Monday 30 May 2011

Good Manners - Further Thoughts

My last post seems to have struck a nerve with MurdocK, who posted a very interesting response in the Comments.
He has run five internet campaigns and confirms that the one thing he can count on is “delay or non-response from key players”. So at least I am not alone! He goes on to explain the “consequences” he has introduced to deal with this sort of behavior. He then goes on to consider how to avoid this problem. A very interesting and well thought out response.
Having considered the problem some more, I have come to the conclusion there is not much more I can do. My campaign is already of short duration, so players do not have to commit for more than three months. It is fast moving, with a move at least once a week, so they should not get bored. The campaign diary blog is updated almost every single day, and battles covered in great detail.
The campaign is explained in advance, and what is required of them. In particular I lay great stress on meeting the 48 hour timetable. I also explain why it is necessary.
The administration of the campaign is very user friendly for the player. They receive an update at the start of each move, which provides everything they need for their next set of orders. There is an example of how to write orders, and what to consider. They are then given 48 hours to write their orders. Hard to see how it could be much easier.
So if they fail to respond, or just walk away from the campaign, I doubt anything else I can do would make any difference.
The real problem is recruiting the right sort of players. The internet provides a wide pool of prospective players, but they are all unknown in personal terms. So you have to take everyone at face value. There is really no alternative, and you just have to hope for the best.
I don’t think any sort of disciplinary procedure would have the slightest effect; indeed it might make matters worse. The ones who lose interest are not likely to respond to any sanction. But those who have an unavoidable delay would quite likely resent any sanction. I think everyone wants a quite life and a fun campaign. They really don’t want me telling them off for taking an extra few hours to reply.
When we moved to Spain we found it hard to accept the laid back attitude to life. A builder would promise to come tomorrow, fail to turn up and then fail to understand why you are upset. It is the downside of the relaxed, easy going, wine drinking life style which we all love. And you just have to accept the “downs” with the “ups”.
I think PBEM campaigns might just be the same.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Good Manners on the Internet

It’s happened before, so I should be used to it. But I still get annoyed when a player in my PBEM campaign fails to reply to repeated emails. It causes great disruption to the campaign, but worse it makes you wonder whether the whole thing is worthwhile. And all because someone fails to reply to an email.

Of course it is possible that they are unable to reply because of personal circumstances or perhaps their computer had broken down. But I always feel that this is a little like the old “cheque in the post” excuse. It’s possible, but pretty unlikely.

It does cause a lot of delay and inconvenience to the campaign administrator and the other players, but that is not the most annoying part. It’s the frustration that someone has treated you with an unreasonable lack of consideration and there is nothing you can do about it. The feeling that someone just can’t be bothered to reply to your mail, even though to do so would only take seconds!

This is the extreme example of bad internet manners. But what about the casual lack of consideration. The failure to reply to a mail without a reminder. There are eight players in my PBEM campaign and I have had to send 28 reminders in 13 moves. That is bad enough, but only very rarely does the eventual reply contain an apology.

Is bad manners now the norm? Reading through the forums I use, and particularly TMP, the answer would appear an obvious yes. If so is it only on the internet, or is it so in “real life” too.

We live in Spain now, and I am always pleasantly surprised how friendly and helpful people can be – both locals and “ex pats”. Of course most of our friends are “of a certain age”. The younger generation we come in contact with are usually Spanish, and they are without exception polite and non threatening – not at all like the “hoodies” I recall in our local park or the city centre of respectable Salisbury.

So perhaps the lack of good manners is now common practice. Perhaps it is me who is out of step with the world and everyone else is too busy to exercise good manners, or simply feel it is a waste of time. If so, what a sad reflection on life in 2011.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Challenging Campaign Wargame

French prepare to attack with their full strength brigades on the right, and pin the enemy with their weak brigades (from a previous game) on the left.
I converted my solo 1813 campaign to PBEM in order to make it more interesting and challenging, and the latest battle/wargame has not let me down.
It is the fourth battle in the campaign, but the first to include casualties from a previous battle. In 40 years of wargaming this is the first time that I have faced this type of challenge.
The battle was not really planned by either of the campaign corps commanders, but it has developed into a critical part of the campaign.
Earlier in the campaign the two corps fought the first battle of Uelzen. The Prussians won, and the French retreated. Both halted to regroup and replace casualties. In the campaign they receive one casualty replacement for each move that they are stationary and not in contact with the enemy.
Two days later another Prussian corps lost a battle 15 miles south, and this corps was tasked to move south to support them. As they did so, the French corps they had defeated earlier sent their cavalry to recce Uelzen who reported that it as empty. The French commander decided to occupy the town and cut the Prussian lines of supply.
The Prussian commander realised what was happening, ordered an overnight about turn and marched back to occupy Uelzen before the French could do so. The result was the second battle of Uelzen.
Both corps have five casualties each from the earlier battle. The Prussian cavalry have two casualties, and three infantry brigades’ one each. The French have two casualties each on two brigades and one on a third.
Casualties have serious consequences in my rules. Each one reduced fighting ability and counts as a minus on a morale test. One is a slight problem, two a serious one. For example a third casualty would result in a morale test, and the brigade would require a total of 6 on 1D6 to pass.
The Prussians are fighting the battle without their cavalry. Or rather their cavalry have been kept well away from the enemy cavalry or artillery.
The French have a real problem. They have to fight with half of their infantry likely to rout if they receive one more casualty. The solution is to attack with the one full strength infantry brigade, the full strength cavalry and the artillery. The remaining three infantry brigades are kept out of harms way, but used as a threat to pin part of the Prussian corps.
The game has just started, so I have no idea how it will work out. I have command of the French, and am quietly pleased with my clever tactics. Of course if I lose either my good infantry or cavalry brigade the game is over.
Starting the game with casualties is proving so challenging that I am wondering why I have never used it in a game before.
If you would like to see how it works out you will find the first post of the battle report on the 1813 campaign diary

Thursday 19 May 2011

Game Cancelled

Sorauren and Cole’s Ridge
I was expecting to have a good wargame this weekend with Paul from Calisparra. He had arranged to visit us with his wife for a long weekend, and the highlight would be a wargame based on Sorauren, the latest in my “Wellington’s Battles” series. Yesterday his wife rang to cancel as he is ill.
The game can wait, as can the visit. The important thing is for him to get well again. But I must admit to being just a little disappointed. The table is all set, and each time I pass it I am reminded that the weekend is cancelled.
We heard from them again today, and he is feeling a little better. The visit is rescheduled for two weeks.
The weather today has matched my mood, grey and light rain. It’s silly really, because Jan and I can fight the wargame over the weekend if the weather continues to be miserable. But Paul always provides a different sort of challenge, and I was looking forward to what promised to be a very enjoyable wargame.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Back to Normal

Some weeks ago Jan noticed that there was some mould on the end of the shelves we keep the model soldiers and scenery on. There was no damage to the soldiers, nor indeed on the actual shelves. But we did not want to risk it spreading, so we decided to wash and treat the whole unit.

Mould is an annual problem here in southern Spain. Despite our best efforts to keep the house warm but well aired, we have a few patches on the ceilings each winter. It is easy to clean, and then is ok for the rest of the year. But this is the first time we have had it on a wooden surface.S
We got a bottle of special cleaner from the local shop, who understandably is something of an expert! The cleaning would be easy, but finding temporary homes for all the soldiers and scenery was another matter.
The whole thing took almost two weeks. First all the shelves had to be cleared, and I checked each stand of soldiers as I did so. Fortunately no damage to soldiers or scenery, not even our very old paper German town houses.
Then I took the unit apart and cleaned each shelf and the units itself. I decided to varnish then at the same time, and that also took longer than anticipated. And now I had to find space for all the shelves to dry.
Finally I decided it was best to paint the room whilst it was empty. There was one small damp patch on the ceiling, but no sign of mould. Despite this I use special paint which is mould resistant.
Yesterday all was finally finished, and I had the much more pleasant job of putting them all back on the shelves. Not really very much to show for almost two weeks work, but it is all very clean and pristine.
Now at last I can set up a wargame and put all of that hard work to good use!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Finished Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

My wife and I have two main interests, Napoleonic history and hill walking. In 1971 we decided to spend our summer holiday visiting the battlefield of Waterloo. I remember it as one of those holidays when the sun is always shining and you enjoy every moment. It was to be the first of many enjoyable holidays spent walking and exploring Napoleonic battlefields.
On 9 April 2009 I started a blog to record those visits, and I started with our visit to Waterloo. I wanted to create a personal diary of our walks, which I hoped would also be of general interest. Particularly for anyone interested in visiting Napoleonic battlefields.
When I started I realised that we had visited quite a few battlefields, but I did not appreciate how many until I started researching for the blog. Over the years I have kept a scrapbook/photograph album of each visit, and they formed the basis of each blog.
I wanted to be able to refer back to each walk, so I have created an index of the walks. Each holiday has its own blog. There are nine Blogs:
Walking Napoleonic Battlefields
Waterloo 1971
Spain and Portugal 1991
Northern Spain 1994
The Pyrenees 1996
Austerlitz 1998
Germany 1999
Italy 2000
Aspern/Austerlitz 2002
There are 90 blog entries in total, each one covering a different walk. Some are return visits to a particularly interesting battlefield.
At a rate of one blog per week it has taken just over two years to complete the exercise.
The first blog, Walking Napoleonic Battlefields, is a summary of the other Blogs. It also contains a link to each one. You can find it at

It is almost ten years since our last battlefield holiday.
We are now living in Spain, and we still walk regularly.
I often think it would be nice to explore the battlefields of eastern Spain, but it would require a lot of research. Then I think it would be nice to visit Russia and Borodino. Or perhaps return to Italy and the battlefields we missed last time. So this may not be The End.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Size is not everything

one corps per side battle
Most of our wargames this year have been fighting battles from the PBEM campaign. Almost all of them have been single corps battles, which only involve 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and one gun per side. That is small by any standard.
Our “house rules” were written for much larger battles, usually four corps per side. This would give a game of 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 guns per side. Not large by many standards, but the correct number of 28mm figures for our 6x6 foot wargames table.
We always enjoyed the multi corps games, because the table looked full. Three corps side by side cover the available space, and each army had one more corps in reserve to use as they thought best. It resulted in a good tactical battle. But it did take some time to play the game, often a couple of weeks.
When we started the PBEM the idea was to have 2-3 single corps sized battles, then a couple of larger ones and finally a large battle with four corps per side. But it did not work out like that.
When the game was solo I could manipulate the map movement to produce any sized battle I wanted. But with real players commanding the corps this is not possible. The command and control of the campaign has become much more devolved, and coordinating larger battles is proving quite difficult.
But this has not proved a problem, because we find we quite like the smaller games. There is less wide spread movement, which plays such a large part in the multi corps games. Then the game tends to be less predictable. With four corps you get four chances to make it work, with one corps only one chance. One bad dice throw can turn the whole game around.
Best of all we get to finish the game before it becomes boring.
So contrary to general opinion size is not everything – even in wargaming

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Spring Cleaning

We are fortunate to have a permanent wargames room and an adjacent storage area for the model soldiers and scenery. Here in Spain it is called an under build, but anywhere else it would be a cellar. We bought our house here “off plan”. This means it was still being built when we decided to buy. This gave us an option to change the layout of the rooms. The house is built on the side of a hill, so it was easy to enlarge the downstairs to create the wargames room.
That was five years ago, and the time has come to start painting the house. We are always careful to make sure that the wargames room is well ventilated, and we also use a dehumidifier when necessary. Despite this we have a damp patch on the ceiling where the models are stored, which we are having sorted out next week. Fortunately the damp has not affected the model soldiers or the scenery. We have some very old paper buildings which we bought in Germany about 40 years ago, and even they are fine.

But we do have to move everything out of the room, and that included all of the soldiers and buildings. I was surprised how much space they all take up when you take them off the shelves.
The model soldiers have found a temporary new home on our bedroom floor. The main bedroom has also been enlarged as it is on the same level as the wargames room, so there is plenty of space. I sold off half of my model soldier collection before we left UK, just as well when I see how much we still have.

The buildings and scenery has taken residence in our guest bedroom. Not as much space required as the model soldiers, but it still covers the bed.
This is the first time that I have moved them all since we arrived in Spain, and I was relieved to see that they all look in excellent condition. When I started collection metal figures, in the early 1970s, there was a lot of talk about “lead rot” or “metal corrosion”. I was delighted to see that there is no sign of it on my collection.
I hope to finish redecoration in the storage area by the end of next week, and return them to their usual place.