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Old October 25th, 2004, 05:52 PM
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Pre-war planning and deployments

[Sidebar: I briefly toyed with revised victory conditions which would have indexed population and TL, rather than the primitive "VP=TL, or TLx2 for capitals", but bogged down in the process of figuring out what would be balanced VP totals so I decided to stick with the written victory conditions. If I did it again, I'd definitely take the time to redo the VC.]

In FFW, deployment occurs as follows:

Zhodani deploys guerrillas and selects secret base
Imperials deploy ground & space units
Zhodani deploy remaining ground & space units

There's a goodly number of mandated deployments, i.e. the named colonial squadrons. Still, both sides have a lot of latitude in how to setup; it's just the Imperials have so few units with which to exercise that freedom...

The Imperials were much more active in the pre-war planning phase despite there being fewer of them than the Zhos initially (Larsen & Keith joined the game in progress). Numerous thoughts and operational studies were thrown about. In the end, the Imperial strategy that emerged was thus:

- 214th Fleet to begin at Jewell and delay or harass the Zhodani along that avenue of attack.
- 212th Fleet to begin at Efate and to move coreward quickly in an effort to quickly eliminate the Vargr.
- 213th Fleet to begin at Regina and protect against the possible Zhodani surprise attack through the neutral zone; otherwise to assist 212th or 214th Fleet. 213th got three scout squadrons with which to agressively patrol for approaching enemies.
- 193rd Fleet to delay the Sword Worlders and protect Lanth.

All Imperial units were ordered to preserve their forces. No heroic stands here, run to live another day, link up with the reinforcements and then slug it out.

This plan stuck even after the Zhodani deployed the mandatory guerrilla units at Efate and Ruie but placed the remaining six at Porozlo, deep in the Imperial rear.

Imperial ground troops were scattered about. The various mercenary units were placed in likely locations for the Zhodani secret base or to bolster defenses on key worlds. (Andrew has posted his deployments
elsewhere.) One key move was putting two Imperial TL 15 brigades at Lanth.

There was an expectation that the border "fortress worlds" of Jewell, Efate and Vilis would offer prolonged resistance. As we'll see, this was not the case (and IMHO will never happen against a competent Zhodani
opponent) unless you measure "prolonged" as four turns, which is how long Efate and Jewell held out. More on that later.

With all respect to Larsen, his comparing the 212th Fleet's move to coreward to Halsey at Leyte doesn't hold water. First, this move was part of the original Imperial strategy: Kill the Vargr fast and take them out of the war. Second, the disparity in forces meant that 212th had no chance against any serious Zhodani attack; anything bigger than Efate's supply of TL 13 SDBs and surface battalions could handle would make short work of the 212th.

Examining the Imperial OOB, there simply aren't a lot of ships to go around initially. The only Imperial force that was roughly equally matched for it's opposition was the 212th, which lined up pretty well against the Vargr.

Across the borders, planning the Zhodani onslaught fell primarily to Matt, with Eric and Phill making their complimentary plans for the Swordies and Vargr respectively. After a couple of initial plans that were found to violate the Surprise Attack rule, refuelling misreads or have other flaws, the Zhodani plan evolved into the following:

- A major thrust down the Jewell-Lysen-Grant-Efate path by the Combined Assault Fleet (1st & 2nd Assault), 70+ factors of space combat power and oodles of ground troops. First objective: Efate, then turn rimward towards Regina.

- A second major thrust across Vilis and Lanth subsectors by the 68th and 40th Fleets. 68th utilized the Surprise Attack rule to being at Quar (or is it Quare?) with a J4 path through Frenzie ending in Lanth. 40th Fleet was to reduce Vilis and then head for Lanth, mopping up.

- 65th Fleet was assigned to capture Jewell after the Assault Fleets passed through, and to reduce the Jewell Cluster.

- 14th Colonial was given the center with the J3-capable colonial ships and assigned to cut a path through the Neutral Zone to Regina.

- 15th Colonial, with the J2 colonial ships, was assigned to mopping up neutral worlds in Cronor and Jewell subsectors, eventually linking up with the 65th.

After achieving their initial objectives, the various fleets were to begin securing the worlds around them. The Zhodani had a list of follow-up targets to be seized as operational circumstances permitted.

The Vargr plan was simple - BatRons, tanker and assault carrier loaded with troops to Dentus while the cruisers raided to trailing. (Phill misread the refuelling rules, which led to some difficulties later.)

I allowed the Sword Worlders to begin with a fleet in the reinforcement box in the interests of getting them into the game faster. Eric dispatched the Gram Fleet and most of his troops toward Vilis with an eye towards helping the Zhodani take that world. He loaded up his Joyeuse Fleet and rammed straight towards Lanth with the intent of getting behind the 193rd fleet.

The Imperials decided to attach the pool of virtual J6 couriers to the 214th Fleet, originally based at Jewell. The Zhodani gave the jump 5 pool to the 1st Assault fleet. In retrospect, the Imperials might have been better served to put the J6 couriers with the 193rd - it's a surprisingly long way at J4 from the spinward border to Rhylanor.

The Zhodani pre-war intelligence identified the locations of the fleets and the general numbers and types of squadrons assigned to them, for
example: "193rd Fleet: Based at Lanth. Strength appears to be 2 cruiser squadrons augmented by scout forces." For troop units, they got fairly specific information on worlds where they had guerrillas or the secret base (Juindy was chosen), more general information at major worlds or worlds close to the borders, and no information about small units stationed at minor worlds. This was an attempt to simulate the relative difficulty of the Zhodani getting reliable intelligence from the Imperial interior - easy where they had people on the ground, more difficult but possible close to the border or where large or transient populations made hiding agents easier, with areas of no data.

The Imperials got some intelligence after the Zhodanis deployed. It was much less specific; this was my nod to the canonical lack of preparation on the Imperial side, plus their lack of mind-raping psionic intelligence adepts (at least officially). Here's an example of what they got: "1st Assault Fleet: based at Chwistyoch. Powerful force with many BatRons and CruRons. 2 Assault Carrier Squadrons carrying heavy armored forces. A Tanker squadron may also be with this force."

The Zhodani have the advantage both in numbers and initiative in the beginning of the game. They know where they're going and what they plan to do, and have the forces to achieve their objectives if they're smart.

Concentration of force is a key to victory in warfare, and the Zhodani had it. The entire at-start Imperial OOB with discretionary deployment, if combined, would have been little more than a speed bump for the Combined assault Fleets, and would have been outnumbered by almost any of the Zhodani fleets. Divided as they were, they were little more than bug splats, as events would show...

Next: The Jewell-Regina Theater of Operations

- End Part 3 -
John Appel
Homebrew TU Heretic
Somewhere in MD, USA
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