Reading through Steve Jones’ ‘Battle of the Bulge’ scenario, I was immediately struck by how well it would match up with a generic action set in Silesia on the first day of the Polish campaign, 1st September 1939. A passage from Stephen Zaloga’s book The Polish Campaign 1939 sets the scene well, ‘The German 8th and 10th Armies opposite Army Lodz launched a series of infantry attacks on a broad front through the forested frontier areas. While none of these attacks met the main Polish line of defence, which was 15 to 20 kilometres from the border, there were numerous battles on a regimental scale between Polish and German infantry.’ (p.114)
Adapting the scenario
See Steve’s scenario for all the details of the full game set up. It was not difficult to adapt the forces to this earlier period, always with the aim of changing the original scenario as little as possible.
American to Polish – The initial forces are identical. For the reinforcements, the HQ gets a command value of 7 (the standard Polish 1939 value), the Sherman becomes a Renault FT-17 with 37mm gun, and the M10/M18 becomes a towed 37mm anti-tank gun. The mighty Renault is shown in photo 1.
German - The initial German forces were again identical. This involved the CO and HQ taking a one point cut in their usual 1939 CVs, but most accounts of the Polish campaign emphasise how the Germans were very much on a learning curve when the campaign started. The lower CVs would represent this quite nicely. For the German reinforcements, all was the same except that the tanks became one each of a Panzer I, Panzer II and Panzer III.
As far as the scenario was concerned, the only thing to miss out was the optional winter camouflage rule which obviously didn’t apply. The board would be set up as near as possible to Steve’s map. One other minor alteration was to the cardinal points – the Germans would be attacking from the west rather than the east, and so the reinforcement table needed altering.
Due mainly to the cheaper armour, the points are less, giving the Poles 470 and the Germans 720 (using my own stats tables which are only different in a few minor areas from Pete’s). This gives the Germans a points ratio of 1.53 to 1 over the Poles, slightly better than the 1.45 to 1 they had in Steve’s scenario over the Americans. My main concern was that the low CV for the Polish reinforcements would delay their arrival and unbalance the game.
Deployment and plans
Set up was simple – see photo 2. This also shows the deployments of both sides. The Poles concentrated all their forces in the village, except that the mortar was dug in to the rear (photo 3). This seemed a no-brainer as the village was the basic objective and forces were limited. The Germans divided their initial forces in half, intending to advance one half under the HQ to the forward edge of the central wood and provide supporting fire from there for the flanking attack, which was to be led by the CO commanding the other half of the initial forces. The FAO was positioned on the hill at the right flank of the deployment area (photo 4).
Moves 1 to 4
The German CO had a terrible start – he failed his command rolls for the first three moves, then blundered on the 4th. This last roll, however, produced a 6 on the blunder table which we interpreted to allow his units a half move towards the Polish baseline (which was something). The German HQ moved his units to the east edge of the wood as planned (photo 5), but as the Poles hadn’t opened fire or moved, the German units couldn’t target any of the enemy units manning the forward edge of the village. The FAO had the same problem – no visible targets under the LOS rules. The absence of assets was keenly felt.
The Poles had no inclination to fire at anything or to move, so kept their heads down and awaited events. With so little happening, these first 4 moves were completed very rapidly.
The game now began to take off. German reinforcements arrived on the west edge (i.e. the German baseline), as shown in photo 6. They then got 3 successful orders and advanced to the left of the central wood, with the tanks getting ahead (photo 7). The CO was also successful, managing 5 orders on move 5 (including a command bonus) and bringing his forces onto the hill overlooking the south edge of the village (photo 8). There was still no significant firing as the Poles continued to hunker down and therefore couldn’t be targeted.
The Polish reinforcements also arrived this move (photo 9) and received an unexpected and very welcome four orders. They were able to reach the rear of the village, and even open fire on the German CO’s formation, but with little effect. The Polish CO failed his command roll in move 5.
The German tanks advance to within 5cm of the north western village edge, and at last some of the Polish units are ‘discovered’ and can be targeted. Fire from the tanks and the Germans in the wood causes no knock outs, however, and the German CO fails his roll again.
The Polish CO also fails, to the frustration of the Polish player (myself) who withheld initiative fire assuming a command roll of 9 wasn’t too much to ask! The Polish reinforcements do manage some more fire at the Germans on the hill, but still cause no knock outs. Other units of the reinforcing formation enter the village and the anti-tank gun moves round to the right (or north) of the village to counter the German tanks.
German pressure on the village increases, although the Germans stick to their plan with the units in the wood firing rather than advancing in (photo 10 – DSCF2459). No Polish units are lost however.
The Germans now felt the effect of the useful Polish Wz 35 ‘Ur’ anti-tank rifle, fire from which knocked out the Panzer II (photo 11 – DSCF2460). The German CO’s formation received fire from the village and from the Polish reinforcing formation firing from outside the village. Two German infantry units were knocked out here as a result. These were the first casualties of the game. The German FAO continued to have a feeble game, with a series of failed command rolls.
The German FAO continued to screw up, getting a command blunder which (under my amended table) gave a minus 1 to his CV. Two infantry units from the German CO’s formation close assault the south west corner of the village, but are thrown back, with one unit lost (photo 12 – DSCF2461). The Germans continue to pour on the fire from tanks and infantry against the Poles defending the west edge of the village, and at last knock out one infantry unit. The HQ of the Polish reinforcements blunders, and those of his units that are in the open fall back half a move.
The Germans realise that the village will never be taken in the time limit, and units from the reinforcing formation move back from the village edge to avoid the intense anti-tank rifle and machine gun fire they are receiving. The Panzer III is suppressed, however, and stays at the village perimeter (photo 13 – DSCF2468). Despite this withdrawal, German fire is effective again on the Polish defenders and the Polish CO loses 2 more infantry units at the west edge of the village. German artillery finally manages a shoot on the village, and suppresses a further Polish infantry unit. The German CO takes advantage of Polish losses and manages to get 2 infantry units into the south western corner of the built up area (photo14 – DSCF2467). The Poles appear to be on the back foot – all the CO’s units are suppressed (apart from the mortar), and the other HQ blunders and loses a point from its command value. The Polish mortar never fired throughout the game – there were no targets in direct LOS, and its command unit (the Polish CO) stayed inside the village and couldn’t spot for it.
The game was over, and as the Poles still possessed the village, they had won. Gaming time was 2 hours.
Luck on command rolls had been varied but overall had favoured the Poles slightly. Obviously the crucial roll was the arrival of the Polish reinforcements, which had gone better than the Poles could have hoped and had probably won the game for them. The Germans had had a slow start, and it was obvious by around move 6 that capturing the village was unlikely. The main German hope from then was to break the Polish battlegroup and achieve victory that way. Two factors were mentioned by their commander (my stalwart opponent Paul James) as contributing to their failure to achieve this. Firstly, the formation in the centre wood should have advanced into the attack rather than hanging back. Secondly, the artillery was almost totally ineffective. I think I will allocate 4 artillery assets to the Germans when we play this scenario again. Moving the tanks into the attack ahead of the infantry was also a bit suspect, but after the early delays Paul was impatient to establish contact and get firing.
An enjoyable game, and thanks to Steve Jones for the scenario. I look forward to having another go!