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Tactics in 'Battle of the Bulge'
Scenario 12: Fuller’s Counterattack
By Doug McNair
June 2006

Panzer Grenadier: Battle of the Bulge is back in stock at last, and that’s a perfect excuse to write my first tactics article on it. The best starting approach with Bulge is to tackle a combat situation that captures the feel of the first few days of battle, when thinly-strung-out U.S. infantry tried desperately to hold back massive German armored columns pushing westward through the Ardennes Forest.

No scenario does this better than “Fuller’s Counterattack,” in which E and F Companies of the 110th Infantry Regiment try to hold the road west of the town of Marnach against 2nd Panzer Division. Company B had been the U.S. garrison at Marnach, but after Day 1 of the German offensive there was no word from them. On Day 2 the regimental commander, Colonel Fuller, decided to send a small tank and infantry reserve up from the south to help secure the road and relieve Company B (if they were still there — which they weren’t ...).

Scenario Setup

The scenario is a quick one — only nine turns long. It is played on boards 9 and 11 set up side-by-side in a square, with board nine placed right side up on the left and board 11 upside-down on the right.

The Americans start on Board 9 within five hexes of the west edge. Half the German units are an advance force consisting of grenadiers, heavy machine gun and mortar platoons, and a few tank and self-propelled artillery platoons. They start anywhere on Board 11. The other half are an armored column driving westward, and they enter the east board edge starting on Turn 2, with no more than five German units able enter the board each turn.

Player Objectives

The German objectives are to keep control of all town hexes on Board 11 (Marnach), and to have the entire armored column exit the west edge and take no more than two step losses. The American objective is to take back control of Marnach, or eliminate six German steps, or keep all German units from exiting the west edge.

American Tactics

Companies E and F consist of seven infantry platoons, two heavy machine gun platoons, an 81mm mortar platoon and two truck platoons. They set up within five hexes of the west edge of Board 9, which is dominated by a lightly wooded hill with a crossroads at the summit.

The Germans will come down the road from the east, so the most obvious American set up point is the crossroads. This works for starters (it’s the farthest east they can set up anyway), but on Turn 1 the Americans should advance eastward to take up positions at the base of the hill. This still gives them plenty of cover, a –2 defensive column shift bonus for being in light woods on a hill, and a +1 defesive column shift bonus against German assaults coming from lower ground.

Most importantly, the Americans will have a clear shot at the incoming German grenadiers, and will hopefully be able to weaken them significantly before they hit the American position. And the Americans will have plenty of defensible fallback positions behind them, so the Germans will pretty much have to destroy all the American units to get them off the road and the armored column off the board.

Colonel Fuller’s reinforcements consist of one platoon of M4 Sherman tanks and one of infantry. They enter at or near the road at the south edge of Board 9 on Turn 1. They can either drive up the road from the south to support the roadblock, or they can head east through the woods to attack Marnach and harass the armored column as it heads west. Given the huge German superiority in anti-tank firepower and numbers, I think it’s best for the U.S. to keep their only armor support up on the hill in the woods, where they’re as protected as possible and can fire down at the Panzers as they come up the road.

But it’s important for the Americans to attack Marnach from the south so that the Germans have to hold forces back and protect the town. A couple of infantry platoons plus a leader placed at the south board edge will do fine for this effort, and Fuller’s reinforcements can drive north to the roadblock full-speed when they enter.

German Tactics

The German player must clear the Americans off the road as quickly as possible, and must be double-sure to get rid of the Shermans before the thin-skinned armored cars and APCs of the German armored column get within range of them. American tanks have armor efficiency, meaning they can make two AT attacks per turn, so if the Shermans can get just one turn’s fire at choice targets they can eliminate two armored column steps and destroy any German chance for victory.

The German advance force includes a StuGIIIg and a Panzer IVF2 platoon, and these should be detailed immediately to hunt down the Shermans and kill them while the grenadiers attack the roadblock. Once the Shermans are gone, the panzers and StuGs can join the fight and help destroy the roadblock so the armored column can breeze by unmolested later.

The Germans should leave their HMG platoons behind with a couple of leaders to guard Marnach, which includes an inconveniently isolated hamlet in the woods southwest of town. The German player should place one HMG platoon in the hamlet (where it will have a good, protected firing position on any approaching U.S. infantry) and another in the town proper to the north. All other units of the advance force should head west to hit the roadblock, and if the Americans make a real go of attacking Marnach, the armored column can tarry for a turn or two and blow them away.

Game Summary

Here’s what happened in a recent game.

Turn 1: 0715 Hours

Both sides have an initiative of 3, and on the first turn the U.S. wins initiative by one activation. The American player has five INF and two HMG platoons in the three hexes north, at and south of the crossroads, with the mortar platoons on the backside of the hill and two INF platoons at the south end of the hill. Six of the crossroads units move two hexes east to the base of the hill, while one HMG platoon takes up position on the road behind them, at the edge of the summit.

The German player has his on-board units strung out on the road east of the hill. He activates them and heads west. The units on point are a German lieutenant, the PzIVF2 platoon and a GREN platoon riding an SPW 251 halftrack (APC). They advance to the edge of the woods, two hexes east of the American advance position, and the GREN unloads from the halftrack. The StuG and five more GREN platoons move in behind them, and the half-strength GREN stays back in Marnach with two HMG units and the Wespe self-propelled artillery. The German mortars are on a hill north of the town.

The American mortar fire has no effect. The German mortars reply and hit the American units on the road, disrupting their Captain. The American offboard artillery is also ineffective, and fire from the Wespe in Marnach demoralizes an INF platoon north of the road.

Then the Sherman tanks and infantry enter the board on the road from the south. The Shermans advance just far enough to the north that the panzers and APCs on-point are five hexes away and the higher-firepower StuGs are six hexes away (giving the STUGs a long-distance fire penalty vs. the Shermans).

German offboard artillery hits the INF platoons south of the road but has no effect. Then the American infantry at the south end of the hill moves east, and the turn ends.

0730

The U.S. wins initiative and the Sherman tanks on the hill open fire. The first shot goes wide, but the second is an 11 + 1 (for the Sherman’s AT firepower of 5 vs. the PzIV’s armor of 4) for 12, which destroys one step of the leading PzIVF unit and demoralizes the other!

The German offboard artillery then opens fire on the Americans on the road, demoralizing an INF unit. American fire from platoons just south of the road has no effect, and German mortar fire on units north of the road disrupts the lieutenant and the non-demoralized INF unit there.

Those Americans try to recover morale, and the disrupted INF does but the demoralized one does not and flees northwest. Then all five tank and armored-car units of the armored column enter the east board edge. They stop in Marnach to keep out of range of the Shermans.

American offboard artillery shifts its target to GRENs farther east on the road (the +2 morale bonus of the German lieutenant on point is too tough to overcome), and it disrupts one GREN and demoralizes another! Wespe fire then disrupts one INF unit south of the road.

The demoralized American INF unit on the road recovers to disrupted status, and then the on-point German units activate, with the lieutenant, GREN and APC moving west on the road and adjacent to the American roadblock. The only good-order, unactivated American units remaining at the roadblock are the two HMGs, and one opens up with point-blank opportunity fire. It rolls a 4 on the 22 column and scores an X result, doing one step loss to the GREN and disrupting it. The demoralized panzer on point fails to recover morale and flees east to Marnach.

The reinforcing INF unit heads north on the road toward the roadblock, and then the remaining GRENs on the road activate, with three heading west and the rest trying to recover morale with the help of a captain. Two make it adjacent to the roadblock with no ill effect from the HMGs there, and a third brings up the rear. The captain is unable to help either of the remaining GRENs on the road recover, and the demoralized one flees east to Marnach. The American infantry south of the hill head east, and then the StuGs fire on the Shermans. The first shot misses, but the second scores a modified 11 and destroys one step of the Shermans, disrupting the other.

American mortar fire is ineffective, and the turn ends. The Americans have suffered two step losses (tanks count double), and the Germans have suffered three.

0745

The Americans win the initiative roll. The only good-order officer on the roadblock line is the lieutenant at the south end, and he orders the unit in his hex and on the road to open fire point-blank on the Germans. He and his units disrupt the GREN next to him and demoralize their major, and then the HMG and INF on the road to the north of the lieutenant roll a 3 on the 22 table, scoring an X result. The reduced, disrupted GREN on the road east of them is eliminated and the other one rolls a 12 and is demoralized.

The Germans respond by having their StuGs shoot at the Shermans on the hill, but they roll two modified 9s, both of which bounce shells off the Shermans and do no damage. The Shermans (disrupted but not out of it) respond by blowing up the German APC next to the roadblock, leaving the über-lieutenant with nothing but disrupted and demoralized troops and no chance to assault the roadblock line this turn.

The Germans start shelling the roadblock again, and their offboard artillery disrupts an INF unit there. American offboard artillery and German mortar fire are both ineffective, and the turn ends on a Fog of War roll! This is very bad for the Germans, who must start humpin’ it west ASAP to make it off the edge in time.

The Americans have still taken only two step losses, while the Germans have now taken five.

0800

German initiative is now down to 2 (they lose one initiative for every four step losses), but they win the initiative roll. The StuGs roll two modified 12s and blow up the Shermans on the hill with one hit to spare. The German armored column can now head west without fear.

The roadblock opens up on the Germans point-blank again, but has no effect this time. But the demoralized INF unit on the road recovers. Then the German tanks from the armored column head west to link up with the StuGs and GRENs near the roadblock, while the speedy Sdkfz 234/2 armored car heads south to the hamlet outside Marnach to help the HMG there defend against the American infantry advance (it can always zip up to town and off the west edge later). American and German offboard artillery are both ineffective, as is American mortar fire. Then most of the rest of the German armored column enters the east board edge and stops at Marnach, waiting for its trailing units to catch up.

The disrupted American Lieutenant north of the road has his INF unit fire on the one good-order GREN near the roadblock, but it has no effect, and the lieutenant fails to recover morale. The über-lieutenant orders the GREN unit to move adjacent to the roadblock while he helps the rest of the units there recover morale (American opportunity fire is ineffective).

Then the U.S. infantry south of the hill does its duty and charges headlong at the hamlet outside Marnach, hoping to get as close as possible before the armored cars can join in the fun. Long-range opportunity fire from the HMG platoon there is ineffective, and the Americans get to within three hexes of the hamlet.

The other German HMG and reduced GREN unit in Marnach move southwest to provide flanking fire on the Americans, and the reinforcing American lieutenant and INF moves up from the south to join the HMG on the road behind the roadblock (something tells him the roadblock will be falling back soon, what with all those shiny German tanks down there).

The Wespe hits the roadblock but is ineffective, and the demoralized American INF unit keeps fleeing northwest. Then the demoralized German major next to the roadblock rolls a 12 on his recovery roll and deserts, leaving the über-lieutenant alone with his opinion that he richly deserves a promotion. The turn ends with more failed recovery rolls.

The Americans have now taken four step losses, and the Germans are holding steady at five.

0815

Both sides have an initiative of 2 now (the Americans lose one for every three steps lost), and the Germans win initiative. All German tanks open fire on the roadblock line, demoralizing the lieutenant north of the road and an INF unit on the road. The south end of the line responds but is ineffective.

German offboard artillery fire then disrupts the forward HMG at the roadblock, and the lieutenant on the hill behind the roadblock links all good-order units in the roadblock into one fire group while trying to get the rest to recover morale. The fire is ineffective and so are the recoveries, with the INF unit on the road fleeing west.

The über-lieutenant’s one good-order GREN opens fire on the American INF north of the road while he gets the two disrupted GRENS to recover morale. The American INF becomes disrupted while both GRENs recover to good order. American mortar fire is ineffective, and then the advance section of the armored column heads west and lines up its APCs with the tanks and GRENs at the roadblock.

American offboard artillery and mortar fire from both sides is ineffective, but Wespe fire at the INF and HMG on the road behind the roadblock rolls a 3, demoralizing the INF and disrupting the HMG.

The two American INF platoons decide not to assault the hamlet frontally, but skirt around the hill and cut off the armored car’s route back to Marnach. It goes badly — one INF is disrupted and the other demoralized by opportunity fire before they’ve gone two hexes. The rest of the armored column enters the board and makes it to Marnach, and the turn ends with recoveries.

Step losses still stand at Americans four, Germans five.

0830

Both sides roll a 1 for initiative, and this means a random event occurs. The players roll one die each and the combined result is a 10, which on the Random Events Table is “Ammunition Shortage.” They roll another die and it comes up 5, which means the American player can’t use offboard artillery for the rest of the game.

The Germans win initiative, and a stack with a captain and two tank units from the armored column activates, so all adjacent German tanks plus all non-armored German units in chain of command from the captain can activate as well. The tanks and halftracks of the armored column provide covering fire for the GRENs of the advance force assaulting the roadblock.

Fire at the road hex gets an X result, destroying one HMG step (its morale holds at disrupted, as does its captain). Other fire is ineffective, but then the assault goes in. The German assault south of the road gets disrupted, but the über-lieutenant demoralizes the American reduced-strength HMG on the road plus its captain.

All American units on Board 9 except the mortar unit are either disrupted, demoralized, or in an assault hex. The units south of the road counter-assault and demoralize the lone GREN in the hex. Then German artillery opens up and rolls a 12 on the Americans north of the roadblock, but they all hold their (shaky) morale!

The demoralized Americans in the road hex with the über-lieutenant fail to recover from demoralization and exit the hex, and the “free shot” from the lieutenant and the grenadiers eliminates both the reduced-strength HMG and their captain.

Wespe fire then hits the road hex beyond, rolling a 3 on the 16 table, demoralizing everyone there. All American units on the road are now demoralized, and the just-demoralized units try to recover. The lieutenant and INF unit do but the HMG does not and flees west. Then the armored car from the hamlet heads up to Marnach and west on the road, arriving at the point of the advance to assist the über-lieutenant. American mortar fire hits that hex but is ineffective — but the turn ends on a Fog of War roll, giving the Americans a huge break with only three turns left!

The Americans have now taken six step losses and the Germans are holding at five.

0845

American initiative is now at 1 while German initiative is still at 2. The Germans win initiative by two activations, and the über-lieutenant accepts help from the armored car platoon and assaults the Americans on the road ahead. The Germans roll a 5 on the 24 column while the Americans roll a 1 on the 5 column. The Americans are steamrollered, with their INF unit taking two step losses and their lieutenant demoralized and ejected into the hex with his demoralized co-lieutenant north of the road. Then the armored column activates and heads west, with some units offroading it to get around the über-lieutenant’s fully-stacked hex.

The Americans in the assault hex south of the road assault the lone, demoralized, half-strength GREN there to get rid of him while a disrupted American unit in the hex recovers morale. Somehow, the assault fails and the demoralized GREN is unharmed. Then German offboard artillery hits the Americans there and rolls a 3, demoralizing one of them. But it also scores an X result on the reduced-strength German GREN, wiping it out!

The leaderless, demoralized HMG and INF platoons in the road hex three away from the west board edge both recover morale, all on their own. The roadblock lives! But then Wespe fire demoralizes the HMG there again.

Mortar fire from both sides is ineffective. Then the stack north of the road with two demoralized leaders and a disrupted INF unit activates. The leaders both fail to recover and flee north to the woods, but the leaderless, disrupted INF unit moves one hex southeast (equidistant from the adjacent Germans) to block the road and get between the two sections of the armored column. It’s so crazy it just might work. ...

The straggling GREN and truck units rush up to the interfering Americans who just blocked the road west, with GRENs unloading from trucks so they can fire on the Americans next turn. The turn ends on recovery rolls.

The Americans have now taken eight step losses, and the Germans have taken six.

0900

American initiative is now 1 and German is 2, and the Germans win initiative by two activations. A lieutenant (not über), a loaded APC and two PzIVHs at the point of the westward advance assault the leaderless roadblockers three hexes from the west board edge. The demoralized HMG and disrupted INF platoon mount a glorious last-ditch defense, becoming demoralized but rolling a 5 on the 5 column to score an M1 result on the Germans. The German lieutenant is disrupted, and a panzer unit rolls an 11 for morale and is demoralized.

At this point, it’s all over. The Americans have already scored a win with 6 step losses on the Germans, and the only way the Germans can also win and force a draw is to exit their entire armored column off the west edge. With the Last Stand of the 110th, the point of the German armored column is demoralized, and there’s no way they can recover and make it off the west edge by the end of next turn.

Colonel Fuller’s Counterattack stops the German advance, and the Americans win! Tune in next time for my tactics article on Scenario 28: The second attack on the town of Marvie by 901st Panzer Grenadier.

This piece originally appeared in June 2006.

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