Sunday 30 March 2014

Wargaming with a Spanish Army

The British rout at Gerona

When I reorganised our wargame armies almost ten years ago, I was determined to make use of all of our model soldiers, plus the wide range of scenery we had collected over the years.

To do so I started my 1813 campaign, which included six French and six different allied armies.   The allies are Austrian, British, Bavarian, Prussian, Russian and Spanish armies.
The French have Italian, Polish and Westphalian contingents.

I choose 1813 because all of the Napoleonic nations were involved, and also because all of the armies were more or less equal.   I wanted each army to have a chance of winning in their geographical area.

This became even more important when I changed from solo to PBEM campaign.   It would be difficult to keep players interested if they did not have a reasonable chance of winning  with their army.

It was clear from the start that the Spanish would be difficult.  They had to be poorly trained and poorly led if they were to bear any relation to the historical Spanish Army.   Fortunately there was a British contingent supporting the Spanish Armies in the north east.   So I replaced one of the four Spanish corps with a British corps.  

Our (house) wargame rules rely heavily on the luck of the dice.  This is necessary because Jan and I have wargamed together for so many years that we know what each other will do in any given circumstance.    This makes for predictable wargames, where no one makes many mistakes.   To speed things up, and to allow for the unexpected, I increased the influence of the dice.

The Spanish had to be poor quality troops.  This meant that they were more likely to break and run, given average dice.   To compensate I increased the size of the Spanish Army from four to five corps, keeping the British as one of them.

It should always be daring for such a poor quality army to attack.  But campaign players do not want to play boring defensive campaigns.   Our latest game in Spain had the Spanish attacking.

The five corps advanced, and headed for the French open left flank.   They were unaware that another French corps was advancing to fill that flank.   By the time the French arrived on the table the Spanish were committed.

The French attacked with their better, and stronger, cavalry.   The brunt of the attack fell on the British corps.  It was ironic that they would throw a string of really poor dice.  The result was the rout of the British corps, which quickly spread to the nearby Spanish who joined the rout.

A very typical, and historical, result for a Spanish v French army.   

But disappointing that it was caused by the rout of their best corps.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Wargame Building Project

We have made good progress on making our new town houses.   So far we have completed eight houses and churches, and also a selection of low walls.   They are not town walls, they will come later

This is how we use them on the wargames table.   The felt is the area covered by the town or village.  The buildings can be removed to allow movement through the section, or hand to hand fighting inside.

Normally Jan and I do our own thing, apart from fighting the wargames.   My main occupation is the PBEM campaign.  She has a lot of her own hobbies, such as Spanish lessons and ceramics.   So it is nice to have a project which we can share together.

Jan is the artistic one.   I cut the card for the walls and roofs.   She does the windows and doors.   I cut and paste the roof tiles.   She does the wooden beams.

My main contribution is painting the completed buildings.   I found it difficult to shade them, as the pollyfiller covering is so flat.   We filled a bag with sand from the beach the last time we were in Calpe, and I attach it with white glue.  The end result is quite good, and it gives a standard finish to all the buildings and walls.

We do not spend a lot of time on the project, perhaps three or four hours each week.   It is very satisfying to see the collection growing.       

Sunday 16 March 2014

Campaign Fog of War

The introduction of the new supply rules has caused some very interesting developments in the campaign.

When I designed them I thought that they were about as easy and simple as they could be.   So I was not really prepared for the amount of confusion that they have caused.

Before I converted the campaign from solo to PBEM I thought long and hard about how to create Fog of War, and to make the whole process unpredictable and interesting.  

However once I started I realised that it is not necessary to create deliberate confusion or send misleading reports or information to players.   The simple process of communication by mail creates all the Fog of War I could wish for.

I try to keep the daily umpire reports as clear and simple as possible, and to give as much information to each commander as he could reasonably expect.   Whether I get that right or not I have no idea.   It seems to work.

I suspect this is due more to human nature than to any clever campaign design on my part.

Each campaign day I have to make sense of twelve sets of orders.  I then have to update six campaign maps, and see what contacts there are.   I then have to try to resolve them, usually by a wargame.  Then I have to write six reports for each army commander, a total of 72 reports for each campaign day.   And all of this has to be done within one week in real time.  

Lots of opportunity to create a mass of mistakes and confusion there.

Then each Army Commander has to read my reports, and try to make sense of THEM.
Some do this much better than others.   Some point out errors, or want to know why something did not happen which they expected to have done so.   Others either do not read them, or simply ignore them.   All of this creates huge Fog of War and not a few problems for the commanders themselves.

It’s great that despite this most players continue to struggle with the campaign, write their orders more or less as I want them and accept my frequent comments and suggestions with good grace.  

More important almost all of them continue with the campaign at least until the end of the current phase.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Battle of Oberstein

This week’s wargame is the latest in our PBM 1814 campaign.

The background is that the Russian army is invading France.
Their objective is the city of Luxembourg.
Oberstein is a small town on the main Darmstadt to Luxembourg road
It is held by three French corps.
The Russians attack with four corps

The French deploy to hold the town, and the two valleys leading to it.
They have sufficient artillery to make an attack down either valley very costly

The Russians deploy their heavier artillery to weaken the French infantry
The infantry and cavalry move over the high ground to avoid the enemy artillery
This slows down the Russian advance considerably.

In our rules artillery roll 2D6, and require at least 8, for a hit on infantry
They require a total of 11 when firing on enemy artillery

Because of their longer range, the Russian guns could fire on the French infantry
The French artillery had only gun crews to return fire on
The Russian infantry and cavalry advanced over the four hills.

It was to be one of those games where the Russians could do nothing right.

The Russian guns fired on the French infantry twelve times. 
They hit only twice.  
Both times the French infantry passed their morale test and stood

With only two moves left the Russian infantry and cavalry finally reached the French
The cavalry lead, with the infantry columns behind
The French cavalry were waiting for them

The French cavalry were heavier than the Russian.
Cossacks charged French guard cavalry, with predictable results
Then Russian cuirassiers charged French cuirassiers 
Again the French horse won the melee

With only one move left the Russian commander accepted defeat
He called off the attack and left the French in possession of Oberstein