French: Chris Doary
Germans: Kenneth Oates
This is the SCS game of the second Battle of the Marne, the portion of the battle which saw the worst performance by the Germans. It is reputed to be balanced, but several players have made statements to the contrary. I think it is balanced, and should not be a German blow out. We will see if the scenario's title is misleading. The game was played using a combination of VASSAL and Skype, giving it the feel of a ftf game. The supply rules, which can cause a player fits in SCS if he is not judicious, is more reminiscent of those used in the old classics, and just as unforgiving. Some housekeeping was in order prior to the start: There are two 4th XXXX HQs, the one in 42.19 was relabeled as the 4th XXX HQ; In 49.20 there is an extra French XX, it was deleted by agreement.
German Game Plan
Looking at the VASSAL module, I planned my assault to form a right hook, and made an Op plan as follows to take advantage of the weak French left:
Turn One Deploy 8 Sturmtroops for 15th Bav XX, 9th XX, and 3 Gd XX, and clear trenches and exploit to Beaumont sur Vesle - Prosnes to split the French 4th XXX units from the rest of the line.
Turn Two establish a line Le Mont Haut - Prosnes - Montaigne de Reims
Turn Three establish a line Marne River - Ambennay - Fort St. Hillaire -trench line
Turn Four establish a line Marne River - La Veuve - Somme Suippe
Turn Five evaluate the capture of Chalons sur Marne, secure victory hexes.
Turn Six prepare for French counterattack, making sure the Germans have secured as many victory hexes as possible. Definitely a defensive turn for the Germans, possibly even retrograde.
I did not set a goal for the number of points I would try to secure.
The rest of the AAR is from the German perspective.
Turn One This turn went according to the operational plan. Deployed my Sturmtroops ( Germans are limited to only 9), moved HQs forward to anticipate supply needs, and with a combination of movement, combat and the exploitation phase put possession of Beaumont sur Vesle and Prosnes within reach. Not having positive shifts versus the trenches was challenging, but three successful attacks did cause losses (breakdown units) and Germans entered into French trenches. 1 Bav XXX is held in place checking strong French divisions along the German left (east) line, however the 240 XX takes the opportunity to move into the French trench line directly adjacent.
Turn Two My divisional HQ support is restored, replenishment die rolls are successful, and the advance continues, and is the last one which is "on schedule" according to my operational plan. Three more attacks, three more advances (although with German losses). The east remains deadlocked, neither side particularly aggressive, staring at each other. The real action comes on the west (or right) German flank, where German units continue to sweep trenches, with the aid of HQ shifts, but I have not been able to break out to the south as I had anticipated. The French 4 XXX and two regiments create a possible problem which must be dealt with, and, as it turns out, every turn thereafter. French CAP kept my planes grounded. The French trench line center is becoming more open (in front of Le Mont Haut). French units and the Polish Chas X move towards Prosnes (actually occupying Le Mont Haut). the French 14 XX (broken down into regiments for greater movement) begins moving north to stiffen the resistance.
Turn Three More attacks cleared more territory, pushing back or eliminating French regiment units, but not gaining territory worth points. 24th Reserve XXX fails its replenishment DR, while the 7th Reserve XXX makes its DR. At this point, the German plans were revised with more modest goals: due to the situation with the 4th French XXX and units on Le Mont Haut, I would instead push them as far back as possible, clear out French trenches, create a defensive pocket to be held until Turn 6 and then move my forces back to occupy them on Turn 6. I also commit my reserve(19 Ers XX, and 9 XX)! Is this too early? Only time will tell, however at the same time units are being held back for replacements for lost steps, which began arriving this turn. But with the reduced aims of the Germans, this may be the perfect time and it will not make any difference. Three more attacks result in more trench fall into German hands, but more importantly, Le Mont Haut also is occupied. In retaliation the French reestablish the 132 XX with the 4th XXX. The French receive the 8 XXX HQ, entering at 62.15.
Turn Four Replacements are absorbed as needed and I have all except the 7th Reserve XXX HQ of my HQs functioning again as they passed the replenishment DR. So, with my plans somewhat modified, I push forward, moving, my attacks continuing to be successful and receive a scare, my force in Beaumont sur Vesle are cut off from supply after the French Turn 3. I know this, I look at it, plan my move. The divisional commanders and the HQ do nothing! The French had a single regiment which cut off the alternate supply route, so I had my first scare. The Sturm in Beaumont sur Vesle become OoS! Fortunately there are 3 of them defending the town, still making the odds too high for an attack by the French. More French regiments are deployed and move into the trenches. French CAP is noticeably absent, as both air units fail to replenish.
Turn Five Replenishment goes well, again, except now it is the 24th XXX HQ's turn to fail a replenishment DR. The OoS Sturmtroops in Beaumont sur Vesle are reassembled to reform the 15th Bav (of 7th Res XXX). The 1 Gd Cav XX is subsequently broken down into 2 Sturmtroops. Movement towards and shifts by the Germans causes the French regiment to retire so it is not itself cut off from supply. The Tank unit moves into the French trenches. A pocket has been formed to protect gains the cleared trench hexes for later occupation. More French regiments fall to aggressive German assaults on the trenches, and the final French trenches are cleared from Le Monte Haut to 50.23/ 52.21. French CAP is absent, as both air units again fail to replenish. French 16 XX arrives at 62.15, breaks down and moves forward to the trenches.
Turn Six This turn the Germans are only able to replace one step, as the other divisions which have lost a step are in enemy ZOC. This turn finds the Germans able to take consolidation steps to withstand French assault and gain control trench control as defined by the scenario rules. By the beginning the situation is that the Germans control or have cleared Reims outskirts to north of Le Monte Haut. Two divisions remain near Beaumont sur Vesle to protect it from any French attacks. The rest of the German units (Sturmtroops and divisions) move back to the empty French trench hexes to claim control. French SPADS arrived (German fliers have enjoyed their time off (cognac, good cigars) due to claimed poor flying weather) and played a part in final French assaults on trenches held by Germans and at Beaumont sur Vesle - causing the Germans to lose a couple of steps, but retaining control.
The Final German Line
At the end of the French Turn 6, the following was the deployment along what was the French defensive position:
· 40.23 19 Ers
· 238 XX
· 203 XX
· 15 Bav XX1
· 80 Res XX
· Sturm/14XXX HQ
· 1 Gd1
· 56.21 2 Bav (OoS)
· 59.21 30 XX/ 1 Bav XXX HQ (OoS)
· 61.21 240 XX (OoS)
· Beaumont sur Vesle: 8 Bav Res XX 1
· 44.17 7 Res XX Protective
· 45.18 19 Res XX barrier
The superscript indicates that the unit has only one step.
The final German point tally was:
· Trenches controlled (must be occupied to score) 19
· Total 19
· German win (7 points required)
I always, or most of the time, learn something from the play of one of these situations. Here is my take on "General Gouraud Defeats the Stormtroopers!".
· Lesson 1: Over strength assaults (i.e. >6:1 before modification) is an inefficient method of reducing defensive positions, and does not really result in any great decrease in casualties to the attacking force.
· Lesson 2: Be sure to check HQs at the end of movement (but before combat) to make sure you have them in place for advances and to cover disruptions by opposing forces (Regt brought a XX to its knees, an almost disaster).
· Lesson 3: Really hard to isolate French Regiments to place them in an OoS position, but the threat does cause them to move away.
· Lesson 4: Specific to this situation, need more attacks to have any chance at getting to St. Hilaire or Chalons Sur Marne. Add the air and Tank units to get shifts. The Germans averaged three attacks per turn.
· Lesson 5: Like all good plans (and not so good...), the plan I had lasted exactly one turn, basically until I made contact with the French.
Overall, this is a good introductory game to the SCS series, as although it does have some chrome, it does not have complex rules. Although the Germans won this round, it was mainly due to good DR, the luck factor did make a difference. The situation produces anxiety for both players. I think, if I was going to change something, I would add a turn or two to capture the momentum shift, possibly enhancing the scenario's balance.