Sunday, 23 July 2017

Campaign Supply System

Note that the winning French need five depots and the losing Prussians only two.   The red road is the main supply route for both armies.

You cannot really have a campaign without a campaign supply system.  However most of us are more interested in playing with our model soldiers on the table than spending hours working on complicated supply and movement rules. 

I wanted supply to play a major role in the campaign, particularly when it was a PBEM campaign.   But I also wanted the administration of each daily move to be simple and fast.   Having considered the problem I decided that I wanted the supply system to effect the campaign in four ways.

First each corps would only be able to carry limited supplies, and I settled on four days.

Second to resupply they would have to be within one day’s march of a supply depot, and to establish a depot they would have to detach one full strength infantry brigade.

Third each depot would collect one day’s supplies from the surrounding area, providing that they were not under attack.

Fourth if they ran out of supplies they would suffer attrition casualties and would not be able to initiate a battle.

The result of these four simple rules is that the winning army would have to detach brigades to garrison his depot supply chain as he advanced.  This would reduce his battle effectiveness just as heavier casualties would affect his opponent.

With a maximum of four days supplies he would have to plan carefully to advance to contact and fight a battle before he ran out of supply.   Normally at the end of a battle he would be out of supply, and might well be unable to resupply because he was more than one days march from his nearest depot.

However if he captured a town which was an enemy depot with supplies, he would immediately increase his own supplies.  This gave an added bonus to wining such a battle.

As the campaign progressed I amended the original supply rules to allow movement of supplies between depots.   CinC (not corps commander) were allowed to move up to four days supplies each day.

Each army would always have 20 days’ supply.   If there were not sufficient between what was carried by each corps and held in each depot, the balance would be delivered to the main supply depot each day.  The main supply depot is always a town on their edge of the campaign map.   So as they advance it gets further behind them.

That concludes the campaign rules.  Next time I will explain transfer from the campaign to the table and back again.

You will find my campaign rules here

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Campaign Casualties

In my early experience of campaigns I found that the winner of the first battle often won the campaign.   When the wargame casualties were transferred to the campaign it often left the loser with an impossible task.   In the next battle the loser would start with more casualties and would be most likely to lose the subsequent wargame.  Few campaigns can last for long when this happens.  In an historical campaign this may not matter too much.   It can be claimed with some justice that most campaigns are decided by a major battle anyway.

But if the objective of the campaign is to provide a series of interesting wargames this type of result is not good.  The first battle provides a good wargame.  But all subsequent battles leave the loser with the prospect of ever more uneven battles to game.

Setting up each campaign takes considerable effort, and I wanted them to last a reasonable period and to provide a series of interesting wargames.   The secret lies in battle casualties and how they are replaced.

I wanted each battle to have an effect on the subsequent battles.   And I wanted the winner to gain some reward from winning.  But I also wanted the loser to be able to recover sufficiently in order to fight the remaining wargames with some chance of winning.

The wargame rules are designed to produce relatively small numbers of casualties.   Each game “hit” results in 10% casualties to the brigade concerned.  For infantry this is 400 men, for cavalry and gunners 100 men.   But more important each “hit” reduces the effectiveness of the brigade by minus 1 on each combat and morale dice throw.

At the end of the wargame the casualties are transferred to the campaign in terms of “men” rather than “hits”.   It is usual that the loser of the battle will have to retreat directly away from the winner.   So I had to devise a method which would prevent the winner from immediate pursuit and the subsequent “steam roller” effect.

Supply, or rather lack of it, is the main way of doing this.  I will explain that in the next blog.   In general terms a corps which is out of supply will suffer attrition casualties and cannot initiate an attack. This will usually prevent an immediate pursuit.

Having broken contact both sides will wish to regroup and replace battle casualties as quickly as possible.   To do so they must be in supply, they must be stationary and they must not be under attack.

During the first move that they meet these conditions they can regroup.  This means that all infantry casualties, less 10% for each brigade, can be transferred to one brigade.  In effect one brigade replaces all battle casualties less the 10%.   The result is usually that one of the four infantry brigades become non-operational.   This cannot be done for gunners or cavalry, because there is only one cavalry brigade and one corps artillery.

In addition to regrouping each corps received 10% of one brigade as reinforcements.   It is normal for the first reinforcements to be either gunners or cavalry.   When both are up to strength, less 10% for each, the infantry receive reinforcements.   However every brigade which receives wargame casualties will keep at least 10% for the remainder of the campaign.

This has the effect of reducing the effectiveness of such a brigade for the duration of the campaign.   If your elite infantry brigade receives casualties in the first battle, they will become an average brigade for the remainder of the campaign phase.  The same will apply to cavalry and gunners.

As a consequence each corps starts the campaign as fully operational.   But as they receive casualties they become weaker and more brittle.   This is particularly important from a morale point of view.  Because if one brigade lose their morale and rout, all friendly brigades within supporting distance (4” on the table) also have to test their morale.  And if they have casualties from earlier battles they are much more likely to join the rout.

Next time I will explain campaign supply

 You will find my campaign rules here

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Campaign Phases

Map of Europe showing previous campaign phases

To avoid the tedium of a long running campaign I have broken my 1813 campaign into what I call “phases”.    Each phase is a mini campaign of about the area and time scale of the Waterloo campaign.

Each phase will feature a different French and allied army to ensure that I use them all in rotation.   A phase will usually provide 4-6 battles to wargame, and will last about 10 campaign days.   Most of them took about three months to complete.  

The current phase is set in North Germany and is the First French Army attempt to take the town of Wolfsburg, and the Prussian attempt to stop them doing so.   This is sixth phase set in this area.   At the start of the phase I post an introduction, which includes a brief history of the previous campaign phases.   At the end I will post a summary.   The campaign diary blog has reference to each of the five areas, so it is possible to follow each campaign phase and refer back to earlier phases.

The next campaign phase will be in Central Germany and will feature the Second French Army and the Russian Army and the aim will be to take and hold Erfurt.   This will be the fifth campaign phase in this area.   At the start of the phase both armies will be at full strength and fully supplied.   Casualties from the previous phase are not carried forward.

The use of this type of mini campaign has meant that the overall 1813 campaign has run for almost ten years.   It has grown and evolved during that time, but still retains the original five campaign areas and the ten original orders of battle for the French and Allied armies.   But the campaign rules and the maps have changed considerably.   This has provided me with a fresh campaign and two new armies every three months or so.  The framework of each phase is the same, and saves me a lot of administrative work.  But the objective and the armies change with each phase.  And if we encounter a problem with the campaign rules they can easily be changed at end of the phase.

Next time I will explain battle casualties and campaign reinforcements

You will find my campaign rules here