I decided to cover the 4th Armored division because, for a division that achieved as much as they did, they don’t always get the press in wargames that perhaps they should. And second? Well, my grandfather rode with them. He was a proud member of Company F (Light Tanks), 25th Mechanized Cavalry Squadron, 4th Armored Division. If the 4th was the tip of Patton’s spear, then the 25th was the pointy end of that tip.
My grandfather was instrumental in many ways in being part of my becoming a wargamer. He not only bought me a copy of Tactics II, but his stories about the 4th Armored were, in many ways, instrumental in my early wargaming purchase choices. He talked a lot about the division’s role in the relief of Bastogne, and the headlong drive of the division across France, and, later, Germany.
As I got older and read more, I learned about the fights at Arracourt (which could be called the “Kursk of the Western Front.”), Singling, and the Lorraine campaign, which was just as bad as the Hurtgen Forest, but without the close terrain.
But we’re here to cover where the 4th Armored has been seen in hex and counter wargames. So, without further ado, let’s get started. I can’t promise I will cover EVERY game the 4th has been in, but I will try to reach as many as I can.
The 1981 version of Avalon Hill’s Battle of the Bulge is the second wargame I ever owned, and it’s still my favorite. I never played the 1965 version, and I really didn’t think much of the Smithsonian version at all. To me, the 1981 version is still my idea of a perfect medium to low-complexity Bulge game that still holds up well today. Are there better state-of-the-art games out there? Of course! There’s GMT’s Ardennes’ 44, (which I have been meaning to play) and MMP’s Ardennes SCS game (which I did play and really enjoyed, but it’s a monster game!). If I want to be able to finish a game in four hours, this is the one I reach for thus far. I still have a battered but serviceable copy in my collection today!
The 4th is one of the weaker American armored divisions in the game, which makes sense as the 4th started the Ardennes offensive in a rest period after the drive across France and the Lorraine campaign. The division was understrength, and many of the vehicles needed depot-level maintenance. But it’s a tribute to the elite nature of the division in as beat up as they were, they pulled out of their rest areas, turned north, and attacked within 48 hours of being ordered to do so. I admit, as a nine-year-old, I’d save these counters for the epic drive to Bastogne against the German Fallschirmjager, who held the southern edge of the siege lines. History often repeated itself.
I remember not intending to buy this game when I saw it in the local hobby shop, but considering my grandfather was standing right there, I felt I had no choice. As it turns out, I am glad I did. Avalon Hill put out quite a few solitaire games back in the 80s, and all of them were great fun. Patton’s Best was no exception. What I really liked was that the entire combat calendar of the 4th was included in the game, and you could play it as a campaign. It was a really neat feature, and the game is still quite popular as people have made up tanks for all the major combatants of the war.
The tanks in the game run the gamut. Just about every mark of Sherman that served with the US Army is in the game. Sadly, there are no Stuarts or Chaffees, as those were the tanks my grandfather rode in to war. But people want Shermans when they want American tanks of the Second World War.
I’d really recommend this game for those of you into solitaire games.
This game came out last year, and I remember thinking, “Boy, I’d like to get a copy,” but the almost $200 price tag deterred me a bit (Sorry, Gramps!) That said, I did go to Board Game Geek and looked at the counter scans, and lo and behold, look what I found?
The red circle denotes the fact that, for the first time that I had ever seen in a hex and counter wargame, someone did a counter for the 25th Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. Thanks, Decision Games. If I can ever get a copy, I am going to play this just so I can metaphysically bond with my grandfather again, if only for a little while. The game comes highly rated on BGG, and it looks like a monster, but for my grandfather, I will brave it if I get the chance.
There have also been a few smaller press games about the Lorraine campaign by High Flying Dice Games and Revolution Games. I don’t own either of them, but they sound like they might be worth trying. Lou Coatney also published a game about the Lorraine campaign as well.
I got a chance to play this game over VASSAL and I liked it. I haven’t hated an SCS game yet, so I really do enjoy the system as a whole, and it shines in Bastogne. The game does an incredibly good job of reflecting the challenges of the weather and the terrain. Naturally, the 4th Armored doesn’t appear until close to the end, and only then with the 37th tank battalion under the irascible Creighton Abrams himself, as well as an attached company from the division’s 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion. The units are as powerful as most German armored units, with only the 2nd Panzer’s units being more so (but they will have moved on by the time the 4th Armored shows up).
In more tactical games, Avalon Hill’s Panzer Leader had a scenario about the 4th Armored’s encirclement of the French city of Nancy. West End Games’s West Front Tank Leader had a scenario based on Aaracourt and another about the 3rd Army’s crossing at Oppenheim, in which the 4th Armored participated. There is also an Advanced Squad Leader campaign for the Singling campaign.
All in all, the 4th has a bit of a presence in quite a few games. I am sure I have not named them all, as there are a lot of European Theatre of Operations (ETO) games out there. But I hope it has you interested in the ones I did name.
- Patton’s Vanguard, The United States Army Forth Armored Division by Don M. Fox, McFarland Publishing, 2015
- Final Battles of Patton’s Vanguard by Don M. Fox, McFarland Publishing, 2020
- Patton at The Battle of the Bulge, by Leo Barron, Dutton Caliber, 2014
At Epoch XP, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse Epoch XP’s service on our parent site, SJR Research.
(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)