This is part sixteen of Germany's Future Lies East, a series of session reports presenting a play of a campaign game of Avalon Hill's Guns of August.
March 1915 - Central Powers turn
March is the beginning of Spring weather. The weather roll comes up a '1' for March, which is normally clear on both fronts. However, in March, if the February conditions were snow, then the "Spring Thaw" rule kicks in and it is automatically mud. So the West gets clear conditions, and the East mud.
March opens with the Central Powers looking to continue their successes in advancing on Brest-Litovsk in Russia, and to reinforce their defenses in Belgium. The situation in Belgium is far less sure than the one in Russia, and will be receiving the bulk of the replacement units this month.
March opens with a bit of naval excitement. The Germans, who have had some luck this game in catching the Triple Entente fleets off guard, this time find themselves in a sticky situation.
The Triple Entente had sent their entire combined fleets to the North Sea last turn, and the German fleets were wise enough to stay out of that area, especially with three BB units still undergoing repairs.
With Greece a new found ally for the Triple Entente, I thought there might be a chance that they would either move to the Atlantic and Mediterranean in full force or at least a few units to establish control over the sea areas they need to use sea movement to transport more units to the Balkans via Greece.
While I realized I would be guessing whatever I did, I had just gotten back my three BB units in full fighting form, and decided that the German fleets would sortie into the North Sea, and the Austrians would sortie one unit into each of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, as a way of hedging my bets. If the Austrians end up losing a unit or two, it is no big deal. Their navy does not amount to very much. They can defend the ports, but other than Trieste, which is almost impossible to invade as it is, given it is a fortress and will be defended heavily once Italy enters anyway, defending Durazzo and Citinje may or may not be an issue by the time Italy joins in and the Adriatic is open. I fully expect that once Bulgaria enters the war, Serbia will be in big trouble, and the Austrians will hopefully have been able to either conquer Serbia or push south far enough that the Adriatic ports will not be needed as supply sources anymore. So, may as well take a few chances with the Austrian naval units, or they are not really worth anything.
If the Triple Entente move some units out of the North Sea, then there might be another interesting battle. If they move them all out, then the Germans at least control the North Sea and prevent British sea movement from their North Sea ports. If the entire French and British navies remain in the North Sea, then I will have to attempt a cut-and-run.
The Triple Entente decide to remain with all of their naval units in the North Sea. So the Germans suddenly find themselves significantly outnumbered, and in the cut-and-run situation. Well, shoot and run, anyway. Who knows, if I am awfully lucky in round one and the combat results are very one-sided, I might still pot another British unit or two! Unlikely, but....
The Austrians, on the other hand, have the run of the Mediterranean. If nothing else, they disrupt British merchant shipping and cost them a replacement point this turn. It also tells my opponent that I am not afraid to put the units out there.
End of naval movement
I actually think that the German navy is not in such a dire position. They are outnumbered, but there is no chance of losing a unit outright in the first turn of combat, and then the Germans have a 50% chance of disengaging and scurrying back to port. Each subsequent turn they improve their chances of disengaging by another 17%.
They also have superior damage control. They repair light damage 50% of the time between combat rounds, whereas the British only do so 33% of the time, and the French 17% of the time.
This is not to say they are not in a bit of a pickle, but they certainly have a good chance of getting out of it without any permanent losses.
Naval Combat Results
Th first round of battle sees multiple hits by both sides. The German BB units suffer two Heavy Damage and one Light Damage results. The heavy damage is very bad news, as not only is there a +1 DRM for the attacker against a damaged unit, but with heavy damage defense value is also halved. If I fail to withdraw, they will have to get very lucky not both be sunk.
The Germans get an amazing five damage results against the British. Four Light Damage and one Heavy Damage. However, it is not enough to make them want to stick around.
The Germans have no luck with their one lightly damaged unit, and heavy damage cannot be affected by damage control between combat rounds. The British succeed on repairing the damage on one of their units.
At this juncture, the Germans are very much hoping to succeed with a coordinated withdrawal by the entire fleet.
They roll a '1', which is success, and they escape by the skin of their teeth. A second round of combat with two heavily damaged BB units was not what I was looking for. Both would have likely been sunk, and that would have tipped the naval balance right back to where it started, with maybe a little extra for the TE side.
Post Combat Damage Control
The Germans are lucky enough to succeed with damage control on their two heavily damaged BB units, so they end the day with three lightly damaged units, that will only have to sit out for one month before being ready for action again.
I have to say, the naval module with the current rules we are using is the most exciting so far, and seems to have relevant effects on the rest of the game. The naval and land portions of the game are far better integrated than in the original module.
End of naval combat
In March, the Germans intervened on behalf of Belgium to protect them against the French invaders. Having been prepared ahead of time, they were able to throw up a very quick line of triple stacks in Antwerp and the perimeter hexes around Liege. They have also secured a clear rail line all the way from Germany to Antwerp.
The supply situation is a bit precarious. If the French are able to capture K10, then both Liege and Antwerp will be in French ZoC's, so their supply will not reach outside of the city. If K09 is then captured, then Antwerp will itself be isolated. While the French have lots of space behind them for supply routes and such, the Belgians cannot expect any aid from Holland, and the neutral Dutch hexes at their backs are a hindrance not a help. All of this makes a very good reason for the British and French to leave Holland neutral, at least until they can capture Antwerp.
The Germans will simply be looking to stabilize their position as much as possible this turn. The first level of entrenchments can be started, but they won't help much if the French continue their tactic of one big attack against K10 looking for a DX result. The entrenchment level will have to reach three before that will affect the combat die roll. But the French only get two more chances before they will be facing level three entrenchments along the entire line in Belgium.
Beginning of turn in the West
The Germans used most of their replacements for this turn to reinforce the West. They built five 3-5-3 infantry units for deployment in the West, and only a single 4-4-5 cavalry for Russia. A 3-3-3 artillery unit was built in Metz, and there is a sixth 3-5-3 unit already en route from the East.
Only one infantry unit is needed to replace losses on the front line, but I want to have some units behind the line in case there are any breakthroughs. I built the artillery unit in the West rather than the East, even though artillery are generally more suitable for offense than defense. The East Front seems to have more than enough artillery: some turns I end up not being able to use all of the units I have there already, and artillery losses have been almost non-existent. In the West, it seems that the French and British will have difficult attacks ahead of them. They will be attacking triple-stacked hexes in forts and under entrenchments. It is very unlikely that they will be able to muster overall odds better than 2:1 against any hex in the West very often. Adding an artillery unit to what will already be a tight attack will make the hexes significantly more difficult to capture. Even if a massive DX is aimed at by the French, in which the extra unit won't change the odds, the French will have to lose one extra unit, and then their position in that area will be that much weaker and more exposed to a German counter-attack. The Germans are almost at full capacity in artillery units (they have 17 of 19 on the board!) and may soon have nothing to spend their artillery replacement points on. Finally, if counter-attacks are called for, having a few artillery units handy could come in very useful.
The two artillery units go to buttress the defenses in Nancy and hex L12 (two hexes north of Nancy). The French haven't attacked in the south for a few months, but I am sure they would love to capture either of those two hexes, especially Nancy. I also like having a pair of artillery in close proximity to each other, in case I want to make an attack in the area. Six artillery factors give a +1 DRM to the attack, so they work better together than apart.
One infantry unit goes to the front line, to replace a 4-6-4 that moves to K10. While ultimately I would like K10 to have three 4-6-4 units, plus a 3-3-3 artillery, these things take time, and in the meantime, two 3-5-3's plus a 4-6-4 make 16 defensive factors. Since the best stack the French can make consists of 15 attack factors, and they have three hexes around K10, they will be prevented from getting a 3:1 odds attack. If they include the bulkier British 6-8-4, 5-7-4, and 5-5-5 units, they could get a 3:1 odds attack, but then they have to contend with the -1 DRM penalty for Multinational Coordination of attacks if they want to make one big combined attack. If they want to, they could coordinate a 3:1 odds attack this way, and have twelve artillery factors, which would give them a 3:1 odds attack with an overall +1 DRM, and a 50% chance of a DX or DE. At least I would be forcing them to put all their eggs into one basket, so to speak. Hopefully I will be able to prevent that in a few turns, if they haven't booted me out of the hex already. Looking back at it now, if I had noticed this possibility for the French and British, I would have made sure to get all 4-6-4's and a 3-3-3 into K10 right away.
I station a stack of three 3-5-3 infantry units in Liege. These are to ensure that I have some local supplied units if a counter-attack or replacement units are required. The area is so tight, I feel I am not guaranteed to have easy passage into my Belgian hexes.
I also leave two extra 3-5-3 units behind the lines in the south. Just in case.
Only one attack is planned. I built a Belgian 2-4-3 infantry for the purpose of making soak-off attacks. Germany only has one unit with only two attack factors, the 2-2-5 cavalry, and that has been sent to Serbia for its extra mobility in the rough terrain. Soak-offs work best with the weakest units, as the whole idea is to trade cheap units for expensive ones.
The Belgian infantry attacks L11, the isolated French hex, but fails and is eliminated.
End of movement in the West
The Russian Front only received a single German 4-4-5 as a replacement unit. The developing front in the West is much more in need of the replacements for at least this turn. The campaign in Russia has been so successful that hardly any replacements are required. The Central Power losses have been much lower than the those of the Russians, so even if the Central Powers eastern armies get a bit smaller, their opponents are getting smaller faster!
Brest-Litovsk is now in sight. There are three hexes around the fortified city that the Germans could attack from. However, with my siege artillery out of range, and a big bunch of units short of supplies and isolated (that darn record-long winter), which means half movement and half strength, putting together a decent attack is not going to happen this turn. Since the next Variable Entry rolls are not until May, there is no urgency. I plan to attack hexes around the city, which are much easier pickings, and thereby put the city into an isolated position for a likely capture next turn. An all-out assault on Brest-Litovsk this turn could easily fail and be very costly. Not to mention I would then have lost my chance at encircling the city this turn. Since I am not in a rush, I will take the sure and less expensive route.
I also see some possibilities to open a hole in the south end of the line, by using the two penetrations south of Brest-Litovsk from last turn.
Now that the push on Brest-Litovsk has essentially succeeded, I should be considering where to go next. Russia is very spread out, and her cities are also few and far between. I see two strategic goals that would contribute to a possible Russian capitulation. The first is capturing more cities. The second is to spread out and wear down the already weakened Russian army as widely as possible.
The more cities the Central Powers capture, the higher the DRM penalty the Russians will suffer in 1916 when the Morale rolls start. A result of '-3' means surrender, but even a result of '0' means they only get half of their replacements for three months, and that alone would have a significant effect. The problem is that the closest cities are not all that close. Kovno is the closest, but I find that area a difficult one in which to make the initial advances. The Russians have the 'outside' line, so to speak, which is difficult to break into. Kiev and Minsk are next closest, but each of those three cities are far apart from each other and require separate offensives. The question would be how many of the cities to pursue.
If the Central Powers are able to create a wide enough front that the Russians are forced to defend more and more hexes with only single units, then as long as the Central Powers maintain enough strength themselves, the Russian lines will begin to fall apart. Single units are easy to attack, so Russian losses would escalate and Central Power advances would accelerate.
The two goals actually work quite well together as a long-term approach. If the Central Powers push toward all three cities, their progress at first may be slower than if they concentrate on one area as they have done to capture Warsaw and (soon to be) Brest-Litovsk. Even if they have only minor successes on each local front, the Russians will be facing threats of an ever-widening nature, and be forced to spread their units thinner and thinner. As long as the Central Powers can themselves maintain a few pockets of mobile strength, the offensives could all be maintained. No city would fall quickly, but eventually several would fall in quick succession. The eventual entry of Rumania as a Central Powers ally makes the wide front strategy that much more attractive, as that would open up an entirely new area for the Russians to defend, or give up another city, Odessa.
That's the plan, anyway.
Beginning of turn in Russia
First, since the snow conditions have finally ended, after six long months, my railway engineers can spring into action. In mud conditions they can only move one hex each, but they are allowed to repair the rail line in the hex they start the turn in, plus any hex they move into. So even in mud, each unit can repair two rail hexes. I have managed to position mine so that three engineers will fix five continuous rail hexes, which gets me only one hex away from the front line. If I had started my preparations one turn earlier, I could have managed a sixth hex. No worries though. With the better weather, I am sure the engineer units will quickly catch up to the front lines in Russia, and then run out of work to do as they wait for the front line to advance further.
So, to put my plans into action. Attacks are prepared to isolate Brest-Litovsk. If things go as they should (given the odds of the attacks), I will for sure have the city surrounded on four of six sides, with a shot at getting a fifth hex as well. With even just the four hexes, no supply issues next turn with the new rail lines, and my siege artillery in range, Brest-Litovsk should be an easy capture in April, even if the Russians manage to replace the isolated units will full strength fresh ones. If I were the Russians, I might just abandon the city to its fate, and save the combat units, which are at risk of becoming a scarce commodity.
A couple of attacks are also planned in the south, in my bid to begin the widening of the campaign and push the Russian army to the breaking point. In the north, my only offensive capability lies south of the Lakes, by redirecting part of Army Group Center, and they will begin a push to the northeast this turn. Hopefully I will find units in the next months to send towards Kovno and even Riga from Konigsberg. It all depends on what happens in the West, I suppose.
End of movement in Russia
The combat phase is very successful. All five hexes are won, even if two of them suffered big DX results. While they are costly for me, the DX's at least mean the Russians are also losing units. I would prefer a DX to a DD even, if the Russian units have a retreat path open to them. In the end, the losses for both sides were about equal, which is a trade I am happy to make in the East.
The Germans now control five hexes around Brest-Litovsk, and with the DE result against the hex just north of the city, they are very low on units in the area, let alone being worried about the imminent loss of the Objective city next turn. The attack on the hex to the southeast of Brest-Litovsk was one attack that was not guaranteed to succeed. In fact, I had to make three attacks against the three units separately to get the best chance at success, and it all hinged on the first attack which was at 1:1 odds +0 DRM. I used two 3-5-3 units against a 3-5-3 defender, although I had a 5-7-4 unit to get exactly 5 vs 5. The expected losses for me are lower with two weaker units. A DX or AA would mean I lose six factors instead of only five, but an AD or BD result are more likely to occur, which would then only lose me three factors. In any case, it has only a 66% chance of successfully removing the defender. The next two attacks are high enough odds to succeed automatically.
Luckily I roll and get a DD result, and the next two attacks do the same. Three DD's means no losses for the Germans at least, although the Russians only lost a single 2-2-2 artillery unit, which cannot retreat. At least I get an extra artillery replacement point for the captured artillery.
So, Brest-Litovsk is surrounded, the south is beginning to show signs of opening up to the combined German-Austrian offensive, and the first (small) step of a possible offensive aimed at Kovno is made.
Both sides lose about twenty factors of combat and artillery units. Once again, the Russians have already lost more than their replacement rate.
End of turn in Russia
Bad news for the Austrians in Serbia. Greece has joined the Triple Entente, and there is a good likelihood that British units will start showing up in Serbia. What that means for the front is very difficult to say. Just like the German position in Belgium, the Serbian position is very precarious, and for the same reasons: supply.
The Serbians only have a single city for supply purposes. If the Central Powers manage to get a unit adjacent to the city, then all the units to the north of Skopje will likely be isolated, and Salonika, another source of supply for the Triple Entente now, would not be able to get supply past the ZoC that is on Skopje. If Bulgaria enters the war, the Serbian controlled corridor running north from Skopje will suddenly feel very cramped and narrow.
Strong British units are not necessarily as useful as they might seem. They make great targets for soak-off attacks by the local 2-4-3 infantry and 2-2-4 cavalry units, and they are the first to be eliminated when attacking and getting BD or AD results. With the rough terrain, these are more likely with the -1 DRM, and artillery are difficult to move forward. So the British 4-6-4's will likely not be able to use them for positive DRMs. They are also eliminated as easily as any other unit if isolated with no way to get back to a supplied hex. The British are also committed to the campaign in Belgium, and with their low replacement rate (maximum five factors each turn), the loss of more than one unit a turn causes them great difficulty. With their commitment in Belgium, I doubt the British will send an overwhelming number of units to Serbia. In fact, that might explain why they made no effort to secure a sea movement path to Salonika this turn.
Beginning of turn in Serbia
The Austrians have found a weak spot in the Serbian line. There are two Serbian 1-1-4 cavalry units defending the south tip of the west line. The Austrians just happen to have a 4-4-5 cavalry and 4-6-4 infantry unit there. Strangely enough, I have been unhappy to have those two excellent units stuck in Serbia instead of fighting in Russia. I needed them for the initial offensive against Belgrade, and the plan was to ship them to Russia once that was settled. In the end though, as each turn came around, they were always the best placed units to take advantage of the opportunities to push back and start encircling the Serbians. Their superior movement rates were one factor, and another is that they ended up at the leading edge and were the only units who could reach key hexes. So here they are, stuck deep in the Serbian mountains with no rail line closer than three or four months away!
The Austrians potentially sacrifice a replacement point by advancing a 2-2-4 cavalry unit that is garrisoning Durazzo. (If you fail to garrison a captured city, you lose a replacement point that turn.) This will give me a 4:1 attack and a 6:1 attack against the Serbian cavalry units. The 4:1 attack will be with a -1 DRM, but it will still succeed 83% of the time. Only a roll of a natural '1' would make the attack fail. The 6:1 will be at -2 DRM, because that cavalry unit is entrenched as well as being in rough terrain. At 6:1 odds though, the Serbian will still lose the battle, although the Austrians might end up losing the 4-6-4 units. No matter, if that happens. I am happy to rebuild it and send it to Russia!
Also, as in Russia, the Rail Road Engineer finally gets to work, and the rail line is extended by two hexes towards the front line. No more supply problems because of the lack of rail lines at least.
End of movement in Serbia
The natural '1' is rolled on the first attack. This gives an AD result, so the Austrian cavalry chooses to retreat two hexes to Durazzo, so the garrison is maintained at least . The second attack gets a DE result despite the -2 DRM (6:1 attacks are nice that way), so at least no Austrian losses. No gain of the hex, which I was so hoping for. If the Austrians had advanced into that hex, the Serbians would have had to scramble to avoid ending up with a large pocket of unsupplied units next turn.
As I think about it, I am glad I did not lose a unit in that attacks. A loss of a unit that far south in Serbia is not such a great thing, if one considers how long it takes for the Austrians to get a unit there!
End of turn on the Serbian Front
Here are the losses on the turn so far. The Russians again lose too many units before their turn even begins. The Central Power losses have already reached their replacement rate for the turn, but they have had so many turns where that has not happened that a few expensive turns can be absorbed. We will have to see if the French and British can increase those losses significantly or not.
- Last edited Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:09 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:19 pm
Mark van der Veen
Oh, oh, Den Haag, mooie stad achter de duinen.....
Patrick Cleburne, probably the most underrated Confederate general
And again you mean Belgrad and not Budapest
And again you mean Belgrad and not Budapest
SoaB! Again. I thought I had exorcized that demon from my brain.
Thanks for the head's up.
Back to the local alleyway Priest ....