Arnaville Bridgehead

Chris over at The Sharp End Gaming will be releasing another scenario for Command Operations: Battles from the Bulge entitled “Arnaville Bridgehead”. I have the pleasure of getting an early build of the mission and an opportunity to playtest it and post an after-action report (below). This AAR will be a post-as-I-play effort, and may take a few days to complete.

Operating under General Patton’s Field Order No. 10 to XX Corps, elements of the US 5th Division are focused on a bridgehead over the Moselle River with orders to cross the water obstacle at night, opposite Arnaville and seize the commanding heights over the river. Opposing them are elements of three German Panzergrenadier divisions including the tough 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division.

I start the scenario pretty much in control of all of the major objectives and in command of the 10th Infantry Regiment consisting of 1st and 2nd Battalions (full strength at three companies and one mortar platoon each). There is also a Recon Troop and a Heavy Pontoon Battalion attached to the regiment which I will be putting to use.

D01 02:00 The 5th Recon Troop (Mech) is ordered to take up a defensive on the eastern side of a bridge at the northern most end of the Moselle River. Initial map intelligence suggests that there is a German Motorized Infantry Company sitting on the Corny – Road to Dornot Objective, and although I have units on Hill 370 (and in control of that objective), they would not be able to effectively block any Axis movements between them and the top edge of the battlefield.

D01 02:00 The 551st Heavy Pontoon Battalion is ordered to begin construction of a bridge at the Moselle Bridge Objective (7 Victory Points, all on completion). The actual icon does not need to be on top of the objective itself, but within 500 m. This will allow the infantry forces on the opposite side of the river to act in defense of their construction efforts.

Being that this is the first bridge construction I have had to do in ages, I refer to the manual for some brushing up. From the COTA Getting Started Manual:

"Your bridging platoon is a special unit whose role is to construct and improve bridges. Because bridge-building requires special training and equipment, only Engineer and Bridging units can do it.

Although you can order a battle group containing such units to construct a crossing, the engineers are the only ones who will actually do the work. The remaining units will defend while the engineers construct. It’s also a good idea to assign other engineer units to assist in the construction (they don’t need to have an available bridge themselves).

The more you have the quicker it will take."

At this point I am very tempted to order 2nd Battalion to defend at the Hill 370 Objective (13 Victory Points, all on completion) and 1st Battalion to do likewise at the Hill 386 Objective (13 Victory Points, all on completion), however I fall back on my training from watching the “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel: You Never Leave the Crab.

In other words, the force disposition set forth by the scenario designer is in itself sufficient to mount an effective defensive operation while awaiting reinforcement units. So I go with what I have and order the remaining units to defend in-situ.

D01 06:00 Reinforcements arrive and C Coy 7 Eng Combat Bn is ordered to defend on the western side of that bridge while the 623rd Light Equipment Coy is ordered to defend on the eastern side. Once they are in place, I will adjust the defensive position of the 5th Recon Troop (Mech) from the eastern side of the bridge to the Corny – Road to Dornot Objective.

This entire effort is to prevent the Axis forces from moving sufficient forces behind my defensive line which is currently arrayed north to south along the ridgeline.

D01 07:39 1103rd Engineering Battalion arrives and is issued a simple move command to bring it alongside the 551st Heavy Pontoon Battalion. They are grouped together and a new V-Construct Bridge command is issued at the same location.

D01 07:39 With the approach of the engineering units, 5th Recon Troop is re-tasked to defend at the Road to Dornot Objective (7 Victory Points, all on completion).

D01 11:06 3 Plt C Coy 818 TD Bn arrives (6 M3A1 HT’s and 4 3 in M5 AT guns) and is deployed on a downward slope facing towards the Corny Objective with the hopes that it will employ its firepower against any Axis forces coming within the line of sight area grid.

D01 12:00 The Hill 386 Objective currently held only by B Coy 10th Infantry Regt is under pressure by what is reported to be a heavy tank company. B Coy is supported by indirect fire from the 1/10 Mortar Platoon.

D01 12:00 Not happy with the slow progress that is being made by the engineers on the bridge, I bring down C Coy 7 Eng Combat Bn on a move order, then group them with the other two units and re-issue the V-Construct Bridge command.

D01 15:08 Additional reinforcements 50 Fd Arty Bn (105) and 19 Fd Arty Bn (105) arrive and are ordered to defend in-situ which immediately brings them under my direct fire control and places them on call. Before I can even issue my first artillery strike, they are fast at work making Nazi sausage.

Note in the screenshot above that 3 Plt C Coy 818 TD Bn has not moved to their defensive position on the downward slope yet as ordered at D01 11:06: this is due to a high level of fatigue they had when the unit arrived on the battlefield.

D01 18:00 I have a good array of forces along the ridgeline with the sole exception of the center, the Hill 386 Objective guarded by only one company of infantry. Knowing that I have K and I companies coming online sometime before 21:00, my intent is to dispatch one of them there to shore up the middle, and to drop one of them south towards F Company which is defending on a hill just outside of Arry.

This is going to be the most likely route 3rd Battalion will take on their way to attack and secure the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective (7 Victory Points, all on completion) when the reinforcement unit arrives at 10 AM the next morning.

D01 19:38 K Coy 10 Inf Regt arrives and is ordered to shore up the defense of the Hill 386 Objective by taking a position facing east on the left slope.

D01 21:45 I Coy 10 Inf Regt arrives and is ordered north to the clearing between the Corny – Road to Dornot Objective and the Hill 370 Objective. This is a change from my original plan and is necessitated by the increase in Axis activity in that shallow valley between the two hills.

Although 3 Plt C Coy 818 TD Bn has been employing direct LOS fire on targets appearing there (and artillery has been raining down as well), I do not want to have a German unit slip through behind me and start performing forward observer duties against my support units.

D02 00:00 During the past two hours I have had to modify the rest settings for the two reinforcement companies to get them moving initially. K Coy 10 Inf Regt has reached its destination on Hill 386 whereas I Coy 10 Inf Regt is in a dug in, resting state within 1 km of its intended defensive position.

With the arrival of 3 Bn HQ 11 Inf Regt and two additional supporting infantry companies at 10:00 later in the morning, I hope to make fast work of an attack and securing of the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective. If that is efficiently successful, I will take the two additional companies and send them on separate probes towards the Sillegny Bridges Objective with the hopes of denying those Victory Points to the enemy.

D02 06:00 At daybreak my suspicions are confirmed regarding the Axis intentions. An estimated force of approximately 684 personnel is attempting to flood through the shallow valley between the two northernmost objectives. However my forces are holding the heights and have plenty of observation points on which to utilize the on call artillery to full effect.

D02 10:00 The final reinforcements arrive on the battlefield and are combined into a force of 1,165 personnel with an anti-personnel firepower rating of 487 and an anti-armor rating of 332. This force should be sufficient to attack and secure the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective quickly enough to allow for additional tasking.

The unit is ordered to move to a clearing 1.5 km northwest from the objective where it will form-up behind a wood line for its attack. To get to that point as expeditiously as possible and to not get hung up in inconsequential fighting (like around Arry) I change the settings to fast, avoidance, bypass and no rest.

D02 10:00 The engineering units are struggling with the construction of the bridge, barely completing half of it and are presently at a resting state due to heavy fatigue.

D02 15:07 This is exactly what I did not want to have happen: the lead element of the movement south has come in contact with Axis forces in the area around Arry and has engaged, thus temporarily stalling the entire flow of the battalion.

Worse still, I notice a significant number of Axis forces moving east and south through the Coin-les-Cuvry area, no doubt in an effort to handle whatever objectives may exist at this point on the German side of the equation.

D02 22:06 I receive notification that Terrain Tables are being recalculated while the engineering units I have tasked to construct the bridge shift to a "units with no orders" state. However there is no achievement of the Moselle Bridge Objective (which I simply do not understand).

The first time I attempted this scenario, the engineers completed the bridge and I achieved the objective during the evening of the first day of combat. However on subsequent attempts I have had no luck achieving that objective.

D03 00:00 With their task completed (and failed – I am stumped), I break up the engineering units as follows: those units with higher combat ratings of 3 are ordered to take up defensive positions on the left flanks of both hilltop objectives while the pontoon bridging unit is ordered to withdraw to a clearing outside of Noveant.

D03 00:00 The bulk of 3rd Battalion have reached the staging area for their attack on the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective, however B Coy and the mortar platoon are straggling behind, just having crossed the ferry. Hopefully they can get past Arry and to the staging area in time for the attack. If they are not there by 3 AM, I will detach them and go with what I have.

D03 03:00 The mortar platoon has made in through however B Coy has been hung up in an engagement with a German light flak platoon for over two hours. That unit is detached into a defensive position to eliminate the threat while 3rd Battalion is ordered to attack.

D03 06:00 With the attack on the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective progressing and the threat to B Coy apparently gone, the straggler Coy is ordered to move to the staging area (and once there will be reattached to 3rd Battalion).

D03 12:00 The assault phase of the attack from 3rd Battalion in the south has yielded three crosses on the battlefield so far and hopefully the remaining German units (apparently the HQ and base units) can be destroyed in short order.

D03 12:00 An assault gun company consisting of eight StuGIII G’s has broken through and is sitting directly behind the Hill 370 Objective where it has observation of all my support units on the opposite side of the Moselle River. I can expect Axis artillery to begin falling any second now.

D03 17:00 3 Bn HQ 11 Inf Regt and two additional supporting infantry companies have taken the Seille River Lower Crossing Objective and are about to begin consolidating their position there.

D03 17:00 With the Corny objective changing hands several times throughout the scenario, I decide to attack it directly with one of the two battalions sitting on the hilltop objectives.

The infantry companies that are entrenched near the 2nd Battalion HQ unit are grouped together and ordered to attack Corny in a northeasterly thrust off of the main road running along the river.

I order the 623rd Light Equipment Coy along with the C Coy 7 Eng Combat Bn to defend at the Hill 370 Objective in 2nd Battalion's void.

D03 22:01 After-action Report: With the assistance of indirect fire support, the attack on Corny by the 2nd Battalion unseated the Axis forces and knocked them back almost a full km from the objective.

The statistics reveal a crushing loss of life for the Germans, having over 2,000 soldiers perish to only 305 for the Allies.

D03 22:01 Review Final Situation: Approximately 280 German units are massed up north from their attack through that area, while a force of 240 sits on the village of Arry. Other forces are scattered about due to combat retreat and/or alternative objectives for the Axis side that I may not be aware of.

Summary: This is a great scenario to play, and having gone through it several times (this AAR being the fourth attempt), I can say that it has high replay value and presents a tactical challenge. Personally I would like to see the bridge construction part of it play a larger role in the scenario (and briefing) as to the point that its failure having a higher adverse effect on the result than what it presently does.

Update 11/23/13

Chris has updated the scenario and it is available here.

I have had some struggles with getting the bridging to work, so in this update I moved the 551st Heavy Pontoon Battalion to opposite side of the Moselle River and cobbled together a defensive front using the forces in that area.

Using the Pontoon unit to start, I ordered a V - Construct Bridge task placed right on top of the Moselle Bridge Objective. When other engineering units came online, I grouped them with the Pontoon unit and re-issued the order.

The effort changed the crossing point near the Arnaville Bridgehead Objective from a Ferry to a Light Road Bridge, and that secured the Moselle Bridge Objective immediately. The engineering group then shifted into a units with no orders state.


  1. Looks good! I will have my list of tweaks to scenario complete by week's end. If you have any that you'd like to see Tim let me know. Thanks!

  2. The AAR has been updated through D01 11:06 hours.

  3. The AAR has been updated through D01 18:00 hours.

  4. I am usually hard hit right about the 18 hour mark...looking forward to next update.

  5. Wow Tim. You did an excellent job. I will make my tweaks tonight and repost the scenario file. Per your notes, I will emphasize the bridge piece of this in the briefing and victory conditions.

    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed playing this scenario and look forward to your updates.

    2. Hi
      Tim. The new file is up. If you play it let me know what you think. Also if you are interested in play testing the gothic line scenario before I release let me know.

    3. Thanks for the heads up - I will definitely take a look at both of them this weekend.

  6. Please refer to the update remarks towards the bottom of the post with an additional screen shot from a play through of the revised mission.

  7. RangerX3X, Interesting that I found your blog with a war game based on a battle my father was in. My dad, Major Wilfrid Haughey was the commander of the first Battalion of the 10th Infantry Regiment that lead the crossing of the Moselle at Arnaville. He earned the distinguished service cross for that day's efforts. Thanks for keeping his memory alive. Russ Haughey

    1. Hi Russell! Thanks for posting this comment. I read about the battle and thought it would make a great scenario for this game. I've created a few battles for this game, like the Arnaville Bridgehead, battles you don't hear or read about about that were incredibly heroic and deserving of the attention. I appreciate this comment very much and your Dad's service!

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