Sunday 24 June 2012

Possneck ends in Draw

The second battle of our Gera PBEM campaign has ended in a draw.  Things are not going well for the French; they really need a convincing victory.

The tactical map above shows the area of the battlefield/wargames table.  At the same time that Possneck is being fought there are two other battles at Domburg and Bad Kosen.  So the whole a huge battle is being fought along the whole length of the campaign area at the same time.  This represents an area 45 miles from north to south.

The background to Possneck is that the 2nd French corps is moving through the mountains towards Greiz.   As they approach Possneck a Russian division retire along the Greiz road.   This encourages Marshal Victor, the French corps commander, to order his corps to push on and pursue the retreating Russians.

It would appear wise for General Wintzingerode, commander of 3rd Russian corps, to attack the leading French division as they emerge from mountains.   But for reasons best know to the campaign player the Russians advance three divisions abreast into the broken ground.

The result was a very interesting battle/wargame.   The difficult ground allowed the French time to defend Possneck and deploy to the north.   They could only use the squares shown above, because the battle of Domburg was being fought in the next three.  

The Russians pressed home their attack, but did not have sufficient time to bring their full weight to bear against the French.   The battle started at midday, and there was only 8 hours/game turns to nightfall.   The broken ground also delayed the Russian advance. 

The French attacked with their leaving division to delay the Russians still more.   The second division deployed to the north, and 4th division fell back on the town.   There was a lot of confused cavalry fighting, and a lot of artillery used.  But the infantry played little part in the battle.

 End of day one  - Decision time

At nightfall both sides has suffered light casualties.  But neither side was a clear winner.   It is therefore up to the two corps commanders to decide whether they want to retreat, hold their ground or attack at first light.  

If they both decide to fight a second day it is going to be a real blood bath.   The French hold Possneck and are deployed along the Domburg road.  The Russians are deployed just 12” to the east.  All battle casualties from the first day will remain, but regiments routed or shaken will rally during the night.    The corps commanders can tell me how to deploy, or they can leave it up to me and Jan to deploy for them.  

We use poker chips for each corps and divisional commander.  They all go in a hat and are drawn one at a time to decide sequence of moves.    In this type of battle the first division to move will have a huge advantage.

So it is a test of nerve as well as tactical skill for both commanders.

We now have to fight the battle of Bad Kosen before we write orders for the next day.    I can hardly wait to find out what will happen next at Possneck.

If you would like to follow the campaign you will find a diary and battle reports on the campaign diary blog here:

Saturday 16 June 2012

Campaign Rivers

We have just returned from a nine day visit to our son and his family who live in Rothbury in the north of England.   Our visit coincided with the Queens Jubilee celebrations, and it was really pleasant to join in the festivities in this lovely little town.    Everyone seemed to have taken part in the preparations, and they were rewarded with thousands of visitors.   The traffic and parking were a nightmare, but fortunately my son lives within easy walking distance of the town centre.  Despite the poor weather in southern England we were fortunate to have mostly dry, and even sunny, weather.   Mind you we found it VERY cold.   I think we have gotten too used to the Spring and early Summer temperatures in sunny southern Spain!

This enforced break from wargaming gave us, and me in particular, time to reflect on the current campaign. We have played countless campaigns over the past 40 years, and it is the seventh phase of our current 1813 campaign, so we have had considerable experience of organising and playing them.   

I remember reading once that the British army always trains for the last war.   I take this to mean that they learn from their mistakes in the previous war, but do not really plan well for the next one.  Well I have found campaigns to be very similar.  After each phase of a campaign I amend the rules to overcome the problems encountered.   But as soon as I start the next campaign I find a whole set of new ones.   This campaign has been no exception.

I designed it to allow each commander to have much larger corps, thinking that they would develop their campaign tactics to manoeuvre their divisions.  I quite expected a large number of smaller battles, one division v one division.  I had not anticipated that they would all march all of their divisions towards each other at top speed.  The result a massive battle on the second move of the campaign involving all 18 divisions and spread over the whole width of the campaign map.  This will resolve three battles/wargames being fought at the same campaign time, but in fact three consecutive wargames all fought at the same campaign time.   This in turn means a long gap in campaign order writing whilst Jan and I fight the three wargames.   And, of course, our nine day break in UK came in the middle of it all.

But to get back to my pondering on the campaign.   

The campaign map is divided by the river Saale, which enters on the northern edge of the map and exits on the southern edge.   Where a road crosses the river there is a bridge shown on the map, and movement over the river on a road is move penalty free.   

However I did make it clear at the start of the campaign that there would be hidden river crossings, either fords of minor bridges.   To discover them a division would take one full day to explore the river in each square.   So far no one has ordered such a recce.

This may be because they are in too much of a hurry to get to grips and fight a battle.   Or it may be that they have forgotten that it is possible.  Or it may be that they did not want to waste a full day carrying out a recce which might be fruitless. Whatever the reason, not a single commander has ordered such a recce.

So I have decided to make the task easier.   I have amended the campaign rules to allow the recce to be carried out by a single regiment in one move (four campaign moves).   A regiment of infantry or cavalry will have to be detailed to carry out the recce in the current orders.  If there is an enemy already in the square, or if one moves into the square during the same move, then there will be a skirmish and only the winner will be allowed to complete the recce.

It will be interesting to see whether anyone take up the challenge.

The campaign diary of the current campaign can be found at

The campaign rules can be found at

Monday 11 June 2012

Russian Victory at Domburg

Battle of Domburg - nightfall

The first battle of the Gera campaign has ended in a convincing Russian victory. 

That is not too surprising, given that the French were attacked as they were crossing the river Spree.  

The battle started at midday, so there were only eight game moves to nightfall instead of the usual twelve.   If the French could hold out until nightfall they would have three divisions against the three Russian divisions at the start of the second day.

The French almost pulled it off.    They pushed their leading division forward to delay the Russian advance and deployment, and then pulled it back before the Russians could attack it.   This delayed the Russian attack by about four moves.   And the tactic almost worked.

However the French had to hold the eastern approach to the bridge over the river  Spree, and this allowed the Russians to attack them with just two hours (to game moves) tonight.   Right up to the last move it appeared the French would hold out, but they fell apart on the last move.

There are four French corps moving east against four Russian corps, with the river Spree between them.   This battle was fought by the centre corps, and was on the ground most favourable to the French.   A bend in the river to the north allows the Russians to deploy before the French can cross.   Woods and hills to the south allow the Russians to deploy east of the difficult terrain and attack the French as they attempt to clear the difficult terrain.

Here in the centre the river is nearest to the French, and they had time to cross before the Russians could reach them.   They would then have had favourable terrain to cover the crossing of the remainder of the French army, and open ground ahead to engage the enemy.   The French were not aware of the location of the Russians, and crossed the river slowly.  This allowed the Russians to attack them as they crossed.

The next battle, fought at the same time, will be to the south.   If the French lose this battle as well they will have to withdraw west of the river and face a Russian army deployed along the eastern bank.   Their campaign objective, the town of Gera, is east of the river!

We are still on the first day of the campaign, and there is a real possibility that the French will have lost by nightfall.