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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

German Maneuvers: A Blue-on-Blue Game of FOW

LTC (US Army) Matt Kostur and I had a game of Flames of War last night and it turned out to be quite an exciting one. As Matt only has Germans, and I don't quite have a cohesive American force, he suggested we do a 'blue-on-blue' game; a little German exercise and maneuvers.

I pretty much knew what force Matt had, but that did not affect my decision of what I would play. I knew what list I was going to use. Matt knows that I play a lot of German Grenadierkompanie and figured it would be that. At worst it might be my Gepanzerte Panzergrenadierkompanie. But no, last night it was a Schwere (Königstiger) Panzerkompanie from Earth and Steel!

My List

I have been reading the Tactica Königstiger thread on the Flames of War forum, and when I read it I said "now this sounds like my play style!" So what style is that: long range sniping; grind the enemy down; roll in and take the objective.

We were playing 1500 points, so I took the following from Earth and Steel:
  • Company Commander in Königstiger (Porsche) - had ROF 3 and re-roll misses for Tiger Ace skills
  • Bergepanther Recovery Vehicle
  • Platoon of one Königstiger (Porsche) - had Motivation 2+ for Tiger Ace skill
  • Platoon of one Königstiger (Porsche) - had Stormtrooper of 2+ for Tiger Ace skill
  • Schwere Panzer Pioneer platoon with 3 squads
  • Schwere Panzer Anti-Aircraft Gun platoon with 3 Armored Sd Kfz 7/1 (Quad 2cm)
  • Armored Rocket Launcher Battery with 3 Panzerwerfer 42 and extra crews
Matt was using (as best as I can recall) the SS (Wiking) Panzergrenadierkompanie from River of Heroes:
  • Company Command HQ with Panzerschreck team and Armored Cannons in Half-Tracks
  • Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier platoon with 3 squads
  • Heavy platoon with HMG and Mortars
  • Motorized Panzergrenadier platoon
  • Panther platoon with 3 Panthers and a Panzer Ace
  • Wimpy Rocket Launchers (AT 2 and FP 6, with no smoke!)
Matt's force would have been pretty nice - some might even say tweaked :^) - against my standard Grenadierkompanie force, but as I was running the KT Matt was a bit shell-shocked when I slid him my list. :^) (By the way, I have been using Easy Army's web-based Flames of War army builder and can definitely recommend it).

The big spoiler came when Matt rolled for his Panzer Ace and got a '6', allowing his Ace to have full ROF when moving, plus re-rolling misses, with the main gun. In addition, he allowed the platoon to re-roll missed Skill tests. :^P That Panzer Ace would haunt me the whole game.

The Scenario

We set up a table with three low hills and a monster hill (that should have been Difficult, but was not), lots of tall crops scattered about, some woods here and there, and a small village with a road. Only one woods, several crops, and three hills actually came into play; all others really had no effect.

We rolled up Encounter as the mission, with me as the attacker and moving second. I placed my two KT platoons and the Panzerwerfers on the right flank, guarding the objective there, and the HQ KT, AA, and pioneers on the left flank, guarding the second objective there.

Matt had his Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers in the woods facing my 2 KTs, along with the Heavy platoon hiding behind a low ridge. His motorized Panzergrenadiers and the Cannon platoon (Kampfgruppe), and his 'rockets' far to their rear, were opposite my KT HQ and the AA. His Panthers were in the center, poised to pounce either left or right, and opposite my Pioneers.

Below are pictures showing a closer view of Matt's setup.


Matt's Right Flank
Matt's Left Flank

A little closer for my side of the table:

My Left Flank
My Right Flank

Matt got the first turn so he started off by moving the Cannon kampfgruppe (7.5cm mounted on half-tracks) forward to engage my Armored AA, while staying out of line of sight of the King Tiger. The Panthers slid to their right (left of the woods in the center) and got a few ineffective pot shots at my King Tiger on the hill. (Anti-tank 13 – -1 for long range – versus Front Armor of 14; can you save bounce? I think I actually heard Matt gulp.) One Panther did take out an Armored AA, however. In retaliation I moved out my rightmost King Tiger and blasted a Panther from long range, while taking out a Armored Cannon with the King Tiger on the left.


[It was at this point I stopped taking pictures, until the end.]

The mounted Panzergrenadiers eventually came out of the woods and moved off to the objective on my right. The Panthers, realizing they were never going to take me frontally, charged into the valley to also take the right objective, and potentially get flank shots on me as I attempted to defend the objective.

My Panzerwerfers continued to pound the mounted Panzergrenadiers and they slowly disintegrated. Meanwhile, shot after shot bounced off both the Panthers and the flanks of the King Tigers time after time. Eventually I had a choice: move a King Tiger to present my front to the Panther, and then get only one return shot, or take two shots and use Stormtrooper to present my front to them. Relying on getting the Stormtrooper move may not sound like a great idea, even for a Veteran, but this was the King Tiger that succeeds on a 2+. So, I took the chance and, of course, failed. (I was able to take out the second Panther, however.) By a miracle I was only hit once and the firepower check failed, so I was bailed. No infantry was close enough to threaten that turn. I succeeded in re-mounting the tank so again, I had the same choice: move and get 1 shot or take 2 shots and count on Stormtrooper. Hey, I had gotten the bad rolls out of my system, so ... My shots failed to hill the Panzer Ace and again I failed to Stormtrooper move to safety. The Panzer Ace got 2 hits this time and again he failed his firepower rolls and I bailed out (passing my Motivation when I bailed twice). But this time the Panzergrenadiers were within assault range and they captured my King Tiger! I eventually destroyed the Panzergrenadiers with rocket and machine gun fire, while the King Tiger on the hill finally put a round through the Panther's armor.

Meanwhile, on my left flank, I killed the Company 2iC leading the Armored Cannon Kampfgruppe, leaving them as a leaderless platoon. The dismounted Panzergrenadiers, who had four Panzerfausts in their lot, started moving towards my Pioneer platoon who had dug in around the objective. My King Tiger Company Commander had a choice: finish off the last vehicle in the Kampfgruppe, earning a VP but potentially having me get cut off from defending the objective; or start moving back to the objective and help the Pioneers stave off the Panzergrenadiers, who were twice as numerous (and Fearless to boot). I chose the latter option.

The battle around the second objective was intense, as Matt did an excellent job of keeping the Pioneers pinned with rocket fire. As his rockets were the wimpy kind (AT  and FP 6), they did not kill a single Pioneer stand. However, the rockets bouncing off of the King Tiger put up such a racket  that the Company Commander could not be heard over the din when he was trying to rally the pinned Pioneers. (Two straight turns I attempted to unpin the Pioneers, even with the Company Commander re-roll, and I failed.)

Even with the King Tiger attached to the Pioneers, the Panzergrenadiers found the courage to charge into assault, but each time the machine guns from the King Tiger added enough weight of fire to the pinned Pioneers to pin them in defensive fire and hurl them back. The Panzergrenadiers were making some incredible infantry saves – something like 12 out of 12 – but the fire from the machine guns were telling. When the Pioneers finally unpinned, they were able to throw 13 dice at the remaining pinned Panzergrenadiers and wipe them out. (Matt failed every saving throw on the last volley.)

At this point Matt had lost the dismounted Panzergrenadiers, the mounted Panzergrenadiers, and the Panthers. I had lost my Armored AA and a King Tiger, and my Panzerwerfers were leaderless. Matt looked at the board and said, let's play one more turn and see. He started to move his Company Commander towards the leaderless Armored Cannon Kampfgruppe to rescue them, while I kicked my King Tiger into high gear (risking a breakdown for Moving at the Double) and sped off to knock it out. Matt looked at the situation (see the photo to the right) and saw that I would make it before he did, so he conceded. (It was only a German maneuver exercise, after all!)

King Tiger Company: 4-3 win!

Summary

Wow! That was probably one of the most memorable games of Flames of War that I played. If we play it again, I am sure that Matt would do better, because he now has a better idea of how to take the King Tigers on. He started the game a little flustered (understandable, given that he expected me to bring my Grenadierkompanie!), but eventually made the moves that could have been game winning. It was just a little too late.

Ever since I read the Tactica Königstiger I have been excited to try this list. I've listened to some podcasts and read some battle reports and I get a sense that people who take "Tiger lists" are looked upon as a bit amateurish and a power gamer. Here was someone who was taking this list seriously, and from the sound of how it played, it sounded like something I would like to try. So, I started collecting the miniatures for the list – mostly by buying off a collection from a friend who is selling his Germans in order to start over – and kept reading the thread and similar ones.

So, how did it play? Granted, a 4-3 victory is nothing to crow about, but in all honesty I had never really played with that much power in a list (3 Panthers once, and a single Tiger another time), so it takes some getting used to. But, I like the aspect of maneuvering that came into play and the long-ranged sniping (twice I shot at nearly the full 40" range, both resulting in Panther kills on the flank).

What I Did Wrong

The first error came with Tiger Aces. One of my rolls was a '6', so I had a choice and I chose a ROF of 3. I should have selected either the Stormtrooper move of 2+ or the Motivation of 2+ (this was the Company Commander, so it would have helped with a Company morale check, if we had ever gotten to that point). The ROF of 3 only works if you are standing still, which if your opponent is even halfway decent, will be never. He should either be smoked or flanked, in order to make you move. Against other Germans, you also have to contend with them making Stormtrooper moves and ducking back after their shot. I don't think I ever got three shots off with the main guns. (I suppose I could have, when I was helping the Pioneers defend. I could have taken three main gun shots and one MG shot, rather than four MG shots. As they were in the open, the FP would not have mattered, but I could have re-rolled the misses. Oh well. Another mistake.)

Another mistake was a bad one, and really rookie. Despite having five Panther models of my own, I have only played them once, and I have never played against them until this game – so that is my excuse – thus I was not real familiar with the stats. Somewhere during the game I gave the Panthers an Front Armor of 14, so I started missing penetrations! When I finally realized my mistake, I made sure I got it right and the next shot took out the last Panther (the fearsome Panzer Ace).

I spoke of another error I made, and that was that I did not move the King Tiger that was flanked, in order to get an additional shot. So, let's look at the odds. One shot on the flank becomes 4/6 (to hit) * 6/6 (to penetrate) * 4/6 (to kill) chance of killing, or 45% chance. Two shots on the front is 4/6 * 5/6 * 4/6 or 37% chance to kill for each shot, so about 60% chance to kill for the two shots. (Of course, if you give the Panther a front armor of 14, that makes the chance of a kill 4/6 * 1/6 * 4/6 or about 7.5%. In light of those odds, it really did not make sense to sit there!)

The loss of the King Tiger was due to being flanked and bailing out in presence of enemy infantry within assault range. I thought that I was pounding the infantry as hard and as fast as I could without risking a Panzerfaust up the tail pipe, but in retrospect, the infantry was probably the more dangerous of the opponents, given that it could automatically kill a King Tiger that was bailed. Given that, perhaps I should have focused on killing the dismounted infantry with the King Tigers, before killing the Panther.

The problem with the Panther was that moving onto his flank, to force him to move, really did no good. He could move and shoot with full ROF. I realize that facing a Panzer Ace of this caliber was a special case, but it was the situation I had to deal with. I felt like he was the bigger threat, but now I don't know. I will have to ponder that more and test it.

My final error, which was really the second one committed in the game, was how I used the Armored AA. With no enemy air I should have held them back to help defend an objective. As it stood, the King Tiger Commander killed the Armored Cannon team; my Armored AA played no role in that. Had they been hidden at the beginning of the game and I had kept them away, they would have easily handled the dismounted Panzergrenadiers assaulting the Pioneers, or the mounted Panzergrenadiers on the opposite flank. Once the Panthers had committed to my right flank, I could have made a run for the enemy's rocket launchers in the rear, and the far objective.

All in all, I loved this list and the game. I look forward to trying it again. With 1750 points, I can definitely see getting another infantry unit so I can guard two objectives at once.

Below are my new 'babies' (click photos for a larger image).

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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").