Wednesday 28 April 2010

Walking the Battle of the Nivelle

It was a great relief to awake to blue skies and we planned our second day over breakfast with “Wellington , The Bidassoa & Nivelle” by F C Beatson. Our objective was to find the Saint Barbe Redoubt, which formed part of Marshal Soult’s defensive works attacked by Wellington during the battle of the Nivelle in 1813.

We were spending two weeks exploring Wellington’s 1813 battlefields, and had based ourselves just outside the small French village of Sare. We were fortunate to have a detailed diagram of the area in November 1813 and both our Gite and the Redoubt were marked on it.

Our plan was to walk into Sare and then around the area until we found the Redoubt.


Tuesday 27 April 2010

Passau Campaign Update

Marshal Oudinot meets with his corps commanders

The second Austrian victory of the campaign has left the French strategy in tatters.

Altheim is a small town on the south bank of the river Danube, opposite Passau on the opposite bank. Passau was held by a 9th Bavarian corps. Early in the campaign 1st Austrian corps had taken possession of Altheim and in doing so isolated 9th corps from the remainder of the Bavarian/Baden army commanded by Marshal Oudinot.

The battle of Altheim was fought to allow 9th corps to move south of the river Danube and join Oudinot with the remainder of his army on the southern bank. The failure to take Altheim means that he must abandon Passau and move the garrison west towards Munich, but on the northern bank, in order to cross the river closer to the city.

Only two of the four Austrian corps are currently west of the river Salach, and Oudinot had hoped to crush them before the remainder of the Austrian army could join them. The twin defeats of Mattsee and Altheim have forced him to withdraw his army west towards Munich in order to regroup and concentrate his scattered army.

The Austrians, as always, are slow to take advantage of the enemy disorder. Archduke Charles has ordered his two forward corps to rest and resupply and to await the arrival of his two reserve corps before he moves forward to threaten Munich.


Thursday 22 April 2010

Walking the Pyrenees

Our first day in the Pyrenees did not start well. Waking to light rain we set out to walk up The Petite Rhune. However we were directed to the wrong path, the rain turned from light to heavy and we climbed The Grande Rhune - the wrong mountain! Things could only improve, and they did. Returning to Sare the rain stopped and we felt much better after a hot meal. We were directed to the correct path, and followed it far enough to confirm that it went to The Petite Rhune.

You can read the full story at:


Friday 16 April 2010

Wargame Rules - Command and Control

Over the past couple of months we have been trying to solve a problem with our Command and Control rules. The problem is the disadvantage encountered by the attacking general as opposed to the defending one.

I should explain that our command rules rely on each general having sufficient command points to issue orders to subordinate generals or brigade commanders. There are two types of general.

The Commander in Chief (CinC) gives orders to his corps commanders. These consist of where he wants the corps commander to go, and what he wants him to do.

The corps commanders issue orders to their brigades, in accordance with the objective given by the CinC.

Command points are decided on the roll of an average dice. To this is added 1 for a Poor commander, 2 for an Average one and 3 for a Gifted one. So each general will have between 3 and 8 points each move. The better the grade, the higher the likely number of command points.

For the CinC to change corps commanders orders he must be in base contact, and it costs 1 to change orders for a Gifted corps commander, 2 for an Average and 3 for a Poor one. As well as objectives, the CinC must decide whether he wants the corps commander to Move, Hold, Engage or Attack. Each one allows a difference range of options for the corps commander. It also costs Command Points for the CinC to move around the battlefield.

The corps commander has 6 brigades, plus himself. It costs one command point to move, change formation, skirmish, fire or attack. So it is unlikely that a corps commander will be able to do everything he wants with all of his corps each move, particularly if he is a Poor commander.

Now we come to the crux of the problem. When a commander is in defence he only has to move to counter the attacker, or to fire, skirmish or attack. It is unlikely that he will want all of his brigades to do something each move. So even a Poor commander will usually have sufficient Command Points to do what he wants to do each move.

However the attacking general must move all of his brigades into contact with the enemy, and to do so he must keep himself within 8” (command range) of each brigade he wants to issue orders to. Even a Gifted command will be hard put to have sufficient Command Points to move his whole corps, let along change formation of engage the enemy.

The rules were written with the intention that all initial movement would be on “blinds” (hidden movement), where there are special movement rules. In effect the whole corps can move 8” or 4” for each command point providing they are more than 16” from the enemy and have not been spotted.

Previously most of our games were encounter style, where both armies marched towards each other. However most campaign games tend to have one side defending and one attacking. This makes the problem worse.

For the past few months I have been putting each campaign wargame on a blog, with photographs taken of each move. This is difficult when using “blinds”, so I have been putting the figures on from the start. As a result the approach march of the corps is taking much longer than previously, often more than half of the 12 daily moves allowed.

I have experimented with “corps orders” to try to overcome this, but I am not very satisfied with how they have test played. So I am looking at a different system. My initial idea is as follows.

Any number of brigades can move for one Command Point providing that each brigade is within 2” (close support) of each other, the corps commander within 8” (command distance) of the centre of the front brigade and all brigades perform the same order. If the brigades are side by side the corps commander must be within 8” of the centre of the middle brigade. Multiple moves are only allowed if every brigade is more than 16” from the enemy.

This should allow the corps to move into position and deploy outside 16” of the enemy. It should also allow an attack, providing all brigades are within 2” of each other, to approach the enemy and even engage them.

Whether this will work any better than my previous “corps command” remains to be seen. A new solution it always seems to meet all of the requirements. But each subsequent game often raises new problems. So I will play test this new system for a few games before changing the rules.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Salisbury to Sare

The first two days of our walking holiday in Sare cover the journey and a short introduction to the battle of the Nivelle.

This was to be a much relaxed exploration of Wellington's 1813 battlefields in the Pyrenees. We would revisit Maya and Roncesvalles to try and find the paths and locations we had failed to find the previous year.

We would also spend a lot of time walking the mountains and hills around Sare, in particular the Rhune. This mountain dominates the village of Sare, and was stormed by the light division during the battle.

There would be less of the earlier frantic driving from battle to battle, and more the feel of a walking holiday in the impressive Pyrenees.


Sunday 11 April 2010

Map Making Progress

My new map making project has regulated everything else very much to the “back boiler”. We have managed one short wargame, and two quite long walks, but apart from that it has been maps, maps and still more maps. And for all that work I have precious little to show for it.

Most of the leg work has already been done for my previous hand drawn map. I had copied an AA Maps of Europe and drawn on a 20x20 mile grid. So I only had to put a similar grid on CC3 and copy the outline of Spain from my AA maps. Sounds simple, but it was anything but.

CC3 is designed for fantasy map making, and if you want to draw a simple island its easy. However I wanted to draw an accurate outline of Spain. To do so I had to enlarge sections of my map so that I could copy the outline from the AA map. Sounds easy, but you have to be careful not to touch any part of the map with the cursor. If you do so that becomes part of your outline. This happened at least six times, and each time I had to start again.

But the most frustrating part is when you right click to end the outline. When you do that your map suddenly appears in all of its glory. Unfortunately my start and finish line was not quite right, and my map of Spain showed the Atlantic Ocean over a large part of northern Spain! That was when I gave up and went to bed.

You do however learn by your mistakes, and eventually I got the outline to my satisfaction. I then wanted to outline the coastline. There is a tutorial on how to do just that, so it was quite easy to follow. And the result was quite pleasing. But when I next switched on the map my outline has disappeared. Fortunately a kind person on the ProFantasy forum explained that you have to adjust the settings in order for these enhancements to appear, and he did so in such a simple and fool proof way that even I could do it.

The next stage was putting in the rivers. As soon as they got one square away from the coast they suddenly took on a life of their own and made straight for the nearest coast. After a long frustrating hour or two it was back to the forum. Now I was told that you have to disengage a button called “attach” when you select a river. This is designed to allow you to start your river inland and it will make its own way to a suitable coast. Good idea for your imaginary island, but not so good for Spain. My river was starting at Oporto, going inland for 20 miles and immediately making for Corunna. Again easy to put right, but why on earth do ProFantasy put such an option as the default? Surely it would make more sense to only do so if one engages the “attach” button.

The next part was easy. I wanted to put in the regional capitols. With my AA map I already had the correct grid references, so it was easy to do so on my CC3 map. However the font was incorrect. There are about 30 fonts you can choose from, but no way you can see what each font looks like. Again to the forum. It appears you used to be able to do so, but that option disappeared with the latest update. I was assured that it would probably be put back with the next update.

So all in all a very frustrating week. I have seen historical wargame maps made with ProFantasy and they look great, so I am not knocking the system. However it is not exactly user friendly for beginners. I am not defeated – yet. Jan is also struggling with the learning process, so at least we can compare notes. Fortunately we are both very stubborn and determined not to give up.

Thursday 8 April 2010

The Battle of Altheim

The second battle of the campaign is just starting.

The Bavarian garrison of Passau is isolated by the occupation of Altheim by General Lichtenstein. Marshal Oudinot is determined to drive back the Austrian’s and allow the garrison to rejoin the main army. He has ordered General Bertrand to take Altheim and drive Lichtenstein back to Linz.

The game will feature on the blog for the next nine days. The game setup, which features the transfer from the campaign map to the wargames table, has been published today. Each day one game move will be published and will include photographs, orders and a summary. The idea is that anyone interested can follow the game move by move.

The link to the blog is:


Wednesday 7 April 2010

Walking the Pyrenees

The latest blog in Walking Napoleonic Battlefields will deal with our 17 day holiday in the Pyrenees in 1996. The previous holidays were designed to visit as many battlefields as possible and involved a lot of driving to reach each one. This time we were based in the small French village of Sare for the whole holiday, and the aim was to spend more time on each battlefield and explore them in great detail.

On the previous blogs each entry covered a different battlefield, with a brief description of the battle and our visit. This one will be more like a journal of the holiday, and will go into more detail about our exploration of each site.

The first entry covers the planning and preparation for the holiday and can be found at


Tuesday 6 April 2010

First battle of the 1813 Passau Campaign

First blood to the Austrian Army at the battle of Mattsee.

Archduke Charles has pushed ahead with two of his four corps. He has captured Altheim which has isolated 9 Bavarian corps at Passau. He has also occupied Mattsee which prevents any communication between Passau and Munich or Salzburg. However this has left his two leading corps dangerously exposed.

Marshal Oudinot is marching from Munich to crush the two advanced Austrian corps before the other two can arrive join them near Passau. As part of this plan he has ordered General Wrede to march north from Salzburg and engage General Klenau and his 2 Austrian corps at Mattsee.

This first battle of the campaign has resulted in a minor Austrian victory, and General Wrede has withdrawn to Salzburg.

Charles is not yet aware of the threat from Oudinot, but is about to receive reports both of the victory at Mattsee and of the approach of two Bavarian corps who are one days march from Altheim.

You can read the full battle report here:


Sunday 4 April 2010

Some you win.........

However lately I seem to have had more than my fair share of those you lose.

We have just finished a hard fought game this afternoon, and Jan won once again. This makes three out of the last four games. Worse still, she routed not only my cavalry, but also all of the infantry. The gunners only survived because they were on the far side of the river and too far away to have to test morale for any of the other routs.

For the first eight game moves all had gone quite well for me. I had to attack with a Poor commander, which means less command points to move the six fighting elements. Worse I had to cross a river which was defended by equal numbers of the enemy. However there were two fords which infantry or cavalry could use, as well as the defended bridge.

It started well with my cavalry racing for the ford and crossing before the enemy could react. It would take some time for the enemy to react, especially as half of their infantry were in the built up area. Despite my Poor commander, the command dice did quite well and I managed to get all of the infantry across the ford, and the artillery in place to support them.

Then came move nine. My cavalry were facing Jans cavalry, and my infantry could not advance until they were pushed back The artillery had fired twice, but only hit once. Her artillery had also hit my cavalry once. I changed my corps orders to attack, which allowed my cavalry to charge hers. With my rules cavalry melee can be risky unless one side has a distinct advantage, which I did not. In fact we were even in combat factors, so it would be down to the dice to decide who won.

With 2D6 I needed at least 6 to draw and 8 to win. I rolled 3. My cavalry routed, making supporting infantry within 4” test their morale. A roll of 3 and 2 left both Shaken.

At the end of move ten I had to test morale for the routed cavalry, they failed and continued the rout. One of the Shaken infantry was within 4” and had to test. A roll of 3 made them join the rout, forcing their neighbour to test. He rolled 2 and also routed, forcing his neighbour to test. A dice throw of 2 saw him routing. I was confident that my remaining grenadier brigade would stand, but a throw of 1 proved me wrong.

In the photo the corps commander is looking over his shoulder in disbelief as his entire corps, less the artillery, routs from the field. I know exactly how he feels!

You sometimes wonder whether you should look for another hobby.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Map Making Progress

This is my first attempt at making a map with Campaign Cartographer 3.

It’s just a week since I received this map making package. I was expecting it to be complicated and difficult to master, and it has not let me down. The agreement was for Jan to take on learning how to use CC3, and eventually to take on the map making. But the summer, or at least the spring, has arrived here in Spain and she has been busy in the garden. I have spent about 20 hours trying to master it, she has spent about 2. So it looks like I will have to find time to attempt map making with CC3.

My first impression is that it is much more complicated than I feared, and also much less user friendly. It appears to be aimed at fantasy wargaming rather than historical wargamers. It is not just a matter of clicking on a pen tool and getting on with it. There is a whole new concept to grasp, including layers and sheets.

There are tutorials, which are very easy to follow and understand. But of course they never cover the thing you are having problems with. My first problem was roads. There was a thin line and a dotted one, but I could not make a double line such as you might find on a map. After many wasted hours I found a forum, and explained my problem. The response was prompt, and explained that I had to download an update. It solved the problem, but there were many more to follow.
So far I have spent all of my spare time working on it, with not a lot of success to date. I started trying to make a map of Spain, but I kept finding new problems. So instead I have decided to try to make a copy of my hand drawn Tactical map. Its early days, but the map at the top of the blog is my first attempt.
This is the hand drawn map which I copied it from

It was a good idea to tackle a smaller project, as it has given me a lot of confidence and allowed me to master simple tasks. And I am sure the maps will improve with time.

Meanwhile everything else has suffered, even our wargaming. I will have to find a way of easing off on the time spent map making, without losing the drive to master the new concepts. In the past I have not been very good at computer games. They always seem to require a comprehensive understanding of how the game works, rather than a historical knowledge of tactics and strategy.

It will be interesting to see whether CC3 becomes another discarded computer tool.