O’er the marsh where the homesteads cower apart the harried sunlight flies,
Shifts and considers, wanes and recovers, scatters and sickens and dies –
An evil ember bedded in ash – a spark blown west by wind…
We are surrendered to night and the sea – the gale and the tide behind!
I did not write an AAR last session for two reasons: I wasn’t feeling well, and the session only covered eight months (October 1938 to Jun 1939) of mostly peacetime. This session, however, all hell broke loose.
After the Triple Fall of Bohemia, Korea, and Occitania in the summer of 1938, it became clear that the Legion of Doom was going to clash with the Pact of Hercules over the Americas. Not intending to sit about and be attacked, the Pact began fabricating on the Ynglinga Republikk in January of 1939. I had prepared for this; as we shall see, my preparations were insufficient, but at any rate the war was not unexpected, and I had a largish army sitting on the short German border. With fortifications on the Weser and the Elbe, also fortified, to retreat to, I was planning to fight a slow attritional war while my allies blitzed the Americas, then bring their army across to either punch through Germany, or invade Africa.
Prewar lines in Germany; note the planned tank attack.
In March, Khazaria started fabricating on me. For that war I was not prepared. I had my Finske Leidangsarme sitting on the fortified Karelia Line, but as a dyke for holding back the tide of All The Russias they seemed, honestly, a little inadequate. And in newly-conquered Poland there was sweet and nothing. The session ended on June 14th; Clone’s war preparations would be complete on June 27th; in the intervening week of real time, my allies looked at my army and uniformly screamed in horror. I had, roughly speaking, 120k rifles in storage (and 8000 artillery); I had about 1 million men unmobilised; it was strongly suggested that these resources should have been put together starting in January and the resulting hundred divisions should be defending the Vistula.
Prewar position in Finland and Poland.
When the game began again, therefore, I took Emergency Wartime Measures. I defined a new “Landvern” division, with no artillery, and a slightly better equipped “Landstorm”:
It is no Ynglinga Hird, the Landvern militia; not even the second-timeline version of that proud and deadly organisation. In truth the original timeline would be quite unlikely to recognise them as fellow Ynglings, the men of that surname who form the elite of the Scandinavian republic in this year 1939. But, if they are not warrior-mystics who rule a continent by willpower and endless training, still they are of the blood of Frey; and even now they hold to the old religion, and every nine years horse, hound, and intern are hung for Odin at Uppsala. They are no Ynglinga Hird… but when the call came, and the beacons blazed all along the craggy coast of Norway, they answered. They came by the hundreds of thousands, picking up rifles, shrugging into grey winter uniforms, feeling their ancestors whisper coldly at their backs, Viipuri kestää.
Their respective unit insignia represent their weaponry, ie basically bare hands and Yngling spirit, but they had the great advantage that I could immediately create 100 of them with full equipment and train them to 20% in a matter of weeks. In particular, the Landvern militia, started on June 14th, were ready to fight – that is to say, they could be deployed – on July 3rd, only a week after Clone’s DOW. The Landstorm were ready on July 9th. I also built the emergency Vistula Line, 16 level-1 fortresses; between the river line, the fortifications, and the help of the Forty Samurai that Mark had very kindly sent me, we thought it might be possible to hold the Vistula and the Elbe, and thus maintain contact with the Latin Empire and a presence on the mainland. Eventually, the Latin Empire would declare war on Clone, its tanks would rush up behind the Khazarian army to reach my marines coming across the Baltic, and then it would be a simple matter to destroy the Khazarians and march to Moscow.
As it turned out, these preparations against Khazaria were quite irrelevant, except for keeping my morale up by giving me some micromanagement to do during the two weeks before the declaration of war.
I last played Hearts of Iron before Waking the Tiger, and I did not realise quite how necessary it now is to give infantry antitank capability; so I didn’t. Consequently, when the war came, Leon’s eight armoured divisions drove right through the Weser Line as though they hadn’t quite noticed it was there. My own armoured counterpunch – I had decided, prewar, that I would try one good attack, and if that didn’t work I’d stand on the defensive – was fatally weakened by my pulling out several armoured divisions to contain any breakthroughs on the Vistula. I have, alas, no screenshots of this somewhat hectic period; even on speed one I felt a bit as Gamelin and Weygand must have done, trying to contain Guderian’s rush for the coast. Not only were my anti-tank-less infantry helpless as sheep in the face of the Leonese mediums – never mind the Atlassian heavies; they were too slow to get into range! – I couldn’t even disengage them, because Khan (subbing Sauron) very intelligently kept a constant barrage of infantry attack on my line wherever the tanks weren’t rampaging. Nevertheless I with great coolness and skill and absolutely no panic whatsoever did in fact manage to reach the Elbe without losing more than a dozen divisions or so; and there the retreat stopped for a while as the Leonese tanks recovered their org and the Atlassian heavies caught up.
Initial fighting on the Weser – my only screenshot of the scrambling retreat to the Elbe.
Pause on the Elbe.
Elbe breakthrough! At this point I’ve given up on holding Germany and am scrambling to retreat to Danzig, or Denmark, or anywhere that doesn’t have Leonese tanks.
Then they attacked the Elbe, and I was again scrambling to retreat; at this point it was clear that I wasn’t going to hold any Germany, and the question was how many divisions I could evacuate to Sweden and Denmark. There is a rather serious belt of fortifications at what in OTL is the Danish/German border, along the ancient Dannevirke; my right flank, resting on the North Sea coast, managed to hold – the tanks were further east – while my left scrambled to get north to the Baltic shore. About thirty divisions, the southernmost ones, entered the Latin Empire and were interned; in hindsight this was a mistake, since they’re now out of supply and slowly attriting away, and I can’t get them back through the Gibraltar straits. It would have been better to march for Danzig and escape, even though some would have been caught. However, most of my troops did in fact manage to disengage and reach the coast; I rolled up the Vistula Line – which hadn’t been engaged, since Clone was still cautiously advancing through Poland! – and evacuated perhaps fifty divisions through Danzig.
It was at this point that the true disasters began to occur. My line along the Elbe formed a salient poking into Leonese-held Germany:
Reconstructed position before the attack on Dannevirke.
Breakthrough into Dannevirke itself – the two coastal, flanking provinces have level-5 forts, but the center only has a level 2.
Khan naturally attacked its base, cutting off the tip and destroying a dozen good divisions. Then he motored up the center of Dannevirke, where through lack of attention I had managed to have a weak spot in my fortifications, and cut my Danish defenders in two, three dozen divisions in Hamburg and another dozen in Kiel, with perhaps ten divisions actually in front of the offensive. Shortly thereafter there was a Kiel Pocket, a Hamburg Pocket, and some scattered remnants of broken regiments (including the Last Samurai, the only one of the Forty to survive the campaign) retreating to Fyn, which in effect is defended by my battleships in Lillebælt. The Hamburg Pocket, including twenty-three of the Forty Samurai, then fought an epic last stand in the Siege of Hamburg, of which I would totally write a separate narrative AAR if I had time.
Hamburg and Kiel pockets. Note the attempted breakout from Hamburg – at one point I was very close to getting out to the west, actually advancing into an empty province which would have linked up with Kiel and cut off the Leonese spearheads from supply. Unfortunately they got some motorised divisions into the gap in time.
Fall of Hamburg.
Attack on Finland; the Fortified Onega Region has fallen and Clone is pushing for the Kola peninsula.
Meanwhile, in Finland, Clone had pushed slightly into the Viipuri Fortified Region, he had pushed back the Ladoga-Onega Line, and he had actually broken through the two successive lines of forts of the Onega Fortified Region and gotten troops as far north as Kandalaksha. However, it is no joke to fight in Finland in winter, and he had great difficulty keeping the breakthrough supplied. As my southern front was now in effect a naval one, I was able to send my few remaining tanks to Finland, where they were immensely effective at containing the Khazarian infantry – which also didn’t have antitank weapons, apparently. (It is worth noting that while all this tank shock was going on in Europe, Japan’s tanks were likewise breaking one defensive line after another in the Midwest; the Herculeans, for all their success in armoured warfare, hadn’t given their infantry antitank weapons either. The mistake appears widespread among our players.) I was able to form a line to contain the breakthrough, then even counterattack, and cut off the northmost divisions at Kandalaksha; this apparently convinced Clone that the salient was untenable, and he abandoned it, pulling back to my fortresses in the Onega Fortified Region, where he currently sits.
Finnish breakthrough close to its height; my counterattack has just succeeded in creating a pocket, and the badly-supplied Khazarian troops are about to pull back into my fortified lines.
As it is December and there are 2400 enemy aircraft in the Northern Front airzone (as against my 1000), I am perhaps unlikely to be able to counterattack in Finland for some time; as for Denmark, it seems the tanks have gone to rescue the Herculene vassals in the Americas – the Japanese tanks have reached the Atlantic, and New England is on the verge of surrender – but their infantry is as good as mine and now more numerous, so I am not likely to be able to retake that, either. In effect I am contained, reduced to Ice Fortress Scandinavia where I await my allies’ rescue expedition.
Restored Finnish situation.
I was not able to give much attention to the fighting in the Americas; as noted, Mark’s tanks broke through multiple defensive lines in the Midwest, creating and destroying large pockets as they went. My Herculean opponents describe that campaign as being much like the one in Germany, except that they were on the receiving end: A constant scramble to disengage so as not to be pocketed, occasional failures, and much panic. There were several naval clashes, in which the Ynglinga Leidangsflåte participated with its traditional success; I have screenshots of two sunk Leonese battleships, and there may well be more. However, the control of the Atlantic remains very much disputed, with both sides still struggling to get convoys across. I am pleased to see something like an actual naval campaign here, with neither side being overwhelmingly powerful, and both navies remaining credible threats even after several sorties and engagements – it seems not to be the case that the largest doomstack wins the first battle and then cannot be opposed.
Stages of the Battle of Newfoundland; some representative ships of the Leidangsflåte after the fighting. It seems possible that Jodokus, repeating his role of “Doomed to death by Japanese tanks” in New England, had some time on his hands before the war started.
Leonese battleship ‘Valencia’, seen through a grey North-Atlantic haze, heavily down by the bow and sinking fast.
The World at War
Medina has attacked China, extending the fighting from the old Khazaria/Korea border (now Japanese) and down all the way to the Bay of Bengal; it does not seem to be going well for China, who – to nobody’s surprise – hasn’t given their infantry antitank guns. However, as I well know, it’s no joke to fight in Tibet, winter or summer; and so large a nation as China is not overcome in a single campaign, or even a year.
Every Great Power is now engaged: The Legion of Doom is at war with the Herculean Pact and with Khazaria; China is at war with Khazaria and Medina; and Medina is at war with the Latin Empire, although the fighting in Anatolia remains desultory. All hangs in the balance, and the end is not yet.
Eurasia, December 1939.
Americas, December 1939. Note the Japanese breakthrough to the Atlantic.