Sunday 25 November 2012

Mantua Campaign

Tactical Map at start of Campaign

We have started the second phase of our Campaigns of Napoleon.

It is still in Italy, and it is still 1796, but the action has moved to the east and Bonaparte had deployed his army south of Lake Garda and has started the siege of Mantua.   This new campaign will deal with Wurmster’s first attempt to raise the siege.

The date may be August 1796, but the Austrian uniforms are more 1805 and the French 1812!   The early disclaimer that this is not attempting to be a recreation of the historical campaign eases my conscience that the uniforms are so obviously of a later date.

I have never been a great one for historical accuracy, and have never really understood the aggressive attention to details so prevalent amongst so many Napoleonic wargamers.

I feel we were fortunate to have entered the hobby in the early 1970s, when there was much less information available and the “experts” less keen to take themselves too serious.   It may be just memory, but the approach in the few available magazines (such as Wargamers Newsletter) seemed to be much more on the fun aspect rather than the serious approach so often encountered today.

I well remember an article by Don Featherstone, who I believe was a SNCO in WW2, in which he dismissed any idea that it was possible to recreate actual warfare on the tabletop.   Some of the heated exchanges on forum such as TMP sound like deranged history professors.  

I would like to take part in a good natured exchange of ideas on Wargaming and the Napoleonic period in general, but would not dare to do so on the internet.

Some years ago I got interested in Le Feu Sacre wargames rules.   They are a great set, and form the basis of my own “home brew” Napoleonic Wargame rules.   They also had, indeed still have, a very helpful forum for raising queries.

After a year or so I encountered a problem with cavalry v infantry square, and asked for advice.   I have always understood, and indeed still do, that the normal practice for Napoleonic infantry when confronted by enemy cavalry was to form square.   However in these rules it appeared better to remain in column.   

This remark was dismissed as someone who knows nothing about the period and has gained their knowledge from wargame books.   Not quite true, but even if it were what is wrong with that on a wargame rule forum?   The discussion got quite heated and resulted in quite insulting comments.  

It is a sad reflection on the standard of debate on the internet that this is so often the result.  I have seen it many times on TMP and am left dismayed that a group of people who all like playing with model soldiers can get so heated on such a trivial disagreement.  It makes you wonder how they ever manage to get through real life which would be hell without a degree of compromise and acceptance of others points of view.

Not sure how I got on to all of that.  The aim of this post was just to tell you all that I have started the Mantua phase of the Italian campaign and you can find it here:

Sunday 18 November 2012

Burgos PBEM Campaign

We are nine moves into the campaign and no fighting yet.

This time I have allowed the corps commanders almost complete freedom of choice.   I still play the role of allied and French CinC, but I have only issued general campaign objectives.   They do not have to report to me each day, nor do I issue orders to them each day.   If they write a report I answer and comment. If not I leave them to get on with it.

The result has been a distinct tendency to play things very carefully.

There are three corps per side, each with their own area of operations.    Each corps has two divisions, and all were widely spread out at the start of the campaign.   In each area the forward divisions of each side were in sight by the end of the first day.   

There was a flurry of activity as both sides attempted to recce the enemy.   But not one commander was tempted to risk an attack.   All six commanders issued orders to concentrate their corps, and all are apparently waiting to complete the concentration before they risk an attack.

I suspect the new method of writing orders is also playing a part in this cautious game.   Previously they wrote orders each move, or three times a day.  Now they only write orders once a day, and I then break it down into three moves per day.   So they have less opportunity to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

I have also introduced guerrilla bands into this campaign to cause problems on the lines of supply and to pose a threat to messengers.   I control the bands, but ask the allied commander to make decisions such as fight, hold or retreat.

One band has cut the main French supply road by taking possession of a village, and has held it for two days.   The nearest French garrison is aware of the problem, but has been asked whether they want to engage the Spanish.   If they do so they run a small risk of being defeated, but the odds are high in their favour.  

It has surprised me how cautious players are when they are given this greater freedom of choice.   It’s understandable that they do not want to take risks, but they are also missing good opportunities.   Mind such opportunities are easy to spot as umpire, no doubt much harder as a player.

Sunday 11 November 2012

End of Piedmont Campaign

The first part of my Campaigns of Napoleon has drawn to an end after just eleven moves and two battles.

It followed the historical campaign in that Bonaparte attacked and destroyed Colli’s Sardinian army first, and then turned on the Austrian army of Beaulieu.

Because this is a fictional campaign the battles were not fought in the same locations.    But the general outline of the two campaigns were similar

This was a campaign I had read about, but did not really understand.   Having fought this campaign I feel I know it a little better.

We now move onto more familiar ground.

The Second Italian campaign will deal with the repeated Austrian attempts to raise the siege of Mantua.   Jan and I have spent two weeks at Lake Garda studying the campaign and walking the battlefields, so I know the campaign much better.

This might be a difficult campaign to refight as a fictional campaign.   It involved four separate attempts to raise the siege, each one countered by Bonaparte in a series of quite “near run” battles.   He won each battle, and consequently the campaign continued.   But had he lost one, the rest would not have followed.

I am not sure how to handle it if the Austrian’s do win one of the attempts.  They would then raise the siege of Mantua and any subsequent campaign would not have been fought around Lake Garda.

Let’s hope that my 28mm Bonaparte has the same run of victories.

Sunday 4 November 2012

PBEM Burgos Campaign

Corps HQ at the start of campaign

It’s been a busy week getting the new campaign going.

I had filled all the command posts and sent out the player starter packs before we went to Madrid.  So I was hoping that I would have the first set of orders waiting for me when I returned.   Some chance.

The orders started to arrive last week, and by the deadline of Wednesday only two were outstanding.    One was from a player who had already warned me that he would be late due to being on holiday.  Then he had to cut his holiday short due to Hurricane Sandra.  Next was that the hurricane had followed him home – he lives in New York.   He wanted to remain in the campaign, so I wrote his orders for the first move.  But he then had to vacate his home due to the hurricane and eventually had to withdraw.

It was Thursday before I heard from the second outstanding player.  He had just been released from hospital due to a traffic accident.  

With two players out of six withdrawing at the last moment, I was very tempted to cancel the campaign.   However I had two reserve players, and decided to offer them the roles to see if they were still keen to play.

One of them had taken part in the last campaign.  I had offered him a part in this one, but due to a misunderstanding I thought that he did not want to do so, and I offered it to a new player.   In fact he did want to play, and I had put him on the reserve list.   Fortunately he was delighted to step in and take on the role at short notice.   And having played in the last campaign understood how it all worked.

The second player on the reserve list was a newcomer to the campaign.   I was half expecting him to have changed his mind, but fortunately he was also keen to take part.

So with a hectic exchange of emails over the past few days we managed to get all the orders in for the first day, and the campaign is up and running.

I have changed the campaign system so that the players only write orders once a day.   But I process them as three moves each day, and notify them of any contact during that time.   I also intend to post a campaign diary entry three times a week, one for each move.   All of this is proving more time consuming that I had anticipated.  But I am hoping that it will all become easier once I get the campaign system going.

This emergency has proved the value of reserve players, and I now have none left.  So if anyone would like to take part and is prepared to wait until there is a vacancy please let me know.