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.
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.