The Guns of August
Part Forty-Four of the "Schlieffen Plan" series.
Schlieffen Plan May 1916 Central Powers turn
Weather: Spring - West Clear, East Clear
Central Power Turn
The Spring weather has turned nice again with clear weather on all fronts. That means full movement capacity and five-hex supply lines instead of four.
A quick recap of the game so far. I am playing the Central Powers and writing these session reports. My opponent chimes in occasionally, but I write the reports for both sides. I am also under the impression that a number of people reading these reports are not familiar with the game, so I include snippets of rule explanations.
The game opened with my Germans aggressively pursuing the Schlieffen Plan. This meant a minimal defense against the Russians, and a weak defense in the Alsace-Lorraine area. The idea was to entice the French into attacking in the south while in the north the Germans would pour through Belgium and slam into France like a blunt instrument. Things went very well for the Germans, and the French army was completely defeated within a year. The British stayed to fight for the ports both in the north and the south. They were recently driven out of the north, but have held on to Marseilles and Nice in the south. Here is a picture of the current state of affairs in northern France.
After France was beaten, the Germans shifted their forces to Russia and the Central Powers went on the offensive. The Central Powers were in a better position than expected at that point, as they had managed to avoid losing any cities to the very aggressive Russians. It was a close thing on many occasions. Lemberg was in constant peril and avoided capture by the skin of her teeth several times, and there was an extended back-and-forth battle to prevent complete isolation of the Danzig-Konigsberg area with a concomitant threat to Breslau. The entire time Germany was focused on France, the East Front seemed to teeter on the brink. As soon as German units from France starting arriving, the direction of attack turned the other way, and the Central Powers campaign against Russia started to pick up steam. Recently the Germans captured Warsaw, their first Russian city, and things are looking grim for the Russians.
In the meantime, Italy didn't join the Triple Entente until February 1916, and the same with Turkey. So far, they are the only two neutral countries who have entered the war, and much later than historically. In Serbia, the Austrians made sure to capture Belgrade quickly and push the Serbians back a few hexes, then left a small force to hold the Serbians off and threw everything they had into defending against the Russians. So Serbia is still in the game. The British army is quite small, having lost a lot of units in France after the French army was eliminated. They are currently holding onto Marseilles and Nice, have a unit in neutral Greece hoping to convince Greece to join their side as soon as possible, and recently invaded Turkey and are stuck on the beach.
Back to the turn at hand!
The goal of the Central Powers on the Italian Front and south of France is minimum containment. The fewer units to accomplish that the better, as the focus is attempting the fastest defeat of Russia possible. If Russia is defeated, then perhaps there will be time to go after the Italian objective city.
When Italy entered as a belligerent two turns ago, the Central Powers were caught off guard (read: unprepared for an entirely foreseeable possibility). While it was a dumb oversight on my part, there were a couple of factors that led to my lax attitude. One, the chance of Italy joining the Triple Entente in 1916 was only 1-in-6 at each quarterly roll. Second, the Italians were equally likely to join the Central Powers on each of those rolls. Italy joining the Central Powers is an unlikely event, as they only do so on a result of a '7' on a die six! However, if Britain is neutral, or the Germans control Paris, each of those gives a +1 DRM to Italy's Variable Entry Roll. Britain is clearly not neutral (that can only happen if Germany does not declare war on Belgium), but Germany's success in France has created a situation in which Italy might have joined the Central Powers instead of the Triple Entente. Everything had been going my way to such a degree so far that I suspect I unconsciously expected Italy to join the Central Powers, and was simply waiting for when not if!
I was caught off-guard to such a degree when Italy joined the Triple Entente (I may have even felt somewhat betrayed ), the Central Powers had zero units guarding the Italian border. The only preparation I had done, completed much earlier in the game when I was not yet so overconfident, was to fortify Trieste. There really was no reason not to have a garrison along the border, because as it turns out, the Central Powers have more units milling about in Russia than can be used each turn. Not exactly good deployment or planning, which is a hallmark of success in Guns of August. Luckily, I was sharper in that regard earlier in the game,, or so the early results seem to indicate, so can afford to be less precise in my actions at this point in the game.
So the past two turns involved rushing units to man the borders as quickly as possible to prevent the Italians from simply waltzing into Trieste and towards Munich. While the area around Trieste was easy to get to by rail (luckily, as it was the only really important hex on that front), the mountains between Switzerland and the Germany-Italy railroad takes much longer to reach. I deployed several of the better German infantry units to be sent there, expecting their four movement factors would allow them to traverse two mountain hexes per turn, but the muddy conditions of March slowed them all down to one hex. Mind you, once the rail line from Italy to Germany was secured by my units, it does not seem to matter very much how far north the Italian units range before being blocked, as long as I do so before they get to Munich. If I ever reach the point of attacking Italy in a serious way, it could well be that I simply by-pass that area and isolate it, gaining those hexes back without a fight.
No audacious or dramatic plans on the Italian Front this turn. Just move in a few more units and begin blocking the northern passage.
The clear weather conditions this turn allow the German units coming from Munich to move one hex in the rough terrain to get adjacent to the Italians, for two movement points, and spend the remaining two points on building the first level of trenches. (A combat unit can build one level of trenches by using two movement factors in one turn. Only one level can be built each turn in one hex. There can not be more trench levels than combat units in a hex, and each level of trench can protect one combat unit and unlimited support units. If all units being attacked are under a trench marker, the attacker suffers a -1 DRM on the attack roll - this is the equivalent of moving down one step on the attack odds column. It is sometimes advantageous to attack all the units in a hex together in a single attack if some are under a trench marker and some are not, to avoid the DRM penalty.)
A 5-7-4 infantry, which was sent to Trieste on the first turn of Italy's belligerency because it was within range, moves off the front line to a rail hex to be shipped to Russia next turn. No need for my best units to be sitting idly on the Italian border when lesser units will do the job.
I have also tasked a 4-4-5 cavalry unit in southern France to start moving through some hexes behind the front line, in order to provide more possible supply lines in case the British and Italians decide to make some attacks. Supply lines can only pass through hexes under your control. When you conquer a country, none of the hexes in that country come under your control until you actually move a unit through them. Before the cavalry grabbed its two hexes this turn, if the Entente units had captured either German hex adjacent to Nice or any other hex leading to Marseilles, the German units to the north of Nice would have had no supply line (because an enemy unit exerts a Zone of Control (ZoC) into adjacent hexes through which supply cannot be traced). They would have been forced to retreat or be eliminated if the hex were not retaken.
The Central Powers have had two very successful turns in the previous two months (each turn in Guns of August covers one month). By this I mean that they have eliminated more units than the Russians can replace each turn, they managed to capture their first Russian city, Warsaw, which degrades the Russian replacement rate by one point from twelve to eleven factors, while the Central Powers themselves suffered overall fewer losses than the combined replacement rates of Germany and Austria.
There are two ways to conquer an enemy nation. One, capture every last city. Two, starting in 1916, get them to surrender because of a very low morale roll.
To do well enough to capture all the cities of any of the major belligerents is very difficult, and pretty much requires you to wear down their army to the point where they cannot assemble a continuous line of units blocking your path. As long as they can do that, you are limited to one hex advance per turn, and to move an entire line back would mean taking many hexes in that line. The wearing down of the enemy until they cannot defend their territory adequately while protecting ones own military from a poor losses to replacement ratio is the primary goal. Capturing cities is part of that strategy, as each city reduces the replacement rate of the enemy by one point. Capturing objective cities also helps gain allies or prevent the potential allies of the other side from activating, as captured objective cities in the major powers give bonuses on the Variable Entry rolls.
The other route, of wearing down the morale of a country, relies heavily on capturing either cities or specifically objective cities, depending on which country. There are other factors, but the primary one is capture of the relevant cities. In Russia, every city lost subtracts one from their Morale rolls. A result of '0' or lower means trouble. 'Zero' = reduced replacements for three turns (until the next Morale rolls), -1 and -2 = desertion (= elimination of units on rolls of 1 and/or 2 for each and every unit on a d6,) and -3 = surrender. Still, to capture enough cities in Russia to get a significant negative modifier means gaining a lot of territory, which normally means wearing down their army significantly beforehand.
The plan this turn is to target hexes that will advance me towards Brest-Litovsk (the easiest city to get to next, and an Objective city to boot), and work on making the highest odds attacks possible to increase the number of Defender Eliminated (DE) results in order to inflict maximum losses on the Russians while minimizing Central Power losses.
I would also like to open up the area on the southernmost end of the front. In the bottom right-hand corner of the picture one can see the Rumanian border sticking up. If the Central Powers can advance around the Rumanian border, the Russian Front will immediately become much longer. This would vastly increase the strain on the Russian units, which have just enough units currently to maintain a decent defensive line with most hexes defended by the maximum three combat units. If the unit to hex drops much below that, then the Central Power advances will begin to accelerate.
Here is a shot of the area behind the Rumanian border:
As you can see, it opens a potentially much wider front all the way from Kiev down to Odessa.
The Austrians have been trying turn after turn to make headway in that area, but to no avail. It appears that German units will be required to make that happen. I feel as if I should have sent German infantry and artillery there long ago. There just always seemed to be important attacks to be made towards Warsaw, and given the terrain, the generally poor weather on the Eastern Front, and where the rail line ends, it would take at least two or three turns for the German units to get into combat. So I have kept putting it off. Perhaps that has been poor planning on my part, and I should keep that in mind for future games.
I have not pushed an offensive in the far north from Konigsberg towards Kovno. While Kovno is fairly close to the front line, and there is the possibility of widening the front as in the south Think Kovno to Riga), the Russians have a heavy defense set-up there, and it is the Germans that are on the inside of the curve. This makes for an opening attack from just two hexes, which would be at no better than 2:1 odds. Expensive and not very likely to succeed. Perhaps I should have been banging away up there, considering there is no shortage of units, but to have any chance at all would require perhaps four artillery units to get a 2:1 odds attack with a +1 DRM. A Big Push attack suffers on the second attack if the Germans lose a unit to a BD, as artillery support is limited by the number of combat units attacking. Attacker losses would likely be high even if they won the hex, and counter-attack options would not be bad for the Russians. Instead I have opted to focus on the softer center. Again, perhaps not the best choice, since I seem to have unused units.
The clear weather and full movement it allows helps this turn in getting the units I want to combat. However, the retreating Russians have created a straighter line with fewer 'bends' in it which allow three hexes to combine their attack against the same target hex. I have been concentrating on those as it gives me higher odds, and the chance to combine more artillery factors for higher DRM bonuses (every six factors = +1 DRM - sometimes I can get 18 factors of artillery from three attacking hexes). High odds with positive DRMs lead to a lot of DE results, with DX (Defender Exchange = the smaller side is eliminated and the other side must lose the same number of factors) as a second-best. I might be able to capture an extra hex or two with more two-hex attacks, but some of those attacks might fail to accomplish that, and D results against the defender would not eliminate any of their units, as they can simply choose to retreat, and be at full strength again next turn. My own losses would without question increase significantly. While I do have lots of units to spare at the moment, I am more focused on outright elimination of enemy units rather than gaining territory. This may or may not be the best strategy, but it seems the best path to me.
Four attacks are planned. Three attacks towards Brest-Litovsk zeroing in from the north, west, and south. As usual, the units involved in attacks are in the expanded stacks in the picture. The Austrians plan an attack at the far south end of the front, once again trying to open a path around the Rumanian border. They won an attack in the area last turn, one of the few, but it was against a single defender and simply regained a hex the Russians had captured the turn before.
The attacks towards Brest-Litovsk are very successful. A 5:1 odds +3 DRM attack gets a DE, another at 4:1 odds +1 DRM also gets a DE result, and the third attack at 3:1 odds +0 DRM gets a BD result. The Germans lose a single 5-7-4 and the Russians retreat, saving the three infantry units but losing an artillery and engineer unit (support units are not allowed to retreat).
The Austrians, of course, lose again in the south, although the attack odds were not exactly overwhelming, at 3:1 odds -1 DRM. This gives a 33% chance of failure.
Russian losses amount to fourteen combat factors, which is not very high but still a few points above the eleven replacement factors they receive each turn. That means their army will be one 3-5-3 unit smaller than this turn. The Central Powers lost only eight factors, which is far below their current combined replacement rate of twenty-four factors. This means their armies will be larger next turn. Not that extra units make any real difference at this point. The Central Powers are glutted with units. Wearing down the Russians is the important thing. Hopefully I can score a few turns of twenty or more Russian losses sometime soon.
In any case, if my own losses continue to be so low, it may give me the opportunity to bolster the north and south ends of the line, make more attacks, and cause more damage to the Russians even if it causes me even more losses. If I am unit rich then I can afford losses that the Russians cannot.
Like Italy, the Balkans are very inactive compared to the Russian Front. The British have invaded Turkey with a single stack of units, but have not followed up on that except to replace an infantry unit they lost to a Turkish raid on their bridgehead. The Serbians have been very cagey, and I do not expect any attacks from them this turn, as May is one of the four months that the Variable Entry Rolls are made. Their neighbor Bulgaria has a 50% chance of joining the Central Powers, and if the Serbians are caught out, the Bulgarians could leap across the border before the Serbians have a chance to react to their Declaration of War!
The British have a unit in Greece, but Greece is still neutral, and the British unit is only allowed into that one hex, the city of Salonika. Having a British unit there gives the British a -1 DRM on the Variable Entry Rolls for Greece. (Neutral countries join the Triple Entente on low rolls, and join the Central Powers on high rolls - so a negative DRM helps the Entente.)
The only movement is a shifting of the Turkish units to prepare for another low-odds raid. This time it will be a 2-4-3 infantry unit attacking the full British stack. Attacks odds are 2-18, which is resolved as a 1:1 odds attack with -1 DRM for the attack odds being lower than 1:1.
The Turkish raid is a big success for the second turn in a row, getting a BD result. That forces the British to lose a 4-6-4 infantry unit, while the Turkish infantry gets to retreat. Losing a 4-6-4 unit each turn pretty much uses up the entire British replacement rate for that turn.
- Last edited Thu Dec 27, 2012 8:11 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:06 am