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Subject: Saint-Mihiel 1918 rss

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Pete Belli
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In the autumn of 1918 the United States troops under Pershing launched an attack against the Saint-Mihiel sector of the German trench system on the Western Front. During this battle American soldiers overcame inexperience, confusion, and the fog of war to defeat the German forces and prepare the new U.S. First Army for the planned offensive in the Meuse-Argonne region. The unique tactical elements of this WWI battle are a good match for the flexible Memoir ’44 system developed by Richard Borg. This lavishly illustrated Session Report will describe the action. Perhaps a few of these ideas can help imaginative Geeks recreate other battles from the Great War of 1914-1918.




This system uses the special brigade/regiment level rules I created for my “Palestine 1917” scenario. There are a few changes to Memoir ‘44 -- infantry firing two hexes but rolling four dice at close range and two dice at long range is a major modification -- plus some interesting ideas to add First World War flavor.




This scenario will depict the operations of the U.S. IV Corps along with the divisions on each flank of the sector. This image shows the terrain in this section of the salient. The most important landscape features are the rugged woods and the fortified villages. The towns near the German edge of the map are Hattonchatel and Thiaucourt. These two hexes are important Allied objectives. The brown "road" hex tiles represent the German trench system known as the Wilhelm Line.




The planned Allied attack was designed to reduce the salient but the German high command was ready to withdraw before the offensive began. Pershing’s assault essentially squeezed the toothpaste out of the tube after the Germans had previously removed the cap. As the Americans advanced in the IV Corps sector some of the enemy forces were making a retrograde maneuver while other German units were caught in the middle of the process.

To reflect this strategic situation the victory conditions reward the German player for withdrawing units from the board while attempting to inflict losses on Allied formations. The scenario rules push the Allied player to advance rapidly on the town hexes of Hattonchatel and Thiaucourt. The destruction of German formations is an important element and the Kaiser’s artillery units are particularly valuable targets.




The order of battle for the IV Corps includes the elite 1st Infantry Division plus the famous 42nd “Rainbow” Division and the 89th Infantry. The left flank of the corps is occupied by the French 39th Infantry Division while the superb 2nd Infantry Division is maneuvering on the right flank. A recently formed American armored brigade equipped with Renault FT-17 tanks is operating with the corps. This formation was commanded by an aggressive Lieutenant Colonel named George something or other… I forget his last name.




Each section of the Wilhelm Line is garrisoned by a German infantry division with the 5th on the right, the 10th in the center, and the 77th Reserve on the left. A regiment from the 123rd Infantry Division is positioned near the top of the board on the forward edge of the next defensive system known as the Michel Line. Most of the German artillery units have previously been withdrawn but two corps-level formations remain on the battlefield. These guns roll a 4-3-2-2 sequence on the battle dice and function more or less like artillery in Memoir ‘44.

Since this a First World War scenario artillery is a crucial element of play with detailed special rules. Hundreds of guns supported the Allied offensive but none are depicted with miniatures on the board. The rapidly advancing Allied infantry soon moved beyond the range of the small caliber field guns and the artillery formations could not be moved forward through the mud of the battlefield; a single American division’s artillery would have occupied about ten miles of road space. All of the Allied firepower is depicted with off-board artillery and the German player also has a limited capability to fire from gun positions in the Michel Line just off the edge of the map.

These long-range artillery batteries can fire three types of missions. Bombardment is a direct attack on an enemy formation. The number of battle dice rolled in the attack is determined by the distance from the edge of the board. Bombardment can cause losses but can’t force a unit to retreat. A barrage is an artillery mission fired in direct support of an attack. The barrage mission simply adds one battle die for the attacking player. (The coordination between U.S. infantry formations conducting assaults and their supporting artillery was poor; the Germans were in the process of retreat when the campaign began and were caught on the wrong foot.) Interdiction missions prevent the targeted enemy unit from moving or firing during the next turn.

There are no rules for gas warfare. American doctrine stressed that persistent agents (like mustard gas) would not be used in areas where American troops would be expected to advance. Gasses which would quickly dissipate would be used on the battlefield but these missions would cease four hours before the offensive began.




Perhaps the most interesting German formation is the machine gun nest unit. These soldiers were left behind by the retreating Germans to delay the Allied advance and caused a great deal of trouble. The inexperienced American troops had a tendency to bunch up under fire and the Yanks would frequently bring a temporary halt to an offensive maneuver when pinned down. The machine gun nest unit can’t move normally and ignores all retreat results. When the unit suffers two casualties it can reappear in any hex adjacent to a German infantry formation, or it can be shifted voluntarily to such a hex if the German player chooses. The machine gun nest rolls three battle dice with a range of one hex.




The huge American brigades have special combat abilities. They always roll an extra battle die when attacking. The rules for the scenario only allow a “grenade” result to be considered a hit at close range but the powerful American infantry brigades always hit on a “star” result. The two brigades of the veteran 1st Infantry Division are elite formations that don’t require orders to move or attack; the American tank brigade under Lt. Colonel What’s-His-Name is also considered to be an elite unit. These slow vehicles move like infantry but are difficult for the Germans to destroy. It requires two “tank” hits on the battle dice to wreck one of the Renault FT-17s.




Almost 1500 aircraft supported the Allied attack. Since there was no other major offensive action on the Western Front during the Saint-Mihiel campaign the planes could be concentrated to support Pershing. The biplane miniature functions like flying artillery and can also perform spotting missions for long-range cannon fire.

To recreate the German withdrawal plan at the start of the campaign I used a rule inspired by the SPI classic Cobra from the 1970s. Instead of having the American player go first the Germans get the initial move. Another special rule allows any German formation which begins the game in a trench hex to retreat without using a command; the set up rules give the Germans incentive to cover the entire front but this can slow down the withdrawal so tough decisions must be made.

During the American player’s first turn the U.S. commander gets a double move using two cards. The Yanks also have a slight advantage in the distribution of command cards. Losses must kept to a minimum during the advance and cutting off the retreat of enemy formations is the key to victory.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read this lengthy Session Report. There is a hazy concept for a larger scenario covering the Meuse-Argonne campaign under consideration.
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Jason
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'Tis a pity you cannot recall that Lt. Col.'s name. Sounds like an interesting character.
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Nigel Swan
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Where did you get the tank and plane models. Great article. Will give it a try.
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Pete Belli
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Wired_Wolf wrote:
'Tis a pity you cannot recall that Lt. Col.'s name. Sounds like an interesting character.




Perhaps they'll make a movie about him someday...
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Pete Belli
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Varduk wrote:
Where did you get the tank and plane models...


The tanks are Micro Machines that were a generous gift from my wargame buddy Erin. Renault FT-17s can be found on eBay... at a steep price.

The biplane is from Dogfight.

The German miniatures are 1:72 scale army men produced by HaT.

The French troops are also from HaT.

The American soldiers are made by IMEX.
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Joseph
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I play at EPGS on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month and if you live in Eastern PA, Western NJ or Northern DE ... you should too!
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You have the coolest toys.
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Pete Belli
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ElCid91 wrote:
You have the coolest toys.




It helps to purchase figures that can represent soldiers from more than one time period.

For example, these WWI American infantry figures will be part of my "Bataan 1942" scenario, so I get extra value for my dollars.

Two boxes of army men cost about as much as a large pizza, and I can frequently squeeze multiple scenarios from these miniatures.
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Joseph
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Hmmm, that's a tough one. I like cool toys ... but I like pizza too.

I love reading all of.these session reports, can I make a suggestion? You might as well list where the miniatures come from since we always ask.
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Pete Belli
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ElCid91 wrote:
...can I make a suggestion? You might as well list where the miniatures come from since we always ask.


Good idea.

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Pete Belli
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Here is a list of the army men:

HaT #8109 WWI German Artillery

HaT #8200 WWI German Infantry

HaT #8148 WWI French Infantry (Early)

HaT #8081 WWI Austrian Infantry Heavy Weapons Set

IMEX #7218 American WWI Infantry "Doughboys"
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Christopher
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pete belli wrote:
Wired_Wolf wrote:
'Tis a pity you cannot recall that Lt. Col.'s name. Sounds like an interesting character.




Perhaps they'll make a movie about him someday...


Or he might come back in another war, riding some kind of tank... I'm sure there are some scenarios based on the same system, where the same Lt-Col takes on a significant role. whistle
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Christopher
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an interesting read, again, Pete!

Do you plan on releasing the exact rules you have designed for the different era's and wars you have made Memoir'44 or Battle Cry scenario's for? Or do these stay in your treasure chest?
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Pete Belli
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Thank you for the positive comments.

teufen wrote:
Do you plan on releasing the exact rules you have designed for the different era's and wars you have made Memoir'44 or Battle Cry scenario's for? Or do these stay in your treasure chest?


These scenarios are created for my own amusement. The professional scenario developers create authorized projects for the publisher. I post this stuff on BGG because I am passionate about the wargame hobby.

There is another important consideration. I wouldn't be happy to "release" anything that hasn't been extensively playtested. These articles will provide eye candy for BGG users... and perhaps they will inspire other Geeks to post similar reports.
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I fully understand your point!
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