Posts Tagged ‘1866’

This is a write-up of the megagame 1866 & All that. Please see earlier parts for more information – Part One & Part Two.


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.

Aftermath

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.

Game Feedback

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!

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This is part two of a write up regarding my experience during the Megagame “1866 & All That”, for more details and to read Part One, please click here.


Army of Ghosts

With the majority of Federal forces concentrated to the south, we anticipated having to fight harder for Cassel than we did Stade. In fact, with our four divisions more or less surrounding Hannover, and the enemy NOT starting in Stade, we anticipated the Hanoverians trying to break through our lines and make a run for it. Initially we left them alone, instead consolidating two armies at Cassel to present a strong showing whilst we besieged it. Our division at Hamburg moved swiftly on Stade, and after the first operational phase our final division chased the Hanoverian army, which decided to go on a grand tour of western Prussia on its way south.

Information is power, and historically this war is infamous for having terrible intelligence. Things you would think are common sense weren’t really done back in those days by many, and this concept was represented in the game rather uniquely. All of the army units had to be put in marked boxes, with markers corresponding to those boxes being placed on the map. Boxes had to be on tables, and while you could get glimpses of what was inside, you couldn’t really see. What’s more, each team had a number of dummy formations to put in boxes in order to inflate what was really there.

These dummies would be discarded over time as armies came into contact with each other, something that proved useful to us. It became obvious quite quickly that our opponents were opting for a defensive strategy. With the Hanoverians fleeing south, we decided to be more aggressive and chase them down. Good thing we did, as we quickly discovered that the army we were chasing didn’t exist – it was made up entirely of dummies.

This wasn’t something I thought of doing at the time, admittedly. Kind of blew my mind, but there were logistical restraints on my end – I literally didn’t have enough boxes to do anything like that.

If that wasn’t surprising enough, over the next couple of turns we would learn that a second formation was entirely fictional as well – something I thought was good as it mean’t we weren’t wasting time chasing false leads, although if I’d stopped to think about it I would have come to an obvious conclusion.

The armies we were supposed to stop from massing together had in fact already massed together. From day one.

Too bad we learned that the hard way.

Lines in the Sand

We took Stade and Cassel quite early – Stade was done as a trade-off. The enemy quite quickly moved on one of our fortresses to the south, which we knew we’d lose as I wasn’t prepared to commit the troops to defending it at the beginning of the game. We gave them the fortress they were besieging, they gave us the one we were besieging, and the garrisons were allowed to walk out without being molested to re-join their armies. All very gentlemanly (this was a big thing in the game; 1866 was seen as a war between brothers and wasn’t really ‘cruel’ as later wars would become, and acting honourably and fair got you mad props).

This was probably the only point of the game where we found ourselves slightly out of position. With the Hanoverian army proving fake, we marched a division south to take Nuremberg under orders from Von Bismark. The various cabinet members would take turns coming to visit us as the game wore on. Some were more useful to us than others, but generally we were left to our own devices.

The federal forces were gradually all shifting west and north through the mountainous terrain of Nassau, and up through Cologne/Bonn. It was clear that they were probably going to try and take Düsseldorf, and we weren’t in a position to defend it. Thanks to the timely intervention of Von Roon, we managed to scramble a division of ‘Prussian Allied’ forces to defend the fort in a delaying action while we hurriedly moved our divisions west.

These units were incredibly small and weak, and our they were quickly defeated. Düsseldorf was taken in short order, but it took them an extra phase and that was all we needed to get our army into position. Our ally’s sacrifice was not in vein.

We were formulating our next move when Von Moltke strode over rather miffed and asked me “What’s at Düsseldorf?”.

“A fort,” I replied.

“We need it back. The Austrians won’t negotiate because they control it. It’s a national objective. Take it back.”

Well OF COURSE it was. Back to work, then.

Learning the Hard Way

My memory was a little bit fuzzy in terms of battles fought during the game, but I don’t remember there being many in those early turns. We’d spent most of that time taking forts and chasing down ghost formations. We lost a battle at Düsseldorf, obviously, and we’d lose a few more over the course of the war. On balance, we won more though, and generally dominated the field – I definitely remember us winning a fight early on as we chased the enemy through the mountains of Nassau, prior to Düsseldorf.

But first, there was a hard lesson to be learned. See, what I’d epically failed to appreciate was that, if half of the enemy formations were dummy, that meant what forces they had would be concentrated in what was left. Our worst defeat of the day was probably when two of our divisions faced off against the whole enemy army – I can’t remember where they were, probably at Düsseldorf or Hagen – to find out we were facing FIVE corps worth of enemy. Our troops are good, but they’re not that good – we were vastly outnumbered and out gunned.

We lost that one as well, obviously, and came out of it severely bloodied but in one piece. We also managed to surround the enemy at Düsseldorf. Before we could rush in, they decided to break out of their own and retreat south. We lost one battle that allowed them to break out, but there were a few fights around that fort, and I honestly can’t remember it all in much detail now. We won some, we lost some.

Still, the end result was that we took Düsseldorf back, just like we were ordered to. What good soldiers we were.

Will to Fight

We had been fighting pretty much non-stop for weeks on end, mainly relying on support from Von Roon to keep us going. I did manage to brow beat Von Moltke into giving us more artillery, since the war in the east seemed to be going exceptionally well at that point so they could spare the reserves. Generally, we were winning.

And yet…

We had re-taken Dusseldorf like we were supposed to. We had taken Cassel and Stade like we were supposed to, and Nuremburg had been in our possession for nearly a month. We had been to the Main and back again, and generally we were dominating Western Germany– yet nobody seemed to care. Our enemies, despite their material and political losses, were still on the field. Our political masters were not only vaguely ignoring us, but they were also epically failing at using anything we’d done as leverage to come to any kind of agreement with the federal states.

Despite the fact that they had massed their troops early and were able to bring 5 corps to bear against us quite consistently by now, we weren’t worried – We were strong, and we knew we could beat them.

It was the Battle of the Burgs that did it, that finally broke my will to fight.

Please continue to Part Three.

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.