Battle of the Burgs
After the enemy broke out of Dusseldorf, we used decided to take a momentary respite and rest the army. Getting further reinforcements from Von Roon helped as well. Von Roon proved to be our only friend in the cabinet, for while Bismark held the ultimate strategy for the west, Von Roon was the only person with the vision to see that the Army of the Main needed to stay alive and supported in order to see it through.
But while we rested, the enemy was on the move – towards Cassel. We knew the garrison there wouldn’t last long, and being one of our national objectives we knew we had to take it back instantly, so onwards we marched again. Strangely, despite having their whole army there at one point, the Federal leaders decided not to stick around, instead going back to their early game tactics of ‘Cat and Mouse’. As our combined forces approached the fort, the enemy corps retreated down two separate railway lines to the towns of Rothenburg and Marburg to the south.
Wanting to bring matters to a head, I had earlier split off a couple of divisions to the south in order to head them off and try and trap them again. These divisions were waiting for the enemy army at the ‘Burgs’, but since they were unsupported I had them fall back to Essen and Fulda, while my main army arrived at the Fort.
It was at this moment that I decided to force a decisive battle – The Battle of the Burgs. Advancing my two blocking divisions, and then mobilising two further divisions from the fort, we pincered each enemy army at their respective town, with Marburg being the tougher fight as it had three corps there instead of two.
Rothenburg we won quite easily – Prussian divisions, while smaller, have better morale and stronger weapons, so all other things being equal (in the sense that it was two units vs two units), we beat them back easily, and they retreated east into Prussian territory.
Marburg would prove to be our finest hour – with three corps vs our two divisions, they were able to bring an entire third front to bare, which would deal extra damage to the unit I was leading (me and Carl long ago decided to split duties when fighting). We placed our units on the positions, and chose our cards. We had some good ones at this point – the problem with most tactical cards is that they’re one use, so you have to spend some time cultivating more… but by this point we’d managed to get a hold of some decent ones that we could keep using. Looking at what was arrayed before me, and sifting through the options I had left, I was struck with a moment of inspiration.
As our armies exchanged fire, as I suspected my division took the worst of it – six hits came my way, and I was only able to negate one of them through cards. My unit’s morale was 4, so it would have broken had I not played my trump card- a tactical ability that boosted my morale from 4 to 6 (and I ‘only’ took 5 damage. My division was bloodied, but it held firm. In the end, not a single unit broke, while we ended up breaking two of their three corps.
I learned later that it was the only time we’d managed to genuinely rattle the morale of the opposing team. They’d lost plenty of fights and forts, sure, but at the end of the day their army was still alive and at the time they believed that they could beat us – that fight changed everything, and their will was broken ( <- probably an exaggeration).
But it broke me too.
You see, I had dealt an almighty blow the enemy, bringing my entire army to bear (I’d left the Prussian allies at the fort to take it. Useful as they were, they didn’t really count) I achieved the best result I was ever likely to get… and yet their army was STILL in the field. They retreated, losing some cards and some points of health, but they were still there, and over the next couple of phases they would just run, such was their will to fight.
But mine was no better- like I mentioned above, our Army was doing everything it was supposed to, but nothing was happening. We were winning, but the war was still dragging on. Bavaria and Hannover were essentially occupied by Prussia, and yet they were still in the fight. The Battle of Burgs firmly established Prussian dominance in the field for all time, and yet I knew I’d never be able to truly beat them, and I foresaw my army marching up and down Western Germany chasing after a foe that wouldn’t fight, and wouldn’t quit. War without end, and with no feedback form the political team I made a decision.
I’d had enough.
Lunch on the Rhine
It has been six weeks since the war began. After the Battle of the Burgs, our army had split up again – half holding the line at Fulda, to guard against the enemy formation at Karlstadt on the Main, while the other half pursued the second Federal force through the mountains and along the Rhein. Fearing another capture of Dusseldorf, we made sure to get there first, and at this point we were facing off against the federal forces across the Rhine from us in Bonn, while we were in Hagen.
It was at this point I proposed an Armistice.
It turns out that the Federals had been hung out to dry more than we had – no support from Austria, not even concern for their predicament as they were driven further and further south. I probably could have chased them south of the Main and into Bavaria, but I was tired. I was tired of fighting a war that nobody seemed to care about.
(In hindsight OOC, me and Carl both regret not pushing them back that one extra step, but once we’d made the agreement we couldn’t really break it – we’d have lost a lot of bro points.)
I had learned just prior to turn six starting that our forces had firmly held onto Vienna, and that people were gathering for peace talks. Lacking concrete orders I decided I wasn’t going to throw away the lives of my soldiers just for the sake of it.
“Nobody seems to care about this war we’re fighting,” I said to my counter-part as we had lunch on a bridge over the Rhine – middle ground and neutral territory.
“We’ve beaten you fair and square, and we’re happy with the lands we now own. Let’s draw a line across the map, and call it a day for a turn, let the politicians sort it out and give ourselves a rest.”
As part of the agreement, we also agreed to exchange Nuremburg for the one Prussian fortress I had yet to take back – Coblenz. It was taken at the start of the war and I hadn’t gotten down their yet to take it back. This seemed easier, and Bismark didn’t seem to care about Nuremburg any more despite being the one to tell us to take it in the first place.
It wasn’t the best negotiation ever- I probably could have asked for more but I got a bit carried away with the role-play of wanting to finish fighting, so it was what it was. Still, we had our national objectives, and while we didn’t finish on the Main, we had already been there, over it, and back again several times during the course of the war. We owned that river.
And just like that – our war was over. Just after the armistice was agreed, Von Moltke strode over and grandly declared that there was an Armistice in place (I hadn’t told him about our cease-fire. He didn’t seem to care so I didn’t care to inform him), to which we replied “We know”.
The next turn, the whole thing was over – Austria admitted defeat.
I learned that our forces pretty much dominated in the East, breaking through to Vienna and occupying it against repeated Austrian attempts to retake the capital. I learned that our Italian allies pretty much got hung out to dry in the end, storming out of the peace talks and dying by the droves in the final phase of the game. I learned that despite all evidence to the contrary, our war was in fact very important as it was essentially a land-grab, which no-one really thought to inform us about, but there you go.
A few other notes to make:
- Our King, William (played by Katie) did actually come to visit us during the game, and was actually there to witness one of our victories (I can’t remember which one). She personally gave us honour for that victory, which was pretty cool. Since I can’t remember the ‘when’ I couldn’t really fit it into the narrative, so I apologise. Thanks for stopping by!
- Again, Von Roon’s support was key to our ultimate victory. His timely use of a reinforcement card replenished our forces in the aftermath of Düsseldorf, allowing us to march to victory at the Battle of the Burgs.
Overall, I really enjoyed 1866. I enjoy the high-level strategy that Operational Megagames bring, but since it was my first I didn’t do a lot of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. The only time I did I nearly annoyed Bernie, but talking to Tom, our local control, after the game gave me a few ideas I wished I’d thought up at the time. Generally it was a very well put together experience, and there were a lot of neat rules and mechanics that facilitated the themes involved.
A few things stood out for me as not really working that well, however. I’ve spoken to Bernie already about a couple of these and he disagrees with me, but here they are anyway:
- Movement – I felt the movement rules, while historically quite thematic, as a game mechanic they were open to exploitation a little bit. Withdrawing from a fight essentially gives you a free extra movement if you weren’t looking for a fight, as you could ‘bounce’ off an enemy army you made contact with, then still use your normal movement if you hadn’t gone yet. I’m not saying armies should be forced to fight, but I would have liked a couple of things to be a bit more ‘absolute’.
E.g., if an Army uses its movement running away from a fight, it can’t move again unless you ‘Force March’ it, negating the ‘free’ move you got from running away.
For road limits as well – passing a long a yellow road limits the amount of divisions you can move down them, as they are poorer roads. However, when I defeated a three corps army, they were allowed to bypass that rule simply because they were running away. They had to discard their ‘baggage train’, which only really ended up being a couple of cards, so I find this ruling allowed for too much inconsistency.
Bernie’s argument was that armies ran away far more effectively than they marched towards an enemy, which is fair, but from a design point of view I’ve never really gotten on with loopholes.
- Battles – For the most part I really enjoyed the battle system. The cards, the formation lay out. The only thing for me was that the ‘supporting formation’ system seemed pointless in the end. This is probably a by-product of our theatre – neither side had enough units to really fill out the sheet, apart from in one fight. I imagine they got more use out of it on the Bohemia map. Several useful cards though specifically refer to support formations, which I could never use because my enemy never used them because they would rather fill out the leading formations as they did more damage.
I think defining the strengths and weaknesses between leading and support a bit more as to understand their various uses might be something that could be improved on, and also changing some cards (River Crossing was the main one I was disappointed in) so that they account for more scenarios and still retain their usefulness. The River Crossing card might as well not been in my draw deck.
- Feedback – this is less to do with the design of the game and simply a reflection on my personal experience. We had clear national objectives to follow on our briefing, and then additional targets passed down from on high. The problem was though, despite achieving all of these and more, nothing was happening. We were told to knock Hannover out of the war early, but apart from taking Stade I wasn’t really given any clear indication as to how to do that. Neil, our Von Bismark, advised us to take Nuremburg to take Bavaria out of the war, but we owned it for a month and nothing happened (To be fair, I learned just before we gave it back that the ‘will’ of Bavaria was about to break, but it wasn’t useful information by then).
This lack of feedback to our success is what strove me to ask for the Armistice. I was genuinely getting a bit bored – we’d beaten the enemy soundly, but I knew I lacked the men to truly ‘crush’ them, and perhaps take them out for good. I foresaw me just chasing them around the map until the game ended, and that’s when it kind of stopped being a fun prospect from a gameplay point of view. I used to it fuel a bit of role-play which kept me entertained until the game finished.
I’m not sure what could have been done to change how things happened, the only idea I had was when I overheard the Austrians not really wanting to give up, despite losing soundly on both maps. Perhaps a more strongly defined sense of ‘losing’ and ‘winning’, to mitigate the impact of genuinely stubborn players?
Other than that though, it was a lot of fun. Many thanks to Bernie for designing a great game and thanks to everyone on my team for such a great time!