Sunday 14 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 7


Campaign Map

Third Prussian army left campaign
Battle of Wismar

1st Prussian Army – defend Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – redeploy at Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – left campaign

3rd French Army – attack Wismar
1st French Army – retreat to Gadebusch
2nd French Army – regroup and reorganise at Ludwigslust

Battle of Wismar – Move 12

The city was the district capitol and the main Russian supply base
It was also the campaign objective

The Prussians deployed just west of the city in a strong defensive position
This consisted of woods on the left, an inn in the centre and a hill on the right

Each of these was a game objective and the winner would be the one who held at least two of the three at the end of 12 moves.

Both sides started the battle with only minimum casualties.
The French had three cavalry brigades to the Prussian two
However the French also had 10% casualties on one of their three corps artillery

The main French attack was in the centre, where Murat formed a cavalry reserve of the brigades from 7th and 8th corps. He would use this reserve to support 8th corps attack on the inn in the centre.

The French artillery was very effective, and caused casualties to the Prussians in the inn and the woods in the early moves of the game. This allowed the French infantry to take the inn and the top left section of the woods.

1st Prussian corps deployed in the middle of the hill on the right. They were out of sight of 7th French corps artillery, who engaged the infantry between the inn and the hill. The French infantry attacked the hill and a prolonged skirmish, musket and finally hand to hand fight took place. The Prussians fought hard, but eventually abandoned the hill and retreated to the road on the right of the city.

In the centre the reserve cavalry under Murat played an important role. The leading brigade routed the gunners, but was in turn routed b y the Prussian cuirassiers. However the second French brigade routed the Prussian cavalry. This allowed 8th corps to deploy between the inn and the city

9th corps occupied the top left quarter of the woods, and sent two brigades to attack the top right quarter. This was held by a Prussian grenadier brigade, who fought off both French brigades. The Prussians then counter attacked and occupied the whole of the woods.

At night fall the French held two of the three game objectives, namely the inn and the hill on the right. The Prussians held the woods, which was the third objective. They also held the city, but this was not a game objective. The French thus won the game.

The French have lost 6 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (2500 men)
The Prussians have lost 9 infantry, 1 cavalry and 5 artillery casualties (4600 men)

Comments

This is the first time that we have allocated game objectives, rather than the campaign objective – which was the city of Wismar. This forced the Prussians to hold the three objectives in the centre of the table, rather than retreat half way through the game to hold the city or town.

For some time I have been frustrated that the attacking army would take casualties approaching the initial defence positions, only to have the defenders retreat before they could be attacked. In a game of 12 moves there would then be insufficient moves left to allow the attacker to regroup and pursue the retreating defenders.

By the simple method of naming three objectives in the centre of the table, and making the winner of the game the one who held at least two of the three at the end of the game, I seem to have solved this problem.

Strange how the answer to a long standing problem is so often very obvious once identified.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 6


Campaign Map

Third Prussian army retreat off map
Battle of Schwerin

1st Prussian Army – regroup and resupply at Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – battle of Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – retreat off map

3rd French Army – regroup and resupply at Boltenhagen
1st French Army – attack Schwerin
2nd French Army – occupy Ludwigslust

Battle of Schwerin

Napoleon commanded the First French Army, which included the Imperial Garde. They had fought Blucher at the battle of Gadebusch three days earlier. That battle had been a technical victory for the Prussians, but they had suffered heavy casualties of 3100, compared to only 400 French. Napoleon was determined to crush the Prussians this time.

But it was not to be. The French lost a large cavalry battle, leaving two of their three brigades in rout. This left Napoleon at a serious disadvantage, and he would have to expose his infantry to win the day.

2nd and 3rd French corps attacked the hills on the flanks, and 1st (Imperial Garde) was given the take of taking the town in the centre. They took the hill on the right, but not the one on the left.

The cavalry moved forward to cover the Garde infantry, but when they lost the melee and routed the infantry had to form square and call off their attack.

Blucher continued to hold the hill on his left, but withdrew 5th corps to Schwerin and 4th corps to the fortified inn on his right. At nightfall he held a very strong position, and Napoleon called off the attack.

The French lost 3500 men (mostly in the Imperial Garde) to 1500 Prussians.

A convincing Prussian victory

Comments


Although the Prussians held a strong defensive position, they looked like they were facing defeat. They had lost heavy casualties at Gadebusch, and had only two cavalry brigades to the French three brigades. The French had only lost 400 men at Gadebusch.

Napoleon had been robbed of a victory at Gadebusch when Blucher withdrew before the French could close and complete their attack. This was partly because Napoleon had hesitated to risk casualties to his Garde. He would not make this mistake twice.

1st Garde corps was placed in the centre, and would attack Schwerin. It would be supported by a cavalry division (two brigades) led by Napoleon himself. The high ground to the left and right would be left to 2nd and 3rd French corps. They were not expected to take the high ground, but would pin two of the three Prussian corps.

The Garde artillery was deployed to be able to continue to fire even as the infantry went forward. The cavalry division would engage the Prussian cavalry and then concentrate on the Prussian guns in the centre.

The French did not wait for their artillery to weaken the enemy, that delay had cost them victory at Gadebusch. The attack began on move 3, when the cavalry moved forward to engage the Prussian cavalry. At the same time the infantry marched towards Schwerin.

The French cavalry included the elite guard chasseurs, and should have at least held the Prussian cavalry. However luck allowed the Prussians to charge first, giving them an advantage. They then rolled 5 and 6 on their melee dice. The French brigades both suffered 10% casualties, the two Prussian brigades none. The second round of melee was 10% casualties to all four brigades. But the French now had 20% casualties, failed their morale and routed.

Both Prussian brigades had passed their morale, and now turned on the garde infantry. The French had to form square, and unlimber their artillery to drive off the Prussian horsemen. They managed to do so, but it allowed the Prussians to withdraw to a second position in and around Schwerin.

Not only had Napoleon run out of time again, but this time he had suffered much heavier casualties, particularly in the garde infantry. First French Army was broken, and he had to call off the attack. A moral, and physical, defeat of the first order.

A bad day for the French (me), a great day for the Prussians (Jan)

Sunday 31 March 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 5


Campaign Map                                                 


1st Prussian Army – retreat to Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – regroup and resupply at Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – second battle of Ludwigslust

3rd French Army – advance to Boltenhagen
1st French Army – regroup and resupply Gadesbusch
2nd French Army – second battle of Ludwigslust

Battle of Ludwigslust – Day Two

Each army started day two in the same positions they ended day one
However they were allowed to regroup and redeploy
This left the French stronger than the Prussians

French Army – 11 infantry brigades, 3 cavalry brigade, 3 corps artillery
Prussian Army – 9 infantry brigades, 2 cavalry brigade, 2 corps artillery

French artillery opened the game, and proved more effective than usual
They had more guns than the Prussians, and concentrated on the infantry
The Prussian gunners were less effective as they opened on the French artillery

On the left the French advanced to take the bridge
Their cavalry were routed, and the infantry unable to reach the bridge
The Prussians only retreated when the rest of their army did so

The Prussians fought hard to hold the town and both brigades received casualties
The French artillery fired at long range, and their infantry skirmished
Only when the garrison was weakened did the infantry storm and take the town

On the right the Prussians also fought well, though they had to abandon the woods
Their cavalry were routed and the infantry had to retreat when the town was lost

The French won, but it was a hard fought battle

Comments

Reorganisation means adjusting the casualties to allow the corps to fight again
Previously all casualties were removed, except for one per brigade
However this results in very weak brigades, which often fail morale tests
This in turn means that an army fighting a second battle will be very unpredictable
That in itself is not a bad thing, but it does often result in very annoying results
For example a brigade with one casualty will often rout when it received one more
This in turn will often spread any brigades within 4”, who must then test their morale
It is not unusual to have a knock on effect resulting in a whole corps running away
And all because the first brigade rolled a low dice for their morale test

So in this game I did it slightly different.

Infantry casualties could be concentrated in one brigade in each corps
This would always be the one which had received the most casualties
If there were more than two casualties, the brigade would be removed
However all other brigade would start the game full strength

Cavalry and artillery casualties would be concentrated in one brigade for the whole army. Again this would be the brigade which had received the most casualties.

It worked well in this game. The French lost one infantry brigade, the Prussians lost three. However it did not make a lot of difference in this particular game.

The Prussians also lost one cavalry brigade and one corps artillery. The French has just one casualty in one cavalry brigade and one corps artillery. The cavalry did not make much difference, as they were concentrated in 8th corps, which held the town. The artillery did make a difference. On the flanks the Prussians had artillery, which kept the French guns at bay. But they had none in the centre, and the French infantry and artillery were able to approach the town without fear of long range casualties from enemy artillery.

This is the first time that we had fought a second day of a battle. It proved more even than I had expected, though the stronger French did win in the end. But they suffered equal casualties, and it could easily have gone the other way.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 4


                                    Campaign Map                                                 

Prussians retreat to Schwerin
Battle of Ludwigslust

1st Prussian Army – resupply at Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – retreat to Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – battle of Ludwigslust

3rd French Army – rally and regroup at Ratzeburg
1st French Army – occupy Gadebusch
2nd French Army – attack Ludwigslust

Battle of Ludwigslust

The French deploy their infantry and cavalry out of artillery range, but place their artillery within range of the Prussian infantry.   They protect their gunners by placing their cavalry just out of range of the Prussian guns, but within counter charge move of any attempt to charge their gunners.   This tactic worked extremely well, as can be seen by the high number of Prussian infantry casualties 

They then attacked on both flanks.   On the left bank of the river Elbe, 6th corps advanced to take the bridge.   They won the cavalry melee, and forced the defending infantry to retreat in square.   The French cavalry then crossed the bridge to threaten the Prussian artillery on the right bank of the river.

On the opposite flank 4th corps artillery opened fire on the garrison of the farm, who retreated with 30% casualties.   The French infantry could then occupy the farm out of range of the Prussian artillery.

Before the French could advance in the centre the Prussian army started to withdraw towards Ludwigslust.    This started at move 8, when it was too late for the French to pursue and still have time to attack before nightfall at move 12.

Once more the Prussians had won a technical victory.   They had delayed the French attack for most of the game, and then withdrew rather than try to defeat the main French attack.

The Prussians lost 6 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 gunners.

The French lost 1 gunner

 

Comments

The Prussian tactic of holding their ground for 6 to 8 moves and then withdrawing before the French attack has proved very effective, and very difficult to counter.  

 

The French must soften up the Prussians before launching their main attack.   Otherwise they risk taking very heavy infantry casualties as they advance into artillery short range and face the skirmish and musket fire of the defending brigades.  

There are only two ways this can be done.   The artillery can try to inflict casualties on the defending artillery, cavalry or infantry (in that priority).   However time is very limited.   The attackers take about four moves to advance and deploy just out of artillery range.   They then manhandle their guns into range and hope to win the artillery battle.   But they have a maximum of four moves to do so, because it will take at least four moves to reach the game objective (usually the town).   

If the attackers fail to achieve this will artillery fire, they must send forward their cavalry to either charge the enemy gunners or cavalry.   If they then lose their cavalry without weakening the enemy more the attackers have lost the game.   Infantry alone cannot hope to win against stronger artillery, cavalry and infantry.

However the most notable aspect of this game has been the huge difference in casualties between the attacking French and the defending Prussians.   But despite this the French were unable to prevent the Prussians retreating before they could reach them.  

For once I am going to fight a second day.   This will pit the now stronger French against the Prussian held town.   It will be interesting to see how it works out, given the unpredictable effect of the dice on morale and combat effects.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Campaign Supply System


Spanish Campaign Map with depots and garrisons 

I have always considered lines of supply to be an important part of the campaign.   In a historical campaign is would be all important.   However my campaign is designed to provide interesting battles to wargame, so it has always been abstract.   I have used it to restrict movement and weaken field armies by detaching brigades to guard the lines of supply.

Each army has nine corps, and each town provides sufficient supplies for one corps each day.   At the start of the campaign each army controls six towns, and the balance of three days supplies is delivered to the main supply depot, which is also the regional capitol, in this case Toledo for the French.

Each corps starts the campaign with four days supplies.   To resupply it must be within one days march (three squares) of a friendly town, and of course that town must have sufficient supplies.

So far so good and pretty simple.   But it requires a lot of administration to ensure that there is sufficient supplies at the right town at the right time.    As the attacking army advances it becomes increasingly difficult.   This is fine in an historical campaign, where the supply system should be a major concern for each army commander.  But I want to keep administration to a minimum, and to concentrate on the actual battles

Current Campaign Map    

Most Napoleonic campaigns, apart from Russia and Spain, did not have significant supply problems.   The aim was to overpower and defeat the enemy field army and thus end the campaign.   This was normally achieved within a short period, and the winning army would then live off the conquered territory.   Lines of supply would have to be secured, but this was done by second line troops and did not usually cause problems for the main field army.

For many years I have struggled to create a simple, but effective, supply system for the campaign.  This has involved moving supplies on the campaign map.   It takes a lot of work, and has very little effect on the campaign itself.   I used to detach brigades from each corps, but this proved too much of a burden on the attacking army.   Eventually I allowed them an extra reserve corps with sufficient brigades to man all the depots.

I have now decided to abandon this cumbersome, and time consuming system.   In future providing that a corps meets the requirement to be stationary during the whole day, not in contact with the enemy and within one day’s march of a friendly town they will be able to resupply.

In Spain I will have a different system.   Depots and lines of supply will still be open to attack by the guerrilla bands.   As now I will roll a dice to determine the outcome of these attacks.   If supplies are lost the corps concerned will not be able to resupply until new supplies arrive.  This will result in attrition casualties if the corps runs out of supply as a result.  

This will greatly reduce the amount of administration, and I hope will not have too great an effect on the campaign itself. 

Sunday 10 March 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 3


Campaign Map                                                 


French retreat to Ratzeburg
Battle of Gadebusch

1st Prussian Army – regroup at Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – battle of Gadebusch
3rd Prussian Army – regroup at Ludwigslust

3rd French Army – retreat to Ratzeburg
1st French Army – attack Gadebusch
2nd French Army – regroup at Hagenow

Battle of Gadebusch

Second Prussian army occupied a very strong defensive position, with a hill on the right and a walled farm on the left. One corps occupied each of these, with a third in the centre in front of Gadebusch.

To reach them The French would have to cross a line of hills, with one road in the centre and two small valleys on either side. The majority would have to cross the mountain range, which would take four moves as they had to move at half speed on the hills.

The main French attack would be on the walled farm on the left, with a secondary attack on the hill on the right. Once one of these objectives was taken 2nd corps in the centre would advance towards Gadebusch.

Despite heavy casualties the Prussians put up a determined defence, and managed to hold both the farm and the hill throughout the day. The decisive attack in the centre was never delivered.

Out of three battles the Prussians had now won two. However given their casualties it might well prove to be a pyrrhic victory.

Prussians lost 7 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 artillery casualties (3600 men)
French lost 1 infantry casualty (400 men)

Comments

On paper this should have been a French victory. First French Army is commanded by Napoleon himself, and the first of his three corps are the Old Guard.

However to reach the Prussians they have to cross over a large mountain range. On the wargames table this is three large hills, with a road running through the centre one. All movement on these hills is at half normal speed, which meant they would take 4 of the maximum 12 moves to clear the high ground

The Prussians held a very strong defensive position, and their guns and artillery would be able to engage the French as they struggled down the mountain slope to reach the plain.

There was also the “wargames problem” of equal armies. Although the French had a lot of elite troops in 1st corps, this was balanced by more conscripts in 2nd and 3rd corps. Overall the Prussians had as many elite troops as the French, but they were spread between all three corps. The French would have gain an advantage in either cavalry or artillery before they could commit their main attack in the centre. They would also have to support the corps making the main attack, which would mean weakening either their left or right attack.

The slow approach march meant that there was not much time to gain the required advantage. They lost two of the three opening cavalry melee, and their artillery failed to cause any damage to the Prussian gunners. To their infantry would have to attack without any advantage.

Napoleon did not want to risk his Old Guard in the centre. They were given the take of taking the hill on his left. However to avoid casualties they did so without their usual aggressive flair. The result was a stalemate.

The attack on the farm was more successful, but it took too long. Two Prussian brigades were routed, but the remainder still held the farm at nightfall.

The attack in the centre was delayed by this lack of success on the flanks. They moved forward on move 9, but the Prussians immediately withdrew closer to the town. This required the French artillery to redeploy to support the attack. This took two game moves, and it was too late for the attack to succeed before nightfall.

A well fought, and quite clever, wargame for the Prussian player (Jan). Less so, and quite disappointing for the French player (me)

However things are not quite how they seem.

The Prussian held hill on the right is under attack by the Old Guard. The Prussians have already lost their cavalry and one infantry brigade. Their gunners have abandoned their guns and are inside an infantry square. The French infantry are not well placed to attack the hill, but will be by morning.

The farm on the Prussian left is under attack. The garrison is holding its own, but the rest of the corps has suffered casualties, ran away, rallied and been brought back to support the farm. However they are all placed behind the farm to shelter them from the French artillery. Their gunners and one infantry brigade is in rout. Once more the French corps is disorganised and most of their brigades in the wrong place to attack the farm. But by morning they will be redeployed.

The Prussian centre is strong and has not suffered any casualties

Blucher would like to attack the retreating 3rd French corps in the north, and attempt to hold Gadesbusch in the centre. But to do so he would risk the destruction of 2nd corps at Gadesbusch. This would allow 1st French corps to move north and join forces with 3rd French corps to defeat 1st Prussian corps between Ratzeburg and Boltenhagen.

His nerve breaks and he orders 2nd corps to retreat to Schwerin.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 2


Campaign Map

Prussians advance to border
Battle of Boltenhagen

1st Prussian Army – battle of Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – advance to border
3rd Prussian Army – retreat to Ludwigslust

3rd French Army – attack Boltenhagen
1st French Army – hold Wittingen
2nd French Army – occupy Hagenow

Battle of Boltenwagen

The battle opened with the Prussian army dispersed. 2nd corps was deployed on the border, with 1st and 3rd corps three hours behind them either side of the town.

The French were concentrated, and would arrive on the table at the start of move one. It appeared that they had a distinct advantage.

On move one both armies advanced, the Prussians eager to occupy the hill on their left and the woods on their right. The French wanted to get their guns into position before the Prussians would deploy.

The Prussians took first casualties, when a landwehr brigade in the centre was hit by artillery fire. They passed their morale test and held their ground. On the right French cuirassiers charged Prussian hussars, the hussars won.

On the left Polish lancers charged Prussian hussars on the hill. Again the Prussians won, again the French retreated shaken. Meanwhile both 7th and 8th corps artillery received casualties. 7th passed their morale, 8th retreated shaken

On the right 7th cuirassier rallied and charged the Prussian hussars again. There was a prolonged melee, which ended with both brigades retreating shaken with 30% casualties

The Prussians withdrew closer to the town, and out of artillery range. The French had lost too many cavalry and gunners to continue the attack. They allowed the Prussians to redeploy and accepted defeat.

Comments


By the end of move 6, just half way through the game, it was clear that the Prussians had won the battle. The French had lost 4 cavalry and 2 gunners (600 casualties) to the Prussian 3 cavalry and 2 infantry (1100 casualties)

Each army has lost 30% cavalry casualties in melee, leaving both brigades completely broken. However the French has also lost 10% in a second cavalry brigade and the same in two of their three corps artillery.

First Prussian Army now had considerable advantage in both cavalry and artillery, and would continue to do so for the remainder of the campaign. They were allowed to retire out of artillery range, but still in front of the town. The French could not continue to attack when outnumbered in cavalry and gunners, even if there was still time left to do so.

An interesting start to the campaign, with one battle won to each side. But the one sided cavalry and artillery losses to the French would be very difficult to overcome for the duration of the campaign.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 1


Campaign Map                                                 


The campaign opens with a surprise French attack in the south

1st Prussian Army – hold Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – hold Gadebusch
3rd Prussian Army – defend Hagenow

3rd French Army – hold Ratzeburg
1st French Army – hold Wittingen
2ndFrench Army – attack Hagenow

Battle of Hagenow

The campaign opens with a surprise attack by Second French Army on Hagenow
The Prussian army is deployed just east of the Lubeck/Wismar border
Each army has one corps on the border, the other two slightly further east.
Third Prussian army is tasked to hold Hagenow

The French cross the border at the start of move 1
7th and 9th Prussian corps advance to support 8th corps
On the right 7th corps cavalry charge and rout the French cavalry
This will delay the advance and deployment of 4th French corps

Both armies have detached one infantry and two cavalry brigades west of the Elbe
The Prussian cavalry charge and rout the French cavalry
However the French infantry advance and rout the disordered Prussian cavalry
The French win the fire fight and the Prussians retreat and abandon the bridge

The French now attack east of the river, to take advantage of their success
However they lose the fire fight and retreat.

The battle is decided by 5th French corps who attack in the centre
They break and rout 8th Prussian corps who retreat to the east of Hagenow
The French then swing left to attack the hill

4th French corps advance to support 5th corps
But night falls before they can take the hill

At nightfall the Prussians still hold the bridge on the left and the hill on the right
They also have one infantry brigade in the town itself
However they have six brigades in rout and they are about to lose the hill

The Prussians retreat overnight and abandon Hagenow

Comments

For most of this game it looked like the French would fail to take the town
They lost the first two cavalry melee, which delayed their advance
Despite having more effective artillery, they failed to do much damage
Their success west of the river Elbe was not conclusive
The French supporting attack on the east bank was a complete failure
At nightfall the Prussians still held their left flank.

However the French victory in the centre had broken 8th Prussian corps. They routed between the village and the hill on the right. This allowed 5th French corps to swing left and support the attack by 4th corps on the hill. It all happened too late in the day to be effective. But the hill must fall if the Prussians fought a second day.

Although it is not clear in this summary, nor in the more detailed battle report on the 1813 campaign blog, the most striking thing about this campaign was the effect of the new morale rules. They rely on one D6, plus or minus for type of troops, casualties and the position of the corps commander.

1 – rout full move away from enemy (friendly brigades within 4” test for morale)
2 – retreat a full move shaken (no morale test for supports)
3 – retreat a full move disordered (will automatically rally next round)
4 – disordered (will automatically rally next round)
5 – pass morale test
6 – pass morale test

In this particular game a lot of routed brigades were able to pass morale and rally, even if they were routed with 10% casualties. They might still be a long way from the enemy, and not be able to rejoin the battle before nightfall. But in many cases they could.

This was particularly so for cavalry brigades. Because of their longer movement rate they were more likely to be able to rejoin the battle. Although their effectiveness would be reduced due to casualties, they would still be a threat to enemy brigades which were temporarily disordered.

The revised morale rules also mean that attacks are much more uncertain. The leading brigade in any attack would usually suffer at least 10% casualties, and therefore have to test their morale. A low dice, especially if it resulted in their rout, could throw the whole attack into confusion. If one or more supporting brigades (within 4”) also failed their morale it could be the end of the whole attack. This is what happened to the French attack along the west bank of the river Elbe.

Many wargamers might find this unfair. But I suspect that this type of thing happened all too often in all battles, not just Napoleonic. Given that the historical reports tend to be written by the winners, it would probably not get the attention it deserved. And in the confusion of battle it must be very difficult to determine what did in fact turn the tide for the winners. Given our circumstances, where Jan and I have wargamed together for 50 years, we need something drastic to counter the fact that we both know the rules and each so well.

A very interesting, and also very enjoyable, first battle of the new campaign.

Sunday 18 February 2024

Wismar Campaign

Map of Germany

The next campaign phase will be set in north Germany, where Napoleon commands the First French army against Blucher’s Prussian army.

In our campaign Germany is divided into nine military regions, as shown on this map.   Each region has nine districts, each of which is a possible campaign area.   Each district has nine towns each of which is the size of a wargames table.

Germany is divided into three theatres, each one has its own French and allied army.

North is First French army v Prussian army.   Centre Second French army v Russian army.   South Third French army v Austrian army.  The stars indicate the campaign phases fought since the last campaign reorganisation in June 2020.   The colour of the star shows which side won the phase.   The white star is Wismar.

Brunswick Region

This map covers Brunswick region.   It shows the main road, rivers, woods and mountains.   It also shows the nine military districts, with Wismar in the top right.  The stars show the location of all battles fought in this area since June 2020.   Napoleon has won nine, Blucher six.

Wismar Campaign Map

This is the campaign map for the Wismar phase.  It shows the location of each French and allied corps at the start of the campaign.   Although it is called the Wismar phase, it covers the area from Lubeck (French main depot) to Wismar (Prussian main depot.   The objective is for the French to cross the border and take the city of Wismar.   But it is also possible that the Prussians may win the opening battles and push the French back towards Lubeck.

Wismar Wargames Map

This map covers the same area as the campaign map, but it shows the scenic tiles used to create the wargames table.   You will note that it has the same towns, road system, river system, woods and hills as the campaign map.   Each square has a number in the top right corner, which is the number of the scenic tile.   This makes it easy to create the wargames table from the campaign map.

Comments

The aim of the campaign is to use all of my 28mm figures and scenery in rotation.   So I had to use Napoleon, who had to have his Imperial Guard.   He commands the French First Army, which includes the 1st (Old Guard) Corps.    The Young Guard are distributed between the other four theatres.

When I created the campaign I considered whether I wanted to have Napoleon and the Imperial Guard on the wargames table.   Everyone who is likely to look at my 1813 campaign diary blog will know that the Old Guard were only defeated once, and that at Waterloo.   They will also expect Napoleon to win all the battles he fights, because he did in real life, again except Waterloo.   Finally they will probably be aware that the Old Guard were the ultimate reserve, only to be used when victory was certain, or defeat very likely.           

This would not work in a long running campaign.   My wife and I fight all the wargames, and it would be pretty boring if Napoleon and the Old Guard were so powerful that they won battle after battle.   So in my campaign they are no better than the elite Prussian grenadier brigades they are pitted against.   And it is even possible, though unlikely, for a Prussian landwehr brigade to defeat the Old Guard.   Not very historical, and something many wargamers might find very difficult to accept.   But essential to make for interesting and enjoyable wargames for both players.

Since 2020 we have fought three campaign phases in north Germany.  They were in Lubeck, Brunswick and Goslar.   There were fifteen battles fought and as noted above the French won nine and the Prussians six.   That is just luck, but is also indicates that I have the balance about right.

Jan likes to command the defending army, in this case Blucher and the Prussians.   She is quite happy with the balance between the two armies, and certainly intends to win the Wismar campaign.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Review of 1813 Campaign

 

Map of Europe

 The end of a campaign phase, and particularly when it comes at the start of a new year, is always a good time to review the campaign to date.

 This campaign started in April 2009.   It was designed to provide a never ending series of battles to wargame.   It was never intended to bear more than a passing resemblance to the historical campaign of 1813.   I choose that campaign because covered Germany and Spain, and more important it included all of the major armies of the period. 

 For many years I had created campaigns, mostly to give a background to my wargames.   Some had been attempts to recreate historical campaigns, notably Waterloo, Leipzig and Spain.   I had always been unsatisfied with the results.  Campaigns take a lot of work to create.   Maps, orders of battle all take a lot of time to produce.   It is also necessary to be able to recreate a wargames table which looks something like the historical one.   Finally you have to compromise to make your collection of model soldiers look something list the historical order of battle.

 My 1813 campaign was an effort to overcome all of these obstacles.

 I wanted to be able to use all of my large collection of Napoleonic armies, and all of the scenery I have bought and made over the years.  So I decided there would be five separate theatres of operations.   Namely north, central and southern Germany, plus north and south Spain.

 Each theatre would have French and an allied army.   North Germany would be Prussian, Central Germany Russian, Southern Germany Austrian.   North Spain would be English and South Spain Spanish.  

 Instead of trying to keep one huge campaign going throughout all five theatres, I would run a series of mini campaigns which I call campaign phases.    Each one would be completely independent, and each would start with a full strength French and allied army.   I would start in north Germany, and work my way through each theatre in turn.   Each phase was roughly the size of the historical Waterloo campaign, both in area covered and in limited objective.   Each one would last about 6-10 days and provide 3-6 battles to wargame.

 This campaign concept was much more complicated than anything I had ever attempted before, and indeed I had never even read about such a long running project.   Despite a lot of preparation I had never expected that the first attempt would be perfect, and such it turned out to be.   But I had always planned to keep the original concept of five theatres and use each model solder army in sequence.

Wargame Map of Europe

Stage One was short lived, just April to October 2009.   It produced just three phases and 15 battles.   It was a solo campaign and was really just to test the model.

Stage Two was a PBEM campaign, and ran from September 2009 to July 2013.    It had always been my intention to involve outside players in the strategic part of the campaign, whilst Jan and I fought the battles.   There were nine phases and 52 battles in this.   In July 2013 I reached the end of 1813 on my campaign.   This was something I had not planned for, and I was uncertain whether to go back to January 1813, or move on to January 1814.

Stage Three started in January 1814.   It ran from July 2013 to March 2015.   It had 27 campaign phases which produced 138 battles.   It was also PBEM, and was by far the best for participation.   However as you can see from the number of battles fought, it was very labour intensive.  It involved a lot of work to keep the campaign running, was a constant struggle to find new players and meant that Jan and I had to play a lot of wargames to keep up with the large number of battles.

Stage Four Once again PBEM.   I decided to reset the campaign calendar to January 1813.   It ran from March 2015 to January 2016.  It had 14 phases and 56 battles.   Throughout this period it became increasingly difficult to find players who would last the campaign phase.   More and more would just pack it in when it became obvious that they would not win the phase.  I then had to take on command of their army to avoid spoiling the campaign for the player who was due to win.   I also became disillusioned with the standard of wargame being produced.  This was largely because most of the PBEM players were inexperienced, and kept making the same mistakes.   In January 2016 I decided to revert to a solo campaign

Stage Five was a Solo campaign.  I took responsibility for commanding all ten armies.   One side, usually the French, would have to take and hold the enemy city.   The defending allied army would largely just react to the outcome of each battle.   It ran from February 2016 to May 2020.   It provided 21 phases and 110 battles.   I missed the imput from outside players, but the quality of the games greatly improved.

Stage Six is also a Solo campaign.  Creating maps for such a large area has always been a problem.   Plotting the main rivers and cities is relatively easy.  But terrain features such as mountain ranges and large wooded area very hard to determine.   Historical borders were also very difficult to determine.  Each square on the campaign map has to convert to a 2x2 foot scenic square on the wargames table.  This required making at least two maps.  One large scale showing countries, cities and rivers.   I then had to create hundreds of more detailed maps to convert from the map to the wargames table.   Eventually I solved this by abandoning the concept of historical maps and creating my own regional and district maps.   This resulted in Stage Six.   It started in June 2020 and has so far provided 14 phases and 86 battles.

In all modesty I would claim that it is quite an achievement to have run a wargame nonstop for almost 15 years.   Throughout that entire period there has been a wargame in progress fighting one of the 459 battles which it is provided so far.   It has by far exceeded my wildest hopes when I started in April 2009.   It has dominated my wargame experience throughout that whole period, and hopefully will continue to do for many more years to come.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Landshut Campaign – Day 7


Campaign Map


French accept defeat and retreat

1st Austrian army – occupy Essenbach
2nd Austrian army – regroup at Reisbach
3rd Austrian army – occupy Dorfen

7th French army – surrender Essenbach
8th French army – retreat and abandon Landshut
9th French army – retreat

Summary

When news of the loss of Dorfen reached Marshal Massena he was reorganising 8th Bavarian corps following their victory at Landshut. Having saved his main depot, the Marshal was confident that he could still win the campaign. A victory at Dorfen would mean that two Austrian corps had been defeated and both retreated. This would allow him to march north to relieve 7th Bavarian corps under siege at Essenbach.

But a defeat presented a different situation. Essenbach was on the brink of surrender, with only one days supplies left for the garrison. Although he still held Landshut, both of his flanks were now unprotected. Within 24 hours Schwarzenberg could bring the best part of three armies, surround him at Landshut and destroy 8th Bavarian corps.

Reluctantly he ordered 8th corps to retreat and abandon Landshut. He was also abandoning 7th corps at Essenbach, and they surrendered as soon as they received news of his retreat.

Comments

This was an interesting campaign, and also a colourful one.

Interesting because although the Austrians won five of the six battles, they could easily have lost the campaign. Had 3rd corps failed to take Dorfen it would have had to retreat to Muhldorf. This would have allowed Massena to raise the siege of Essenbach. With his whole army within easy reach of the main French depot at Landshut he could easily resupply, reorganise and reinforce his battered army.

The Austrian army was out of supply. They would have to retreat to Ratisbon district in order to be closer to their main supply base at Ratisbon. In doing so they would suffer more attrition casualties. Fortunately there was no likehood of a French pursuit, but it would still take many weeks to rebuild their battered army.

Colourful because the 7th French army was composed of Bavarian and Baden troops. Their light blue and dark blue uniforms contrasted well with the Austrian white. The result was a colourful battlefield/wargames table.

Although the outcome was uncertain until the last battle, it would have been very unfair had the Austrians lost the campaign. Having won five of the six battles they had demonstrated that they were the better of the two armies.

Sunday 28 January 2024

Landshut Campaign – Day 6



Campaign Map

Austrians attack Dorfen
Siege of Essenbach day 2

1st Austrian army – siege of Essenbach
2nd Austrian army – retreat to Reisbach
3rd Austrian army – attack Dorfen

7th French army – garrison Essenbach
8th French army – regroup and resupply at Landshut
9th French army – defend Dorfen


End of battle of Dorfen

Both armies start the battle with campaign casualties.
The French have slightly more but both are spread between all three arms

The main Austrian attack in on their right, against the occupied village
It is a little forward of the main French battle line, making it easier to attack
The Austrian commander takes two brigades from the centre to create a reserve
The Austrians lose the initial cavalry melee on this flank, and this delays the attack

The Austrian commander switches his attack to the centre, against Dorfen itself
The French commander leads a counter attack, but is defeated and retreats
This allows the Austrians to move their artillery into close range of the town

A renewed attack on the farm has more success, and the defenders start to retreat
The town garrison have received considerable casualties, and also withdraw

The Austrian left has played no part in the battle, most due to weak artillery
They now advance, but it is too late to make any difference to the battle
The enemy rearguard hold the woods until nightfall to cover the retreat

Comment

When both sides start the game with casualties it is very difficult for the attacking side. This is particularly so when they have casualties to cavalry or artillery. In this game both sides has casualties to their cavalry and artillery.

The battle normally opens with counter battery fire, in the hope that the attacker can weaken, or even rout, the enemy gunners. Only two Austrian batteries could do so, and both needed a roll of 6 to hit the enemy gunners. They failed to do so.

Cavalry can charge enemy gunners, but they will always receive fire at short range.
The gunners will need a roll of 3 or more to hit, or 2 if they are 12 pdrs. If the cavalry already had 1 casualty, they will now have 2 and will be disorganised. They will have to roll 6 to charge home.

If both cavalry and artillery fail to weaken the defending artillery the infantry will have to attack unsupported. The artillery will get to fire twice before the infantry reach the guns. At long range they will need 3 or more at long range, and 2 or more at short range. If the infantry have casualties they will need 6 for the first casualty, and will be unable to pass their morale if they receive two new casualties. If the leading infantry brigade fails its morale and routs, it is very likely to take any friendly brigade within 4”, and particularly if they also have casualties.

However the attacker has to make it happen, or he will lost the game. The defender only has to hold the town or city.

There are 12 moves in each game. It will take 6 moves to reach the town if the attackers arrive on table at the start of move 1. It will take two moves for the attacking artillery to get within long range of the enemy gunners. The defenders will always get to fire first as the attacking gunners unlimber.

If the guns have no effect within 6 moves the attacker must consider using his cavalry. The defending cavalry will always be placed out of range of the attacking artillery. And they will usually get the opportunity to charge first, as the attacking cavalry have to move into charge range – which is 12”. If the attacking cavalry lose the first melee they will usually be of no use for the rest of the battle. Even if they make their morale and rally, they will be at a disadvantage of at least -1 to the cavalry they lost the melee to.

However once the attackers get within range of the enemy all bets are off. If they can rout just one enemy infantry brigade, there is a good change of the rout spreading to supporting brigades.

So it is quite surprising that in this campaign the Austrians, who were attacking, won five of the six battles/wargames. Some were down to a particularly good dice by the attackers, or a particularly bad one for the defenders. Most often it was the result of one rout spreading to supports. Quite often the attackers did not take the town/city, but defeated the enemy, and were a second day of battle to be fought would almost certainly crush the whole enemy army. In this situation it makes more sense for the defender to retreat, regroup and hope to win the next battle.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Landshut Campaign – Day 5

 


Campaign Map                                                 

Austrians attack Landshut
Siege of Essenbach day 1

1st Austrian army – start siege of Essenbach
2nd Austrian army – attack Landshut
3rd Austrian army – advance to Dorfen

7th French army – garrison Essenbach
8th French army – defend Landshut
9th French army – regroup and resupply at Dorfen

End of battle of Landshut

The Bavarian army held a very strong position between the city of Landshut and the river Danube.   The river was not fordable, and could only be crossed by using one of the three bridges available.

The Austrian CinC decided to attack the centre bridge which led directly to the city.   But to do so he would have to secure the one bridge available.   He took command of the elite division of 5 corps, and the artillery of 6 corps.   The artillery would deploy either side of the bridge and destroy the Bavarian artillery dominating the bridge.

On his left 4th corps would be ordered to attack along the narrow area right of the river, take the bridge and attack the city from the right.

The Bavarians defeated this plan by simply retreating out of artillery range, but leaving their guns within range of their side of the bridges.   Unable to destroy the enemy guns, the Austrians could not risk a cavalry assault over the bridges.

The only casualties were to 4th Austrian corps artillery, who suffered 10% casualties.   They lost their morale test and routed, taking a supporting infantry brigade with them.

An easy, but very convincing, victory for the Bavarian army.

Comment

When I created the map for this campaign phase I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to attack across a defended river line.   But once it became obvious I used the opportunity to test the rules and decide whether it was possible or not.

I only use major rivers in my campaigns, and consequently wargames.   They would not be fordable in real life, and are not so in my campaign either.   They can only be crossed by the use of a bridge, but I do allow more bridges than would perhaps be normal.   My table is three scenic squares wide, and I allow one bridge on each square.   The exception is on bends, where I consider that the current would be too fast for a bridge.

Because both armies are more or less equal in size, to take a bridge the attacker would have to destroy the defending artillery, or at least make them retreat.  This can only do done by counter battery fire.  

In my new rules 12 pdr guns require 5 or 6 to cause casualties, 9 pdr guns require 6, and 6 pdr guns must be at close range.   10% casualties to the crew reduce all of these by 1.   Therefore a crew with casualties can only hit enemy artillery at long range if they are 12 pdr, 9 or 6 pdr have to move to close range to do so.   When the defenders are behind a river the defending artillery can remain out of close range (4”) of the enemy guns, but remain within close range of their end of the bridge.

In this game four of the six corps artillery had 10% casualties.  Only two, both of which were 12 pdr, had no casualties.   Both were on the right side of the table.   22nd Bavarian corps deployed in the river bend, from where they could hit the Austrians as soon as they advanced beyond the hill.  

On the right bank of the river the Bavarian CinC commanded two brigades of cavalry, supported by two brigades of infantry.   He would be supported by the artillery if the Austrians tried to attack that side of the river.

4th Austrian corps would have to force the Bavarian gunners to retreat before they could risk moving down from the hill.   Otherwise any attack on the exposed right bank must result in heavy casualties before they even reached the Bavarian cavalry and infantry.  They would also have to reduce the Bavarian superiority in cavalry, before their own cavalry could advance.   All of this required them getting their 12 pdr artillery into action without being charged by the Bavarian cavalry.

They attempted to do so by deploying it on the far right, out of range of enemy cavalry and artillery.  They could then man handle it into range of the enemy cavalry, and force them to surrender.  They could then engage the enemy gunners, and hope to defeat them also.  This would all require a lot of good luck – which they did not have.

As soon as 4th Austrian artillery were in position the Bavarian cavalry retreated out of artillery range.  The Austrian gunners then manhandled their guns into range of the Bavarian gunners; however this allowed the enemy to fire first.   The Bavarian gunners needed 5 or 6 for a hit – they rolled 5.    The Austrian gunners needed 5 or 6 to make their morale – they rolled 1.   The gunners routed into the supporting infantry brigade, who routed with them.

I was the Austrian player, and found the game really interesting.   It was always going to be very likely that I would lose the game.   Even if I could force a crossing at one of the bridges, the French player could bring overwhelming infantry and cavalry against my bridge head.   But I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to find a weakness – even though I failed to do so.   And Jan (the French player) simply retreated her cavalry and infantry out of range of my artillery, whilst leaving her guns within range of her end of the bridge.

Great game, but I will take care to ensure this does not happen again.   In future I will ensure that my rivers do not stretch across the width of the table, and thus allow the attackers an opportunity to outflank them.

Sunday 7 January 2024

The Way Ahead

 

 

Each December we visit our family in the UK and spend Christmas and New Year with them. This enforced break in our normal routine removes me from my PC and wargame table, and allows me to have a break and appreciate how much I enjoy my normal routine. It’s lovely to spend time with our family, and especially at this time of year. But it is also nice to return to our busy and enjoyable normal routine

The end of the year is the traditional time to review events of the previous twelve months, and plans for the next twelve. Normally this would be a review of our wargame activities, but this year it has been a review of our life style.

Jan and I are fortunate to share both of our main activities, which are Wargaming and walking. For the past eight years we have run two walking groups for our local U3A. Monday is a 5-6 hour mountain walk and Thursday a more moderate 3 hour valley walk.

Blogging has also become a major part of my weekly routine. Each week I publish four blogs. One for each walk, an update for my 1813 campaign and this one. I also have a Facebook for each of our walking groups, and post an update each week

During the past year I have found that it has all become quite a chore, rather than something I really enjoy. Jan had an accident early in the year, which stopped her doing the more strenuous Monday walks. We had both already found the harder walks more challenging, and without her company I enjoyed them even less. I also felt quite guilty leaving her at home each Monday.

This commitment has grown up over many years, and has done so because we enjoyed it and welcomed each new activity. Obviously I enjoyed all of the administration; otherwise I would not have done it. It filled the long hours of retirement, and we made many hundreds of friends through the two U3A groups. They also became the centre of our social life. But as you get older you have less enthusiasm and energy, and what was great fun can become a challenge.

So in late November I decided to review our activities and to rearrange them to suit our current circumstances. Our weekly routine would be designed to suit what we wanted to do now, rather than what we had committed to over the years.

Our wargame activities had changed greatly since we started our 1813 campaign in 2009. It had always been a vehicle to provide us with an endless supply of battles to wargame. But it has grown from a solo campaign for the two of us to a PBEM campaign with ten players from around the world, and then back to a solo campaign again. As a PBEM campaign we completed at least one, and often two, wargames a week, and kept it going 365 days a year. More recently a wargame lasts 10 to 14 days. We still enjoy it and it still remains a major part of our life style. But gone is the hectic programme to keep up with updating ten players each week and Wargaming the resulting battles.

We decided that the major adjustment would be to our walking groups. We started the first group in 2015 to share our love of hill walking. We had a great response, but kept our weekly walks to a maximum of 16 on each walk. We soon found that we had more people wanting to walk and rather than disappoint we started a second group. Covid brought all of this to an end. Here in Spain restrictions were very severe, including being unable to leave the house except to shop or medical appointments. As the restrictions were relaxed we started the Monday walk with just 6, then 10 then 16 members. Eventually we restarted the Thursday group, but with valley walks in place of the hill walks.

Now that Jan could no longer to the Monday walks, we have cancelled the weekly hill walks and will concentrate on the weekly valley walks. This will remove half of the administration and give us more time for more sedate activities – such as sitting in the local square to enjoy a cold drink in the warm sunshine, even at this time of year.

About the same time that we started the reorganisation, we began watching the very enjoyable Netflix series The Crown. Last week we watched the final episode, when Queen Elizabeth is asked to review the plans for “London Bridge”, the code name for her ceremonial funeral. She was asked to do so because she was 79 and approaching 80 and the programme explored her reaction to accepting old age as a relatively fit and active person.

My 80th birthday is in June 2024.