Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ardennes '44 Conclusion (GMT)

Game: Ardennes ’44 (GMT)
Participants: Bob H and Myself
Time: 1.00PM – 5.00PM

Situation at the start of todays session.
This afternoon we finished out six turn scenario of A44. Bob threw in the towel with a turn remaining. As we had not played this excellent title in nearly a year, we were fairly happy with the outcome (as far as we had fun and got familiar with the game again). This is a game where there are a lot of subtle rules that can have a great impact on each player.  I consider myself lucky in how the first night turn turned out, if the German player doesn’t account for KG Pieper’s special ability (move and fight in both the 16PM AND 16Night turn) he can really be behind the curve in the North. 

The 6PA had made the most spectacular progress thus far. This was mostly due to some impressive roles by the first wave of VG divisions on the first and second turn of the game. KG Pieper was then able to move in, break a hole in the US line North of St. Vith and finally break out along with the 12SS. This proved decisive in the final outcome of this game. 

Before my last Combat Phase of our last turn (18PM I believe)
During the first turn today, I was able to keep feeding units into the hole in Bob’s line. The 12SS moved North over the Warche River and behind the Elsenborn Ridge. This sealed the fate of a couple of the regiments of the 99th Division and trapped at least one of the regiments of the 2nd ID. Bob was able to push me off the fuel dump, thus I was not able to remove the fuel and didn’t keep possession of the VP hex. However the 12SS was able to get deep enough to make sure that all of the units that had made this initial breakthrough were kept in supply. This was important as I was able to hold onto Monschau and its VP hex despite a determined effort by Bob to push me out.  

The 1SS was able to take Malmedy and ensure a crossing point over the Warche to the West. This was important as there are several VP hexes within 3-4 hexes of that crossing site. KG Pieper meanwhile was fighting CCR of the 9th US AD near Recht, NW of St. Vith. I think I had a good shot at Stavelot and or Vielsalm in the next turn or two. The three Infantry divisions in the 6PA spent these two turns catching up to the Mechanized elements, by at the end of the 2nd turn they were back in the front line. 

In the Center, the 5PA finally started to make some progress. In our experience, this sector of the front is where the Germans make their deepest penetrations and the US player is most hard pressed to contain them.

A good view of the 5PA area (and Bob's fingers!)
The 2PD had the most success. I moved them initially North the cut off St Vith, then having done that they turned due West and started to roll through the thin US line. I think all of the 2PD attacks were at least 3-1 and this is the best terrain on the map for a PD to succeed. They were also able to make a few Breakthrough combat attacks which really helped crack Bob’s line. Lehr started to get in the game after some terrible traffic and bridge detours. They moved through Clervaux and started moving down the road to Bastogne, largely undamaged to this point. 

The 116PD along with the 62ID were able to encircle St Vith by the end of the 2nd turn. I elected not to attack St Vith as I was still trying to get the infantry caught up as well as waiting one turn would allow me to attack with a column shift for St Vith being OOS. The 116PD had taken 2-3 armor step losses, hardest hit of all the Panzer Divisions. 

7A front near the end
The Seventh Army made some progress but was down 8-10 steps having taken huge losses getting across the Our River. I did take Diekirch and Ettelbruck as well as Echternach, all of these being VP hexes. I really had only the 5FJ division left available for continued offensive operations, the rest of the 7A’s divisions were all down several steps. 

It was at this point (18PM turn) that we decided it was starting to look like a rock solid German win for the six turn scenario. Thus we hope to play this one again soon as we are both eager to try again having re-learned all of the subtle yet import points of the game. In my experience with Bulge games, this one was one of the most exciting. I’ve never seen the fuel dump taken, nor have I seen the US player lose 3-4 Artillery batteries due to the line being broken. I think I got lucky as the Germans, in that the next time we play we’re both going to be much better versed on the game and it’s unlikely that we’ll see these types of holes in the US line. I want to try the whole Bugle scenario next time, not the shorter ones. 

Prior to playing this again I am going to update my player aid card as well as create a 2nd sheet for it. I want to Bullet point all of the early game special rules (i.e. KG Pieper) as well as expand on some of the definitions (supply paths, disruption effects…). 

After the game, Bob and I talked about this experience versus the two Normandy (N44 and BFN, both by GMT) games we had just played.  We both felt that while those are excellent games, from an excitement/engagement level, the Bulge is hard to beat. Being the Defender in a Bulge game is much more interesting than being on the Defense in Normandy. All in all I can’t recommend this game enough if you are looking for a regimental level Bulge game (my other recommendation would be Bitter Woods).

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