Battle report for new scenario Wassigny, the historical capture of French General Giraud by advancing German forces in May of 1940, part of the new Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1940 DLC.
As is usual for me and to really ramp up the difficulty, I played on a special unlockable difficulty setting where all Allied units have +5 Strength. So 10 strength units have all become 15 strength units. German player units remain at their normal 10 base strength.
The briefing, full of important information and intelligence for the player to consider:
Because of the new nature of the DLC campaigns, with a much stronger emphasis on highly mobile and fluid tank combat and less of the static ‘siege warfare’ of the base campaigns, I’ve redesigned my core slightly. Where previously an abundance of infantry, artillery, and strategic bombers are very powerful tools, the new DLC encourages more tanks, anti-tank, and tactical bomber units. My core, as of this point in the campaign consists of:
Right off the bat, we have an instance of an armored counter-attack. Here are the new triggers and configurations at work. It is by no means a seriously threatening assault, but if those three French units managed to catch one of my units in transport, they most likely would have scored a solid kill. Now more than ever in the DLC campaigns, good reconnaissance and a strong screen/escort are vital to maintain. If you send your transports blindly forward, the AI will make you pay for it.
Small-scale French counter-attack
And of course with the abundance of enemy armored units, anti-tank units, especially the vaunted German 88, become very useful. The armor rating of the Char B and Matilda II are very difficult for early Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs to crack, but a well positioned 88 can quickly put a stop to enemy counter-attacks.
88 takes aim at a French tank unit
And again, we have yet another small counter attack. Large enough to be threatening, but small enough to be manageable. Also note the variety of equipment the AI uses now. In just the last two screenshots, we’ve seen glimpses of a Char B, a Somua S35, a Renault Tank, and a Hotchkiss too.
Another small-scale counter-attack
After the first seven turns, dealing with the first wave of Allied aircraft and sweeping aside their small counter attacks, the advance is continuing at a good pace. I’ve aimed my focus directly towards the Allied victory hexes, keeping my core is tightly grouped packs of units instead of spreading them all over the map to just grab everything in sight. While that might be feasible to do on a lower difficulty setting, I really need to concentrate my units to overcome the special Allied overstrength bonus.
Path of the German advance, going after victory hexes to find Giraud's HQ
88 takes aim at another French tank unit. This unit is invaluable throughout the DLC campaigns, where Allied armor and counter-attacks are abundant
So after 8 of 20 turns, I have control of all but one victory hex. However with this special scenario, control of victory hexes does not end the scenario, and those 12 extra turns are for the second ‘phase’ of this scenario, a VIP escort task.
Giraud's HQ is finally sighted at Wassigny
If you look at the above picture, you will see a 16(sixteen) strength French tank in front of that Victory Hex on the left part of the screen. In the screenshot below, that tank has been damaged down to 6 strength, and has retreated behind the safety of the HQ Bunker to reinforce. Not bad for an AI move.
AI has moved damaged French tank behind the HQ bunker to reinforce
So after 11 turns, the map looks fairly well cleared of French forces, and I have control of the center of the map and all victory hexes. Why hasn’t the mission ended? Well remember from the briefing, the goal of the mission is to locate, capture, and then escort the French General back to special capture hexes. So really, only half of the scenario is completed, and now the second phase has begun. If you really think about it, this one scenario is actually two scenarios. The first stage is a standard advance, moving forward and clearing enemy opposition from your path, and the second stage is a fighting withdrawal, preserving my core forces and protecting my VIP unit against a large scale counter-attack.
How the map looks upon the capture of Giraud, notice the German defensive positions, and a centrally-located mobile reserve
Now the second phase has begun. Several French units have activated behind my lines, and lead elements of their primary attack formations have begun to appear on the borders of the map.
First French units approach the German lines, and a few infantry launch surprise attacks at the rear of the German lines
Where in previous campaigns the battle for the skies typically ends very quickly, with the new reinforcement triggers we can keep the air battle going long and strong through-out the entire length of a scenario. Instead of the AI slamming into the player with 10 aircraft all at once in the first 3 turns, it’s now possible to configure the AI to ‘stream’ these units into the battle slowly. A few formations of aircraft to initially challenge the player, and then more waves in the later turns, providing a challenging battle for the skies that cannot quickly be won in the opening turns of a scenario.
Elite Me-109 takes a bite out of one of the newly-arrived French bomber formations
Of course new features wouldn’t be complete without new art assets to go with them. Here we have one example of a never before seen unit. It’s a French armored car, but with a German flag, colors, and markings attached. Unique graphics and unit names serve to help guide the player and help them easily identify mission critical units quickly and easily.
Captured General Giraud's unit, complete with German coloring
By turn 13, the surprise French infantry attack behind my lines has mostly been cleared out, and my forces have moved into a strong defensive stance. Quite often in the DLC campaign, and especially on this difficulty setting, the AI is too strong and too numerous to simply steamroll them all down. But that’s no problem, because the mission objective isn’t to steamroll the enemy. It’s to survive the AI’s attempt to overrun the player.
German lines start to contract and fall back slowly
The above picture was turn 13, and the below picture is turn 14. As you can see, I’ve fallen back quite quickly, but I have fallen back in good order. My armored units remain on rear guard duty, protecting my vital captured VIP and soft targets such as my artillery and infantry.
As the French continue to advance, the German lines continue to fall back in good order with a strong rear guard
With good positioning, it’s possible for an inferior force to stall a superior force. Obviously with enough time, four French tanks and four French infantry will overrun the few defenders I have placed on this northern flank. But I don’t need to be on the offensive or even hold the line indefinitely. I just need to buy enough time to extract the VIP. Decisive victory and destroying 90% or more of all enemy units is no longer mutually exclusive. These units are part of my core, who have been with me for at least 15 scenarios at this point. Simply leaving them to die is not an option; it’s a careful balancing act of holding the line as long as I can, but doing so with the minimum amount of permanent casualties.
French attack forces are blocked by forces a fraction of their size. 4 tanks and 4 infantry units held up by 1 infantry, 1 artillery, 1 anti-tank, and a lot of Luftwaffe support
By the next turn, I’ve slowed down the speed of my fighting withdrawal to compact my forces into tight formation. This eliminates the danger of being flanked or cut off, but also makes it harder for me to fall back if I need to give ground in a hurry.
Final lines of German defense
Luckily for me, I’ve stalled the French assault long enough to complete my objective. By my count, I see a dozen or so infantry units joined with at least 10 tanks and several recon units all advancing on my units. As my lines contract, however, it’s easier for me to focus my units into very strong lines of defense. Without effective defensive tactics such as fighting on terrain of my choosing, using river lines to my advantage, and keeping fragile units like my artillery safe in supporting positions, this battle could potentially have turned out very badly for my core. But then the briefing did warn me about this possibility, so I was more than ready for it.
End of scenario, the French advance has completely stalled on the strong defensive lines
After 15 turns, the AI still has a bomber flying around, and more than enough units to potentially cause my forces serious harm. I might have lost control of the field, but that’s the intention of the scenario. It’s an advance, escort mission, and fighting withdrawal action all rolled into one single scenario.
Tactical map view of the end of scenario, note the extremely powerful rear guards who were not forced to retreat, but gave ground voluntarily to shrink and focus their defensive positions
Seems to be the French version of Arras, with a twist (escort General Giraud). What happened to your fighters, not even one Bf109 unit?
I reached Warsaw again yesterday evening, restarted after 3 scenarios and also went without extra fighters early on, rather got a Bf110 and disbanded the AT-unit for a Pz38t.
I will link this thread to some friends who might be interested in buying Panzer Corps. If that's not convincing I can't help them anymore.
Excellent writeup Kerensky, this is definitely one of the most memorable scenarios. if there is ever a scenario where you should show the AI's counter-attacking abilities sufficient respect, it is this one!