Part Thirty-Four of the "Schlieffen Plan" series.
Weather: Winter - West Snow, East Snow
Winter has arrived, and with a vengeance. Although the three winter months are automatically snow conditions in the East (half movement rate, supply line limit reduced from five to four hexes), the West gets a die roll to determine the winter conditions each month. On a '1', the weather is clear (no effect on movement or supply line limit [normal is five hexes]), on a '2' or '3' it is mud (-1 movement rate, supply lines also reduced to four hexes), and on a '4', '5', or '6', snow conditions prevail.
The main problem is on the Eastern front, where new units will take an extra turn to get to the front line, and even longer if the Central Powers advance a hex or two, as railway repair is not possible in snow conditions.
Central Powers Turn
The Germans are slowly driving the British out of northern France, and will finally take care of the last French combat unit at Tours this turn. In the south, where the British hold Marseilles and Nice, I am waiting until the north is dealt with before considering what to do there. While until this point I have been assuming that I would take care of Marseilles once the British are expelled from Le Havre and Cherbourg, I am now considering just leaving well enough alone, and concentrating on the East. The conquest of Russia is my primary concern, and I would like to use all of my 5-7-4 infantry and 3-3-3 artillery units in the East. I consider the northern ports more important than the southern ports, as they are much closer to the French objective cities I have captured. Marseilles is far away, and even with a small force, I could hold off the British for a long time in the rough terrain, even if they had American and Italian help.
I still have sixteen 5-7-4 infantry in France, and plan to use them at least to take Le Havre and Cherbourg. With the French infantry in Tours at half strength, I will look at finishing it off finally, which will free up a few more units. I will also need to choose between either Cherbourg or Le Havre this turn, if I wish to make an attack at my usual preferred high odds.
The state of the rail system in France remains a bit of a shambles. When the French army came apart, the Germans advanced so quickly that the Rail Road Engineers could not even begin to keep up. With only two RR Eng units, the repair work is far from complete. With the snow weather, the only thing the RR Eng's can do is position themselves as well as possible for the next time there is mud or clear weather. Since the line to Marseilles is completed as far as it can go, that unit will be shipped up north, while the other unit will also entrain, to be deposited wherever I feel will be most useful next turn. Their slow movement rate (2 hexes max, 1 in snow and mud) makes repositioning them a long process. While a complete French rail system is not necessary, I would like to have access by rail to the northern ports. At present, to ship them out quickly once their work in France is done. Given I am only advancing along a single rail line in Russia at the moment, the German engineers can do a little more work in France.
The German fort engineer finished fortifying the beach in Belgium, and will move onto the next beach to do the same for it when the weather improves.
The Germans move an extra 3-5-3 unit to help get 5:1 odds against Tours. Even though there will be a -2 DRM for the city and trench, at odds of 5:1 I will ensure the end of the last French combat unit. At 5:1, the worst possible result, no matter how bad the DRMs, is a BD (both demoralized). Since I have Tours surrounded, the French unit cannot retreat, and will be eliminated on any demoralized result. There is a pretty good chance the Germans will lose a unit, but it will free up the remaining units around Tours for other duties.
I decide to mass a big attack against the British outside of Cherbourg, and leave Le Havre alone this turn. A total of ten 5-7-4 units surround the hex, which will give a 5:1 attack, and again, like at Tours, the British infantry cannot retreat. Even if the artillery unit survives the attack, it does not have enough movement points either in snow or from being isolated to move through the German ZOC, and will be eliminated at the end of the Entente turn for being out-of-supply.
Other than the Rail Road Engineer heading north by rail, there is no movement in the south of France.
Both attacks come off as planned. The British at Cherbourg are eliminated on a DE result, while the French unit at Tours goes down to a DX. DX turns out to be better for the Germans than a BD, since they only have to lose a 3-5-3 infantry to match the isolated (= half defense strength) French 3-5-3, whereas on a BD result, the Germans would have to lose a 5-7-4 if they wanted to advance into Tours this turn. I suppose on BD I could simply have retreated and demoralized all the German units to avoid losses, as there is no special benefit to actually entering Tours this turn. Since the French have lost their ability to build replacement units, Tours would have remained empty.
However, I lose the 3-5-3 on the DX, and one more area of resistance is taken care of once and for all.
More reinforcements on the way, including three 5-7-4 infantry built as replacements, plus a boatload of artillery (four x 3-3-3) making its way East from France. With the snow, the artillery won't be able to join combat until January, and neither will the infantry. However, the Central Powers have plenty of units to make a number of attacks.
Attacking this turn will be a bit tougher. As the Russians have withdrawn/been driven back, their line has gotten shorter, which means more units per hex, and straighter. Their center is now two very straight lines, a clear improvement (for the Russians) of the formerly winding front offering many opportunities for three-hex attacks. This turn, only a single three-hex attack can be made, and this at the westernmost point. I do get a choice of two hexes there, but with only five hexes around the two, only one can be from three full hexes. My job this turn will be to try and poke a couple of holes and create better opportunities for next turn. Losses could be high again for the Central Powers, and it will definitely be tough to eliminate many Russians.
The Central Powers arrange their units to attack five hexes. The two westernmost hexes are both targeted. If I capture one or both, that creates an extra hex which can be attacked from three sides. Two more attacks are planned along the Russian line facing south, and the Austrians, with a bit of German help, with make a stab and rolling up the southernmost Russian hex. They have the hex surrounded, so no retreat option for the Russians, but the odds are not that strong, and the DRMs are negative.
As an indicator of the better position of the Russians this turn, and the effect of losing a few 5-7-4 infantry last turn, only one of the five attacks is sure to win the hex, and none have a good chance of avoiding Central Power casualties.
The combat round, as promised, is not what the Central Powers have been used to so far. The Russian defense is indeed stiffening. Only two of the five attacks succeed in winning the hex, and the Central Powers take heavy losses. However, this was not unexpected, and it could have been worse. Taking one of the westernmost Russian hexes at the 'tip' succeeds in creating a better position for attacks next turn. The same goes for the hex won in the middle of the south-facing Russian line.
Unfortunately, Russian losses were relatively light, although a number of units were also demoralized. This is disappointing given the turn-by-turn increase of Russian losses inflicted by the Central powers until now. The demoralized units, of course, are no loss to the Russians. The only thing they cannot do is attack, they will not be demoralized anymore on my next turn. I doubt the Russians were planning a major offensive this month.
The final tally for losses are Central Powers 29 combat factors, compared to only 13 Russian combat factors. The tally could have been even lower for the Russians if the Germans had failed to capture the hex at the Russian 'tip. This put the adjacent Russian hex in an isolated position, so the two demoralized results I got against that hex afterwards both led to elimination of Russian units rather than simple retreat. At least the Russian army won't get any bigger, as their replacement rate is 14 factors, and the Central Powers can easily absorb these high losses, at least for the moment, and probably for several turns if necessary.
Big Push Attacks
Next turn, January 1916, marks the beginning of a new phase in the war. We are using the Big Push attacks optional rule, which takes effect in 1916. Big Push attacks allow an attacker to keep attacking the same hex over and over in the same combat round until it either succeeds in capturing the hex, or is repulsed by an AE, AA, or AD result. Normally each unit can only be attacked once per combat round. Big Push attacks allow multiple attacks against each unit until either the attacker is stopped or the defending hex is vacated.
I've been waiting for this ever since my campaign against Russia begun. I expect that the Central Power offensive will have much more success both capturing hexes and eliminating Russian units. The Big Push combined with the extra German artillery that are arriving on the Eastern Front should accelerate the Russian losses significantly.
Still nothing much happening in Serbia. Both sides remain entrenched, and no one is willing to take the risk of attacking. The rough terrain plus the entrenchments make for a -2 DRM, and the small units in Serbia on both sides generally have defense factors twice their attack factors. Neither side has enough units to launch a decent attack.
The Austrians do make a couple of moves. Their two cavalry units both advance west around the Montenegrin infantry to isolate it. It will likely attack, given its history and surplus replacement points, but if it is eliminated or forced to retreat, then one of the Austrian units will be able to move next to its capitol again, from which any attack by the Montenegrin will put Montenegro at grave risk of being conquered.
I don't own this game but have become interested after reading all your sessions. My compliments on the completeness and in the weeds details keep 'um coming. The Central Powers really have a strangle hold in this game
Waste Water too
Mid-Atlantic Air Museum
The German push towards Warsaw is also threatening Brest-Litovsk. I am faced with constantly having to reinforce the middle at the expense of the flanks. The north is firmly entrenched but the south is littered with weak units and perpetually isolated units. Time is running out.