After Action Report: Panzer Corps - Ardennes Scenario - Part One
Sean Drummy commands the Wehrmacht as he launches the Ardennes Offensive against the U.S. Army in Panzer Corps. Will his forces be victorious or will it end with "Nuts!"?
The Devilís in the Difficulty
One of the great things about Panzer Corps is that it has a wide range of difficulties to choose from. Just because you smashed a scenario on the default difficulty by no means says that the scenario has lost its appeal. Iíve been playing Panzer Corps pretty much since the beta was announced and the Rommel difficulty gives me plenty of trouble (read: nightmares) because it is quite challenging even for an experienced player. That said, watching me get trounced by a razor sharp computer opponent probably wouldnít do a very good job of showing off the many great features of Panzer Corps so I decided on a considerably easier difficulty than the highest rungs. On the flip side of that, this isnít my first rodeo either, so playing on the lowest difficulty isnít really appropriate either. I decided that ďColonelĒ was a bit challenging but still easy enough that I wouldnít be publicly humiliated in front of the wargame community.
Iíd also like to make a quick note about how I played this scenario given that it covers a rather well known engagement: I tried my very best not to use any of my knowledge of the actual battle that took place to influence how I played this scenario. If at any point you feel the urge to yell at the screen ďDonít do that!Ē like youíre watching a cheesy horror movie, please just let my folly take its course.
Lastly, you may notice that the initial plan screenshot I provide is with a snow-covered terrain set, yet most of the scenario plays out on a grass terrain set. Depending on the severity of the weather, the mapís terrain set will change so donít be alarmed Ė youíre still looking at the same scenario.
Plan of Attack
Let me start this section out with my super spiffy ďPlan of Attack Map.Ē
Please note the naming scheme for my force groups and objectives as Iíll be using them throughout the article. Also, the format of my AAR will be rather rigid, I will organize each section into a turn of play and each section will be split into the action taking place on the three (and eventually two) fronts I advance on.
I start the battle with a smile on my face: Iím sitting on a hefty portion of prestige so naturally I go on a Panzer shopping spree. The game is called Panzer Corps, not Horde Prestige Corps so Iím buying some Tigers! I place one Tiger in North Group (NG) and two in South Group (SG).
North Group (NG)
The bulk of my forces start out somewhat north of my objective and thereís some rough terrain in between me and the enemy which I try to use to my advantage. I suspect the enemy will have at least one artillery battery stashed behind their front line in addition to a well-entrenched compliment of infantry and possibly AT guns. Although I move the bulk of my forces to meet the enemy head on, I send my ultra-mobile recon unit and two infantry units around the north. Using the terrain as a shield, I try to skirt around the brunt of their defenses and knock out that deadly arty before it can stymie my advance. Iím successful in this as I spot their arty and more of their forces as I flank around. To help seal the deal I will use air power to help neutralize any art or troublesome unit but I want to wait until I spot my target, no use putting my air power out for any lurking AA or fighter formation.
Center Group (CG)
Like my maneuvers in NG I use my nimble but surprisingly powerful recon unit to skirt around the enemyís main line and hit their artillery. From there I push my own artillery forward (supported by plenty of infantry and armor in front) and hit the enemy arty with some of their own medicine. Between the direct, and indirect fire, the enemyís artillery support is essentially neutralized so the way should be plenty clear for my tanks to begin picking part the front line of infantry.
Tanks arenít a great fit for urban combat and most of the enemy infantry are dug into villages and towns. However, I use some airpower and additional artillery to soften resistance up. With the careful use of my crack infantry troops I line up the enemy infantry like dominoes and make them easy prey for my tanks.
South Group (SG)
My first objective is in the far south so I will only have one flank to work with here. I approach carefully since the objective is further off than the others and I donít have any recon units, mostly slow (or with wheeled movement, vulnerable) infantry. Further north in SG I have a nice armored contingent but Iíd like to keep them out of the fight for South Objective 1 if I can so they can push on to South Objective 2 which I suspect will be much more troublesome.
As I advance I notice there are pockets of dug in infantry protecting the northern flank of the objective. Iíll need to clear them out if I want to do any sort of flanking maneuver on the objective. I will still have a couple of turns before I can set my arty units up so Iíll need to take these infantry out quickly.
At the start of turn 2 I quickly find that the enemy will likely gain air superiority so any air support I use will have to be woven in with a game of cat and mouse. The enemy has more and in most cases better quality air assets and replacing my loses in the air is prohibitively expensive. I also get another nasty surprise as the enemy has annihilated my recon unit in Center Group! Granted the unit was way behind enemy lines, an acceptable risk to eliminate the enemy artillery, but as far as I can tell a Wolverine came out of nowhere and summarily smashed my helpless recon unit. Not good, my eyes and ears in Center Group just got a lot less keen.
My forces begin enveloping the enemy. I make short work of the enemyís arty assets, knocking out one unit and making another I just spotted this turn combat ineffective. With the skies open (and not filled with exploding metal), I push my infantry in and take North Objective 1ís nearby airfield.
I notice the Wolverine that took out my recon unit is within striking distance of my Panther G, I aggressively order that Panzer forward and he meets the Wolverine head on. Both sides take losses but I come out on top with 5 strength to the enemyís 2.
Overall, the envelopment and destruction of North Objective 1 is moving along quite well so long as the entrenched infantry to put up too tenacious of a defense.
Although I have plenty of enemy left to defeat for the Center Objective, I scan ahead to South Objective 2 to find the terrain will be a great hindrance. I donít even know whatís waiting for me at that crucial rail junction, but I can see the high mountains and thick forests will funnel my tanks into nice tight columns for enemy fire.
As my panzers close in and my artillery is brought to bear I pick off outlying towns with infantry dug into them. I also send a Panther A through enemy lines to pummel the enemy arty hanging out behind their lines. The results are devastating for the enemy.
So far so good but the enemy is still dug in quite well around the objective hex and those AT guns/infantry are ready and waiting for my assault.
Iím probably going to need some extra time to take South Objective 2 so the first objective canít tie up the bulk of South Group for too long. I decide to pull some panzers from the center group to aid in the attack. The armor swoops in and hammers the enemy arty which was placed too far north in their infantry line, the slight lack of protection on its northern flank is enough space for my tank to slip through. My infantry creeps in, aided by considerable arty fire from my newly-established batteries. The enemy now seems a bit underprepared. I must have attacked too quickly as the enemy hasnít put up as stiff of a defense as I expected Ė I scoot my infantry in now that the arty is down and mop up the remaining infantry Ė despite their entrenchment my numbers prevail and I take the southern objective earlier than expected. As I stated earlier, I suspect that the next stop on the road to victory will present considerable geographical challenges.
Although I secured South Objective 1 earlier than expected, I still have pockets of infantry along the road leading to the next objective Iím putting off for now. Hopefully I can make short work of them because they will hinder my movement far too much if I try to bypass them.
Itís a cruel time to be a Luftwaffe pilot. The weather stays clear and calm which means the Allies take full advantage of the air assets I left out. Selected air units get badly battered but thankfully nothing was completely destroyed. Still though, the high cost of replacing losses to air units means some of my air power will remain combat ineffective for the time being.
My first order of business is smashing that troublesome Wolverine, which during the enemyís turn was reinforced to full strength. Between my Panther and an assisting Tiger from Center Group, the Wolverine is annihilated. Call it irrational, but that Wolverine stung me good early on in the game, I wanted to see to it that he didnít have the chance to surprise me again.
As for North Objective 1, my arty support and strong infantry presence eventually breaks down enemy resistance and the objective hex is mine. Time to push forward and size up how Iím going to cross the river ahead to get to my next objective. The capture of North Objective 1 is a welcome sight for Center Group who can now focus the full brunt of their force on their own objectives instead of having to be on call to help North Group in the event their assault goes sour.
Despite my panzer shopping spree, Iím still sitting on plenty of prestige (taking those two objective hexes didnít hurt). I reinforce Center Group where I can. Thankfully, arty is still a nonfactor for the enemy so I creep my own artillery forward to pound the fixed enemy positions. From there I use my massive panzer force to envelop and destroy most of the enemy units. I havenít cleared out resistance entirely but I do enough to earn the Center Objective hex.
From here I will likely split Center Group into two parts. Northern elements of the group will push northwest to see if they can flank and envelop North Objective 2 from the south while North Group crosses the river and attacks from the north.
A remaining smaller contingent situated in the southern part of Center Group will head southwest to try to skirt around the mountains and thick forest hindering South Groupís second objective. To begin this operation I select my Nashorn and push forward cautiously. Not cautiously enough, apparently, as the unit is ambushed on the way to its target. I take losses but so does the enemy. South Objective 2 is already proving a tough nut to crack.
Alright, no way to avoid it now. I have to start the laborious task of dislodging the enemy infantry stationed along the road to South Objective 2. I move in on the main infantry unit blocking the road but I find that Iím already in range of their artillery located in South Objective 2. I take heavy losses but this infantry has to be eliminated. At least now I know where their artillery is. I now push forward, leaving infantry behind to defend the South Objective 1 as there are still some infantry operating in the south Ė I donít have time to clean them all up to stay on schedule so Iíll have to hope they donít mount a serious counteroffensive. At this point Iíve just cleared as much of the enemy out as needed to allow my units to maneuver against the next objective.
Overall, things look like theyíre in decent shape but my air assets are proving to be ineffective and a liability as the enemy is increasingly fielded devastating AA and Iím more or less helpless to defeat their fighters. To make matters worse many units (especially my precious artillery) are already almost out of ammo and that will create at least a turn worth of delays when they need to resupply.
Just for clarityís sake, hereís a shot of my front line at the end of turn 3.
The weather holds up but this proves to be more of a disadvantage than anything. Furthermore, enemy AA pops up seemingly everywhereÖ my air power is steadily declining.
During my advance to North Objective 2 I spot a retreating AT gun crossing the river and hit it with a Tiger. Down, but not out, the enemy gun pays the price for a tardy withdrawal. With the advance of that first Tiger to the river, the enemyís next line of defense is revealed. The rest of my forces slowly advance, taking care to avoid units waiting in ambush or vulnerable hexes like river crossings, which would make them a juicy target for artillery or bombers.
A quiet turn for this group. A 1-2 punch of armor takes out a stranded enemy unit and then itís full steam ahead to help flank North Objective 2.
Note in the screenshot above that my artillery unit in the center of my formation has a yellow icon of four stacked bullets. This denotes that the unit is almost out of ammunition. Youíre going to see that icon a lot in the next few turns.
Hereís a zoomed out screenshot showing the situation around North Objective 2.
As I feel out the enemy positions protecting South Objective 2 I push my forces forward more aggressively. I spot a way through to the closest artillery position perched between impassable mountains and heavy forest. I hammer the units standing in my way, taking heavily causalities, but I eventually get through. I send a panzer in to make short work of the troublesome artillery but I canít knock the unit out, itís only damaged.
The northern flank of the objective is well defended and the armor I have in place is ill suited to move forward Ė the infantry are dug into areas that are not very tank friendly. This is also compounded by the fact that the surrounding terrain does not leave much room for my armor to maneuver. Overall, just a few enemy units are holding up the advance of any of the southern elements of Center Group so help may be delayed considerably for South Group.
For a change of pace, hereís a zoomed out version of the battlefield rather than a strategic view. Itís too soon to tell how the northern objective will go. Southern objective is shaping up to be slow going.
Thatís it for this time. The second and final part of the AAR will be headed your way shortly!
AAR written by: Sean Drummy
Link to Part Two of the Ardennes Scenario here!