Walt Brewer was visiting for a weekend of gaming 6/18-20. On 6/19/04, he took up the effort to learn Ardennes '44 (GMT 2003) for the first time. The rules have a steep learning curve for gamers who have no familiarity with some of the interesting concepts Mark Simonitch has introduced in his titles.
Among the rules Walt was learning for the first time:
Now I also cannot claim to have really mastered all the rules, though I try hard. This title is certainly the best Bulge title for the feel and history of the battle.
I played the Germans, Walt played the US, and we treated this as a learning game.
The initial attacks didn't go all that well. Though the line broke in a number of places where concentrated effort was made, the US in this game holds on reasonably well to begin with. The 3FJ has punched out on the south flank of the 99th infantry. The 116th pz has not really broken free, and pz Lehr is sitting in it's marshalling area, counting sheep. As you should be able to see, the 6th Pz Armee has made significant inroads against the 99th in other places. In front of Clervaux, the 5th Pz Armee is stumbling forward having demolished the 110th battalion. As one might expect, the 7th Armee in the south is pretty much doing nothing, though the 5FJ has punched through to Diekirch.
Stymied in front of St Vith, I do manage to break out a bit north of the goose egg position. But that Army Boundary line will keep me out of St Vith proper until I push forward in the 5th Pz Armee area. The bridges near St Vith are intact fortunately, and this will help eventually. Meanwhile bridges are in the rebuilding state where possible, and pressure is put on Clervaux to surrender ground. The advance of the 7th Armee may look good on the left flank, but that's going to be about the extent of those forces push. The US loses armor in the north and cannot seem to cover all the roads that seem open.
Peiper and the 12ss drive a wedge towards the Elsenborn ridge area, and the 2nd Infantry tries to anchor the northern shoulder on positions the 99th Infantry left behind. The heavy terrain restricts the German attacks and despite this, the clear terrain around Bullinger-Amblieve becomes good hunting ground for the tanks of the ss. But that Army Boundary will keep them away from St Vith anyway.
Despite the pressure, St Vith still holds on. The forward regiments of the 106th find ways to keep from being isolated, leading to the sacking of the local German commander in that area. The pressure on Clervaux cracks the position and the combat command of the 9th Armored gets pocketed (briefly) out in the open.
The attempt to nail US armor resource has paid off, the combat command of the 9th Armored in the north succumbs to being pinned to the river, and oddly enough the Germans are still at bay north of St. Vith. The pressure to take St Vith has been steady but the forces too ineffective to force the position.
Despite all attempts to break Echternach (artillery supplies really needed elsewhere), the town holds and the 7th Armee seems utterly stalled.
At this point, Bastogne is threatened, Vielsam is about to fall, the area around Houfalize may also be threatened. But now the US forces are starting to pile on the board. The Germans hold 4 VP (Diekirch, Clervaux, Wiltz, Elsenborn) with another 4 (St. Vith, Vielsam, Recht, Malmedy) in what appears to be easy reach. The scenario calls for 10, and it may be possible another 2 VP could be picked up.
But Walt had to leave, so we called the game a simple 'learning experience', and he headed home.