Or: To the Maine and Back: A Tour of the Federal German States, as written by the Prussian Army of the Main.
Since the only thing I seem to be able to blog about these days are the megagames I end up doing, it’s of no surprise then that I’m here to talk to you about another Megagame – “1866 And All That”.
Another personal first, this was an ‘Operational’ level mega game. You could almost call it a war game, in the sense that the majority of the experience revolved around high-level strategy and war plans, with an added political dimension to give everything some character. Having only have done Watch the Skies and Come to a King before this, it took me a while to get into the swing of things as this was more rules focused, although wargame are generally my thing, so it was enjoyable.
I’d just like to thank Bernie Ganley and his team for putting on the show, with specific shout outs to my brother-in-arms and Best No.2 Ever Carl Waltenberg, my excellent local control Tom Hayllar, and finally our gracious and glorious Kaiser, Katie Anne Goatley.
As with all of my write ups, I may embellish, exaggerate, or otherwise make up minor details in order to supply a more entertaining narrative. The actual details of the day though in terms of actions taken, conversations had, and my own interpretation on events, are for the most part as true as I can remember them. Case and point – I will be hamming up slightly the idea that the rest of my team didn’t really care about what I was doing.
The Main Army
The year was 1866, and war was in the air. I had no name, no fancy title, but I did have a job to do – take control of a rag-tag army of leftovers and forgotten relatives, and teach the federal nation-states of West Germany that siding with Austria really wasn’t the best idea.
With me was my trusty number two, Operations Officer Carl “May Actually Be a German” Waltenberg. We were supposed to have a Chief-of-Staff, but in what soon seemed to become a theme for the grand ‘Army of the Main’ it seems high command had forgotten to send us one. Still, we made do, and it was hard to miss something we ultimately didn’t need.
The Army of the Main’s job was in its name – we were to push the enemy beyond this line, a river that ran along southern Germany, so that Prussia would rule undisputed from Hamburg to Frankfurt. In conjunction, we were to take Hannover out of the war early by taking their Fortress ‘Stade’, and then capture the fortress at ‘Cassel’ in order to secure a base and a safe supply route for the eastern and western halves of Prussian territory in this theatre. From there, we would drive the enemy south across the Main.
There was a lot of pressure assigned to the war I was trying to fight- not only did I have to show dominance on the field and try and knock the individual states out of the war as early as possible, I had to do it without causing too much damage or humiliation. On top that that, minor details like Great Britain potentially coming over to bitch-slap me if they thought I was being too mean to Hannover, and the fact that France’s million-strong army was RIGHT THERE, were also at the back of my mind. As far as high command was concerned though, everything would be fine as long as I did what I was told.
This lack of feedback from my superiors would go on to frame my entire campaign, although that’s not to say we weren’t without support. During the main briefing at the start of the day, all focus was in the east where a gigantic clash with Austria was about to take place. So much so that no-one even bothered to bring a map of my operating area. I had to supply my own and quickly go over my plans and concerns, which prompted the only response I would ever get all day – “you’ll be fine, don’t worry”.
I was lucky enough to get four divisions assigned to me (considering historically my army only got three), along with some cavalry and artillery. In what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the dropping out of nine Prussian players prior to the event meant that our Army of the Elbe play team was deleted, thus meaning there was one less army with which to share resources amongst.
No Strategy without Movement
Our opening strategy was simple enough – divide, conquer, and claim the national objectives as quickly as possible, and let the politicians sort the rest of it out. Rush Stade, Rush Cassel, and stop the federal forces joining up and crushing us. We’d fill in the rest as we went, hopefully getting further instructions from on high as the war progressed.
A Prussian division, whilst smaller than the other German ‘Corps’ units, nevertheless had superior firearms & training. In gameplay terms this basically meant our troops could take more hits without breaking, and we had some excellent ‘tactical’ cards we could deploy as well. The only area we lacked in was artillery, but we made do with what we had. Our force was split it up into four mobile formations each with just one division in it, inflated with dummy units to make it seem bigger than it was. The danger here was that a division could get caught out and annihilated, but the rewards outweighed the risk.
As the whistle blew at 11:30, everyone sprang into action. We faced deployments in Hannover itself, with several more to the south along the Main, but no-one near the fortresses that were our objectives, and no-one we’d have to fight immediately other than the Hanoverians. It was a better starting position than I could have hoped for, and we would show the enemy our might.
With any luck Hannover would be out of the war within the week, and we’d be in a strong position to drive the rest south of the River.
If only we knew.
Please continue to Part Two.