Clarification: We will be using the Mexican-American situation in this game, but will wait to resolve it until the USA enters the wider war, then hopefully complete the event in one session.
High Entente hopes and low Entente expectations continued to drive the war in late September, but as usual the results failed to live up to merely low expectations.
Italian and French conversions, long-prepared, culminated unremarkably.
A Canadian artillery unit at reduced effectiveness remained there.
French forces replaced a heavy artillery regiment, augmented a railroad artillery battalion into a regiment, and repaired and replaced one each air groups.
Indian depots coughed-up enough manpower to rebuild a cavalry cadre into a division.
ANZAC manpower fleshed-out a division from a cadre.
British Imperial equipment repaired an observation balloon group.
Italian troops expanded an engineer regiment into a brigade.
The Entente navies combined to start the fortnight aggressively and successfully. Weak units of Italian, French, and British ships left Venice and cautiously poked their way through Entente minefields, with some also using coastal waters, to encircle Pola in a tight blockade. The coastal waters and minefields shielded the ships from Germanic submarines, light craft, and coast defense artillery. A much more powerful combined battle fleet kept station well outside Trieste, shielding the blockading ships from Austro-Hungarian naval attack. Austro-Hungarian aircraft, anti-shipping specialists, found one bedraggled “squadron” of Italian armored cruisers and dodged their flak while missing too the bombing attacks.
Pola, blockaded and isolated, then fell to a combined Franco-Russian-Italian assault. The fortress artillery defending the fortress fought at minimal defense because it lacked riflemen to protect its positions from close assault. Overwhelming Russian and French riflemen duly under-ran the defending artillery at night under field artillery suppression then assaulted the defensive positions at daybreak. A lone regiment of Italian naval infantry, on-hand for the occasion, paraded through the captured fortress naval base for the newsreels.
Austro-Hungarian losses: 8-4-0 Coast artillery [X] (isolated for double morale points and no special replacements); 5 morale points for the fortress; the only source of A-H naval repair points
Russian losses: 2-3-7 light [X] (the only Russian unit on-map at the moment)
Italian gain: 2 morale points for the fortress
Entente gain: 1.75 equipment points
Italian forces again attempted to assault grid 4507 on the middle Isonzo River, and again Entente air forces suffered disappointment. An Italian escort group did not good, but Austro-Hungarian interceptors likewise missed their reconnaissance group target. Defending flak, however, sent two groups of aerial spies fleeing before two other groups missed their chances. The Italian bombardment, forecast to achieve 5/6 of a hit at that point (-1 rough, -1 entrenchment) naturally non-conducted immediately. The Italian attack, likely to be either AX or AL if it went forward, was then stillborn. And at that, it was luckier than the British.
Against Valenciennes, the British made another of their major efforts. An escort and six reconnaissance air groups started festivities, fighting seven interceptor groups for one British and two German groups damaged. Flak missed the spies and they spotted fall of shot successfully for a powerful British bombardment that scored ten hits, which was only slightly below average. German defense power fell 108 to 75 and the defenders did not call in reserves which would only have unbalanced prospective casualties. British gas engineers failed to matter in the battle and German gas engineers could not practice their craft after suffered disruption during bombardment. Reconnaissance offset entrenchment and both single-brigade engineering attempts were unsuccessful. Odds of 3.4:1 rolled downward and the occasional “1” arose to simulate the first day of the some wildly unsuccessful British offensive, except much worse.
British losses: 3x Canadian, 4x ANZAC, and 8x British divisions reduced to cadre; 2x RP and 3x British cadres eliminated
Prussian losses: RP, 2x full divisions, and 4x cadres eliminated; 2x divisions reduced to cadre
Neither side can afford losses like this, but the Germans are only hurt while the Commonwealth is devastated by them.
French forces could not be daunted by the fate of their British comrades, just as they have fought through their own calamities repeatedly; grid 1919 fell again under the French hammer. Three escort and nine reconnaissance groups rose to contest the air with thirteen interceptor groups. French forces suffered one group destroyed and two groups damaged but inflicted no losses on the Germans, who will have utter air supremacy before the end of the cycle. The remaining observers nonetheless succeeded in their mission and the French bombardment scored 21 hits, devastating the defense by 65-percent. German reserve commitment failed its first two attempts, a very rare sight, but three less-ideal units moved into the fight, reducing the odds from 6.5:1 to 5:1. Entrenchments offset national will; leaders offset each other. French gas engineers failed; the 95-percent failure rate of 16-percent chances gets old, albeit slowly. A two-brigade engineer assault failed
but another with flamethrower elements succeeded and reconnaissance did not stop contributing, so that a moderate roll of “3” nonetheless achieved an DX result.
French losses: 3x RP and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 3x Metropolitan divisions reduced to cadre
German losses: 2x Prussian, 1 each Bavarian and Saxon divisions reduced to cadre
It was entirely expected that German reaction, whether after such devastation on the main front or in spite of its absence, would focus on aerial exploits. Zeppelins hit Firenze for the second time in the month, freeing them to hunt factories until October, which another group successfully did in Lyon. Zeppelins also hit Nottingham, as did the German AEG-G4 air group, the first German fixed-wing terror bombing hit of the war. A very few successful Germanic reaction rolls simply shifted units to prepare to continue the endless reorganization of the German armies.
Central Powers Turn
The Central Powers’ initial phase of II SEP passed with tremendous activity and even another “first.” One ANZAC, two Canadian, six British Imperial, four French, one Bavarian, and one Prussian divisions were rebuilt from cadres. Germany repaired two fixed-wing and one Zeppelin air groups, the latter a risky first-time endeavor as the 50/50 roll could send the group to the eliminated pool and cost half a morale point. One Italian and one German airship groups remain in their country’s damaged boxes, being almost worthless (the German) or abjectly irrelevant (the Italian), and will probably never be repaired for duty (ah, the Italian withdraws eventually, solving that problem). Austria-Hungary replaced an 0-1-4 static X for coast defense duty as the Central Powers’ siege train prepared to cover yet more of the Adriatic Sea coastline.
In the lead-up to bad weather, Central Powers’ armies expanded their reorganization efforts both structurally and in deployment zones. A vast German shuffling of forces for withdrawals and conversions did not mask a thinning of the front line defenses in sectors where favorable terrain and the absence of Entente artillery concentrations made such thinning less than reckless. A huge portion of the Dutch army continued marching up the Rhine valley, taking responsibility for defense of the thirty miles of that river nearest the Swiss border. Austro-Hungarian forces continued departing the Upper Rhine, mostly bound for the Trient Salient, which they are taking over from German forces, but also moving to the Adriatic coast.
Once again, the only combat during the Central Powers’ half of the fortnight came at Entente instigation when French forces again assaulted grid 1919. A huge air battle and flak went dramatically in German favor, as usual, effectively eliminating the already badly weakened French air force from the sky for the next couple of cycles of pilot training classes (so, about an hour total then?). Aerial reconnaissance nonetheless accurately plotted fall of shot to help the poilus, offsetting defending entrenchments. Hindenburg gave Ludendorff the day off but showed-up himself near the front to successfully rally the defenders, offsetting French national will superiority. The Entente 17% chance of success in a gas attack failed, as it does with stunning regularity, while Petain confined himself to exhorting those same gas troops with equally useless results. Two engineer escalades, one with flame support and both of multi-brigade size, at least made an AX
result unlikely with their successful tossing of satchel charges into bunkers. Odds of 2.3:1 rolled upward, as they considerately do often enough to seemingly offset the useless gas regiments. Overall, on a good 3:1 +2 assault, the French merely rolled a 4 and thus achieved the very frequent BX result.
French losses: RP, 1-5 engineer III, and two air units eliminated; four first line rifle Metropolitan divisions reduced to cadre
German losses: RP eliminated; one Bavarian and two Prussian divisions reduced to cadre; Prussian brigade reduced to remnant
All substantive and almost all sideshow headquarters, British, Belgian, Italian, and other French, failed their reaction rolls, though a few British units did shuffle off the line near Maubeuge.
In exploitation, German air units again provided the dashing and morale effects that ceaseless battering along the front seems to lack so signally. All six Zeppelin groups found factories in Italy and France, none risked enough flak to justify a roll, and all missed their targets. The AEG-G4, however, visited Sheffield and hit its factory successfully.
It is worth noting here that playing OT with the North Sea maps gives the Central Powers a useful advantage. Whereas the rules and OB give the British a Southeast England Air Defense garrison and situation, with the map extended the Germans can simply fly to the Midlands, effectively the same distance, and hit cities and factories that the British cannot defend for lack of enough flak units and interceptor aircraft to cover all possible targets – leaving aside the need for those assets elsewhere.