Sunday 31 October 2010

Wellington loses first battle of Valladolid Campaign

Battle of Duenas

Although most of this week has been taken up with the new PBEM campaign, my solo 1813 campaign is carrying on in the background.

Jan and I have just finished the first battle of the Valladolid mini campaign, and Wellington has lost. I was Wellington, and I had the best of the four corps - including the Light Division. So I was pretty confident that I would win. In the end it was down to a bad dice throw - or so I keep telling myself.

Those of you who have been following this blog, and the 1813 campaign blog, will know that it is a feature of my wargame rules that the dice plays an important part. For someone who likes to think he is recreating the feel of a Napoleonic battle it may seem strange that I actually enjoy the random result of a dice throw, but it adds such a lot to our wargames.

It can spoil a good game if one side rolls too many bad dice, and that has happened. But when it does Jan and I usually agree to regame the whole battle. There is no fun, or enjoyment, in winning just because of excessive bad luck. But I enjoy the luck element in our rules because right up to the last move of a game the whole thing can turn on its head.

Many wargamers seem to be obsessed with trying to recreat the tiniest details of a battle or a tactic. Endless discussion takes place on TMP about how to recreate minor tactics, and some get very heated indeed. Yet anyone with any experience of military service, or even experience of wargaming, must realise that wargames could never hope to recreate more than a passing resemblence to actual battle.

Or perhaps its something to do with progress through stages of wargaming. I often find that older wargamers hark back to the fun of simple wargames like they were "in the old days". I am not sure that they ever were that much fun. I can well remember trying to find the "holy grail" of wargame rules - and always failing. My taste in rules has gone from the fun of "Charge" to the mind boggling charts and concepts of WRG, and back again to the fun and unpredictable rules we now use.

Perhaps it just takes some of us a long time to realise that it really is just a game, and that it really should be an enjoyable game.

It you would like to read the battle report you will find it at

Link to battle report

Wednesday 27 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign

The campaign rules are compelte and have been posted on the campaign forum.

My intention was to make them simple and easy to understand. Time will tell whether I have been sucessful or not. At least they are not too long. There are only six A4 pages, plus two pages of summary.

The six pages of rules cover

Role of Commander in Chief
Role of Corps Commander
Corps State of Readiness
Maps and Movement
Contact with the Enemy
Fortress and Sieges

The idea is that once the players have learned how the campaign works, they should find all of the information on the one page. For example the role of Commander in Chief explains what the player is required to do, and an example of how to write his daily orders.

All of ten campaign posts have been filled, and the campaign brief sent to each player. There is one set for the French and one for the Prussian. Each French player has been sent

French campaign brief
French order of battle
How each Army is organised
A description of troop qualities
A tactical map
A wargames map
A map showing initial French deployments

The order of battle is the same as my solo 1813 campaign, so I felt that a simple order of battle might not make much sense. So I had to add an explanation of Army organisation for my campaign and an explanation of what the fighting capabilities of each brigade. I would have preferred not to have to add such detail, but it is quite important that the players understand how their corps works and which brigade is better for which task.

I am now waiting for each player to confirm receipt of the campaign brief email. I will then put each team in touch with each other and we can then start the campaign. Then I will find out just how sucessful my weeks preparation has been.

If you would like to see the rules you can find them on the campaign forum

Link to campaign forum

Sunday 24 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign

I have been really motivated by the excellent response. I now have eight players confirmed, so all of the command posts are filled.

I had not done much preparation until I was sure that there would be sufficient interest and support. So I have been very busy over the past few days writing, and rewriting, campaign rules. I know what I want to achieve, but getting it down on paper is a different matter.

My intention is that the rules layout should be similar to my wargames rules. One page for each subject. For example there will be a description of the role of corps commander, and I want the player to be able to understand his role by just reading that one page. Easier said than done!

My post on the Campaigns of Napoleon announcing the new campaign resulted in a flurry of postings there as well. The forum has been very quiet lately, and I had almost given up on it. But a chance remark about infantry forming square when threatened by cavalry has sparked a long exchange. I am really pleased, as that is the reason I started the forum last year.

This PBEM campaign will not be part of my ongoing 1813 campaign. I am still fighting the Valladolid campaign with Jan, and there is lots of life in it yet. But I will be using the maps which I made for the next stage of my solo campaign, which is set in northern Germany again. If the PBEM is successful I will convert my solo 1813 campaign to PBEM, and we will use the same maps to fight the next stage, which will be a Prussian advance on Hannover.

Meanwhile I am full of enthusiasm for the coming PBEM. Some players had expressed concern that they might not be able to meet a 24 hour turn around. So I have decided to allow one week real time for each campaign day. This will allow plenty of time for the exchange of orders between CinC and corps commanders. It will also allow me plenty of time to work on the administration - which does not exist yet.

I was concerned that it might be difficult to maintain interest and enthusiasm amongst the players if they had to wait a week between moves. So I have started a new blog, similar to those I use for my solo campaign. The difference is that I will have to be very careful not to give away anything that might be of interest to the players. That may well be quite a challenge.

I will also use the blog to post a move by move report on each battle. I am hoping that this will solve the PBEM problem of convincing players that the battle result is fair. By following the wargame on the blog they will be able to see exactly what went right, or wrong.

Link to PBEM blog

Thursday 21 October 2010

1813 PBEM Campaign

I am really pleased that I have received eight requests to take part in my latest project to turn my solo 1813 campaign into a PBEM campaign. This response have convinced me that there is sufficient interest, so the project will go ahead.

I ran two PBEM campaigns last year with this intention. They were fun to run, but I was not convinced that they would offer sufficient interest to the players to make it possible to keep it going as a long term project. This was partly due to the maps I was using, and partly because I was not really prepared to create a new set of campaign rules.

Now that I have the ProFantasy maps I can make, and amend, them as required. This should make it more user friendly for a PBEM campaign.

The rules are a different matter. I have no campaign rules at present. I am umpire, CinC and all the corps commanders. I just move the symbols around until I get a suitable battle to fight as a wargame. My only interest is in the wargame, so the mechanics of the campaign do not matter.

However a PBEM is a different matter entirely. The players satisfaction comes entirely from the campaign, so it must be challenging and fun. It must also make sense. So before I can start a PBEM I will have to develop a set of rules.

I want them to be similar to my wargame rules. They should be easy to learn, provide Napoleonic command challenges and not require too much commitment from the players. It sounds quite easy, but it very difficult to achieve.

One of the biggest problems with PBEM, apart from players disappearing without any notice, is when a battle has to be resolved. I plan to overcome this by running a blog on the campaign. It will be similar to the campaign diary for my current solo campaign, but will have to avoid giving too much information as both sides will be reading it.

I plan to post a summary of each campaign days progress. When there is a battle to be fought I will post a move by move report, with photographs and a brief explanation of the rules as they affect the game. In this way the players will be able to follow the progress of the battle, and understand why one side lost. It should add to their enjoyment of the campaign, and will keep them interested whilst Jan and I fight the wargame.

I have posted an out line of the campaign on my PBEM forum, and asked for bids for the role of CinC and corps commanders. The forum will also be used to keep everyone informed of the progress of the rule development and the test campaign once it gets going.

If anyone would like to take part in the campaign, or just follow its progress, just follow the link

Friday 15 October 2010

1806 PBEM Campaign

About two months ago I got involved in an 1806 PBEM campaign. My interest was in trying to develop a set of "stand alone" rules which could be used by campaign players and avoid them having to learn the complicated rules being used by the umpire.

For this project to work it would be necessary for the player rules to interface with the umpire rules. I did not have a copy of the umpire rules, but was assurred that they did indeed interface.

We set up a campaign to play test my player rules. I opted to play the role of Napoleon, as this would be the most challenging roll and would give me a real feel for how well my player rules were working. It all went well for a month or so, and then the cracks began to appear. It soon became obvious that some major aspects of the umpire rules were not included in the player rules I had devised. I suggested ending the campaign, as the whole purpose of the campaign was to play test the player rules, and they clearly did not work anymore.

The other players, and the umpire, wanted to continue with the campaign. I agreed on the understanding that my rules would no longer be used, and the umpire would answer any rule questions raised. More and more of the questions went unanswered.

Two weeks ago the campaign reached the stage where the first battles would be fought. The umpire promised that they would be resolved within a few days, then a longer delay and finally silence. Despite a request for confirmation of what is happening, no reply only silence.

Its beginning to look like he has abandoned the campaign. No reason or explanation, only silence. Of course there may be a very good reason for the silence, it may be real life getting in the way again. But what a pity some umpires will not take a few seconds to send an email to the players to explain what is happening.

Apart from an attempt to make my 1813 campaign work as a PBEM, I have only been involved in two other PBEM campaigns. And each time this has happened. Perhaps I have been unlucky, but it does make me wonder how many other campaigns have ended in a similar way.

Its such a shame, because in both cases the umpire obviously put a lot of work into the early stages of the campaign. I suspect that resolving the battles just proved too much, and it was easier to walk away from the campaign than to explain what had gone wrong.

It has not put me off PBEM, but it has put me off taking part in one run by someone else.

I am working on the next stage of my 1813 campaign, and am again considering whether I could make it into a PBEM.

The problem last time was the lack of suitable maps. Now that I have ProFantasy I can solve this problem. However I am still uncertain whether I want to put our wargames at risk by opening the campaign to PBEM.

The whole reason for my 1813 campaign is to provide Jan and I with good wargames. It works extremely well in this respect. However it does get a little boring running the whole campaign myself, and it would add another dimension if there were outside players to do the map moves. The problem is that they would not want to have even handed wargames. They would be looking to bring superior forces to bear. And that scenario does not result in an enjoyable wargame.

We are still busy with the Valladolid campaign, so there is no rush. I have almost completed the maps for the next stage, which will be set back in northern Germany possibly around Hanover.

The other option would be to go for a seperate campaign. I have already worked out a set of rules, which include a method for resolving battles without fighting a wargame. But I am not sure that I want to devote the amount of time that would be necessary. Particularly with my earlier experience of the tendency of some PBEM players to just disappear.

Anyway that is what will be occupying my thoughts this weekend.

Whatever you are doing - have a nice one!

Monday 11 October 2010

1813 Valladolid Campaign

North east Spain July 1813

It is a great relief to be starting a new campaign, and the prospect of new wargame, after all the weeks I have spent working on the ProFantasy maps for the 1813 Campaign Diary.

The diary is the main day by day record of the whole campaign. However each phase of the campaign, or mini campaign, has its own blog. They now contain the main features of the campaign, plus the full battle reports.

This will be the fifth phase, and deals with Wellington's attempt to take Valladolid. When this mini campaign is completed I will have fought a campaign in each of the five campaign areas, and will have used all of our 28mm soldiers to do so. That was the aim of the whole 1813 campaign. I had planned to use the three different scales, but have only used the 28mm figures so far. This is partly because they are easier to photograph than the 15mm or 6mm.

It is the first time I have used the 28mm figures for a few years and both Jan and I found that we really enjoyed seeing and using them again. We have also found that each mini campaign was fought without all four corps on each side joining forces. So we could fight them quite easily on our table in 28mm.

I am not sure what will happen when the Valladolid campaign is completed. Whether I will start a new campaign, or whether I will just carry on with a second phase in each of the campaign areas.

Meanwhile the new campaign is under way. The first entry is the background to the campaign. The second the Anglo-Portuguese army order of battle. The third will be the French order of battle and then the battle reports.

Link to campaign blog

Friday 8 October 2010

New 1813 Campaign Diary

I have finally completed the new 1813 Campaign Diary, complete with the new ProFantasy maps.

This blog will replace the old 1813 Campaign blog.

It will be a daily diary for the whole of the 1813 campaign. There will continue to be seperate blogs for each stage of the campaign, and there will be a link on the diary blog to each one.

If you would like to follow the campaign, or just see the new maps, please follow the link below.

Link to 1813 Campaign Diary

Monday 4 October 2010

Fuentes de Orono

Fuentes de Orono
We have just started a wargame based on Fuentes de Orono.

This is the fifth of an occasional series of wargames based on Wellington’s battles in the Peninsula. The previous games were Rolica, Vimerio, Talavera and Busaco.

These games do not attempt to follow the historical orders of battle or recreate the exact terrain. They are fun games based on the historical battle, but using our own orders of battle, our eight figure units and our rules designed to allow large 28mm battles on a 6x6 foot table using relatively few figures.

I have just published the game set up on the blog. We usually play one or two moves each day, and I will post them as they are played.

Link to blog

Friday 1 October 2010

Free Wargame Rules

Jan checks our blog counters most days, which I suppose is pretty sad. Even sadder is that she tells me what is currently popular, I check it out and feel quite pleased that someone is reading what I had posted!

Last Tuesday we were both amazed to find that our wargame rules blog had 288 hits the previous day. It usually has about 10 a week, so this was quite exceptional. Sometimes when I post something about the rules on this blog there will be an extra two or three hits - but 288 is something else.

Next day there were 219 hits, and I posted a query on the Wargame Rule blog to ask if anyone knew what had sparked the interest. I was quite surprised to hear that a link to the blog had been put on a site called "freewargamerules". I have a vague memory of hearing about a site for free wargame rules, but I had not bothered to put my poor attempts on there. Jan and I, plus our occasional wargame visitors, have had a lot of enjoyment with my rules. But I am quite sure that they are not main stream. For a start most wargamers seem to go for large battalions and would find my 8 figure brigades very strange indeed.

I dont know who put the rules on this site, but I am quite pleased that they have generated so much interest. Mind it is obviously fleeting interest. In less than a week there have been 1024 hits - but not a single comment. And the daily rate of hits is down below 20 now.

It is nice to think that so many have taken the trouble to read the rules, and it would be nicer still to think that some may have been interested enough to take on some of the ideas contained there. But it would have been even nicer still if at least one of them had left a comment.

Not that I really mind. I doubt that anyone writes a blog to receive a response, and if they do then they are probably disappointed. I think of it as being similar to writing a diary, but one that is open to one and all to read.

The discipline of writing a regular blog often prompts me to explore new concepts of wargaming. And once mentioned on the blog I feel an added responsibility to keep it going. Certainly my 1813 campaign owes a lot to that sense of responsibility. I am quite sure that were it not for the blog I would have changed the concept months ago. I am also quite sure that the campaign has benefited from this reluctance to change for the sake of change.

So thanks to each of those 1024 who took the trouble to read the Wargame Rules blog. I hope that you enjoyed it and that it has added in some little way to your enjoyment of this satisfying hobby. Shame it has been a one way experience.