Tuesday 29 November 2011

First Impressions of the Tortosa Campaign

The campaign is only 10 days old, but already we have completed three moves and are writing orders for the fourth move. Not bad going, particularly with nine players spread throughout the world.

This campaign has changed greatly from the previous one. In particular allowing detached garrisons is proving a challenge - for me as well as the corps commanders.

The idea of detached garrisons was to make it more difficult for the French to immediately crush the Spanish armies. Each corps had to detach three of its four infantry brigades prior to the start of the campaign. Each brigade was 3-6 squares (15 to 30 miles) from corps HQ. This meant that any orders for them had to be sent by message. In the previous campaign all brigades had to remain within command range of corps HQ.

Each corps is only allowed one message each turn. So they have to decide whether to write orders to a detached brigade, and if so which one. Or whether it would be better to write to a nearby corps commander and try to coordinate their battle plan.

If they order a brigade to return to corps, which most have, then I have to keep track of the brigade until it gets back. This has caused a problem, as I had not anticipated it would require an additional order system. It meant that after two moves I had to change the whole message system.

Then there is the problem of how a Spanish corps can tackle a fortified town. The rules make it clear that it is almost impossible to do if the garrison is full strength. A full Spanish corps would need a dice throw of 6.

I did anticipate that there might be problems here, so I posted on the campaign forum that it would be difficult, and that they should consult the campaign rules before attempting it. Despite this two of them went ahead and attempted to storm a town, with the predictable result that both lost casualties and had to withdraw.

Which just goes to show that it is not necessary to have complicated rules to create confusion, just allow the players a little more freedom of choice and they will produce it themselves.

It is all adding greatly to the feel of the campaign, which has a distinct Spanish flavour of confusion and fog of war.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Fire and Sword

Its taken me a long time to get around to reading the third book in the Simon Scarrow series about Wellington and Napoleon. Not sure why that is so. Perhaps because there is less opportunity to read now that the long lazy summer days are gone. Or more likely because I did not enjoy The Generals, the second in the series, as much as I did Young Bloods, the first.

Fire and Sword deals with the period 1804 to 1809, much more interesting to me than the early Napoleonic era. I find Scarrow very easy to read, and I was impressed that there is very little fiction in these novels. I am not saying that it would be difficult to find parts when he lets his imagination run a little wild. But they are close enough to the truth not to offend too much.

I have read a lot of books about both the military history of the period, and the personal life of Napoleon. Less so about Wellington, as there is less available. But I still enjoyed this book. And I would recommend it to anyone not too well read on the period who wants an easy introduction.

Perhaps I will not leave it so long before I read the last volume.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Running the PBEM Campaign

I was asked to explain how I run the campaign on the PBEM Forum. I know some of you follow my 1813 campaign blog, and I thought you might find it interesting.

I run the campaign on my computer, but there is no programme for it. It’s all done by typing and filing in folders. This is why I ask for you to use the standard format for move orders and CinC reports. With nine sets of reports to transfer onto the map and then write individual umpire reports you should not be too surprised if there is the occasional mistake.
The whole administration depends on a series of folders, which I use like a simple filing system. There are four main folders
Move Folder. There is one folder for each campaign move. Inside there are two folders, one for orders and one for umpire reports. I put a copy of each corps movement order in the orders folder as I receive it. When they are all in I plot the moves on the master tactical map. I then type an umpire report for each corps commander and place it in the umpire report folder. When all are done I send an umpire report to each corps commandeer.
Message Folder. There is one folder for each campaign move. When I receive a message I calculate on the tactical map how long it will take to reach its destination. I then place a copy of the message in the appropriate folder for delivery. At the end of each move I send all messages in the next folder to the recipients.
CinC Folders. One for the French and one for the Allied CinC. Each contains the following
Strategic Map - updated by reports from spies and agents
Tactical Map – updated by reports from corps commanders
Message Log – a list of all reports received and orders sent
Messages In Folder – contains a copy of all reports received
Messages Out Folder – contains a copy of all orders issued
There are another 8 folders for such things as campaign rules, copies of strategic and tactical maps, battle reports, campaign players, campaign blog and campaign diary. But they are background, rather than used for running the campaign
It’s not really as complicated as it looks, but it does involve a lot of work. Perhaps someday someone will come along who will write me a computer programme to run it all. Not sure I would really want that, because it’s easy for me to change things as they are now, and the campaign is constantly changing and, I hope, improving.

Monday 21 November 2011

Tortosa Strategic Map showing initial deployments

The Tortosa campaign has now started.
I have managed to find a replacement for the drop out. There are nine command posts, and all are filled at present. However from past experience it is likely that some of the players will drop out, and always at short notice. So it would be good to have a small reserve of suitable players ready to take on a command.
The player commitment required to take part is not great. All players are required to reply to campaign mail within 48 hours, or to let the umpire know that they are not available. We aim to achieve one, or possibly two, campaign moves per week. Writing orders, reports and messages should not take more than an hour each time, so a maximum of two hours per week.
No previous experience is required, just an interest in Napoleonic warfare in general, and sufficient interest to commit to a three to six months campaign. Most important is being able to stick to the 48 hour turn around on campaign moves.
There is a campaign diary blog on which I publish a summary of each campaign move, and a detailed battle report. The Tortosa diary blog can be found at
If you would like more details you should visit the campaign forum at

Thursday 17 November 2011

Tortosa Campaign Drop Out

The campaign has not even started, and already I have had the first player to drop out!

Over the past two weeks I have filled the nine command posts. Mostly from players from the Hanover campaign, but topped up with new players. I make an issue of explaining the problems caused by players dropping out without telling me, and all players have agreed to the condition that they will reply to all mail within 48 hours, or confirm that they will not be able to do so.

All the players accepted this condition. All were sent their starter pack with maps and starting instructions. All were asked to confirm receipt of the mail. Eight did, one did not. I then sent two reminders, asking for an immediate reply if he wanted to remain in the campaign. Again no reply.

As luck would have it, he was to command one of the two French corps closest to the Spanish army. As such he is likely to be one of the two French commanders in action soonest.

The four French commanders were asked to let me have their initial deployment as soon as possible, as these must be plotted before the campaign can start. Again three did. The same one did not reply.

I have not got any reserve players, so I must now either find a replacement for the offender, or take on his corps myself. I would rather not take on that particular corps, because it is important that the commander deals with the initial "fog of war".

One of the four French corps are at Barcelona, which is about five days march from the river Ebro, which is the front line. So I have asked that player to take over from the missing one. He has already sent me the deployment for his own corps, so I have asked if he will take on command of both corps. Otherwise I will run the Barcelona corps until I can find a replacement.

It is very disappointing that this sort of thing continues to happen, despite my best efforts to make the commitment a clear and obvious requirement for joining the campaign. It may be that he has problems with his computer or email and that he has either not received the starter pack or is unable to reply. But I fear that this is unlikely. When this has happened in the past I have never again heard from the offending players.

Anyway I am not going to let it spoil the campaign. Just having a moan on here has got it out of my system!

Hopefully the next mention of the campaign will be that it is up and running and all is going well.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

New Blog for Tortosa Campaign

I must admit to being just a little excited to have finally started the Tortosa campaign.

This is the seventh phase of the 1813 campaign, and the second which I have run as a PBEM. The initial player packs were sent out this morning to each corps commander, each containing a strategic map, a tactical map, corps order of battle and the initial briefing document for the corps commander.

Next step is for each French corps commander to confirm his deployment. Each is responsible for four towns, plus their own lines of communication/supply. At the start of the campaign I have nominated the towns which must have a garrison, and they are now deciding which of their four infantry brigades should occupy which town. Once the campaign starts they must decide which towns to hold, and which they can afford to leave without a garrison. If they try to hold all of the four towns they will be too weak to hold off the Spanish offensive. I am REALLY looking forward to seeing how the four different commanders tackle this problem.

I am also waiting to see if I have made any major error in the administration of the campaign. There are so many changes in this next campaign that I have had to rewrite the campaign rules from scratch. I have read through them a number of times, and they seem ok. But the real test is whether they make sense to the corps commanders who have only now received them.

I have started a new blog for Tortosa. This is to make it easier to find posts as the campaign gets going. At present I am posting one entry for a brief history of the 1813 campaign and another one for each of the previous six phases. Then I will start the diary of the Tortosa campaign, with one entry for each campaign move. And finally a seperate tag for each battle report. If you would like to follow the campaign you can find it at

Monday 14 November 2011

Successful conclusion to the Hanover Campaign

When I started this campaign in March 2011 I expected it to last about three months. Eight months, and 45 moves, later it ended in grand style. It was my third attempt at running a PBEM, but the first one I felt confident enough to include as part of my two year old solo 1813 campaign. It would prove a much greater success than I had dared to hope.
The first PBEM was an attempt to run the solo campaign using exactly the same rules, but handing control of the two commander in chief and eight corps commanders to player I had never met and recruited over the internet. It came as no surprise that it did not work well. It ended early and in a shambles. But I did learn a lot of valuable lessons. Most important was that I could not just hand over control of the whole campaign and expect it to work. I would have to keep control of the direction of the campaign and I would have to ensure that if a player dropped out it would not throw the campaign into disorder.
So for the second PBEM I played the role of both commander in chief, and restricted PBEM command posts to corps commanders. It worked much better, but I soon found that the solo campaign rules did not allow sufficient choice to make it enjoyable and challenging for the corps commanders. Again I learned a lot of lessons, and now felt it was time to try a “proper” campaign.
The Hanover campaign was the result. It worked smoothly from the start and the players obviously enjoyed it because five of the original eight remained with it to the end. By sending an umpire report to each player at the end of each move I could keep control of what was happening. And if a player dropped out I could easily replace him by taking command myself until I found a replacement. The umpire report was an update on each corps at the end of each turn, and it contained everything needed to take command of the corps.
Our purpose in running the campaign was to provide good wargames for Jan and I to play. With each solo campaign I could manipulate each move to produce the size of battle I required. With a PBEM this was not possible. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the wargames it did produce were much more challenging and fun to play than the ones I had arranged myself. And most presented unusual circumstances which I would not have considered would provide a good wargame, but in fact did.
The campaign blog played an important part in maintaining the momentum of the campaign. I published a short summary of each campaign move and a very detailed move by move account of each wargame. When a battle was being fought I would publish one move each day. This meant that both the players and I had a 12 day break from the campaign movement. It also allowed Jan and me to find time to fight the wargame. And as something was published each day it meant the players had something to read each day. It worked very well.
I feel I can say that, because five of the eight players from the Hanover phase have signed on for Tortosa in Spain, which is the next phase.
The final post on the campaign diary blog is a summary of the campaign. This consists of a map for each day of the campaign, plus a brief description of each day. This is the first time that the players have seen what the other corps were doing on a day to day basis. By clicking on the first map on the summary it is possible to do a sort of slide show of all 15 maps.
The summary is a good way to get a feel for what the campaign was all about. If interested you an find it at

Saturday 12 November 2011

New Campaign Rules

I have finally finished the new campaign rules, and have started a new blog for them.

This revision is in answer to requests raised during the current PBEM campaign for off road movement, more detailed supply, infantry detachments and sieges. None of this was covered in the original solo rules, on which the previous PEBM rules were based. The whole campaign started with the intention of providing wargames of one to four corps. I wanted to keep the campaign simple and easy to run.

It was soon obvious that converting to PBEM would mean major changes. Our interest in the campaign remained the same, but the corps commanders understandably want more choice and options.

I am quite excited about the new campaign. It will either be a huge improvement on the previous ones, or it will be a shambles! I have spent a lot of time working on the new rules, and tried to anticipate problems. But previous campaigns have taught me that once they are used by real players the faults soon appear. Despite this I think it is necessary to "up my game" on the PBEM, and I think that this will do it.

I am working on the final moves of the Hanover campaign, and I hope to be able to start the new campaign next week. All of the command posts are now filled, all of the administration is done and I just need to tie up the loose ends in Hanover before we start.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

New PBEM Campaign

I am still completing the final moves of the Hanover campaign. The French have lost, but now have to try to evade Blucher’s attempt to cut them off from their new base at Hamburg. I expect to finish it within a week or ten days

Meanwhile I have the next phase of the 1813 campaign ready. It will be set in northeast Spain and will deal with the Spanish attempt to take Tortosa. There are four Spanish and four French corps. In addition there is a British corps travelling by sea from Alicante to support the Spanish.

The campaign rules have been completely rewritten to address the problems encountered during the Hanover phase. I wrote them after consulting the existing players, and they seem good in theory. It will be interesting to see how they manage in actual campaign play! I will be starting a new blog for them shortly; similar to the existing wargame rules blog.

Five of the existing eight players on the Hanover campaign have asked to take part in the new campaign. There will be nine commanders in the new campaign. A further three members of the campaign forum have asked to take part, and I have sent them details of the player commitment rules so that they know what to expect.

So I still have at least one command post to fill.

If anyone would like to take part they should join the campaign forum and apply there. The forum can be found at

Saturday 5 November 2011

Decisive Prussian victory at Peine

Table at the end of the second battle of Peine

The second battle of Peine has ended in a decisive victory for Prince Blucher.

Neither Davout nor Blucher expected to fight again on 5 August 1813. Having been beaten on the previous day Davout was retreating towards Celle. Blucher allowed his weary corps to rest during the night and ordered a redeployment at first light. He intended to send one corps to follow Davout to Celle, a second to take Hanover and a third to hold Peine. He was aware that IV French corps was at Brunswick, but he expected them to retire when they received news that Davout had lost the battle and was retreating north.

At first light IV French corps marched west from Brunswick to attack Peine. This unexpected move caught the Prussians by surprise, but they quickly recovered and deployed to meet the threat.

Davout immediately halted his retreat to Celle, and brought his two weak corps back towards Peine to support IV corps.

The battle was short and sharp. By late afternoon IV corps was in rout back towards Brunswick and Davout also in rout back towards Celle.

This shattering defeat has left the road to Hanover open to the Prussians, and must signal the end of the campaign. It is now no longer a matter of who will win the campaign, but how badly the French will lose.