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Europa Games and Military History

Tag: DJ05 (page 1 of 6)

June I 1917

When compared to recent carnage, the scale of replacement activities in early June 1917 demonstrated both the changing face of the Entente war effort and the failing strength of its Central Powers’ opponents. Saxon replacements, half of them from Prussia, rejuvenated a Saxon division’s rifle regiments. German policy from the very beginning of DJ05 continues to be spending half Prussian manpower for all Saxon, Bavarian, and Wurtemburger units so that the latter three armies remain in the field for as long as possible in the face of steep declines in their manpower production.

Entente replacements moved to a wider array of units. Italian pilots ferried planes forward to repair an air group while the mountain recruit training depot emptied for the month by filling a cadre back to division strength. Italian and French sapper trainees in equal numbers renewed a regiment each. French forces repaired three air groups, refilled a rifle division’s cadre with infantrymen, upgraded a flak battalion into a regiment, replaced a field artillery regiment, and “replaced” the final two regiments of heavy artillery placed directly into the pool more than two years earlier. The Royal Air Force repaired an air group while the Royal Tank Corps replaced an engineer tank regiment.

British forces in northwest of Lille assailed grid 0521, just inland from the North Sea coast, in early June. The Royal Air Force made a small effort, faced minimal opposition, and usefully observed the battlefield in its only roll after flak and fighters. British artillery pounded German positions with two 25-point, six 16-point, and one 12-point shots for eleven disruption hits and cut the defense from 72 to 33 points. Reserve commitment and defensive air support lifted the defense to 40 and the British salivated their way to incompetence. Odds of 4.3:1 rolled downward and the worst combat roll brought the usual Both Exchange result.

British losses: 2x RP, one air unit, and four field artillery brigades eliminated; rifle division to cadre; 4.16 morale points

German losses: RP eliminated; air unit aborted; machinegun brigade reduced to remnant; three divisions to cadre; 3.5 morale points

Petain’s French continued their intermittent battering of grid 1919 in early June. A huge air battle, including a British combat air patrol with terrible luck on all three sides allowed successful aerial observation. Two 25-point, 16 16-point, and one 3-point bombardment shots scored a depressing 20 hits and reduced the defense from 110 to 69.75 before defensive bombing bumped it to 73.75. Petain and the Hind/Lud team both failed to usefully govern events. French chemical weapons consumed valuable frontline trenches that could have been better used by almost any other unit type while German gas mortars suffered terrible disruption from the French bombardment and could not attempt their own craft. Entrenchments offset national will but two successful engineer escalades supercharged the assault. The French, with a 3.2:1 attack, rolled downward then squandered their +3 modifier into yet another BX result.

French losses: 3x RP and engineer regiment eliminated; one mountain and four field artillery divisions reduced to cadre; 5 morale points

German losses: RP and field artillery division eliminated; one Saxon rifle, one Prussian trench, and two Bavarian rifle divisions to cadre; 5 morale points

After a month of combat in May, with a whole summer to go, Italy’s General Cadorna already wailed his misfortune at the limits of his mountain recruit training depots. This fortnight emptied the depots without replenishing his elite formations and no more trained men would reach the front until July. By mid-July, Cadorna would be attacking without an elite bonus and probably entirely in mountains where his regulars would suffer an additional disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Cadorna would not pause the offensive while the Austro-Hungarian Army retreated eastward toward its next solid defense line. First on the menu, Italian forces chewed on grid 4606 in an attempt to break through and unhinge the Central Powers’ defensive plan for the Ljubljana Gap. A small air battle preceded successful aerial observation and a normal Italian bombardment (“normal” translates to “embarrassingly weak”) wherein two 16-point and one 12-point shots scored two hits. The subsequent vigorous attack proved the third opportunity missed after national will offset rough terrain, Eugene failed to intervene, Italian elites offset trenches, and a successful engineer assault improved prospects. Odds of 4.5:1 rolled upward and hearts raced at headquarters before the +2 modifier still achieved only a BX result.

Italian losses: RP, engineer and light regiments eliminated; cavalry and mountain divisions to cadre; 3 morale points

Austro-Hungarian losses: air unit aborted, RP eliminated, two rifle divisions to cadre

A pair of Austro-Hungarian units straggled in grid 4406, a salient jutting from the interim defense line and shielding it at great expense when the Italians made their next advance. Italian forces easily achieved the maximum 6:1 mobile combat chart but suffered from wooded rough terrain and amazing defending flak shooting that left national will as the only Italian advantage. The -1 modifier and then rule 9M transformed easy victory into first a Defender Retreat and then a Half Exchange result.

Italian losses: light brigade eliminated, .67 morale points

Austro-Hungarian losses: fortress brigade and heavy flak regiment eliminated, 1 morale point

At the conclusion of the combat phase, British engineers deemed the Trieste factory repairable. To Italian outrage, British managers would begin hiring Slovenes in July as building materials and the latest machine tools began to flow to refit the facilities. The Slovenians would deliver ammunition and guns to Entente armies in May 1918.

Italian and German strategic bombing operations continued in their usual pattern but with skewed luck. All nine zeppelin groups found their targets and dodged flak but all missed with their bombs. Two Italian fixed wing groups flew, one to its common disaster at the hands of Stuttgart’s expert flak defenders and the other to hit Vienna for the first time in DJ05.

Air corps generals responded to steadily increasing force levels and aircraft type variety by increasing their counter-air bombing missions during summer 1917. The British and German air arms each suffered a group damaged on the ground during the first week of June.

Many German generals expect, sometime during the summer or autumn of 1917, to evacuate or retreat from their empire’s positions facing Maubeuge and approaching Lille. In support of a shorter line across the base of the salient, Dutch engineers completed the first DJ05 hex devastation and moved to begin work in the next hex. As a longer-term prospect, German engineers began actual construction of the first four improved forts in DJ05, all on the north or east bank of the Rhine River in The Netherlands or Germany.

Replacements continued to trickle toward the front lines throughout the fortnight. French troops accepted new 75’s to rebuild a field artillery division from cadre and French NCOs accepted graduates to do the same for a mountain division. Austro-Hungarians from across the polyglot empire brought two rifle divisions and an air group upward from damaged states. Germany exerted itself to repair three and replace one air group, replace a field artillery division, and rebuild two Bavarian and one Saxon divisions from cadre.

Austro-Hungarian forces evacuated the battlefield of mid-month in favor of a straightened front. In the south, the defense now sits firm with mostly Germans in mountainous Fiume then bristles with German and Austro-Hungarian guns in rough terrain running northward to the wooded hills west of the Ljubljana Gap. The western approach to the Gap is the next obvious Italian target, a final place in which their rifle divisions can fight without much disadvantage. Mountain after mountain for hundreds of miles is a fine description of the front from the Gap to the Swiss border with only some impassable terrain and the fortress of Trient to break the beautiful monotony.

British forces reacted to this continued rearward deployment with surprising vigor to attack the Germans holding rough terrain between Fiume and Ljubljana. Aerial observation passed with bloodless interception and successful picture taking. That and elite status counterbalanced trenches in rough terrain. Exactly 4:1 odds with no modifier produced the almost inevitable BX result.

British losses: RP eliminated, Canadian and British divisions to cadre, 2 morale points

German losses: RP eliminated, two Prussian divisions to cadre, 2 morale points

Notably, the Prussian corps in Austria-Hungary retains too shallow a manpower pool at this instant to refill either of those two drained divisions. Whether or how this will influence the course of the campaign remains unknown.

Cadorna roused himself and his staff to work through a Saturday, normally reserved for staff day at the beach. The weakened Italian mountain corps marched northwestward into the mountains. From their central position they could either countermarch to attack to Ljubljana or press onward to try to burst through and force back the Austro-Hungarian position between the Isonzo and Innsbruck.

On the Western Front proper, German generals desperately shifted units to replenish the front and prepare the next wave of conversions and withdrawals. For the historical Germans, 1917 was a hard year in the West. DJ05’s Germans find the situation the same.

British forces tried to keep up the pressure and massed in reaction to attack Brugge, grid 0521. A meaningful German air patrol intercepted the British observation mission and the ensuing air combat proved bloody. On the ground, Haig declined to commit and air units suffered the only famous casualties from the non-event.

British losses: one air group destroyed, 0.5 morale points

German losses: two air groups destroyed, 1 morale point

Further air action claimed more casualties in several sectors. A zeppelin hit Nottingham for a morale point. A French Voi8 scored possibly the first night bombing hit by a fixed wing aircraft in DJ05, punishing Stuttgart for a morale point. Italian fliers suffered a group damaged by flak while burning half a group of Austro-Hungarian float planes in Fiume harbor. French Sopwiths torched half a group of German fighters on the ground in the Ardennes.

The most superficially interesting situation in DJ05 at the moment is Entente air superiority. The Italians have numbers and the British competitive quality in Istria. French units significantly outnumber and have rough qualitative parity against the Germans between Metz and Neu Breisach. British units slightly both outnumber and outgun the Germans and Dutch around Brugge. Of the Entente, only the French have a single air group in the eliminated pool after the initial phase of Entente II JUN; the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are both already oversubscribed to their ARP income for July. This is mostly tangential to the larger conduct of the war, a very occasional attack missing a +1 modifier and perhaps two decimal points per turn of ground support bombing being available or not, but details matter and player morale is a consideration.

More DJ05!

The epic Grand Campaign game of MtV/OT by Todd Jahnke reached May 1917 this Summer, with the Allied pounding furiously at the southern coust of Austria-Hungary while burning through their equipment at the Western Front. As usual, you find the reports for May I and May II in the Archive. Thanks to Todd, and enjoy your read!

May II 1917

Late May 1917 arrived with clear and calm weather across the broad Western Front and anything but calm in and above the trenches of the opposing armies.

The French conducted only replacement activity during the Entente initial phase by repairing an air group and rebuilding a field artillery division from its cadre.

British forces along the Scheldt River misfired in late May. The feint in this sector in early May protected the Royal Flying Corps’ effort now as only one interceptor rose to contest the observation missions. The ensuing bombardment scored only 12 hits in 10 16-point and one 12-point shots, too few to encourage an attack by a British army lacking most of its best divisions, engineers, and tanks. Odds of 2.3:1 left the British with a roughly 30-percent chance of an AX and Haig cancelled the attack.

British losses: 1x RP, 1x damaged air group

Petain drove lavish air, armor, artillery, and engineer support straight down the road of attrition in late May, again pounding the defenses of grid 1919. Nine escort groups protected eight observation or reconnaissance groups from 18 intercepting air groups and the interceptors came out on top both in losses and in preventing useful aerial spying. French artillery inflicted 17 hits in 16 16-point and four 25-point shots, slightly low even considering the lack of observation. Heavy ground support bombing found a decimal roll upward in compensation for significant losses to flak. Petain offset entrenchments and two river hexsides did little to hinder four brigades of engineers however much the riflemen hated the shelling at the crossing sites. After a national will fillip and Ludendorf’s inexplicable disinterest, the French managed an astounding 5:1 chart and, with a +3 DRM, disappointingly scored only a DX.

German losses: RP, air group, and 12-5 field artillery XX eliminated; three Prussian rifle XX to cadre; 4.84 morale points lost

French losses: 3x RP, 3x air groups, and engineer X eliminated; rifle and field artillery XX to cadre; 4.17 morale points lost

We now note that German field artillery divisions mostly lack cadres and that this is a stark contrast from the French, who plan to enjoy their cadres repeatedly both because field artillery units cost mostly equipment and because their strengths are much higher per regiment than that of rifle divisions so their loss conserves morale.

The main British offensive of 1917 continued against Trieste with little urgency: the Italians being across the Isonzo would surely force the Austro-Hungarians to evacuate Trieste rather than face blows from two directions. Both Austro-Hungarian air groups intercepted the three local British reconnaissance groups and this time the former suffered for their impertinence even as their 10-points of flak friends and the army’s leader Eugene likewise failed miserably. After successful observation, British artillery finally registered on the fort, reducing it and scoring seven hits on units inside the perimeter. British armor barely contributed to this assault but national will, two successful engineer assaults, elite troops, and the first ever successful Entente gas attack boosted the British to a DL result on 3:1 odds with +5 DRM!

Austro-Hungarian losses: RP, air group, and coast artillery II eliminated; four rifle XX to cadre; 4.67 morale points lost

British losses: 2x RP and engineer III eliminated; Australian XX to cadre; 1.33 morale points lost

An elite corps began occupying the city and naval base but suffered bad disruption in the chaos.

Cadorna, still unhappy about the starring British role in his personal drama, pushed his troops hard in an attack across and northward along the east bank of the Isonzo. Italian forces already across the river suffered from their disorganization (being in a contested hex) but three halved hexes in open terrain is a great effort for the Italians. Four air groups dodged flak and successfully spotted for the slightly improving Italian artillery, which doled out four hits on three 16-point and one 12-point shots. Odds of 3.7:1 rolled upward but the Italian siege engineer made its 1-in-6 chance to self-eliminate. National will superiority nullified rough terrain while observation cancelled entrenchments. Elite attackers and two successful engineer assaults made the attack a likely solid victory but it nonetheless dissolved into an indecisive BX.

Austro-Hungarian losses: (no additional RP consumed); two rifle XX to cadre; 2 morale points lost

Italian losses: 3x RP, siege engineer X, and engineer III eliminated; two mountain and one rifle XX to cadre; 3.33 morale points lost

The Italian bridgehead over the lower Isonzo then became wholly Italian owned.

That the Central Powers part of the turn brought many replacement activities surprised nobody but French and Italian attacks in reaction phase proved the changing nature of the war in 1917.

Italy rebuilt one each rifle and mountain XX from cadre.

France rebuilt one each rifle and field artillery XX from cadre.

Prussia rebuilt four rifle and one mountain XX from cadre, repaired two air groups, and built six forts behind the Rhine River.

Austria-Hungary replaced an air group, rebuilt five rifle XX from cadre, and built 2x RE’s of rail capacity.

The Austro-Hungarian Army made substantial moves on what is no longer the “Isonzo-Trieste Front.” Along the middle Isonzo, the defenders retreated from a sector and gave the Italians a 35 mile wide bridgehead up that river from the Adriatic Sea. Further up the Isonzo, the reeling empire’s defenders pulled out of grid 4307, a waste of trackless mountains at the source of the Isonzo, to shorten the defensive position. Along the Croatian coast, various static and fortress units definitely left their beach resorts behind in favor of slow marches, using bullocks and men to pull guns and wagons northward.

On the main Western Front, the German armies scrambled both to keep up with unending redeployment and conversions and to patch holes poked by the Entente.

Two British armies near the English Channel reacted successfully, setting the stage for a potential shift in attack sectors in June.

Several French armies in the Metz region also activated, mostly to shift forces in preparation for the next assault but in one rare case to actually direct a reaction phase assault.

The French assault on grid 2018, from two hexsides with no relevant geographic protection, came as a surprise to both sides. Petain wrenched his army southward from near Metz and his men attacked without a barrage. Both sides of a large air battle, including two British groups, contributed to the carnage by dropping burning wreckage in quantity amidst the ground troops. National will, successful observation, and two successful engineer assaults more than offset woodlands and entrenchments. Ground support bombing raised moderate odds to 2.9:1, which rolled upward before an abysmal combat roll (1+2DRM) delivered yet another BX.

German losses: RP and two air groups eliminated; two air groups damaged; one each Prussian, Saxon, and Navy rifle XX to cadre; 4 morale points lost

French losses: RP, air group, engineer III, and field artillery II eliminated; one rifle and two field artillery XX to cadre; 4 morale points lost

Cadorna’s relentless pressure finally paid-off for the Entente in reaction of late May as he roused his staff to manage a mobile attack. Two heavy cavalry divisions led the attack but elite mountain troops provided the panache and field artillery much of the Italian firepower as they struck across one hexside into the foothills of the Alps Mountains east of the central Isonzo. Wooded rough terrain provided a lot of protection to the retreating Austro-Hungarians but elite troops, national will superiority, aerial observation, and adverse terrain expertise (a first for the war in Europe) advantaged the attackers far more. The Italians managed 4:1 odds, but another abysmal roll provided an HX result.

Austro-Hungarian losses: RP, engineer III, field artillery X, and rifle cadre eliminated; rifle XX to cadre; 2.33 morale points lost

Italian losses: RP and field artillery X eliminated; mountain XX to cadre; 1.33 morale points lost

A select Italian force advanced onto the battlefield, driving a salient between two forward-thrust Austro-Hungarian positions, the occupants of which will not all be able to escape into the Alps before the Italians and British can deliver some more hammer blows.

In the air, in late May, events proceeded in a broadly familiar fashion. Entente flak continued to deter maximum Zeppelin performance without bringing down any of the gas bags, one of which hit Milan. The Italian Ca-2 group renewed its defiance of the odds by again losing half its number to minimal flak over Stuttgart.

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.

January through April, plus strategic events of May, 1917

We failed to notice in September 1916 that Austria-Hungary fell to national will one. This mattered not at all and a few rolls recently revealed their shaken and recovered status.

The big news of the winter came from Russia, where the Czarist government collapsed in March, so Germany and Austria-Hungary reaped 150 morale points in bonuses. The French received a less impressive 2.5 foreign manpower.

The other big news came from the United States of America, which declared war against Germany in early April 1917 after a few years of turmoil in the Western Hemisphere. United States Marines evacuated Veracruz, Mexico in September 1914 then occupied Haiti in June 1915. Pancho Villa led his rebels to Columbus, New Mexico, in December 1915 and a punitive expedition chased him uneventfully until November 1916. Cool heads avoided a second Mexican-American War and the first American units will arrive in France in June 1917.

Portuguese society bubbled with unrest in 1917, but that was not news. Given Portugal’s historical performance, we agreed that rolling for a “12” during every turn made civil war too likely. We agreed to roll monthly and Portugal remained in the war through May 1917.

Factory managers and merchants missed some production for the West during this report. German aircraft hit three Entente factories in November; two failed to produce in January. British riflemen took the Valenciennes coal field in January, putting Germany into an energy deficit. In January, the Entente produced 23 equipment and 17 resource points as trade continued to vary by factory bombing. Central Powers factories produced 15 resource points and 29 equipment in January. Due to their new 0.9 multiplier, Germany’s seventeen working factories produced 15 resource and 30.5 equipment points in March, plus for the first time, western Germany imported two points of each weapons and ammunition from Silesia. Entente bureaucrats simultaneously raised production to 0.5 for 19 resource and 30 equipment points. In May, the United States provided effectively unlimited energy and iron and the Entente operated all factories and traded with all neutrals at full rate for 20 resource points and 39 equipment points. The Central Power simultaneously accrued 19 and 34.5 points respectively.

In the game, by February 1917 the Hindenburg Plan looked like genius. Germany purchased four points of food in 1914, instead of zero historically. Game rules make Germany’s conquest of The Netherlands a profitable decision in 1915, so the Entente declared war on that country and put its food into German mouths preemptively. Ludendorff thus began destroying Germany’s economy in 1917 because he safely could: in game the Central Powers will become hungry in September 1919 instead of July 1918. This simulation malformation should save Germany and Austria-Hungary each almost 90 morale by October 1919, including 25 un-doubled influenza points.

The major rail networks continued to wilt over the winter and spring. After a final deterioration in January, enough Entente railroad engineers worked the Italian network to guarantee its’ integrity. Overwork and underinvestment pushed German and French networks remorselessly toward collapse: each loses one regiment of capacity during each check. Maintenance problems stranded two German trains in Valenciennes and their French captors put some cars and parts into Gallic service. The Austro-Hungarian network is so weak it cannot deteriorate further.

The February 1917 morale check proved interesting. Italy gained no morale points but Germany gained approximately 4.83 points (events in Africa may adjust), leaving Germany at approximately 111% of its historical morale. Austria-Hungary gained 13.5 points. Britain gained approximately 22.83 points (again, Africa), leaving Britain at national will three, like the Germans. France broke the mold by building on its previous superior situations to gain a bonus of approximately 126.83 points, restoring France’s morale advantage over the Germans.

German morale points are the basic currency of the game. The historical German morale situation in February 1917 was (supposedly) 286; vice 227 in February 1918. Between those checks, Germany gained 150 points for Russian collapse and surrender and lost 21 points average for strategic naval, 32 points in the East, and 12 points in Africa. Historical Entente land and air forces, with local naval support, thus inflicted 144 points of morale losses on the Germans between February 1917 and February 1918. The in-game Entente inflicted 104 points of morale losses during the same months from 1916-1917.

The strategic naval war bit fiercely into the morale of both Britain and Germany during the first half of 1917. Germany’s submarines and raiders operated most effectively, inflicting 14 morale on the British. Entente hunter-killer groups also performed well and German mothers wept to think of their sons, thought safe in the navy but lost at sea (11 morale points). We suspect that German strategic naval loss must include an average of losses to the surface fleet against the Russians because nothing else could account for the average morale point losses Germany suffers in the strategic naval war.

The German, Austro-Hungarian, French, British, and Italian armies all transformed during the period. The French machinegun arm disappeared into divisions which reorganized from four to three regiments. The British machinegun arm sent its men to field artillery brigades and its machines to rifle divisions. Both British and French generals grudgingly received large tank formations. German generals continued reorganizing four regiment divisions and began forming three regiment “trench” divisions. Austro-Hungarian and Italian generals combined some independent brigades into divisions. All air forces except the Belgian grew better and larger. All major powers increased combat engineer unit size.

At the onset of active campaigning, three major armies remained understrength. For lack of manpower, Germany still field dozens of cadres. The Italians retain many, and the French a few, of the dozens of artillery units dumped directly into their replacement pools in 1915. The French remain slightly understrength in combat engineers. Entente equipment and British, French, and Belgian manpower are all only slightly above even.

Air defenses improved dramatically over the period. Generals and politicians of all countries screamed for anti-aircraft guns and screamed again after industry and training commands provided an amazing strength of that new arm. In Italy, some German commanders refused to fly into13 density flak and struck at more distant targets instead. Lesser flak and rear area fighter defenses appeared (and some later disappeared from) near Lyon and Marseilles, over Paris and London, and in the English Midlands. French and British fighters and flak reliably protected factories and bomber bases near the front. German flak grew slightly in some cities and significantly on the front line.

Aerial results during the period reflected changes in production, technology, tactics, and luck. Zeppelins scored four hits at Milano, two at Birmingham, and one at Bristol. Some zeppelins and the one German bomber attacked Italian and French factories many times. Italian flak damaged a zeppelin group but master German machinists again successfully repaired the cripples. Italian bombers, the Ca-2 workhorse and new SIA-7, hit Stuttgart and Koln four times. The flush German air force attacked the Entente bomber base in France and killed a French fighter group, but two groups of Germans suffered disaster by flak. Because April mud prevented ground battles, all air forces reached full strength by May.

By winter 1917, the German General Staff considered a long and increasingly brutal war inevitable. British and French artillery devastated German sectors in autumn 1916. From 1917, Entente heavy artillery can move without disruption and avoid telegraphing attack sectors. Many officers wanted better fortifications, forts broadly and improved forts in key sectors. Other officers advocated a “Hindenburg Line” slightly to the rear, in good terrain, and on short lines.

The German high command decided differently. Two German and one Dutch engineer groups began devastating three areas to protect a Hindenburg Line from the ocean through Bruxelles to the Ardennes and international opprobrium sapped morale in both countries. The high command also ordered fortification of the east bank of the Rhine River, starting near Duisburg and Düsseldorf, so the German Army could gradually trade Belgium for time and Entente casualties

In autumn 1916, Entente commanders realized they could not defend Istria as it was, so they changed it. Istria’s ports, one each standard and minor, could not sustain an adequate garrison unless theater commanders committing many ships and trucks to the effort. Therefore, in October British port engineers began upgrading Rovigno’s minor port. Early in 1917, a strong British army replaced weak French forces. At the end of April, British artillery began to batter the fort at Trieste after Rovigno opened at its larger capacity. In May, a flood of American railroad equipment connected British army depots directly to their strategic logistics. The Entente envisioned British forces battering Austro-Hungarians and Germans on Trieste’s fields all summer.

That plan came unglued with the first Italian attack across the Isonzo River in May 1917.

Replay of the Africa Theater, JUL – SEP 1915

JUL I and II, 1915

North Africa

Italian forces continued their aggression in July. To buff their army’s strength, colonial officials replaced the colonial light regiment, albeit in unsupported form. The leading Italian rifle brigade seized an undefended Sirte. The metropolitan light regiment slipped further east along the coast, toward Sirte and a range of oases that it could raid regularly to further reduce Sanussi manpower inflows.

That reduction would be useful because in July 1916 the Sanussi accrued probably the most manpower they could, 4.5 points, due to control of many tribal areas in the Sahel as well as almost every oasis in the Sahara outside Rio de Oro. The Sanussi, however, suffered somewhat from having a camel unit in the replacement pool and being unable to replace it due to the limitation of having no more than one camel unit in play per friendly-owned camel recruitment hex. The Sanussi did replace 1-6 and 1-2-6 irregular brigades from the eliminated while isolated pool, for five points of manpower. Further Sanussi expansion promised little more gain, but they nonetheless continued their outward creep into Chad and to within movement range of Senegal.

African natives continued to rebel more strongly as the war passed, with the lone tribe in Portuguese Guinea both rebelled and immediately expanded to level-2 in July.

Central Africa

French forces started the end of the Cameroon Campaign in July by upgrading a colonial mountain brigade from 2-3-6 to 3*-4-6, landing it in Victoria, and overrunning the German battalion defending Duala.

German loss: 1*-2-7 jaeger battalion and the Cameroon supply network

The French then mostly boarded ships and moved to the southern Cameroonian port of Kribi, from which they could more easily overrun or attack the Germans south of the major river in August.

British forces continued the conquest by attacking Bertua at the far eastern end of the German position. Maximum odds and a long-prepared tactical plan resulted in complete victory for the British.

Entente loss: SP

German loss: 1*-2-7 jaeger battalion and SP

The British then shifted their logistical support to come through Duala via a division of native porters, so that their campaign could continue in August.

In response to defeats on both ends of their line, with no supply network, German forces in Cameroon resigned themselves to eventual defeat. The jaeger battalions, two and a half regiments worth, assembled in Jaunde with three supply points and 30 newly-created general supply points. The construction regiment, unable to reach Jaunde, marched away southeastward to cause any trouble it could. Behind it, the garrison of Jaunde looked forward to a 15 month siege and a dramatically better than historical performance.

South Africa

While clustering for protection the Portuguese nonetheless continued to oppress the nearest rebel tribe and finally reduced it from level-2 to level-1.

South African forces, awaiting the October invasion, edged northward to better overawe the natives.

Free of Portuguese and Boer influence for the first time, the Mbunda tribe in southeastern Angola promptly increased its rebellion from level-3 to level-4 and fielded the first African unit on the DJ05 map. It naturally moved westward to influence a neighboring tribe to follow in the Mbunda footsteps.

German forces shifted northward and slid past the seaward Portuguese “flank” to position for an attack across easier terrain in August.

East Africa

Inspection of the replacement cost chart indicated that German units are cheaper by about half than their strength would indicate. That being the case, the Germans in East Africa promptly replaced 2-4-7 machinegun battalion and upgraded a 1-2-7 to 2-4-7 strength. Those two units, entrenched on the main invasion route from Mombasa and supported by the lone German artillery unit, then freed all the jaeger riflemen to protect the other invasion routes into central Tanganyika with truly formidable strength. British forces in Mombasa could only watch in dismay and pray the Germans would not roll the dice and attempt to win the campaign in one fell swoop.

AUG I and II, 1915

North Africa

Italian forces continued their aggression against the Sanussi in August as their units achieved the appropriate arrangement, in coastal strongholds, from which to raid outward in the future. The Italians aimed to either tie down additional Sanussi forces to hold the oases near the coast or to deny the manpower from communities there to Sanussi recruiters.

Two British colonial regiments, a British irregular brigade, and a French light battalion departed the Cameroon Campaign to contest Chad with the Sanussi.

Sanussi forces continued their growth and aggression too. Near Senegal, Sanussi quartermasters distributed batteries of modern German mountain guns to three brigades of previously unreliable, now enthusiastic camel cavalry (1-0-7C to 1*-7C upgrades). After moving into a central position in August, the Sanussi facing Senegal could either drive to the Atlantic coast and attack a French garrison near Rio de Oro, or attack a part of the French frontier defense in Senegal proper in September. Meanwhile, northeast of Lake Chad, where British irregulars from Cameroon had gone to raid Sanussi-loyal oases, the Sanussi dispersed the band after light combat. The British were pleased because the Sanussi paid for the victory and the British wanted to re-recruit the band in East Africa.

Entente “loss:” 1-6 irregular cavalry brigade

Sanussi loss: SP

Central Africa

German forces in Cameroon consumed four general supply points in the Entente initial phase and three in the Central Powers’ initial phase.

British and French forces hermetically sealed the German force in Central Cameroon into its one-hex pocket, preparatory to placing them under siege in September. The British could not achieve an attack with plausible odds (1:1 with -1 modifier would be achievable but lunacy) and the French would not risk irreplaceable units for uncertain gain in a 3:1 attack to probably exterminate the Germans the quick way. The remaining French units in western Cameroon moved back to the coast and began taking ship to Mombasa, where the first five units arrived before September.

A stray French unit from southeastern Cameroon and the garrison regiment of Gabon combined to isolate the stray German construction regiment, so that it could not draw supplies late in the month and immediately surrendered.

German loss: 0-1-5 construction regiment, isolated

South Africa

Portuguese forces in central Angola converted a supply point into general supplies, to offset the effect of the Germans having disassembled both the local supply network and the two eastern Portuguese stacks’ link to any port.

South African and British colonial forces continued to wait in northern Namibia for the word from London to invade Angola.

In Angola, the Germans massed and attacked the Portuguese garrison of the port city of Benguela. The partially-supported Portuguese force could have drawn German blood, the odds were only 3:1, but superior German morale gave them a decisive victory.

Portuguese loss: 2x SP, 1*-2-5 rifle regiment, 1-2-4 colonial regiment, .33 irrelevant morale points

German loss: SP

The Germans then spread out to cantonments at tribal home hexes in coastal and central Angola.

East Africa

Nothing noteworthy happened on either side.

SEP I and II, 1915

North Africa

Italian light troops began raiding eastward out of Sirte while French camel troops continued raiding southward from Morocco and Algeria, both to minimize Sanussi manpower recruitment.

The French added a light regiment to the pair of camel battalions in garrison in the only port in Mauretania, added an artillery battery to the regiment, and thus rendered place and force safe for another month.

Along the Sahel frontier, British and French garrisons of many coastal colonies moved north to take back ownership of various tribal areas, towns, and an oasis or two, to further minimize Sanussi manpower recruitment.

The Sanussi Brotherhood recruited 3.5 manpower points in September, a large but realistic influx.

An African tribal rebellion in Chad expanded from level-2 to level-3.

Central Africa

The German pocket in Cameroon consumed six total general supply points during the month. In two months, another supply point would need to be converted. With their force of five battalions eating inefficiently, the Germans also replaced a 1-6 jaeger battalion inside the pocket, from accumulated manpower and special replacements. The Entente contented itself with placing the pocket under close siege, in the same hex, and consoled itself with the fact that by the time the pocket surrendered, the units that conducted the siege would no longer have to demobilize for a significant period before re-entering the war. Normally three British colonial regiments demobilize when the Cameroon campaign ends, then return to service for East Africa later.

South Africa

Portuguese forces in central Angola consumed eight general supply points and completed the suppression of a level-1 rebellion back to a peaceful status. Heavier terrain shielded the two remaining Portuguese camps and the occupants hoped to remain safe until the South Africans could save them in October.

A new rebellion appeared in Angola, not surprisingly very near the existing level-4 rebellion, then expanded immediately to level-2 status.

East Africa

A new tribal rebellion broke out in far northeastern Mozambique, level-1, as if to balance that the Portuguese in the far southwest completely suppressed the rebellion that had briefly appeared there.

A large French force completed assembly at Mombasa and a part of the force pushed inland along the railway along the German frontier. The town of Tanga lay open for the 13th month, adjacent to both Mombasa and the German frontier defenses, but tsetse flies defended the town better than any jaeger and even without it the Germans would retain a functional supply network. British administrators further north called-up a brigade of native raiders and started it marching toward Mombasa.

German forces in Tanganyika welcomed yet another jaeger regiment to the defense force and provided it with the standard artillery complement.

Notes and comments to this point

  • French colonial and Army of Africa, and British colonial, manpower is like gold. None of those forces will accumulate 5 points during the whole war in Africa and the French get no foreign manpower at all, making their best units absolutely irreplaceable.
  • Italian, metropolitan and colonial, and Indian, manpower is surprisingly plentiful and all three forces can replace a few units gradually during the war in Africa.
  • Given that German units enjoy superior morale, there is no safe attack against German troops at any odds, but the Entente is able to mass against native and Boer units for assured results in many cases. Being safe slows campaigns but losing units would slow them more.
  • I’ve come to believe that the Sanussi should, at the minimum, place each Italian coastal enclave under siege. That would reduce Italian mischief, which otherwise can get out of hand when the Sanussi attack the French and the Italians get some reinforcements from Europe (per the OB, nothing extra) and replace a couple of units. The Italians in mid-1915 have real strength, relative to a bunch of overstretched irregulars.
  • Aside from the Italians, nobody has any incentive to take the fight to the Sanussi. The French and British might pick off a stray 1-0-7C or 1-6, but they’d be crazy to attack with any chance of an EX result. Even the Italians have bigger fish to fry; if they can hold the 3 cities, they’ve accomplished their mission and no morale point loss against the Sanussi helps with the war in Europe.
  • All that said, I think if I ever play the Sanussi again, I’ll probably invade the Sahara immediately with just a few, weak units – to max the manpower income – but actually attack the Italians on the coast as soon as the interior is cleaned-up and the supported Sanussi can all mass. Take a swipe at a weak port to attract the NGS, just maybe succeed anyway but probably get a bloody nose, then really whack another port on the same turn to get a probable win that could cripple the Italians in Libya and cost them…about 18 morale points in Europe over the course of the war.
    Then I think after a year of rebuilding I’d push a real Sanussi invasion into Algeria somewhere, just in time to let the eastern Berbers have a successful rebellion and cost the French some real units and morale points. Maybe the western Berber could even be dug out of their prisons by a dedicated Sanussi effort.
  • What cheeses me off intensely is the Germans in Namibia being allowed to run and hide in Angola. On the historical schedule in Europe, that completely screws the British, who can’t finish the Namibia campaign for a year past historical. It further ticks me off that the historically damp squib of a Boer Revolt basically can’t go anywhere near that badly for the Boers with any remotely plausible series of rolls…it would take Boer decisions that are deliberately self-destructive to even come close to historical (maybe the Boers voluntarily disband all their units during their first initial phase?). I’m also unhappy about the Germans in Cameroon being able to squat pretty safely on a pile of GSPs for half the war, though in that case the Entente at least gets some benefit from not ending the campaign. All those British and German morale points matter and the rules shove them away from historical results, which can only be achieved if the CP player wants to do badly.
  • I fear East Africa will go the same way, but there are more variables there and it may not. And, of course, the Entente has a huge ability to shift units between theaters where that didn’t happen historically, so the Entente should be able to at least start the various campaigns earlier than historical. I may have gone wrong in some of those decisions (a French amphibioius invasion of Namibia in about October 1914 might’ve been just the ticket, retrospectively, rather than hammering the Berbers).

Replay of the Africa Theater, JAN 15 – JUN 1915

Note: While playing the May 1916 turn of the Africa Theater, as part of DJ05, we discovered a modestly huge error: there is no minimum movement in Africa and we had been minimum moving freely. Under the rules, if a unit lacks the MP to enter a hex, it may not enter a hex even if that one hex movement would be the only hex it moved or fashion in which it spent MP during the phase. This certainly mattered to our results. Given both of our unhappiness with some operational decisions, neither of us felt as though resetting the theater would be a bad decision, so we reset the theater. On later review, we did not stop making operational errors in the second playing either.

JAN I and II, 1915

No African rebellions spread or increased in intensity during this bi-monthly period.

North Africa

Entente forces passed the first month of 1915 defensively in northern Africa. Italian forces welcomed their mounted rifle comrades back from the isolated replacement pool but otherwise made no noteworthy moves. French forces cursed mud in Morocco and waited for dry weather and a less costly, more certain victory. In Western Sahara, French forces evacuated Timbuktu by the magic of river transportation and took up positions more than half way to Dakar.

Sanussi forces continued to expand west and southwest, their scouting forces moving to positions all around the periphery of the Sahara from which they could raid into northern Algeria or Morocco, Spanish Rio de Oro, or the northern edges of the colonies along the northern Gulf of Guinea. Only in the far west, toward Dakar, did Sanussi expansion continue across the desert with prospect of further easy advance to come. Main force Sanussi units deployed widely across all fronts, easily able to defend the new empire from attacks by local Entente forces but not massed for any significant attacks.

Central Africa

British and French forces continued to build-up against Cameroon in January. A French battalion invaded Cameroon from the southeast to take the far eastern city of Karnot. An irregular labor division worked its way across southern Nigeria toward the northeastern prong of the invasion of Cameroon, where it would extend the Entente supply line. Supply points continued to flow into Nigeria by ship and into Cameroon by river boat and native porter. At the front, Entente and German remained locked in positions of best advantage to maintain the pressure or the supply network, respectively.

Southern Africa

South Africa’s defense forces made considerable progress toward suppressing the rebellion and conquering Namibia at the start of 1915. Loyal Boer trainees refilled the ranks of the first of nine eliminated loyal Boer brigades and moved into a provincial garrison. After the lone Boer unit adjacent to Johannesburg surrendered, freed-up loyal field force units completely encircled the five rebel units west of Johannesburg. Colonial British units in Rhodesia and Bechuanaland positioned themselves in the south of their colonies to best hinder any potential Boer or German move eastward across the middle of the continent.

British loss: 2 morale points for enemy-owned city in South Africa

Boer rebels mourned and rejoiced in unequal measure after New Year’s Day. Three of six units in the pocket around Mafeking surrendered during their initial phase due to being U-2 and isolated. The die-hard remainder of those units funneled into upgrading a construction regiment to a brigade (note: this may have been a rules error, upgrading in ZOC). Simultaneously, a supply point appeared in Mafeking and the Boers immediately broke it into general supply to sustain themselves for probably three months or more. The three hex pocket, being a supported brigade, an unsupported brigade, and a rifle regiment with a stray fractional manpower point, then waited, temporarily well fed, to see what the loyalists would do about the situation. Meanwhile, near the Okavango, the main Boer force remained at U-2 and unable to move. German forces provided no help to the Boers, being unable to break the siege in the south or get supplies to the force in the north in time to save the rebellion.

FEB I and II, 1915

Mud again oppressed the prospects of battle, but both sides took notable actions in February 1915. French administrators recruited an irregular unit to replace the Marins garrison of Upper Senegal Niger (North), which joined the remaining regular units in the retreat toward Dakar. Italian forces edged outward from their coastal cities, unimpressed by Sanussia forces remaining within reach of the coastal region, and ended the month holding not only three cities but also three oases near them. Sanussi forces from the Sahel edged southward, seizing several African tribal homelands and indoctrinating them to be another source of Brotherhood manpower. In Upper Senegal, main force Sanussi units came up and easily destroyed the French garrison.

Entente loss: French 0-1-6 irregular brigade

Sanussi loss: nothing

Central Africa

British and French forces continued to rationalize their pressure points and build-up for the main attack in Cameroon. Minimal Entente forces held defensible terrain in the southwest, northwest, and north, which forced the Germans to face off with them along the supply network road. The lone French battalion from the southeast continued to swim and chop forward through horrendous terrain toward Dzem. The main Entente advance, from the northeast, continued to receive reinforcements in expectation of attacking or overrunning something in the middle of the year, but again holding German forces pinned in front of it to maintain their supply network.

Southern and Eastern Africa

Mud continued to freeze Portuguese operations in Angola, whereas mud and insufficient forces combined to freeze every sides’ operations in Eastern Africa.

Mud protected everyone in South Africa and Namibia too; in the only notable action, a loyalist force positioned itself to overrun one hex of the rebel pocket.

MAR I and II, 1915

North Africa

The return of clear weather mattered not at all in Libya, Tunisia, or Algeria, but French forces in Morocco finally continued their offensive against the Berbers in March. At Taza, French forces massed 25 strength against 4 defense and both Berbers attempted to retreat before combat: both failed. Rough terrain and Berber home field advantage balanced adverse terrain expertise and superior morale for an DH result.

Entente losses: SP

Berber losses: 1-2-6 irregular brigade

The second Berber retreated into Spanish Morocco with both Berber supply points. The French then exploited to continue their grand plan.

Berber forces replaced two 1-2-6 irregular brigades, evacuated indefensible Er Rachidia, Quarzazate, and 0478 to the South of the Atlases, and clung to their widely separated coastal strongholds and surrounded Khenifra.

Sanussi achievements in March proved the value of incremental improvement. After a Turkish blockade runner landed equipment and ammunition, Sanussi forces upgraded 1-2-6 irregular brigade to 1*-2-6 near Tripoli. The newly aggressive Italians could not be allowed to threaten the Brotherhood’s main ammunition hoard and prime recruiting grounds of Fezzan and Tripolitania. Sanussi recruiters brought an impressive three manpower points into oasis holding pens from which roving emirs could replenish the ranks of any weakened brigades. At the front, Sanussi forces cautiously continued south into Nigeria and Chad and west toward Dakar, but caution and security in the face of significant European regular forces kept both advances minimal.

Central Africa

Clear weather significantly shifted the balance of power in Cameroon too. The French battalion from the southeast finally cut the Germans off from the bit of their supply network that extended to Dzem in that direction. Simultaneously, British forces finally took advantage of months of strength building, supply assembling, supply line extending, and anti-Sanussi garrisoning, to attack the German defenders of Fumban. Adverse terrain expertise balanced the terrain but German morale superiority over the colonial attackers shifted the results away from DR directly onto EX.

Entente losses: SP and 2*-6 British Colonial regiment

German losses: 1-2-6 jaeger battalion

The British could neither advance nor exploit forward due to being at the uttermost end of their supply line, but they did adjust their position for optimal future action.

The Germans replaced their eliminated jaeger battalion and completed forming a construction regiment during the month. Operationally, German forces abandoned Fumban, and consolidated their position in the south. German forces occupied the triangle Duala on the northwest cost, thru Oyem east of Spanish Guinea, thru Bertua in the center of the colony, along the main road and railroad back to Duala. That region, the core of Cameroon, lay exposed to Entente attack from the northeast at Bertua or along the coast at Duala, but otherwise enjoyed the protection of the Sanaga River to its north. The region contained exactly the five connected towns necessary for adequate food and laundry services.

Southern Africa

Portuguese forces in Angola rejoiced at the breaking of dry weather and finally attacked a rebellious tribe. The tribe had been at level-2 rebellion during February but became even more unfriendly during March and the Portuguese attack successfully reduced it from level-3 to level-2, at the cost of an SP, instead of wiping out what had been a level-2 rebellion.

South African forces took advantage of newly dry weather to overrun the rebel Boers in Mafeking. The South Africans then positioned themselves to overrun the remainder of the pocket during April.

German forces welcomed a construction regiment to the defense of Namibia.

Eastern Africa

The Royal Navy finally sunk the SMS Konigsberg during March, but German forces salvaged plenty of equipment from it and duly replaced a 1-2-7 machinegun battalion to stiffen the colony’s defenses.

APR I and II, 1915

North Africa

The cautious Sanussi advance toward Dakar continued but that toward the South largely stopped, so the French attack against the Berbers at Khenifra proved the only noteworthy event of the month. French forces in overwhelming strength spent ammunition lavishly and the Berbers, unable to safely retreat, responded in kind. Superior French morale and terrain expertise mostly counterbalanced Berber home field advantage and the wooded rough terrain so that a French setback was unlikely – and they proved victorious.

Entente losses: 2x SP

Berber losses: SP, 1-2-6 and 1-6 irregular brigades

After victory over the last Berber stronghold away from their coastal enclaves, the French front line against the Berbers amounted to only 11 hexsides, down from 16 at the start of the world war and 19 after the offensive began segmenting the Berber positions. The Berbers, however, remained as militarily strong as they had been and deployed their forces much more compactly, so that offensive action no longer remained unthinkable – though it certainly remained difficult.

Sanussi forces continued to maneuver their way westward as French colonial forces cautiously withdrew ahead of them.

Everywhere Else

Mud weather almost everywhere south of the Sahel turned April into a slow month, though with a few notable events. Colonial administrators finished pushing a third division of native labor onto porter duties into northeastern Cameroon and British and French forces duly advanced to the last positions they could take before exterminating the German supply network. Portuguese forces in Angola attacked a tribe at level-2 rebellion and, despite the mud, reduced it to level-1. South African loyalists reflated another Boer brigade for garrison duty in one of the southern provinces of the Union. Its political support broken, the Boer Revolt collapsed and the movement’s military forces in the field largely surrendered – one brigade went into exile and sloshed fifty miles toward Namibia. South African forces flooded toward Namibia, quickly by rail or slowly by foot and hoof but both with conquest in their hearts.

MAY I and II, 1915

North Africa

As clear weather continued along the Mediterranean Sea coast, Entente forces moved forcefully against natives and Germans alike. Italian forces grabbed the biggest headline of the month with a series of sorties that almost surrounded the Sanussi garrison of Nasirah oasis impressively then badly bungled the resulting battle. The Italian force included cavalry, light troops, and almost all the artillery and rifle units in the colony. The light units negated the Sanussi desert combat advantage and the very common 6:1 attack resulted in the very common EX result due to the very common combat roll of 1.

Entente loss: 3x SP, 1-2-7 light rifle regiment, 2*-6 colonial light rifle regiment, 1/3 morale point

Sanussi loss: SP, 1*-6 and 1*-2-6 irregular brigades while isolated

The Italians then exploited back to Zaura, Tripoli, and a couple of oases.

Further West, seven French light units Morocco by ship or boat for duty in Cameroon, where the first wave went ashore at Victoria.

In the Western Sahara and along the southern fringe of the Sahel, British and French forces took up a neat cordon defense that the Sanussi would be unable to attack usefully at any point due to mud.

Offensively, the Sanussi duly followed-up slowly the French and British, particularly in Niger Military Region – North, where the French withdrew their garrison after losing ownership of all towns and oases.

Defensively, the Sanussi sent three brigades from around the central Sahara into or toward Libya to reinforce the defense of the core oases against the strangely aggressive Italians.

Sanussi forces also recruited 3.5 manpower points, a high, a new unit of camel troops in Timbuktu, received another new unit into the replacement pool from Oudane in the far West. In Libya, to stand-off the bloodied Italians the Sanussi upgraded one each 1-6 and 1-2-6 units into 1*-2-6 strength.

Berber forces replaced 1-2-6 and 1-6 units in West Morocco.

A level-1 rebellion in Chad expanded to level-2 intensity.

Central Africa

A rare battalion of British regulars, scheduled to debark in Mombasa found itself shortstopped at Port Harcourt and sent up the Niger River to join the invasion of Cameroon from the northeast. The men had heard about tsetse flies and seemed happy at the change while they practiced with a newly provided battery of mountain artillery, originally manufactured in 1873 and dug out of some Boer War-era demobilization site for this new conflict.

South Africa

South African recruiters sent enough reformed rebels to the ranks in May to, with the dregs of the existing depots, rebuild two Boer brigades for garrison duty. A colonial light rifle battalion simultaneously absorbed another battery of those old mountain guns. The new Boer brigades completed, again, the Dominion’s provincial garrisons with a picket line along the southern border of Bechuanaland to prevent cavalry raids from the north. The Dominion of South Africa spent May putting forth every effort toward the conquest of Namibia, both at home and at the front.

The South African invasion of Namibia went forward in two prongs to solid initial success. A lone brigade of cavalry advanced along the coast to occupy Luderitzbucht, the southern Namibian port and rail yard, and thereby formed the logistical basis for a subsequent advance into the heart of the colony. Three brigades lunged directly up the rail and road line into that heart to attack the German battalion defending Reheboth. The South Africans achieved 6:1 odds after the Germans failed to retreat before combat, but the Germans could retreat safely so they conserved ammunition and did so after a few skirmishes in an DR result.

Entente loss: SP

German loss: nothing, except the supply network broken

South African forces naturally advanced into the town while others spread out to the East and West to prevent cavalry raids from cutting off the invading army.

While white troops hogged the headlines in central Namibia, a colonial battalion amphibiously assaulted the police station in Swakopmund, the northern port of the German colony, and found it devoid of defenders. While the colonials began rounding up unemployed dock workers a powerful rifle regiment of South Africans came ashore in exploitation to truly defend the place.

The landing craft of the Royal Navy then departed for Mauritius to pick up a newly formed regiment of field artillery.

North of Namibia, the Portuguese army in Angola suddenly took notice of its peril. German troops in Namibia had no compunction about invading a neutral colony and not only lurked in position to do so strongly but also lacked a supply network in Namibia. All those natives, who the Portuguese had been busily suppressing for profit, suddenly looked like actual threats who would gleefully supply German invaders with endless food. The Portuguese thus moved away northward to the mountainous line through the center of the colony where all the area garrisons could work together for mutual defense. A casual attempt to suppress rebels near Huambo failed at 6:1 with a modified 0 combat roll.

For their part, the German defenders of Namibia lacked any good options by mid-May 1915. One supply point formed 30 general supply points, to sustain the small force for some months to come, but the colony was clearly lost. That the exiled Boers overawed a level-3 rebellion in Angola from going to level-4 proved further disheartening. Except for the slow and out-of-position construction regiment and some general supply points too numerous to cart away, German forces then sprinted northward, into Angola and to safety from pursuing Entente forces for the time being.

East Africa

Tanganyika’s defenders replaced 2-1-6 heavy artillery battalion with the proceeds of the annual blockade runner from Germany. The artillery might not ever attack, but it will support various lighter units and increase the defense of the colony by much more than a single point.

Britain’s focus on everything except Uganda finally cost the Empire in May as the previously unhappy level-1 rebellion there became positively disenchanted with events and became a level-2 rebellion.

JUN I and II, 1915

North Africa

After an eventful month that removed a lot of Entente units from the command, the Entente nonetheless continued its aggression in June. Italian forces kept their central threat alive but worked primarily to setup a July move to occupy Sirte, the only Sanussi port. French defensive forces organized more completely to withstand the Berbers and Sanussi in the absence of the best mobile units of the French, now gone to Cameroon, but French camel units took positions on the southern frontier and raided numerous oases, to cut back on Sanussi manpower recruitment. The Sanussi re-took those places, and continued edging toward Senegal, but would continue to lose many frontier oases regularly.

Central Africa

By the end of exploitation, British in the east and French forces facing Duala both stood ready for serious efforts against the static Germans in Cameroon, to take effect upon the onset of clear weather or July, respectively.

South Africa

South African forces continued their frenzy in June. Four brigades of home defense militias demobilized after May’s departure of the last enemy Boer unit from Bechuanaland, so another wave of garrison jockeying consumed much effort in June. In Namibia, surrounding the German construction regiment in movement then overrunning it in exploitation proved scarcely more challenging. That overrun cost Germany its last city in Namibia and thus its replacement pool and half accumulated manpower point. Elsewhere along the front, the South Africans spread widely but strongly along an east to west stretch that would prevent German cavalry raids and somewhat retard native rebellions.

Portuguese forces in Angola prayed the Germans would leave them in peace but nonetheless split into three armed camps based on the three sector garrisons, each well provided with supply points and at least some artillery and so with some hope of bloodying, or even surviving, a German attack. Two camps, adjacent to a rebellious tribal region, combined their efforts and again failed to reduce the angry locals closer to subservience.

German forces continued to consume general supply points while taking ownership of four native tribal areas to provide them with subsistence until the Entente could invade Angola in October. Given the schedule of events and the requirement to consume general supply points first, we removed the German general supply points from play at this time.

In Europe, months earlier, the Entente took the decision to provide all foreign aid to Portugal as early as possible, rather than on a historical schedule, and thus to bring Portugal into the war in October 1915. That decision cost the Entente some equipment for its armies early in the war and eventually brought the Entente the Portuguese Expeditionary Force of two reinforced divisions (which are subject to disbanding upon a Civil War that the rules make very likely, whereas it historically did not happen). What turned out to be much more relevant was that the Germans in Angola would be vulnerable to vengeful South Africans a full five months earlier in DJ05 than they would have been on the historical schedule.

That said, it seems an unintentional quirk in the rules that Germans can invade Portuguese colonies and hide in them, safe from both from pursuing Entente forces and Portuguese reinforcements from Europe.

East Africa

German forces in the East welcomed yet another new jaeger regiment to the front in June and made sure it towed two batteries of guns on its way to garrison Mount Kilimanjaro.

Replay of the Africa Theater, AUG 14 – DEC 14

Note: While playing the May 1916 turn of the Africa Theater, as part of DJ05, we discovered a modestly huge error: there is no minimum movement in Africa and we had been minimum moving freely. Under the rules, if a unit lacks the MP to enter a hex, it may not enter a hex even if that one hex movement would be the only hex it moved or fashion in which it spent MP during the phase. This certainly mattered to our results. Given both of our unhappiness with some operational decisions, neither of us felt as though resetting the theater would be a bad decision, so we reset the theater. On later review, we did not stop making operational errors in the second playing either.

AUG 1914

Libya

If Italy lost control of Tripoli, Homs, or Zaura, Tripolitania’s three cities and three of its four ports, Italy would incur morale penalties and suffer more greatly in the new world war. Therefore, Italian forces responded to political dictate and prioritized security of those three places throughout the war.

A lonely and sacrificial brigade of Italian cavalrymen began the war deployed at Ghadames and survived August there on dates and tepid water. In September, with orders to move, their horses proved so weak that the brigade could not reach the coast before surrendering during the Sanussi initial phase.

Italian loss in September: 2-1-7 heavy cavalry brigade, eliminated isolated; 1.33 morale points

A brigade of colonial riflemen similarly began the war at an oasis in the deep desert, but its less dedicated (more able to desert to the local population) men failed to last through August before surrendering to Sanussi patrols.

Italian loss: 1-2-5 colonial rifle X

A second, more powerful brigade of colonial riflemen likewise began the war in the deep desert and these men held together throughout August, fired by the dream of returning to the nomadic way of life that had held sway for hundreds of years before the hated Europeans arrived on scene. This brigade held firm on paper, negotiated in secret, and took its artillery battery with it into Sanussi service in mid-September.

Italian loss in September: 2*-3-5 colonial rifle X

Sanussi gain: assorted manpower and equipment

While the Italians self-destructed, Sanussi forces boxed in the colonial brigades, occupied the last few oases in Libya, and prepared to attack the French.

Northwest Africa

French forces in overwhelming strength but disorganized by rule faced Berber rebels unable to realistically attack or usefully maneuver against their opponents, so the month passed peacefully in this command. French forces in northern Algeria and Tunisia girded for Sanussi aggression by garrisoning critical cities and a very few select geographic chokepoints on the edge of the Sahara Desert. In the deep desert, a few Tuareg-French units tried to take conservative positions against the same threat.

Central Africa

Entente forces decisively invaded Togoland immediately upon the outbreak of war. French forces pinned the hastily mustered police and militia while British colonial regiments in overwhelming force assaulted their defensive position around the critical, coastal radio station. The assault went perfectly despite superior German morale.

Entente loss: SP

German loss: 0-1-5 rifle II

From Senegal, French river transports carried two regiments of colonial troops to southern Nigeria, and one to Gabon, in preparation for the Cameroon campaign. This early emphasis on Cameroon, seemingly proactive and “getting a head start” ended up being a bad Entente mistake.

Three lonely battalions of Germans defended the key overland gateways to Cameroon.

Southern Africa

The government of South Africa, out of concern for German poaching and smuggling, already planned to deploy its forming but unquestionably disloyal Boer units north of the Okavango Delta when war broke out in Europe. Colonial, South African, and British units would garrison provinces and police key cities in southern portion of the Union of South Africa, as they already did in August.

French naval transports from Morocco sailed to Madagascar in August, retrieved a colonial regiment, and sailed back toward South Africa. The garrison of Madagascar could not be allowed to remain over-strength when other needs pressed so urgently.

The Boers did not revolt.

German forces, three battalions, garrisoned Namibia (German Southwest Africa) and pretended peaceful intentions toward Boer and Briton alike.

Eastern Africa

Three battalions of Germans and larger, weaker British forces could only garrison their key positions and wait for reinforcement this early in the war.

Belgian troops invaded Burundi and deprived Tanganyika’s defenders of the first cities to fall from their supply network.

Tsetse fly zones dominated initial deployments and will heavily influence the entire campaign in East Africa. The natural South African invasion route into this theater is through Rhodesia and crosses fly-infested zones both in Rhodesia and again in Tanganyika. The far western region of this theater is indefensible for the Germans because it is likewise accessible from central and eastern regions only via fly-infested paths, but is accessible safely along difficult routes from Belgian Congo. From the north, invaders could enter this theater either across Lake Victoria or past Mount Kilimanjaro then along a narrow route that passes through ideal positions for defense in depth. From the East, Britons could amphibiously invade through Dar a Salaam to avoid the flies, but again only to reach an invasion route blocked by excellent defensive terrain. Fundamentally, however, Entente forces will eventually be numerous and far enough encroached to move through the fly zones and seize many cities across the theater. When that time arrives, superficial analysis indicates that the Germans will have to maneuver through the fly zones too, either to retake their supply network or gradually retreat into Mozambique to live off the generosity of the natives.

SEP I and II, 1914

No African rebellions grew or spread during the bi-monthly check.

Libya

The Italian colonial administration scrapped its rifle brigade, which would not be replaceable for several years, and kept sending gifts to Italian admirals and captains who could provide gunfire support in the event of any Sanussi attack on an Italian force occupying a Libyan port.

On the ground, the Italian military moved more boldly. While troops from Tripoli occupied Zaura, the rifle brigade from Sirte evacuated its oasis port (possibly a mistake) and marched west. The rifle brigade from Homs simultaneously sortied eastward. Metropolitan and colonial light troops from Giofra simultaneously marched toward the coast and the combined force caught a Sanussi brigade between them. The Sanussi tried and failed to flee and the fire discipline of regular troops easily destroyed them.

Italian loss: SP

Sanussi loss: 1-6 irregular X

The combined Italian forces then exploited into or toward Homs.

For their part, the Sanussi declared war on France, erupted into the central Sahara, flipped two of three Tuareg-French units to Sanussi loyalty, and grabbed many oases. The Sanussi left an offensively weak but defensively sufficient force to face the Italians and guard supply stockpiles. Sanussi main force units, toting ammunition, cautiously followed their advanced scouts toward the west and southwest.

Northwest Africa

French forces worked to overcome disorganization and withdrawals throughout the month.

Berber forces again sat tight, with no particular hope of offensive action against French not yet weakened and out of position by their own attacks.

Central Africa

Entente forces began the invasion of Cameroon this month. Approximately three regiments of British colonials moved into or toward Cameroon overland from the northwest and north through imposing mountains. Two regiments of French colonials from Chad invaded Cameroon from the northeast, destroyed the unoccupied German fort, and began lopping off the northeastern extension of the Cameroon supply network. A French colonial regiment invaded Kribi amphibiously to occupy the small southwestern extension of the Cameroon supply network and threaten the central part of the network.

German forces welcomed a newly completed regiment and spread its two battalions to join Cameroon’s cordon defense. At no point could German forces mass to attack without leaving the other Entente forces free access to disassemble the colony’s supply network, but neither could the relatively small Entente forces attack the blocking forces with likely success.

The Entente planned to conquer Cameroon by pressure from all directions to squeeze, puncture, and finally deflate the starfish-shaped colony. Entente invasions would come as soon as possible from the sea in the southwest, through the mountains from the northwest, and from the open northeastern corridor. That pressure would force the Germans to spread themselves into a cordon around their all-important supply network, five cities connected by the circular road running around the center of the colony with a few extensions. The Germans would thus be immobilized and unable to take the offensive while Entente reinforcements and garrisons fended off any Sanussi threat. In a few months, administrators would hire native labor units to extend supply lines, French battalions from Gabon and Congo would occupy the southern and southeastern German cities, and finally reinforcements would allow an Entente overrun or attack to break the German position and supply network on the circle road.

As it happens, that Entente plan was defective. It could be perfectly foreseen to work well, but it would certainly be implemented by forces that could have been better used elsewhere. While insufficient to break the Cameroonian supply network, the forces might have dramatically helped the campaigns in East and Southwest Africa. Later and with reinforcements, the Entente could have turned on Cameroon in strength for swifter results.

Southern and Eastern Africa experienced tense calm in September 1914 as the Boers did not revolt. Both sides gathered reinforcements so that Germany deployed five battalions in each East and Southwest Africa in September, and a few ships passed back or forth. Various Boer units completed forming and marched away northward. Neither side felt it could launch an offensive and even the Belgian conquest of Rwanda and Burundi ended with every Belgian unit in Africa in garrison and unavailable for field duty.

OCT I and II, 1914

North Africa

French forces finally attacked the Berbers in October, with 12.25 attack massed against 2 defense at grid 0475. The Berbers saw the aimless scratches on the rocky cave side and tried to flee, failed, did not pointlessly call for ammunition supplies from nearby tribes, and suffered destruction.

French losses: SP

Berber losses: 1-2-6 irregular X

French colonial administrators planned a limited campaign to contain the Berber menace for the duration of the war in Europe. The arc of Moroccan Berber rebel tribes lay from the Atlantic coast of Morocco at the crisis city of Agadir, through the foothills on both sides of the Atlas Mountains, to the Mediterranean coast of Spanish Morocco. French forces from the enclave around Casablanca would hold in the south and northeast and attack southeastward. French forces from Algeria would attack southwestward. The Berbers of the High Atlas already subscribed to French sovereignty and would be left autonomous, hostile to rebel Berbers and Sanussi alike, as a pivot around which the French could maneuver with some freedom. Gradually, with overwhelming force, French forces would wage a series of battles and force apart the ends of the Berber position until the rebels occupied only southwestern Morocco and their enclave on Spanish territory. At those lines, the French planned to defend with relatively static forces and to send more mobile or offensive units elsewhere.

The French high command considered and rejected proposals to fully crush the Berbers in Morocco because, while the task could be accomplished, the force required to do the job would be too large, occupied for too long, and take too many casualties to make the game worthy of the candle. The Berbers could fight defensively with some strength, albeit with limited ammunition, but their offensive strength would probably not threaten the French significantly.

Other French and all remaining Italian forces defended their cities and chokepoints uneventfully, lest Sanussi raiders appear on the horizon.

Sanussi forces, meanwhile, spread westward and southward. Sanussi raiders threatened Tunisia and Algeria from the south but did not move to combat there. Other raiders, backed by some main force units, moved toward Nigeria and Chad. Still other raiders pushed westward, gathering oases and recruiting whole tribes for the cause. Main force units in the center encircled the holdout Tuareg-French unit and flipped the fourth such unit to Sanussi loyalty.

Central Africa

As expected, the Entente drive into Cameroon stalled due to lack of forces at the front and a Sanussi threat from the north. British and French reinforcements spread across central Nigeria to protect the valuable southern portion of that colony and the riverine supply line through it to northeastern Cameroon. Neither side yet realized that the Sanussi operational area left Southern Nigeria immune to their aggression, so that the colony required only an internal, policing garrison.

Southern and Eastern Africa

Little happened in these commands as the Boers failed to revolt. South African defenses thickened in Cape Province and a Portuguese unit arrived from the homeland to complete the garrison of Mozambique.

NOV I and II, 1914

North Africa

Italians and Sanussi stared at each other restlessly but quietly in northern Libya throughout the month.

Pursuant to their plan for Morocco, most French forces there defended their huge frontier with the Berbers, some 19 hex sides or almost 1000 miles. Meanwhile, some elite, light, or logistical units prepared for the next attack, against the Berbers at Taza, on the Morocco to Algeria road.

Far to the southwest, French forces massed three and a half regiments within 400 miles of Timbuktu, apparently to hold back the Sanussi tide.

In the southeast, French forces from Chad lunged forward and easily destroyed a rash Sanussi scouting force.

Entente loss: nothing

Sanussi loss: 1-0-7C irregular X (isolated)

The French then retired to form a line of outposts stretching northeastward from Lake Chad. The Sanussi could not immediately outflank the French position and lacked heavy forces near enough to attack the dispersed French.

Overjoyed at the arrival of a German blockade runner in support of their anti-European jihad, Sanussi forces upgraded a scouting 1-0-7C irregular brigade into a main force 1*-7C irregular brigade and easily destroyed the only Tuareg-French unit to remain loyal to its European masters.

Entente loss: 1-0-7C French Foreign irregular regiment (subsequently scrapped, with its stragglers sent to join the Legion)

Sanussi loss: nothing

Central Africa

No native groups in West or Central Africa revolted or spread existing anti-colonial ideas during the bi-monthly period.

British and French colonial administrators called-up the last currently available irregular warriors, in Nigeria and far south of Timbuktu respectively, but more call-ups would follow soon as the irregulars repeatedly relieved regular garrisons and delayed the Sanussi before being dispersed by them.

Southern Africa

In South Africa, dissident Boer political and military leaders rose to throw off the shackles of British imperialism. A host of Boers across the Union, and all but two Boer units of the defense forces of South Africa, immediately joined the revolt.

Simultaneously, but much less relevantly, a new African rebellion began in southern Mozambique.

Both level-1 rebellions in Angola brightened from warm ash to glowing embers, level-2.

As if in response, a Portuguese regiment arrived in Angola to prepare to suppress the four local rebellions (two level-3 rebellions also exist at game start). Its copious ammunition indicated imminent hard times for rebels as colonial administrators finally deployed enough troops to begin offensive operations.

Loyal South African forces upgraded a schools regiment into a supported schools brigade in November and ushered four brigade of loyal militia into service for the emergency.

On the new front, loyal South African forces spread a network of patrols and outposts along the Orange River, through Basutoland, to Swaziland, to try to guarantee Entente supply and rail network integrity along the coast. Forward of the line, a well-supplied garrison formed to defend Johannesburg. The two loyal Boer brigades in the north retreated eastward to maintain their supply line to the railroad in that direction and also to prevent rebel Boer movement in that direction.

British loss: 2 morale points for enemy-owned city in South Africa

Boer rebels faced serious problems immediately in their revolt, despite deploying impressive military force. Spontaneously formed units in the Eastern Cape Province, Transvaal, and Orange Free State captured five undefended cities west of Johannesburg but could not hope to defend their supply network. The vast bulk of rebel Boer power lay in the north, where the already U-2 rebels could not move their horses through cloying mud and across a wadi while being actively harassed by loyalist Boers.

German forces provided a bright spot for the Central Powers in this command during November. From their defensive deployment in Namibia, three German battalions used railroad and road movement to invade Cape Province and strike an exposed South African regiment. The Germans enjoyed morale superiority and terrain expertise whereas the South Africans cleverly lacked much ammunition. The English followed the standard British plan for early war battles: they surrendered after a brief skirmish.

Entente losses: 2-3-5 rifle regiment (they had no SP to spend), 1/3 morale point

German losses: SP eliminated

DEC I and II, 1914

Mud dramatically hindered activities in almost every part of Africa where either side attempted mobile operations. It caused the outright cancellation of every battle considered by either side.

North Africa

While Italian and French forces edged about for local advantage, the Sanussi moved more broadly. Italian forces finished entrenching Zaura, to questionable advantage, and clung to their coastal cities. French forces edged closer to their next attack on the Berbers. Yet another new tribe joined their Brotherhood in the Sahara. Supported units slipped southward to firmly define Sanussi holdings in northern Chad and Nigeria while the scouting forces continued to lead the wave of expansion toward Timbuktu, Dakar, and Rio de Oro.

Central Africa

Though in Cameroon and the Sahel the weather was dry, neither side in the struggle for Cameroon took decisive action in December. Entente forces from the north coast of the Gulf of Guinea continued to trickle into southern Nigeria, strengthening the defense against the Sanussi and the supply line to northeastern Cameroon, but those forces remained only barely adequate in Nigeria and only moved toward where they would be useful against the Germans later. German commanders in Cameroon welcomed their new regiment to the front, so that seven battalions held the line by the end of the month.

Southern Africa

In Angola, Portuguese forces assembled further and awaited clear weather in order to begin returning rebels to their colonial obedience.

South African defense forces slogged toward victory at the end of 1914. Nothing could happen quickly in the mud, but the loyalists managed to cut-up the Boer supply network and encircle most of the local Boers in a loose triangle about 130 miles on a side. The loyalists also surrounded a lone Boer brigade immediately southwest of Johannesburg. On their northwestern flank, the South Africans also managed a defense sufficient to hold off any cavalry adventures the Germans might attempt through the mud. In the far north, loyalist and rebel Boers both suffered badly from lack of supplies by the start of December and neither could disengage from the other due to mud movement cost for cavalry units and leaving enemy zones of control.

During the Central Powers’ initial phase, one of the two Boer loyalist units in the north turned coat and joined the rebellion, but it was a doomed effort. The remaining Boer loyalists in the north kept the main rebel force immobilized in the mud north of the Okavango Delta. In the south, Boer rebels could neither move nor plausibly attack and waited their doom.

German commanders in Namibia welcomed their new regiment to service, so that seven battalions picketed the front by the end of the month.

East Africa

German defenders of Tanganyika presented an allotment of mortars and machineguns to their recently formed jaeger regiment, the sixth and seventh battalions of the defending “army,” while both sides remained essentially stationary. Nearby, British colonial forces gradually swelled toward full garrisons in Rhodesia and its environs.

December II 1916

During the Entente half of II December, with snow and bad seas everywhere, events nonetheless took a turn for the uneventful.

Canadian troops expanded a machinegun II to an III with a printed flak factor.

Frenchmen refilled six XX’s from cadres, for conversion purposes.

Italian repaired their Caproni bomber in France and were sent fleeing from Stuttgart by flak.

The Zeppelins all failed for the standard three reasons.

The German AEG bomber visited Nancy to bomb the Caproni but was instead damaged by flak.

British forces finished gaining ownership of Maubeuge.

The Dutch CD task force took advantage of the storms to flee from The Netherlands to Wilhelmshaven. We note that in stormy weather, non-German task forces cannot in practice harm other ships. Gunnery and torpedo strengths are quartered and then a penalty of +2 is applied to hit numbers, so that the strongest battleship forces can hit targets like carriers and transports on a roll of “6” and nothing else can hit at all. German optics, by contrast, leave their bigger TFs with the ability to hit lots of targets on “6” and a few things on “5.” This should be considered a mistake and adjusted by errata (delete the die roll penalties or delete the quartering), though the naval combat rules are more of an aspiration than a realistic system anyway.

During the Central Powers’ half of II December, events continued unexcitingly.

Prussia repaired its AEG bomber, but it and all the Zeppelins failed to score damage for one reason or another. This is the first month since the Zeppelin force became significant that it has failed to contribute directly to the war effort, though the amount of flak scattered around the Italian and French rear areas is a significant contribution indirectly every day of the year.

The Caproni bomber missed Stuttgart.

German forces evacuated Valenciennes

December I 1916

After a calm November and predictions of German morale gains in February 1917, the Entente wished for frost in December. The wish came mostly true, and with frost in the lowlands and mud in the mountains came the first change in the front line of the Western Front since very early 1915.

The only initial phase activity was a French upgrade of two engineer III’s into X’s.

Italian forces, still massed against grid 4507 on the middle Isonzo River, struck again with renewed strength and their usual embarrassing impotence against the Austro-Hungarians. Two escorts missed bypassing interceptors, which themselves missed and were missed by five reconnaissance groups. Flak smashed half a group, another whole group fled the field, but the aerial observers managed to map some Austro-Hungarian positions for the impending bombardment.

The mass of Italian artillery combined for three shots at 16 points and a shot at 5, out of which poor rolling left a result of one bombardment hit after considering penalties for rough terrain and entrenchments. The Italians badly disrupted a defending howitzer III to noticeably improve their decimal odds. Two bombers swept in to increase those odds further, but flak smashed another half group down and the odds ended at 3.79, which rounded to 3.7 and then duly rolled upward to 4:1 .

Various factors influenced the outcome of the struggle. Rough terrain and entrenchments sheltered the defenders, but Eugene failed to inspire them. Aerial reconnaissance allowed good planning of attacks, one of two engineer assaults failed despite employing two X’s each, but elite troops and superior national will left the Italians with a net +2 modifier. The potential existed for great success, so naturally the Italians rolled an 2 and scored the usual BX result.

Italian losses: 2x RP and engineer X eliminated; one each mountain and rifle XX’s to cadre.
Austro-Hungarian losses: RP eliminated; mountain rifle XX to cadre

Yes, that’s right, the best Italian effort was less than 100 modified attack points.

French forces, assaulting Germans forces defending the iron mines around Briey, rapidly found themselves resembling the hapless Italians. Three escorts missed three interceptors, which responded by destroying a group of the French fighters. A further 13 interceptor groups swarmed over five groups of reconnaissance aircraft, one of which miraculously survived and also dodged flak before reasonably failing its mission. In the fracas, the Germans suffered a group damaged while the French lost two groups damaged.

Sans spotting, the most intense bombardment of the war went badly for the French. Entrenchments and the mines themselves protected the defenders, so that the French massed fire for 25-point shots, of which they fired 13, to score only 10 hits. After the artillery hammered the defending flak, four French bomber groups swept in to add to the decimal odds, which ended at 2.34, rounding then rolling downward to 2:1 .

Manifold excuses appeared in newspapers soon afterward, to explain French intrepidity and failure. The entrenchments and resource center provided the only German protection and Hindenburg and Ludendorff took the month off for the holidays, so French opportunities certainly appeared despite bad odds. Petain put together a good plan, though as usual the gas engineers failed and this time the siege engineers failed too. Entente combat engineers continued to serve as the weak link when another two brigade attempt failed; only the two-brigade-plus-flamethrowers attempt succeeded. The net +1 left the roll of 6 still only an BX result. Aerial reconnaissance could have pushed this battle to an DX result!

French losses: 4x RP, engineer III, and Russian X eliminated; 5x XX’s to cadres
German losses: 5x Prussian and 1x Saxon XX’s to cadres

British forces did their bit for the cause in early December too, against German defenders of the French border fortress at Maubeuge. In this sector only, Entente aircraft have rough parity in numbers with their opponents and five interceptors bypassed the one escort to attack five reconnaissance groups. The escort missed, and so did the mission force, as British fighters almost invariably did throughout 1916, but the Germans scored only a single damaged observer group and their flak missed entirely. The remaining scouts succeeded in their mission.

The strongest British bombardment of the war, a routinely achieved “first,” distributed a single 3-point shot and 12 16-point shots. The fortress protected the defenders only slightly, balanced by the aerial scouting. The fire scored 12 hits, badly disrupted five non-divisional and one divisional unit, disrupted one XX, and crucially missed one XX.

Reserve commitment movement brought succor to the defenders as two of three eligible XX’s joined the defenders, though being reserve committed they entered the battle disrupted. Those two divisions dropped British odds from over 7:1 to 5.3:1, but the British kept alive the Entente tradition of rolling well on this particular task and attacked at 6:1 odds.

Again, numerous factors could have overridden the simple tenacity of the attacking troops. The fortress, though ruined, counterbalanced aerial reconnaissance and a successful siege engineer assault. Attacking gas engineers failed, again, perhaps due to the cold. The British brought their whole combat engineer arm, attempting two single-brigade assaults and suffering the unlikely self-elimination of one of them, though the other succeeded in its assault and thus incurred required losses. General Haig, kept drunk by prostitutes in French pay, thankfully failed to even attempt to influence the battle as he has not and presumably will not ever. In the end, a beautifully conducted assault was demonstrated by the roll of 6 and, with the net +1 modifier scored a mighty DL result!

British losses: 3x RP, one siege and three combat engineer III’s eliminated; ANZAC XX to cadre
German losses: RP eliminated; three Prussian and one Wurtemburger XX’s to cadre

German forces reeled back in stunned silence and British forces followed up with commendable care and organization into the contested hex. Three elite XX’s, three non-elite XX’s, and five X’s of artillery moved in to try to take the hex for the Entente; three XX’s remained undisrupted and the Germans faced a serious problem in any counterattack. British strength in the hex already stood at 93.5 effective and the Entente player lusted for a potential EX result in any German counterattack.

Germanic forces attempted to react to Entente assaults but achieved only mixed results. No headquarters facing the Italians deemed events worthy of extra work hours. The key headquarters facing the French had expected such an attack and planned well for the response, which amounted to shuffling units into and out of the line to facilitate future reinforcement and replacement activities. A couple of headquarters facing the British activated in surprise at events, but not the key headquarters that could have controlled all German forces around the new Maubeuge salient. The Germans therefore began to organize for a potential counterattack but did not pull the trigger quite yet.

In exploitation, many French units fell back, to prepare massive conversions, but the main event was a pair of British XX’s moving into Maubeuge with only one going disrupted. The subtraction of two disrupted XX’s maintained elite status in the fortress and raised its defense strength to 99.

In the air, all the Zeppelins succumbed to high winds, were sent fleeing by flak, or missed their targets, but the AEG flew extended range to, and successfully bombed, Nottingham.

The Central Powers’ initial phase naturally encompassed many more initial phase activities than did its predecessor.

Austria-Hungary and Bavaria each rebuilt an XX from cadre.

Wurtemburg and Saxony each rebuilt two XX from cadres.

Prussia upgraded a flak II to an III, replaced a cadre, and repaired an air group.

The German military made several notable adjustments to circumstance. They strengthened the newly exposed frontline positions at Mons and then southwestward to the Scheldt River. Gas engineers and flak moved into Briey, the once and current center of French attentions. The garrison of Valenciennes stayed strong but began to mentally prepare to evacuate the coal mine and town. The nightmare of a very likely EX or HX result in any counterattack at Maubeuge stayed the German hand in that regard. Laments were heard about the siege train and long-range artillery corps being dispersed on coast defense duty and thus unavailable for unexpected battles.

The Dutch meanwhile finished moving into defenses along the uppermost thirty miles of the Rhine River nearest Switzerland. Other Dutch filtered into the main line in an unexposed sector near Neu Breisach.

Austro-Hungarian forces strengthened the particularly abused sector of the line on the Isonzo.

In reaction, British forces notably succeeded near Maubeuge and got a jump on moving their artillery to plunge Valenciennes into a cauldron of fire in January. The French Army moved many units to the rear for a huge upcoming wave of conversions.

In the air, all the Zeppelins and the AEG unsuccessfully either fought the weather, dodged the flak, or hit the target.

 

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