A Bitter Woods “gambit” is a tactical game move where one player consciously offers an “advantage” to his opponent. This opportunity comes at a cost, however, and often it’s not worth the price. Note that the player who deliberately makes the move, or offers the sacrifice, is considered to be the one making the gambit.
1. The John Grant Gambit (2001)
Overview: The John Grant gambit is a US 17AM ploy that occurs on the forested road east of Eupen. A typical American defense for 17AM involves defending with an infantry unit backed up by an artillery unit on the road to Eupen. The intent of the gambit is to induce the Germans to commit critical elements, including Peiper, to the far north, thus impacting their usability in the future.
Accepting the Gambit: The German Player attacks the infantry unit at maximum achievable odds. This usually includes all of the 12th SS Panzer Division and the ideal outcome is a D3 or D4 result that forces the retreating US infantry to retreat beyond the artillery backstop.
On the German 17AM mechanized movement phase, KG Peiper, who was in reserve, moves up and attacks the solitary US artillery unit. This is minimally a 4-1(-1) but a successful SS Scare will result in a 5-1(-1). Beyond the opportunity to kill a valuable US artillery unit, a long US retreat result will often result in the German being able to advance Peiper into Eupen.
Response: Should the gambit be accepted, and fail, the US player can now significantly restrict the mobility of those forces committed to the north. For example, air interdiction can be used to ‘trap’ elements of 12th SS and Peiper. Even if Eupen falls, US reinforcements are readily available to cork up further advances in the far north.
Assessment: Deliberately giving the Germans a chance of capturing Eupen is a risky decision, particularly in a shorter scenario where the capture of Eupen might be a game winning move for the Germans. This is not a recommended gambit UNLESS you see no other way of distracting Peiper. And, of course, ‘accidentally’ deploying the US defense in a manner that makes Eupen vulnerable is NOT a gambit – it’s just a mistake!
2. The Hacker Gambit (2009)
Overview: The Hacker Gambit is a US 17AM or US 17PM move that can often stump an inexperienced German. The essence of this gambit is the US putting a leader and one or two units into Clervaux. The intent is to bog down the German 5th Panzer Army on the road to Bastogne. A ‘normal’ prerequisite to offering this gambit is that all three US defenders facing the German 7th Army survive the first turn and one of them can be routed north to Clervaux or its vicinity. There are strong and weak versions of the gambit; putting Middleton and one US infantry in the town is the latter while two US infantry units and Middleton constitute the former. Some folks do not feel this is a tenable gambit if the Germans built the 1224 bridge on the first turn but a lot depends on the actual game situation after the German 16PM move.
Accepting the Gambit: The tradeoff to this gambit is the loss of the US units in Clervaux as well as the integrity of the defenses in the vicinity. The veteran German player will bypass a heavily defended Clervaux with his mechanized units and keep pressing west; the fort can be reduced by follow-on infantry and artillery. (Count on it taking at least two turns to fall, more if two US infantry units and Middleton are committed to Clervaux!) A German who wishes to minimize the likelihood of the gambit being offered will take a low odds attack on the US 28/109 on the opening move so as to reduce the chance that this unit will be available to shift to the environs of Clervaux.
Response: The US player must be very careful once the gambit is offered. Giving up two or three units that would have otherwise bolstered a traditional defense in the south is not an easy decision, particularly if the Germans are making strong progress in the center of the map. If the US goal is to prevent the capture of Noville, then usage of air interdiction BEHIND Clervaux must be considered to slow down German units that bypassed Clervaux. Without Middleton, Bastogne is also a lot harder to hold in the face of a direct German assault.
Assessment: This gambit is particularly effective in the six-turn tournament scenario. Successful implementation will result in the Germans being denied Bastogne and Noville. It can also work in the eight turn scenario but, with two additional turns, the Germans have much more time to overcome the results of the gambit.
3. The Charlie Catania “Gambit” (2012)
Overview: This is a German opening gambit that involves maximizing the chances of building the bridge in front of Clervaux by attacking the 28/110 at 4-1 rather than 3-1 which is featured in most traditional German openings. The value of this bridge is heightened in the six turn scenario but it is also viable in the longer games. The sacrifice made by committing fifty factors on this assault will have significant consequences on other battles.
Accepting the “Gambit”: Choosing this opening assault involves a conscious decision to enhance the chances of success in one battle at the expense of others. Assembling the fifty factors is simpler when using the Army Artillery variant but still requires the usage of Lehr if one is committed to building the bridge. Consequently, the assault against the US 14AC recon unit is usually at low odds if it occurs at all.
Response: There is no US ‘response’ to the gambit as it entirely depends on the German combat results.
Assessment: Since the gambit only changes the odds of initial success in one specific combat from 3/6 to 5/6, this writer is not an advocate of this gambit in any scenario other than the six-turn scenario and even then will hesitate to utilize it against an experienced Allied player.