Monday 27 June 2011

Sunny Spain

After ten days of a typical British Summer its lovely to come back to blue skies and warm evenings. The days are getting very hot, but the water in the pool is also warmer. Spanish summers do take some adjusting to, but we seem to have adjusted much better than we expected.

The Spanish spend most of the day indoors, keeping out of the sun. We have followed their lead, and spend most afternoons wargaming. Our wargames table is the coolest part of the house, and we have a large fan over the table if the temperature rises too much.

Most of today has been spent catching up on the administration for the Hanover campaign. This has resulted in the fifth battle of the campaign, and one that looks like being very interesting.

The Prussians have taken a hammering in the latest battles, and have had to retreat towards Magdeburg. The French have taken a day to regroup and prepare for the final push towards the river Elbe. However crafty Blucher has concentrated two of his corps and has ordered a last ditch attack on Helmstedt. Davout has ordered a second corps to move to support the Poles holding the town, but whether they arrive in time depends on whether the corps commander has anticipated the order and started to move closer to Helmstedt before it arrives.

I have also been working on the rules. I managed to write a first draft of the amendments, which include reaction to cavalry charges. These are all things which Jan and I have been using in recent months, but had not amended the rules yet. They will need a little play testing before I amend them on the rules blog.

My desktop computer has started to crash for no apparent reason. My computer man thinks it may be the heat, and that may just need a good clean out - or perhaps a new fan. He comes to have a look tomorrow, and I am hoping that it will be quick and cheap. Meanwhile I still have the laptop. But the keyboard seems much too small for my fat fingers.

If he sorts it out tomorrow I will be able to send out the messages and umpire report ready for the next set of orders. Then I will see whether Marmont will arrive in time to save Poniatowski at Helmstedt. The PBEM certainly adds a degree of uncertainty to the campaign, which was missing when playing solo.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Wargame Rules

The reason for the current lack of posts is that I am at present on holiday.

I brought my laptop with me, and I fully expected to get some work done on the next phase of my 1813 campaign, or at least on the new maps I want to make for it. These are two jobs, which I can never seem to find time to do at home, and two weeks away from the wargames table seemed like an ideal opportunity.

However I have found it really difficult to concentrate on wargaming and campaigning when away from my familiar surroundings. I have everything on the laptop which I would need to do either of the above tasks, but I just can’t seem to settle and concentrate.

Jan and I are visiting my son and his family, and the grand children aged 4 years and 10 months are just proving too much of a distraction.

In the middle of this wargaming desert I received a flurry of questions about our wargame rules. These were carefully written to suit our particular wargame needs. That is to say the number of figures we have, the table and scenery available and the wish to fight large Napoleonic battles on a reasonably small table with 28mm model soldiers. Not the type of rules, which I would have thought, would have a wide appeal. Particularly as they seem to go completely against the general trend of either single corps sized games with each battalion represented by 12 figures. Or at the other hand large tables covered with huge armies in the style of the late, and great, Peter Guilder.

It must be about two years since I first posted them on the blog. The intention was that anyone reading a campaign battle report could check the rules if they wanted. Since then there have been a steady trickle of questions and an ever-increasing number of visitors. Today the count stands at 6773 hits. Not bad for a fun set of rules which were only ever intended for use by Jan and I.

Anyway one of the questions asked was about reaction to charges. In the rules there is a special rule for Opportunity Charges. These occur at the start of the other players turn, and in certain circumstances allow the target to react by changing formation, providing that they first pass a reaction test.

One of the questions raised was whether this reaction test should apply to normal charges. In fact we do allow it in our own games, but I am not sure whether we should or not. Part of me feels that if you leave one of your brigades open to a flank attack, then you should accept the consequences. On the other hand that is not the sort of competitive Wargame that Jan and I usually play. We will often allow something not allowed in the rules, rather than ruin a good wargame. For example a very low throw, say double one, at a critical point in the game. We might allow it to be taken again. We would not do so for a campaign game, where we feel we need to be extra careful as there is a third party interest. But in a “fun game” we might well do so.

Normally I would have just made a decision yes or no. It highlights my feelings of “wargame isolation” that I did not do so, but botched the reply. On the other hand at least it will give me something to think about for the remainder of my holiday - at least when the grand children are not demanding my full attention.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

A New Project

Hanover Tactical Map
As the hot days of summer approach I am looking for a project to keep me cool and out of the midday sun.
At present I am considering whether it would be worth while to make new tactical maps for the next phase of my 1813 campaign.
The present PBEM campaign is going well, and I am pretty sure that the next one will also be PBEM. But I want to build up the player participation, and to allow them more choice of action.
The biggest problem is that the aim of the campaign is to produce good wargames. And the wargames will be fought using our “house rules”. These are based on a corps of six elements – four infantry, one cavalry and one artillery. The rules rely strongly on command and control, and the six elements are critical.
This is a big problem, because prevents the corps commanders from breaking up their corps, and thereby restricts their options. When the campaign moves to the wargames table command radius is also important. This is just 8” on the table. Each square, both on the table and on the tactical map, is 48” x 48”. So it is important that corps remain within one square as far as possible.
In a historical campaign the players would expect to be able to use concentration and movement to gain an advantage. This would result in an uneven and very one sided wargame using our rules. So the challenge, and satisfaction, must be different.
I have come to the conclusion that the best way to improve player satisfaction is to make it clear that the campaign is actually more similar to a board game than to a historical map exercise.
The advantage of my campaign is that the whole tactical map is a representation of a large wargames table. The player can choose his ground, and be confident that the wargames table will look exactly the same. He can also give detailed deployment orders for use on the table.
So far none have done this. I suspect that this is because I have not spelt out the board game aspect. They are using the tactical map as a historical map, and it does not work well. Because of the grid system, and the restriction to road movement only, it is difficult to concentrate and support each other.
So I am going to work on a new map which will have more interesting terrain options. I am also considering whether to allow off road movement. All of this sounds quite promising, but I will have to carry out some play testing to see what the disadvantages might be.
If nothing else, it will keep me out of the hot Spanish summer sun.

Friday 10 June 2011

Wellingtons Battles

The battle of Sorauren
The campaign is going well, but is going through a quiet patch at present. This is mostly due to the recent spate of battles, and so many corps trying to recover.

It appears unlikely that there will be a campaign battle/wargame in the coming week, so I have set up a wargame based on Sorauren for Jan and I to game.

This is the ninth in a series of occasional games based on Wellington's battles in the Peninsula.

Its nice to be able to relax with a one off game with no consequences for anyone else.

Its also a slightly larger and more complex game than the recent one corps per side campaign game.

You an find it at

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Hanover PBEM Campaign Summary

Campaign area outlined in white

The PBEM campaign is now three months old, and I thought it might be interesting to post a summary to date. It is quite possible that some of the corps commanders may read this blog, so I will have to be careful not to give away any information which might be useful to them in the campaign.
23 July 1813

This was the deployment of both armies at the start of the campaign. Obviously they were not aware of enemy locations.
Having crossed the river Elbe Blucher orders his corps to advance west until they make contact with the French. His strategic objective is Hanover, but he can not develop a plan until he locates the enemy corps.
Davout has received reports of a large scale Prussian advance over the river Elbe. He has ordered his corps to move east and take up defensive positions between Uelzen and Brunswick.
24 July 1813

The first battle of the campaign was west of the northern town of Uelzen. 2nd Prussian corps was marching west, IV French corps marching east. The battle opened with an indecisive cavalry skirmish, followed by a full battle. The Prussians won and the French retreated to Munster. Both sides suffered moderate casualties.
25 July 1813

Steinhorst was the site of the second battle. V French corps occupied the town, but moved east at first light. 1st Prussian corps was ordered to attack the town from Bodenteich and they met in the middle. The result was a French victory, and the Prussians retreated towards Bodenteich. Again both sides suffered moderate casualties
26 July 1813

VI French corps attacked Wolfsburg at first light. 4th Prussian corps fought a hard fight, but withdrew at nightfall leaving the French in possession of the town. It was an inconclusive battle, with minimum casualties. But the French claimed a victory.
27 July 1813

IV French corps was recovering at Hanover, when their cavalry reported that 2nd Prussian corps had abandoned Uelzen and marched south. The French moved to take the town, the Prussians realised that its loss would sever their lines of communications and immediately marched north again. The result a hard fought second battle for Uelzen. The result a decisive French victory – the first of the campaign. The Prussians retreated towards Rosche with heavy casualties.
And that brings us up to date on the campaign. To say anymore would give away information which would be very useful to the players.
Each move in the campaign is 4 hours, with three moves to a campaign day. So the campaign has reached 15 moves in three months. Just a little better than one move a week. That was my objective, so I am pleased to have achieved it.
Four battles, and all single corps per side, is less than I had hoped. One battle per month is not enough to keep us busy. It is also considerably less than we achieved with our solo campaign.
The administration of the campaign takes a lot more time than I had anticipated. On the other hand the PBEM campaign is much more interesting and enjoyable than our previous solo campaign.
So overall a gold star for the campaign to date. It has worked much better than I dared hope and provided sufficient interest and satisfaction to make me want to develop PBEM rather than revert to solo campaigning.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Short and Sweet

Prussian collapse
The long awaited wargame with Paul did not live up to expectations!
We fought a game based on the recent campaign battle. We used the same existing casualties, which proved so entertaining for Jan and I, but this time did not work so well.
Because we had a busy weekend planned, including walking and a meal out, we only had a limited amount of time for the game. In the past this has meant that we were unable to finish the game. So a smaller game, and one starting with casualties on both sides, promised to finish quicker. As indeed it, only too much so.
As our rules rely heavily on dice, a bad run can have serious consequences. And that is exactly what happened. In less than two hours most of Paul’s corps had broken and were fleeing the battlefield.
And not only was it short, it was also not very enjoyable. There is no satisfaction in winning when it is due entirely to the luck of the dice.
Fortunately the following afternoon we got back from our walk earlier than expected, so we had time to set up another game. Same size, same table, but without the pre existing casualties. This one was much better. It’s always interesting to play against someone who is not used to the rules; it creates new tactics and puts a much needed stress on the rules. We again finished the game quite quickly, but this time it was much more enjoyable.
Neither game was one we will remember for years. But the second made up the disappointment of the first.
Next game will be back to the campaign, and none of them have disappointed - so far

Thursday 2 June 2011

Wargaming Weekend

A couple of weeks ago my friend and his wife, who have also retired to Spain and live a couple of hours south of us, had to cancel a weekend visit due to ill health. I had set up Souaren, the next in my occasional series "Wellington's Battles", for us to game.

Because of the cancellation I had to dismantle the wargames table to fight a campaign battle. This was the one where we started the game with casualties from a previous campaign battle. We have just finished, and it was a most enjoyable game.

Paul and his wife arrive tomorrow for their delayed visit, and I am going to offer him a similar game using the same scenery. The scenario is slightly different. Same casualties, but a slightly different table. And both sides entering from opposite ends of the table, so a more even game. He will have choice of sides, or we will dice for sides.

It will be interesting to see how well the game plays with a different opponent. Jan and I play very amicable games. We rarely disagree, and when we do are always prepared to roll a dice to decide. Our home grown rules are now into their fifth year, so they have been adjusted to suit our style of play. Paul has a very good grasp of the rules, and he can always be relied on to come up with the unexpected. So it should be a good game.

In the past Jan and I have agreed to stop and game and start again once or twice. Usually due to a run of either high or low dice, which game one side an unfair advantage. When we have done so, I have often been surprised how different the two games turn out - even though we both kept the same side. In our rules so much depends on the luck of the dice, or lack of it. This ensures that each game is completely different, even though the order of battle and terrain may be the same.

I will not be doing a battle report on this game. To do so I have to take photographs at the end of each move, and it does tend to distract from the game. Jan is used to it, and we usually only play 3 or 4 moves each day anyway. But I fear it might well spoil the game for Paul. So no battle report, but I will let you know how it went.