On the anniversary of the battle I’ll slip in a Wargame Wednesday post on a Sunday.
Over the past year I have been helping to play test a massive scenario which covers the area of operations of the 5th Panzer Army (roughly the center of the German advance with St. Vith on the northern side of 5th Army’s sector and the race to Bastogne in the south-west). The scenario has been designed to be a team game, with three players to a side the optimal choice. The map is split into three easily identified sectors with an artificial line of black hexes splitting the map into three sections. The only movement possible in the black hexes are via the roads, which allows players to transfer forces throughout the game but also serves to force players into staying within their assigned areas. Assigning unit boundaries and areas of operations are not only important for planning offensive and defensive sectors but vital in trying to prevent friendly fire and use of vital supply routes. During the Bulge both sides had to contend with massive traffic jams as the road and bridge network was barely adequate to support modern, mechanized warfare, and that is not taking into account the snow, mud and limited visibility.
The original versions of this scenario made for a difficult German game as along most of the line the Germans face a climb. Advancing uphill, with snow and mud conditions and visibility less than 250 meters, the Germans are only able to advance one hex at a time, even in a hex with a muddy dirt road (actually, in many places it was faster to move through the woods). Even on flat terrain mobility was limited and the game became a never ending ordeal (for the German player) of advancing into American opportunity fire, then American artillery, and if troops were left on the front line they received direct fire only to watch the defenders retreat back a hex. Once the Germans recovered morale they faced the same situation, again and again. I was able to find a report of weather and visibility during the battle and this was used to change the conditions, allowing the Germans better mobility and visibility but also allowing American air power to play a role.
This will be an ongoing series with a new post every few weeks. I still haven’t finalized on how I will present the data but it will be a lot more than a war game after action report. For this initial post I wanted to start on the anniversary date and give the reader an idea of scope of the game map.
I’ll be using William C.C. Cavanagh’s A Tour of the Bulge Battlefield throughout this series along with other material.
Follow this link for screen shots of the map. You may not be a fan of this type of wargame but the work put into the map alone by the scenario designer is phenomenal.