Monday 31 May 2010

The Poor Poor Commander

Four out of six Austrian commanders are Poor

The"house rules" we use owe a lot to the rightly popular Le Feu Sacre rule set. We discovered these rules about four years ago, and used them for a couple of years. They are excellent rules, but are designed to fight single corps battles, and not suitable to either the type of battles we want to fight, nor to our collection of figures.

Each commander has a grading, and in our rules there are three namely Gifted, Average and Poor. A commander has a pool of command points and must use one for each command he wants to issue, or indeed even to move. Each commander has a card, and when his card is drawn he has his move. The player rolls an average dice and adds 3 for a Gifted commander, 2 for an Average one and 1 for a Poor one. This usually means that a Gifted commander has sufficient command points to do what he wants, and a Poor commander rarely has enough.

But there is more. In addition to a card for each commander, there is also a Gifted card and a Poor card. When the Gifted card is drawn a Gifted commander, and there is never more than one per side, can opt to move next providing he has not already moved this turn. His card is then taken out of the pack. This means that a Gifted commander not only has more command points, but he is likely to move earlier in the move sequence.

Then there is the Poor card. When this is drawn the next Poor commander card drawn must miss his turn entirely. He can not issue any orders to his corps at all. We only use this card when there is at least one Poor commander per side.

When the commander in chief draws his card he can, if he wishes, pass his command to a corps commander who has not moved this turn. However to do so he must use 1 command point to pass it to a Gifted commander, 2 to an Average one and 3 to a Poor one. He must also be in base to base contact with the commander to do so. In this way a commander in chief can ensure that a poor commander can move each turn. But it is very costly in command points.

Before we used Le Feu Sacre I had never encountered this type of command and control. And when I first used it I did not at all like it. Especially if it was one of my Poor commanders who had to miss his turn. But I am now a great supporter of this type of command problem.

I know that Jan would agree that I tend to be a better wargamer than she is. Certainly I am a less predictable one. So it’s important that she has a slight advantage to allow her a better chance to win. For this reason I would normally command the army with the more difficult task, for example the one who has to attack. But now I can command the one with the most Poor commanders. So no matter how clever my game plan may be, I will always be handicapped by less command points and the chance that one of my commanders will have to miss his move. And if I use the commander in chief to pass command points to that Poor commander, I lose the ability to change the corps commander’s orders – which is the prime responsibility of the commander in chief.
To anyone who has not used this system of command and control I would highly recommend it. Particularly if you tend to game against less experienced, or simply less talented, opponents. There is nothing more boring that always winning too easily, even for the winner. And nothing more discouraging for the one who regularly loses. With this built in disadvantage it means the “better” wargamer has to work that much harder for the victory, and when it comes it is even more appreciated.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Short visit to Cadiz

On our recent visit to Seville we travelled by coach, and part of the package was a very short visit to Cadiz. In fact it was at the end of a day which included the Royal Spanish Horse Riding School at Jerez in the morning, and a visit to a wine and brandy Bodego after lunch. It was about 6.30pm when the coach arrived at Cadiz.

We had a tour of the city in the coach, which brought home to us how small the city is, and in particular how narrow. We were then dropped off in the main square of the old city with just one hour to explore on foot. The tourist information centre was close, and they provided us with a map and confirmed that we could reach the main part of the city walls still standing within five minutes.

The walls are in a good state of repair, and the casements seemed to be a military installation. Consequently it was not possible to climb and walk on the walls, but we could walk around them and take some photographs.

An hour is not enough to do justice to the city, but it did make us feel that it would be well worth a return visit using our own transport. There looked to be enough to spend a full day exploring the city, and of course the battlefield of Barossa is very close.

There are more photographs at


Saturday 22 May 2010

Passau Campaign Update

The battle of Branau was a limited victory for Archduke Charles. He attacked Branau with two corps to prevent Marshal Oudinot moving his 9th Bavarian corps south of the river Danube to join the main army. Although the Austrians took the town, they were unable to prevent the Bavarians joining forces.

After 24 moves Marshal Oudinot has finally managed to concentrate his four corps. He has been forced to withdraw towards Munich, but is faced with a problem in the Tyrol. If he orders 11th corps to withdraw in line with the rest of his army there is a real danger that the local population will join forces with the invading Austrian’s. He reluctantly orders them to hold the city and surrounding area until he can regroup the rest of his army in front of Munich and strike at the advancing Archduke Charles.

The campaign has lasted 12 weeks and provided three good wargames so far. Although the Bavarian/Baden army has had to give ground in order to concentrate, they are still capable of winning the campaign. The Austrian army has won all three battles to date, but has not been able to achieve a decisive victory.

I have posted an update on the blog each day for those 12 weeks, in the form of a diary. The aim is to provide a step by step guide to a campaign for future reference. There has been a lot of interest in our wargame “house rules” and I have also done a detailed entry for each move of each wargame, again as a reference.

The 1813 campaign has been running for 13 months, and so far has only covered four of the five campaign areas. It was a lot of work setting up the campaign, but has proved to be well worth the effort.


Thursday 20 May 2010

Battle of Baylen in Seville

The blog has been quiet for the past week because we have been to Seville for a long weekend.

It was our first visit, and we had hoped that we could find something of interest from the Napoleonic period. There was nothing obvious that we could see, other than this reference to the Battle of Baylen. Here at the impressive Plaza de Espana there are a series of ceramic displays dedicated to each of the Spanish provinces. Jaen commerates the Battle of Baylen.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

A Year of Blogging

On 27 March 2009 I started my first blog. Since then it has become an important part of my daily routine and has had a great influence on my twin hobbies of wargaming and hill walking.

It is ironic that when I retired and moved to Spain I also gave up painting wargames figures. For the previous 35 years I had spent every free moment painting endless armies of wargame figures. Airfix and Hinton Hunt armies were replaced by home made ones and they in turn by Miniature Figurines. Then came Connoisseur and finally Front Rank. 28mm were soon joined by duplicate 15mm Miniature Figurines armies and those replaced by 18mm AB figures. In the late 1980s a 6mm Heroics and Ros was created. Each army was sold off to pay for its replacement with newer and better figures. But as the armies grew each replacement became a major task taking up to two or three years to complete.

In 2005 we reduced the size of our armies in preparation for the retirement and the move to Spain. Wargaming would form a major part of our retirement, but would be mostly restricted to just Jan and I. So we would not need such a large table or such large armies. About half of all three collections were sold on EBay.

When we arrived in Spain I undertook a major reorganization of our wargaming. I reorganized all of the armies to suit the size of table; I wrote new rules to provide the sort of games we wanted to play and a new campaign to provide the framework for the battles. This took about two years to finalise and complete.

By early 2009 I was finding I had time on my hands again. I had always typed up a record of each campaign battle, and wanted to make these available to wargaming friends who might want to keep up with what we were doing. That was how I formed the idea of starting a blog.

The idea was to run one blog which would cover all aspects of my interest in Napoleonic Wargaming. My main interest was my 1813 campaign, so that would form the basis of the blog. However I had not realised how much material I would want to put on the blog, nor the fact that the amount of material was limited. In July I became aware that I had already used 75% of the blog capacity.

One of the problem is keeping a blog is that it is designed to be used as a “throw away” facility. Each entry replaces the previous one, and it is difficult to use it as a source of reference. To do so you have to use the labels as an index. Even so you are very limited. The easiest way is to create a new blog for a new project.

So I decided to start a new blog to cover the 1813 campaign. The campaign is designed to provide instant battles. I have divided it into five areas, one for each of my main wargame armies. So far I have fought four solo campaigns for Jan and I, and three PBEM campaigns. This has provided about 40 wargames for Jan and I to fight.

In April I decided to start a new blog to cover the battlefields Jan and I had visited over the years. We have visited most of the Napoleonic battlefields in Europe and I though I would like to share our experiences and hopefully encourage others to give it a try. It was particularly suitable for us as it combined our interest in the period and our love of hill walking. I have published an entry every week since then, and have only covered Waterloo and Spain. I have not even started on Germany, Austria and Italy.

In May I started another blog, this time covering our move to Spain and our walking here. We belong to a group which walks each week, and for some time I had been sharing photographs taken during the walk with other members, sending them by email. It became very popular, particularly with the many casual members who live in UK but walk when on holiday here in Spain. I thought a blog would be a good idea to let them, and friends and family in UK, keep up with what we are doing. There are now six Blogs, one for each year, and more than 250 entries. This year’s blog alone has already had 740 visitors.

In September I started running the first of three PBEM campaign’s on the blog. They were very successful, but unfortunately did not provide very interesting wargames. I reluctantly decided that my 1813 campaign is not really suitable for PBEM campaigning.

My latest project is to run the campaign as a daily diary on the blog. It started on 3 March this year and each day I have posted either the daily orders or one move of the current battle. The latter was added to help the many who have shown an interest in my rules how they work. There have been 61 entries on the blog so far and it has received 643 visitors. This seems quite a lot of visitors, but it’s not many each day, and there is a lot of work required to keep the blog up. The daily orders are easy, but to record each move of each wargame requires a break between moves to take photographs and keeping a record of what each command does each move. I am not sure that there is sufficient interest to make the extra work worthwhile. But I will keep it up to the end of this campaign phase and review it then.

That just about covers progress to date. I would like to thank everyone who has followed the various Blogs over the past year, and even more so those who have taken the trouble to comment. It can be a lonely business writing a blog, and no one would do it unless they enjoyed the process of keeping it up to date. But it is nice to get occasional feedback.

I am not sure what the future has in store. But you can be confident that whatever it is, it will be covered in one or other of the Blogs.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Louis XIV and Signal Redoubts

The Signal Redoubt overlooking Sare

I suspect that when most people think about a Napoleonic battlefield they conjure up a picture of an area 2-4 miles where the commander in chief can see most, if not all, of the field whilst sitting on his horse on a suitable hill. Indeed they would not be wrong, for this does describle Waterloo, Jena, Austerlitz and many more.

However the battle of the Nivelle fought between Wellington and Soult on 10 November 1813 does not fit this picture at all. The French held a fortified position between St Jean du Luz on the coast and Urdax some 20 miles inland. Marshal Soult commanded 63,000 men, who were spread along this front. The distances involved caused him considerable command and control problems. Wellington commanded 82,000, and he could choose where to concentrate his attack. Not surprisingly he won!

Along the 20 miles the French had built a series of defensive positions. There were fortified villages and a line of redoubts. The centre of the line was the the Rhune mountain, the village of Sare and the hills behind.

In 1996 my wife and I spent 15 days walking this area and my blog Walking the Pyrenees recalls our experiences. The latest entry concerns our exploration of Louis VIV and The Signal redoubts on the hills behind Sare.


Monday 3 May 2010

ProFantasy CC3 Campaign Map

Burgos Campaign Strategic Map

At last I feel I am starting to make some progress in mastering ProFantasy CC3.

I spent a lot of hours trying to extract part of the map of Spain to use as a basis for a more detailed strategic map for my forthcoming Burgos campaign. The ProFantasy forum proved to be helpful as always and referred me to two explanations of how this could be achieved. Unfortunately both proved beyond my capabilities.

Both explained how to do this with CC2, which is the earlier issue of ProFantasy. Whether this is the problem, or whether I am just too dense to understand I am not sure. It is a very complicated system, especially when trying to do something out of the norm. Though I would have thought that taking an extract of a larger map to make a more detailed map is not all that unusual. Whether it was me, or the system, I could not do it.

The good news is that it did not take very long to make a new map of the section I required. This is partly because I had learned more than I realised doing the previous map of all Spain. Also I could use that earlier map as a template for the new map. I am fortunate to have two computers, a laptop and a desktop. I had the map of Spain on the laptop, and drew the Burgos map on the desktop. Because each square is referenced it is easy to enlarge each square as I drew the new map.

Anyway, I am pleased with the end result. This map will be used as the Strategic Map for the campaign. Without ProFantasy it would have looked something like this map, which was the Strategic Map for the Tarragona Campaign.

Taragonna Campaign Strategic Map

My new map may not be perfect, but it is a huge improvement on the hand drawn one. Mind it has taken about four weeks to produce and my hand drawn one took about half an hour! Such is the price of progress.