Panzer Grenadier: 1940 The Fall of France
Scenario Preview, Part Two
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
It’s my intent to make every Panzer Grenadier game as good as Broken Axis and Fire in the Steppe. Those two, to my eye, set a standard. And our ejection from game distribution following publication of Black Panthers (with a Black man on the cover!) was financially painful, but it also gives us an unusual opportunity.
We’re shifting the older games from boxes to Playbook format; with shelf sales in stores now very limited, the boxes become much less necessary. That means that most of them need their scenario books revised anyway, to fit the new format (printing methods make the page count more rigid than a stapled booklet). So we’re taking advantage of that to re-work some of the older titles into the same format as our more recent games: with chapter structure, more history and battle games to link the scenarios together.
Let’s have a look at the second half of Chapter One of 1940: The Fall of France:
Pan, dans la gueule à Jean!
10 May 1940
In the southern part of the Belgian Ardennes, French cavalry of the 2nd DLC formed the first line of defense on the first day of the German attack. Several squadrons of the 5th Cuirassiers held positions scattered among the small villages near Etalle and waited for the Germans to appear. A forward platoon sent to the Ste-Marie railway station was quickly overrun, but at the village of Poncelle the cavalry held well-prepared positions and decided to show their valor.
The first German tanks were quickly destroyed by a French AT gun, and as soon as the German infantry came into view it was “Pan, dans la gueule à Jean!” (“Boom, in your face!”). But the German ground attacks grew in intensity along with their artillery fire, and soon the French couldn’t see their enemy due to smoke from burning buildings and dust kicked up by shellfire. French artillery support remained unavailable, and it soon became clear that the brave cavalrymen couldn’t hope to resist the German onslaught. They left the village as darkness fell.
Finally, the French get mounted cavalry! Unfortunately, this is also the scenario where the German start to deploy real tanks. Once again it’s a delaying action, with a small force of dismounted French cavalry trying to hold up a German tank-infantry force. But this time the cavalry comes riding to the rescue!
An Aborted Counterattack
10 May 1940
Buzenol, south of Etalle, Belgium
Brigadier-General Paul-Constant-Amédée Gastey of the 12th Light Motorized Brigade crossed into Belgium around noon and took command of the 2nd DLC’s forward elements. Those included his own unit, plus elements of the division’s horsed cavalry brigade and artillery regiment. After consulting with his commanders, Gastey decided to counter-attack in the late afternoon to re-capture the crossings of the Semois River.
While the German vanguard continued westward, attacking Poncelle and Villers sur-Semois, smaller groups occupied Etalle and dug in there. At 1822, three Panzer II light tanks attacked Buzenol. Three minutes later, two platoons of French H35 light tanks counter-attacked, destroying one panzer and driving off the others. At 1930 the commander of the attached 16th Reconnaissance Group, Lt. Col. André Charles Marie Joseph Abrial, cancelled the attack on Etalle. The town was only defended by the staff of the German 10th Panzer Division, and the French counter-attack had an excellent chance of success – the re-capture of Etalle would allow the French to defend along the river and considerably slow the German advance. But it was not to be.
Another brand-new scenario! The forces aren’t very large, but it’s a reasonably-sized battlefield and the French get to attack. Both sides have tanks (not very good ones), but French tanks are marginally better and they have more of them. The French really should have gone forward with this operation.
Wagram and Tilsit
11 May 1940
Suxy, South of Neufchâteau, Belgium
On May 10th, the 1st Cavalry Brigade received the signal “Wagram and Tilsit,” which directed them to advance east into the Belgian Ardennes and up to the Semois River. As the brigade moved out, they made no contact with the enemy, and the local Belgian populace came out to cheer them on. The Germans were actually farther to the east, having been delayed by elements of the 2nd DLC and the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais. Finally, during the night of May 11, the French cavalry was ordered to move forward and establish a defensive line at the Vierre River near the village of Suxy. The first units arrived in the deep valley at 0530 and dug in.
The Germans approaching Suxy encountered two French cavalry squadrons on the road but eliminated them quickly. They then advanced toward the bridge, but the French sappers blew it up before the Germans reached it. A long firefight ensued between the opposing forces on opposite banks of the river, but the French were finally given the order to retreat that afternoon.
It’s another cavalry delaying action, with the French horsemen trying to hold up the Grossdeutschland along a major river. Once again the timely arrival of mounted reinforcements will determine who wins this day. Any scenario that lets you ride down Nazis is a good day’s gaming.
The Battle Game
In our more recent games, we’ve used the concept of “Battle Points” to determine the outcome of the battle game, with scenario victories worth a varying number of such points. Philippe introduces a related but different concept here, the “Delay Point.” The French would like to beat the Germans, sure, but the real task of the 2nd DLC and friends is to slow down the German advance enough for their friends to show up and give the Boche a good hard frappe across the face. It's a fun idea, and easy to implement.
And that’s all for Chapter One; next time we’ll dig into Chapter Two, which doesn’t have as many scenarios but does boast many, many more tanks.
You can order 1940: The Fall of France right here.
Please allow an extra two weeks for delivery.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published a great many books, games and articles on historical subjects; people are saying that some of them are actually good.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children, and new puppy. He misses his lizard-hunting Iron Dog, Leopold.
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