Saturday 27 September 2014

Wargame Building Project

Jan has been building more small Spanish buildings
The basic design is the same, but Jan has added typical Spanish lean-to and longer naya.   
This close up shows the building front behind the naya.
She has also been making a selection of gates and walls for farms and villages.   They are similar to the French walls, the main difference being the tiles on the top.   This is a Hovels building, we wanted the walls to be the right size for them as well as our own.   

Saturday 20 September 2014

Unusual Wargames

The Rout of Fourth British Corps

This game started with this British corps in rout, closely followed by a formed French corps.   All five British brigades, plus the corps artillery, were in rout.  They had varying numbers of casualties.   Those with more than 30% were very unlikely to rally.   One, the Portuguese, had no casualties and therefore stood a good chance.   This is the elite British corps, with two brigades of rifles.   Three of the four infantry brigades were elite, and would stand a better than normal chance to rally.

I often read on forums that wargamers would like to game unusual games, with a change from the normal even sided armies.   My reaction is usually “be careful what you wish for”.   This is because over the years I have fought countless wargames, and the best have always been when both sides were more or less even, both had interesting terrain to fight over, both followed a good tactical plan and the outcome was decided by a small element of luck in the form of the dice.   It sounds rather boring, but I have found it to be very true time after time.

Our PBEM often provides very challenging battles to wargame, indeed normally does  so.   However the battle of Mondragon was the exception which proves the rule.

The campaign army commander has complete freedom to do as he wants.  I have found that the “fog of war” produces more than enough problems for most commanders.   Few seem to be able to follow an obvious campaign plan.   An unexpected attack can throw even the best plan into confusion, and it is often as much of a surprise to the attacker as the attacked.

I never know the reasoning behind the orders issued by the campaign commander.   And indeed I have no feeling one way or the other who wins or how clever their battle plan might be.   Some seem to have no real plan at all, just a determination to attack whenever possible.   
Table at the start of the Battle of Mondragon

The French commander was aware that there was a British corps (top left) but still ordered one of his corps (off table top right) to pursue the routed 4th corps (centre).   He was not aware that there was a third british corps (bottom centre).   The second French corps (centre right off table) was not under orders to join the pursuit, but would “march to the sound of the guns” once the battle started.

I would imagine that many would consider this to be an “interesting” wargame.

In fact it turned out to be rather a waste of time.

11th French corps (top right) came under attack from 1st British corps (top left) as soon as they entered the table.   Part of the routed 4th British corps rallied and moved to support 1st British corps.   2nd British corps deployed to meet 5th French corps (off table right).

Within four moves 11th French corps had been defeated and retreated.   5th French corps arrived too late to make any difference.   They also retreated as soon as they sighted 2nd British corps waiting for them.

It had taken longer to prepare and set up the wargame than it did to fight it.

If the campaign commander orders a battle, then we are quite happy to wargame it.  But I am pleased that we do not often have such “interesting” ones to game.  

Sunday 14 September 2014

Hills in Wargames

This subject has been raised a few times over the past few months.  

If troops “behind the crest” of a hill cannot be fired upon by artillery, but are themselves allowed to fire at close range on attackers climbing the hill, then they create a big problem in a wargame.

This has proved particularly difficult in our PBEM campaign battles.   The two armies are pretty even at the start of each campaign phase.   There are a lot of hills on all of the campaign maps.   Most battles have similar types and number of troops on each side.

Since we reintroduced hidden movement the attackers have a good advantage.   We use a card to indicate the location of each corps.   When they come within 16” of each other they are “spotted” and must replace the card with figures.   The defender has to deploy with one corps per scenery square, but the attacker can concentrate.   Then the attacker can spot using his cavalry, and react to the defenders deployment.  In this way he can concentrate and hope to smash one of the defending corps before the others can react to the attacker.

But hills make this impossible.    The defenders cannot be spotted, but can easily spot the attackers.   The concentrated attackers cannot inflict casualties on the target corps.   In fact the opposite happens.   The defenders are hidden, except for their skirmish line and artillery.  So they can pound the attackers before they reach the crest of the hill.

In a recent game this brought the whole problem into sharp focus.   There were three hills across the width of the table, each with a defending corps.   There were no open flanks.   So we finally had to grasp the nettle and sort out the rules.

Our first solution was to allow artillery to fire on defenders behind the crest, but within musket range of the crest.   So the defenders would not have the advantage of firing on the attackers as they reached the crest.

Our second solution was even better.   Any troops behind the crest of a hill, but within musket range, would have to roll 1D6 when enemy come within sight.   Plus 1 for British or class A.   Minus 1 for class C.   Total of 4,5,6 would be OK.   But 3 would be disordered, 2 would be shaken and 1 would rout.

The second solution, the dice throw, had a greater effect.   Although none actually routed, and only one was shaken, the threat was enough to convince the defender it was better to move to the crest just before the attacker reached musket range.

We fought the game twice.  Once under the old rules, which raised the whole subject.   Then under the amended rules.   The difference was dramatic.   The defender was no longer confident to wait for the attack.   One shaken brigade was sufficient to make him bring forward the remaining infantry and a normal firefight decided the matter.

Not only a good solution from a wargame point of view, but also a model which was quite historical from a tactical point of view.