Sunday 25 July 2021

Lubeck Campaign – Day 1

13 April 1813 – Northern Germany - Day 1

The Prussian army is deployed on the Lubeck/Wismar district border

The French army is further back from the border, to ease resupply

The campaign opens with 2nd Prussian army crossing the border to attack Wittingen

Despite suffering most casualties, the French held their position and the town

Battle of Wittingen end of move 12

Despite suffering more casualties, the French won the battle

At nightfall they held the northern flank

They also held the town in the centre

They had lost the southern farm, but the Prussians were too weak to advance


The French lost 5100 casualties and the Prussians 4400

The French had 3 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 artillery brigade in rout

The Prussians had 2 infantry and 2 cavalry brigades in rout



The French commander took one infantry brigade from each corps to form the garrison of Wittingen.

The Prussian commander created a reserve of both corps artillery plus the best infantry brigade from each corps.   They supported 4th corps in the north, but were not as effective as expected.   They lost a prolonged cavalry melee, and had to form square against the French cuirassiers.

Wittingen came under artillery fire, but did not suffer any casualties.   At nightfall it was still firmly held by the French.

Without artillery support it was difficult for 3rd Prussian corps to attack in the south.   Their infantry advanced against the farm, their cavalry engaged the French hussars.

This prevented the French artillery from firing on the Prussian columns.   Three Prussian infantry brigades attacked the farm.   Despite heavy casualties the garrison held on until nightfall, when the broke with 60% casualties.

Despite inflicting more casualties than they received, the Prussians were unable to press home their attack.  This was partly because the French artillery dominated the flanks, and their own concentrated artillery was not as effective as hoped.   This in turn prevented their two elite infantry brigades from attacking the town.

It was a sound Prussian plan of attack.  But the Gods of Dice were not with them.

Sunday 18 July 2021

New Campaign Map

Strategic map of North Germany

This map is used for planning the campaign phases for the north Germany campaign area.   It shows the three military regions of Osnabruck, Brunswick and Berlin.   Each region has nine districts.   Each district has nine squares, each square is a wargames table.   A district covers the area of a campaign phase.

Old tactical map of Brunswick military district

This map is used for the daily campaign movement.  It shows much more detail, in fact exactly the same details as will be shown on the wargames table.   Each town has nine squares, and is the size of a wargames table.   Each of those squares is the same as the 2x2 foot scenic square used to created the wargames table.   This detail allows me to transfer campaign battles to the table to wargame, and then back to the map when the game is finished.

There are nine towns, and therefore nine wargame tables.   The three squares between towns is one days march in the campaign.

A similar map has been used from the start of the 1813 campaign.   They started as hand drawn maps and have been greatly improved by using a campaign map making system called ProFantasy.

The objective of each campaign has always been the city in the centre of the map, in this case Brunswick.   Usually one army is tasked with attacking, and the other with defending.   Sometimes both armies will start at the edge of the map, and both will be tasked to take the city.

New tactical map

For the next campaign phase I will be play testing a new map.   Instead of showing one district, this one shows half of two districts.   Lubeck is on the left and Wismar on the right.   It has also been extended to include a wider area.

In this campaign the objective will be for the Prussian army (in Wismar district) to attack the French army (in Lubeck district)   The centre of the map is the border between the two districts.   Each army will be deployed either side of that border.

The reason for this change is to show the two district cities.   Wismar will be the base and main depot for the Prussians, Lubeck for the French.   There are six towns either side of the border, each will be the depot for one corps.   This will make the supply system more complicated, and easier to disrupt.

It should also make the campaign objective harder to achieve.   Due to the longer distance is should also produce longer campaign phases.   Instead of representing nine wargame tables, it will now be twelve tables.

Sunday 11 July 2021

Campaign Casualties

Battle of Waterloo

I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog, so I do appreciate the regular comments of Bob Cordery.    He was one of the first to comment on one of earlier blogs.   He gave me some very good advice on blogging, and was very supportive in the early days.   He is a very successful blogger and author of wargames books, and his comments are often thoughtful and always positive.

Last week he observed how often one defeat in a campaign often leads to a series of victories for the winner of the first battle.   Normally I answer his comment, but I found myself thinking about this one, and realising that it needs a more detailed answer.

You will probably know that my 1813 campaign has been running for a very long time.   As a result I have learned a lot about what works, and more importantly what does not work.

First and foremost a wargame campaign is very much a game.   When I first dabbled with campaigns I wanted to make them as realistic as possible, and preferably follow an actual campaign.   I quickly learned that this usually ends badly.  Historical campaigns tend to be either short and sharp, or very prolonged lasting months if not years.   For example Waterloo was the former, the Peninsular campaign very much the latter

It is important to know which of those two extremes you want to model for your campaign.   If your aim is to provide exciting wargames, it is probably Waterloo style.   The Peninsular type will involve weeks, or even months, of map movement whilst both armies jockey for an advantage.   This can be very boring for your average wargamer.

I started my campaign with the clear aim of providing interesting battles to wargame.   I wanted them to have a flavour of the Napoleonic period, but I did not want to spend hours and hours moving around a map.   So my choice was a Waterloo style campaign.  One that would last four or five days and provide two or three battles to wargame.   That is fine for a one off campaign, but I wanted a long lasting campaign which would last for months, if not years.  So I decided on a series of Waterloo type campaigns, all within the overall framework of a major conflict involving all of the major armies of the period.   What better than the 1813 campaign.

But a large amount of compromise is required to make this type of project work.   It is not enough to study historical campaigns, because they did not follow this route.   Almost all were a series of major battles, often against different nations, spread over a very long period.  

First I had to model the armies on the figures I have available.   Then I had to work out a set of campaign rules which would result in the type of campaign I wanted to game.   The series of mini campaigns was essential.  At the end of each one I would move to a different area and two different armies. At the start of the campaign both armies would be full strength and fully supplied.

Hardest to model was a system which would allow armies to lose a battle, but be able to retreat and recover within a few days.   Clearly this would not happen in real life.  In our wargames, and as a result in our campaigns, armies suffer a much higher percentage of casualties than history shows happened.   This is because our lead or plastic armies will fight much longer, and suffer much higher casualties, than the flesh and blood armies they represent.

My answer was to allow a defeated corps to concentrate all of their infantry casualties, less 10%, in a single brigade.   This resulted in that brigade being removed from the wargames table for future battles.  It also meant that any brigade which suffered casualties in one battle would carry at least 10% for the rest of the campaign.   But that was far better than having those casualties spread throughout the corps.   This is because most of our dice driven wargame rules punish casualties much more than real life.   This is particularly so with my relatively simple wargame rules.   My compromise means that after a couple of days both armies can take the table again, without one side having a huge advantage, which results in almost certain victory.  This inflicts more casualties on the weaker side, making a further battle even more difficult to win.

So the answer is simple, but perhaps the compromise required is too much for many wargamers.   I am always depressed, if not surprised, to constantly read on wargame forums how to make wargames more realistic.   To constantly quote what actually happened as a justification for what rules should allow to happen.   In real life a well led army could recover win against higher odds.   In a wargame this is really hard to model, unless you make the smaller army supermen, and the larger one all ready to run at the first casualty.

My aim is to allow both armies in every wargame an equal, or at least reasonable, chance to win.   The result are enjoyable wargames whether you win or not.   Given that all players understand the rules, the outcome is then down to a small degree of preparation and deployment and a large degree of luck with the dice.   It also results in short fast moving games which are enjoyable for all players.

Sunday 4 July 2021

Review of the 1813 campaign

Map of Europe showing campaign areas

The end of a campaign phase is always a good time to review what went right and what went wrong, and how it could be improved.   It is also natural to review the history of the campaign, and how it has developed.

The campaign started in April 2009, with a hand drawn map of Europe and corps locations shown by using labels attached with blue tac.   This current, and much improved map, covers the same area as the original map.   It shows the same five campaign areas, each with a French and allied army.   In fact the concept has hardly changed at all during those twelve years.

Map of Europe showing campaign phases

The original concept was a series of stand-alone mini campaigns, which I call campaign phases.   Each one would be similar in size and scope to the Waterloo campaign.  It would last five or six campaign days and would produce three or four battles to wargame.   Each phase would last about three months.      At the start of each phase both armies would be full strength and fully supplied.   This concept has not changed at all.  It is possibly the most important aspect of the campaign, because it allows a complete fresh start with each phase.

Over those twelve years there have been 78 campaign phases so far, and they have produced 393 battles to wargame.   I never anticipated that it would last so long, nor that it would provide pretty well all of our wargames.   It took about three months to design and create the campaign.  I wrote campaign and wargame rules to create the type of campaign and wargame that I wanted to play. The aim was to use all of my wargames figures and scenery in sequence.   For example the first phase was Franch v Prussian, then Franch v Russian and so on. 

It has, of course, evolved over that time.  Had it not done so it would surely have folded many years ago?   At the end of each phase I considered how it could be improved, and in almost every case there was a change.  Usually a minor one such as supply or a wargame rule clarification.   However there were also six major changes, which are not to be confused with a new phase.  I call these Campaigns, not to be confused with Campaign Phase.   All are part of the same 1813 campaign.

First Campaign – April to October 2009.   This consisted of 3 phases and produced 15 battles.   It was a solo campaign, and was the real play test for the whole system

Second Campaign – October 2009 to July 2013.   This ran for 9 phases and produced 52 battles.   Each player commanded one corps within the campaign.   They wrote orders and Jan and I wargamed the resulting battles.

Third Campaign – July 2013 to March 2015.   This one had 27 phases and 138 battles.   When I got to the end of 1813 I decided to extend the campaign areas to include parts of France, and called it the 1814 Campaign.  I also redesigned the PBEM element.  Each player would command an army.  There would be ten players each commanding one French or Allied army.   This had the advantage that if one player packed in the campaign, I could take over his command until the end of the phase.

Fourth Campaign – March 2015 to January 2016.   This one had 14 phases and 58 battles.   Nearing the end of 1814 I had to decide whether to carry it forward into 1815.   I was already a little unhappy with my earlier decision to move into 1814.  I liked the historical story of the actual 1813 campaign, a sort of world war of the developed nations of the time.   And I particularly liked that all the armies were more equal than before or later.   The 1812 Russian campaign had destroyed Napoleons Grande Armee.   Furthermore the various allied commanders had learned hard lessons by losing battle after battle to the French.   So at the start of the 1813 campaign I could justify making Austrian, British, Prussian, Russian and even Spanish armies similar in combat efficiency to the French.   So I decided to turn back the campaign clock and start in January 1813.   This was also a PBEM campaign, but by now the player roles were finely tuned and no longer in need of review.

Fifth Campaign – January 2016 to May 2020.   This one had 21 phases and 110 battles.   Over the years the PBEM campaign had become increasingly frustrating.   There was a constant problem finding players to fill the ten command roles.   I also tired of having to chase players to send me their orders once a week.   Many of the players were dedicated, always sent their orders on time and obviously enjoyed the experience.   But a few “bad apples” completely spoilt my enjoyment of the campaign.   I was also tiring of the simple battles which usually resulted from inexperienced players.   So decided make it a Solo campaign again.   Jan enjoyed the wargames, but was not at all interested in the campaign administration.   So I would take on the dual role of umpire and commander.  To make it easier I would only play one phase at a time, rather than having all five areas running at the same time.   It required a complete overhaul of the administration, to introduce a hidden element of movement and supply.   However it would also allow me to produce much more interesting and complicated battles to wargame.

Sixth Campaign – June 2020 to date.   So far 4 phases and 20 battles.  This was the reorganisation of campaign maps to provide military regions and districts.  It was partly to overcome the difficulty of producing detailed maps of such a large area.  Where were the historical national borders?    Which rivers to use, which mountain ranges to include.   By creating a completely fictional Europe divided into military regions and districts, rather than historical nations, I could ignore most of the terrain features which had given me such a head ache in the past.

As I wrote the above I realised again just how complicated my campaign must seem to some of you.   You may find it hard to believe that to me it was a simple concept which developed naturally to meet challenges and problems as they arose.   Over the years I have played with the idea of a different wargame concept.  But I have never come up with anything which suits my wargame requirements so well.   And the fact that I am looking forward to my next campaign phase with such enthusiasm surely proves that for me at least I have got it right.