Panzer Lehr:
Scenario Preview, Part II

By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
September 2015

Panzer Grenadier is a platoon-scale game, in which players command a force ranging from about the size of a battalion to the size of a brigade. Despite that, from the very earliest stages of designing the game I’ve always thought of the forces involved in terms of divisions.

At one point, well before Al Gore’s very useful invention, I had this vision of a shared game environment in which many players took the roles of division commanders and charted the course of Operation Barbarossa through the results of their Panzer Grenadier play. A few years after that, the various “Living” campaigns began for Dungeons&Dragons, with some similarities as role-playing campaigns were conducted by groups around the world, all using a shared background.

That idea was, at the time, so impractical as to be mad as a Belgian (though it probably could be made to work now, particularly in a smaller theater of war like North Africa). But I did have ideas that were much more reality-based: division-themed expansion sets with pieces in their own color scheme and scenarios for their use. Since after all, you’d need these to play Living Barbarossa.

Panzer Lehr follows this model: it covers one division with 176 special pieces, a great set of scenarios, and a full campaign game. Here’s the second installment of Mike Perryman’s scenarios for the book:

Scenario Ten
Chateau de Cordillon
18 June 1944
As part of the effort to finally take Tilly the Allies ordered the 231st Infantry Brigade to secure the Chateau de Cordillon. If it could be secured, the chateau would not only put pressure on the defenders in Hottot but would threaten to severe communications between the two towns. The British sent all three battalions to subdue the chateau.

Note: This scenario requires a board from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Beyond Normandy. Use British leaders from Beyond Normandy.

Despite the additional British manpower the Germans turned back the attack with the assistance of a counterattack by the ever-present Panthers. Since their arrival the Panther tanks had been thrust into many rapidly deteriorating situations, and more times than not, pulled Panzer Lehr’s schnitzel out of the fire. The Allies first encountered the Panther tank a year before, and the Americans in particular seemed unconcerned about finding a way to counter them. On the other hand, when the British found the Churchill unable to mount the excellent 17 pounder, they started installing them in Sherman tanks instead. While matching the Panther's firepower, its armor and optics were still inferior. The Americans not only scorned the Firefly, but even after meeting the Panther, put no urgency into deploying the Pershing tank. The Allied tankers paid in blood for this short-sightedness.

The British go out with a hot little scenario: Panthers against Fireflies, with large forces slugging it out on just one map board. The British have a big edge in manpower, but Panzer Lehr’s Panthers outnumber the Fireflies and badly outgun the normally-armed Shermans that make up most of the British tank force.

Scenario Eleven
Misinterpreted Intentions
11 July 1944
Over the previous few days the Americans had consolidated their defenses protecting St. Lo. Intelligence determined that SS Reich was stretched too thin to properly respond to the American pressure, and that a retreat was imminent. Therefore, when increased enemy activity was noted opposite the 9th Infantry Division, the U.S. First Army Headquarters concluded the Germans were pulling out.

Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France in addition to pieces from Elsenborn Ridge, Battle of the Bulge, and this supplement. Use American and Luftwaffe leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.

Long after American artillery units far to the rear reported German intrusions, First Army Headquarters still refused to believe that the Germans were not pulling out. Not until a battalion headquarters was overrun did they start to take the matter seriously. Luckily, the front-line soldiers recognized the gravity of the situation and responded accordingly. Despite little outside help the American line units soon stabilized the situation, and by noon Panzer Lehr had shot their bolt.

The Americans enter the fray with a wild alley fight: ten German tank units face off against 15 American ones, on just two mapboards. The odds are about even in terms of manpower, morale and artillery – Panzer Lehr gets some help from a battalion of paratroopers, but the Americans get a force from the Spearhead Division.

Scenario Twelve
An Urban Legend is Born
12 July 1944
On the first day of Operation Cobra the U.S. 9th Infantry Division received the task of securing Marigny and the surrounding high ground. After studying the maps, Corps Commander Manton Eddy concluded his boys of the 9th – his former command, and considered by some the best-trained American infantry division - were in for a tough day.

Note: This scenario requires boards from Eastern Front in addition to pieces from Battle of the Bulge and Elsenborn Ridge. Use American and German SS leaders from Elsenborn Ridge and Luftwaffe leaders from Battle of the Bulge.

Despite another short drop by American bombers Operation Cobra went on more or less as planned. General Eddy quickly replaced his spearhead formations that had been devastated by the “friendly” bombing. Men like Captain Matt Urban, who escaped from a hospital despite a serious leg wound, led their men forward. Though still far short of Marigny, the Americans pushed a mile beyond the Periers-St. Lo road before digging in for the night.

The Americans deploy the entire 60th Infantry Regiment, plus attached engineers, tanks and tank destroyers on a very narrow front, backed by good artillery support plus aircraft. Panzer Lehr has to stop them with a panzer grenadier battalion backed by a handful of tanks, a battered and low-morale parachute battalion, and eventually a small SS battle group.

Scenario Thirteen
Road to St. Gilles     
26 July 1944
The final plans of Operation Cobra called for the armor divisions to be held in reserve until Marigny and St. Gilles fell into U.S. hands. By the evening of the 25th, the Germans still held both villages, but CCA from 2nd Armored Division rumbled southward nonetheless. Panzer Lehr quietly prepared to receive the Americans after receiving control of the remnants of the 275th Infantry Division and the 14th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, 5th Fallschirmjäger Division. While the 275th Infantry was a competent outfit, the Fallschirmjägers were a completely different matter. They lacked training, weapons, complete uniforms and shockingly possessed few if any helmets. Little was to be expected of them in the coming fray.
Note: This scenario uses boards from 1940: The Fall of France in addition to pieces from Battle of the Bulge and Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge and Luftwaffe leaders from Battle of the Bulge.

The Germans doggedly contested each hedgerow slowing the column to a crawl. Even worse, recent tests showing the 76mm gun inadequate to deal with Panther tanks were proven accurate. Luckily for the harried tankers, Army Air Corps General Pete Quesada's “cover column” concept of close air support proved devastating. This provided the thin edge needed for the tankers to secure St. Gilles. Surprisingly, they were not allowed to rest there as General Rose wanted to continue southward despite the coming nightfall.

The Americans are on the attack down a long corridor, with Panzer Lehr deploying a mixed battlegroup of tanks and infantry in their path plus the remnants of that sorry paratrooper outfit. The Americans muster overwhelming force: 27 tank units plus a huge array of supporting infantry and other arms, and they get air cover every turn.

Scenario Fourteen
An Ironic Twist
26 July 1944
Although the Germans stymied Operation Cobra at the point of attack on the previous day by determined defense, they had been hurt far worse than most Americans realized. One man who understood the situation was General "Lighting Joe" Collins who looked past the gloom and doom reports from his spearhead units and sensed victory. It was a good thing for the Allies that he controlled the armored reserve, because he sent them forward early on the 26th even the planned battlefield conditions for their employment had not been met.

Note: This scenario uses boards from Eastern Front and Battle of the Bulge in addition to pieces from Battle of the Bulge and Elsenborn Ridge. Use American and German SS leaders from Elsenborn Ridge and Luftwaffe leaders from Battle of the Bulge.

Before going forward, Colonel Truman D. Boudinot gathered his commanders together and grimly informed them, "We're going to make a breakout . . . even if means the elimination of CCB." Things started well as the 18th Infantry Regiment passed through the 9th Infantry Division without a hitch. That was the last good news Colonel Boudinot received that day. The rest of his command struggled just to reach the front. Later, a massive air strike failed to suppress the defenders at Marigny, and they bloodily repulsed all CCB efforts to dislodge them.

In the midst of the confusion and killing, Sergeant E. A. Struble and his crew lay helpless in a field after their tank was destroyed. A persistent machine gunner turned back all German efforts to reach them. In an ironic twist, unbeknownst to either man, his twin brother Elmer was firing that machine gun.

This scenario stretches things out a little toward more usual Panzer Grenadier unit densities, with somewhat smaller forces brawling over a larger battlefield. This time Panzer Lehr faces the Big Red One, so they’re at a morale disadvantage and while the Americans don’t have nearly as many tanks this time, the Germans have but two anti-tank gun units and no tanks of their own.

Scenario Fifteen
Horrors and Heroes
27 July 1944
Second Armored’s men expected and wanted a rest after securing St. Gilles, but General Maurice Rose relentlessly pushed them southward. Enemy resistance was light and progress good but the Germans were not quite finished. As the Americans approached Le Mesnil-Herman Panzer Lehr awaited to ambush them.

Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.

The German defenders were professionals who hadn't survived the carpet bombing to be displaced by a group of hastily-advancing GIs. On the other hand Lieutenant George Wilson was in combat for the first time. While passing through St. Gilles he shot an enemy tank commander, and here burned his hands when a grenadier hit the tank he was riding upon with a panzerfaust. As the fight became embroiled, the supporting American tanks raced away leaving Lieutenant Wilson and the infantry on their own. He led his men, screaming and tossing hand grenades, through the night a quarter mile back to safety without losing a man. His men returned the favor by making sure he received a Silver Star for his efforts.

This is a fun little scenario, a sharp contrast to the preceding battles of large forces jammed into small areas. An American task force of one tank and one infantry companies has to make it across two boards, opposed by a Panzer Lehr task force of a reinforced company plus a tank platoon.

Scenario Sixteen
Hill 183
27 July 1944
While the enemy controlled Hill 183 Combat Command A could not reach Le Mesnil-Herman in force. A small battle group had slipped by earlier but way too many Germans occupied the hill, which dominated the one good road, for larger forces to pass safely. Headquarters had attached the 22nd Infantry Regiment to CCA for just this eventuality. Long before dawn they launched their attack.

Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.

Night made it nearly impossible for the Americans to locate the well-disciplined defenders until they fired. The coming of daylight facilitated locating the defenders and taking appropriate action against them. Daylight also allowed the supporting armor to act more aggressively in cooperation with the infantry, since increased sighting range diminished the threat of a panzerfaust hit. Even with all these advantages it still took long past noon to secure Hill 183.

The Americans get to drive south down a narrow corridor, with a balanced battle group of tanks and infantry. Panzer Lehr is outnumbered, but not badly so, and fields its own balanced battle group of infantry and heavy weapons but only a handful of tanks. This scenario should produce some tense game action, and hit a nice mean between large and small.

Scenario Seventeen
Once Again Into the Breach, Dear Boys
27 July 1944
General Rose’s anxiety to push southward faster necessitated that Le Mesnil-Herman be taken. Headquarters drew up yet another plan — this time a coup de main. When the orders came down, it surprised Lieutenant Wilson to learn that his platoon would spearhead today's effort to capture the village.

Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from and Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
Lieutenant Wilson's platoon led the way as ordered. Entering the battle area another American tank commander showed his disdain for combined arms action by racing ahead alone and quickly paid the price for his folly when a panzerfaust knocked out the tank. The overzealous tanker could not be called a coward as he climbed from his burning tank and captured the six Germans responsible for destroying his tank. The tanker turned the prisoners over to Lieutenant Wilson who then accompanied a party out to retrieve the two wounded American tankers in the wrecked tank. As the casualties were being loaded into the ambulance a direct hit on one of the stretcher-borne men drove the soldiers to weep openly, unable to accept death in this form. By mid-afternoon CCA overcame their obstacle and raced south against little organized resistance.  

This time the Americans have overwhelming force: a dozen tank units plus a battalion and a half of infantry, good artillery support and air cover every turn. The outnumbered defenders get to set up half their force hidden, and they’re going to need every advantage they can get. The Americans have a difficult mission, on the other hand, and are going to need all of their force to clear out Panzer Lehr.

Scenario Eighteen
Feces Hits the Rotating Oscillator
27 July 1944
The GIs of CCA had pushed hard for the last 36 hours, catching what little sleep they could while trying to keep the Germans on the run. When the commanders attended their 1600 hours conference with General Rose on the 27th, they assumed it was to discuss the next day’s plan. They were wrong. Shortly thereafter the cavalry began racing south once again.

Note: This scenario uses boards from Eastern Front and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.

General Rose hoped Le Denisiere and possibly Villebaudon would be taken before night fell. Alas, it was not to be. The cavalry became entangled with the resisting enemy before advancing much further. The superior armament of Panzer Lehr's armored cars allowed them to dictate the terms of the engagement. Before long, General Rose had to accept that the Germans had been pushed as far as possible today.

This time it’s a clash of cavalry screens, as Panzer Lehr’s reconnaissance battalion works to stop an American mechanized cavalry squadron from sneaking past. It’s a fun scenario with small fast forces jetting across just two map boards with no artillery or air support.

Click here to order Panzer Lehr

Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.