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


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.


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


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.


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.