I recently finished my first full game scenario with a co-worker. He played as the Americans, I was the Germans.
I got to 12 victory points by the end of the 8th turn, so we called it there since there was really no need to go further.
My strategy was to ignore trying to clear any of the victory routes, since you could spend the entire game trying to do this and never be able to do it, especially since the Americans can just leave a lone unit ( or more ) off in the woods somewhere and move them onto the road at the end of the game, forcing you to spend time - and units - trying to take it out. To me, this seemed like a wasted effort, so I focused on trying to get the victory points I would need for the win from getting a unit into Bastogne for a few turns.
I didn't take notes during the game as it lasted for several weeks over lunch. But here is a general overview of how it went.
I surrounded his units around Longvilly and cut off the retreating Road March he would obviously try on Turn 2. I believe I knocked out his artillery unit in Longvilly, the engineer unit in the town of Mageret and took Benonchamps and crossed the river there to take Bras.
My opponent set up his defensive line on and between the towns of Neffe and Bizory, extending Northward into the forest there. His line also extended south of Neffe through the forest there. He didn't commit all of his units to this formidable front, as he placed others to block my road march and other entry points. His overarching strategy was to do a fighting retreat to Bastogne while not letting me have any of the victory routes (by keeping some units off in the forest).
I committed my strongest units to the front between Neffe and Bizory and tried to punch through, unsuccessfully. His artillery and counter-attacks really stalled my attack here for the next two turns.
Even though it was still early in the game, it was obvious that my center spearhead to try and get to Bastogne through Neffe and Bizory was going to take a long time, and be very costly. So I shifted some focus to Noville. This turned out to be a disaster for me. I got to the outskirts of Noville, but the American counter-attacks and artillery stopped it dead cold. I was never able to take Noville through the entire game, which in the end, was bad for the Germans. I think you need to take this town.
My opponent made a mistake. In the South, he didn't send forces to the town of Ischpelt, but instead put them in Lutremange, which allowed me to get closer without any checked fighting. The next forces of his were up in Remonfosse, far away from any immediate threat. But I couldn't take advantage of the mistake because of horrible rolls, and he was able to reinforce the south by the next turn, which slowed me down considerably.
In the previous turn, since my attacks on Noville and the center were being stalled, I saw an opening down the RR track that ran through the forest of Noville and Neffe. His front was considerably weaker here, so I shifted units to this area, as well as my 88's to set up a break through. My opponent realized that I could get behind him here and pulled back a bit, but still had a formidable front line.
I was able to push through this area, but not far. Enough that I think he was slightly worried. The problem for me though was that units are coming off the board, so his fighting retreat strategy was still working pretty effectively.
The Americans had expended all of their artillery, which helped me considerably.
This turn proved to be the critical turn that finally broke his front line. I concentrated heavy artillery on his salient in the south in the forest near Marvie, hexes 37.11 and 37.12. I destroyed these units and made damage to others along this forest. Doing this opened the way for me to get around him. In the north, on the RR tracks, I broke through with the help of artillery and was threatening to get behind him here as well. He had no choice at this point but to pull all the way back and tried to create a perimeter around Bastogne, but not fully. It still had some openings on the east side. He also left a unit in Neffe, which I needed for the bridge across the river for Road March. I eventually took Neffe in the next turn...
In the south, I was still held up on the roads between Lutremange and Remonfosse. From entry point G, I was held up by the Americans in Clochimont and Hompre. I did manage to get units up and around this area through Sibret, but I wanted Clochimont and Hompre to hold up his spearhead units that would surely come later in the game.
On the east side of Bastogne, I was able to get two units into Bastogne, one of them on the SNAFU entry hex, which was nice.
+2 VP's for Bastogne.
In the north, from units that came in through B, I managed to get to Longchamps and Monaville, but my strong units in these reinforcements suffered step losses. I also managed to get a lone strong unit to Savy, just outside of Bastogne and a couple of 88's into the forest just East. This was to stop his reinforcement from the north to Bastogne. He was never able to take this town back through the entire game, and helped set up the win for me.
He was unable to knock out my last unit on the east side of Bastogne.
+2 VP's for Bastogne. I was at 10 VP's at this point.
Part of the problem for the Americans at this point was that he didn't have enough units to create a nice 2 or 3-hex perimeter around all of Bastogne. Some of his perimeter had to go 1-hex outside of the town. This was primarily because I cut off his Road March to Bastogne because of his strategy to not let me have any Victory Routes. He had the right strategy imo, because victory for me was not certain at this point as I only had 5 or 6 good strong units left that could be effective at punching a hole. By the end of this turn, I had one really good shot at claiming a victory, which I setup on the western side of Bastogne. He had a unit there that if I could DG it, I would get 5:1 odds and could easily get a unit into a town hex, which would have given me the last 2-victory points that I needed to win. If it failed, I would get 3:1 odds and it would be harder to get the retreat result I would need to get into the town.
Another problem for the Americans was that on the last two turns, he rolled horribly for his artillery, so he had no artillery. He also only had a total of I think 4 airstrikes for those two turns. Those airstrikes didn't do much in the way of stalling my advance. So since turn 6, I didn't really have many units at all that were DG, but he did from all of my free artillery.
The American spearhead reinforcement roll failed, his artillery roll failed, SNAFU roll failed, and only got 2 airstrikes. Both of his airstrikes failed from what I remember. I really caught a lucky break on those rolls, my winning attack could have easily turned into disaster and I probably would have lost the game.
I couldn't DG the unit I needed to DG, but I rolled an 11 on 3:1 odds and got into the town and the win.
I'm having a blast with the game and so is my co-worker. The Road March rule is what makes this game imo. Without it, I think it would still be fun, but the sudden shift of forces and fronts would take away from the tense/stressful atmosphere that the game produces because of it. It was a very narrow victory for the Germans, which probably all came down to a lot of luck for me, and one roll. That's the way it should be, and we've already started the scenario again, but flipping sides.
Key Takeaways for the Germans
Some things I learned from my first session of the full scenario as the Germans:
- Taking and holding the towns of Benonchamps, Neffe and Bourey early, as well as keeping the roads/towns clear between them and entry points E and F are really critical. It allows you to move forces around during Road March easily, especially when you get those reinforcements from entry point F. This was critical for me during the later turns as I was able to completely shift my stronger units to a different front when needed.
- The German free artillery is their life-line, especially as the game gets into the later turns. Keep them protected from American counter-attacks and exploitation. I did an okay job at this.
- Spreading units around that will come off the board in a later turn is critical. Use them to punch through, then pull them back and fill in the gap with lesser units. If you bunch them up, and they come off the next turn, you've left a sizable hole that the Americans will exploit. You also need those units for VP's, which is where I got half of my VP's from. I did a fairly decent job of keeping their step losses down. I think I got a total of 6 VP's from units that come off the board. The last 6 were from getting a unit into Bastogne for 3 turns.
And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Interesting thoughts on the Axis strategy.
Great game, huh?
I am anxiously looking out for my copy.