Scenario Review – The Avranches Breakthrough

This is an official scenario from the Campaign Book v. 2.  The estimable jdrommel scenario titled  The Avranches Breakthrough re-creates what should, in theory, be an interesting tactical scenario.  A group of elite German units have been caught in a pocket, and must fight their way out.  At the same time, an American assault force should reduce the pocket, and push towards their own strategic objectives.

On the morning of July 28 1944, following the initial breakthrough made by the 1St US Army, German troops of 84.Armee Korps found themselves virtually surrounded in the Roncey pocket. The following night, elite German units of waffen-SS and paratroopers made several attempts to breakthrough the thin American lines in the east. Only a few managed to escape, the others being destroyed or taken prisoners. The pocket now reduced, US troops were ready to charge towards Avranches and capture the bridges on the Sée and Sélune rivers. Once those were seized, the 3rd US Army, under the command of Patton, was activated and ready to resume its advance towards central France and Brittany.

However, on every level, this scenario fails to provide an interesting play experience.  I tend to be more critical than my regular opponent, but this scenario prompted him to declare this to be, “The worst single map I can remember playing.”  I apologize for the photo below – as this is an official scenario the map is available for download, and for that reason I will not provide specifics regarding setup.

Avranches

The key to understanding this scenario is in the lower right hand side of the map, the cluster of German units in the open, surrounded by American tanks.  Even as a night attack map, this is a horrible situation for the Germans.  An American player in possession of an Attack Center or better is capable of launching an absolutely devastating attack on the German infantry in the open with his numerous tanks.  That is exactly what happened in my game – an attack center destroyed one of my elite infantry in the first turn, and damaged two others.

However, scenarios in which one side is guaranteed to get a bloody nose in the opening are not unusual, nor are the necessarily bad.  Here, the medal requirements and the force balance makes it nearly impossible for the Germans to make sufficient progress.  Those elite infantry in the lower right, the ones that are likely to be killed in short order by the Americans?  They need to not only make a long migration to the other side of the map, where they can exit for a maximum of 4 victory medals (out of 12 total), but they need to do substantial damage on their way.  The Germans don’t have much else on the map, and very little of it is in anything like a good offensive position.

I managed a minor miracle, and got two of my surviving units off the map, but was able to do almost nothing else in the game.  Getting infantry and tanks into cover was so critically important that I was rarely able to take shots at the superior American tank force, and I was hounded across the map.

To make matters worse, once that part of the map is finished, there is an even worse endgame.  The German player will likely withdraw his surviving units towards the river, to prevent the Americans from advancing off the map.  The Americans MUST advance units off the map, as there are only barely enough Germans on the map to get the required 12 medals.  The end game for this map is a battle of long-distance plinkage, as the surviving German artillery and infantry try to prevent forward progress by the Americans, and the Americans cautiously advance towards their inevitable victory.

General Evaluation – 1/5 – No fun at all.

Balance Evaluation – Americans strongly favored.  Any German win would be the unsatisfying result of a long, and incredibly boring game.  DoW has it at 63% Americans – every so often, the American player will have no cards in the center.

First Turn Win Possibility – Strong.  The Americans can make a German win nearly impossible with a solid opening center attack.

Plink-Fest Danger – Strong, at the end of the game.

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