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BERTHIER CAMPAIGN MANAGER

Free software to help run wargame campaigns.

How people are using Berthier.


BERTHIER CAMPAIGNS ON THE WEB

Sullivan's Island American War of Independence Campaign.

Steve Hicks in the UK and Tony De Lyall in Australia conducted an American War of Independence campaign via email using Berthier with the resulting tabletop battles being resolved in the UK. You can read the campaign scenario and history here. Scroll down the page until you find the links to the Sullivan's Island campaign.

American War of Independence Campaign Blog.

Steve Hicks has also run a complete American War of Independence campaign using Berthier as the management tool, blogging the campaign diary as the campaign progressed. You can read the campaign history here.

"Fog of War" Discussion on The Secret Wargamer Blog.

Another AWI campaign - this one is umpired by The Secret Wargamer. This blog entry talks about how Berthier contributes to the campaign "fog of war" and also discusses the tactical rules being used. An interesting study in psychology! Read about it here.

Tribals versus Vermen Fantasy Campaign.

This fantasy campaign has an extensive and very informative section describing how the campaign was developed and how it was transferred to Berthier - useful to anyone setting up any sort of campaign. Read about it here. This campaign uses the much earlier MSDOS version of Berthier


CAMPAIGN HISTORIES

[by Mal Wright]

Mal Wright, veteran wargamer and moderator of the talkingwargames Yahoo egroup, has used Berthier to run a number of campaigns. Here he shares some of his campaign histories and how he has used Berthier to run those campaigns.

To quote Mal:

Berthier is great in that it does not take over the game. It runs the game according to the rules and parameters you and the players have decided on. It is merely your record keeping system, your movement tracker, your Intel. adviser, etc. It will only "resolve" a combat situation if you instruct it to do so. Campaigns we have run on it so far include.

SPANISH AMERICAN WAR LasGuassimas - the campaign.

Lots of confusion among the players as this was our first use of it. The confusion came not from Berthier, but from players being genuinely "only" able to "know" what they had found out through their own efforts. This fog of war was better than most things we had achieved in wargames before and certainly changed the entire complexion of things. We entered values here and got it to resolve most of the table top skirmishes as well.

SPANISH AMERICAN WAR LasGuassimas - the tabletop battle.

We grided the tabletop and used Berthier for secret movement in the jungles etc. This was a really great game. Most wargamers get too used to being able to sit "God like" over the tabletop and see far more than they ought to be able to see in real life. For this one we put down the terrain, but held back on putting on the actual position of Spanish blockhouses, trench systems etc. The players of both sides did their movement on the map and put the info into Berthier. It was almost eerie - the only figures ever put on, were those in sight of both sides.- and they were removed again if they went out of sight. This resulted in the infamous "Roosevelt Sandwich" when the US players mis-interpreted the contacts they were getting. (You only get full details if you move into contact, plus the reports can be set to randomly be correct, over estimate, or under estimate.) They decided some were "just Spanish skirmishers" and did not check closely. Consequently they got attacked from the front and the rear by superior forces. Then when they chose to "break and run" the first square they chose to run into, because they thought it was only skirmishers, turned out to be a blockhouse with a machinegun in it. The next one the survivors chose to run into, turned out to be a trench system. All the players enjoyed it. Even those who lost. Anthony De Lyall made some adjustments to the program after this, to make it easier for tabletop use.

WORLD WAR ONE. East Front.

A massive Corps level game in which Berthier nicely kept track of everything for us and enabled the fighting of a vast wargame that I cannot imagine I would even have bothered with otherwise. Much was resolved using the Berthier combat system, making it a huge and rather fun, map game, for our players, rather than tabletop. Even railways were able to be used by declaring certain areas good terrain and providing "trains" that could carry out transport functions at faster speed than other units normally moved at. It worked well, but one had to be careful to make sure the squares through which trains were to pass, were carefully entered as Berthier moved them according to its program. Consequently at first we had a few trains that wandered off the track between points A & B.
(See the section later on on how to set up road and rail networks to avoid this problem.)

WORLD WAR ONE. East Prussia.

A smaller version of the above, taking into account a single region. The smaller level produced some good tabletop games. Interestingly we were able to apply the results of it to the larger game above. This means we could have run the above, then put together smaller level versions of each region and fought them out, finally applying the results to the above. Units in this went right down to scouting elements.

CONVOY.

A solo game I did while recovering from my trip to the hospital a few months ago. 1941 Atlantic game with UBoats hunting convoys. The Germans had some help from "Condor" aircraft. It worked out very well. If I had been doing it in conjunction with the group, we'd have had some excellent naval actions to fight. I gave everything a value and told Berthier to resolve it. One thing I really liked was that once you told it to randomise sightings for accuracy, you tended to forget things yourself and it was very interesting. With up to 16 elements per side [now 18], it is not hard to forget what some of the 32 groups are, after a while.

THE GUNS OF AUGUST. 1914.

One of the most ambitious campaigns we have done in years. Still only partly fought out, but going extremely well. Those doing best are the players who can interpret "intelligence" reports into useful data. The Germans did very well as they not only scouted best, but sorted out the confusion of reports very well. They did not do so well on the tabletop, despite having amassed superior forces. Most actions went in favour of the Allies, however the superior map interpretation of the German side resulted in them eventually bringing the bulk of the French and British armies to battle in very unfavourable circumstances. By the time this battle took place, the Allies may have won most previous clashes, but were definitely in a "no win" situation before the first gun fired. Cut off on both flanks, attacked frontally by superior forces, and even forced to fight off a column that would have made its way into their rear, had they not stopped it. This campaign, proved, if no others had, that experienced wargamers, of many years standing were quite flummoxed when presented with the real fog of war. Wargamers are used to knowing far too much information and far too much of that accurate. In this campaign the "good wargamers" did extremely well on the tabletop, but the interpretation of reports, true and false, won it for a team that was far less experienced.

EYE OF THE STORM.

Based around a scenario I wrote for HARPOON, but in this case using SHIPWRECK. In a modern naval scenario, a damaged Russian cruiser has made it into a Norwegian fjord where it is carrying out repairs. A storm has been passing over the area, but in the "eye" period, a NATO task force has been told to locate the cruiser and sink it. Because of the weather it is a case of no outside aircraft, which limited everyone to the helicopters carried. This was a challenge for Berthier because the meeting of ocean and rugged fjords, presented a lot of visibility problems. Minefields were included as well as some very narrow waterways, all of which were successfully entered into Berthier. However the mines kept being seen. The solution found, was to get the players to use their paper maps for movement and steam around the terrain features. On the Berthier map however, some ocean areas were declared "hard". It meant saying no hard squares could effect movement, but that did not matter as the players were using paper maps to plan movement and therefore naturally avoid land. The campaign was played out to a full conclusion and it was only in the after battle discussions and de-briefing, that both sides found out exactly what was going on. They had an idea of what had happened in some situations, but were not always right. One instance being the destruction of a large target thought to be the Russian cruiser, which turned out to have been a large ore ship. The Russian players won this game through better interpretation of the information available to them, but still managed to commit some mistakes.

DER TAG. 1940.

For this game we used Berthier to run the campaign and keep track of everything. Another system handled the actual air to air battles and resolved them. By giving them a range of vision, we were quite easily able to add in shore based radar stations. All units were air formations. To allow for some of them to split up, we entered some duplicate units and did not activate them until needed. They were then manually placed in the squares where the split took place and the force structures altered accordingly. This had the effect of surprising the heck out of the RAF side, who went from a few contacts, to multiple contacts in a single move. The British player could not get the intercepts right and the Luftwaffe triumphed. Fortunately this was only one day of the Battle Of Britain, so we did not change history.  The German side proved better at it and pressed on to their objectives, some of which included bombing and destroying a couple of radar stations.

FREEPLAY.

Based on FREEPLAY 88, by Martin Bourne of Vandering Publications. This game transferred his modern naval game directly onto maps of the Atlantic and thence into Berthier. The crew playing both sides were very experienced wargamers, but after some of their previous experiences it was interesting to see how cautious they had become. EWAC, ELINT flights etc. were all able to be replicated in Berthier with some adjustments. The fleets were mostly steaming about in a state of electronic darkness to avoid anyone detecting them. Submarines were also given a listening range, however this proved a bit difficult at first as although submerged, the radar of searching aircraft was detecting them. I overcame this by turning the hexes they were in, and those around them into "Hard" scenery and using the terrain obstructs view option. This meant an adjustment to allow the submarines to run through hard hexes, but as they were mid ocean this did not conflict with shore lines. Missile movement was allowed for by declaring some positions in the order of battle for such movement, but not activating them until they were used. (Put them in square 1) The same applied for air strikes. Once activated they were put on at their point of origin and moved to the target. It worked well and despite reservations pre game, we found that there were less missiles flying around the place than we had expected because the "Fog of War"  element meant people were fairly cautious in their strikes.

COTE d'AZUR.

A strategic naval wargame for the period of about 1939. France and Italy are at war over Sardinia. This tested Berthier to the limit as we had airfields with aircraft carrying out air attacks on strategic targets, while many of the normal movements of a naval wargamer were also taking place. We eventually settled on aircraft moving twice for every once the ships moved. The game was a good one with lots of naval action and air action. Even the successful intercept of a French bombing raid, by Italian fighters, with nothing more to go on that a sighting from some ships that the bombers passed. As land forces were also important and Berthier did not have enough berths for that many units, we put the land campaign into the same map and used Berthier to resolve it. The troops only shared their map with convoys essential to their own movement and ground strike aircraft. This worked very well and enabled us to have a very complex campaign running.

1930.

Based around a fictional war between Japan and the USA, set in 1930. By now we had considerable experience in using Berthier to handle varied forces, so a combination of battlefleets, aircraft and submarines was no great problem. The fog of war element was high, especially as there was no radar and scout aircraft were fairly inefficient. To save flying lots of individual patrols, which Berthier cannot handle, we simply declared a patrol zone around all groups that had patrol planes and made that the "visibility" for that task force. This also enabled us to have patrol zones that were in keeping with the type of aircraft in use. For example a US base was very annoying for the Japanese as it was using land based flying boats with quite a lot more range than most of the other aircraft in use.

RAID.

This was a tabletop battle in which a British light cruiser and four destroyers, were carrying out a night sweep to locate and destroy an Italian convoy, in the era of about 1941. Some ships had radar, most did not. The Italian players tried to get around their lack of radar by putting auxiliary warships well out from the convoy, so they enemy would have to encounter them first. Of course Berthier does not say how big a contact is, in this context, so there was a certain amount of uncertainty on the part of the British players. They sank two armed trawlers performing this task, then closed and eventually found the convoy. They were able to tell from the make up and position of the ships, which were merchant ships and which were probably the escorts. This phase of the Berthier map function was excellent and worked rather like a radar screen. They were able to target specific ships and fire at them, while still unsighted. The Italian players turned out toward them and soon came into visibility of some British ships. However as they were under heavier fire than those ships were capable of, they surmised that there was a larger vessel out there, but beyond their Berthier visibility. This proved to be correct and working on what they could see, and not see, plus which ships were being hit, they deduced where the big ship was and closed on it. As the British player had them on radar, and could therefore "see" much further under Berthier, he saw this movement. As he had already sunk most of the convoy, he saw no reason to sit around while the Italian ships closed on him. He withdrew, taking all but one of his other ships with him. He left behind a convoy shattered by a fog of war that would not have been possible with anything other than Berthier. As it was a night battle, flares were used from time to time and ships were set on fire. Players were manually informed of these situations.


SIMULATING ROAD OR RAIL NETWORKS

[by Tony De Lyall]

Berthier uses an area movement system ie. campaign units move from one area of the map (a grid square) to another area of the map (another grid square). However by using Berthier in a different way it is possible to build a road (or rail) network and use point to point movement along the roads instead of area movement.

Simply - you draw the road network using squares. Each square becomes a segment of road. As an illustration, the Waterloo campaign - covering the area from Waterloo in the north, Charleroi in the south, Hal in the west and Namur in the east - was captured in this way using a 30x30 square grid as the basis of the road network.

Drawing the Network

To set up a road (or rail) network in Berthier the steps are:

  1. Draw up a campaign map using squares to define the road network. When preparing the Waterloo map a numbered 30 x 30 square grid was created using a spreadsheet and photocopied onto a transparency. This was laid over a map of the Waterloo campaign and the actual squares that fell over roads were marked. This defined the required road network. Alternatively can use the GridMap utility with a computer map image to achieve the same effect.
  1. Create some appropriate terrain types within Berthier setup. For example -
    • Open terrain - this will be the default terrain type on which the network is drawn.
    • Good Roads.
    • Fair Roads.
    • Tracks.
  1. Set up your unit types and give them movement rates on the different types of roads. Give your unit types zero movement rate on the default terrain. This will force units to travel on the various road squares. For example -
Open Good Road Fair Road Track

0

10

7.5

5

  1. Set your chosen terrain as the default terrain in Berthier setup. (Open Terrain in the above example.)
  1. Draw the road network using Good, Fair and Track squares.

You can extend this to allow cross country movement on your default terrain as well. What you will need to do is give unit types a reasonable high movement rate on road squares and a rather lower rate on the default terrain. In most cases units should follow the roads as this will be the quickest route - but they may cut corners! You can force them across country using the Via part of the move order.

Making the Trains stay on the Tracks

If you have a rail network then you will want to ensure the trains stay on the tracks. Make sure your train unit type has a non-zero movement rate on rail terrain and a zero movement rate on any other type of terrain. Other unit types should be allowed to move on the rail terrain. (Think of it as moving across or along the rail lines.)


HIDDEN MOVEMENT FOR TABLE TOP SKIRMISH GAMES

[by Andrew Godden]

I have used Berthier to map out a wild west town for a skirmish game. I just broke my table up into a grid and Berthier told me if 2 players were in the same square, in which case both figures were put on the table.

To control hidden movement in solo skirmish I get somebody else to move the other characters. Non Player characters are moved in a set pattern, either up and down the main street or around the town. I use random initiative as well so I have little control over when encounters between players and non players occur.


HOW TO USE TOWNS

[by Tony De Lyall]

Towns were introduced to represent places of strategic importance. So use towns to represent magazines, supply depots, strong points, ports, fortresses or castles etc, as well as population centres. Towns default to Depots. This makes them attractive strategic objectives providing a place where campaigners can replenish and quarter their units without worrying about attrition. The justification being that towns have the infrastructure to support large bodies of men.


BERTHIER AS A TABLETOP AID

[by Stephen Hicks]

Berthier is extremely flexible - if you drop own a tactical level, and think at a lower level than the normal campaign scale it's possible to use Berthier to handle hidden movement on the table top. If you divide the table up into a grid that matches your spotting/movement distances you can play some really interesting games (such as the Spanish-American game above). I think this could be used just as easily for night engagements, Vietnam (jungle), street fighting - anyone for Stalingrad?, even pre-radar naval... in fact anything where you want to use hidden movement, with predefined spotting.


Additions to this page are welcome.

Last Updated: April 2012.

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