Friday, 12 February 2021

Bloody Bucket Campaign Turns 1 & 2

As you will have discovered from reading the campaign notes or from reading the blog post 'A guide to following the Bloody Bucket campaign' the German player can move units between assembly points as an alternative to attacking specific maps. So there is a distinct possibility that the opening campaign turns feature this sort of movement rather than attacks on any of those maps, as the Germans probe the American defences. As the American player I'm expecting to see the Germans make a push around the flank and be in a position to strike at a number of different points before we see action on any single map. 

The Americans have one platoon positioned at each map. They have 48 support points which, prior to the start of the campaign, have been assigned across the six maps with no more than twelve on any one at the start. These were kept secret from the German player and were as follows:

Map 1 Skyline Drive

The one thing that really strikes me about this map is how little defensive terrain there is, in fact there's not much terrain at all, for attacker or defender. I also consider it a table that should be hard for the Germans to take until they have armour. If they do make an early attempt I'm confident if I commit enough to its defence I can hold them off. At the same time it is the map least likely to benefit from any American reinforcement units and so whatever is assigned there needs to be able to do the job alone. For that reason this map will be assigned ten of the total 48 support points.

The Germans will expect the cafe to be defended and so to broaden the scope of the defence I have assigned the platoon four entrenchments. With such little terrain I expect to see the Germans make full use of the tree line at their edge of the table to build their base of fire before trying to cross the open ground. To counter that I have called on a 50cal HMG. The long range and ability to reduce the level of cover could prove very useful in suppressing that. Lastly, for one point I have added an additional BAR to every squad. This seems like a very cheap way to boost the platoon's firepower and good use of a single support point. 

Map 2 The Road to Holzthum

Much like Map 1, the platoon at this map is very likely going to have to deal with whatever comes its way with the supports it has assigned at the start. For that reason it will be assigned eleven support points. The main problem it faces is that an attack could come from two directions. With the soft muddy ground German AFVs will have to be cautious if they decide to move across country and so if any armour comes this way it will most likely approach from Map 1 once that has been captured. With that in mind this platoon will have a minefield at its disposal to try to hinder German movement. As with Map 1 every squad will have an additional BAR and the platoon will once again be supported with a 50cal HMG team. 

Map 3 Holzthum Village

This strikes me as the first map where I hope to put up a very strong resistance. There are several good defensive positions and an abundance of hard cover which should make it difficult for the Germans to dislodge the American defenders. Once again I assign eleven support points.

I want to make sure the platoon has ample fire to deal with the German infantry and so in addition to the extra BAR for each squad the platoon has the support of two 30cal MMG teams. This is where I hope to take full advantage of the second senior leader in each US platoon and maximise my ability to activate the full platoon and support units. Lastly I will need to try to channel the attackers into my defence, particularly if they attack from Point B and so the platoon has access to two minefields.

Map 4 The Outskirts of Consthum


This map is not dissimilar to Map 1 where the Germans have to cross a lot of open ground to achieve their objectives. I'm assuming that German armour could be present by the time this table is attacked and so that has informed much of my thinking about how to defend the outskirts of the village. However it probably has not gone unnoticed that I have used 32 of the available 48 support points defending Maps 1 to 3, which means I have only 16 points for the remaining maps. Given US reinforcements will start to arrive in the area of Map 6 my hope is that Maps 4 to 6 will be able to boost their defences with those new arrivals, so initially these maps will have less support available. 

For Map 4 I have assigned nine support points. To hinder any rapid movement by German armour on the roads the platoon has been assigned two minefields. To allow for a degree of flexibility in the defence they also have two entrenchments. Infantry firepower is boosted once again with additional BARs in each squad. With the platoon's sole anti-tank weapon a single bazooka team I've decided to add to their capability with a Bofors AA gun. This is an attempt to make a bet both ways - it has very good HE and a modest AP capability, so I hope it can offer a threat to whatever force the Germans bring.

Map 5 Consthum Village

The defenders of this map will have to rely on the arrival of reinforcements to hold the village, particularly against German armour. I'm hoping by the time this table is under attack I may have a Sherman to boost the defence, but for now with only five support points assigned it must make do with extra BARs in each squad; two minefields and two entrenchments. The latter two supports are intended to allow for as much flexibility as possible in how the defence is positioned depending on the direction of the attack. This may prove a very difficult table to hold.

Map 6 The Last Ditch

With only two points of support remaining this map will be very dependent on what can make it through as reinforcements so each squad receives an extra BAR and there is a single minefield allocated.

The German viewpoint
With no idea how the Germans will approach the campaign I must hope my initial dispositions will be enough. So, now that we know how the Americans are positioned, what are the Germans thinking? Here Dave shares his thoughts:

The campaign looks like an interesting change of pace from the others we have played, with the conventional one-dimensional ladder arrangement replaced by a two-dimensional array of tables and abstracted ‘assembly points”. This allows for an additional element of maneuver for both sides, with the Germans able to infiltrate along the ridgeline and potentially attack any point of their choosing, while the US could move support teams, including Shermans, between tables to meet the perceived threat at any point in time (you can read in more detail how the campaign is structured in a Guide to the Bloody Bucket campaign).

Other significant factors unique to the campaign include the use of Volksgrenadiers with assault rifles, the random bridging of the Our river that determines when German armour can be selected as supports, and the ability of the Germans to attack two tables each turn and blitzkrieg onto an adjacent table following a victory.

For me, the operational approach is driven by several factors: the availability of armoured support, without which forward progress will be difficult; the desirability of cutting the roads between the villages, to prevent US reinforcements reaching the forward positions; the potential for improved tactical options made possible by attacking from the assembly points instead of (or in combination with) attacking along the main road; the ability to assault the villages in any order; and the option to launch multiple attacks in a campaign turn. 

Based on this, the approach I took was to spend the early turns infiltrating forward, getting platoons in place at the assembly points to provide attack options in later turns and allow the roads to be interdicted early. Then, when the armour arrives, push forward with combined arms attacks to dig out the American defenders, using blitzkrieg to push the assault where possible.

Time, as always in these PSCs, is a factor, but this campaign has up to nine turns for the Germans to secure the road to Bastogne for the win. With the option to attack twice in a turn, the six positions could in ideal circumstances be seized in three turns. I do not, of course, expect this to happen, but it does illustrate the ability of the German to position and prepare before attacking.

German tactical considerations

There are a number of tactical considerations to take into account. One is the quality of the troops involved. The Volksgrenadiers are, to be honest, not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Although the Sturm squads can generate significant firepower at close range with three fire dice per weapon and two LMG in the support squad, the firepower at Effective range drops off sharply. The rifle platoons, with only twelve fire dice per squad, are fairly miserable to be honest. But more than that, the small eight man squads, combined with their Green status meaning that they are hit more easily, will result in a sharp attrition of their combat power in practice, without a doubt. At least the Alte Kampfer characteristic will give the leaders more survivability. One must be grateful for such small mercies. The large experienced US squads will be tough to suppress with these fellows. The Lanchester equation never seemed so real.

A good look at the maps provides no great cause for optimism. Most of the tables are as bald as billiard balls, with little cover for the attackers. Cover is generally minimal for the approaches while the defender will either be in sturdy buildings or dug in.

Multiple attack angles are available, however, due to the nature of the campaign structure. Most of the table can be attacked from two or even three approaches, depending on whether the attacking platoon comes along the main road, from an assembly point, or in some cases from another table. As some of the approaches definitely look better than others, it may be worth taking this into account when conducting assaults. As an example, Map 4 does not actually need to be captured, as the US will abandon it when Map 5 is taken. However, the approach onto Map 5 from Map 4 looks easier than attacking via the main road (from Map 3). So it may be worth taking Map 4 simply to expedite the seizure of Map 5.

A final tactical consideration is the lack of a supporting mortar barrage. While pre-game bombardments are available, these are (at least for me) unreliable and often ineffective. I will certainly make use of them, but I would prefer some 81mm mortar support directed by a friendly FO. Ah well.

With that we are ready to begin the campaign and so we move to the first campaign turn.

Campaign Turn 1
With the American support allocated to each map there is nothing to do but wait to see what the Germans have planned. 

Dave announces that there are no attacks on any map during this campaign turn and I assume it's safe to guess that the initial Volksgrenadier Sturm platoon (I) at Assembly Point A has moved to Assembly Point B and this is indeed what Dave has decided to do.

Campaign Turn 2
The Americans have ten support points which arrive from the west and are available to be assigned immediately to either Maps 4, 5 or 6. This is kept secret from the Germans. It is too early in the campaign for the Germans to be in a position to interdict the road and so I can safely assign a Sherman M4 to Map 4 and a Bofors AA gun to Map 6 to boost the firepower available to the defenders there. 

A German Volksgrenadier Sturm platoon (II) arrive at Assembly Point A. Once more the campaign turn passes without the Germans attacking any of the maps and as the Americans I can only assume there is infiltration happening around my flanks, with a strong possibility the Germans have reached as far as Assembly Point C. While this is highly likely there is no limit to the number of German platoons that can gather at each assembly point, so I cannot be certain they have reached Assembly Point C just yet, but I suspect that is the case. As it happens my hunch was correct and the Germans do infiltrate to Assembly Point C, no doubt keen to reach Assembly Point D and interdict American reinforcements coming from the West.

Campaign Turn 3
The Americans receive another eight points of support and a Sherman M4 and a bazooka team arrive at Map 6 from the West. As things unfold my thinking is that I will most likely lose Maps 1-3 and so I should plan for a final stand around tables 4, 5 and 6. By that time there will be plenty of German armour to deal with and so I need to consolidate the anti-tank defences there. Some of the supports that arrived in the last turn could move down the road to either Maps 2 or 3, but for now I'm happy with how things are allocated and I need to keep in mind that the Germans could be positioned to interdict the road from Map 4 to Map 3.

The Germans receive a Volksgrenadier Rifle platoon (III) at Assembly Point A and, as I suspected, Dave keeps his 1st platoon at Assembly Point C for this turn to carry out interdiction duties on the road. This leaves the 2nd and 3rd platoons available to mount attacks, the first of the campaign. The 3rd platoon will attack Map 1 from Assembly Point A and the 2nd platoon attacks Map 3 from Assembly Point B with the intention of cutting off the Americans at Map 2 should their attack prove successful. 

The German bid to clear Skyline Drive and punch through to the West has begun. The first scenario of the campaign will commence with the attack on Map 1. You can find out what happens in that game in this game report.


  1. Building up the tension............

    1. I think it's what appeals about the campaign - where will the Germans attack and when?

  2. Replies
    1. I think it is showing already the repeat value of the campaign, you could play it so differently every single time.

  3. Looking forward to reading more as it happens

    1. Thanks, I think it's going to be a very interesting campaign.

  4. I would move first German platoon from Assembly Point C to D. More options. Possibility to cut all reinforcements at Map 6.

    1. That's certainly an option, however I suspect Dave wanted to interdict any movement from Maps 4,5 & 6 to Maps 2 & 3 and he can only do that if his platoon spends the whole turn at that assembly point. I guess that's what's so good about the campaign, there are so many options as how to play it.

  5. This is looking good! If the Germans take map 3, does that mean that map 2 & 1 can't get any more support points as the road will be blocked? Or that is not contemplated in the campaign?