Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Battle of Domburg

Start of move 3

The first battle of the Gera campaign is not one I would have chosen to wargame, but it is going well despite my reservations.

It is the first wagame with the enlarged corps, now with three divisions and each division the same size as a previous corps.   2nd Russian corps attacks 4th French corps as they attempt to cross the river Saale.   The leading French division has cleared the river; the second is crossing by the bridge.  The third is five miles behind and will not arrive until the start of move 5.

We have reached move 3, and the French are holding their own.     The french cavalry have deployed forward, which is delaying the Russian advance and deployment.   It’s a good move, but it puts the cavalry at risk.  However if the French can hold until nightfall (move 8) they will be fully deployed by the next morning.

So the game is going well, but we are not very happy with the rules.

For some time we have been tinkering with command and control.   We have abandoned the Poor Card, which could result in a poor commander missing his turn entirely.   We have also changed command points (CP).

Under the original rules each commander rolled an average dice and added 1 if a Poor commander, 2 if Average and 3 if Gifted.  The result was the number of orders he could issue.  As it takes one CP to move each regiment, or to fire or to skirmish, this meant that there was never enough CP to do move and fight all of the regiments.   That was the intention, but the result was too restrictive.

Worse still, it favoured the defender and punished the attacker.   The defender did not have to move his regiments and always had sufficient CP to fire or skirmish.   The attacker rarely had enough CP to move all of his regiments (and himself), let alone to skirmish or fire as well.

So we changed the rules to allow one CP for each regiment, plus an average dice.  Then minus 1 for a Poor commander, par for Average and plus 1 for a Gifted one.   The result was too many CP, and defeated the whole idea of command control.

So mid game we have changed it once again.   The new rule is 1 CP for each formed regiment, plus one for a Poor commander, two for an Average one and three for a Gifted one.  But nothing for a disorganised, shaken or routed regiment.   The result should be that when all of his regiments are formed the divisional commander can move them as required.   But when he wants to skirmish or melee he will have to prioritise.  And when his regiments start to take casualties and become disordered, shaken or in rout he will lose his CP when he needs them most.

It feels like it should work, but then again so did the previous change until I started using it in practice.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Careful what you wish for

I have complained recently about the size of the games produced by the PBEM, and how I would prefer them to be larger.  I reorganised the orders of battle for the latest phase of the campaign to make each corps three times larger than in the previous one.   This would allow us to fight wargames with about 150 figures and three guns per side.   This is about right for 28mm on our 6x6 foot wargames table.   The campaign map is designed to allow one division per square, and three squares makes one wargames table.  

I had anticipated that there might be more than one battle at the same time, and we would have to fight them as separate wargames.

I had not anticipated that on the second move of the campaign all six corps would attack each other and that we would have to fight three wargames at the same time.   Worse still they all started at noon, so there would only be eight moves before nightfall.  A normal battle would have 12 moves, which is just right to allow an approach march, deployment and the actual battle.   With only eight moves it is likely that neither side will have won a conclusive victory by night, and a second day’s battle would be required.

The map above shows the position of the divisions just before the battles start.   The white outlines are the battle areas, and each will be set up as a wargame.

Fighting the three battles will be a logistic challenge.   Each table will have to be cleared to set up the next battle.   If a second day is required the same table will have to be set up and the figures put back in their position at the end of the previous days battle.   The table will be no problem, as each scenic square is numbered, but the position of the divisions will be difficult to recreate.

But the biggest problem is the long break between writing orders for the six players.   When a battle is being fought there is no need to write move orders, because Jan and I command the figures on the wargames table.   If only one battle is being fought the two commanders are interested in following the outcome on the campaign diary.   The commanders not involved continue to write movement orders for their corps.   But if all six corps are fighting at the same time there is no need for anyone to write orders.  And the delay is three times as long for everyone.

Despite the problems I am looking forward to fighting such a large battle.  We will be fighting over an area 18 foot by 6 foot, but on a table 6 by 6 foot.  

If nothing else it will be a real test of the campaign system and the ability to fight the largest possible battle.   I would prefer that we had a more gradual build up with a couple of single corps v corps battles.

At the end of the three battles it will also be difficult transferring the result back to the map, and still maintaining the one square distance between friend and foe.  I have not really worked that one out, much too busy planning the three battles.

Like I said in the heading – be careful what you wish for!

Saturday 19 May 2012

Napoleon wins Waterloo

It’s a little ironic that the last of our Wellington’s Battles should end in his defeat at Waterloo!

I had doubts about playing Waterloo as a wargame again, but it seemed a shame not to do so to complete the series of Wellington’s Battles.  Unfortunately it did not prove to be a particularly enjoyable game, and it would have been nice for him to have won the last battle in the series.

Even with our intention of playing a wargame based on the battle, rather than attempt to refight the battle, we were still constrained to make it look a little like Waterloo.  This resulted in a crowded table, particularly in 28mm.  

It also meant that Wellington had to fight a defensive battle, whilst Napoleon had all the fun and initiative.  

The sequence was similar to the battle, as it must be if you set up the table based on the historical deployment.  

There was an inconclusive skirmish around Hougoumont, which resulted in Wellington supporting both the farm and La Haye Sainte.   This allowed the French artillery to do quite a bit of damage, particularly the garrison of the latter.   Wellington deployed half of his guns between the two farms, and this allowed the French light cavalry to take them out.  They suffered in doing so from musket fire from the two farms, but the damage was done.

The d’Erlon attacked the left hand British ridge.   The Guard and heavy cavalry moved forward in support, but out of artillery range.  This prevented the British cavalry from charging d’Erlon, but they still took casualties and lost 50%

Finally the Guard and heavy cavalry rumbled forward in the centre, and Wellington ordered a general retreat.   End of battle, end of series.

We don’t usually fight our games to the bitter end.  What would be the point?   Once it is obvious that one side has lost we tend to finish the game and anticipate the outcome.

Fortunately the Gera PBEM campaign is now sorted out and going full blast.   I am waiting for orders for Move 2 of the campaign, and it looks likely that there will be at least one battle during that move.  So it appears we have finished our Waterloo just in time.

You can find the Waterloo battle report here

Monday 14 May 2012

Change of Gera Campaign Orders

The campaign is less than two weeks old, and I have had to change the orders system already.

In the previous campaign the corps commanders wrote orders at the start of each move.  This worked well, but it meant that they often had to write similar orders again and again as their role in the campaign was not changing.  This was particularly so after the loss of a battle when they had to avoid contact for the next day,  or when they had long distances to march to reach a concentration area.   From feedback that I received after the last campaign this was unpopular.

So I changed it to daily order writing for this campaign.  I would still have three moves per day, and I would still send them a report at the end of each move.  But they would only have to write orders if there was a change of circumstances.   It all seemed so easy in theory!

As soon as I received the first day's orders it was clear that it was going to be much more complicated than I had anticipated.   I am not sure whether this was because I did not explain it clearly enough, or because some of the players just could not grasp how it should work.

After a short, but frantic, exchange of mail it was obvious that it would not work.  So I decided to revert to the previous system of writing orders for each move.   I decided to change the system at the end of move 2, and ask them to use the new system for move 3.

To make it easier for them to understand I wrote a set of orders for move 2, using the orders they had already written for the whole of the first day.   I then sent them each a copy so that they could agree that I had understood what they wanted to do during move 2, and also so that they would have a template which they could use to write their orders in future.

This seemed to have caused even more confusion. 

I started the campaign by asking each corps commander to confirm the initial deployment of his three divisions.  I confirmed that this would count as move 1.

I then asked them to write their orders for the first day of the campaign.  There would be three moves during that day and they would count as move 2, move 3 and move 4.

I then changed the system, wrote new orders for move 2, but based on their own orders, and sent it to each corps commander so that they could confirm that was what they wanted to do.   This in turn resulted in an exchange of mail. 

It has taught me a good lesson.  NEVER change the system during the course of a campaign.  Always wait for the next campaign to introduce any changes. 

The delay is allowing me time to finish off our Waterloo wargame.   I thought that  we would have to cancel it again, because it appeared likely that there would be at least one campaign battle/wargame during either move 2 or move 3.  I think that is still likely, but the delay due to the new orders should allow us to finish Waterloo first.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Gera 1813 campaign

This is the tenth phase of our 1813 campaign.

Wittgenstein has recently taken command of the Russian army in central Germany from Kutuzov, who has resigned due to ill health.   The new commander is determined to equal the recent success of Blucher in northern Germany.   He has ordered an advance to the river Saale.

Napoleon commands the First French Army who are deployed along the west bank of the river Saale.   He is determined to strike at the Russians and drive them back to Dresden.  This will expose the southern flank of the Prussian army and force Blucher to fall back to Madgeburg.

That is the background to the Gera campaign.   It will be played as a PBEM campaign, and there are three corps commanders on each side.   The campaign is expected to last no more than three months.

If previous campaigns are anything to go by there will be a need for replacement corps commanders during the campaign.  Anyone who would like to take part should join the forum and let me know:

There is a new blog for the campaign diary, which includes a summary of the whole 1813 campaign, a diary of the Gera phase and will have detailed battle reports.    You can find it here

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Wellington’s Battles

In November 2009 Jan and I decided to wargame Wellington’s battles in the Peninsula as an occasional series of fun wargames.   We had just started our 1813 campaign, and these battles were planned as a break from the more serious campaign battles.   It was never intended to be a serious attempt to recreate the historical battles.  We would use the scenery we had on the shelves and the wargame figures available for the campaign.

I decided to start a blog to record the games, partly so that I could look back on them but also in the hope that they might prompt other wargamers to attempt something similar.   We have 6mm, 18mm and 28mm but we decided to use the latter because they would photograph better.

We played 13 games from Rolica to Toulouse, and I had planned to stop there.   I considered Waterloo, but decided that it was too well known.   Everyone has read about it, everyone knows the main features of the battlefield, everyone knows the outcome.  We could not create Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte, even if we had the buildings we did not have the table space in 28mm.   We did not have the figures to field the same order of battle, and even if we did table space would be a problem.  So we decided to stop the series at Toulouse.

However it seemed a little strange to end the series without Wellingtion’s best known battle.   So we have decided to go for it.  

The wargame attempts to recreate the tactical problems faced by Wellington on 18 June 1815.   There is a building with a walled garden and woods called Hougoumont.   There is a nearby building called La Haye Sainte.  There is a ridge, of sorts.  There is no sign of the Prussians; I have the figures but not the table space.   Napoleon’s army is similar in size to Wellington’s.  This makes for a better wargame, and I justify it on the grounds that the troops available for the attack on the ridge were similar in size.

I hope that you will have a look at the blog.  I hope even more that you will be tempted to try something similar.  We have greatly enjoyed the games, and it would be nice to think that others were prompted (inspired is too grand a word) to try something similar having seen them.

You can find the blog here

The next step may be a series of Napoleon’s battles.  

Sunday 6 May 2012

Gera Campaign Command Vacancy

We are ready to start the next phase of the 1813 PBEM campaign, but I still have one command vacancy to fill.

This phase is set in central Germany around the town of Gera, and is between the First French Army and the Russian Army.   You can find details about the campaign here on the campaign diary blog

If anyone would like to take part drop me an email and I will explain what is involved.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

New Campaign Rules

I have completely rewritten the campaign rules to take account of play testing during the Tortosa campaign.

The previous 17 rules have been replaced by 12 new ones.

The main changes are as follows

Rule  01 – Daily Routine.  
Still three moves per day, but the corps commander only have to write orders once a day.

Rule 02 – Army Organisation
Complete rewrite
Figure scale 1 figures = 100 men
Each corps has three divisions of two infantry and one cavalry brigade
Each infantry brigade has two regiments of 8 figures each
Each cavalry brigade has two regiments of 4 figures each

Rule 03 – Role of CinC
Rule 04 – Role of Corps Commander
Unchanged except for write  orders once per day

Rule 05 – Corps Orders
Complete rewrite
Easier to write,  less detail required

Rule 06 – Messages

Rule 07 – Campaign Maps
New, explains maps used
Rule 08 – Map Movement
Complete rewrite
New movement rates for roads, off roads and difficult terrain

Rule 09 – Supplies
Complete rewrite
Each division will have three days supplies
Must be stationary and  within 15 miles  of depot to resupply

Rule 10 – Brigade Fighting Abilities
Minor changes

Rule 11 – Combat
Complete rewrite
All combats resolved by using wargame rules.

Rule 12 – Town Siege
Complete rewrite
Combat normally resolved by using wargame rules.
Only fortified towns use siege rules

You can  find the full campaign rules here

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Tortosa Campaign ends in Allied Victory

After six months and 24 campaign moves the Tortosa campaign has ended in a convincing allied victory.

It may seem strange that the Spanish should beat the French in northeastern Spain.   But they did have the assistance of a British corps.   With this assistance the French were outnumbered five to four.   So perhaps it is not too surprising after all.

I am pleased with the way the campaign went.  Given the way both armies were handled I feel that this was the right outcome.   Throughout the campaign the French suffered from over confidence, and a failure to recognise when they were at a disadvantage.

The French lost a corps due to accepting a battle where they were outnumbered two to one, and then had to retreat away from their lines of communication and supply.   Eventually they were blocked by a third Spanish corps and surrendered.   The French Army never really recovered from this loss.

The Spanish were also quite slow to recognise when they held the advantage.  But eventually numbers told.

All of this speaks well for the fog of war, which I think worked well.   Its hard to get the balance right between sufficient intelligence to allow each corps commander to make informed decisions, but enough fog to make it difficult and challenging.

I have posted the final campaign summary on the Tortosa Campaign Diary Blog, which you will find here