1 September 2014

Straight from the Beta Testers: Strategic Command World War 1: Breakthrough! - After Action Report: Part 1

Fury Software's beta tester Michael Kollmann shares with us his exclusive play-through with the expansion to Strategic Command World War 1. Is he able to change the outcome of the First World War, or will the Central Powers again submit because of internal and external pressures? This is Part 1.

Published on 29 SEP 2012 2:11pm by Michael Kollmann
  1. world war ii, ground combat, turn-based, strategic, single-player, europe, mid-east, pc, 1, yes

Campaign/Scenario: "1914 Ostaufmarsch"

Alliance: Central Powers

 

Expectations

In the past few months, I have play-tested the historical grand campaign “1914 Call to Arms” quite a lot. For those interested in history, especially in changing it, there is a frequent topic that comes to mind: “what would have happened if the German army would have finished off Russia quickly?" Fortunately, Strategic Command: WWI Breakthrough! has enabled us to find out the answer with their engrossing alternative history “1914 Ostaufmarsch” campaign. This campaign deploys  the majority of the German army in the East at the beginning of the war. Be quick in the East and defensive in the West... this is my interpretation of the accompanying strategy guide, as I have not yet played this campaign, but I have a rough idea of what Hubert Cater and Bill Runacre have in store for me. Despite this, I suspect there still might be a few surprises out there.

 

The Plan

I need to defeat the Russians as soon as possible. Of course I can march into western Poland and take their cities as quickly as possible. But at the outset, this does not seem like a good strategy. The defensive positions in Poland are perfect for a defender, as I plan to attack from Thorn in the direction of Kutno and Lodz. I’m pretty sure I can take these two cities, but then the Russian troops will likely dig-in behind any of the rivers in the area. So I deployed my “extra“ troops during the new “Deployment Phase” around Allenstein, and will try to encircle Warsaw by taking Bialystok, and then Brest-Litovsk. Simultaneously, I will  let my Austro-Hungarian troops march to Kovel as soon as they have defeated the expected Russian attack on Galicia. This would capture all railroad links into Poland and would allow me to finish off the remaining troops quickly.

 

In the West I will be defensive. For sure, I will not attack Belgium. Not quite sure what Hubert and Bill from Fury Software have in mind for Belgium, so I will be cautious there. In Serbia I will try to take Belgrade which usually brings Bulgaria into the war quickly. Not quite sure yet what I will do in the Middle East.

 

The Beginning

During the first turn, my troops in the West try to establish a defensive line from Luxembourg to Mülhausen. I’ve placed my sole “Heavy Artillery” down there as well—I feel pretty confident Hubert’s AI is not going to force me out of that position in the early stage of the war.


In the East, German troops take Kutno in the first turn. Bialystok is unoccupied, but this might change during the AI’s turn.

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In Serbia, Belgrade is under attack and will likely fall in the second turn.

The second turn starts with a French corps that tries to attack Mülhausen. But the attack is not successful and the French corps becomes the first victim on the Western Front.

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The destruction of the French corps.

This frontline seems stable and I will not make further adjustments unless the strategic situation changes. Meanwhile, in the East, a Russian attack on Gumbinnen fails and a Russian corps retreats badly damaged. In Poland, my attack works out better than I thought—an early attack on Warsaw is an option. Bialystok is taken (this will be very important for my supply), and the AI brings in less reinforcements than I had expected.

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Galicia looks fine as well. Unless the AI surprises me, I will be able to keep the oil.

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In Serbia, Belgrade is taken. As a positive surprise, Valjevo is under attack and might fall the next turn.

 

Hubert’s AI surprises me by taking back the undefended Bialystok.

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I take Bialystok back, and Radom falls as well.

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A positive side effect: the Austro-Hungarian troops in Krakow and Tarnow can move to the east and are no longer needed as garrisons. I am preparing an attack on Lublin. If I can take it, Kovel is not far away. Valjevo also falls in Serbia.

Summary after three turns: ten Russian and one French unit are destroyed; three Russian towns and a city taken. Many German corps deploy in Berlin. I decide to let half of these march to the East and the other half to the West.

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I can just imagine how the French Supreme Command is contemplating the violation of Belgian neutrality. This is not going to work strategically unless the UK is at war  and unfortunately for the French, the UK is only at 87% war readiness. Even so, I need to be prepared.

In the fourth turn a French corps dies in front of Metz. In the East my troops are able to take Ivangorod and begin the siege of Brest-Litovsk. I wish the new supply rules would also apply to fortresses, as this would help me in my attack on Brest-Litovsk, but they only allow for the besieging and starvation of towns and cities. In the past, there were some criticisms directed at the supply rules, which in some cases enabled cut-off towns and cities to remain at a higher supply level than what would otherwise be desirable. In Strategic Command: WWI Breakthrough!, this is no longer the case; and as a bonus Hubert and Bill have added new zone of control rules that allow you to reduce the strength of an enemy resource, over time, much like a siege would in real life. Austro-Hungarian troops take Lublin, and the last railway junction to Warsaw is gone. Galicia is quiet and the situation seems stable there.

 

The fifth turn brings two new developments. The UK is in the war, so I now need to be prepared for an Entente invasion of Belgium. Apart from that, Russian reinforcements appeared at Brest-Litovsk, and one of my corps is endangered.

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I’ve decided to go for an all-out attack, and as a result, the situation looks pretty desperate for Russia. I might lose a corps or two in the counterattack, but if that happens it will still be worth it. I’ve also managed to kill a Russian HQ south of Kovel. The siege of Brest-Litovsk will have to wait for another turn.

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In the sixth turn I have my first casualty... the German corps south of Brest-Litovsk dies of low supply. But the risk was worth it: the remainder of the Russian troops around Warsaw are in the trap, and they are low on supply.

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I will try to wipe out as many units as I can before winter sets in. In the seventh turn the Ottoman Empire joins the war. From now on, I will no longer count turns, I will just mention the current date. We are now in November, the 21st November 1914 to be exact. Warsaw and Novo-Georgievsk are taken, and Brest-Litovsk is surrounded. Kovel will fall during the next turn—this opens up a variety of strategic options.

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The German troops can head for Minsk, while the Austro-Hungarian troops can march for Kiev or Odessa. I am in the lucky position to move troops to west if I need them there. Most likely, war with Italy is also on the horizon. It is now 19th December 1914, and it is time to have another quick summary. In the East the situation looks pretty good, and the German and Austro-Hungarian troops are in their winter quarters.


The Western Front looks fine as well. As you can see, I have put a few corps on the German border around Aachen, to deal with an attack on Belgium. Not quite sure when it may come, but I am pretty confident it will come.

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Up to now I have just lost one single unit, but it is not going to remain that way for long. The French have lost five units, so far, and the Russians an amazing 40. Quite a big blow!

 

1915

As the year 1915 starts, my armies rest and refit. I wait for “Infantry Weapons Level 1” and will upgrade my armies as soon as I have that researched. My plans for this year: Riga and Minsk are the next objectives on the northern part of the Eastern Front. In the East, between Lemberg and Kiev, there seems to be a battle approaching between Russian and Austro-Hungarian forces. Infantry Weapons Level 1 will also help.

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In the Balkans I expect Bulgaria to join the war on my side. Their troops will attack Serbia from the south and finish them off completely. In Italy, I might choose an aggressive approach, just depending on the outcome of the battle in the Ukraine. The Caucasus Front is stable; and in Palestine I plan to be defensive as well. In February 1915, UK amphibious forces take Lemnos in Greece. It seems that they want to prepare an amphibious invasion of Gallipoli, so I am cautious in that region.

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April 1915 brings a new development. The imperialist Allied forces declare war on innocent Belgium, so I need to assist my new found friends.


Fortunately, I was expecting this; those few corps around Aachen will be needed. I am trying to establish a defensive line there without sacrificing too much Belgian territory.


The Belgian II Corps might not survive, but it does delay the enemy’s advance on Brussels. The corps in Brussels is entrenched, and that might be a big help—losing Brussels is not what I have in mind.

If you wonder what is happening elsewhere: some bold British subs try to sneak into Austrian harbours, but they were caught.

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The British fight well and survive, but will they be able to escape?

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In May 1915 Italy joins the Entente. They besiege Trento, and a daring Italian destroyer group tries to help the encircled UK sub.


The damaged sub and the destroyer group are sunk, and I start to operate units from Galicia to Tyrol. I decided to move a full army group there to give the Italians a “hard time”—Russia appears weak anyway, so I can divert a few troops.

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Belgium is bloody, but both Belgian corps do survive, though they were badly damaged. I will remove them from the frontline and replace them with German corps, to give them a bit of a rest. The detachment defending Namur is destroyed, but if I send a German corps in the town it will likely be destroyed by Allied troops. So I will leave Namur undefended. When an Allied unit moves in, I will destroy it—better their corps gets decimated than mine!

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In the East, I can take Kovno and Grodno. The forces that took Kovno are to head for Riga, and the army group at Grodno will head for Vilna. The third army group in the south shall take Baranovich and then Minsk—at least this is the plan.


In the Ukraine, I start an attack in the direction of Kiev. There are plenty of Russian units around, and I need to focus on one target. Originally I planned to march to Kiev and to Odessa, but I have had to cancel the plans for taking Odessa. And I need to be prepared for a Romanian war entry as well.

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In Serbia, Uzice falls and Kragujevac is under siege; though I’m still waiting for the Bulgarians to join.

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Palestine looks stable. I do not intend to conduct an offensive here. The first step is to let the UK forces attack me. Unless they get more troops, they will not get through my defensive line.


My German corps in Brussels is killed by French heavy artillery and three British corps. I am able to take it back, but if I did I would lose my unit in the following turn. Hubert’s scripts work very well, and so I left Brussels to the Allied forces. At the moment they still have numerical superiority, and trading units doesn’t work in my favour at the moment.

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I destroyed the detachment in Namur and the entrenched French corps in the Woëvre. I will operate units from Poland to Belgium and still have a reserve around Warsaw. In southern Turkey, a single UK detachment conducted an amphibious landing. Some readers might think this is a senseless action by the AI, but I will have to operate a Turkish corps down there with an MPP cost.

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It is now the end of July, and Allied troops have started a siege of Ostend. Due to the new supply rules, it will fall sooner rather than later (if a town or city is surrounded by 4 or more units, its supply decreases every turn). I regard this as an opportunity because those four units left the Allied frontline around Brussels, and, thus, I feel it is the right time to start “trading” units there.


In Russia, my troops destroy a lot of units and are able to take town after town. I have only a few turns left before the bad weather begins, so I must hurry up; but taking Riga and Minsk seems possible. I try to encircle and starve Russian units wherever I can, as by the next turn they will have zero supply and thus be easy prey.

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Shortly after: Riga and Minsk are in German hands, Dvinsk will follow next turn.

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In the western Ukraine the battle is almost over; maybe I will go for Kiev or await the winter break... let us see how the AI reacts.

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Now it’s September 1915 and the Greeks have joined the war. Unfortunately Bulgaria has not yet joined, so I have had to invest in diplomacy to make them. In the West I have taken Namur and Brussels back. My frontline looks stable, but I will not push it further until I have heavy artillery support. So in the spring it should be time to strike back. There are six more corps in the production queue—that should help. The conquest of the mine at Mons is helpful for my MPP account. When it is back to full production, it will bring 30 MPPs per turn, almost as much as a small country!

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 In the East, Kiev has fallen and the whole Eastern Front is preparing for winter quarters. A few Russian troops are left around Kiev. So 1915 comes to an end. The Allied attack on Belgium has been halted, and the tide appears to have turned. The arrival of my two further units of heavy artillery on the Western Front, might change the situation there.

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In Byelorussia, the German army rests—there isn't much sign of Russian troops.

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In the Ukraine, one Austro-Hungarian army group is still in action south of Kiev. The other one is awaiting a potential Romanian war entry.

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  In Serbia I am behind schedule. But Bulgaria is at 87% war readiness, so sooner or later they will join; and that will be the end for Serbia.

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The Middle East is quiet. The British attack on Palestine failed and resulted in the destruction of three British corps. I consider a counterattack…

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In general, I am very happy with developments in 1915. The Central Powers have lost 10 units so far, 3 of these were Belgian. The French and the UK have lost 15 units each, Italy 1 and Russia 86. Belgium is still in the war, and I captured 7 cities in Russia—this will fill my pockets next year!

So what is planned for 1916? As soon as I have my heavy artillery on the Western Front, I will start an attack there. Not quite sure if it will be an all-out attack or a limited one; let’s see. In the East I will have the army group in Riga march to St. Petersburg via Narva, while the army group in Dvinsk will also head for St. Petersburg, via Pskov. My troops in Minsk will head for Smolensk and maybe even Moscow, if the Russians have not surrendered by then. The Austro-Hungarian army group in Kiev will stay there and inflict as many casualties on the enemy as possible; perhaps I will let them march to the Donets basin if they get restless. The other Austro-Hungarian army group will stay where it is until Romania is in the war. There are no plans for the Middle East, so let’s sit and wait to see what happens down there.

If anyone is missing the naval action: there is something planned for mid-1916. I just need to upgrade all of my subs first!

Part 2 of this AAR can be found HERE.

 

After action report written by: Michael Kollmann, Beta Tester for Fury Software

 

 

 

About Michael Kollmann

Michael Kollmann's internet alias is “Hyazinth von Strachwitz“. He's 39 years old and he lives in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He works as a bond trader and is married with children. Turn-based strategy games have fascinated Michael since the 1980s. His first game from this genre was Battle Isle, which helped him decide that this was the genre for him. He has played Panzer General and almost all of the clones enthusiastically, but for him Strategic Command is more or less Panzer General 2 taken up to the strategic level.

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