The game was obviously a Decisive Loyalist Victory by a rather rediculous margin.
The biggest factor was the variable start rolls went very badly for the Insurgents. They didn’t pick up much worthwhile, and lost several cities. The worst of it was that they lost 5 artillery units that the would have had with the historical outcome. The biggest problem operationally for the Insurgents was that the artillery shortage became so sever that there were several times they could have launched counterattacks but didn’t because if they had had to take any exchange losses out of supported units they had no way to rebuild them. Of course having more artillery units to start with would have done nothing to increase the amount of artillery RP’s recieved during the game, but it would have kept the shortage from being so constraining. I doubt that I would have wanted to play out the situation in a game against an opponent as opposed to a solitaire game.
Both sides had occasional supply problems. The Insurgents had plenty of attack supply, but low rail cap meant they often had trouble getting it to the front. After mid-’37, the Insurgents rarely attacked, so this was no longer a problem; by the end of the game they had huge amounts of supply stockpiled near the front, and still had lots sitting in port. The Loyalists, with more rail cap, had an easier time getting their supply to the front, but expended their entire allotment several times during the game. They only had problems getting supplies forward after they began directing their main attack up the low volumn rail line. Even then, there were times that all of their supply had been shipped forward and there was nothing left in the rear. The only big backlog of supply the Loyalists had was at Gijon, where they had a big stockpile due to not taking Oviedo and connecting Gijon to the rest of the rail net.
It seems to me that combat die rolls averaged out pretty evenly overall. However, the Insurgents did get the short end of air combat rolls in the early going. The air rolls did eventually even out, but by then the game was probably already decided.
Despite the relative lack of air power in FWtBT, air units can have a big impact on the game due to the general weakness of the ground units and low unit density. In other Europa games, you might often have combats where 100 points are attacking 30, and 3 or 4 points of GS or DAS won’t make much difference. In FWtBT, though, you may have lots of combats where 20 points are attacking 5, and those same 3 or 4 bombing strength points can make a big difference. 20:5 = 4:1, but add 3 point of GS and you get a 60% chance of the odds going to 5:1 if using incremental odds, but on the other hand 3 points of DAS instead lower the odds to 2:1 with a 80% chance of getting 3:1.
The Insurgent position started off much weaker that the historical situation, but I see 4 key turns that lead to their defeat.
1) Aug I ’36. The Insurgent take Gijon, but lose it immediately to a
counterattack. The initial Insurgent attack went in at 3:2 odds and got lucky. There is no reason to send in attack this weak on such a key point. If you don’t want to commit more units than this to the North in ’36, don’t bother making an attack at all. Making this attack was definately a mistake, but was redeemed by a lucky die roll. Having been handed a gift, the Insurgents gave it right back by sending their fleet back to El Ferrol and letting the Loyalist have control of the seas off Gijon, letting their counterattack go in with NGS. Sending away the ships was easily the biggest, clearest mistake I made in the game. Letting the attack go in so weak to start with is I believe the second. (I took some chances at other times, and may have made some questionable decisions, but these were out-and-out mistakes.)
2) Jan I ’37. An attack on the rail line west of Madrid doesn’t do anything but waste supply. The Insurgent plan for ’37 called for secondary attacks in this area, but I shouldn’t have attacked here till the same time as the main attack offensive started in the north. Still, this is nowhere near as big a deal as #’s 1 & 3. (Probably a mistake, but it’s not absoluted clearly so.)
3) May II ’37. A 3:1 – 2 attack results in a disastrous AH, the destruction of the 13 XX (a 7-6, best division in the game), and the end of the last Insurgent offensive. It was risky, but had it succeeded, the Insurgents would have had a good chance to knock the Santanderos out of the game in a few more turns, which would have greatly increased the pressure on the Asturians and somewhat on the Basques. The Insurgents really have to knock the northern gobernitos out before the end of ’37 or else the VP awards for the gobernitos not falling really start to add up. The Insurgents were already behind schedule and this was really their last chance, so I don’t feel there was any other choice but to attack. (I definately do not consider this attack a mistake, but rather a big gamble that had to be taken and which completely backfired.)
4) July II ’37. Burgos is taken and the CVT wiped out in the loss. (I don’t feel that there was any Insurgent mistake in this, just a Loyalist gamble that paid off. The attack was a 2:1 straight up and resulted in a HX, so it was hardly a sure thing.)
And finally, it’s not a specific turn, but in Mid-’38, many of the better Insurgent units were still in the north. Some of these should have been sent to Extramadura before the fall of Don Benito. The game was already lost to the Insurgents at this point, so it really doesn’t matter, but the Insurgents probably should have kept their part of Spain from being split in two. (A mistake, yes, but again, not that big a deal given the overall situation at this point.)
There were a few other mistakes I made with the Insurgents, but they were more tactical in nature, particularly a couple of times I didn’t scramble or intercept with fighters but left them of the ground to be protected by AA.
With the Loyalist, nothing stands out as a big mistake. I made some tactical mistakes with them too, of course, but nothing that had a large apparant impact on the course of the war. I now am inclined to believe that shifting the direction of the attack up the low volumn rail line in ’38 was a mistake, but it’s not clear if it was or not. I was focusing on the idea of splitting Nationalist Spain in two. Once I achieved that goal, it wasn’t as big a deal as I had thought it would be. The biggest effect was that the Insurgent rail cap was split between to segments, but at that point the Insurgents didn’t have to move much by rail. There were 4 basic options for where to make the main effort in ’38 : 1) continue the ’37 offensive in Castilla la Vieja, 2) attack up the high volumn rail line west of Madrid, 3) attack up the low volumn rail line, or 4) try to fight my way into Andulasia from Murcia thru the mountains. At the time, I ranked them (from best to worst) as # 3, # 2, # 1, and # 4. In retrospect, I’d still rank # 4 as the worst option, but I’d rank the others as # 1, # 2, and # 3. Still, what I did had the advantage ot hitting the Insurgents where they were weakest. The big problem was that I wasn’t able to shift some of the best Loyalist units from around Burgos; it was a choice of railing in units or supplies, and I had to move supplies. To make it clear, some of the best units were shifted, but not as many of them as I would have liked.
I think that a good case could be made that I was not aggressive enough with either side. I was certainly not aggressive at sea. Basically the operations around Gijon in ’37 and the shipping of units from Morocco to Mainland Spain wa all the navies did. I thought a few times about launching a Loyalist amphibianous invasion of Morocco, but never did.
Odds and Ends
There were 28 Insurgent and 81 Loyalist ground attacks in my game. The average Loyalist attack went in right at 4:1; the Insurgent average was mid-way between 4:1 and 5:1. For both sides, the average pulled up some because several attacks on intrinsic garrisons at 8:1 or 9:1 are included. Out of 109 total attacks, 19 (over 17%) were at less than 3:1 (15 at 2:1, 3 at 3:2, and 1 at 1:1; no attacks at less than 1:1, and yes, if you’re wondering, I have made 1:2 attacks in other games). Over half of all attacks were at either 3:1 or 4:1. Three-fourths of all attacks had a die-roll mod of either 0 or -1. Of course, lack of armor means there were very few attacks with a positive die-roll mod.
The Nationalist BBTF somehow managed to get thru the whole game without taking random mine damage, a very unlikely outcome. I think the odds are something like 1 in 5,000 that this will happen.
Several people have posted about the variable start rule, saying that they found that it has too big an effect on the game. There was a suggestion in TEM about one way to limit this, but I have another. Roll for variable start before choosing sides. If both players agree that the situation seems balanced, then chose sides randomly. Otherwise, re-roll for variable start until both players do agree.
Victory Condition Option. As I mentioned, the VP awards for the northern gobernitos not falling mean that the Insurgents pretty much have to follow the historical strategy of a northern offensive in ’37, or even an unhistorical ’36 northern offensive, if they want to win. As an option to avoid this, I offer the following:
Before beginning play, the Insurgent player secretly writes down what his strategy for 1937 will be. There are 4 possibilitie strategies: Northern, Central, Eastern, or Southern. Which strategy he has chosen is revealed at the end of the game. Each has a different impact of VP awards:
- Northern Strategy. VP awards are unchanged from page 68 of the rulebook.
- Central Strategy. Ignore the VP awards to the Loyalist player for the northern gobernitos (Asturias, Euzkadi, and Santander) not falling by Jun I 37. Instead award him 15 VP’s each turn from that date if the Insurgent player does not control every city (including point cities) in Castilla la Neuva and/or 5 VP’s if the Insurgent player does not control both Calatayud and Albacete.
- Eastern Strategy. As per the Northern Strategy, except the VP awards to the Loyalist player are 5 VP’s each for controlling Zaragoza, Lerida, Terragona, and Barcelona.
- Southern Strategy. As per the Northern Strategy, except that the VP awards to the Loyalist player are 5 VP’s each for controlling Cartagena, Murcia (the city), and Valencia.
If the Central, Eastern, or Southern strategy is chosen, the Loyalist player is still awarded the VP’s listed on page 68 for each of the Northern gobernitos which has not collapsed beginning with Jul I 38. For all 4 strategies, continue to award the Loyalist player 5 VP’s each turn from Nov I 38 if Cataluna has not collapsed. (The Insurgents still have to worry about the gobernitos sooner or later, this option just let’s them do it later.)