Azure Three Bezants: The African Campaign

There have been Further Developments in the issue of the naval-invasion rules. In particular, after the acrimonious debate that ended the February 26th session early, Baron sensibly recused himself and asked Fivoin, as vice GM, to rule on the issue. Fivoin, determining that the rule had been unclear and that, if it had been clarified as intended, Tazzzo and Blayne could easily have complied and launched their invasions anyway, issued a finding of no fault, no rollback. Baron then quit the game, leaving us without a player for England.

We then lost Tazzzo and Jacob temporarily, in both cases to additional shifts at their civilian jobs; the way modern countries prioritise butter over guns is disgraceful and unmanly, and cannot last very long in the view of history. At some point a virile military movement will arise to sweep aside these garbage-heaps of feminised kindergarten-states. However, on the timescale of weeks and days on which we need leaders for our Great Powers, the certainties of such dialectic analysis are not very helpful; the “if” is sure, the “when” is uncertain but probably not before Sunday. However, Blayne was able to fill the slots with subs; Dragoon returned to play Fox, Clonefusion played Germany, and Achab played England. Thus on March 5th we soldiered on; on the 12th, however, we were unable to find subs and skipped the session. We have great hope of being able to find sufficient players for the 19th.

The Suez Front, early in the session. The Sinai Defense Force is retreating in good order towards the fortified Suez Line; there are level-7 fortresses on both sides of the Canal.

So much for metagame developments. In the actual game, the fighting was, at the beginning of the March 5th session, on four fronts, or perhaps as many as six depending on how you count Africa. In the north the front ran along the Urals, with most of this line lightly held and active fighting only in the southern part, near the Caspian. There was another front crossing the Caucasus; in both of these cases the Commonwealth powers (German and Danish troops, for this part of the world) held good defensive positions, for the simple reason that wherever their position had not been so good they had been driven out of them. However, as they had managed to dig into mountains, there was little movement in these areas.

Thracian Front; under heavy attack by superior German numbers, I was driven back, though more slowly as the front narrowed, and in good order – there were no encirclements. The retreat was slow enough to give me time to build three levels of forts in Constantinople itself, which still holds – although the forts are now effectively nonexistent due to English strategic bombing.

In Thrace, Venetian troops had managed to cross the Straits to seize Constantinople, fending off an English landing in Anatolia; however, as my troops here were outnumbered three to one at the start of the session, there was plainly little hope of launching any offensives – and the obvious strategy of crossing the Black Sea to land in the Commonwealth rear had been tried, and foundered on the large enemy reserves that suddenly turned up – reinforcements headed for the Ural front, perhaps? At any rate, there seemed to be little to be done here; I thinned out my line and took the troops thus freed up south for Africa instead.

The siege of Constantinople; as of February 1938 it is still ongoing, in its sixth month. Constantinople has faced siege before; and in this timeline it is supplied, if tenuously, across the Straits, not betrayed by faithless allies and left to fight on its own resources. My main difficulty on this front is in finding a balance between having enough units in the city, and not having them go out of supply.

Africa could be considered as one front, two, or three, depending on taste. There was Tazzzo’s landing in the southeast, Blayne’s in Morocco, and then there was the Suez Front, where I had occupied the line of Egyptian fortresses that originally faced the Suez border – now repurposed to face into the African interior. In the first part of the session, while I was redeploying from Anatolia, Achab pushed me out of this Egyptian line and back into my own fortresses defending the Suez Canal; there, defending two provinces instead of five, I was able to stop the retreat in spite of the very superior numbers of English troops. At the same time Clone was launching attacks in Thrace that were much more effective than Jacob’s similar efforts had been; my toehold in Europe was driven back and back, eventually ending up in Constantinople. Foreseeing this possibility, however, I had fortified that great city, and although attacks on it continued through the session it is still held for Venice.

The Red Sea Landing, right up the English rear. Unfortunately there was no followup for two weeks due to logistical difficulties.

Returning to Africa, the obvious strategy was the same one I had pursued against Kuipy: Cross the Red Sea, sweep north behind the Suez Line to cut it off from supply, and wait for the resulting pocket to starve. If this had worked against Baron, who saw me do it to Kuipy, that would have been immensely satisfying; against a sub, it was less so. Still victory is victory, so I ordered the naval invasion and got troops across. It was then I noticed that the large Lend-Lease shipments I was getting from my allies, which were instrumental in keeping my infantry supplied, were also taking up all my shipping – leaving none for the followup troops of the invasion. The game engine, apparently, will prioritise naval invasions over trade, but will not prioritise mere troop movements; my spearhead divisions were therefore left without support for two crucial weeks while I shouted to stop the Lend-Lease shipments. (This might have been more effective if I had a microphone and could, actually, shout. Chat just doesn’t carry the urgency.)

Eurasia, with a closer look at the Nile Front, in October. My motorised exploitation division there is about to go rocketing off into the desert, effectively unopposed; but the main landing is suffering a heavy counterattack.

One of the Jackal’s patented sandstorms blew up and slowed my free advance across the desert sufficiently that Matruh was garrisoned by the time I got there. Achab was able to shift divisions off the Suez Line – as he was occupying the Egyptian fortress line, I couldn’t advance there any more than he could – and counterattack, forcing my motorised spearhead back south and briefly threatening to drive even my main infantry force back across the Nile.

A swaying back-and-forth combat in the desert, as both sides try to rupture the enemy lines with temporary local superiorities.

I did eventually get the rest of my army across; but by then Achab had, obviously, had fair warning of my intentions. Instead of a swift coup-de-main seizure of his supply ports, I faced a grinding attritional struggle down the Nile Valley. Achab fought a tenacious rearguard action, constantly thinning out his line in places where he had stopped me for the time being, gathering together this Peter-robbing-Paul reserve, and counterattacking somewhere else. On several occasions my spearheads were in danger of being cut off; at other times the front was driven back towards the Nile, and it wasn’t until Foxy reinforcements arrived on a large scale from Ethiopia and Central Africa that I was able to reach the coast. Even then, each individual pocket, formed around a port, held on grimly until crushed by mere superior numbers. It was only at this final stage that Achab’s generalship failed: These doomed positions should not have been held to the bitter end. When it was clear that Africa was lost, the pockets should have been evacuated to Europe. I admire the tactical skill that allowed him to hold against superior numbers (both of divisions and of human players!) for so long, but this is somewhat overshadowed by the immense strategic error of losing fifty or sixty divisions to not-one-step-back orders. It’s true that my subs in the Med would likely have caught a few convoys, but that can hardly be compared to the half-a-million men that were lost when the ports were captured; as for surface fleets, England’s ten battleships still go anywhere they like.

New World Order advancing from the south and west; perhaps this is about the point when the struggle for Africa should have been given up as lost, and the strategic aim changed to evacuation, with as much of a delaying rearguard action as possible. Notice the Venetian gain in Algeria, where I have claims dating to the nineteenth century.

The first column reaches the coast, splitting the English forces into pockets that can no longer reinforce each other. Of these the Suez Front pocket is by far the most powerful, and indeed the front line on the Nile is going to prove unbudgeable until the English are driven from their supply ports.

England still holds a sliver of Africa, in Morocco, where the Atlas mountains are heavily fortified and a formidable barrier; I’m reminded of another conflict. It is, obviously, not from mere stubbornness that England is choosing to hold these barren peaks; the Atlas range is about as far north as it is possible to launch a rocket with the technology of 1938, even augmented by alien knowledge, and have any hope of reaching orbit. The Jackal does not give a damn whether England wins the war, as such; it will gladly spend a million subhuman lives and ten thousand tanks to retain its launch site and its last hope of reaching home. If, after the rocket is complete, the subhuman state it is currently controlling collapses, and its enemies storm through Europe, for lack of those million men that might have stopped them – well, that is not the Jackal’s problem.

Near the end. Matruh has fallen and any hope of evacuation with it. Forty divisions are about to surrender in what was the Suez Front, now the Suez Pocket.

It looks rather grim for the European powers, at this point; the one bright spot is the Caucasus, where an attack spearheaded by Danish troops has been making slow progress along the Caspian coast. If they can fight their way out of the bad terrain and into the open plains of Mesopotamia, it might yet be possible to force Venice to surrender; if that happens there will be many troops freed from the siege of Constantinople, and perhaps a cascade of victories can be achieved. But I would not care to take the Commonwealth side of an even-odds bet.

Overall war situation, February 1938. The loss of Italy remains a heavy burden for Venice, although the recovery of Algeria (lost to British rapaciousness in the nineteenth century) is some compensation. Egypt is liberated, and building divisions; even Mongolia has managed to put some tens of thousands of savage Slavs into the field on the Ural Line; the postwar settlement of these two defeated countries is a matter of some controversy. On the other side, the English people are having some difficulty reconciling the loss of Africa with their government’s propaganda. But it is Europe that is decisive – as long as the Commonwealth prevents any incursion into that ethnic and industrial heartland, they are not defeated.


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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, One With Nineveh and Tyre, Recessional

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