Monday, November 7, 2016

More on Campaigns.

Sixcubia West

Sixcubia East
In my previous posting I mentioned an open ended campaign in which Kingdoms were chosen at random from a map comprising 216 cities.  I have since discovered that I had made an enlarged version of the same map, which I have printed here.

Thinking about the responses to that posting has led me to a fair bit of thinking, hence the delay in producing this..

The first thing to note is that movement of armies in many campaigns is from 'area; to 'area', be those areas provinces, say, or a field of squares or hexagons superimposed upon the map. In others, such as upon the maps pictured here, the movement is from point to point.

Broadly speaking there is no topological difference between area-to-area and point-to-point movement.  Consider Chess. Chessman move from square to square on a field of 64 squares.  You could still play exactly the same game 'point-to-point', that is to say, on the corners.  Indeed, Chinese chess is played in precisely that manner, as is Go.
Chinese Chess opening set up.  Note that the pieces are placed
on the points - the corners - of the squares, not the square areas.

The advantage of 'area to area' move is that it is easier to locate playing pieces - especially multiple pieces - on an area than it is upon a point.  On the other hand, point to point moves can be made more flexible, for example, if you measure distances along connective routes.  In this posting I will touch upon that type of campaign.

In the Fantasy/Fictitious campaign of the 216 cities - let's call it Sixcubia, because my imagination is slow today - the moves are point-to-point, the distance between adjacent cities held to be pretty much constant throughout the whole 'continent'.  There are all kinds of ways one might conduct such a campaign - from something played solely on the map in the manner of Diplomacy or The Warlord/Apocalyse, to a more elaborate system, but with abstract armies and battles similar to Shogun
or the computer game Civilization III.  I was planning to enlarge on this specific campaign only to a limited extent, but I'll leave that to a future posting.

Instead I will talk about map-movement campaigns designed to bring about table-top battles. Readers of Charles Grant's The War Game will recognise some of this, as will two readers of this blog who have participated in least one such campaign.

We begin with a Napoleonic campaign I ran and played in some 25 years ago.  This was a three way campaign in which the French, commanded by Napoleon, had to defend Paris against an invasion by an Anglo-Russian force from the north, and an Austrian from the east.  Given that no one's Napoleonic collection was then very large, the premise was a limited campaign seeking a quick decision.

Napoleonic campaign: Map 1.

The narrative ran that within months after Waterloo, a desperate band of Old Guardsmen aboard a fast schooner descended upon St Helena and spirited away their Emperor.  Returning to France to a hero's welcome, Napoleon at once began recruiting an army.  An appalled Europe was caught completely unprepared, but small forces were gathered in the hope that by a quick thrust to Paris, even a small force might yet achieve the third overthrow of the Corsican Tyrant.

Napoleonic Campaign: Map 2.

To give some idea of the small sizes of the forces involved for this undertaking, as Archduke Charles, I had 190-odd figures, and even that number was reached only by adding a 36-figure contingent of Black Brunswickers.  The 'Duke of Wellington's' force was slightly larger - maybe 230-240 figures - and included Russians: two foot and one uhlan regiment.   For his part, Napoleon had an army of perhaps 360 figures, about a quarter of which were gathered around Soissons (F6 in the maps), the rest in and about Paris itself (C9).  The numbers being so small, for narrative purposes, each figure represented 100, though nominally, for the rule set we were using (mine) the scale is actually 1:25. The Anglo-Russians opened the campaign from Valenciennes (G1), the Austrians, from memory, in St Dizier (L10).

Napoleonic Campaign: Map 3
This campaign used Charles Grant's technique of movement being measured along roads, and the presence of troop movements being announced by the presence within a given square at the end of, or a square having been entered during the course of, the half-day campaign move.  Squares exited during the move were not announced unless it was also entered during the same move - that is, the square was passed through.  This applied mainly to cavalry moves.
Once opposing forces entered the same square, then a sub-square would be added to the call.  The entire intelligence received was this list of squares - until the same sub-square was read out by opposing forces, whereupon both sides had to reveal what was there.  Instead of 4 campaign moves per day, I limited it to a morning and afternoon moves. I think from memory I allowed night moves, but they required that within 48 hours the troops take day-move for rest.  The margin was to allow a battle to be fought, it being presumed that a night march might be made for that purpose.  I don't actually recall any night moves being made, though.

Early on there was some fierce skirmishing between the Allied and French light horse in the north, with honours fairly even, as both sides endeavoured to penetrate the enemy cavalry screens.  As they involved small numbers of cavalry, they were conducted by die rolls.  The fourth such action took place near Soissons, where the Russian uhlans found and destroyed a French supply depot. 

Things were more subdued on the Austrian front, both sides avoiding costly skirmishing.  With just twenty horse figures - eleven cuirassiers and nine uhlans - I was not inclined to be profligate with them!  At one point, pickets on both sides got caught, trapped, on a lateral road somewhere southwest of Chalons-sur-Marne, when the enemy sealed off the T-junctions to their rear.  Neither wishing to try 'conclusions to the death' that a fight would have amounted to, we negotiated the situation that allowed both sides to escape.
napoleonic campaign: Map 4.

I won't go into a lengthy narrative of the campaign.  The first clash took place at Rheims between the Austrian Corps and what seemed at first an isolated French column that turned out to have large reinforcements arriving from the north.  The Austrians tried again later, and successfully stormed the town.  Napoleon by this time was fully involved with the Anglo Russians.  In a series of three battles at Craonne (H6), St Gobain (F4) and Verberie (D6), Napoleon gave as good as he got, but with Austrians advancing into his right rear, was unable fully to commit to an all out drive to throw Wellington's Army back.  In fact, at one point the Austrians were looking forward to a battle at Pierrefonds (E6), but the French there slipped away.  The final action found all three armies in a big battle at Louvres and Dammartin (C8).  Napoleon just barely held the ill-coordinated Allied attack, whereat a tot-up of the armies at this point showed that all three had reached the point of exhaustion that would put them out of the fight.  What happen was that I discovered that my own Austrians had passed the exhaustion mark, but out of curiosity asked for the status of the other two.  They were in like case!

In effect, Napoleon had won.  Sort of.

A page from the Southern Sortie narrative of the 1816
Napoleonic campaign of 1991.  I've touched up the campaign
map for ... I hope ... added clarity...
Successfully reaching a conclusion - if an indecisive one - this late winter/early spring campaign made a fine prequel to a much larger summer campaign had we wished.  It is entirely feasible, my Austrian Army having trebled its size since then, and having acquired a British and a Prussian one.

Not long after this, I  based a 'Second ACW' campaign, using similar ideas, on the premise that Gen. Geo. McClellan narrowly defeated Abe Lincoln in the presidential election of 1864, whereat an armistice was drawn up at the end of 1864, and Peace signed in January 1865.   However,  the evacuation of some of the occupied regions, particularly in Tennessee, was carried out in dilatory fashion, under the cover of which escapee slaves and even 'free men of colour' migrated in their thousands across the borders into Kentucky and Ohio.
ACW 2 Campaign: Tennessee Campaign.

It wasn't long before Southern sabres once more began rattling; protests to Washington fell on receptive enough ears, but orders thence to the army commanders were apt to be grudgingly obeyed, with all kinds of reasons and excused adduced.  The War that broke out towards the end of March, 1865, was limited solely to the state of Tennessee itself, with the Union main Army HQ still at Nashville, the Confederate army having just recently set up an HQ at Chattanooga. Smaller forces of both sides were operating along the banks of the Mississippi River, and in the Knoxville area...

One of the enlarged sectors.  The roads are drawn without curves
 such as to make measurements easier.

Although there were several battles fought, the really big one at Pulaski on 7 May 1865 (I8 in the above map) was the harbinger of the campaign's demise.  The Confederates having seized the place, they set about building fortifications that stretched from the Duck River across the northern face of the town, before turning southward to present a front protecting the right flank.  My Union Army turned up with 23 regiments facing 17 and attempted to storm the Confederate lines. Although we penetrated  the centre and then the salient where the rebel trench-line bent southwards, at neither point could the break-in be exploited into a break-out.  A fresh brigade arriving off the march from Wartrace Depot struck the open south flank of the trench line only moments before Secesh reinforcements arrived betimes to stall that attack.

Battle of Pulaski - the biggest and toughest fight of the

Far from defeated, the Union sat down and invited the Confederates to try their hand, which they declined to do.  A lull ensued in this part of the world whilst the Union dug in and both sides recast their plans.  I think the South tried to build up their army by train from the east, but had to negotiate the flank guards I had left in that direction. They would have brushed them aside easily enough but it would have meant some delay, and the Union would have received some warning. 

Tantallon: the battle that never happened.  As
troops arrive during the course of the day,
 their actual arrival times would  have been
diced for, varying by one or two game
moves  either side of their ETA.

May 9 saw a couple of slight affairs at Middleton (I8) close by the Mississippi border, and another at Wartrace Depot, between sizeable forces, but which were abandoned after little more than light skirmishing.   The campaign itself was abandoned, rather unfortunately, on May 11, before the interesting looking action at Tantallon could be fought out.  There a retreating force of some 7000 Confederates under General Jordan were marching towards the town from the north, whilst a larger Union   force (over 8,000) was racing westwards towards the same place.  In the town itself stood the battalion of 40th New York Cavalry, whilst a gap had developed between Sunnuck's Brigade of Knott's (Union) Division, and the Division of Major-General J. Pierpont Groggins, which was not due to arrive until the 12th.  The Confederates would have to break through in about three hours (the action opening at 3pm) or else have a real fight on its hands the following day.  As Jordan's and Sunnucks were expected to arrive at the town at 3pm, much depended upon the celerity of movement of both sides whether indeed there would be a battle at all, or the Confederates would pass by under the noses of the Union forces approaching.  I have just rolled a couple of dice to see what might have happened.  The CSA rolled a 2, which indicated considerable celerity of movement; whilst the USA rolled a 3.  So the Confederates would arrive a half hour (one battle move) earlier than the Union brigade.  It seems fairly likely the CSA might have brushed aside the lone cavalry battalion in front of them and slipped by without a battle after all...

I won't go into the immediate reasons for the campaign's demise, but I wasn't altogether sorry.  This style of campaign is probably not suited to a large number of players if one of them happens to be a major participant. But the fact was, it was somewhat under-prepared, to the extent I was never very happy with it.  It lasted several - at least a half dozen combats - though only one reached the 1100-odd figures of the Pulaski battle.  But the Tantallon action, had it occurred, an gone to a second day, would have employed well over 600 figures.
Source of details for my Stonewall in the Valley
Campaign map.

During the course of this campaign, there were some naval or combined operations going on along the Mississippi River.  The Confederates had forced the surrender or abandonment of a couple of forts, a cottonclad vessel had run the guns of a Union fort, and got away with both guns knocked out, and, its funnel riddled with holes, a 3-knot reduction in speed.   According to my campaign notes, the Union fleet had orders on the 11th May to chase the Rebel fleet out of B3, which suggests a naval action might have been imminent not far south of New Madrid.

Running such a large campaign (in terms of toys available) I would never again play in it at the same time.  That was a mistake, but the sort one has to make in order to learn from it.  What works for a two or three player campaign won't for a 6-player.  

Another ACW campaign I have long had in mind was based upon a idea mentioned in Don Featherstone's book War Games Campaigns.  This was 'Stonewall in the Valley', in which Stonewall Jackson commanded a force of ten infantry regiments, with horse and guns, operating in the Shenandoah River valley.  The Union Army had three identically similar corps operating in the same area, setting about to trap the Confederates or to drive them from the Valley altogether.

Stonewall in the Valley - Campaign Map.
More on that, next time...


  1. What an interesting post! I have certainly been involved in a few overly-ambitious campaigns which didn't last long but most of yours seem altogether more manageable.

    1. Thanks for your reply, Tim. I was wondering if anyone would respond!

      I tend not to get too much into the infrastructural aspects, and try to keep them simple. If it's a war I'm conducting, I prefer to limit everything to a fixed military budget, assuming the rest takes care of itself. I appreciate that in reality, governments are likely to raid the allocations for other Ministries to keep the military going. I don't allow that...