As the world emerges from lockdown, I thought it timely to update you all on our planned next release – Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ‘44
As mentioned in our first lockdown post, the enforced ‘quiet time’ has allowed a lot of research, design, and testing work to be completed. The Mike Prucha/David Michas team have powered ahead despite living in completely different countries (the US and France respectively) and we are in the final mile for Scheldt ‘44.
All the scenarios are essentially completed except for the Getting Started and a few variants of existing scenarios. We are deep into testing and optimising both the victory conditions, PDT files and AI orders.
Here is the full list of the core scenarios that are planned to be included with the game.
#0907_01 Herbst Sturm
#0907_02 Albert Canal
#0910_01 Le Havre
#0917_01 Channel Ports
#0917_02 Market Garden
#0924_01 Turnhout Canal
#0930_01 Right Flank
#1001_01 Scheldt Campaign I
#1001_02 Rijkevorsel Bridgehead
#1006_01 Breskens Pocket
#1009_01 Hoogerheide 2
#1012_01 Overloon 2
#1020_01 Scheldt Campaign II
#1021_01 Breskens Pocket 2
#1024_01 Vitality I
#1026_01 Vitality II
You can read this scenario descriptor as the month and day followed by the scenario number and title. The big addition compared to our prior updates is that scenarios covering operations in Holland in September 1944 are now included. This adds three more large campaigns, Herbst Sturm, Channel Ports covering the clearing of the French fortified ports and the teams take on Operation Market-Garden. The five campaigns are all very accessible with Herbst Sturm being 58 turns long. Market-Garden, 85 turns, Channel Ports is 117 turns, Scheldt Campaign I is 152 turns and Campaign II is the longest at 178 turns. There are many small to medium scenarios included and we believe we will cater to both players vs the AI as well as play by email and team games.
My personal take looking through the scenarios is the staggering depth of research done by the team. The German order of battle alone is unprecedented with the number of ad-hoc and other formations identified and included. When you consider the disarray the Germans were in after the Allied breakout from Normandy in August 1944, it is obvious how the Axis had to throw any warm body into the line. It is similar for Allies where all the formations are identified as well as resistance and other irregular troops. The impact of three plus months of fighting since D-Day is evident with the Allied experience dropping significantly due to the extremely high proportion of raw replacements included in the present divisions. Players need to be prepared to be fighting with sub quality troops that are D & E morale, on both sides!
The inclusion of the September scenarios sets the scene for the game’s focus, the fighting in Holland in October and November. The weather is much better in September and players will be fighting in normal or soft conditions compared to the mud of the later campaigns. Here is the description for the Herbst Sturm campaign, to give you an idea of what is included in this particular campaign.
Operation Herbststurm, 7 September 1944: After its defeat at Falaise in mid-August, the Westheer was sent into a headlong retreat toward Germany. Blocking positions fell before they could be occupied as Allied armored formations raced across the countryside liberating town after town at lighting speed. After weeks of humiliating defeat, OKW chief Wilhelm Keitel ordered a halt to the retreat and reorganization of German forces in the west for the defense of the Reich. The reorganization, scheduled for 7 September, was codenamed "Operation Herbststurm," or "Autumn Gale." The most endangered sector lay in northern Belgium where an enormous rift had opened between the 15th and 7th armies. Here the German command formed a new field army. Lead by the architect of the German airborne forces, Generaloberst Kurt Student, this new 1st Parachute Army was to establish a defensive position behind the Albert Canal from Antwerp to south of Hasselt.
While the newly formed 1st Parachute Army prepared for the defense of the Albert Canal and the Dutch border, Gustav von Zangen's 15th Army found itself in a perilous position. Previously responsible for the coastal defenses from Walcheren to Le Havre, the Allied advance had left 15th Army hemmed in with its back to the sea. On the 6th Von Zangen attempted to counterattack from his position on the Lys River toward Brussels in an effort to re-establish contact with 7th Army. The attack had some early success but on the night of the 6th-7th it petered out after vicious but futile fighting between Oudenaarde and Avelgem. On the 7th Von Zangen received the order to retreat toward the harbors at Breskens and Terneuzen for evacuation across the Westerschelde. Dislocated from the German defenses north of Antwerp, Von Zangen's army needed to move quickly to avoid encirclement and potential annihilation.
Though the Germans' situation in Belgium was dire, it was not irretrievable. Montgomery's day-long halt order to XXX Corps had bought Student valuable time to organize behind the Albert Canal and additional reinforcements were on the way. If the 15th Army could extricate itself from its immediate peril, it could concentrate on a narrower and narrower front as it retreated toward Zeelandic Flanders. The days of easy Allied victories were over and from September 7th forward they were to encounter ever-increasing resistance... [Size: Large]
In this historic variant of the scenario, objective hexes have been placed to encourage the Allied player to concentrate against the 1st Parachute Army in an effort to reach the Dutch border. Few objective hexes are placed in the 15th Army area. The 15th Army is vulnerable, but if the Allied player commits to many resources against it he may not have sufficient forces for the attack against the Albert Canal. This scenario must be played with the optional "Virtual Supply Trucks" rule.
This campaign also comes with a number of variants, increasing the importance of clearing the German 15th Army out of the Channel Ports as well as other options.
Here are some shots from the Herbst Sturm campaign scenario. These have been taken on a wider screen so more of the map is evident (click to see the full size image).
This image has been taken at maximum zoom out and shows the size of play area as indicated by the jump map.
The next couple of shots are at the middle zoom level. Here is the French coastline, showing the precarious position of 15th Army.
Further to the east is Ghent and Antwerp.
This shot shows the Albert Canal, the point that Student tried to build a defensive line.
These shots are still the Herbst Sturm campaign but at maximum zoom in. Fortress Dunkirk
Crossing the Albert Canal at Beringen.
A more detailed view of Ghent.
The team have also made the most of the new irregular troops included in the game series to model the activities of the various national liberation organisations. The description for the Antwerp scenario shows yet another remarkably interesting and different scenario for players to play.
Liberation of Antwerp, 4 September 1944: The first organized resistance groups sprang up in Belgium just months after the nation's 1940 defeat and by 1944 there were well over a dozen organizations resisting the Nazi occupation, each with differing ideologies and goals. Some groups, like the Belgian National Movement (MNB/BNB) engaged in a wide array of activities ranging from intelligence gathering, clandestine publication, the sheltering of Jews, and sabotage. Other groups had a narrower focus: the White Brigade disseminated anti-German propaganda and catalogued collaborators while Group G's sole area of interest was the disruption of German rail transportation. Some groups, like the National Royalist Movement (MNR/NKB) and communist Independence Front (FI/OF) adhered to extreme political ideologies. With nationwide membership greater than 60,000, the Secret Army (AS/GL) was by far the largest organization. Unlike most groups, the AS/GL was a strictly military organization and cooperated closely with the Belgian government-in-exile. Led by officers of the 1940 army, the AS/GL stockpiled weapons, ammunition, and uniforms and was to remain largely invisible until ordered into action by London. Due to extreme political divisions, efforts to unify the Belgian resistance under a single command failed.
Though the Belgian resistance remained fractured nationwide, all recognized the strategic significance of Antwerp's port and, in the spring of 1944, the local Antwerp resistance groups set aside their differences and agreed to cooperate. A committee led by Lt. Urbain Reniers of the AS/GL and Edouard Pilaet of the Partisans armés (the armed wing of the FI/OF) coordinated the activities of Antwerp's armed resistance and planned a coup to secure the city and preserve the port from destruction. A company-sized group of NKB men under Lt. Eugène Colson, codenamed "Harry," was to play a key role. Recruited from local longshoremen, Colson's group disabled German demolition charges on the locks and other key installations in late August. When the time was right, they would take up arms in the old port and fight their way northwest to the Kruischaans Lock. Meanwhile, other AS/GL, MNR/NKB, and PA groups would secure the bridges leading into the city and the central park and government offices.
On September 1st, as Allied troops raced across France, Reniers and the Coordinating Committee received a message from London: "Le fermier a mis ses gros sabots," indicating a state of general alert. The next day the first Allied troops entered Belgium and a second message was sent: "Les narcisses jaunes sont en fleur." Arms were distributed and the resistance fighters took their positions. On September 3rd Guards Armoured Division entered triumphantly into Brussels while the advance guard of 11th Armoured sped toward Antwerp. The message from the previous day was repeated. By evening, 11th Armoured's two columns had reached Wolvertem and Aalst and the Black Bull Division was set to make the final approach to Antwerp in the morning. On the night of September 3rd-4th, Reniers received one last message from London: "Pour François la lune est clair." The time was at hand and the Belgian patriots would go into action in the morning. Though they had no shortage of bravery and had the advantage of surprise, they were badly armed and few in number and could not hope to withstand a determined counterattack. While the Resistance would take the first step in Antwerp's liberation, the future of the city and its critical port depended on the speedy arrival of the British tanks...[Size: Small]
Here is an image from the Antwerp game showing the arrival of the British and simultaneous activation of the resistance forces.
Here are some of the other scenarios that have been added for the September period.
A scenario focused only on the Albert Canal.
Clearing Le Havre.
This is the 117 turn campaign focused on clearing the Channel Ports. There are smaller scenario covering Boulogne and Calais (not shown)
Ternuezen is another manageable sized scenario.
The Right Flank is another large scale scenario covering the aftermath of Market-Garden. The scenario is shown in the next two screen shots.
Readers will have noted that we have included Market-Garden in the game. We decided we could not do the fighting in Holland in September and ignore this pivotal operation. Firstly, we are only including the campaign scenario for the operation. We believe that the lower level scenarios are extremely well handled in the previously released Panzer Campaigns Market-Garden ‘44 and there was little point to us emulating that work. That said, the new Market-Garden campaign included in Scheldt ’44 is expanded beyond the campaign that was included in the prior title. There is now the inclusion not just of XXX Corps, but also XII Corps and VIII Corps for the British. This has allowed us to expand the map and the units available for both sides. Another significant difference is that the map has not been turned like it was in the original game. The Allies must advance to the north east rather than north as in the prior release. The other big change is the additional material available for research purposes in the seventeen years since the original release in 2003. All these learning, including material gleaned from actual visits to the battlefield is included in the game.
Here are some screen shots from this new Market-Garden campaign.
This shot is at maximum zoom out and shows the direction and distance that the British have to cover to reach Arnhem at the top of the map. Note the general direction of advance is NNE.
This zoomed out shot should be compared to the previous one where the first turn of airborne landings are on map at Arnhem, south of Nijmegen and north of Eindhoven.
The next two shots are at the middle zoom level and show the northern landings and the British ready to attack towards Eindhoven and relieve the first landings.
Here are some zoomed in shots.
The British landings west of Arnhem, showing the various intact or otherwise bridges on the Rhine.
Here is the Nijmegen sector with the 82nd Airborne Division.
The 101st Airborne drop zones north of Eindhoven.
And finally, the British armour, ready to push north.
As mentioned in our last blog post, Scheldt ’44 will be the first Panzer Campaigns title with the new higher resolution graphics. We have received a lot of feedback on likes and dislikes and in several cases have updated or changed imagery based upon this commentary. We will be including the original ‘Gold’ graphics with the release so players can tailor the game to the look they like. Many of these recent changes should be evident in the images we are including in this blog post and I am hard at work optimising the various zoom levels. I also want to mention that we are testing the new graphics across a range of titles to ensure they work no matter the ground state or elevation. This is resulting in a few compromises but there will be some variances between games as required. Again, please note everything you see is subject to change i.e. is work in progress.
The more time I get with Scheldt ’44, the more certain I am that this will be a unique and heavily played title by the community. I promise!!!