THE MAD MINUTE

LONGCHAMPS, Belgium, 3 January 1945

The scenario is based on an Advanced Squad Leader scenario from the "Yanks" boxed set, though I used an historical map. The scenario is ASL Scenario 24: The Mad Minute, though rather than using the ASL boards, I chose to base the table on an image from Google Earth (see below).

You will note the faint grid on the historical map, I usually put these together in Adobe Photoshop – the grid (in 1 foot squares) being the right groundscale for Squad Level games (i.e. 1 cm = 10m). On the google maps website, I zoomed to where 500 feet / 100 Metres shown in the bottom left hand corner, then saved the image.

This is the final table:

Introduction

The Germans were growing increasing desperate to crack Bastogne. At Longchamps, a scratch force of paratroopers and anti-tank guns supported by a few tank destroyers had been assaulted sporadically since 19 December. Dug into the snow along the edge of the village, the weary americans now watched as an armoured force deployed off the road from Compogne in the fields to the north of Longchamps. Orders went to the gun crews to engage the armour as soon as it was in range.

Within minutes a fierce firefight developed as the armoured force drove into the American positions - including those of Company D which was defending an impromptu roadblock. The "mad minute" at Longchamps had begun.

Forces Used / Set Up

We used the following forces:

US FORCES (Normal Tactical Doctrine)

ELEMENTS 2/502 PARA WITH SUPPORT (Regular TD) – Break at 14 (60%)
1 x CO (CV9)
2 x HQ (CV8)
9 x Infantry (Elite)
3 x Infantry with Bazooka (Baz44) Elite
3 x .30mm MMG
2 x 60mm Mortars (AT/AP 2/60; Hits 5)
3 x 57mm ATG
2 x M10 Tank Destroyers

Americans set up first.
Set up within 3 Feet of South Edge
Infantry may be in Foxholes, or in buildings.
ATGs/Vehicles may be in AFV/Gun Pits
2 x Squads may be hidden (make note of their location)

GERMAN FORCES (Flexible Tactical Doctrine)

ELEMENTS SS PGR 19 AND PZ 19, 9TH SS PANZER DIV (Flexible TD) – Break: 19 (60%)
1 x CO (CV9)
1 x HQ (CV9)
3 x HQ (CV8)
16 x Infantry (SS) (no antitank weapons)
2 x HMG
3 x Panther
6 x Panzer IV (G/H)
4 x Sdkfz 251/1 (can transport 1 Infantry Unit or 2 HMGs)

Set up within 2 Feet of Northern table edge.
Germans move first.

Weather / Terrain

Snow (-1 command penalty for vehicles moving off road).
All buildings are brick (save 5+)

Objectives

The German player wins if the American player withdraws.

Game Length

16 Turns (to reflect the need to take the town prior to artillery intervention).

Battle Report

The Americans deployed first, however, I think the American players (well, me....) made a major mistake here...rather than defend the flanks properly, deploying in a concave formation, see below.

It was obvious that this was a mistake pretty much straight away when the main thrust of the German attack advanced directly towards this weak point in the American line.

A stroke of luck ensued at this moment when one of the German players (Steve, who really ought to know better) advanced four halftracks down the road directly in sight of an American 57mm ATG and an M10. John, the other american player, rolled a stunning sequence of command rolls and took out 2 halftracks (and the infantry therein). Four quick kills to the Americans....

Having learned their lesson, the Germans “hid” the remaining halftracks behind the intervening terrain, and a group of infantry and 3 Panzer advanced on the west side of the table, paying good attention to cover.

In the meantime, the main thrust of the German attack was advancing down the east of the board...the Panthers, more Panzer IVs, and loads of infantry. A scary sight...

Long range firing was exchanged, with the Germans losing a tank and some infantry, and the americans losing a couple of the 57mm Anti Tank Guns.

As the East flank was becoming increasingly threatened by a wide sweeping manouver, what has to be one of the funniest Command blunders i’ve ever seen happened to one of the German players (Mal, playing his first ever BKC-2 game)......his Panthers had to advance a full move forwards (that was the result of the command blunder) taking them within 10cm of an Infantry Squad, with Bazooka that was hidden in the trees...acting on initiative in the following turn, it let fly with a bazooka...

...sadly, the Panther survived, but it was all rather funny nevertheless!

The Americans decided to bug out on the eastern flank, rather than face the onslaught, and retire into the town...however, at this point, John....and I still haven’t worked out how he managed this.....managed to fail 4 command rolls in succession (including the 2 CO attempts to get ‘em moving)....oh yes, they got out of their foxholes alright, but then they stood around in open ground waiting to be shot. And shot they were.....the Germans were just out of initiative range, and that was it!

A smattering of casualties on both sides (infantry mainly) then it was all over, as the Americans received the 60% losses that broke them.....

Game over, a German victory.

Player Conclusion

Graeme (on behalf of the US players Graeme and John)):

I was quite pleased with the way it went really, as I wanted to see if Squad Leader scenario conversions remained balanced after converting to BKC…it looks as thought they do as, but for a very dodgy deployment decision on my behalf (allowing ourselves to be outflanked), then it would have been a nicely balanced game indeed! If we'd taken out 2 or 3 more tanks, I think it would have proved much more difficult for the Germans.

There was some fine shooting by John, neatly taking out a couple of Sdkfz 251/1s and the troops in the first turn...still, if you drive 'em in front of a 57mm ATG and an M10 who pass numerous command rolls in one turn, whatcha expect!!!

Of course, it all seemed to balance out later though, as Johns inability to get the troops back into the town by failing 4 or 5 straight command rolls.

My over-riding memory of the game though, is one of the best examples of a command blunder I've ever seen!!!

Steve (on behalf of the German players Steve, Bob and Mal):

A very interesting scenario is Longchamps. Playing it with BkC-II is rough as we were on the advance against dug in US positions so we knew it'd be a tough fight.

Looking at the US deployment (barring any hidden troops), it seemed obvious that the left flank was very weak and poorly placed. Despite the required advance across snowy ground without cover, we decided to put our main force in through her in a flanking move.

We banked on the US troops being fixed to their foxholes but just to make sure they stayed pinned, we put a 3rd of our force up the well covered road on out right. This force was intended merely to pin...as it happens, that bit of the plan went awry!

Our main attack faltered slightly in the snow and as a result the infantry took a real pounding, but we managed to get the Panthers into a good firing position and took out the threatening AT guns. Meanwhile the MkIVs and remaining infantry did their job admirably and swarmed in on the flank of the American line.

At this point the US command panicked, the men in the foxholes lost their heads and paid for the botched withdrawal dearly.

The Panthers took this as a sign of general retreat and pushed forwards into a Bazooka ambush. Terrifying! fortunately, the bazooka troops also panicked and couldn't get a concentrated fire down on the German armour before they were blown to pieces. They did manage to fight off the German infantry assault first though...assaulting dug in troops is suitably nighmarish!

So, yes...with Longchamps being blown to pieces as the German tanks pounded the positions where the US survivors were fleeing to, the battle was won. Jah wolh! Sehr gut!

Meanwhile over on the right flank, tasked with a pinning action (under my command) i got rather over-enthusiastic! Not only did i present the reserve mechanised infantry to the US AT fire early on (with predictable losses), i also advanced my weak force into the sight of the US entrenchments ahead, taking far more losses than i needed too.

Oh dear...

Still, a great battle. A tough scenario for both sides and a lot of fun to play.

BkC-II is one of the best WWII rulesets we've played i think and as a testament to it we find ourselves 'playing the battle' rather than 'playing the rules'. They remind us of Crossfire without all the bugs! Perfect!!!

I think we'll be playing a lot more BkC-II.

Historical Outcome

The firefight raged for nearly 20 minutes, but the battle turned during the “mad minute” – the moment when all weapons on the line were in action simultaneously. Within seconds, four of the five AT guns along the frontage of D and F Companies were knocked out, along with an American Tank Destroyer and 8 German tanks. Dozens of infantrymen were downed.

Incoming shells were so numerous that several survivors reported the ground trembling. Buildings in Longchamps were set aflame.

After some 15 minutes of this, American artillery found the range and heavy shellfire tore into the ranks of the German infantry. The attackers withdrew, their retreat covered by halftracks. January 3rd would go down as one of the bloodiest days in the annals of the 101st Airbourne, for companies D and F lost 95 men.