Archive for the ‘Paths of Glory’ Category


The Great War is over. 1917 proved decisive. Sheer weight of numbers and carefully planned offensives allowed the CP to  eventually break through on the Western Front. With the Austrians holding the Alps from an Italian counterattack and occupying Serbia and Turkish forces capturing Cairo and Port Said in Egypt the Allied powers appetite for war finally gave way. First with the destruction of its Army, Belgium surrendered.  Then in a bid to ensure the safety of their colonies, Britain announced it was ceasing operations in France. Russia facing growing unrest at home despite being strong militarily also announced an end to hostilities.  Only France was left wanting to carry on the war but without allies was forced to capitulate and accept the humiliating terms.

In the West, The Netherlands and Antwerp are absorbed into the German Empire. Sedan and Nancy in France are also ceded and all the French border forts are dismantled.  On the Eastern theatre, Lithuania and Latvia join Poland as part of the German Empire.  Serbia is erased from the map and absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian kingdom. Romania despite not carrying out operations is forced to pay reparations to Austria.  Finally Egypt and Libya are given to Turkey with a concession of allowing the British to keep a garrison at Alexandria and still operate trade along the Sues Canal.

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Winter Offensive 1917. German armies conduct 2 pronged attack against British and Belgian forces at Cambrai and French forces at Nancy

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1917 Winter Offensive aftermath. Anglo-Belgian forces left reeling at Cambrai. At Nancy French armies are routed allowing Germans to advance.

Summary – This is the first time I have played this with an actual breakthrough on the Western Front for either side. This time the game seemed to favour the CP right from the off with fortuitous dice rolls. But what I noticed more than before was the apparent advantage the CP side has with his early strategy cards at Mobilisation and Limited War. It was no coincidence that the Allies lost having never reached total war status. This time I was fighting the cards as much as the enemy and felt I was being forced to open up fronts where I could do nothing owing to the more serious situation on the Western Front. Indeed, I managed to build up huge Russian forces but thanks to the poor rail network just couldn’t get to grips with the Germans. Again as every time I have played it before, the US stubbornly refused to get involved (A consequence of not reaching Total War status). And not for the first time, the Russians kept in the game to the end.

In the end this game became a bit tedious, partly as I had to write a blog every few turns but for once it didn’t really fire me up.

NEXT

The continuation of my mammoth Formula De campaign with the commencement of the 1952 season. Then The Battle of Britain from a single RAF Sqns perspective


1916 and the Central Powers grip became stronger. A spectacular and successful offensive on the Western Front backed up by a tenacious defence looked to have broken the back of the Allied forces. But somehow despite huge losses the Front held albeit it in a parlous state. Hitler quoted in the Second World War about Russia “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down. This quote would have been more appropriate in this game on the Western Front. Elsewhere the Russians had given more ground but had reinforced hugely taking some of the pressure off their Western Allies. The Italians also carried out limited and successful operations against Austria. In the Near East the Turks proved themselves holding out against small scale British attacks.  I believe that at this stage the war has effectively been won by the CP and it just remains a case of when rather than if the Allied powers will capitulate.

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Top L&R – CP Michel offensive breaks the Allied Line at Sedan. Bottom L&R – French counter attack fails to dislodge Germans at Sedan. And wider picture showing the Italian drive into Austria and a last ditch French offensive failing at Mets in 1917

Western Front – The German Michel Offensive finally broke through at Metz. A hurriedly launched French counter attack only served to make matters worse for the allies who were now holding the line with a severely depleted force.  

Italian Front – After a slow build up of troops the Italians launched an attack against the fortress of Trent which fell after 6 months. Another attack on Innsbruck followed but this was stopped by a hastily redeployed Austrian army.

Eastern Front – The Russians gave more ground but tended to refuse combat and over the course of the year began building up huge reserves of men.

Balkan Front – This front stabilised with the Austrians holding Belgrade and the Romanians unable to launch any meaningful relief.

Near East Front – The Turks proved themselves as tenacious warriors holding the line east of Sinai as well as blocking the British advance north of Baghdad. The British unable to risk losing more troops were then forced to hold their own positions.

Summary – Its looking increasingly bleak for the Allies as they begin to run short of reserves. Still only on a Limited War footing they have been forced into a spectators role watching the majority of major offensives with an increasingly toothless response.  If the war continues for another year it will be a surprise to everyone.

NEXT – 1917 – Is the Coup de Grace about to happen?


 

CP achieve TOTAL WAR status after play of Walther Rathenau event

CP achieve TOTAL WAR status after play of Walther Rathenau event

As 1915 drew to a close it appeared that the Central Powers were firmly in control. However as the Allied powers clung on in the West and slowly gave ground in the East, other theatres of War sprang to life.  The Central Powers playing key Event cards moved up to Total War status which should have brought in a wealth of new cards. However with the fog of war of my wife shuffling the card deck what happened was that that only one or 2 new cards appeared in the CP hand, the rest being previously used Limited and mobilisation status cards.  Its occurred to me that the CP appear to have a clear advantage when it comes to playing event cards with war status points as these seem to be worth playing immediately whereas the Allies are sometime not worth immediate play but use as Ops or replacement. In an attempt to relieve the pressure the AP conducted some limited offenisves in the Near East against Johnny Turk and then managed to induce Romania to enter the war opening up the whole Balkan Sector and causing mild panic among the Austrian ranks.  

 

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Disaster at Metz. German fortified positions negate the Hurricane Barrage and repel the Anglo-French attack

Western Front – Major German attacks continued in the North but this time the Allies managed to conduct an offensive against Metz. Despite utilising a Hurricane Barrage it petered out into another total failure with no tangible gain but heavy loss.  Emphasis was then switched to other Fronts as the AP attempted to deflect the CP’s attention.  

Eastern Front – The CP reduced the fortress city of Riga and brought up fresh German armies.  Unable to inflict meaningful casualties on the CP, the Russians attempted spoiling attacks against the Austrian forces but these too were met with heavy loss and more territory had to be surrendered.

Romania becomes the 10th Country to enter the War in the Winter of 1915

Romania becomes the 10th Country to enter the War in the Winter of 1915

Balkan Front – Initially this Front which had been quiet looked to be falling under the CP control as the Serb 2nd Army had to withdraw out of Belgrade for a second time.  This time the siege was successful and the Austrian forces triumphantly entered the city and looked to destroy the remaining Serb forces. Then Romania entered the War on the Allied side and all of a sudden the Austrians has 5 fresh Corps to contend with. Forced onto the back foot they rushed their reserve 3rd Army into position at Cluj.

 

Near East Front – Desperately attempting to take the pressure off the Western Front the British begin operations against Turkey in Persia.  The Turks despite being ably led by German Liman Von Sanders were defeated at Baghdad but they inflicted sufficient casualties to stop the British advance. No sooner had this operation ended but in Libya a revolt against the British began with Senussii Moslem tribesmen allied to Turkey.  The British forces in Alexandria moved to crush the revolt but were beaten off with heavy casualties.

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British halted outside Baghdad and have to deploy troops to Libya

Summary – Although advantage still rests ith the CP, the Allied powers made some good use of minor allies and theatres to halt the momentum.  Austria’s border looks vulnerable but is it asking too much of the Romanians?  The Near East now looks like a place where the British forces could make gains but with the Western Front chewing up their reserves its unlikely that anything else but limited operations will be launched.

NEXT – 1916 – The Central Powers try again to breakthrough


 IMG_2669As 1915 began the Central Powers were firmly in control. Momentum had shifted completely their way and continued attritional attacks on the Western Front followed by gradual advances in the East seemed to be paying dividends. The Allied powers options became limited as they were forced to sacrifice offensive operations for replacing eliminated units and reinforcing their lines. In the East, the fall of Riga (a Victory Point square) allowed the CP to trigger the “Tsar takes Command event” Historically as the Russian armies retreated Tsar Nicholas II replaced his uncle as commander of the army thinking he could do a better job. Actually a disaster as while he played at being soldiers his empire went unruled and his wife fell under the influence of Rasputin. In game terms this is the first stage of 6 towards the CP forcing revolution and Russian capitulation 

Western Front – Continued Central Power offensives on Sedan forced the allies to take a defensive stance and throw in reserves after more reserves of British troops while the critically weakened French sat in their fortresses. Such was the parlous state of the French armies that there was a real risk of a German breakthrough if a good result could be achieved.

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Debacle at Riga. Russian forces led by their best elite Guards are repulsed with heavy loss. The Tsar in a pique of rage sacks his commander and takes personal charge

Eastern Front – The CP made gradual advances leading to the disastrous Russian offensive at the Battle of Riga.  Here despite Russian Guard support, the Russian forces dashed themselves against the German defences in a vain attempt to wrest control back from the German occupying forces. Russian losses included a whole army, worse still the Germans remained at full strength and despite plenty of Russian armies still in play, all were hundreds of miles from the front.  Following this debacle, the Tsar sacked the Grand Duke and took personal control of his armies.

Balkan Front – This sector remained quiet.

Near East Front – This sector remained quiet.

Summary – The Allied powers despite a healthy VP score are in some disarray.  Forced to continually fill in the gaps made by German offensives has left them having to react to each CP move.  In the East the CP breakthrough looks imminent yet with the situation so serious on the Western Front, neither Allied country is in a position to take the pressure off the other by launching their own offensive.

NEXT – 1916 – Can The Central Powers breakthrough in the East or West?


IMG_2647As 1914 drew to a close both sides moved up their war status from Mobilisation to Limited War. To achieve this the mechanics of the game require a side to achieve 4 or more War status points.  These are gained during the game through play of strategy cards as specific events.  Those cards that have a number in parentheses add that number to the sides War status.  Once the required amount has been attained, that side changes its war status to Limited War. The advantages are that this then allows the player to add a whole new deck of cards. The events are wide ranging from Russian Revolution and US entry into the war to reinforcements or more local scale events.  The cards can and in most instances are used for other purposes however.  The top left hand corner number provides a number of Ops points with which to conduct combat and movement operations.  The set of numbers on the bottom are used instead if that player wished to use the card to provide for vital replacments of troops.  In the end it comes down to managing the deck as best as you can. The Central Powers who have the momentum at the present reached Limited War status through play of Guns of August (2 pts), then Oberost (1pt) and then Falkenhayn (2pts). The allies made it though British reinforcements of the 1st and 2nd Armies (1pt each) on either side of the Blockade (2pt) event.  

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Autumn 1914 – 1st battle of Verdun. Germany launches a massive attack on the French fort system around Verdun. The French refuse to give up the ground resulting in catastrophic losses

Western Front – The Central Powers maintain momentum with a series of devastating attacks on the French lines culminating in an all out attack on Verdun. 1st battle of Verdun.  With the 3rd Army holding the Sedan sector they launch a 2 pronged attack with alongside the 4th and 5th armies.  The defenders number the 3rd and 5th French armies and a corps. Desperately clinging on despite horrendous casualties, when the dust settled one French army and the corps were destroyed, the other reduced.  The Germans didn’t have it all their own way, their 4th and 5th armies also suffering a reduction in capability. With the potential of a German breakthrough very real, the AP were forced to bring in fresh troops but this was at the expense of handing all momentum to the CP and going onto a defensive war footing. Eventually they managed to dislodge the German forces in Sedan and attempted to entrench the area but at very high cost. The CP also successfully entrenched at Liege and heavily repulsed an Anglo-Belgian attack

Eastern Front – This theatre took on a more fluid aspect than the Western Front.  The CP managing to make small inroads but frustrated by fortress cites Warsaw and Lomza holding out behind their lines could not exploit the gains.  These cities affected the CP supply chain and held back any major advances while the AP reinforced.

Balkan Front – This sector remained quiet with some CP Austrian units moving into position

Near East Front – Turkey’s entry into the war directly threatened both Russia and the British Empire, however apart from some reinforcing of units on borders the sector remained quiet.

Summary – The attritional battles of the Western Front continued to dominate the War.  The situation for the Allied powers was particularly alarming with use of strategy cards for replacements taking precedence but curtailing operations while the CP could attack wherever he liked.  The Eastern Front looked like a tinder box just waiting for the fall of Warsaw and Lomza to signal a massive CP offensive. The Balkan Front had stabilised into a minor sideshow while the lack of any action in the Near East was a welcome relief to the AP

NEXT – Spring and Summer 1915 – The Central Powers consider whether to switch focus to an offensive in the East or attempt to break through in the West.


Sep 1914 - Kitchener's recruitment drive poster concentrating on the British sense of duty proved a huge success

Sep 1914 – Kitchener’s recruitment drive poster concentrating on the British sense of duty proved a huge success

So The Great War begins. Before we get into the detail, regular game players will no doubt be thinking. Hang on? isn’t this game designed to be played by 2 or 3 players? The answer is YES and it is so much better that way( I assume) as well. But the game does have a Solitaire suitability rating of 7 out of 10 and lacking any other players nearby and not wanting to lose hours of my life gaming on the Vassal site I’m afraid I am having to play this game solo, making decisions impartially for both sides.  The inherent weakness is as the game is card driven I of course know the contents of each sides card deck so we’ll just have to put that down to fantastic intelligence from the likes of Mata Hari and other spies of the time.

Now the results, the first 2 turns of the game are monthly ones before we adopt a quarterly seasonal turn system from turn 3 onwards. Both sides have commenced the game in Mobilisation stage meaning they have a small deck of cards to select from with which to make decisions.

Western Front – The Central Powers (CP) began as they did historically with the “Guns of August” event allowing them to destroy the Liege Fort, occupy the space and launch a devastating attack on the 3rd French army in Sedan. After this opening assault things became a bit more cautious as both sides jockeyed Armies into position.  The vacant Sedan space becoming the main area of conflict and a killing ground for whoever tried to occupy it.  In September the French were required to conduct a mandated offensive (more on Mandated Offensives next time).

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Disaster at Metz – 5 French armies are dashed to pieces attacking 2 entrenched German ones defending the fortress area around Metz. An Anglo-Belgian spoiling attack also fails with heavy loss

1st battles of Metz and Lille.  Mustering a massive 5 Armies of nearly 900,000 men they attacked from their own trench lines against the dug in German 4th & 5th armies at Metz.  Further north, a second attack by the weakened British BEF and newly arrived predominantly volunteer 1st Army, supported by the Belgian 1st Army is launched against the newly held German positions at Lille. As the photo left illustrates, both attacks failed miserably. The French 9th Army was reduced to Corps size, while the 5th Army was damaged.  The BEF leading the British sector attack are reduced to Corps status of about 50,000 men from the original force of 200,000. German losses while by no means trivial (2 armies damaged) are much lower, and their territory has been held. These brutal combats force both sides to use cards as replacement ones to bolster and reinforce their numbers at the end of the month.

Eastern Front – This is the area where the traditional thoughts of Trench warfare tend not to happen. Russia being so vast that this usually is a theatre of movement.  However that didn’t happen in the opening months as being a bit rusty on the rules I concentrated more on the Western Front.  Austrian units made some probing attacks into Russia and small areas of territory were exchanged, the Austrians coming off slightly worse.

Balkan Front -The Balkans looked like they would become a quiet sideshow when all of a sudden, the Austrians launched an offensive against Belgrade. Relief of Belgrade – Initially successful, they began investing the city before a concerted Serb counter attack drove them back with heavy losses.

Summary – After the immediate battles over Liege, events were far more cautious than expected with both sides only creeping up on their War Status footing and moving units into place. Then the major defeats of the allies in battles in September on the Western Front put the German forces at an advantage. The Balkan Front looked vulnerable however and the Eastern Front was a tinder box.

 

NEXT – Autumn and Winter 1914 – The Central Powers move up to Limited War status, Turkey joins them and the Eastern Front explodes into action


 It seems fitting to dig out this classic given the hundredth anniversary, that and watching the excellent bbc drama “37 days” was enough to sufficiently whet my appetite. Bear with me folks while I set the scene, this blog is nowhere near as long as it looks, the bulk just made up of mouth watering stats!

This game is without doubt one of the best war-games ever created. I’m not just saying that, until very recently it ranked as the no.1 war-game of all time on Board Game Geek. This game actually makes the First World War a playable one and an enjoyable one at that (in gaming terms).  The only flaw, a cosmetic one in that the map although beautiful to behold is printed on PAPER. Yes you heard that right a paper map”board”. Scandalous, although a “deluxe” edition with a cardboard map was subsequently published.

So onto the game, its card driven which being my first introduction to this style of game led me to being very suspicious. The cards however are the mechanics setting up each players options whether they are movement, combat, reinforcements or specific combat events or wider diplomatic ones.  This is not a review of the game per se, its going to be a narrative of the War as it unfolds, so prior to commencing hostilities while I reacquaint myself with the rules, here are the strengths of the opposing sides.  

Aug 1914 - The entire theatre of War

Aug 1914 – The entire theatre of War

Central Powers:-

Germany – Western & Eastern Fronts – 7 Armies (1 reduced), 3 Corps (2 reduced) plus 8 Corps in reserve – 1,400,000 + 400,000 in reserve

Austria-Hungary – Eastern, Balkan & Italian Fronts – 6 Armies (1 reduced), 4 Corps plus 5 Corps in reserve – 1,300,000 + 250,000 in reserve

TOTAL – 2,700,000 + 650,000 reserve = 3,350,000

Allied Powers:-

Aug 1914 Western Front

Aug 1914 – The Western Front

Russia – Eastern & Near East Fronts – 6 Armies, 7 Corps plus 6 Corps in reserve – 1,550,000 + 300,000 in reserve

France – Western Front – 7 Armies (2 reduced), 3 Corps plus 7 Corps in reserve – 1,350,000 + 350,000 in reserve

Serbia – Balkan Front – 2 Armies plus 2 Corps in reserve – 400,000 + 100,000 in reserve

Great Britain – Western & Near East Fronts –  1 Army, 3 Corps (all reduced) plus 2  Corps in reserve – 275,000 + 100,000 in reserve

Aug 1914 – The Eastern Front

Montenegro – Balkan Front – 1 Corps – 50,000 men

TOTAL – 3,625,000 +  850,000 in reserve = 4,475,000

Neutral Powers:-

Italy – Italian Front – 4 Armies (all reduced), 3 Corps plus 4 Corps in reserve – 550,000 + 200,000 in reserve

Turkey – Near East and Balkan Front – 13 Corps – 650,000

Bulgaria – Balkan Front – 6 Corps – 300,000

Romania – Balkan Front – 6 Corps – 300,000

Aug 1914 – The Balkan Front

Greece – Balkan Front – 3 Corps – 150,000

United States – None

A note on Army units – Each nationalities Army and Corps units have with a few exceptions a generic Combat, Loss & Movement factor.  So although it would appear the CP are massively outnumbered, the quality of at least half of their force is much higher than most of the AP forces.  The first number = combat strength, 2nd = loss factor, 3rd = movement. The higher the combat factor the better the chance of inflicting damage, the higher the Loss factor the better the chance of receiving lower casualties.  In essence any unit with a combat factor of 5 is VERY good, any unit with a loss factor of 2 or worse is poor

full/reduced str

GB Allied – 5-3-3/4-3-3 BEF (single unit)

GER Central – 5-3-3/3-3-3

USA Neutral Allied – 5-3-3/3-3-3

GB Allied – 4-3-3/3-3-3

FRA Allied – 3-3-3/2-3-3

BEL Allied – 2-3-3/1-3-3 (single unit)

RUS Allied – 3-2-3/2-2-3

AUT Central – 3-2-3/1-2-3

SER – Allied – 2-2-3/1-2-3

IT Neutral Allied – 2-2-3/1-2-3

GB Allied – 1-2-3/1-2-3 MEF (single unit)

TUR Neutral Central 1-2-3/1-2-2