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The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 7:18:24 AM   
mdsmall

 

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There has been an interesting recent exchange under the very long thread on "CP and Entente Game Balance" about the absurdity of the Zimmerman Telegram Decision Event. I am pulling out that conversation into its own thread, for those who are interested in it.

The Zimmerman Telegram was a "Hail Mary" pass by the German Foreign Minister of the day (Zimmerman) to forestall the imminent entry of the U.S. into the war. It seemed crazy at the time and I doubt that many players as the Central Powers say yes to the DE as presented in the game. Yet, it actually happened and I think with a little tweaking, it could be made both more realistic and more interesting as a series of connected decision events late in the game that players might wish to explore.

First, the CP player needs to be told in the Notes on this DE what the possible swing against USA mobilization could be if the telegram is sent and if Mexico acts on it by declaring war against the USA. Right now the Notes only vaguely mention the possibility that the US entry might be delayed, and the Notes highlight the risk of the telegram backfiring and instead it accelerating U.S. entry. Naturally, almost no one would be tempted to do this.

Players are rational calculators, so if instead the DE is presented as "there is 35% chance that the USA could swing 20-30% away from the Entente" and a "35% chance that it will be leaked and will increase USA mobilization in favour of the Entente by 10-15%", then players can make up their minds whether to take the risk. (The percentages I have just given are arbitrary - you could adjust them depending on what probabilities of success or failure seem reasonable to you. The point is to give the CP player some odds to work with).

Second, I would recommend pairing this with a new DE for the British. If the Germans decide to send the telegram, there should be a percentage chance that it will be intercepted by the British (Bill suggested he might set this at 80%; for game interest purposes, I would recommend something much lower like 50%). If intercepted, the new DE would offer the British player the option of leaking the telegram to Woodrow Wilson. In reality, the British had a dilemma on their hands, as they knew that if the leak looked to the public like it was planted by British Intelligence, it could backfire on them, either by making isolationists or Wilson himself outraged that they were being manipulated by a British forgery. (Read Barbara Tuchman's fascinating book on the Telegram for a gripping account of how the British managed to get the Telegram onto Wilson's desk without it looking like they had a hand in doing so). Thus the new DE would give the British the option to plant the telegram with the American press, which could have (say) a 66% chance of swinging USA mobilization by 10-15% in favour of the Entente and a 33% chance of swinging it 20-30% away from the Entente.

Finally, there is an existing DE (616) which gives Germany the option of funding Mexico to sustain a conflict with the USA if the telegram is sent. Again, I expect that even fewer players opt for this, not least because the cost is very high (50 MPPs per turn for 10 turns) and the benefits in terms of the economic penalty to the USA are not spelled out. I would change this DE to something much cheaper - say a one-off arms shipment from Germany to Mexico costing 75 MPPs. I would give the arms shipment a 75% chance of getting through to the Revolutionary government in Mexico City. If it works, then General Pershing and two US army corps are removed from the USA production queue for the next eight months, as they are sent south (again) to intervene in the Mexican Revolution. That way, even if U.S. mobilization in favour of the Entente recovers (due to unrestricted submarine warfare and a Lusitania sinking), U.S. Army resources will be handicapped by the insurrection Germany has fomented in Mexico.

If nothing else, the Zimmerman Telegram is a wonderful source of alt-history possibilities that follow from actual decisions made by actors in Berlin, London, and Washington in early 1917. It would be fun to see this given more profile in the game.






Post #: 1
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 8:55:50 AM   
stockwellpete

 

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Sounds fabulous to me. Something like this would make the decision on the Telegram very interesting indeed. And replayability is enhanced too because of the various permutations possible.

(in reply to mdsmall)
Post #: 2
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 10:07:16 AM   
shri

 

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If players want CP to fire Zimmy, then give the CP advantage in 1914 by making Russia and France much weaker and cut the entrenchment of the Eastern front to level 2 max. This will allow CP victories like they won historically.

Just punishing Germany with Zimmy or Ottomans with Gallipoli via Events but not doing the same to France with "Attack a la Outrance" and Russia with horrible mismanagement will make the game too boring.

(in reply to stockwellpete)
Post #: 3
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 10:12:38 AM   
OldCrowBalthazor


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mdsmall, I like these ideas also. As it is...no one sends the Zimmerman telegram...and, it Was sent.

(in reply to mdsmall)
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RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 10:15:41 AM   
shri

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: OldCrowBalthazor

mdsmall, I like these ideas also. As it is...no one sends the Zimmerman telegram...and, it Was sent.


Why will anyone send a telegram like that unless it is a compulsion?

and if we add compulsory items then compulsory attacks by France & Russia due to complex GEOPOLITICAL reasons are necessary, this will mean French losing 4 corps or parts of 7 corps in suicidal attacks into Sarrbrucken area compulsorily for 3 turns. Russia losing 5 corps + cavalry + 1 HQ compulsorily attacking to Danzig-Koenigsburg axis for 4 turns continuously.
If these handicaps are given, Entente will become quite weak. Even losing Ottoman via Gallipoli will result in CP wins.

(in reply to OldCrowBalthazor)
Post #: 5
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 10:32:45 AM   
OldCrowBalthazor


Posts: 745
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quote:

ORIGINAL: shri


quote:

ORIGINAL: OldCrowBalthazor

mdsmall, I like these ideas also. As it is...no one sends the Zimmerman telegram...and, it Was sent.


Why will anyone send a telegram like that unless it is a compulsion?

and if we add compulsory items then compulsory attacks by France & Russia due to complex GEOPOLITICAL reasons are necessary, this will mean French losing 4 corps or parts of 7 corps in suicidal attacks into Sarrbrucken area compulsorily for 3 turns. Russia losing 5 corps + cavalry + 1 HQ compulsorily attacking to Danzig-Koenigsburg axis for 4 turns continuously.
If these handicaps are given, Entente will become quite weak. Even losing Ottoman via Gallipoli will result in CP wins.


Wait, what?

The Zimmerman Telegram decision as it stands right now game mechanic wise causes compulsory behavior...because no Central Power player will ever sent it. The fix that mdsmall and others have considered is to give more of a reason for the Germans (the CP player) to consider actually doing it (Yes) or not (No). As it stands right now...its always No.



(in reply to shri)
Post #: 6
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 12:12:11 PM   
shri

 

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Joined: 7/20/2017
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quote:

ORIGINAL: OldCrowBalthazor


quote:

ORIGINAL: shri


quote:

ORIGINAL: OldCrowBalthazor

mdsmall, I like these ideas also. As it is...no one sends the Zimmerman telegram...and, it Was sent.


Why will anyone send a telegram like that unless it is a compulsion?

and if we add compulsory items then compulsory attacks by France & Russia due to complex GEOPOLITICAL reasons are necessary, this will mean French losing 4 corps or parts of 7 corps in suicidal attacks into Sarrbrucken area compulsorily for 3 turns. Russia losing 5 corps + cavalry + 1 HQ compulsorily attacking to Danzig-Koenigsburg axis for 4 turns continuously.
If these handicaps are given, Entente will become quite weak. Even losing Ottoman via Gallipoli will result in CP wins.


Wait, what?

The Zimmerman Telegram decision as it stands right now game mechanic wise causes compulsory behavior...because no Central Power player will ever sent it. The fix that mdsmall and others have considered is to give more of a reason for the Germans (the CP player) to consider actually doing it (Yes) or not (No). As it stands right now...its always No.






Other than the galactically stupid Zimmerman, no sane man would have sent that telegram.

(in reply to OldCrowBalthazor)
Post #: 7
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 12:35:08 PM   
stockwellpete

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: shri

Other than the galactically stupid Zimmerman, no sane man would have sent that telegram.


But I think Germany had been trying to influence the Mexican government to attack the USA for a number of years. Money had been sent and military advisors too. I think by 1917 the German leadership were getting a bit desperate about the prospect of the USA joining the war, and they hoped to slow US participation in the war down by opening a new front so they would have time to defeat the other Entente powers. Given that Mexico was still in the middle of the civil war at the time it does seem a rather forlorn hope, I must agree.

(in reply to shri)
Post #: 8
RE: The Zimmerman Telegram - 2/5/2021 3:10:40 PM   
mdsmall

 

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Joined: 4/28/2020
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quote:

ORIGINAL: shri

Why will anyone send a telegram like that unless it is a compulsion?



Hi - no one is talking about making the Zimmerman telegram compulsory. It is a Decision Event now in the game, which the CP is free to ignore (and everyone does). My suggestions are just meant to imagine some tweaks to it which could give the CP some reasons to take a risk and say yes; and then to pair that with a choice for the Entente, which they are also free to ignore. It is not meant to rebalance the game one way or the other but to introduce some more unpredictability to it, based on real life events.

If the telegram had not been intercepted by British naval intelligence, would the Carranza government in Mexico City have actually declared war on the USA? It is very unlikely. But given that the USA had intervened militarily twice in Mexico in the past four years - the second time as a result of a raid by the rebel commander Pancho Villa against Columbus, New Mexico - is it possible the Germans could have fomented enough unrest in Mexico to distract the U.S. from going to war against Germany in April 1917? That's more possible. My suggestions are just meant to imagine what if Zimmerman was not completely crazy and what if the British had not been so skillful in exploiting their intelligence coup.

Next up: making a new Decision Event that would encourage the Entente to actually try invading Gallipoli.

(in reply to shri)
Post #: 9
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