After Action Report: Time of Fury - Gotterdammerung Campaign
John Thompson takes on the role of Supreme Headquarters for the Allied Expeditionary Force as they take on the Axis forces in April of 1944. How fast can he secure victory in Europe?
226 turns, U.S., Great Britain, and Free France vs. the AI
In this AAR, I am playing the role of Supreme Headquarters for the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) -- in this case, the United States, Free France and Great Britain -- as they attempt to wrest control of the European mainland from Nazi Germany in Matrix/Slitherine's new grand strategy game, Time of Fury.
We will be playing through the Gotterdammerung scenario, a 226-turn beast that picks up action in April 1944, just a few months before the historical invasion of Normandy. I also could have chosen to play the Soviets, but decided, for the scope of the AAR and the ease of recounting overall strategies, that it would be easier just to focus on the Western Front and let Comrade Stalin (the AI) handle the East.
The preliminary goals are clear: eliminate Nazi Germany and liberate Western Europe. As a gamer, I've set a secondary goal for myself as well -- I'd like to see how far east I can get before Germany capitulates (if Germany capitulates), and how this final east/west line will compare to history.
Looking at my setup, I will need to put some effort into research, as even at this point in 1944 my equipment, especially as the U.S. (I feel this is somewhat erroneous in terms of fighter aircraft and naval assets, but let's not quibble) is not up to snuff compared to the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe's units.
I have quite a few units in the U.K. and mainland U.S. that are ready to get their boots wet; some recon shows that the Atlantic Wall is stiffer in some places than it is in others... where to strike? And do I need to stage my troops in the U.K. before launching them into the fray? Also, should I reinforce my effort under way in Italy, or tell Mark Clark to make do with what he has? Decisions, decisions...
In the first few turns, I have loaded my troops in Philadelphia and New York and Boston onto troopships (and to keep my convoys effective, I also needed to purchase quite a few transport points as well) and sent them out in the Atlantic, covered with screening forces of handfuls of escort carriers, by far my most effective ASW platform. I have conducted fighter recon of the coasts of Normandy and Brittany and eliminated two Luftflottes of Axis fighters, opening up the area to my Mitchells and heavies to attack unabated. I have decided to make my initial landings on the continent near Brest, not Cherbourg as was historical I will be able to expand my initial bridgehead into open tank country instead of hedgerows, and will push hard for Bordeaux, Cherbourg, and Caen as secondary ports.
The initial fighting as the invasion ships are mustered is centered on Italy, where I have been able to dislodge Kesselring's paratroopers from the spine of the boot with speed and success, eliminating a number of panzer divisions and an Armee corps and capturing Rome on Turn 3. Monty has pushed hard up the east side of Italy as well.
The invasion commences! Poor planning almost doomed it from the start, as I mistakenly loaded most of my troops onto transport task forces instead of amphibious TFs... but the Guards Armored Division has punched its way into Brest with the SAS brigade taking Rennes via paradrop to the east. The port is now open for my follow-on troops as I brace for a counterattack with the meager units already across the beach. Two fighter wings provide air cover to the beachhead.
Meanwhile, Clark and Monty continue to make ahistorical gains in Italy; combined Anglo-American efforts have taken Florence in the west and Ancona in the east. Isolating and destroying the bypassed German units is being left to the follow-on troops behind the advances.
The Yanks have arrived in France! Armored and mechanized forces move east to relieve the SAS and push towards Nantes; more are offloading every turn. A second port would be helpful, although a Mulberry harbor is providing additional automatic supply.
Next, I roll the dice a bit and commit to a second landing at Bordeaux. If the garrison held there for even two turns, powerful reinforcements from the south could have made this another Dieppe; thankfully that does not happen and we get into the city just in time. Our toehold is tenuous, however.
To the north, the counterattacks begin, punching at our outer ring near Rennes. Nantes falls but the Guards Armored needs to take next turn to rest and resupply.
It worked once, why not try again? A small initial force of Brits -- the 2nd and 6th Paras -- has jumped into Amsterdam after a wicked shelling by the Home Fleet and some serious work by tac air. Reinforcements are on the way, lads -- dig in!
All bridgeheads continue to expand as reinforcements pour in to my three ports. Because there were no units in the build queue at the start of the game, basic new units are only just now close to being deployed; bigger, more expensive units will still take another 1-12 turns, but once the flow starts, it will be steady. One foible of this game is getting under my skin; recon is not shared between allies. First my Brits recon an area in front of the advance and then move, then when it is the U.S. turn, they have to perform the same task. I'm not a fan. (Turn 7)
The boot of Italy is ours, and fairly won! Mussolini has fled to parts unknown and Italy has capitulated and is now an Axis nonfactor.
We begin pressing into Normandy from the south and southwest; Paris, the great prize, looms in the east.
Operation Lowbudget commences! My vets from the Italian campaign will push forward with little help in the immediate future of reinforcements... the Brits will turn the corner and push into the Balkans; two American corps will push past Innsbruck into Germany itself, and my Free French, relieved of guard duties in North Africa, will secure the France/Italy border. (Turn 10)
My Brits have pushed out of Holland; do I head south to link with the American beachhead in France or push east to threaten Berlin? I choose the worst possible alternative: both. It's risky, I don't have enough men to do both, and it leaves me open to the kind of counterattack that if I was playing a human could derail the whole northern operation. But I do it anyway, because I want to see if I can manage it.
The northeast push from the Brest beachhead has gone slower than expected because of the amount and quality of the German units that have been thrown against us. We have yet to take a Channel port but Caen, Cherbourg and Le Havre are in sight.
Reinforcements have proved to be the difference as we have finally shattered the Germans' Caen-Le Mans-Tours line. The time is now to push hard for the City of Lights. (Turn 12)
In the south, a counterattack by new green units has endangered my hold on Bordeaux. I will send new troops via rail there as they offload at Brest. I will need to send enough to not only hold Bordeaux but push on to the Pyrenees and then link up with the Free French near Marseille.
Operation Lowbudget's Brits are doing a fabulous job of chewing up enemy units but not making any headway down the Adriatic. Most of the enemy units that are showing up in the area are low-grade, green divisions; but in amongst them is almost always one solid corps or panzerarmee that prevents the whole lot from being simply swept aside. It has to be surrounded, pounded with air and then whittled down, a process which stops any headlong advances in its tracks. Still, these units have to be bought and paid for by a foe who is losing production capacity with each turn as my armies advance.
Cherbourg and Cannes are ours, as is Paris! We have trapped a powerful panzergruppe outside Paris but an even more powerful unit has arrived to lend its aid. Our strength in numbers, however, lets us avoid straight-up fights with these units until we have cut them off and denied them supplies for a week (one turn). Much easier then. My Brits push southwest along the coast, nearing Lille. (Turn 16)
The central spear of Operation Lowbudget continues to drive north into the heart of Germany; if I had given this group 5 more units there's no telling what havoc they could wreak. As it is, we have pushed up into Central Germany, taking Munich, Stuttgart and Nuremburg. I have to be extra wary of being cut off at this point, obviously.
The B word -- Berlin -- begins to become a topic of increased conversation among the Allied illuminati. France is now wholly in the hands of the Allies, as are the Low Countries. Sadly, in Time of Fury, recaptured countries do no spring back to life as sovereign nations they simply add points to your war machine and remove them from the Axis. Operation Lowbudget's central thrust has linked up with Allied units moving east from France, securing it from the threat of being cut off. In the south of France, however, more and more units turn up, are destroyed, and replaced by other... we have gained no ground in the last 5 turns but have mauled everything thrown at us. (Turn 20)
A strong force has emerged from the Maritime Alps attempting to wrest Northern Italy from my mixed force of Free French and Brits. Cutting them off from their supply source at Marseille will go a long way to stopping the intrusion. Elsewhere, constant pressure on all fronts is causing huge cracks in the Axis defense; on the East Front, the Soviets have rallied from a slow start and are making their way west.
Major mistake: splitting my already thin Brits in the eastern prong of Operation Lowbudget into three separate new prongs... I am spreading my force far, far too thin...
...and the AI sees it as well, pouncing on each of the three prongs. I have lost one division and am now scrambling to retreat, join up at Trieste and hopefully regroup there, hopefully with additional help. One mechanized corps in Cairo has boarded transports but it may be too late.
Balkans drama aside, the main thrust and objective goes well -- we have battered our way into two of the three hexes that make up Berlin. Will the Axis capitulate when Berlin falls?
Berlin has fallen, and my Balkans debacle has been remedied by a hasty retreat and some timely reinforcements. The Brits and Free French have fought off the German intrusion across the Maritime Alps. Germany fights on.
Germany simply doesn't have enough production power to stop my advance at this point; my comrades from the Soviet Union are visible on the horizon as I push east. (Turn 29)
All of Germany, including prewar Poland, is now in my hands, as are almost all the Balkans down to the border with Greece. Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia have all capitulated. Romania is next, and Finland is in tatters. Still, despite not having an inch of its own soil left, Germany has not capitulated, which is honestly somewhat frustrating. Leading the Axis, even in this state, should not be possible when your entire country is occupied. But I have accomplished my goals; and the game has been fun to play. I have redrawn the postwar New World Order in a much different fashion! (Turn 33)
AAR written by: John Thompson, Staff Writer