Battlegroup Bulge – the Ardennes – Celles

So, I’m helping to organise a big game next summer – it will be set during the Ardennes offensive in late December ’44, in the vicinity of Celles, Belgium with the 2nd Heer Panzer division finding itself it surrounded by American forces.

In preparation, several of us had a play through of the core scenario last Saturday. The idea is to build a core set-up with a set number of tables/players that can then be added to or reduced as players sign-up or drop out in the run-up to the big day.

It turned out to be a cracking game, employing a mix of the Battlegroup Overlord and Fall of the Reich rules and lists. For example we replaced the air strike counters from Overlord with the German-only Fuel Low and Ammo Low chits from the FoTR set.

Apologies for small size of map – still playing with this. The Germans entered from the three roads on the left, with US reinforcements coming from the right hand and top sides. The centre woods were to play a key role in the game.Objectives are marked in red, the US initial deployment is shown by the circle around the crossroads to the north.

The sides had around 750 points and the scenario was a meeting engagement. The Germans had a Panther platoon (including an Ace), a platoon of PzIVHs, an armoured grenadier platoon and a platoon of footslogging grenadiers bringing up the rear. The Yanks had a dug in platoon on one of the objectives, with Shermans and M10s arriving with another infantry platoon as reinforcements.

photo 3
Panzergrenadiers grabbing a vital piece of terrain; the village objective can be seen in the background, with the initial US defensive positions along the hedgerow.

The Germans began, and immediately raced their panzer grenadiers up the road to occupy the central woods – effectively flanking the initial American defensive line as the Panthers rumbled up the right hand side of the table with the PzIVs and poor bloody infantry bringing up the rear. A very high roll for activation allowed the Germans to get their entire force on the table in the opening turn, causing some nervousness in the Allied lines.

photo 4

The US were a bit taken aback at the flanking move and began to swing their pivot their defensive line, retreating back into the village objective point, while taking some fire from an MG42 team.  The early German seizure of this forest was to prove very influential throughout the rest of the game.

As the US infantry swung to face the threat from its left flank, the Americans brought on the majority of their reinforcements, trying to reinforce the threatened village objective and slow down the German advance.

Turn two saw the first casualties, with the grenadiers in the woods wiping out an anti-tank gun and inflicting casualties on another infantry unit. Both sides struggled to bring their limited artillery to bear, but with little success (the German mortar team only managed one fire mission in the entire match, and missed – dodgy radio batteries). On the right the armoured elements began to close and exchange long shots, to little effect.

The Americans managed to kill a halftrack on the edge of the woods as the grenadiers formed a linear position, looking to deter American armour from coming through the gap in the treeline, and the Panthers moved to ambush fire positions in anticipation of the Shermans emerging through the trees.  Meanwhile the US M10s had raced up into the village to ensure it was held, and remained there for most of the rest of the game, which to be honest, suited the Germans quite well.

In the centre, things began to get bloody as the range closed, with the Panthers killing two Shermans in quick succession after they failed to kill any German targets. Back near the village a heroic US bazooka team managed to kill two halftracks in a row; but the team was shortly to be wiped out by German MG42 team which raced up to the hedgerow. As the German arnour advanced, the remaining American tanks pulled off a dashing if foolhardy attack, with two Shermans charging past the Panther ace and firing into his flank; they pulled it off, and brewed up the Panther – however, luck was not on the Allied side, as the Germans drew a battle counter for the loss, and got a mine strike counter which was promptly played on one of the reckless Shermans and destroyed it. The second Sherman, having expended its activation getting into position and destroying the Panther was easily picked off in the following German turn.

photo 7
Armoured clash on the right flank

At this point it became apparent that the Americans were in serious trouble; morale was ebbing both on the table and around it. But they continued to fight in an effort to give the Germans a bloody nose – however things continued to go against them, with one of their M10s attempting to flank being nailed by a PzIV left as a backstop.

photo 5
Not a good day to be an M10 driver

In the centre, a German Panther that had been sat on ambush fire for most of the game lumbered off up the right flank, enticing the remaining American M10s into a full-on cavalry charge down the road to try and catch the Panther in the rear. Alas, the Panzerfaust equipped grenadiers in the forest knocked out one and the second became stalled in the difficult terrain and looked unlikely to survive the following turn.

photo 6
M10s dash and die. Note the two halftracks knocked out by the US bazooka team earlier in the game.

There followed a few desultory exchanges of small arms fire, with the Germans taking some casualties, but the US then conceded defeat. It was a clear German victory – onwards to the Meuse.

A fast-paced and exciting game, but the US clearly had a hard time dealing with the Panthers. I think we will be playing this one through again with a view to exploring other options for the US.


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