January 1915 initial phases came and went with the impact usual of a production phase. Both French and German rail nets deteriorated, with the French in the neighborhood of half as capable as the Germans in that arena. All armies continued their buildups. Both major Canadian formations remained at reduced effectiveness for what is fast becoming a statistically unlikely amount of time. Britain suffered two morale points of losses at sea while the Germans suffered no strategic loss.
Entente forces on the ground conducted a major reorganization in early January 1915. Belgian forces moved to the front line for the first time since October, massing nearly their whole army in 0723 under fieldworks. British forces reduced their holding to only fifty miles of front, though with some backstop forces, and entrenched the key position southwest of Oostende. One hundred two points of British forces sat confidently in the new entrenchments while proportionally equally strong forces crouched less happily in their fieldworks around Oostende and further southwest of the entrenched zone. French forces glumly took up most of the second line positions behind the Belgians and Britons while also entrenching further positions and thickening their frontline in several places.
Little in the first half of December changed when compared with all of November 1914. The Belgians called up their training and replacement forces garrison and continued their rebuilding of military and diplomatic clout. German forces massed their siege train and sundry heavy artillery divisions near Oostende. Neither side launched any attacks.
The arrival of snow in the second half of December 1914 finally broke the lethargy of both sides. Entente engineers, carefully pre-positioned at critical locations, immediately upgraded some key French positions to entrenchments. Entente calculations in this regard were simple: the Germans would not attack in mobile combat at worse than 6:1 -3 or the equivalent and those odds were impossible to deny the massive German force after the arrival of winter. With the onset of winter, entrenchments and weather would make highly likely the retention of key positions with results likely to be no worse than even. The Germans saw the same weather change and salivated at the chance to hit the Entente in mobile combat with numbers and terrain available to guarantee success, or to hit the Entente in positional combat with results likely to be no worse than even and quite possibly better.
Perhaps in response to this new aggressiveness, a discussion of morale and will seemed in order. An investigation of the immediate future revealed the French to be in fantastic shape, up by nearly sixty morale points versus their historical February 1915 numbers. The British were likewise in great shape, though only up by less than ten points. The Germans, probably due to their lack of geographic progress in the west, sat at only about one hundred five points above their February values. With the imminent Schlieffen Plan penalty of one hundred morale points, the players immediately grasped the situation: Germany needed to hit the French hard and soon. Once February arrived, the French looking forward could see a massive morale advantage that would yield +1 in every ground combat. The British, by contrast, would probably drop to national will four in January due to losses in other theaters and would thus spend January in the position of the nation with the lower national will. Further, if the Germans could not kill enough Frenchmen, in February the French morale would skyrocket and probably leave them to enjoy a combat bonus throughout the remainder of the war; every morale point of French losses before February 1915 would be one less bonus morale point gained by the French in that month.
As if in connivance with the Entente, the Central Powers dice once again failed them during the reaction phases of the Entente turns in both II DEC 14 and I JAN 15. During neither turn did a useful German army activate and the Entente dodged two big bullets as a result.
The Central Powers II DEC 14 turn did not pass so peacefully. German forces used their massive rail net, for once not occupied with numerous transfers to all theaters, and highly mobile heavy artillery to put together a useful attack against the French salient at 2119. Forty-six points of defending French faced 3.7:1 odds and met the challenge admirably. Modifiers of -1 for entrenchments and -2 for winter found only partial compensation in the efforts of four regiments of engineers. Aerial reconnaissance reminded all of its general uselessness, until next turn at least, by failing in both attempts by in-range aircraft. Falkenhayn could not be bothered to attend the battle, so far south of his comfortable Belgian chateau. In the end, 3.7:1 rolled down to 3:1 and a -2 modifier changed the roll of 5 into a BX. French forces suffered 2x 8*-11-5 divisions reduced plus 1-5 eng III eliminated. German forces suffered 9*-11-5 Bavarian and 13-15-5 Prussian divisions reduced plus 1-2-5 Engineer III eliminated. Morale losses came out dead even (discounting the loss of part of the upcoming French bonus) but the battle cost the Germans two more replacement points to make good.
The November 1914 initial phases did not pass without significant impact on the conduct of the war. Neither Germany nor Britain suffered morale losses at sea. German economists pressured their government into buying four points of food; the General Staff agreed with the decision because their armies had signally failed to seize expected Belgian granaries. Belgian forces continued their trend of disbanding low quality formations and rebuilding some of the best rifle divisions in the Entente arsenal. French generals started to get ahead of French casualty rosters, stopped their frantic scrapping of numerous lousy units, and started to make steady progress at emptying the replacement pool and maximizing the army in the field. British forces continued their retrieval of regular forces from overseas. Of some importance, the German rail net did not deteriorate in November but the already feeble French net did become even less efficient.
On the ground, in a trend to last until mid-December, the French constricted their sectors of the front while British and Belgian forces expanded their holdings. In the next six weeks, Belgian forces grew to backstop all or part of five hexes of the line. British forces, continually expanding with divisions from India and Canada and with imperial forces returning from across the globe, eventually grew to hold sixty-five miles of the front in strength unchallengeable before January. French forces, freed from thirty miles of front and forty miles of second line and swollen with a trickle of reinforcing units and rebuilt formations, steadily thickened their defense to the point that in some sectors a second line was deemed unnecessary.
Offensively, the only serious Entente efforts were French. French forces spent November massing ever more strongly near the Swiss border. Newly released heavy artillery formations and a concentration of elite units seemed to offer the prospect of an offensive either across the Rhine River along the Swiss border or along the Rhine toward Neu Breisach. Unfortunately for the Entente player, Entente heavy artillery could not move into position without becoming disrupted and every incremental increase in Entente strength could be, and was, met by a similar increase in German forces. No attack went forward and in December the French high command began to shuffle the massed forces toward other sectors of the line.
On the German side of the war, events followed a very similar course. The November crop of manpower rebuilt numerous formations previously destroyed in the assaults on Maubeuge and other Entente positions. German forces occasionally massed to conduct attacks that a sober appraisal of chances then forbade. The High Seas Fleet stayed quietly in port and the air forces continually scrambled away from Entente bombing missions. Perhaps the only decision of real note was another negative: even in the face of unspent ARPs going to waste, the Germans decided not to attempt to repair their aborted Zeppelin. It seems that the possible cost in morale for losing the unit greatly outweighs the tiny utility that such a useless aircraft could ever have if intact.