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RE: T39 - don't look at Italy

 
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RE: T39 - don't look at Italy - 4/22/2020 8:04:36 AM   
loki100


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I'm going to stop turn by turn reports, I really struggle with writing from the axis pov as you are working in 2 time scales. Relatively long term - say for a defense vs the invasion of France that maybe more about slowing the allied move towards Germany than holding the beaches. the other is an essentially repetitive list of allied bombing raids.

the game goes on, I'll put in the occasional update when something happens and its open for GR to post as he wishes

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RE: T39 - don't look at Italy - 4/23/2020 1:31:47 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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An Allied Interlude: The Ever Creatively Name Operation Linebreaker (Up to T42)

As Loki falls back to the Po river (or, alternatively, cunningly draws me into open terrain near the Po river to enact a counterattack), it seems like a good time to interlude.

Big Picture

After the allies take Rome, both sides face a major strategic decision. Namely, how much effort do you put in to Italy? For the allies this essentially boils down to one of three variants:

Rome and Home. Leave enough troops in place to prevent a wild hair retaking Italy, but then focus your efforts on a big D-Day and well prepared Dragoon.

Take the Florence Basin. The middling option, favorable because you have plenty of time to do it, a modest VP reward, and a natural flow of reinforcements that basically does your planning for you.

Go All the Way. This is a big one. If you can break out into the green fields beyond the Apennines, there are both a lot of VPs and a couple strategic variants that open up. But you need to put in enough effort to get over the Apennines – 70 miles of slugging terrain.

(The Germans don’t have such clear cut geographical delineations, which in many ways makes their decision all the harder for it not being obvious: how much do you leave in Italy? If the Germans overbid, then the big show in France may face shortages of critical units. If they underbid, the allies might pick up a lot of VP reasonably cheap. If they get it just right, while they probably won’t stop the Allies entirely, they can make it a VP negative campaign. Due to interior lines on the continent, this decision can shift much quicker than the WA.)

So, why the hell would you, as an allied player, sign up for a 70 miles slugfest that diverts troops from NWE, fighting in bad weather, through bad terrain, all while resources steadily flow back to England? Why did I do it?

First and foremost, I wanted Italy to be a real threat theater when D-day came around. I wanted Loki to have to choose between giving up lots of VPs or dragging enough forces away from NWE to actually make a stand in the open terrain north of the Apennines. Either one would be a win.

Second, the potential for not only immediate VPs, but access to VPs while the bloody post landing battles are underway. This comes in three forms. First, by crossing into the garrison zone you deny the Germans VPs that they were going to get for setting up a line they needed to set up anyhow. Second, the Tuscan cities represent a modest supplement when taken – there is a failure option where if you think you can’t make good, you can happily bank a cluster of cities without having to penetrate the mountains. Finally, the green fields beyond are very rich. Nearly the equivalent of a second France when you add them up. If you can get there cheaply enough, it’ll feed in VPs that help offset the loss period of D-Day and the drive to the Rhine.

And that’s the rub. To do N. Italy, you have to do it cheap in terrain designed to make it expensive, otherwise from a VP perspective all you did was draw on VP with an inefficient force allocation.

The Enemy


Loki withdrew in good order from the Rome operation, and initial attempts to break in from the march failed. So I knew he more or less not only had his army intact, but would have time to dig it in as well. In case I hadn’t got the message that the pursuit was over, three weeks of losses battering Rimini before the weather shut me down and my western Corps commanders refusing to drive home what were -ahem, attacks that maybe looked more sensible from above - reinforced the point well enough.

On top of which, I counted three panzer divisions, three panzergrenadier divisions, one FJ division, two mountain divisions, and Schmalz – oh and a few Corps of solid infantry - marched into the line, including the truly obnoxious 12th SS. Nothing says “you shall not pass” like a unit that can individually turn even light woods into an “X” defense, and also has the striking power to potentially push any single allied division.

The picture of Loki’s defense shaped up in January. Essentially he was going to deploy his forces with the FJs and an infantry Corps supported by smaller mechanized elements locking down the Adriatic, a parcel of mountain infantry holding the largely pointless central-east mountain ranges, and the piece-de-resistance, five full heavy divisions committed in the Florence/Center region to make sure any one hex would be a slaughterhouse. The only apparent weakness was the fact that the west was held by a “mere” five infantry divisions and some unknown mech elements, thought to be in regimental packets.

It looked like an extensive forward defense, relying on the terrain rather than units to provide depth. And relying on the fact that pushing a panzergrenadier division out of a well fortified city would be brutally violent. Breaking in would be hard, but I might be able to grab a second or third hex on a good day.

I didn’t know what the LW was looking like, but his tactical bombers had been fairly intact up to this point, and the long pause after Rome probably meant his level bomber force had rebuilt to a steady plateau. I completely failed to account for the RSI air force, who gleefully interrupted my air plans throughout the campaign.

The Plan

Looking at that defense, it became clear that doing this the straight forward way would quickly negate the entire point of the operation.

Remembering our previous game, I also recalled that when Loki was forced into fighting one hex up, then over, then over, then pause and shift, then a hex up somewhere else on the line, then over, ad nauseam, the fight took nearly nine months and was bloody. It shattered army group C in the process, but that was not as valuable to me as presenting a threat near D-Day. And as the Germans I didn’t have nearly the assets available that Loki did (he really did withdraw far better than I did.), so presumably it’d be far worse.

I decided that all I really cared about was going north on any angle that would let me. Break north and the cities would follow, as would the eventual displacement of the German army. Anything else was bound to be too bloody and too time consuming to get what I really wanted. Supporting this, the same terrain that made it hard to kick the Germans out allowed long narrow thrusts to be reasonably confident in not being cut off (whoops...so that may have been an overly bold assumption).

The details were opportunity driven: find a weak point, any weak point, and start going north along the axis of least resistance. Don’t bother with taking the Italian Stalingrads. A secondary consideration was that, if possible, I’d try to fight the mech in the mountains (they suffer penalties there) so they’d be worn down for the plains, while avoiding pointless battles with the infantry who would be much more vulnerable at the end of the phase. The goal was to be a real threat to Bologna by June where keeping me in check meant taking panzers away from NWE.

From there, I decided it would be a two phase execution.

The first phase (Operation Uppercut) would involve finding a weak point along the west and starting to drive north in a menacing manner. Besides hopefully snagging some cities and even maybe, just maybe pocketing some units against the Med if I got really lucky, it would no doubt draw in a lot of Loki’s forces. Either from the Rimini area, or force armor to re-deploy out of it’s strong defensive positions.

Besides helping to turn a line, this helps in a very practical manner in Italy in a way that isn’t as true in NWE – the week a heavy division drives through the mountains, it suffers heavily from supply loss and disruption even from the shorter moves, it is unfortified, and suffers a combat penalty in the dense terrain which penalizes vehicles and rewards infantry. In short, for one week it is weak enough to be hammered badly if you strike with everything in your arsenal. Blast enough heavy divisions, and the line starts to give way. At that point it’s just time and pressure to find enough cracks to flow through, particularly if you don’t care exactly where you do it.

The great threat would be that I figured Loki had one solid counter-attack in his forces. The Germans as always would be singing the tune “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” Until that attack came I would need to keep an assault Corps on hand just in case the worst happened and he actually cut a spearhead off. I didn't really think this would happen, but felt I had enough time that it was better to keep a reserve than a massive risk for little gain. I wish I could say this was prophetic, but it was mostly just not seeing a good reason to take a risk.

With Loki driving that way, the stage would be set for the landings near Rimini (Operation Short Hook)i, unlocking the eastern part of the line and, if fortune favored, maybe jumping the Ravenna-Forli line as well. If it could catch and destroy the 4th FJ, so much the better. You may notice this part never happened, invalidating many weeks of invasion prep, but given the circumstances I’ll take it.

At the end, I hoped to be postured on the north side of the mountains with enough combat power to cover the whole front and have two active assault sectors when the next drives began.

The Outcome

The drive started OK, after some abortive runs at Pisa, with the designated assault Corps finding a line to take in the middle. Then Loki went all in on a counter-attack with virtually everything in his inventory. And it worked. Crap.

This was the moment of decision; if I could break that, he would have just drained the combat power of virtually half of his elite units. And German elite units simply don’t rebuild well unless given tender care. Even one attack may mean the rest of an operational phase with reduced CVs unless you’re rich enough to rotate units to the rear. Even with Loki’s deployment, that seemed unlikely.

As it turned out, that went better than expected; the assault Corps and the four hundred or so aircraft set aside for the eventuality turned out to be up to the task. The airpower smash on the HG and 26th, combined with a two corps attack, destroyed ~250 tanks in one turn, routed the 26th, and set up the next axis of advance. From there, a simple operational methodology arose – drive forward, wait for the mechanized response, blow it to hell with air power while it is uncovered, find a new weak point, drive forward, do it again. Keep moving north somewhere as long as possible so you’re always fighting low level forts and units that just marched. Shortly the HG was routed, as was part of the 90th PG, then an infantry division (+) was battered and by and large the bulldozer got moving along a very narrow front with sweepers coming up behind whenever Loki had to displace. Loki managed to contain the first axis of advance, but began committing the air force and had to weaken the center sector to do it. One final “eraser” air effort – literally flying 1800 aircraft strike missions seven days a week against a single division while another 500 went into gaining air superiority - blew open the path to Bologna and pushed the southern axis air forces past the point where they were willing to stay stuck in. Only twenty miles left to the city…

Loki rushed to cover the hole, and to be honest had thrown up a defense that would have required me shift axis again. I wasn’t going to get through 3x PZG units fast enough or cheap enough to hit my goals. Through sheer luck, I still had the divisions on the east coast that had been tagged to Short Hook, the landings that never happened. They managed to threaten the Ravenna-Forli sector quickly as Loki shortened his line, threatening an envelopment. Loki withdrew for reasons only he knows, but I like to think it was the threat of losing a chunk of the army…though it’s probably a clever plan I’ll see too late.

So that’s where we are today – the allies advancing out of the Appenines in mid-apirl, tentatively picking up the cities south of the Po, aware that there are still lurking panzers and without the natural shields of the mountains that allowed earlier audacity. And of course, both sides eyes are drawn north as the summer weather approaches...

Lessons

Tailored Air Strikes: While few people have the time or will to tailor every mission, Italy is unique in that you are rarely fighting over more than one hex. Which means you can spend a good bit of mental effort optimizing the strike on a given target. This proved very effective. As far as mechanics, I concluded that FBs in direct attack work best against armor (though they largely only damage and disrupt the better stuff until you pile on with theater wide resources.) The American FBs carrying a pair of 1,000 lb bombs seemed to execute this role particularly well, whereas I was disappointed in the Hurricane IVs twin 40mm package.

In addition, personally setting the strike so all several hundred aircraft hit at once seems to produce more casualties than the default settings. The downside is that if you reach the point where you have supposedly disrupted the entire division (you haven’t, but your troops apparently disagree), you may see a wasted strike that doesn’t attack until the next day in the week – the default setting hits far more consistently, but for a lot less casualties. And most importantly, it seems like the really big one package strikes break the threshold to starting killing tanks. I don’t know why, it just seems to do it.

In Italy, Mr. Hart is Correct: Reasonably obvious to everyone without me saying it, but it is reinforced here. You take terrain in Italy indirectly, by threatening other terrain, not by storming it frontally. NWE with it’s far different force ratios and generally more open terrain offers less opportunities in this regard.

GS Missions, The Quite Important Shield: While the offensive value of GS missions is mostly reactive and therefore more helpful during exploitation, the superb value of a GS mission actually lies in it's defensive properties. Besides the fact that the FBs do a lot more damage to troops attacking than those defending, this is your ace in the hole against enemy counterattacks – and even more importantly, your immediate shield against enemy GS when you attack. In one mission, literally one German FW-190G got through, where it killed 70 men and I think three tanks, and disrupted many more. Loki had 50+ in the GS, most of whom got shot down or turned away by my own fighters in GS mode. Had I attacked without a GS up, I’m pretty sure the casualties would have been horrific as all 50 played merry hell.

The mechanical way to guarantee air cover is to add escort fighters to the GS mission, though it appears some part of the local air superiority missions also come in.

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RE: T39 - don't look at Italy - 4/23/2020 7:46:08 PM   
John B.


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Thanks for the update! The game sounds intense!!

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RE: T39 - don't look at Italy - 4/25/2020 1:35:33 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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Into the Valleys - Up to T46

A shorter interlude, but one that should help place the upcoming events in context. I suspect Loki will have some things to write about shortly.

After penetrating the Appenines, Loki didn't just fall back to the Po, he continued withdrawing to a modified Vienna line. Between the choice of "Keep Heavy Forces on Italian Plains" or "Surrender North Italy", he apparently went with the latter. Initially I thought there was a backhanded blow waiting for an overextension, but to all indicators if he's planning a counterattack it will be a more than local one.

With a horror movie like sense of mounting dread, the allies continue to push into Milan, Turin, and many others while waiting for the shoe to fall.

What this means - I can honestly say for the first time this game I have absolutely no clue what my opponent is planning, but I'm sure it can't be good news for me. Too many intact elite formations have simply disappeared, all on the eve of Overlord. If I had to guess, he did some math and realized that northern Italy won't change an allied minor to a major, but one violent and bold plan may be enough to force the game in the other direction. Normally the Germans can't commit to a violent and bold plan, because they need to strip a theater to get the required resources. Well, he has stripped a theater.

Now, as the landing craft pour troops on to the beaches, we'll see if the gamble pays off. Regardless, I suspect we're in for some times of hiiiigggghhhh adventure.

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Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/25/2020 9:40:03 AM   
loki100


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Yes, think I can say something more than - 'some allied bombers over ...'

I'd got myself out of position in N Italy when a 1-2 turned to a 3-1 (mainly disrupted elements), so I had a choice, I could divert several more elite units and stablise on the northern edge of the Appenines or do something. Now that stabilisation is not going to hold, it might take 3-6 turns to dismantle but its clear that GR has left more in Italy than most people do, so he has to take N Italy and I can't stop it.

Now this happened to fit with an idea I have had about how to defend France (or more strictly how to lose France on my terms) for some time. I'm not going to say much about that yet. The other one was rethinking naval interdiction for 1944.

With the fixed units as the Allies you have to use one or both of Belfast and Glasgow and most likely Bristol and Cardiff for preparation. So I decided to make use of the ability of naval interdiction to leave a linear path between staging base and target and gambled that GR would invade on the first clear turn in May and that I could generate a lot of interdiction in the narrow waters between Devon and Wales.

The other line of interdiction is a snake that runs up to the Isle of White and then back down towards Cherbourg. So any invasion of Normandy or east has to traverse this. My gamble is this lies behind any allied focus on interdiction immediately at the beachhead.

Between them, not going to cut naval control but will increase the attrition losses. To protect this, added in 25% of my remaining fighters.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/26/2020 12:19:21 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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In Which Loki Remains Crafty

If you've been following this for a touch, you'll know that Loki usually posts tons of quality screenshots and has not recently. This is because he is being very crafty at the moment and moving large formations around in secrecy. But, here's the run down:

I landed in Normandy, along the historical beaches with a modified LZ set up. The railway set up allows you to create a "Line of 9s" for interdiction around nearly the entire Cotentin, so I did, even if it meant the other hexes were generally low numbers. This was paired with the pretty predictable re-crushing of all the rail nodes near which he might be embarking or disembarking troops.

You can imagine the surprise of my riflemen when they advanced into the "pleasantly shaded woodlands" of Normandy to find minimal resistance before the base of the peninsula, with nary a panzer to be seen. Juts some infantry intermixed with security troops. This has caused my staff great consternation, and a few leading theories as to what happened.

1) THE OPTIMISTS

Clearly our deception efforts as to our landing destination, ruined rail hubs, a wall of panzer shredding interdiction, and the sheer distance involved in rapidly shifting forces from Calais where some of his non-garrison armor was waiting prevented him from quick marching to the beach-heads. We'll see a line form soon.

2) THE PESSIMISTS

They've been counting divisions and have decided they have a chance for a destructive counter attack ala Rome, only on an operational scale. We're not seeing the panzers because they're being balled into a massed fist, waiting for an incautious advance off the beaches.

3) THE WILD CARD

Aerial recon has identified an awful lot of units still sitting on rail hubs, with what look like fortifications. The Germans are about to conduct a mosaic defense across most of northern France. We're not seeing the panzers because they'll be striking arm that flows through the strongpoint matrix, retaining freedom of maneuver while we fight for endless junction towns.


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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/26/2020 2:41:56 PM   
John B.


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Very interesting!

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/27/2020 1:20:11 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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Yes, very. Though we're starting to hear about very heavy rail movements near Paris from the resistance, so I'm torn between hoping he'll commit soon so I can know what's happening and hoping he'll hold off for a climactic battle later so I can get more combat power ashore and pick up some ports before facing the panzers. If I recall right, he should now have nearly 17 heavy divisions and 5 FJ divisions available...somewhere. How many of those he can support in Western France is an open question.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/27/2020 1:10:29 PM   
EwaldvonKleist


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Screenshots please

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/27/2020 1:57:21 PM   
EddyBear81

 

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I think you will need an Enigma machine for this. And even then, the location of Pz Div is probably "for your eye's only" at Supreme Leader Loki's HQ in East Prussia for the moment.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/27/2020 3:06:39 PM   
loki100


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quote:

ORIGINAL: EwaldvonKleist

Screenshots please


ok, up to date image of NW/NE France for T49 ...




Or, more seriously ...

There is a relatively standard set of gameplay around the Allied landings in France. Clearly a lot of variation depending on the state of the respective armies and wider VP score and so on, but essentially:

a) the Allies get ashore with ease. So most axis players now don't contest the beaches with much more than regiments to cause interdiction. A divisional wall behind can be useful for catching unwary paras;

a1) the Germans don't have enough units till the summer reinforcements and the removal of the garrison rules to do this everywhere - so you either get lucky or even worse find a powerful lodgement with lots of interdiction exactly where you don't want it

b) the German line forms, usually around the 10 hex landing zone, this leads to a grim set of turns as the Allies deal with the Pzrs. While its usually a -ve VP phase for the allies, if they know what they are doing in the end greater resources and airpower will tilt this phase in their favour.

b1) the early AARs where the Axis side managed to hold this line I think were more a case of inexperience and/or being overly concerned about the VP loss for allied casualties

c) with the elite units wrecked and the infantry increasingly useless, a German retreat towards Belgium

d) the Allied advance is scary, you can get very spread out, your safety net is the results of (b)

So ... if we skip (b), what happens?

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by loki100 -- 4/27/2020 4:31:31 PM >


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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/28/2020 12:09:55 AM   
Scona


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I wonder if we will be seeing something along the lines of pre 1914 military defensive theory over the next turns. Namely a system of fortified hubs or regions which can serve as anchor points for mobile operations by field units. How a system like this is sited to cover key rail hubs and major ports would force some major choices on Allied strategy.

On another note, as I have never faced a live opponent in this game any theory I have on building the "better" Atlantic wall is now largely obsolete?

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/28/2020 12:30:37 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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So...the odds of stopping a determined allied assault from landing are practically non-existent, as I found when I was on the other side. You could, in theory, dig every hex in an area to level 3 forts if you were willing to spend a lot of administrative effort early. However, the ruling says that on landing only the best unit is used to determine a hold vs retreat, and it’s effective CV is divided by at least three. Possibly more if adjacent beaches have fallen, which basically keeps cutting it in half for each hex.

A level three fort multiplies the CV by three, so in a best case you have the post combat CV of one division to hold a hex. During D-Day, the allies will hit you with a 4+ hex wide assault of double stacked divisions, each one supported by intensive naval gunfire and no doubt an aerial hammering. And they will use high quality formations with 12+ CV in each division.

For comparison, a top of the line panzer division might have 20 CV at its high water mark, but you’re probably looking at heavy divisions with 12-15 CV. So unless you pick the right hexes to fortify (each one is basically an entire turns AP), drive panzers into the forts while somehow managing to maintain garrison reqs, manage to severely disrupt the allied amphibious path, and then manage to stop your opponent from simply blasting away your formations on the beach with the entire Air Force, you won’t hold. And you have to do that across the entire landing, because the hexes cascade with the CV penalties.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/30/2020 3:57:40 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

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I am discussing with Loki how to best continue to AAR while he has super-secret panzer moves. Though he’s exposed some of them now.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/30/2020 8:03:25 AM   
EddyBear81

 

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You are really keeping us on the edge of our seats ! Great storytelling, sirs.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/30/2020 5:01:17 PM   
John B.


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Is it possible to let us know what happens with a lag of a few turns?

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/30/2020 5:14:10 PM   
loki100


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we're having a chat about how to do this, we may do a bit of a large dump once the game moves onto the next phase.

Whether that works best as turn by turn or as a larger block may be a bit clearer once this is resolved.

All I'll say at the moment is the British are bravely hiding behind the Americans ...

and we're discussing Proust (which makes some sense in context ) in the surrounding emails

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 4/30/2020 8:10:46 PM   
John B.


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Oh everyone who is anyone knows that all war games are best discussed in the context of Sartre. :)

Can't wait to see what is happening!

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/2/2020 10:31:47 PM   
GloriousRuse

 

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July 1st. Loki commits his long awaited panzer attack to the south of Paris - where we've been waiting for it with grim resignation to the coming cost on one hand, and a couple corps of armor on the other. Titanic tank and air battles rock the Loire Plains as each side hurries additional forces forward, the Kursk in the West begins...

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/5/2020 7:58:35 PM   
John B.


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No news or screen shots?

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/5/2020 8:29:02 PM   
GloriousRuse

 

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While screens might not come for a touch until Loki decides how he wants to present this phase, Time permitting I’ll post a bit of analysis tomorrow.

As for dispatches from the front:

July 21st. Kursk on the Seine continues to the south of Paris. A twice panzers were encircled, twice vicious counter attacks broke them out, and twice exposed divisions from those attacks got hammered in turn. Both sides number of ready tanks is plummeting, but little forward progress has been made. Still a few German heavy divisions unaccounted for.

1st Canadian Army, having landed near Calais, rapidly expanded outwards to seize Ostend and Bruges against light resistance, but now more and more forces are conversing on them. One shameful US division routes for reasons I don’t quite understand...slow progress made towards Kortrjik and Ghent as layers of German infantry interpose themselves.

The southern drive continues at pace, pushing hard for the Belfort gap and rails feeding the Paris line while a German covering force tries to slow them down. A collection of German infantry regiments are left behind as speed bumps while and are marched off to POW camps while 1st FJ, 9th Panzer, Schmalz and 16th PzG makes a stand near Lyon, supported by some infantry. Every week seems like the verge of breakout before the Germans rush to cover the new holes. The city itself is nearly surrounded while fast divisions stream north.

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/5/2020 8:47:23 PM   
John B.


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Thanks!

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RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/6/2020 11:25:45 PM   
GloriousRuse

 

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No turn from Loki today, likely on account of him being a productive member of society. So, in that tradition...analysis.

On The Road to Ruin: Casualties

One of the distinct variables in Loki's inland battle strategy is how it plays out in casualties for both sides. The post landing battles are traditionally brutal, crushing the allied VP score while also battering the Germans who - per conventional wisdom at least - will never again have the high water mark strength they do in the summer of '44. In many ways the relative outcome decides a great deal about how the rest of the game will go (yes, this is true of every major phase, but you get my point) as it will determine how much ground the allies will need to take, how many casualties they can take doing it, and how much of the elite heart of the Heer will be around to oppose them. While each player would love to be clever and win through a genius move, a lot of times it comes down to bloody attrition to set the next stage.

As opposed to a slugging battle off the beaches, we've instead begun a titanic armor fight south of Paris, where the Allies have less immediate air power and need a moment to get the supply network caught up.

So far, how has the bleeding gone and what does that say? This goes up to the start of T57 - the end of July - which is where I felt the Heer really started to give way when I was on the German side. It is also, conveniently, the turn I sent Loki most recently.

Both of us landed on the T46-47 turn flip (20 May). The starting losses were different largely due to outcomes in Italy and the early air war. That said, the Loire fight is much bigger than the breakout fights in Picardy - both sides only have scratch forces in Italy in the current game, while everything is in high tempo operations in France. How much did it cost to get where we are by T57?

The Breakout Fight:

For all intents an purposes, this was a pretty good example of the conventional sequence of events in France from landing until late July.

Start Position
-------
Weighing in from their corners, the overall strength on D-Day for both sides started as this:

Axis / Allies:

Men: 2.86M / 3.52M
Ready AFVs: 3,315 / 11,963
Ready Aircraft: 3,694 / 13,377


Already, they had lost the following, including the Italian surrender and the starting losses for the allies:

Axis / Allies

Men: 328k / 241k
AFVs: 1,297 / 4,197
Pilots: 4,401 / 11,840
Aircraft: 7,332 / 12,294
Casualty VPs: -283

-----

Well, 20 weeks later the situation looked radically different. though I didn't have the wit to realize it yet, the German army was reaching it's breaking point and the allied materiel advantage was growing. Within a few weeks I would be fleeing for Lille, leaving behind a deal more infantry than I would have liked. And frankly, had Loki not been gracious, a couple panzer divsions.

By now, the tale of the tape told differently.

Axis / Allies

Ready Men: 2.87M / 3.73M
Ready AFVs: 3,213 / 11,172
Ready Aircraft: 4,257 / 12,644.

And yet, despite the Heer looking like it had actually grown, it was all getting ready to come tumbling down. What those numbers don't show is that they stayed that high because reinforcements are flowing in for both sides throughout this phase. The relative wear on units came from a combination of soft factors and the all too countable losses:

Axis (Change) / Allies (Change)

Men Lost: 463k (135k) / 368k (127k)
AFVs: 2,715 (1,418) / 8,193 (3,792)
Pilots: 4,915 (514) / 15,164 (3,324)
Aircraft: 8,430 (1,098) / 15,164 (2,870)
Casualty VPs: -443 (a change of -160)

Ouch. That's a lot of dying all around. The Germans lost enough men and tanks to fit about 9 divisions of the good stuff. In that time, the Germans should have produced about 812 AFVs to ship west. Or in other words, there is effectively 4 panzer divisions worth of armor delta by now - even if the supply network always got the right tanks to the right place right when they were needed. (Hint: this doesn't happen).

They also lost a trickle of pilots and aircraft, but nothing too outlandish. This largely because after a few runs at the shipping lanes I ceded French airspace. The allies in turn bled quite bit, but expected to...and built up another 200k men of advantage.

And forum character limits mean we'll see the alternative in the next post!


< Message edited by GloriousRuse -- 5/6/2020 11:34:07 PM >

(in reply to John B.)
Post #: 143
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/7/2020 12:45:58 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

Posts: 257
Joined: 10/26/2013
Status: online
The Inland Battle

This was a radically different approach to the French problem, so it is worth a quick overview:

Loki barely contested the Normandy landings on, leading to a relatively inexpensive set of opening weeks. In the air, he launched a massive effort against the shipping lanes. While I was cautiously expanding outwards, he used that time to dig a prohibitively expensive (to take) line on the Seine. and shift the bulk of his armor south of Paris. there it waited to attack the inevitable allied attempt to flank the city where the river narrows to a manageable size - looking, presumably for either an opportunity to flank the allied line or at least fight it where the allied supply and air advantages were lessened. He really didn't commit to that attack until the start of July, but then things got ultra violent, including the commitment of a lot of the LW. I, in turn, didn't want to venture much further south in case he actually broke my line (and he still might). As infantry held the west bank of the Seine, we went steel on steel as the weight of the allied armored forces met the panzers in a titanic battle...

As possible confusing factors to the true damage to the Heer, this meant several ports were taken earlier than normal - inflating losses with trash units that have no bearing on the readiness of the field army.

Anyhow, here is the starting tale of the tape. Notice how much better he preserved the Heer in Italy. 100k of men.

-----
Axis / Allies - notes

Ready Men: 2.95M / 3.54M - the extra German 100k men are a direct result of avoiding real destruction in the Italian campaign. Worse, all of the FJs made it out intact.
Ready AFVs: 3,390 /11,511 - you may notice this is close to the breakout scenario despite the 100k man difference - several German heavy formations were singled out for annihilation attacks in the Italian campaign, and a lot of the strat air war in '44 has been hitting AFVs)
Ready Aircraft: 3,164 / 14,132 - this is in a large part due to the landings shooting down 300+ aircraft on the way in. The actual start strengths were pretty equal.

-----
And here is how badly each side had been hurt:

Axis / Allies

Men: 238k / 208k - a lot less for everybody, yet fairly equal starting forces with the first scenario. Presumably this means more German and British manpower is in the kitty.
AFVs: 1,358 / 3,842 - Pretty close for all relevant discussion.
Pilots: 7,005 / 10,492 - Pilots are pretty irrelevant for the allies, but the big naval campaigns near Italy took their toll on the Axis. This isn't breaking point, but it's heading down that road.
Aircraft: 9,506 / 10,999 - Not a hugely relevant category as allied supplies are effectively limitless and the Germans are dictated by pilots, but the one item of note is that this reflects losing a lot more of the level bomber force early.
Casualty VPs: -244

-----

So, where are we today? What is left standing besides burnt out hulks?

----
Axis / Allies

Ready Men: 2.8M / 3.68M - Both sides have had accelerated manpower loss, though again, this is partially deceiving because of ports falling. On the other hand, several of those ports had divisions in them, so it's hard to say if the Heer is any worse off in men.

Ready AFVs: 2,853 / 8,553 - Wow. Steel on steel has not been kind to the allies (also, my aggressive reconnaissance methods have been mauled). That said, as we'll see in losses a lot of this represents damaged tanks. Condensing the major fighting into a few weeks, constant operations, and a long supply chain mean repairs have not been quite as smooth at they could be - in this way the battle location and tempo has been favorable to Loki. The same applies to the Germans, but less so due to nearby depots. It is still approaching the point where any committed panzer division is looking unhappy. This is also slightly deceiving as a comparison to the earlier, because I (and presumably most players) had a few hundred tanks in Italy.

Ready Aircraft: 1,726 / 11,592 - If the allied tank force has been burning at both ends, the LW has been put in front of a blow torch. Barely above half it's starting strength, and that counts those fighters still safely tucked in Germany. A surprising number have died in GS missions shielding the panzers. They've never achieved air superiority, but the sacrifice has bought key moments of air parity.

----

And, of course, the butcher's bill

Axis (Change) / Allies (Change)

Men: 474k (236k) / 303k (95k) - On the German side, the early loss of the ports and their garrisons causes a lot of scary looking loss inflation. More to the point, it has been very all or nothing. While the majority of the heer has sat safely behind the Seine, the divisions that have been lost have been lost entire in ports or pockets down south. Roughly 5 divisions of basic infantry. In a strategic sense, less good, but in a sense of "will the Heer break?" despite the numbers their core infantry in France is intact.

On the allied side, this is letting the WA trade steel to save lives. Which is a very Allied thing to do. The question will come on if that affects follow on operations when the armor is battered, and if Paris will fall quickly enough. At the '44 mark, Paris is worth about 3,000 losses a turn.

AFVs: 2,628 (1,270) / 8,174 (4,332) - The allies have lost about 550 more tanks than in the breakout, the Germans about 140 less. Hence the conclusion the OOB drops are mostly damaged AFVs awaiting repair casing ready differences of 2,600 and 600 AFVs. Of course, this has been lost in three weeks, not ten. And the fight goes on. I guess in a surprise to no one, Shermans dueling panthers in the open isn't a great exchange rate. Still, this means the Germans have about 1x more division of stuff in the inventory after accounting for production.

Pilots: 9,819 (2,814) / 14,663 (4,171)

Aircraft: 13,383 (3,877) / 15,572 (4,573) - Well, its a rough time to be a pilot. Unprecedented allied pilot losses as FBs fly into flak, and as the LW comes to contest the tactical skies. But they can largely be replace unless they're Belgian. The German pilots (and a few die hard Italians) are fast approaching the cliff; too many high experience pilots are falling out of the sky (about 350 have been replaced) for the LW to match this commitment, or anything near it, ever again. Of note, those viciously high aircraft losses are also killing a lot the precious German bombers. Compared to the breakout scenario, the skies will be a lot more free once we get moving.

Casualty VP: -345 (-101 Change) - This is a direct result of more burning tanks and less slaughtered squads. The question is if 59 VPs given to the allies is worth the operational benefit of essentially being able to plan your withdrawal or make one last great gamble to win to the game.

------

And one last section...

< Message edited by GloriousRuse -- 5/7/2020 1:04:20 AM >

(in reply to GloriousRuse)
Post #: 144
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/7/2020 12:59:19 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

Posts: 257
Joined: 10/26/2013
Status: online
Will the Heer Break?

Unfortunately, the Heer is a bit away from post landing breakage. Between losing less AFVs, retaining solid frontline infantry, and having more divisions in France it is unlikely that we will seed the cascading breakout that usually sends the Germans reeling to the low countries. Given the damaged panzers will repair somewhat quickly, this likely means that the Heer will be in better than normal shape as they withdraw. Or they'll launch a massive counterattack at the moment of weakness, striving for ultimate victory in a last great gamble...because they have the forces to do that. I mean, it SEEMS unlikely, but you never know.

Will Loki be Able to Dictate His Move in France?

Almost certainly yes. The allied armor will be exhausted when he withdraws, or he can choose to fight longer without fear of collapse, or he can go on the offensive for a spell. The last one is an all or nothing gamble, but well executed and a bit lucky might snag some major allied casualties. Or watch the panzerwaffe die horribly. That's the gambling part.

Was it Worth It?

You would have to ask Loki. But, generally, this approach ceded ~110 VPs between early cities and casualties (or closer to 70 if you only count gains in North France rather than the theaters stripped to enable it). The question will be if those VPs can be bought back by delaying Paris, delaying entry to Germany later, or the ability to inflict more losses later with a rather intact Heer that isn't on it's heels all the way back to the Rhine.

< Message edited by GloriousRuse -- 5/7/2020 1:04:38 AM >

(in reply to GloriousRuse)
Post #: 145
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/7/2020 11:25:43 AM   
loki100


Posts: 6617
Joined: 10/20/2012
From: Utlima Thule
Status: online
very little to say.

2 main problems, I've lost a lot of key battles that I didn't expect to. Some are down to GR managing his assets very well, others due to having got used to the WiTE2 game engine. That in turn cost me a key pillar in my defensive set up. I'd forgotten that single brigade attacks against well defended forts have the effect of stripping out most of the ammunition, add on accompany this with all the available TF and you disrupt almost everything. So a second attack with a normal commitment clears the port with minimal losses.

Its a bit akin to the BC by day issue, I think this is a bit gamey, but its also a very good use of the game engine and your available tools. Critically this dismantled 3 fairly strong port defenses along the Med.

idea was to rely on enough ports holding to force the allies to: (a) divert a lot to dealing with them; (b) expand while a lot of their army was locked into the coast and with poor supply; or at least (c) make them very cautious about expansion.

In any of these situations, the Pzrs well concentrated would get a reasonable number of routs. Without that constraint I may as well have not started this approach.

Also stripped down the Reich of fighters and put them almost all into GS missions.

All I have left is knowing that GR must lack rail cap.

_____________________________


(in reply to GloriousRuse)
Post #: 146
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/7/2020 7:25:08 PM   
John B.


Posts: 3591
Joined: 9/25/2011
From: Virginia
Status: offline
Thanks for all of the updates. It sounds never wracking!!

(in reply to loki100)
Post #: 147
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/8/2020 3:16:10 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

Posts: 257
Joined: 10/26/2013
Status: online
Hopefully we’ll soon reach a point where screens are viable again. Both for the AAR, and because somewhat selfishly that means I can stop piling shermans into the meat grinder on the Seine.

(in reply to John B.)
Post #: 148
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/9/2020 7:11:41 PM   
GloriousRuse

 

Posts: 257
Joined: 10/26/2013
Status: online
Well, we stepped into Paris on the 5th of August. The Hermans are falling back to the next line as the battles for the gateways to Germany loom on the horizon. Interlude time.

An Allied Interlude – The Battle of France (T46-T58)

North France is a bit of an odd cookie.

On one hand, it’s the big show. By far the most iconic part of the popular history of the war in the west, a gigantic increase in forces available to both sides, months of planning and preparation, and that elusive feeling that everything you did in Italy is about to pale before the action to come. There is general sense that this is the high water mark battle of the game.

And then there’s the other hand. When I first started reading the AARs, I figured this was THE battleground to win or lose in. But I was lead astray – the only player who seemed to win in France as the Germans was one who was later banned for cheating and attempting to interfere with some servers. And one time Loki got the No Beachhead points, though he and his opponent had decided they were worth 100, not 1000, for that game. For the rest, it was a prelude to the late game that varied by 1-3 turns of the same basic schema and some VP differences. Loki spent last game kicking me into touch and disabusing me of the notion that France was the big one strategically in case I’d failed to pick up on the theme.

Yet you always wonder, “but what if I did it BETTER?.” Still, it seems that largely the point of France is to get to Germany (or stop/slow that), not to look for decisive victory in it’s own right unless the stars align.

The Enemy - January:

Planning for France starts by January for the allies. Double stacked divisions take a hot minute to prep, and that means getting at least 4x TFs and 8x divisions to English ports by the end of the month if you want them ready to push off the beaches the moment they land.

In January, I still did not think I’d be north of the Appenines until late April or early May, and possibly not at all if Loki stayed dug in. If I was, I figured Loki would still fight. So I assumed 4-7x elite divisions of his 23x or so would be left in Italy, with another army’s worth of infantry.

Probably 2x corps of infantry in SE France, with some of the good stuff in each garrison city taking another 2x elite formations – though presumably they’d rail north as soon as I landed. Likewise SW France.
Finally, the need to guard against a second landing would leave a sheen of second rate regiments in the low countries and anywhere I didn’t land.

Which meant I could expect to square off with two infantry armies and about 16x elite divisions within two weeks of landing.

The LW had been burning its bombers brightly, but they would rebuild to a plateau before D-Day, and after my tricks last game I figured I would see them come out the first good weather week in May. What I didn’t account for was just how much the LW’s tactical bomber strength was left, and Loki’s plan to send most of the LW fighters to France.

Loki had been talking about maybe doing a non-traditional defense, but I figured he would still commit the bulk of his forces to a narrow battle somewhere, though perhaps a little bit further back than normal. I knew that there was a lot of combat power in the German army, but maybe not enough to cover two additional fronts. I also knew that Loki is better than me at set-pieces and didn't want to get locked in one. From there, planning.

The Plan – January

As a broad stroke, I decided that if the whole purpose of France was to get to Germany, then the best way to fight France was geography agnostic. Surely, the fastest way to Germany would be wherever there were no Germans. Given the abundance of Germans, that would mean drawing them one way and then going another.
To that end, I decided on the Normandy landing zones for the initial invasions. The hedgerows would allow a smaller force to remain defensively viable, and even in a failure state it would be difficult to stop an expansion west across the Cotentin unless Loki gambled heavily. Plus it can be serviced by nearly every English airbase.

US 1st and British 2nd armies would land in their historical pattern, using reinforcements building in England and what I had mentally tagged as 1st wave withdrawals from Italy that I would need out of that theater by early March to be ready as exploitation forces for a mid-may landing. Given their long lead times, I felt comfortable prepping them in smaller ports, leaving the larger ones open for new TFs that arrive in February. Their purpose would be two-fold; to draw the German army far enough west that landings in Calais would have two weeks to secure initial expansion, and expose the elite divisions to a grinding battle far from German factories. Territorial gains beyond Cotentin and Cherbourg could wait until the Germans turned around to handle Calais. The only big thing was that it had to look real.

1st Canadian army (reinforced), with it’s excellent assault formations, was tagged to launch a follow on invasion four weeks after the initial landings. They were given major ports and the February arrival TFs to allow them to stay on timeline. That much time should help ensure everything truly scary had been shifted west, and give the German elite formations time to burn out some of their panzers. It would have been three, but by three weeks the allied air forces are looking a little peaked from the mass effort needed to cover the initial invasions. Better to go in with a solid air plan. Their immediate goals would be to secure Bruges and Ostend, and then begin threatening the Lille/Brussels/Amsterdam corridor in order to cause the German army to turn away from Normandy.

Finally, Patton’s third army was an initially reinforced armored corps, meant to be shipped in to whichever beach sector had a successful breakout. The intent was he would be reinforced by a massive drawdown in Italy in late April, ready for commitment by June. His role was to be the finisher, either exploding out of a successful Calais to grab important objectives before the Germans could reposition, or to push past a successful Normandy to drive the pursuit of the displacing Germans.

The Enemy - March

That all changed when Loki abandoned Italy. All of a sudden he had enough elite forces and infantry to cover two significant fronts in France. Worse, he had enough forces to go make his own plan and not neatly follow the script. I was looking at either one point facing the entire Heer – even a well defended beachhead might crack - or having my two fronts each muffled without enough power to break through on either.

The Plan Changes - March

Patton no doubt threw a fit, but I decided the best way to play a gambit was to take it. I canceled my planned April drawdown of an oversized army, and decided to turn those 12 divisions west instead. The French assignments remained the same, only with a much weakened 3rd Army.

Instead, Italy was divided into operations Hannibal and Lowlander, a major thrust along the southern coast of France aimed at Nice, Toulon, and Marseilles, accompanied by marching two corps over the maritime Alps to arrive near Lyon. Rail builds were diverted to ensure the ability to support Hannibal’s non-traditional approach route. The idea was that even if the Germans held well along the coast, 2+ corps of infantry coming out of the mountains would force the Rhone valley up to Lyon anyhow. I had enough time to march the mountains regardless, so I could guarantee fighting near Lyon by July. The rail lines leading up tat direction might even allow rapid motorization and pinning the Germans to the coast if I was lucky.

In turn, I accepted that while I would get ten hexes, it would probably be south France that turned the Germans out of the north.

The Outcome

I’ll plot this out over a few major posts to come given we’ve abandoned our stealthy phase. Loki might not chip in (his panzers have disappeared again), but I’ll try to capture some of the German common themes.


< Message edited by GloriousRuse -- 5/9/2020 7:12:51 PM >

(in reply to GloriousRuse)
Post #: 149
RE: Unwelcome visitors to France - 5/10/2020 12:04:12 AM   
GloriousRuse

 

Posts: 257
Joined: 10/26/2013
Status: online
The Unopposed Landing – And The Beginning of Worries (May to June 3rd)

While I was ecstatic to see this on May 20th (T47), it also immediately made me worry deeply about where the rest of the Heer was going. Loki had been hinting at trying out a bold new plan, and I was very aware that he might actually have enough power to create overmatch on a given front.



Even after aerial recon and rapid ground expansion into the open space, there was no real indicator of what the Germans were up to. 1st Canadian and Patton’s third waited anxiously in their ports.



Not that Patton was leaving Bristol anytime soon, courtesy of the surprise LW run on the Bristol channel:



On top of which, the initial stages of Hannibal and Lowlander couldn’t see anything either.



If that wasn’t odd enough, this pattern continued until June 3rd, with a handful of local units largely trying to screen my advance but not contest it, while the Med seemed dedicated to a port defense delaying strategy. And then our recon started to pick up a line on the Seine, with large clusters of unidentified units near Paris. This, combined with heavy rail traffic, pointed to the panzers being deployed to the south side if the city. At that point I made two decisions:

1) That I wasn’t going to have the length of line to hold the Loire if it became a battle near south Paris, so I needed Patton in. The goal would be to bring his forces forward behind the main line of advance so as not to give away the plan. Then either use him to lap around the Orleans area forests, or commit into the fight if needed.

2) Launch a planned Dragoon landing from back when I thought it’d still be a fight in Italy. The troops coming in weren’t necessary, but if the panzers were going to Paris, I wanted an open beach to feed Lowlander so it could keep running on half gas up the Rhone valley even if Toulun and Marseilles caused delays.

Here's the shot from when we finally saw the Germans:



Unopposed Dragoon links in with lead elements of Lowlander to ensure supplies can make it forward without waiting for rails or ports:





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