I had at one point intended to playthe game out to a final military victory but due to the inevitability of the result next turn this now serves no purpose – the end is predictable.
This was without a doubt the closest run game in Military terms I have played and it went right down to the wire. Of course in terms of VPs this is a different story.:
Final Victory Tally
[table id=27 /]
Result: Republican Major Victory
A word about victory conditions.
It seems this result is a reasonable basis to judge payer victory in an historic game. However this AAR is of an alternate reality version (Variable rebellion). What if in this universe the Nationalists decided on a strategy of Gobernetos last. The game does nudge players to adopt the historical path such as attacking before the Gobernetos reach peak strength, gaining port access close to the main front, gaining the factory production etc. all good real reasons and this in itself could be deemed sufficient incentive without the swinging penalties for not attacking the Gobernetos first.
However would a “Gobernetos last” be viable strategy?
Removing all rewards from the Republic for the Nationalists failing to take the Goberetos produces the following result.
Nationalists 1190.5. Republic 449.5 Ratio = 2.64/1 = Insurgent Marginal Victory.
To me this feels a more realistic result for this alternate reality game. The Republic is after all utterly crushed, hardly a “Victory” but the war has dragged on for 6 long months extra, the Nationalists still have much heavy industry to rebuild, their fleet is crippled and the air force severely damaged. So marginal is a credible result grounded in reality.
Personally although it does permit a less historic strategy to be adopted. I feel this is a better way to the judge the Variables Start to the Rebellion as an alternative reality game.
(Indeed an argument could be made to remove all artificial constrains and requirements such as the border garrisons and operational restrictions but this is an argument for another day)
FWtBT Post game summary
The tides of War: The game can be divided into 4 phases. Phase one ‘the land grab’ comprised the initial explanation and consolidation by both sides from game start to around September/October ’36. The Nationalists were initially frustrated by the failure of Seville to declare for the cause but this did not appear to hurt their efforts too much. The early capture of Malaga meant that the Nationalists had a route for the arriving reinforcements and colonial troops and became something of a backwater for the main troop entry to the front. The loss of production did make itself felt in latter turns but production soon returned after capture. The front stabilises in the region of a line, Motril (on the south coast), Gaudix, Aquilegia, Valdepenas, Alcazar de San Juan, Aranjuez, then along the Cordillera Central north of Madrid to Catalayud and south to Zaragoza still firmly in Nationalists hands. The revolutionaries made an attempt to collapse Asturias but gave up as resistance stiffened and this proved to be a significant error.
Phase two of the game in the spring/summer of 1937 centred around the large battles for the central plain and the towns of Valdepenas, Alcazar de San Juan and Aranjuez characterized by these towns changing hands several times. The breakout to Ceunca by the Nationalists finally broke the Republican resistance and a somewhat precipitous retreat that resulted lead to the sudden collapse of resistance and the rather easy capture of Madrid (it should be recorded that a misinterpretation of the abilities of transport units ability to advance after combat resulted in breakthroughs being a lot more fragile than necessary which prolonged this period of see saw actions.)
Simultaneously and perhaps the decision which the most long term consequences was the persistent failure of the Nationalists to provide enough defensive support on the Zaragoza front which was slowly and inexorably pushed further north with the Republic briefly capturing Catalayud(May ’36) for a time.
This defined the start of the third phase of the game where the Republic held the upper hand. The Nationalists aware that the struggle in the East had resulted in a northern expansion of the Republic so stripped the central front to the minimum and tried to stiffen the defence in the east whilst at the same time trying to reduce the northern gobetnetos. The Republic still retained the momentum and came within one attack of reaching the Basque lines and taking Pamplona. Simultaneously they were retaking grounding the West and indeed for a moment it looked like a push to Madrid was feasible .
At this time the Nationalists considered conceding and indeed had the Republic linked with the Basques in strength they may well have done so. However the failure of the Republic link up with the Basques gave the Nationalists fresh hope and the final phase of the game began
This was initiated by a prepared attack south from Catalayud area to Zaragoza. The Republic had pushed their best troops to the far north and the Nationalist breakout threatened to trap apppprox1/3 of the republican forces in the far north. The secondary Albacete front was stripped to reinforce the defence South of Zaragoza to contain the Nationalists while the far northern forces started the long retreat south.
The Republic with the aid of the northern rains did finally contain the breakout and the war from the end of 1938 was characterised by the Nationalists pushing South to Valencia thus cutting the Republic in two Having held back for good weather the Nationalists had been stockpiling supplies and pre-positioning units Thus the good weather saw the unleashing of a massive final offensive south towards Barcelona. As with the 1938 operation ultimately the breakout failed to complete a large encirclement of troops although many were eliminated in the large scale retreat
The final days of the republic saw a lone defiant Murcia in the West and a collapsing Republican rump in the East one hex away from collapse at game end.
Air and sea; the air war was interesting in so far ask each side was ascendant for part of the game although the. Nationalists were dominant overall. The republicans tried to maintain a mixed force but as defenders rarely used the air force effectively. The exception was naval patrol which seems especially effective at eliminating naval assets and netted them quite a few victory points. After the early attrition Naval battles the Nationalist fleet was never strong enough or bold enough to significantly interdict reinforcements. Both sides have considerable engineering assets so any rail destruction can only be of limited effectiveness. This play through suggests that other than a naval patrol wing the Republic would be best served with a pure fighter force deployed in depth to limit Nationalist hits.
The nationalists have a generally longer ranged and effective and balanced force which is able to perform a variety of tasks and did so well particularly the harassment campaign against the retreating forces in late 38 and 39.
The naval war was short. The Republic forced an encounter and lost and thereafter the Nationalist rump dominated the seas but was not strong enough to perform anything other than occasional and ineffective interdiction activities and some transport and NG support.
Triumphs & Tragedies; The Nationalists certainly played the better tactical game, they paid good attention to maximum stacking, armour effects and minimised reliance on air power as “flying artillery” to achieve odds. However they were strategically less successful. The move on Seville was timed correctly and the initial move for territory was well executed with a secure flank south of Zaragoza and a good line in the west. However thereafter the decision to coral the gobernetos and continue the battles in the centre was a strategic error. It is true that this gave them Madrid at little direct cost but this allowed the gobernetos to reach full strength and thereafter it was always to be an uphill struggle. Similarly there was never quite enough defence in the east. The golden rule here is that it is far easier to hold ground than to retake it if given up and even with the final precipitous collapse of the Republicans the Nationalists never quite finished them off before game end due to the start line being way back at Catalayed when they began the final offensive push
By contrast the Republicans played a good strategic game and came within an ace of a Nationalist surrender. They attacked where strongest in the East, north through Zaragoza to the Basques almost taking Pamplona. They created a good spoiling attack in the East out of Albacete which caused the Nationalists pause for thought and deftly swapped from an offensive to defensive posture when needed.
However tactically they were less adept. There was no effective use of armour. The rules make attacking with armour difficult for the Republic but had they thought more about defensive use of their tanks they may have been able to assemble some defensive modifiers mid game. The larger stacks and 2 unit stacking limit makes any effective use limited in endgame especially as their armour is only 1/2 AECD
Perhaps their worst errors came with the lack of a secondary defensive line which allowed a number of significant Nationalist breakthroughs this should have been avoided for little detrimental effect Too late they developed the better tactic of a thin secondary line overrun proof from most exploitation stacks and a reserve of top line divisions as a “Fire fighting” force for localised counter attacks. This worked well until losses required that these troops join the front line. Had all these tactical developments been employed from the start I feel the Republic could have ended the game in a much stronger position militarily. Ultimately however the whole worked good enough to save the day but it was a close run affair.
A personal note
FWtBT is my favourite Europa title which is surprising as the East Front is my main area of interest and indeed it was DNO which got me hooked on wargaminig all those years ago.
In particular in FWtBT the force balance nice and the use of supply counters tends to create a more realistic “pulse” of offensives, lulls and counter attacks. I am certainly keen to play this game again and try out different strategies and put into place the lessons learned from the errors of both sides in this game. The AAR reporting and the reference to VPs ( not normally a solitaire concern) provides for tighter more considered play which itself is a different experience to my normal quick solitaire run through The game which has taken 9 months real time has become a part of my daily routine and I have gained many insights about the game. In this regard I am grateful to those who have offered help, advice and, in particular, corrections and rules interpretations where I have gone astray.
Regarding the war itself Franco, no doubt mindful of the awful slaughter kept Spain out of the Second World War despite entries from his invaluable ally Hitler. In 1947 he was made head of state for life. When he died in November 1975, the monarchy was restored when Prince Juan Carlos became head of state, as Franco had decreed. Spain quickly translated itself into a fully functioning modern democracy just as much as other European countries. Ultimately therefore the War now appears a pointless bloodletting marking a moment of madness in Spain’s history.
These last words are penned between Palamos and Tarragona in Catalonia as part of a cruise around the Western Mediterranean and l finish with a photo of a painting seen in the Covent Museum of Ciutadella in Minorca on this same trip. The portrait has the following explanatory note about the artist which is interesting particularly for the American connection.
“The son of a Barcelona family Pere was born in Ciutadella and married an American painter Louise Blair. He subsequently joined the Republican forces and was wounded on the Teruel front. At the outbreak of WWII he and his family were visiting in America and so remained spending his later years at Rockbridge Baths, Virginia where he died in 1976.
The portrait is entitled. ‘Autorretrat vestit de millicia’ c 1938 by Pere Daura I Garcia (1896-1976)
(Translated from Catalan it reads “Self-portrait in Militia uniform”)
To me it captures the weariness and futility of this war perfectly and is, I feel, a fitting bookend to end this AAR.