We picked up four new players this year, but several veteran players were unable to attend WBC. However, we did have five former champions in the field.
I want to again thank Andy Lewis and GMT Games for sponsoring the event as a Trial this year. This was the sixteenth year Tigers has been played at the WBC and we have a small but dedicated cadre of players. Thanks to everyone who showed up and played.
A total of eight players played more than one game and five played in all four rounds.
Assistant GM Bob Hamel finished 4-0 to win the event for the first time. He had to beat two former champions in rounds 3 and 4 to take the event. Charlie Drozd finished second with a 3-1 record, losing to Bob in round 4. Four time winner and Assistant GM Bryan Eshleman also finished 3-1, his lone loss was to Charlie in round 2. Ray Freeman and Rick Young finished 2-2 with Rick getting fourth place based on strength of schedule. In the championship game, Bob’s Germans busted through and captured Bastogne on 17-1, a sure sign that things have gone very wrong for the US and very right for the Germans on the 16th. Interestingly, Bob played the Germans in all four games and his last two were sudden death wins.
The players also play tested several games using the Eshleman-Wong variant scenario which adds Aywaille and Oneux to the 5th Panzer Scenario. This seems to make for a pretty interesting variation and I will be encouraging people to try it out. I suspect that the variant’s Victory Point requirement, 14, may be a little low but it’s probably close. One potential glitch did arise. The 7th armored needs to be allowed to move south and east, only, through Stoumont, so this creates a special scenario condition which does not arise in the normal 5th Panzer. More testing is needed to firm up confidence in the VP total. The main point of the new variant scenario is that the Germans can’t get an auto-win on the 17th unless they wipe all of the defenders off the map. The other thing is that the US needs to place a little more emphasis on defending all those VPs in Aywaille.
The two games the GM lost were great fun, both being very close contests. His loss to Charlie in round 3 could best be described as a barroom brawl, with all sorts of crazy stuff happening to swing the balance back and forth several times. Ultimately, Charlie managed to clear a couple of areas, too many at fairly low odds late in the game, and Ray couldn’t stop what amounted to a breakout.
The 3 new players to the tournament were Mac Willingham, Todd Treadway, and Steve Worrell.
Bob and Bryan got the new black tee-shirts and Ray is holding one for Charlie, but couldn't find him on Sunday to hand it over. Rick Young also earned one by winning 2 games and not having one of the old T-shirts, but Ray needs to have it made as he needed a more robust size.
Things got off to a bang on the first Saturday night when the GM faced off against Dave Wong in a very early round, as Dave had to leave the con for a wedding in the Midwest. Ray took the Germans for a 1.2 artillery DRM, but in retrospect, maybe should have made Dave bid higher. Nonetheless, the game was pretty darn exciting.
The Germans got off to a very rough start, reminiscent of Ray’s recent ladder game against Mike Kaye. He cleared zero of five areas on 16-1, and was immediately in serious trouble. At least on 16-2, Ray was able to clear Holzhum and Bleialf, and cleared Hoscheid on 16-3. Then the luck turned a bit as Dave’s first three bridge demolition attempts failed, and Ettlebruck, Goesdorf, Marnach, Lutzkampen, Habscheid and Schoenberg all fell. As a result, Dave retreated from St. Vith, and pulled back to Rambrouch, Noville, Houffalize and Vielsam, while stacking Bastogne with 6 SP. On 17-2, Ray hit Bastogne at 10-6, killing only 2 SP and Vielsalm at 9-4, killing three. That ended combat for the turn.
On 18-1, the Germans cleared Rambrouch and Vielsam, while making pinning attacks at Noville and Houffalize. On 18-2, the Germans achieved superiority in Trois Ponts, releasing the 2nd SS Panzer. However, a 10-4 attack on Bastogne fizzled, killing a single step. Nonetheless, pressure on the flanks caused Dave to pull all but one SP out of Bastogne on 18-3.
The German offensive finally started making some headway on the 19th, with Bastogne, Noville, Houffalize and Trois Ponts all falling. Grandmenil then fell to a 6-1 attack, but 9-3 and 8-3 at Sprimont and Nives, respectively, both failed. The Germans really needed at least one of these to be cleared in order to maintain momentum.
On 20-1, Nives and Sprimont did fall, but then a 9-3 at Erezee and an 8-2 at Werbomont both failed to clear the areas and momentum in the north was checked. Now the situation for the Germans was desperate and they would need serious success to have a chance. Neufchateau fell on 20-2 but a tank heavy 10-3 at Champion failed to open the road. A secondary thrust at Lignieres succeeded, but the bad road net meant there was little chance of exploitation.
On 21-1, the Germans cleared Erezee, Werbomont, Champion, St. Hubert and Transinne, and put a 3 SP armor unit at Moircy OOS. Unfortunately, in order to hold it in place, the Germans had to put a unit in Libramont, which clogged the road just enough to prevent an attack in force on Rochefort. The Germans made 3 more desperate attacks at Ville, Marche and Wellin, needing all three to succeed. Alas, only Ville was cleared and Ray surrendered with no chance of scoring more than 9 VP.
Bryan played the Germans against Johnny Wilson in what amounted to a short teaching game. Although Johnny played three games last year at the WBC, he hadn’t played since and was thus quite rusty. They tried the modified scenario, which added Aywaille as a VP area. In this case, it didn’t matter. Bryan had poor combat results early and Johnny was overly tempted to defend too far forward. Bastogne fell on the 17th, normally a sudden death, but the new scenario allows the Allies to play on. Unfortunately, the German overran the US defenders practically everywhere on the 17th, and Baraque, Neufchateau, and Marche all fell on 18-1. With Aywaille falling on 19-1, Johnny threw in the towel.
Bryan added the following nice notes on his teaching games with Johnny and new player Mac Willingham. Bryan had the privilege of playing two 'teaching' games of Tigers in the Mist at the tournament. One was against Johnny Wilson and the other game was with Mac Willingham who was playing the game and participating in the tournament for the first time. Both games proved instructive as we encountered most of the typical situations that come up in a game of Tigers. The German side is always grappling with how much to commit and how much to hold back for later impulses. The Allies are always wary of over committing to plug a gap lest another opening occur with too many units already having moved for the turn. The combat system in Tigers can be frustratingly unpredictable and both sides must maintain operational flexibility in order to succeed. Hopefully, all of the new players caught some of the madness and inherent fun of trying to figure out how to deal with the ups and downs each side generally experiences throughout the game, which is why the veterans keep returning. The Tigers game system is not difficult as most wargames go, however, playing it well is the shadow we all end up chasing.
Elsewhere, Rick Young got into the win column as the Germans against Todd Treadway. Todd has played before but possibly not in many years at the WBC.
Bob Hamel’s Germans defeated Glenn Petroski. Glenn lost Bastogne on the 18-3 impulse, but more importantly the critical crossroads of Baraque fell on 17-3, and the SS was released the following impulse. Marche fell on the 19th which effectively ended the game.
Charlie Drozd defeated Jim Kramer’s Americans. Bastogne fell on 17-2, but Jim played on looking for additional practice. The SS entered on the 19th and Charlie’s spearheads seized Neufchateau and were across the Ourthe River on 19-1. Jim ended up playing through the 21st, when Marche fell. Jim had poor luck at blowing up bridges. Apparently he failed every attempt until 21-3.
Round Two started with Rick getting his second win by defeating former champion Mike Mishler as the US. This was a regular 5th Panzer scenario game with no bid. Bastogne fell on 19-1, and the 2nd SS Panzer was not released early. Apparently one regiment of the 82nd Airborne managed to blow two bridges at La Roche, which must have helped shut down the German offensive, as no other VP areas fell.
Bob took on Ken Nied in a teaching game. It was Ken’s first try at Tigers. Playing the Germans, Bob captured Bastogne, Baraque and Neufchateau on 19-2. Ken then conceded, possibly from having most of his troops wiped out.
Bryan took the Germans against Charlie in a modified scenario game. Thanks to Bryan for contributing most of the descriptions of this game. The Germans managed a decent start, basically fairly normal results on the 16th. Then Charlie unleashed the Allied dynamite and blew up almost every bridge. It was a real struggle to even threaten Bastogne on the 17th and, as a consequence, the German offensive fell behind schedule. Charlie was able to reinforce Bastogne on 17-3 with elements of 10th Armor without the necessity of a counterattack. That is usually not a good sign for the Germans. Ordinarily, in such a situation, the Germans are resigned to pounding away at Bastogne hoping for good rolls. Bastogne needs to be cleared by 19-3 at the very latest to maintain any hope of success for the Germans. However, with the modified scenario, the situation was not quite so bleak.
Bryan shifted forces away from Bastogne toward Houffalize and Vielsalm, hoping to threaten Aywaille as quickly as possible. That part of the offensive proved much more successful with the capture of Baraque on 18-1 and the release of the SS on 18-2 allowed Bryan to maintain momentum, with a bridgehead across the Ourthe and Aywaille falling on 19-1. However, Bastogne continued to be a thorn in the side and held out until 21-1.
However, Charlie’s defense of Bastogne proved to be decisive as Bryan could not breakout, nor could he take Marche. That gave Bryan 8 VP for Aywaille and 4 VP for Bastogne, leaving the Germans 2 VP short of victory. Charlie played an excellent game and we were both encouraged that the modified scenario allowed a highly contested game to emerge from what seemed like a doomed start for the Germans.
Todd Treadway played a teaching game against Steve Worrell. Playing the German side, Todd took Bastogne on 17-2. Hopefully they will both try the game a time or so in the coming year and return in better form in 2018.
In round three, Bob took the Germans for a 1.2 DRM bid by Rick. Apparently Bob was using the nuclear option because Bastogne fell on 17-1, resulting in a sudden death victory.
Bryan had another teaching game against Mac but this time he took his usually preferred US side. The game ended on 18-2 due to lack of progress by the Wehrmacht and heavy attrition as well.
Ray took the US side for no bid against Charlie in what was the roller coaster ride of the tournament. They elected to play the variant scenario. The Germans got off to a bad start, clearing no more than Vianden and Habscheid. Early notes are sketchy, but it appears that on 16-2 Charlie cleared Bleialf, but failed in an attack on St. Vith. The bridge at Marnach stayed down. The US front line on 17-1 was the Clerf River, Marnach, Lutzkampen, St. Vith.
On 17-1, US engineering skills were at their best as four bridges blew, two at Ettlebruck and one at Goesdorf and Wiltz. Charlie cleared St. Vith, Lutzkampen, Marnach and Wiltz. With an over the river attack with infantry, the attack at Goesdorf not only failed but the attackers were annihilated, blocking the Germans from any bridge repair. On 17-2, only Lullange was cleared, but this opened a route to Bastogne. Now overconfidence on Ray’s part set in and he proceeded to make two bone headed mistakes. The first was to defend too far forward in the North, putting two 3 SP armor from the 7th AD in Weiswampach and the 2+4 of the 7AD in Vielsalm. The troops in Weiswampach were out on a limb, the key to which was moving 9 CCR to Berg Reuland. He miscounted what Charlie could get to Berg Reuland, forgetting that he could clear a road and instead of a 7-3, achieve a 10-3 on 17-3. If the 10-3 failed, Ray would be fine. Of course it succeeded.
The other mistake was virtually fatal. Ray completely spaced and needlessly moved the 1 SP unit guarding Goesdorf away to Longvilly. He could have moved something else. On 17-3, Charlie pounced on this and took his idle engineer in Hoscheid, waded across the river, and waltzed into an undefended Bastogne! In addition, Ray’s stupidity allowed Charlie to move 3 VG units into Goesdorf from Vianden.
Now it’s the US 17-3 move and Ray is confronting absolute disaster. First, half of 7th AD is about to become OOS. Second, there’s a hole at Berg Ruland and he can’t fill it because reinforcements from south of Bastogne are blocked by his engineer, and third, he had lost Bastogne on 17-3 due to completely missing the threat. The first two are the worst, but Ray realized that he managed, in one move, to turn a virtually winning position into a sure loss by being both overconfident and blind. Ugh!
Obviously, Ray had no choice but to counterattack Bastogne at 7-1, and he did take the town back. Now he has to see how Charlie is going to exploit the hole in my line.
On 18-1, German spearheads fan out and seize Noville, Samree, Houffalize and Grandmenil. A US unit at Buret is placed OOS, as are the 6 SP at Weiswampach. Ray thinks Charlie may have made a mistake by not attacking him at Weiswampach to pin his units in place, but, on the other hand, he put 3 VG units in Beho, which forces Ray to counterattack these low value units there.
Now, thoroughly disgusted with himself, Ray decided to hunker down for a serious think. He has to counterattack Grandmenil, because an early release of the SS in this position would be fatal. He also has to counterattack with the trapped OOS 7th AD. They are too easily bypassed to remain where they are. Therefore, his first two moves on 18-1 are to take the 4 armor in Vielsalm and attack Charlie’s 3 armor in Grandmenil. Fortunately for him, Charlie only gets 1 hit whereas he got two. Release of SS on the 18th stopped! The 6-6 against Beho doesn’t go well at all. Ray loses 3 steps while only killing one. Elsewhere, Ray stacked 9 SP in Bastogne, determined to hold it as long as possible, because he is paper thin up north. Ray put 3 SP in Bertogne, hoping it can hold for a turn and 6 in La Roche. South of Bastogne he screened, and started sending elements of 82 AB to the north to defend the approaches to Aywaille.
On 18-2, a weird non-battle occurred at Bertogne. Charlie attacked at 7-3 odds and unbelievably, both sides whiffed! That pretty much ended the action on the 18th. Now Ray is feeling like he is back in the game, but the northern flank is very weak, and it’s going to be difficult to reinforce.
On 19-2 the Germans try another 7-3 at Bertogne, this time killing 2 steps, and a 5-1 at Erezee clears that area, further stressing the defense up north. The last attack on 19-3 is a low odds 2-1 at Bertogne, and unfortunately for Ray, it works, clearing the road to Sprimont.
The losses at Erezee, Bertogne and Fauvilliers force Ray to weaken Bastogne and reorganize the American line. He also recognize that threats to Nives and Sprimont make Bastogne untenable. Ray is now reduced to an entrenched 3 plus a 1 in Bastogne, figuring there’s a good chance of them surviving the 20th. However, he has to pull back, making the US line Neufchateau, Nives, Bastogne, Sprimont, La Roche, Hotton, Barvaux, and Werbomont.
In 20-1, the Germans assault Bastogne with 10 SP but leave 2 entrenched defenders in the town. Elsewhere, Charlie wins enough battles to cause a retreat to the line Wellin, Rochefort, Marche, Havelange, and Tinlot.
20-2 is a decisive impulse. Charlie attacks Rochefort at 5-2. The bridge does not blow, the US whiffs with all three shots, and the Germans clear the area. This is a disaster. Then a 6 vs 3+1 attack on Marche is just as disastrous, as the US again whiffs and Charlie kills 3 SP. A weakly defended Aywaille also falls.
With practically nothing left, Ray’s line is now Wellin, Forzee, Havelange, Tinlot, with a 1SP garrison in Bastogne. There’s a hole at Haid that is unfillable as the unit at Marche has already moved.
On 21-1, the dam breaks and Charlie rolls over the bridge at Wellin and clears it, Forzee, Havelange, Marche and Bastogne, and rolls into an undefended Ciney. There is no way to form a line to deny access to an exit zone so after seeing the battle results, Ray resigned.
Ray was lucky enough to play three really enjoyable and interesting games during the tournament, losing two of them. This was the most exciting one. At first it looked like Charlie was hosed, then he made those awful mistakes to get himself into serious trouble, then somehow recovered. From 18-2 on, the game seesawed back and forth. Every time Ray started to feel a little comfortable in the US position, Charlie managed to find attacks and succeed with enough of them to keep him scrambling. He felt like if one or two battles had gone differently on the 19th or the 20th, he would have won the game. Charlie was very creative and pounced on opportunities to stress the defense just enough. Ray doesn’t think he could ask for a more entertaining challenge of a game than this one.
The final round started with Bob Hamel, wanting the Germans for the fourth time, again took a 1.2 DRM bid, this time from Charlie. The Wehrmacht got off to a less than stellar start, with no holes that needed to be filled opening. However, this is hardly disastrous, as only Lutzkampen and Marnach are not backstopped. However on 16-2, both bridges were repaired, allowing Bob some freedom of action. Charlie shifted 9 CCR to Lullange on 16-2, which, in the GM’s opinion, is an indication that things aren’t exactly peachy on the US side. Somehow Charlie had to leave a hole in the line on 16-3, allowing a huge kampfgruppe to reach Bastogne on 17-1. Charlie also was using defective dynamite as no bridges blew on the 17th. As a result, Bob blew right through Charlie’s defenders, taking Bastogne on 17-1 with 10 SP versus a lone entrenched engineer. Neufchateau fell on 17-3, effectively sealing the early elements of the 10th armored from the playing area. To add insult to injury, Bob even killed the 4 SP armored unit of 7th AD in its first battle! The US line on 17-3 was Trois Ponts, Baraque, La Roche, Bande and Rochefort. On 18-1, the ball continued rolling downhill as Bob killed everything he attacked. In addition, German spearheads reached Mesnil, Dinant and Ciney. At this point Charlie decided to resign. This probably ranks as the most thorough rout of a competent player the GM has ever heard about. When the German dice are that hot, there is little the US can do.
Bryan’s game against Rick Young proved that you can modify the scenario all you want but the dice are going to be themselves no matter what. Here’s his comments. Bryn got off to a good start with the Germans on the 16th. At the end of the turn, the Allied line was paper thin everywhere. The Allied 9th Armor, 3 step, that starts in area 71, Weiswampach, had been forced to counterattack at area 98, Wiltz, because the diminutive 1 factor German armor unit that begins in area 55, Gemund, had crossed the Clerf River and blew away the defending entrenched 1128th Engineer. You know the dice gods are smiling when you can pull that one off. This is apparently a 1 in 200 chance! The 17th proved to be worse for the Allies than the 16th. Rick left his dynamite at home as no crucial bridges were blown. Bryan’s German forces were able to knife through and capture Bastogne by the end of the turn. On 17-3, Rick counterattacked Bastogne with his 10th Armor reinforcements. Although he couldn't clear the area, it proved to be a good move to limit German expansion westward.
As Bryan had in the game against Charlie, he shifted German attention northward to Houffalize and Vielsalm. He also attacked La Roche to cut Allied north-south communications. The German dice remained hot and Rick's Allied positions in the north rapidly proved untenable, prompting an Allied surrender on the 20th. Everyone loves a hot streak, but as one of the scenario modification creators, Bryan was looking for enlightenment as to whether the modifications improved the game or not. Unfortunately, German dice were too damn hot. When so many rolls go your way, it's impossible to get a true read on the scenario. He will say that it does appear that the Allies will have to adjust their force dispositions to counter a German northern thrust. Although 14 VP for a German victory sounded good as a starting point, it may be that it needs to be increased. Before that happens, more games using the modified scenario need to be played and players need to be given a chance to adjust their Allied play accordingly.
Johnny Wilson returned for round 4 against John Sharp. No bid. Notes on this game were sketchy but intriguing. Bastogne was captured by the Germans on 18-1 but a US counterattack reclaimed it. According to John, he had very poor luck with his artillery rolls. Unfortunately, a scheduled final in another tournament caused John to have to forfeit about three hours into the round.
Ray played the Germans for no bid against Scott Beall. They used the variant scenario. Ray got off to a very nice start, blowing open big holes which forced the US to stack their southern front survivors in Bastogne while the 7th armored stacked in Houffalize and Vielsalm. The Germans also invaded Bastogne, but their 10-5 attack on 17-2 scored zero hits on the defenders. However, the porous front allowed German spearheads to reach Baraque, Sprimont, Champion, Hotton and Marche on 18-1 after scoring a breakout at Lignieres on 17-2. The US was out of movable units. On 18-2 the Germans took Baraque and achieved superiority in Trois Ponts, releasing the SS. A weak German attack managed to invest Nives, putting the Bastogne garrison OOS.
Continuing to hammer away, the Germans took Neufchateau on 19-1. Bastogne fell on the same impulse, when Scott’s two 1 SP defenders died under an avalanche of low rolls. There was a bitter fight over the next two turns for Marche and Aywaille. The Germans were able to hold Marche as Scott never was able to spare enough troops to make a serious counterattack. Still it was surrounded on three sides for the rest of the game. Germans hammering away at Barvaux, Ville and Werbomont finally opened the door to Aywaille, which was captured on 20-2. This ended the game with the Germans all set to score 8 VP at Bastogne, 6 at Aywaille, and 5 VP at Marche. It ended up being a pretty tough fight with the breakout at Lignieres on 17-2 ultimately being the decisive event.
For the first time in a while, there was an undefeated champion, Bob Hamel. Also, Bob played the German side in all four of his games. Bryan and Charlie finished at 3-1. Bryan played the German side 3 times, losing one of those. Charlie played each side twice. Bob got one of the new tee shirts by virtue of his winning the event. Bryan also got one for winning at least two games and not having one of the panzer black shirts, as did Charlie. Rick Young will also receive one as he won two games, going 2-2, but never had one of the old white shirts. I printed four of the ‘new’ shirts and wanted to distribute them all.
The final statistics were:
German Wins: 13
American Wins: 4
This was possibly the most lop sided W-L result ever in the WBC, a German win percentage of 76. Looking back through 2010, it’s definitely true. 2015 and 2016 were both very close at 52% and 55% respectively. 2013 was quite lopsided as well, with the US winning 65% of the games with 12% ties. The last seven years, the Germans have an average 54% winning percentage.
There was not much bidding and all of it was for the US. All bids were 1.2 DRM. The Germans won three of these. Given the German winning percentages, the bids basically had no effect on the results.
The Germans won six games by taking Bastogne on the 17th and holding it against the inevitable counterattacks. This is a comparable number of KOs to 2016. Bastogne fell on the 18th in two games and on the 19th in four. It held out in three other games until the 21st. Another key factor is which turn the 2 SS Panzer enters play. In the nine games where 2 SS Pz entered play before the 20th, the Germans won eight.
The Eshleman-Wong variant was tried in five games. Unfortunately, Bryan’s three games resulted in quick German wins. Therefore no conclusions can be drawn about balance from those. I tried the variant against Charlie and that was a very good game. I also played it in the last round versus Scott Beall, but my Germans, while not taking Bastogne early, were doing so well it wasn’t that close. Marche, for example, fell on 18-1. Having tried it twice, I like the variant and will be encouraging its use on the ladder.