The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: May 2006

February II 1915

Entente Turn

The second half of February 1915 began with the usual and the unusual. German forces rebuilt two cadres; British Indians and French Africans and Metropolitans rebuilt one each. French forces replaced one field artillery regiment. The Canadian heavy cavalry brigade again refused to leave its reduced effectiveness status. Far more importantly, an unexpected thaw transformed plastic mud into liquid mud and opened the way for a potential Entente attack against weakly-held, newly entrenched German positions at several salient in the front lines.

In late February 1915, for only the second time in the war to date, the Entente conducted major offensive activity. In order to free up an increasing quantity and quality of French formations, the Belgians shifted their frontline position to 0723, a hex with thirty-miles of river in front of it, while slightly buffing up their share of the second-line trenches. British forces took total ownership of the section of the front running Oostende through 0622 and also occupied forty miles of second line trenches. French forces broadly completed their reordering of the extreme southern sector of the line and managed to mass enough elite forces to go on the attack in the far southwestern fringes of the Ardennes Forest.

The freshly entrenched German salient at 1121 provided the target for the historic change of offensive tide on the Western Front (for “The Great World War One, 1914-1917”). Two German divisions, 33 points, defended wooded entrenchments facing fifteen miles of river and thirty-five miles of distant French trenches. French forces, with significant heavy artillery already in place along this sector of the front and powerful forces moving up rapidly, assumed a sudden offensive posture when they sensed the change in weather. Good French divisions and various moderate quality brigades and regiments exchanged positions with the crème de la crème of French formations: 10*-13-5 divisions and various elite divisions, brigades, and regiments. Eight regiments of field artillery slipped into firing positions under cover of woods to join the party.

In the face of such quality, what could even the liberally equipped, stronger German divisions do to defend themselves? 132.5 attack strength of French enjoyed +1’s for national will and elite status while facing -1’s for woods, entrenchment, and positional mud. Two groups of reconnaissance aircraft provided a +1 to the French and eight regiments of engineers combined into two, two brigade successful engineering attempts for +2 more. 4:1 with a combat roll of 6 resulted in DL and a forced change in the front line!

A Saxon 15-17-5 division dropped to cadre in trade for the French loss of 1-5 engineer regiment and the reduction of 4*-5-7 light brigade to remnant. Each side spent RP, Germans lost 1 1/3 and French 5/6 morale points.

Large French forces advanced after combat into the contested hex and suffered right about 50% disruption for their troubles. It would take a very bold German to counterattack this hex on the mobile table, with the French enjoying -5 protection from woods, elite, national will, and mud.

In reaction, only one German army activated to conduct a few, unimportant shifts.

Exploitation, in this unusual turn, kept to the unusual pattern. Several disrupted formations moved out of the contested hex. To replace them, undisrupted formations moved into the hex and again managed to find significant safe, clear locations to assemble a defense. By the end of the turn, three of four French divisions and two of four regiments or brigades in the embattled forest were not disrupted and German chances of a successful counterattack had dropped to nearly nil.

Central Powers Turn

The Central Powers initial phase of February II 1915 passed with little activity to note: German forces rebuilt one cadre.

Central Powers movement in late February 1915 was a real reaction to newly exhibited Entente strength. Many previously ‘safe’ positions received reinforcements to counteract Entente prowess. Several brand-new entrenchments underwent renovation, resulting in handsome new fieldworks that would keep the Entente on the mobile table where the -2 for mud would make 3 and 4:1 attacks unsafe. Too, the Germans continued to conform in their tactics and operations to their attritional strategy, this time by massing against the French in 2520.

25 defense points in 2520 stood in fieldworks amid muddy mountains, semi-confident that their national will advantage would keep them safe from German attack. Three corps of Germans proved them wrong in a small but hard fought battle in which the Germans, but not the French, spent an RP. The French decision sent 6:1 odds spiraling up to 9:1 and transformed a sure BX into a likely DX, as indeed turned out to be the case. French forces reduced 6*-9-5 division to cadre and suffered 4-5-5 field artillery regiment destroyed for 1 1/3 morale points lost. German forces suffered 7*-8-5 cadre destroyed for 1/3 morale point lost.

It may be worth noting that with most 0-move artillery and the German siege train now disbanded the stockpiles of equipment points on both sides will no longer be quite so flush and that artillery and cadre losses may start to hurt more than has been the case in the past four months.

At the end of February 1915, Entente forces roused themselves to action in hopes of keeping the pressure on in their successful February offensive in the Ardennes. Three French armies activated for the purposes of shifting ever more of the best units of the French Army into the Ardennes sector and pulling increasing numbers of lower-rated formations southward out of that portion of the front. One British army likewise activated, pulling all but a non-overrunnable crust of forces from the frontline British trenches. Boringly, the offensively-poised French armies did not activate, so the phase passed without combat.

German exploitation at the end of February 1915 proved utterly unremarkable, with only the usual minor shifting of details.

February I 1915

Entente Turn

The Entente initial phase of February 1915 was certainly the most important and eventful such phase of the game, almost totally because of the first annual morale check. Three German cadres received replacements for rebuilding. French forces replaced two cadres and three field artillery regiments besides rebuilding one cadre. British forces replaced their motorized machinegun brigade and reduced the second Indian cavalry division to cadre. Canadian forces finally began to abandon their long intransigence as their rifle division went to full effectiveness though their heavy cavalry brigade did not. British national will swelled back to category five as the empire gained 16 1/3 morale points (1/3 point below pre-war levels); they may gain another point once the undersea cables to South Africa are repaired and news arrives regarding the final extinction of the Boer revolt. French forces gathered in an astounding 51 1/3 morale points due to their almost total lack of geographic
losses; the French now rest solidly above their pre-war morale point totals. Austrian forces, due to their almost complete absence from the war in the west, could not better their historical performance in the war and that empire neither gained nor lost any morale points. For German forces, by contrast, the realization of the utter failure of the Schlieffen Plan (perhaps more properly the Moltke the Younger variant of the Schlieffen Plan) sent morale tumbling in a fashion (the 100 morale point penalty down to national will four) that the near-total lack of progress into France could not begin to offset; Germany gained no morale during the morale check. Belgium, as a minor power, did not undergo the annual morale check.

During early February 1915, the Entente did not press their national will advantage but did begin to shift their forces to enable future offensives. With a new national will penalty of -1 against near-future German attacks, French and British forces thinned their front line positions slightly. British forces took up second line positions behind another twenty-five miles of the front in addition to their current fifty miles of front and twenty-five miles of second line. French forces removed most of their elite units from the front line in the south and began to shift them into the sectors of the front between Epinal and the Ardennes. Belgian forces sat tight in their fifteen miles of frontline and twenty-five miles of second line trenches but did rejoice at a brand new machinegun brigade joining the army.

Central Powers reaction to Entente moves in early February 1915 was as muted as the morale checks indicated might be the case. Two armies, both poorly positioned for offensive actions, activated with minor benefits for the continuous German reorganization. Several armies with plausible attack forces in position for action failed their activation checks.

Central Powers Turn

In their own February I 1915, the Central Powers acted no more forcefully. While the French rebuilt one cadre to a division the Germans replaced two 1-2-5 engineer and one 3-4-7 mountain regiments besides a 7*-8-5 cadre and conducted many reorganizations and conversions. During their movement the Germans contented themselves with a massive organizational shift, both to mass forces to overcome the debilitating effects of several AX combat results and to prepare for yet another wave of reorganizations and conversions of units. The combination of national will, winter, fieldworks or entrenchments, and either poor terrain or massive Entente strength left the Germans unable to attack the British or French with any positional chance at better than BX or any mobile chance at better than EX; chances for AL, AX, AQ, AH, and AE abounded. The Germans could, as frequently, have hit the Belgians, but even the total extermination of the Belgian Army would little change the situation on th
e front while corresponding losses of Germans might seem to be of larger importance in the face of an imminent Franco-British offensive.

Entente reaction to German passivity was correspondingly unexciting. British and Belgian headquarters failed their reaction chances while three French armies continued the gradual shuffle of elite or strong formations northward and lower-grade units southward.

January II 1915

Entente Turn

The Entente movement phase of II January 1915 was a response to the preceding German withdrawal from their salient at 0923 and strong attack against British forces south of Oostende. Sixty defense strength points of Belgians massed from several non-overrunnable positions in the second line into fifteen miles of fieldworks on the front line while other Belgians still retained the second line position on the coast. British forces also compacted, moving into only sixty-five miles of front and barely ten miles of second line positions while enthusiastically welcoming three divisions of fresh forces into their sector. French forces, as always, took up the slack on both the main and second lines. In many frontline sectors, the French grew usefully stronger while almost the entire front now enjoys a second line of French forces to backstop against any German attack.

German reaction to these moves came in several successful reaction rolls but no attacks. Odds of 2.5:1 seemed unwise against Belgians, British, and French in several places. Numerous forces did pull off the line to accept additional artillery fresh from the factories in the upcoming week and other forces moved to prepare attacks against the French between Metz and Epinal.

German Turn

The German initial phase of did not pass uneventfully. British forces rebuilt one of two Indian cadres to full strength, not even taking advantage of the opportunity to rebuild the formation to a weaker strength at lesser cost. German forces rebuilt four 7*-8-5 cadres from the replacement pool besides conducting about fifteen upgrades and conversions.

In keeping with their pattern in recent months, German forces in late January 1915 massed for and conducted one attack. In this pattern, our Germans are semi-consciously imitating Falkenhayn’s attrition strategy of 1915-1916. In our case, especially before February 1915, every Entente morale point loss will be matched by a corresponding point not gained as a bonus during the morale check; German points are simply a 1:1 loss. Falkenhayn was – and our Germans are – striking against the long-term will of the French to sustain the war effort.

This time the attrition fell at hex 2219. Defending French forces of 60 points enjoyed the protection of woods, entrenchments, and the -2 penalty for positional attacks in winter weather. The French also gathered in .5 points of defensive air support in a rare situation where that tiny amount actually mattered.

German forces in this battle did not enjoy so much support as had their colleagues further north in recent months. Falkenhayn’s headquarters lay too far away to allow his influence to be felt and the flame engineers likewise could not shift southward fast enough to participate. Several groups of reconnaissance planes surveyed the battlefield for the Germans, one group with great success, but the Taube group ran into a thunderstorm while staging at long range and self-aborted – no loss as the Germans held several ARPs in previously useless reserve. In an exceptional twist, four German engineer regiments in two attempts failed both to influence the battle and to get slaughtered.

As both sides expended a prodigious amount of ammunition, the attack went in. 3.8:1, rolled up to 4:1, and a solid 3 was rolled; with -3 in penalties that left the Germans more than slightly frustrated to have scored yet another AX.

29 regiments of Germans and 16 of French entered convalescence after this battle. Germans forces suffered four 12-14-5, two 13-15-5, and one each 16-18-5 and 10-14-5 rifle divisions reduced to cadre. German forces further suffered three 7-8-5 cadres and one 3-4-7 mountain regiment destroyed. French forces had 8*-11-5 and 6*-9-5 rifle divisions, 4-5-5 field artillery regiment, and 2-3-5 field artillery regiment destroyed besides 7*-10-5 rifle and 12-15-6 African divisions reduced to cadre. 5 1/3 French morale points of losses effectively exceeded 9 2/3 morale points of German losses.

Entente reaction to this bloodbath was limited: two French armies activated to adjust forces with a view to a possible February offensive in the vicinity of Nancy.

German exploitation saw the usual variety of cadres and divisions being pulled off of the line for rebuilding and upgrading.