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Author Topic: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR  (Read 10704 times)

Fishbreath

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Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« on: August 19, 2012, 09:34:04 pm »

I'm posting this first at a different forum, which happens to do automatic scaling of images. They're all going to be 1920x1080 or 1600x900 here.

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Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR

I've always had a fondness for the Airborne Assault/Command Ops games, ever since I saw a review of Red Devils Over Arnhem when I was a but wee lad and thought to myself, "That looks fantastic." To date, that fondness had been the creepy-stalker sort no doubt familiar to our contingent of visual novel and dating sim fans, but I've recently crossed the boundary between less money/more sense and more money/less sense on the $100-wargames scale.

Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge is a real-time, not-hex-based operational-level wargame. Scenarios usually span from 48 hours to 10 days, maps run ten to a few dozen kilometers across, and the units under your command range from divisions to brigades, each potentially modeled all the way down to a platoon level. Three mechanics conspire to force you to play your hand like a battlefield commander might have done. The first is orders delay, which simulates the time it takes for an order to percolate from you, the highest-ranking commander on-map, down to the tip of the spear. Orders can take up to two hours to reach their destinations if you're not careful with your attachments, detachments, and the like. The second is the overloaded headquarters mechanic, which increases orders delay when a headquarters has too many units beyond its normal count attached. The third is the excellent AI, which makes it possible to order a battalion to make an attack and trust that the battalion commander will employ his companies without screwing it up too badly. Long story short, it's a complicated game, and one I haven't gotten into beyond playing the tutorial in a previous installment I borrowed from an old college pal. That changes this week! As a potential prelude to future AARs, I'm going to be posting my experiences working through the Battles from the Bulge tutorial.

It's set during the closing stages of the larger battle. This scenario is somewhat speculative, in that it posits an attack on St. Vith from the south as part of an encircling maneuver. Here's the map:



The grid is 1km squares. I'm the American side, by the blue label: Combat Command A of the Seventh Armored Divison. It's a brigade-sized formation, including the 35th Tank Battalion, the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, and the 1st Battalion of the 318th Infantry Regiment, plus a supply depot, two self-propelled artillery battalions, and an anti-air battalion. My opposition for the moment comprises elements of the 17th Volksgrenadier Division, which the briefing calls one of the best German infantry divisions on the Western Front. More of the 17th Volksgrenadiers will be arriving from the north about a day into the scenario, and panzer elements are en route from the west, expected around day 2. Combat Command B of the 7th Armored Division is headed my way on day 2, along with the divisional headquarters, and Combat Command R will be along early on Day 3.

I have four objectives for this battle, which I labeled (the red numbers) backwards. Objective 1 is St. Vith, which intelligence claims is currently undefended, and which I start losing victory points for if I'm not there in 24 hours. Objective 2 is the Breitfeld crossroads, and I should have that at 0200 Day 2. Objective 3 is the village of Lommersweiler, which I'm expected to capture by noon. Objective 4 is the bridge at Steinebruck, which is an immediate goal.

Here's a detailed view of the southeastern corner of the map and my forces:



1. The 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, which is probably my heftiest unit: two armored infantry companies, an assault gun platoon, a mortar platoon, a tank company, and an engineer company.

2. 1st Battalion, 318th Infantry Regiment. Pretty bog-standard: a headquarters element, three rifle companies, an AT gun platoon, and a mortar platoon.

3. 35th Tank Battalion. Three tank companies, one of the 51st's armored infantry companies, and A Troop of the 25th Cavalry Reconaissance Squadron.

4. Headquarters elements, including the AA battalion and the two field artillery battalions (one of which is in the 35th's circle).

Around Stenebruck, intelligence (of course, the enemy contacts on the map are generally only accurate by purest chance) suggests there's a reinforced battalion, and roughly the same in Lommersweiler. My plan is to form up all three battalions for an attack on Steinebruck. The 1st Battalion of the 318th Regiment will move along the north road after that, and hopefully should reach Breitfeld early, while the 51st and 35th Battalions will make use of brigade artillery support and the good tank terrain to empty out Lommersweiler.

Hanzoku

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2012, 01:38:08 am »

Doesn't look like you have a lot of choice except to go in the front, given the terrain and (supposed) disposition of the enemy. You want to secure flat ground on the other side and get your tanks in their as quickly as possible I'd think.
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Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 09:06:51 am »

Alright. I'm not going to get to play tonight, but it never hurts to have a detailed plan:

1. The 51st Battalion and the 35th Battalion will assault Steinebruck from the south, starting as soon as possible. The 1st Battalion will move through at the base of the hill to the east of Steinebruck, from which it will attack the German flank 90 minutes after the mechanized attack begins.

2. Once all three battalions have crossed the bridge, the 51st will continue along the north road toward the Breitfeld crossroads and take up a blocking position north of the Y in the road.

3. The 1st and 35th will make an assault on Lommersweiler. The 1st will remain to defend the village and the crossing, while the 35th will press the Germans north toward the 51st.

4. The 35th and 51st will probe Breitfeld. If it's lightly defended, they will take it.

That should cover the first day. It's an aggressive plan, but as a mechanized  commander, I think that's par for the force (zing). It would be ideal to be in defensive positions in St. Vith before the German reinforcements arrive.

Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2012, 03:28:56 pm »

And we're off! In this post, I begin my attack, and I also use 'brigade' interchangeably with 'combat command', which would cause any officer of the period to shake his head at me for being old-fashioned. I'm also using the <battalion>/<regiment> notation for the 1st Battalion of the 318th Infantry Regiment. Already, I have a correction to make: as astute readers may have noticed, the order of battle in the interface flatly contradicted my claim that I'm the 7th Armored Division. I am in fact the 4th Armored Division. The 7th held St. Vith during the first German attacks, and were the ones to retake it historically. The 4th Armored Division was historically involved in the relief of Bastogne, which accounts for the fact that Combat Command A is about 30% understrength on average.

In this scenario, orders delay ramps from 0% to 100% over the first hour, so from nil to more than an hour for orders percolating down from brigade HQ. The first few minutes are, therefore, obviously an excellent time to give orders, so I did.



I directed the 1/318th to move to point 1, then form up for an attack at 10:00 a.m. I then gave the order for brigade HQ to attack across the bridge; the headquarters staff picked point 2 as its form-up point. It's shielded from view of any heavy weapons in Lommersweiler by what I clearly should start calling Hill 3.

By 6:45, the leading elements of the mechanized attack are getting into place. A Troop of the 25th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron is only about four hundred meters from the nearest German troops, but Hill 3 and the gloom are in the way. Notice that A Company of the 35th Tank Battalion is selected, with its footprint (the while lines), command line (the blue one going to the 35th Bn HQ; green lines go the other direction, but A Company has no represented subordinates), and task (the gray movement line and the arrow). Once it finishes moving, it'll reorganize and begin to attack.



At 7:40, it's dawn, and the attack is beginning to take shape. The 1/318th's rifle companies are in place, and its headquarters has taken up a safe position from which to direct the assault. The mortar platoon is headed that way too.

This is a good place to mention the first poor choice my subordinates have made. C Coy/51st Bn is a bit far ahead, because it's trying to go around the woods to its west and take position roughly level with the 489th AA Battalion. This is because I left the attack formation to the discretion of the brigade HQ staff, and then because the 51st Battalion's commander chose something too wide for his sector. The little blue square on C Company's unit card means that it's taking cover, thanks to fire it received moments before.



Fast-forward a bit to 10:35. The mechanized forces have met the Germans and are engaged in forcing them back. I issued orders to make this a moderately aggressive action, so rather than rush ahead and take unnecessary casualties, the brigade is using its overwhelming superiority in armor to steadily push the Germans off the objective. The 1/318th is in a standard assault formation, and is now on the march toward its objective on the far side of the river. It's a minor river, so infantry can cross it but the tanks will need the bridge (the thinner line to the north is a stream, which the mechanized forces can cross just fine).

Notice the red square on B/51st Bn's unit card: that means it's under fire and taking losses (yellow means just under fire). Notice also that C/51st still isn't in place, having been delayed by enemy contact when the sun rose. It probably would have been smart of me to change the 35th Battalion's orders, but I hoped that C/51st would be able to sneak past before they were spotted.



Which brings us to noon. Some of the German forces have retreated over the hill north of Lommersweiler to the marked crossroad. The attack continues apace, with the Germans forced back across the bridge but still able to defend it. I have a German Panzerjaeger company selected; it still has many of its guns, but its headquarters (the German unit with the red 0, symbolizing routing/recovering and no combat strength, respectively) is presently incapable of issuing an order for it to fall back. I don't know what its formation is, but it's still firing intermittently on those units it can see, which suggests it's in a defensive box.



In the next hour or two, I expect to complete the push across the bridge. The 51st will keep the pressure on, while the 35th and the 1/318th will assault the town.

---

A final note on orders delay: some of the early Battle of the Bulge scenarios give the Americans a 16x penalty on orders at the start. At that point, orders to large formations are probably more quickly achieved by bypassing the headquarters units beneath yours and commanding the lowest units directly.

Knave

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2012, 07:42:58 pm »

Just posting to say I'm watching and enjoying!

I keep myself I'll buy this game one day, the price tag just doesn't gel with me though. Been spoiled by steam-sales :(
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Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2012, 08:48:59 pm »

The price tag is the hardest part. Matrix seems to be running sales more and more frequently, but this game is probably the one case I agree is correctly priced in the economic sense. There's a tiny market for lovingly researched operational-level wargames, and $60 for a database of WWII units down to the individual rifle level with correct relative performance, plus some maps to throw them around on, plus some scenarios to play them in, comes out pretty well.

Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2012, 07:04:42 pm »

I'm not dancing with joy at my progress so far, but I'm not cursing the incompetence of my subordinates either. It's a small victory, but it's a victory.

Below, it's 12:16 p.m., and you can see that I'm checking the line of sight from the Panzerjaeger company by the bridge. Although it does have a great line of fire to the bridge, I think I'd have put them further back so they could direct fire across the bridge, too. On the other hand, the table of equipment and supply for this company suggests it's a line infantry company with AT guns, rather than a formation with AT guns as its reason for being (the AT platoon in the 318th is an example of the latter type).



The attack continues, slowly pushing the Germans back to the north and east of Steinebruck. A/51st has secured the objective (by being part of the American forces on the bigger side of the 10:1 ratio required in the objective area). I get victory points if I hold it at the end of the scenario, plus victory points for occupying it between now and then.



45 minutes later, the Americans have crossed the bridge in force. A weak force of Germans has fallen back to Lommersweiler, while the 1/12 Panzerjaegers have retreated north with the battalion headquarters. I go ahead and order the brigade to attack Lommersweiler; the 51st Battalion will be detached to pressure the Germans to the north.



The 51st gets under way very quickly. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the brigade; the force delay (the time for an order to the brigade headquarters to percolate all the way down to the companies in the field) is 66 minutes, and it's going to take between one and several hours to form up the 1/318th and the 35th tanks.



An hour and a half later, the brigade is still waiting to get its attack going: largely, I admit, because B/318th came under fire when it was moving to its forming-up point, and I was forced to move the FUP back to Steinebruck proper. That forced the brigade HQ to replan its attack, which added another layer of orders delay, which means it's surprising they're even on the move here at all.



That Panzerjaeger company surrendered just a few minutes later, and other elements of that reinforced battalion are falling back out of sight.



At 6:30, the brigade attack is still forming up. The 51st has pushed the Germans back comprehensively, and has now taken up defensive positions.



That brings us to 7:00, where the brigade's attack is looking imminent (in the next hour or two). Hopefully they'll clear the town quickly. I'm tempted to give the 51st orders to rest now while the 35th and 1/318th are active; that should make them fresh for a potential push on Breitfeld later tonight. Combat Command B and 4th Division HQ will arrive at 2:00 a.m., so if the 51st and 35th can't secure Breitfeld alone, I can bring CCB's line battalions up to help. Now, if you'll indulge me for a moment...



If Breitfeld can be taken, or if it's not likely to be the source of a serious counterattack, I might task CCB's mechanized battalions to a bit of an end-run: once I've taken Lommersweiler, I'll have a clear run to the east-west road running from Maspelt to Grufflingen. I can have CCB take the Grufflingen-St. Vith highway and be at the latter before morning hits. That would give me two battalions in defensive positions around St. Vith, and worst-case I'd have to secure Breitfeld with two mechanized battalions and an infantry battalion (probably reinforced with a company from the 1/318th). The benefits of being in St. Vith in front of the German reinforcements seem to outweigh the risks.

Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2012, 05:22:14 pm »

I find myself continually revising my expectations of how long things take in this game; it's 9:45 and the attack still hasn't started. Of note is the German infantry company in the woods northeast of 1/318 HQ, a leftover from the battle for Steinebruck. I could push into the woods with the 1/318, but that would delay the attack even further. The German infantry company is down to one-third strength, so the battalion HQ's deployable weapons should be sufficient to hold them off.



The attack still isn't ready, and the German infantry hasn't left, so I order brigade artillery to put some fire down on them. The graphics don't quite communicate the tree-shattering force delivered by a 105mm HE shell, but I'm sure you can picture the splintering oaks and the craters chipped deep into the frozen ground.



Finally, at about 11:30, the attack begins. B/35 leads the way; the armor is assigned to the southern sector of the town, and the infantry and armored infantry to the north.



Half later, the leading elements have reached the edge of the town and come under fire. Intelligence suggests we're facing an assault gun company and a light flak company.



A/25 (the 35th's recon squadron) and the brigade AA battery took heavy fire from the flak company, and ended up in a rout. The main body of the attach has arrived, and B/318 and C/318 have enough AT guns and bazookas between them to worry that assault gun company.



It's now 2:00 a.m. on Day 2, and divisional headquarters and Combat Command B have arrived. CCA is a heavier formation (three battalions, against CCB's reinforced two), but CCB is all motorized: a tank battalion, an armored infantry battalion, an armored engineer company, an armored reconnaissance company, an AA battery, and a 155mm field artillery battery. For now I order them up to the 51st's resting position.




With CCB en route to take up the 51st Battalion's blocking positions, the 51st joins the attack on Lommersweiler, attacking from the northwest. Half an hour later, the attack begins.



At 4:30, Combat Command B begins to reach its positions; I order it to advance on Breitfeld. Once Combat Command A has cleared Lommersweiler, I'm going to attach the 35th Tank Battalion to Combat Command B, and that will be the unit I use for the first push on St. Vith. The 1/318 and the 51st Battalion will remain attached to Combat Command A; the 51st will hold Lommersweiler, and the 318th will hold the bridge.

The German forces are now fully revealed: there are no assault guns at all in the northern sector; instead, there are two infantry companies. In the south, the light flak company turned out to be another panzerjaeger company, a dangerous formation, but one badly outnumbered here.



The fighting in Lommersweiler goes steadily, if slowly, in my favor. Curiously, CCB, on its way to Breitfeld, finds some units that had previously been defending Lommersweiler: the infantry company has been beaten down to about 40 men, and this is the first time I've seen the mortar platoon. C/10 takes the opportunity and puts them under fire.



8:00 a.m. sees Lommersweiler nearly in American hands; the panzerjaeger company and one infantry company are proving to be more stubborn than the rest. The presence of two infantry companies in the woods to the west may present another mission for 1/318 after they've had a few hours' rest. Combat Command B is forming up for its attack on Breitfeld about a kilometer south of the city, although they're already taking mortar fire. On top of that, the German reinforcements are likely on the way to St. Vith already; if they have time to dig in in the city, things could get pretty tough.

Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2012, 07:32:30 am »

I return to Return to St. Vith! When we last left the heroic 4th Armored Division at 8 a.m. on day 2, it was securing the town of Lommersweiler and pushing north toward Breitfeld and the crossroads there located.



Over the next hour, Combat Command B begins to get into place south of Breitfeld for the attack, while Combat Command A continues the arduous task of evicting the Germans from Lommersweiler.



By 9:35, the Germans are on the retreat, and I order the 35th Tank Battalion to push them up to the north, where they can be brought under fire by Combat Command B. Two German companies are sneaking through the forest to the north of CCB headquarters. It'll throw off CCB's preparations if they bring the road under fire; this is why I should really learn to set the pathing to 'covered' or 'safest' for the first leg of an attack.



About half an hour later, I get my first taste of the reputedly devious AI. Combat Command A HQ comes under attack from German infantry coming down the east road. The German reinforcements, arriving from that direction, detached some units to poke at an obviously-exposed flank of mine. Well played. The 1/318th Battalion rushes to the rescue, while I queue up some artillery bombardments.



At this point, Combat Command A isn't really a combat command anymore: all of its subordinate battalions are under direct divisional control. The 35th tanks is on the attack, and the 1/318 and 51st Battalions are defending the flanks.

The Allies in general but the Americans in particular were possessed of great logistical prowess. For that reason, I don't feel bad ordering supply-eating rapid-fire half-hour artillery bombardments, especially when they result in German units routing.



At 11:34, another artillery bombardment begins, this one, from all three division-level batteries, targeted at the probable German forming-up point. North of Lommersweiler, the 35th Tanks begin their push, discovering the unit labeled 1012: a detachment of StuGIII assault guns. Fortunately, my Shermans should be able to handle those, and the detachment is badly worn down anyway, with only three vehicles remaining. I'm not too worried about the 35th Battalion, so they'll push on unaided.



For an hour or two now, the handful of German infantry companies in the woods have been harrassing CCB as it attempts to form up for its assault. This artillery bombardment doesn't work, because friendlies are too close; if CCB needs an artillery strike, I'll let them call it in themselves.



At 2:10pm, I can, however, do something about the Germans. The 35th Battalion, exhausted though it is from its two and a half days of hard fighting so far, should be more than enough to hold off the German infantry while CCB gets in order.



It's only ninety minutes before A Company, 35th Tank Battalion is engaged with the enemy. Around Steinebruck, the 1/318 beats back an attack to keep the objective secure. By now, the German forces north of Lommersweiler are in bad shape. The 6/27 makes the occasional push, and is almost immediately forced back by the 51st.



Finally, at 5:00pm, the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion/CCB is back on the move; CCB has wasted most of the day trying to get into attack formation, but the relief from the 35th Battalion has freed them to move. Throughout the day, several airstrikes that would have been helpful in freeing up my troops to move have been cancelled owing to the light snow that's settled in over the battlefield.



Winter means it's dark at 6:00pm. The 35th Battalion is bunkered down and resting onl about a hundred meters from the German infantry in the woods, which is doing about the same thing, while Combat Command B advances on Breitfeld.



The push continues, with B/24 Company (engineers attached to one of CCB's battalions) taking very heavy casualties on the leading edge, about 30%. For a little while, we'll hold the Breitfeld objective, but C/8 Company's task is to take up a blocking position along the Breitfeld-St. Vith road. Once they leave the objective circle, it reverts to German control.



Here's how things stand at 9pm: B/24 has orders from above to withdraw, while the remainder of CCB struggles to take the German 5/27th company under fire in the snow and darkness.



Overall, the 4th Armored Division has pushed maybe eight kilometers in about 40 hours. Against opposition I'd call that respectable progress, but at the same time I'm sure I could do better if I had a better idea what I was doing. Obviously, there are some aspects of warfare that never change, but I've never had to deal with the timing on this fine a level before.

CCR arrives at about 7:00am on Day 3. If CCB has secured Breitfeld by then, I may have CCR take the highway into St. Vith from the southwest, as I considered doing with CCB before it was obvious that I'd need CCB to make the push from Lommersweiler to Breitfeld.

Sheb

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2012, 01:04:06 pm »

Wow, this is way slower than I expected.
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Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2012, 01:18:26 pm »

Wow, this is way slower than I expected.

I know! It's crazy how much time it takes for things I've ordered to actually take place, and it's been the biggest adjustment I've had to make from more traditional wargames. Command Ops' whole shtick is that you're supposed to get inside your opponent's react-plan-execute loop, and I can see why that is--particularly on the attack.

Still, though, maybe by noon on D3 I'll be on my way into St. Vith? Potentially? Hopefully?

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2012, 12:07:04 pm »

200 PLN for a wargame like this? Sorry, I'd rather buy Borderlands.

Keep it up, it's a pretty entertaining AAR.

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2012, 01:42:56 pm »

This is great. Keep up the good work!
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Fishbreath

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2012, 06:56:04 pm »

This is great. Keep up the good work!

Thanks. It's a much less daunting game to run an AAR/LP for than AoD—the natural need to delegate responsibilities to subordinate commanders naturally eliminates the need to go into great detail about every little thing.

There's supposedly a patch coming up in the near-ish future, which purports to fix a few issues with the engine and units calling unnecessary halts. If that lands before Christmas, I might go big and run a Bastogne AAR during the vacation time I have saved up.

200 PLN for a wargame like this? Sorry, I'd rather buy Borderlands.

Command Ops is probably worth the money if you're looking for a roughly division-scale tactical wargame, because nothing else I've seen feels even remotely as good. That said, it's still a game probably best bought by someone like me: single and no longer a penniless student. :P

In other news, I recently did a post-mission AAR of DCS: Black Shark 2, if that's something that strikes your fancy.

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Re: Return to St. Vith: A Command Ops Mini-AAR
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2012, 01:16:14 pm »

Prepare yourselves for a wild 17 hours, over the course of which I make multiple decisions that almost immediately turn out to be about as wrong as wrong decisions can be, endangering not only the lives of my troops, which as a tactically forward-thinking but morale-wise quite cavalier Second World War general are less important to me than the fact that I may have, through general sloth and specific failings in command, rendered my objective out of reach on the time scale that this scenario allows.

When we last left the heroic 4th Armored Division, it was thusly arrayed:



As you may recall, I gave B/24 Company an order to withdraw, which caused CCB to replan its attack. The Germans were lost to vision in the darkness, and so I decided to reattach B/24. Regardless, some of CCB popped off to the south to rest a bit more peacefully.



Fatigue is becoming a problem among CCA and CCB, which have been driving hard for more than two full days. The Germans pull further back, though, and so Breitfeld is mine.



In what could be my worst call yet, I decide to let my troops rest, rather than pushing to the southeastern part of St. Vith while the Germans are presumably asleep. Little happens until about 4:00am.



At 3:40, CCB regroups for its second attack.



And retakes Breitfeld. Hold onto your hats, folks: from now until maybe 2:00pm, there aren't many minutes where there isn't shooting going on.

The German infantry company moves back into place, cutting off C/10 from supply (indicated by the red line). The T in the road just south of Breitfeld and just east of the rail bridge is critical here; the German company can fire on it, and that's where my trucks would probably be routed.



As of 6:20am, there's no sign that the snow that started yesterday will let up today, which is unfortunate. Low-intensity fighting continues around Breitfeld, and north of Lommersweiler, two German companies attempt to break out and get back in supply (I suspect their headquarters is in the vicinity of Schlierbach and Rödgen). Unfortunately, the 35th is in the way.



Dawn breaks, and brings with it CCR (the division's reserve brigade, which historically found itself fighting quite frequently in most divisions). It brings another 320 tanks and armored personnel carriers to the field, plus an artillery group.





Since CCA and CCB have the situation on the Lommersweiler axis well in hand, I send CCR up the Grufflingen-St. Vith highway to be the left hook.



With the 35th Battalion as the anvil, I order the 51st Battalion to make an attack as the hammer, which should eliminate another two German companies from the table. Visibility remains mediocre as the snow continues to fall.





To date, I've been fairly timid with the divisional artillery park I have down in the southeast part of the map, but today ends that. I order up a 40-minute bombardment of the 5/27 Company, the only one in close engagement with my forces around Breitfeld.





Meanwhile, fire from the 35th and the general lack of anywhere to go has led to the destruction of 3 Company/12 Panzerjäger Battalion at the hands of the 35th Tanks. The 51st forms up and gets moving; they'll shortly come into contact with the company north of Lommersweiler. Along the road into Lommersweiler and out of it to the southwest, you can see elements of CCR on their way to the western highway.



At 8:40, the heavy artillery bombardment knocks 5/27 out of Breitfeld and buys CCB some valuable breathing room. The 35th Tank Battalion has new orders to move north and aid in the defense of the Breitfeld crossroads, while the artillery shifts its fire over to the concentration of German troops to Breitfeld's east. Another half an hour of fighting knocks the 6/27 Company out northeast of Lommersweiler.



Reconnaissance reveals that I'm not going to beat today's German reinforcements into St. Vith. I believe I'm facing about a brigade and a half of German soldiery, and even as beaten-up and fatigued as they are, that's a formidable force for my three brigades to handle. The gray unit chits I've been facing so far are regular Wehrmacht, while blue are Luftwaffe or Airborne and black is SS (in this case, an SS Panzer division).



The 51st gets orders to move up to Breitfeld. For those keeping track at home, that means that all of CCB and CCA's motorized battalions are either at Breitfeld or on the way (the stalwart 1/318 is holding position at Steinebruck; letting Germans into the rear that way would be unfortunate). They may be able to make a push on St. Vith from the southeast. In the meantime, the leading elements of CCR begin to take fire from the Panzers on the southwest St. Vith road.



In preparation for an attack on St. Vith from the southeast, I tell the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion to defend Breitfeld proper, which should secure the right flank. A few minutes later, I give CCB, the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, and the 35th Tank Battalion orders to attack St. Vith.





As the Panzers on the southwest road begin to cross the open ground toward the highway, I realize that CCR's present forming-up point along the highway isn't going to cut it. I order CCR to form up north of Galhausen instead, where they'll be sheltered from the Germans by some forest and the hill to the west. I also switch the order from 'quickest' to 'covered'; that will force the Germans to close to ranges where my Shermans can penetrate their armor. Also, more artillery.





The 8th Tank Battalion, on the northwest edge of CCB's sector, comes under fire from St. Vith as they begin to move along the road. I'm alright with that; CCR will be poking its nose up in that direction shortly, and given that the 8th Tanks have only seen a few companies, I'm not particularly worried. Or rather, I'm not particularly worried by the Germans in the triangle between St. Vith and my two main forces. The brigade to the northwest could be bad for CCR if it remains strung out in road column for too long.



Turns out, in a very few minutes, it's not just those few; rather, it's at least a battalion and potentially more.



There are a number of very worrying trends in this next picture, taken an hour and a half after the previous one: it seems as though most of the SS brigade to the northwest is moving in on the attack, and CCR hasn't quite bunched up yet. Much of the 8th Tank Battalion has routed, and the forces coming up the road to join the attack are now opposed by German infantry companies moving through the forest.



Not much changes over the next hour, except that one of the companies in the woods has been identified as a tank company, which the 51st will have to do something about. As normally seems to be the case, I find myself wishing for another battalion or two.



Anyway, let's catalogue the unforced errors I've made:

1. Doing nothing overnight.

2. Continuing to send CCR along the southwest highway even after reconnaissance revealed enemy troops in that region. It probably would have been smarter to send CCR along the track that heads up to Galhausen instead, even if it would have been slower.

Some of this is my fault, but I maintain that some of it is on the game, too—I wish there was a line of sight tool that didn't take current conditions into effect. Sometimes I would like to know if it's even theoretically possible for an enemy unit to fire upon mine.

3. Failing to make progress quickly enough. This one is partially on me and partially on a bug with the current version of the Command Ops engine: units are prone to halting and re-deciding what to do when they're in contact with the enemy, which slows combat down well below the speed it should be going, and in particular prevents units near the enemy to move in the way they should be. There is, at least, a patch coming soon.
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