Battle of the Roadblocks

December 18th 1944, 06:00 Bastogne Corridor: This scenario pits elements of the Allies VIII Corps HQ against the Axis XLVII Corps HQ. After the virtual elimination of the US 110th Infantry Regiment, VIII Corps committed their last reserve units into blocking positions along the St. Vith-Bastogne Highway in an effort to blunt (if not halt) the German advance to the west. Reinforced by the 101st Airborne and CCB of the 10th Armored Division, this force is all that stood in the way of the three Axis divisions moving on Bastogne.

Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine) was a massive German offensive supported by multiple subordinate operations with the ultimate goal being the recapture of the harbor at Antwerp, a secondary objective the severing of the American and British line which they hoped would allow for the encirclement and destruction of the various Allied forces in theater. Although American intelligence predicted a major German offensive, a precise date was not known and the Axis forces achieved almost complete surprise.

New Scenario Options


Realistic Orders Delay, Historical Weather and Reinforcement Schedules, and Normal Supply.

Battle Map and Terrain Considerations


There are two main highways leading into Bastogne as well as a number of minor roads and tracks. There is a rail line running between both main highways, and several streams along with villages and pine wood areas that can somewhat obscure line of sight. The major water obstacle on the map is the Clerve River in the east, but it is relatively insignificant to the Allies as the Axis forces have already crossed it.

Objectives


There are four active objectives at the start of the scenario which expire at various times on day two, and six inactive objectives that come online at several different times during day one and two. For the Allies the biggest objective is Bastogne worth 20 Victory Points (10 for Occupation and 10 for Completion).

One may think that Bastogne would also be the prize of the Axis forces, however please see my Post Mortem at the bottom of this post for my rip on what I perceive to be a gamey decision made by the scenario designer.

Initial Orders


Primary Combat Forces

Task Force Rose (396 personnel, 47 armored fighting vehicles, 260 anti-personnel firepower, and a 524 anti-armor firepower rating) is ordered to defend at the Antoniushaff RJ Objective (5 Victory Points).

Secondary Combat Forces

Task Force Harper (with its remaining mortar platoon after detachment of several components) is ordered to defend at the Fe’itsch RJ Objective (5 Victory Points).

Task Force Booth (with its remaining armored infantry company after detachment of several components) is ordered to defend at the Moinet Objective (5 Victory Points).

CCR 9th Armored Division HQ (with its remaining base and tank battalion after detachment of several components) is ordered to defend in-situ at the Longvilly Objective (5 Victory Points).

VIII Corps HQ (105 total personnel after all detachments) is ordered to defend in-situ at Bastogne.

Notable Detachments

G Coy 110 Infantry Regiment and B Battery 109th Field Artillery Battalion (105) are ordered to defend in-situ at the village of Lullange (the artillery is ordered to bombard Axis positions outside of Clervaux.

C Company 2nd Tank Battalion is detached from Task Force Harper and is ordered to assume a blocking position on the main highway outside the village of Hamiville.

B Company 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion is also detached from Task Force Harper and is ordered to assume a blocking position on the main highway outside the village of Wincrange.

1st Platoon C Company 811 Tank Destroyer Battalion is detached from Task Force Booth and is ordered to assume a blocking position at a track intersection in the village of Baraques de Troine.

1st Platoon D Company 2nd Tank Battalion is also detached from Task Force Booth and is ordered to assume a blocking position to the east along a road track.

2nd Platoon D Company 2nd Tank Battalion is detached from CCR 9 Armored Division HQ and is ordered to defend in an elevated observation position east of a stream and north of a main highway running through Allerborn.

C Battery 482nd AAA AW Battalion is also detached from CCR 9 Armored Division HQ and is ordered to assume a blocking position on the main highway outside the village of Chifontaine.

73rd Armored Field Artillery Tank Battalion (M7 105mm HMC) is detached from VIII Corps HQ and is ordered to defend at a road and track intersection in the village of Michamps.

58th Armored Field Artillery Tank Battalion (M7 105mm HMC) is also detached from VIII Corps HQ and is ordered to defend at a road and track intersection in the village of Arloncourt.

2nd Platoon C Company 9th Armored Engineering Battalion is detached from VIII Corps HQ and is ordered to assume a blocking position on the main highway southeast of the Bizory Objective.

3rd Platoon C Company 9th Armored Engineering Battalion is also detached from VIII Corps HQ and is ordered to defend at the Bourcy Objective (10 Victory Points, active on D02 at 07:00).

Combat Action


D01 11:38 Task Force Cherry (480 personnel, 58 armored fighting vehicles, 322 anti-personnel firepower, and a 698 anti-armor firepower rating)  arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to move to the Noville Objective (10 Victory Points, active on D01 at 15:00) with no rest, fast speed, quickest route and bypass selected.


D01 13:55 CCB 10th Armored Division HQ (787 personnel, 74 armored fighting vehicles, 18 gun units, 394 anti-personnel firepower, and a 923 anti-armor firepower rating)  arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to defend at the Luzery Objective (10 Victory Points, active on D02 at 07:00).


D01 18:55 Team Desobry HQ (448 personnel, 47 armored fighting vehicles, 5 gun units, 281 anti-personnel firepower, and a 520 anti-armor firepower rating) arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to defend at the Bizory Objective (10 Victory Points, active on D02 at 07:00) with no rest, fast speed, quickest route and bypass selected.


D02 00:00 At midnight on day two I hold three out of the four active objectives with the Win-O-Meter pegged exactly at 50%. Based in the intelligence filter there is a large number of German units moving west across the bottom of the map that I am hoping some of the road blocks can delay if not cause the AI to reassess their plan.


D02 06:03 The 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (472 personnel, 18 gun units, 189 anti-personnel firepower, and a 72 anti-armor firepower rating) arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to attack the Foy Objective (10 Victory Points, active on D02 at 07:00) with no rest selected.


D02 07:19 The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment HQ Element (555 personnel, 20 gun units, 237 anti-personnel firepower, and a 344 anti-armor firepower rating) arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to defend to the northeast of that objective (20 Victory Points at a 10/10 split).

In hindsight this was not the best deployment in that I left the reconnaissance asset attached and did not send them out to scout or harass the enemy.

At the same time the 3rd Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (467 personnel, 4 gun units, 189 anti-personnel firepower, and a 76 anti-armor firepower rating) also arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to assume a 1,500m depth blocking position running north to south just below the Bizory Objective.


D02 08:59 The 1st Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (505 personnel, 12 gun units, 195 anti-personnel firepower, and a 158 anti-armor firepower rating) arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to attack the Noville Objective (10 Victory Points, all Occupation) with no rest selected.


D02 10:28 The 2nd Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (462 personnel, 4 gun units, 184 anti-personnel firepower, and a 72 anti-armor firepower rating) arrives in Bastogne and is ordered to the east of the objective along one of the two highways leading into the area.

At the same time the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75mm M1A1 pack howitzers) also arrives in Bastogne and is immediately ordered to bombard Axis units in the Noville Objective area.


D02 12:00 At noon on day two I hold five out of the eight active objectives with the Win-O-Meter just above 60%. Elements of the 501st and 506th are fighting their way to the objectives in the northeast while the Bourcy Objective sits open begging for attention.


D02 12:23 I group the outlying units that have largely been either run over or bypassed by the advancing Germans, and order them under the command of CCR 9th Armored Division HQ (a cobbled together force of 1,008 personnel, 97 armored fighting vehicles, 548 anti-personnel firepower, and a 1,062 anti-armor firepower rating) to attack the Bourcy Objective (10 Victory Points, all Occupation) with no rest selected.


D02 18:00 With only 24 hours to go in the scenario I hold two out of the six active objectives and the Win-O-Meter has ticked below 50%. The attacks on the Foy and Noville objectives have faltered (even with heavy artillery assistance under my fire support control and it appears as if I will be lucky to achieve a Draw outcome.


D03 00:00 At midnight on day three I continue to hold only two out of the six active objectives with the Win-O-Meter pegged exactly at 50% again (imagine that). Based in the intelligence filter I may have a shot at contesting the Foy Objective, however the Noville Objective is effectively a lost cause as I have nothing in reserve to put up there (2/501 to the east of Bastogne is all that stands in the way of what appears to be multiple Axis forces sweeping west to east along the bottom of the map and I do not want to move the blocking force and risk losing the main objective).


D03 06:00 Although I now have three objectives out of six under control (having seized Bizory), the outlook is grim as my forces are weary from the battle with many front line units showing a combat power rating of only one.


D03 12:00 The Win-O-Meter is sliding in the wrong direction as I am losing influence over some objectives such as Foy allowing the Axis forces to draw upon those Victory Points.

After-action Report


The battle ends on D03 at 18:01 in a Draw outcome. Although I held onto Bastogne throughout the scenario, the Axis forces ended with more Victory Points, 74-62. I am not sure where the Axis received that many points from and decide to take a look at the mission in the Scenario Maker application.

Axis Victory Conditions


The Germans had a Destroy the Enemy Objective that would award 12,500 points if they killed 50% of the Allied forces, and the Bastogne Objective awarded all of its points on Completion only meaning they achieved none during the scenario from that location. They do however have an additional objective to exit some forces to the northwest which awards the same amount of victory points as the Bastogne objective, and this does not have any matching objective on the Allied side (such as to block the exit). 

Review Final Situation


The Germans were split into two major groupings: the first being at the northern most objective (at least for the Allies) at Noville, and the other along the main highway running into Bastogne from the east. Given the amount of Victory Points that the Axis accumulated, even if I took Foy or Noville at the very end it may not have altered the outcome because the Germans accumulated those points through Occupation.

Post Mortem

This scenario was a frustrating choice to make for something to play in an effort to get back into blog posting and this game specifically. While I am by no means an expert wargamer, I do know something about scenario design and some of the tricks to simulate certain battlefield conditions. In real life the Germans surprised the hell out of the Americans and early on it looked dire for the Allies.

In an apparent effort to simulate this in Command Operations, the scenario designer set the initial orders delay for the Americans from 200% to 100% for the first two hours, while the Germans enjoy 0% to 100% during the same time frame. I am OK with this as it forces the effect of tactical surprise on the units on map even though the player knows basically what’s coming.

What I am kind of not OK with is the Victory Conditions set forth for the Germans (AI or human player). There are two mega Victory Point objectives: Bastogne at 60 (all on completion) and Exit to Bertogne at 60 (awarded for exiting 800 APFP, 1000 Armor, and 200 Bombard ratings).

In the Scenario Editor both objectives are set at Medium priority which means that the German AI (if you play as the Americans) has a 50/50 chance of ignoring Bastogne completely (someone please correct me if I am wrong here) and exiting the northwest of the map, where there is absolutely no Allied objective to block such an exit.

These are not AI objectives with zero Victory Point impact: both award 60 points on completion. To me this kind of rigs the scenario in the favor of the Axis AI forces. While I have seen an AAR of someone achieving a Decisive Victory outcome playing as the Americans, I have not even come close.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Tim. Good to see you blogging more and playing CO! I have not played this scenario yet but I will. I am actually working on a scenario with a surprise element built in. I played around with orders delay but that seemed more frustrating for the player who is supposed to be "surprised." I worried that if you are the kind of player that doesn't speed thru the game and plays it on the "normal" speed you would probably turn away after an agonizingly slow start due to the delay.

    I tried to get around this with some false intel reports and I think it does the job okay.

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  2. If your scenario is any longer than say a day, I think all of the intel reports (false or true) decay away until they are no longer represented on the map at all. At that point forward you are stuck with the hard coded life expectancy of any actual reported sighting of the enemy by your units.

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  3. Hi Tim. I think you are right about the timing of the intel reports. Fortunately, the scenario I built is 1 day and 9 hours long and the "surprise" occurs in the first 3-5 hours of the game.

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