The Cossacks Are Coming!

Notes on the Triple Blind Game that took place during Consimworld 2004

 

By John Docwra

 

The early campaigns of World War One have long fascinated me, principally the actions that took place before the trench lines were established. There is the vast movements of Armies, the besieging of fortresses, war plans that didn’t work, but instead brought about tens of thousands of casualties, possibly the last use of cavalry in its traditional roles of scouting and screening, the many “what ifs”. Sadly this area of warfare has been somewhat neglected by wargames manufactures in comparison to say the number of games on World War Two.

 

I first came across “The Cossacks Are Coming” in a long ago article in Fire and Movement magazine when the game was published by the now sadly defunct Peoples Wargames. That game caught hold of my imagination and I was delighted when its Western Front cousin was released (Home Before the Leaves Fall). I was at last able to play that game with my good friend David Ells at ConsimWorld 2003. I had heard that Michael Resch had brought out a new version of Cossacks and he was offering to referee a Triple Blind game, I knew I had to try it out, so it was with a lot of anticipation I arrived at ConsimWorld 2004.

 

We had decided beforehand that I was to take the Russian Second Army, so I was to be General Samsonov. I had read widely on this campaign and was determined that I would not make the errors that he had. The game system in this Triple Blind format gives you no information at all as to where your opponent is located so I had to make the maximum use of my extensive cavalry to locate him and to screen my flanks and supply lines. For those not familiar with the system your individual Generals can sometimes act on their own, often not in the way that the High Command wishes them to act. I was lucky in my initial die rolls with regard to this and the Generals all acted perfectly in accordance with the High Commands orders for a cautious advance.

I am aware that I will probably be the target of the Germans player’s attacks first, but I had hoped to advance into Prussia somewhat before he attacked me, so much for plans! It appeared that the German player had determined to leave just a screen of forces in front of our First Army and had decided to stop my invasion on Polish soil before it had even begun. I had begun receiving reports of German forces in the vicinity of Mlawa, so I sent the 6th and 15th Cavalry divisions to recon and they became involved in Intensive Combat with the enemies forces in that area. These turned out to be more than two Cavalry Divisions could handle and our boys were repulsed. I was also probing forward, somewhat to their right with the 4th Cavalry Division, units of which crossed in Prussian territory. However they found nothing in their path, where are the rest of the Germans?

 

I decide to push forward with the I, XXIII and XIII Corps in the general direction of AllensteinBischofsberg. I manage to get some airplanes into the air and they perform aerial recon in front of those Corps, but they see nothing. I have no indication of what my opponent intends to do. I don’t want to just react to his attacks when they come, so I send XI Corps to Johannisburg, they meet nothing in their path at present. I’m also anxious to know what is happening with our First Army, so I send some aircraft to have a look at what they are doing. I receive information that there are large numbers of units, in the vicinity of Stalluponen, these are thought to be Russian units!

 

My Cavalry units in the Mlawa area report seeing enemy units on the road between Mlawa and Ciechanew. When they investigate they find these to be German Supply troops, which are sent packing.

 

I have now received information from GHQ that we have taken Gumbinnen with very light casualties and that we now occupy that town. It would appear that my old friend General Rennenkampf is advancing very rapidly on his front.

 

A very bloody combat has taken place in the vicinity of Przasnysz as an attack on our XXIII Corps was heavily repulsed, thanks mainly to the heavy guns of our Corps Artillery which were present in force and for once fully supplied with ammunition. Our brave Cossacks continue to screen the enemy on our left flank.

I am now attacked by numerous units of the enemy’s I Corps on my right flank. This is something of a shock as these units were last reported to be on the left flank of our First Army, what is Rennenkampf doing? I thought he was supposed to be attacking! I scrap my plan of continuing to advance in the direction of AllensteinBischofsberg and hurriedly withdraw units to defend my right flank.

 

The enemy is achieving some success on my Right Flank and is threatening my supply lines. I have no choice but to send a reinforced detachment Brigade from Osowiec, I hope they can hold out for a while, as I move supply depots and rearrange my supply lines.

 

They manage to hold on for a week against all that the mighty German I Corps can throw at them, but in the end the sheer weight of numbers opposing them is too much and they are finally overcome, brave heroes of the Motherland!!

 

My opponent is now pressing me from three sides and there is heavy but slow fighting in the swamps. I decide that I have no choice but to slowly retreat to the South and to rest and refit my various depleted Corps in the Fortresses that they enter on their way. I believe that I am giving the Germans as good as I am getting and there is no mass flight, but an organized withdrawal. I’m promised the Tenth Army will be here to reinforce me soon!

 

I continue my withdrawal; I’m encouraged by reports of First Army units in the vicinity of Allenstein and also by reports that Tenth Army Units are also beginning to arrive. It seems as if the Second Army’s sacrifices have enabled our First Army companions to achieve their aims. On to Berlin!!

 

All in all this was an extremely interesting, exciting and nerve wracking game. Michael did an excellent job acting as referee and the whole Blind system worked extremely well. Did I really say “Never mind where the Germans are, I know they’re all around me. Where is Rennenkampf and his army!” I guess I was pretty desperate to find out what First Army was doing!