Thursday, May 26, 2016

Revisiting "Blood and Iron,Bismark's Wars for Empire" 1866

I decided to revisit the board-game "Blood and Iron, Bismarck's Wars of Empire" once more. The Last time I had run  solo scenario of the 1864 War, one in which the Danes got the better of the Austro-Prussians. I wanted to run the main scenario of the game, the Seven Weeks War of 1866 as a solo game, in preparation for a multiplayer game. This is the games main scenario and I hoped it would be more enjoyable then my brief foray into the 1859 scenario that proved very boring.
Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria

In the game you have the potential for five players, as on one side you have Italy and Prussia with its German Allies, and on the other side the Austrian North Army in Bohemia, the Austrian South Army in Italy, and the forces of the German Confederation (Bavarians, Federals,  Hannoverians, and the forces of Baden and Wurtterburg) with the Saxon Army a force that could be used in either West-Central Germany, or Bohemia.

I wanted to run the game solo in order to clarify rules. The rule-book is not one of the best, and I have found that many times in the game I misread rules. Also I wanted to locate areas where I could simplify the rules for ease of play. As usual I made quite a bit mistakes with the rules (especially concerning the effect of Leaders) but I did get down to my mind the all-important HQ and ZOC rules.
Otto von Bismark, Minister President of Prussia

For simplification I did two things:
1) All units placed in an army HQ can move together with the HQ at the speed of the HQ. This simplifies movement, but does give a big advantage to armies, like the Prussian with a lot of HQs.

2) When an army is called to role for morale after combat, if it is stacked with an HQ, and if the HQ was part of the battle, then if the HQ passes the morale test, all units stacked with it that took part of the battle also pass the morale test. Again this simplifies the game, but gives the armies with more HQs a big advantage.

I played the game over five days, playing on average a turn a day, with turns lasting about 30 minutes to an hour. The game ended at the end of Turn 6 with a major Prussia victory.

The war largely went like in history.  In Italy the Italians were able to take Mantua, but were largely beat back by Archduke Albrecht and the Army of the South which took Milano and Genoa. Garibaldi fell in battle. In West Germany, the Hanoverian Army was not able to escape the Army of the Main, and the Federal and Bavarian armies decided to speed North to help extricate it. In a series of battles around Kassel and the crucial railroad junction of Frankfurt a Main, the Prussians encircled and then destroyed in succession the Hanoverian, Bavarian, and finally Federal armies. The Baden-Wurttemburg forces made for the Bohemian theater and were able to unite with Prince Albert's Saxon Army.
Archduke Albrecht, Victor in Italy

Victor Emmanuel. Defeated in Italy

 In Bohemia, the Saxon Army, the Nord Army under Benedek, and the 10th Corp under Ludwig von Gablenz were slowly driven back by the combined force of the 1st and 2nd Armies, under Prince Frederick Carl and Crown Prince Frederick, while the Elbe Army made a large flanking maneuver from the West. Generally Benedek was not able to command well, but Albert of Saxony in conjunction with Gablenz did very well, defeating the 1st Army in the Battle of Prague. In the end though the forces of Gablenz where destroyed, and the Prussians were able to take Prague and force Benedek's froces towards Konningratz, with Albert running to check the Army of the Elbe. In Silesia the Austrians, mainly made up of forces under Ramming, were able to take Glatz and drive up to Breslau but were checked by logistics and the indefatigable Manteuffel.

Unlucky Benedek 

Front lines at Turn 1

Front Line at Turn 2. You can see the Hanoverian army in big trouble in the West.

Front Lines Turn 3, the Western Pocket is slowly forming around Kassel. In Italy the Austrians counter-attack.

Front Lines Turn 4. The Hanoverians are destroyed. The Bavarians and Federals are trying to break out of the closing noose. In Bohemia Albert of Saxony and Gablenz check the Prussian advance. In Itlay Albrecht drives to Milano.

Turn 5 Front Lines. The Bavarians are encircled. The Federals make a dash for Frankfurt a Main but fail to break out. In Italy Garibaldi is destroyed. 

Front Lines Turn 6. In Italy the Austrian's drive for Genoa. In the West the Federal Army is at its last legs. In Bohemia Gablenz falls, Albert takes the Saxons west to stop the Army of the Elbe and unite with the Baden-Wurttermburg forces. He succeeds at that but has to go east again to avoid being encircled. 

Front Lines Final Turn. Italy is cut in half with the fall of Genoa. West Germany is under Prussian control. There is a danger of the the Saxon Army and Army of the North being separated. Franz-Joseph sues for peace.

Italy at the end

Western Theater and Bohemia at the end.

Forces (Green Italians, Dark Greek Saxons et al, Orang Austrians, Blue Prussians)

Austro-German losses

More Prussian-Italian forces and losses

Territorial control at the end of the game.

The game was not so bad. It shows that this was the original scenario, as it played the best of the three I have tried (1864,1859,1866). While I do think my simplifications might had helped the Prussians a bit, in general they won the war for the following reasons (I was tempted to cheat myself to help Austria a couple of times).

1) Loss of the West. Trying to save the Hanoverian was foolish. Instead all German forces should either fall on the line of the River Main, with the key city to keep in control being Frankfurt a Main, or they should fall even further East at the Danube line to defend the Flanks of Bohemia. A good cavalry force can be used to harass the Prussians in the West and deny them VPs, while the concentration of Austro-German forces in the arch of Bohemia might permit use of internal lines to defeat the Prussians in Bohemia.

2) Benedek. In this game his HQ was disrupted early in the war, costing the Austrian forces in Bohemia crucial CnC. Furthermore he (me) was unwilling to commit his 4 corps to battle while disrupted, a decision that doomed Gablenz.
Austrian Hero. Gablenz

3) Luck. While there were bad dice moments for both sides, the Austrians were extremely unlucky at times. This was especially in Italy, were large successes were negated by the shattering of Austrian Corps, and where Italians were very lucky in surviving morale checks. 

Saxon Hero. Prince Albert

4) Manteuffel. If Ramming had been able to break through in Silesia, Holstein's Heavy Cavalry Corps would had been able to play old Harry with the Supply lines of the 1st and 2nd Army. This would had stopped them in their tracks, and perhaps given time to the Austrians to re-organise and destroy one of the two. Manteuffel held his position and denied that ability.

Prussian Hero with an attitude:Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel
Victors in Bohemia: Crown Prince Frederick, and Prince Frederick Karl

VIP for each side: Austria: Albert of Saxony, Archduke Albrecht, Gablenz. Prussia: Manteuffel, Prince Frederich Karl.

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