Saturday 28 April 2012

New Blog for Gera Campaign

I have started work on the Campaign Diary Blog for the next  phase of the 1813 campaign.

This will be the seventh phase of the campaign, and I start a new blog  for each phase so that I can keep everything to do with that phase seperate and easy to link to.   Each  blog has a brief history of the campaign to date, then a short introduction to the new phase together with orders of battle.   There is also a diary with a description of each move, and a detailed report of each battle.  Finally a short summery of the whole phase.

Since I converted to PBEM I have had  to be careful  not to  put too much information on the blog, particularly in the campaign diary.   So the final summary is where I can explain the whole progress of the campaign phase.

The first few entries will  deal with the history of the campaign.

If  you would like to follow it  you will find a link in the labels on the right.  

Or you can follow this link:

Thursday 26 April 2012

Larger corps for next campaign

  Current French Corps

When I started the 1813 campaign it was designed to have four small corps in each campaign area.   As a solo campaign I could move them so as to provide the size of battle I wanted to fight as a wargame.  
Four corps would fit the table nicely, and would provide one corps for each 2x2 foot scenic square, plus one in reserve.  This would allow the player to decide which part of the table to commit their reserve.  
It worked well until I converted the campaign to PBEM.   I allocated one of the corps to each player, and tried to get them to concentrate by taking the role of CinC.  However it soon became obvious that they would avoid concentration if possible, in favour of doing their own thing.
The result was a string of single corps v corps battles - each with 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and one gun.   There were a few larger battles, but usually two per side, never four.  

  New Second French Corps

I want to have larger wargames to make full use of the table and the figures I have on the shelves.   So I have decided to increase the size of each corps.   A corps will have three divisions of 32 infantry, 8 cavalry and one gun each.   Each division will be similar to the old corps, except that the cavalry have been doubled.

  3rd French division

The three divisions will have the same strength, but will be very different in fighting ability.   One will be good quality, one average and one poor.  So the player who is prepared to put some thought into the campaign will be rewarded if he can bring his best division to bear against his opponent’s poor one.

  4th French Division

Only one division will be allowed to occupy each tactical square, which is the same as one scenic square on the table.  Movement will not be restricted to the roads, but there will be increased movement is they do, and reduced if they do not.   With a little thought it will be quite easy to concentrate all three corps.   There will be the choice of moving into battle one behind the other, three side by side or two forward and one in reserve.   Again the player who plans ahead can gain real tactical advantage.

14th Westphalian Division
There will be four corps to each army, but only three players per side.   The fourth corps will be controlled by me as CinC and fed into the campaign to support an attack, or cover a retreat.   One division will be allocated to a corps to achieve this.  This support will not make them too powerful, but will add a little extra for a critical attack or a desperate last stand.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Planning the next campaign

As the Tortosa campaign draws to a close, and with the maps for the Gera campaign completed, my thoughts have turned to what I would like to change for the next campaign.

I am very pleased with how the Tortosa campaign went, and I believe it was a big improvement on the previous Hanover campaign.   But there is always room for improvement, and now is the time to consider how I might achieve it.

There are four aspects of the campaign, which I would like to improve.

First I want larger battles/wargames.   My figures are organised in nationalities of 160 figures consisting of 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 guns.   These are organised in four corps of equal size.   This is the ideal size battle/wargame for my 6x6 foot wargames table.   Since I converted to PBEM most battles have been one corps v one corps, which is just 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and one gun per side.

Second I want to make the length of the campaign shorter.   I would like to complete each phase of the campaign in about three months.   The longer a campaign goes on the more difficult it is to keep players, as personal circumstances change or they simply get bored of the campaign. 

Third I want to make order writing easier for the players.   I believe the campaign works well because I keep the momentum going by insisting on a turn around of 48 hours for orders.  This does not mean the players have to write orders every 48 hours, but they have that long to send them in after I request them.  In the current campaign they have written orders 23 times in 5 months, which is about once per week.   Most often I have had to chase late orders, and more than one player has left the campaign because he finds it difficult to stick to the 48 hour turn around period.

Fourth I want to make it easier to change commands.   In the current campaign there has been a lot of command changes since Christmas, and each one has been more difficult than the last one.   As the campaign goes on it becomes more complicated, and this means more work for me to brief the new player and more difficult for him to grasp what is involved.

I have a few ideas how to achieve these objectives, but they need a little more work to try to avoid creating more unexpected problems.  I have found that changing the campaign can be a bit like amending wargame rules.   You change a rule to meet a particular problem, and in doing so create another two which you have not anticipated!

Monday 23 April 2012

PBEM Tortosa Campaign Update

Battle of Cambrils

After a slow start the campaign has really picked up the pace and is proving to be just as enjoyable as the two earlier PBEM campaigns.
The players were allowed much more freedom of choice than in previous phases.   There was also the introduction of a lot of new rules, including sieges and off road movement.   I feel that in the early stages this led to more caution and a lack of understanding of the new rules.
The sieges in particular seemed to cause a lot of problems.
The campaign is set in northeast Spain.   The French had two forward and to reserve corps, with about four days march between them.  The two forward corps occupied a line of towns and villages close to the Spanish front line.  My expectation was that the French would hold for a day or two and then fall back on their supports.
The rules made it likely that the garrison would hold for at least one day, but that the odds would pass to the attacker after two or three days.  Two Spanish commanders tried to storm the garrison, and this led to casualties.  They then settled down to siege, but did not seem to understand when the odds turned in their favour.  Or if they did, they did not take advantage to try a storm once the garrison was weakened.
Because of this the Spanish did not advance.  Consequently the French had to march right up to the forward corps.   All of this took much longer than I had expected.
However once the battles started they gathered momentum.   We are now fighting the sixth battle, and the campaign has reached a critical stage.
The French have suffered two major setbacks.   One corps was forced to surrender.  A second was so badly damaged that it is unlikely to take any further part in this phase of the campaign.   The Spanish have suffered much fewer casualties.  This is largely because they have been able to bring two corps against one.
We have now fought seven days of the campaign, and it has taken five months.   Had the campaign gone as I planned, we would probably have fought just as many battles but would have done so sooner.  I would have expected this phase to last about four months.
I have learned plenty of lessons, and I will try to apply them to the next phase of the campaign.
Meanwhile we are still enjoying Tortosa.   The allies have tried to repeat a two on one attack.   One Spanish and one British corps attacked a single French corps at Cambrils.   However a second French corps has stolen a march on the Spanish opposed to them, and has joined forces at Cambrils.  This has given the French a short-lived tactical advantage.  They must achieve a convincing victory at Cambrils in order to turn on the remaining Spanish corps.  If they fail to do so the Spanish will receive reinforcements and the odds will turn against the French once more.
You can read the report on the battle of Cambrils here

Friday 20 April 2012

Wargame Map for Gera PBEM Campaign

Gera campaign wargames table map
This is the map, which I use to set up the wargames table.

It covers exactly the same area as the tactical map, but is drawn to represent the scenic squares which I use to set up the wargame.   The reference numbers are those of the scenic squares.

When a battle is declared I set up a table with the nine squares around the point of contact.  

If the flow of battle moves I can easily create the new area by reference to this map.  I add the new squares and remove the ones no longer required.   This has happened twice in the current campaign.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Tactical Map for Gera PBEM Campaign

This is the map which will be used for campaign movement

It covers the same area as the four squares east to west of Gera and three squares north to south on the campaign strategic map.   On that map each square was 15 miles, on this one each square is 5 miles.   The square references have also been changed, and these are used when writing orders in the campaign.

For the first time the minor roads (in brown) have been shown, plus minor terrain such as villages and farms.   This map shows exactly what the players can expect to find on the wargames table.

The detail on this map is exactly what will appear on the wargames table, so players can choose good defensive positions, or good open ground if they have a cavalry advantage.

It also allows them to choose a concentration area in advance, and to calculate how long it will take for each division to reach that square.   This can be a dramatic tactical advantage and provide a nasty surprise for the enemy when supports arrive from an unexpected direction.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Strategic Map for Gera PBEM Campaign

Campaign Strategic Map

The next phase of the PBEM campaign will be set in central Germany and the objective will be the capture of Gera.

This is the strategic map which will be sent to each corps commander. It is a section of the map of Central Germany. The square reference in the top left is the same as on the map of Germany and of Central Germany.

Gera is shown at the centre of the map, as is Dresden, Halle and Gotha. All play an important part in the main 1813 campaign. Dresden is the main base for the Russian Army, Gotha for the First French Army. Halle is the link between First and Second French armies.
This map is not used for campaign movement, it is only to place this stage of the campaign in the overall 1813 campaign.

Gera will be the second phase set in this area. The previous one was the Halle campaign which
covered the campaign dates 17 June to 11 July 1813, and was the third phase of the 1813 campaign. It’s 14 August 1813 in the present Tortosa phase of the campaign, just five weeks later. We played the campaign August to October 2009. So five campaign weeks has taken 2 and a half years! You will find the blog of that campaign here

The next step is to make the tactical campaign map. This is the one which will be sent to players to plot their movement.

Sunday 15 April 2012

New Campaign Map of Central Germany

Map of Central Germany

Similar in size to the one for Northern Germany.

Again it only shows the major strategic roads (in red) linking cities, and the main roads (in yellow) between main towns. The roads linking small towns and villages will be shown on the tactical map.

The current PBEM campaign is drawing to a close, so I have to concentrate on campaign maps now.

I have already started work on the campaign strategic map, which will cover part of this map of Central Germany.

After that will be the campaign tactical map, which will cover a smaller area but in much more detail.

Sunday 8 April 2012

French Corps Surrender in Spain

French corps surrender at Flix

Dramatic developments in our PBEM Tortosa campaign.
Having exposed his corps to an uneven two to one battle the player concerned abruptly abandoned the campaign. His corps suffered the predictable defeat, suffered heavy casualties and fled the scene abandoning their lines of communications and supply.
With all of their brigades in rout the French had to avoid combat for three moves, and could provide neither an advance nor a rear guard. The Spanish set off in pursuit, and the French then stumbled into another, equally battered, enemy corps. In the circumstances the French had to surrender.
This setback was more the result of French inefficiency than of Spanish strategic ability. The Spanish corps which caused the French to surrender were themselves recovering from an earlier defeat. Despite heave casualties they had at least rallied their brigades. Had the French not been so battered they could have easily thrust the Spanish aside and carried on. But without a single brigade capable of fighting they had to surrender.
Quite a typical Spanish style victory and one only a multiplayer campaign could produce. But I am very pleased that the PBEM is providing such interesting and unexpected situations.
With more than one quarter of the French campaign removed at a stroke, the campaign must be entering its final phase. The French still hold Tortosa, the objective of this phase of the campaign. And they still have two strong corps in the field. So there is still life in the campaign.
But it is now only a matter of time, and probably not very long. I do not want to drag out the campaign just for the sake of it. Nor do I want to rob the other French commanders of the chance to save the day.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

New Campaign Map of Northern Germany

New map of all of Germany
This is the master map for all of Germany.
It covers an area 928 miles wide and 480 miles deep. Each square is 15 by 15 miles, which is one days march in the campaign and the area covered by the wargames table. Each square has a reference number
This map shows main geographical features, plus the major cities and the strategic roads between them. These red roads are the main communication links, and will dictate campaign objectives.
The white lines divide the three campaign areas of Northern, Central and Southern Germany.

Map of Northern Germany
This is the new map of Northern Germany.
It covers an area 928 miles by 480 miles, and each square is 15 miles by 15 miles. The grid system is the same as for the map of all Germany, and the reference numbers are the same.
The area covered is slightly larger than indicated in the larger map. This is to allow a slight overlap to make it easier for campaign purposes.
Major towns have been added, and the main roads connecting them shown in yellow. It is now more obvious where the main strategic towns lie.
The next step is to make similar maps for Central and Southern Germany.
But before then I will have to start making maps for the next phase of the campaign. This will involve three new maps.
First will be a strategic map similar to the above, but covering a much smaller area. On this map will be plotted the rest of the towns, and the minor roads which connect them.
Then a tactical map which will be used for campaign movement. In previous campaigns I have only had one such map. It was used for player movement, and also to set up the wargames table. But for the next campaign I will make two. One will be for use by the players, and will look like the above. The second will cover the same area, but will show the scenic squares to be used on the wargames table.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Changing Campaign Corps Commanders

It’s only a couple of days since I posted that I have a corps commander vacancy on my PBEM campaign, and I have filled it already! I was delighted to receive six applications, all of whom were sent details of the campaign, stressing the commitment expected of players. Already four have asked to join, and three of those asked to go on the reserve list for when another vacancy comes up. Thank you all who have applied so quickly.
It’s strange that in the last three months I have lost six players, and only three in the previous twelve months. Not sure why that may be, but I suspect it is because it is much more difficult to join mid campaign than at the start. The new player has to take on a lot of information about the history of the campaign, as well as the background. And his new command is often in a bit of a mess, as that is usually the reason the previous commander packed it in.
For example this current role has changed hands three times in since mid January 2012!
The corps had been commanded by a long time player, who had taken part in two previous campaigns. He had to leave the campaign due to heavy work commitments. I am sure that was genuine, as he had taken part in the campaign ever since I converted to PBEM.
I found his replacement in mid January and went through the usual introduction of explaining what was expected of new players, and in particular the 48 hour reply rule. He seemed very keen and asked lots of questions. He wrote his first orders on 26 January. He wrote two sets of orders. He failed to reply to my request for the third set, and also ignored my final reminder. I took him off the campaign on 4 March.
His replacement applied just two days later on 6 March. Again I went to great lengths to explain the commitment required. Again he seemed very keen, and spoke of great experience in wargaming. On 16 March he wrote his first orders, but only after a reminder because they were late. His second orders were also late, and again I had to send a reminder. His third orders caused me some concern, because they went against the orders issued by his CinC, and if I carried them out he would almost certainly lose his corps. I wrote to him on 25 March to explain and ask why he wanted to attack when it was almost certain to end in complete failure. He did not reply, and I have not heard from him since.
All of this involves a lot of work, and I need to find a way to make it easier for new players to join the campaign and certainly easier for me to replace them. I don’t think I can make it any clearer what the commitment is before they join. I did so with both players, and both seemed quite happy to accept on those terms. Yet both left very quickly.
I have written to both to ask why. Was the campaign too difficult? Was the 48 hour turn around too hard to meet? Did they simply not like the campaign? I have not heard from them yet, but I hope I will do so.
Far from making me disillusioned with the whole PBEM concept, it has made me determined to change the next phase of the campaign to overcome this problem.