The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: August 2016

May I 1917 and Commentary

Entente generals deployed to conduct two major and two supporting offensives in the West during Spring 1917. Regular British forces at Oostende anchored the north end of the Entente line, which in its British sector curved to defend Lille then face the ruined fortress of Maubeuge before entering the fringe of the Ardennes. Eight miles of Portuguese then twenty-five miles of Belgians, heavily fortified in woodlands and somewhat behind rivers, connected the British to the French. From there, French trench divisions held the line roughly along the prewar frontier past Metz, then through the Vosges Mountains, and finally along the Rhine. The bulk of French artillery and the empire’s first-rate divisions massed southwest of Metz to attack in clear country toward that fortress. Italians held a small sector from Switzerland toward Trient but third-rate French units in mountainous forts held the semi-circle confronting that fortress. Italian forces resumed the front on the east flank of the Trient salient and watched the central Alps from there to the Isonzo River. More serious Italian forces massed to attack across that river down its entire length to the Adriatic Sea. Canadian and ANZAC forces, with British supporting arms and reserves, occupied Istria, confronted Trieste and Fiume, and enjoyed a strong Italian corps anchoring their right flank. Entente naval forces stood ready with naval gunfire support on the north coasts of Belgium and Istria, hovered in the Gulf of Trieste, and continued the distant blockade of Germany around the North Sea.

Anxious politicians read reports of near disaster from the British in Istria first, as the grand offensive wound up. In late April, British artillery only annoyed Trieste’s forts. In May, British events took a brief favorable turn when three British reconnaissance groups dodged a group of interceptors and heavy flak to report successfully the fall of shot. The bombardment again failed to degrade the fort but scored average bombardment hits, seven, and disrupted some defenders. Aerial observation for elite attackers offset the fort, Eugene failed to intervene but so did British gas (May 1917 and the Entente has still never succeeded in a gas attack) and four brigades of combat engineers. One of two tank regiments suffered moderate breakdowns at the start line and the adjusted 2.2:1 odds shocked the British who rolled downward but managed a BX result after a moderate combat roll and national will superiority.

British losses: 2x RP, 4-6-7 CAN motor MG III, and 12-4-4 eng tank III eliminated; one each CAN and AUS XX to cadre; -2.67 morale

Austro-Hungarian losses: RP eliminated; 5x XX to cadre; -5 morale

The British clearly began their war of material with these casualties, deliberately suffering large equipment losses to spare their limited manpower. The Austro-Hungarians, relatively flush with manpower, continued along the manpower-intensive road travelled by all the major participants so far.

Cadorna, unhappy at his supporting country being given a supporting role in the Entente victory offensive of 1917, directed a maximum effort across the lower Isonzo, along the coast toward Trieste – and his troops responded enthusiastically. One Austrian interceptor bypassed Italian escorts and missed four observer groups, which dodged light flak in turn. The observed bombardment scored five hits in five 12-point shots. The aircraft also offset Austrian entrenchments while Eugene failed to offset elite attackers or two successful engineer assaults. Despite the river, Italian forces achieved 3.1:1 odds attack and achieved a DL result despite rolling odds downward.

Italian losses: 2x RP and engineer X eliminated; XX to cadre; -1.67 morale

Austro-Hungarian losses: 2x XX’s to cadre; railroad siege artillery III eliminated by ZOC during retreat; -2.33 morale

Prussian losses: railroad siege artillery X eliminated by ZOC during retreat; -0.67 morale

The rail line paralleled the front here and the unexpected retreat left the railroad siege artillery, on coast defense duty, high and dry as probably the first siege artillery eliminated in DJ05.

Italian mountain divisions and field artillery swarmed across the Isonzo to occupy the critical ground. The advancing artillery scattered badly due to the contested hex but the mountain units did better than expected in that regard. During exploitation, several fresh units rotated in and disrupted in turn.

British forces massed northeast of Lille for the second Entente supporting offensive, a feint. Distant German air units naturally flew combat air patrols intensively over the obvious site of the upcoming battle and British fighters intercepted the patrols.

British losses: none

German losses: two air groups eliminated, -1 morale

The French attacked the Germans immediately south of Metz as the main Entente offensive of the summer. French siege artillery faced the iron fields around Briey in a diversion so the Germans in grid 1919 enjoyed slightly less defense than in the telegraphed location, but the attack was not a surprise. In a complicated swirl of patrol, interception, escort, reconnaissance, and flak, the Germans suffered and the French succeeded in spotting. French bombardment, 14 shots at 16 points and 5 shots at 12 points, scored 19 hits, a touch below average, the first indication of disappointment. Petain and his gas engineers failed but Ludendorff showed to advantage in the battle and, with entrenchments, offset two engineer assaults. Aerial reconnaissance and national will helped the French, but neither tank regiment moved forward of the start line. Either an average bombardment or a tank regiment fighting would have lifted the odds, but 3.9:1 rolled downward and what would have been DX remained BX.

French losses: 3x RP and engineer X eliminated; air group damaged; 1x rifle and 3x field artillery XX’s to cadre; -4.33 morale; French National Will to Four

German losses: RP and air unit eliminated; 4x XX to cadre; 2 air units damaged; -4.5 morale

The French planned for the entire German air force to be committed elsewhere and pounced on the chance to concentrate an air-ground attack on the narrow front at grid 2118. Aerial reconnaissance dodged minimal flak and spotted successfully while national will offset entrenchments. The narrow front allowed only one engineer assault, successful, but Petain again did not help the effort. Seven air groups, mostly Sopwith wing-and-a half models, swarmed over the Germans, again dodging flak, and uselessly brought the odds up to 3.7:1, which rolled downward for the fourth time this turn. After that mixed result, however, the attack went stunningly well for another DL, though in this case the French did not advance.

French losses: RP, engineer III, and field artillery III eliminated; -.67 morale

German losses: one each Wurtemburg and Bavarian trench XX’s to cadre; -1.33 morale

Italian bombers and German zeppelins performed miserably during early May. The Italians fled flak and missed city-sized targets. Zeppelins over Italy entirely failed to hit because of bad aiming at night rather than weather problems or flak. Weather over the North Sea turned-back numerous Zeppelins from England, but one group successfully bombed Kingston, which the British mysteriously (stupidly) left bereft of flak for the first time since 1914.

In ground reaction, Eugene ordered a few cadres off the line for imminent rebuild behind Trieste. Italian forces on the east bank of the Isonzo stood too strong for local German and Austro-Hungarian forces to counterattack.

Naval reaction proved to be the most exciting reaction of the game to date. Before the Entente blockade could transform to meet the new land situation, the Austro-Hungarian Navy ran the gauntlet from Trieste to Cattaro Bay. The fleet put to sea at night and sailed northwest along the coast toward the Isonzo, near which Italian artillery units hit five ships but not the crucial minesweepers. As the fleet passed the Isonzo, three units hit mines before Italian siege and coast artillery sank the minesweepers and hit other units. Beyond the Isonzo, the fleet dodged submarines and steered around the Entente fleet to open water. One minefield remained and heavy ships nobly sacrificed themselves to preserve smaller vessels in their wakes. Finally, as light dawned, two British air groups found the fleet and torpedoed a battleship. A ravaged fleet arrived at Cattaro Bay without six NT, one MW, four TB, two DD, one CD, four PD, and five BB hits, for a total of -21.5 morale points. Austria-Hungary’s naval power is permanently wrecked but Entente naval units moving into and out of the Adriatic Sea will forever require heavy units as escort.

Mine damage to ships, damage to transport ships, and aerial torpedoing were all DJ05 “firsts” in this adventure.

Austria-Hungary in mid-May 1917 is approximately 175, 200, or 225 morale points from surrender and is thus a permanent problem for the Entente. Influenza will probably destroy 25 morale points and Germany becoming shaken and collapsing another 75. If the Entente captures all of on-map Austria-Hungary, the tottering Empire will lose 11 morale points for economic assets. The Empire will suffer 21 morale points of losses out of theater before the end of 1918.

For a few days after the Austro-Hungarian fleet fled Trieste, British landing craft poked around east of Lussin Island while French legionnaires seized the island off Fiume. A scary Austrian air attack did not save the island but drove the ships away before they could work their way further down the coast.

On land in exploitation, British and French siege engineers re-entered the line, as did French trench divisions, while most offensive units pulled off the line to regain flexibility for the future.

The Central Powers half of I MAY brought immediate and prospective changes to the front line trace. German construction engineers built nine exposed sites behind the Rhine River into entrenchments, proving the few over-winter forts to be no anomaly. Austria-Hungary evacuated the Alpine salient west and northwest of Villach above the Isonzo. A corps of Germans moved through Austria to backstop the position at Trieste. Several mobility-impaired units moved away from coastal duty in Croatia as if to begin conceding Dalmatia to an active Entente.

Replacement activities indicated strong reasons for Germanic caution in ground operations. While Austria-Hungary rebuilt seven divisions, Prussia four, and Wurttemberg and Bavaria each one from cadre, the Italians, Canadians, and Australians each rebuilt only one rifle, plus two French field artillery divisions. Thirteen to five is not a sustainable casualty rate for either side to be on the losing end of. Prussia also replaced two and repaired one air groups.

In Italy, in reaction, Cadorna’s headquarters adroitly pulled numerous divisional, engineer, and artillery units off the line to ensure flexibility for the continued offensive.

Commentary on the Game so far

This game is my first time through the grand campaign and I should more thoroughly caveat my pronouncements with the acknowledgement both that I can be wrong about my predictions and that I have been proven wrong about some of them already. As an example, I did not foresee intensive flak accumulating at every Italian major city on-map (Naples and northward) so that the Zeppelins would fly at night and score many fewer terror hits that what the rules allow in theory.

The game  developed at odds from history for three dramatic and one boring reasons. One dramatic reason is the broken rules that allow invading friendly-controlled neutrals, which in this game the Germans can use to bend The Netherlands situation to such significant advantage that the Entente thought it wise to declare war and give that country’s military to the Central Powers rather than let the Germans conquer the country. The game may be developing such that doing it was a less good decision, but the Germans would still have been stupid not to conquer the place. A second dramatic reason the game is developing oddly was the Entente decision to invade Istria and the success found therein. That decision enabled everything that is coming in 1917 by smashing and stretching the Austro-Hungarians much more than historical. The final dramatic reason is that after early 1915 the Central Powers decided to eschew further attempts to move the front line forward – and very rarely tried even spoiling or counterattacks. This quiet was reasonable because of the offense-defense strength disparity in most units and the understanding that the only way the Entente can win the war is by breaking Germany completely, whereas Central Powers’ victory is guaranteed if they simply don’t utterly lose before the end of the campaign.

Not as dramatic but probably as important to the course of the game has been Entente reluctance to roll combat dice from which the result might reasonably be awful. The Italians are strong now because they refused to seriously risk AX and AL results dozens of times. Ditto the French and British. The Central Powers are doubtless stronger because of this too, but their relative losses from awful Entente battles would have been less so their benefit is correspondingly slight.

The synergy between Entente and Central Powers reticence leaves both sides in strong morale positions, with caveats. I think all major powers except Italy received some annual morale check benefits due to having suffered less than historical losses, but this applied particularly strongly to the French because of their massive relative historical weight in Entente offensives and defensives in 1915 and 1916. The French have been as low as National Will 3 but have thrice bounced upward. The Austro-Hungarians, however, seem to have an a-historically large quantity of morale points available to spend in the West – they have many more than their Italian opponents while the historical Italians apparently sought their own annihilation in battles that must have had widely greater Italian than Austro-Hungarian morale point costs. Conversely, the Italians appear to have an incorrectly small number of morale points in the game, given that their “historical” morale point levels seem to allow for very few Italian battles at all.

That said, the Entente morale advantage is a fleeting thing. The French will again shoot themselves down to National Will 3 before the Germans, who have been at 3 for over a year, finally fall to 2. The British haven’t bounced much and will certainly fall to 2, perhaps go shaken, or even collapse before the Germans reach National Will 2. The Italians look impressive next to the Austro-Hungarians, but the latter could only actually surrender if they actively tried to send out lone units to get surrounded and killed for double morale cost. It is a truly exceptional Entente attack that scores more morale points of Central Powers’ losses more than the Entente suffers and probably a hundred attacks have cost the Entente twice or more in morale points than the Central Powers suffered in repulsing them.

All this being said, and all this being useful reasoning behind how the game evolved over the years, there is another way a game might go if played after reading these reports. I propose that a valid German strategy might be repeatedly, selectively, and at high odds, in 1915 thru mid-1917, attacking the French Army with the aim of beating it in the field through attrition before weathering the final Entente offensive wave to a Germanic victory. French replacements dry up badly after 1915 and Entente equipment does not flow strongly until mid-1917, so the French could be progressively reduced to ever smaller sectors. So many French units are such total trash that German attacks in a sustained offensive could chew into them with wildly disparate morale effects and so cripple French morale that even with tanks and masses of artillery from mid-1917 they would be unable to conduct sustained combat. From late-1917, a Caporetto Offensive, using all the historical advantages of the moment provided by the rules and OB, could clobber the Italians and remove them as much of a threat, as historical. The British and later the Americans would then have to hold wider sectors than historical and be less able to push a real war-winning offensive even while the good German units went back to chewing on the French to magnify the effect and perhaps even get a French surrender. The Germans’ problem in DJ05, if it is real, is that the French aren’t going to stop attacking ever again now that they have a full-strength army and piles of tanks and artillery on which to suffer losses.

The other long-term discrepancy between the game and history is in food. In the game, despite not gaining territory in northern France, the Central Powers will not suffer hunger before very late 1918 and possibly not ever. Food importation rules and conquering friendly neutrals drove the nails into that coffin.

Ludendorff gets his will

We are grateful to announce that Eric Pierce has graciously given permission for his MTV Battle Scenario “Battle of Liege” to be published on these pages. The less-than historical achievements of the German side in the initial moves of several “March to Victory“-playtests have been discussed for years on- and offline. As usual, several fixes has been advanced and rejected.

Today Eric, one of the designers originally involved in the great War Series, shares his take on a more balanced (if the term is approriate for a steamroller stomping a small neutral neighbour into submission within a couple of weeks) approach to the first moves of any “Great War” game. Wether it manages to resolve the issues plaguing the German Juggernout – find out for yourself!

MTV Scenario: Battle of Liege

Designers Notes:

Here is the long awaited revised setup for MTV, AUG II 14. The revision concerns the issues of German deployment (especially) as a result of their attack on Liege during the AUG I 14 turn. It was planned to revised the OB years ago but time just slipped away! I have been working on TGW & Glory intensely (Europa too) for some years now, and have built quite the inventory of materials. Due to recent discussions on the topic concering the lack of vigor in the German drive into France, I have moved forward on the issue. Believe it or not, AEG and I have discussed possible solutions for years. I had hoped that he would of addressed the issues officially but he seems always distracted by other considerations. As a result of his (HMS) lack of activity, I will do my best to provide support to those that have interest in both TGW & Glory. “March to Victory” is one of the battle scenarios developed throughout the design process for TGW.

Battle of Liege

(The Great War Battle Scenario One)
Special Rules:
1-No river effects AUG I 14, and German attacks receive a +1 during the Schlieffen Plan (new).
2-Triple any Belgian RE losses for the purposes of Morale Losses (R15D) during AUG I 14.

AUG I 14

Initial Phase-mobilization Pt-II, Units Red Eff.
Movement Phase– mobilization.
Combat Phase– mobilization.
Reaction Phase– mobilization, Units Red Eff. [See R41BBB9e; the rule is used here as part of the mobilization effects)
Exploitation Phase– mobilization.

Initial Phase-mobilization Pt-II, Units Red Eff, except “Army of the Meuse”. “Army of the Meuse” is fully mobilized; it may move and attack Liege, and any hex adjacent to Liege.

Movement Phase– mobilization. “Army of the Meuse” moves adjacent to Liege: the 34th Bde and 2 Hv Cav Corps enter Viviers (GW2:1116); the 11th & 14th Bdes enter Verviers (GW2:1216); the 38th & 43rd Bdes enter hex (GW2:1216). The 420A siege art unit moves into Verviers (GW2:1216). The 34th Bde and 2 Hv Cav Corps cross the river and enter hex (GW2:1016).

Combat Phase– mobilization. The 11th, 14th, 27th & 34th Bdes and the 38th & 43rd Bdes from the southeast, along with the 420A siege art unit (4pts x4), attack Liege [one Rsc Pt is expended]. One type Z air unit provides GS.
Reaction Phase– mobilization, Units Red Eff. The check for Reaction (use leader) and succeed, and withdraw the Belgian 3rd Div to hex (GW2:0918) and the 15th Bde to Namur.

Exploitation Phase– mobilization.

Changes: to German OB AUG II 14: Historical:
A) 1st Army & 2nd Army Setup:
Move to the Breakdown Box –
3×16-18-5* Rifle XX…6,7,18
1×15-16-18* Rifle XX…14
2×10-12-5* Rifle XX…2GR,22R
B) Add to Setup:
*Place the following units with the 1st Army – 2×7-9-5* Rifle X…11/6, 12/6; 2×7-9-5* Rifle X…13/7, 14/7; 2×7-9-5* Rifle X…34/18, 36/18; 2×4-6-5* Rifle X…43R/22R, 44R/22R; and the 22ndArmy – 1×7-9-5* Rifle X…27/14 & 1×6-7-5* Rifle X…28/14; 2×4-6-5* Rifle X…26R/2GR, 38R/2GR.
*Place 1×8-2-4 Hv Siege Art [II]…420A (KLM) with 1st Army.
*Place 1x Hv Cav Corps HQ…2 & 2×10-6-7* Cav XX…2, 4 & the 1×3-4-7 Jgr III…6 with the 1st Army.
*Place 1×10-6-7* Hv Cav XX…9 with the 2nd Army.

Liege Special Assault Force.

Army of the Meuse (Otto vEmmich):
1x Hv Cav XXX HQ…2
3×10-6-7* Hv Cav XX…2, 4, 9
DN: The 9th Cav Div (2 Cav Corps) operated to the southwest of Liege, and was moving on Huy. Following the attacks on Liege, the 2nd Cav Corps attacked Hasselt where the Belgian 1st Cav Div & 8th Mxt Bde were deployed. A large portion of the Belgian Army & its GHQ were in the Gete area (west of Hasselt) at the time. Meanwhile the 9th Cav Div assisted the crossing of the Meuse at Huy by the 2nd Army. O the 18th of August the King ordered a general withdrawal to Antwerp.
4×7-9-5* Rifle X…11/6, 14/7, 27/14, 34/18
2×4-6-5* Rifle X…38R/2GR, 43R/22R
1×3-4-7 Jgr III…6 {7, 9 btn}
1×8-2-4 Hv Siege Art [II]…420A (KLM)
1×7-9-5 Hv Art III…{4 or 9}
DN: This represents the heavy artillery that might have been attached (or released) to the assault. It contained the 210mm (Morser) as well as the standard hv art. I cannot confirm that there were any independent hv art bttys, so this unit might not be there. There were however 150mm bttys from the parent divs operating with the brigades, but how many in total? However, Ludendorf himself had taken command of a 150mm section on two occasions (27 Bde).
1x 1 Z 4 1-2/12*…L7

Breakdown Box.
4×16-18-5* Rifle XX…6, 7, 14, 18
2×10-12-5* Rifle XX…2GR, 22R

Frontier Force:
Liege (GW2:1117):
1×3-5-4* Fort [XX]…LieT
4×2-3-5* Rifle X (Red Eff)…9Bru/3, 11Has/3, 12Lie/3, 14Lie
1×5-3-0 Hv Art [X]…3Fr
Hex (GW2:1118):
1×2-3-5* Rifle X (Red Eff)…15Char/4

Breakdown Box.
1×6-9-5* Rifle XX…3Lie


Hex (GW2:1016):
1x Hv Cav XXX HQ…2
1×10-6-7* Hv Cav XX…4
1×3-4-5* Rem (7-9-5*)…34/18
1×3-4-7 Jgr III…6 {7, 9 btn}
Hex (GW2:1017):
1×10-6-7* Hv Cav XX…2
Hexes, Verviers (GW2:116) and/or (GW2:1216):
3×7-9-5* Rifle X…11/6, 14/7, 27/14
Note: German player is eligible for R15G in the Liege hex.
Verviers (GW2:1116):
1×8-2-4 Hv Siege [II]…420A (KLM)
Rail hit
Hex (GW2:1217):
1×10-6-7* Hv Cav XX 9
1×4-6-5* Rifle X…43R/22R
Hex (GW:1216):
1×1-2-5* Rem (4-6-5*)…38R/2GR
Note: A Rem is a ½ RE unit.

Special Note: Reduce Belgian Morale Points by 7 points.
Frontier Force:
Gete (GW2:0918):
2×2-3-5* Rifle X…9Bru/3, 12Lie/3
Liege (GW2:1117):
1×1-2-4* Fort Cadre (3-5-4*)…LieT
1×2-3-5* Rifle X (Red Eff)… 14Lie
Namur (GW2:1019):
1×2-3-5* Rifle X (Red Eff)…15Char/4

Replacement Pool.
1×2-3-5* Rifle X…11/3
1×5-3-0 Hv Art [X]…3Fr

Campaign Notes:

6-7 August.
2 & 4 Cav Div moved into Vise then crossed to the north near Lixhe and skirmished with the Belgian 12R of the 12 Bde – which then withdrew into the fortress area. The two divisions (along with the 7 & 9 Jgr btns) moved around the northern side of the Liege Fortress in order to isolate it.
34th Bde occupies Vise (Verviers hex), crosses the Meuse, and moves south; attacks the fortress at Mermee, and along a front of Prealle/Herstal. A group enters Liege but is repulsed, and fire from Ft Liers & Pontisse force a retirement to Lixhe (Meuse R). The Bde later entered Liege late on the 7th. [1180 cas.]
27th Bde advances south of Vise and reaches Argenteau where it comes under fire from Ft Barchon. The Bde moves further south but is repulsed and retires to Argenteau. Meanwhile a fighting column (cav) had advance towards Ft Barchin on its east side but withdrew to Battice when word reached it that its Bde had withdrawn. The Bde entered Liege late on the 7th.
11th Bde attacking from the southeast towards St Hadelin & Magnee. An attack on Romsee was successful (Bel 14R) but all advances stop after the attack; a retirement to Magnee was then carried out. The Bde entered Liege late on the 7th.[cas. ?]
14th Bde (with Ludendorf) Advanced to Retinne (cmdr wounded) and Ludendorf takes command. On the 7th the Bde advanced and then reaches Liege (believing that Liege’s bridges across he Meuse were underdefended), securing the bridges with Regiment 27 and the town.
38th Bde attacked into Boncelles but Ft Boncelles forced the Bde to move to the NW. The 38th Bde continued attacking but withdrew to Lince on the 7th. [cas ?]
43rd started in reserve but join the attack latter on the 6th. It then participated with the 38Th Bde in its attacks and movements thru the 7th. [cas ?]

8-16 August.
7-11th Bde takes up defense position west of Liege. The 14th and 27th Bdes also move into the Liege positions. Fort Barcheron capitulates. The 34th Bde takes up positions at Lixhe.
7 thru 10-The 38th & 43 Bdes withdraw to Theux.
Note: The Belgian 3rd Div {9, 11, 12 Bdes} withdraws by the 7th to Gete.
8-The VII, IX and X crossed Belgian border.
10/11-The IX Corps moves to capture Ft Liers, Pontisse, Evegnee, and Fleron. The VII and X Corps move to capture Ft Chaudfontaine and Embourg.
12-The IX captures Ft Evegnee and Ft Pontisse surrenders after a bombardment with 380mm (AH) and 420mm (Ge) siege howizters (heavy siege).
14-Ft Liers and Ft Fleron surrender after a heavy siege bombardment.
15 thru 17-The western forts are taken-surrender.
16-Ft Hollogne and Ft Flemalle surrender after a short bombardment.
17-The German 1st, 2nd, 3rd Armies commence operations.
Note: The Germans found 17 locomotives crashed together at Verviers.
18-The 2 & 4 Cav Div attack towards Hasselt – on a line Budingen to Diest, but were halted after the Belgian 1st Cav Div was reinforced by the 8 Mxt Bde