The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: February 1999

MAR I 1938

INSURGENT MAR II

A strong high from the Azores stalled over the Iberian peninsula, bringing sunshine with cold temperatures in the north (winter) and spring-like days in the south (clear).

To make hay while the winter lasts, Franco’s finest continued their drive on the Ebro’s south bank in Aragon. Overhead in clear skies another battle royal: A swarm of Ratas pounced on the patrolling Fiats and scarce Me-109s. The Insurgents again took the heavier losses (the Fiats just are no match for the monowing I-16s, and the Messerschmidts can’t be everywhere) but managed to protect their bomber friends and keep the Republican bombers away. Advancing with strong air and artillery support close to the river, the Nationalist ground forces pushed forward to Escatron (13:3232), but once again the Loyalists managed to fall back in good order.

SM-81 night bombers kept up the pressure on Barcelona, but without much effect. Making use of the better weather farther south, SM-79 and He-111 bombers attacked factories in Valencia and caused some damage. He-51 fighters attempting to strafe a Valencia airfield fared less well, being driven off after taking losses to deadly accurate light flak (“3” on a D2 roll!).

National merchantmen ferried imported supplies from ElFerrol to Bilbao to circumvent neutral non-intervention patrols at the latter port.

LOYALIST MAR I 1938

Being spared losses, the Loyalists managed once again to raise enough new troops to patch up their Ebro front. However, obviously being concerned about the safety of their lines north of that river, they pulled back from their well-entrenched positions in the Alcubierre hills (13:3031) to a shorter front still 20 miles forward of the Cinca river.

Construction of defenses in depth continued in the Valencia sector. All other sectors saw no action.

Ratas resumed their routine of attemting to attack forward Insurgent airfields in Aragon. As usual, they were met by Me-109s and had to jettison their bombs. Neither side suffered losses. SB-2 light bombers attacked the Pamplona-Zaragoza rail line and caused extensive damage.

COMMENTARY

The luck with the weather could have brought the Insurgents a decisive advantage. Had they inflicted losses in their Ebro attack (a chance of a shade less than 50%), the Loyalist front would probably have been weakened enough to allow a continuation of the offensive even in mud. However, the Loyalists again got off once again without a loss (the sixth time out of eight). Now they are likely to get a respite in mud weather until their massive reinforcements start arriving in April. However, the Escatron bulge in their front has caused them enough concern to trigger a retreat north of the Ebro to a shorter line. So, luck with the weather has netted the Nationalists at least a gain of three hexes, two of them entrenched, one of these in rough terrain.

 

Oct II 15

There is now mud everywhere. The normal rifle divisions are no longer able to move up to the defensive line as reserves, so only the light divisions will now be held in reserve by the Entente. The other divisions and artillery are moved into the front lines to support the defense.

The Zepplins succeed for their eighth terror hit on London.

Tom: A quiet turn. The coming of bad weather is good for its negative DRMs to the Central Powers, but bad because of the problems in moving up reserves. The Central Powers appear to have a shortage in resource points at the moment and that will probably save me from any attacks this turn.

The Zepplins hit London yet again (that makes nine!). In exchange, the Italians use their Ca 2 bomber and succeed in hitting the Austrian Factory at Triest. The Central Powers do their reorganization for the winter.

Carl: A lack of extra resource points have stopped any thoughts of offensive actions. I have spent another resource point for a fort against those pesky British. There is no real pressing need to attack the Italians at the moment. Just a quiet turn for both sides.

FEB II 1938

INSURGENT FEB II 1938

Normal winter weather has returned to Spain, with freezing temperatures (winter) in the north and continuing rain and mud in the south.

Making use of the hardened ground, Franco’s troops renewed their attacks in Aragon south of the Ebro. Overhead, Nationalist and Republican fighters clashed for control of the air space. Although the Nationalist took higher losses, they held fast so that their brothers on the ground could enjoy air support by bombers from Zaragoza (one of four fighters on CAP killed at no Loyalist loss). This time the ground attack succeeded. Hijar (13:3233) was taken and the Loyalist driven back with substantial losses (HX at 3:1 -1). Forward Nationalist elements now are barely more than 100 km (4 hexes) from the coast, but from here on they will have to contend with stiffening resistance, more difficult terrain, and poorer weather.

All other fronts remained quiet.

Savoia-Marchetti and Heinkel bombers kept up their day- and nighttime attacks on Barcelona, but neither anti-aircraft fire nor bombs had any significant effect.

LOYALIST FEB II 1938

The ever fickle French government, true to its long-established role as the Comedie Francaise, decided to close the border once again. Not much effect, except perhaps as a show of vaning confidence in the Loyalist cause.

The Loyalist military command scraped together whatever manpower it could and managed to form or reconstitute and equip two more infantry division, the 6th and 18th, which were immediately thrown in to seal the gap the Nationalists had opened at Hijar. To shorten their front and avoid being outflanked, they also pulled back from their well-entrenched position in the foothills facing Nationalist-held Montalban (23:3201). The Barcelona government is rumored to have invited Navajo medicine men to perform rain dances.

All other fronts remained quiet.

Fortification work continued at a hectic pace. Guerrillas persisted in attacking railway installations near Soria on the only loosely guarded Calatayud-Burgos line, but failed.

COMMENTARY

It is ironic that of the Nationalists’ seven “big” attacks so far, the only two that succeeded in causing losses were those with the least favorable odds (3.51:1 -1 or worse). Interestingly, in both those cases a better percentile role or another ASP spent or stronger air support would have spoiled the success by raising the odds to the next higher level to give a DR instead of an HX. With the Nationalists’ enormous surplus of Rpls — 150.0 infantry and 14.0 artillery not counting Italian and Kondor points, and 24.5 infantry coming in with every replacement cycle — an HX is the optimum result for them short of a DE. This is an unusual situation and makes one think of perhaps interchanging the DR and EX/HX results on the CRT at this stage. But of course in our game we’ll stick to the rules.

 

Oct I 15

Mud has started in the Alps. The French manage to recover from instability. The Entente pulls units back and begins to configure the defensive line for bad weather by pulling their light divisions into reserve, sending other units to the front line for more defensive factors. The rest of the French garrison artillery is mobilized and the Italians disband a large majority of their field artillery.

The Zepplins hit London again for their seventh terror bombing – the British will never see any of their fighters if this keeps up!

Tom: The past turn has been very rough for the Entente. The bright side is that the French have recovered from instability and things should start to settle down as winter approaches. The British are in good shape but they are limited by their three Army HQs in the line that they can take over. They are about stretched as far as they can go at the moment.

The Central Powers reorganizes their lines for better defense. The German 4th Army attacks the French 1 Colonial Corps by Toul and achieves a BX result. Another attack on Epinal by the German 6th Army results in the routing of the French defenders and Epinal falls. The German Alps Corps attacks the Italians and manages a BX result despite extreme mismanagement of the attack.

The Central Powers lost 32 German, 8 Bavarian Manpower and 36 Equipment Points. The Entente lost 20 Italian, 16 French Metropolitan, 10 French Colonial Manpower and 26 Equipment Points.

Carl: Another French fortress falls, bringing the French down to 75 morale points left. I could possibly cause a French collapse by the spring of 1916. The two fortresses that are left for me to attack easily are Belfort and Reims. Both will be difficult to attack and win, but the French cannot afford to lose them. The British are too strong and will probably have the NW advantage before too long. I think I have gotten as much as I can in Italy, it is time to stop my attacks down there for now. It is only a manpower and resource point drain without very many benefits. I succeeded in forcing the Italians back from Trent and Triest and back across the Isonzo. I am happy with the current situation there.

FEB I 1938

INSURGENT FEB I 1938

The cold spell was broken by an unseasonable intrusion of warm air. Heavy rainstorms turned all of Spain into a quagmire and caused rivers in the north to flood.

The Nationalists halted their Ebro offensive in the face of atrocious ground conditions. All other fronts also remained quiet.

The rains did nothing to stop air activities. Nationalist fighters retaliated for the attack on the Barbastro airfield by launching a similar raid against a Republican field in the Alcubierre hills (13:3031), where they were met be an armada of subnosed Ratas. In a mother-of-a-dogfight, the largest of the war so far, a number of Italian Fiats were lost (1 kill), but the older Ratas fared even worse (3 aborts). Poor visibility rendered the subsequent airfield strafing unsuccessful.

Day and night bombing raids on Barcelona continued. Anti-aircraft fire brought down several He-111s, and no significant damage was done on the ground. A major raid by attack bombers on Valencia’s airfield met with accurate anti-aircraft fire that downed a number of the older Nationalist planes. Here, too, no significant damage was done on the ground.

LOYALIST FEB I 1938

The lull in the fighting allowed the Loyalists to beef of their defenses even further. Engineers and civil labor worked hard to improve defenses.

SB-2 light bombers attempted another attack on Madrid’s industry, but were waylaid by Me-109s as they took off from Valencia (patrol attack) and lost some of their number.

COMMENTARY

A deep sense of frustration is becoming apparent among the Insurgents. Too many of the strongest attacks they can ever hope to mount have failed to inflict even the slightest loss (five out of six, with an average chance of success close to 50%) and an inordinate share of them has not even gained ground (two out of these six). To add insult to injury, the weather has served up mud in mid-winter at the crucial Ebro front (one chance in six). The only return on the prolific expenditure of precious attack supply has been a gain of a few hexes and, more importantly, a destruction of the Loyalist entrenchments between the Ebro and the mountains of southern Aragon. But the opportunity of capitalizing on this is slipping away with the turn of the weather: Spring inevitably will give the Loyalists enough time to dig in again. For the game, though, this chain of events is likely to be all for the good: Insurgent success in all their big attacks would have made the Loyalist position hopeless, but now the issue whether capitulation can be avoided before the game ends remains still very much in doubt.

At this stage of the game, two optional rules prove to affect play balance quite strongly. Fortunately, they work in opposite directions and so tend to balance one another quite well. The first is the entrenchment rule. With a profusion of infantry divisions, both sides can dig just about everywhere, but only the Loyalists benefit because only they are being attacked. The other rule is the (unmodified) percentile roll we are using for ground combat. (That is, if, say, the odds are 3.72:1 and the percentile roll is 72 or below, combat is resolved on the 4:1 column.) Here, only the Insurgents reap the benefit because they alone are the attackers. With entrenchments almost everywhere, the Nationalist must contend with their additional -1 modifier in most but not all attacks. But the percentile roll often but not always lets an attack go in one column higher on the CRT. Since a -1 die roll modifier and a +1 column shift compensate one another exactly at the typical attack odds, the combined effect is quite small. However, players should be aware that using only one of the two rules, or using entrenchments but normalizing the percentile roll to negate the attacker’s advantage, will seriously alter play balance in the late stages of the game.

 

Sep II 15

The British and French move up to their attack positions. The Italians entrench some more units. The French bombard the Germans near Reims and disrupts the three defending divisions. The Germans rush up three reserve divisions to bolster the defense. Foch comes through for the French and they end up with a BX result – another victory for the proud French army! (Only in their minds – the French lost 10 morale points while the Germans lost 6. A few more “victories” like this and the French will surrender!) The British assault the Germans at Lens, a precious coal site for the Germans. The resulting DX is a victory for the British and the Entente player breathes a sigh of relief.

The Bavarian 6th Army reacts with an assault on Toul. Even though it is across the river and canal for two of the attacking corps, the French end up suffering a DD result. Toul falls to the German assault and the French have been reduced to a NW of 1! The French fail their check and are shaken (along with the French Mutiny). This combat has also seen the first air unit aborted by enemy action, a Drachen Observation balloon unit was aborted by anti-aircraft fire while attempting to perform the tactical recon mission. The German Alps Corps attacks the Italian entrenched line and gets a BX result. The losses reduces the Italian NW to 2. The Austrians now attack the Italians, recapturing Gorz and pushing another Italian Corps back over the Isonzo.

Entente losses were 58 French Metropolitan, 16 Italian, 7 Canadian, 5 British, 4 French Colonial Manpower and 51 Equipment Points. The Central Powers lost 58 German, 6 Wurttemburg, 5 Saxon Manpower and 21 Equipment Points.

Tom: I have been taking a chance with the French each turn and now it has cost me. The fall of Toul to an assault that quickly was a shocker. (During the reaction combat phase too!) Although there was some luck involved, the timing is deadly. With the French failing to make their instability check, they are now halved in attack until they recover during a future friendly initial phase. This lets the Germans concentrate on their other enemies and they could pull troops from their reserves against the French and use them against the British or Italians. This could be the turn that wins the game for the Central Powers.

The Germans replace their losses while funneling more troops to their possible breakthrough in Toul. The Germans on the Italian front are pulled back to receive replacements. Another Zeppelin raid on London scores another terror hit – that makes six now. The attempt to open a breakthrough near Toul fails with the Bavarians having two divisions cadred (AP result). An assault on Epinal is stopped with light losses on both sides (DX result). The Italian’s last corps over the Isonzo is forced back by an Austrian attack.

The French 3rd Army is able to react and reinforce the French Corps defending the Toul breakthrough. The British 3rd Army reacts and continues its assault on Lens. The British suffer heavy casualties without much progress.

The Central Powers lost 18 Bavarian, 12 German, 8 Austrian, 6 Wurttemburg, 5 Saxon Manpower and 18 Equipment Points. The Entente lost 40 British, 12 Italian, 10 Indian, 8 French Metropolitan, 6 Canadian Manpower and 42 Equipment Points.

Carl: The failed British attack in the Reaction Combat Phase definitely salvaged my portion of the turn for me. My Reaction Combat Phase during the Entente turn made this the most successful turn since almost a game year ago for me. The fall of Lille is probably the only thing that was more important for my war effort. The French are shaken in game turns and Tom is shaken in his own morale. I could not take advantage of the fall of Toul and the attack on Epinal definitely shook Tom. I almost had as good of a chance against that fortress that I had against Toul. I think both of us have been surprised by the effectiveness of attacking entrenched troops. We may not take the hex, but the attrition and morale loss has frequently been in favor of the attacker. I am beginning to get troops back from the Eastern front. This may make a large difference, I do not know yet. The Austrians have started sending troops to the Balkans for a large push against Serbia, so I think allowing the Italian front to settle down for the Winter is a good idea. The French are enticing, especially since the failed British attack has severely limited their ability to support the French. I will probably continue to attack in the Toul-Epinal area for a while and see if it pays off.

JAN II 1938

INSURGENT JAN II 1938

The strong cold front has now extended its hold to southerm Spain. While snow flurries continued in the north, sunshine and freezing ground brought an end to the mud in the south.

At the Ebro front, the Nationalist offensive continued unabated. The main effort remained concentrated on the south bank of the river. However, the attack stalled (another “1,” at 4:1 -1).

Troop movement to the Zaragoza area continued. Except for the Ebro battle, all fronts remained quiet.

Additional security forces were constituted to take over guard duty on the Gijon-Valladolid rail line. This will link another port to the secure portion of the rail net.

While the Republican fighters were busy at the Ebro front, Savoia-Marchettis kept up their raids on industrial targets in Barcelona. Beefed-up anti-aircraft defenses (now 7CF) did not prevent them from getting through to cause some additional damage.

LOYALIST JAN II 1938

The Loyalists used their success at the Ebro to strengthen their front. No other ground actions.

I-15 and I-16 Fighters conducted a sweep at an airfield near Barbastro. They were met again by Me-109s, but this time dealt them a bloody nose. However, they missed their target in poor visibility.

Russian SB-2 light bombers attacked factories in Madrid and caused some damage.

Communist guerrilleros made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a railway station near Soria.

COMMENTARY

Stalemate all around, and not much change in sight until the weather will improve in late spring.

 

JAN I 1938

INSURGENT JAN I 1938

A cold front moving in from the Atlantic brought freezing temperatures and light snow flurries to Aragon and Cataluna while the south of Spain remained mired in mud.

The Ebro battle continued. Having outflanked the fortified position at Quinto (13:3034) and forced its evacuation, Franco’s troops shifted their Schwerpunkt again to the south bank. With massive support by the airforce and heavy batteries firing across the river, they captured Azaila (13:3133) and are now approaching Hijar and Escatron. This time the Loyalists took heavy casualties (HX).

Troop movement from the south to the Zaragoza area still continued. Except for some changes of guards, all other fronts remained quiet.

Savoia-Marchetti and Heinkel-111 bombers renewed their attacks on Barcelona’s industrial facilities. This week, however, they encountered fighter cover and strengthened anti-aircraft batteries. New Ratas made short shrift of the escorting Italian Fiats (one A one K), but the bombers got through, scored some additional damage, and returned unharmed.

LOYALIST JAN I 1938

The ever vaccilating French government closed the Spanish border once again, but this will have little effect on events.

Thanks to new levies and generous support in materiel from the Soviet Union, the Loyalists patched up their battered Ebro front without much trouble and now stand prepared to face whatever may come. However, they are in no position to counterattack.

Emboldened by the lopsided victory over the Italian Fiats in Barcelona’s skies, the Republican airforce raised itself from its period of rest and recuperation and launched a grandiose attack on a minuscule target, an airstrip near Zaragoza, in the hope of catching Heinkels on the ground. Every available fighter and attack bomber was thrown in. While the outclassed Nationalist Fiats chose caution as the wiser course of action, German Me-109s rose to the challenge and caught the Republican fighter escort over its staging field. Although outnumbered, the Me-109s brought down some Ratas at no loss to their own, but were unable to stem the red tide. The attack bombers got through, but, largely because of poor visibility, caused no damage to speak of.

COMMENTARY

Having taken no losses for two months since liquidation of the Murcia pocket, the Loyalists are able to maintain their front-line strength despite the losses at Azaila and even have accumulated a tidy cushion of reserves. It will take a few more such defeats before they start hurting. Moreover, spring mud is in the offing, and in April and May a huge wave of reinforcements will come in, including no fewer than eleven new infantry divisions. (It’s a bit strange that the rules allow them to raise that much when they control less than 12 percent of Spain’s area and less than a quarter of her population. Maybe the reinforcements should be more tied to cities held.)