Wednesday 29 September 2010

Update of Passau Campaign

Locations at start of Passau campaign

When I decided to replace the hand drawn maps on my 1813 campaign with ProFantasy maps I did not realise what a long job it would be. There are four mini campaigns, each with their own blog. I had used two types of hand drawn maps to illustrate the daily movement and the battles.

It has taken me a couple of months to replace the first three campaigns, and I have finally started on the fourth. I am please with the result, but not sure it was worth the effort of replacing them all.

ProFantasy has proved to be a really good investment. I spent hours making different maps, particularly with my latest project of setting up a PBEM campaign. I have done five different maps, and am not really satisfied with any of them. But the great advantage is that I dont have to start from scratch. The major towns and rivers do not change, and I have saved a master map with those details. So I only have to fiddle with the roads and hills to make a completely different map. Great fun!

Anyway I have started updating the Passau Campaign. If you would like to follow its progress you can find it at

Sunday 26 September 2010

New PBEM Campaign Rules

The 1806 PBEM is still going, but has slowed down a lot. This is mostly due to late submission of orders. This is something which happens a lot in PBEM, particularly after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It usually sets in when the two armies come together and there is the prospect of a battle. I suspect that it is often the result of one, or more, players realising that their grand plan is not working and are then unsure what to do next. And, of course, it is easy to just fade away when the only connection between players is an internet game. This is perfectly understandable, but very frustrating for those players who want to get on with the campaign.

The problem is then what to do next. There are really only three options. The first, and in my opinion the best, is to have a CinC player on each side who is planning the grand strategy for his side. He can then step in for the absent player and issue orders to his corps/army.

The second option is to ask a new player to take on the role. This I feel is very unfair. He may well have to take on a command which is already in a mess and beyond any chance of winning.

The third option is for the umpire to take over the command of the missing player. This is quite difficult to do, for it is pretty well impossible for him to ignore the information he has about the other side. And unless he is a saint, he will use that information - particularly if the game is in danger of coming to an untimely end and he wants to keep the campaign going.

I am not suggesting that this is the reason our present campaign has slowed down. It may well be the other common reason, namely that real life has presented one, or more, players with a more pressing problem.

I on the other hand, being retired and very much a "wargame anorak" am always amongst those left with a strong interest in the campaing. This results in intense frustration and a determination never to take part in a PBEM again. This resolve usually lasts until someone asks for volunteers to take part in another PBEM!

The other solution is to run the PBEM yourself. This does not prevent other players from dropping out, but it does mean that you can use one of the three options mentioned above to avoid an abrupt end to the campaign.

I mentioned last time that I was writing a set of campaign rules, which would include a method of fighting battles without wargames. That is going well, and the first draft of the rules are now completed.

I am play testing them myself, which is a very boring process. But I want to be reasonably sure that they work before I ask others to become involved. They seem to work ok, but I will not really know until I open them to other players. That is really the only way to discover the weakeness of any set of rules.

If anyone out there would like to help out I could do with two players, one French and one Prussian. But be aware that the rules are completely untested, and I may even have to change them as the game is ongoing.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Campaign battles without wargames

The PBEM campaign has hit problems faster than expected.

You may remember that I am trying to develop a set of Player Campaign Rules. These would be a sort of "fast play" set for use by the players. It would avoid them having to learn the full set of rules which would be used by the umpire.

The problem is the obvious one, the interface between the players rules and the umpires rules.

I sent a suggested set of rules to Carlos, who offered to umpire the campaign. He agreed them, with additions.

Once the campaign started it soon became obvious that the players rules bore little similarity to the umpire rules. I tried to resolve the difference, but this proved impossible. So we have agreed to continue the campaign without the player rules. Not a good solution, but the only one available short of calling an end to the campaign.

The campaign was fought as a learning experience. I have learned that the only one who can write the player rules is the one who wrote the umpire rules. Or at least have a very good understanding of them.

So I have reluctantly decided to write my own PBEM campaign rules. I am reluctant because I have a perfectly good set of rules for my solo 1813 campaign. In addition I do not want to distract too much from my solo campaign, which provides Jan and I with our regular wargame fix.

The real probem I have with a PBEM campaign is fighting the battles. It would not be possible with my current wargame rules. So as a first step I am trying to develop a system for fighting campaign battles without fighting a wargame.

I have put my first attempt on Campaigns of Napoleon Forum and asked for constructive criticism. If you would like to see them, and perhaps comment, you will find them at:

Monday 13 September 2010

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Burgos Castle 1995

I have just finished the blog on Walking Austerlitz.

This was our first visit to Austerlitz and was also our first tour with Midas Battlefield Tours.

It was a four day visit in September 1998, and it rained most of that time. Being a group of "Brits" we were all very stoic and "soldiered on". It sounds quite miserable, but in fact was very enjoyable despite the weather.

Writing up the blog is a little like looking at old photographs albumns, its very nostalgic. Looking through the photos and reading the diaries brings it all back. Not only the damp clothes and muddy boots, but also the good company and the excitement of walking over the very ground where Napoleon fought this historic battle.

This is the sixth of the series. Previous ones have been Waterloo, Spain and Portugal with Holts, Spain and Portugal on our own, Northern Spain and The Pyrenees.

I started the blog in April 2009, and have done an entry covering one battlefield pretty well every week since then. It became such a big job that I started a seperate blog for each tour and a central blog as an index to each walk.

And there is lots still to come. Next is Walking Northern Europe, which will include Jena, Auerstadt, Dresden, Bautzen, Lutzen and Leipzig. This will be followed by walking in Italy and southern Germany.

So if you are interested in exploring Napoleonic Battlefields make a note of the central blog, which contains links to all of the walks.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

PBEM campaign rules progress

Carlos and I are making excellent progress with our new PBEM project. The aim is to write and develop an easy to understand set of rules which will allow players of campaigns to perform the role of general without having to learn the often long and complicated campaign rules.

The idea is that these rules will only cover those aspects of the rules which the player must understand to carry out his tasks. The umpire can run the campaign with rules as complicated as he likes. The problem is getting the interface between the two sets of rules right.

In one week we have written the first draft of the rules and recruited five volunteers to act as corps commanders in a campaign loosely based on Jena 1806. It will be a proper campaign, but used as a play test of the Player Campaign Rules.

I have started a new Yahoo forum to exchange information about the campaign and the rules. You can find it at:

We have enough players for this stage of the campaign, but if it works well we will need more in the future. If anyone is interested have a look at the forum and if you like what yiou see drop me a line.

But of course things never go easy. Yesterday I was quite shocked to receive an email accusing me of plagiarism. It was from a wargamer I have known online for many years, and he was demanding an apology and recognition on the forum that we were using his rules.

He would not accept that I have never read his rules, let alone plagiarised them.

The story is complicated.

In our new project I am responsible for writing and developing the Player Campaign Rules. Carlos is responsible for running the campaign as umpire. He will use his own campaign rules as umpire, and they will not be distributed to the players, who will only receive my rules.

When I finished the first, rough, draft of my rules I sent them to Carlos so that he could amend them to dove tail into the campaign rules he was using as umpire. He returned a couple of pages of amendments, which I included without question and posted on the forum.

Apparently Carlos was using a set of campaign rules which this other chap had put on my other forum, Campaigns of Napoleon Forum. I started that forum about a year ago as a place where anyone interested in Napoleonic campaigns could exchange information and test ideas. You will find that forum here

Apparently Carlos had taken parts of those rules, and included them with my Campaign Player Rules. This was intended as a stop gap measure until we could get the rules play tested.

I explained to this chap that I knew nothing about his rules, and had certainly not plagarised them. I offered to remove the offending sections of the rules, but he was demanding a full apology FROM ME, plus a notice on the forum that we were using his rules.

I think you will understand that I was not prepared to apologise, as I had done nothing wrong. I told him I was sorry that he was upset, but it was between him and Carlos. He would not accept this, insisting that as it was my forum it was my responsibility.

I cant understand why someone would put a set of rules on a forum which is designed to share information, and then demand an apology when someone else uses those rules to play a campaign. Even worse why would he not accept that I was an innocent party in the whole thing - especially as we have known each other (on the web) for many years.

It really is strange how the internet seems to bring out the worse in people, and make them so much more unreasonable and demanding than they would ever be in a real life face to face situation.

Its all been a disagreeable distraction from the task in hand, but "alls well that ends well". I have removed all extracts from his rules and he has resigned from both the forums.

Now perhaps we can get down to the real issue, write a set of rules and enjoy a campaign.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Austerlitz and Vienna

Brunn Castle
The last day of our visit was always going to be a long one, but it seemed even longer suffering from the after effects of a visit to a local wine cellar the preivous evening. It was a very quiet group, with obvious sore heads, who met for breakfast.

The timetable included a visit to Brunn Castle, drive to Vienna and visit the famous military musuem there before catching a late afternoon flight back to London. It was a dry and clear morning and we all agreed to give up an hour or so in Vienna in return for a return visit to Zurlan Hill.

On our previous visit we could see little due to heavy rain and low clouds. What a difference today was. It was obvious why Napoleon had chosed this hill as the site of his command post, as it offers excellent views of the whole battlefield.

--> It was ideal for panoramic photographs of the battle field. My camera was not really up to the task, but you can see what I achieved at:


Thursday 2 September 2010

New Tarragona Campaign

Spain May 1813

The new 1813 campaign diary is coming along well.

I have just completed the first phase, which is the Magdeburg campaign. I am really pleased with the new maps and I think it makes the diary look a lot better and easier to read.

I have just started on the Tarragona campaign, which is phase two of the 1813 campaign.

--> -->

But most of this week has been devoted to preparing for the PBEM play test campaign with Carlos.

He lives in Manilla and I live in Spain, a difference in time zone of 8 hours. There is a lot to agree, and that means a lot of emails. Unfortunately both of us are asleep at different times during the 24 hour day. And whilst I have little to distract me during my waking hours, I expect he may well " have a life".

Its proving quite a challenge to get agreement on all of the details. I am learning not to put more than one point in each email. If I try to cover two or three, quite often one gets answered and the others overlooked.

We have produced drafts of the orders of battle, campaign brief and campaign rules for the play test campaign. There are only a few points left to be agreed, and I have high hopes that we may be able to start the campaign soon.

Once the campaign starts I intend to start a Yahoo forum to exchange ideas and suggestions on the campaign rules and how the campaign system is working. This will be open to anyone, not just the players. I will post a link once it is up and running.