Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

SPW Game Series Der Weltkrieg: The Battle of Tannenberg

August, 1914

The First World War breaks out after German forces advance into Belgium. German High Command expects it will take at least six weeks for the Russians to mobilize their forces, giving them time to defeat France then shift their forces east. The Russians turned out to be more prepared than the Germans anticipated, and two Russian armies, the First under Paul von Rennenkampf and the Second under Aleksandr Vassilievich Samsonov, advance into East Prussia, the goal being to encircle and destroy the German Eighth Army, and capture Königsberg.

Rennenkampf’s First Army advanced from the east, directly towards Konigsberg. The Germans engaged the Russian First Army at Stallupönen on the border between East Prussia and Russia (August 17). Even though they pushed the Russians back and took a few thousand prisoners, German General Maximilian Wilhelm Gustav von Prittwitz und Gaffron called off the attack and pulled his forces back.

A few days later at Gumbinnen (August 20), the two sides engaged again when Prittwitz, having intercepted intelligence from Russian wireless communications, attacked. While the Germans did experience success early in the battle, Russian artillery was devastating, and broke the German lines the next day.

Samsonov’s Second Army, advancing from the south, crossed the frontier at about the same time as the Battle of Gumbinnen was taking place. The Russian plan was for First Army to keep the Germans engaged, while Second Army marched north, then engaged the Germans from the rear.

Prittwitz’s initial reaction was to withdraw Eighth Army west of the Vistula River, abandoning East Prussia. Although this was initially the plan created by the German High Command, Prittwitz was forbidden from abandoning the eastern frontier. Prittwitz still began to withdraw, leading to his sacking and replacement by Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and Major General Erich Ludendorff.

When Hindenburg and Ludendorff arrived, they consolidated Eighth Army, and, using intercepted wireless communications, decided to attack and destroy Samsonov first, then turn on Rennenkampf. It was also believed that the two Russian generals severely disliked each other, and if one called for help, the other would be slow to respond, if they responded at all. Another theory holds that it was felt that the two armies would simply be too far apart to support each other.

After the battle, Second Army was destroyed, causing Samsonov to commit suicide. His body was not found until 1917.

One Second Army was destroyed, Hindenburg and Ludendorff turned Eighth Army loose on Rennenkampf’s First Army at the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes. While First Army was not destroyed and escaped back to Russia, the Germans rebuffed the Russian East Prussian campaign.

The fact that the two Russian armies were so far apart contributed to their defeat, much like the lack of encrypted wireless communications are not much of an advantage for the Germans in this game. There are no wireless intercepts, and the Russian player may deliberately keep the two armies closer to each other (if permitted in the rules) to support the advance.

The question becomes, would this open up another opportunity for the Germans to exploit?

Each game turn represent 4 or 5 days, and the game covers the time period that includes Stallupönen, Gambonnin, Tannenberg, and the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Units are not allowed to move until mobilization for that unit has been completed.

One thing that makes this game different from other games that I have played is that each hex has multiple terrain forms. When attacking, terrain is determined by hexside, rather than hex.

This should be fun.

The East Prussian Campaign, initial Dispositions and Russian plans (click image to enlarge)

The East Prussian Campaign; initial Dispositions and Russian plans (click image to enlarge)

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2 thoughts on “SPW Game Series Der Weltkrieg: The Battle of Tannenberg

  1. alant14 on said:

    Did SPW publish more games in this series?


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