We gained three new players this year, but as always happens several veteran players were unable to attend. However we still had six former champions in the field.
Defending Champ Tom Thornsen’s Germans ended his game with Dave Wong quickly, taking Bastogne on 17-3 for a quick KO. Meanwhile third seeded Bryan Eshleman was blitzed by newcomer Stan Myszak, who also took Bastogne on 17-3, killing four US steps there. This was supposed to be a teaching game and in the very first battle Stan whiffed with 12 shots at Vianden. I suggested that they continue assuming the battle worked for the Germans and Bryan agreed. Stan then proceeded to vaporize the entire US front line and repair both bridges on 16-1. Oops! We’re all looking at this trying to find any kind of rational defense. Eventually Bryan abandoned St. Vith in order to form a line of sorts. Stan’s dice continued to be on fire and Bastogne fell as above. Bryan then counterattacked with his 17-3 reinforcements and managed to bust the Germans down to two 1 SP defenders, but the Germans held. On 18-1 Stan surrounded Bastogne, entered Trois Ponts and blew out Bryan’s defense at Baraque and Bryan threw in the towel.
#4 seeded Mike Mishler lost to #8 seed Charlie Drozd in a match of former champs. This at least went deeper into the week as Bastogne fell on 18-1. However, Charlie was able to effect a breakout and the Germans rolled all the way to the Meuse. Bob Hamel’s Germans took Bastogne on 18-2 against Greg Smith and Greg ran out of troops soon afterwards. John Sharp’s Germans captured Bastogne on 17-3 for another TKO against Glenn Petroski. Something must be in the Seven Springs water supply as the German’s went 5-0 and ending all games fairly quickly to boot. There were no bids for sides in Round 1. The GM sat out due to the odd number of players.
Unfortunately Tom had to leave early on Saturday and missed the rest of the event, so there would be no title defense in 2016. Ray Freeman took the Germans for a 0.5 VP bid by Stan Myszak to play the Americans. The Germans got off to a bad start with the 9-1 attack at Vianden being stuffed. The Germans also failed to clear Holzhum and Marnach, but fortunately Lutzkampen and Habscheid fell and the bridge at Gemund was repaired. On 16-2 I cleared Holzhum, Burg Reuland and Bleialf, but two other attacks were costly failures. The magic bridge was fixed allowing a 4-2 into Marnach and a forlorn hope 1-1 at Wiltz. Both failed. On 17-1, the Germans overran St Vith, Beho Wiltz, Habscheid, and Vianden, but the Bloody 110 continued to survive at Marnach. Stan built a screen in front of Bastogne but a 4-1 at Buret and 9-3 at Longvilly cleared both, allowing me to move five SP of Panzergrenadiers into Bastogne. Auto-victory? Not so fast. Stan counterattacked with the 10th Armored at 7-5. With two US artillery counters to zero German, the situation looked scary, but the US whiffed! On 18-1 The Germans hit Bastogne with a 10-4 attack killing three SP while losing four. The US promptly counterattacked at 10-6. The defenders scored two hits and the US five, with the last die just missing. The Germans also tried to envelop Bastogne, entering Moircy and St Hubert and pushing up the road toward Marche. The US then made counterattacks at Moircy and St Hubert and stopped the German threats to put Bastogne OOS. On 19-1 the German attacked Bastogne at 10-8, losing two steps while shredding the defenders. I now felt safe, although progress elsewhere was minimal. Finally the attrition got to the US as on 20-1, Baraque, Trois Ponts, Fauvilliers, Moircy, St Hubert, Marche and Bastogne were all cleared. Out of troops, Stan resigned. Technically, the game was won on 17-3, but six battles in Bastogne has got to be a record and the Germans barely held off the 18-1 counterattack. Very exciting stuff.
Jim Kramer played the Germans against newcomer Johnny Wilson. Jim rolled badly at Marnach repeatedly. The entrenched unit at Marnach (area 70) held out thru the 19th. The area was only cleared when the unit withdrew on 20-1. The US forces by then were working on building three defensive lines. Seeing the writing on the wall, Jim resigned.
Bryan played Bob Hamel (Germans). A bid of 1.2 Arty DRM secured the Allied side. Bob’s German forces made solid advances on the 16th and 17th, enabling them to capture Bastogne on the 18th. At this point the “real” game begins as the Germans must force the Ourthe River line and threaten both Marche and a breakout to the Meuse River. As the Allies, Bryan banked on a stacked defense of the Ourthe River. The river line held long enough, and the defense chewed up enough steps of German troops, that any further advance was questionable.
Mike Mishler got the US for no bid against former champ Rick Young. Rick took Bastogne on 18-1 and managed to secure a bridgehead over the Ourthe on 18-2. However, Mike was able to prevent the early release of 2SS Pz and held firm pretty much everywhere until the 20th. Rick was unable to garner any more VPs.
Dave Wong played the Germans against Glenn Petroski and rolled hot dice, enabling him to take Bastogne on 17-2 for a quick KO.
Bryan played solid defense against new player John Keating. Although Bastogne fell on 18-1, John was unable to make any other significant inroads into the US position and ran out of time.
Mike again played the Allies against Bob Hamel for a 0 bid. Bob took Bastogne on 18-1. The game notes were pretty sketchy, but apparently Bob did manage a breakout, presumably on the 21st, to win.
Glenn played the Allies for a 0 bid against Stan Myszak, who ran the US off the map in three turns, taking Bastogne on 17-1, a panzer release area on 17-2 and Marche on 18-1.
Charlie played the US against Johnny, bidding 1.6 artillery DRMs for the defense. Bastogne fell on 18-1, and Charlie was able to hold the 2SS Pz off map, but by the end of the 19th, much of the Ourthe River had fallen and Marche fell on 21-1, securing a narrow German win.
Ray took the German side again against Dave Wong and got off to a less than optimal start. The Germans cleared Vianden and Habscheid, but flubbed the attacks at Hozlhum, Marnach and Lutzkampen, scoring only a single hit on the former. Both bridges stayed down. Dave, feeling frisky, moved 9 CCR to St. Vith. On 16-2, Ray cleared Diekirch, Hoscheid and Bleialf, but an ill-advised 2-4 on St Vith resulted in two dead German SP. Both bridges stayed down. With the Wehrmacht stopped cold in the center, Dave reinforced St. Vith with the unit from Aywaille. On 17-1 Ray launched 7 to 10 SP attacks all along the front, clearing 1 point units at Rambrouch, Goesdorf (Skorzeny helped with bridges), and Holzhum, and also cleared Marnach. US losses at Lutzkampen were but a single step and St. Vith withstood a 9-5 attack. Dave then formed a defensive line Doncols-Wiltz-Longvilly-Lullange-Noville, Houffalize-Vielsalm. Lullange fell on 17-2, but 3rd impulse attacks at 5-2 on Longvilly and Doncols were disasters, with heavy German losses for a single US step. 18-1 saw a renewed German effort, with Doncols, Martelange, Longvilly and Noville all falling. Casualties were roughly equal. However, both Houffalize and Vielsalm held and Dave reinforced Bastogne up to nine SP. This was beginning to look a bit too historic for German tastes! A desperation 1-1 on 18-2 at Houffalize failed.
On 18-2, Dave proceeded to build a stacked defensive line at Fauvillier, Sprimont and LaRoche, with weak screens between Bertogne and Baraque. 19-1 saw Houffalize cleared, but a 7-1 failed at Bertogne, crushing German expansion in the center. Attacks at Bastogne, Vielsalm and Fauvilliers did little damage and resulted in more German bodies. Scraping together the last of his “strong” units, Ray made a 9-4 attack on Baraque during 19-2 hoping to open a path to the Panzer release area at Grandmenil. US fire was effective and the Germans whiffed. A desperate attempt to establish a bridgehead over the Ourthe on 19-3 at LaRoche was shot to pieces with all three German steps eliminated. At this point the game was definitely over, but Ray could not resist one last throw on 20-1. Although Vielsam was finally cleared, the Germans were stopped cold everywhere else with heavy losses. After resigning, Ray counted the German Army. He had 23 1-step, six 2-step, and two 3-step units left. This was probably the worst defeat as the Germans I’ve ever experienced. It’s not often that the dice continue to favor one side so heavily throughout a game, but this in no way should detract from Dave’s stellar play.
Bryan, in his fourth game as the Allies, played David Wong. Apparently, Dave suffered some karmic backlash against Bryan, as his German forces had the worst luck we have ever seen. The German forces could not break the initial Allied line. After 17-1, the Allies still held St. Vith, Lutzkampen, Marnach, and Holzhum. And the bridges even repaired on 16-1!!! Just unbelievable. On one attack, David rolled for his infantry against an entrenched Allied SPs. His four dice came up all 3’s. Then he rolled for his panzers, again getting zero hits. Other attacks produced similar results. It was truly awful. Abnormal luck causing abnormal games does happen from time to time. With so many dice being rolled, it truly does not happen frequently. As Bryan said, it was very unusual to have participated in two such games in one tournament.
Charlie faced Scott Beall with Scott taking the US for a 1.6 die roll bid. Charlie got off to a very good start, taking Bastogne on 18-1 and releasing 2SS Pz on 18-2 via Grandmenil. The latter is usually a bad omen for the US. Baraque fell on 18-1, as did LaRoche. Neufchateau fell on 19-1 and Marche on 21-1 for a convincing German win.
Ray stubbornly stayed with the Germans against Johnny Wilson, but only Vianden and Habscheid were cleared on 16-1. The Germans lost 11 steps versus five. However, both bridges were repaired. Johnny moved the St Vith engineer to Winterspelt and entrenched. On 16-2 the Germans cleared Bleialf and Hoscheid. 5-1s at Holzhum and Marnach both failed. The Marnach battle was a mistake. Ray meant to add another 2 armored unit and forgot. The offensive was now definitely behind schedule. 17-1 saw attacks at Eschdorf, Holzhum, Marnach, Lutzkampen and St Vith, all of which cleared the defenders. The Greif unit went to Baraque to interdict movement. The US put 1 SP screens in Doncols and Longvilly and four SP in Bastogne. German spearheads reached Houffalize and Noville, but my units were so tangled up on the roads that no attacks were made. On 17-3 Johnny distributed the 10 armored at Fauvilliers, Sprimont and LaRoche.
Ray launched heavy attacks at Vielsalm, LaRoche, Bastogne, Longvilly and Doncols, and a 5-2 at Fauvilliers. The US held at Vielsalm, Bastogne and Fauvilliers, killing 13 German steps while losing seven. The attack at Vielsalm was too hasty. Ray committed too much armor and not enough VG and paid for it with five armor steps killed, while whiffing. German forces were now so badly battered he was unable to make any following attacks on 18-2 or 18-3. 19-1 saw the debacle continue to unfold as attacks at Bastogne, Champion and Vielsalm were all stuffed with heavy German losses. Strong attacks were made on 19-2 at Nives and Sprimont which carried those positions, isolating Bastogne. The OOS defenders surrendered on 19-3. A spoiling attack at Neufchateau was successful at preventing the US from entrenching. The flagging Wehrmacht managed only three attacks on 20-1, at Trois Ponts, Moircy and Neufchateau, and failed to clear a single area. On 20-2 an 8-2 against the OOS defenders of Baraque failed, but a 7-1 succeeded at Libramont after the US pulled back.
Attacks on the 21st cleared Champion and Libin, but failed at St. Hubert and Erezee despite very favorable odds. On 21-2 a 4-1 cleared Grupont and the Germans chanced a 10-8 at Marche. The Marche attack was the last gasp as not even a tank heavy assault with the SS was able to kill more than two steps. With only eight VP and no chance of getting another, Ray resigned.
No one finished undefeated again. Bryan and Bob, my AGMs both finished 3-1, along with Charlie Drozd, also at 3-1. Bryan got the plaque by virtue of beating Bob head to head. Dave went 2-2, and Stan and Johnny posted 2-1 scores, both winning tee shirts. We printed the shirts on black this year…basically due to a printing problem, but the shirts looked so good we’ll stick with panzer black in the future.
The Germans won 11 of 20 games. There were only three bids: 0.5 VP and a 1.2 and a 1.6 artillery DRM bid - all for the US. The Germans won two of the three games with bids. In the 1.2 DRM game, the US won, while the Germans won the 1.6 bid game. It appeared that the new schedule negatively impacted several players, especially Tom and Jim, so we’ll be looking for a new start day in 2017.
The Germans won seven games by taking Bastogne on the 17th and holding it against the inevitable counterattacks. This seems like a fairly high percentage of KOs as opposed to the past. German opening play has improved to the point where I generally expect to be able to attack Bastogne on the 17th, with penetrations past Bastogne to the immediate North much like the 2nd Panzer Division did in 1944. Bastogne fell on the 18th in eight games and on the 19th in one. However, the key crossroads never fell in four games which is pretty rare. In games where the Germans failed to score knockouts, the Germans were only able to get 2SS Panzer on the board early once. This is probably why the Germans went 4-9 in games where they failed to score a quick KO. The Germans were able to breakout only once in games where Bastogne held until the 18th.
Bryan played the US in all his games. He and Mircea Pauca are probably the two finest defensive players I’ve encountered. Bob Hamel played the Germans in all of his games as did Ray Freeman. Bob did a lot better though. Glenn Petroski, Mike Mishler and Johnny Wilson played the US in all three of their games. One final observation is that in games where both opponents won at least one game during the event, the Germans went 8-4.
I want to thank Andy Lewis and GMT Games for again sponsoring the event as a Trial. This was the 16th year Tigers has been played at WBC. Ours is a small but dedicated cadre of players. Thanks to everyone who found time in their schedule to play.