Sunday 30 August 2015

Uneven Campaign Battles

 3 British corps v 2 French corps 

My campaign was created to provide interesting wargames.  So it was designed to allow me to wargaming any battle it produced using 28mm figures on my 6x6 foot table.

It started as a solo campaign, so uneven battles were never a problem.  I would just retreat the smaller army and the larger would achieve their limited objective.   The framework was to take a series of cities and towns, so this type of bloodless victory was a win for the larger army.

When I converted the campaign to PBEM it soon became obvious that this solution would not be acceptable, particularly to the player with the larger army.  He would, quite rightly, want his pound of flesh for catching the other player at a disadvantage.   

In the early days we used to wargame these uneven battles.   It did not happen too often, but when it did it was a drag.  

With five geographical areas there are actually five campaigns being played.   And within each area it is not unusual for more than one battle to require wargaming on the same day.

The whole campaign runs to the same time table, so when there is a large number of battles to be wargamed the whole campaign has to be put on hold until they are resolved.

A small battle usually takes about five days.   A large, four corps per side, battle can take twice that time.  

With this background an uneven battle becomes a problem.  

First it is not much fun for the player with the smaller army
Second it takes about ten days to reach a conclusion which is never in doubt

So the obvious answer was to write a set of rules to resolve uneven battles.   I roll 2D6 and compare the total with a simple chart for the result.   The lower the dice the less the casualties.   Both armies always suffer some casualties, but the smaller one always suffer more.

It has worked well for the five years of the campaign.   Paticularly when we had two corps against one.  But this week we had four against three, and I realised that there needs to be different charts to reflect the larger battles.  

The result is the new combat chart in my campaign rules.   If you would like to read them you should follow the link on the right for Napoleonic Campaign Rules.   The latest entry explains the amendment, and the complete rules can be read by clicking on Label 06 Combat.

Sunday 23 August 2015

What has happened to Good Manners

I have had a difficult, and disappointing, week with my PBEM campaign.

Last week I explained about the campaign and that I had to replace one player who had resigned.   Despite asking for volunteers on the six forums I use, I had only received two replies.   However I was pleased that at least I could replace the player who had left.

When anyone applies to join the campaign I send them a sort description of what is involved.  I did so with the first applicant, and asked him to reply within 48 hours whether he still wanted to take part.   I did the same with the second applicant, explained that I was holding the post provisionally for 48 hours, and asked him to confirm if he would like to take part if the first applicant decided he did not want to.

After three days no reply from either applicant.

I wrote to both, and asked if they had received my mail.  

The first applicant replied “Sorry I forgot to reply. I feel that life is a tad busy to take part at present”  

The second applicant replied “I sure thought I had. Yes, I do want to take part”

I don’t know how old they are, or anything about their background.   But is it asking too much to expect the courtsey of a polite reply, even if they decide that they do not want to take part?

Perhaps it’s my age, and upbringing, but I always treat people on the internet just the same as I would someone I met at a club or in the street.   I still do so, despite running a PBEM campaign for five years.   I am, of course, aware that this type of attitude is not at all unusual on the internet.  At least they took the trouble to reply after I sent a reminder.

But it does make me wonder how much longer I want to struggle to keep the PBEM campaign going.

The campaign is very much a labour of love.  I don’t do it to be appreciated or expect players to be either grateful or to commit more than an hour or two a week.   I have gotten as much out as I have put in.  I would be very disappointed to end the campaign.

But I do resent the casual rudeness and general lack of appreciation of the amount of work that goes into the campaign.   Had I been able to take part in such a campaign as a player I would have been impressed at how well it runs.   I would have appreciated the amount of work to provide each player with comprehensive weekly updates.   I would have enjoyed the detailed wargame reports, with photographs, of every battle fought.

I do not at present have any intention of ending the campaign.  But I am not looking forward to replacing the next player who leaves.

Saturday 15 August 2015

PBEM Campaign

The campaign is organised in five geographical areas, with one French and one Allied commander for each area.   Within the area there are ten objectives, and each of these is a stand alone mini campaign which I call phases.

The campaign is six months old, and over the past few weeks three of the five original phases have ended.   So I have been busy making new maps and finding new players.   Fortunately four of the six commanders have committed to the next phase, so I only had to replace two players.

I had one player on the reserve list, and he accepted one of the two roles.   So I only had o find one new player.

I run a campaign Yahoo forum, which has 143 members.   Only five of them are taking part in the campaign at present, so I had hoped that I could find the new player from the other 138.   It was disappointing that not one expressed any interest at all.

I also posted on the forums I follow.  Once again no response on any of the forums, but I did get two applicants.  

I like each applicant to know what is involved, so I send them a letter explaining how the campaign works.   I am waiting for the first applicant to confirm that he still wants to take part.  If not I still have the second to fall back on.

It does surprise me that there is so little interest on the forum.   It must be quite unusual for a PBEM to have run non stop since September 2009, almost six years.   The campaign has changed a lot over that time, but there has been no break in participation.  

76 players have taken part over that period, most for more than one campaign phase.   Some have lasted two or more years, but unfortunately none of the original six players are still taking part.

Obviously the campaign could not continue without the participation of commanders.    And each time I have to find replacements I wonder whether I will be able to do so.   It is not unusual that I only have two or three applicants each time.   But so far I have always managed to do so.

If a player leaves mid phase I do not try to replace them.   Usually they leave because they have gotten in a mess, and it would not be fair to ask someone new to try to take it on.  So I usually take command myself.   I would rather not have to, as I find it difficult to wear the two hat s – umpire and commander.  

The campaign was started to provide Jan and I with interesting battles to wargame.   And what is even more impressive than the number of players, is that it has managed to fill the main role.   For almost six years it has provided a never ending series of battles to wargame.   We have a permanent wargames table, where the game is set up.   We usually play an hour or so each day, so each battle last s about one week.   It is hard to believe, but throughout that six years we have always had at least one battle waiting to be wargamed.

This must be one of the longest running non commercial PBEM campaigns.   Certainly I have not heard of another.   It’s been great fun to run, and I hope it will continue to do so for many more years.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Cavalry Campaign Movement

In the map movement part of my PBEM campaign cavalry are only used for recce.   There are no large bodies of cavalry, only the brigade attached to each corps.

When I wrote the campaign rules I allowed them to move six squares per day on roads, which is double the three squares allowed to the rest of the corps.

I had not anticipated that most players would want to use the cavalry to their maximum movement, though I should have done so.

The problem is when a battle is declared and I have to create the wargame to fight the battle.   Each map square is a 2x2 foot square on the table.

In my wargame rules only army and corps commanders can issue orders to brigades.   To do so they must be within 8” of the brigade concerned.   Any brigades out of command range are disordered and must move to command range of their commander

All of this would not be too much of a problem, if it were not for the fact that in a small one on one corps battle if one side does not have any cavalry they are at a severe disadvantage.   And if the cavalry brigade is two squares away on the campaign map they will not reach the battle area until half way through the game. 

So I have have amended the campaign rules to confirm that cavalry must remain in an adjacent square to their parent corps.  So, in effect, they can extend the recce of the square by one square.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Long Hot Summer

Typical wargames table

When we retired, almost ten years ago, we decided that we would fill our time with things we liked to do.   We divided our available time between what in the Army we used to call “personal admin” and our hobbies.   Personal admin includes housework, shopping and cooking.   Things we like to do involve wargaming and hill walking.

Moving to Spain we had to adjust to more extreme heat in the summer months, than we were used to in the UK.   So we have a different routine for the summer and winter months.   Strangely, for someone used to living in the UK, the summer months are more difficult to organise.

From October to May we never seem to have enough time to do all that we want to.   We usually go hill walking at least twice a week.  We live in a rural village, and get our “people fix” by visiting one of the coastal towns for our weekly shop.  

From June to September hill walking, or almost any other type of walking, is out.   It is just too hot.   The coastal towns are taken over by masses of holiday makers, and the crowds make it seem ever hotter, despite the sea breeze.

So in the summer month’s wargame related activities bear the brunt of passing the time.   I usually try to plan a project to pass the long periods when it is just too hot to venture outside the house.

This year it was new campaign maps.   Throughout the year we wargame most days for an hour or so.   We have plenty of time to experiment with different types of wargames table, and to adjust our house rules.   I want the table to look occupied, without being cluttered.   We use 2x2 foot scenic squares to create our table, and I try to create a lot of tactical options by using the terrain.   I like to have something on each square.   Most tables will have a town, a village and a farm.   Depending on the campaign area there will be between two and six hill squares.   Often a river will take up three of the squares.   Finally a scattering of large or small woods, or broken ground, completes the table.

It has made our wargames much more interesting.   There is now rarely sufficient space to deploy a whole corps, let alone the three or four corps often involved.   Instead of just marching from one edge of the table to the other, progress is decided by the outcome of village fighting or trying to take a woods.  

So despite the large number of battles we wargame, each one is sufficiently different to make them interesting and challenging.

And dealing with the heat?    Well we rise early (for us) to complete a two mile walk before 8am.   And we spend an hour in the swimming pool each afternoon.   In between an hour at the wargames table, and an hour watching a recorded TV programme, fills the time between meals and just a little “personal admin”.  

Not a bad life.