PLAN 1919 SETUP (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

1919 03

When Plan 1919 was released, there was some considerable discussion about the game's set-up. The short version is that both players are free to set up their forces as they please, and that this is neither a trivial decision nor a simple one. For the German Player especially, who is on the defensive, the decision has some serious repercussions, as he's faced with the challenging task of defending everywhere without sufficient strength to do so. A bad German set-up can make the game a blow-out for the Allies, and personally, I love that, because boy oh boy does that decision matter

Some folks however are less thrilled with the prospect, which makes it difficult for them to get the game on the table. It's not like you have only ten or twenty guys to situate, and if you screw up, well, it only takes a few minutes to rearrange them and start over. The Germans have well over a hundred units, and setting them up with care and with thought might take you a good ten minutes, or twenty, or forty. Depending on the Allied strategy, the first turn out of twenty might take another thirty or forty minutes. Granted, if you've really screwed up, it's going to be pretty obvious by Turn 3 or so, and you can just concede rather than go through the motions of taking your beating. 

For me, that's exciting stuff, but again, I know there are folks who just want to spend an afternoon pushing counters around without doing a lot of analysis and without worrying about their position being fatally compromised by a set-up decision. And for that reason, I'm offering this Potential German Set-Up. Note that I didn't say "Suggested Set-Up". Any set-up has its strengths and its weaknesses, and that goes double for this one. It's also an incomplete set-up, and that's on purpose; there's still some thinking and decision making that needs to be done. But it should be enough to get the game on your table, and to get you thinking about your own set-up strategies.

Before I get into my set-up, and also some of the thinking behind it, let me first be clear on two points.

First, I don't want to over-emphasize the importance of the set-up. Putting this guy or that one in the "wrong" hex isn't going to cost you the game. The set-up isn't your permanent board position for the next twenty turns, and in fact, you need to start reacting to what your opponent is doing right from the get-go. How you play out each turn is much more important than how the game started. The set-up matters, but it's not the be-all or the end-all.

Secondly, you need to keep in mind the nature of the campaign that Fuller proposed, which laid the groundwork for the blitzkrieg tactics that dominated the early stretch of World War II. The invasion of Poland, the Fall of France, all of that can be traced back to Fuller's Plan 1919. In this game, the Germans in 1919 are the Poles in '39; they're France in '40. They don't have the technological or doctrinal advantages that their enemies do; they've failed to adapt to the changes in warfare. The Allied side isn't a cakewalk, and the absolute nature of the Allied victory condition can be difficult to achieve, but the German side is certainly the more challenging of the two.

1919 01

For starters, the Germans have 133 infantry steps with which to defend, compared to 233 Allied steps being brought to bear against them. 18 of these Allied steps are Heavy Tanks, which are crucial for breaking through the German line. They've also got a sizable advantage in airpower, which will usually (though not always) guarantee the air superiority column shift. Additionally, because fractions are rounded mathematically, instead of automatically going in favor of the defender, it's easier for an attacker to nudge the column up on the CRT.

Since the Allied Player does a lot of attacking, this is a pretty major problem for the German Player, as it's going to result in pretty high German casualties. Exactly how high is going to depend of course on the strength of the Allied attack, the number of Heavy Tank steps involved, and the strength of the German defense. I know, I know, this is wargames 101, but I dug slightly deeper than that in analyzing the problem of defending a ~30 hex front with limited German resources. I looked at the average number of casualties the Germans would sustain when defending a hex with two, three, four, or five steps against two Allied hexes containing five steps each, further differentiated against the number of Heavy Tank steps involved. In all cases I assumed the Germans to be entrenched, as that doubles their defense factor. Indeed, the total of trenched defense factors for the German infantry is 724, while the total Allied attack factors are 768, which is closer to parity than the number of steps. If the Germans are in a rough hex, their attack factors are doubled again, and if they're in a forest, the Heavy Tanks are halved, but I didn't really dig into that in my calculations; most of the juicy defensive terrain is near the center of the map, with the Northern flank especially being dominated by clear terrain, so the vast majority of Allied pressure is going to be focused on the clear terrain. And so for each case, I just looked at clear terrain, and at the possibility of an attack across a river. In each case however I did assume allied air superiority.

So, okay; what does all this look like? A two-step German defender facing an Allied attack with two Heavy Tank steps would suffer 3.40 casualties on average, while the Allies would suffer 1.20. A five-step

German defender against the same attackers would absorb an average of 2.20 losses, while the Allied losses would hold constant at 1.20. Attacking across a river would bring German losses down to 1.80 and Allied losses up to 1.40, which is not necessarily an attack that I as the Allied Player would want to commit to. Of course, if I had put two more Heavy Tank steps into it, bringing that to four, I'm getting a great +4 DRM, and even attacking a stack of five across a river, I'm looking at 2.33 German losses to my 1.33, which is a bit more like it. I'd much prefer to not be attacking across a river, which makes it an average of 3.00 German steps to 1.33 Allied. 

Looking just at the number of Heavy Tank steps involved, the overall average number of German to Allied losses (X:Y) maps out like this:

0 HT - 1.47 : 1.55
1 HT - 1.96 : 1.39
2 HT - 2.27 : 1.27
3 HT - 2.54 : 1.23
4 HT - 3.05 : 1.25
5 HT - 3.42 : 1.08
6 HT - 3.58 : 1.00 

From the German point of view, if we take the average for all cases involving a certain number of defending German steps, it looks like this:

2 steps - 3.22 : 1.15
3 steps - 2.62 : 1.24
4 steps - 2.40 : 1.29
5 steps - 2.31 : 1.32

So, what does all this mean, besides the fact that I apparently have too much time on my hands? It means that the Germans can generally expect to lose 2 or more steps in any given combat in which the Allies use overwhelming force. The Allies are going to suffer one loss every time, maybe two. The gap in losses between the two sides is going to widen when there are less German steps in a hex, and also when there are more Heavy Tank units committed to the attack. Since the Allied Player wants that gap to be fairly wide, he's going to need to use more Heavy Tank units when there are more Germans in a given hex. This has two interrelated effects that play to the German Player's advantage.

First, with only eighteen Heavy Tank units at his disposal, the number of Tank-assisted attacks the Allied Player can make is of necessity a function of how many Tanks he commits to each attack. If he's "forced" to use a lot of tanks on only two or three key hexes, that means he's making less attacks in a given turn. Secondly, because Heavy Tank units must be used to satisfy at least one step loss when they're involved in a combat, and because you're always going to suffer one step loss, there's a real disincentive for the Allied Player to make eighteen separate Tank-assisted attacks, as that's going to eat up all eighteen units. The Heavies come back, of course, but several turns later - so the faster you can force the Allied Player to chew through them, the better off you're going to be.

So, how does all this factor into my set-up? Well, if I'm going to lose two steps every combat, then I obviously want more than two steps in every hex. Two steps in a hex is going to result in a lot of breakthrough results (which negate the entrench-after-combat requirement that I'm counting on to slow down Allied advances). While two or three "thin" lines (a defense in depth) has a certain appeal, in reality one line after another is just going to get steamrolled over.

So I want at least three; if I suffer two losses, I still have someone there to hold down the fort, and hopefully I can reinforce them or pull them back before the next Allied combat phase. Four is better than three; German average losses go down by 0.22, and Allied losses go up by 0.05. I would say that five is best, but really, you're only looking at a decrease of 0.09 and an increase of 0.03 for German and Allied losses, respectively. And there simply aren't enough pieces of cardboard to put five Germans in every hex. So, for this set-up, it's four-steps and three-steps all the way down. 

1919 02

So, here's what my frontline looks like. First, I tell you the hex number, then the individual combat factors of the dudes in that hex, followed, in parentheses, by the total defense factor as modified by terrain and entrenchment (again, everyone is starting in trench mode). I'm not going to tell you the individual IDs of each unit, as units with the same combat factor are fungible here. An asterisk denotes that the units in that hex might be attacked across a river, which would halve the attacker's strength. Finally, an "r" indicates a rough hex, which doubles the defense factor a second time.

1001: 3-3-3-2 (22)
1002: 3-3-3-2 (22)*
1003: 3-3-2-2 (20)*
1004: 3-3-2-2 (20)
1005: 3-3-3-2 (22)
1006: 3-3-2-1 (18)*
1007: 3-3-2-1 (18)
1008: 3-3-2-1 (18)
1109: 3-2-1 (12)
1209: 3-2-1 (12)
1310: 3-2-1 (12)*
1410: 3-3-2 (16)
1511: 3-2-2 (14)
1612: 3-2-2 (14)
1712: 3-2-2 (14)*
1812: 3-2-2 (14)
1913: 3-2-2 (14)
2013: 3-2-2-2 (18)
2114: 3-3-2 (32) r
2115: 3-2-2 (28) r
2116: 3-2-2 (28) r
2117: 3-3-3 (36) *r
2118: 3-3-3 (18)
2119: 3-3-3 (18)
2320: 3-3-3 (18)
2321: 3-3-3 (18)
2322: 3-3-3-4 (26)
2422: 3-3-3-4 (26)
2523: 3-3-3-4 (26)
2623: 3-3-3-4 (26)
2724: 3-3-3-3 (24)
2824: 3-3-3 (18)*
2825: 3-3-3 (18)*
2926: 3-3-3 (18)

Now, one thing you might notice about the above, is that you still have 13 infantry units, two steps of cavalry, a light tank, three anti-tank units, all your air units, and all your Army HQs left to place. These guys need to be close enough to the frontline that they can plug holes that arrive, but how close, and where you expect the holes to take place, well, that's up to you. That said, here's some general advice from Mr. Gorkowski on some of the above:

Try to place your few mobile AT assets somewhere near the center of the board so that they can speed to any breakthrough to try and seal it. Spread your air power out in 3rds: north, middle, south, something like that. That way, the Allies have to do something similar or give up control of the skies in one sector.

You'll also notice that perhaps this is not an optimal set-up. For example, maybe those 4-factor units would be of better use up North rather than squirreled away down South. Or maybe not. I'm leaving that up to you, as well.

I likewise didn't bother to provide an Allied set-up. The Allies have an easier time of it, and set-up isn't as crucial as a question for them. Chances are every guy they put on the map they're immediately going to move two minutes later, during the first movement phase.

Again, keep in mind above all else that no set-up is going to prevent the Allies from punching holes in the line; it's only going to affect your ability to deal with and plug those holes. Where you concentrate your forces, and where you leave weaknesses, is going to incentivize the Allied Player to avoid attacking there and to focus his attentions here. From this player's perspective, a lot of the strategic meat of the game is about choosing those incentives as suits your playstyle and your own plan. (And that's one reason why I love games with free set-ups.)

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