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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.