Saturday 28 March 2015

Cavalry in Napoleonic Wargames

Throughout my long experience in Napoleonic wargaming (almost 50 years) I have always struggled with representing large bodies of cavalry.   I have used many rules over the years, both commercial and house rules, but have never really mastered how to use them.

I am well aware of the historical use of cavalry, particularly in the French army.   I know that the heavy cavalry, in particular, was grouped together in large bodies of divisions or even corps.   I have read many, many books about the use of cavalry on the battlefield.  Yet I have never been able to incorporate it into my wargames.

The rules I used over the years never really seemed to take cavalry tactics into account.   Or perhaps I was just reading them wrong.   Whatever the reason I have always used cavalry, but only in brigades or divisions.

In fact when I did my last reorganization of my wargame armies I deliberately reduced my numbers of cavalry.   In terms of model soldiers each of my armies has just 16 cavalry to 128 infantry.  

The above photo shows one of my Armies.  Each Army has four corps.   Each corps has four infantry and one cavalry brigades, plus corps artillery.   32 infantry figures and 4 cavalry figures.

The cavalry play a vital role, and the rules allow them to skirmish or attack.   But they represent corps cavalry only – not cavalry corps.

I am now playing with the idea of grouping two or more cavalry brigades to form a division, or even a corps.   I suspect that there would never be more than two brigades together.  This is because our table is wide enough for three corps side by side, with a fourth in reserve.   So it would make sense to combine the reserve corps cavalry and the forward corps which they support to provide an independent cavalry division.

I could well be opening a real can of worms.   I decided about ten years ago to replace all of my 25mm wargame figures with 28mm, mostly Front Rank.   I planned it all carefully, and the result has stood the test of time.   I painted my last figure about eight years ago, and since have wargamed with the planned orders of battle.

If I now find that I can use larger bodies of cavalry, the temptation would be to reorganize my orders of battle to include a cavalry corps with each army.   I could do so by removing the brigades from each corps.   But it would make more sense to leave one brigade of light cavalry with each corps, and add a corps of heavy cavalry to each army.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Commanders in Wargames

Napoleon with First French Army

Our “house” wargame rules are derived from LFS, so command and control plays a large part.  

There are two command roles, the commander in chief and one corps commander for each corps.   Whether the commander in chief takes part in a wargame, or not, depends on where he is on the campaign map.

The role of the commander in chief is to issue orders to his corps commanders.   To do so he has to use his command points.   Each move he rolls one average dice, and adds one if he is Poor, two if Average and three if Gifted.  He uses his points to move around the table, and to issue orders to corps commander.  It requires one for a Gifted corps commander, two for an Average one and three for a Poor one.  

There are four orders he can issue, which are Attack, Engage, Hold or Move combined with an objective.    For example “Attack the hill in the centre).   The corps commander cannot change these orders, but he can replace them with Halt.  

The corps commanders issue orders to their five brigades and corps artillery.   They also use command pips.   They receive one pip for each formed brigade.  They also receive one, two or three additional pips depending on whether they are Poor, Average or Gifted.

The result of this simple command and control is that corps commanders never have enough points to do everything that they want to do.   Also they have to wait for orders from the commander in chief to change their game objective.

I wanted to give the Commander in Chief a little more direct influence on the behaviour of brigades, similar to Wellington moving around the battlefield to inspire his brigades.   But I did not want that influence to be too great.

As an experiment we now allow brigades to add one plus point to morale tests if the commander in chief is within 4” when they take the test.   This is not sufficient to have too great an influence on the overall game.  But it does allow a slight advantage if the player has taken the trouble to position the commander in chief figure in the right place at the right time.

We thought about increasing the addition depending on the quality of the general.   For example Napoleon, who is Gifted, would add three points.   A poor commander would only add one point.   But we agreed that three points on a morale test would be far too much.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, difference this makes to our wargames.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Campaign Confusion

We have started the 1813 campaign, which is now entering its fourth day.   But only three of the proposed five campaign areas are activated.

Meanwhile the 1814 campaign is still going strong, with two of its original six campaign areas still working.   

The campaign is manual, with all of the records kept on my main computer.   However my computer needs a new hard drive and my “computer man” is putting in a new one and transferring everything from the old one.

Meanwhile I have my laptop in use.   There is too much information on the desktop to transfer it all to the laptop, especially for only a few days.   However I do backup the whole campaign on Dropbox, so I was not worried that I could manage OK.  

Its only two days, and already both campaign are in meltdown!

I thought that I had updated Dropbox before I said goodbye to my desktop.   But it is now obvious that I did not backup EVERYTHING.   99% is ok, but the 1% missing is causing the problems.   The missing 1% is, of course, the very latest amendments to the campaign.  And, of course, that is exactly what I need all the time.

I thought that I had a good grasp of who is doing what even without the computer.   But this morning it was brought home how wrong I am.  

I receive about ten emails each day updating the campaign or asking questions.   The one which caused the problem was about “marching to the sound of the guns”.   I should have just acknowledged receipt, but I went on to give an update on what was happening with that particular army.   Unfortunately I mixed it up with another army who had raised a similar problem a couple of days ago.

I realised my mistake within an hour, but the reply was already sent.  So I had to send another email to the confused commander explaining how it happened.   Very much a matter of real life “fog of war”.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Wargame Building Project

Our latest addition is a series of town walls.   I made these, which explains why they look so practical and lack any artistic appeal.  But Jan found it all too boring, so it was either me or not at all

Our wargames scenery is designed to have three different sizes of build up area, all based on 8”x8” cloth squares to show the footprint.   One is a village or farm.   Two a small town.   Four a major city.   I also wanted to be able to use either walled or open towns, hence the walls.   This is for a two square town.

This is the four square city.   Due to Jans house building over the past year or so we now have more buildings than we really need.   Both for northern Europe and for Spain.   So as I make new maps for the campaign I include at least one city in each campaign area, plus eight towns and a similar number of villages or fortified farms