Sunday 26 May 2019

Wargame Command and Control

Fifth French Army (Southern Spain)

We only use Commander in Chief and Corps Commanders as command figures on the wargames table.    

Normally there are four corps, but in southern Spain only three.

Our wargame rules are derived from La Sacre Feu (LFS) rules, and we particularly liked their command and control rules.  

These allow corps commanders to issue orders to their brigades to move, skirmish and fire.   Brigades must remain within 8” or the corps commander or else they are out of command range, and he cannot issue orders to them.  This ensures that the corps operates in a close formation.  If a brigade is detached, for example as a garrison, and the rest of the corps moves they quickly become out of range.   Also as the game develops and brigades start to rout or are shaken and have to be rallied, the corps commander must decide whether to halt the advance, or just leave them behind.

The CinC issues orders to his corps commanders.   These restrict the choice of the corps commander.   In our rules they are Halt, Move, Engage or Attack.   If a corps is not on Attack its infantry cannot take part in hand to hand combat.   To issue orders to a corps commander the CinC must be in base contact.   The advantage of this rule is that corps commanders cannot react to what is happening elsewhere on the table.   They must issue brigade orders in accordance with the objective in their current orders from the CinC.

LFS allows the CinC to have multiple moves.  He has the same basic movement rate as light cavalry, but can move two or three times as far each move.  This is necessary to adjust the corps commander orders as the game develops.  For example to change Engage to Attack so that they can charge and melee the enemy.

I have always been uncomfortable with this rule, because the sight of the CinC moving such vast distances is really difficult to justify.   If light cavalry can only move 14” in a move why should the CinC be able to move from one three or four times as far in the same time.

We have tried to restrict his movement to 16” each move, but allow him to send orders by ADC.   So at least he can issue orders to move than one corps commander at a time.  However it may still take two or three moves for the order to arrive.   In a game which lasts a maximum of 12 moves this is much too long.

The end result is that we have had to create a complicated system which would allow a corps commander to order an infantry brigade to melee hand to hand, even if the corps was on Engage orders.
We have now rewritten the rules to change the role of the CinC and also the orders a corps commander can issue.

In future the CinC will still issue objectives and orders to his corps commanders.   But they will be restricted to Move, Hold or Retreat.  
His main role will be to create an army reserve if required
He will do this by taking brigades from one or more corps to create a new corps
He will then normally command the new corps/reserve
Brigades must remain within 8” of the CinC to receive orders

The corps commander will now be able to order infantry brigades to melee
The whole concept of Engage and Attack will no longer apply

However the corps commander will still have to follow the objective set by the CinC
So he will still be unable to react to what is happening outside his area of operations

If sounds like it will solve the problem.   But as I have learned in the past, things often work out different in practice than they appear in theory.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Summary of Albacete Campaign

Campaign Phases fought in Spain

Albacete is the twelfth campaign fought in Spain, and the sixth in southern Spain.

Of the six campaign phases fought south of Madrid, the French won three and the Spanish also three.  

Albacete is pretty typical of the southern campaigns.   The French tend to do well in the early stages of the campaign, then the guerrilla bands come into play and the French lines of supply come under pressure.   This slows down the French advance, and allows the defeated Spanish field army to recover.

In wargames the French are only slightly superior to the Spanish.   But they usually have more cavalry, and this can be a game winner.   However as always the table top winner is usually the one who throws the best dice.

In this campaign the French were weaker than usual.   They had three full strength corps and a reserve corps of four infantry brigades.   The Spanish had two corps similar to the French, and two with less infantry and no cavalry.  However the Spanish also had a larger reserve of nine infantry brigades, one in each town or city. These became guerrilla bands when their town was captured by the French.

The French were favourites to win the early battles.  However they could not afford to lose too many casualties in doing so, and particularly not cavalry or gunners.   This resulted in cautious battles, and the Spanish were allowed to retreat without pursuit.

As the French advanced their lines of supply came under attack from the guerrilla.   This would not immediately endanger the field army, but it would weaken it.   If a corps was allowed to run out of supplies it would suffer attrition casualties until it resupplied.

After three victories the French had to halt to regroup and resupply, and to reorganise their lines of supply.   The Spanish launched a surprise attack hoping to catch the French unprepared.   This was only partly successful. 

Only one corps is allowed in each map square, which is also four game moves.   Four Spanish corps attacked Hellin, which was held by three French corps.  It took four game moves for the fourth Spanish corps to enter the table, and another four for them to enter the battle.  This left them only four moves to turn the battle.

Campaign casualties also played a large part in this campaign.  One “hit” on the wargames table becomes 400 infantry or 100 cavalry or gunners in the campaign.   Battle casualties are replaced at the rate of one “hit” per corps per day providing they do not move or fight.   However the last “hit” on each brigade is never replaced.   So by the start of the final battle most brigades in both armies had at least one “hit”.   This reduced their combat ability and reduced their morale, making them fragile on the table.   A rout by one brigade would cause all friendly brigades with 4” to test their morale.  And if they already had a “hit” they would deduct one from their dice throw.   It was quite likely that a single rout would result in many more brigades joining them

Despite all of these problems both armies fought hard at the final battle of Hellin.   At nightfall (end of move 12) they each held half of the table.   Both had suffered heavy casualties.  Both had lost brigades in rout.   The Spanish lost more than the French.   But both could carry on for a second day.  

However the Spanish were about to run out of supplies, and were too far north to use their depots.   They were forced to retreat in order to resupply.

This campaign was a joy to game.   The campaign is fictional, and only designed to produce good wargames.   However the problems were very historical.   Supply and attrition decided the outcome.   The French always defeated the Spanish field army, but fought it difficult to deal with the guerrilla.

Each campaign suggests areas for improvement, and this one was no different.   The two major problems on the table were command and control and insufficient space to wargame.   I will be looking to amend the campaign and wargame rules to overcome both of these problems in the next campaign phase.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Albacete Campaign – Day 13

Campaign Map on 20 September 1813 

Giron ordered his army to retreat to Molina
All four corps have used their last supplies to do so
They will suffer attrition casualties until they have been able to resupply

Suchet ordered his army to halt, resupply and regroup
All four corps receive supplies and now have four days per corps
His routed brigades are rallied
Replacements for his battle casualties start to arrive

The French have won the campaign, but are too battered to pursue the Spanish

Campaign Notes      
Suchet arranged for his battered army to be resupplied, and wrote a report to Napoleon claiming a total victory against the Spanish field army.   However he is well aware that the final battle was a close run thing, which could easily have resulted in a Spanish victory.

At the end of the battle of Hellin both armies were fought to a draw.   Both had considerable battle casualties.   Both had used all of their reserves.

However the French were within range of four depots, including their main depot at Albacete.   They ended the day with two days supplies per corps, and could easily restock the following day providing they did not have to fight again.  Even if they did, they would still be in supply.

The Spanish were a long way from their three supply bases.   They were also down to one days supply per corps when the battle ended.  If required to fight the next day they would end that day out of supply.   Even if they won the battle they would start to lose attrition casualties (10% of one brigade per corps) for each day until they resupplied.   To do so they would have to retreat south towards their bases.

The Spanish had lost considerably more casualties than the French, and had almost twice as many brigades in rout.   In addition almost all of their remaining brigades had at least 10% casualties.   They would start a second day of battle outnumbered by the French, and would have to renew the attack to take at least the other half of the town.

The French also had considerable casualties.   They had lost half of their cavalry and  all of their remaining brigades also had battle casualties.  But they were on the defensive, and well positioned to hold for another day. 

It was the Spanish who blinked first.   Faced with the destruction of his entire Army, General Giron ordered the retreat.