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Subject: 1917 - 95 Years of Hindsight rss

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Robert Lloyd
United Kingdom
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A final installment in this AAR.


27 January - February 1917 - VPs 16.

The Bolsheviks have started to form a Red Army which shows some benefit in the continuing Russian effort to recover Minsk although it is certainly too little too late. The Red Army does not appear at Odessa where the Russian defence is rapidly failing. The Central Powers difficulties in Romania are now largely solved. The Schafer-Boyadel Corps is rescued and the Romanians cleared out of Rustchuk. The advance on Bucharest and Ploesti is resumed as Jassy and Galatz fall to the Germans. The Balkan and Italian Fronts are quiet due to bad weather. In Iraq the Anglo-Indian Army makes an attack on Turkish positions around Cstephon and suffer heavy losses. The British forces in Sinai are engaged in extending their logistical train to the Palestinian border. On the Western Front, the British and French cooperate to attack the Arras salient and gain some ground on the southern flank. A British - Canadian attack on Arras itself is perhaps the most incompetent major attack of the war to date. The Germans, show more skill in overrunning the Portuguese Corps and a British Division on the Flanders sector near Dunkirk. The main German effort is in Lorraine where a major struggle is developing as the Germans try and breakthrough to Nancy employing new artillery tactics introduced by Bruchmuller. For the moment, the French are resisting fiercely guided by their slogan "They Shall Not Pass".

The Arras attack was supposed to be a 1-1 on Table B. When all the shifts were calculated it was 1-2.

28 March 1917 - VPs 18 - CP Gain: Bucharest; Odessa.

The Romanians collapse as the Sud Armee conquers Bucharest. The Russians are also in terminal decline as Odessa falls to the Germans. Free from the demands of the Eastern Front, the Austrians are on the attack in the Balkans and in the Alps where they push the Italians back from the Trent fortress line. On the Western Front, the British manage to squeeze the Arras salient so that German communications with the city run through a very narrow strip of territory. The fighting in Lorraine continues with the French still holding ground on the pre-war border. In the Near East the British are attacking Ctesphon and the Turks are having transportation difficulties moving units between Fronts after the end of the Caucasus campaign.

This is the final death blow for Russia. In the Strategic Turn, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk will be applied, the US will enter, and the CP will shift initiative to the West.

29 April 1917 - VPs 18.

Convoys contain the U-Boat menace which had lately caused the British some trouble. The Germans now attempt to win on the Western Front with a Stosstruppen offensive in Lorraine employing the first six trained Divisions. The results are highly favourable with the French pushed back to the approaches to Nancy and St Mihiel. The British send the Canadian Corps to Verdun to help the French. The Austrians enjoy success in defeating Serbian attacks north of Monastir and in the Trentino they push on to the pre-war border. With the peace treaty with Russia, action in the East is limited to containing the remnants of the Romanians and garrison duties. The British capture Ctesphon and make an initial attack on the Gaza-Beersheba line.

An initiative switch, Stosstruppen and an OHL attack add up to 19 French units eliminated this turn. Apart from the Stosstruppen, the Germans have concentrated many other elite units in Lorraine and have considerable superiority of force.

30 - May 1917 - VPs 17 - AP Gain: Baghdad.

The Germans capture St Mihiel and make a major effort to capture Nancy, defeated by the resistance of one crucial French Division. The Allies stabilise the situation with a counter-attack using the Canadians. At Arras, the British throw in the Royal Tank Corps and would have captured the city but for their rigid planning. The Trentino offensive continues with Austrians now advancing onto Italian territory. The British capture Baghdad, but the summer heat suspends their activity on the Palestine Front.

The AP would dearly love to recover Arras as it would be a small insurance against French Mutiny which has not yet been drawn. The CP has already drawn the second Stosstruppen chit so the German attacks can only get worse.

31 June 1917 - VPs 17.

The Germans suspend the direct attack on Nancy for the time being but apply continuing pressure on the flanks. They acquire a significant bridgehead across the Meuse opposite St Mihiel and the situation of Verdun is causing the Allies concern. The major German success is in Flanders where a devastating attack on Ypres collapsed a section of the British Front and caused the Belgians' morale to collapse. This happened because the British had concentrated further south and they in fact took Lens despite the disaster a few miles to the north. The British also advance further south towards the Hindenburg line covering Cambrai where the Germans hold a defensive front. In Italy, the Italians weaken their Isonzo Front in order to transfer troops to protect Vicenza and Verona. Four German Divisions arrive in Trent.

The British defeat at Ypres was due to a German pincer cutting off a salient and the worst single battle for the British to date.

32 July 1917 - VPs 18 - CP Gain: Verdun, Both sides take Emergency Replacements in the prior Strategic Turn.

The French cannot hold Verdun which is lost to an assault by the Alpenkorps. German forces on the west bank of the Meuse and in the Argonne make a stronger defence impossible. An OHL organised offensive against Nancy fails, however, as there are no Stosstruppen available at the moment. The British have been forced to take over more of the Western Front and now command everything from Reims to the sea. To follow up their success at Lens the British try a tank assault on Lille only to be frustrated again by their own planning deficiencies. In Italy, the Austrians attack in strength between Lake Garda and the headwaters of the Bracchiglione. They also crossed the Isonzo above the Ausa confluence. Further pressure on the Balkan Front forces the British to send two Divisions to help hold Salonika and Monastir. The Turks have strongly reinforced and entrenched the Gaza- Beersheba line during the summer hiatus.

OHL only failed to capture Nancy because there was nothing for the follow up attacks to hit, so the French had time to get new defenders there. The Germans have a French unit killing machine in eastern France. This is the same weapon which dealt so efficiently with the Russians. The Austrians have a lesser model in action in Italy. The AP was typically losing 30 units per turn in this period, mostly on the Western Front.

33 - August 1917 - VPs 18.

The Germans secure the whole west bank of the Meuse as far south as St Mihiel and they are increasingly concentrating in this area intending to push directly west for Paris when their next great offensive is ready. The French defence of Nancy is tenacious for they will not let the Germans pass here despite the best efforts of Bruchmuller. The British use experimental tanks in yet another assault on the Arras salient which does not quite deliver the city to them. The fighting in the Adige valley is still at a high pitch as the Austro- German forces try and breakthrough to Verona. Caporetto is recovered as the Austrians advance to the Ausa following an Italian withdrawal. The British take Mosul to end the Iraq campaign.

The British had a one third chance to take Arras. Because of the extension on the British Front and the weakness of the French, AP counter-attack capabilities are now reduced to one significant attack per turn.

34 - September 1917 - VPs 18.

The Allies are now too exhausted to do other than hold their lines. The Germans slightly ease the pressure also. The major development is the growing reserves the Germans are concentrating west of the Meuse where they do make some advances with Chalons as their more distant objective. The Germans also make an attack in the coastal area of Flanders where the Belgian-British Front has been progressively weakened. An advance against the British here gives the Germans a bit more room for manoeuvre around Dunkirk. In Italy, the Austrians find the Italian defences on the Lower Isonzo to be sound but further west they manage to attain positions overlooking the plain at Verona. The British make exploratory attacks against the Gaza-Beersheba line and find it very well defended.

This is the quiet before the storm. The Germans must have forty divisions west of the Meuse concentrated between St Mihiel and Rethel.

35 - October 1917 - VPs 19 - CP Gain: Nancy; Chalons, AP Gain: Arras.

Germany unleashes the Kaiserschlacht in the West. Nancy swiftly falls to the Stosstruppen. The main effort is in the centre and the horrible mass of German assault divisions more or less overruns the French 6th Army and captures Chalons. The British are less in the way and screen Epernay and Reims. A third German offensive is made in Flanders. The Germans aim is to relieve pressure on the Arras salient and threaten the Channel Ports. It coincides with a last strong British offensive. Vimy Ridge is won and lost by the Germans who also take Lens back. Nevertheless, they pay a price for concentrating to the north of Arras because the British are able to finally take the city after advancing on both sides of it. There are also simultaneous offensives in Italy. A crossing of the Lower Isonzo forces the Italians to pull back to the Tagliamento. Vicenza falls to the Austrians but a combined German-Austrians attack fails to capture Verona. A Romanian plot to seize Odessa is frustrated by bad weather but the Germans enjoyed good conditions in the West during their offensive.

Out Of Supply only had a moderate impact on this game. In battles like Arras where the final outcome is a stack or two being cut off by attacks to the flank and rear, there is no need to interpret what occurred as an full encirclement. It is probably more like the historical case at St Mihiel where the defeated defenders of an exposed position pull out in time but they are necessarily sent for extended R & R (eliminated in the game until replaced) after the stresses of defending a dangerous position.

The capture of Arras is far too late. The British threw every combat chit they had into this battle which was won by a 1-1 attack against two German divisions on Vimy Ridge (the rough terrain north of Arras). Surrounded, the Germans lost further units OOS in Arras. The Romanians still have four divisions in Jassy which the CP had tolerated. At this time it was noticed they could move to isolate Odessa eliminating the garrison. Unfortunately this didn't work as the weather was wet. The CP screened the Jassy remnant more carefully after this. As a minor country, the Romanians scored quite highly as an continuing irritant to the CP in this game even after their collapse.

36 - November - December 1917 - VPs 20 (CP Sudden Death Victory) - CP Gain: Calais.

The French Army now mutinies. Actions outside the Western Front have become irrelevant, though the Austrians advance from the Ausa to the Tagliamento. In France, the French have withdrawn exposing Toul and Epinal to capture. Two French Army headquarters are lost in the pursuit over the Langres Plateau. The German offensive in Champagne moves steadily forward but goes round rather than through Epernay and Reims after the Germans crossed the Marne around Vitry overcoming the defence of the Canadians there. The final German victory is in Flanders where they penetrate to Bethune and Hazebrouk before concentrating against Calais. Three demoralised Belgian Divisions throw down their arms once the Germans attack Calais in earnest. The British Government falls, the French and Italians request an Armistice and a common front with Germany against Bolshevism. The American 1st Division is refused permission to debark as the dockers denounce the Yanks as strike breakers. Germany dominates the Continent and the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires receive a new lease of life.

Even without a mutiny, the AP was doomed this turn because there was no possibility of pulling the VP total back down below 20. The AP Front had not quite disintegrated as with replacements it should have been possible to maintain a continuous Front a little longer. The balance of force was hugely against the AP. At the end of the game, the Germans had about 130 Units on the Western Front. The French had only 25 units in the whole game, the British 76 and the Italians 32.

Losses in 1917 were a bit lighter than in 1916, mainly due to the closure of the Eastern Campaign. The CP lost 185 units ( Germany 123, A-H 40, Turkey 22). The total AP losses were 280 units in 1917 ( France 94, Britain 84, Italy 44).

Clearly this was a strong CP victory which looked increasingly inevitable from mid-1917 onwards. Its key ingredients were the early defeat of Russia and the fact that nothing proved able to distract or diminish the concentration of a powerful unit killing machine being deployed by large stacks of German 4-5-4s, 4-4s and 3-4s first against Russia in 1915 and then against France in 1917. The AP very rarely managed to equalise the attrition rates or slow them down once the CP advantage became pronounced.

The AP had an apparently reasonable start to the game but to avoid this kind of defeat a significantly better performance is necessary. Russia simply cannot be allowed to fold so quickly and there is no reason why a more controlled retreat in 1915 would not leave more of the Russian Army intact for an effective 1916 campaign. The Russians just allowed themselves to be sucked too far forwards by the favourable conditions of 1914 and were poorly positioned when the counter-offensive began.

The AP also failed to get any rewards for their attrition of the Germans in the West. This was not for want of trying. The Germans' use of devastated zones was very effective and the British especially got too focused on territorial objectives such as Arras as they were conscious of their vulnerability to a VP defeat or Sudden Death. The Germans never undermanned the Western Front and they had several strongpoints in the Northern sector which often disrupted the British efforts. The French probably overdid attrition, because their losses mounted dangerously from early 1916 when the Germans became active around Verdun. Once the Germans began attacking in strength in 1917, the French had too few reserves to often counter-attack themselves and the only real hope by then was to hang on until the Americans arrived. If the Germans had been six months later in the development of their campaigns, this might have been enough to reverse the outcome, but even then a Sudden Death Victory always would have threatened.

The more experience I have of Stosstruppen offensives, the more I end up regretting how careless the AP is of losses in 1915-16 when the replacements flow most freely. The AP needs to have an eye for their long term weaknesses (exposure to the Kaiserschlacht) and advantages (more RPs in the late game and Americans). Going for broke in 1915-16 prejudices them on both counts. In this game, the Germans launched their attacks in 1917 not 1918. This was another gift of the collapse of Russia which meant the Germans were back in the West in great strength comparatively early and greatly shortening the period within which the AP could sap their strength.

The Eastern and Western Fronts were decisive therefore. The AP were too weak to really pressurise the CP in the Balkans, and Italy was neutralised by the fact that Austria was able to concentrate almost its entire Army on this Front by 1917. In less than a year, the Italians went from having maximum replacement reserves to having 12 units unbuilt in Fall 1917. However, the Italians at least held all their VP cities against a sustained offensive without a single division being sent to support them.

Turkey gained a victory in the Caucasus thanks to the Russian collapse, but could not prevent the loss of Iraq. This proved of little relevance in the ultimate outcome. More important was the effective defence of the Palestinian border by Turkey. Overall, the British might have been better not to send such additional forces as they did to this theatre.

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Loris Pagnotta
Italy
Brusaporto
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I lost a game in the same way.
To save the Russian army, I ceded too early the Russian cities and the Tsar fall in early 1916.
My red army was so strong that reoccupied half of Prussia, surronded Riga and was about to retake Minsk (when peace broke out) because the CP, hardly pressed on Serbian front and with 8/9 and more loss at turn in the west quikly redeployed is army.
The Italian front is at the starting line, with only two BR cav in support for garrison duties. At the very end the Austria collapsed.
The Iraq and Palestine quickly become in the hands of BR and by the mid of 1917 the turks are out of war but nothing could save me from the stostruppen. At the start of 1918 the french evaporated under the German attaks. And only one year before, the CP deployed six AH units on western front to avoid the collapse.
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Festus Kira
Tanzania
Dar Es Salaam
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Robert,

just a quick note:

The Royal Tank Corps (and US units) negates the Rigid planning event. BR would have taken Arras in May 17, I do not know if that would have changed a great deal.

Festus
 
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Robert Lloyd
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Yes RTC negates Rigid planning

My mistake.

Probably made little difference, but wasn't there also a tank attack on Lille that also failed for the same reason. I didn't put enough gas in those tanks.
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