Sunday 17 December 2023

New Campaign Objectives

Landshut campaign phase day 1

Since the Sixth Campaign began June 2020 the campaign objective has been to take the enemy capitol city, which is also their main supply depot.   In the current Landshut campaign this is Landshut, which is held by the French.

The map shows the deployment of both armies at the start of day 1.   The French are deployed to the left of the Landshut-Ratisbon district border.    The Austrians are deployed to the right, their main depot is Ratisbon.

The Austrians have orders to take and keep the city of Landshut.   To do so they will have to take all six towns in the Landshut region.   Thus this campaign should provide six battles to wargame.

For this campaign to work the Austrians must take the three border towns, forcing the French to retreat to Essenbach, Landshut and Dorfen.   If they fail to take all three, or at least two and thus force the French to retreat or be surrounded, then the campaign has failed with only three battles being wargamed.

I am working on a new campaign concept.  

Once again the Austrians have orders to attack.    They will dice to decide which of the three border towns to attack.   If they lose the French will continue to hold the town, but the Austrians will have a second attempt on day four, when the other two border towns have been fought over.

If the Austrians defeat the French army, but fail to take the town, the French will leave one corps to hold the town.    The Austrians will lay siege.   The retreating French army will have two days to regroup and attempt to raise the siege.

This will require a new set of siege rules.    The actual siege will not be fought as a wargame.    But there will be an exchange of artillery fire, which will may produce casualties to either side.  The siege rules will be simple, and will favour the attacking army.    In Spain there will be the added difficulty of the French supply lines.

The objective is to allow more choice of possible battles, and thus wargames.  

As always there will be a couple of months of play testing before I decide whether this is an improvement or not.   I suspect that after just one campaign phase it will be pretty obvious.

The next campaign phase will be set in northern Germany and will play test the new concept.                                                                  

Sunday 10 December 2023

Landshut Campaign – Day 4

Campaign Map

Austrians attack Essenbach

1st Austrian army – attack Essenbach
2nd Austrian army – reinforce and resupply at Reisbach
3rd Austrian army – regroup and resupply at Muhldorf

7th French army – defend Essenbach
8th French army – reinforce and resupply at Landshut
9th French army – retreat to Dorfen

End of battle of Essenbach

7th Bavarian army are deployed in front of the town of Essenbach, which does not have a garrison. They occupy a strong position with a hill on the left and a farm on the right.

1st Austrian army arrive at the bottom of the table at the start of move 1. On the left 3rd corps has limited space due to the large inn. On the right 1st corps must advance through the large woods. The centre is open and ideal for their attack.

Schwarzenberg leads the Austrian attack in the centre. He has personal command of the 12pdr artillery from 1st corps, plus two infantry brigades. Their first objective is the farm in the centre of the Bavarian position.

On the left 3rd Austrian corps has 6pdr artillery, and are unable to counter the heavier Bavarian 9pdr guns. Their Jager and Grenadier brigades attack and capture the hill, routing the two conscript Bavarian infantry brigades.

On the right 1st Austrian corps has lost two infantry brigades and their corps artillery to the CinC. They struggle to hold the woods, and lose the first cavalry melee. However they rally and rout the Bavarian light horse. They then charge and rout the Bavarian gunners.

2nd corps is tasked with the main attack. They are supported by Schwarzenberg with two elite infantry brigades and 12pdr corps artillery. He opens the attack by taking the farm which dominates the Bavarian centre. 2nd corps then moves forward and routs 20th Bavarian corps


At first sight the Bavarian position seems a very strong one, with the hill on their right and the farm on their left. However they start the battle with 7 infantry and 3 cavalry brigades all having 10% casualties. Most of these are in 19th corps.

The Austrians have 10% casualties in 2 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 corps artillery brigades. The gunner casualties are in the already weak 6pdr artillery in 3rd corps. This means that the Austrian left is unable to support the main attack. However their two elite infantry brigades do take the hill.

The main attack is in the centre. 2nd Austrian corps is evenly matched by 20th Bavarian corps. Schwarzenberg takes two elite infantry brigades and the strong 12pdr artillery from 1st corps to support the attack in the centre. Even with this strong reserve the battle for the centre is hard fought. The Bavarians hold a strong farm, which dominates their central position. It is only when this is taken by the Austrian reserve that the main attack on the centre can proceed.

For the first six moves the battle is slow and the Bavarians win two of the three cavalry melees. In the seventh move pressure is applied to the hill on the left and the weak 19th Bavarian corps on the right. Both break, and the rest of the Bavarian army are forced to retire.

Yet another Austrian victory, four out of four battles won so far. But this was much harder than the battle casualties on either side would suggest.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Wargame Command and Control

The welcome response to my recent blog on our new wargame rules has made me consider how best to represent command and control in wargames. As always this is a very personal response, based entirely on our wargame experience and the type of wargames which we enjoy.

When we first started Wargaming, way back in the late 1960s, we had no understanding about Napoleonic warfare, let along Napoleonic wargame rules. Our first set was “Charge, or How to Play Wargames”. This was a splendid hard cover, glossy page with lots of black and white photographs – what used to be called a “coffee table book”. The rules were pretty simple, and very easy to grasp. I remember that it was a very well written book, and very easy to follow.

Our next rules were Wargames Research Group 1750-1850. These were the very opposite, with lots of charts and very difficult to understand or use – or at least that was my impression. It was fortunate that we did not attempt our first wargame using these rules; it might very well have been our last wargame.

Then came Peter Guilder’s “In the Grand Manner”. Probably my favourite rules, certainly with the warm glow of distant memory. We used these rules for many years, including two visits to Peter’s Holiday Centre in Scarborough. These were the first rules which we adopted until they became what used to be known as “house rules”. That is to say based on the original, but adopted to overcome problems encountered due to repeated use.

Our next were Le Feu Sacre, which really caught my imagination. I really liked their approach, which seemed so fresh and new. Once more we adapted them over the years, and they became the basis of our own wargame rules used for our 1813 campaign.

Our recent rules were my first attempt to write rules completely from scratch, without any influence from a commercial set of rules. It took me a very long time to feel the need to do so, and I really wish I had done it much sooner. I had been very happy using commercial rules, but always became frustrated with what I considered failings. This was usually due to something feeling wrong in a game. I would change the rules to meet this challenge, but usually found that in doing so I created a whole set of new problems. This was, of course, because I did not fully understand the intentions of the writer of the rules.

So with a blank sheet I could create my own rules, and should be able to modify them as this time I did understand the intentions of the writer. I once read that there are almost as many Napoleonic rules as there are Napoleonic wargamers. If you could modifications I suspect this is probably correct.

First I wanted a fast flowing and fun wargame, but it had to feel like a Napoleonic wargame. This meant what used to be called “National Characteristics” However I also wanted a Spanish army to be capable of defeating a French army. Otherwise what is the point of having a Spanish army at all? However this would mean that aspects of the campaign, such as lines of supply and ambushes, would have to be taken into account.

I soon decided that the answer lay in a combination of combat and morale charts, adjusted by luck in the form of dice. For example infantry combat would be decided by the type of troops, their skirmish and their musket firing ability. This would be adjusted by any casualties and finally by rolling one six sided dice.

Morale would be decided by type of troop, supports, how close the commander is and casualties. Once more adjusted by the dice roll.

It sounds simple, and it is. But it also works really well. I keep charts to a minimum, and only adjust them after a lot of consideration and play experience. The most important aspect is the dice roll.

My objective in writing these rules was to allow the player to react as an army commander would in the Napoleonic Wars. There are three levels of command in my 1813 campaign. The theatre commander (for example Wellington) commands three armies each commanded by a commander in chief. Each army has three corps commanders. The first two are concerned with strategic planning and command, and this is confined to the 1813 campaign on the computer.

On the wargames table there are four commanders, the CinC and three corps commanders. The CinC has a tactical role on the table; he can take command of any brigade on the table, or created a reserve by taking brigades from each corps.

I believe that at this level each commander would be allocated a role or objective, and then left alone to achieve it. His main role would be to deploy his corps taking advantages of their various strength and weakness. Once deployed his role would be to direct and control each of his brigades in action. I don’t believe that any commander would rely on luck, though it might well influence the outcome of his battle plans.

So in my rules the dice roll is the element of luck. It should not win or lose the battle, but it should be capable to creating an unexpected crisis for the corps commander to react to. The player can prepare for bad luck by moving close to a threatened brigade, and making sure that they have steady supports. These will add to his dice total. Poor quality troops or casualties will detract from the total. By using one six sided dice the player can easily calculate the odds in favour of his planned move.

Total 1 – rout full move away from the enemy
Total 2 – retreat shaken full move away from the enemy
Total 3 – retreat disordered full move away from the enemy
Total 4 – remain in place, but is disordered
Total 5 – pass morale test
Total 6 – pass morale test