Sunday, 17 July 2016

1813 Campaign – Magdeburg Phase

French retreat towards Brunswick

Just finished the Magdeburg campaign phase, which was the first of the campaign phase since I have converted from PBEM to solo.

Both the campaign and the wargame rules are the same, and the general outline of the campaign is unchanged.  But running it solo rather than have players taking the role of each army commander has made a big difference.

Most important the campaign flows much faster and smoother.   I don’t have to wait a week for orders to arrive, nor do I have to chase them up.   The orders always make sense, and always result in more challenging and interesting wargames.

However I do miss the imput and influence of other players.   I don’t miss the frustration of having to chase orders.   I certainly don’t miss the constant effort to replace players who have left, particularly if they have only taken part for a few weeks.   But I do miss the pressure of working to a timetable to keep the campaign on track.   I do miss trying to make sense of twelve sets of orders each week, translating them to update six campaign areas and then producing twelve reports which will result in the next weeks twelve sets of orders.   Most of all I miss sharing the campaign with other wargamers and receiving their imput.

On the other hand I got more personal enjoyment out of each campaign phase.   Although I write orders for both sides, the campaign design prevents it from being too predictable.   The campaign map itself has become an extended wargames table.  I can plan where battles will take place, and what terrain they will be fought over.   The result is more interesting and challenging wargames.

When I ran the PBEM campaign both sides had a campaign objective which involved taking and holding a town or city in the centre of the map.   Now that it is a solo campaign one side has orders to attack, and the other to hold and defend.

However the wargame rules ensure that the outcome of each battle is very unpredictable.   Jan and I both have a comprehensive knowledge of the rules, and rarely make a mistake.  So the outcome almost always relies on the luck of the dice.  

The outcome of the battle, and in particular the casualties received, will greatly affect the subsequent flow of the campaign.   The supply rules will often force a halt, with dire consequences for that side.

I had thought that it might become too predictable when I wrote orders for both armies.  But I am pleasantly surprised to find that I have become much more involved with the progress of the attacking army, frustrated when they fail to achieve their campaign objective and quite excited when they win a critical battle.

Magdeburg has been a good example of what I mean.   Napoleon, with the Imperial Guard as part of his First Army, had a campaign objective of taking that city.   Blucher desperately needed to hold it if he was to prevent the French from taking Berlin.   To do so would really mean the end of the campaign in northern Germany.

I was rooting for the French, as the attacker they would carry out my campaign plan.    But I was quite concerned what would happen if they did in fact win.   I need not have worried.  There were only two battles in this phase of the campaign, and Napoleon lost both of them.   In fact that meant that I lost both of the wargames.   Given that one quarter of the French army were the Garde they really should have done much better.    However luck, and the dice, decided otherwise.

The campaign lasted one month of real time and I enjoyed it much more than I expected.   I am really looking forward to the next phase and planning how Wellington can take his army from Oporto into Spain.

You will find the Magdeburg campaign diary and battle reports here


  1. It seems to me that although you have lost the unpredictability of having to assimilate and act on the orders of the PBEM players, it seems to me that you have benefited from gaining a bit more control over your campaigns.

    As I blunder along my own path to running a solo Napoleonic campaign, I am finding your blog entertaining and informative, and I am learning lots from your campaign reports.

    I don't make many comments on what you write, but I can assure you that I read each blog entry with interest.

    All the best,


  2. Hi Bob

    Thanks for your comments, its always nice to hear from you.

    You pretty well sum up the difference between PBEM and solo. I am enjoying having more control, and being able to produce the type of battles to wargame that I want. But there is a danger that it all becomes too predictable and boring in a solo campaign. I do miss the interaction with other human players, despite the fact that it can be very irritating at times.

    I am glad to hear that your Napoleonic campaign is still in progress. I seem to remember that you were just starting it when I started blogging, and that was seven or eight years ago!

    I admire the way that you interact with your blog followers, and the number of comments you receive. I am sure that I am not the only blogger who is filled with envy seeing the number of comments you regularly receive.

    best regards


  3. Paul,

    Regarding my blog, the one thing that I always try to do is to reply to any comments that people make, even if it is only a 'thank you'. That way regular readers feel involved and it becomes an avenue for a dialogue.

    As to my campaign ... well I have been planning it for a long time, but it is only during the past year that I have begun to do any serious work on it. My plan is to varnish, base, and organise the figures I currently own ... at which point I hope to start campaigning. That said, I have a feeling that I will want to add more figures and units as time goes on ... and not only to fill in the odd gaps such as Dutch-Belgian Artillery.

    All the best,


  4. Hi Bob

    I think it's more than just acknowledging comments, which I also do. I suspect that you just have a gift of communicating with your readers better than most.

    Good luck with your campaign. Half of the enjoyment is organising and setting the whole thing up. I know that you have a lot of different projects on the go, and it must be difficult finding time to process them all.

    I will continue to follow your progress on your blog

    best regards



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