Sunday, April 13, 2014

Losheimergraben: Prelude, a Flames of War Scenario

This is the second of three scenarios that cover the fighting around Losheimergraben on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge. This action takes place around the same time as the fight at Buchholz Station. It happened in the woods southeast of Losheimergraben, about a mile or so east of the fighting at Buchholz.

B Company, 394th Infantry Regiment, was located in prepared positions in the woods east of the crossroads. At 0530, the German artillery barrage began, beginning far behind the lines and slowly creeping eastwards. The artillery hit the company's positions between 0700 and 0730, wiping out the weapons platoon, but leaving the rest of the company pretty much intact. Luckily for the Americans, the artillery also caused casualties in the 1st battalion of the 48th Grenadier Regiment. The German attack was delayed while they withdrew the 1st battalion's casualties and repositioned the second battalion to attack. Around 0800, the volksgrenadiers of the 2nd battalion started encountering the men of B Company in their dugouts in the forest.

Scenario Description

American Forces - Confident Trained

  • Company HQ: ­ 1x CinC Carbine, 1x 2iC Carbine
  • Rifle Platoon: 1x Command Rifle, 4x Rifle, 1x LMG
  • Rifle Platoon:­ 1x Command Rifle, 4x Rifle, 1x LMG
  • Rifle Platoon: 1x Command Rifle, 4x Rifle, 1x LMG
  • Rifle Platoon: 1x Command Rifle, 4x Rifle, 1x LMG

German Forces - Confident Veteran

  • Company HQ: 1x CinC Assault Rifle, 1x 2iC Assault Rifle
  • Sturm Platoon: 1x Command Assault Rifle, 4x Assault Rifle, 1x MG42 HMG team
  • Sturm Platoon: 1x Command Assault Rifle, 4x Assault Rifle, 1x MG42 HMG team
  • Schutzen Platoon: 1x Command Rifle/MG, 6x Rifle/MG, 1x MG42 HMG team


  • The game is played on a 4' x 4' board.
  • The Americans set up on the  on western 24" of the board while the Germans set up on the eastern 16". There should be an 8" gap between the two areas, which is enough to move and assault on the first turn. 
  • The Americans set up one objective representing the company command post within 8" of the American rear edge and at least 8" from side edges.
  • The Americans start the game Dug In.


The left side of the map is a dirt road. The squiggly lines on the right side represent a stream. The green areas represent woods. We played the stream as rough, concealing terrain that only blocked line of sight to/from units inside of it. The idea was that the stream was slightly below ground level, so it would not interfere with units shooting over it.

Scenario Special Rules

After setup but prior to Turn 1, the Germans conduct two preliminary bombardments. The German player selects any American team on the board as the aim point of a 105mm bombardment. The bombardment is assumed to range in on the first attempt. The players then roll for hits, saves, and firepower as normal. The process is then repeated for a second team. The second target team must be different than the first. Note that this means that American units can begin the game pinned, as the Germans move first.


The Germans win if they can capture the American HQ by the end of turn six. They also win if they force the Americans to fail a company morale check. The Americans win by preventing the German victory conditions.


The order of battle deviates from the "standard" platoon listings in the book. We split the Americans into four platoons to better simulate their isolation in the woods. This does give the American a bit of flexibility, but the smaller platoons are also more fragile. The initial bombardment better simulates the actual battle, as the Germans did not have artillery on call due to a wire being cut. We also tweaked the setup so the Germans are in range to move and assault on Turn 1. Again, this better reflects the situation as the Germans stumbled into the American positions without much warning.

The 48th Grenadier Regiment received a lot of replacements over the autumn. The NCOs and officers were all combat veterans, but many of the soldiers were pretty green. To better reflect this, you can represent the German troops as Confident Trained instead of Confident Veteran. If you do that, you should double the number of German troops to two companies and play on a normal sized board.

Playtest AAR

We played the game three times. One was a smashing German victory, one a smashing American victory, and the third went down to the wire with the Americans passing a crucial motivation test to win in the end. We were pretty happy with the results.

The German tactics were to use the initial bombardment to pin an American platoon or two, then assault with the Sturm platoons. After that attack, the Germans would continue to force their way through the woods. The American tried a few different setups, generally setting up in depth, but varying platoon frontage. That seemed to work well, as the German was only able to assault one platoon at a time. The American would move to reinforce a weak area, but quickly dug in when possible to avoid casualties from the abundance of automatic weapons.

I think that six turns might be a little short, but it does make sure the Germans are aggressive. The small American units are fragile, so a few well coordinated assaults can quickly push the Americans to take a company motivation test. If that seems a little short to you, feel free to increase the game length to eight turns.


The Americans stopped the initial assault with heavy small arms fire. The woods forced the Americans to fight in isolated groups, and the sheer weight of the German attack eventually took its toll. Company B eventually withdrew to the crossroads, suffering over 60% casualties. The resistance disrupted the German time table, as they had planned on taking the crossroads on the first morning. Now they had to wait another 24 hours before they could attack again.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cold Wars: Muskets & Tomahawks Tournament

I played in a small Muskets & Tomahawks tournament at Cold Wars this past weekend. M&T is a set of skirmish rules focusing on the French & Indian War that was fought in North America in the 1750s and 60s. The game has fairly standard combat and movement mechanics, but uses a card draw mechanic to determine order of activation. Units get four activations per turn, but regulars always do two activations at once while irregulars and indians get a single activation per card. The missions are reminiscent of the era, such as scouting and raiding, but also include a bit of a role playing element with each side having a sub-plot independent of the main victory conditions.

I went with a force of Canadian Militia and Indians, thinking that skirmishing troops would be more useful than formed troops. It was mostly correct, although I might have been better off with some formed troops in the last scenario. The tournament was split into a British team and a French team, so with the Canadians I was part of the French team.

Here is my army list:
  • Canadian Officer
  • a unit of six Canadian Militia
  • a unit of six Coureurs de Bois (fur traders)
  • two units of five Huron Indians

Game 1: Scouting Mission

The first mission was a scouting mission, which requires you to move units into the four quarters of the board and then withdraw. My sub-plot was called "Negotiations" which required my officer to escort a civilian throughout the game and roll a die at the end of each turn to see if the negotiations were successful.

My opponent had a force that consisted entirely of indians! That meant that both forces were "scouts", which allowed them to move through the woods without penalty. In addition, his entire force and most of my force (minus the militia) had the "natives" ability, which gave them extra cover in the woods.

My plan was to have the militia guard the house and snipe while the other three groups would swing around and occupy the other three quarters.
Situation after my first two activations.

The trappers and indians move through an orchard.
My opponent decided to sneak through the woods on the left side of the board. The militia was waiting for them...
Wait for it...
When my opponent came out of the woods, the militia and trappers let them have it. We killed three indians, forcing a morale check. The indians fled, running back to the edge of the woods.
Its safe back here.
The game mostly consisted of moving, not shooting. I'm pretty sure that was a side effect of the force composition. In the end, neither side was able to accomplish its primary scouting mission, but we were both able to complete the sub-plot.

Game 2: Raid

The second mission was a raid. As the attacker, I had to set the two buildings on fire. This time, I faced off against some British light troops, some indians, and a group of British regulars.
Sneaking through the woods.
I made my way through the woods, and the light troops poured from the closest building. It turns out that they were sharpshooters! They blasted my militia, killing several guys and forcing them to rout off of the board. My indians and trappers returned fire, killing several of the sharpshooters and forcing them to rout.
The woods are clear!
At the same time, the British regulars came out of their building and set up in the field near the second building. I sent my trappers to keep them busy while the indians set fire to building number one. We exchanged some fire, and while there were light casualties, everyone kept their nerve.

Some of my indians snuck into a good spot behind some trees, exchanging shots with the British indians. We got the better of them, and they fled behind the building. Then the regulars switched targets from the trappers to the indians, unloading a massive volley that killed them all! Ouch!

I decided to take a chance, and ran my second group up to the second building out of sight of the regulars. At that point, the turn ended. My indians were ready to burn the building. His indians were ready to shoot mine. The regulars and the trappers faced each other in the field, both loaded an ready to go. The fate of the game would be determined by which group got the first activation...

An then the game ended! Part of the mission is that it has a chance to end early, which forces the raiding player to be aggressive. In this case, that's what happened. Neither of us completed our main objectives, but I was able to complete my sub-plot. My sub-plot as "romance", so my officer was busy hooking up in the woods while we were trying to raid the village! Rank has its privileges...
Everyone has a bead on everyone else!

Game 3: Encounter

This mission was basically a straight up fight. The goal was to destroy or rout 2/3 of your opponent's force. In this mission, my opponent had two large groups. One group consisted of provincial militia and one group of light troops.
Board layout, pre-setup.
I decided to put the indians in the woods on my left, the militia into the huts in the middle, and swing the trappers into the woods at the top of the map. If everything worked, my opponent would be stuck in a small area and I'd be able to fire on him from three sides.

Things mostly worked as planned, although my guys couldn't hit the broadside of a barn. He worked his way over a snowbank to take pot shots at the indians.
The British leader taunts us!
The indians forced them back through shooting, then charged over the snowbank to fight them in hand to hand combat! We got the better of them, killing four or five guys and forcing them to retreat. The provincials got the next two activations, however, so they were able to move up and shoot. One indian group was totally destroyed while the other miraculously survived. The hunters peppered the now exposed militia, but wasn't able to do anything. The game ended at that point, resulting in another draw.

Overall, I had a ton of fun. The game is pretty faced paced, and both sides wait to see who will activate next. There seemed to be a lot of draws, but everyone was learning the system, so we tended to take a bit longer than usual. By the end of the event, we were actually moving pretty well. If only my guys could shoot strait!

Thanks a lot to Tom Keegan for running the event and Architects of War and Loyalhanna Outpost for sponsoring it. I can't wait to play again!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ghost Panzer: Quick Out of the Box Review

I picked up Ghost Panzer over Christmas break. It is the sequel to Screaming Eagles, part of the Band of Brothers series by Worthington Games. I played the learning scenarios a couple of times, and while I did a few things wrong, I definitely thought that the game had potential. There are two features that make the game unique: fire combat and "proficiency". They definitely give the game a different feel. I'll need to play it a bit more to fully appreciate how all of the components work.

The combat system is designed to generate suppression over casualties. Here's how it works... A unit has a firepower value and casualty value. A typical German line squad has a firepower of 6 and a casualty value of 4/7. When a unit shoots, you adjust the shooting unit's firepower by any modifiers that are applicable, such as terrain, open ground, etc. You then roll a 10 sided die. If the roll is less than the modified firepower, the target unit is suppressed. If the difference between the modified firepower and the die roll is less than the first casualty number, the unit is fully suppressed and suffers a step reduction. If the difference is less than the second number, the unit is eliminated. There are two levels of suppression, and once a unit is fully suppressed, additional suppression results have no effect.

Here's a shooting example. Lets assume that the German squad (firepower 6, casualty value 4/7) is shooting at a Russian squad (firepower 5, casualty value 3/7) across the street in a wooden building. The modifier for the wooden building is -1, so the German's final firepower is 5. If he rolls a 5 or less, the Russian squad is suppressed. If he rolls a 1 or a 2, the Russian squad is fully suppressed and suffers a step reduction. If he rolls 6 or higher, there is no effect. Coming back the other way, the Russian starts with a firepower of 5, which is reduced to 4 if we assume that the German squad is in a wooden building, too. He will suppress the German on a die roll of 4 or less, but cannot step reduce it.

The effects of suppression are simple.They reduce the morale of a unit. This is significant because a unit must pass a morale check to do anything... move, shoot, etc. Normal units have a morale of 10, so they can do anything that they want. A suppressed unit has a morale of 5 or 6, meaning that they have about a 50/50 chance of doing anything. You also don't roll the morale check until you try to perform the action, so you don't know how your units are going to react. A fully suppressed unit has a morale of 1, so its very unlikely to be able to do anything. You recover one level of suppression at the end of the turn.

Proficiency is the other interesting concept in the rules. For infantry, there is simply a "proficient firepower" which is a bit less than the normal firepower. German squads have a proficient firepower of 5, while Russian line squads are 2 and SMG squads are 4. You use the proficient firepower whenever you fire after moving or use defensive fire. Its an abstraction that measures your ability to adapt to different situations.

Vehicles have a separate proficiency value. Whenever a vehicle wants to do something that is a bit more complex than just moving or shooting, it has to make a proficiency check. Most German vehicles have a proficiency of 8 while most Soviet vehicles are 5 or 6. Vehicles are required to make a check when they defensive fire, fire after moving, and fire at long range. This makes the Germans a bit more flexible than the Russians. It also encourages a more fluid battle, as there is a significant defensive benefit to moving to offset the offensive penalty.

I managed to play a face to face game a couple of weeks ago. We played the initial infantry scenario vaguely reminiscent of the venerable Guards Counterattack from Squad Leader. I don't remember many details, but the Russians managed to win in the end, pushing the Germans out of the target building. We both thought that the game mechanics worked well and are excited to try the armor rules.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Buchholz Station, a Scenario for Flames of War

I've been doing a bit of reading on The Battle of the Bulge recently, focusing mostly on the northern sector. This is the area where the 6th SS Panzer Army was supposed to break through. The American divisions located in that sector, the 99th and 2nd infantry divisions, put up a significant resistance, which delayed the breakthrough and contributed to the overall failure of the attack.

This is a small scenario that captures one of the encounters on the morning of the first day of the offensive. The 12th Volksgrenadier Division was supposed to take the Losheimergraben Crossroads and allow Kampfgruppe Peiper to break through along that route. One regiment attacked the crossroads from the north, while a second regiment attempted to flank it from the south west. The flanking force moved along a railroad line and ran into an American unit located at Buchholz Station, much to the surprise of both sides. They traded rifle and artillery fire for several hours, but the arrival of some towed anti-tank guns forced the Germans to retreat. This scenario represents that battle.

Buchholz Station, December 16th, 1944

American Forces

Company L, 394th Infantry Battalion, 99th Infantry Division
Rifle Company:  Confident Trained
Setup: One rifle platoon and the company HQ sets up within 4" of the chow truck. The other rifle platoon sets up in Ambush. The rest of the forces enter as Delayed Reinforcements. See also SSRs 1 and 3.
  • Company HQ: ­ 1x CinC Carbine, 1x 2iC Carbine
  • Rifle Platoon: 1x Command Rifle, 6x Rifle, 1x Bazooka
  • Rifle Platoon:­ 1x Command Rifle, 6x Rifle, 1x Bazooka
  • Rifle Platoon: 1x Command Rifle, 6x Rifle, 1x Bazooka
  • Weapons Platoon: ­ 1x Command Carbine, 3x M2 60mm mortar, 4x M1919 LMG
  • Trained Towed Tank Destroyer Platoon ­ 1x Command .50cal Recon Jeep, 2x Recon Jeep, 1x Command Carbine, 2x M5 3in gun (late)
  • Mortar Platoon: 1x Command Carbine, 4x 81mm Mortar

German Forces

Elements of 1st Battalion, 27th Fusilier Regiment, 12th VG Division
VG Rifle Company: Confident Veteran
Setup: All platoons set up in the SE half of the map no closer than 16" from the center line. See also SSR 2.
  • Company HQ: 1x CinC Panzerfaust Assault Rifle, 1x 2iC Panzerfaust Assault Rifle
  • Sturm Platoon: 1x Command Panzerfaust Assault Rifle, 4x Panzerfaust Assault Rifle, 1x MG42 HMG team
  • Sturm Platoon: 1x Command Panzerfaust Assault Rifle, 4x Panzerfaust Assault Rifle, 1x MG42 HMG team
  • Schutzen Platoon: 1x Command Panzerfaust Rifle/MG, 6x Panzerfaust Rifle/MG, 1x MG42 HMG team
  • Mortar Platoon: 1x Command SMG, 2x Observer Rifle, 4x 8cm mortar

Scenario Special Rules

  1. The American mortar platoon sets up off board and never enters play. All American Command stands can call in fire. It doesn't count as a unit for company morale, so the Americans will have to lose three platoons before they begin to roll to see if the company breaks.
  2. The German mortars set up off board, but the Observer Teams do set up on board. It doesn't count for company morale, so the Germans have to lose three platoons before they begin to roll to see if the company breaks.
  3. The Americans start the game with two Rifle Platoons and the HQ units on board. One of these platoons can set up in Ambush. The other platoon must set up within 4 in of the chow truck. Everyone else enters as Delayed Reinforcements. The tank destroyer platoon must be the last platoon to enter the map.
  4. Because of the surprise nature of the attack, the Americans are not in Prepared Positions. In addition, neither side can fire or call in artillery on their first turn. 


The Americans set up on the left (NNW) while the Germans set up on the right (SSE). I used individual trees, but feel free to set up clumps of wooded terrain, since one large mass of woods would be a bit dull. The chow truck and the objective buildings are clearly marked. Note the walls around the buildings in the NW corner of the map. I included an opening to make it easier to enter and exit the area, but feel free to tweak as appropriate.

Victory Conditions

The Germans are attacking into the Station from the southeast. The two large buildings are the scenario objectives. The Germans win if they take and hold either of them. The Americans win if the Germans haven’t captured an objective by Turn 10. If either side fails a company morale test at any time, then the other side wins.


  1. William C. C. Cavanagh, The Battle East of Elsenborn. South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2012.
  2. Stephen M. Rusieicki, The Key to the Bulge. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  3. Hans Wijers, Battle of the Bulge. Volume One: The Losheim Gap / Holding the Line. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2009.