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Bill101

1918 Ludendorff Offensive AAR!

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Hi

In preparation for the forthcoming first patch of WWI Breakthrough!, two of our beta testers are going to be providing us with an action packed refight of the 1918 Ludendorff Offensive!

This campaign has had a huge number of changes made to it since the initial release, so this is also a public test of what's new.

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Commanding the Central Powers in their great offensive of 1918 will be Michael Kollmann aka Hyazinth von Strachwitz, and his Entente opponent, another veteran of many AARs, is Alastair Anderson aka Catacol Highlander.

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Can the German thrust reach Paris, or will it meet its match after some initial successes and be thrown back, culminating in an armistice just as in real life?

Stay tuned to find out!

Bill

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Okay, here we go.

Starting the campaign, I get a few strategic advices.

Ludendorff1.gif

So we will carefully pay attention to what this guy says; he looks important. :D

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After finishing the deployment of my extra troops, I get more information. This time I get to know how important Paris is.

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After what I read in books, the first drive of Ludendorff was against the British Army to take them out of a the war. So let us try that.

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The red stars indicate destroyed British divsions, 6 of them are gone with relatively low own losses. The Heavy Artillery at Bapaume looks exposed, and there is space for a potential advance to the west. Let us see what the British Forces will do to fill the gaps.

No actions on the other front, if something important happens, I will make a screenshot.

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Hello all - good to be back in the AAR hotseat again. Marc is busy doing a huge amount of beta playtesting, so a new opponent for me and one I have never taken on before. Should be fun!

One thing to make clear before we start... while I always play to win the priority here in this AAR is to allow you (the audience) the chance to see how the game and scenario works, and to have a window into my thinking. Therefore there will be minimal secrecy and lots of open discussion. Winning is not the be all and end all here.

Now... this Ludendorff Scenario. No graphic from me on turn 1... but here are my early observations. Key to starting is to have an overall strategy and to do this you need to know your game. I have never played the scenario before, so thought I had better at least spend 5 mins giving it a lookover. Playing a hotseat game against myself for 3 turns I noticed a few things:

1. Entente economy would appear to be higher than CP. Therefore I can afford to absorb more casualties than Michael in the long run.

2. Shell production is capped for all nations at 1 and all nations start with at least trench level 3. This makes it pretty clear that the advantage is with the defender with artillery slow to resupply and units well dug in from the beginning of the game.

3. Victory conditions are pretty much divided into 3: hold out across the line, advance with the Brits in the north or advance with the French in the far south.

4. A pop up window early on reveals that the Germans need to get close to Paris by mid summer, or suffer a morale hit. Having never played the scenario before this sounds like NOT a good thing for the German player...

5. ... but the French line at the start of the game is clearly weakest directly in front of Paris.

So... what to do? As I didnt start the game I had the luxury of seeing first what my opponent did - and to my great surprise he attacked the British with his main force of upgunned and newly deployed artillery (the Germans get a few units of these to deploy on turn 1.)

Hmmm - odd. The British are clearly the strongest element of the Entente force - at least to my eye. Attack me where I am strongest? The French line in front of Paris is much weaker and would have been fairly easily penetrated with sustained artillery fire on turn 1. Either this means that Michael has something cunning up his sleeve and perhaps knows this scenario better than I, or it offers me the chance to wear him down badly and come back strong later in the scenario.

Either way - my strategy for a while is to do nothing more than hold. With such high trench values and poor ammo resupply a sustained offensive here is not possible. It will require a big mass of artillery and lots of units to exploit a break. I have none of these at present so must simply dig in, plug the holes and wait for mpps, new units and some better tech to come. Of high priority is the need to get my own shell production tech up to level 1 as for the Entente it starts on level 0, so I did a bit about that in this early turn and invested... but otherwise quiet. I also moved a few reserve brigade and divisional units up closer to the front line to get trench digging.

So - I'll put some screenshots up on turn 2, but leave you for now with Michael's images and the knowledge that I am going to play a waiting game to start, and pick my moment to attack when good and ready.

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Playing a hotseat game against myself for 3 turns I noticed a few things:

1. Entente economy would appear to be higher than CP. Therefore I can afford to absorb more casualties than Michael in the long run.

The Ludendorff Offensive, during spring 1918, was named Operation Michael,

Now we finally know why!

:)

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Okay, let me try to give you an insight into my thoughts without revealing too much of my "Plan". Al is right, the Allies have the numerical and economic superiority as usual in this sort of games. To win the match, I need to fight economically, so I need to use my advantages where I have them.

Having played the campaign quite few times in the Beta phase, I have a bit of experience. The campaign is historical in at least one term: the usual outcome is that the Allies will win if it goes the usual way.

Al is right in another point: the French frontline between Soisson and Reims appears to be the weakest, but attacking there would have devastating consequences. There is a strong French position around Verdun, and a relatively strong British position in the north. If I would try to move in between these strong positions, the Allies would simply divert troops from these strongholds and threaten my flanks, even if I would be able to make my way to Paris. The terrain there is very difficult, a lot of rivers would block the German advance. Any French reinforcements and new deployed American troops go to that sector, and striking there would be very obvious. I do not like the obvious.

We are in the early stages of the campaign, and everyone is still strong and can afford to react on a potential "Breaktrough!". But the longer we fight, the more empty the board will get, and advances will be easier for both sides. I had it quite often that there is intense fighting for two months, and then there comes a rapid advance when one side is exhausted.

In the early stages for Beta testing, almost all German guns along the frontline were upgraded at the start. This is no longer the case, I need to upgrade all of them. This takes a few turns, and there comes on positive side effect: in a few turns they will have full ammunition. We found out that the offensive power Germany has with the earlier setup is frightening, and the Allied player looses around 10 units per turn with no possibility to react. Germany was able to attack on all fronts, and this is not historical... so it has been changed.

Of course I will not reveal my whole plan, but I can promise that the attack on the British frontline will not be the only direction of my attack. The Ludendorff Offensive had 5 main drives, with just the first and third drive were a limited success.

Bill´s setup is very accurate, so I try to learn front history. The Kaiser´s Army did achieve two major "Breaktroughs!", but they did not know what to do after these successes, because there where no plans. I have one main target for the first drive, and I will wait with further decisions until I know if I can reach this target. And I have a very clear plan what to do if I can achieve a success.

Al has a very good reputation, and the Allies have the numerical and economic superiority. If the campaign goes the normal way, I will loose. My advantage: I have a bit of experience with this campaign (Bill knows what I mean), and maybe I can lure Al into some kind of trap.

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Al´s reaction comes as a surprise... there is no visible reaction at all. I destroy another 4 British divisions, and 9 of my divisions move into the gaps.

ld005.png

Pretty sure we will see the first German casualty next turn. But I am surprised I can enter the British trenches in number... I will not be beaten back everywhere.

Main focus is Arras and the British Heavy Artillery... I did not expect to catch this one.

More of my Heavy Artillery units are ready for battle, so from now on every turn a bigger part of the frontline will be involved.

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My advantage: I have a bit of experience with this campaign (Bill knows what I mean), and maybe I can lure Al into some kind of trap.

That's certainly true, as you gave me what can only be described as a sound thrashing!!!

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That's certainly true, as you gave me what can only be described as a sound thrashing!!!

Me too, it was frustrating as hell taking that kind of casualties as the Entente. I will follow this closely, it is definately one of the more interesting scenarios in my opinion.

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OK - all fixed. Here we go.

Weather was muddy... probably about right for March, but having done nothing turn 1 to allow a bit of artillery shell gathering I could not sit back and be totally passive any longer.

Zhukov revealed at Stalingrad how best to disrupy your enemy - and this is my strategy here for a few more turns at least. Michael is hitting me around Amiens, so I chose to hit him further south in an attempt to distract. Verdun was the battlefield, and 3 German divisions were destroyed. Graphic here:

Verdun1_zps140b4af8.jpg

I do not know how great German reserves are beyond turn 3, but this will at least force a bit of redeployment.

Further north I also countered around Michael's chosen area of operations - directly east of Amiens. British reserves arrived and local counter attacks did some damage - final graphic here showing hexes where German units once were:

amiens1_zps2efafb0c.jpg

However my overall plan for the win is still being formulated. Tactical attempts to keep Michael off balance are a must... but I am waiting to see how big my US army might become, where to deploy it and also decide where to gather and launch my own counter offensive.

I believe Haig was happy around August 9th 1918... I guess I'll aim for something similar here...!

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Sorry for the delay, but my holiday was planned before Bill invited me to the AAR. From now on you will get regular updates.

Around Ypres Al does me a big favor and attacks. That means his divisions take damage as well, and I can counterattack into his weakened positions. Two of my divisions are in front of Ypres, and Al can destroy one... but then I can destroy one of his as well... interesting how this might end.

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My main strike goes in the direction of Arras, and bad weather does not allow me to conquer it. Maybe next turn. Bapaume is taken by German troops, and this seems to be the first hole in the British frontline. Another 2 divisions in the south survive on strength 1 or 2.

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In the south, the French notice that the German Offensive power just starts to develop and they need to be careful not to waste their reserves.

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7 British and one French divisions are destroyed this turn, two more British are crippled. Two cities taken, and Arras is no longer occupied. Two more German Heavy Artillery units enter service next turn.

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Well - still no major plan from me, as I am feeling out the ground... but I am slipping into the ebb and flow of this attritional scenario. In essence I want to keep Michal unbalanced with local counter attacks where I can manage them, and also probably conduct a tactical retreat away from the fixed front line so that German units advancing end up in open ground in front of dug in Entente defenders. That will take a little bit of organising.

So...

Firstly an opportunity to stun the Hun in the north around Ypres a little more, and 2 more German corps fell to local counter attacks by British and Belgian forces. The Belgians even managed a local advance.

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Further south the fighting in the Somme sector is fierce. The German corps in Baupaume was destroyed and British units slipped backwards in a tactical retreat away from most of the German artillery in the area. I expect casualties in this area to remain high as michal is pushing hard, but I have othe units inbound to assist...

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As British units push north up the line to help reinforce areas under pressure US units appear. I have decided to deploy the Amis in the sector between the French and British. This will allow me to shorten my British line and, eventually, produce the power needed on the southern axis of Michael's advance to counter attack... I hope. This assumes sufficient numbers of US units and having not played this before I hope I am not barking up the wrong tree!!

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And finally on the northern edge of the Verdun salient another local French counter attack with the German line breached and an artillery unit damaged:

verdun2-1_zps721bb5f7.jpg

Not an many units destroyed as Michal did to me, but then I suspect this is supposed to be the case for a while yet. Meantime I need to hatch a plan to win the scenario once I have hopefully held on successfully in these early stages. Still mulling that over - but it wont take me long to hatch something.

Weather has turned fine for Michael - that wasnt a happy sight to finish the turn with. :-(

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In the north, I can stop the Belgian Counterattack and destroy one of their divisions. I have seen that Al's Belgian divisions took more damage than my German units... these "Mathematics" are very important in this campaign.

My troops advance on Ypres, including my tank unit.

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The British Forces around Arras do a tactical retreat. I destroy one of their Heavy Artillery units and 3 division. Artillery units are expensive to buy back.

South of Arras I have moved my Heavy Artillery forward. With a bit of luck I can attack the next British Heavy Artillery, that would seriously hurt Al's offensive power.

Arras is taken, and Peronne is cleared from enemy presence. The whole area around Ham looks endangered, and I wish the British forces would attack me there, so I can counter next turn.

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Around Reims, I stop the curious French corps and close the frontline.

German morale is at 98%, and the British at 89%. French somewhere in between. American troops help the British forces which is good, so they cannot wait for me at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Woods.

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Hmmm - the weather turned bad again which forced me to pull back from all but the most obvious of counter attacks. 2 main areas of conflict are ongoing - first of all around Arras.

Arras_zpsc3b54834.jpg

I decided against trying to retake Arras at this point. In the mud it would likely have cost me a great deal of power, and the German unit defending it is an elite one. Instead I destroyed an easier target to the north and busied myself preparing for the next wave of German attacks. My line here is not strong... but it is holding - just.

Further south American forces made their presence felt, helping in the destruction of a German corps and helping the British in trying to shore up their lines. Graphic here:

USA2_zps65de26f5.jpg

Elsewhere? My French commanders are beginning to notice that the German line is not so strong in the centre. Holes are being plugged with units other than full strength, full tech corps... and I think whatever plan I hatch to turn this around may well hinge on the French. For those not familiar with this scenario US corps are the best in the game: they have upstrengthed corps in both attack and defence values. As a historian I find that an interesting decision: my own knowledge and research would suggest that by 1918 the British Army was pre eminent in the world both in terms of its ability to deploy effective artillery and the beginning of combined arms offensives. Why the US have been given a boost here I am not sure... but that is the game so get on with it! By deciding to deploy my Americans to the north to support the British I am hoping to blunt the German attack with my best forces... and must therefore use the weaker French to launch my own knock out attempt when it comes. Question is - where? Is this wise? Time will tell.... :-)

Turn ended with the weather turning fine for the German next phase. :-(

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Al and Mike, I am enjoying your posts immensely especially since Claus, Mike, Bill, and I suggested/made extensive improvements to this scenario over several months.

Anyway, Al, the US divisions (not corps) have a boost due to their large size. US divs had 28,000 men, 77 guns, and 260 machine guns whereas a Germ/French/Brit div in 1918 had less than half those amounts due to a reduction of battalions earlier in the war to compensate for manpower shortages. In fact typical Euro divs on western front in 1918 were down to about 8,000 men on average. US divs also enjoyed a superiority in automatic rifles of 768 vs 216 for French, 192 British, and 144 German divs. Just as an example of the prowess of the US divs, the US 42d div assumed the sector of an entire French corps of three divs, and may explain why history books typically mention US divs by name in their engagements during 1918 while divs in other armies are typically not.

Frank

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Okay, here we go. Four sectors of interest:

ld011.png

In the north, the last preparations for the attack on Ypres have been finished. Next turn 6 divisons and my tank unit will attack, and sooner or later the city will fall.

ld012.png

Good progress around Arras. I destroy 5 British divisions and an Air unit. Not much left of the British frontline, and if they do not withdraw, they will get encircled.

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German forces capture Reims... will not be a long stay, but the morale effect helps a lot.

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In the northen part of the Verdun bulge two French units advance into the German side of the trench. Not quite sure what they plan.

fryte.png

But I feel pretty confident that they did not plan to stand in front of German strength 12 Elite divisions.

German NM is at 100%, and the British down to 85%. The French are somewhere in the middle, but they haven´t yet started the fight.

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OK - Britain in trouble. The line around Arras has been so badly broken that I stared at the map for a long time and made the decision to withdraw. I do not know how this will affect the scenario but tactically to stand fast or force marcb units into the area would have led to a very high casualty count next turn. So here is the image after my retreat. I am trying to keep the flanks of the this German penetration strong.

arras1_zpsa6a1d923.jpg

Further South Germany had seized Reims, probably not before time. I took it back despite yet more mud hampering my operations. I also moved more French forces into the area in anticipation of more fighting here.

Reims1_zpsb60cd903.jpg

Overall how am I doing? No idea.... my Brtish line will take some repairing, but I am yet to commit the bulk of my French forces and I was lucky enough to get a US infantry tech that turn which should help bulk them up a bit when I hope to be able to counter.

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Ypern is in German hands!!!

ld015.png

And what is even more important: I am one tile away from Hazebrouck, the British supply center where new units arrive. When I take this village, it will get way more difficult for the UK to bring their troops to the continent.

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German troops gain confidence, the German NM is up to 102%, while British is down to 80%.

And there is more to come.

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Pretty sure Al did not want the division in Doullens to die immediatly. If he moves another one in, it might die as well... I have three divisions on front of it, and they will use the prepared attack bonus. I am very close to Amiens, and taking it would split the Allied frontline in two halves.

On the French part, we have started to trade units... Al destroys some in his turn, and I destroy some in my turn. No big changes here, but the German frontline is stable, and more Heavy Artillery units get upgraded and take part in the battle.

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Hmmm - tough for the British still. Reading Michael's post has annoyed me a bit as I didnt even know I had a production square for British units in France - I have been building them back in the UK. :-( Shows you how important it is to know your scenario, and I would have had at least 4 more British units in the area by now had I known of this... but hey ho - live and learn. First time playing a scenario always reveals errors!

On the battlefield the British continue to withdraw. I stengthened the flanks of the German breakthrough further, ready to launch my counter when I am ready, and am happy for now to invite michael to advance further into the breach.

In the meantime the French destroyed another corps near Verdun and will continue to try and keep German units under the cosh across the battlefront so as to prevent there from being too many "spare" German units to pour through this hole.

I have a plan at last of my own... and next post I will reveal it all to you... assuming the weather is fairly ok that is.

Graphic of the Arras breakthrough here... British units flooding into the area to plug the breach noticeable by their absence.

arras2_zps0fdaace5.jpg

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The offensive against Hazebrouck continues.

ld018.png

Two more British divisions get destroyed, and I get a "free" shot on an English Artillery piece and a HQ. If I am lucky, I can take the British industry center next turn.

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Around Doullens, I secure my position and refresh my victorious troops. Al is right with his analysis: I am vulnerable against counterattacks from the flanks, so I decided to weaken the troops concentration in the south. Another 5 British divisions are destroyed, and Al might consider to do a strategic drawback as well... or get encircled. Allied lines look very thin here.

ld020.png

Around Soissons, I destroy a French unit and get a "free" shot on a French Artillery. My division will be destroyed as well, but until then I have inflicted a lot of damage. Further in the south, I destroy a couple of French divisions. No strategic movement yet, but at least Al has to fill the gaps.

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OK - tired of being the punch bag in this scenario so far, so having spent a couple of turns gathering units on the eastern edge of the map I decided to let rip because the weather finally turned good. My thinking here is that Michael has committed a great deal of force in attacking my British Army, the strongest part of my force at the start of the scenario, so if I am to knock him off balance I need to attack hard in a different sector. The French thus far have suffered very few casualties, have a lot of artillery in production, and can afford to take the hit. Therefore while my US troops filter to the NW to try and relieve the hard pressed British it is the spirit of Napoleon that will be used to try and turn this game around.

My target is to try and isolate the German army in the far SE pocket of the map (you cannot see them on the image below, but there is a decent size German army further to the south) and seize 3 major cities in this sector. My initial attack was supposed to break the German front line, seize the rail link behind to make it impossible to fast move reinforcements into the area, and prepare the ground for a second wave of attacks next turn. I was successful on all counts as you can see here:

attack1_zps562d1643.jpg

With lots of shells gathered (though the tech gods have been very cruel to me and I am still without any ammo supply tech in the game making my artillery very slow) I can continue this attack at full stretch for a further 2 turns by which time I intend to have knocked the German army out of this sector.

This will force Michael to do one of two things: either divert forces to this area - and thereby allow my Brits to start to breathe again, or ignore it and continue to go hell for leather at the channel ports in the British sector. Can I regain the strategic initiative in the game in the next 2 turns?

To try and help my cause a bit I had also been harvesting my slow artillery supplies in the area around Verdun and hit a couple of corps, destroying them, creating more gaps that will need filling. More pressure on Michael I hope - graphic here showing the ongoing attrition in this area:

verdun6_zpse334fa6e.jpg

Finally here are my poor hard pressed Brits... but having got over my enormous error in not understanding the reinforcement hexes in France you can see 3 fresh British corps arriving, the first of many. With an Italian Army also moving north from Paris, and a strengthening US presence, I hope to have better news for Lloyd George soon...

arras4_zps14043353.jpg

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