The latter is designed to produce good wargames with the minimum of paperwork. So there is no element of fog of war at all. Its a bit like playing a board game, where I (as umpire) can see everyone everywhere.

The PBEM on the other hand is the exact opposite. I know fairly well where my corps and divisions are, though they sometimes do not arrive exactly where I have told them to be. But no idea at all about the enemy, and even when I do find them they often just disappear.

Then there is the map problem. Although I have the map on the computer, and it is updated each week/day, it is very difficult to plot moves over the coming day. I have done a hand drawn map to plan moves with markers. But I can not put them on the computer. I am sure that there must be a way to do it, but I need a modern day Berthier to help me do so.

So which is the most fun? Really hard to say, as they are so different. But I certainly spend a lot more time working on the PBEM campaign, and look forward to getting the next report from a cavalry patrol or the daily update from Berthier with the situation map. On the other hand is it very frustrating having to wait days or even weeks (real time) for a plan to develop. There has been no problem maintaining my interest for far, but it must be more difficult for the wing commander who can only move where I tell them and will not really come into their own until a battle is fought - if it ever is.

So it will be a couple of weeks before I can report any great developments. Meanwhile I will continue to struggle with the fog of war, which gets thicker and thicker with each email I receive.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Wargames in Spain

The latest battle report is of a game we played in November 2008.

It was part of a mini campaign set in 1813, as so many of our games have been over the past couple of years. Its a good period to wargame because so many nations were involved, and the fighting ability of each nation was very similar.
The French are marching on Berlin and as they reach the town of Bismark the Prussians are spotted approaching from Stendel.
The Prussians attack the town before the French can occupy it and prepare it for defence.
You will find the battle report and photographs by clicking on "Wargames in Spain" on the right.

Thursday 17 September 2009

1813 Halle Campaign

Lutzen is the scene of the fourth battle in the campaign. Napoleon has ordered the Westphalian corps to cross the river Saale and attack Lutzen. Unfortunately it results in yet another defeat for Napoleon. He must now decide whether to hold the west bank, or make another attempt to cross further south.

This was a really enjoyable wargame. Each game lasts 12 moves, and this one could have gone either way right to the end. Neither side made any silly mistakes, and both sides had good and bad luck with the dice. We usually only play for an hour or so each afternoon, so this game lasted a week.

You can read the battle report by clicking "1813 Halle Campaign" on the right.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

The Lines of Torres Vedras

Torres Vedras 1810
This weeks "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields" deals with our visit to Torres Vedras. We spent a morning at the reconstructed fort of Sao Vicente and made friends with a "wild cat" who really wasn't.

For photos and memories of our visit click "Waking Napoleonic Battlefields" on the right.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Fog of War

The PBEM 1806 campaign has been going for four weeks, or is it five? It seems like as many months!

I have never played a PBEM campaign before, so I can not compare this one in anyway. Nor can I say whether it is well run or not. I can say that it is great fun. I can also say that it is really, really frustrating.

I am playing Napoleon, but I have been given no information about the Prussians or Saxons at all. No order of battle, no opening locations and certainly no strengths. I have been given a list of infantry and cavalry brigades, but again no strength.

I was told at the start that it was not a replay of the historical campaign. I was also told that only the online map supplied by the Umpire could be used. So there is no point in reading a history of the 1806 campaign, though of course I have. But that just makes it more frustrating, because I now realise how much Napoleon knew about his opponent, and it just stresses how little I know.

We are finally getting to grips around Weimar - Jena - Gotha area, and I am starting to get some information about the enemy. I get a map each week with my formations shown and any enemy formation identified. So when I saw a Prussian cavalry brigade a few miles away I felt confident in ordering one of my dragoon divisions to engage, only to find that they were outfought because it was a Saxon brigade and they are almost as strong as a French division, and much better horsemen.

There followed a couple of days of exchange of email with the Umpire as I put the case for disclosure of numbers of enemy spotted rather than the formation. Not sure how much success I have had, and I will have to wait until next Thursday when I get my new situation map to see what has changed - if anything.

Then there is my cavalry screen. Having ordered Murat to withdraw to a position closer to the main army, I was disconcerted to find that one of my dragoon regiments had been wiped out and lost an eagle about 10 miles in advance of where he was shown on my last map. On requesting confirmation from the Umpire I was told that Murat had in fact ordered the brigade to advance, rather than retire. Another email to the player concerned resulted in a reply that he had not ordered an advance, he had ordered a retreat as I instructed. More emails, and no satisfactory reply, so I have relieved Murat of command of the cavalry reserve. And that means I have to write their orders. No more just "retreat to Jena". I spent two days trying to find out exactly where all of the cavalry actually are, and then wrote three pages of orders to get them where I want them to be. Again I will have to wait until I get Thursdays map to see where they actually are.

Its made me realise that its not a lot of fun being Napoleon. And it has given me a real insight of what is meant by the "Fog of War"

More later on my 1806 Campaign.

Saturday 12 September 2009

The Battle of Weimar

The Halle campaign has gone very well for the Russians, who have won the first two battles and established themselves along the east bank of the river Saale.

This has encouraged Kutuzov to cross the river to secure the unoccupied town of Weimar.

The next day Napoleon arrives with the Imperial Garde. Could this have been a bridge too far for the Russian army.

Read the battle report by clicking on 1813 Halle Campaign on the right.

Friday 11 September 2009

The Role of Artillery

We have spent a lot of time today considering the role of artillery in napoleonic battles, and consequently in our wargames. This is as a result of the many suggestions resulting from Good Dice - Bad Dice.

We have decided that the role of artillery should only be softening up the enemy prior to the main attack. That at long range the guns should be mostly ineffective, and even at short range should not be a battle winner.

Looking through previous wargames it was obvious that the position of the artillery was critical, and everything else was deployed around it. It was also that we tended to place our artillery opposite each other, and engage in a duel. The winner would almost always win the game, because the side with artillery could inflict great casualties on the infantry as they approached.

So we have changed Page 7 of the rules dramatically.

All of this makes sense in theory, but it is only in play testing that we usually find the error of the theory. So we will be using the new rules over the next couple of weeks to see how well they work.

So Page 7 of the wargame rules has been amended drastically.

Good Dice - Bad Dice

It will not surprise you that Jan and I refought the game. The photograph above is from the opening stages of the second game.

Although it was the same table, the same figures and the same objectives, it turned into a completely different game. And because of the earlier game, it was a much more interesting and enjoyable one.

It was a much more even game, and a much longer one. But the result was the same, Jan won. Not so much reliance on dice this time, though right at the end the Russian gunners regained their run of luck with a couple of sixes.

So the result for the campaign is the same. Yet another French defeat. But not such a crushing one as last time.

I will post both of the battle reports in due time as part of the 1813 Halle Campaign blog.

The main thing is that it has made us rethink the artillery rules - again. Its always dangerous to change rules just because of one bad game, and we have not so now. Looking back through the past dozen or so games, I notice that we have both always deployed the artillery opposite the enemy artillery. On reflection this is because there is a good chance of knocking out the enemy artillery. And the winner of the artillery duel will almost certainly win the battle.

So we are experimenting with making a hit on gun crews much more difficult. We will play a couple of games before we decide whether to change the rules. We don't want to upset the whole balance of the rules, but it would be an improvement if the rules did not reward counter battery fire as they do now.

We have not changed the rules yet, but will do if the experiment proves to be an improvement.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Napoleonic Battlefields - Best Laid Plans

This is the view of the Napoleonic Wars monument in the main square of Torres Vedras, taken from our hotel room on the first night of our second visit to the Napoleonic battlefields of Portugal and Spain - but the first visit on our own.

You can read how we planned the visit, and the not so good start to the holiday, by clicking on "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields" on the right.

Sunday 6 September 2009

The Battle of Celle

This is the last battle of an 1813 campaign we fought last year. The Prussians are nearing Hannover after a very successful series of victories. Napoleon makes one last attempt to stop them with the Imperial Garde.

You can read the battle report by clicking on "Wargames in Spain" on the right

Friday 4 September 2009

The Battle of Gera

The second battle of the Halle Campaign has been another victory for Kutuzov and his Russian army. They have taken the town of Gera, and forced the French to abandon their only bridge head on the east bank.

The Russian army is now deployed along the river from Halle to Neustadt, and are poised to cross to the west bank.

You can read the battle report by clicking on 1813 Halle Campaign on the right.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Good Dice - Bad Dice

Jan and I have just had one of those really annoying games when one side (Jan) always rolls really good dice, and the other (me) very low. I have just been reading about this on TMP, with extreme examples of what some players do when they "lose it". Well nothing very extreme happened, but it did spoil a very good wargame.

The photo above is from the game. You can see in the foreground my horse grenadiers have routed and are being rallied by Napoleon. They had received one artillery casualty, rolled a 1 on a D6 and routed. They are about to roll another 1 on a D6 to rally, continue to rout - and take Napoleon with them!!

But that was not the whole story. To their right you can see a gun with a casualty marker (green dice) and a yellow (Shaken) marker. In our rules counter battery fire requires a roll at least 9 with 2D6 for a hit. The Russian battery opposite had managed two hits in consecutive rounds.

Worse yet. On the left (very hard to see) is the second French battery. They have already had one hit in counter battery fire. In the next round they will receive another, roll a 2 on 1d6 for morale and rout, leaving two Shaken infantry brigades due to poor dice also.

All of this happened in just five rounds, and the Russians had received two infantry casualties.

So what to do when this happens. As these are all campaign games, the consequences are not just a spoiled wargame, it can also have a very bad effect on the whole campaign.

Fortunately Jan and I feel the same about these "freak results". Neither of us like to win a game just due to exceptionally good dice. Changing the rules is not really an option, because by the nature of the game a 6 is exceptional good and a 1 exceptional bad. This all adds to the fun of the game, and makes it less predictable. But when it happens too often.....

Well we stopped the game, as there would be no point in the French carrying on, and we will refight the game tomorrow. I can almost hear the gasps of surprise, and the mumbling of discontent. I know that many would not consider this as an option. But we both feel that it would be silly to spoil a game, and possibly a whole campaign, just because of a bad run of dice. And don't forget its only a game - and supposed to be fun!

Mind, if the same thing were to happen in the next game? Well I think even we would have to accept that someone is trying to tell us something...........

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Napoleonic Battlefields - Going It Alone

The first two sections of "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields" is now complete. The first was our holiday in Waterloo in 1971. The second was our coach tour with Holts to Portugal and Spain in 1991. The third will be our return visit to Portugal and Spain, but this time on our own.

The first blog deals with the planning for the holiday. Neither of us spoke a word of Portuguese or Spanish and had never visited either country (except on the coach tour). I was confident that I could find the general locations, but knew how difficult it would be to find the right place to park, and the best place to start to explore - always the most difficult part of any walk whether a battlefield in Spain or a walk in the lake district.

How we dealt with these problems are covered in the first blog. You can read about it by clicking on the button "Walking Napoleonic Battlefields" on the right.