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Subject: Friedrich PBEM Session Diary: Austria. Report 1 of ? rss

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Dirk Knemeyer
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Recently I've been playing my first game of Friedrich via email using Cyberboard. I bought the game years ago but have not had a chance to get it on the table. I'm pleased that a fellow BGG'er got four of us together to give it a run. I'm having a great time.

The game is still ongoing; I am going to post a report each time I think the action has gotten "far enough ahead" so that my current post does not give away information that influence our game. I hope you all enjoy hearing the stream-of-consciousness planning and reactions from a complete n00b.

***

PREGAME
It is a bit terrifying to be Maria Theresa in the face of the impressive Prussian armies. With Friedrich himself, defiantly occupying Oschatz with his second Winterfeldt, flanked in Strehlen by the competent von Schwerin and Keith, there can be little question that the majority of the early Prussian focus will be decidedly south.

In preparing my generals for the struggle ahead, I considered the basic facts of the matter:

1. Prussia must defend all fronts in some measure. Even if they do bring a majority of their might down upon our fair forces, if they hope to survive they must balance their might

2. With an average of four armies per general, Prussia will likely need to have some strong stacks and some weak. We should expect that at least one if not two generals deployed to the south will have few armies in the stack and be used for positioning and mis-direction. This should inform our strategy

3. Frederick himself is a lightning rod. We should expect that he will either be assigned a powerful army or be used as a blind with a weaker deployment that is treated as strong

4. Given the presence of the Hannoverians, we should avoid a western flanking manoeuvre. While with some fortune we could combine with the French to deal the Prussians some considerable losses, these would largely benefit the French. Let the French fend for themselves

5. A strong move to the north would likely be suicidal. It would go between four of his generals and be subject to a simple collapsing manoeuvre.

6. The east...ah, the east. The fair lands of Silesia, which only recently were ours. Von Schwerin and Keith are somewhat isolated there. While we must assume that they have a combined strength of 12 armies which is nothing to sneeze at, our potential 30 armies strong is more than a match for them.

So, our intent is to go east. To be clear, this may be easily thwarted. If both Friedrich and Winterfeldt make strong moves east the balance of the board may change. But we must assume that no more than one would make such a move. We would still have numbers, and significantly.

The Prussians will move first and give us the opportunity to respond. Let us not think more on tactics until our antagonists share their intentions and instead determine our army deployment:

For the Reichsarmee the deployment is clear: 6 armies under the steady hand of Hildburghausen. He will certainly stay west but his manoeuvres will be dictated by the filthy Prussians.

For the fair Austrians, we prefer to attempt some misdirection. We will give the bulk of our might to our more junior leaders, von Lothringen, von Laudon and von Lacy. They shall march with a full eight army's might. This will be unexpected and, combined with faux aggressiveness from Daun and von Browne, may even afford us a clever tactical advantage. That leaves six armies to split between our seniors. Let us assign three to each, so that no one is truly vulnerable.

The plan seems sound! Our troops have sky-high morale! Friedrich, we shall be up to the considerable challenge you pose.


PRUSSIA+HANNOVER - TURN 1
PRUSSIA DRAW: 7 cards; 7 card hand total
HANNOVER DRAW: 2 cards, 2 card hand total

Not surprisingly, the Prussian is moving menacingly south and east with about the maximum number of generals one could reasonably expect. My intent will be to pull south and east myself, to stretch his lines as much as I can while marshaling my strength. If I am passive enough, and my allies are aggressive, I may succeed in getting him to re-deploy and then hit him hard as he begins to shift to another theatre.


RUSSIA+SWEDEN - TURN 1
RUSSIA DRAW: 4 cards, 4 card hand total
SWEDEN DRAW: 1 card, 1 card hand total

The Russian is taking a very aggressive posture, which I like! He is trying to isolate Dohna and von Lehnwaldt in very direct ways. More than playing into what I want to do - get Prussia moving in a different direction before attacking - his move seems like an excellent first Russian move.


AUSTRIA+IMPERIAL ARMY - TURN 1
AUSTRIAN DRAW: 5c, 7c, 11c, 5h, 7h
IMPERIAL ARMY DRAW: 8c

Well, this changes things a bit. I pulled three clubs and two hearts. While the totals are not particularly strong (23, 12) and the draw overall was mediocre, it might behoove me to get into clubs and try to get some early successes before the Prussian hand becomes too deep. Even the Imperial Army hand has 8 clubs! Considering the board, I want to ensure that:

1. Prussia cannot attack me on turn two in any way
2. I begin deploying toward clubs in particular but hearts as well
3. I look for flexible places to operate with good lines of retreat
4. If possible, seek out one or two objectives I can quietly take

To pay off these considerations, I order von Daun from Bruen to Sternberg. This serves the objective of getting close to the clubs while also appearing to be aggressive: I am close to von Schwerin and seem to be coming up to cause damage, when in reality the roads keep us apart. To add to the sense of aggression and northeastern movement, I similarly order von Laudon from Olmuetz to Troppau. Swinging the supply wagon in behind them - Pardubitz to Brod - I suspect this will cause Prussia to commit both von Schwerin and Keith to this insurgency and significantly weaken his ability to counter the various threats. At this point I really want France to be aggressive as well and will need to include some "propaganda" in my group messages to ensure this.

In order to get into clubs I order more aggressive moves with von Browne and von Lothringen to move in concert from Melnik to Friedland. This is a nice position that will draw in the Prussians while giving me many ways to feint as necessary. The supply train moves north as well from Beraun to Leitmeritz.

Von Lacy was a more difficult choice. My tendency was to move him to Hlinsko and compel the Prussian to battle in hearts, while further overloading my northeast. However, I must assume he does not expect von Lacy to be as strong as the eight armies assigned to him, so better might be to get him in position for a dastardly counterpunch if Friedrich or von Winterfeldt become bullish. Considering all of this, von Lacy's orders were to march from Tabor to Prag.

As for the Imperial Army, I simply want to get them into the fray as rapidly as possible, so they can begin to work in coordination with the Austrians and create difficult choices for Prussia. Clubs are smack in the middle of this area which is also a good thing. In that light ordering von Hildburghausen from Hildburghausen to Poessneck seemed academic. Likewise, moving the supply train from Erlangen to Kulmbach was a clear decision.

Acknowledging my inexperience and thus lack of meta understanding, I am very happy with my initial moves. All of my strategic considerations above were accomplished. If there is one thing I am unsure about, it is that I ended up being very aggressive as opposed to trying not to keep Prussia's attention and attract a major show of opposing force. This was ultimately the product of Russia's brand of aggression and my card draws, which seemed to give me a small window to exploit potential mismatches in clubs particularly. Time will tell if my conclusions and actions were sound.


FRANCE - TURN 1
FRANCE DRAW: 3 cards, 3 card total

This seems like another good first move. France is also putting pressure on Prussia and Hannover, and doing so without making himself vulnerable. It may just be my total inexperience, but it seems like all of the allied moves this turn were really skillful. I suppose the real fine cutting is going to come once there are harder choices and we have no option but to compete with the Prussian.


BETWEEN TURNS 1 & 2
I think the second turn is going to be the one that sets the trajectory for the rest of the game. Prussia will need to commit Friedrich and Winterfeldt either to me or elsewhere, as well as keep both von Schwerin and Keith committed in the south or else knifing up to assist a potentially beleaguered Russian front. My best possible case would be dealing with three Prussian Generals, and the worst would be five. I'm going to guess the actual number is thus four, reflecting balance by our antagonist.


PRUSSIA+HANNOVER - TURN 2
PRUSSIA DRAW: 7 cards, 14 cards total
HANNOVER DRAW: 2 cards, 4 cards total

Well, the Prussian net seems to be cast: it appears that he will give me a frontage of four generals - Winterfeld to the west, Friedrich in the middle and von Schwerin and Keith to the east. Heinrich is technically towards me as well but I see him as a reserve who will commit north or south based on the following turns. Von Seydlitz is clearly committed to the west while Dohna is in the north and von Lehwaldt left to his own devices in East Prussia. His deployment all generally seems sensible, with the exception of von Lehwaldt who seems exposed. He currently has a nice mix of suits across all of his generals - two in each! - and thus is not tipping his hand on potential strength or weakness. This seems a good move.

Hannover's deployment is extremely defensive. It would be fun to play France in this one! I might bring Richelieu and Chevert together in an attempt to overwhelm Ferdinand in the north.


RUSSIA+SWEDEN - TURN 2
RUSSIA DRAW: 4 cards, 8 cards total
SWEDEN DRAW: 1 card, 2 cards total

The pinch of von Lehwaldt is just what I had hoped! I think Prussia made a mistake by leaving him so exposed. At the moment the battle is not yet resolved; before the game I would have expected Prussia to have few armies there, but unless it was a total blunder I must expect they have a bigger stack there to punch the Russian in the mouth, as he was simply inviting this strong Russian attack! I can't imagine it is sound strategy for Prussia to voluntarily surrender East Prussia on Turn 2.

Saltikov's moves are much more tentative: he is advancing slowly and distinctly avoiding combat with von Dohna. While this gives him the potential of a stronger and more balanced north-south front if von Lehwaldt is quickly annihilated and his other generals catch up, I must assume in such a case Heinrich would shift north to compensate. Why not pick off Neu Stettin - at least - or otherwise try to stretch von Dohna northward? This would also help Sweden!

I'm loving Sweden's move! Scooping a quick objective while staying safely out of reach, and at the same time getting his supply train onto a main road. He may succeed in drawing von Seydlitz or von Dohna from their assignments and make Prussia stock up on antacid in the process. Although looking more carefully, as Sweden I might prefer to first take Pritzwalk and then shift east. Now he must either leave Pritzwalk unconquered or swing back to his west before going east. That would be a waste of time, and time is not on our side!

COMBAT INFO:
Russia battles with 3 and 4, showing 10 armies
Prussia battles with 8, showing 5 armies (4 post-combat)

Prussia plays 4h and retreats one

POST-COMBAT: Now I am seeing the strength of Prussia's move: he was cooly able to retreat only one space after spending just a meager 4h. However he is now vulnerable to an auto-elimination as early as turn four: if Russia splits his larger stack and comes in from three sides he can potentially destroy the Prussian. That said, with Bernard putting five armies under von Seydlitz I must assume he will not go quietly!

(this game diary will pick up in the next week of so with Austria's turn two and beyond...)
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Gene Baker
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Games with dragons, spaceships, and bears aren’t wargames. Call them conquest games or strategy games or crap but they aren’t wargames.
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You’re doing a session report of a game you’ve never played? The Austria forces are brave! Look forward to further reports.
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Anton Telle
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Wow, that will be a long report!
 
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Richard Hecker
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Dirk, brave of you to do this, especially while the game is playing. A few screen shots of the board, which should be extractable from Cyberboard, would help a lot in bringing your descriptions to life.

(Note to external readers: I am the Russian/Swedish player in this game.)

dknemeyer wrote:
He is trying to isolate Dohna and von Lehnwaldt in very direct ways. More than playing into what I want to do - get Prussia moving in a different direction before attacking - his move seems like an excellent first Russian move.

To my thinking and watching other players -- this, I note, is my first time as Russia -- I must send 1-3 generals to East Prussia and 3-1 to the Prussian heartland; the choice I have is in the ratio of generals. It seems better to clear East Prussia first to avoid a two-front war, but the cost will be time in shifting to the Prussian mainland. A good hand of spades or hearts will speed up the East Prussian battles. With three generals in East Prussia I can't see this being completed before turn 4, nor ongoing after turn 7. Add up to three turns to shift forces to the Prussian mainland, and it is between turns 7 to 10 before Russia really engages. Of course Elisabeth may have opted out of life at turn 7, and the probability will rise with each turn thereafter. Tough choices, but so long as Prussia does not fight too hard all ought to be well.

In essence, my success directly depends on Austria and France taking the initiative here. How can I motivate them if they choose to play more passively? Here I bank on my allies being newish to the game and choosing a forceful advance!

dknemeyer wrote:
I can't imagine it is sound strategy for Prussia to voluntarily surrender East Prussia on Turn 2.

I would think there is some sound strategy if it allows Prussia to hunt Russian baggage trains! Like France, loss of baggage will kill any Russian offensive and demand a few turns to regroup. With the time pressure of Russia, that sounds like a strategy worth at least considering.

dknemeyer wrote:
Saltikov's moves are much more tentative

Saltikov is a lure to an aggressive Prussian. Until I have the measure of the Prussian player, let me dangle this target to see what he chooses to do and how he plays. Prussia does not know how strong Saltikov is. Aggression would cost cards that the Prussian may wish to save. Shifting to a defensive position means there are a number of cities that neither Russia nor Sweden can take. A defensive Prussian sounds sensible to me. It will be curious to reveal the relative strengths when combat is joined.

dknemeyer wrote:
I'm loving Sweden's move! Scooping a quick objective while staying safely out of reach, and at the same time getting his supply train onto a main road. He may succeed in drawing von Seydlitz or von Dohna from their assignments and make Prussia stock up on antacid in the process. Although looking more carefully, as Sweden I might prefer to first take Pritzwalk and then shift east. Now he must either leave Pritzwalk unconquered or swing back to his west before going east. That would be a waste of time, and time is not on our side!

Looking in hindsight, taking the second-order objectives to Neuruppin to put more pressure on Prussia is sound, especially if Russia remains in the game long-term. What was a mistake is to pull closer to Berlin and leave Malchin unconquered. Backtracking is costly for the time-pressed Swedes!

At the time my thinking was to land a Swedish general on Berlin, with the purpose of throwing Prussia into a fit, that I had sneaked through -- plus 8 points to replace each army would help too. However that would have provoked an attack early, and Sweden cannot afford that.

On the other hand (writing as of turn 6) Prussia has ignored me and my hand is building up nicely. Watch this space.

dknemeyer wrote:
Now I am seeing the strength of Prussia's move: he was cooly able to retreat only one space after spending just a meager 4h.

That is quite true, but on the other hand he lost an army from P8 (6 points to replace), spent a card, and revealed his strength.

There were two other good outcomes to this.
(a) I showed the coalition that I can play aggressively and took the first swing. If there are breakdowns in gaming relationships before I start moving to the Prussian mainland -- for example Austria and/or France claiming I am doing it light in future turns -- I could claim honestly that I have taken some hits for the team. As noted above, I needed some lever to encourage Austria and France that aggression could be good. I hoped -- and it worked -- that they would follow that lead.
(b) I had no hearts nor reserves to play! Prussia did not know my hand and this attack covered the weakness. If Prussia chose to play aggressively, I would have bled badly. This was a desperate risk that payed off. Prussia retreated into spades, of which I had plenty. Now it is just time.
 
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