Once again Kenneth has supplied a concise narrative of our match.
I had the Germans this time. More importantly, I had a goal, a specific number of points required for victory. I also had an idea of what the Germans are capable. But having played the French in our first encounter, I didn't have a clue how Kenneth would use his forces to deny me 19+1 points.
This time I also had a plan. :)
I would try to stick with the following operational principles throughout the scenario:
1. Move fast and appear where the enemy will not expect me.
2. Use sturmtruppen to threaten Chalons, draw off enemy units, block road networks and isolate portions of the battlefield.
3. Use maneuvre to compel Allied units to fall back and vacate trench line.
4. Encircle enemy units and attack once they are out of supply.
5. Only attack when I have 6-1 odds after all shifts have been applied.
6. Reserve aircraft and tank units for most the important attacks.
7. Conserve enough units so that I will be able to occupy the maximum number of trench hexes on my last turn.
The initial plan was to hold in the east, put pressure on the Allied centre, and destroy the French Fourth Corps before turning my attention to Fort-St-Hilaire. A few sturmtruppen would race for Chalons in the hopes of tying up a couple French divisions. Most importantly, there would be no attacks on the first German turn.
It sounded impressive, but would it work?
In the east, my 1st Bavarian Corps shifted forward and occupied a couple French trenches. Using four sturmtruppen, I was able to completely encircle the French 170th Div, as well as cut the road to Prosnes. In the west, Beaumont-sur-Vesle was in German hands. Moreover, the entire French 4th Corps (Corps HQ, 163rd Div, 71st Div, and two regiments) was threatened with being out of supply if it did not fall back.
French units in the rear move forward, while their units in the east hold fast. In the centre, the US brigades call on air support and destroy a sturm unit immediately south of the trapped French 170th Div. A US brigade suffers a step loss. The Americans then occupy the former German position in 52.20. This leaves both the 170th Div and the American brigades out of supply. More critically, the French fail to recognize the threat in the west. At the end of their turn the entire French 4th Corps is out of supply.
The Germans capitalize on the situation in the west, as well as the plight of the 170th Div. Near Reims, German aircraft lend a hand and the 163rd Div is destroyed for the loss of a German step. Two French regiments in the pocket meet the same fate, although one German division suffers a step loss. In the centre, the 170th Division is destroyed along with an entire American brigade. A sturm unit threatens Fort-St-Hilaire from 53.17, as another in 42.18 keeps the 4th French Corps and the 71st Div pinned between it and the Vesle. All in all a productive turn for the Germans.
The French react by falling back all along their line. The 4th French Corps remains trapped with the 71st Div in a pocket north of the Montagne de Reims and the Vesle.
The Germans press their advantage. They surround what remains of the 4th French Corps, push forward to Fort-St-Hilaire, and occupy Chalons with a sturm unit. The French 4th Corps disintegrates and no Allied units remain west of row 46. In the centre, the remaining American regiment falls and a reduced German division (19 Res) is now adjacent to the "Fort." During the exploit phase, two additional sturm units rush toward Chalons. in order to draw off the French 52nd Div, which was headed north to Suippes. Although all of these infiltrators are out of supply at the end of the turn, the threat to Chalon is obvious.
The French response is as swift as it is unanticipated. The French retake Chalons, losing a step in the process, but eliminating the offending sturm unit. Elsewhere the French break down their divisions. Five regiments rush forward to grab a portion of the French trench line running from 44.20 to 47.22. Another six regiments form a line in front of St. Hilaire. And three regiments join the Polish brigade in the Fort. French Army HQ remains adjacent in 54.17, protected by a resurrected and reduced 71st Division. However, these bold moves leave the forces in Chalon and the reclaimed trench line out of supply.
The Germans apply more pressure. A pair of sturm units occupy Chalon. Another sturm unit destroys a French Corps HQ, but is eliminated in the process. In the trenches west of Prosnes, the French lose another regiment as the Germans tighten the noose around these isolated regiments. But the Germans forgo attacks on Fort-St-Hilaire, preferring to wait until the Polish and French units are out of supply.
During the Allied turn, the French regiments in the trenches consolidate and separate with two regiments remaining in 46.21, while the other three head to 51.23. A depleted regiment falls back toward Chalon,as the French shift their units around the Fort in order to maintain supply. [This was a good move by the French. I had foolishly sent three sturm units after a couple of unsupported corps HQ. These units should have been used to encircle the Fort. This error would cost me 5 points.]
The Germans abandon Chalons in favour of a blocking position in 53.09. A pair of sturm units do similar duty in Suippes and immediately north of Somme-Suippe. With only one turn left before falling back to the trench line, the Germans gamble and attack the Fort with the help of air support. I roll snakes, which in SCS is very bad news. The Fort remains in Allied hands and the German attackers are forced to retreat with losses. [Kenneth's decision to stuff the fort with the Polish Brigade and three French regiments proved to be an excellent tactic. With eight steps to lose, only a retreat result would have given me the Fort.] Perhaps as a consolation prize, my Bavarians destroy the (depleted) 71st Div (for a second time) and another corps HQ in 55.17. Meanwhile, the situation in the trenches deteriorates rapidly for the French as all five regiments are destroyed in turn. By the end of the turn only one German unit--the Sturmtruppen in 53.09--are out of supply. More significantly, no Allied Units remain north of Prosnes-Suippe line, nor west of Fort-St-Hilaire (exception: a 1-2-6 south of La Veuve in 51.09]. Total Allied strength at this point consists of the following:
In/adjacent to Fort-St-Hilaire: Polish Brigade, 8 x 2-3-6, and 1 x 1-2-6
In/adjacent to Chalons-sur-Marne: 2 x 2-3-6 and 1 x 1-2-6
In 55.13: 8th French Corps HQ
The French receive the 16th Div in 62.15 this turn. The 4th French Army descends from the heavens into 54.18, while a pair of corps HQ are teleported into Chalons. With the aid of French aircraft, the 16th Div assaults Suippe, but the Sturmtruppen stand fast as the French roll a three and vanish from whence they came. The French have ore success in dispatching a sturm unit in the woods south of the Fort, but lose a step in the process. [The 4th Army HQ is a powerful unit that provides a two-step combat shift. I had not realized the ease with which it could not only return from the dead, but also descend directly amidst the battle for the Fort again.]
The Germans forgo another fruitless attack on the Fort and withdraw virtually everyone back into the trenches. The sole exceptions are a sturm unit in Suippes (brought back from its blocking position north of Chalon), and 199th Div (5-5-6 in 53.20). These units are placed with the intention of limiting the number of effective French counterattacks by restricting movement toward the trench lines. (Admittedly, the 199th would have preferred to have been in the trench line, but it simply lacked the requisite movement points to reach it.) Because the Germans have failed to replenish their air units, no CAP is placed to counter French air assets.
The presence of the sturm unit in Suippes negates the arriving French reinforcements. Consequently, the French "counterattack" is limited to one attack. It succeeds in destroying the remnants of a German Div in 55.21, although the German corps HQ therein survives. [I did not realize that a HQ could not occupy a trench hex for the purpose of obtaining victory points. So this French attack invariably accomplished what it set out to do, namely deny me a victory point.]
The remarkable thing about this match was not that the Germans won (again). Rather it was that in spite of the horrific losses inflicted upon the Allied force, the Germans only scored three points more than in the first match. At game end the French were left with the following:
1 x Army HQ
3 x Corps HQ
1 x Polish Brigade
10 x 2-3-6
6 x 1-3-6
Moreover, there were no Allied units remaining on board west of the Chalons-Fort line. It seems to me then that the key battle in this scenario will be for the village of Fort-St-Hilaire. While it is possible for the Germans to grab Chalons, it will leave them out of position for the last turn trench grab. Do the Allies have a chance of winning this scenario? Perhaps, but it would probably take someone with more skill than me to do it.
Finally, while I managed an overall win, it was a remarkably close one, and one that I likely would not have managed had I taken the Germans first. I learnt something from the first match, and evidently so did Kenneth (as he kept the Fort to himself for the entire game).
I was looking forward to a Great War battle. Rock of Marne certainly looks appealing. But I would recommend that this scenario be used more for learning the mechanics of this particular game than for a serious contest. The out-of-suppy rules, as well the exploitation capabilities of the Sturmtruppen undoubtedly makes for an interesting campaign game. It would be interesting to see how the French counterattack plays out over 15 turns.