Tuesday 31 August 2010

Napoleon Surrenders

Well I certainly spoke too soon when I expressed my pleasure with how well the PBEM 1814 campaign was going.

The next day I received the campaign update. The "fog of war" cleared and I could see that my army was outnumbered everywhere. My victory over the Prussians of the previous (campaign) day was overshadowed by the sudden appearance of large allied armies all within one days march of my scattered army.

I had planned to follow (my understanding of) Napoleon's tactics for the 1814 Campaign. I would attack and try to destroy the heads of the Prussian and Austrian columns as they came within marching distance. My understanding is that the Prussians were rash and rushed ahead, but became worried when Napoleon put in an appearance. The Austrians moved very slowly, and did not coordinate their movements with the Prussians.

Our campaign started off in some confusion, with a lot of difficulty comparing the size of the French armies with what was known of the allied armies. Then suddenly the "day of decision".

As soon as I got a clear picture, it seemed obvious to me that the French could not possibly win. Not only that, but the longer the campaign went on, the worse it would get for them. The two allied armies which were within one days march both outnumbered my whole army by almost two to one. And there were large allied reserves close, but not yet identified.

We agreed an immediate French surrender. There seemed little point in wasting more time on a campaign which could only end in a massive French defeat.

However the good news is that Carlos and I have agreed to create a new campaign. Or rather we have agreed to work together on formulating rules which would provide an enjoyable and fast moving campaign.

From the two PBEM campaigns which I ran last year it became obvious that my solo 1813 campaign was just not suitable for a multi player PBEM campaign. However I did enjoy running it, and it gave me a lot of ideas for a future campaign.

The problem is that I just do not have time to run two campaigns at once. And my 1813 campaign provides our daily wargames, so that must have priority.

Carlos has agreed to run the campaign and resolve the battles. I will set up the campaign rules and objectives. I will also play in the campaign, as that is the only way to see whether the rules are working or not.

The aim is to end up with a campaign which is very user friendly. There will be a simple set of rules for each player, which will require the minimum of work to comprehend. The complicated rules for running the campaign, and resolving the battles, will only be known and understood by the umpire.

Clearly the most important part will be the interface between the player and the umpire. This is why we have to run a test campaign to see what works and what does not.

I have asked for volunteers on the Campaign of Napoleon Forum. I am looking for about four players who will not only play test the rules, but also let me have their reactions and suggestions.

If the whole thing gets off the ground I will start a new Forum for everyone taking part in the campaign, and anyone else who might be interested.

Now this is a project that I am really excited about. But I know from previous experience that good intentions don't always result in good results.

I will keep you all informed of progress.

Saturday 28 August 2010

First blood to the French

The 1814 PBEM campaign has got off to a flying start.

The campaign started with elements of both sides within one days march. I had not really grasped the rules, and my first days orders were required within a few hours of receiving the brief, so I ordered the nearest French to attack the nearest allies.

The aim is to have a campaign move each day, but the next morning I received an email that there would be one days delay to allow for "combat resolution". I had not really expected this, and was more than a little concerned that I might have lost the campaign for the French on the first day.

It was a long 24 hours before I received the result of the combat. And it was a French victory! So an extra glass of wine that night to celebrate.

But I have not deceived myself that this is the first of many such victories. I have still not mastered the combat and points system. My own formations are measured in points, the enemy referred to in intelligence reports in terms of numbers. So I am quite unable to work out the odds before I commit to a battle. So it is only a matter of time before I get a good whipping.

Meanwhile it is good to be involved in a PBEM again. Trying to understand new combat and campaign rules, master a new map and try to sort out a campaign strategy is quite a challenge, and very enjoyable.

I hope that the Gods of War continue to smile on me, and that I am not in deep depression by this time next week.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

1814 PBEM Campaign

For some months now the Campaigns of Napoleon Forum has been very quiet, lucky if it received one or two comments a week. Usually from me, or one or two others giving an update on their current campaign.

After a very busy start, the forum received great support for a couple of months. Then for no obvious reason the forum started to go quiet. I posted a comment that if anyone was interested they should contribute, as "if they dont use it they will lose it". I was quite surprised to receive some aggessive replies along the lines that if they wanted to post they would. This struck me as a very strange attitude. Why join a forum if you don't want to contribute to it?

One member even suggested that if I no longer wanted to run the forum perhaps someone else should take it over. Completely missing the point that I was more than willing to continue to run the forum, but that unless members contributed there would be little point.

Anyway the posts continue to decrease and I gave up posting, as there was little or no response when I did. The blog provides an excellent space to explain what I am getting up to, and I never expect any response here anyway. I had started the forum in the hope that I might be able to engage in a regular exchange of views on Napoleonic campaigning. But it appears that there was little interest in doing so.

Throughout this time I received one or two applications a month to join. I always send out a welcome email asking new members to contribute, but few did.

Then a week or so ago it all changed. At my suggestion a new member asked for volunteers for a new 1814 PBEM campaign. As it was my idea that he use the forum, I felt it was only reasonable to offer to take part.

Within one day he had the three players he needed, and suggested that I take on the role of Napoleon. Out of all of Napoleons Campaign's, that of France 1814 is the one I know least about. I did know that he was greatly outnumbered, and that it was considered one of his best fought campaign's. So no pressure there! Particularly as the allied commanders could not be expected to follow Blucher's reluctance to fight Napoleon face to face, nor Schwartzenberg's reluctance to move too far too fast.

I was prepared to do some research, especially as I already had a couple of reference books for the campaign. Apart from Esposito and Eltings excellent West Point Atlas with its detailed maps, I also have Petre's "Napoleon at Bay 1814".

I bought this excellent book about 8 years ago. Jan and I had just come back from a week walking Napoleon's battlefields in Italy, and were looking for somewhere new for the next year. I had never visited any of the battlefields in northern France, and they were easy to get to, so it seemed like a good option. It never happened because I was unable to find sufficient local information for me to feel confident that I could actually find my way around the battlefields.

The first battlefield Jan and I tried to explore was Minden. We were stationed in Herford at the time, just a few miles away. I got a book about the battle, with a couple of line drawing maps, from the Army library. I also obtained one of the excellent and well detailed BAOR maps, similar to an Ordnance Survey Map. I thought it would be quite easy to explore the battlefield. A day driving around Minden trying to relate the ground to the battle map in the book made a lasting impression. It is really essential to know where to park and what to look for to find at least one spot on both your battlefield map and your modern map.

Anyway, Petre's book remained unread on my library shelf for almost ten years. And this offer to play Napoleon is a PBEM campaign of 1814 seemed a good incentive to read it at last.

Then I received the player brief. They contained the usual mass of rules, maps and orders of battle. All of which are completely new to me. I am very slow at digesting new rules and can only do so by play testing two or three times. This would of course take many weeks. The brief went on to say that the campaign would start next day, and first orders should be submitted immediately!

So the last 24 hours have been hectic and panic striken. I have just sent off orders for the first day. I don't expect to be able to follow Napoleon's masterful campaign. I will be very happy if I manage to avoid making a right "pigs ear" of the whole thing.

Despite all of the above, I am really pleased to be taking part in a PBEM once more, and very much looking forward to playing my part as best I can.

I understand that the umpire will be posting the occasional report on Campaigns of Napoleon forum. If you would like to follow them you would be very welcome at


Saturday 21 August 2010

Oh to be in England……..

We have just returned from two weeks in the UK, where we were staying with our son and his family to help out whilst his wife was busy giving birth to our lovely new grand daughter. Not really of interest to you Napoleonic Wargaming types, but just in case here is a link

Two weeks is a long time to be separated from our toys, but I did take a laptop with me which had all the Profantasy maps I have been working on. So I spent a lot of time trying to decide how best to use the maps. They are best used on the computer, but I want to use them on my 1813 blog.

I did two types of map. One each of Germany and Spain. When posted on the blog you can not read the names to cities and towns, so I decided that I would need five smaller maps, one for each campaign area.

I started the new 1813 blog when we returned to Spain last Saturday. But when I saw the smaller maps on the blog it was still hard to read the town names. So I enlarged the font on the maps and posted them again.

Then I realised that the map symbols were too large to fit in the 20 mile squares on the maps. I was using the smallest font for the symbols, so I had to redesign them to show “1” rather than “1st corps”. I am pleased with the result, and it has the added advantage that the symbol only covers half of the square, so you can still read the town name underneath.

You can see my progress so far at

Meanwhile our wargaming has suffered; indeed there has not been any. It’s very hot here in Spain, and we usually have a couple of wargame moves each day as the wargames room is the coolest part of the house. So Jan has been complaining that I should get on with the new campaign.

So next week I plan to prepare the fifth stage of the 1813 campaign, which will be Wellington v Soult in North West Spain and will be called Valladolid.. As always I will start a new blog for this mini campaign, and I hope that will appear sometime next week.

Monday 16 August 2010

New 1813 Campaign

Now that the new maps are ready, it is time to update the 1813 Campaign.

I have started a new blog to bring some order to the campaign, and to replace the hand drawn maps with the new Profantasy ones.

This new blog will not include all of the campaign detail, which will be covered in a seperate blog for each phase of the campaign.

I am not too sure exactly how this will work, and decided that the best way to tackle it was just to get on with it.

If you would like to follow the campaign you will find it at


Friday 13 August 2010

1813 Campaign Wargame Rules

The rewrite of the rules is now complete.

If you would like a copy send me your email address and I will send a complete set by return.

If you would like to follow the progress of the rewrite you can find it here:

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Maps - What Now

We are in UK this week on grandparent duty. Our son and his wife are expecting their second child, and we have returned to help out with their first child for a week or two. So there has been very little wargaming.

On the other hand the enforced separation from our wargames room and library has given me plenty of time to think – never a good idea!

I have finally finished the tactical maps for Spain.
Spain and Portugal

First the strategic map for Spain, showing the area covered by the two tactical maps.

Eastern Spain

Eastern Spain covers the area from the French border down to Valencia. This area was held by Marshal Suchet right through the 1813 campaign and only vacated when Wellington’s victory at Vitoria drove King Joseph out of Spain and forced Suchet to follow suit.

Western Spain

Western Spain covers the area from Madrid to Bayonne. This was the area of Wellington’s masterful 1813 campaign.

Those of you who have been paying attention will know that I discovered ProFantasy, and started on these maps, after about a year of running my 1813 campaign on hand drawn maps. The aim was to replace my hand drawn maps with these must nicer ProFantasy ones.

This was my aim, but after a week of enforced (Wargame) idleness I am not so sure. I have now printed all six tactical maps on A4 paper, and find that the detail is too small to use with ease. So I am now considering producing four maps for each of the six tactical maps. This would give me much more detail on each map.

But it gets worse.

Having studied the hard copies of the maps I have come to realise that my campaign strategy would have been much different had I been using these maps.

First there is much more correct geographical detail on these maps than my earlier ones.

Then the road system is more historical based than adapting a modern road map. I started by plotting one town in each 20-mile square. I then put in the major rivers. Finally I added the mountain ranges. I then made a new map with only the major cities such as Berlin, Dresden, Kassel, Koln, Strasbourg, Munich and Vienna. Main roads, in red, linked these major cities.

I then added minor cities such as Amsterdam, Hamburg, Ratisbon and Luxemburg. Minor roads in yellow linked these to each other and to the main roads. I found that pretty well all of the medium sized towns were covered by these two road systems.

Finally I added a third road system to represent very minor roads over difficult terrain such as mountain ranges.

All of this detail means that lines of attack, and communication, automatically follow the historical ones. And more important they make small towns or villages important because they mark critical road junctions.

All of this has made me want to refight the 1813 campaign from scratch. But it seems a shame to lose all the work I have done on my current campaign. Particularly as I am very happy with the wargames they have produced.

So now I am pondering two options.

First rewrite the history of the 1813 campaign to date, using the new maps. And carry on with the current campaign once I have done so.

Second abandon the 1813 campaign and start a new one. It might be the historical 1814 campaign, or a new 1814 campaign where Napoleon has drawn at Leipzig. Or it might be 1812 when the Austrians, Prussians and Russians declared war on Napoleon before he could invade Russia.

Like I said earlier. It is never a good idea to have too much spare time to think. Just a few weeks ago I was perfectly happy with my 1813 campaign and the way it was developing. But with the evidence of my new maps in front of me it is becoming very difficult to accept that my current campaign is the best I can do.

And this is one of the great advantages of running the campaign on a blog. Were I running the 1813 campaign for just Jan and I, I could just scrap the whole thing without a second thought. But having gone public on the blog I feel a certain responsibility to anyone out there, no matter how few you may be, who are following it.

It will be interesting, for me if not for you, to see where this review will end up.