Monday 26 February 2024

Dom Butgenbach, 20th December 1944

 The second of my December Bulge games was Dom Butgenbach, also taken from the CD IV rulebook (scenario 6). This took place on 20th December 1944 and is a contrast with the earlier TF Rose, as this time the Germans have numbers, but the US forces have a huge qualitative advantage.

Battlefield from the south, this engagement features one of the numerous attacks put in by 12th SS Panzer Division vs 1st Infantry Div, 'The Big Red One', in the northern sector of the Bulge. Dom Butgenbach is the town between the two river sections, Bullingen is in the top right corner and the three hills to the left and the town together comprise the four objectives the Germans have to capture.

As with the Marnach scenario, the ground is all bad going and the woods are dense. The creek is bad going for infantry and tracked vehicles, impassable to wheeled. This battle was fought in early morning mist, so I'm keeping the standard 2 hex visibility.

This is another 'battalion scale' scenario, so the US have four rifle companies and a composite 76mm Sherman company. I could have attached the Shermans out, but I thought it would work better if they were available as a mobile reserve. The US units are all rated as Veteran.

The US forces all start dug in, so I put one rifle company on each of the objectives. They also have a couple of minefields, which are actually really useful to channel German vehicular movement, given the broken terrain.

The US also have masses of artillery support, two entire artillery battalions! I also gave them two supply columns, which should be plenty for their five companies.

The Germans have masses of troops, mainly two battalions of panzergenadiers, one in trucks the other mounted in halftracks. Unlike their pals in 2nd Panzer Div, these units are all understrength and lacking many of their SP guns. I rated them all as standard infantry, although one company of the 2nd Bn had some Sig 33s in support, so rated as Heavy.

In the CD scenario these guys have poor training but high morale, so I averaged it out as average troops.

They also have a couple of artillery batteries, just the one supply column and an attached Panzerjaeger Bn. This has a company each of Jagdpanzer IVs and Jagdpanthers - it was the latter which overran Charles B MacDonalds rifle company as recounted in 'Company Commander', and which have been endlessly misidentified as Tigers in various accounts of the battle. In the old Panzer Leader 'Elsenborn Ridge' scenario, they even became a company each of Tiger I and Tiger IIs! Still, they are Jagdpanthers and obviously quite scary. I'll rate these as Heavy Tanks.

I did a bit of shuffling of the US troops and put an outpost in the woods in the centre, covering the mined road, with the Shermans hull down on the ridge above. I figured the good road network would let them rapidly redeploy. I'm not going to let them stand and die like the Stuarts in the last game.

The other minefield is just visible on the road in the far south in front of the position on the ridge. It blocks the road and links neatly with the forest hex to restrict rapid access to the southern village.

The initial German force is the armoured PG battalion. I opted for caution and they came on in the southeast, using the forests as cover. I'm going to try and gang up on the southern ridge. The infantry will need to dismount to enter the forest.

Naturally the Shermans responded by motoring along their lateral road to bolster the defence. Wellington would have approved. I'm very glad visibility is restricted by mist in this scenario!

The Germans push all their units forward at once to maximise their concentration of force. One of the PG companies deliberately advances right to the ridge to draw fire and let the other units get into position. The US respond with a torrent of direct and artillery fire - those US artillery battalions are terrifying. The PG company in the open is almost destroyed, and becomes disorganised.   

The German reinforcements arrive. Armour leads the way southwest from Bullingen as the lorried PG follow up behind. The Germans reorg the shattered PG company and push another across the open ground in their halftracks while artillery and the third company provide covering fire.

Once again US defensive fire shatters the advancing grenadiers and they become disorganised.

In the north the Jagdpanzer IVs (or Pz IV (70) if you prefer) take up fire positions across the minefield as the infantry line advances. Two of the companies are planning on using the forest as cover to approach the roadblock. US defensive fire chips a hit off the Pz IV/70s.

Carnage in the south! The exposed disorganised PG company is eliminated by US fire and the other disorganised PG company retreats into the forest to make way for the Jagdpanthers. Losses to the US defenders are now heavy enough that they need to reorg, the extra resilience of Veteran status saving them so far.

Chaos in the north! Three PG companies move next to the roadblock, so a retrograde move seems in order. Of course I'd completely forgotten about the ZOC rules, so my cunning US plan to fall back three hexes down the road runs into a hail of German small arms fire. Hey ho, at least the company is out of sight of most of the Germans now. The company on the ridge manages to knock out some more Pz IV/70s as well.

I really, really need to stop the US troops reorganising, so the Jagdpanthers don't stop to fire but instead roll to the top of the ridge, ready to assault the US infantry. The Germans reorg their battered PG in the woods to threaten the Shermans.

The US guns are down to one fire mission each. The barrels are red hot.

The US artillery fires its last shells at the Jagdpanthers, but with no effect. The Shermans inflict some hits though.

In a bold move, the Jagdpanzers and lorried PG bypass the minefield and line up for a mass frontal assault on the northern ridge. The Jagdpanzers are positioned to assault, while the PG provide fire support.

The move is unopposed by the US artillery as they have run out of ammo....

Despite taking enough hits to disorganise it, the Jagdpanthers are shot in by the German artillery and infantry, and finally manage to overrun the first objective. 

In the north, the first German assault fails and both the Jagdpanzers and one PG company become disorganised. The isolated US rifle company in the open doesn't have much choice but to retreat into the  woods as its other route is still restricted by a ZOC.

I made a mistake here, the Jagdpanzers should have retreated a hex. Too much time playing the Napoleonic version.

Faced with the mass of German units in front, the US troops fall back to Dom Butgenbach. They still have a pretty solid line and the Germans are quite chewed up.

The resupplied US artillery obliterates one of the PG companies.

But the disorganised Jagdpanzers (4 hits!) manage to overrun the US infantry this time, supported by the remaining German infantry. If I hadn't made the retreat mistake, this wouldn't have been possible, but it was a very exciting turn.

All over the north section of the battlefield battered units reorganise. US artillery are pummelling the battered PG with the Sig 33s, and they become disorganised. The Jagdpanzers are up and running again, albeit still with a few hits.

The Jagdpanthers keep up a desultory fire on Dom Butgenbach while armoured PG move up in support. I would have reorganised them, but didn't have the supply capacity.

In the north both sides infantry keep reorganising while under shell fire. One lorried PG company moves up to assault the US infantry and and is heavily shelled.

In a bold move the Pz IV/70s cross the stream, heading for the fourth objective. The battered Sherman company doesn't really have any choice but to block the move, and US infantry reoccupy Dom Butgenbach. The US just need to hold one objective to win, so perhaps I should have concentrated on the town, but that sounds like defeatism!

The US infantry in the woods have now taken six hits, just one left, but repel the PG assault. Again, I should have retreated the Germans at this point. The US can't reorg as they were assaulted,

The Jagdpanzers assault the Shermans, behind artillery fire!

They easily shrug off the US defensive fire and overrun the remaining US tanks.

The Jagdpanthers move up to the town, covered by the PG on the hill. The PG in the woods reorg after their successful assault (which left them disorganised). The US defenders are completely surrounded now. Alamo, Alamo!

It is turn 12, but the random game end roll indicates another turn....

And on turn 13, shot in by almost all the remaining German units, the Jagdpanthers overrun the town.

Oooh, that was so close. If I'd not made the mistakes with the failed assaulting units not retreating, the US would have had that. 

Final view of the battlefield. The US have been wiped out, but the Germans have also suffered brutally, losing four complete companies and all the remainder with varying degrees of damage.

That was really hard for the Germans, as most of their units aren't that tough, and every time they exposed anyone to view, the US could drop 4D6 of artillery on them, plus whatever other direct fire assets they had. tbh, the US should win that most of the time.

One tweak I should do to the scenario is allow the Germans two supply units. They have eight combat units (plus two artillery), so even with two LOG columns, the ratio would be 1:5, whereas the US have a supply ratio of 1:3.5, which is a large advantage in a defensive fight as they can just sit tight and reorg hits off. Like Dom Butgenbach, worth another play through I think, but I'm pleased this One Hour variant works for historical scenarios as well as the standard OHW ones.

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