Sunday 26 May 2013

The Next Campaign

 Proposed campaign areas

The current Linz PBEM campaign is still going strong, and probably has a few more battles in it.   On the other hand it could end unexpectedly.   In either case it is time to start work on the next campaign.

I am still uncertain whether to run another phase of the current 1813 campaign, or to start a new campaign completely different from the current one.

First I started work on another phase of the current one.  It will be based in Northern Germany and will be based on Hamburg.   It will probably be a four player game, rather than the current six players.  This is because I want more space for each player, and less need to restrict their choice of movement.

Then I started thinking about a whole new campaign concept.   This would start with a blank page, and is a much more exciting prospect.   I have already got a good idea of what I would like to do.  

When I started my current 1813 campaign it was a solo campaign.   I wanted to use all of my model soldiers, so I had five campaign areas.   Each would have a French army and one of my five allied armies.   Each army would be four corps.   As a solo campaign I could manipulate the campaign to produce battles/wargames as and when I wanted them.

The change to PBEM required a lot of changes, in particular smaller armies for each player.   Instead of being a campaign based on two armies of four corps each, it became a campaign of four corps commanders with one corps each.   It worked ok, but it resulted in much smaller battles/wargames than I had planned for.

If I change I will run the whole five campaign areas at the same time.   There will be ten command vacancies.   Each will be a commander in chief with four corps.   Each area will have just two players, one French and one allied.   They will have an area similar to the current tactical map.   But with only one player per side they will have much more freedom of choice.

There will be an objective (a town) in each campaign area.   When the objective is taken that will be the end of that particular phase of the campaign.   The other four areas will carry on, but the two players in that area will have finished their command role.  They could then either carry on with the next objective, or I could find a replacement player.   So the commitment will be about three or four months, the same as it is now.

The great advantage of the proposed campaign is that I will not have to keep a team of six players going for three or four months.   Instead it will be five teams of two players each.   It will mean that I will need to find constant replacement players, but the loss of one will only affect their particular phase.  And if necessary I can take over that role until I find a replacement.

As always it seems great in theory.   But I have found that the actual practice is always a lot different.   I hesitate to abandon a campaign concept which has run for three years and has worked well.   On the other hand I would enjoy the challenge of a new campaign concept.  

I will ask for comments on the campaign forum and see if there is any preference one way or the other.

Sunday 19 May 2013

1813 Campaign – Where Next

 1813 Campaign Areas

As with most things, this campaign has grown and changed considerably since I started it in July 2009.

The aim has remained the same.   To provide good wargames for Jan and I to play.   The general concept has also remained the same.  I have not painted a single figure, nor built one piece of scenery, in all of that time.   Our whole effort has gone into the actual Wargaming, and running the campaign.

The campaign itself has changed greatly.   Most important was making it PBEM rather than Solo.   Had I not done so I am quite sure that I would have lost interest by now.   Adjusting to the needs of the constantly changing corps commanders has made me review the campaign again and again.  

I have changed the maps.  The first maps were all hand drawn, and drawing has never been one of my strong points.   Discovering ProFantasy CC3 allowed me to make the maps on the computer.   But the principle of each map square looking the same as one scenery square on the wargames table has remained the same.

As you can see from the map above, the campaign is divided into five campaign areas, three in Germany and two in Spain.   Each has a different French and Allied army, so all of my collection of model soldiers is used on a rotating basis.

We have now played ten mini campaigns, two in each campaign area.   The French have lost time and again in Germany, and are retreating towards the river Rhine.   They have had mixed fortunes in Spain.

I have started work on a map of France, and am now considering whether to end the 1813 Campaign in Germany and move on to the 1814 Campaign in France.   But we have only reached mid September 1813, and I am tempted to fight another three mini campaigns in Germany, and two more in Spain.

Northern Germany is the problem.   The Prussians won the last mini campaign and took Hanover.   Fortunately the French retreated north.  So it looks like the next phase will be the Hamburg Campaign.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Two day campaign battles

The current PBEM Linz campaign continues to provide a good selection of battles to be wargamed.   But they are becoming increasingly complicated.

The ideal is to fight one corps per side and reach a conclusion in one campaign day, or 12 wargame moves.   This would normally give two armies of 8 infantry brigades, 2 cavalry brigades and two artillery batteries per side.   This size battle allows lots of space on the wargames table to manoeuvre and have open flanks.

However this campaign has produced a series of battles which have to be fought over more than one day.   This may be because the battle starts late in the day, and there are not sufficient wargame moves to reach a conclusion.

Or it may be that the battle opens with one division, and the second arrives late in the day.   This will often result in the first division fighting a holding battle until the second arrives.    Again there is not there are not enough moves left to find a winner.

This is not too much of a problem when there is only one battle per campaign day.  

It usually takes Jan and I a week to fight each wargame.  This is the same time frame for one campaign day.   So I can usually keep the campaign moving, and ask the two corps commanders involved in the battle for a quick decision what they want to do next day.

I can then leave the wargames table set up, and just fight a second set of 12 moves for the second day.

However now it looks like I will have two different battles which will both run into two days.

At the end of the first battle I have to change the wargames table for the second battle.   I can fight the second day of the second battle with the same set up, but I have to change it back at the end to fight the second day of the first battle!  

Fortunately I take photographs of each move for the battle report, so I can set the towns up to look like the first day, and I can position the divisions more or less correctly.  Any slight errors can be covered by night time redeployment.

Sunday 5 May 2013

March to the Sound of the Guns

Map showing corps operational areas

I’m pretty pleased with how our PBEM campaign allows fighting campaign battles on the wargames table, and moving the result back into the campaign.

In my limited experience of taking part in PBEM this has always proved a major problem, indeed caused all three campaigns that I took part in to end without comment from the organisers.

I designed my campaign from the wargames table up, and I suspect this is pretty unusual.   The whole campaign is designed to fight wargames on my size table using my size armies.

There are six corps commanders, three per side, and a different player takes on each role.  I try to make it as interesting and challenging as possible, and to allow them as much freedom of choice as possible.    I also encourage them to support each other, and here lies a major problem.

You can see the three corps boundaries in the map above, French on the left and Austrians on the right.   Each square on the map is the same as one square on my wargames table.   The table consists of nine squares, three wide by three deep.    The map has been carefully designed so that I can create a wargames table from any combination of squares.   But it does mean that my maximum table is three by three squares.

Each corps has two divisions, and the corps operational area is three squares deep.  So there should always be at least one free square north or south.    This is to allow for an adjacent corps to send one division to “march to the sound of the guns”.   This would be the only time that a corps commander is allowed to move out of his area of operations without the permission of the CinC (me).

To be able to do so, it must be included as an option in their current orders.   It will take one campaign move (four hours or four wargame moves) to react, and they must be able to reach the battlefield the same day.   So they would need to be very close to the battle at the start of the move.

I try to keep the campaign rules as short and simple as possible, but this means that not everything can be included.  

In previous campaigns this tactic was used quite often, but not at all in the current campaign.   I am not sure whether this is my fault for not making it more clear to the players.   I have done so in the past, but there are new players in this phase of the campaign and perhaps they were not around when it was discussed.

Anyway I have posted an explanation on the campaign forum, and will include it on the next set of campaign rules.