It all started with a message from another gamer we’d met at a major tournament the year before, “You guys are interested in the historical side of Flames Of War, would you want to go to an event where everyone is playing in the spirit of that...”; of course we would, where do we sign up, “...it’s in Aarhus, Denmark”
With cheap flights and Søren already renting a car from Copenhagen airport to Aarhus all we had to do was produce armies of the correct type and get some painting done for “Blitzkrieg Ohne Benzine”.
Themed heavily around the Battle Of The Bulge, Blitzkrieg Ohne Benzine, had us sign up to a side, an army, and a specific formation and then we would be limited to what was historically available. Both going for forces in Sixth Panzer Army, Will had the Panthers of Kampfgruppe Kuhlmann whilst I took the relatively poor relation of the Vorausabteilung of 12th Volksgrenadier Division.
With an emphasis on creating a realistic kampfgruppe, a bit of digging revealed that at the operation level of Flames Of War (generally Company‐level for armies except the Soviets & Romanians) we could create reasonably accurate battlegroups without having to go outside the rules‐allowed formations. Historically, both such groups quickly stalled against stubborn American resistance, but we weren’t to be put off by that.
Using Friday night games, we conducted some play‐testing to try out some variations on our force, taking it in turns to play a force broadly representing the American infantry groups we expected to face, to hone our skills and familiarise ourselves with some of the special rules that would affect us during the event.
The forces we settled on gave Will seven Late (Ausf. G) Panthers and an accompanying platoon of Panzergrenadiers whilst I had a larger but less battle‐capable force of 2 platoons of Volksgrenadiers, medium mortars, 3 Stug IV assault guns, 3 towed anti‐tank guns and a half‐battery of 21cm Nebelwerfers.
On the day of the event, an early start got us to Heathrow at around 4am and, after quite a lot of interest from airport security in some of our gaming aids, all went well with the airborne leg of our journey to Copenhagen airport.
Met at the gate by Søren and his compatriot Gunnar (the only foreigner playing for the US side) we killed a couple of hours awaiting our fifth traveller, Petter, and then had a long but educational trip across Denmark with Søren answering tour guide questions from “Is this really the highest point in Denmark” – apparently, yes; to “Why are some of the number plates different colours”.
As some of the first to arrive at the event venue, we were tasked with setting up some Ardennes tables with cottages, mud tracks and hundreds of snow‐covered trees that would be the battlegrounds for the next days.
Split into our national groups, we were given our initial briefing for the Friday night game – we, as Germans, would be using our infantry screen to conduct a night attack against American outposts in an attempt to open the roads for our armoured thrusts tomorrow morning. Having been pre‐warned about this smaller‐level infantry‐only game beforehand, Will had managed to borrow a force from a fellow player for this game and I had also secured some Pak40s as I hadn’t managed to fully finish my force by the event.
Given our marching orders, it was then dinner time; the first of all the provided meals for the event; eating in our national groups as both a socialising opportunity and an expedient to give us time between games to plan our moves.
Attacking with infantry at night proved to be too difficult for all of our fellow Sixth Panzer Army players but our neighbouring Fifth Panzer army managed 3 wins, putting us in a weakened position to roll forward from on the main day of gaming.
With socialising going on into the early hours, with a lot of interest in the fact we’d come all the way from Oxford for the event, day one of our Danish wargaming odyssey drew to a close. Saturday dawned with a traditional Danish breakfast (and apparently “Danish Pastries” are actually Viennese) again provided, whilst we came up with a plan for our opening moves of the armoured thrust to the Meuse.
In addition to the standard Flames Of War rules, as part of Blitzkrieg Ohne Benzine we Germans would be playing with the handicap of limited fuel. We would each start with enough fuel for 12 turns of movement, whilst expecting to play at least 18 across the 3‐game main campaign. Originally unbeknownst to us (but semi‐expected) we could divert effort from the main effort of our attacks to seizing US fuel dumps positioned along the routes.
From the “Firestorm” reinforcement pool, my force was supplemented with a trio of fuel‐thirsty King Tiger heavy tanks carrying men of 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division, whilst Will doubled‐down and got more Panthers. Reinforced with these additional units, we would play our first game outnumbering the US forces by anything up to 2:1 to try to force a breakthrough.
Using a large battlefield hex map, we were assigned our objectives for Game 1; I would be trying to seize Stavelot from one of the Danish national FoW team, whilst Will would attempt not to recreate history and take the twin villages of Krinkelt‐Rocherath from another.
Given the weather rules of soft ground, deep snow and fog; movement off‐road was difficult and fuel‐consuming and I found my assault guns consigned to roads attempting to support my infantry moving cross country to their objectives against Kristian’s slightly ahistorical British battlegroup.
Due mostly to the arrival of my King Tigers from within the British/American rear I was able to clinch victory but at the cost of 2 Tigers irrevocably lost and without securing either fuel dump. Will had more success, capturing 350l of fuel but expending 1975l in the process.
Across our Army group, we had all been successful in our opening games and in most places pushed further than our historical counterparts but the US War Machine was beginning to wake and our force imbalance was being redressed.
For game 2, the first US armoured counterattack was launched at each army and, as the least mobile battlegroup in ours, I was designated defender against it whilst our other players pushed on. Having rarely played against US armour their skills and equipment were something of a mystery to me as Chaffees and Shermans started probing my defences and the heavy armour of the M4A3E2 Jumbos were an unwelcome surprise. Determined not to let the side down, and with a large amount of luck and a huge expenditure of panzerfausts, I was able to turn back Gunnar’s force for my second win, whilst Will’s Panthers were stopped outside his objective in his first loss.
Preparation for the third and final game saw us all pool our remaining fuel to allow our most aggressive and mobile forces to stand a chance of seizing the third round objectives. As we did in game 1, the US players now received heavy reinforcement, and the weather cleared to allow sorties from allied fighter‐bombers, to try to stop our attacks.
Again defending against a US counterattack, I found myself playing a fighting withdrawal against US 99th Infantry Division, with only enough fuel to move each of my three Stugs once apiece. Despite constant pressure, I was able to successfully extricate my force, finishing my game shortly before midnight on Saturday’s very full day of gaming, having avoided the incessant air attacks that crippled other German players.
The rest of our army had less luck and whilst we didn’t make it across the Meuse, we did perform well and overall beat the Americans, with our Sixth Panzer Army also beating Fifth Panzer Army in both numbers of games won and points scored.
At a closing ceremony around 1am prizes were given for Best Painted Army, Most German Tanks Destroyed, Most Fuel Used, Best Allied Player and Best Axis. I managed to collect the Best Axis Player by the tie‐break of least fuel used due almost entirely to my only have three vehicles in the first place and my static defence for two of the three games.
After packing up and a few celebratory drinks most retired to bed around 3, for the longest but best day of gaming I’d ever done.
The return journey to Copenhagen on Sunday went smoothly, and we spent half a day exploring the Danish capital, even popping to a wargaming shop to pick up supplies for the next army, and the return flight was also a breeze. Explaining to British Border Force that my padded box I was carrying contained toy soldiers for a game in Denmark and yes, I did win, was the only notable event in an easy journey home.
Overall, it had been a fantastic event for both the quality of the games themselves and the friendliness and sporting of all players and the game organisers. Due to food & accommodation being included in the comparatively low ticket price, it hadn’t cost a fortune either and we’ve been invited to go again next year – and bring friends!
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it, Stuart and Will