I got to play this scenario solitaire recently and wanted to share my experience and some insights about it. Feel free to add some thoughts yourself, now or in the future.
The end result of my game. (View it at Original size and zoom in to see amazing details!)
In my game, the Germans won 12 VP to 5 VP. You'll note their positions on the map. This provides an important lesson: The Germans don't need to take Antwerp (or even cross the Meuse) to win. I think this outcome was helped, in part, by two important threads in my playing.
First, the Allies won the initiative only once in the 9 turns of the game. The one time they did win initiative, it was on December 26, when they chose to move first to block some vital crossings on the Meuse. The rest of the game, the Germans let the Allies go first, which prevented the Allies from getting the double-initiative that often proves so vital in maintaining an attack. Going second also allowed the Germans to recover from DGs and move units around in response to Allied moves.
Second, the Americans got an average of only 8 SP per turn. To put that into perspective, the Americans should average more like 10-11 SP per turn. So, let's say on a typical snow turn (-1 column shift), and considering the +2 column shifts for Antwerp, if the Americans roll a 6-8 roll on the 11 column, they should get 11 SP. The most common roll with two dice being a 7, and then even with the special -1 drm for the scenario would yield a 6; so, yep, I was rolling that badly. What does all this mean? That the Americans were short a cumulative 27 SP (11-8=3; 3x9turns=27).
When you put 4 SP in each battle zone (after the Broadfront restrictions come back into play), this is really nothing given the amount of troops you have in play and what they have to do. The Americans, in particular, need to switch from the defense and attack in the last 4-5 turns of the game. The lack of favorable weather will also mean that artillery will also need to be used, which further eats up supply. Even with good weather, planes may not do the job; in Very Close Heavy Woods, the Americans may need to use artillery to DG German units when the planes miss.
With these caveats taken into consideration, I learned some critical lessons that may help you, and will certainly help me when I play it again--which I'd like to do, given that I think the lack of US supply had a great effect.
As Marlene Dietrich said: "Trust me: If you've seen one Bulge, you've seen them all"*
I haven't seen too many reported playings of this, and I suspect it may have something to do with Bulge fatigue. Yet, the Bulge comes to OCS, and you'd expect there to be more excitement around it. What makes this Bulge game exciting and different?
I like this scenario a lot. I tend not to like one-mappers, except maybe for learning or a game you can play relatively quickly. In contrast, this scenario, as a one mapper of sorts, has a lot going on; it's really meaty.
There are dozens of armored divisions and brigades on both sides. It isn't just about the Bulge, but covers a long area, so there's a lot to do and think about. Then, the VPs make those little battles for hexes critical, and your moves and tactical decisions will have a wider impact on the overall game. It's also short, which coincides with history, but it also makes it both playable in a reasonable amount of time, and the short time frame again adds to the importance of each turn, each move.
It's the kind of scenario I'd like to see more of: say, focusing on a critical month of fighting around Moscow, or maybe, eventually, Kursk.
So, the game obviously intrigued me. What lessons did I learn?
*Not really, as far as I know, but quite possibly.
Lesson #1: Think about the weather
The weather has effects on your tactical decisions and troop deployments that you need to carefully consider. The first major thing that can happen is snow. Snow is automatic on the last 4 turns of the game (see the weather tables), and these are precisely the turns when the Allies will be counterattacking. It’s also important to the Germans, because the first turn is also automatically a Snow turn. (I'm not covering Mud, because Snow is a given on 5 of the 9 turns of this scenario, and we all know how bad Mud can be anyway).
Another important effect of the Snow is that it will prevent overruns in many important hexes. For example, a tracked unit moving through the Heavy Woods of the Ardennes must pay 4 MP in Snow; these units can't use tracks and roads to reduce the cost below 4 to the necessary 3 required for an Overrun. Snow works both ways, of course, and will hinder the Germans on the first turn just as much as it will the Allies on the last one.
If you look at the TEC, you’ll see that snow makes minor rivers more easily attacked by infantry; the [x1/2] modifier increases to a x1 for those types of units. This is important, because there are many attack possibilities along the Roer and Saar rivers, for example. German infantry can also benefit from this, especially in the early turns when they will be attacking. However, the Americans need to think about using their infantry to attack across these rivers when they can to grab victory locations (or take them away from the Germans).
The flight conditions will also have an impact. On the last turn of my game, the weather was No Flight, terrible for the Allies. On many turns, there will be no or limited flight. Recall that the Germans can move free of interdiction in such weather. This often means that the Allied player might as well use their interdiction planes when available (on a Limited Flight turn, for example), as there is no benefit from keeping them in the ready box on the small chance that there will be perfect flight conditions. Also, lack of airpower will require use of artillery (OCS grognard grumbles: "For a change"), which will use lots of supply. A typical 36-strength factor barrage uses 1 SP, or 25% of the 4 SP the Americans were getting in the north and central sectors per turn in my game, and that's for just one barrage.
Lesson #2: The British should do something
The British seem to get a lot of SP and have some good units that can attack early on, threatening the German flank in the north. The Germans will probably reinforce the area to shut down any attempts to cross the Maas up there, but such a threat does tie down both German and British units. The British also start with an artillery ammo counter, which they should put to good use in assaulting the Germans at some point. There are several towns and villages that they can grab, from Kleve to Wessem. The British also start with, and will often get, Eq replacements, so be sure to use your armor units as the AR units in combat, as they can be quickly replaced. Brussels is a nominal HQ for rebuilds, but consider railing replacements forward to the real HQs to get units back into battle from the dead pile faster.
The railroad bridge at Venlo: Oops, forgot about that one, mate.
The railroad crossing at Venlo will also be something to think about. Rule 6.0 states that "Any division that can support breakdown regiments can setup with regiments split off in any hex where the division itself could set up," but the British 15th ID is restricted to Maasbree per the set up (not a range of hexes, as some of the American units are). So, the Germans should take advantage of this on turn one, grab Horst, and make the British units spend supply pushing them back. For their part, the Germans should think about rushing units to block the bridge over the Maas west of Goch.
The supply lines are also tricky. German combat units project ZOC over the Maas Canal, and so throwing supply or trace along the track north of Venlo could be blocked by a German unit on the east side of the canal.
Of all the sectors, the British one holds a lot of promise and provides several puzzles that I haven't figured out yet.
Lesson #3: AR5 Germans are nasty
The Germans have several toys they can play with. They have lots of independent and divisional AR5 units they can put at key locations. Stacked with a typical 14-strength VG division, this can be tough combination for the Allies to force out of key locations. I like to use those AR5 armored units in the same way; fuel them once, drive them to some key village or city, and have them sit there the rest of the game. Minor Cities and Heavy Woods are Very Close terrain, ideal for defending. Another trick is to use your Festerplatz in critical locations. If your units are in Neufchateau and about to be attacked, put an FP there. Roermond always seems like a good spot. The reinforcement table will give you other goodies, such as hedgehog and West Wall improvements, and the dreaded Fortress Artillery (I dread it, at any rate).
The Germans, especially in the last turns, should take their options as step losses. There's no point in retreating from Malmedy or Saarbruken on the last turns of the scenario, and most likely the Allies will need to also make some painful Ao1 decisions in order to enforce yours. When a full-strength attacking American combat command, two-step British armoured brigade, or any infantry division takes a step loss, it will become half-strength on its next attack. When a full-strength German division takes a step loss, it loses nothing on defense (going from 4 to 3 steps means it's half-strength on attack but still full strength on defense). So, these exchanges tend to hurt the Allies more than the Germans.
Lesson #4: Dam it
The Germans should consider blowing the Roer River dam; the question is when. If you've made capturing Aachen a priority, and you have lots of units west of the Roer, then you should think twice. However, if you've done the more likely thing and tried to hold this sector while the panzer divisions blow through the Ardennes, then blowing the Roer Dam is a good defensive option, but timing is key.
For example, you could blow this on turn 1. However, the effects only last for 4 turns, and the Germans will need to defend this sector anyway. If you blow the dam with just 4 turns left in the game, the Allies can not worry about this sector and head elsewhere. This will most likely require fuel, though, to shift units quickly. Taking cities across the Roer will always be tempting for the Americans, so you may want to dangle that carrot for as long as possible, and then blow the dam on the last turn or two--too late for the Americans to shift units south.
It seems a little unfair that the Germans have this advantage, and as pointed out in the rules, they didn't blow it historically until February 1945. Given the victory conditions, it seems that the Allies need all possible villages and cities available for capture, so if there's one element of this scenario that has the potential be un-balancing, it may be this one. So, players may want to consider forbidding the dam's destruction as an optional, pro-Allied balance provision.
As you can see, this scenario gives both players lots to do and think about. The Germans will break out and take a bunch of villages and maybe a city or two, and the Allies will need to push them back. Both players will need to attack and defend, and manage their resources carefully. The weather will be a factor throughout the game. The variables and different strategies provide high replayability. For all that it offers, Scenario 6.6 shines as yet another outstanding scenario in BTR, and one of the best in any OCS game that I've played so far.
- Last edited Sun Aug 7, 2016 5:20 pm (Total Number of Edits: 6)
- Posted Sun Mar 13, 2016 6:32 pm