Thursday, 13 September 2012

PBEM Dilemma – Comments

It’s quite rare to receive comments on the blog, so I pay a lot of attention to them when I do so.   I appreciate any comments, and I always reply in the comments section.   This week I have received two comments, but they require a more lengthy reply than is possible in the limited space of the comments section.

MurdockK felt that I should allow the players to act.  By that I assume he meant do as they wish.   He went on to comments that I should have “no hand at all” in the strategic decisions.

These are valid comments and deserve a considered reply.

When I ran a test PBEM campaign to convert my 1813 campaign from solo to PBEM there were 10 command roles.   One CinC and four corps commanders per side.   I quickly found that the role of CïnC can be very demanding and to be honest beyond the ability of a casual player.   It requires a deep understanding of the campaign rules and objectives, and a good knowledge of the wargame rules.   It’s not good enough to just “do as Napoleon would have done”.   It’s not that sort of campaign.   It also requires a lot of work to plan the campaign in advance, and then monitor the corps commanders to ensure that they are following the strategic plan.   To find two such players, particularly in a PBEM where I don’t actually know them, is asking too much.

But the real problem is what happens if one of them drops out.   This is likely to happen after they have made a mess of the strategic plan and their Army is in a mess.   How do you replace them at that point?   Who would want to take on such a role?

I started the PBEM campaign in September 2009.   Since then 37 players have taken part.   9 of those have dropped out mid campaign without any reason or explanation.   If just one of those had the role of CinC it would have meant the abrupt end of the campaign, with resulting disappointment to the other nine players.   Because I play the role of CinC all 9 were replaced without any interruption to the campaign and the other players were not even aware that there had been a drop out.

It is not ideal for me to play the part of both CinC, but it is far better than the alternative.  I take great care to ensure that I take decisions in the role using only the information provided by the corps commanders and I try to allow them as much freedom as possible.  

It may well be “a weakness in my overall game concept” as MurdocK points out.  But how many other PBEM games have run non stop for three years – and are still going strong.

The second comment was from daveb, who is one of the corps commanders in the current phase of the campaign.   Dave makes the point that it’s reasonable to lose one division and probably take out two.   In actual fact by attacking two divisions with one, and crossing a river at the same time, the chances of surviving are slim.  There is no chance of taking out two divisions.  The most likely result is that you lose one of your three divisions and with it the opportunity to cross the river with odds of 3 to 2.

But that is not important, that is the corps commander decision.   My problem is what to do in my role of CinC.   The situation is actually much more complicated than I explained in the previous blog.   The whole Russian offensive has ground to a halt because one division is in the wrong place.  The CinC is present on the spot.   My dilemma was should he take command (as he surely would have done) or should I blindly follow the orders given by the corps commander?

Thanks for the comments.  They do give me pause for thought, and that is never a bad thing.   I make no claim that my campaign system is perfect, or even nearly so.  But it has worked for a long time and it does fill the primary campaign objective – it provides Jan and me with good wargames.



  1. I admire your persistence and can also respect your considerate tone in response

    IMHO the C-in-C if present (for the good of his army if not the campaign in the face of a blunder would "take charge" or face the wrath of the Tsar at a later date ;)

    Thanks for for sharing your games in your blog

  2. I think my comment was not communicated well. The division the russians would be 'giving up' is the one attacking west. Agreed that they are going to be destroyed handily.

    The divisions I imagined that they would be traded for are the French ones located around Bad Kosen. The Russians are being rather cagey in generating local 2:1 (?) superiority in division numbers to force the crossing to the north.

    As a CinC I would be fairly happy to lose a division to gain that foothold and likely maim another french corp. If you were looking for further confirmation that is exactly what the russian player intended, just take a look and see if the sacrifice division is his worst one.


  3. Hi daveb

    I see what you mean, and perhaps that is what the Russian corps commander had in mind.

    However if you are attempting to attack across a major river it is not a good idea to do it with odds of two to one against you. It is just too easy to crush the attacking division against the river.

    You will be able to read the battle report in a week or so, and you can judge for yourself



  4. Geordie

    It would be hard to justify if the Russian CinC had not taken command of the isolated division.

    On the downside it does mean that he has had to hand over command of the reserve, which is where he should have been.

    I am glad that you enjoy the battle reports.



  5. 37 players is an awfully high turnover rate.

    I suspect that a part of the challenge in maintaining the player interest is the level of command and control.

  6. Hi MurdocK

    I am not sure what you mean.

    What would you suggest?




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