The Guns of August
Part Forty-Two of the "Schlieffen Plan" series.
Schlieffen Plan April 1916 Central Powers turn
Weather: Spring - West Mud, East Mud
Central Power Turn
Italy has recently entered the war against the Central Powers. The Central Powers were caught by surprise, and had to rush units to the Italian border. In Russia, the Central Powers had a great turn last month, both surrounding Warsaw from four sides and causing a new high in Russian losses for one turn.
Mud on both fronts for this turn. The minus one to movement is not good for the Central Powers as the offensive player in Russia. Also not good for the Central Powers while on the defensive against Italy, as I am trying to get my units there as quickly as possible for the unexpected rise of the Italian war machine against me. The 4-6-4 units I sent there can normally move two hexes through the rough terrain, but are limited to one hex when faced with a swath of it.
The appearance of the Italians before the last turn caught the Central Powers totally off guard, which is to say with not a single unit on the Italian border. I didn't worry about the low chance of them entering during the quarterly February Variable Entry Rolls, as it was only a one-in-six chance. I was distracted by my hope to gain either Bulgaria or Turkey as allies, (which have both bucked the odds and failed every roll so far to join the Central Powers,) so I probably did not pay proper attention. A little frustrating, but since the game has been going well for the CP otherwise, I can't complain too much.
So last turn Germany and Austria had to scramble and pull some units from wherever they could find them, as well as devote most of their replacement units, to defend against Italy. The swath of rough terrain makes getting to the front a very slow process, although the clear weather last turn helped. The Italians got to set-up on the border, so it is fortunate that the CP get to move first each turn. This turn's mud means the two-hex wide hole will not get filled, and the Italians get another couple of hexes for free.
Of course, eventually the Central Powers will get enough units for double and triple stacks along the relatively short border. Even the lesser Central Powers units (2-4-3 and 3-5-3 units) should suffice to stop the relatively weak Italian army. To make any headway then would require British or United States forces. The U.S. is still neutral, and Britain spent most of her troops in France, and as we will see below, has made a stab at Turkey with the units she can spare from Southern France plus the 'diplomatic' infantry unit in Greece.
The Germans are not able to move any units into the gap next to Switzerland. Only one unit is in range (the Demoralized 4-6-4), and it needs to stay put to protect the rail hex as I feel it is more important to keep the the area near Trieste strong and protect the railway line than to stop the Italian march up my right flank. They can only get one hex per turn because of their slow movement rates, so I only really need to block them before they pass Switzerland. Even then, they would need to capture and repair the rail line, neither of which is likely without British help. Without a rail line, they would be on a very short supply leash of either three or four hexes (depending on weather conditions) from their nearest city or functioning rail line.
I switch out the strong German units from Trieste for 2-4-3 Austrian infantry. The one bit of defense I did prepare beforehand was making Trieste a fortress. Given the limited access to Trieste for the Italians (a single hex to attack from), the Austrians should be more than able to protect Trieste. Trieste is the most important hex in the area (as a red objective city it would help the Triple Alliance tremendously if captured because of the effect on the Variable Entry Rolls in the Balkans), with the rail lines being of second importance. The fewer of those I lose the more ably I will be able to redeploy units if I get a chance to start a campaign aimed at capturing Florence, which is last non-Russian objective city left not in Central Power hands other than Bucharest.
My overarching strategic objective is to attempt the conquest or surrender of Russia as quickly as possible. Therefore the Italian border will be defended with the minimum to prevent major loss, as I have been treating the Serbian front. If Russia falls, then the Central Powers will have more units than they could possibly need to take care of Italy and Serbia, despite any involvement by Britain and the United States.
The Central Powers make no attacks on the Italian Front.
The Central Powers had several months of turns in which the Russian defense was holding strong. Little progress was made, and the combined German and Austrian losses outweighed the damage they were doing to the Russians.
It was to be expected that the campaign would meet increased resistance after the first few turns. The Eastern Front started as a very long winding front, presenting a big Russian bulge which made for easy pickings i.e. either hexes with one or two defenders, and defenders which could be attacked from three hexes. As the Russians fell back, the line started to both straighten out and get shorter, meaning that the Russian units could start stacking more and more hexes with the maximum three combat units plus one artillery. Also, fewer hexes become available against which three hexes can attack together. Even the numerically large Russian army didn't have enough units to do that initially, but they do now.
I had hoped that the increasing number of German units redeploying from France each turn would be able to keep up the pressure. However, the British intransigence in refusing to abandon an all-but-conquered France had me decide to leave a sizable group of strong units behind to deal with them, which slowed the redeployment. These circumstances led to dwindling gains in Russia as time went on.
This past turn, though, saw a resurgence of the Central Powers strength-of-arms which led to their most successful combat phase against the Russians to date. They gained several hexes, virtually surrounded Warsaw, and eliminated almost triple the combat factors the Russians can replace in one turn. One factor was a dramatic increase in the number of 3-3-3 artillery available, which I deployed to great effect for the +1 DRMs for every six artillery involved in an attack.
Hopefully this turn will turn last turn into the beginning of a trend. Warsaw is almost sure to fall, and I hope to make numerous big attacks this turn.
I plan attacks along a good portion of the front line. Despite the muddy conditions, the Germans are able to position all fourteen of their 3-3-3 artillery to take part, including the 3-2-2 Seige artillery unit against a fort, for a cumulative bonus of +8 spread out among three major attacks. (The three movement factors the German artillery have make a big difference, especially in mud or snow.) Minus defensive modifiers of course, but that's a lot of artillery blasting away. Even the Austrians have a couple of decent attacks set-up for once!
As usual, the stacks involved in attacks are expanded in the picture.
More troops on the way
Here's a pic of what is in the pipeline for the Russians. These are the last units on their way to the Eastern Front after finishing up in France a couple of turns ago. The six 5-7-4 infantry may see action as early as next turn, but it might take the five 3-3-3 artillery units another turn or two to make it into combat. That will bring the Germany regular artillery up to full strength, 19 units, plus one of the Siege units, all on the Eastern Front. The trick will be how get as many as possible involved in combat each turn. Both the north flank and the far south flank could use more firepower.
The poor 3-1-1 artillery has been pretty much stationary for the entire Russian campaign. Unless moving by rail (and then it cannot attack), it is limited to one hex per turn movement, only on clear terrain, and only in clear weather. If I can get it involved in one more combat this game I will feel like I have accomplished something!
Combat goes off very well, particularly for the Germans. Big Push attacks in several locations. Warsaw falls to a 3:1 odds +2 DRM attack on the first roll with a DE result. The Siege Artillery makes a big difference against fortresses, given a +1 DRM against forts in addition to counting as regular artillery for the +1 DRM for every six artillery factors. In the next year that adds up to six 2-4-3 infantry units or their equivalent lost. Losing a city means the Russians lose a replacement factor every turn. Pretty sweet to finally capture a Russian city. With a little luck, it could effect their replacement status even more when the next quarterly Morale die rolls are made. Each lost city for Russia gives her a -1 DRM, and a roll of '0' means reduced replacements for three months until the next die roll.
Another attack just to the south of Warsaw at 3:1 odds +3 DRM also gets an immediate DE. To the north just south of the lake a 3:1 attack +0 DRM gets a DD result which drives the Russians out of the hex but causes no losses.
The Austrians are successful winning both hexes they attack with a BD and DD result. The Russians take no losses but do lose the hexes, and the Austrians lose only a single 4-6-4 infantry unit this turn. A much better outcome than the 20 factors they lost last turn during their own attacks. Given they only receive six replacement points each turn, that was a significant loss.
I should mention that we have been playing the Big Push attacks incorrectly. What I never realized is that Big Push can only be initiated against hexes that have at least three combat units defending. Despite my large number of Big Push attacks against hexes with only one or two defending combat units, my opponent never noticed my error. Oh well, by the time we noticed, the game was pretty far along. Some day I will play one of these types of games and apply all the rules correctly....
So all in all a good turn for the Central Powers in Russia, winning all five hexes with minimal losses (a single 4-6-4), including the capture of Warsaw. Twenty-one combat factors lost for the Russians is also a good result, making it two turns in a row in which the Central Powers inflict significantly more losses on the Russians than they can replace each turn. And that, in the end, will be what is necessary to conquer Russia.
With no attacks by the Serbians, the Austrians are happy to stay the course of tacit ceasefire on this front. There really isn't anything they can do, since the Serbians outnumber them. There are also no reinforcements available if the Serbians do decide to start an offensive, as the Italian Front is still in more need.
The Montenegrins are also somewhat neutralized in their home city. If their single unit attacks, whether inside or outside Citinje, if it gets an AD result then it cannot retreat (units are not allowed to retreat further away from supply sources when they get demoralized), and so would be eliminated. Since we are playing with the defender may advance after combat if the attacking hex gets cleared, the Serbian attack would have then caused the conquest of Montenegro!
Two units trade places on the front line, and no further action is taken.
Serbia is an even lower priority front than the Italian one. The worst case scenario is that a Triple Alliance victory in the Balkans might lead to the conquest of Turkey, and the possible joining of Rumania with the Triple Alliance, or the capture of the one Rumanian objective city. And that is a far-fetched scenario at this stage in the game.
At the end of the last turn, Britain launched a major invasion of Turkey! A full three infantry corps and an artillery unit land on the beach. Capturing Constantinople would be of great value to the Triple Entente, as it would open the seaways for British aid to the Russians and add two to their monthly replacement rate. Turkey is also cut off by land from her Central Power allies, and the seas are ruled by the British, so Turkey will have to fend for herself.
The Turkish units advance to fully man the prepared trenches, and the 1-1-4 cavalry unit prepares itself to make a brave and risky raid on the far superior British army group. Perhaps mobility will give them the advantage over such a large and perhaps ungainly force. However, even if the Turkish cavalry is lost, it is quickly replaced at the end of the turn, being the least expensive of units.
Sure enough, the cavalry unit's attack at 1:1 odds -1 DRM gets a good roll for a BD result. The cavalry happily gets demoralized and retreats. The British have no retreat option, and lose a 4-6-4 infantry unit.
Perhaps the British are in for a tougher go of it than they expected.