So now the Peninsular War collection is growing into one that now offers potential to do some more interesting stuff around campaigns and "what if?" scenarios I have been turning my mind back to some of my early ideas around the subject and re-crafting a few of them together. This aspect of the hobby is something I am sure we all dabble in at times; it is the full three course meal of the hobby, providing that all important context to our games and for me is a never ending series of possibilities and something I never tire of playing with. In addition it gives a focus to collection building plans and so I thought I would share my own thoughts.
I was really sorry to see the change of direction decided upon, earlier this year, by the "Napoleon at War" designers to park the Napoleonic project whilst turning their efforts towards the American Civil War. I like many others were looking forward to the release of further campaign books to follow on from the Waterloo release to include the 1813 Campaign and a talked of Peninsular War Campaign book.
I was never one of those who was enthused about turning Napoleonics into tournament play "Flames of War" style gaming, with contrived mechanics to produce a simplistic win/lose style of game often devoid of historical context. That said the lists produced by these design concepts seem ripe for application to a more thoughtful use and can be an aid to scenario design without getting hung up on points balanced games (Wellington and Massena didn't seem to bother much with points and always strove to bring on an unbalanced battle favouring them).
So in the best traditions of "adopt, adapt, improve" I have spent a bit of down time producing my own game lists worked out using Carnage & Glory unit definitions and points and adapting the principle of normal-strength, over-strength and under-strength units which I thought was a very clever mechanic to allow gamers to produce standard looking units that model these characteristics without having to use different bases combined with multiple combinations of numbers of figures.
The idea of applying points to units has its supporters and detractors and I think the idea has its place more for guiding the wargamer who wants to create historically based formations than those who are more interested in "power-gaming" and creating "uber-armies". When the historical principle is applied to the grand campaign model, points can allow interesting scenarios to be created around a limited number of figures that can give a game context and enable the tabletop battle to be translated back into the campaign situation. In addition as we are talking about a campaign situation, we are not concerned with "game balance" as just like their historical counterparts, both opposing commanders will be striving to maximise or minimise the advantages of the their position versus the opposition. Obvious one sided contacts can be dealt with on the map, but the larger more interesting contacts can be constructed using the lists and fought out on the table.
Earlier this year I picked up a copy of the revised edition of "L'Empereur Napoleonic Strategic Game" rules by Albert Walton, that offers the chance to play your Napoleonic table top games within the wider scope of a major grand campaign such as the Peninsular War, very much in the mode of a Battlefront "Firestorm" WWII campaign.
I have long toyed with the idea of bringing Mr Walton's campaign game together with the army lists of Napoleon at War and the game mechanics of Carnage & Glory (C&G) and see what hybrid monster I could create by mixing up their respective DNA.
The lists above are some of the early drafts of formats to include the French, French Allies and Spanish and the map below shows my adaptation of the L'Empereur map for the Peninsular War campaign module plugged into Cyberboard. The various flag pieces show the different army groups dotted around the peninsular in June 1808 with Dupont's "doomed" expedition down in Granada (Hex G4) and Junot's tenuous and out of supply hold on Lisbon (Hex I2), with the Spanish held fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo (Hex I3) and Badajoz (Hex H2) sealing him off from the other French forces clearly standing out, together with the supply rout from France via the other French controlled hexes and those closest able to take a waggon marker among those mountains soon to be crawling with guerrillas.
The forces yet to enter the stage are shown with the French allies gathering in Bayonne (Hex K5) and Perpignan (Hex K6) together with Napoleon and his Guard set to arrive in September and the British under Wellesley and Sir John Moore set up to arrive in August and October respectively. The former French allies in the form of the Spanish army groups can be seen gathering their strength following the Madrid uprising in May with the large armies under Blake (Hex K3) and Castanos (Hex G4) looking to pose the first threat to the extended elements of the French invasion force. The map encounters generated would then be ready to be translated into a tabletop clash using the lists above and C&G.
My forces are not yet complete with the Talavera collection set to enable most of the formations shown above to be modelled as required, and Bassecourt's regular Spanish division together with Albuquerque's Cavalry will provide a good core of figures to field the Spanish, leaving the Portuguese and some French allied formations (Italian & Neopolitans) to be built next year on the completion of the Talavera project.
One other idea I am toying with is to include an "events" process to add that little spice of un-predictability. The L'Empereur module sets up troop levels with withdrawals and reinforcements based on the historical record and it provides a simple campaign engine if a bit too predictable. The addition of some limited theatre level events could add a little more variation for players to deal with.
So my Napoleonic Grand Campaign ideas are gently percolating behind all the big battle mini campaign stuff, just as it should be, plus I have been putting together some "adopt, adapt, improve" paper based rules for those days when I haven't got the lap top to hand; but that as they say is another story for another post.