The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Tag: Over There (page 1 of 2)

June I 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian losses: light brigade eliminated, .67 morale points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

British losses: one air group destroyed, 0.5 morale points

German losses: two air groups destroyed, 1 morale point

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

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

May II 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italy rebuilt one each rifle and mountain XX from cadre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May I 1917 and Commentary

Entente generals deployed to conduct two major and two supporting offensives in the West during Spring 1917. Regular British forces at Oostende anchored the north end of the Entente line, which in its British sector curved to defend Lille then face the ruined fortress of Maubeuge before entering the fringe of the Ardennes. Eight miles of Portuguese then twenty-five miles of Belgians, heavily fortified in woodlands and somewhat behind rivers, connected the British to the French. From there, French trench divisions held the line roughly along the prewar frontier past Metz, then through the Vosges Mountains, and finally along the Rhine. The bulk of French artillery and the empire’s first-rate divisions massed southwest of Metz to attack in clear country toward that fortress. Italians held a small sector from Switzerland toward Trient but third-rate French units in mountainous forts held the semi-circle confronting that fortress. Italian forces resumed the front on the east flank of the Trient salient and watched the central Alps from there to the Isonzo River. More serious Italian forces massed to attack across that river down its entire length to the Adriatic Sea. Canadian and ANZAC forces, with British supporting arms and reserves, occupied Istria, confronted Trieste and Fiume, and enjoyed a strong Italian corps anchoring their right flank. Entente naval forces stood ready with naval gunfire support on the north coasts of Belgium and Istria, hovered in the Gulf of Trieste, and continued the distant blockade of Germany around the North Sea.

Anxious politicians read reports of near disaster from the British in Istria first, as the grand offensive wound up. In late April, British artillery only annoyed Trieste’s forts. In May, British events took a brief favorable turn when three British reconnaissance groups dodged a group of interceptors and heavy flak to report successfully the fall of shot. The bombardment again failed to degrade the fort but scored average bombardment hits, seven, and disrupted some defenders. Aerial observation for elite attackers offset the fort, Eugene failed to intervene but so did British gas (May 1917 and the Entente has still never succeeded in a gas attack) and four brigades of combat engineers. One of two tank regiments suffered moderate breakdowns at the start line and the adjusted 2.2:1 odds shocked the British who rolled downward but managed a BX result after a moderate combat roll and national will superiority.

British losses: 2x RP, 4-6-7 CAN motor MG III, and 12-4-4 eng tank III eliminated; one each CAN and AUS XX to cadre; -2.67 morale

Austro-Hungarian losses: RP eliminated; 5x XX to cadre; -5 morale

The British clearly began their war of material with these casualties, deliberately suffering large equipment losses to spare their limited manpower. The Austro-Hungarians, relatively flush with manpower, continued along the manpower-intensive road travelled by all the major participants so far.

Cadorna, unhappy at his supporting country being given a supporting role in the Entente victory offensive of 1917, directed a maximum effort across the lower Isonzo, along the coast toward Trieste – and his troops responded enthusiastically. One Austrian interceptor bypassed Italian escorts and missed four observer groups, which dodged light flak in turn. The observed bombardment scored five hits in five 12-point shots. The aircraft also offset Austrian entrenchments while Eugene failed to offset elite attackers or two successful engineer assaults. Despite the river, Italian forces achieved 3.1:1 odds attack and achieved a DL result despite rolling odds downward.

Italian losses: 2x RP and engineer X eliminated; XX to cadre; -1.67 morale

Austro-Hungarian losses: 2x XX’s to cadre; railroad siege artillery III eliminated by ZOC during retreat; -2.33 morale

Prussian losses: railroad siege artillery X eliminated by ZOC during retreat; -0.67 morale

The rail line paralleled the front here and the unexpected retreat left the railroad siege artillery, on coast defense duty, high and dry as probably the first siege artillery eliminated in DJ05.

Italian mountain divisions and field artillery swarmed across the Isonzo to occupy the critical ground. The advancing artillery scattered badly due to the contested hex but the mountain units did better than expected in that regard. During exploitation, several fresh units rotated in and disrupted in turn.

British forces massed northeast of Lille for the second Entente supporting offensive, a feint. Distant German air units naturally flew combat air patrols intensively over the obvious site of the upcoming battle and British fighters intercepted the patrols.

British losses: none

German losses: two air groups eliminated, -1 morale

The French attacked the Germans immediately south of Metz as the main Entente offensive of the summer. French siege artillery faced the iron fields around Briey in a diversion so the Germans in grid 1919 enjoyed slightly less defense than in the telegraphed location, but the attack was not a surprise. In a complicated swirl of patrol, interception, escort, reconnaissance, and flak, the Germans suffered and the French succeeded in spotting. French bombardment, 14 shots at 16 points and 5 shots at 12 points, scored 19 hits, a touch below average, the first indication of disappointment. Petain and his gas engineers failed but Ludendorff showed to advantage in the battle and, with entrenchments, offset two engineer assaults. Aerial reconnaissance and national will helped the French, but neither tank regiment moved forward of the start line. Either an average bombardment or a tank regiment fighting would have lifted the odds, but 3.9:1 rolled downward and what would have been DX remained BX.

French losses: 3x RP and engineer X eliminated; air group damaged; 1x rifle and 3x field artillery XX’s to cadre; -4.33 morale; French National Will to Four

German losses: RP and air unit eliminated; 4x XX to cadre; 2 air units damaged; -4.5 morale

The French planned for the entire German air force to be committed elsewhere and pounced on the chance to concentrate an air-ground attack on the narrow front at grid 2118. Aerial reconnaissance dodged minimal flak and spotted successfully while national will offset entrenchments. The narrow front allowed only one engineer assault, successful, but Petain again did not help the effort. Seven air groups, mostly Sopwith wing-and-a half models, swarmed over the Germans, again dodging flak, and uselessly brought the odds up to 3.7:1, which rolled downward for the fourth time this turn. After that mixed result, however, the attack went stunningly well for another DL, though in this case the French did not advance.

French losses: RP, engineer III, and field artillery III eliminated; -.67 morale

German losses: one each Wurtemburg and Bavarian trench XX’s to cadre; -1.33 morale

Italian bombers and German zeppelins performed miserably during early May. The Italians fled flak and missed city-sized targets. Zeppelins over Italy entirely failed to hit because of bad aiming at night rather than weather problems or flak. Weather over the North Sea turned-back numerous Zeppelins from England, but one group successfully bombed Kingston, which the British mysteriously (stupidly) left bereft of flak for the first time since 1914.

In ground reaction, Eugene ordered a few cadres off the line for imminent rebuild behind Trieste. Italian forces on the east bank of the Isonzo stood too strong for local German and Austro-Hungarian forces to counterattack.

Naval reaction proved to be the most exciting reaction of the game to date. Before the Entente blockade could transform to meet the new land situation, the Austro-Hungarian Navy ran the gauntlet from Trieste to Cattaro Bay. The fleet put to sea at night and sailed northwest along the coast toward the Isonzo, near which Italian artillery units hit five ships but not the crucial minesweepers. As the fleet passed the Isonzo, three units hit mines before Italian siege and coast artillery sank the minesweepers and hit other units. Beyond the Isonzo, the fleet dodged submarines and steered around the Entente fleet to open water. One minefield remained and heavy ships nobly sacrificed themselves to preserve smaller vessels in their wakes. Finally, as light dawned, two British air groups found the fleet and torpedoed a battleship. A ravaged fleet arrived at Cattaro Bay without six NT, one MW, four TB, two DD, one CD, four PD, and five BB hits, for a total of -21.5 morale points. Austria-Hungary’s naval power is permanently wrecked but Entente naval units moving into and out of the Adriatic Sea will forever require heavy units as escort.

Mine damage to ships, damage to transport ships, and aerial torpedoing were all DJ05 “firsts” in this adventure.

Austria-Hungary in mid-May 1917 is approximately 175, 200, or 225 morale points from surrender and is thus a permanent problem for the Entente. Influenza will probably destroy 25 morale points and Germany becoming shaken and collapsing another 75. If the Entente captures all of on-map Austria-Hungary, the tottering Empire will lose 11 morale points for economic assets. The Empire will suffer 21 morale points of losses out of theater before the end of 1918.

For a few days after the Austro-Hungarian fleet fled Trieste, British landing craft poked around east of Lussin Island while French legionnaires seized the island off Fiume. A scary Austrian air attack did not save the island but drove the ships away before they could work their way further down the coast.

On land in exploitation, British and French siege engineers re-entered the line, as did French trench divisions, while most offensive units pulled off the line to regain flexibility for the future.

The Central Powers half of I MAY brought immediate and prospective changes to the front line trace. German construction engineers built nine exposed sites behind the Rhine River into entrenchments, proving the few over-winter forts to be no anomaly. Austria-Hungary evacuated the Alpine salient west and northwest of Villach above the Isonzo. A corps of Germans moved through Austria to backstop the position at Trieste. Several mobility-impaired units moved away from coastal duty in Croatia as if to begin conceding Dalmatia to an active Entente.

Replacement activities indicated strong reasons for Germanic caution in ground operations. While Austria-Hungary rebuilt seven divisions, Prussia four, and Wurttemberg and Bavaria each one from cadre, the Italians, Canadians, and Australians each rebuilt only one rifle, plus two French field artillery divisions. Thirteen to five is not a sustainable casualty rate for either side to be on the losing end of. Prussia also replaced two and repaired one air groups.

In Italy, in reaction, Cadorna’s headquarters adroitly pulled numerous divisional, engineer, and artillery units off the line to ensure flexibility for the continued offensive.

Commentary on the Game so far

This game is my first time through the grand campaign and I should more thoroughly caveat my pronouncements with the acknowledgement both that I can be wrong about my predictions and that I have been proven wrong about some of them already. As an example, I did not foresee intensive flak accumulating at every Italian major city on-map (Naples and northward) so that the Zeppelins would fly at night and score many fewer terror hits that what the rules allow in theory.

The game  developed at odds from history for three dramatic and one boring reasons. One dramatic reason is the broken rules that allow invading friendly-controlled neutrals, which in this game the Germans can use to bend The Netherlands situation to such significant advantage that the Entente thought it wise to declare war and give that country’s military to the Central Powers rather than let the Germans conquer the country. The game may be developing such that doing it was a less good decision, but the Germans would still have been stupid not to conquer the place. A second dramatic reason the game is developing oddly was the Entente decision to invade Istria and the success found therein. That decision enabled everything that is coming in 1917 by smashing and stretching the Austro-Hungarians much more than historical. The final dramatic reason is that after early 1915 the Central Powers decided to eschew further attempts to move the front line forward – and very rarely tried even spoiling or counterattacks. This quiet was reasonable because of the offense-defense strength disparity in most units and the understanding that the only way the Entente can win the war is by breaking Germany completely, whereas Central Powers’ victory is guaranteed if they simply don’t utterly lose before the end of the campaign.

Not as dramatic but probably as important to the course of the game has been Entente reluctance to roll combat dice from which the result might reasonably be awful. The Italians are strong now because they refused to seriously risk AX and AL results dozens of times. Ditto the French and British. The Central Powers are doubtless stronger because of this too, but their relative losses from awful Entente battles would have been less so their benefit is correspondingly slight.

The synergy between Entente and Central Powers reticence leaves both sides in strong morale positions, with caveats. I think all major powers except Italy received some annual morale check benefits due to having suffered less than historical losses, but this applied particularly strongly to the French because of their massive relative historical weight in Entente offensives and defensives in 1915 and 1916. The French have been as low as National Will 3 but have thrice bounced upward. The Austro-Hungarians, however, seem to have an a-historically large quantity of morale points available to spend in the West – they have many more than their Italian opponents while the historical Italians apparently sought their own annihilation in battles that must have had widely greater Italian than Austro-Hungarian morale point costs. Conversely, the Italians appear to have an incorrectly small number of morale points in the game, given that their “historical” morale point levels seem to allow for very few Italian battles at all.

That said, the Entente morale advantage is a fleeting thing. The French will again shoot themselves down to National Will 3 before the Germans, who have been at 3 for over a year, finally fall to 2. The British haven’t bounced much and will certainly fall to 2, perhaps go shaken, or even collapse before the Germans reach National Will 2. The Italians look impressive next to the Austro-Hungarians, but the latter could only actually surrender if they actively tried to send out lone units to get surrounded and killed for double morale cost. It is a truly exceptional Entente attack that scores more morale points of Central Powers’ losses more than the Entente suffers and probably a hundred attacks have cost the Entente twice or more in morale points than the Central Powers suffered in repulsing them.

All this being said, and all this being useful reasoning behind how the game evolved over the years, there is another way a game might go if played after reading these reports. I propose that a valid German strategy might be repeatedly, selectively, and at high odds, in 1915 thru mid-1917, attacking the French Army with the aim of beating it in the field through attrition before weathering the final Entente offensive wave to a Germanic victory. French replacements dry up badly after 1915 and Entente equipment does not flow strongly until mid-1917, so the French could be progressively reduced to ever smaller sectors. So many French units are such total trash that German attacks in a sustained offensive could chew into them with wildly disparate morale effects and so cripple French morale that even with tanks and masses of artillery from mid-1917 they would be unable to conduct sustained combat. From late-1917, a Caporetto Offensive, using all the historical advantages of the moment provided by the rules and OB, could clobber the Italians and remove them as much of a threat, as historical. The British and later the Americans would then have to hold wider sectors than historical and be less able to push a real war-winning offensive even while the good German units went back to chewing on the French to magnify the effect and perhaps even get a French surrender. The Germans’ problem in DJ05, if it is real, is that the French aren’t going to stop attacking ever again now that they have a full-strength army and piles of tanks and artillery on which to suffer losses.

The other long-term discrepancy between the game and history is in food. In the game, despite not gaining territory in northern France, the Central Powers will not suffer hunger before very late 1918 and possibly not ever. Food importation rules and conquering friendly neutrals drove the nails into that coffin.

January through April, plus strategic events of May, 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Decennial Game Report

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a game report from Over There that has been in the making for more than ten years now. The first moves of Todd E. Jahnkes “DJ05” game report were recorded in 2004, and he and his game partner have reached the Autumn of 1916 in a truly epic game, event though they managed to skip though a couple of turns in the mud and winter months.
If they keep up the pace, they might even finish before Total War finally gets published.

Have a look for yourself, you can read the full report here.

 

 

Summary

All four of the combatants enjoyed the game and would play it again The game saw the emotions of all 4 of us on a rollercoaster, ranging from despair to high-5\five victory choruses!

Critical dice rolls in the game: Early clear weather. French and British recovering from being shaken so quickly. French recovering from collapse immediately. Entente rolling command unity on the second attempt. Germans NOT being shaken when NW dropped to 1. This prevented the A/H morale point penalty, which allowed them to propagate the attack on the Italians with a greater degree of ferocity. The Biggest dice roll of all was influenza. It arrived on the 4th turn (There is ~ 35% chance or arriving on or before the 4th turn) and it resulted in a blow from which the CP could not recover as it resulted in collapse of both AH and Germany. Finally the inability of the Germans to recover halved production, which crippled their ability to replace their army.

Some comments on strategies: The CP players were wishing they had attacked the Italians earlier. The Entente players were wishingthat they had fortified the Italian front line earlier (almost everything begins as entrenchments and steps were not taken to improve things as resource points were judged to be needed for the bombardment of Lille)

The CP player adopted a strategy of attack the French at all costs. This worked devestatingly well however they lost the bottle at the critical time and turned their focus instead to the Italian front. At game end the French morale was at about 70 points. That was only 9 exchanges away from total surrender Thus all attacks on the French stpped in the July I turn. Thhe stated reason for this was that they were getting concerned about the increased losses, as the French by this stage were almost all fighting within 3 hexes of Paris, thus getting a NW bonus.

The Entente adopted a strategy of nibbling away at the German forces and slowly whittlingthem down. One example of this was the terror bombing of German cities. We did this every turn for the game, scoring perhaps 15 morale hits over the course of the game. This was something that the Germans did not think was worthwhile. Thus they seldom used the Paris gun for ombing Paris and inflicting morale hits that way. It may have made a difference. Given the German strategy of attacking French only it gave the Entente great latitude with their attacks and it saw the British redced at one stage to only ~ 10 full strength divisions. We felt that the Germans should have taken advantageof the Brits at this time andattacked them – but their view was that it would have diverted their attack forces for a few turns – which was time they did not have. They also pointed out that the Brits were doing a good job killing themselves as in 1 turn the Brits had 2 attacks both at 3:1 odds and rolled AXs for both of them!

Comments on the game mechanics: We all felt that printed fortresses fell too easily. Verdun was undefendable. We belived that to take the fortresses perhaps a little more work would be required. Thus our suggestion is that defenders from fortresses should only be required to retreat when the combat roll is a DE

All up though, the gaming experinece was highly enjoyable and is recommended as there are a wealth of opportunities and decisions for all combatants!

September II 1918

The Entente tank offensive continued in its merciless fashion, smiting the northern flank and opening up the plains of central Belgium. By turn end Belgian cavalry and French armed forces had exploited adjacent to Antwerp and Brussels, while the British stormed into Mons after a brutal frontal assault. German national will was reduced to -121 points (only 4 short of what was needed to ensure that even the maximum bounce would still leave them in total surrender.

It was now make or break for the Central Powers. They would have to knock Italy out of the war! Rolling only 1 successful reaction they were only able to entertain 1 positional assault against an Italian corps. The odds were good – 4:1 (-1) however the engineers all failed them – very badly, the resultant combat roll of AX toook the AH morale down to 8 points (With the Italians on 13).

After the debacle of the AX the CP players realised that with the smattering of Entente minor forces and some strong American divisions scattered amongst the Italians, that they would be unable to inflict enough casualties on the Italians to enduce surrender without collapsing themselves so the Central Powers high command negotiated surrender terms.

Oddly enough the rules indicate that surrender does not happen until recovery has occured. We thus decided to see how long it would take the Germans to recover… They did not recover until Feb II 1919!!!, so technically they would have stayed in the game for another 5 months – who knows, even with winter, what damage would have been done and how much territory captured in that interval by the Entente?

September I 1918

The Germans have still not recovered from collapse. We are beginning to wonder if they ever will, as when they do they will not have many – if any morale points remaining. After taking cycle losses into account the German morale is at -63, with the Austro/Hungarian empire now only 27 points from total surrender. The French have enjoyed their respite, and since the 50 morale point bonus in Jul II, and are still well over 80 points, as the German war effort has lacked purpose and direction on the western front in recent turns.

The rolls for American Reduced Effectiveness units – of which there were over 20 – went very well:. The dice smiled at me tonight. Only 9 US units are now at Red Eff state!

The balance of this turn will probably be one of manoeuvre as the various Entente forces will need to take a turn to redeploy HQ’s, rebuild the army and generally deploy for what will be the final push, as we want to conclude the campaign before the onset of bad weather. One or two weeks should see the end!

With the German forces still feeling the effects of collapse, they took steps in the previous turn to shorten their front line and make as many corps as possible Stoss Corps. The forces driving on Paris were recalled, only 20 miles from their ultimate goal.

The Entente, who had been carefully husbanding their armored assets, opened the turn with a bang in Belgium. 2 Hexes in the north were vaporised with DE’s, while the American divisions – finally almost all at full combat strength (although it should be pointed out that 1 of the American divisions that began the game at Ref Eff state is still Red Eff) lurched into overdrive and hit the German line hard, inflicting additional casualties. German national will dropped to – 83.

In the reaction phase the Central Powers, desperate for reactions on the Ita;lian Front failed with all combat rolls thus were denyed a chance to inflict more harm on the Italians.

They would not be denied in their regular turn and launched a front wide offensive south of the mountains, inflicting heavy casualties on all combatants – Germans, Austro-hungarians and Italians.

In the Entente reaction phase there was again some success on the western front and the partially patched line was again pummelled. By the end of the phase the Entente had gained possession of 8 hexes of Belgium.

August II 1918

The Aug II turn began with some trepidation. Nobody wanted to roll the influenza dice. After some minutres of inaction two of us picked up a dice each and threw them simultaneously. The reaction was electric and simultaneous for all of us as the boxcars stared up at us forlornly. This sent both Germany and the Austro-Hungarians into collapse, with morale levels now well below zero.

The Entente forces proceeded with their attacks. Oddly enough we achieved enough hits in the turn, had we not rolled influenza to reduce German Morale from 17 to 3. This would have been reduced by another 2 had we decided to use the Italians in an attack, so we would have failed by just 1 point to crack the Germans. This may well have made a difference.

In the Central Powers turn the Austro-Hungarian forces rolled an immediate recovery, receiving a bounce of 100. They are now hovering at about 41 points to the Italian 37. The race to induce Italian surrender before the Germans now ultimately collapse is on again!

The Germans failed their recovery roll and are now faced with an awkward decision – They must knock out Italy and France as fast as possible and ignoring all losses, as they will surrender very soon now , being most unlikely to last until winter with a morale level currently at -47.

After a lot of deliberation the Germans decided  to attempt to knock Italy out of the war while on the west front they want to minimize the front line and reduce all their fortifications to field works – thus removing the possibility of us inflicting losses by use of BX’s and AX’s.

As things turned out the war on the Italian front went badly for the Central Powers. This was not aided by the fact that the Germans are still in collapse and the AH airforce is almost non-existant. At the end of the turn, the Italians had lost only 4 morale points, reducing them to low 30’s. The Entente then failed with all their reaction rolls except one – the Belgian HQ. The Belgians proceeded to advance – amongst great fanfare – and seized the town of Oostende!

August I 1918

Failed to roll influenza (again). Attemptred to roll up American forces. Finally succeeded with somewhat normal odds – rolling up 7 divisions (from about 20 units still at Red Eff)! This means I now have 2 full strength American divisions in each of 5 hexes! Wonder of wonders!

Strong shift this turn in player will. Germans now despondent about their planned strategy. French player relived to hear this….

German Morale has now dropped below 50 (pre-rebound), Italian has gone below 40 (post rebound), While the French is now down to 84 (post rebound), after gaining 50 points this turn due to American Mobilization status. The French can survive only 9 more losses before surrender

In the last few turns the game had begun moving slowly in favour of the Entente Forces. This trend continued in the Entente turn with more German Trench divisions ending out in body bags with pathetically few losses to the Entente forces. The lifespan of these units is now tenuously brief. Things then changed for the worse. The CP player succeeded in rolling every single army corps for reaction purposes.

Between these reactions and their regular turn 6 attacks were conducted on the Italian front, with the Germans now having 2 full strength Stoss corps (including the mountain Stoss) now operating on this front. All 6 of their attacks were wildly successful. The Italian morale is now hanging at 13 points whiuch means they will surrender most probably in Aug II or at the latest Sep I. The only hope for the Italians now is Influenza in the Aug II turn as this would drive Germany into collapse, which would result in the Austrohungarians going into collapse which would see the Italians gaining 25 morale points. To finish off the turn the Germans pulled back their foprces from the drive on Paris, providing the French with some respite.

It is now the Entente Reaction phase, with much work to be done and some hard decisions to be made about the future of Italy and how to safeguard southern France – as one is fully aware that this retreat in front of Paris is only temporary. The assault on France must continue if the Central Powers are to win!

The tension around the gaming table tonight was tangible. The session began with the Entente having to inflict 23.5 morale hits on Germany to cause them to collapse, which would cause Austria/Hungary to collapse which would mean Italy would receive a 25 point morale boost, as their own total surrender was worryingly close.

To combat this the Entente had worked on a desperate plan to counterattack the Germans and drive their morale down, with one of the attacks even coming from Italian troops. There followed a raft of failed reaction rolls, with a couple of attacks on the British front securing a couple of BX’s on the helpless trench divisions. At the end of the turn German national will was down to 17.

 

Older posts