Martin Moyer posted this the other day on BGG. Great little tactical examination of how to use your troops effectively to win the day.
The word “trombone,” as it appears in this article, is not an autocorrect of Tromblon. I typed trombone, on purpose, several times, as a joke to myself and now I don’t feel like changing it. Just figured I’d save someone some time by pointing it out now. I’ll also add that the photos do not contain all units on the map, only the important ones being illustrated.
I had attempted the Bloody Valley scenario several times before and most of them ended in a bloody massacre of French troops trying to cross the valley. The try before this one, the French finally managed to make a good showing across the valley, only to be defeated on turn 8 when a single German leader repulsed the French attempt to take their third bunker.
Frustrated, I took a step back and tried to analyze the scenario from scratch again. The first thing that I did was some simple math to look at the odds of a French squad being broken while running across the open.
Net attack mod: % to shake MR 5
The results did not support my strategy. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this before but for some reason I was expecting a better survival rate.
I set the Germans up with the same strategy that I have used before. The MG34 weapon team was set up in bunker 2 where they had a fire land down both roads. Bunker 4 contained another major fire group with Lt. von Martial, two squads and two Dryesse 13 (1-7J) machine guns. This bunker has some command of both roads and is in a good position to help defend the other bunkers. Bunkers 1 & 3 were given token forces of one squad and one 1-6 machine gun. The other two squads were positioned in the woods in a position to protect bunkers 1 & 2 from attack from the east.
Now I formulated a new French strategy with two major points:
1) The scenario is eight turns long so the French don’t need to be in a terrible hurry; at least in the beginning. Be patient. Try to soften the Germans up from a distance. Let the Corp Franc do their job and choose a good opportunity to cross the road.
2) The French need to put together some good “firepower groups” (FP of 4 or more) to increase the chance of disrupting the troops in the bunkers (many of which have a TM of +4).
So I created three “firepower groups”:
1) Two squads with the two FM 24/29 MGs stationed in Hex E2. (FP +4, TM +4). From E2 this group was well defended and could target most of the German positions.
2) Two squads and the flamethrower with “the Assaulter” (FP +6 and +1 leadership). This group would circle through the buildings to hex G3 where the flamethrower could reach bunker 3. After clearing that bunker this group could either cross the road or assault move up the hill at H3 and flame bunker 2.
3)Two squads with Baschir and his trombone (FP +4). This group would trail behind the flamethrower squad and look for an opportunity to do something, somewhere. (I probably should have come up with a better plan.)
The mortar was stationed in C2 and Asp de France had three squads with him and a petard and he would occupy the buildings around D3 and would either fire (FP +2) or look for an opportunity to cross the road. Meanwhile, the Corp Franc would enter on the East edge of the map and make their way towards bunkers 1 and 2.
The French plan worked out almost too perfectly. The Corp Franc entered the map on the east edge and in turn 2 they consolidated their stealthy half-squads into assaulty full-squads. In response, the German squad in bunker 1 left the bunker to consolidate firepower with Lt. Herman but even with a FP of +3 they could only shake Sgt Oliver. The Corp Franc then shook the Germans with their combined 6 FP and eventually chased them through the woods so that by turn 4 the three squads and leader had been eliminated and the Corp Franc were adjacent to bunker 2.
Meanwhile, the rest of the French found their opportunity to attack during a devastating turn 3 for the Germans. The squad in bunker 3 had retreated from the flamethrower and ended up in the same hex as bunker 4. This lead to fire from the French MGs that shook every squad in the hex (including the bunker) while the mortar launched a devastating attack on the MG34 bunker. Before turn 3 was over, every German squad was shaken and Asp de France took the opportunity to cross the road on the West while another French squad with a Petard managed to cross the river and infiltrated the German lines between bunkers 2 & 3.
The MG 34 team in bunker 2 exited the bunker in an attempt to defend themselves from the east but it was for naught as the Corp Franc easily eliminated them with melee at the beginning of turn 5. The Germans around bunker 5 however, had started to regroup and were being defended by assault troops from the south. Unfortunately, the route the reinforcements needed to take to get to bunker 4 meant that they needed a few turns to get into a good fighting position which gave the French more opportunities to bang away at bunker 4.
Asp de France and his platoon made the first assault up the hill in F6 but they were broken by German machine gun fire from the bunker in turn 5. They would retreat back down the hill in turn 6 while “the assaulter” and his flamethrower group were joined by Baschir and his trombone for a second attempt. They chose to climb the hill at F5 and even though they were broken, on the following turn they were able to retreat into the bunker achieving the French objective of taking three bunkers.
Early in turn 7 things looked bleak for the Germans. Up till this point the only casualties they had inflicted was one French half-squad and with the French just taking their third bunker they had a VP score of +10.5 VP. However, there was one glimmer of hope as 8 VPs sat in the valley in hex G6 in the form of Asp de France and his shaken three squads. If the Germans could reach their hex they could eliminate the force in melee and would have a glimmer of hope to win the scenario on VPs.
The problem was reaching them. The Germans activated the hero Tuefel who had spawned in bunker 4. He left the bunker in a heroic attempt to eliminate the platoon. Unfortunately, when he left the bunker I forgot the rule that mortars can’t opportunity fire. The mortar wounded Tuefel, stopping his movement, as well as shaking the only other Germans in the hex capable of reaching the shaken French. This would have been the end of it except that the illegal mortar attack did spawn Steiner who was blown into an adjacent hex because the bunker hex was too crowded. Steiner leaped down into the valley and ran towards the French but was wounded by the machine gun fire from E2.
By the beginning of turn 8 it was clear that the Germans had no chance. Asp de France had rallied his three squads and “the assaulter” had rallied his two in bunker 3 (which was also being guarded outside by the trombone). A German victory would require a series of suicide charges with miracle die rolls and even then they still might come up short in VP. I just decided to end the scenario there and declare a French victory.
I didn’t realize until right now about forgetting the mortar/opportunity fire restriction. I’m not entirely sure how much difference it would have made. The machine guns were available to make the first opportunity fire attack but then they would not have been available to make the second (on Steiner). There were other units available to make the first opportunity fire, although not with the same effectiveness of the mortar (FP 3 with the highest of two dice). Even if the Germans had been able to eliminate the shaken platoon, they still would have been down 2.5 VPs and they would have fallen further behind as the rest of the attacks in turn 7 did cause a few more German casualties. Although I probably would have played turn 8 at that point.
The end of the scenario did get me thinking about a follow up scenario where the Lts Wurtz and von Martial withdraw with their remaining troops south, get reinforcements and try to retake the position before the French can either fortify themselves or destroy the bunkers.