Still in the Mist
Al Hurda takes on the game's designer
in the opening round. Ray Freeman has won his own tournament
three times, but not this year.
Peter Perla and Richard Phares battle
in the foreground while Bryan Eshleman and Murray Cowles have
at it behind them.
Once again we had a crop of new players (four in all) who
attended the demo at 6 pm. Unlike 2007, there were two upsets
in the first round. Perennial contender and AGM Jim Winslow agreed
to do a teaching game with newcomer Angus McDonald. Angus learned
well, stopping Jim's German forces cold. In the other surprise,
5th seed Brad Jones was crushed by a "Perfect Storm"
engineered by Bob Hamel. Bob's Germans not only killed every
front line US unit, but also repaired both downed bridges on
16-1. Bastogne fell on 16-2. I never heard of a first impulse
this successful previously.
Other winners included defending champ Bryan Eshleman, who
survived some early successes by Murray Cowles' Germans. (no
bid) Murray cleared Marnach on 16-1, but weas unable to exploit
on the 16th because the bridge stayed down. Murray pressed forward
on the 17th, attacking Bastogne on 17-2. Three Allied units defended
Bastogne and took their lumps, but held. The Germans captured
Bastogne on the 18th, but subsequent assaults netted little gain.
American reinforcements, coupled with German armor losses, doomed
further progress. Murray resigned at the start of the 20th.
Other winners included two-time champ Tom Thornsen, John Ellsworth,
Nathan Trent, Rick Sciacca and Peter Perla.
The GM played a teaching game with new player Al Hurda (Germans)
who gave me a pretty bad time initially. The Germans were into
Lullange on the 16th and I had to abandon St. Vith early due
to high US casualties. On the 17th Al vaporized most of the the
US front line, and I was forced (on 17-1) to put 4x1 SP units
in Bastogne. Al attacked on 17-2 and it was as close to a US
disaster as one can get; he killed three of my defenders. However,
he held off on attacks elsewhere which gave the US a little breathing
room. On 18-1, Bastogne, Rambrouch and Noville fell, but then
the US 18-1 reinforcements arrived, Al's dice cooled, and his
attacks became a bit too conservative. The front moved very little
after that point and the Germans scored no more VPs.
Ray Freeman managed a narrow win against Nathan Trent. On
the first two impulses, Ray's Germans inflicted serious casualties,
and killed both US engineers, assisted by very poor US artillery
support. Then on 17-1, the Germans killed every US unit except
the 3 SP armor. Ray then made a serious error, forgetting to
place the special forces unit to interdict the main N-S road.
On 17-2 Eschdorf fell, but an 8-3 on Bastogne failed to get
one last hit, and a followup 2-1 on 17-3 also failed. The US
counterattacked at 5-6, but took heavy casualties. On 18-1, Bastogne,
Noville and Fauvilliers fell and the US fell back slightly to
form a defensive line along the Ourthe, Houffalize and Vielsalm.
A spoiling 3-5 attack on LaRoche during the evening of the 18th
made it across the river with the bridge intact, but was wiped
out by US defensive fire.
On 19-1, the Germans tried three river crossings, at Champion,
Moircy and La Roche, and all three bridges blew in their face.
Elsewhere, not a single hole was opened. At this point, German
morale plummeted. Two subsequent 1-1 attacks at Houffalize also
On the 20th, the Germans got new life as Vielsalm, Houffalize
and Neufchateau all fell. On 20-2, Baraque and Libramont fell
as the Germans continued to try to work around the edges of the
main US position. Nathan then missed a hole at St. Hubert, and
the Germans poured through weak recon forces and seized Marche
with 653 Pzgr. However, it was instantly retaken by elements
of the US 82 and 101 Airborne, so no German VP were added. However,
the defenders of Moircy were placed OOS and significant territory
grabbed on the southern flank.
On 21-1, Wellin fell due to the 3 bridge rule, and Marche
was attacked at 9-5. This attack was critical as 4 US SP died,
limiting US defensive options. Meanwhile, the Germans got a 1
SP unit into Dinant. In dire straits, Nathan attacked Dinant
with the US 551 Bn, who survived, but failed to kill the German
occupier. Nathan's 1.5 VP bid meant this was a game winner for
the Germans, as he had no other units with which to hit Dinant.
A very close game.
Bryan Eshleman's German forces scored with good attrition
on the first two turns and seized Bastogne on the 18th against
Rick Sciacca. Because Rick had bid 1.5 VP for the US, this meant
a certain loss unless Bastogne could be recovered. Realizing
this, Bryan held Bastogne with 9 SP and when it became obvious
that the town could not be recaptured, Rick resigned.
Tom Thornsen defeated Bob Hamel's Germans. Although Bastogne
fell on 19-1, Bob was unable to make sufficient progress to score
another 3 VP. Marche did fall on the 21st to get Bob to 10 VP,
but that was it.
John Vasilakos defeated Jim Winslow by holding onto Bastogne
throughout the game. John Ellsworth defeated Angus McDonald's
Germans, holding Bastogne until the 20th. Brad Jones got into
the win column playing the US against Al Hurda.
Bryan Eshleman (A) beat Tom Thornsen (no bid)
Tom's Germans got off to a fair start with OK combat results,
and gained ground in the usual manner. But there weren't any
big breakthroughs or big losses on the Allied side. This allows
the Allies to manage their losses in both troops and territory,
which invariably causes the Germans to make ever more desperate
attacks. That usually leads to more German losses, and the cycle
repeats itself. So it went in this game. Tom captured Bastogne
but could make no further progress, and resigned at the end of
John Ellsworth (G) beat Ray Freeman (no bid)
John started off by not attacking Marnach (see comments for the
championship game in round 4), but cleared Holzhum and Lutzkampen,
and got the bridge repaired at Holzhum. Ray made some inexact
moves and managed to lose an engineer at Trois Vierges to isolation.
Martelange fell on 17-2. The US fell back to the line Fauvilliers-Bastogne
(4 SP), Noville, Houffalize and Vielsalm on 17-3.
Two ill-advised entrenching moves on 19-2 at La Roche and
Neufchateau led to disaster as German spearheads were able to
isolate them or they were needed elsewhere. After some maneuvering,
Champion fell to a 2-1 attack on 19-3! The US line was now Ouffet,
Hotton, LaRoche, Bande, Grupont and Libramont.
In an attempt to get desperately needed units back into the
fight, the US gambled with an attack at St Hubert on 20-1. This
seemed to work at first, freeing a surrounded unit at Neufchateau,
but ended up being costly as it reduced the quantity of move-eligible
defenders. On 20-2, the Germans seized Mean and Baillonville,
and the US miscounted a German threat with the Fuh Gren brigade
who seized St. Hubert at 10-3. The final blow on the 20th was
a successful 6-2 attack on Wellin. The bridge failed to blow
and the defenders were wiped out. This left the US with three
holes to plug and only one available unit. Facing a certain breakout,
Jim Winslow (A) beat Al Hurda
Brad Jones (G) beat Nathan Trent
Bob Hamel (G) beat Angus McDonald
Tom Thornsen (A) beat Brad Jones (no bid)
Rick Sciacca(A) beat Murray Cowles
Ray Freeman (A) beat Bob Hamel (1.2 DRM)
Bob's Germans had an excellent (although not perfect) start as
he cleared Vianden, Lutzkampen, and Habscheid and repaired the
Marnach bridge. Ray responded by sacrificing both US engineers,
entrenching one in St. Vith. Bob then killed the units in St.
Vith and Bleialf. Ray realized the situation was critical, and
spent 20 minutes trying to figure a way to salvage the position.
On 16-3 the Germans attacked everywhere, but thankfully (for
Ray) all four of Bob's low odds attacks failed.
On 17-1, Bob vaporized the US line, killing everything but
the 9 CCR and the 70th Tnk, and placing the SF in Baraque to
cut the highway. Ray piled everything into Bastogne (3+1+1) and
prayed. On 17-2, the Germans raced thru the gaps into Rambouch,
Bertogne and Houffalize, and hit Bastogne at 9-5. Two US SP survived.
The US built a line Martelange, Sprimont, La Roche, Baraque,
18-1: Heavy German assaults clear Bastogne (10-2) and La Roche
(7-2). Sprimont (6-3) and Martelange (6-2) hold. A 9-6 at Vielsalm,
fails to break through, but four US SP die! The US then engineers
counterattacks at La Roche (8-6) reducing the Germans to 4x1SP
units, but losing three steps, and a 6-1 at Houffalize, which
captures the town.
On 18-2, Bob cleared Nives at 6-1, but a 4-3 attack at Sprimont
costs the Germans three SP. However, Bob used most of his forward
forces, and missed an impending US counterstroke. Ray stripped
one of the two 1 SP units from Vielsalm and snuck it into Bertogne,
where it could not be attacked. As a result, four Germans in
La Roche were placed OOS and surrendered on 18-3, wiping out
the deepest German penetration.
On 19-1 Vielsalm and Bertogne both fell, but Sprimont held,
despite the fact that two German artillery shots hit. This means
the Germans missed with two armor and seven infantry shots.a
highly unlikely (3%) disaster. In order to (hopefully) prevent
German superiority in Trois Ponts, the US places six SP there,
and retreats from Houffalize to Baraque.
On 19-2 a 6-1 on Baraque succeeds when the last German DR
is a hit. The US passes out of fear to act. On 19-3, the Germans
re-enter La Roche, where Bob and I decide on a clarification
to the 3 bridge blowing rule. (A refusal to blow a bridge counts
as an attempt) The 8-2 attack clears the area. In addition, the
bridge Nives-Moircy does not blow, but the 4-3 attack does little
but establish a bridgehead.
On 20-1, Lignieres falls to a 6-1, Moircy holds, but Grandmenil
falls to a 5-2. The US falls back to the line Libramont-Moircy-Champion-Marche-Petit
Han-Ouffet. I also discover that the units from Trois Ponts cannot
get where they are really needed. It's looking tense again. Bob
tries a unique backwards bridge repair attempt at La Roche-Samree
(Eng in LaRoche). It fails.
On 20-2 Both Moircy and Champion fall, despite entrenchments.
However, Petit-Han survives a 1-1 (this is critical). The US
retreats to Transinne and Grupont. The main bridge to La Roche
On 20-3, the Germans try a 1-1 at Transinne. The British HHC
and artillery miss both shots, but the German engineer rolls
a 4 (to barely miss). The US stack 3+1+1 in Marche. Again the
bridge to La Roche stays down.
21-1: Transinne falls to 7-1, Petit Han falls to 5-1, but
Grupont holds (10-3) and a 10-5 on Marche leaves two US SP. The
US form a line Wellin-Grupont-Marche-Haid-Mean-Ouffet, and use
six SP of the 84th to counterattack Marche vs the 2SS Pz there.
The existing two SP survivors sit out the attack, and the US
is lucky, losing only two SP. Despite a -3 DRM, the La Roche
bridge stubbornly refuses to be repaired.
21-2 turns out to be the decisive impulse of the game as the
US gets lucky across the board. Both the bridges at Wellin-Transinne
and Mean-Petit Han are blown with 20% die rolls! In addition,
low odds attacks at Haid and Grupont fail to open holes. The
LaRoche bridge stubbornly stays down!
On 21-3, four German bridge repair attempts fail! The 29th
Armored counterattacks Marche, losing three SP but adding another
On 22-1, Bob's last attempt to salvage a draw is a 10-7 at
Marche. When the US holds, Ray squeeked out the narrow win. It
was a great game, with bridge demo and repair playing a decisive
role. While Ray could not blow anything on the 17th, and missed
important mid-game demo attempts at La Roche and Moircy, he got
those back at Wellin and Mean where 20% demo attempts succeeded.
In addition, Bob failed a bunch of late repair attempts, with
repeated failures on the bridge Samree-LaRoche which cut his
lateral move ability severely. The other late bridge repair failures
took critical mobile German armor and reserves out of potential
attacks at a time when the US defenses on the flanks were paper
Bryan Eshleman (A) beat John Ellsworth ... (Most comments
provided by JE) No bid
The final round featured Bryan Eshleman's Allied forces defending
against John Ellsworth. John's plan was to limit the number of
early attacks, hoping to create a few holes in the Allied line
that could be exploited by large numbers of full-strength German
units. As a part of this strategy, the German foot soldiers were
spared the task of crossing the Our River into Marnach on the
first day. The hope was that other forces would cross against
the more weakly defended Holzhum, repair that bridge and then
This plan didn't work properly right from the start. The Holzhum
crossing went OK, but still the area was not cleared, and the
German engineers failed to repair the bridge. The other factor
that helps a lot is if Lutzkampen is cleared, because it tends
to "freeze" the US armor at Weiswampach. (BE &
GM) Thus none of the three criteria necessary for this gambit
to work succeeded (GM). A portion of the German plan went as
hoped -- German casualties were very light all down the line,
as the Allies consistently received artillery support that then
failed to hit any targets (this pattern continued for most of
the game). On the other hand, the Germans also failed to inflict
much in the way of Allied casualties. Overall, combat luck was
pretty poor on both sides for the first three days.
Due to a lack of sufficient attrition, Bryan felt he could
afford to move 9 arm CCR from Weiswampach into Marnach on 16-1.
The resulting roadblock set back the US attack considerably along
the main axis. (BE & GM)
The Allies demonstrated that they knew what to do with dynamite,
succeeding on their first five attempts at blowing bridges, including
one stupendous effort by a moving infantry formation. Meanwhile,
the German engineers proved to be inept at their assigned task.
In addition to the failures at Holzhum, they failed four other
attempts at bridge repairs over the first two days.
The German drive was not totally without success, as they
managed to cross the Our River at the northern end of the battlefield
and slowly began to make progress there. However, the extremely
light level of losses meant that Bryan was beginning to stack
units two and three high at all of the key road junctions. By
the second impulse of December 18th, despite having lost only
two units, the Germans were clearly bogged down.
This is a classic illustration that while the Germans would
like to limit German casualties (especially on their 3 SP units),
it is imperative that they press for high attrition of the US.
As players like Mircea Pauca and Bryan have illustrated, attacking
stacks of US defenders is both expensive and time consuming and
time is the American's ally. (GM)
At this point John decided that a change in tactics was in
order, and attacks were ordered all up and down the line. The
dice cooperated (for both sides) with this new strategy, and
suddenly the dead piles began filling up. The Germans began to
make progress, but at a tremendous cost. They moved into Bastogne
by the end of the 19th, but the city was filled to capacity with
Americans and refused to fall.
December 20th saw a major German effort. By now the Americans
were no longer able to stack units, but many of the German units
had only one or two steps remaining. The Germans reached the
Ourthe River and attempted to cross, but more successful bridge
demolitions by the Allies prevented any serious breach. Meanwhile,
at Bastogne the battle turned extremely bloody, and several units
on both sides were wiped out. On the second impulse, the Germans
packed six steps into the city, and managed to get two supporting
artillery units as well. The Americans had only a single step
remaining, left behind as a roadblock so that other positions
could be held more strongly. But this group of GIs proved they
knew how to keep their heads down, and when the dice were cast
all eight German shots missed. At this point an American victory
However, Bryan then made one of his very few errors. He failed
to detect a route by which a single German unit could reach Nives,
cutting the last supply line to Bastogne. Starvation accomplished
what the German guns failed to do, and the city fell on the last
impulse of December 20th.
With six points thus in hand, the Germans went looking for
more. Bryan was up to the task, though, and by the middle of
the 21st it was clear that the Germans had reached their high
water mark. When the last casualty was hauled away to its box
for another day, Bryan Eshleman had repeated his 2007 championship.
Bryan now becomes the secondnd player to repeat as champion.
I appreciate everyone who played, and continued to play for a
shot at wood and cotton (tee shirts). The Tees this year went
to Bob Hamel and Nathan Trent, continuing my policy of giving
shirts to the highest finishing players who do not already have
a Tigers tee-shirt.
German Wins: 7
American Wins: 17
Number of Games with Bids: 10
Games with VP bids: 6
VP Bid Range: 1-2
Average VP Bid: 1.5
Games with Artillery DRM Bids: 4
Average DRM Bid: 1.2
Side Score of Games between Top Six Finishers: 5-3 in favor