On Wars of Attrition

Every inch of ground I gained on that island was stained with the blood of my armies.

Much like my recent battles in the Caribbean, I met Marie Louise and Catherine the Great amidst islands, but these were snow-covered islands far to the north. The islands were small, they were low on resources, but the oceans were well-stocked with fish and whales. Control of the seas meant control of resources. Resources that would fuel the engines of war.

I had, as my ally, Napoleon. I had always found Napoleon a challenging opponent, if one a little prone to histrionics when the tide of battle turned against him. I thought, perhaps, with Napoleon on my side, this would be a relatively easy campaign in the cold wastes of the northern Atlantic.

I went to sea early, exploiting the fishing grounds and making a stab at harvesting whales. Meanwhile, I also set out early to locate my enemies’ island, as well as the continent — control of the continent would be vital. Not only would the continent offer more in the way of resources like wood and gold, but it would offer native villages to ally with.

My explorer set to work staking a claim to the native villages on the continent, while I landed an expeditionary force of Marines and Fusiliers on the enemies’ island. This was early, and I thought I would be able to catch my enemy unawares. Instead, what I had hoped would be an early raid turned into a quick rout of my forces.

More resources were gathered. I expanded my seafaring operations. My economy was booming.

I’d mapped the outline of the enemies’ island from sea. I’d learned three things. In general, the island was wide and round, and in that wide, round plain Catherine’s and Marie Louise’s villages were huddled close together. And on either side, there were long, narrow penisulas.

I decided that I would land a small force on the northeastern peninsula, along with two villagers. The small force of Marines would defend the villagers, while they erected a Barracks and an Artillery Foundry. Then, once those were built, I could produce at my leisure troops to attack the enemy villages, and provide a nearly constant stream of reinforcements.

The best laid plans of mice and men….

In general, this strategy worked. But as fast as I could pump out forces, Marie Louise and Catherine would overwhelm them. My buildings survived for a long time, but eventually they were overwhelmed and burned to the ground. And for my trouble, I’d inflicted almost no damage to my opponents.

Napoleon, unfortunately, was of little help. Matters naval had no appeal to him, and he was content to harvest the resources of our island until they were gone. He built a massive army, and then did absolutely nothing with it.

The southwestern peninsula on the enemies’ island was a good deal longer than the northeastern peninsula. I could pursue the same strategy, but I would have more room to build. I could build multiple barracks and artillery foundries, even land a fort wagon, and build a defensive perimeter of frontier outposts for defense. If I could hold the peninsula, eventually I would be able to overwhelm Marie Louise and Catherine.

That would be my strategy.

This strategy required resources. Fortunately, I had them. I had gold, food, and wood pouring in at fantastic rates.

I built Marines, Skirmishers, and Fusiliers at a near-contast clip. I would deploy them as a screen for the culverins and mortars that would trail behind them, with the goal of taking out as many buildings as possible.

But it seemed that as large a force as I could build, Marie Louise and Catherine had a larger force. I could take out two or three buildings, but then my army would be overwhelmed, and I would have to begin again.

And thus began the war of attrition.

I would build a force, reach the population cap, and then march them toward the enemy town. There would be a battle. Villagers would be killed. The enemy army would be destroyed. My own army would be destroyed. And then we began again.

Eventually, I had factories producing heavy cannon.

Then I was able to build two barracks on the northeastern peninsula — I wanted the forces produced there draw off the enemies’ armies, to allow my force striking from the southwest a freer hand.

And then, on the island’s southeastern shore, I landed a small force of Marines to protect the heavy cannons I had built.

Meanwhile, mortar ships bombarded the Catherine’s town from the seas. And a flotilla of frigates and galleons shelled enemy forces on the shores.

Once I was able to roll the enemy towns, the war was finally over.

But at what terrible cost!

Marie Louise’s losses? Four hundred units. Catherine’s? Four hundred fifty.

My losses? Twelve hundred units.

Had I ever built that many units in a game before?

This had truly been a war of attrition. I had fought — and fought hard — for every inch of the enemies’ island I had taken.

To be completely honest, at times I wondered whether the victory was worth the terrible cost.

I had my victory. But it was a victory stained in blood.

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