Sunday 29 October 2017

Our Spanish Adventure - Part One

Last week there was a comment on TMP in response to a review I did of my 1813 campaign.   It implied how lucky I was to have retired to Spain with a wife who enjoyed wargaming.  It made me realise how lucky I have been, and prompted me to write a series of blogs about why we made the move.

Why Spain?
Why now?

2004 was a critical year for my wife and I.

First I reached my 60th birthday

Second I was diagnosed with prostate cancer

Third I was made redundant

Fourth we decided to move to Spain

Reaching sixty is an important milestone.   You realise that big changes are about to take place.  You will soon finish full time work.   You will have to take steps to ensure that the best years of your life are not already behind you.

Being diagnosed with cancer is frightening.   You suddenly realise that you might not be here next year.   It is not something you can ignore, you have to come to terms with it.

In normal circumstances being made redundant is also frightening and life changing.   But in these circumstances it was just another challenge.

Moving to Spain would give me hope and a project to work on.

In 2004 everyone seemed to be moving to Spain.  The papers and TV were full of stories of people packing their boxes and making a new life for themselves in Spain.   Like most things in the papers and on TV, there is a lot more to it than is at first obvious.

In the 1990s Jan and I had done a series of walking battlefield holidays.  Four of them in Portugal and Spain.   You don’t see a lot of the usual tourist spots on these type of holidays, but you do meet a lot of locals and get a real feel for the country.

In 2003 we had our first “proper” holiday in Spain.   We spent two weeks on a winter walking holiday in the Canaries.   It made us appreciate how pleasant the winter months can be, and to dread spending our retirement in the UK.

Our previous long term planning for retirement underwent a major review.   We booked up one of the many free house viewing holidays then available and explored the possibility of moving to Spain.   That first venture was a real education, and we discovered more about what to avoid than to see anything we were tempted to accept.

By the end of 2004 I had completed my treatment and we had decided to seriously consider moving to Spain.

Next week I will explain some of the detailed planning prior to the move.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Musket and Artillery Firepower

Casualties and morale are the determining factor in our (house) wargame rules.   It is quite difficult to inflict artillery, skirmish or musket casualties, but once received they have a decisive effect.   Melee always results in casualties, often to both sides.   These casualties have a lasting effect throughout the campaign phase.

For each casualty morale and combat effectiveness is reduced.   There are tables which add and subtract for each type of combat and morale.   Each casualty reduces the dice throw by one.

Defenders have a huge advantage in artillery fire.   If there is no penalty for continuous firing they tend to fire as soon as the enemy enter long range.   The attackers, on the other hand, quickly mask their own artillery as they advance.

Defenders also have an advantage in skirmish and musket fire.   They usually get in the first volley, and again there is no disadvantage in firing at long range, even if the chance of a hit is slight.

Over the years we have introduced ammunition control, especially for artillery.   Maximum moves in our games is 12 moves/hours.   So we allowed each gun to fire a maximum of 6 times per game/day.   This reduced the amount of firing in a game, but the defenders still had a considerable advantage.

We are now trying out a new rule.   When an artillery crew, skirmish or musket volley takes place cotton wool (to represent smoke) is placed in front of the gun or brigade.  
If they do not fire next move the smoke is removed.   If they fire again whilst the smoke is in place the dice throw is reduced by one.

The result has been very pleasing.   Artillery will still often fire at long range, but are much less likely to fire when the enemy are within striking distance of them.   This is particularly true of cavalry.   

We use alternative move rules.   We have a game chip for each commander, which are put in a box.  When a chip is drawn that commander moves next.   As the game gets to the decisive move(s) who moves first can decide the winner of the game. 

When cavalry charge artillery the gunners dice to see if they can evade (providing there is cover to do so).   If they win they can choose to evade or to fire.  If they fail they have to fire.  If they fire, and roll sufficiently high to achieve a hit, the cavalry must test their morale in order to charge home.   If the charge home they rout the gunners with 20% casualties.

If the artillery chip came first, the gunners have the option to fire on the cavalry at long range.   They roll two dice and would require 9 or more, 10 or more if they have smoke.   If they wait until the cavalry turn they fire at short range and only require 7 or more, 8 or more with smoke.

It has surprised us both how cautious we have become about firing since the introduction of smoke.  The process is simple.   Artillery fire is the first sequence of a move, and you simply remove the smoke if the gun does not fire. 

There was a problem with cotton wool blowing around the table.  But that was easily solved by sticking the wool onto a plastic counter.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Start of Linares Campaign

Linares Campaign Map

I am trying out a new type of map for this campaign.  I will use this new style to plot campaign movement and also for the campaign diary blog.  But there is also an old style map with square numbers to transfer the battle to the wargames table.

This is the fifth phase of the campaign in Southern Spain.   The French objective is to move south and capture Saville.   The French have won two of the previous phases, the Spanish the other two.   This would imply that both armies are equal, but in fact the French were quite superior in ability.  The phase results are due to the Spanish having better luck at critical dice throws.

I am still trying to get the balance right between the two armies.  So once more there will be major changes in the orders of battle.

The French have 16 infantry brigades, 4 cavalry brigades and 4 corps artillery.  Half of the infantry are C class.

The Spanish have 26 infantry brigades, 2 cavalry brigades and 4 corps artillery.   There are 14 regular infantry brigades, but 10 of them are C class.   There are 12 militia brigades, all are C class and are independent of the regular army.
For this campaign I am trying to increase the influence of the Spanish irregular troops.   The Spanish outnumber the French in infantry, but half are militia garrison troops.   When a city or town is captured by the French the militia garrison take to the hills and become a guerrilla band.   But they must remain close to their original garrison town.

Guerrilla attacks on isolated garrisons or supply trains are decided by a single dice throw.   They need a 6 to rout a garrison or capture supplies.  However there will be at least six bands operational and each can attack every two or three days.   

The introduction to the campaign is now on the campaign diary blog.  It includes a history of the Spanish in southern Spain, all of the campaign maps and photos of both armies.