Friday, 10 September 2021

The Nivelles Offensive

 I wanted to try out the Pz8 WW1 rules again after Simon put on his Cambrai game. I pretty much left them alone rather than fiddling with them. As my late war French haven't been out for while, I set up a scenario covering part of General Nivelles ill fated offensive from the Aisne bridgehead in April 1917.

Tim G, John and Jerry took the French with three divisions between them from 5th Army, plus a cavalry division in reserve, while Simon and Tim C took the Germans with two divisions from 1st Armee, newly arrived in the Chemin des Dames position. 

Battlefield from the southeast, with a grid six squares wide by eight deep. The French are on the Aisne plain, while Germans are holding the ground rising up to the Chemin des Dames ridge. The Chemin itself is the road running along the top row. 

French view of the German position, it does look a little daunting. Each stand is roughly a battalion, so divisions generally have nine to twelve stands. 

The German right commanded by Tim. The front line is lightly held with the bulk of the infantry held at the rear of the battle zone. The forward zone is heavily fortified and studded with concreted MG positions. The French will need to clear these to make a clean breakthrough. 

The German left, commanded by Simon. Each German division has two regiments up, or six battalions, and to make life simple, has a front of three squares. In the German third position, which is way off table and out of artillery range, are two infantry regiments reinforced with Stormtroops designated for counterattack. 

The French right (Jerry). Each French division has nine battalions and an MG detachment plus some tanks.  Again, for simplicity they are each allocated a front of two squares. Tanks can't enter bad going, so they are avoiding the shelled wood.  This Renault is an Armorfast one. 

Tim Gs division in the centre. The going is better here so they are allocated two tank units. My Lancer Miniatures resin St Chamond, which is huge, and my card Schneider CA. I am never building a card model again... 

French gun lines and artillery ammo. They start with 48 shots, which is quite a lot. The French are a mixture of Revell and Airfix figures, while the guns are Hat. 

German gun lines and ammo, 24 shots in this case. The reserve Stormtroop battalions can also be seen. The Germans are a mix of Hat, Emhar and Revell figures, with Emhar guns. 

The French attack opened with a heavy bombardment along the front line aiming to smash up the defences. As defences count against stacking limits, this would both weaken the defenders and allow more attackers into the position. 

The bunker in the centre came in for a massive barrage which obliterated the defences but turned the ground into a crater field. Sadly, crater fields are impassable for tanks.

John's division pushed forward and overran the small German front line garrison behind a rolling barrage. 

In the centre Tim assaulted the Germans in the remains of the bunker but was repulsed, as was Jerry on the right (the Germans piled in a lot of defensive artillery). Fortunately French casualties were light.

The following turn the Germans pulled their outpost back, and Jerrys tanks overran the first trench line. Tim brought up reserves and outflanked the crater field.

More French infantry moved up to replace their losses in the centre.

John meanwhile took advantage of his tanks ability to remove wire, and moved more troops up to occupy the vacated German front line trenches.

Behind a massive artillery bombardment and waves of tanks, the Germans in the crater field were finally overrun. The tanks couldn't enter it, but one French battalion made its way forward.

Cue the French cavalry turning up to exploit the breakthrough! These are Tumbling Dice 20mm metal figures. 

The French attack to widen the breach failed as the Germans hung on grimly. The St Chamond battalion advanced into the German second line and promptly became bogged down. Ooops. It could still contribute to combat from there, just not move any further.

At this point the two German reserve regiments with their Stormtroops arrived in the rear.

Before they could intervene, the French tried again in the centre and both sides threw in shedloads of artillery support.

This time the attack succeeded, and the French occupied the second line of German trenches, advancing through the barrage.

The Germans flung in an entire Regiment supported by Stormtroops to counterattack as shells rained down on both sides.

Unfortunately the French had deployed their MGs and the Germans were cut down in a hail of fire, which rather rattled their resolve. We broke for the night at that point so both sides would have a chance to think about their next days moves.

On the French left, John had brought up his reserves and was in a strong position. The Germans now had a solid line facing them, its key position being the fortified wood which was virtually unassailable. 

Over on the right the front stabilised and Jerry slipped a couple of battalions across to reinforce the breakthrough in the centre.

The view from the German side was a bit alarming as there seemed to be something of a gap.

Things looked rather better on the other flank.

The French managed to push a single heroic battalion up onto the ridge. The Chemin des Dames was in sight! The Germans sidestepped one of their Stormtroopers into the village on the road.

More and more French units shuffled sideways into the breach.

The French cavalry began to appear in strength now. The Schneider battalion rolled up the  hill and promptly bogged down in the same square as the St Chamond. Oops.

More French infantry moved into the tenuous salient and busily set up their MGs.

The French left flank was now completely static.

As was the right.

In the centre the Allies were also stuck as they and largely run out of artillery ammunition at this point. Without artillery support it was virtually impossible to make any further progress, and the cavalry ended up stuck in a big traffic jam behind the bogged tanks, hemmed in by bad ground.

The Germans were just hanging on, but with each side of the French penetration dominated by the concrete MG posts, the French salient wasn't going to be tenable in the long run.  

We called it a day at that point as neither side had the ability to attack any more. It worked OK as a game although I find the combat system a bit all or or nothing. The players said they had plenty to think about, but I suspect it would work better in a f2f setting. Half the game is the initial setup, and I need to think of some way to make that more interactive in a remote format. The combat system is fairly easy to fix as there are plenty of other mechanisms to borrow. All in all, a successful outing, and it was nice to get the 20mm WW1 toys out again.

I'd like to give it another go at some point, and maybe actually reading the printed victory conditions properly this time would help!


  1. Looks like it was a great game- shame I missed it.



    1. Thanks Pete, it had its moments. Definitely worth another outing, despite some oddities. Thinking about 1918 next time.

  2. Such a gorgeous table, atmospheric and beautiful!

    1. Thanks Phil. I do like the look of WW1 battlefields. I'm glad I made tons of defences for Square Bashing years ago, as I've used them endlessly since.