The Cossacks Are Coming!
Triple-Blind Game Notes
by Ed Rains

I have always been primarily a WWII gamer, but I'm starting to ease into selected portions of WWI (naval, and 1914 land). I had not seen or played this game before the Consimworld convention (or its Western Front sibling, Home Before the Leaves Fall), but it looked very interesting, so I pre-ordered it and signed up for the event at the convention. I was able to read about two-thirds of the rules through once before the start of the game. As the German commander Prittwitz in charge of the 8th Army in East Prussia, my pre-game plan was, in very general terms, the historical German operation. Namely, I intended to withdraw slowly in front of the Russian 1st Army in the north, and re-deploy the I and XVII Corps via rail to the southwest part of the map area. There they would link up with the XX Corps, and attack to the northeast behind the Russian 2nd Army, cut it off, and kill it. Then, if possible, the advance could continue to the northeast into the rear of the Russian 1st Army, restoring the original front line after both Russian armies had been defeated in detail.

Gameturn 2 Summary (the first turn of the Cossacks game, since Turn 1 is limited to the Western Front, when the two games are linked): The withdrawal in the north gets started pretty much as planned, but the 1st Cavalry Division, which originally had orders to entrain and move to the southwest along with I and XVII Corps, has to stick around to screen and delay the Russian 1st Army instead. The entraining and rail movement of the two corps also takes longer than planned, and insufficient trains are available to complete the rail movement of I Corps. Among the few units of I Corps that managed to get on the trains was the Corps HQ itself, including the impetuous and unpredictable commander of I Corps, Francois, who, on specific orders from Berlin, was placed on the train at gunpoint, to prevent any "unplanned" personal antics.

The XVII Corps detrains at Soldau in the southwest in time to defeat the cavalry screen on the Russian 2nd Army's left flank, as the latter begins its advance to the north. I Corps has to march south rather than take the trains, and ends the turn in the Rastenburg area. It's clear that the original plan will have to be modified, as it's going to take too long to get I Corps into position, if it has to move on foot. The modified plan is to launch I Corps (strengthed by numerous reserve and landwehr formations) into the right flank of the Russian 2nd Army via Lotzen, Johannisburg, and Kolno. This will create a double envelopment of 2nd Army, rather than the original single-arm thrust. Aerial recon confirms that the area between the two Russian armies is empty, and that the right flank of 2nd Army appears open. By the end of the turn, the 2nd Division, the 6th Landwehr Brigade, the 3rd Reserve Division, and the Lotzen Brigade have advanced into the gap, and are headed south towards Johannisburg. The 1st Division and the I Corps HQ are following (the latter after the hot-headed Francois is given attack orders and released from protective custody).

Gameturn 3 Summary: I Corps successfully attacks into the rear of the Russian 2nd Army from the northeast, achieving surprise. XVII Corps destroys a Russian cavalry division on the other flank, and then, reinforced by the newly-arriving 1st Landwehr Division, conducts a successful encirclement attack on the Russian I Corps. At this point the Russian 2nd Army spearheads were approaching Allenstein, but my attacks and the threat to their rear forces them to start pulling back. My 1st Reserve Corps, my northernmost significant infantry formation and the only one still facing 1st Army, is forced to shift south and launch a counterattack at Lotzen, after the fortress there is taken by the 1st Army.

In general, the situation is developing as I had planned, with some minor local complications.

Gameturn 4 Summary: I Reserve Corps is surrounded and lost near Lotzen, while farther south I Corps completes the encirclement of the bulk of the Russian 2nd Army. Lots of slow slugging in the swamp. A Russian reserve brigade, encountered on the main Russian supply and communications line, manages to hold out for a whole week against the full force of I Corps, but is finally smashed. All three remaining German corps commands (I, XVII, XX) are fighting in the south.

Gameturn 5 Summary: Most of Russian 2nd Army is mopped up in the south. I'm still having to retreat in front of 1st Army, which is advancing towards Allenstein in the center. I Corps takes replacements to replenish its losses, and I and XVII Corps prepare to move northeast from the swamp and into the rear of 1st Army.

Gameturn 6 Summary: Heavy rain delays the movement of I and XVII Corps through the swamp on the first impulse, and 3rd Reserve Division is forced to retreat into Allenstein. By the end of the second impulse, the two Corps are closing on the south flank of the 1st Army. However, new Russian reinforcements from 10th Army appear from the southeast, forcing the effective cancellation of the second phase of the strategic plan. On the third impulse, Allenstein falls to the Russian 1st Army, and Berlin orders a strategic redeployment, in order to defend the remainder of East Prussia.

Operationally, my plan was only marginally successful, and I certainly lost the game on points. But the upside was that Hindenburg and the two corps from the western front were never required in the east, so things might have gone differently on the Marne

Overall, this was an excellent weekend. Many thanks to Michael for his tireless efforts as referee and teacher of the rules. I'll be playing this one again.

Ed Rains