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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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They say Schlieffen plan can't work? - I beg to diffAAR! (mod 1914)

Ever since 1914, historians and military strategists have been arguing whether the Schlieffen Plan--the German plan to defeat France within 40 day since the war's beginning--could have worked. Some say it was too ambitious and therefore unrealistic. They say it was impossible to make the soldiers march the planned distances, let alone keep them properly supplied. They say the changes made by von Moltke Jr. effectively doomed the plan to failure.

Well, who needs them when we've got hearts of iron? :D

Reading Kurt_Steiner's excellent "The Great War" AAR reignited my interest in WW1, so I decided to try to re-enact the Schlieffen Plan in a semi-realistic manner (at least as far as the game allows). I've named my armies accordingly, given them their historical leaders (where possible) and deployed them to their proper staging areas. In this AAR, you'll see how it went.

---

A few notes on the mod itself: this isn't the 'vanilla' 1914 mod. I've made many custom changes to it and I've installed the Panda's AI files (which greatly improve the mod's AI, but it still leaves much to be desired). The changes mostly concern the combat times. I've increased defensive values of all land units and tweaked the combat mechanics, so the battles should now look more like the real WW1: they'll be long and VERY bloody.
I've also disabled air units, since I find them EXTREMELY annoying in this mod and given the rather small combat role they played in WW1, I think we can do without them. Neither I nor the AI will build air units in this game.
Another change is the manpower availability. In the vanilla 1914, you get a lot of it; in fact you are probably never going to run out of men. I don't like that, manpower was a huge issue in WW1 and so I more then halved the manpower-per-province-per-day modifier. This will ensure than a few bloody battles on the front will really drain my manpower and force me to conserve it as much as possible.
This is related to the other changes in difficulty settings I've made: I hate IC penalties, so I get none of those. On the other hand, the AI needs help to overcome its inherent disadvantages (like the inability to think ;) ) so I've given it various bonuses -- IC, research, manpower, combat effectiveness, etc. -- to make the game more challenging for me. I will also limit myself to roughly 10 field armies (usually 1 army is about 12-16 divisions in my game).
Oh, there's also a problem with the surrender events when you're using Panda's AI, so I made little changes there to keep the game from crashing.

As for the style of this AAR, this will be strictly gameplay+pictures+a few occasional pseudo-funny remarks. Whenever I attempt to write a story, it gets out of hand and I end up with so much that I get overwhelmed. I've failed to finish all my previous AARs, so yeah... I'll try to keep this one simple and hopefully it will be completed :eek:o If you want to read more about WW1, there's the other AAR I mentioned.

Without further ado, let the Schlieffen Plan commence!

EDIT: The image links seem to be broken. Nothing I can do about that, but if you still want to read this AAR, download this PDF version of it :)

 
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Chapter 1: The Guns of August
Part 1

After the war all blame for it was pinned on Germany, who supposedly incited Austria-Hungary to war in order to get a suitable excuse to invade France. It was all nonsense, of course.

Germany didn't want war. Nobody wanted it, except perhaps for Austria-Hungary. The chief failure of the Germans was that they didn't want to avoid war either. They watched with fear the modernization and build-up of French and Russian military forces. They knew the edge they had once possessed over them was slowly eroding. And so, alas, they thought that if war was supposed to come, it had better come soon. And it did, thanks to a delusional Serbian lad named Gavrilo Princip who decided to further Serbia's cause by murdering the most pro-Slav, pro-Serbian member of the Habsburg royal family, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, together with his Czech wife.

Austria was furious. It rightly believed that Princip hadn't acted alone, that he had been used as a pawn by the Black Hand, a secret organization within the Serbian military and intelligence services, which was determined to destroy what it thought were Serbia's enemies by any means necessary. The assassination gave Austria the excuse it needed to squash Serbia and remove this source of instability in the Balkans. But first, it asked Germany for support. The Germans magnanimously complied, only later realizing that this had dragged them into a collision cause with Russia.


For if you're looking for the real culprit, Russia is a good candidate. Out of delusional pan-Slavic convictions and owing to its imperialistic schemes in the Balkans, it decided to come out in support of Serbia. There was no objective reason to defend it -- after all, Serbia was a sort of pre-WW1 rogue state -- but the damage to the Russian Empire's prestige had Serbia fallen would have been unbearable. And so when Serbia received the Austrian ultimatum asking it to effectively relinquish its sovereignty in matters concerning the investigation of the archduke's murder and telegrammed Russia for help, it pleas were answered. To do Russia justice, Russian warmongering had one more reason: the Russians were convinced that it was Germany who unleashed Austria on Serbia. It was false, obviously, but the Russians -- always having been somewhat paranoid as a nation -- smelled a plot against them and began to mobilize. Too late, because Austria had already declared war on Serbia.

Now the Germans began to understand what they had got themselves into. A Russian mobilization was a grave threat to Germany and so it issued an ultimatum to Russia, requesting that its government recalls it. In a last ditch attempt to avert war, cousins Willy and Nikki (in public better known as Kaiser Wilhelm II. of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II. of Russia) exchanged telegrams promising each other to keep their respective forces in check. But they failed, for things outside their control had already been put in motion.

German military had its timetable. There was no room for wait and see: if it failed to mobilize in time, Germany's enemies would win. And so, Germany began to mobilize in response to the Russian mobilization. This in turn triggered mobilization in France, also followed by German ultimatum demanding its recall, also rejected by the recipient. From this point on, a general war was unavoidable.

Military high commands in all concerned countries finally got the chance to put their long-cultivated war plans into practice. German armies will be first to strike.

-------------------


The Kaiser looked at the map, frowning. "Can't we just defend in the West and deal with the Russians first? Shouldn't be too hard."
The war room fell into absolute silence. Von Moltke spoke first: "But your majesty, that's impossible! There are timetables, plans, printed orders about to be sent. We can't change all that now. Invading France and Belgium is much easier! And what about poor old Schlieffen? He had worked on this plan all his life. His last words still ring in my ears - 'Keep the right flank strong, Helmut, you hear me? The right flank!'"
"But won't Britain come out in support of the Entente, if we move through Belgium without its consent?" The euphemism escaped no one.
"Bah!" exhaled Moltke. "Who cares about those islanders? They're a military non-entity! All they can do is to play with their boats and whine. We'll be drinking in Paris by the time they'll be able to intervene."
The Kaiser sighed. "All right then." After stopping for a second, he uttered ominous words: "Shikata ga nai."

(oh wait, no that was the other kaiser. Damn, I always get them mixed up. ;) )

-------------------​

The plan in the East is to sit and wait. If the Russians strike with too much force, we'll withdraw to a more defensive line. If not, we may teach them a lesson or two about fighting in Poland.

 
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Zhuge Liang

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I like the look of the modifications you've made to the game, I'll be watching this AAR with interest.
 

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Kurt_Steiner

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Beware, if Schlieffen is right, you're going to end yourself in 1915 looking for enemies... :D

Interesting changes you've introduced in the mod, methinks...

Oh, dear, that last sentence... Yoda is on the prowl... :p
 

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Part 2​

3rd of August, 1914. The Schlieffen Plan is initiated. The first order of business for the right wing is to secure the crossings of the Meuse: Liege and Namur. Meanwhile the centre will force its way through Luxembourg and the Ardennes. Over one and a half million men embark on their perilous journey into enemy lands.


Belgian resistance is fierce, but futile. Belgians withdraw both north and south, but one division is surrounded in the town of Bastogne. Once the German army crosses the Meuse, small cavalry units rush ahead of the main armies, exploiting the open land ahead. They attack enemy supply lines, communications and small enemy units, themselves living off the land. Their position is perilous because they leave their rear unguarded and the danger of being cut off is ever present.



Meanwhile the French follow their own war plan - the infamous Plan XVII that calls for the French armies to sweep through Alsace-Lorraine and Luxembourg and push towards the Rhine. High combat morale and élan will help their soldiers overcome superior numbers and firepower of the enemy :rolleyes: Unfortunately for them, they run into the line of advance of the German 4th and 5th armies. After days of chaotic fighting, the disorganized survivors of the French 3rd army are forced to retreat, wondering where their leaders made a mistake.



By mid August, the French high command is beginning to suspect the Germans might be up to something. The 5th Army is moved north to stop any German diversionary attacks there. The main attack is still expected to occur in Alsace-Lorraine. The advancing right wing of the German force outnumbers the French greatly, but the battle is bloody and it does slow the Germans down.




On August 23rd, von Hausen's 3rd Army is diverted east to assist the centre in an assault against the French stronghold around Sedan. This weakens the right wing and delays the push towards Paris.



As the battle of Sedan rages on, the French land a cavalry corps in Calais. German cavalry units in the area concentrate and attack the French on the fields around the coast. What ensues is the largest cavalry battle of all times, with masses of cavalrymen fighting in a situation of utter confusion and communication chaos. Eventually the French pull out when the arrival of a German infantry corps turns the odds in Germany's favour.

When the Kaiser hears the news, he's ecstatic:
"See? This is how war should be like! Brave men on horses, fighting valiantly like the knights of the old! Why aren't all battles like that?"
Awkward silence in the war room follows his remark.



Kaiser's good mood doesn't last long. He once said: "It would shame me more to surrender Tsingtao to the Japanese than Berlin to the Russians." Now he's given opportunity to reflect on this comment.



Fortunately for the Kaiser, Berlin is safe for now. Hindenburg's 8th Army decided not to wait for the Russians and has began advancing into the Polish salient.



It threw the Russians so out of balance, that another offensive in conjunction with the not-yet-fully-formed 9th Army was launched aimed at Lodz. A new plan was hastily drafted: German armies will advance to the Vistula where a new defensive line will be set up along the river.



As August draws to a close, the battle of Sedan is still raging. The French fight heroically with some divisions losing up to 50% of their strength before withdrawing from the battlefield. Their cause is hopeless though. After a successful German offensive in Compiégne, they are surrounded. Reluctantly the French abandon the historical fort to the hated Bosch. Many in France are now wondering if they haven't underestimated the Germans.
Their fears are confirmed when German infantry units begin closing on the outskirts of the City of Light.




----------------------------------------------------

And that's all for today. What do you think about the size of the images? I downsized them in order to make them smaller KB wise. If you think they're too small, I'll leave the next batch in their normal size.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Russia is quite passive, it seems. And the BEF is still waiting in England... Anyway, the German army is crushing anything that stands against it.
 

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Everything seems to be going just about perfectly so far- I wonder if there's anything left that can trip you up. Has Britain actually joined the war yet? I'd expect the government to be panicking now you've seized the Channel ports but there doesn't appear to be a BEF on the continent yet. I think the pictures are fine as they are btw.
 

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Yes, Britain has declared war. As for the BEF, I think Churchill has something else planned for it...
 

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Oh dear. That means some sort of amphibious assault and Churchill's involvement with Gallipoli combined with the AI's complete and utter incompetence at making landings means it's almost certainly going to be a catastrophe for Britain.
 

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I definitely will be reading this AAR of awesomeness!
 

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Chapter 2: The Trail of Tears
Part 1

The capture of Sedan and the subsequent push south toward Rheims and Champagne opens an intriguing possibility of encircling multiple French armies in Verdun. German commanders seize the opportunity and order the exhausted and battered 4th Army to support the effort.



However, the battle of Verdun is overshadowed by the capture of Paris by elements of the 2nd Army, 5 days ahead of schedule. Although the fighting in Parisian suburbs was fierce, the French subsequently abandoned the centre of the city, most probably in order to save it from destruction.
The Kaiser marvels at newsreels showing German troops marching under the Arc de Triomphe and down towards Champs-Élysées to the tune of Preußens Gloria. (click to listen)




For some reason, the French aren't that impressed. Although the Germans subject Verdun to unceasing bombardment and at one point manage to sever the only access route to the fortress, the French quickly dislodge them and retreat in an organized manner. Over 20 divisions escape from the encirclement.




Von Moltke won't give up on his wish to achieve a second Cannae, though. He quickly devises a new operation plan and orders the right wing to turn south-east and advance to the Auxerre-Troyes area. Also, a small French diversionary landing in Calais is extinguished.



Meanwhile, the German cavalrymen raid Brest and the French fleet is forced to relocate south.



The French reinforce their positions around Troyes and stop the northern flank of the German offensive in its tracks, inflicting heavy casualties on the German frontal divisions. German advance up the Yonne river towards Auxerre continues as planned.



When the Germans reach it, the French realize they've entered a trap. Now it is race against time: can the French escape from the encirclement again, or will Germany finally get its super-Cannae?

 

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Here you have the reason why I decided to choose England...:D