Last night, when brother Jens (Plush here on BGG) came home from work, we had decided to try out my new wargame Clash of Giants II. After going through the rules, Jens opted to play the Russian armies while I commanded the Austria-Hungarian troops.
We set up our troops in as continuous lines as we could according to the rules. The russians were stronger in the east, the austrians in the west. Because I had played out the first three turns solo, I knew where some of the key cities were. Lemberg being one, connecting several railways. As I only needed to get up to eight victory points from turn four on, and I didn't even need to keep them, I devised my Masterplan.
I was going to use my 1st Army, deployed south of Crakow, to swiftly attack northward into the woods at Kielce, taking out the initially very weak russian 4th Army stationed south of Ivangorod. I had four turns to do it in, and as my troops outnumbered the russians by (estimated) 2.5 to 1, I figured I would be successful in that timeframe. From turn four on, I would then, using the central 3rd and 4th Armies to lock the russians in place, sweep through claiming the victory towns of Krassnik, Lublin, Cholm and Kowel with my 1st. I would only need to keep them for two turns, after which I would order a general retreat, and protect my towns, giving the russians the difficult task of obtaining, and keeping nine victory towns to win. Simple, yet effective - I thought, smirkingly to myself. Victory would be mine...
As most plans of mice and men - this one, too, did fail. The russian 4th army proved a bit hard to swallow. I got them wounded and either on the run or surrounded, but my own troops had taken a severe beating in the process. We were in a bit of a stale south of the Kielce woods, making smaller attacks back and forth. I didn't want to risk a full offensive, as I could be destroying my own troops in doing that. And let's remember - I needed my 1st army to do the sweep...
My neighboring 4rd army had taken the victory town of Rava Ruska, but failed to hold it as the russian 5th army advanced in haste, and were forced to retreat to the fortifyed town of Przemysl and to Jaroslau. But as Jens had advanced his 5th army towards Rava Ruska and Lemberg, and his 1st army were locked around the Kielce woods and Krassnik, I noticed an opening in his lines, plus he had left no troops behind. (There really aren't enough troops for that, anyway...) I sent in some cavalries from north of Jaroslau, who just made it all the way up to Lublin, on turn four. I had made my first victory point! (I had already in previous turns taken the three victory towns inside Austrian borders, Rava Ruska, Brody and Tarnopol, but effectively lost them all to advancing hordes of russians...)
By this time the russian strongpoing, the 8th and 3rd armies had advanced well into Austrian grounds. My poor 2nd and 3rd armies, placed there to stop them were probably outnumbered 3-to-1, and were retreating fast. One infantry was left behind to hold the town of Czernowitz on the Romanian border, and actually held out for quite a while. I also sent a cavalry to protect the Tartar Pass, which would otherwise have been an open back door into the heartland of Austria, and several unprotected victory towns for the russians.
As the 3rd army were forced to retreat all the way into Stryj, the 4th army were crammed into Przemysl and the Tartar Pass had fallen to enemy hand, things were not looking very good. I had managed to keep the russian 4th army in place, even though they were still alive, but as they could not move, I was able to send a lone cavalry division to claim the victory towns Cholm and Kowel. I had also managed to place a reinforcement division into Czernowitz. Jens had left these troops alone, as he was busy plundering the heartland south of the mountains. But this unit made a daring run north and made it to Tarnopol before Jens managed to get any troops to intercept - remember his entire army was fighting all the way in Stryj and Lemberg. I managed to secure my full 8 victory points!
Now it was time for the general retreat. Sadly I had very little troops left. And what I had were wounded and weak. As the russians were advancing westward in the heartland I quickly deployed some reinforcements from Crawkow and Przemyslto take the Dukla and Lupkow passes, the last two victory points behind my lines. Jens was desperately running out of time.
Sacrificing strenght for speed he had sent only cavalries over the mountain. These were stopped outside the infantry protected Dukla and Lupkow passes. Jens didn't have time for the Przemysl town either, as it is fortifyed and takes at least two turns (6 days) to overrun. His fourth army was gone for good - at last. What should have taken 4 turns lasted for eight, and consumed three times more troops than I had anticipated. But having no military presence in that area meant the russians could forget the victory towns Crakow, Tarnow and Gorlice.
The battle came to a sudden halt on September 15th 1914. The badly broken Austrian army had defeated the russian by 8 to 7 victory points. Had the game continued for a couple of turns, the russians would have had the time to get more towns, so we came to the conclusion that the Austrian army won the game, the Russians the war...
You can probably read by my enthusiasm, that I loved the game! Jens, too, claimed it to be the best conflict game so far. (he's more the eurogamer) The game moves quickly, and even though it now lasted us about four hours to complete, I think it can be played in 2-3 hours if both players have played before.
I wonder how difficult it would be for the russians to prevent the austrians from getting their 8 victory points? Somehow it feels it's not overly difficult for them to get those points - so the question is, should the russians effectively allow the austrians to get their points, not wasting any units on it, and instead concentrate fully on advancing into Austria to get (at least) nine towns? Some strategies to think about before the next session...
Because there will be a next session...
Oh yes, there will be a next session!