The production phase of September 1915 proved interesting to war watchers across the world. Entente production, 12 RP and 18 EqP, with the maximum tithe in South Africa and withdrawals to South, was immensely welcome and would be sufficient for waging the previous style of war with the current supply of personnel (the Entente will run out of people before ammunition), but will not last long once siege engineers start performing their art. Central Powers production, 8 RP and 13.5 EqP after withdrawals to East and South, could almost be small enough to allow a shortage to develop if clear weather remains in effect for two more months. Again, the United States retained strict neutrality; to roll 9+ on 2d6 is hardly impossible, but the US could also manage never to enter the war and the Entente player would bet no better than even that a tilted neutrality will be achieved before 1918 or active participation before 1919. Canadian artillery and mounted rifle formations achieved full effectiveness, the latter after some turns of delay, and the Canadians are almost strong enough to allow the Empire to make a single elite attack before spending a year accumulating Canadian replacements sufficient to compensate for such folly. At sea, small casualties inhibited the morale of Britain and Germany not at all. The railroads of Italy, France, and Germany all deteriorated; the Entente will be moving all of its rail engineers to Italy, where they will suffice to make a difference; the Austrian network is already too shambolic to deteriorate further.
Italian forces rejuvenated 6*-9-5 rfl XX from cadre; repaired their (constantly abused) Ca-2 bomber; replaced a 6-2-2 siege regiment, 2-7 mtn fld art III, and MW task force 1; upgraded 0-1-4 eng III and 2-3-7 mtn X to 1-3-4 and 3-4-7 respectively; and disbanded the country’s final two static artillery units.
French forces replaced 2x 1-5 eng III’s, 7-5-4 hvy art III, and 2-5 fld art II; rejuvenated 12*-15-6 AFR lt XX, 9*-12-5 COL rlf XX, and 2x 10*-13-5 rfl XX’s from cadre; and disbanded the 3-10-0 hvy art XX in Toul (the last easy choice to disband; the others are in/near the front line)
Belgian forces converted 0-1-4 eng III to 2x 1-5 eng III’s at the cost of a cycle worth of infantry replacements (.5!)
Imperial forces rejuvenated 10*-13-5IND rfl, 13-16-5CAN rfl, and 2x 10-13-5 rfl XX’s from cadre. The Royal Air Force also fielded a second reconnaissance group in France, doubling the chance that British arms might strike during any given fortnight.
To plan and execute the Entente movement of I September 1915 consumed considerable time, however much the front line always seems to look as it did for many turns before.
In Austria, British forces took full control over the fifty mile stretch of Alpine no-man’s land furthest into the mountains, northeast of the German-garrisoned Austro-Hungarian fortress of Trient. Italian forces meanwhile continued to shift out of that sector while optimizing their line along the Isonzo River and maximizing their critical frontage around Trient, where the Germans perpetually threaten to break free on both sides of Lake Garda and drive across the middle Po River in a war of movement the Italians could not possibly win.
Entente ground forces in Italy contented themselves with trading pasta for beer for the umpteenth turn in a row, but in the air events heated up from the already ‘wild’ norm. The Italian Ca-2 made its usual bombing run through Austro-Hungarian interceptors and flak, survived both unscathed for the first time, and missed the Austro-Hungarian fleet in Trieste, probably due to shock. Italian and British reconnaissance aircraft combined to hunt and hit a German Alb spotter squadron on the ground, thereby at least preventing its use in the reaction combat phase even though the Germans have plenty of unused air replacements every cycle (in late summer 1915, it is extremely difficult to achieve a flak shot that can inflict an abort and the intercept range is still zero hexes).
In France, Belgium, and Germany, Entente forces shifted considerably in a continuing process. The British Territorial Army is taking the field on steadily increasing strength and Imperial forces expanded their grip on the front to 100 miles in early September, en route to assuming control over at least another twenty or thirty miles before mud sets in. Despite this spreading and the previous month’s nasty AX, the Empire also massed forces and attacked sector 0521 in an effort to get the Germans that last bit of the way into National Will Three. Meanwhile, the Belgian Army continued to shift southward; it appears likely to come to rest in the area of the front inside southeastern Belgium when the British stop expanding for a while. French forces meanwhile, suffering even after their gush of replacements from a significant backlog of cadre divisions awaiting fleshing-out, contented themselves with shuffling forces. The never-ending flow of lower quality French units toward the Vosges Mountains continued, as did the balancing movement of higher quality forces toward the Ardennes Forest. The Germans naturally buffed their southernmost sector after the French coup de main attempt and high quality French units from near Switzerland therefore disengaged and began moving back toward the sea. If not for the steadily growing British, the French would be having trouble holding their sector in secure strength; as is, they have plenty of abysmal units that the Germans nonetheless cannot easily afford to attack given their relative poverty in ammunition.
Three French bombing missions against German resource points failed to connect, quickly draining any prospect of actually finding an advantage during this production cycle due to German ammunition shortages.
British forces, meanwhile, pounded away on the ground in Flanders. Aerial spotting, the precondition, succeeded, cancelling the effects of German entrenchments. A single attack by a pair of engineer regiments succeeded, giving the British a clean die roll advantage. Siege engineers spent prolifically, but failed to impact the battle despite having a 50-percent chance of some success and a 16% chance of a column shift. Odds of 2.7:1 rolled upward and the overconfident Germans apparently blundered somewhere as a roll of “6” yielded a DX!
British losses: 2x RP, 1-5 Eng [III], and 8-4-7 Armd Car [X] eliminated; 10*-13-5 Rfl XX to cadre
German losses: RP consumed; 13-15-5 Rfl and 16-18-5 WUR Rfl XX’s to cadre
Central Powers Turn
The Central Powers version of early September 1915 began with relief on the part of the Central Powers and ended with disgust on the part of the Entente. Precious little happened in between.
During the initial phase, replacement points flowed in rather stingy fashion, despite the relative abundance of a production-cycle-beginning moment. Austro-Hungarian quartermasters chased a 2*-6 Mtn Rfl III off the beaches of Croatia by finally issuing them boots and rifles. French sergeants in three 9*-12-5 Rfl XX’s received new meat to bring their generals entourages back to full strength. British volunteers flooded into a trio of 10-13-5 Rfl XX’s with the enthusiasm of the late August victory in their hearts and nothing at all in their brains. Prussian bureaucrats in spiked caps sent replacements to the cadres of 15-17-5 Rfl, 13-16-5 Rfl, and 9*-12-5 Rfl XX’s; refilled 3-4-7 Jgr and 2-3-7 Jgr III’s; and sent fresh pilots and machines to their aborted Alb C1.
On the ground, German and Austro-Hungarian forces continued reorganizing formations internally and shifting them on the battlefield both to allow that process and to compensate for continuing Entente aggression. Of singular note, Austro-Hungarian heavy flak moved from frontline ammunition dump guard duty to Trieste, to protect the fleet from continuing Entente air attack.
In the air, the Central Powers suffered apparently poor weather at the local scale as every bullet, flak shell, and bomb – and some entire zeppelins – missed their targeted cities and ammunition dumps; eight failures in all.
During reaction, Entente forces repaid the favor on smaller scale as the Italian Ca-2 bomber and a pair of British reconnaissance aircraft missed German ammunition dumps.
On the ground, in reaction, the generals fumed and some troops moved, but no significant combat added to any casualty lists. Italian 3rd Army continued to pull out of the mountains northeast of the alpine fortress of Trient, leaving behind British forces that should suffice to hold inviolate fifty miles of nothing leading nowhere. The Belgian Army sprang to life too, moving heavy artillery into a thirty mile front south and west of Maubeuge (the British hold everything from there to the sea). On the Swiss border, French units moving northward from their failed ‘surprise’ attack across the Rhine continued marching northward as if little had changed, because little had changed. One of many French armies facing the Ardennes Forest, headquarters at Charleville-Mezieres, was likewise active, moving units quickly and competently before discovering that the best French effort against the targeted German sector 1219 would resolve at 2.1:1 with a guaranteed net -1 and probably one or two more bonuses from engineering. To the disgust of the air force, successful reconnaissance is what got the French that far and the goggle-wearers would have been better employed bombing German ammunition dumps. British generals “rested on their August laurel,” an intended slight by a disgusted editor in London, rather than possibly hitting the Germans the first of a set of double blows during this last bit of clear weather.
If that double failure on the battlefront was not enough, perusal of the French replacement chart indicates a devastating and immediate problem: the French are out of men. From late 1915, the French metropolitan manpower replacement rate goes ever further into the toilette, joining the ever abysmal rate of colonials and the vanishingly small rate of foreign enlistees. French heavy artillery, already not as good as their field due to lousy tactics besides being tactically immobile, looks good on paper and will continue to look gradually better, but it is unimaginable that bombarding Germans in fortified woodlands from normal stacking will ever produce enough effect to make it worth the time. French armor is beginning to show up in the forming pool; by late 1918 the French will have something like a hundred attack points of it that will be functionally irreplaceable while providing their only non-artillery offensive power. Entente aircraft remain a feeble shadow compared to their opponents, but neither side is remotely close to having anything like a battle where air power contributes even 5-percent of power. With the French rifle forces now on the road to being entirely cadre, one might be forgiven for wondering how historical France made it through 1916. Meanwhile, the Italians are on the road to extinction in the face of what can be an overwhelming German buildup – our Verdun will probably be a German breakthrough of the Italians that might drive them out of the war – the Belgians are never going to get any larger, the Portuguese will arrive in another year with almost a corps, and the British lack almost any combat support to go with their increasingly powerful rifle armies. This will be a new experience: playing a long, large war where one major force consists almost entirely of equipment rather than manpower. The French are not there yet, but being able to rejuvenate only half a dozen cadres per cycle in 1916 is going to be excruciating, and then things will get much, much worse.
The Entente needs more than one new plan and is already forming several. After they fail, Plan M is to beg the Americans to finally roll 9+ on 2d6 to get on the road to war.