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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.

 

November I and II 1916

Meteorologists guaranteed mud throughout the theater for all of November and the generals of both sides guaranteed to their political leaders at least a brief respite from intense casualty returns. Both sides agreed to fast-forward through the month without attacking, but as we prepared for potential frost weather in December we also thoroughly analyzed the situation and found some interesting facts, trends, and conclusions.

Hivernage, the placing of “Noir” units into winter quarters, will be a significant burden upon the French over the winter of 1916-7. One construction and nine rifle brigades left the front in November and four of the best divisions in the army (10-attack strength) were replaced with lesser (8-attack strength) units for the winter.

Switzerland will be significant for the remainder of the war. Upon Swiss demobilization in late-1916, France and Italy are forming large Swiss border garrisons. A few French construction units and resource points went into garrison in late summer, built fortifications, and then the units came out of garrison. Significant combat units went into garrison starting in November, enough to form a small army, including headquarters. Gradually, most of the French units will return to the war, but their absence will have mattered and about three corps will remain sequestered thru the end of the war. Meanwhile, Germany increased its Swiss border garrison by one artillery regiment.

Production during November 1916 proved unexciting. Entente production flowed without hindrance, including from a few bomb damaged factories. Central Powers production still enjoyed enough fuel and likewise flowed fully. The Entente gathered 17 resource points and 27 equipment to the war in Europe, plus a bit to Cape Town. The Central Powers assembled 14 resource points and 29 equipment for the war in the West.

Britain upgraded a railroad engineer III to an X; replaced CS-1 (which went to the South of France and retrieved the second torpedo float plane); replaced its best fighter group (again); brought the first South African Native Labor Contingent to France from Africa; replaced three cadres and rebuilt six cadres into divisions.

The ANZAC contingent rebuilt two of its divisions from cadre.
The Canadian contingent rebuilt one division from cadre.
Austria-Hungary upgraded a flak II to an III.
Portugal disbanded and scrapped its railroad engineer II in France.
Italy upgraded its siege engineer III to an X.
France replaced two combat engineer III, upgraded two flak and one each field and railroad artillery II’s to III’s; replaced two air groups, and completely replaced its two best divisions.
Prussia replaced two cadres.
Bavaria completely replaced a very strong X.

In the air, the war did not stop in November. The Italians upgraded their last cities to seven points of flak but still suffered the maximum two terror hits from Zeppelins that also overcame halved bombing strength due to mud weather. The German AEG bomber visited Lille repeatedly, killed the best British fighter group once (again), hit the factory there twice, dodged about a dozen attacks by 4- and 5- attack British and French fighters, and suffered one abort from flak in return. Zeppelins in the north hit Nottingham once while their compatriots in the south left Italian targets in the second half of the month and hit the Marseilles factory once.

Analysis: Central Powers Food and National Will situation

Food

In this game, as in presumably most TGW grand campaigns, food will be a critical consideration. The following chart reflects the starting condition, consumption as the war drags on, and Central Powers’ food income at each November harvest.

New / Total / Change / Condition
2 2 At Start
0 -2 Consume SEP, OCT14
6 6 Harvest NOV14
8 2 Plunder Liege NOV14
12 4 Maximum Trade NOV14

0 -12 Consume NOV14 – OCT15
4 4 Harvest NOV15
15 11 Plunder in the East NOV15
17 2 The Netherlands join the CP NOV15
19 2 Blockade Rate Trade w/ Switzerland and Denmark NOV15

22 3 Bulgaria join the CP DEC15
10 -12 Consume NOV15 – OCT16
14 4 Plunder in the East NOV16
16 2 Harvest NOV16
18 2 Blockade Rate Trade w/ Switzerland and Denmark NOV16

2 Plunder in the East NOV17
0 Harvest NOV17
Blockade Rate Trade w/ Switzerland and Denmark NOV17
-12 Consume NOV16 – OCT17

-2 Harvest NOV18
Blockade Rate Trade w/ Switzerland and Denmark NOV18 (if Germany not shaken)
8 Plunder in the East NOV18

-4 Harvest NOV19
Blockade Rate Trade w/ Switzerland and Denmark NOV19 (if Germany not shaken)

In the game, the Entente declared war against The Netherlands, driving trade away from that country, but the Central Powers remained able to trade at the maximum rate with other adjacent neutrals. The Netherlands joined the Central Powers, taking its grain with it, but that grain would be plundered by the Central Powers in any case if Germany does the logical thing and bloodlessly seizes a neutral The Netherlands in October 1916 – it’s trivially easy and a very good decision.

Thee Entente held the German drive into Belgium and France far short of historical. If the Germans conquered more granaries (at least the historical Antwerp) then the situation would be shifted even further in favor of the Central Powers.

As such, we can see that the critical decision is the Central Powers player ruthlessly saving four resource points during the opening campaign and ruthlessly trading them for food in November 1914. Combat supply be as it may, that food is essential for Central Powers victory in the end game because it avoids any hunger in 1915 and thus pushes hunger back until much later than historical.

Given trade, the Central Powers won’t run out of food until September 1918, or later. That being the case, if influenza strikes it probably won’t do double damage to the Central Powers. In any case, because the Central Powers will again have food in its belly for November 1918 thru February 1919 or later, the distant blockade will not substantially help the Entente end the war on historical schedule or, indeed, until mid-1919.

I suggest that this analysis is an amplified reason for system-wide revision of the rules regarding how neutral countries defend themselves against their controlling sides. The situation of The Netherlands basically breaks the food rules.

Meanwhile, the American Expeditionary Force in 1919 is very powerful. We’re going to need it.

National Will

In preparation for the February morale check, and to give ourselves a better sense of the progress of the campaign, we also conducted a thorough review of the morale point and national will situations in DJ05. Our conclusions surprised us in some ways and proved disappointingly consistent in others.

  1. In digitizing the morale point tracks, we discovered several situations in which we had failed to record morale point changes: half a dozen combats, a few calendar-specific bonuses, and even an entire production cycle of out-of-theater events.
  2. Including those changes, and adjusting for changes between a currently partial re-play of the incomplete war in Africa, some values changed significantly.
  3. In February 1915, the annual morale check awarded France a revised bonus of 46.33 morale points. This presumably broadly fit with the difference in fortresses, Lille, factories, and resource centers lost historically versus in DJ05.
  4. Britain gained a revised 18.67 morale points in February 1915. A review of game reports indicated that the British Expeditionary Force in DJ05 suffered no casualties in 1914: its combats were exceptional and ended in a few bloodless retreats or solid victories. In partial compensation, the Boer revolt went a-historically badly for the British (it always will in the game) and cost the British 6.67 morale points (vice probably zero historically).
  5. By February 1916, it became apparent that the Italian morale check column in the rules must be broken. The Italians could only achieve the historical by scarcely fighting and historically the numerous disasters on the Isonzo River cost the Italians heavily throughout the war.
  6. DJ05’s Austro-Hungarians gained three morale points in February 1916 because DJ05’s Germans declared war and took a sector of the front against Italy immediately.
  7. Britain earned 1.67 morale points during the February 1916 morale check.
  8. France earned a February 1916 bonus of 57.5 morale points, landing solidly above Germany’s national will, though by November the French had fought themselves back down to national will three and parity with the Germans.
  9. Absent any further Entente attacks, we predicted a German bonus of 16 morale points in February 1917. Germany lost 207 morale points from February 1915 thru January 1916, 47 more points than historical. During the same months during 1916, Germany lost approximately 182 morale points, 93 fewer than historical. Germany will gather 150 bonus points from Russia in 1917 and lose approximately 67 for events out of theater. Historically, Germany suffered approximately 148 morale points of losses in the West Theater during 1917, a value unlikely in DJ05. Therefore, we expected that 16 bonus points in 1917 would double in 1918, double again in 1919, and quite possibly decide the war.
  10. We forecast Austria-Hungary gaining approximately 13 morale points during February 1917. The Empire will gain 50 morale points from Russia and lose 17 out of theater during the 1917 morale cycle, so the Empire can expect another small gain in 1918.
  11. France coasted toward a bonus of 127 points in February 1917 and expected another huge bonus in 1918.
  12. Despite attacking much less than historically throughout the war so far, Italy in 1917 and 1918 will gain exactly the morale bonus it gained in 1916: zero. In DJ05, the Zeppelins concentrated against Italy and kept, and will keep, its morale relatively low.
  13. We expected Britain to gain approximately 15 morale points in February 1917 and probably a larger bonus in 1918.

October I 1916

Entente Turn

With a weather roll of 6, mud arrived with October 1916 and the players duly committed to fast-forward through the entire month, with neither contemplating ground attacks.

The French high command scrapped one of its two Russian brigades, enabling replacement of the other, which in Spring 1917 will disarm into a coveted Foreign manpower point, more or less.

Prussian forces repaired their entire air force before forfeiting replacement points at the cycle. Prussian sergeants welcomed recruits to refill two rifle and one cavalry divisions, the latter destined for Rumania, from cadre. A snide Prussian personnel officer scrapped two static brigades from their long-time home in the replacement pool, this the surest sign yet that Germany is really feeling the pinch for manpower.

French forces replaced an 0-1-4 engineer [III] and 3-4-7 motorized field artillery [III] while rebuilding from cadre a chasseur division. With Swiss demobilization, the French also resurrected a chasseur division from the scrapped pool to protect that border (we’re playing with unit ID’s, so difficult is the OB to follow).

Italy and Britain each repaired an air unit with the last of their air replacements. Britain remains some distance “in the hole” in this regard, but the combat-avoiding Italians are caught up and have a full air force on map.

Britain, Italy, and France each replaced siege engineer regiments to consume their limit of engineer replacements for the month.

Central Powers Turn

Two more firsts showcased the Central Powers’ air offensive for the month, which otherwise flowed as normal. An Austro-Hungarian air group flew to Venice, damaged a group of Italian interceptors, dodged the fire of several such groups (to be fair, the Italian air force in 1916 is about as bad as it’s possible to rate aircraft), and plopped some bombs directly onto the British Royal Navy’s only seaplane carrier. Not coincidentally, the Italian effort to do the same in reverse suffered losses and scored no success over Trieste – the dice have been very unkind to Entente air rolls for the past few months. British Royal Navy torpedo bombers, free from threat of interception, then visited Trieste and managed to suffer damage from flak without even earning a bombing roll. With November not even begun, the Italians and Brits had both lost or had accumulated losses sufficient to cancel out that next cycle’s replacements.

Meanwhile, Zeppelins scored twice in Italy but utterly missed Britain. The AEG-G4 managed to miss Lille, flying at shorter range due to mud conditions, then to get damaged by flak (almost certainly irrelevant, given unit ratings and relatively massive German air replacement production), but also killed a group of British interceptors (and there went another half cycle of British air replacements). Between wildly skewed replacement rates, column shifts for incompetence, inferior unit ratings, and simply being outnumbered, it’s a wonder when the Entente manages anything useful with its air units. The lone Entente bomber worthy of the name has stopped flying strategic mission because it is more likely to be damaged by minimal flak than it is to score a terror bombing hit and the Italians are only barely keeping enough air force in play to support their very rare ground attacks.

September II 1916

Clarification: We will be using the Mexican-American situation in this game, but will wait to resolve it until the USA enters the wider war, then hopefully complete the event in one session.

Entente Turn

High Entente hopes and low Entente expectations continued to drive the war in late September, but as usual the results failed to live up to merely low expectations.

Italian and French conversions, long-prepared, culminated unremarkably.

A Canadian artillery unit at reduced effectiveness remained there.

French forces replaced a heavy artillery regiment, augmented a railroad artillery battalion into a regiment, and repaired and replaced one each air groups.

Indian depots coughed-up enough manpower to rebuild a cavalry cadre into a division.

ANZAC manpower fleshed-out a division from a cadre.

British Imperial equipment repaired an observation balloon group.

Italian troops expanded an engineer regiment into a brigade.

The Entente navies combined to start the fortnight aggressively and successfully. Weak units of Italian, French, and British ships left Venice and cautiously poked their way through Entente minefields, with some also using coastal waters, to encircle Pola in a tight blockade. The coastal waters and minefields shielded the ships from Germanic submarines, light craft, and coast defense artillery. A much more powerful combined battle fleet kept station well outside Trieste, shielding the blockading ships from Austro-Hungarian naval attack. Austro-Hungarian aircraft, anti-shipping specialists, found one bedraggled “squadron” of Italian armored cruisers and dodged their flak while missing too the bombing attacks.

Pola, blockaded and isolated, then fell to a combined Franco-Russian-Italian assault. The fortress artillery defending the fortress fought at minimal defense because it lacked riflemen to protect its positions from close assault. Overwhelming Russian and French riflemen duly under-ran the defending artillery at night under field artillery suppression then assaulted the defensive positions at daybreak. A lone regiment of Italian naval infantry, on-hand for the occasion, paraded through the captured fortress naval base for the newsreels.

Austro-Hungarian losses: 8-4-0 Coast artillery [X] (isolated for double morale points and no special replacements); 5 morale points for the fortress; the only source of A-H naval repair points

Russian losses: 2-3-7 light [X] (the only Russian unit on-map at the moment)

Italian gain: 2 morale points for the fortress

Entente gain: 1.75 equipment points

Italian forces again attempted to assault grid 4507 on the middle Isonzo River, and again Entente air forces suffered disappointment. An Italian escort group did not good, but Austro-Hungarian interceptors likewise missed their reconnaissance group target. Defending flak, however, sent two groups of aerial spies fleeing before two other groups missed their chances. The Italian bombardment, forecast to achieve 5/6 of a hit at that point (-1 rough, -1 entrenchment) naturally non-conducted immediately. The Italian attack, likely to be either AX or AL if it went forward, was then stillborn. And at that, it was luckier than the British.

Against Valenciennes, the British made another of their major efforts. An escort and six reconnaissance air groups started festivities, fighting seven interceptor groups for one British and two German groups damaged. Flak missed the spies and they spotted fall of shot successfully for a powerful British bombardment that scored ten hits, which was only slightly below average. German defense power fell 108 to 75 and the defenders did not call in reserves which would only have unbalanced prospective casualties. British gas engineers failed to matter in the battle and German gas engineers could not practice their craft after suffered disruption during bombardment. Reconnaissance offset entrenchment and both single-brigade engineering attempts were unsuccessful. Odds of 3.4:1 rolled downward and the occasional “1” arose to simulate the first day of the some wildly unsuccessful British offensive, except much worse.

British losses: 3x Canadian, 4x ANZAC, and 8x British divisions reduced to cadre; 2x RP and 3x British cadres eliminated

Prussian losses: RP, 2x full divisions, and 4x cadres eliminated; 2x divisions reduced to cadre

Neither side can afford losses like this, but the Germans are only hurt while the Commonwealth is devastated by them.

French forces could not be daunted by the fate of their British comrades, just as they have fought through their own calamities repeatedly; grid 1919 fell again under the French hammer. Three escort and nine reconnaissance groups rose to contest the air with thirteen interceptor groups. French forces suffered one group destroyed and two groups damaged but inflicted no losses on the Germans, who will have utter air supremacy before the end of the cycle. The remaining observers nonetheless succeeded in their mission and the French bombardment scored 21 hits, devastating the defense by 65-percent. German reserve commitment failed its first two attempts, a very rare sight, but three less-ideal units moved into the fight, reducing the odds from 6.5:1 to 5:1. Entrenchments offset national will; leaders offset each other. French gas engineers failed; the 95-percent failure rate of 16-percent chances gets old, albeit slowly. A two-brigade engineer assault failed
but another with flamethrower elements succeeded and reconnaissance did not stop contributing, so that a moderate roll of “3” nonetheless achieved an DX result.

French losses: 3x RP and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 3x Metropolitan divisions reduced to cadre

German losses: 2x Prussian, 1 each Bavarian and Saxon divisions reduced to cadre

It was entirely expected that German reaction, whether after such devastation on the main front or in spite of its absence, would focus on aerial exploits. Zeppelins hit Firenze for the second time in the month, freeing them to hunt factories until October, which another group successfully did in Lyon. Zeppelins also hit Nottingham, as did the German AEG-G4 air group, the first German fixed-wing terror bombing hit of the war. A very few successful Germanic reaction rolls simply shifted units to prepare to continue the endless reorganization of the German armies.

Central Powers Turn

The Central Powers’ initial phase of II SEP passed with tremendous activity and even another “first.” One ANZAC, two Canadian, six British Imperial, four French, one Bavarian, and one Prussian divisions were rebuilt from cadres. Germany repaired two fixed-wing and one Zeppelin air groups, the latter a risky first-time endeavor as the 50/50 roll could send the group to the eliminated pool and cost half a morale point. One Italian and one German airship groups remain in their country’s damaged boxes, being almost worthless (the German) or abjectly irrelevant (the Italian), and will probably never be repaired for duty (ah, the Italian withdraws eventually, solving that problem). Austria-Hungary replaced an 0-1-4 static X for coast defense duty as the Central Powers’ siege train prepared to cover yet more of the Adriatic Sea coastline.

In the lead-up to bad weather, Central Powers’ armies expanded their reorganization efforts both structurally and in deployment zones. A vast German shuffling of forces for withdrawals and conversions did not mask a thinning of the front line defenses in sectors where favorable terrain and the absence of Entente artillery concentrations made such thinning less than reckless. A huge portion of the Dutch army continued marching up the Rhine valley, taking responsibility for defense of the thirty miles of that river nearest the Swiss border. Austro-Hungarian forces continued departing the Upper Rhine, mostly bound for the Trient Salient, which they are taking over from German forces, but also moving to the Adriatic coast.

Once again, the only combat during the Central Powers’ half of the fortnight came at Entente instigation when French forces again assaulted grid 1919. A huge air battle and flak went dramatically in German favor, as usual, effectively eliminating the already badly weakened French air force from the sky for the next couple of cycles of pilot training classes (so, about an hour total then?). Aerial reconnaissance nonetheless accurately plotted fall of shot to help the poilus, offsetting defending entrenchments. Hindenburg gave Ludendorff the day off but showed-up himself near the front to successfully rally the defenders, offsetting French national will superiority. The Entente 17% chance of success in a gas attack failed, as it does with stunning regularity, while Petain confined himself to exhorting those same gas troops with equally useless results. Two engineer escalades, one with flame support and both of multi-brigade size, at least made an AX
result unlikely with their successful tossing of satchel charges into bunkers. Odds of 2.3:1 rolled upward, as they considerately do often enough to seemingly offset the useless gas regiments. Overall, on a good 3:1 +2 assault, the French merely rolled a 4 and thus achieved the very frequent BX result.

French losses: RP, 1-5 engineer III, and two air units eliminated; four first line rifle Metropolitan divisions reduced to cadre

German losses: RP eliminated; one Bavarian and two Prussian divisions reduced to cadre; Prussian brigade reduced to remnant

All substantive and almost all sideshow headquarters, British, Belgian, Italian, and other French, failed their reaction rolls, though a few British units did shuffle off the line near Maubeuge.

In exploitation, German air units again provided the dashing and morale effects that ceaseless battering along the front seems to lack so signally. All six Zeppelin groups found factories in Italy and France, none risked enough flak to justify a roll, and all missed their targets. The AEG-G4, however, visited Sheffield and hit its factory successfully.

It is worth noting here that playing OT with the North Sea maps gives the Central Powers a useful advantage. Whereas the rules and OB give the British a Southeast England Air Defense garrison and situation, with the map extended the Germans can simply fly to the Midlands, effectively the same distance, and hit cities and factories that the British cannot defend for lack of enough flak units and interceptor aircraft to cover all possible targets – leaving aside the need for those assets elsewhere.

September I 1916

Entente Turn

Factory production in September 1916 presented few surprises. All 18 Central Powers factories produced at their tremendous, full rate, as the Germans still have a surplus of energy and the Germans never put the two captured Belgian factories back into production. All 35 Entente factories also enjoyed ample iron and energy, but three of four factories that had suffered a single bombing hit each failed to produce their quotas, costing 1.2RP and 2.4 equipment points. Eventually, even if the front does not move eastward, the Germans will enjoy enough factory upgrades to deplete then overwhelm their energy surplus, while the Entente simply waits for the United States to contribute its tremendous weight to the struggle.

The Entente began the final fair weather production cycle of 1916 with high hopes, temporarily bristling depots of men and equipment, slim hopes of breaking through a front somewhere, and plausible hopes of seriously damaging the Germanic war machines. Events moved forward in passable fashion toward at least the final item on that list.

British forces repaired one air unit, upgraded one heavy flak II to III, rolled an ANZAC division from reduced to full effectiveness, and replaced an engineer regiment.

Italian forces repaired one air group, upgraded a flame engineer II to a truly formidable II, and upgraded an engineer III to X.

French forces repaired one air unit, upgraded one heavy flak II to III, replaced two engineer III’s, replaced five heavy artillery III’s, rebuilt four divisions from cadres, and disbanded and scrapped four of the new triangular divisions.

In the air, between them, the British and French still do not match the Germans in quality, quantity, or replacements. As always, however, mission of the air forces is primarily to provide or deny adequate aerial observation, not simply to battle enemy aircraft. Even in the face of lengthening odds, the Entente air forces are managing to accomplish the mission with increasing regularity.

A secondary mission of the air forces, exercised almost exclusively by the German zeppelin force, is strategic bombing, first of populations and secondarily of production centers. The influx of Entente flak units during September enabled a shuffling and reinforcement of strategic air defenses in Italy. All Italian major cities began to enjoy potentially effective defenses: at least the five points needed to potentially damage a zeppelin. A couple of cities relatively close to Germany gained even stronger defenses and the northernmost Italian factory town also enjoyed a five-point defense for the first time. British cities, also under attack, remained no more firmly guarded than before because while the cities nearest Germany all have either five-point flak and/or fighter defense, the Midlands region is awash in major cities that the zeppelins can reach (barring bad luck due to weather en route) and that existing assets could not possibly defend without leaving uncovered everything else. Ministry-level work to provide gunfire defenses to numerous cities, factories, naval bases, mines, and the like will significantly enhance the defensive effectiveness of both sides’ strategic targets in 1917, while autumn and winter weather will soon reduce the effect of the bombers seeking to avoid those defenses.

Entente land forces occupied themselves single-mindedly in preparing for one attack on each front. British forces massed against Valenciennes, the tip of the German thrust toward Paris from the long gone days of October 1914. French forces completed their shift away from Briey to the greener fields of grid 1919, just southwest of Metz. Italian forces likewise completed their gradual shift from the eastern Alps to the hills along the middle Isonzo River. On the Istria front, Franco-Russian forces completed their assembly on Cherso Island to attack across the narrow strait to Lisson Island.

The Entente fleets moved first, with their only notable action being to blockade Lisson from just offshore. Austro-Hungarian light forces from Pola missed their chance when the French moved in during the last hours of darkness prior to the ground assault, and later missed their chance when the French moved back out. Austro-Hungarian gunners on Lisson did better, missing one shot in the darkness but sinking DD Squadron -3 with their other opportunity.

French field artillery then roared as the ground assault began from Cherso. Russian and French troops swarmed across the strait in small craft while two regiments of field artillery suppressed the defending troops and coast gunners. The Austro-Hungarians lacked any large stocks of ammunition and the Entente general was so bizarrely confident that he failed to move much ammunition forward, so that quick barrages, brief bursts, and the bayonet decided the issue. The strait quartered the attacking infantry power, but a division and three brigades of them with relatively robust artillery proved too much for the defenders. National will superiority provided the only modifier to the roll and 3:1 on the mobile chart converted, as usual, to half exchange.

Russian losses: 2-3-7 light [X]

Austro-Hungarian losses: 3-2-0 coast artillery [III] and 1*-2-4 Austrian static [X], both isolated for no special replacements and double morale point losses

Entente gains: .875 equipment points captured from the defenders

The second brigade of Russians arrived in Venice in late August, ready to conquer Pola, and presumably to be destroyed in the (positional) attempt.

The Italian effort at grid 4207 re-opened “The Battle of the Isonzo” with new and greater Italian hopes set against Austro-Hungarian defenses roughly as strong as they had been in the year 1915. One escort and six groups of reconnaissance or observation aircraft or balloons swarmed across the battlefield, overwhelming the lone potential defender air group into providing defensive bombing rather than intercepting vastly superior numbers. No flak on either side contributed to the battle and two groups of Italian bombers eventually also contributed usefully to the fight.

Italian artillery, a bit from long range, a lot from overstack, and some from within the attacking corps began the battle with a bombardment, the first such Italian effort either ever or at least in a very long time. The effort underwhelmed, despite successful aerial spotting, with modified attack strengths of one (three units), 1.25 (one unit), 1.5 (four units), two (eight units), and 2.25 (one unit). It may have been a waste of ammunition, but the poor rolls did not help and in the end only one defending artillery regiment lay badly disrupted, though that result did significantly change the decimal die roll for odds.

The combat effects are usually the main modifiers to sheer chance in this war, it seems, and there were various in this battle. Rough terrain and entrenchments negated two multi-brigade engineering successes. An Italian siege engineer brigade spent explosives prodigiously, only to blow itself up with no damage to the defenders in the first Italian siege engineer effects attempt. Aerial reconnaissance and a majority of elite Italian troops then provided die roll bonuses that actually changed the outcome. The Isonzo itself naturally dominated the battle, halving non-artillery attackers and the odds then rolled downward from 2.4:1. What would have been a standard BX instead became a defender exchange, saving the Italians the reduction of a third division to cadre.

Italian losses: 3x RP, 1-4-5 siege engineer [X], and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 6*-9-6 mountain and rifle divisions, both with elite brigades attached, to cadre.

Austro-Hungarian losses: RP eliminated; 8*-11-5 Austrian and 9-12-5 Hungarian divisions to cadre.

The British returned to their occasional efforts against the coal mining town of Valenciennes in early September. One escort and six groups of reconnaissance or observation aircraft swarmed over the battlefield to begin the effort, meeting six groups of interceptors, with the Germans losing half a group and the British losing nothing in air combat. Flak then damaged a lone British group before the remainder successfully spotted the defender positions throughout the battle.

British artillery, slightly strengthened from previous efforts, bombarded the Germans with best-ever British results, after the defenders failed to make great use of the resource center. One 25-point shot, one 12-point shot, and seven 16-point shots inflicted a very average 12 bombardment hits. The nearly full German stack suffered severely, with its defense strength reduced to only 60.5 points.

Combat effects mattered relatively little to this battle, but much more to the near future in the British sector. Entrenchments relatively negated aerial observation. One successful single brigade engineer assault added the only net modifier after equal national wills provided no modifier and the British gas engineers failed as dismally as usual. A one-brigade engineer assault also self-immolated, taking half the British combat engineers to the replacement pool even before required losses would take the third quarter of their assets to the pool in this one battle. These results also rendered less relevant the arrival of the first real Entente (British, engineer) tank unit in France, as it would have few engineer compatriots with which to combine until October.

Combat odds played the main role in determining the outcome of this battle of Valenciennes. The river, across which a third of British infantry labored, seriously hindered British efforts. German reserve commitment, with three slots open in the array, was perfect, adding all three possible units to the fight. Odds drooped from possibly 6:1 down to 3.4:1 but rolled upward, as the Entente has done somewhat more often than average. Odds of 4:1 in a big battle are a rarity for the Entente so far in this war and perhaps in shock they rolled a one, bungling the assault but at least scoring a full both exchange result rather than a disastrous attacker exchange as would normally follow such a bad combat roll.

British losses: 3-5-5 engineer [X], 1-5 engineer III, and 2x RP eliminated; 5x 10-13-5 and 1x 11-14-5 rifle divisions to cadre

German losses: RP and 6-8-5 MG [X] eliminated (even the remnant); 2x 13-15-5, 1x 9-12-5, and 1x 8-11-5 Prussian rifle divisions to cadre

In a change, the major French effort was not THE major Entente effort of the fortnight, as the Italians and British both committed nearly as much force to their efforts, though neither could come close to matching French artillery concentrations. The French assault against the entrenched open fields of grid 1919 showcased those concentrations, newly enhanced to include a third overstacked corps, albeit a third of which was merely field guns.

In support of that gun line, the French committed three escort and six reconnaissance or observation groups as against ten groups of intercepting German aircraft. This massive air battle too apparently happened amidst clouds and fog, as casualties amounted to only one destroyed group on each side and one German group damaged, besides which flak missed entirely.

The French bombardment, with aerial observation counterbalancing entrenchments, proved shocking. In fifteen 16-point shots and a 12-point shot, the French scored 19 bombardment hits, badly disrupting every non-divisional unit and disrupting every division in the defending force.

Combat odds appeared set to provide a dramatic aspect to this fight. The one river hexside significantly hindered the French attackers, but less than it might have because the engineers mostly worked there and the best divisions deliberately deployed on the other two sectors of the defending position. German reserve commitment was not perfect, in a rarity, but two divisions did slot themselves into two of three open positions, thereby increasing the defenders’ strength by more than a third. What could have been 5.5:1 odds fell to 4.1:1 and reasonably rolled downward to 4:1.

Again as usual, the French portion of the front hosted the main combat effects units from both sides’ armies. Hindenburg and Ludendorf inspired the defenders, offsetting French national will superiority and making a mockery of Petain’s apparent vacation to a chateau near Vichy. French aerial reconnaissance offset German entrenchments and Entente gas engineers naturally failed to influence the battle, as they have done far more than the average five-times-in-six. In the end, two multi-brigade engineer assaults made the difference, pushing the roll of 5, a very competent assault, upward to a defender exchange result.

French losses: 3x RP (2 for bombardment) and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 2x 10*-13-5 and 1x 9*-12-5 rifle divisions to cadre

German losses: RP and 3-5-5 engineer X eliminated; 1x 16-18-5 and 2x 9-12-5 Prussian, and 1x 11-13-5 Wurtemburger rifle divisions to cadre

In reaction, while their armies scrambled to repair weaknesses in the line and assemble imminent conversions behind them, zeppelins failed to find Nottingham but did hit Firenze.

In exploitation, while the two Italian cadres fell off the line for rebuilding, Franco-British destroyers and mine warfare ships completed the mine barrage around and adjacent to the Austrian naval fortress of Pola.

Central Powers Turn

During the Central Powers initial phase of I September 1916, both sides continued to repair and upgrade their forces.

Austria-Hungary upgraded a flak II into III while rebuilding both cadres back into divisions.

Britain rebuilt six divisions from cadre.

France rebuilt three divisions from cadre.

Wurtemburg rebuilt one division from cadre.

Prussia rebuilt four divisions from cadre, replaced a rifle brigade for an upcoming conversion, replaced an air group, and repaired an air group. the aforementioned  brigade probably entered the replacement pool in very early 1915 and its residual manpower must certainly be disheartened to have been rooted out of their comfortable existence to re-enter the hell of the trenches.

The Kriegsmarine rebuilt a naval rifle division from cadre.

The Netherlands repaired an air group.

On the main front, German forces contented themselves with the usual preparations for their endless conversions while also ceaselessly rebuilding their defensive positions.

Austro-Hungarian forces likewise rebuilt their line, but also continued to extend the scope and strength of their hold on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, their replacement of the Germans in the Trient salient, and their removal of the Austro-Hungarian army from the upper Rhine River.

Units from The Netherlands continued marching southward to form a Dutch army on the upper Rhine.

French forces reacted appropriately to complete the shift of their heavy and long-range artillery from positions facing Briey to facing grid 1919, where later in the month the French will be able to launch yet another most powerful artillery barrage of the war.

The air proved the most exciting arena of events during the Central Powers’ I SEP 1916 turn. The first German fixed-wing bomber group flew a mission and missed Nottingham, doing no better than three zeppelin groups that found the city but failed to hit the houses of any campaign contributor of the local member of parliament. Over Firenze, however, another “first” for the war made headlines: flak defenses missed one group, returned one group, and damaged one group of airships – the first such damaging of airships in a strategic bombing mission! This event is potentially quite important not because air replacement point costs are doubled for airships but because after spending the points there is a 50/50 chance that the airship group will be eliminated (for morale point cost!) rather than put back into service. Given the paucity of airship group reinforcements, over the course of a war losing an airship could significantly change a target country’s morale points and somewhat impact its factory production.

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