Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Ardennes'44 The Battle of the Bulge on Vassal - Part Two (17th December)

The situation in our Ardennes'44 game on the the second day (December 17th) opened up with great promise for the resumption of my German offensive plan following a very successful opening particularly on the 5th Panzer Army front in the centre where avenues opened up to allow rapid progress towards St Vith and Bastogne in the next twenty-four hours.

However a quick glance at the Appearance Card below for Turn 3, the 17th December, shows the large number of US reinforcements set to arrive in response to the offensive, with likely rapid reinforcement of the troops facing the 6th Panzer Army on the German right flank spearheaded by 1st and 12th SS Panzer Division with German reinforcements principally limited to a few army battalions, the balance of 3rd FJ Division and a von der Heydte Fallschirmjager drop in the area, but not much else.

Turn 3 (17th December) Order of Appearance, shows the arrival of the powerful US 7th Armoured Division on the 6th Panzer Army front (Arrival Points H indicated top right of each counter). German Reinforcements for the Germans are minimal, including von der Heydte parachutists, but the Greif Commando traffic blocks should help to slow the US troops reaching the front line.

As expected and in reality the ill-trained FJ parachute drop came to nothing with them being dispersed and captured and the fighting on the front around Elsenborn and Monchau proving difficult for the SS units to make much progress.

The front on December 17th AM as my three German Armies attempt to consolidate their gains and press forward to other target areas, circled red and with two behind German lines, to ensure the ten needed to ensure victory by the close of the battle on the 18th. The arrows indicate the principle attacks made in each area and the red boundary lines indicating the army areas.

The area facing the 6th Panzer Army offers a tantalizing opportunity for the SS units to break through past the US defenders on the Elsenborn Ridge to take the towns of Elsenborn and hopefully Monchau before pressing on to the next key line of Malmedy, the fuel dump on the Malmedy Road and Eupen beyond. However the US units on this front present a tough opponent with rapid reinforcement should a breakthrough fail to materialize and despite my best efforts using SS Kampfgruppe Peiper and the 12th SS to open up the main road on their respective fronts, which with Peiper was managed, the fighting to do it left no opportunity to move other units forward to secure key points.

Day Two AM - 17th December, 6th Panzer Army Front
US troops make a fighting withdrawal off the Elsenborn Ridge with the units under the blue '1' counter in the first stage of surrender checks, but doing a great job holding up rearward German troops as 1st SS Peiper struggle to clear the road to Malmedy and 12th SS are held up in front of Monschau by strong US forces backed by tanks and artillery.

The 12th SS attempted to break the line around Monschau with a 5:1 attack on the weakest part of the line only to have their attack aborted by a Time on Target US artillery strike on their forming up positions that completely unhinged and stopped the attack, (US artillery on the defence most commonly lowers the attack ratio by one or two levels but has to be treated with caution, as with a '1' rolled, as Steve managed, they can get a TOT barrage) whilst Peiper on the road with 1st SS failed to clear US blocking units, forcing me to throw in Panzer Brigade 150 with their disguised US armour to help the attack.

Day Two AM - 17th December, 5th Panzer Army Front 
A much more successful picture for the German 5th Panzer Army able to capitalise on the success of the opening attacks which drove back or destroyed most of the US units defending forward on this front, with survivors seen here under disrupt markers. The attack allowed  spearhead units from Panzer Lehr to take Clervaux and press forward on Bastogne and Houffalize and for 116th Panzer Division to advance on St Vith although delayed by some US rear-guard bridge-blowing that forced units to move up via Manarch. Infantry units have pushed out on the left to threaten Wiltz and consolidate the bulge.

The success of the attack through the centre of the US lines could be gauged by the stacks of 'Disrupted' US troops driven back from their positions on the River Our and retreating to Bastogne via Clervaux alowing Panzer Lehr and 2nd Panzer Division to press forward in their wake with the 26th Volksgrenadier Division moving out to the army boundary line with 7th Army to press their attack towards Wilz.

More resistance was encountered by 116th Panzer Division as their attempt to push on through the bottleneck on the road to St Vith was stymied by US bridge blowing that forced follow up units to divert to other crossings close to Manarch before turning right for the key town which will likely offset its fall for another day.

Day Two AM - 17th December, 7th Army Front 
The 7th German Army is an Infantry Army composed of infantry and volksgrenadier divisions stiffened by the inclusion of the 5th Fallschirmjager and their attached StuG brigade. These chaps don't move that quick and their general lack of armour and limited artillery resources convinced me to be conservative on the gains I might hope to make on their front with the importance of taking the key towns of Echternach, Diekirch and hopefully Ettelbruck before going firm on those key points and protecting their gains and the left flank of 5th Panzer Army driving to Bastogne.

With the limited mobility and armour resources of 7th Army I contented myself on this front of securing my forward river line defence around Echternach, repairing bridges to my rear, bringing forward my guns in support of the line and limiting further attacks to 5th FJ Division which they pressed well threatening to take Diekirch and hopefully Ettelbruck later that day before the arrival of strong US reinforcements on the 18th.

So with a good consolidation of ground made on the morning of the 17th December, but with worrying issues on the German right flank, could further progress be made to secure key targets in the afternoon of the 17th?

The front on December 17th PM showing principle German attacks across the front with three key towns falling to German troops to go with the two taken on the 16th and with Bastogne and St Vith now invested by German troops with the US defenders grimly holding out. However the offensive on the right is struggling and two groups of 12th SS on the extreme right are overextended and find themselves out of supply (red out of supply markers above the grey offensive arrow) as they try to batter their way into Monschau.

The afternoon of the 17th saw US troops pushing forward engineer battalions into key towns just behind the front line as their comrades further forward sought out blocking positions in forests close to main roads to force follow up German units to deal with them before pressing on to their key targets.

Day Two PM - 17th December, 7th Army Front
With their more limited resources in terms of armoured and mobile assets 7th Army continued to aid the German offensive taking the towns of Diekirch and Ettlebruck to add to Echternach taken on the 16th and securing three out of the five possible victory zones on their front. Their task on the 18th would be to go firm and hold their gains.

Despite the US efforts to slow the German advance three more victory centres fell in the afternoon fighting and another three came under attack as the US front continued to fall back under the attacks on 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army fronts, with five of the ten German objectives taken by the end of the day leaving another five to be captured and held on the 18th.

Day Two PM - 17th December, 5th Panzer Army Front
The Army Panzer Divisions of Lehr, 2nd and 116th Panzer continue their offensive with support from the 26th Volksgrenadier Division as Wilz falls to the latter and Bastogne holds just to Lehr and 2nd Panzer whilst 116th Panzer close in on St Vith.

However US resistance on the German right flank threatened to undo the gains made else where with the critical towns of Elsenborn and Monschau vital to securing the ten areas needed to secure the progress made on the first three days.

Day Two PM - 17th December, 6th Panzer Army Front
The US defenders on the 6th Panzer Army front continue to resist stoutly under the attacks of SS Panzers and Tiger II battalions, with their stiff artillery fire in the morning being stiffened as US troops cut off the supply route to the forward troops of 12th SS as they attempted to batter their way into Monschau. Note the three grey Greif Commando road blocks in US rear areas designed to slow down US off map reinforcements from Eupen and Limbourg marching to the area. The arrival of 7th Armoured Division puts the objectives of Malmedy and Eupen beyond the reach of 6th Panzer Army.

So with half the German objectives achieved in the first two days of Operation Wacht am Rhein and with the first truck loads of US Airborne troops arriving from Paris it would be all to play for on the 18th December to grab the other five key areas and hold on to them as US reinforcements are rushed forward.

In the third part of this series of posts Steve and I will conclude our game focussed on the first three days of the Battle of the Bulge with a climactic ending that had us both on the edge of our seats as our digital-cardboard warriors fought hard in the closing phases of play.

Next up I have a book review and work progresses on the next six models to join the Trafalgar Collection.


  1. Loving this JJ wish I could get my head around Vassal!

    1. Hi Nathan, thanks mate, I'll drop you an email and see if we can arrange a time to run through things.


  2. Take up the offer Nathan, its a great system! And its opened up a whole load of games

    This one is a challenge for the US for the first couple of terms, especially when JJ does a deal with the dice devil!!

  3. Nice mate,

    a game that I do not have in my pile of shame of unpunched unplayed games day


    1. Thanks Matt, this is a very nice Bulge game to have and I'm really glad that Steve and I got around to finally playing it.