Saturday, February 12, 2022

Developing a Biazza Ridge Scenario for "Battlegroup" - Scenario Coordinating Instructions

 Hot on the heels of our last Biazza Ridge OOB post, I'm following up with probably my favorite of the whole lot - the scenario coordinating instructions.  This is the post where we impart some of the scenario-specific mechanics onto the game that ensure that the commanders participating get some of the feel for the battle out of their game.  This is also the post where we set the victory conditions, reinforcement schedule, and the parameters for victory.  Luckily we know how this all ended in real life, which always makes it a bit easier.  Besides publishing the map, this is where the meat of the scenario is put onto the bones.

Following the format we used in the Hubbardton Scenario Coordinating Instructions post, we'll discuss the parameters of turn length (or lack thereof!), victory conditions, reinforcements, and starting positions, all within the confines of the pre-selected Battlegroup templated scenario.  We'll also discuss what happened in real life, so we have an idea of what to match our experience against.  Let's get into it!

Turn Length & Reinforcements

Battlegroup doesn't have turn lengths for games.  Instead, it uses a morale-clock type function called "Battle Rating" whereby the force's overall morale is randomly chipped away through chit pulls.  So time isn't quite as significant for our purposes since time seems pretty elastic in the games, given the random number of actions allowed per turn (D6 rolls + officers = actions allowed).  I love this feature because it ensures no 2 games are alike and has a smattering of random things that occur as a result of the chit pull.

The Biazza Ridge fight started mid-day and lasted through to the early evening.  It seems that reinforcements for the Americans trickled in, including elements of 3rd Battalion, 505th PIR, elements of C Battery, 456th Artillery (Airborne), and eventually 45th Division troops and some tanks, as well as a Naval Gunfire Liaison team, likely from Navy Beach Battalion #4 (thank you Dave!).

To me, since time is not a factor for games of Battlegroup, the appropriate feel is what we're after.  COL Gavin will start on the table (Forward HQs, 505th PIR), along with the engineers who were accompanying him, as well as a single squad (2 "units" in Battlegroup speak, an MMG team, and an Airborne Rifle Squad).  The remaining infantry will start to join the fight on turn 2, but this will be randomized.  So elements will feed into the battle just as happened historically - in dribs and drabs. 

For the Germans it will be the same thing.  To give the game some tension, the German Armor, and the American artillery (both the howitzers and the naval support team), will be the last units to enter the table on their respective sides.  The Germans are starting with a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers without heavy weapons or a Forward Observer on the table.  The Germans also do not have any officers starting on the table.  The Germans will have to bring their officers on, forcing them to choose between the opportunity for extra orders or extra units and combat power.    This will nicely reflect the command challenges faced by the Germans on the day of the battle, and the typical paratrooper feeling on the American side that you probably never have enough of what you need on any given day!

The German armor will come on last, and depending on the D6 rolls, the Americans should have the opportunity to get their squads into position (but maybe not, if the German player rolls consecutive 5's or 6's to get reinforcements on the table!).  So, our timing here will be set by our reinforcement schedules, and forcing the artillery and German armor to show up last, basically making this about the initial contact on the ridge and eventual American capture of the ridge.

Victory Conditions

The Victory Conditions for the game are as per the Battlegroup "Attack / Counterattack" scenario, so the first player to reach their morale breakpoint will instantly lose.  COL Gavin's leadership undoubtedly helped keep the Americans on the ridge so he imparts a +1D6 to the morale level at the start of the scenario, in addition to what the morale level is for the Americans.  

On paper, the Germans start with a higher morale breakpoint than the Americans (32 to 29) but with COL Gavin's 1D6 roll, the Americans could be up to 35 if they roll a 6 at the beginning of the scenario.

COL Gavin (right) a +1D6 kind of officer!

 Starting Positions

The Americans will start on the east side of ridge with the Germans starting on the west side.  Both players will pick an objective per the Battlegroup rules, but 1 objective will be placed in the direct middle of the table, ensuring the ridge is fought over by both players.  (the enemy player must pull a chit when the opposing player seizes an objective).  Here are some great historical accounts of the events leading up to the battle that will help establish the starting positions:

Gavin took a platoon of 307th combat engineers and headed west on the highway leading from Vittoria to Gela. Soon he heard gun fire and continued down the road. At this time it was about 8:30am. He reached a point where a railway crossed the road and saw Biazza Ridge in front of him about half a mile away and 100 feet high with a gradual slope to the east. The firing he had heard earlier was coming from the ridge and its intensity was increasing. The firing was from Germans of the Hermann Goring Division and the 180th US Infantry. They had engaged each other on the west side of the ridge south of the highway. The Germans were occupying the ridge. Gavin deployed his platoon of engineers ordering them to take the ridge. He then sent for 3rd battalion and they came. Source: Breurer, W., “Drop Zone Sicily: Allied Airborne Strike, July 1943”, 1983, page 13

US Paratroopers taking Biazza Ridge

As the battle unfolds there is action with both Companies G and H with a see-saw action over the ridge:

The [Airborne] troopers pushed the Germans over the top and down the western slope of the ridge. Fire intensified with mortars, artillery and machine guns. The Germans swiftly counterattacked, and the troopers were forced back over the ridge’s crest. At that point Company H took over the attack from Company G. They were ordered to fix bayonets and then charged over the ridge engaging the Germans in bloody hand to hand combat, killing many of them and forcing a German retreat. Sometime at this point the men on the ridge first heard the German tanks. The troopers on the ridge chased the Germans down the western side. The Germans counterattacked again, using tanks in addition to the infantry. The tanks were Mark VI Tiger tanks each equipped with an 88mm cannon. There were 17 of them. The tanks began firing at individual troopers with their 88mm cannons. Source: “All American All the Way” Nordyke, P., 2005, page 74 - 75

As we discussed in the OOB post, there were not 17 Tigers at Biazza Ridge.  We know this because at least 3 of them were broken down trying to extricate one of the behemoths after it got stuck during the drive to the battlefield.  For my purposes, a ratio of troops to tanks fits the bill here, and I'm including 2 Tigers and a Panzer III to counterattack the American advance.  This nicely represents a section of the line, and should recreate the desperation felt by the Americans to try and hold onto their positions.

Fighting on Biazza Ridge

So this, I believe, provides some historical context and justification for starting the battle with Gavin on the table, along with an Engineer squad, and an infantry squad.  Nordyke's "All American All the Way" quote above references an intense skirmish between German infantry from the HG Division who had engaged the 180th US Infantry further to the west.  

Starting with a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers, without transport, officers or heavy weapons, and a smaller, "Veteran" band of paratroopers will give ample opportunity for the punch-counter punch described above.  The Americans - with a dash of luck - should be able to seize the ridge and possibly right as the Tigers show up on the scene.  The Germans will have the means to push back in terms of manpower, but without heavy weapons, fire support, or officers, will have a hard time consolidating if they do manage to push onto the ridge.

With all of this information, I think we have enough information to establish the parameters for the Battlegroup scenario.  This will go into the "product" we are producing.  Here we go - another excerpt from the scenario "product" I'm working on:

So next up I have to develop the map for the scenario and by then we will have a complete picture for our scenario and I can focus on painting the miniatures for the game!  The good news is I have ample figures for this battle including battlefront Germans and American paratroopers from the Open Fire box which paint up really quickly.  The only minis I'll have to purchase will be the "Pack Howitzers" from C/456 PFAB.  (PFAB: Parachute Field Artillery Battalion).  Stay tuned!


  1. Thanks for the detail Steve, this is really moving forwards. Is it worth linking reinforcement opportunity to Moral Breakpoints, to ensure that the sides properly get at each other prior to reinforcements being released? It would need the trigger point to release both sides at the same time, otherwise the first to reach it could disengage and then just build up their reinforcements before attacking the non-reinforced side. Just a thought, though the downside to the mechanic is that the on-table situation could deteriorate faster than the reinforcements are able to get into action.

    Presumably, each sides break point increases incrementally as reinforcements arrive?

    1. Glad you have enjoyed this exercise so far, Norm. I dont know if these scenarios I've been knocking together are any "good" but they've certainly been enjoyable to produce!

      I like the idea of a reinforcement "trigger". The only issue with making it tied to the morale points is that both are secret to the other player and therefore unknown.

      I wonder if, perhaps, the trigger could be capturing the center objective on the table - which will be on the ridge more or less? instead of rolling 1d6, there is a set amount of elements that arrive for both sides.

      the showtime of the Tigers and the Naval artillery liaison team is crucial because both of them in their own rights are high payoff/high value targets so I think I want to ensure those are the final arrivals to force an infantry fight, initially. the actual BG scenario has 4 objectives on the table to my 3 in this scenario. wonder if I should keep it at 4?

      so the BP is based on the total forces for the whole game, regardless of how many elements are on the table. each unit "purchased" contributes to the sum which remains in effect throughout the game.

  2. Nice background info there Steve and good to see your reasoning about the choices you have made re: the scenario design. Looking forward to the next post:).

    1. thanks, Steve! I wanted the action to unfold like the narrative above with an Airborne assault down the west side of the ridge, followed up by a tiger assault. the map will be next!

  3. Great research work - makes us anticipate the actual game, and of great interest in itself. This is a great model for future scenario design.
    ...and that Gavin bloke needs to keep his head down ;)

    1. thanks Darren, That's the general idea here - to keep you anticipating what's next :)

      hopefully Gavin keeps at his CO where he belongs. otherwise "Market Garden" or "Varsity" could go in a completely different direction!