Der Weltkrieg: The Western Front: August Turn 1 (August 1 – 4, 1914)
The Guns of August
We all know how it started. The tangled web of alliances that set Europe on the path towards the largest war it had ever seen. The murder of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary (hereafter referred to as Austria for brevity) by a Serbian national. The July Crisis where Austria, wanting greater influence in the Balkans, pressed an ultimatum upon Serbia. Serbia would have to give up their sovereignty and that was unacceptable, so the Serbians rejected the terms, but still sought to placate Austria.
Instead, after assurances from Germany, Austria declared war on Serbia. The Austrians did not believe that Russia would get involved in a larger war for Serbia. However, Austria and Germany underestimated Russia. As the Russians began to mobilize, Germany began to mobilize as well. France was looking to avenge the loss of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and recapture the lost provinces of Alsace & Lorraine. If Germany went to war with Russia, France would go to war with Germany and begins their mobilization.
Germany was faced with the prospect of a two-front war and determined that the Russians would take six weeks to fully mobilize, giving them time to deal with France. In 1903, German Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen devised a plan to defeat the dual alliance of France and Russia by invading both Belgium and The Netherlands to march through to France quickly. The plan was revised in 1905, but after his death, his successor, Helmuth von Moltke began to weaken the right wing that was critical to the success of the plan. He was paranoid about losing territory, not just in the west, but in the east against Russia as well. He also altered the plan to not invade Holland.
Once again, though, the Germans had completely underestimated the Russians. This error would force the Germans to withdraw troops from the western front to reinforce the German Eighth Army in East Prussia. That one mistake could have cost the Germans the war.
As the German Army prepared to sweep through Belgium with strong forces to strike where the French Army least expected them, Germany demanded passage, but the Belgian King Albert refused. When the Germans invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914, Great Britain was drawn into the war as well. It is here that the plan hiccuped. The Germans had expected the Belgians to acquiesce to their demands, not fight.
As of August 4, 1914, the five major powers in Europe were at war.
- July 25, 1914: Austria begins to mobilize their army.
- July 27, 1914: The Ottoman Empire secretly proposes to Germany a mutual defense pact against the Russians.
- July 28, 1914:
- Austria declares war on Serbia.
- Russia orders partial mobilization near the Austrian border.
- July 29, 1914: Germany offers to stay neutral, but says Russia’s mobilization order is inflammatory. In response to Russia’s partial mobilization order, the German navy begins to mobilize in the North Sea.
- July 30, 1914: Russia orders full mobilization. The Russian fleets mobilize in the Baltic and Black Seas.
- July 31, 1914:
- The Ottoman Empire orders mobilization dated for August 3, 1914.
- Austria orders full mobilization.
- August 1, 1914:
- France orders full mobilization.
- Germany orders full mobilization.
- German troops cross the Luxembourg border near Ulflingen (Troisvierges) to seize telegraph and railroad junctions.
- Germany declares war on Russia.
- Belgium declares that it will defend it’s neutrality and independence. King Albert orders general mobilization.
- August 2, 1914:
- Belgium rejects a German ultimatum for passage.
- Britain mobilizes the Royal Navy.
- The Ottoman Empire receives the signed mutual defense pact against Russia from Berlin.
- August 3, 1914: Germany declares war on France.
- August 4, 1914:
- Germany declares war on Belgium.
- The German invasion of Belgium begins.
- Britain declares war on Germany. Australia, New Zealand and Canada enter the war.
- Liberia declares war on Germany.
August 4, 1914 (Turn 1):
Although the German Army is massed on the frontier, the mobilization of both the French and the Germans is far from complete. At the beginning of the game, only four German divisions have completed mobilization and are able to move, as the march to war begins. German and Austrian siege artillery begin the slow move towards the border. They are moved overland for now, but are kept close to rail lines. Rail movement is restricted for the first few turns, as the trains are assisting with transporting mobilized troops to their units.
The German 14th, 17th and 18th divisions cross the Belgian frontier and make contact with the Belgian fortress of Liège. The 2nd Cavalry division sweeps to the north of Liège and across the Meuse River to screen the German advance. At this point, the Germans could attack the fortress, but doing so would be suicide. Three German infantry divisions are across the Meuse from the fortress. The cavalry would have to attack as well in order to invalidate the -2 DRM for the attack. Even so, that only comes to an attack strength of 24 combat factors. The fortress has 30 defensive combat factors by itself. With the units inside the city (a total of 10), the counterattack strength would be 120 combat factors (40 tripled). Even in the worst possible case, the defenders would inflict 12 combat factors in damage to the Germans, up to 24 combat factors. In other words, the Germans would lose half their strength up to most of their units being destroyed. On average, they would likely lose 18 strength points. It is too early to score that many Demoralization Points.
Historically, the Germans did launch such an assault on the Liège fortresses, and while the exact casualty count is unknown, accounts of the first attacks on the city were described as horrific:
People who went near the forts later on said they had seen the Germans lying in a heap, six and seven deep, wounded and killed mixed inextricably together, so numerous that their names and numbers could not possibly be collected… [later] Germans and Belgians were heaped up separately, often in the trenches in which they had been fighting, and covered with quicklime, over which water was poured.
The decision is to stand pat and wait for the siege artillery to move up, ever so slowly, to destroy the fortress and take the city.
The Allies are still in the process of mobilizing, but the French release the 1st, 3rd and 5th cavalry divisions, all of which advance into the lower Ardennes, including the town of Bastogne, to the Luxembourg border where they act as both reconnaissance and a screen.
The British Expeditionary Force has not completed mobilization, and by that I mean that not all of the troops have arrived yet.
Thus ends the exciting opening moves.
The Germans want to clean up the Western Front as quickly as they can. In Belgium, this means the complete destruction of the Belgian army as swiftly as possible. To this end, the German Second Army is assigned the task of eliminating King Albert and his merry band of men. Although the Belgian army is arrayed all across Belgium, the rules stipulate that all forces, except those stationed in Namur, must move towards Antwerp during the Entente movement phase of the 3rd turn of August. Those that cannot make it during that turn must continue moving until they reach their destination. Once there, they must remain in hexes 1503, 1603 and/or 1604 until they are either attacked, or the first turn of October, 1914 arrives, unless the Germans fail to keep at least 10 strength points within one hex of Brussels. If fewer than 10 German strength points are present, Belgian units may move freely. Keeping the German Second Army in the area will prevent any shenanigans on the part of the Belgians. The 2nd Army is tasked with reducing Antwerp as quickly as possible, with the assistance of the big siege guns.
The siege guns will be needed to reduce Namur first, then Antwerp, followed by Maubeuge on the Franco-Belgian border.
Once Antwerp has fallen and the Belgian army has been destroyed, 2nd Army is then to take its place in the right wing and press into France to assist in the capture of Paris.
But there is a twist. Whatever units are closest to 2nd Army HQ on August turn 6 are withdrawn and sent to East Prussia. This is the move that could derail the German plan unless Antwerp is eliminated immediately.
France is tasked by rule to initiate Plan XVII. Any French infantry division of strength 6 or 7 must participate in an attack against the Germans by the end of the 5th turn. This is Frances attempt to take back Alsace & Lorraine. Once this requirement has been fulfilled, the French and the British must throw all their might into stopping and pushing the Germans back and saving Belgium.
The Comparison to The Great War Series
The two game series are at two different time scales, so some of the rules are different. The Great War starts with the bulk of the Belgian army already in Antwerp, and if I remember correctly, the Germans can’t attack them, or even move north of a certain line until October rolls around. This ensures that the Belgian army will likely escape to the west. There are no such guarantees in Der Weltkrieg, so the plan is to attempt to trap the Belgian army in Antwerp.
In The Great War, supply in Antwerp is not infinite, as a supply line can’t be traced to Britain because tracing such a supply line so close to The Netherlands runs the risk of alienating Holland and forcing them to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers. In Der Weltkrieg, the Belgians can theoretically hold out in Antwerp for a long time because supply is infinite. This goes for all fortresses in the game.
That is the primary difference that I can think of off the top of my head. It has been awhile since I had The Great War series set up. It takes a lot of space.
I have the Western Front game, and I also have the game covering the Ottoman Front. I will be picking up the Eastern Front soon, but probably not soon enough to be included in this play through. The plan is to play both the Western Front and the Ottoman Front simultaneously, but not linked. There is a lot about the Ottoman front that is not in the history books. Primarily, the most famous campaigns are taught, Gallipoli, Palestine, Mesopotamia, but campaigns such as the Caucasus campaign are virtually ignored. Probably not sexy enough.
My goal is to entertain, and educate along the way. I guess I will find out how good of an educator I am…..