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.


  1. Thistlebarrow -
    You know: it never occurred to me, even as a participant, that what you were conducting was more than whole war, but an epoch. You certainly set a brisk pace for yourself: more than 30 battles per year for 15 years, on top of the administration of the campaigns. Wow.

  2. Hi Ion

    It all started as a "normal" campaign. But because it was planned as a series of mini campaigns, each the size of the Waterloo campaign, it was easy to extend it as long as required. Having done the administration to set it all up, it is now easier to continue with the campaign than to organise a one off battle. And having played so many wargames as part of a campaign, I would not be interested in doing "one off games". However before the campaign started I did do a series of wargames based on Wellington's battles in the Peninsula, and they were good fun.


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