The Battle of the Bulge or the Ardennes Counteroffensive as it is also known, in December 1944 is an infantry battle. I don’t care what Lee has said in his review of the AFVs, or what Mark is currently cooking up (Patton, it definitely involves Patton – Mark) , it was the moral and defiance of the US infantry divisions, some of which had been in constant action since the Normandy invasion in June, that stopped nearly half a million German troops in the snow of Luxembourg.
There are three core infantry formations in Bulge American, but there are some key areas in support that we will cover as well in this review to give a rounded appreciation of what forces you can bring to bear.
Battle Weary Rifle Company
The Allied Command considered the Ardennes sector to be relatively quiet towards the end of 1944 as they began their preparations for 1945 meant that it was used as a training ground for new units and a rest area for units that had seen some hard fighting. The US units stationed in the Ardennes area were therefore were a mixture of inexperienced troops, and battle-hardened troops sent to that sector to rest, rebuild and prepare for the final push into the heart of the German Reich in 1945.
Anyone who has played an American force from the D-Day American book will be familiar with the overall organisation of this formation… and by familiar I mean it is the same. That being said whilst by 1944 the unit organisation might be very standardised the units themselves are different.
The mixture of Motivation, Skill and Is Hit On values combined with their points value makes these platoons unique. Slightly more expensive than the Rifle Platoon from D-Day American and significantly cheaper than the Veteran equivalent mean they nestle nicely in the larger landscape of US Rifle Troops.
I think you will see these a lot as you are really only sacrificing a slightly lesser Motivation – with an identical Rally – score for a couple of points reduction on the Veterans. It’s already making me consider my options for my Indianhead troops.
Another interesting formation option is the mortar platoon. It is on first inspection what you would expect given the overview of the Rifle Platoon above. The most interesting development is the addition of the Smoke Bombardment to the 60mm mortars.
This now really makes you think whether you want the additional range of 81mm mortars and the safety net of a four-tube battery over the three tubes of the 60mm mortars to again shave some points.
Bastogne Parachute Rifle Company
Arriving in Bastogne on the 19th December 1944 is an iconic part of the battle and that units history but don’t forget that the 82nd Airborne Division under James Gavin deployed in front of the advance of Kampfgruppe Peiper and helped to stall his marauding advance,.
The biggest formational change between this company and its D-Day American cousin is that you can now include a Glider 105mm Artillery Battery as well as the 75mm guns. A small tweak but handy never-the-less.
The first thing that leaps out here is the 2+ Last Stand rating – that’s correct ladies and gentlemen 2+. Combine that with your Formation commander and you have a unit that is probably one of the most reliable units in the game.
Obviously, this consistency comes at a cost and that cost pushes an already eye-watering-ly expensive unit up another notch. It’s a small increase but it does keep pushing the cost of the formation units up and up and up.
That’s not to say that they aren’t effective and good but they still only save on a 3+ – they can still be mown down by MG fire in the open so you will have to be skilful in their deployment and how you bring this more elite of US formation to bare on your opponent.
The addition of the larger 105mm artillery in the formation gives you some nice options within your force now. Coming as three or six gun batteries they can add some heavy hitting and smoke providing support to your force. You are going to have to carefully marshal your points if you are taking a full formation of paratroopers but having a single platoon as an even harder-hitting assault force still remains very viable.
Bastogne Glider Rifle Platoon
It wasn’t just paratroopers that manned the walls of Bastogne they were accompanied by their comrades from the 327th Infantry Regiment dubbed the “Bastogne Bulldogs” for their hard fighting in defence of this critical road hub.
The formation remains largely the same with the notible exception that the mortar platoon is now fixed as armed with 81mm mortars without access to the lesser 60mm mortar in this iteration.
Again, some notible change to the stats of the Bastogne Glider Rifle Platoon here from their D-Day incarnation. Firstly, they are no longer just Trained they are full-blown Veteran now. This is a pretty big deal making them better in assault and more reliable to Dig In. Secondly, they now have a better Last Stand rating – just like the paratroopers. Finally, they are now Careful making these guys the finished article in terms of the full veteran experience.
However, to balance all of that is a frankly staggering increase in points. A full size Glider Rifle Platoon is now over 50% more expensive than their D-Day version. More than fifty percent.
That is a huge leap in cost, and extends to their support options too. This does now make the choice between paratroopers and glider troops now more of a preference than one being distinctly different to the other, both in terms of aesthetic and background and options within the in-formation support.
While I think of support, I’m not going to cover everything that is available in the overall formation support options as much is the same but their is a new addition from the Bulge American book that I think deserves a mention.
T27 Xylophone Rocket Launcher Battery
I have a soft spot for the Xylophone as the 2nd Infantry Division was the first to experiment them during the Brittany campaign and the battle of Brest. They weren’t that impressed with them as single launchers so to improve them artillerymen paired them up and put them on the back of a 2½-ton truck to give them better bang-for-their-buck.
The US army in Flames of War is not short of artillery templates but I do think that there is a place for the T27 as a salvo weapon. The 5+ Firepower is less than impressive but they don’t half cover some real estate when they fire. The other advantage that they have over a towed artillery piece is that they cannot be pinned so if they are not dead they can deliver a storm of light artillery to suppress your opponent.
Bulge American as an addition to the Late War landscape, in terms of infantry options, does not reinvent the wheel. But, it doesn’t need to and shouldn’t! The options we have are tweaks in difference to what we have seen previously but gives us more variety and options to include our forces.
To reiterate; more options are better than less options.
I think that there is now a less of a gap in terms of the glider and paratrooper troops but there is still a decision to be made. I really like the flavour and statistics of the Battle Weary Rifle Platoon and that is definately something I’m going to experiment with.
I hope you found this article useful when you are looking to grasp the Bulge with both hands and embrace it – and just remember phrasing IS important.
Until next time…