Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Triad of List Building

I was thinking about list building the other day when people were running lists by me and I tried to think about what it was I look for in a list.

Flames of war is a game of objectives and while you can win games by breaking a company you need to be able to threaten and or take objectives in order to:

a)establish and force the enemy into kill zones and;
b)take objectives to avoid ties or as we all know the dreaded double loss.

Defensive forces can fight and win in Flames of War but they commonly require the enemy to do what you want them to, something I try and avoid as my main strategy and a little luck as they more often than not become a fight to break a company. What makes a force truly competitive or more accurately competent at victory is being able to force project on the table top. Now some take this to mean causing effects across the battlefield and to some extent it is but in terms of my thought here it also requires the ability to move and or stay somewhere. The easiest way to think about this distinction is aircraft, in FoW they can hit anywhere on the table, but can't at any point take and or hold that point.

So when I look at list building there are three things I look for or my triad: Ground takers, Anti tank assets and enablers.

So starting at the top Ground takers, the people who take and hold ground or the important ones. Ground takers are where the meat hits the metal and are what you use to threaten or hold ground that is either key or vital during a game. Ground takers can be either armoured tank teams or infantry teams but in either case there are some distinct considerations that should be addressed when choosing a force. The key considerations for ground takers are numbers, firepower, movement and morale/skill rating.

Numbers are important to a ground taking element for many reasons the most important being survivability. Ground takers are going to take casualties, from moving into position to taking a position they will be shot at and assaulted and lose teams. Larger platoons like American armoured rifle pls or strelkovy companies have the numbers to take casualties and also be able to assault and because the necessary damage to take positions. Managing the combat effectiveness of your ground takers is vital and will mean the difference between taking an objective and killing off your own pl! The one big advantage that Infantry has over tanks is commonly numbers allowing them to not only take more casualties but also giving them more assaulting teams to kill off the enemy when they get there.

Firepower is always a consideration and everyone wants to have more of it. Firepower is important in considering ground takers ability to fire themselves onto an objective and repulse assaults by fire either against infantry with the weight of fire namely from MG teams and LMGs and HMGs or against tank teams with bazookas, panzerfausts and the like. Making sure a pl has enough firepower to take an objective is often less important in that you can use other units firepower to get you onto an objective, but holding an objective takes firepower on the objective and for that you need to ensure that you bring everything you could possibly have want for, essentially bring the kitchen sink when you can.

Mobility is a huge concern for Ground takers, you have to get to the objective after all. This is where vehicles have a huge advantage over infantry but mechanized or motorized infantry can also use the advantages of vehicles to even the playing field. Extra movement can also be garnered from special rules like Stormtrooper and hussar and should also be considered when picking a unit or two to take ground.

Skill and morale are huge to ground takers, I usually take the best troops I can to take an objective as they will commonly not have the benefits of cover, bulletproof or not and will also be taking casualties and need to make morale checks both for losses and pinning. In my luftwaffe force my ground takers are always my FJ, if you're going to send someone to take the hill, send the biggest meanest kids you know.

In the end I often take Gerpanzerte Panzergrenadier pls and Panzer IVs in at least 4 tank pls as my ground takers. Both these units have good numbers (excellent in the pzgren) great firepower, mobility and ratings. They allow me to take ground and positions and can be supported by my other elements with ease. All armies have their versions and players find their favorites.

No big deal
Anti tank is the next consideration I always love to make. Tanks are too dangerous to allow to run amok on the battlefield. AT assets are the next consideration I make, there isn't a ton to say about this other than make sure you take enough (totally an individual opinion based on the meta) and that those assets have the range and staying power to get the job done.

I find Marders, Pak 40s and one of my personal favorites the FlaK36 88 to be some of the best AT assets out there as well as other tanks ( I don't rock panthers but you could include those here). Tanks and marders do have the advantage of being able to more quickly move to a threat but don't underestimate the power and cost savings of the static guns.

Enablers are great to have, not always vital but always helpful. In my opinion they include well everything but the ground takers and the anti tank assets but to be more specific the main ones I look at are Recce, arty both for smoke and HE, AAA and HMGs.

Recce is the new black, in 3rd ed it is pretty much a requirement especially with a tank force. They can help make objectives easier to take and even threaten some with their extra movement.

Arty is great to soften a position and smoke it in the end to help ensure an assault makes it through.

AAA is a force protection asset. Again, it is key to have your forces protected to help allow them onto an objective at full strength. AAA also has the benefit of having a high rate of fire which is key against infantry and light vehicles and 9 times out of 10 I find my AAA assets out preform most everything else and surprise my opponents that often leave them alone in favour of attacking other pls.

HMGs are a luxury, but what a luxury they are. People forget how often they are until they get to fire them, 4 models putting out 24 dice can really change a game. Remember that when picking a list, or when moving in front of their arcs.

So those are my basic thoughts on list building and the triad I use. It's the beginning of how I make a list and how I look at lists when presented with them for review.

But who's to say I know anything, this really could just be me rambling.

Until next time.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

MW Soviet AAR

Greetings all, it's your friendly neighborhood Soviet commander.  With the completion of some hills and trees, the new board is now ready to use!  Time to break it in with a classic... Soviet vs German mid-war game!

It's designed around 1' x 1', 1' x 2' and 2' x 2' tiles to create a modular board system.  At this point, only roads and open ground are completed for the tiles.  The hills have magnets embedded in them to allow trees to be secured to them to create forests.

Army Lists
Eastern Front - German - Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier - 1500 Points, 7 Platoons
Compulsory Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Company HQ
               - 1x CinC SMG, 1x 2iC SMG, 2x Sd Kfz 251/1C Half-track (70 pts)
               - Anti-tank Rifle - 1x Anti-tank Rifle, 1x Sd Kfz 251/1C Half-track (30 pts)
Compulsory Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Platoon
               - 1x Command MG, 6x MG, 4x Sd Kfz 251/1C Half-track (230 pts)
               - Command Upgrade - Replace Command MG with Command Panzerknacker SMG (5 pts)
Compulsory Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier Platoon
               - 1x Command MG, 6x MG, 4x Sd Kfz 251/1C Half-track (230 pts)
               - Command Upgrade - Replace Command MG with Command Panzerknacker SMG (5 pts)
Gepanzerte Heavy Platoon
               - 1x Command SMG, 1x Sd Kfz 251/1C Half-track (must have Mortar Section) (20 pts)
               - Mortar Section - 1x Observer Rifle, 1x Kubelwagen, 2x Sd Kfz 251/2C (8cm) Half-track (80 pts)
               - Gun Section - 2x Sd Kfz 251/9C (7.5cm) Half-track (105 pts)
Tank Hunter Platoon
               - 1x Command Marder III M, 3x Marder III M (345 pts)
Heavy Panzerspah Platoon
               - 1x Command Sd Kfz 231 (8-rad), 1x Sd Kfz 231 (8-rad) (85 pts)
Armoured Rocket Launcher Battery
               - 1x Command SMG, 1x Kfz 15 field Car,, 1x Observer Rifle, 1x kubelwagen, 3x Panzerwerfer 42 (160 pts)
               - Extra Crew - 3x Additional Crew (15 pts)
Light Anti-aircraft Platoon
               - 1x Command Sd Kfz 7/1 (quad 2cm) Half-track, 1x Sd Kfz 7/1 (quad 2cm) Half-track (100 pts)
               - Armour - 2x Upgrade to armoured Half-track (20 pts)

Eastern Front - Soviet - Strelkovy - 1485 Points, 4 Platoons
Compulsory Strelkovy Batalion HQ
               - 1x CinC Rifle, 1x 2iC Rifle, 1x Battalion Kommisar (30 pts)
               - Anti-tank rifle Platoon - 4x AT Rifle team (40 pts)
               - Anti-tank gun Platoon - 2x 45mm obr 1942, 2x Horse drawn limbers (50 pts)
               - Anti-Aircraft Platoon - 3x Dshk AA MG on Truck (45 pts)
               - Sapper Platoon - 5x Pioneer Rifle (75 pts)
Compulsory Strelkovy Company
               - 1x Command SMG, 18x Rifle (210 pts)
               - Komissar - 1x Komissar (5 pts)
Compulsory Strelkovy Company
               - 1x Command SMG, 18x Rifle (210 pts)
               - Komissar - 1x Komissar (5 pts)
Tank Killer Company
               - 1x Command SU-85, 3x SU-85 (305 pts)
Flame-thrower Platoon
               - 2x Flamethrower (80 pts)
Guards Rocket Mortar Battalion
               - 1x Command Rifle, 1x Observer Rifle, 1x Truck, 1x Kommisar, 4x BM-13 Katyusha (150 pts)
               - additional crew - 4x Additional Crew (20 pts)
               - Anti-Aircraft Platoon - 2x 37mm obr 1939 guns, 2x Truck (60 pts)
Air Support
               - Limited Il-2 Shturmovik (200 pts)

Mission - Dust Off
Soviet's attacking, Germans end up moving first.  Great mission as it's quick!

German and Soviet quarters
Peasant village
Church on the hill

·        Half-tracks positioned as a blocking force on the centre objective (PaK40 auf RSO models represent half-track mortar teams).
·        Armoured Rocket Launcher Battery positioned in cover at rear of position.
·        Anti-Aircraft Quad 2cm Half-tracks providing defence in depth between half-tracks and rocket launchers (somebody forgot to initially place the models...).
·        Strelkovy Company.  Deployed up front to expediently assault and seize the near objective.  All combat attachments (Anti-Tank Rifles, Anti-Tank Guns, Anti-Aircraft Platoon, Sapper Platoon and Flamethrower Platoon) attached to this company for maximum firepower and assault capability.  Anti-tank rifles positioned in the church and  guns positioned forward to bring direct fire onto the half-tracks.  Sappers and flamethrowers mixed in the company in position to assault.
·        Guards Rocket Mortar Battalion.  Deployed in cover with 37mm Anti-Aircraft guns to cover my flank objective.  Spotter positioned in the church.

German and Soviet deployment areas
Soviet perspective
Objective secure... for now
Aggressive Soviet deployment
The general Soviet plan... and the expected German counter-attack on the flank objective

Turn Report
1.      Opening Moves...
a.      German Turn
                                                    i.     Half-tracks manoeuvre forward to bring effective fire onto the strelkovy company and cause casualties, in addition to removing truck transports for the Anti-Aircraft Platoon.  Rocket artillery causes additional casualties.
b.      Soviet Turn
                                                    i.     Strelkovy company advances forward and returns fire on the halftracks with anti-tank rifles, anti-tank guns and Dshk AA MG teams, causing casualties and withdrawing the half-tracks.  Rocket artillery fails to range in and IL-2s are waived off due to proximity of friendly troops.

General advance to secure the centre objective
Brewed up half-tracks
Strelkovy advance

2.      Onward Comrades!
a.      German Turn
                                                    i.     German infantry digs in on the objective and the Anti-Aircraft Quad 2cm Half-tracks reposition to provide fire on the objective.  Rocket artillery causes casualties on the strelkovy company.
b.      Soviet Turn
                                                    i.     Strelkovy company advances forward to prepare for an assault in the next turn.  Flamethrower teams are pushed forward and lanes are cleared for fire support from weapons teams.  Fire from the company is ineffective against the dug-in German infantry.  Rocket artillery fails to range in and the IL-2s are shot down by the German anti-aircraft assets.

Strelkovy push on towards the objective and Quad 2cm half-tracks move to support
Strelkovy advance to assault positions

3.      Reserves rush in!
a.      German Turn
                                                    i.     Reserves arrive!  Half-tracks rush on to secure the flank objective and fire on the 37mm anti-aircraft to eliminate them.  The half-tracks are brought back on to lend additional fire to the infantry and rocket artillery in stopping the strelkovy company and succeed in causing casualties.
b.      Soviet Turn
                                                    i.     Reserves arrive!  SU-85s roll on to completely outflank the german infantry and half-tracks on the objective.  The strelkovy company pushes forward to assault range, bringing the flamethrowers teams to the front.  Fire from the SU-85s and flamethrowers eliminate some half-tracks and infantry stands and pin the German infantry.  Anti-tank rifles and teams turn around to engage the flanking half-tracks and succeed in pinning two half-tracks.  Additional fire from the rocket artillery and IL-2 cause additional casualties but do not break the infantry.
                                                   ii.     The strelkovy company slams forward against the defensive fire and engages German infantry in close combat!  One team is brought down and the Germans elect to break off.

Germans caught between infantry and assault guns
Half-track turkey shoot
Anti-tank assets re-positioning to engage half-tracks

4.      End Game
a.      German Turn
                                                    i.     Germans start the turn with uncontested possession of their flank objective.  It's all over for the Soviets...

Objective secured!

Summary and Lessons Learned
1.      The Board.  Great looking and great playing!  The scale is bang on.  With the detail of the terrain, you've really got to take a look at the terrain and think about your movement and positioning of your units.
2.      Ground cannot be held by fire alone.  Depending on the 37mm Anti-Aircraft guns and a few Anti-tank Rifles to hold an objective by fire is never going to work... I knew this but I gambled on it.
3.      Army selection.  A lesson I've been (slowly) hoisting aboard is that a balanced army list can bite you in the ass.  With a Soviet strelkovy company you're frequently on the defensive, don't have all of your units and it takes them a bit of time to march everywhere... so take a couple of large and powerful units to start the game.  That way you're getting the majority of your points on the board and can use that to overwhelm your enemy.  For this game, a simple change would have been to drop one strelkovy company to one platoon and boost the other strelkovy company up to three, which would have allowed it the ability to leave a small defensive force on the flank objective.
4.      Il-2 Shturmoviks.  I love them and everbody else hates them... but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the right tool for the job.  They're devastating in late-war, and are one of the few solutions for super-heavy tanks (King Tigers) and mobs of heavy tanks, as you can't shoot it out with German heavy tanks as a Soviet player.  Simply having it forces the tank force to spread out and stick near cover.  However, mid-war has a lower point limit than late-war, is lighter on tanks and the heavy tanks are far more expensive, so there isn't as strong a requirement for a flying heavy tank-buster.  200 points can go a long way in Soviet infantry, gun teams or tanks and are more concrete resources to take and hold ground.
5.      Use a real camera...

Until next time comrades... Za Stalina!