Battles from the Bulge: The Push to St. Vith

I’ve been playing the tutorial scenario in the new wargame from Panther Games, Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge. I’ve played it through about 4 times now, and as I’m learning the mechanics of the game, I’m also becoming familiar with the terrain and that helps immensely when trying to counter the plans of the rather splendidly cunning AI.

From the starting position, I attempted to overrun the forces at Steinbruck, securing the bridge crossing there (as is explained in great detail in the accompanying video tutorials for the game). I pounded the area with arty for a while before sweeping my infantry in to the right, using the treeline there for cover. Simultaneously, I rolled my mechanised troops in support, and finally followed that up with a road-based “punch through” with my tanks.

I was able to take Steinebruck relatively easily, but you can see the additional forces assembling all along the footprint of Lommersweiler to the Northwest. I decided to use the momentum I’d built up to push heavily through Lommersweiler and swing North to follow the road and the tree line. Leaving some troops at the objective villagers to dig in and hold the areas for the accumulated victory points.

With my main force rolling up the main road, I was worried I’d stacked all my eggs in one basket and heading Northwards towards the Breitfield Crossroads would get mauled in the kill zone there.

So I decided to redirect an armoured group up through Neidengen and across the crossing there, and squeeze them through the forested gap. If nothing else it would mean I’d have some flanking support against the gathering enemy on the main road. They seemed to be forming up to shield the direct route into St. Vith. If you notice, I’d slipped an Anti-tank unit into the western edge of the forest facing the Breitfield Crossroads. I figured they would have cover, but might be able to provide fire up the road north, or across and along the eastern road running through Breitfield.

The enemy also started to channel Tiger tanks through the eastern forest to harass my main force, so I met them at the neck of the gap, in a vain attempt to pour as much firepower as I could upon these metal beasts rolling in.

Instead of pushing my flankers northwards, I slipped them into another forested region westwards. There’s another road (red line top left of image)  into St. Vith that this forest surrounds and I thought I could use it as a way to bypass the defenders. The AI seemed to organise a pincer attack on my forces trying desperately to hold onto the Breitfield Crossroads objective, eventually after much punishment and pounding from enemy Arty they had to attempt a withdrawal back to Neidengen. My “Tiger Hunters” and a combo of lots of Arty eventually chased the metal hulks northwards from the forest gap. They were a solid wall of defense just below the Crossroads, and I planned to push them forward to retake objective after they had rested.

My gamble on the red road had paid off, whilst the enemy were dealing with my main force centrally, I managed to steam my flankers up into St. Vith itself. In a panic when they got there I quickly threw them into a defend action and then crossed my fingers tightly.  I began sweeping more troops along the track the flankers had taken mainly to use them as gears of war to throw into the mix and snag up the AI’s sweeping defenders. I think once the flankers had made the run, the defenders began to mobilise to prevent any more troops getting through. Luckily I think they’d overcommitted their forces to holding up the main road, and there was very little resistance coming in to St. Vith itself. At the same time, I began the push my central force forward to secure the Crossroads. A satisfying array of enemy crosses litter the surrounding forest and Breitfield itself.

The AI tried hard to prevent any more troops making it through, diverting most of its troops to the red road push. It started to bring more troops in from Northeast, and was mounting an attack on the Crossroads, as I dug in with the flankers at St. Vith, and shelled whatever I could coming in from the North of St. Vith itself. Hold out. Hold out. Literally watching the time tick by and willing the flankers to hold out just long enough.

They did it!

I was so proud of them.

For all the might and muscle of my main force, and their ability to shake down Tiger tanks, my small flanking force managed to stealth run their way into St. Vith and hunker down long enough to get some valuable and much needed Victory Points.

It was a Marginal Victory. The best I’ve managed yet!

Heres the AAR breakdown.

There were times when I thought it was all over. I seemed to be bashing my head against a wall of enemy tanks and a cauldron of Arty fire in the basin just below the Crossroads. The desperate attempt to follow an alternate route with the smallest of forces, probably swung the outcome for me. It might not be the most historical or likely outcome, but by George, I was very pleased with a Marginal Victory, so much so I had to post this up.

I’m pulling the Churchill ‘V’ for Victory sign as I write this.

4 thoughts on “Battles from the Bulge: The Push to St. Vith

  1. And this is on the tutorial, an unbalanced, small battle heavily favoring the Americans.
    And I suspect the AI tried different plans each time you played.
    Just wait until you try out one of the larger scenarios!

  2. Yep, my fifth time playing and things have panned out differently everytime.

    It has to be said, I’m a bit of a wargamer lightweight as such, so no doubt I’ve got my work cut out for me in the properly balanced scenario’s.

    I’ve been surprised just how much time I’ve invested in the Tutorial Scenario and its never felt like a chore. In fact, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the lie of the land, and watch like a newborn as I see what the AI is capable of every time I play it.

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Ian Bowes / spelk