Thursday 31 December 2020

Review of 2020

I don’t always do a review of each year, but this year was pretty exceptional and surely deserves one.


I try to keep this blog confined to wargaming and things military, I have another blog which records our hill walking and living in Spain generally.   But the coronavirus has had a major impact on our wargaming as much as any other aspect of our lives over the past year.


It is hard to believe that a year ago few of us had even heard of covid19, let alone how much it was going to change every aspect of our lives almost overnight.


We have had a better experience than many.  The first six weeks were a nightmare.   We were confined to our house and could only leave for essential shopping or to visit the doctor or chemist.  Even then only one could leave.   The Spanish police enforced these restrictions to such an extent that roads, villages and towns were deserted.   My wife was stopped by a police checkpoint who demanded the shopping bill to check the date, and then checked the boot to confirm that the groceries agreed with the bill.   One of our neighbours was fined for walking to the end of our road just to exercise.   Not pleasant, but it did result in total acceptance of the restrictions.  And still does, even though the police enforcement was greatly reduced at the end of the first lockdown.


However we do live in a lovely and isolated village inland from Denia on the Costa Blanca.   The village has a population of just 1000 and most work on the land.   Visitors are unusual and everyone knows everyone else.   It has a very safe feel in these difficult times.


Our normal routine is to walk twice a week with each of the two hill walking groups we run.   We also visit the coast once a week and go for short walks on most days.   In addition we have a couple of wargame moves each day.  We are fortunate to have a permanent wargames room, and there is always a game set up.


During lockdown we could not leave the house at all, so we relied even more than usual on our wargaming.   Without the distraction of walking I also spent a lot of time reorganising our long running 1813 campaign.


First I reorganised the index to this blog, which took me many weeks.  


Then I reviewed and amended both the campaign and the wargame rules


But the biggest task by far was to reorganise the whole concept of the campaign.


It is a fictional campaign based on the 1813 campaign.   I have never tried to recreate the historical campaign, and the orders of battle are based on the figures in my collection.   But I have always tried to recreate historical maps, and to follow historical aims and objectives.


I always found it very difficult to make wargame maps which showed the main physical terrain of Germany and Spain.   Current maps do not show such terrain in the sort of detail which I would require for wargaming.   I was also difficult to find borders of regions and smaller nations and states.    It becomes very easy to become bogged down in detail of the areas where campaigns and battles were fought, but then impossible to find such detail of the rest of Germany and Spain.


I finally decided to create fictional military regions.   I will review how that has gone in the next blog.

Sunday 27 December 2020

End of Erfurt Campaign

Battles fought during campaign


This eight day campaign was the third of the new military region campaigns.  


It ran from 18 October to 20 December 2020

This was a period of much change here in Spain.   At the end of the summer the coronavirus took off again, as it did throughout Europe including the UK.   However it was completely different from the first lockdown, which was one of the most restrictive in all of Europe.   The whole country was put under house arrest for six weeks.   Only one person was allowed to leave for essential shopping or to visit the doctor or chemist.   It was strictly enforced by the police who set up road blocks to check cars had actually been shopping.   At one my wife had to show the bags of groceries in the car boot and produce a receipt to prove she had just bought them.  


The first lockdown was directed from Madrid, and applied to the whole country.  This second one was on a regional basis, and each region could apply their own measures.   Here in Valencia we were fortunate to be in one of the less affected regions, and had relatively light restrictions.   No house arrest, we could leave the house together whenever we wanted.   We could even run our twice weekly walking groups.   At one stage we were restricted to a maximum of 10, later reduced to 6.  But at least we could get out in the mountains and enjoy the pleasure of walking with a group of friends.


We did have a midnight curfew, and were not allowed to leave the region of Valencia.   Numbers in bars were restricted, and service at the table rather than the bar.   And, of course, we had to wear a face mask whenever we left the house.  But this was later amended and we did not have to wear them when “walking in nature”.

By comparison life seemed quite normal.


But it was, and is, still an unsettling time.   Social distance became the norm.   We both had an adverse reaction to our annual flu jabs.   The symptoms were the same as coronavirus, which caused us to suspend our walking for two weeks.   The doctor assured us it was normal flu, but many of our walking group were not at all assured.


All of this had a knock on effect on our wargaming.   We found it difficult to get back into our daily wargame, often with days between visiting the table.   This was most unusual for us, we had always enjoyed our gaming and found great relaxation in the games.   But we now found that we had to make ourselves game.  


I doubt that we are alone in this reaction.   On the surface we have managed to follow our usual routine throughout the summer, walking twice a week and visiting the coast at least once a week.   But we found it very difficult to concentrate on anything for any length of time, preferring to go for a short walk or swim rather than take to the wargames table.


Of course we are much luckier than many, if not most.   Being retired we do not have to worry about our jobs, as so many locals do.   We live in a pleasant house in a gentle, pleasant and beautiful valley.   No crowded inner city living for us.  


But the uncertain future, the shock of how our lives changed almost overnight and the knowledge that we are in a vulnerable age range all take their effect


Roll on happier days when the only thing we have to worry about is whether the dice will be kind or not.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 7

20 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 7

The Russians have secured the northern flank

The French have secured the southern flank

Both are unable to play any part in the long awaited battle for the centre


Both armies have two corps, plus the reserve corps

Both have detached brigades from the two corps to the reserve

This has created three weak corps to fight the battle.


Both armies start the battle with brittle morale

This is due to extensive campaign casualties on either side.

Battle of Weimar, move 6

Both armies have 7 infantry brigades, 3 cavalry brigades and 3 corps artillery

The Russians have one more infantry brigade, the garrison of Weimar

However they must remain within the town during the battle.


The French are reluctant to attack until they can reduce the enemy cavalry

This must be done by artillery fire, they cannot afford to risk losing a melee

If they do so, their infantry will be too weak to launch an attack


The Russians initiate the first cavalry melee, which they then lose

This allows the French to force the enemy infantry into square


Casualties are light on both sides 800 Russian to 600 French

But the Russians lose more of the resulting morale tests

The French win the battle



From the above summary it would appear that the long awaited major battle in the centre was a disappointment.   Nothing could be further from the truth.


The three corps per side were uneven in morale and in numbers

On the left the French were outnumbered, and unable to attack

In the centre the two were equal, and again the French unwilling to attack

However on the right the best French corps was facing a much weaker Russian one


2nd French corps is Young Guard.    Excellent cavalry, good infantry and artillery.   They had infantry and artillery casualties, but no more than the Russian corps opposite. Their 12 pounder artillery were equal to the Russian 12 pounder guns.


Most important they has elite heavy cavalry with no casualties, the Russians had Cossacks with 10% casualties.


The French cavalry advanced and took 10% casualties from the enemy artillery.   They passed their morale.   The Cossacks charged, before the French could.  This gave them a slight impact bonus, but not enough to win the melee.   The French cavalry rallied and charged the guns.   They took another 10% casualties but still charged home.   The gunners broke and ran, taking their supporting infantry square with them.    Within two moves the Russian left wing was broken.


Napoleon was on hand to charge the objective of the Young Guard from the broken left wing to the Russian centre.   Supported by the French centre and left this proved too much for the Russian commander.   He ordered a retreat before the attack could be delivered.


The game was decided by three cavalry melee, and the Russians lost all three.   This was largely because they started the battle with 10% casualties each.   Only one of the three French brigades had 10% casualties.  Not a great difference, but sufficient to move the odds against them.


A fitting final battle to decide the outcome of the campaign, and the French well deserved their final victory.


Sunday 13 December 2020

Six corps armies

Campaign map with six corps per side


You will recall that the problem was to increase the size of campaign wargame armies from four to six corps per army.   This would result in more figures on the table, even for the smaller campaign games.


It would be easy for the French armies.   There are 13 corps available, so dividing them into 6 corps armies would not be a problem.


However for the Austrian, British, Prussian, Russian and Spanish armies there were only 4 corps available for each nationality.


I could have combined allied armies into a combination of two allied nations, for example Austrian and Russian, to produce a six corps army.   But this would cause problems with the permanent orders of battle proforma we used in our wargames.   It was not a huge problem, but it was a messy one.


My “light bulb idea” came after a few weeks of considering other options.   I would use left, right and centre columns for campaign movement.    Each column would have two corps.   The left and right columns would use the same figures, but different corps numbers.   The centre column would use the other two corps.


I hope that the map above will make this more clear.  

Four corps French Army

In the French army 1, 2, 3 and 4 corps are the original, and each are different figures

5 and 6 corps are new.   They are duplicates of 1 and 2 corps, and use the same figures.   The campaign will open with the three columns advancing to engage the enemy.   As the campaign progresses it is quite possible that the two centre corps may combine with either the two northern, or the two southern columns.   But it is very unlikely that the northern and southern columns will ever fight together.   This means that it will be possible to wargame any battle consisting of 1,2,3 and 4 corps.    Or 3,4,5 and 6 corps.


In theory this seems to work well, and will allow me to wargame with more figures in all campaign games.   But I will need to try it out for a couple of campaigns to see if there are any unforeseen problems.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Getting more figures on the table


Campaign map with four corps per side


When I designed the campaign I wanted to be able to use all of our figures and scenery more or less in sequence.   I also wanted to play multi corps games.   And I wanted to achieve all of this without buying and painting new figures.


I had a reasonable collection of 28mm Napoleonic figures.   They were painted in 32 figure infantry units, 8 figure cavalry units and 1 gun with four crew.   Each allied nation has armies of 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 guns and crew.   The French had many more in the same proportion.

Four French corps

This was converted into corps of 32 infantry, 4 cavalry and 1 gun with 4 crew.

There were four such corps for each allied army and 13 French corps.


Each army would have four such corps, giving 128 infantry, 16 cavalry and 4 guns with 16 gunners


My wargames table is 6x6 foot, using 2x2 foot scenic boards.   One corps could comfortably fit on each scenic board.   So a whole army could deploy on the table with three corps in line and one in reserve (see map above)


The aim was that campaigns would start with a series of one corps per side battles, they would then concentrate for two corps per side and the campaign would be decided by a final battle of three or four corps per side.  In theory this seemed like an ideal selection of wargames of different sizes.


However in fact most campaigns are decided by five or six battles.    The first three are usually one corps per side, then two or three.   I don’t think we have ever fought a campaign game with the full four corps per side.


This was largely because of the way the campaign took on a life of its own.   When a corps is defeated they have to retreat directly away from the winner.   By the fourth battle corps would often be spread all over the place.    Having to halt to resupply at least every four moves also added to the difficulty of concentration.   And, of course, the winner would not usually allow the loser the luxury of recovering and redeploying as and where he pleased.


The result was a lot of smaller battles.   They can be interesting, but they are limited and usually do not last for very long.  In a word, they can be a little boring.

Four Prussian corps

For many years I have struggled to make the battles larger.   It can be done by moving each corps on the map to result in larger battles.  But to do so I would have to ignore the resupply and combat rules, and that would destroy the ability of the map campaign to “have a life of its own”


So for the past few months I have been pondering how to increase the size of each army from four corps to six corps.   But to do so within the confines of the groups of model soldiers already available.






Sunday 29 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 6


19 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 6

The main French army redeploys in preparation to attack Weimar

The main Russian army are in position and use the day to resupply and reorganise

Both are well aware that the French will attack tomorrow, and it will decide the campaign

In the north 5th French corps attack Sommerda

Their intention is to prevent 2nd Russian corps marching south to Weimar

The Russians must not only hold the town, but also the road to Weimar

Battle of Sommerda move 10


The battle is the hardest fought of the current campaign

The artillery preparation inflict similar casualties on both sides

The French lose the opening cavalry melee, but the Russians lose heavily


With both artillery and cavalry failing to gain an advantage, it is left to the infantry

Both enter the battle with casualties, but both fight on despite further casualties

After two rounds of melee the Russians have one infantry brigade in reserve

Their attack finally breaks the two French brigades

At nightfall the Russians not only hold Sommerda, but also the road to Weimar



This battle was fought to avoid a very difficult battle to transfer to the wargames table

On the map you will see that both the French and the Russian main armies occupy three squares each.   On the wargames table they would occupy the whole width of the table on either side, with three empty squares in the centre.   This is necessary to allow each side to react to the advance to contact.

If both 2nd Russian and 5th French corps were to march south there would not be an empty scenic square for them to arrive.  This would give them an unfair advantage in the wargame.


So it was easier to fight the smaller battle of Sommereda to decide the issue.   It was similar to the Prussian battle for Plancenoit, in relation to the battle of Waterloo.   Equally important to the outcome, but without a confused mass on the table.


In life this type of battle is easy to react to.   Napoleon fed reserves into Plancenoit to delay the Prussian arrival at Waterloo.  But on the wargames table this is very difficult to recreate.   It is fine if there is lots of space for the reinforcements to arrive and deploy.   But if they arrive on the same scenic square as a corps already involved in battle to its front it is impossible to do so.


One of the advantages of a campaign is that you can avoid these difficult actions by simply ordering the Russians to defend Sommerda.

It also proved an interesting and enjoyable wargame.  Particularly as the Russians (played by Jan) won their first battle of this campaign.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 5

18 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 5

Both armies prepare for the anticipated decisive battles.


In the north the French move their depot to Wiessensee and prepare to attack Sommerda.


In the centre the Russians concentrate at Weimar

The French establish a depot at Erfurt and prepare to attack Weimar


In the south 14th Westphalian corps attack Saalfeld to prevent 4th Russian corps joining the main army at Weimar

Battle of Saalfeld move 10

The battle opens with a cavalry melee, resulting in both brigades routing


The Russian artillery concentrate on one enemy brigade, causing 30% casualties.   But the infantry continue to pass their morale test and hold until the end


The Russian infantry then attack, but the leading brigade is routed

This causes the supporting brigade to rout and leaves the gunners shaken

As the Westphalian infantry advance the Russian corps breaks and retreats



Both corps started the battle with casualties

But the Russians had more than the Westphalians.

This would play a critical role in the defeat of the Russians


The Westphalian lancers charged and routed the Russian cuirassiers

The lancers then charged the nearby gunners, but were routed in turn


The Russian gunners concentrated on the left hand Westphalian brigade

The infantry received 30% casualties over three moves

But managed to pass their morale test each time


The Russians now had the advantage, and should have remained on the defensive

But their infantry charged the right hand infantry brigade

They won the first round of melee, but lost the second and routed

This caused the supporting brigade (who started with 20% casualties) to rout

And left the nearby gunners shaken


Without Russian artillery, the Westphalian infantry now advanced

They broke the Russian centre and sent one half left, the other half right


The Russians lost 3900 casualties, the Westphalians 2300

But more important 3 Russians brigades were routed, only 1 Westphalian

This game could have gone either way, particularly as both sides has weak morale due to earlier battle casualties.


The Russian heavy cavalry should have beaten the lighter lancer brigade, but didn’t


The Westphalian infantry should have broken after 30% artillery casualties (3 hits).

But each time they rolled high, and each time passed their morale

Despite this they were a liability, and a rout could easily have spread


Finally the Russian infantry should have just held their ground

The Russian gunners had already dominated the battle

The Westphalian infantry would not advance into short range of them


But the Russian infantry attacked, lost the melee then broke and ran

And the panic spread amongst the rest of the Russian corps


Interesting game, and very enjoyable to play

Sunday 15 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 4

17 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 4

After three days of fighting both armies are urgently need of rest, regrouping and resupply.


Despite this Davout orders 5th corps to attack Wiessensee in the north.    However Wittgenstein has ordered 3rd corps to abandon the town and retreat to Sommereda.   They have closed the depot at Weissensee and taken all supplies with them.


In the centre 1st, 3rd and reserve Russian corps are forced to retreat to Weimar following their defeat at Erfurt.   1st corps is now out of supply, and the other two corps have only one day left.


6th French corps occupy Erfurt, 2nd and reserve corps halt to rally, regroup and resupply.


In the south both 14th Westphalian corps and 4th Russian corps regroup and resupply




The French are now in a very strong position.   In three days of fighting they have taken all three towns in the centre of the map, including Erfurt which is the campaign objective.   They have also managed to resupply four of their five corps.   Only 6th corps is now in urgent need of supply, and they can be supplied from the main depot at Gotha.


The Russian Army has managed to break contact and retreat to the three towns on the right of the map.   However they are now in urgent need of supply.   Two of their five corps are in supply, two have only one day’s supplies left and the fifth is out of supply.



This campaign is following the usual line.   First a period of intense fighting as both sides try to achieve an advantage.   This leave them both disorganised and short of supplies.   Both are now faced with a period of regrouping and sorting out their lines of supply in order to enter the second phase, which is larger and more decisive battles.


At this stage the winner of the earlier fighting is actually faced with more difficult problems than the loser.  To advance he must establish a new system of supply depots, otherwise he will move out of supply range.  


The loser has fallen back on his supply line and is now within range of at least three of them, including the main depot.


In our campaign supply rules both armies always maintain a minimum number of supplies.   This is set at four days for each corps, plus four days reserve.   At the end of each campaign day I total the number of days held by each corps, plus the number held in all of their depots.   If this comes below the minimum, in this campaign 24 days, the balance is delivered to the army main supply depot.   In this campaign that is Gotha for the French and Weimar for the Russians.   This again is always to the benefit of the retreating army.


The French commander now has to plan the final offensive, and also reorganise his lines of supply to support the advance.   This will mean bringing his depots very close to the enemy.  So a defeat in the final battles could mean losing his supplies and having to retreat.


In this way I ensure that the campaign is never won until the final battle.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 3

16 March 1813 - Central Europe -  Day 3

First major battle/wargame of the campaign

French attack Erfurt with two corps and their reserve

Russians counter attack with two corps and their reserve

Start of Game

The city of Erfurt is represented by four town squares

The Russian army starts the game deployed to the right of the city

The French army is deployed to the left of the city

Each army has 9 infantry and 3 cavalry brigades, plus 3 batteries of artillery

The cavalry and artillery of the reserve corps are C class, minus 1 for melee and morale

End of Move 8

The battle is concentrated on the fight for the city

Both armies commit three brigades of infantry, each commanded by their CinC

As they enter the two sections nearest to them the buildings are removed

This allows us to measure movement, deploy to fight, and measure retreats

The Russians hold both flanks, but lose more casualties than the French

But the French win because they capture the city


Campaign Note

This was an unusually complicated game.   There were two reasons for this.


First the table was quite crowded for such a large army, and particularly the area taken by the city of Erfurt in the centre


Both flanks had terrain which was easy to defend, and the approaches were very narrow.   


The Russians occupied the terrain on their side of the table, and only advanced into the city.  


The French intended to attack, but found it too difficult to advance beyond their own terrain.   Consequently they also deployed to hold.


The French attack on the city was heavily supported by their artillery, and caused casualties to the Russian garrison.  This provided decisive when the French infantry attacked.


The Russian artillery concentrated on the French infantry and cavalry.  They caused a few casualties, but more important they made a French attack likely to be very expensive.  This resulted in a lack of fighting on the flanks.


Interesting wargame, but a little disappointing that it was again decided by town fighting.   This is always decided by the luck of the dice, though the French artillery did help the French attack.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 2

15 March 1813 - Central Europe -  Day 2

In the north 5th French corps retreat

Russian 2nd corps enter Wiessensee


In the centre both armies concentrate for a major battle


In the south there is an encounter battle at Suhl

End of Move 8

Suhl is a walled town and does not have a military garrison

The civilians lock the gates and refuse entry to both armies

14th Westphalian and 4th Russian corps both have orders to take the town

Being unable to enter the town they deploy outside the town walls


It takes four moves for both corps to advance within artillery range and deploy


The next four moves consist of an exchange of artillery fire, which proves completely ineffective and no casualties on either side.  


With just four moves left someone must advance and attack, or it will be a draw.

The Westphalians take up the challenge.


The infantry are ordered to advance, and the lancer brigade to engage the Russian cavalry.   Before they do so the Westphalian gunners fire one last time on the enemy cavalry.   The cuirassiers suffer 10% casualties, fail morale test and are shaken.   As a result they are unable to counter attack the lancer, break and run away.


This exposed the Russian artillery to a flank attack, and they withdraw immediately to avoid this outcome.   Their supporting infantry form square.   The Westphalian cavalry rally and threaten the enemy infantry


Meanwhile the four Westphalian infantry brigades advance in two columns of two in each.  


The leading brigade on the right smash the conscript brigade opposed to them.   They rout into the elite Russian grenadier brigade trying to deploy behind them.   Both brigades run away


The Russian brigade on the left has to remain in square, due to the hovering lancer brigade.   This is not a good formation to meet a column attack.   However they not only hold their own, they win the first round of melee.


By now two Russian infantry and the cavalry brigade are in rout. The artillery are retreating with their guns.   Two infantry brigade cover the retreat.


Fortunately it is also nightfall, and the Russian corps can retreat under cover of darkness.   The Russians have lost 1500 casualties, the Westphalian only 400.


Campaign Note

This battle was memorable because the walled town of Suhl was able to close their gates and defy both armies.   This was only possible because neither side could spare any infantry to storm the town.   Had they done so the town would have had to surrender immediately, as it did not have a military garrison.


This was only memorable because it gave me a good excuse to avoid a second wargame of both sides fighting over a built up area.   These never make for interesting games, because they rely entirely on the luck of the dice.   An there is always a good chance that the result will be inconclusive.


The Westphalian victory was a good result because both the Russians and the French have won one battle each.   Neither side have any strategic advantage, and both are in position to fight the first major battle of the campaign, which will be at Erfurt.


And whichever side lose the battle for Erfurt, their earlier victory will prevent an immediate collapse and will allow for a longer campaign as a result.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 1


Town of Weissensee

The first day of our new campaign involved a battle for the town of Weissensee.   It highlighted the difficulty of having simple rules for fighting in BUA.


On our wargame table BUA are represented by 6x6” squares of felt.  Suitable wargame houses are placed on them to represent villages (1 square), towns (2 squares) and cities (4 squares).   These buildings are removed to allow us to measure distance when troops enter them.


Our latest game involved a town, which is two squares.   Each square requires one infantry brigade to garrison it.   All casualties, morale and combat are calculated on one square.  So a city requires four combats, one for each section.

Move 4

The French commander has detached two infantry brigades to attack the nearest section of the town.   The leading brigade has just entered the town, and a couple of buildings have been removed to ease measurement.   Only infantry can enter a BUA, and they move at 4” per move, which is half of column speed.


A second brigade is moving up in support.   Only one brigade can fight in a BUA, and one of our big problems is trying to write simple rules to cover supports.


Towns can only be attacked by artillery and infantry.  Artillery roll 2D6 and require 10 at long range or 6 at short range.   Minus 1 for each casualty and if the guns fired last time.   So you can spend a lot of time firing at a town and doing no damage at all, especially at long range.


Infantry can skirmish a town, roll 1 D6 and need 6. Get plus 2 for B class skirmishers.   Minus 1 for each casualty and also for target in hard cover.   So again it can take a long time to inflict any casualties.


Infantry can storm a town.   The garrison get plus 2.   If two brigades attack together the get plus 1.   The garrison usually wins unless they have casualties or are poor quality troops.   Elite troops in garrison are a real challenge.


But the latest problem is for fighting inside the town


Move 8 

Previously we only allowed one brigade inside each town section.   Supports had to wait outside.   However it takes two moves to get  from one edge of the square to the other.


In our first attempt at Weissensee we followed that rule.   Both sides moved to the far edge of their town and the French charged the Russian brigade.   The first combat was a draw, both lost 10% casualties.   The second, third and fourth was the same.   In a draw both brigades are disordered, but carry on the melee.   When they reached 40% both brigades were automatically routed.   So after four moves of fighting both ran away!    By the time the reserve brigade came into contact it would be at least  move 10, too late to resolve the combat.


We then tried it with the reserve brigade allowed inside the town section, but not allowed to fight unless they moved through the forward brigade.  This would mean that if the forward brigade routed, the reserve brigade would require a very good dice throw to stand.  And even if they swopped over, both would be disordered for two moves.   Swopping could only work if there was a lull in the fighting.


It should not be a surprise to hear that after just one round of melee the forward French brigade routed.   The reserve brigade rolled their dice, and got 1.   They also routed.


Clearly we have not yet resolved the problem.   But we will continue with the reserve brigade allowed in the town, but not allowed to fight until swopped over.  I may have to adjust the rules, because they should have at least a 50% chance of being able to do so.


Never a dull moment!