Only 12 Players and 12 games played. There were no new players this year, and several veteran players were unable to attend the Con. However we still were able to muster five former champions in the field.
This year we made a return to Trial Status by virtue of a vote by the membership. Thanks to everyone who supported our eighteenth year at the WBC. Also, many thanks to everyone who showed up and played. This year we played four rounds, although the last round was a single game, partially because the only other contender for the plaque was too ill to play on Saturday.
GM Ray Freeman finished 3-0 to win the event for the fifth time. AGM Bob Hamel finished 2-1 to take second. Charlie Drozd took third with a 2-1 record, losing to Bob in round 2. No one else finished with more than one win.
No one scored a tee shirt this year, but I was able to give Charlie’s tee earned last year to him. Still holding one for Rick Young.
One usually expects in a swiss tournament to have a relatively easy pairing in round one when you are highly seeded. Unfortunately for AGM Bryan Eshleman, this was not the case. Being seeded second got him paired with a very under rated Charlie Drozd. Charlie took the Germans for no bid and proceeded to decimate Bryan defenders with hot dice, seizing Bastogne on 17-1 and getting across the Ourthe River on 17-3. According to Bryan, he only had one (OOS) unit on the map after the German 17-1 move. Pretty tough to make a defense in that situ. A counterattack by the 10th Armored on 17-3 could not restore the situation so Bryan resigned.
Meanwhile, top seed Bob Hamel rolled over Johnny Wilson’s defenders and seized Bastogne on 17-1 as well. Seems to be a trend here. In addition, 2 SS Panzer was released on 17-2, Marche fell on 18-2. Johnny played a little more, mainly to gain experience, but clearly this game was over early.
Third seed Ray Freeman took on Mac Willingham’s US and proceeded to have very hot dice in the early going. All five areas attacked on 16-1 were cleared and the Gemund Bridge repaired….nearly a perfect first German impulse. There were numerous US artillery call failures (IIRC, 3 of 5). On 16-2, the Germans got a small panzer into Lullange, cleared another three areas, and repaired the Dasburg bridge. Now the situation for the US looked nearly hopeless. In the spirit of teaching, I worked with Mac to formulate something resembling a viable defense, but on 17-1 Vielsalm, Gouvy and Noville all fell, although Bastogne held.
On 17-2, a 7-6 attack into Trois Ponts to release the 2 SS suffered heavy losses and the attack whiffed, so no SS would be arriving on 18-1. However, this attack did capture the bridge over the Salm River.
The Germans attacked Bastogne strongly on 18-1, but failed to clear the area (one hit, 3 needed!). However a weak German panzergrenadier unit was able to seize Mean. The US promptly counterattacked Mean, resulting in a kind of stalemate. Fierce fighting broke out in Baraque and La Roche as US reinforcements moved to plug the gaps in the US line.
On 19-1, Baraque fell, but elsewhere the Germans seemed to have run out of luck and the 2 SS Pz only came into play on 20-1. The US finished off the German recon group at Mean, and Bastogne continued to stubbornly hold out. Now, except for a serious lack of US reserves, the Germans were in VP trouble. Fortunately for Manteuffel’s boys, they had pushed the US west of the Ourthe north of Marche, and were at the Lesse River and outside of Marche elsewhere. On 20-2, Bastogne finally fell and the US was only barely able to assemble a line. With time running out and the writing on the wall, Mac resigned. This game demonstrated how resilient the US position can be, even in the face of early disaster. US losses on the 16th looked crippling, but it took four more days of play to win the game.
Fourth seed Dave Wong got off to a hot start against Glenn Petroski’s Americans. No bid. Bastogne fell on 17-1 and German spearheads were across the Ourthe on 18-1. Glenn played up until 19-2, when the 2 SS Panzer was released.
Fifth seed Mike Mishler took the Germans against John Sharp. No bid. Again the Germans were hot and Bastogne fell on 17-2. John kept playing until 20-1 in order to gain further experience.
The first round was obviously very lop-sided, with four German automatic victories on the 17th out of five games. Admittedly, in all cases the higher seed played the Germans.
In what would be a battle for dominance, Bob Hamel’s Germans took on Charlie Drozd. There was no quick knockout this time. Baraque fell on 17-1, never a good sign for the US and the Germans were over the Ourthe at La Roche on 17-2. Bob took Bastogne on 18-1 and released the SS on that same impulse. He also seized Neufchateau on the southern flank. Both deep reserve panzer divisions were released on 20-1. Facing the certain loss of Marche on the 21st, coupled with a likely breakout Charlie resigned, saying “Bob crushed everything he attacked.”
Bryan’s bad luck with pairing contined. Dave and Mike both withdrew after the first round, making him the top player with 0. Therefore, he had to play the GM. Ray ended up bidding 1.5 DRM for the US in the Aywaille VP variant. Bryan got off to a poor start, although we did not record a lot of notes. I do recall that I had more units to play with than I am used to having at the end of the 16th. However, I failed to blow a single bridge (out of 4) on the 17th, including an unhindered engineer blowing his roll at Lullange. Still, I felt too confident in my ability to screen Bastogne, and defended a bit too far forward. I also proceeded to miss a hole at Wiltz, which allowed Bryan to slip into Bastogne with a nice attack on 18-1 while putting three US units OOS. My plan was to stack Bastogne on 18-1 with 9 SP and dare him to attack it. Unfortunately, my blunder allowed him to cut my southern reinforcements off and he reached Noville and Houffalize on 18-1 ahead of the US. Now we had a real game!
On 19-1, Bryan took Baraque, but was unable to obtain an early release of the SS. The Germans were able to finally take Bastogne on 20-2, and on 20-3, La Roche fell to a 6-2 attack, even though the defenders were entrenched. On 21-1, Bryan was able to sweep the defenders away in five areas, and it started to look a bit tense. However, on 21-2, the Germans failed to take Marche with a 10-6 attack, and with virtually no chance for a breakout at this point, Bryan conceded defeat. This game illustrates how a ‘small’ oversight by the defense can really turn around a game that began very badly for the Germans.
Mac Willingham took the US against Johnny Wilson. Mac won, although the notes were sketchy. Apparently Johnny forgot about his reinforcements and never took Bastogne, although we don’t know how many turns were played.
Glenn Petroski and Ken Nied played with Glenn taking the Germans. Neither had played a game of Tigers since the last WBC, so this was a re-learning exercise for both. They eventually agreed to a draw.
Ray Freeman vs Bob Hamel. This ended up being the championship game, and it was very reminiscent of several crazy games Bob and I have played against each other over the years. Bob took the Germans for no bid.
Bob’s opening attacks were not particularly effective, and I immediately suffered from overconfidence and defended too far forward on 16-3. I don’t really remember the position, but my notes say I should have defended at Noville, Gouvy and Martelange, instead of Longvilly, Buret, and Rambrouch. As a result, Bob killed some units I might could have saved for later use.
On 17-1, Bob attacked Bastogne with 10SP, but my 3 SP of tanks and an entrenched engineer withstood the attack. Bob killed only the engineer.
However, on 17-2 the Germans entered Houffalize, La Roche, and Sprimont, and it only then dawned on me that my reinforcements on the 17th could not block the center! 18-1 was a disaster for the US as Bastogne fell and the Wehrmacht swept through La Roche to reach Ville, Erezee and Samree…bad enough, but this placed the entire 7th Armored Division OOS at Vielsalm and Baraque. In addition, the bridge Moircy-Sprimont did not blow. It was now that I think Bob made an error. He maybe could have put a unit in Hotton (I’m not certain of this), which would have stopped my counterattack on the US impulse. I scraped together enough force to retake La Roche and break through at Erezee with a 6-1 attack, thus re-establishing supply to the 7th Armored. This did leave the map south of La Roche a bit thinly held, but I felt that I could not survive losing the 7th Armored. This move also put Bob’s units at Ville, Samree, and Lignieres OOS.
On 18-2 Bob attacked Champion when the bridge failed to blow which put two regiments of the 101 Airborne OOS at La Roche. This is so typical of my games with Bob. We put each other OOS on the same move! At the end of the 18th, I think I lost 2 SP to attrition and Bob lost 2 or 3, because OOS losses are simultaneous.
Neufchateau fell on 19-1, and the Germans were into Grupont on 19-3. The good news for the US was that the 2nd SS Pz was not coming in until 20-1. On 20-1, Bob’s forces ground through Grupont and Transinne, and forced their way into Wellin on 20-2 when yet another bridge failed to blow. On 21-1, the Rochefort-Grupont bridge also didn’t blow. However, attrition had seriously weakened Bob’s spearheads so his attacks on 21-2 at Wellin, Rochefort, and Marche all failed to clear these areas. With no hope of a breakout and only a single additional VP possible, Bob resigned.
Charlie Drozd vs Mac Willingham. This was a good game which ended on 22-1. Mac took the US for no bid. Unfortunately, there were not a whole lot of notes submitted but…
The 2 SS Pz was released on 18-2, and the Germans got a bridgehead across the Ourthe on 19-3. What about Bastogne? It did not fall until 20-3, which is definitely not good for the Germans, as this generates a mere 6 VP. However, beginning on the 20th, the German pace accelerated, with Baraque, Neufchateau, and Marche all falling on 20-1.
I was able to watch part of the last turn, and (apologies to Charlie) made some suggestions to Mac that created a tense finish. As I recall, Charlie managed to lever Mac out of Ciney on the 21st, which left him with 11 VP. This is a US win. Mac had plenty of units, but unfortunately, they were concentrated in the north, leaving the defenses at Dinant and Givet paper thin. On 21-3, Charlie got a single SP into Zone K. Mac was able to get the 29 Arm into Dinant and use another unit to attack Givet (It survived), thus putting Charlie’s off board unit OOS. Now, Charlie had to reopen a supply line to Zone K or the VP would stay at 11, because he had insufficient force to take Dinant or any other VP area. Charlie did not have much strength, but he was able to roll the requisite hits to clear Givet scoring the 12th VP via Zone K. Very exciting and fun to witness/participate!
JR Tracy took the Germans against Mac Willingham. Things went very wrong early for Mac, and on 17-1, the German spearheads had reached Werbomont and Trois Ponts in the north. Bastogne fell on 17-3, but Mac kept playing with a breakout over the Meuse finally resulting.
Ray Freeman won the event, finishing undefeated at 3-0. Charlie Drozd was too sick to play in round four which meant no one could catch Ray. Ray played the Germans in round 1 and the US in rounds 2-3. Bob Hamel played the Germans in all three of his games. Charlie played the Germans twice, losing to Bob with the US. Mac Willingham took the US in all four rounds. This year, no one won a tee shirt.
- German Wins: 8
- American Wins: 3
- Ties: 1
The results this year continued the trend of more German wins, but the percentage did drop slightly to 71%. WBC (Ger=76%). The Germans won all five first round games, with only the Drozd-Eshleman game going to the lower seed. This really changes the perspective of the Germans being heavily favored that raw statistics imply. 2015 and 2016 were both very close at 52% and 55% German winning percentage respectively. 2013 was quite lopsided as well, with the US winning 65% of the games with 12% ties.
There were bids in only two games, The bids were 1.5 and 1.6 artillery DRMs. The results were split. I don’t think the bid actually had much effect, but that’s hard to say with the DRM type bid.
The Germans won five games by taking Bastogne on the 17th and holding it against the inevitable counterattacks. This is a comparable number of KOs to 2016 and 2017. Bastogne fell on the 18th in two games, with each side winning once. One on the 19th, a German win, and twice on the 20th, with each side winning once. Two other games were not recorded. Another key factor is which turn the 2 SS Panzer enters play. In the seven games where 2 SS Pz entered play before the 20th, the Germans all of them. SS entering on the 20th, both US wins.
Therefore some general strategic observations seem in order, although they are pretty obvious. Bastogne must be held through the 17th unless the Germans are bidding VP, otherwise, it’s an automatic victory. Therefore, this has to be the top US priority on the 16th and 17th. Secondly, delaying the arrival of the 2nd SS Panzer as long as possible really helps the Americans as the German attack loses steam due to attrition. Thirdly, you must prevent a breakout across the Meuse. This and denial of more than one or two VP at Marche are final goals of the US. I understood better in this event that trying to defend too far forward can have long term consequences. Both times I tried it, against Bryan and Bob, I got into trouble. The US should always consider whether it might be better to move their line (in key places) back an area or so to preserve units. This can be particularly critical on December 17th.
Bryan’s new take on the Eshleman-Wong variant (points for Aywaille) was I believe only tried once, and it definitely gave Bryan hope in our game. His latest thought is that a German victory is more than 14.