Patrick Shirley
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I've started playing through the TBL campaign with Holland using Vassal in anticipation of a FTF campaign starting up soon where I will be taking control of the German forces. The task given to the Germans seems daunting. Unlike other France '40 games I'm familiar with the campaign starts well before the crossing at the Meuse and therefore starts without the strategic surprise as a given. There's 2 main things I'd like to note and get advice on:

- Surrender of the Dutch:
Achieving an early surrender of the Dutch seems vital in order to free up enough German forces to continue to pressure Franco-British forces in Belgium. However this seems very difficult to achieve. Most threads in this forum focus on the fact that it's relatively easy to get a German armor or artillery unit next to Rotterdam by Turn 2 (assuming winning the initiative roll on the 2nd turn) but for some reason completely pass over that this will usually only grant you a 1 in 6 chance of having Dutch surrrender if you assume the French forces will put enough steps near Rosendaal which given that it increases the odds of keeping the Dutch in the fight seems almost like a no-brainer to me. Then let's say you manage to push the French away from the Netherlands and capture 1 Dutch major city hex, which is not even that easy to achieve by Turn 3, this only gives a Dutch surrender on a 4,5 or 6 i.e. 50% odds. And this is without even considering the possibility of significant extra British and French steps reaching the Netherlands if they decide to go hard into propping up the Dutch. All things considered you can expect, unless you get very lucky, the Dutch to stay in the fight till at least turn 4 and maybe much longer.

- The Ardennes:
The Ardennes seems like a formidable obstacle for the Germans to reach the Meuse. The setup allows the French to spread out and cover many of the intersections. The terrain is such that for a Panzer division in move mode even a weak battalion can be a difficult obstacle to overrun and unlikely to get an exploitation from a regular combat. Which leaves regular combat followed by exploitation from reserve mode units. All in all it seems like a slog. You might just reach the Meuse by the end of the German player Turn 2 with the tip of your spear leaving the Allied player the chance to send considerable reinforcements into the wooded hills making progress even tougher and having plenty of time to bring up those French armored multi unit divisions. I could quite easily see the Allies holding up German forces for quite some time in those forests.

Can anyone point out anything that I might be missing which could make this less of a daunting task for the German player than it appears to be?

Thanks.
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Austin Richards
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I agree it's a difficult task when the Allies have historical knowledge and a bird's-eye view of the map. However, here's a few thoughts from a non-expert:

1) Don't worry over-much about the Dutch -- you don't have a lot up north, and when Holland falls they're in the wrong spot.

2) Try to cross the Meuse at more than one spot. It's good to have a backup plan.

3) You can talk your opponent into the optional rule where the Germans go first on turn 2.

4) Your turns will take a LONG time to make sure you're getting the most out of your counters.
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Jim P.
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There is/was a nice thread on strategy regarding Holland and other things TBL...it even referred to session photos within it, but alas the photos were eliminated by the OP.

But I offer a link to this post in the thread by groggal. She knows OCS and this game in particular, and perhaps her thoughts might help you. I hope it does:

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/13757039#13757039
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OP, I think you're right: both aspects pose challenges for the Germans.

See my campaign session report for some thoughts on these issues, especially the design element, which starts with the title.

In pinpointing both of these operational challenges, you've also hit on the critical part of successfully playing this game: time. Whatever the Allies can do to nibble away time is vital, because the Germans don't have a lot of it in this game.

Holland
Don't forget this important part: "Add 1 to the roll for each Dutch major city hex that is occupied by a German combat unit." So, the idea here is to air drop and then air transport a bunch of German airborne/air-landing assets and take the Dutch cities. The Rotterdam area is a good choice because you'll also want to take some of the bridges around there, too, to allow your red/yellow/artillery units to get across. (The "artillery" part always strikes me as funny, but I digress).

If the Allies move into or past Roosendaal, the real threat is that by going further to the northeast, they can also potentially threaten German supply lines (trace) heading into Rotterdam. One downside of this is that any Allied units that make such moves will also risk being cut off; there's a lot of open terrain in that area, and eventually the Germans can swarm them.

All in all, while the German campaign in Holland may take a few extra turns, I don't think this has a huge impact compared with the main effort -- which comes through the Ardennes. Besides, the Germans won't have that many good units up in Holland anyway, and some of them will need to be pulled off for occupation duty (so, you may want to put a bunch of artillery units up here after all). It also says something about this sideshow's importance that playing with the Holland map is optional.


Ardennes
If the Allied player keeps a string of small French units blocking the roads -- and some of the French cavalry units are quite good -- it will be difficult for the German panzer divisions to push through here in a timely manner.

The central problem is that the panzers get most of their strength from those yellow coded armor units. So, in Wooded Hills, their strength is halved; attacking across the Meuse, they'll be quartered. This won't add up to much if they're in Move Mode.

Further, your higher-strength infantry won't be able to help with Overruns, because any unit that uses Truck-type movement would normally pay 5 MP to move into Wooded Hills but the minimum Overrun cost is 3; you can't use the roads to reduce that cost. Try to do this with your yellow units on their own in a string of 3 road or track hexes, against defenders in Very Close terrain and sometimes even behind Minor Rivers, and eventually your units will be ground to a halt.

This would be fine if there were a way to set up elsewhere, but there isn't, if using the initial set up as is. I'd say that the standard options are to go north, exiting westward from Liege, or south, around Sedan, but you'll face the same challenges -- plus some units in fortifications at various points.

One option to deal with these French roadblocks is to avoid combat entirely and do the ol' OCS surround-and-starve move in Exploitation with your panzer divisions. Tracked types can move through Wooded Hills for only 3 MP, you'll notice. Your armored units will have umpteen MAs in Move Mode, and if they do this in Exploitation, they won't have to worry about checking supply right away. With the following initiative rolls, you may want to let your opponent go first, so that these surrounded French units will have to roll for attrition or attempt Breakout (which is the tactic for Allied victory, it seems to me).
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Eric Walters
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The challenge for the Germans is in keeping with the name of the game and the bottom line message to be found in the book that inspired it.

https://www.amazon.com/Blitzkrieg-Legend-1940-Campaign-West/...

From the Amazon.com website blurb for the book:

"First published in 1995 as the official German history of the 1940 campaign, this book goes beyond standard explanations to show that the German victory was not inevitable and that French defeat was not preordained. Contrary to most accounts of the campaign, Frieser’s illustrates that the military systems of both Germany and France were solid and that their campaign plans were sound. The key to victory or defeat, Frieser argues, was the execution of operational plans―both preplanned and ad hoc―amid the eternal Clausewitzian combat factors of friction and the fog of war. He shows why, on the eve of the campaign, the British and French leaders had good cause to be confident and why many German generals were understandably concerned that disaster was looming for them.

This study explodes many of the myths concerning German blitzkrieg warfare and the planning for the 1940 campaign. Frieser’s groundbreaking interpretation of the topic has been the subject of discussion since the German edition first appeared."
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Patrick Shirley
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Arcology wrote:
OP, I think you're right: both aspects pose challenges for the Germans.

See my campaign session report for some thoughts on these issues, especially the design element, which starts with the title.

In pinpointing both of these operational challenges, you've also hit on the critical part of successfully playing this game: time. Whatever the Allies can do to nibble away time is vital, because the Germans don't have a lot of it in this game.

Holland
Don't forget this important part: "Add 1 to the roll for each Dutch major city hex that is occupied by a German combat unit." So, the idea here is to air drop and then air transport a bunch of German airborne/air-landing assets and take the Dutch cities. The Rotterdam area is a good choice because you'll also want to take some of the bridges around there, too, to allow your red/yellow/artillery units to get across. (The "artillery" part always strikes me as funny, but I digress).

If the Allies move into or past Roosendaal, the real threat is that by going further to the northeast, they can also potentially threaten German supply lines (trace) heading into Rotterdam. One downside of this is that any Allied units that make such moves will also risk being cut off; there's a lot of open terrain in that area, and eventually the Germans can swarm them.

Thanks, however it seems me that it would be extremely difficult for those 2 strength luftlanding batallions, even combined, to dislodge those Dutch 6 or 7 combat strength units from Major cities which are Extremely Close terrain, have you not found that to be the case? You'd need to rely on a successful surprise roll I would think.

Arcology wrote:


All in all, while German campaign in Holland may take a few extra turns, I don't think this has a huge impact compared with the main effort -- which comes through the Ardennes. Besides, the Germans won't have that many good units up in Holland anyway, and some of them will need to be pulled off for occupation duty (so, you may want to put a bunch of artillery units up here after all). It also says something about this sideshow's importance that playing with the Holland map is optional.


Yes, I can see that now, it's not as critical as I first thought. I just thought the extra units released from this arena could make a big difference.

Arcology wrote:


Ardennes
If the Allied player keeps a string of small French units blocking the roads -- and some of the French cavalry units are quite good -- it will be difficult for the German panzer divisions to push through here in a timely manner.

The central problem is that the panzers get most of their strength from those yellow coded armor units. So, in Wooded Hills, their strength is halved; attacking across the Meuse, they'll be quartered. This won't add up to much if they're in Move Mode.

Further, your higher-strength infantry won't be able to help with Overruns, because any unit that uses Truck-type movement would normally pay 5 MP to move into Wooded Hills but the minimum Overrun cost is 3; you can't use the roads to reduce that cost. Try to do this with your yellow units on their own in a string of 3 road or track hexes, against defenders in Very Close terrain and sometimes even behind Minor Rivers, and eventually your units will be ground to a halt.

This would be fine if there were a way to set up elsewhere, but there isn't, if using the initial set up as is. I'd say that the standard options are to go north, exiting westward from Liege, or south, around Sedan, but you'll face the same challenges -- plus some units in fortifications at various points.

One option to deal with these French roadblocks is to avoid combat entirely and do the ol' OCS surround-and-starve move in Exploitation with your panzer divisions. Tracked types can move through Wooded Hills for only 3 MP, you'll notice. Your armored units will have umpteen MAs in Move Mode, and if they do this in Exploitation, they won't have to worry about checking supply right away. With the following initiative rolls, you may want to let your opponent go first, so that these surrounded French units will have to roll for attrition or attempt Breakout (which is the tactic for Allied victory, it seems to me).


Nice, I hadn't thought about just bypassing the units in exploitation mode. Another clever way of playing it is to use some trucks or airdrops to put enough supply for them to eat for a turn. (Although the trucks are very precious to shuttle that supply from the railheads).

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Those are all good ideas worth trying. The Ju-52s seem like they should support the Holland effort first, so rely on the Kleist trucks to feed the panzer divisions in the Ardennes.

Regarding Holland, your AR5 airborne units should be able to grab an airfield, which will allow follow-on forces to use air transport to land. The paras can bully their way into some red hexes. Stack and take your options as step losses. I included a sample mission plan in my session report. I also relied on the paras' AR5s to help with their attrition rolls. Also consider sending your panzer units on a northerly route. I found Holland a lot of fun, actually.
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