Sunday, 27 February 2011

PBEM Battles and Wargames

The battle of Marienborn
When I developed the wargame rules I wanted them to integrate with the then solo 1813 campaign. And whilst it was a solo campaign, they worked well. The 12 moves per day was based on the width of the wargames table, to allow sufficient time for two armies to march from opposite sides of the table and still have sufficient time for what I would call a prolonged battle. That is to say it would not all be decided on just one exchange of fire or melee. For the past couple of years we found that it worked well. It lasted long enough for an enjoyable wargame, but not so long that it because a drag to finish off a battle which would not end.
With the onset of the PBEM I find that few, if any, of the battles are decided in one 12 move game. If there is a clear winner or loser, then it is ok. The campaign rules insist that the loser retreats next day, and that the winner remains on the battlefield. But if there is not an obvious winner, it is then down to the campaign commanders and they usually decide to continue. Not unreasonable at all, and perfectly understandable from their point of view. And as we have a permanent wargames table, it does not create any great problem for us.
However I now find that there are two battles being fought on the same day, and it is likely that both will continue into a second day. This does create a problem.
At the end of the first day of the battle of Helmstedt neither side were obvious winners. Had Jan and I been wargaming on our own I would have decided a winner and loser, probably just to suit the campaign scenario. After all the aim of our solo campaign was just to provide a good wargame and I didn’t have to justify the results to anyone else. But in the campaign I was already in the dog house for not following campaign orders to the letter, and could see that I might well upset more players if I could not justify the outcome of the battle.
So I cleared the table and set up the battle of Marienborn. It was clear from the start that this battle would not be decided in one campaign day. First it was an encounter battle, which are often longer because of the amount of marching to deploy at the start. Secondly it started at midday, so there would only be 8 moves instead of 12. The game is still in progress, but it does not look like there is going to be an obvious winner and loser.
If both battles/games go into a second day I will fight Marienborn first, as that game is on the wargames table. But what happens if it is not concluded in a second day?
Whatever happens I will have to clear the table and set up Helmstedt. But due to the current campaign situation it is quite possible that reinforcements will arrive during the second day. So how do I handle a third day?
As most historical battles were decided in one day, I feel it should be possible to ensure that this will usually happen in the PBEM. But as long as the decision is left to the campaign players I do not see how I can ensure that it does.
Historically both armies attempted to concentrate before fighting a major battle. In the PBEM to date this has not happened. This is probably because most generals would not want to risk a battle before they could gather together overwhelming numbers. In earlier campaigns this has always been a problem, because if you fight a wargame with say two or three to one odds the smaller side is certain to win. The resulting wargame is a waste of time for anyone taking part, except the one with the bigger army of course. And as the object of our campaign is good wargames, that result is to be avoided at all costs.
If anyone has any suggestions I would welcome them.


  1. Hmm - the reason I play campaigns is to get those mis-matched scenario's that are so difficult to design as a one off... maybe some fog of war would help - make the reconnaissance harder so that the opposing commanders have less of an idea what they are facing, and are thus less likely to fight without consolidating their forces....

  2. Hi Steve

    The PBEM certainly throws up interesting battles that I would not have designed in the solo campaign.

    It is trying to get the balance right between making the campaign interesting for the players, and keeping the wargames interesting for Jan and I that is the problem.

    Plus a new one, which is completing the wargame in a reasonable time, in order to keep the momentum of the campaign going.

    None of this was a problem when it was a solo campaign. But it is proving an interesting challenge to try to solve.




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