Saturday 17 December 2016

Online Napoleonic Wargame Rules

I am not sure exactly when I wrote my current Napoleonic Wargame Rules, but it must have been about 2009, when I started my 1813 campaign.   Prior to doing so we were using Le Feu Sacre (LFS) rules, a commercial set which were very popular around that time.   As often happens when we use one set of rules a lot we find the weak points and start to write our own amendments.  Before long they bear only a passing resemblance to the original rules.

The new campaign rules were designed to provide multi corps battles using the figures already in my wargames army.   And the new wargame rules followed the same principle, but in addition would provide the fast moving and fun type of wargames which we enjoy.

I freely admit that the new wargame rules were derived from LFS, though they have changed considerably since then.    The great advantage of writing your own rules is that you know exactly what you want to achieve, so you can amend them without upsetting the overall balance of the rules.  And we have done this time and time again in the past seven years.

It was always my intention to record the progress of the campaign online using a blog format.   This was done to provide me with a permanent record of the campaign, rather than because I thought that there would be any great interest in the project.

The blog would contain a daily record of each campaign phase, plus a battle report of each wargame fought.   It therefore made sense to publish the rules in a separate blog.  

This proved particularly useful when I converted the solo campaign to PBEM.   Players could not only follow the progress of the campaign online, but would also have easy access to both the campaign and wargame rules.

Right from the start I used Amazing Counters.   They record every visit to each blog, but ignore any that I make.   They show daily, weekly and total visits from the start of the blog.

I don’t often look at them, but I did today.  I was truly staggered to find that there have been a total of 36493 hits.   Last week alone there were 53 hits.   This is despite the fact that the last amendment was posted on 25 June 2016!

This does not, of course, mean that more than thirty six thousand people have read the rules.  No doubt many individuals have visited many times.   But it does show an amazing amount of interest in a set of rules that were never designed to be read by anyone other than me.   Little attempt has been made to make them easily understood by anyone else.  There are really more a series of reference sheets rather than complete rules.

It is also quite surprising that despite the large number of visits I have only had four comments or questions.

As with most things connected with blogging the reason for so many visitors will remain a mystery.   I would love to think that my rules were being used on wargame tables throughout the world, but I rather doubt it.  

However I am pleased that so many have shown an interest and I hope that they may have prompted others to write their own rules.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Start of Erlangen Campaign

 Deployment at the start of the Erlangen campaign

The latest phase of the 1813 campaign is set in Southern Germany, and deals with the Austrian attempt to take Bavaria and invade southern France.   So the rather dull green Russian and dark blue French uniforms will be replaced with the light blue Bavarian and white Austrian ones.

The campaign has been running since July 2009, and has provided us with 244 battles to wargame.  

Throughout that period the mechanics of the campaign has changed very little.   We still use exactly the same figures and orders of battle that we started with.   We still use the same wargame and campaign rules, though with minor amendments in response to tabletop experience.  Jan and I have wargamed all 244 battles. 

There have been three major changes.

The whole campaign has been recorded in a series of blogs, which are still available online.   When I started I had very little experience of blogging.  Nor did I imagine that it would still be going strong 80 months later!   I designed the blog to be a reference of the campaign, and used the labels to help in this regard.  This worked quite well for almost a year, but had to be reorganised when the campaign went PBEM in February 2010.   The change from solo to PBEM required a reorganisation of the administration of the campaign, to handle the extra work load to service 12 other players.  
The most important change was when I discovered ProFantasy software to make maps.    My first maps were all hand drawn on paper, followed by photocopies of a road atlas with a hand drawn grid.   However the software allowed me to make maps designed from the table up.   Each wargames table would become a grid square on the strategic maps of Germany and Spain.   On the tactical maps each square would represent a scenic square on the wargames table.   The new maps appeared in 2010 and made the PBEM campaign possible.

The third important change was the PBEM itself.   This introduced an ever changing cast of corps and army commanders to contribute and influence the campaign.  Jan and I always fought the wargames, and I always controlled the administration of the campaign, but the players controlled what happened where and when.   It worked remarkably well for more than five years.

I had run many solo campaigns over the years, but none has lasted more than a few months.   Right from the start the 1813 campaign, then solo, was designed to last.   I started planning it just after we retired and moved to Spain in 2006.  

I knew that wargaming would play an important part in our new life in Spain.   Jan and I had wargamed together for 40 years and were agreed that we would continue to do so in retirement.   I decided that I would no longer paint wargame figures, but would concentrate on wargaming instead.   The campaign would provide a framework for all of our future wargames.

We designed our wargames room and the 6x6 foot table, just the right size for two players.   The table would consist of nine 2x2 foot scenic squares.   I then designed the whole campaign around the table.   One scenic square would be one grid on the tactical map.  One wargames table would be one square on the strategic map.

Running the campaign, and wargaming the battles, replaced the many hours per week that I used to spend painting model soldiers.  The campaign diary blog was always part of the plan, and now takes up many hours each week.   I now post an update daily, except when we are wargaming a battle.   These usually take about one week to complete.

Despite all of the above, I am still excited to be starting a new phase in the campaign.   Fortunately we have never lost our enthusiasm for wargaming, I really don’t know what we would do without it.

Saturday 3 December 2016

End of 1813 Eisenbach Campaign

Strategic map showing battles fought

We have just finished the Eisenbach phase of our 1813 campaign.   A daily record of the campaign and reports on each battle can be found on the Campaign Diary Blog

This was the fourth campaign phase in central Germany between the Second French and Russian armies.  It lasted 13 campaign days and there were seven battles fought.   The French won four, the Russians won two and there was one draw.

We started the campaign on 22 September and finished on 30 November 2016.

When we were wargaming the PBEM phase of the campaign I expected to game about one battle each week.  But now that it is a solo game we only managed seven in ten weeks.   This is mainly because there is no pressure to maintain the pace of the campaign required when other players are involved.   I can also take much longer on the map movement, and play around with manoeuvre and plan battlefields.

The most important change during this campaign is the change in recording battle casualties.   Previously casualties were replaced at the rate of 400 infantry or 100 gunners or cavalrymen each day that the corps did not move.   Providing that they could avoid battle long enough, the corps would be returned to full strength.

I have now changed the rules so that any brigade which suffers battle casualties will always have at least 400 infantry or 100 gunner or cavalry casualties.    This is 10% of a brigade strength.  It means that the brigade will suffer loss of combat and morale for the remainder of the campaign.

By the end of the campaign most brigades started the battle with 10% casualties.   This had a huge effect on wargame tactics, because those brigades were always at  a disadvantage when engaged by a full strength brigade.  

A simple amendment, but one which has greatly improved our enjoyment of the campaign battles, and which presents interesting penalties even when both sides are evenly matched.