Sunday 30 January 2011

1813 Hanover Campaign

Strategic map for Hanover campaign

Just finished the last post on the PBEM Test Campaign Blog. Its a summary of the campaign, showing the position of each corps each day. The campaign diary part of the blog has been quite difficult, trying to explain what is happening without giving too much away. As all the PBEM players were following the blog I had to be careful not to use anything which they did not already know. So I felt it would be useful to do a diary as the final summary, showing what happened day by day. If you would like to read it you can find it here
The final battle/wargame of the campaign was a real "cliff hanger". It lasted the full 12 moves, and could have gone either way right up to the last move. At nightfall the Prussians were in possession of Colbitz, so I had to appoint them the winners. But both sides had suffered heavy casualties, and it would have been interesting to see what the two CinC players would have done had the campaign continued.
I was tempted to continue, but I feel I have learned all that I can from the test campaign, and am anxious to have a go at a "real campaign". So its back to my 1813 campaign, but this time as PBEM rather than solo.
I have already started the new campaign. It is the sixth phase in my 1813 campaign, and the second one set in northern Germany. This is where the very first phase was set, when Blucher crossed the river Elbe, defeated Davout and took Magdeburg. The new campaign gives Davout his chance of revenge, and Blucher the opportunity for fresh glory, as they fight over Hanover.
Apart from providing the maps and rules, and setting the objectives and campaign area, I have had nothing to do with the deployment of the two armies. Its interesting to see how the two CinC players have opted to tackle the task. The CinC orders have been sent to the eight players and I am waiting for their corps orders in return. I find myself poring over the umpire map as each set of orders arrives to see where the first contact will take place. Its SO much more interesting than doing it solo.
The blog for the new campaign is here

Thursday 27 January 2011

Jalon Valley Wargames Club

When we moved to Spain in 2006 we thought it would be a good idea to establish a wargames club. It would be along the lines of the one we had run in UK for 20 odd years. We would run if from the house, provide the table, figures and scenery and fight our wargames. It had worked well in UK, and we were confident that with so many retired ex pats in this area it would work well here also.

We put a weekly ad in the local free English language paper, and contacted them to do an article on us. They printed an article with photographs, and we waited to see what would happen

Our first contact was a chap who had never wargamed, but was interested. We invited him along and he turned out to be a really pleasant chap, and he brought a bottle of wine with him. He came each week for a couple of months, but I always felt that he was more interested in the lunch break, when we would sit in the sun and drink his bottle of wine with a plate of sandwiches.

Three or four weeks after the article in the paper we had a second approach. This one was a long established wargamer, just what we were looking for. His period was not napoleonic, but he was willing to give it a try. Unfortunately our first contact did not seem comfortable with the new member, and soon disappeared. No reason, no explanation. One week he was there, the next he was gone.

Over the next month or so we had four or five contacts. All were invited along to sample what we had to offer. All were either completely new to wargaming, or had not gamed for at least ten years. None were prepared to commit to a weekly, or even monthly, game. All went the way of our first contact.

So for a year or so we had just one "member". He came every week and accepted the game on offer. He never seemed to enjoy the game, and he never contributed much to our enjoyment of the game.

About this time I had a call from UK. An established wargamer had heard about us from his father who lives a few miles away. Could he call in next time he was on holiday? A few weeks later he came to visit us for an afternoon. We played a game and he found fault with some aspects of our rules. I never mind this, providing it is constructive criticism. During our after game coffee and cake on the naya he told us that he was involved in writing a commercial set of rules, and he would like to use some of our ideas. He would also like us to play test the subsequent rules.

There followed an interesting couple of months. I never felt that the rule development was going anywhere, and time would prove me right. However I did get a lot of good ideas for my own rules, which we still use today. It also resolved the problem with our sole remaining "club member". He was also involved in the play testing, and when that faded away so did he.

Eventually we accepted that the club was not going to go anywhere. We were not really bothered, we much preferred our own games anyway. We found that putting on games for others was more trouble than it was worth. We both enjoyed the same sort of game, there was no tension or disagreement. If we found a problem with the rules we just changed it, and carried on.

We shelved the idea of a wargames club, but left the free ad - just in case.

Another year passed, and out of the blue a lady rang to ask if her son (aged 12) could join. We explained that we were a retired couple and could not see a 12 year old fitting in. She would not take no for an answer, so we invited them along to see the set up. Very pleasant afternoon, but not a snowballs chance in hell that we would invite the child along regularly.

Last week another telephone call out of the blue. This time a sixteen year old who would like to join the club. We explained the situation, but he sounded so keen to learn that I did not have the heart to say no. So we have another visitor this weekend.

Is there any point in the Jalon Valley Wargames Club? Probably not. If we have not found anyone after five years, then it is a good bet that we will not. However over the five years since we started it, it has provided us with some distraction and an appreciation of how much we prefer our own wargames.

We will leave the ad in the free paper. You never know.............

Tuesday 25 January 2011

New PBEM Campaign

Hanover Strategic Map

Its been a busy few days getting the maps and administration completed for the new campaign. I have finally finished them all, and briefed the two CinC on their role in the campaign.

The next step is for them to deploy their corps in accordance with their brief, and issue their first set of orders. They will use the map above to plot their deployment, and to issue objectives to their corps commanders.

I have given them very little information about the enemy, other than that Hanover is the main concentration area for the French and Magdeburg for the Prussians. In this campaign they will have to rely on their corps commaders for information about the enemy. Unlike the test campaign, I will not be monitoring the reports or amending them. If a corps commander makes a map reading error in his orders his corps will go to the wrong location. If he neglects to pass on a contact with the enemy, the CinC will remain in ignorance. I expect this type of human error to provide sufficient "fog of war".

I have alrady received the deployment and initial orders for the French, and expect to receive the Prussian on Wednesday. I will then sent out the initial brief, opening locations and first set of orders to each corps commander.

I have filled 8 of the 10 command posts. I was hoping to get a flood of requests to join the campaign, but it has been more of a trickle! So if any of you have been thinking that you might like to have a go, drop me a line. The campaign is designed to be easy to grasp and fun to play, so why not give it a go.

In the meantime I am close to completing the Second Battle of Colbitz, the last battle of the test campaign. Jan has injured her back, so I have played this game solo. It is the first solo game I have ever attempted, and I have really enjoyed it. The rules I use force each corps commander to stick to his orders, which can only be changed by his CinC. So I am not tempted to react to what is happening on another part of the table. And the degree of luck in the rules means that even when moving both armies my plans are constantly foiled by a good, or bad, dice throw. Despite this, I will be glad when Jan is fit enough to resume tabletop command.

Friday 21 January 2011

New 1813 PBEM Campaign

The test campaign has proved a great success and has encouraged me to convert my 1813 campaign from solo to PBEM.

I have started planning for the new campaign. It will be set in northern Germany, and will follow on from the earlier Magdeburg campaign.
The new campaign will follow Blucher’s attack on Davout and his attempt to capture the city of Hanover.
There are ten commands in the campaign, CinC and four corps commanders per side. I have offered first refusal to the existing players, but I expect to have a few vacancies to fill. If not, I will certainly have some during the course of the campaign as players drop out.
I expect the campaign to last about three months. I hope to achieve two campaign days per week, except when a battle is in progress. Each player is sent an update at the start of each campaign day. He then has 48 hours to complete his orders and return them to me. I would expect that it would not take more than an hour to write the daily orders.
If you would like to know more about the campaign you will find the following links useful.
1813 Magdeburg campaign
If you would like to take part in the new campaign, or would like more details, please contact me.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Campaign and Wargame Maps

I have been asked to explain how the campaign and wargame maps are designed. I wanted to have a reasonably accurate map of Europe to plan wargame campaigns. But I also wanted to be able to transfer the map details to the wargames table without having to create a new map each time.
I needed a good road map which covered all of Europe. This one was cheap and had the added advantage that it has two scales, 32 miles to 1 inch and 64 miles to 1 inch. First I photocopied all of the 1inch to 32 mile pages which covered central Europe.

Grand Strategic Map of all Europe
Using ProFantasy I created this map of central Europe. Each square is one page from the AA road map, approximately 250 miles square. This map is not to scale; it is what I call the Grand Strategy map. It shows major cities and their approximate distance from each other. I then drew a road between each, and these became my main supply routes.
Next I photocopied all of the 1 inch to 32 mile pages to create a large map of central Europe. I drew a grid on this map and each square was 20 miles. Each square would be one days march and one wargames table.
Strategic Map - All Germany

I then created a grid map of Germany, on which each square was 20 miles. I added the rivers, major mountain ranges and main borders. I plotted the cities and added the red roads. I then added major towns, and connected them with a yellow road; this would be minor supply routes.

Strategic Map North Germany - all towns

Finally I added a minor town to each empty square, and connected them with brown roads. These would represent tracks, and would not count for supply. To make it easier to read all of this detail I then created three maps of Germany - north, central and south.

Campaign tactical map

For my campaign I need a map which covered a smaller area, which I could send to the players. This was copied from the main map of Germany. I call this map my tactical map. This one is used for our current PBEM campaign which has Hanover as the objective.

Campaign wargames map

So far so good, but how to transfer from the campaign map to the wargames table. My 6’x6’ wargames table is made up of nine 2’x2’ scenery squares. So I created a map on which each square was scenery square. 3x3 squares on this map would be the same as one square on the tactical map. Each town on the tactical map would also be on the wargames map, but the rest of the scenery would be selected to match the type of terrain shown on the tactical map.
I call this map the wargames map. Each square has two reference numbers. One is the map square within the wargames map. This is shown on the top left of the square. The second is the number of the scenery square I will use to make up the wargames table. This is shown top right.

I have 20 2’x2’ scenery squares which I use to make up my wargames table. This page shows one side of each square. Each is numbered 1 to 20

This shows the reverse of those squares which do not have hills on them. Again numbered 1 to 20.

Second Colbitz wargame map
When two armies meet in the campaign, I draw a grid on the wargames map to indicate which squares will be used to make up the wargames table. This is the grid for the second battle of Colbitz, and shows the location of each corps at the start of the battle.
Second Colbitz wargames table

This is the wargames table set up for the second battle of Colbitz. I could only get part of the top three squares in the photograph. Colbitz itself is top right.
I have sued this system in my solo campaign for about two years, and it works well. I am play testing it for a PBEM campaign at present, and it seems to work well so far.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

PBEM Test Campaign Update

Campaign Wargames Map
In the past week the campaign has resumed and all is going well. All ten players have submitted their orders for the next days move, and it has resulted in another battle.
Once more it is at Colbitz. I have found that this often happens in PBEM, where the first reaction to a defeat seems to be a counter attack rather than a retreat to regroup. In a solo campaign I tend to do the opposite, almost always retreat to regroup. Nothing wrong with either decision, but the former does seem to result in a lot of “second battle of…….” reports.
The campaign rules seem to be holding up well, and the players seem to have grasped them very quickly. I would now really like to bring the test campaign to an end, and start a new one as part of the 1813 campaign. But that would be very unfair to all the players who have taken the test campaign so seriously, and obviously want to see it brought to a logical conclusion.
This latest battle is interesting, and highlights the advantage of a multi player campaign.
In the campaign rules the winner of a battle has to remain stationary for one campaign day. This is to allow the loser to retreat one map square, or one wargame table. If the winner then pursue’s at least there will be a wargames table between them.
As a reward for not moving for one day, the winner recovers one battle casualty for each brigade affected. The loser does not; he will have to remain stationary for one day to do so. So if the winner does pursue, and the loser decides to accept battle, the winner will have a distinct advantage.
In the current battle the loser decides to attack two days after he lost the earlier battle. This means he will do so with all of his battle casualties still in place. The winner did not expect this, and is reorganizing his army, and consequently not in a good defensive position.
The attackers are French, who have good quality commanders. The defending Prussians have two Poor commanders out of four. This will make it very difficult for them to complete their deployment in time to meet the attack.
So it will be interesting to see how the battle/wargame works out.
The battle set up has been posted on the blog, and I hope to post one move of the wargame each day. You can find it at

Thursday 6 January 2011

A look back on 2010

Albuera on the right, Spanish Hill in the centre

Its that time of year again, when you look back on the old year and forward to the new one.

2010 was a good year for us, both in our wargaming and personal life. As ever the former played a large part in the latter. For most of the year we had a game in progress on the wargames table, and most of my time was spent either walking in the local area or planning new projects.

The solo 1813 campaign has proved a great success, and has provided hours of enjoyment for Jan and I. Covering all of Germany and Spain as it does, it was the most ambitious project I have undertaken yet. The first set of maps took months complete. They were hand drawn and copied from an AA Road Atlas. Then I had to make a second set of maps to represent the wargames table, and I made one map for each of the five campaign areas. Finally we fought a campaign in each area. Being a solo campaign, it was easy to adjust as I went along. I was quite surprised at how few adjustments were necessary.

Early in the year I discovered ProFantasy, which is a map making software. It is really designed for what I would describe as fantasy wargaming, and at first I dismissed the idea of making my campaign maps as too difficult. Then I discovered a set of Napoleonic campaign maps made using Profantasy. A member of my Campaigns of Napoleon forum put a set of them in the files section and, like other members, I was greatly impressed. Unfortunately they were not suitable for my campaign, as the road system would not allow me to make wargame maps which could be transferred to the wargames table. I contacted Malcolm, and he was very helpful and encouraged me to buy ProFantasy and give it a try.

Jan bought it for me for an early birthday present, and I was hooked. I do not easily understand computer programmes, and particularly when they are not really designed to do what I wanted to do. So the first month or so was a steep learning curve. But I was soon hooked, and transferred all of my hand drawn maps for the 1813 campaign to Profantasy maps. I even reissued the campaign diary blog using the new maps.

Throughout the year I had been dabbling with Play By EMail campaign games. I ran a couple using my solo campaign maps and simple rule system to see whether I could convert it to PBEM. It worked reasonably well, but not good enough to transfer.

Then I took part in a couple of PBEM campaigns as a player. This was much less enjoyable. I always throw myself into anything I undertake, and in both campaigns I put a lot of time and effort. So I was very disappointed when both campaigns just stopped without reason or explanation. In both cases it was when the first battle had to be fought, and I suspect that it just proved too much for the two different umpires to manage the transfer from map to tabletop.

Far from putting me off PBEM, this made me more determined to convert my solo campaign. I wrote a slightly more comprehensive set of rules, and adapted one of my mini campaign maps. I was pleased that most of the players in my earlier PBEM campaign were prepared to take part in a test campaign. One of the big problems in my earlier attempt was that I tried to do the turn around of orders too quickly. So this time I am aiming at one campaign day in one week.

I knew that the early map moving part of the campaign would go well, and that the problem would arise when I transferred it to the wargames table. I was not worried about how to do it, as there is a campaign map showing table squares. So I only have to decide which squares to use for the wargame. But I was concerned that the ten players would lose interest whilst I set up and played the game.

I run both a forum and a blog for the PBEM. The forum is to answer any questions on the rules, and to notify players when orders are due. The blog is to run a campaign diary and also somewhere to keep the rules, orders of battle and maps readily available. I decided to also post a battle report on the blog.

I was unsure how complicated or simple the battle report should be. I wanted each player to understand how the battle went, and if they wished to be able to follow it move by move. So I decided on one wargame move each day. I took four photographs of each move, and wrote a full battle report.

Each game can last up to 12 hours, which would be 12 days. This would give Jan and I plenty of time to play the game, and still give the players something to read each day on the blog. I enjoyed it, and I hope that they did too.

As luck would have it, there were two battles on the same campaign day. So there was a long break for the players. Worst still, the battle reports finished in the week running up to Christmas. I was tempted to leave it until the new year before getting back to the map movement, but I didn't want such a long break.

So I brought the campaign up to date and notified each player of the situation of his corps after the two battles. I do this in the role of Chief of Staff. I write a report on the days activities for the commander in chief or corps commander. They use this update to write their orders for the next day.

I was am now waiting to see how it works. I have just sent out the COS reports, and am waiting for each CinC to write his corps commander orders, and then for each corps commander to write orders for his command.

During the play testing of the PBEM concept there has been a shortage of wargames for Jan and I to play. When it was a solo campaign I could do three or four camapaign days movement in half an hour. It now takes a week for just one days movement. So we needed something to fill in the time.

Last year I thought it would be fun to refight each of Wellington's battles as a wargame. Not a real refight with historical orders of battle and trying to recreate the terrain. But a wargame based on the historical battle. We both enjoyed them, and now use them as a fill in between campaign battles.

We have already fought Rolica, Vimerio, Talavera, Busacco and Fuentes de Orono. We are currently fighting Albuera.

So that is the year just gone.

Not sure what 2011 will bring.

We returned to Spain on 2 January, and since then I have been busy updating my blogs. There are currently six of them, namely Walking Napoleonic Battlefields, Napoleons Italian battlefields, Hanover PBEM campaign, Wellingtons Battles, Paul and Jan in Spain and this one. I try to do one each day, but wanted to update them all as quickly as possible after our visit to UK for Christmas with the family for 10 days.

My main interest at present is converting the PBEM campaign. I am currently working on new maps, to make them more user friendly for a PBEM campaign. But I dont want to do too much until I am certain the transfer will work.

So first I have to work on the campaign itself. At present the administration is much too complicated, and I will have to find an easier way of running the campaign. That will not be too difficult. But I will not know until the test campaign is finished what needs to be improved from the player point of view.

So I am still full of enthusiasm for the hobby and the campaign as we enter 2011. And I am pretty sure that this hobby will play as important a part in our life in 2011 as it did in 2010.

Thanks for following the blog in 2010. I hope that you will continue to do so in 2011, and that you will be encouraged to post comments when you read something of interest. I do thye blog for my own satisfaction and enjoyment, but its always nice to receive feed back.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

Paul and Jan