Friday 30 March 2012

Campaign Command Vacancy

I have a command vacancy for one of my French corps. This corps will play a vital role for the remainder of this campaign, and I would rather not have to command it myself.

The campaign has been running for four months,so the new commander will have to be briefed on the current situation. The corps is coming to the end of a quiet period, and is likely to play a very important part in the remainder of the campaign

There have been three players for this corps over the past eight weeks, and all have withdrawn from the campaign due to “pressure of work”. This might be true in one case, but it’s unlikely that all three suddenly came under more pressure at work within weeks of joining the campaign! More likely that the role was not what they expected.

There have been six drop outs since Christmas. That compares with just two in all of last year. Some have had really good reasons, some have given none, and the remainder were “pressure of work”. I have written to all to ask if they found the campaign difficult, or if the 48 hour turn around on orders was a problem.

It’s a lot of work to take up a command in the middle of the campaign, both for me to brief and for the new player to take it all in. It may be that it requires a greater commitment than some of the new players realised.

Meanwhile I am looking for another corps commander.

Anyone wishing to join should be aware that they will be required to reply to my email within 48 hours, or let me know that they are unable to do so. They will be asked to write once or twice a week, but there will be gaps of up to two weeks when a battle is being fought. I estimate that it should not take more than half an hour to write these orders. I send an umpire update at the end of the previous move, so all that the player has to do is update his previous order.

So only apply to join if you are prepared to make the required commitment.

If anyone would like to know more just contact me.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Happy Birthday 1813 Campaign

The campaign is three years old this month.
It started in March 2009 with the aim of providing Jan and I with good wargames. We had used this means of adding interest to our wargames for many years, but most had only lasted two or three months before the campaign went off the rails, or I just lost interest.
We put a lot more preparation into this campaign. It would cover all of Germany and Spain and would consist of five campaign areas, each with one French and one allied army. Each army would have four corps. This would allow us to use all of our model soldiers and scenery in sequence.
The campaign would consist of a series of mini campaigns, each set in one of the five campaign areas. This would allow us to end a campaign when it had run its course. It would also allow us to use the different armies in each phase.
We completed three phases in the first year. Prussians at Madgeburg, Spanish at Tarragona and Russians at Halle. The three campaigns provided us with 14 wargames.

In 2010 we had another three phases. Austrians at Passau, British at Valladolid and back to Prussians at Hanover. This year we fought 13 campaign related wargames.
Towards the end of 2010 I started to dabble with PBEM campaigns, whilst still doing my solo 1813 campaign. I took part in two PBEM as a player and really enjoyed it, but both ended badly. Both were abandoned by the organiser/umpire as soon as a battle was reached.
This experience prompted me to try my hand at running a PBEM campaign, or to be more precise to convert my 1813 solo campaign to PBEM.
In January 2011 I started with my first PBEM campaign, also set in Hanover. It continued for eleven months and provided us with 14 wargames.
In November 2011 we started our current, much improved PBEM campaign It is set in Tortosa with a Spanish army supported by a British corps. So far it has provided four battles, and is still going strong.
So the 1813 campaign, in its various guises, has been a great success. But why should that be so, after so many previous short solo campaigns?
First was putting the campaign on the Blog from the start. I published a campaign diary at least once a week, and each battle report was published on the blog. There is not a lot of feedback, but I am aware that the campaign is being followed and feel I should present it well and find acceptable solutions to any problems which arise. To abandon the campaign and start again would feel like giving up.
Second was converting to PBEM. This provided much needed third party involvement in the campaign. Jan and I still fight the wargames, but there are now nine independent corps commanders who each contribute their own take on the campaign, and often produce consequences which I could never have dreamed up in a solo campaign.
So Happy Birthday campaign. It has given me many hours of enjoyment, and some little frustration. It has introduced me to a whole new group of online friends and both maintained and improved my interest in wargaming.
Thanks also to those of you who have followed the campaign online over those three years. This blog, which started with the campaign, has had 41,000 hits and now has 65 members. The campaign diary blog has had another 36,000. Just to know that there is so much interest is a constant encouragement to keep it going.
I am enjoying the campaign now as much as I ever had, and I would not be at all surprised to be wishing it another happy birthday this time next year.

Monday 19 March 2012

Second battle of Miravat

table at the start of the battle

Once again the PBEM campaign has provided a most unusual and interesting wargame.
The French have defeated the Spanish and forced them to retire west of the river Ebro, thus raising the siege of Miravat. Instead of retreating to the safety of their supports, the French enter the town to prevent the Spanish returning east of the river.
The British advance north and deploy within striking distance of Miravat. They have written to urge the Spanish to support them by attacking across the river, and wait one day for them to do so.
Although clearly outnumbered two to one, the French do not take this opportunity to retreat to the east.
Instead of waiting for the Spanish to attack, the British move to the attack on their own. Even though they are outnumbered and the French in a strong defensive position.
Not a game I would have chosen to set up, but a very interesting one despite that.
Although they will start the game on the table, the Spanish will not be allowed to advance unless they receive orders from the campaign corps commander to do so. He will have the option at the end of move 4, and again at the end of move 8. The game is expected to last 12 moves.
If the Spanish join the attack the French must surely be destroyed. If they don’t the British stand a strong chance of a comprehensive defeat.
If you would like to follow this promising game you will find it at

Saturday 17 March 2012

Campaign Diary Blog

Work on the new campaign maps has suffered this week, due to a comment on the campaign forum about the campaign diary blog.
I have completed a campaign diary since we first started the 1813 campaign, almost two years ago. The intention was to provide a brief history of the campaign, both for my use and for anyone interested.
When I converted the campaign from solo to PBEM I continued the campaign diary, but I had to be careful not to give away too much information to maintain the fog of war. It is surprisingly difficult to keep such a diary without giving away too much intelligence.
I have always used illustrations to make the blog more interesting, and on the campaign diary I have used maps to show the progress of the campaign. I now had to create a map for each blog entry so as not to show the location of each corps.
Last week I received a mail from one player saying how much he was enjoying the campaign, but that I should take care not to give too much information away on the blog. He remarked that most of the information he gained was from the blog, and most of it would not have been available to him in real life.
This was the second such comment in a few months, and it made me wonder how general this view might be. I raised the subject on the forum to see whether it was general, and whether I would need to reconsider the diary.
As so often happens there was little comment, less than half of the players replied. Those that did found the diary helpful and kept the campaign interesting. So there is no general call for change.
But it did make to think about the aim of the diary.
I would like it to be a short history of the whole campaign. Each PBM campaign is one phase of the overall 1813 campaign which is spread over five areas of Germany and Spain. I am now fighting the second phase in each area, and the diary is useful to remind me how the previous phase ended.
I would also like it to be interesting and enjoyable for those followers of the campaign who are not at present taking part as corps commanders. There are quite a few of those, including many previous corps commanders.
It should also help to maintain the interest of those players going through a non active stage of the campaign. For example keeping away from the enemy to recover from battle casualties, or marching to reinforce a different part of the campaign area.
Finally it is useful to give a brief but comprehensive introduction to the campaign. This is particularly useful when I have to replace a player. Having to brief a new player takes a lot of time and trouble, the more so the longer the campaign has been running. I like to explain exactly what they are taking on before I do so, and the campaign diary is useful for that.
So it serves a lot of practical purposes. But it does damage the fog of war. I have spent the week considering how I might change it, but have not come up with any conclusive decision.
At present I am working on typing up the diary entry at the end of the move, but not putting it on the diary for another three moves. In that way the information disclosed would at least be out of date.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Campaign Casualties

Lost another player without reason or excuse. This was another one of those who simply fail to reply to emails. This is the third in 18 months, so I suppose that is not too bad. Fortunately I have been able to replace him quite easily.
I am always half expecting some one to drop out when there is a long break in the routine of the campaign. In this case there were three battles to be fought, so there was a break in routine order writing for about three weeks or so.
This particular player had only joined the campaign on 25 January this year. He only wrote a couple of orders, the last one in late February. Then nothing. I do wonder why they bother to join in the first place.
This was the second commander of this particular corps. The previous player, who had taken part in the two earlier campaigns, had to withdraw due to work commitments. There is much more work replacing a player mid campaign than starting at the beginning. So I always stress the commitment, and in particular the requirement to reply to post within 48 hours. Of course he was full of commitment, yet within a few weeks had apparently lost interest to such an extent that he could not even be bothered to reply to my mail.
Of course there may be a very good reason why he did not reply. But in the absence of an excuse, you naturally assume the worse.
I have found since converting the campaign to PBEM that you have to be quite strict in enforcing the discipline of the campaign. I try to treat everyone as I would like to be treated. I also try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But I do not waste any time on a player who does not reply to my mail within 72 hours. And experience has proved that I am right to do so. Because of the three who did not reply to the reminder, not one of them has contacted me since to explain why they dropped out without notice.
There was a time when this would have discouraged me and caused me to consider whether it was worth the trouble for so little consideration in return. But I now realise that this attitude would be quite wrong. For every one who disappeared without excuse, three or four told me before hand that they could no longer continue. And of course the rest of the team continue to play week after week.
And I must confess that despite the slight irritation caused by such behavior, the participation of the rest of the players has added a great deal to my enjoyment of the campaign and has convinced me that PBEM is a very good alternative to physical participation in a wargame campaign.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

New Campaign Map of Germany

New map of Germany.
The main detail was taken from my AA Road Atlas of Europe. I drew a grid on the map, with each square being 15 miles. This produced a map of Europe which was 29 squares wide by 32 long. I then entered the name of a town on each square from the AA map. This ensured that distances between towns would be approximately 15 miles. It also ensured that cities and main towns would be in the right place on the campaign map.
Then I copied major rivers, again from the AA map.
It was not possible to copy the other terrain, as there were no contour lines. Even if there were, it would have been too difficult over such a large area.

Malcolm's map of northern Germany

I wanted to copy the terrain from Malcolm’s excellent wargame maps. This proved difficult, because his towns are not quite the same as those on the AA map, nor are they in the same place.
As a first step I identified as many towns on both maps as I could. I then entered hills and woods in approximately the same place.
Unable to use his road system, I connected my cities together as shown. This would be the major road system used for communication and supply.
Finally I copied his borders as close as I could.
The result is the above map. This is only the first stage, because I want to make my map more user friendly.
I want to create three major routes east to west. This will provide me with my three campaign areas. North for the Prussians. Central for the Russians. South for the Austrians.
I then want to plot objectives along these three routes to provide me with objectives for each phase of the campaign. For example the first obvious one would be Berlin to Magdeburg in the northern campaign area.
I also want to reduce the borders to major powers. This would be France, Austria and Prussia. I may also plot the main powers in the Confederation of the Rhine. Perhaps Westphalia, Hannover and Bavaria. This will allow me to plot suitable fortified towns.
Lots of work still to do, but at least I have made a start.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Wellington's Battles

Table at the start of the battle of Toulouse

Having fought three campaign battles on the same day, it looks like there will be a lull in the fighting as the winners decide what to do next and the losers try to rally their corps and find somewhere quiet to recover.

Seems a good time to play one of our occasional games based on Wellington's Peninsula battles.

Toulouse is the thirteenth such game.

Although the Orbat and terrain are similar, these are fun games not meant to be a serious recreation of the historical battle.

This may well be the last of the series. Certainly it is the last he fought in the Peninsular Campaign. It would however seem a shame not to complete the set with Waterloo!

We have played the game twice before, once in 15mm and once in 6mm. Neither was a particularly enjoyable game. It is such a large battle that it is better fought as a multi player game. And, of course, it needs a pretty big table to hold all the troops required.

However as part of this series I would not attempt to follow the historical orbat. It is tempting to try, we will see.

Meanwhile if you would like to follow Toulouse you will find it at

Friday 2 March 2012

Planning the new map of Germany

The existing map has served the campaign well.
The major cities and rivers have been plotted from the AA Road Atlas of Europe, so they should be reasonably accurate. The major (red) roads join those cities, the minor (yellow) roads join minor towns, and the tracks (brown) join the remainder.
There are two reasons for changing the maps.
First I want them to be more user friendly to the campaign. Each square will remain one days march. But I want the major cities to be four to six squares apart. This would be the most convenient distance for each phase of the campaign. I also want the maps to be less cluttered, so I will only show the major (red) roads on the map of all Germany.
I also want to revise the national borders as they were in 1813. I would also like to show the borders for the larger elements of the Confederation of the Rhine; such as Westphalia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Hanover. These borders will allow me to plot fortresses, which can then introduce the opportunity to have sieges.
The current maps are fine for my solo game. Using ProFantasy I can zoom in and out with ease. But the change to PBEM means that I have to use them on Blogger, where the campaign diary and battle reports are published. It is not possible to zoom in and out to the same degree, so the maps will have to be designed to use there.
This map of all Germany will only be used to show the grand strategic view of the campaign. And as a master map from which to make the more detailed campaign maps.
To improve the current map I need to determine the main mountain ranges and the national borders. I have asked for help on both TMP and my own Campaigns of Napoleon forum, and have received lots of useful suggestions.
I am working on the outline of the new map, and will post it here shortly.