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.