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Subject: Butterfingers rss

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sam morrison
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A chit-by-chit session report on Brave Little Belgium.

My previous attempt to deter Wilhelm II is recorded here. This previous report also - if you don't know the game - gives a very brief explanation.

If you know the game already, battle can commence, with the Guard Civique being randomly assigned to the urban centres of Belgium, and their locations look promising, with many clustered in the north-east, presenting a massed set of obstacles for the Germans to negotiate...

German chit draws are underlined and in bold; the Entente merely underlined.

Round Zero: German Cavalry Activation

Possibly my first mistake is to put all the chits in a butter dish. This thematic faux pas (I used a suitably combative mortar bowl last time) may have leaked its way into the story of the game, as I pulled chit after a chit like a man intent on failure. But more of that shortly.

German cavalry activate, with Albrecht's horses trotting to vacant Luxembourg, Von Hausen's to Guard Civique-attended La-Roche-En-Ardenne. The civil guard wipe out Von Hausen's cavalry, and off the back of that slap around the face, Von Kluck and Von Bulow both decide to keep the horses in the stables. For now.

Round One: 4-6 August

First out of the dish is Turn End 1. As my default position is to root for the Entente, I don't mind this at all. It occurs to me that if one somehow drew Turn End chits 21 times in a row, that might make for a freakishly interesting battle of the Germans forced to commit multiple atrocities. Maybe today is the day...

It isn't. German Forced March is next, and sits waiting in the Pulled Chits area. If that wasn't portent enough, Zeppelins follow.

A chink of light sees Albert stir. Understaffed and thinly spread though his army is, it's not utterly without effect on the greater tapestry of the war. As though combing his mind for alternative realities, he seems to accept that Liege is ultimately doomed and, although he does send the 6th Infantry there, his main focus seems to be shoring up Namur, as all other units make their way in that direction.

Then it's Von Bulow. Grabbing Big Bertha and the Zeppelins, he arrives in Liege fists swinging. Liege takes four hits (one to the fort) and responds in depressing style, with a single hit. A bad start to hostilities for the Entente.

Entente Forced March arrives too late for Albert's troops, who have already taken their boots off.

Von Kluck manoeuvres into gear, going from Aachen to Tongeren to fight Albert's cavalry and the Guard Civique. If the Guard Civique were ever there, however, they are long gone now, and the cavalry falls with no damage to Von Kluck.

Turn End 2

Von Hausen seeks revenge at La-Roche-En-Ardenne by marching his entire army there. He only just gets it; his rusty infantry shoot up the entire city, and almost by chance hit the Guard Civique. Their last action is a heroic one, depleting Von Hausen's men further.

Turn End 3

Round Two - 7-9 August

Lanrezec joins from France.

German Forced March is first out of the butter dish. Followed by Turn End 1.

Fresh-faced Lanrezec, yet to become jaded by war, marches almost jauntily toward Namur, reaching Charleroi and sending his cavalry on to the fort itself.

Zeppelins hover overhead. Never a good sign.

Turn End 2!

Then it's Albert. Maybe it's the name, but he never seems particularly threatening. Nonetheless, he's game. The 5th scurry to Diest, the 1st and 2nd make Namur (thanks to Lanrezec and Guard Civique, Namur's stacking limit is reached) while the 6th remain trapped in Liege, pinned down by Von Bulow.

Von Kluck spots the same error I the Entente made the last time I played in his dreams: Albert's hurry south to Namur has left a clear passage through Belgium to the west - and the victory line. He strolls through the open fields of the campagne and then, when his soldiers are thinking about setting up camp, force-marches them on again, reaching Brussels at a shockingly early period in the war. This is why my career as a military tactician never took off.

Von Bulow attacks Liege. Liege falls. But in falling they deal 4 hits to the German army, who now only do damage when rolling '5's. Is the cause not lost?

Belgian Forced March - at this point, about as much use as Albert bolting upright in his cot and saying "I know!" before realising the day is long done.

Big Bertha reappears. The Entente feel their hearts sinking.

In contrast, Von Hausen's beats faster. Increasingly, in this version of events I perceive Von Hausen as a purple-faced deposit of unlimited rage. He marches to Marche and loads his guns for the coming assault on Namur.

Belgian Sabotage - another hot chocolate moment for Albert.

Turn End 3, and night falls on a dark three days for the Entente.

Round Three - 10-12 August

De Cary and Albrecht join the party.

But first out of the traps is the apoplectic Von Hausen. He doesn't care about stacking limits and bundles into Namur en masse. Both sides are like men in a bar room brawl, with Namur despite the fort and massed defences, inflicting a feeble single slap on Von Hausen. Von Hausen hits twice, and Namur is besieged.

Albrecht is on the move. Thumbing his nose at Longwy, he simply transits to Arlon and rubs his hands over the fire.

Then a series of feints: Turn End 1, Big Bertha, and Turn End 2.

De Cary finally does something. Ignoring Von Kluck, he leads half his men toward Namur to take on the serially-indignant Von Hausen. The Entente have accepted that Germany will cross the victory line and are focusing their efforts on holding Namur.

Zeppelins and German Forced March follow. Then: Von Kluck! If the name doesn't translate menacingly, the actions do. He marches south to Ath, dismissingly wipes out the Guard Civique, and that's the second objective achieved for the Germans.

Here is a photo from happier times:

Belgian Sabotage! Too late again, Albert.

Von Bulow takes three units along with Big Bertha and Zeppelins to Namur. Both sides deal two hits, and Von Bulow retreats.

Turn End 3

Round Four - 13-15 Aug

John French leaps into the butter dish. A turning of momentum, or a mere fly for the Germans?

Turn End 1 begins proceedings. German Forced March follows.

Here's Albrecht. He continues north to Marche. With Von Kluck still idling at Ath, everything still hinges on Namur for both sides. He's preparing to pile in there.

Sabotage is followed by Lanrezac: what damage can he do to Von Hausen? Trés peu, it turns out. Lanrezec falls back, and with him, perhaps, go any serious notions the Entente had about winning the game.

Turn End 2 gives the Entente hope. It's the hope that kills you.

De Cary marches to Givet, and force-marches his men on to Dimant. They can't reach Namur. Namur is desperately hoping the Germans have an attack of poor marksmenship, rusty guns, poisoned sausages, mutiny, whatever.

But no. Instead Von Hausen takes his beleaguered units back to Namur to continue the attrition. Namur hits him for two though - there's life in the old dog yet.

Von Kluck takes two units south to Valenciennes, anticipating French's surge north.

Then French's stiff upper leap precedes him over the horizon. (Actually, he may not have had much of an upper lip according to his biography, but that's for another time). As predicted, he navigates north, but is cuffed back by Von Kluck in a tight battle.

Von Bulow, with some desperation, returns to Namur with his battle-weary troops doing two hits. Namur finally comes out swinging and hits Von Bulow for four! Germany need Namur to collapse.

To that end, Albert marches his 5th Infantry south to Tienen. Big Bertha and the Zeppelins are little tardy for the Germans though - Turn End 3 arrives.

Round Five - 16-18 August

Belgian Forced March is followed by Sabotage. Could be worse. Then Von Hausen dementedly attacks Namur and delivers a single hit. Von Hausen's dreams of glory shatter like the glass he throws at his long-suffering staff.

Turn End 1. Aaargh!

It all happens thick and fast now.

Von Bulow attacks Namur, dealing one damage. Namur deals two in return. Begone, Von Bulow.... However, any joy is as short-lived as John Sedgewick's elephant-based cynicism, as no sooner has he gone and begone than Albrecht takes his place, dealing three damage to a rapidly-disintegrating Namur.

French uselessly fires in Von Kluck's direction.

Albert's final unit reaches Namur and valiantly enter the thick of it. Unfortunately they have no effect, and the Germans momentum quickens even more.

Turn End 2

De Cary reaches Namur at last. But his arrival is not as spectacular as the Entente were hoping - he takes big losses whilst barely denting the Germans encamped there.

Turn End 3

What does it all mean???

Round Six - 19-21 August

A real-life armistice ensues, as I have to take my kids off to a soccer tournament, before concluding the game some hours later. It'll all over over by Christmas... but in whose favour? The odds are on the Germans, as Namur is not so much a impregnable fortress as a cardboard play den populated by reeling injured. However if Lanrezac and De Cary can damage the massed forces outside it, and French can use the Forced March chit to weigh in as well, who knows?

Von Hausen and Albert are first out. Their armies are now so depleted that whatever they got up to - if anything - wasn't even worthy enough to make my notes. In fact from what I recall Hausen had one unit somewhere outside Namur, and Albert was merely in possession of a malnourished horse, regarding him balefully.

But here comes Lanrezac! Making a mockery of The Simpson's Homerism, he rides into Namur with guns a'blazin'. The Germans defeat him, and he rides out again.

Then the wheels of fate spin like balls of destiny in a tombola: Turn End 1, Turn End 2, German Forced March, Sabotage! Von Bulow attacks the Fort at Namur, but is repelled! Without the Entente Force March, French can only get as far as Maubeuge before stopping for a Gauloise and hoping round seven will arrive...

Belgian Forced March comes directly after him, rubbing the Entente's collective faces in it. And then it's Albrecht: coat billowing in the wind, gritty-faced officers around him sending out orders to the soldats at their disposal. If Von Hausen's bluster destined him to be an also-ran, Albrecht's fashionably-late, man-of-destiny stylings have been leading him inescapably towards this moment - knowing perhaps that the Entente's leadership (ie mine) never had the wisdom and wit to prevent it. His men take a single hit off the dying Namur before obliterating it with five hits out of five. The Germans don't just win, they win with a flourish usually reserved for catwalk models. Or catwalk assassins. Or something.

It's been a long August.


This game is great; even if I am not maximising the tactical potential of the Entente just yet I'm really enjoying it. I plan to add one more session report in the near future that - perchance - might even conclude with a victory for the Entente. That'd be nice.
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