Friday 18 December 2009

Wellington's Battles - Vimiero

Our Christmas wargame will be the second in our refights of Wellington's Battles. Vimiero was the second of Wellington's (or Wellesley as he was then) battles in the Peninsula. It was fought to cover the landing of British reinforcements at nearby Maciera Bay.

It was quite a small battle by Napoleonic standards.
-->Wellesley had 18000 infantry, 500 cavalry, 18 guns to Junot 14000 infantry, 2000 cavalry, 23 guns. Given that the British were defending, and in a hilly area, this is quite a challenge for the French player. It will come as no surprise that Jan is Wellesley!
You can read the first part of the battle report here:


Wednesday 16 December 2009

Visit to Burgos

1812 was a very mixed year for Wellington, as indeed it was also for Napoleon. And for both it ended in a terrible retreat. Wellington started the year with the capture of Cuidad Rodrigo, quickly followed by Badajoz. Then his stunning victory at Salamanca, which led to his liberation of Madrid. Then came the siege of Burgos.

Due to variety of circumstances, such as a strong fortress, a determined garrison, a lack of suitable siege materials and a strong French army of relief Wellington would end the year back at Cuidad Rodrigo on the border of Spain and Portugal.

Burgos was the first of our Walking Napoleonic Battlefields for our third visit to Spain. Unlike most of our battlefields the city of Burgos is well established on the tourist trail. The ruined castle was our main interest, but the city also has a beautiful cathedral containing the bones of El Cid.

You can read about our visit here:


Tuesday 15 December 2009

PBEM Battle Reports

I have just finished the battle report for the second part of the battle of Zeitz in the PBEM Halle campaign. This has turned out to be a very long report, and it made me think about whether it is a good idea to make them so long and complicated.

When I started the blog I published battle reports in a very simplified form, with about four photographs of the main phases of the game. I had kept similar reports for many years as part of my personal record of my current campaign. Just something I could look back on, and an instant reminder of previous battles should I need to jog my memory. These were the reports I put on the blog in the early days.

The arrival of the PBEM campaign changed all of that. The battle reports were now to keep campaign players informed of how "their" battle went, and why they won or lost. I felt that it was important for them to be detailed enough for the players to understand why things happened, rather than just record that they did happen. This has grown into, I fear, pretty detailed battle reports with lots of photographs.

Its interesting that since the PBEM campaign started there have been a huge increase in the number of "hits" on the wargame rules blog. I assume that this is the campaign players checking rules, but I am not sure. At the start of the campaign all players were sent a copy of the wargame rules, so they have their own copy to refer to. So it might be that there is a general interest in the rules and the battle reports.

Anyway I shall continue to publish them in their current style at least until the campaign ends. Other battle reports, such as the Wellingtons Battles blog will have simpler reports, but with just as many photographs.

My son is buying me a new camera for Christmas. It has the ability to "stitch" photographs. Apparently this means I an take three photographs side by side and "stitch" them into one new photographs. If it works this would be very useful, because instead of having three photographs showing the left, centre and right of the table, I would only have one for each wargame move. But don't expect too much too soon. Photography has never been my strong point.

In the meantime if you would like to read the latest, and very long, battle report from the PBEM campaign you can find it here


Saturday 12 December 2009

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Our fourth holiday Walking Napoleonic Battlefields was for 10 days in June 1995.

We would cover 1200 miles and visit 13 battlefields including Burgos, Vittoria, Roncevalles, Maya, Vera, Bidaossa, San Marcial, The Rhune, The Nivelles and The Nive.

I have started a new blog to cover this holiday and you can read the first entry which covers the planning for the holiday here


Thursday 10 December 2009

Battle of Zeitz

The latest battle in the Halle PBEM campaign is at Zeitz, a small village just south of Lutzen.

One of the problems with the campaign is that the battles, and therefore the wargames, are determined by the campaign timings. There are three moves in one campaign day, and the battle could start on any one of them, even the last. One campaign move is the same as four wargame moves. So if one were to start on the third move of a campaign day there would only be four wargame moves before nightfall.

Fortunately this one starts at midday, so there are eight wargame moves before nightfall. And reinforcements arrive for both sides after four wargame moves. I must confess that I would prefer a normal 12 move wargame, but these campaign games do have their own interesting twists.

For one thing the players have to make a decision about reinforcements before they know what the situation on the table will be when they arrive. This can lead to situations which I would never have considered when I was running my solo campaign.

--> If you would like to read the start of the latest battle you will find it at:

Monday 7 December 2009

PBEM Battles

battles seem to be like buses - you wait a long time and then two come along together.

The campaign has now reached the stage where it is all going to happen pretty soon, at least in campaign time. Both armies are within striking distance of each other, and both are spoiling for a fight.

At present two battles have started at the same time, which could well cause a problem in how to fight them. Because each corps commander writes new orders three times a day, and each battle is likely to take up to a day to complete, I have yet to figure out how to complete one battle with reinforcements, and then fight the second one.

Fortunately the first battle ends within one campaign move, and I can then clear the table and fight the second one during the same campaign move, and allow reinforcements to arrive in the next campaign move. But if both were to continue into a second campaign move I would have a big problem.

As has happened in the past with wagames rules, once I solve one problem in the campaign I seem to create a second one. But worse still the battles that the campaign produce are not proving to be very good wargames. This is the old campaign problem that no one wants to fight an even battle, everyone wants to gain an advantage over the enemy. This is a perfectly reasonable objective, but it does not lend to a good balanced wargame. If one side gains a two to one advantage there is really no point in even fighting the wargame - its bound to go to the one with the larger army.

Its taken me years to design my solo campaign, which works very well and provides excellent wargames. I had hoped that I could convert it to a multi player PBEM campaign, but its simply not working.

When this campaign ends I will have to go back to the drawing board and see what I can design. I am reluctant to abandon the idea of a PBEM campaign, as it has provided a lot of enjoyment. But I do miss being able to "master mind" the campaign moves to provide challenging wargames.

You can read the latest wargeme, the battle of Halle, here:


Friday 4 December 2009

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Oporto in 1809

Oporto was the last of 11 battlefields which we visited during our second visit to Portugal and Spain to walk Wellington's battlefields. We started at Torres Vedras, then Rolica and Vimerio. Busaco was followed by Poco Vehlo and Fuentes de Orono. Then Cuidad Rodrigo, Fort Conception, Almeida and The Coa.

After so much time spent walking deserted battlefields, Oporto was a real challenge. Indeed even finding the hotel was a real challenge. We speak no Portuguese and entered Oporto on a different road than the one we planned, so no surprise that we got lost. A good hour was spent driving from road junction to road junction, jumping out to show the nearest pedesterian the name of the hotel written on a scrap of paper, then following their directions to the next junction. Only when we passed the same square twice did we park the car and set out on foot. Then we discovered that the hotel was in the middle of a pedestrian only zone!!

You can read about Oporto, and the other 10 battlefields, at:


Thursday 3 December 2009

The Frustrations of running a PBEM Campaign

I refer, of course, to the problems of dealing with 14 players all over the world by email.

I had thought that it would be easier with this campaign. The last one required each player to send me his orders every 24 hours, and mostly this was done. Of course it was easier for players to keep up to date with what was happening because I published an updated map on the blog each day with the locations of each corps on both sides.

The current campaign is hidden movement, which requires the players to keep track of where they are themselves. I do send each side a map showing current locations of friendly corps each campaign day. There are three moves in each day, so at the most each player has to keep track of where they have moved for three moves.

Each move starts with the player sending me an email confirming which square on the campaign map he wants to move to, and what his order of march is. I plot them on the campaign map and send them a contact report of what enemy they have spotted during that move. They then send me their orders for the next move.

Not much room for error there, but surprisingly some of the resulting corps orders for the next day contain errors. Usually they order their corps to move to a square which is too far away from where they are. In one case they ordered their corps to move away from the enemy rather than towards it, even though I knew that their commander in chief had ordered them to advance towards the enemy. All very understandable so far, its very easy to make a mistake, especially when the correspondence is by email.

However the frustrating part comes when I try to confirm what they mean. This is where "sod's law" seems to come into play. That is the law which dictates that if something can go wrong it will, and always at the most inconvenient time.

The players live all over the world, so a query like this is going to take at least 24 hours for a reply. After 24 hours I then send a second mail. But what to do if I still receive no reply?

The big problem with PBEM campaigns, as I have learned with my recent 1806 campaign in which I was playing the part of Napoleon, is that they can just stop dead. No explanations, no warning - just silence. I assume that a player just loses interest, and can not be bothered to tell anyone. Instead he just ignores his mail. Very, very frustrating for the other players. You would never do anything like this if you were dealing with people face to face. You would feel obliged to explain why you have decided to stop. But this feeling of mutual responsibility does not appear to apply to some of the internet community.

Of course there might be many very reasonable excuses. But I can't think of any except perhaps his computer had broken and he can not afford to replace it. As I am new to this PBEM business I am perhaps less "street wise" than those who have more experience. Perhaps other's do not feel so involved, or share my feeling's of commitment. Indeed it may even be an "age thing". But I do feel that its a little sad that a group who share even something as casual as a wargames campaign do not feel that they owe something to each other, even if its only the common courtsey of replying to an email asking what is happening.

Getting back to my current PBEM campaign. After two mails and no reply, I then sent a third mail confirming that I would accept the orders - even though they did not make sense. I then get a reply that another set of orders had been sent - but I had not received them. My last mail explains about the mail I had sent, with no reply, and asking is everything ok at the other end. The reply............none!!

Like I said at the beginning, the frustrations of running a PBEM campaign!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Naumburg - What happened next?

Hand ot hand fighting in the town

It seemed a shame to leave the wargame after just four moves, just because the campaign commander wanted to withdraw the Russian corps. So Jan and I continued the game to see what would have happened.

We played the next four moves, which would have been night time in the campaign. The result was a confusing draw. The French lost 6 infantry and 1 cavalry, to the Russian 3 infantry and 3 cavalry. However the Russian cavalry were in rout, and took the reserve infantry brigade with them.

The French garde were still fighting hand to hand in two of the town sections, and this could have gone either way. However they still had one brigade in reserve, whereas the Russian reserve had routed.

The Russian guns were masked by the town fighting and were redeploying to the left of the town, but with the loss of the reserve infantry and the cavalry brigade, they would have been very vunerable to the French cavalry.

These casualties would be light in many wargame rules, but would have a noticeable effect in ours. Had it been a campaign game both commanders would have had to decide what they wanted to do at day break, and that would have depended on what friendly corps were within supporting distance. I can't really say anything about that, as it would give away campaign intelligence which is not public knowledge yet.

The routing brigades would have rallied, though the Russian cavalry would not be much use
with so many casualties. If this were our own campaign I would put it down as a French victory, though a costly one.