Scenario Preview, Part III
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Opening a new game is a lot of fun: punch out the pieces, pull out the maps, leaf through the scenario book and pick out one of them to play. Then play another, and another.
We’ve always tried to extend that fun as far as we possibly can by filling the games in the Panzer Grenadier series with scenarios. And then we try to extend that fun even more with additional pieces and scenarios in our books and supplements.
Panzer Lehr is just the latest of these expansion sets, a 64-page book packed with scenarios and a full campaign game plus a fine set of 176 laser-cut playing pieces. But it’s the scenarios that form the heart of any Panzer Grenadier game. Here’s the third and final installment of our preview of the Panzer Lehr scenarios.
Prelude to Disaster
27 July 1944
The Ivy Division stepped forward as the driving force in Operation Cobra by shredding the defenses opposing them in only two days. Headquarters expected them to push southward at maximum speed again today. Panzer Lehr, stretched too thin to cover the front assigned to them, organized their defenses as best they could. Assigned to plug the gaps, the 5th Fallschirmjägers were proving of little help, validating Lieutenant Colonel von der Heydte’s scathing assessment of them.
Note: This scenario uses a board from 1940: The Fall of France in addition to pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American and Luftwaffe leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
Enjoying another banner day, the Ivy Division pushed another two miles south shattering the German defenses. This created a textbook opportunity for the American armor to exploit. With the defense in shambles the Germans searched frantically for a solution before disaster came calling. They never did find one, and the near-encirclement at Falaise resulted.
This one’s a sharp contrast to the previous scenario: large forces brawling on a small map board. Panzer Lehr has two reinforced rifle companies, and anti-tank guns and a couple of tank platoons. On the plus side, the infantry is all mounted in halftracks and the tanks are formidable (a Panther and a Jagdpanzer IV). There’s also some rather dubious support of a grossly reduced and low-morale parachute battalion. The Americans wield a formidable force of infantry, with some armor support and self-propelled artillery.
28 July 1944
After seeing his cavalry rebuffed in their effort to secure Villebaudon on the evening of the 27th, General Rose drew up plans for a concentrated effort. The men were able to catch some much-needed sleep while the commanders blearily pressed on with staff work. No one in the field knew the reason they pushed so hard to take Villebaudon, but top Allied brass knew through ULTRA intelligence that the approaching 116th “Greyhound” Panzer Division needed the village secured to strike CCA's open flank.
Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American and German SS leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
The additional preparation and firepower paid off in spades. The Americans quickly liberated Villebaudon but the Germans persisted in launching numerous small counterattacks aimed at cutting CCA's tenuous supply lines. This, along with the knowledge of the forthcoming counterattack, had Third Army place CCA and 113th Cavalry Squadron under XIX Corps to simplify command and control for the coming battle.
Panzer Lehr’s defenders are short of infantry and have just one assault gun platoon, but they are armed with an amazing plethora of support weapons: anti-tank guns, mortars, anti-aircraft guns and self-propelled artillery. The Americans have numbers and artillery in what’s pretty much an open brawl for control of roads and towns.
Just a Little Longer…
29 July 1944
CCA needed to secure their flanks from against potential enemy counterattacks. The previous day’s capture of Villebaudon blocked off one avenue of attack for the approaching panzers. On the 29th CCA headed south to seize Percy and fortify the village before the Germans could bring their strength to bear. If the Americans could secure their left flank there was little organized resistance left between them and the Seine River.
Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
Realizing the seriousness of the situation, General Bayerlein resolved that the Panzer Lehr would hold an attack route open for the approaching panzers. In some of the bitterest fighting of the campaign the Americans forced the Germans out of Percy before the Greyhound Panzer Division could be brought to bear. Nevertheless, the Panzer Lehr earned considerable praise from their opponents for their valor.
It’s a similar scenario to the last but with smaller forces on each side. Panzer Lehr does have artillery support, but it’s one the board where the constant American airpower can get at it. The Americans don’t have as great a numerical advantage this time, but they do have strong artillery support as well as those airplanes.
Crossroads in Hell
30 July 1944
Trying to move large bodies of troops in bocage country was an exercise in frustration. Keeping them supplied was even worse. With few good roads or navigational aids any decent road took on a significance out of portion to those in other environments. A crossroads between two decent roads was a place worth fighting and dying for, or at least ordering others to do so.
Note: This scenario uses boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces and leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
In the last 24 hours the front lines became so fluid staff officers had no idea where they were. Enemy tanks would suddenly materialize in areas thought secure. The Germans forced the 115th Infantry Regiment back just short of Percy, killing 60 men and wounding another 200. The unflappable Lieutenant Colonel John Copper was visiting the front lines when the Germans struck, nearly running him down with a tank. Luckily for his family and future historians he survived.
The Americans are on the attack again, on a narrow front with numbers, artillery and airpower against a mixed tank-infantry force from Panzer Lehr with a good array of support weapons on hand. But they suffer from a divided command, which is going to make it hard to bring all those advantages to bear.
Policing Up the Area
29 October 1944
After liberating St. Lo the battered 29th Infantry Division moved out of line to receive rest and replacements. With a German counter offensive in the offing they quickly returned to the fray. Today’s task: policing up the area behind General Rose's rapidly advancing tankers.
Note: This scenario requires boards from 1940: The Fall of France and pieces from Battle of the Bulge and Elsenborn Ridge. Use leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
Headquarters assumed the area was secure, but the sudden appearance of enemy tanks at Le Denisiere convinced the “29ers” that their policing job had just been upgraded. Even though totally surprised with many men facing panzers for the first time, the “29ers” performed well. They slowly drove the Germans back until they really could call Le Denisiere and Villebaudon secure.
Jumping ahead a few months, we find Panzer Lehr joining up with the 2nd “Vienna” Panzer Division in a pincer attack on an American force strung along a long road. Once again the Americans have a divided command, but while they have airplanes this time the Germans bring good artillery support and a serious edge in armor.
Plug the Hole
23 November 1944
Excellent intelligence allowed the American XV Corps to split the German First and Nineteenth Armies. With no reserves available to plug the hole a cry went up the chain of command for help. The Heer only offered one option, the refitting Panzer Lehr Division who they ordered to concentrate in Sarrebourg and strike south against the exposed American flank. Just to reach the assembly area required a 300 mile march for the rebuilt division.
Note: This scenario requires boards and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
The German First Army commander felt the mission was a fool's errand that would waste men and machines for no purpose. He was overruled, and late in the afternoon Panzer Lehr threw what elements had arrived into the fray. They overcame their first serious challenge to their advance when they quickly pushed aside American screening elements at Hirschland early in the morning.
Panzer Lehr is on the attack! They have numbers, they have superior morale and armor. They also have a very tough task; even though the American cavalry screen opposing them doesn’t have a lot of firepower they are quite mobile.
Roadblock at Ischermuhl
24 November 1944
After brushing aside another cavalry outpost at Weyer, Panzer Lehr continued their advance into the darkness. All went well until approaching Ischermuhl where the Americans deployed tank destroyers to support their infantry. The town held no vital importance but the American’s presence there could not be tolerated.
Note: This scenario requires boards from Eastern Front and Battle of the Bulge and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
The 114th Infantry Regiment held strong throughout that dark night. When daylight arrived events around Rauwiller made their position untenable and they fell back to Schalbach.
Panzer Lehr brings a balanced task force with strong armor support (four platoons of Panthers) for a night attack against dug-in Americans backed by a lone M36 tank destroyer. All German units are mounted in armored halftracks, and they’re going to need that mobility as half of the Americans are hidden in the darkness.
Rauwiller Bump and Run
24 November 1944
After overcoming the resistance at Baerendorf and Hirschland, Panzer Lehr raced south. The American cavalry did their best to slow them down and on nearing Rauwiller the troopers formed up with the 71st Infantry Regiment to make a determined stand. The village controlled the road net in the area and therefore needed to be held. Sprinkled into the mix were a few of the new deadly tank destroyers equipped with the 90mm gun. At first things went well.
Note: This scenario uses a board from 1940: The Fall of France and Battle of the Bulge in addition to pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
The spearhead was fought to a standstill. But soon other forces arrived and started to envelop the village. This threatened to isolate the men who would be needed later to stop the rampaging panzers. After offering what resistance they could the Americans conducted a fighting withdraw to south of the village. Here, according to the American version, they reformed their lines.
The panzers indeed rampage, in a dawn attack that will ultimately include eight platoons of Panzer IV tanks. The American cavalry screen is bulked up by a line infantry battalion but is sorely short of effective anti-tank weaponry.
24 November 1944
Panzer Lehr's advance threatened to thwart American plans so General Eisenhower himself paid a visited XV Corps Headquarters. Missions quickly changed and Corps ordered the 3rd Armored Division to take Panzer Lehr in the flank. Outside of Baerendorf the men of the 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion formed a human chain to cross a freezing stream west of the village. They then threw themselves against the defenders on the high ground surrounding the village.
Note: This scenario uses a board from Elsenborn Ridge and pieces from Elsenborn Ridge. Use American leaders from Elsenborn Ridge.
The engineers working behind the scenes quickly got American armor over the stream to assist in overwhelming the defenders. This tipped the balance in their favor. Even the German commitment of the just-arriving recon battalion couldn't alter the situation and soon the Americans held uncontested control of Baerendorf.
We conclude with a one-board scenario, and this time Panzer Lehr is on the receiving end, as a task force with superior numbers in infantry and armor tries to crush a small defending force from Lehr. But the German player does get to play with TWO Puma armored car units!
And that wraps our scenario overview of Panzer Lehr.
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.