Monday, February 27, 2012

Flames of War - Panzer Lehr 1750

I'm jumping on the 3rd Edition Flames of War bandwagon! Flames has been "the other game" for me for awhile now, though I really enjoy the game it's somehow become the one I play less frequently than others.

I'd put together a pretty fun Afrika Korps Auflkarung Company awhile back, but since the club has kind of moved in to "Late War" I felt kind of left behind as my Panzer IIIs and Pak 38s weren't up to Late War standards!

Now that the Third Edition rules are coming out, I'm going to make a sincere effort to upgrade my army to "Late War" standards and try to participate in more FOW games.

Battlefront has done something very cool...on the release of this latest rules edition, if you take your 2nd edition (old) hardback book to your FLGS, it can be exchanged free of cost for a soft-cover new (3rd Edition) rule book! Isn't that great? I mean, the new book is tiny, the binding is coming apart already, but they're left me feeling like they're not releasing a new rule version just to suck more money from my wallet!

So here's my first attempt at a "real" Late War 3rd Edition army, re-using as much of my already painted stuff as possible (though my desert look will look a little funny in France):

They have scrub brush and tumbleweeds in France, right?

I'm currently looking at the Earth and Steel book. I plan on buying Grey Wolf to see if I can make something comparable that might include Air Support, but honestly I don't want to spend the money! :)

One of the things about my German forces that's always bothered me is their relatively small Platoon size. I get six teams and a headquarters, for only 7 guys, while other's are bringing 10, 12, or even more. When in a 'melee', size matters, and my small (but expensive) platoons were getting beat down consistently. So one of my priorities was to find a German Company that included "large" Platoons.

Another priority was that I wanted to use my Halftracks! In the 2nd edition, transport teams...counted as what a Platoon had lost for morale purposes, but did not count as part of the Platoon. For you non-FOW players, a Platoon is required to take a Morale test if it suffers losses such that it has lost more teams than are surviving on the table. With transport teams, they counted as losses, but not as teams "on the table". A "normal" platoon with seven teams (6 infantry teams and an HQ team) with 4 halftracks...if the 4 halftracks die, then only two other teams need be lost before a Morale check is required (4 Halftracks + 2 dead guys = 6 dead, and 5 left alive). This made including these transports very disadvantageous.

But in 3rd edition, the transport teams don't count as losses at all. This is a huge boon, I think, as the survivability vs. small arms and the extra Machine Gun shots can be really helpful, not to mention the speed!

Yet another thing I wanted was MG infantry. They now get 2 of their normal 3 shots when Pinned down (other infantry are reduced to 1). This make assaulting them very dangerous, as they are very likely to generate enough shots to drive the attackers back, which invariably leaves them in a bit of a pickle!

I had other wishes...some tanks, some airplanes, some artillery, etc...but having large Platoons with Halftracks and MG Infantry was what I was aiming for.

I found that the Panzer Lehr Division's Panzergrenadier Company had almost everything I wanted. This Division was formed late in the war, composed of highly experienced troops that had been part of training regiments. The Division was extremely well equipped, having the best of every kind of weapon available. You can read more about it here if you want.

The thing that really attracted me to his Company is the Tank Hunter teams in the Infantry Platoons. A normal German Panzergrenadier Platoon has 6 MG Teams and the Command Team. The Panzer Lehr Panzergrenadiers add in 3 Tank Hunter teams...basically a couple of guys with a bazooka....increasing the basic platoon size from 7 to 10. Nice!

And to take advantage of another change in 3rd edition, teams that are attached to Combat Platoons now count fully as part of that platoon, instead of only counting as a loss (similar to Transports)...the Company Headquarters can take 2 Panzerschreck teams. Splitting these off and assigning one to each platoon kicks the total up to 11.

Another change in 3rd is that HMG Gun Teams can fire after moving, and are more survivable if they don't move. A Heavy Platoon with 2 HMGs can be split up and one each put in the Combat Platoons, giving each platoon a wopping 12 guys!

These seemed a solid basis for a company...two big fat halftrack mounted machinegun-carrying platoons of I sat down with my calculator and scratch paper and got to work!

Here's what I've come up with at 1750:

Panzer Lehr Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Company (Confident Veterans)

2 SMG Command Teams; 2 SdKfz 251 Halftracks
2 Panzerschrek teams; 1 SdKfz 251

Combat Platoons:
Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers
1 MG Command Team; SdKfz 251
3 Squads: each with 2 MG Teams, Tank Hunter Team, SdKfz 251

Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers
1 MG Command Team; SdKfz 251
3 Squads, each with 2 MG Teams, Tank Hunter Team, SdKfz251

Heavy Platoon
SMG Command Team; SdKfz 251
2 MG42 HMG; SdKfz 251
2 SdKfz 251/2C (8cm); Observer Rifle Team in Kubelwagen

Weapons Platoons:
Anti-aircraft Platoon
2 SdKfz 10/5

Panzer Platoon
3 Panther A

Rocket Launcher Battery
SMG Team Command Team
Observer Rifle Team in Kubelwagen
3 NW41 15cm Rocket Launchers

Panzerspah Patrol
3 234/2 Puma

Proxy is the devil!
 So each of those Panzergrenadier Platoons will of course be able to be transported by Halftracks, taking up a small footprint and zipping around non-rough terrain pretty quickly. When they dismount, the firepower they can generate is significant. 4 Halftracks, 7 MG teams, and an HMG giving a stationary fire output of 39 shots...if pinned they still generate 29 shots...probably enough to "pin" an attacker with defensive fire. Moreover, they've got four teams with good defensive fire vs. Tanks, and good Tank Assault value to deal with tanks up close and personal.

Sadly, I don't own that many Panzerschreck teams, so will be looking to do some alternate sourcing to buy just the Panzerschrek models to make up my own teams.
 The Heavy Platoon has two purposes. The HMGs will get split up in to the Panzergrenadiers, while the two Mortar-Halftracks will provide smoke support or trying to pin the enemy before an assault.

I took the AA vehicles because I think 3rd Edition will see a lot more airplanes used, and to deal with pesky AOPs. They're not really something I'm excited about, but not sure what else can be done with so few points. They're first on the chopping block when changes are required!

For more artillery support I bring in a small battery of 3 rocket launchers. They're not "powerful" artillery, but they hit targets well and can get the enemy pinned. And they're VERY cheap on points, only 105 for the three guns!

Reconnaissance ("recce") is very important in game terms, denying your opponent the advantage of "Going to Ground" (not moving or shooting make troops harder to hit). The Pumas that I've taken are immune to small arms fire to the front, with a front armor 3, and have a very powerful gun. They are effectively Light Tanks. Now sadly, while I own models for them (unopened in Blisters, still!) I can't find until I turn the house upside down to scare them up I'll be using these Halftrack Panzerspah to fill in. I know, I'm lame.
Now for some Armor support, I turn to the biggest cats around, the Panthers. They're a ton of points...almost 1/3 of the army point-cost total for just those three tanks!...but they're virtually untouchable to the front, and their guns will decimate any allied armor I expect to face. Maybe have a few scary moments against some IS-2s if any show up, but the Shermans and T-34s I can not sweat too much at all.
I have a bunch of these guys, as I'd considered building a Panther Company at one point, but haven't finished assembling them yet.
I'm not a very skilled Flames player, but I hope to be able to learn to use these guys as an effective take-all-comers list. The infantry can deal with any kind of threat if I can deploy them smart, and should be able to support the Panthers by keeping enemy infantry away, and protecting their flanks.
On the attack, I hope to be able to Smoke the target with Mortars, Pin them with Rockets, and hit them with 11 teams all at the same time, hopefully decimating any but the strongest enemy positions.
If the enemy is too numerous and/or dug in to directly assault, I think digging in right in front of them with an infantry platoon while the Panthers blast from behind them will dig the enemy out.
I was lucky enough to get a game in against Tom at the store this Saturday. I didn't take any pictures at all (lazy!), but will try to give a summary.
I used the force above, while Tom had an artillery-heavy British force. He had three infantry platoons, with a Vickers Platoon to support. For artillery he had a battery of 4 Heavy Mortars, and one big battery of 6 guns(I'm not sure the tube size, sorry). An Air Observation Post was there to spot for all this mess. He had a platoon of tanks to support too, 3 Shermans plus a Firefly.
Our game really focused around one back-and-forth assault that typifies my experiences with assaulting in Flames of War. While there was action all over the battlefield, this was really the schwerpunkt...the focal point.
I basically tried to perform a frontal assault against an infantry platoon with Vickers MG platoon in support using one of my Panzergrenadier Platoons and the Panthers.
I drove up in halftracks, with the Panthers behind, staying outside 16" and spreading out to minimize artillery damage. Of course his first shot killed the CiC's halftrack, but he passed his passenger save and survived. Next turn I moved up in halftracks behind a forest I intended to use to give cover as I approached for the assault, and used my special German Stormtrooper move to dismount and get in the forest. I was a very tempting artillery target here, but I used the Pumas and AA guns to threaten his artillery...this caused him to split his fire up amongst multiple targets, so my infantry was left relatively unscathed.
Next turn I moved the whole infantry herd up to assault. My Mortars put the smoke down as needed...then the Rockets failed to range-in on the target (thanks to the smoke), so his infantry was left unpinned. I tried to pin them with smallarms from the halftracks and assaulting platoons, but wasn't able to generate enough hits. I was left with a dilemma here...I could risk a Skill Test to Stormtrooper back in to the woods and avoid a costly assault, or risk it anyway. I think pulling back might have been the smarter move, but I wanted to walk through the assault rules, so charged in regardless.
As expected, the unpinned rate-of-fire of the defenders did enough hits to force the assault back. My troops were left standing 2 inches away, and were Pinned Down. Not good.
On his turn he shot me up again. A few halftracks died, a few infantry teams died, but the Platoon size meant they were a long way from needing a morale test. On my next turn I'd be able to rally to remove their pinned down status and try again...
but of course I failed their 4+ rally attempt (even with a reroll), so this platoon slunk back in to the forest and lined up to ready to dig in and not get "artilleried" to death!
My opponent, seeing me vulnerable, Pinned Down in the Forest, went in for the kill, charging my Platoon with his. Even pinned down, though, my MGs and HMGs were able to put out just enough hits to pin him down, forcing him to abandon his assault and become stranded right in front of me!
Next turn I pressed home an attack finally, killing several of his teams with small arms fire on the way in, and wiping them out in assault with mild losses.
Somewhere along the way my Recon was called upon to assault the enemies Mortar platoon. Sadly, that platoon had a PIAT team, so I lost two of the Pumas, to kill 3 of his teams...we both needed morale checks, and both failed, so both platoons ran off the table. A fair trade for me at that point, I think.
On the other end of the table my other infantry platoon was trying to dig in to a forest and was preparing to take an attack from two of his infantry platoons supported by the Shermans. I think he would have pushed me off the objective there easily, but I would very much have liked to see the assault work out to get better acquainted with the rules.
We had to call the game, as I had to head home, but we had a great time despite the cut-off ending.
Assaulting is VERY difficult, but my troops didn't break and held on to win the day. I failed to use the AA guns to hunt down the AOP, instead using them to threaten the Artillery and force his hand there...a good trade, but something I have to be careful of, as trading Platoons like that can cause an early Company Morale test and a lost game!
Look for more on my Panzer Lehr and learning 3rd Edition Flames of War soon!

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