Cardboard Wars

War is the continuation of politics by other means

Der Weltkrieg: The Battle of Tannenberg, Turn 1 (August 9 – 12, 1914)


I’ve written a couple of posts on SPW/Decision Games Der Weltkrieg series. I have now had a chance to peruse the rules, and I believe that they are simple and elegant. It makes for a very quick and playable game.

One of the biggest complaints I have about Europa is the supply system. For the most part, as long as you keep the enemy out of your rear areas, your troops have unlimited and easily accessible supplies. This was not the case on the Western Front in 1944-45. The Allies were frequently slowed down by the lack of supply, and it made the capture of Antwerp critical to ending the war.  Patton and Montgomery were constantly arguing over supply allocation. The closest Europa comes to supply issues is the Eastern Front, where the Axis can easily outrun their supply lines.

This changed somewhat in The Great War series, as it is very easy to deplete your supplies before more can be produced .

Supply in Der Weltkrieg is handled by supply points. Supplies are carried and distributed through the headquarters units. This means that you, as the commander, have to decide how to allocate your limited supplies. Distribute too freely early on, and you could find yourself in a pinch near the end of the scenario.

The Germans, unit for unit, are stronger than the Russian units, but the Russians, at the start of the game, have more units, and the Germans are outnumbered 2:1.

The combat system does not rely on one side or the other being eliminated in combat. Instead, the combat system is really a series of exchanges, with both sides taking casualties as a result of combat, and wearing each other down.

Finally, each turn represents about four days. At the end of a full year, there are still 29 days missing, about 7 full turns. In this game, there are about three days missing at the end of August, but we will have to see how that works out.

For this scenario, Königsberg is off limits to the Russians. It is what is called an “unassailable fortress” (denoted by the gray hexside border, the Russians also have some cities in this category), meaning it cannot be attacked. As far as I can tell, this means that the city doesn’t even need to be garrisoned in this scenario, but it looks like it is fair game in the regular game series.  Kovno, Grodno and Warsaw are also unassailable fortresses in this game.

Since Königsberg was the Russian objective at the beginning of the campaign, it begs the question of what the Russian objectives should be, especially since the Germans move first.

Victory is determined by the amount of Demoralization Points inflicted on your opponent. This means that the Russians have to hit the Germans as hard as they can. This means trying to squeeze the German Eighth Army in a vice between First and Second Armies.

The Germans, on the other hand, have to keep themselves out of the vice and try to destroy one army or the other. The Germans have more forces facing Second Army to the south than they do facing First Army in the east. Since Königsberg can’t be threatened in this game, theoretically, the Germans could concentrate their forces to the south, but it would leave their rear areas exposed.

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

The East Prussian Campaign, initial Dispositions and the Russian plan of 1914 (click image to enlarge)

The German turn more or less consists of moving (as does the Russian turn). I’m barely out of the gate when I discover, after all pictures have been taken and having moved on that I dropped my first rule. The pictures will show the 8th Army HQ having moved, which it isn’t allowed to do this turn. For the purposes of this turn, it is still sitting in Allenstein, where it belongs. I discovered this when I was looking forward to reinforcements and the mobilization schedule for the next turn.

I am going to take this turn one step at a time, by phase.

German turn: August 1914 Turn 3

Each month is divided into turns, most having 7 turns per month, each turn representing about 4 or so days (5 in order to make the math work correctly). So, because the battle started in mid-August, the game starts on the third turn of August.

1. Reinforcement Arrival Phase

All German 8-5 infantry divisions and 2-6 cavalry division finish mobilization and are allowed to move. All other units cannot move this turn. There is also no rail movement allowed this turn.

A quick note: The solid lines shown on the map are double line rail lines, while the dotted lines are single rail lines, or low volume rail lines in Europa parlance.

2. Movement Phase

A total of six infantry divisions and a cavalry division on the Russian border are eligible to move.

Units in the east decide to withdraw from the border and man the forts in the Masurian Lakes region. The lone cavalry division is withdrawn from the border and kept a bit southwest of two 5-5 reserve division to keep Russian cavalry from sweeping around behind the Masurian Lakes fortress line.

In the southwest of East Prussia, two 8-5 infantry divisions are moved east to set up a screen in front of Allenstein. One division moves into the swamplands on the Russian border, while the other moves towards Allenstein and takes up positions in the woods. While another 8-5 division remains in Allenstein with the 8uth Army HQ (lol!), another moves southeast and mans a fortress to complete the screen.

German movement, turn 3 (click image to enlarge)

German movement, turn 3 (click image to enlarge)

3. Combat Phase

No combat.

4. Replacement/Recombination Phase

No replacements or recombination of units.

That’s it. That’s a turn!

Russian turn: August 1914 Turn 3

1. Reinforcement Arrival Phase

The Russian 1st Army has completed mobilization. It can move, but 1st Army HQ cannot.

Second Army has not completed mobilization, and cannot move this turn.

2. Movement Phase

Eight Russian infantry divisions (4-4) begin lurching towards the German border. Cavalry is sent out as a screen, but don’t want to get them too far ahead. First Army is marching north of the Masurian Lakes, to turn southwest towards the German Eighth Army.

The Russians march off to war (click image to enlarge)

The Russians march off to war (click image to enlarge)

3. Combat Phase

No combat.

4. Replacement/Recombination Phase

No replacements or recombination of units.

That’s one complete turn. It moves very quickly.

While the Germans are not racing for the Vistula, they do need to shorten their lines of supply and communication considering there is only one headquarters unit to get supply from. This also means that, as tempting as it is, the Germans cannot confront Second Army in Poland. The HQ cannot get too far away from the defenders in the east.

There is likely to be little movement during the next German turn as they await the Russian Steamroller to arrive, but we’ll see.

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