My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interesting FoW Game (1)

Don and I played an interesting game of Flames of War, which took about six four hours to reach a conclusion. (We were playing slow and checking a lot of rules.) What makes it particularly interesting is that both Don and I had forces that we felt were disadvantaged for winning the scenario that we are gaming.

The scenario mission is Hasty Assault, which basically has the attacker trying to get one of two objectives on the defender side while still defending the one objective on his own side. Don is attacker with a British Guard Armoured Squadron (Cromwells and Challengers, from the Hell's Highway book) while I am defending with a German Fusilierkompanie (from the new Earth & Steel book). Don was convinced that an armored command will automatically lose when faced with defending dug-in infantry while I was convinced that static infantry, even when dug-in, will lose against an armor force, given unlimited time and few infantry anti-tank weapons. So, someone is going to learn a little something from this game.

My Rationale

Having been on the receiving end of a tank attack with static, dug-in infantry, I know that once that force loses its anti-tank assets, there is essentially not much it can do other than hunker-down and die. If you get up out of your foxholes to assault, you will get machine-gunned down in the defensive fire. If you simply sit there, you are doing nothing to reduce the combat power of the enemy. The armor, however, have a chance - however slim - to reduce your force, sitting there at 17+ inches away and hitting you with main guns. Sitting at 11 to 16" they can add in machine guns and there is still little you can do to them. The key is having anti-tank weapons.

Bazooka or Panzerschreck

These are great weapons, but their 8" range means that a tank that sits off at greater than 14" cannot be hit. They do, however, act as a great deterrent to a tank that wants to quicken the job by assaulting the infantry. A tank assaulting these weapons is just asking to get taken out by a lucky hit in defensive fire or counterattack.

Panzerfaust

This is even worse, from the infantry's point of view, as you cannot move and fire a panzerfaust. They are better in assault, however.

Panzerknacker, Gammon Bombs, or Pioneer Skill

This is the worst of all, as it only comes into play if the infantry actually survive the first round of assault by the tanks and the subsequent motivation check. With no range at all, you cannot use these anti-tank weapons unless the tanks come to you. Or you...

Just Get Up and Assault

You could just get up and assault the tanks with your own infantry, right? With the right circumstances, yes. First, you would need to lay a Smoke Bombardment. This means that the defensive fire coming at you is limited to 6", not 16", and you would get +1 for concealment. But this also means that you are not getting the +1 for Gone to Ground, and when you are hit you don't get the Bulletproof Cover save. I won't go into the math of it, but this is a big difference! (The Bulletproof Cover save alone means it generally takes six times more hits to eliminate an infantry stand.)

The basic problem is, unless you have infantry anti-tank weapons (see above), the basic infantryman is not likely to blow up a tank in assault. My chosen forces basically had one infantry anti-tank team per platoon: the Command SMG Panzerknacker Team. Granted, a basic infantry has a 16% chance to bail a tank (if it hits), but unless you have masses of troops, you need the infantry anti-tank to do all of the heavy lifting in assaults against tanks.

Don's Rationale

I probably should not be trying to explain Don's rationale for why he thinks the tanks are in a no-win situation, but I think his viewpoint was very much based upon:
  1. He always lost in the past when he had tanks and the enemy have dug-in infantry. (I later found out that they also had lots of dug-in anti-tank guns too, which makes a big difference.)
  2. His tactic was always to machine-gun the dug-in troops.
The first point is a bit understandable. The Germans that he had fought were both lists that could (and did) bring more than one anti-tank gun platoon to the table. But in this case he was not really fighting infantry, per se, but infantry protecting anti-tank gun teams, which in turn were doing all the killing.

The second point, however, is where the problem lies, in my mind. Against dug-in troops the basic math is this: an MG allows you to roll 3 dice to hit, but when it comes time overcome the Bulletproof Cover save, it requires a '6' to confirm the casualty. A main gun, however, gets 1 shot moving or (typically) 2 standing still, but their chance to overcome Bulletproof Cover saves are a '3' or better. That shows you that the MG needs four times as many successful hits (and failed saves) as the main gun, yet it is only firing 50% more shots. If you are going to try to go for eliminating the infantry by shooting, go for the high Firepower hits.

The Game


The picture above shows the map. The bottom (South) is the German baseline and the top (North) is the British baseline. Orangish circles are standing crops, green circles are woods, big green blob is a very tall hill, and the gray line is a road.


The deployment allowed my Fusilierkompanie to dig-in and stretch a line from the woods on the left (with troops within four inches of the objective there) all the way to the left side of the hill on the right flank. Troops were also within four inches of the objective in the center.

Don deployed his Sextons guarding the objective on his side, but ironically he deployed his Guard Pioneers in the crops directly in front of the objective he ended up removing. (Don was a little sleepy or something when he started, I guess.)

Finally, I popped up my Anti-Tank Gun platoon (it was in Immediate Ambush) in front of his Sextons, ready to blast him on turn 1 (I had first turn).
Here is something I may have flubbed. The HQ Support Weapons teams were not Kampfgruppe'ed, but rather were a leaderless platoon. The rules state that they deploy on the board with the independent teams, but I had assumed that they did not count as a platoon during deployment; only later. In hindsight, that may have been incorrect. I need to go to the Flames of War forums and check.

The PaK40 ambush took out two Sextons fairly quickly, putting Don on his back foot, but he countered with artillery fire and took out one PaK40 in a bombardment. Meanwhile his CiC and 2iC raced towards my right flank while his Guard Armoured Recce Squadron came on and raced for the same flank.

To be continued...

2 comments:

  1. Sorry for thread necromancy but only just found your blog.

    I use US 82nd Airborne Paras almost exclusively and find assaulting tanks isn't as hard as you say.

    The key is smoke / make them come to you. You say smoke / assault but that is pointless. Keep smoking (and let's face it you will mostly get smoke hits every turn, I do) and that will really frustrate an armoured opponent. Keep your troops dug in until the last possible moment and then bam - assault. Assault carefully. Don't just run headlong into a company of 4 tanks pumping out 24 shots. Use angles to flank them. Remember LOS also stops tanks from firing through each other so use the tanks to block LOS to each other.

    Airborne are Tank Assault 3 and I ALWAYS take two bazookas at TA4. If you get the HQ in the assaulting squad you are re-rolling 3+ motivation. Good odds. Even if you bail one or two tanks and they are 4" away from another they are both destroyed!!! Bailing will normally win the assault as tanks like to spread out (And especially if you take 105/155mm artillery!)

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  2. Danny B, read the post again. The premise is: "static infantry, even when dug-in, will lose against an armor force, given unlimited time and few infantry anti-tank weapons."

    As you point out, paras have plenty of anti-tank so you are not talking about a static infantry force with "few infantry anti-tank weapons". So you are comparing apples to oranges.

    You make great points about how to take on tanks with paras, however. Thanks for the comment.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").