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My 1866 Campaign

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My 1866 Campaign

Post  Los on Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:49 pm

I wanted to talk about the first Kriegsspiel I ever ran, which occurred back around 2009. Our gaming group communicates daily on our own list and we were talking about doing something like this, but as usual everyone was trying to over-engineer the thing. I had just read Gordon Craig’s .Battle of Koniggratz and David Ascoli’s Day of Battle (re Mars La Tour). So I was seized with an interest of the Wars of German Unification and Franco Prussian War.

Preparation
I went on the Kriegsspiel site and others to study materials and maps and I settled on a Sadowa map I found, as well as a scenario that I think used to be on the Kriegsspiel site. With the setting and time set (1866), I decided that rather than a straight historical campaign, this would simply be the setting for a red vs blue war. Then I thought through who I would invite and what roles they would play.

For the Blue side (Prussians) I selected a friend who was recently retired from 20 years in the military, we had gone to college together and served in the same infantry company together for a while, as well as had been gaming together for 20 years. As I believed the Prussians were better prepared and applied a but more military science to their plans and execution I though he would be a good fit. After reinforcements arrived I would add in a second player, another current serving military officer (Coast Guard pilot...a wargamer as well) and I thought that would make a nice core crew for the Prussians/Blues. I knew both guys were comfortable in operating in chaos, under stood how to mitigate these circumstances with plans and intentions as well as concise communications. Neither one was terribly proficient in Horse & Musket matters.

On the Red side I picked two friends who were veteran hard core gamers. One had spent a few years in the infantry, but other wise both were straight up gamers. Also both guys were somewhat light hearted “rivals” on our game list, and I wanted to catch some of the court intrigues I felt would fit in nice with the Austrian/Red side.

All four players were also veteran role players and I was confident that they would place their roleplaying ahead of winning if it meant going outside of their role played personality/historical ability. The four original players had varying knowledge of the period, none being what you could call “subject matter experts” for the period, so I prepared a short primer of units types capabilities movement rates and other info they would and needed to know to play their roles. Each had separate briefings that no one else knew, nor did anyone know the actual identity of all the players nor if the members of their sub commands were AI or actual persons. (Though it became apparent who was who as time went by.

I should add that I am also retired from 25 years in the military and pretty well versed in military history. I have been a wargamer (board and miniature) for over 40 years and well understand the role of chaos, friction and confusion plays while on campaign.

To administer the game I created a new email address for GMing. All email comms were sent out to individuals and all comms back were expected to run through me. I used Nigel Marsh’s excellent Carnage & Glory computer moderated rules to administer the games and fighting, so in this I created complete OBs or the Red and Blue sides, unit strengths and qualities. I would use powerpoint to pass maps and situation updates. There was no set time frame or turns, time would pass as it would until the next significant event unless the commander wanted to know something at a certain time. The battles themselves I fought in 15 minute turns, though several turns might go by before a player was notified of anything depending upon where they were, how long it took couriers to get places etc. I expected the players to get back to me with orders and decisions in a reasonable time, if not I would act on their behalf based on the INTENT they had communicated for their plans. I also served (roleplayed) both overall commanders as their Ia/S3 Operations Chief. This way I could keep the campaign moving forward and at least make recommendations to the commander as to enemy intentions and recommend courses of actions. The Blue commander had a little more sense in seeing the situation and accepting advice than the Red commander did.

Early in the campaign I changed the Map scheme a little bit and eventually found the excellent site of the South Eastern Europe 1:200,000 scale maps believed to have been compiled by the Austro-Hungarian General Staff. Miltary Map Survey of Austria-Hungary This would serve as the campaign map and I would pull other maps for tactical battle maps. During battles I kept a powerpoint going, with the Master game map I played on (I created pieces) and different slides of what the Red and Blue side would know. These were the individual slides I emailed as Situation updates .

Los
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Los

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Re: My 1866 Campaign

Post  Los on Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:13 am

Conduct of the campaign

Running the campaign, though fun and fascinating, was a lot of work. Especially resolving the battles.

They very general scenario outline was such: Blue and Red are at war over hegemony of the German speaking peoples. The smaller better prepared and better trained Blue force was able to mobilize quicker and invade northern red. This had necessitated Red abandoning the Region and retreating south while the more ponderous and larger red army completed its mobilization. A small red force led by one of the players) had refused to leave and was conducting for a few weeks a minor campaign against the Blue lines of communications while the main armies fought further south. The Blue commander was moving with a second wave division through to Koniggratz with intent to reinforce the main force south. He received orders to clear the road to Koniggratz where a Blue Army supply depot had been set up.

We have already mentioned that one red player was conducting these attacks against the Blue LOC. I had in mind that this person was sort of an old Colonel, named Jenkovski, imbued through and through with fighting spirit, as well as a disdain for RED HQ back in Vienna that had abandoned this part of the homeland. Eventually the Reds mobilized a force and dispatched nearly a Corps sized force to move against the Blue LOC. Being in Red land they had better intel on the Blues than the enemy had on them-I would pass intel on the Blues to the reds due to civilians as I saw fit. The relieving red force was commander by the main red player, who had been tasked to assume command of all remaining red forces in the area and conduct operations against the Blues. The Red commander, a general Barclay, was told very little about the Red colonel, other than he had been operating outside of orders for several weeks. I knew each red player would add into this a faithful attempt to role play their positions. In this recipe, combined with the real world relationship between the two players, I thought I had set up a good chance for controversy and command friction. I was not to be disappointed.

It’s not my attempt here to recount a blow by blow description of the following few months of battle (though in game time this went almost two weeks, in this time there were four major battles). Here were my general observations:

The Blue commander issued clearer orders. He accounted for friction, he laid out intent he observed the general principles of war. He did not attempt unrealistic maneuvers. Operating in a complete lack of information, highly stressful, this kept his war effort afloat. He suffered a scare on day one by becoming separated from his division while conferring with the logistics commander at the base in koniggratz. It was at this time that the Reds attacked. Luckily the Blue commander had left contingency instructions which saw the division thorough the scary first hours. Soon the Blue commander received a second division as reinforcement and the Blue commander assumed Corps control. The second Blue player assumed command of the other division. In good Prussian factor this player followed orders, but his solution to everything was to bull his head down and attack. The continuous hammer blows or the Blues attained objectives and steadily pushed the Reds back, but out high cost in men. The Blues found themselves having to conduct a number of river assaults. Eventually I added a third Blue player who commanded a third division. This player was a complete noob in both gaming and military history and I had to frame problems in very simple terms in order to make decisions. I sort of thought of this guy as someone’s political appointee. At one point I had to wound him for a day or two when Real life started interrupting his decisions, but he resumed command after a while. My son ultimately came in as a fourth Blue player who I assigned as a cavalry Brigade commander. He ended up playing a role protecting the Blue flank form a Red advance in a desperate action similar to Buford at Gettysburg..

Now the Red side….there was a story. Both Red commanders played their roles to the hilt and very soon a nice friction was built up between the two. The overall Red commander made less than accurate situation appreciations and was more vague in his order writing. This led to a number of mistakes and mishaps. Also the Reds were using muzzleloaders while the Blues had superior Needleguns. The Red players being gamers, took a short term view of battles and in the beginning lost some sight of the fact that there is a tomorrow.

A good example. Those light cavalry regiments that in most miniatures games you use as regular battle cavalry? Well in a campaign you want to keep them out of the fighting because they are the ones that do all he work in the days between battles. The Blue player preserved his light cav, the red player suffered grievous losses to his light cav in the first battle by throwing it away on fruitless attacks. The Red force would never fully recover from the loss of most of its scouting forces.

The gamer types were more apt to order individual battalions or squadrons to do specific things that would not happen in real life, like pass between two enemy forces and attack that more high value target in the rear. Army generals don’t order around individual regiments, and battalions they worry about what Divisions and Brigades are doing, so I put the cabash on some of this.

Battles were resolved thusly: As a Battle loomed both sides would go into various planning activities. The extent and effectiveness of this planning and coordination would be factored in, by me, to the ability to establish surprise, gain advantages etc. Once the orders were in, I would fight the battles on powerpoint, myself using a map, moving the pieces (also created in PPT) around and using Carnage & Glory to resolve actions track casualties and morale etc.. As I saw fit there would be updates and the opportunity for commanders to issue further instructions. In a way, I was playing my own wargame using the players as the "AI", and the narrative of the battles became the history I fed back to them. Carnage & Glory maintained results for individual units and players became quite attached to their forces, feeling pride as they improved and wincing as they suffered casualties or were destroyed. this served as a ice hook to keep everyone motivated.

I brought in another red player as a temporary brigade commander. However due to an impossible order given by the overall red commander, this man was killed in a battle (that was the result after one nasty attack in Carnage and Glory). That ended up being the end of him.

At one point a duel nearly erupted between General Barclay ad Colonel Jenkovski! In general Jenkovski's force, nearly a division, was out performing the rest of the Red Army. He was ordered to carry out a poorly planed attack by the Red commander. The Red commander failed to properly assign overall command to one person for this wing of his Army and the supporting attack that Jenkovski required was poorly coordinated due to a misappreciation of the terrain which led to the timing being off by at least a half hour. This small error threw away what could have been a very decisive victory for the Red, gave the Blues yet another victory, returning the campaign to its high casualty slogging match. When the Jenkovski returned with the remainder of his force harsh words were thrown about. General Barclay requested an immediate court martial against Jenkovski for failing to carry out the flank attack properly (Actually the fault of the red commander,s poor orders), and many feathers were ruffled and it took a day or two to simmer everyone down.

I should point out that at some point during this campaign every player (and myself) was either gasping in disbelief, seething in rage, or shaking in frustration over this or that event or communication from a subordinate. I would also add that nothing occurred in this campaign good or bad or silly that did not occur in real life during warfare in this age.

Eventually the campaign got long in the tooth and I decided to end it be declaring that the main battle to the South had resulted in a Blue victory and like that…the war was over.

Los
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Re: My 1866 Campaign

Post  Los on Sat Mar 03, 2012 3:21 am

Aftermath
Bottom line, everyone who participated thought it was one of the greatest gaming experiences they’d ever had.

At the end of the day I was deeply appreciative of the RED commander. He was dealing with several military professionals on the other side of the line. He was thrust into a difficult command relationship, he had inferior troops, and combat operations in 1866 was not an area of great historical subject matter expertise for him. Finally the war ends and Red loses because of something that happens on some other front. Fair? No. Realistic? Absolutely. It is how one operates when they don’t have all the breaks that matters IMO and I think he played his role well.

Lessons learned:
There is a reason why the military does certain things in a certain way, issues instructions a certain way, establishes who is in command, establishes mission intent , on and on. Ignore at one’s peril.

Operating with little information should be the norm for a campaign. How to figure out how to get your own information makes for an enjoyable part of campaigning. To that end care for your light troops, they do all the work when the heavies are slogging from point A to point B.

Theater or period specific knowledge is a little less important than such things as common sense, a firm grounding in the principals of war, and a resolute character to make decisions without complete information.

One cannot micromanage on campaign. A wargamer can micromanage, a commander can’t.

The other guy has it just as bad as you do. Also everyone's wargaming rep was in a little way, on the line, this being the big leagues of a wargaming type event. This added some tension to the whole affair.

Just like with real history, commanders’ interpretations of why they did certain things is immediately colored by their attempt to cover up their errors and justify their actions. I hope to at some point soon interview commanders on the campaign, similar to a writer who is researching a book. I have all the actual data on what happened so it will be interesting to see how their recollections and explanations match up to what happened.

Everything that happened in the campaign had a counterpart in history, regardless of how absurd it was all quite historical and illustrative of why things are done a certain way.

We have subsequently conducted various smaller campaigns, one with Caesar in Gaul, one using Arma II in an Afghanistan like situation, one in the Channel using PT boats, and our two current campaigns, Juno Beach, 1944 and aFictional 1868 campaign. But none have matched the grandeur of that first baby!

Los

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Re: My 1866 Campaign

Post  MJ1 on Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:18 am

Thankyou for these posts some interesting material there and good to see how someone has done a campaign in reality.

MJ1

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