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Bill101

1870 Franco-Prussian War AAR

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Hi

Ivanov and myself are back with a new After Action Report, this time playing the forthcoming 1870 Franco-Prussian War campaign that will be released with the next patch for WWI Breakthrough!

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It is a divisional level campaign, starting in late July 1870 while both sides are still mobilizing.

I am commanding the forces of the North German Confederation, under the guidance of von Moltke (the elder), while von Bismarck will handle any political negotiations, should the French ask for terms at any point.

Ivanov has bravely agreed to be the French. It's a tough side to play as although he starts with good troops, his forces are outnumbered, his income is less, and his generals aren't exactly the best.

With Napoleon III and his interfering wife in charge, one thing France lacks is strong leadership. But should Napoleon fall, then hope may be restored as France once again becomes a Republic, and new men like Gambetta may come to the fore and rise to the challenge!

France has the ability to mobilize large numbers of volunteers, Paris has good fortifications, and international opinion may swing their way. Better generals can be given commands, and new forces raised, so it would be rather rash for me to assume that the Prussians will win a decisive victory. It will certainly be a tough fight and I look forward to it.

Let battle commence! :)

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The time has come for another after action report – this time me and Bill will be refighting the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71! This new campaign, has a very different, special feel when compared to the WWI scenarios you know. The map is big and beautiful so there will be a lot of open space for maneuvering. It has kind of “Napoleonic” feel to it, at least I would describe it in this way. It is not possible to entrench the units so you can expect a lot of bloody, meeting engagements. Both sides should pay a lot of attention to the cavalry reconnaissance. This time I will be commanding the French, trying to save the young Republic from the evil and predatory Prussians :) Let us begin…

Unfortunately for my troops, they will be facing an enemy that is more numerous and has a clear superiority in terms of the artillery. Unlike their German counterparts, the regular French divisions start with some experience, so they are good in combat but they are also very difficult to replace. The average French income is about 350MPP per turn while the upgraded with Chassepots riffles regular division costs 550MPP… The other type of French infantry unit are the Garde Mobiles. They have worst stats than the regular divisions but they are also cheap, so you will be seeing them a lot during this campaign. All in all I cannot count on a military victory, but my aim will be to slow down the attacking armies and do better than the French did in the reality.

From the very start I get some wise advices regarding the conduct of the campaign.

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It is certainly true that during the first few days the French will poses a numerical superiority over the mobilizing German armies but I find advancing into Germany too risky and pointless. From the other hand retreating straight to Paris would be also too extreme – giving up so much ground would kill our National Morale. Instead, I will try to slow down the attackers, falling back gradually, towards the subsequent defensive positions.

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As you can see, the brave French troops in Metz are looking good! Unfortunately some of the units are understrength and the HQ is in a particularly bad shape. So my priority during the first initial turns will be to reinforce the HQs’ ( there are two on the map ) and then some of the units in the most critical areas.

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The war is commencing and von Moltke has some advice for us:

vonMoltke1_zps87521467.gif

Here is the situation at the end of the first turn. It is the 25th July 1870 and every turn covers one day.

Our armies are mobilizing and plenty more units will be deploying for battle in the next week, so that by early August we should be in a position to cross the French border in strength.

Shown below are our current dispositions, along with potential objectives in France:

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Turns are very quick to play and it is our intention to provide updates every few days in campaign time, sometimes more frequently when the action heats up!

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It's not out yet.

True..but was trying some gentle persuasion to get it out. The 1870 Franco-Prussian war add-on looks to be an interesting campaign/era. My interest is probably increased due to a recently read military magazine article on the war.

I'm actually playing a "Storm over Europe" campaign as the Germans currently and likely would have to start over w/ the patch anyway.

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While our forces are continuing to mobilize, and in my case, move up to the frontier, I will just mention that while the Prussians are very powerful, they do need to be careful all the same.

Battles are brutal, and casualties can be very high, so an ill planned move by one of the three Prussian armies could easily result in the French winning one or two battles.

This might not win them the war, at least not on its own, but an over confident and rash Prussian general may soon be a dead Prussian general!

Fortunately, my Prussian cavalry are better at scouting than their French counterparts, so this does give me an edge in the campaign, and hopefully it'll help me avoid getting into any nasty scrapes.

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There wasn't any ground action on the second turn and both armies are still continuing the mobilization. I was presented with an interesting decision event however:

7is.png

If the expedition succeeds the Germans will also suffer a significant NM penalty. Anyway, I will let Bill guess, if I decided to launch the operation...;)

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Excellent we have this new scenario! Is the French infantry equipped with the chassepot superior to the Prussian infantry in stats? I would love to see pictures of the different units and their stats if you would like to provide them

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Yes and no, because the Prussian artillery integral to their divisions being better, Prussian divisions are better than French ones unless the French ones are equipped with Chassepots. The Chassepot is an equalizer.

French units without Chassepots do not therefore do so well, and as new units have to be formed to fight the invader, the French player will be faced with the decision as to whether to expend income on equipping units with Chassepots, or with fielding more units and upgrading them later. If there is enough income later to do so!

At the start, the French units are more experienced due to their being a large number of long service troops in the ranks, so all in all, a French division equipped with Chassepots is slightly better than a Prussian one. Except, that their leaders are worse. Take that into account and France faces a difficult situation!

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I like the comparatively low troop numbers in this war! I got to say that the WW1 divisional level campaigns always put me off a bit because of the sheer amount of units.

I don't know much about the Franco-Prussian war, so just judging from the screenshots here it seems that in this conflict there are mostly supposed to be "pitched battles" and not a continous front like in WW1? Simply because of the way smaller amount of units.

AAR is very interesting to read, more please!

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Yes and no, because the Prussian artillery integral to their divisions being better, Prussian divisions are better than French ones unless the French ones are equipped with Chassepots. The Chassepot is an equalizer.

French units without Chassepots do not therefore do so well, and as new units have to be formed to fight the invader, the French player will be faced with the decision as to whether to expend income on equipping units with Chassepots, or with fielding more units and upgrading them later. If there is enough income later to do so!

At the start, the French units are more experienced due to their being a large number of long service troops in the ranks, so all in all, a French division equipped with Chassepots is slightly better than a Prussian one. Except, that their leaders are worse. Take that into account and France faces a difficult situation!

As I read that there were artillery units in the scenario I assumed they were abstracted from the divisional assets. Anyway I understand the chassepot balanced the breachloading Krupp guns as a whole, but they worked differently. The Chassepot rifle was at his best used as a defensive weapon, greatly outranging the Prussian Dreysse, while the Prussian artillery OTOH worked as an offensive weapon, so that in every of the opening battles the Prussians, always on the attack, suffered heavy casualties until they could deploy their guns.

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The artillery is both included as a divisional asset, and also included at army level so that concentrations of artillery can be used.

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It is the 29th July and both von Steinmetz who commands our 1st Army at Trier, and Friederich Karl who commands the 2nd Army are now in the field, organizing their forces and ordering them all to march in one direction: the border with France!

But it is the troops belonging to our 3rd Army, under the command of the Crown Prince, who are the first to enter France. The first French towns are now in our hands: Lauterbourg and Wissembourg, with no sign of even a single French soldier to oppose us.

In fact, there's no sign of the Crown Prince yet actually taking up his command, but I'm sure he'll be along soon!

1870-07-29_zps5998cbbe.gif

Froeschwiller is a little to the west of our lead infantry division.

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There hasn't been any combat yet and in the meantime I receive a moral support from the Empress:

fz1.png

NOTE: I follow a specific strategy, of giving up some ground. A player that would adopt more aggressive posture at this stage, could easily attack the Germans on their own territory.

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NOTE: I follow a specific strategy, of giving up some ground. A player that would adopt more aggressive posture at this stage, could easily attack the Germans on their own territory.

And could easily end up regretting their aggressive posture if it isn't done with care!! I speak from bitter experience. :)

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Eleven more divisions deploy for battle this turn, so we now have more than forty units in the field!

This gives us more units than the French now, and we have another seventeen due to complete their mobilization before the end of August.

First sight of the enemy has been made, as our cavalry reconnaissance reports an enemy infantry division near the fortress of Bitche.

We have a decision to make this turn:

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Here is the situation at the start of August, before starting my turn:

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Worth and Froeschwiller are now in my hands, and the fortress of Bitche will soon be isolated.

During my turn we are surprised to locate some more French units, a cavalry division at Puttelange and an infantry division near Saar-Union. Now, what are they up to?

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The Crown Prince has finally arrived to take command of our 3rd Army, and we are in even more exalted company as the High Command arrives:

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On 3rd of August the brave French army attacked and defeated a German cavalry spearhead in Sarreguemines! It has been the first combat since the beginning of this war and it proved that the fighting spirit of our troops remains high!

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Our small victory is certainly morale boosting but we have no doubts, that very soon swarms of enemy units will cross the border and all hell will break loose…

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The French are defending their frontier!!!

Well, that is a surprise, are they mad? Is Napoleon III dreaming of repeating the victories of his late uncle again? He must know that it all ended badly at Waterloo, with the arrival of the Prussian army. :D

The battle of Sarreguemines is on, as we batter two French divisions. Because we only have our lead elements present, we might not be able to force a decision here for the moment, and the enemy will have time to fall back should they so wish. It depends on their courage of course!

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Von Moltke also provides us with some advice this turn:

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Even the lead elements of the German army seem to be too strong for us and the French HQ decided to order a retreat from the area of Sarreguemines. Holding the ground there would be counterproductive and cause only unnecessary loses on our side. Anyway it seems that the German invaders are acting according to a methodical and precise plan drawn by their HQ, and we were just too happy to introduce an element of chaos on the battlefields :)

There was some more chaos and confusion further south! It turned out that two of our new divisions ( one infantry and one cavalry ) couldn’t be deployed in the town of Reichshoffen because the location was already captured by the enemy! Due to that, an order was given to retake the town:

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The attack proved to be successful, or brave troops managed to retake Reichshoffen ( destroying one enemy division in the process ) and we managed to deploy the new units:

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The battles of Sarreguemines and Reichshoffen were mostly initiated thanks to the initiative of the local corps commanders and the High Command is not entirely happy with their insubordination. None has been court martialed yet but we decided to sack the two corps commanders ( Gen Bazaine rating 2 and Gen Mac Mahon rating 4 ) and replace them with people who are better suited for the job – Generals Chanzy and Faitherbe, both rating 7.

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Our forces are now marching to the sound of the guns!!

The Crown Prince is making up for his late start and has now fully isolated Bitche. Would the new French commanders like to make a fight for it?

1870-08-06_zpsdbf9c1c5.gif

Meanwhile, our scouts report a huge concentration of French forces in front of Metz. We are aware of 8 infantry divisions, 1 cavalry division and some artillery.

Are we building up to the first great big clash of the war?

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After a successful deployment of our new divisions in Reichshoffen, an order was given to abandon the town and to conduct the retreat towards the fortress of Phalsburg.

More importantly Gen Chanzy, the newly appointed commander of our 1st Corps, gave an order to conduct a counter attack near the town of Boulay! It seems that the enemy was trying to outflank us there, because the lead elements of the German 1st Army moved towards the fortress of Thionville. The invaders were probably hoping to capture the important mines of Briey and outflank Metz from the north. The 1st Army is the weakest of the three enemy armies that entered the French territory and it seems to be quite overstretched at present. Due to that, our counterattack against it seems to have good chances success. The 2nd and 3rd German armies are still in no position to support it’s northern neighbor:

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Our attack went according to the play and two enemy divisions have been completely destroyed and some units were forced to retreat. Unfortunately the enemy was holding good defensive positions that were supported by the artillery, so the fighting proved to be very bloody and some of our units suffered 50% loses in the process. Anyway the bravery of French troops and their Chassepot riffles proved this time to be more than a match for the German artillery. Where the honour of France is at stake, there is no excuse to sit on one’s hands!

There was another decision event this last turn.

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I decided to form a Garde Mobile division instead of few garrisons. I feel that it’s more beneficial to have a real combat unit, which can be used in the offensive and defensive roles alike. From the other hand, each garrison units placed in a fortress, can slow down the enemy army for at least one turn. An interesting choice anyway…

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