Tuesday 28 August 2012

1813 PBEM Campaign

It’s been a bad week for the campaign.

A couple of weeks ago I lost one player for the usual reason, failed to respond to my mail.   Right from the start my only firm rule is that players must respond promptly to my mail.   I give them 48 hours, then send a reminder and ask them to reply within 24 hours.  If no reply I delete them from the campaign.   All are aware of it, all sign up for it, but all too many fail to stick to it.

I am never sure why this is so.   Perhaps they have just lost interest in the campaign.   Perhaps it has not lived up to their expectations.  Perhaps it has proved too difficult.   Whatever the reason why not just reply and tell me?

Against my better judgement I decided to give them longer to reply.   I have always thought that if anyone cannot answer an email within 72 hours they will find it just as difficult if they have three weeks.   And the longer between mails the longer between campaign moves.  I feel strongly that the hardest thing to do with a PBEM is to maintain the momentum and interest.

Anyway I changed the reply time from 48 hours to four days.   Plus a fifth day for the reminder.  In the first week another player failed to reply, and indeed has still not done so more than a week later.

Despite the trials and tribulations of PBEM the campaign is actually going very well.   A hectic start with three battles within three moves was followed by a long period of regrouping and reorganising.   We have now reached move 12, and at least everyone is ready to take the offensive again.  

You might think that the recent loss of players was due to this lack of activity in the campaign.  I don’t think so.   Just after the series of battles the original objective of the campaign had been achieved.  There was a clear winner and a clear loser.   I thought perhaps it would be best to declare a winner and move on to the next phase.   But all of the players wanted to continue, including the two who have subsequently dropped out.

I find it quite understandable that over a period of four months players will lose interest.  But it’s so frustrating that they almost never tell me that they are leaving, let alone why.   It’s a shame because with more feedback I could perhaps adjust the campaign to meet them half way.

As it is I have to rely on my instincts and personal prejudice.  I try to run it the way I would like it run were I taking part as a player.   The trouble is that I suspect I would want to put more into a campaign than many of those who actually take part in the PBEM.  

I will keep with the longer response time and aim for one campaign move each week, and see how it works out.

In the meantime I now have two command vacancies.  If anyone would like to give it a try let me know.

Monday 20 August 2012

Wargame Campaigns of Napoleon

Strategic Map of Italy

I have finally started the new wargames campaign, which is based on Napoleon’s campaigns.   It will be a series of mini campaigns.   Each one will be based on one of Napoleon’s campaigns.  It will be in the same area, with the same objectives and the same opening locations.

I hope to cover most of his campaigns, but not all.  The campaign in Egypt and Syria of 1798 does not interest me at all.   Nor does the Russian campaign of 1812, though I might be tempted to try it by the time we get to 1812.

I will be using my existing model soldiers and scenery.  The purists would be outraged that my late Napoleonic figures are fighting the 1796 Italian campaign, but so be it.   I will not be recruiting and painting new figures, nor will I be buying or making new scenery.  I had 40 years of that, now I just want to play with my toys.

It is not an attempt to refight the historical campaign.  It is to provide good wargames for Jan and I.  So the order of battle will be based on our model soldier organisation.  Each side will have the same Orbat, but the morale and fighting ability of each will be very different.

Each mini campaign will be stand alone.   If Napoleon loses the Ulm campaign, it will not stop him going on to the Austerlitz campaign.   

Tactical Map of Piedmont

The first campaign will be in Piedmont.   The young General Bonaparte has just taken command of the tattered and demoralised Army of Italy.    His army is scattered along the southern coast.   The Sardinian army of General Colli is holding the northern towns of Turin and Alessandria.   The Austrian General Beaulieu is marching to his assistance.   General Bonaparte orders his army to march north and defeat Colli before Beaulieu can join him.  

So much for history.  Now let’s see if we can get some good wargames out of it.

You can follow it all here

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Burgos Tactical Map

Tactical Map – First Attempt

As expected the tactical map proved much more difficult than the strategic one.

This was my first attempt.   I tried to achieve the same sort of road system as the strategic map, but making allowance for my modular wargames terrain.   It is close enough to what I want, but when I started entering the terrain reference numbers I quickly found that I did not have sufficient terrain blocks of the correct type.  I could not make the road system work with my present limited number of terrain blocks.

My terrain works best with a town in the centre of the wargames table and roads radiating out from the centre.  The terrain has been designed so that a few boards, 21 in total, can give a wide variety of battlefields.   But it all depends on each road leaving from the centre of one side of the board.   This does not allow the more natural road system which I was trying to achieve.

It also raised problems which I had not anticipated.   My campaign rules are based on a town every three squares, or 45 miles, and the whole resupply system depends on this.   I would have been prepared to change the rules, but I was not prepared to make a whole new set of terrain boards.   

 Tactical Map – Second Attempt

At first sight this looks very similar to my current campaign maps, and indeed it is.  But there are some important changes.

First every town does not have a road running north, south, east and west.   Nor are all towns in the centre of the 9 squares which becomes the wargames table.   And finally the dotted lines represent tracks.    This will allow me to introduce different march rates on roads, tracks, cross country or difficult terrain.   It will also present the campaign players with typical tactical and supply problems encountered by both sides in Spain.

So an improvement on my current campaign maps, but far short of what I was hoping to achieve.   I have not given up yet.  I may be able to fine tune it a little.  But I will not be able to achieve the look that I was looking for.

On the other hand my current map system has proved its worth over four years of non stop campaign movement.   There has not been a single complaint from any of the PBEM players that the table top terrain was not what they expected from the campaign map.   Setting up a wargame takes just minutes, and it’s simple to extend the table to the north, south, east or west should the flow of battle require it.  

But it would have been nice to have prettier maps.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

New Map of Spain

Current Strategic Map of Spain

It’s been a busy week map making.

High summer in southern Spain is a good time to find a cool room with a cool drink and avoid too much physical activity.   So it’s a great time to work on a new map.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was working on a new map of Italy for my proposed Campaigns of Napoleon project.   I wanted to make them more like Malcolm McCallum’s excellent campaign maps murat.ca/maps.htm

The unexpected surrender of the 2nd French corps in my PBEM Gera campaign put this project on the back burner.  It suddenly seemed likely that I would have to start the next phase of my 1813 campaign, which will be based in Spain.   I already had the maps ready, see above, but they were my old modular system where all towns were in the middle of the square and all roads entered and left in the centre of the square.

I still want to be able to transfer them to my modular wargames table, and this is where the real problem arises.   The roads on Malcolm’s map follow a much more realistic course, but this would not convert to my wargames table.

I am determined to try to find a solution, but first I had to make a new strategic map of Spain.   There would still be the 20 mile grid square, which would translate on the tactical map to one wargames table.  But the towns would not all be in the centre of the square, and the roads would not all enter and leave in the centre of one of the four sides.  

I already have photo copies of Malcolm’s map of Spain.  I drew a grid using his own border markings.   Each of these would now be one of my map squares, and each would convert to a wargame table.

New Map of Spain

This is my first attempt, and I am quite pleased with it.   The roads look more natural, as does the location of the towns.   And there is much less terrain than on my earlier map.

Next comes the difficult part.   I now need to make a tactical map ready for the next campaign.  The campaign area will be from Valladolid to Burgos, and will cover an area five by five squares on the strategic map.  But there will be three by three squares on the tactical map for each one on the strategic map.   And though the roads will not enter and leave in the centre of the square, they will have to be capable of transferring to the wargames table using my limited number of scenic squares.  And of course all roads on those squares to enter and leave in the middle of the square.

That’s next week’s problem.  Not sure I can solve it.  But it does keep me cool during these hot high summer months.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

PBEM Campaign Command Vacancy

I have a new command vacancy in my PBEM Gera campaign.  It is to command the 4th Russian corps, which until now has been the army reserve.   I have not appointed a player for this command until now, because this corps was too far from the enemy to have any chance of combat.  I felt it would be boring for a player to have to write orders when there was no chance of any contact with the enemy.

The campaign has now reached a critical phase.   The French have suffered two major defeats, and have had to abandon their objective of crossing the river Saale and taking the city of Gera.  

They have been forced to withdraw to the west bank of the river, and have the difficult task of holding the river line with just three corps against the Russian four corps.

The campaign objective is now for the Russians to cross the river and establish themselves on the west bank.   1st, 2nd and 3rd Russian corps have the task of crossing the river.   4th corps is moving up in reserve to support whichever one is successful.  

It is likely to be three or four campaign moves before 4th corps actually makes contact with the French, so this is a good time for me, as joint umpire and Russian CinC, to relinquish command.   It will give the new player plenty of time to get used to the campaign before he has to make the difficult decisions.

The campaign has been PBEM for about two years, and is now very user friendly.  There is no need for any extensive knowledge of Napoleonic tactics or history.   The CinC (me) provides the corps commanders with a general objective, and they only have to decide how they will achieve that.  They also have to ensure that they keep an eye on their supplies.

The only requirement for a campaign player is that they have the time, and are prepared, to reply to emails within 48 hours.  If unable to do so they must let me know within the same 48 hours.

I expect that this campaign will continue for about two to three months.  Although it is driven by the players, so it is quite difficult to be definite about how long it will take to reach a conclusion.

Orders are written about once a week, and a report to the CinC about every two or three weeks.   Players are allowed one message each move to another corps commander in order to keep in touch and try to coordinate their operations.

You will find everything about the campaign in the Campaign Diary Blog here:

The campaign rules are here:

There is also a campaign forum here:

If you would like to have a go, or would like more information, send me an email, leave a message here or contact me on the forum