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Subject: Escaping the noose rss

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Robert McCoy
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AAR Illusions of Glory Sep 29 to Oct 13, 2019

Note - This is a continuous report that was played in 3 sessions.

My initial assault on East Prussian did not turn out as well as expected. I didn't come up empty handed, but no real gains were achieved. This phenomenon seems to be the repeated curse of both sides as the Russian front has turned into a near stalemate after 8 turns (2 years) of fighting.

Turn 1
My initial forays into East Prussia were thrown back with both sides taking reinforcements early in the turn. In fact, Jonathan played a reinforcement card on the very first round, but I couldn't capitalize on the this temporary lull in CP ops. On the second round my worthy opponent took Lotzen back before I could take the fortress.

Cards: East Prussia and Oberost.

Turn 2
There were some battles around East Prussia, but the action shifted to Poland and Galicia. One experiment I tried was attacking with a one ops (single stack), with a Combat Card to assist. This didn't turn out too badly as the defenders hadn't entrenched yet.
Of note is during the first two turns I performed a one-ops round, that is no card was played. This was partially due to holding the Blue Britannia card in my hand, that I didn't want to play, but I couldn't discard either as it is the key to AP invasion capabilities. In a previous game I used it as an ops card instead of the event, and I regretted that later.

Cards: Galicia, Pritzwitt, Guns of August, and Ludendorff.

Both sides went to Limited War which introduces more cards with larger ops capabilities.

Turn 3 (Winter)
The Russians were able to invest Przemsyl from two spaces, but my worthy opponent quickly reinforced it. I finally got the Blue Britannia card out of my hand. I recorded an attack on Lodzen, but it was the last hurrah for flanking attacks that failed. Both sides had low-ops cards. Entrenching by both sides started to spread all along the front.

Cards: Rule Britannia, German Labor Strikes.

Turn 4
Some action SW of Warsaw at a place called Kielce. This is when my worthy opponent played that nasty Radio intercepts card and was quite miffed that it didn't result in victory. It was most unfair of me to roll high and match losses that don't result in a retreat.
At the end of this turn, both sides took more replacements and reinforcements, building up for the next cauldron battle. I finally upgraded Belgrade's defenses with an entrenchment. The CP aren't going to forget about the Serbs forever.

Cards: Landwehr to the Front, Army Sud (I never got this card this early - no fair)

Turn 5:
I played the Przemsyl card and the siege was on. The Austro-Hungarian garrison had to be replaced by fresh troops. My worthy opponent replied with German War Industry card. I attacked again, and then my worthy opponent hit me with the Czar Takes Command. Now we're playing dirty. Finally German troops are sent in, and Mackensen takes command. Well, there are other targets still around. It's time to load up on replacements.

Cards: Siege of Przemsyl, German War Industry, Czar takes Command, Mackensen, U-boats in the Mediterranean.

CP player goes to total war!

Turn 6:
CP goes into serious replacement mode to restore his depleted legions with three replacement cards played this turn, so I must have been doing something right. I attend to peripheral matters with an eye to getting up to total war. So that I don't get any ambitious ideas during this interlude and to make life difficult, the CP player unleashes his 5th column card in the form of Rasputin.

Cards: Royal Navy Blockade, Polotov, Intervention in the Balkans, Rasputin, unrestricted U-boats.

Turn 7:
Finally! Those foot dragging Italians enter the war — the card was at the bottom of the deck. My worthy opponent was ready, however, having large contingents of Austro-Hungarian and even some Germans malingering in the two regions north of Italy. He quickly moved his troops up into position.
As a distraction from the Italian front, I attack Czernowitz and take it! If you try and try, you succeed at last with a 6/1 split on the dice. My worthy opponent can never understand why these things happen to him and complained about having to spend an op point to replace the entrenchment when he immediately took Czernowitz back.
The Italians launched a series of attacks, but the CP counter-attacks were adroit, and an Italian LCU was permanently eliminated.
I continued to take care of housekeeping with more organization cards. The Germans, of course, ordered more reinforcements.

Cards: Italy in the War, Sarrail, Stavka and Russian Railway troops.

Turn 8:
The Italians launched an attack against Gorizia and managed to destroy the fortress before being driven out. Believe it or not, this is the first fortress that has been destroyed in this game. There were more battles in Italy, and I even had the Serbs attack the Austro-Hungarian garrison in front of Belgrade which retreated, but unfortunately I didn't have the muscle to follow-up.
As things petered out on the Italian front, I played the Convoys card to replace the spent Serbs. Then on the 5th round, my worthy opponent played the 'Bulgaria' card. I again was blamed for its delay in play. It's OK I have big shoulders when it comes to this kind of thing. I used the 'Greece' card for replacements as not having any invasion cards, and knowing the total war deck could bury them it became apparent that by bringing Greece into the war it could well become a big fat target for the Turks.

To be frank, it would take me 3 rounds to disassemble an AP LCU, strategically redeploy its constituents and reassemble them in Salonika. This is more than ample time for the Turkish army to overrun half the country. An invasion card to remedy the situation is not guaranteed.

Cards:
Convoys, Bulgaria

Note on cards played: I lost sight of when the U-boat cards were played, so the turn they were played is my best guess.

Map situation — beginning of Summer 1916

What didn't happen:
Neither side has lost a victory space. The Russian front is very similar to what it was at the beginning of the game in summer 1914. This means no real movement along the front by either side. The Western front has got nothing on us.
The Russian front is well-entrenched with most stacks at full-strength on both sides. The Russians actually have reserves?! Though many bloody battles have been fought, there has been no irreparable disasters.
As noted above, only one fortress has been destroyed — who said they were obsolete?

VP level is 14.

The Serbs still hold Belgrade and are entrenched there. They have not collapsed
Romania and Greece are still neutral
Entrenching has begun in the Italian front. It could become quite static without a breakthrough in the next two turns.

Minor allies have been most reluctant to show-up for the Great War, but when they do, the situation becomes quite fluid.
There are two generals on the map, Sarrail (AP) in Belgrade and Mackenson (CP) in Przemsyl.

Strategic note: At present, there is a strong stack of Germans with artillery inside Serbia positioned to take the southern approaches to Belgrade. Sud army is about to strike.
The Allied player can now ship SCUs to Greece as the Convoys card cancels the unrestricted U-boat war in part as Albanian ports are still closed to SCU redeployment.

Turn 9 (Summer 1916)
Serbs stoutly defend in south of Belgrade with a forced march!
Warsaw attacked twice but holds.
Czernowitz attacked by the Russians, but it holds.
Result was a CP player more frustrated than a AP player who was only slightly miffed.
The AP player took replacements while the CP player played Austro-Hungarian reinforcements.

Cards Played: Russian Food Riots.

Turn 10 (Fall 1916)
In this turn the action shifted to Italy, but the AP shut it down by playing the Conrad card. The CP player replied by taking reinforcements and then grinding up more Serbs. As the icing on the cake for the CP player, the AP's replacements were voided on the final round by the play of Russian Railroad Card. The first invasion card showed up (Athens), and the French were dispatched to the invasion space, but I did not want to risk Greece declaring war on the AP, so I did not enter Athens.

Cards Played: Conrad, Athens Invasion (November Events), and Russian Railroad Collapse.

Turn 11 (Winter 1917)
The Romanians perform their historical role and declared war on the CP at not a very good time, at least for them.
The AP player slapped down the Turkish desertions card in preparation for Romania. The CP player replied with the Black Hand Card putting a Serbian LCU in the destroyed box. Then the AP player played the Romania card.
The CP player then played two powerful Operation cards, taking Belgrade and sending the Romanians reeling back and even putting some out of supply.
To the AP player's chagrin, Bucharest was attacked.
To add insult to injury, I lost a further VP because I had a FR/BR mandated attack, but the logistics of getting an LCU into position for an attack was beyond my grasp as I was desperately trying to stabilize my lines.
As a bonus, the CP player had all the time in the world to play the Army of the Bug card. From a momentum point of view, it was an almost perfect turn for the CP.

Cards played: Turkish Desertions, Black Hand, Romania, Brusilov, and Army of the Bug.

Turn 12 (Spring 1917)
More operations around Romania with Falkenhyn making his entrance. A mighty stack of Turks started to attack up the Black Sea coast. The AP player did what he could by playing more Reinforcement cards for both the Italian and Russians, another Replacement card and finally getting a chance to play the Salonika invasion card squeezed in on Round 4. However, before all that, the first card the AP player activated was the Serbs Return card. The Serbs are back already!? The CP taking advantage of the AP players pre-occupation slipped in a Turkish Reinforcement Card and took more replacements as well.

Cards played: The Serbs Return, Russian Guard Reinforcements, Salonika, Falkenhyn, Turkish and Italian Reinforcements

Turn 13 (Summer 1917)
Another turn where I had to spend a lot of Operation Cards to keep my lines intact in the Balkans and Italy. First the CP player used the Hoffman card with a nasty CC card called 'Von Beslow' that hurt the Italians. Then the focus changed to Romania where Bucharest finally fell. Even playing the Kerensky offensive didn't seem to help, and the Brusilov General met his fate at the hands of Falkenhyn. Then to make things grim, the Fort Rupell card was played and Salonika was threatened. However, both sides were feeling the attrition affect and took replacements in the final round.

Cards Played: Kerensky Offensive, Hoffman, Fort Rupell.

Turn 14 (Fall 1917)
Brusilov's ghost strikes back!. In the first round I played a '2' SR card and sent two Br SCUs into Salonika to shore up the defenses. Then the CP player went once more into the breach at Warsaw and at long last pushed the Russians out. This is when I played the Brusilov Offensive card. But instead of counter-attacking Warsaw, I attacked Allenstein and pushed the Germans out. A four round slugfest followed. The amount of casualties generated by this card was horrendous. When the dust settled, the CP still had Warsaw, and as a last round consolation, I took Czernowitz again. This time I might keep it. I didn't feel too bad being penalized a VP for not fulfilling my Mandated Offensive in the Balkans.
Neither side played any reinforcement or replacement cards. Our lines have been substantially thinned in the northern sector. The next turn could be interesting.

Cards Played: The Brusilov Offensive

The VP total stands at 17.
Four turns left to play.

Recess: We were both somewhat stunned by the power of this Brusilov Offensive Card which for some reason had not been played in the previous game which went to the end.

On the Brusilov Offensive: It is advisable that a CP player takes immediate note when the Brusilov leader appears on the map. Some care should be taken to prepare defensive positions and beef-up troops for a counter-attack. This is the best way to defeat such an offensive as the Russians are vulnerable when defending outside of an entrenched space.

For the Russians there are three considerations.

1. The Brusilov General. A +4 would have been nice to see, so try not to get him killed before the offensive card is available like I did.

2. The attacks this card generates are best used where the front line has the most troops available and there are no natural defensive terrain features.

3. Reserves help, as it might turn out to be a bloody affair. And some cavalry is a plus.

Some players feel this card is too powerful, but the designer sticks to his guns on its potent effects — see below.

Turn 15 (Winter 1918)

Initially as the Allies, I took a high ops card and mostly ran back to my entrenchments, I got the Serbs ready for a bad attack against the Central Powers, mandated offensive. The CP player was quick to follow and did an attack on Lomza which held (for now).

For the rest of the turn, it was a series of movements with the play of replacement cards, 3 for the CP and 2 for the AP.

Turn 16 (Spring 1918)

This was a disastrous turn for the Allied player. When you are saddled with low-point cards, it may not be a time to take chances as I discovered. Suddenly the initiative passes to the other player, and you can find yourself scrambling to plug holes. And if luck deserts you just at the wrong time, welcome to Murphy's law in action.

Both Lomza and Grodno were lost to the Central powers player, and another VP was lost due to not fulfilling a mandated offensive in the Balkans which was indeed a sideshow for the rest of the game. My other mistake was using my only 4 strength card as ops when I really needed replacements.

Turn 17 (Summer 1918)

Both player's had high-point cards, but the momentum was with the Central Powers who ripped a big hole in the Russian lines in the north. Though Brest-Litovsk was surrounded, the CP player made the oversight or had forgotten it was its own supply source, so there was no attrition there. On the other hand, my lines had been so thinned in the northern sector of the front, the Germans walked into Minsk. I believe Riga was also under siege, but it did not fall until next turn. At the end of the turn CP player was able to place his first Uprising marker which he put in Kiev.

Turn 18 (Fall 1918)

This turn turned out to be quite interesting. The CP was trying to grab VP spaces while I was trying to do damage control. The game took on a 'Go' like quality of positional play, tactical retreats and maintaining supply to key fortresses.

As it turned out, the CP focused on Brest-Litovsk, and its garrison army was destroyed. The fortress was then put under siege, falling by the end of the turn. Lutsk was attacked, but held against Mackensen. The French waved the flag in Athens, and neutral Greece stayed neutral. The mighty fortress of Ivangorod resisted all siege attempts for the last two turns of the game.

Ironically, the CP player could start the Russian Revolution this turn, but found that it wouldn't have an effect until next turn — so it was not a bad ops card.

Game post-analysis

This game could be characterized by both sides escaping the 'noose' at the last moment.

VPs were 25 giving the CP player a marginal victory.

Allied snag to be wary of — the Bulgarians declare war late in the game, and though the Britannia card has been played, the invasion cards have come and gone, then total war is triggered, and those cards get buried deep in the deck. This caused a lot of problems with Mandated Offensives in the Balkans. So the +2 for playing the Stavka and Brusilov cards wasn't such a big bonus for me in this instance.

Review: Often events outside of the game appear to have a marginal effect such as the Verdun card. As the AP player I would rarely, if ever, use it. Operation/replacement points are usually too precious, and the VP it generates would be neutralized by taking off only one German corps — a price the CP is willing to pay. Taking off a Turkish LCU is a different matter.

1918 - there is no real penalty or reward in the game for sending German units to the western front during this time. I feel this is something to be considered. May be another all replacements lost card that can be used against the Germans after the Revolution is triggered.
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The next game:

After rolling for sides, I am playing the Allies again.
This time I chose the Galicia card and my worthy opponent chose the Oberost card.

Turn 1 (Summer 1914)

My initial attacks against the Austro-Hungarians go well and Czernowitz falls. I follow this with three (3) ops cards and even enter the Przemysl space. My worthy opponent was playing one ops card after another to stabilize his front. He really didn't have to sweat it though as I felt obliged under duress to play a Russian Reinforcement card followed by the Royal Navy blockade card on the fifth and sixth rounds which are both (2) strength cards and always a good thing to get out of the deck permanently. So my units in Przemsyl were tossed out without too much difficulty.

There were some indirect benefits, however, from this turn. Though neither the Germans or Russians received replacements, they both received reinforcements, but the Austro-Hungarians received neither replacements nor reinforcements on the first turn. And my worthy opponent did mildly whine when he played the 'Guns of August' card saying that it was wasted at this time. And I will just have to suck it up and accept the VP given by the Royal Navy blockade card.


Event Cards Played: Royal Navy Blockade, Galicia offensive, Oberost, Guns of August.

The remainder of this game:
Played Oct 20, 2019
Fall 1914:

I launched an offensive in East Prussia and took Lodzen by the third round. My worthy opponent couldn't mount a good counter-attack, and I believe Lodzen falling caught him off guard.

Both sides anticipated further blood-letting and played reinforcements and replacement cards in the latter rounds.

event cards played: Drive on East Prussia, German railway troops.

Winter 1915: Russian attacks stymied!

This turn I launched attacks on Allenstein and Przemsyl, but the CP player was ready. In the former attack, I made a bad roll while a CC card helped the defenders, and at Przemsyl, the diabolical Austro-Hungarians used the green gas Combat Card, some German technicians were noticed.

To deter the Germans from counter-attacking this turn, I played the Pritzwitt card in the second round, this just seemed to provoke the CP player to utilize more replacement and reinforcement cards.

Noticing Krakov was undermanned, I hastily attacked it on the last round, but the sole LCU and fort held out. The CP player just ordered more replacements and promptly placed them in Krakov during the turn inter-phase. However, I hadn't quite given up on attacking that place.

The Russian pioneers had been busy and three spaces inside East Prussia were now entrenched. One entrenchment had been done the turn before.

event cards played: Prittzwitt, Polivanov (nice! as the Russian War Material Shortage card could not be played now).

Spring 2015: Campaign in Serbia

The CP player attacked Montenegro on the first round and took it. I decided to counter-attack out of Belgrade with the Plehv Combat Card and hurt some Austro-Hungarians, but the CP player would not be distracted from his goal. He attacked Kragujevec south of Belgrade three times this turn, and finally took it.

Though I didn't take any replacements this turn, in anticipation of Serbia falling I played the Kitchener card so AP minor allied replacements would come to Mother Russia.

event cards played: Kitchener, U-boats in the Med.

Summer 2015: Serbs collapse

To help out the Serbs, I played the Conrad card, but it was not enough. The CP player just started to use Germans instead who took less losses. I believe I tried an attack or two by the Russians, but the beleaguered Serbs surrendered Belgrade by the end of the turn.

event cards played: Conrad, German War Industry, Mackensen.

Autumn 2015: Italy Enters the War!

I played the ITALY card right away, and the CP player replied with a 5 ops card (Bulgaria!?), and he easily moved his troops into position into Italy's northern frontier.

Then to distract the CP player, I plunked down the Seige or Przemsyl card and attacked Krakov instead. This was when a kind of finger extension formed in the Russian lines, so I could attack from three spaces next to Krakov. In response to this cheek on my part, the CP player played two hefty reinforcement cards. Though none of my attacks succeeded this turn a substantial amount of troops were not sent to the Italian front where I believe they could have made a difference.

event cards played: Italy, Siege of Pryzemsyl, Sud Army, Army of the Bug.

Winter 1916: Russian withdrawal around Krakov

Seeing the jig was up outside Krakov, I played a 4 ops card and completely withdrew from the three spaces with no loss. In the subsequent rounds I dug in at Warsaw and Ivangorod.

Of note an Austro-Hungarian reinforcement card was affected by poor troop quality.

event cards played: Rule Britannia

Spring 1916: CP player resigns.

The Russian Army was well built-up. Their national will was 2 above the at start level (14). And the front line offered very few weak points, if any.
A frustrating war of attrition was a very real possibility.

My worthy opponent complained of a very bad run of cards. Or perhaps, as the AP player, I had a good run of cards and was becoming more flexible about the idea of when they should be played. For instance, the Stavka card (4 ops) can be of decisive utility in the first two turns of the game as opposed to being played as an event.

My only criticism of my opponent's play was his habit of parking Mackensen in Przemsyl to prevent the Russians attacking there. I always believed this unit is better used in the attack, not defense. The Russians simply attack anywhere else.

We decided to call the game an 'early' endurance victory as per the short game scenario. I believe the VP level was 11 or 12.

take care
Rob M'cCoy


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Doug DeMoss
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turboelec wrote:

My initial assault on East Prussian did not turn out as well as expected. I didn't come up empty handed, but no real gains were achieved.

Ha - after a couple of games, not coming up empty handed is BETTER than I expect for assaulting East Prussia.
 
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Robert McCoy
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Dear Doug: I think you are underestimating the Russian offensive potential in the first turn.

It is quite possible for the Russians to surround Lodzen and put it out of supply on an early round of the first turn. I know because I was the CP player and had that unfortunate experience. Then, Lotzen is attacked on the next round while it is out of supply which means they fire on the SCU table. Any retreat results in the permanent loss of the German LCU that starts there.

Further, the CP's life can be complicated by the lack of a German reinforcement card on the first turn. I calculate this to be about a 20% chance. In this case, holding the line gets challenging and counter-attacking impossible. Consequently, the CP player has to look to the Austro-Hungarians to carry the battle which has its own pitfalls.

take care
Rob M'cCoy
 
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Doug DeMoss
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The Russians can only surround the units in Lotzen if they don't move out as soon as the Russians enter East Prussia; I Res corps in Allenstein ensures that.

I'm not underestimating Russian offensive potential, but it sounds like your CP player did. The best CP response is to refuse to fight east of Konigsberg in 1914, IMO, at least until it becomes safe to do so. Move the units out of Lotzen - Marienburg looks like a decent place to stash them temporarily, Thorn probably even better because it reverses the situation by making Tannenberg less tenable for the Russians. Ideally, abandon Allenstein and Insterburg at the same time as Lotzen, because you have potential retreat issues there as well (I'm assuming the Russians have occupied both Tannenberg and Tilsit - if not, one of those may be a better place to go, and Allenstein and Insterburg may not need to be abandoned). Hell, if pressed, I'd even abandon Konigsberg rather than risk permanently losing units. It'll all come back shortly after the German reinforcements arrive.

The problem the Russians have is that sure, they can take that ground. It just doesn't do them much good, and it take OPS that could be better used hitting the Austrian corpse that Germany is shackled to.
 
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