Scenario Review – Battle of Celles

Battle of Celles is an official scenario from the Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge) by the estimable jdrommel.  It was included in the Equipment Pack expansion for Memoir ’44.  Like much from that expansion, I’m not too fond of it.

During the first week of the German offensive in the Ardennes, Field Marshal Montgomery moved the XXX British Corps along the Meuse river to prevent enemy forces from crossing over. The 29th Armored Brigade, reinforced by the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade, protected Dinant from the advancing 5.Panzer Armee. On December 24, two Kampfgruppen of the 2.Panzer Division arrived at Celles and Foy-Notre-Dame, out of fuel. The next day, the 29th Armored Brigade attacked. The battle was fierce and the two German Kampfgruppen were destroyed. The village of Celles would turn out to be the western-most point reached by the German Panzers during the battle of the Bulge.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

As with many official scenarios, the map layout is not available.  So, take a look at this photograph of the table.

IMG_0129[1]

The British are defending an open exit point from the Germans.  Two lines of forest divide the map very close to the sector lines, with only a town in the middle for cover in the center sector.  Both sides are armor heavy – especially the Germans, who have two heavy Armor units, but only 3 infantry units.

The only special rule of note is a mixed blessing for the Allies – they have 3 units of Armor to call in from the marked star point in German backfield, using the Armor Breakthrough rules.    However a close look at that area reveals it to be a death trap for any Armor called in – no cover, and several heavy German armor units nearby.

The problem with this scenario is that neither side, as constituted, is really strong enough to attack the other in a decisive fashion.  The two strips of forest terrain cry out for an infantry advance – except neither side has the infantry to make good on such an advance.  The tank forces are best hidden in the forests, to be brought out only if the other player was bold enough to move their own armor into firing range.  The Germans simply do not have the forces to make a credible attack on the exit point – and if they do, they’ll be blasted from behind by the Armor Breakthrough call-ins.

The smartest thing for the German player to do is to bring his units to the backfield and wait.  The smartest thing for the British player is to keep his units in his own backfield, and wait.  This is not a recipe for a thrilling game.

In the rules, it advises that Winter Rules are optional.  Thinking about it, they may well change the dynamics of this scenario enough for a German attack to make a little sense.  The German play could make a concentrated attack on the center, and not worry about being blasted to pieces by the British tanks hiding in the forest thanks to Poor Visibility rules. Further, the Armor call-in units would be less likely to reach the Germans in time to seriously hurt them, as their attacks at range would be only marginally effective.

However, as written, this is not very fun.

General Evaluation – 1/5 I can’t recommend this map to anyone.

Balance Evaluation – Null The side that moves should lose.  It’s more likely the Germans will move, so they’re likely to lose most games, but there’s nothing FORCING the Germans to move at all.

First-turn Win Possibility – None

Plink-Fest Danger – High – As Neither player has the force to make a proper attack, this could well come down to an artillery duel, backed up by the occasional exchange of single-dice attacks from cover, on units in cover.

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