Publisher: GMT Games
Scenario: "The Tannenberg Campaign"
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sun, Feb 26th ~ 2.00PM - 5.00PM
Sun, Mar 4th ~ 2.00PM - 5.00PM
At long last, our return to Tannenberg. This game and specifically this scenario has already provided many hours of enjoyment for both Bob and I. We have played this scenario at least three time, and have seen each side win, sometimes in dramatic fashion. This is a game that both of us really like and one that is smack in the middle of our collective wheel house. Bob is attracted to anything that features the Austo-Hungarian Empire. I find the tightly written rules and competitive nature of the game appealing. The artwork is first rate as well. I have read 6-8 books on WWI that I would likely not have read had I not played this game. So it is with these high expectations that we start another playing of Tannenberg.
For those that are not familiar with Tannenberg (and I was one of these prior to this game) it is an amazing piece of history filled with drama and huge consequences. The campaign opens with the Russian 1st Army set to invade Prussia while the 2nd Army hurriedly tries to get into the action further South. The Russians outnumber the Germans but this is deceiving as your average German Division is quite a lot more potent then it's Russian counterpart. The Russian player is also saddled with the pre-war Strategic Objectives which greatly restrict the movement of the two Russian Armies. However once the Russian 2nd Army gets into the fight the German player will have his hands full if he hasn't dealt a strong blow to the 1st Army.
This scenario is ideal for learning everything about this system. The Campaign is a very manageable one map affair with a fairly low counter density. The Campaign also puts heavy emphasis, indeed stresses many of the games operation themes (supply in particular). You will become a railroad baron at the same time that you master the art of an early 20th Century quartermaster. Unlike the vast majority of operational scale games I have played, you will open your thought process thinking about repairing RR tracks and what your supply line needs to look like at the end of the turn. Once you have considered these options you are then able to think about committing you Divisions to Battle. The German player is under constant pressure on two fronts, trying to hold off two Russian Armies with too few units. The Russian player has to operate within the restrictions of his Strategic Objectives while at the same time extending his supply lines far enough to support his advancing units. The game is nothing at all what I would have expected in a Division level game covering WWI. This Campaign does an amazing job at capturing this drama in equal amounts for each player.
|At Set up with Army Objective highlighted|
As I was the German player the last time we played, I took the reigns of the Russians. Having just played the excellent "Battle of Ivangorod" scenario (replay here) from the recently published Journal (also highly recommended) I was amazed at how rusty I still felt as we sat down and began. This coming after spending a good amount of time re-reading the rules as well. As the rust started to give way, recollections of prior games started to creep back into my consciousness. In our prior game the Russians were dealt a catastrophic defeat very early in the game that they were unable to recover from. This was weighing heavily in the opening turns and as a result we both played a very conservative first three turns.
Opening (turns 1-3)
|1st Army Opening Positions|
Before I start on the narrative it is important to talk about supply as it drives everything in the game. In order for a unit (generally Divisions) to be in full supply (and thus able to use its Artillery) is has to be within range of its Corps supply train unit. Each Corps usually contains two and sometimes three Divisions. Each Corps has a supply train counter, the counter represents the Corps supply hub. In order for a Division to use its Artillery in a battle, is HAS to have access to a supplied Corps train. A Division without Artillery is at a severe disadvantage as Artillery drives losses in the combat process. Corps Trains need to be within range of an Army Depot. Each Army usually has two, a major and minor. The major depot allows unlimited AP (artillery ammunition) while a minor only allows 4 APs per turn to flow through it. A Corps fighting a battle in which one or both/all of its Divisions is fighting and using their inherent Artillery will use one AP point. Army Depots are restricted to RR lines, they can only move along RR lines over the course of a turn (at most 12 hexes). In order for a depot to move further then that it has to pack up and move, causing it to be unable to provide supply for two turns after it has relocated. Further complicating the situation are the two sides different RR gauges. Each player has a limited supply of RR engineer points that he can use to convert track over to his sides use. You are forced to pay close attention to this in order to plan a successful campaign. Most of the time I am spending at least as much time if not more thinking about supply and RR lines then I am about moving units and fighting. Don't confuse this long description with dissatisfaction with the mechanics, to me (and Bob) this is one of the best parts of the game.
|1st Army, start of turn 2|
|Start of Turn 2|
The 1st Army is best suited in the opening turns to start off being aggressive. I elected to play it safe and make sure that I advanced my supply lines along so that I would be able to concentrate my forces against Bobs. Two of the Russian 1st Army Corps (2 and 4) start further South then the rest of the Army and are tied much closer to the limited rail lines located there. In the North I had two Corps (3 & 26) that start very close to the main rail lines and are very close to the 1st German Corps. In prior games we usually see some fighting here in the opening turns, but Bob and I were having none of it this time. We were both very slow in this area. I focused on marching the 2nd and 4th Corps closer to the main line of advance, leaving the other two Corps basically in place while I moved in the two Corps from the South. The Corps train units are not allowed to force march so its very easy for the Infantry to run far in front of the trains and this can lead to trouble.
|13th and 6th Corps start out across the Swamps|
|2nd Army Minor Depot redeploys to support the 1st and 15th Corps Advance|
The 2nd Army is in worse shape then the 1st Army. First off it doesn't even move on the first turn, then most of its Corps trains have an incomplete-2 marker on them. This limits their range until you spend a turn reducing the marker, in all it takes two entire turns for the trains to loose these markers and be operating at full efficiency. The terrain in the 2nd Army's area is also very restrictive. There is a big gap between your units and the Germans. The terrain is either swampy or mixed (swamp/rough/woods). There is only one rail line that leads towards the Army's objective yet most of the Army starts 8-12 hexes away from this RR line. As I had done in prior games I moved the 2nd Army's minor Depot over to this line as soon as I could. I send two Corps (13 & 6) into the swamps in a direct line to the nearest Strategic Objective. The other two Corps (1 & 15) advanced along this rail line leading towards Tannenberg.
|Opening Salvo, 1st Division attacks a lone Brigade|
It wasn't until the third turn that we saw our first Prepared Attack. This happened in the 2nd Army's area as the 13th Corps emerged from crossing the swamp to destroy a German brigade. When I made these attacks I was at the very limit of my supply line. Bob rushed the 20th Corps into the area quickly and launched his own attack against the 13th. In the 1st Army sector, the 2nd and 4th Corps were starting to close in with the rest of the Army and I started to finally advance across the boarder into Prussia. Bob only had two Corps (1 & 17) in the area and slowly pulled back not wanting to give battle.
Battle is Joined (turns 4 & 5)
The 2nd Army's 1st Corps is making good time advancing on Osterode. Bob nearest Corps is over facing my 13th and 6th Corps who have emerged from the swamps and engaged them. I am able to run up and attack a couple of Brigades in the rough terrain a couple hexes South of Osterode and push them back. The 6th Corps on the 2nd Army's right takes up the fight after the 13th is badly shaken by its attacks on the German 20th Corps (I failed my EL checks). In the center of 2nd Army's area the 15th (the pink guys) are making good progress to towards Allenstien (an objective of the 2nd Army). Bob trains in a Corps (1R) to this area from the 1st Army's front and suddenly I am uncomfortable about how exposed the 15th is. Its all in at this point and I should be able to make attacks on two of the three 2nd Army objective next turn.
|2nd Army, Combat phase turn 4|
|1st Army, end of turn 4|
In the 1st Army's front Bob is digging in behind a river line a few hexes in front of Intersberg (the 1st Army's Objective). When he shifts the 1R Corps South to face the 2nd Army I am left with a 3-1 advantage in Corps. I have my Cavalry ranging North of the main line of advance pushing Bobs Cavalry back and trying to drive off an approaching Brigade marching down to reinforce his lines. I have a couple more Divisions arriving and marching to the front as well. I will have little choice but to launch frontal attacks on his dug in troops behind the river line, but that's ok as I have more troops and am hopping to grind him down.
|Start of turn 5|
Turn 5 is very busy on both fronts. In the South, 2nd Army is attacking two of its three Strategic Objective. I only need to occupy one of these to meet my plan for the 2nd and score some nice VPs. More importantly this will lift the restriction on my movement. While an Army is under Strategic Objectives its combat units are restricted in their movement, if they move they must move AT LEAST ONE HEX closer the an Army objective. Thus once you get close to your objective you are really tied to them and lack any room to maneuver. Bob on the other hand is free to run around as he sees fit.
|2nd Army launches two 3-1 attacks on Objective hexes|
|1st Army starts to assault the trench line|
Bobs reaction movement phase see's him detrain the 1R Corps and make a lunge at the 15th Corps 8th Division. I have left this unit back to cover the Corps train and I am glad I did and its looking like Bob is planning on going after it. My two attacks on the Strategic Objectives (Allenstien and Osterode) are stopped cold despite 3-1 odds. I merely needed to roll a six or less on 2d6 to have taken one of the two hexes.
|Bob quickly gets the 1R Corps into action on the flank of 15th Corps|
|Bob flanks and routes the 2nd Corps on the 1st Army's left|
The 1st Army's front is not without drama either. My attacks on Bobs two dug in Divisions don't do much except cost me men and EL level. Bob counters by sending his 1st Corps around my Southern line and attacking the 2nd Corps. This was a close one as Bob could have force marched after my Crops train but instead chose to attack the two Divisions. I would have gone after the train as that would have really caused me some problems that would likely have forced me to abandon my Strategic plan earlier that I would have wanted to. The attack goes well and I am forced to retreat two hexes taking some heavy losses in the process. My reaction movement allowed me to move the two trains in the area out of immediate danger though. My Calvary gets into some trouble on the right side of 1st Army's line and a couple of brigades have to high tail it out of there in a hurry as Bob's lone Brigade from the North lunges in.
We stopped here for the day. Each of my Army's are either adjacent to or a couple hexes away from their objectives while at the same time facing threatening flanking movements. The next couple turns should be very exciting for both of us.
|End of Turn 5|