Sunday 11 December 2011

Change to the Campaign Rules

I had promised myself that I would not amend the new campaign rules until we had finished the campaign, but “needs must” as they say.
The problem has arisen with the infantry brigade detachments as garrisons. I had resisted requests to allow detachments, because it weakens the corps which has always been the main building block of my wargame rules. The best wargames are when there are four corps per side taking part, three in the front rank and one in reserve.
However as each campaign player only commands one corps, I could understand their wish to detach brigades to allow them more freedom of movement. And isolated French garrisons in Spain fits very well with the historical strategy of the campaign.
As with all new rules, it all seemed quite fool proof in theory. The start brief made each French commander detach three of his four infantry brigades as isolated garrisons. The theory was that they would then call them in to concentrate their corps before taking on the Spanish mixed corps.
I was, and am, quite pleased with the rules for sieges and storming a garrison, but I had not anticipated that the French would just leave their garrisons spread along the whole length of the river Ebro. This was possible because I had not allowed any sort of attrition whilst the siege was in place.
Each town can hold out for six days, and if not relieved will then just surrender and the brigade will be taken prisoner. Six days is reasonable from a historical view point. But it is 18 campaign moves, which is about 9 week’s real time. A very long time.
Worse the commanders of the two forward French corps made no attempt to relieve their garrisons. Worse still because all of the roads were now blocked it was impossible for the Spanish commanders to advance beyond the river line.
So I have had to amend campaign rule 17, which deals with towns and garrisons. After three moves, or one day, of siege I roll 1D6 each campaign move to see whether the garrison has lost a casualty due to “attrition”. This includes enemy artillery fire, lack of supplies, skirmish and other limited attacks. A roll of 6 will result in a casualty on the second day, a 5 or 6 on the third and so on.
Not only will this prompt the French commanders to raise the siege before their brigade suffers too much. But each casualty will make it easier for the Spanish commander to storm the town.
It will be interesting to see how it affects the French strategy.
The campaign rules can be found at

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The battle of Orthez

Table at the start of Orthez wargame

The PBEM campaign is developing well, and is both fun and very time consuming. But it is proving reluctant to produce a battle for Jan and I to wargame. I suspect that this is because I have allowed the corps commanders much more freedom of choice than in the previous campaign. I sense that they are a little reluctant to commit to a full battle, which is perfectly understandable.
However it does mean that Jan and I have gone a week without our wargame fix. So we have decided to fit in one of our Wellington in the Peninsula battles. We planned these one off games to be a bit of light relief from the more serious campaign games.
Orthez will be game number twelve in the series. It’s hard to believe that it was almost two years ago that we played Rolica, which was the first.
We had previously walked all of the battlefields in the series, which made it even more interesting to play as a wargame.
I have published the game set up and will be posting one move each day as we fight the battle. You can find it at

Saturday 3 December 2011

Campaign Fog of War

I am not sure whether it is just my impression, but the fog of war seems to be working well in this campaign – perhaps too well.
The corps commanders have been given must more freedom of action in this campaign than in the previous one. This is particularly true of the Spanish. They are given a general objective at the start, but left entirely on their own as to how they might achieve it. The result is a mixture of caution and excessive daring.
The Spanish have a short window of opportunity to take advantage of isolated French garrisons, before the French commanders can concentrate their corps and engage the Spanish. All of this is new to the campaign, and neither the corps commanders nor I have any previous experience to guide us.
I have made it almost impossible for a Spanish corps to take a town by assault, unless the garrison has suffered earlier casualties. Obviously at the start of the campaign all of the garrisons are full strength.
The second option is to lay siege to the garrison. This will work, providing the French do not appear to raise the siege. In that case the Spanish commander will have to decide whether to risk a battle or abandon the siege.
So the Spanish problems are obvious.
Not so obvious the French ones. They have had to detach three of their four infantry brigades as garrisons at the start of the campaign. That only leaves them with one infantry and one cavalry brigade, plus artillery. Not enough to take on a full Spanish corps. So they have to calculate how long they can spend calling in outlying garrisons, against leaving a siege in place too long and losing the garrison.
And then there are the increased umpire problems. Last campaign I only had to control eight corps on the campaign map, plus a few cavalry brigades on recce. At present I have nine corps and about fourteen independent brigades. Then there are the supply depots, and ensuring that everyone is within range of their corps depot. Last, but not least, trying to keep track of the mass of messages. After just four campaign moves the register shows sixty nine messages.
I am not sure how the corps commanders are dealing with their fog of war. I do know that I am having problems keeping track of everything – even though I have them all plotted on the master map.
My only regret is the lack of battles. This is perfectly understandable, as no one wants to commit to battle unless they are confident of winning. But it does mean that Jan and I do not have any wargames to fight. So it looks like we will see a return of our Wellingtons Battles series to keep us occupied.