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Thursday, February 23, 2012

German Medium Tank Swarm in Action

German armor at Kursk
I recently attended the FoW tournament at the Williamsburg Muster. The tournament theme was tanks!  Each player had 2750 points and had to bring a tank company.  That's a lot of tanks!  I decided to bring my Germans in an scaled-up medium tank swarm.

Since I'd recently written a tactics article for the tank swarm, this was the chance for me to show whether or not my ideas worked. My list looked like this:

ConfidentVeteran Panzerkompanie German Late-War
Panzerkompanie HQ p.21
2Panzer IV H190
Combat Platoons
Panzer Platoon p.21
5Panther D or A or G940
Panzer Platoon p.21
5Panzer IV H475
Panzer Platoon p.21
5Panzer IV H475
Panzer Platoon (with Panzer IV H) p.21
5Panzer IV H475
Divisional Support
Rocket Launcher Battery  p.53
Cmd SMG team
Observer Rifle team
15cm NW41
Company Points:2720
Source document: Fortress Europe

Easy Army rocks again! 

As you can see, it follows my basic design principles.  There's a solid core of Panthers as my sniper tanks.  FIVE of them.  More than I've ever used before!  I have some cheap smoke.  And the rest of the list is Panzer IVs.  Seventeen Panzer IVs!

I was a bit nervous about the build, honestly.  As FoW tank battles scale up, German heavy tanks become disproportionately more potent.  More tanks means less room for flanking.  More points means stronger platoons of heavies.  With almost 3000 points, a German force could stretch a line of FA 9+ vehicles almost across the table edge.
Then, when I show up, I learn that 2 of the 3 scenarios will be fought short-ways across the table.  Yi!  Even less flanking!  What's a medium swarm to do?

Game One
vs. Stephen Wagner's SS Panzers 

Stephen's force consisted mostly of Tiger variants -- two Tiger IEs, two Sturm Tigers and a few Panzer IVs.  His army had a lot of support; he brought heavy artillery, some air, and an infantry platoon or two.  

The scenario was a modified Free-For-All, played from short edge to short edge.  I feared all the templates facing me, but it turns out I shouldn't have.  I mostly kept the Sturm Tigers smoked, the air never showed up, and the arty kept missing. 

My medium swarm worked more or less like it was supposed to.  My Panthers made short work of Tiger Is, and then the combined pressure of medium and sniper tanks wore down the remaining enemy armor.

I learned the Sturm Tigers aren't all that.  The template is terrifying, but it only hits on a 5+.  Conscript armor is just awfully easy to shoot, too. Ow!

The dice were not with Stephen, who otherwise played a very good game.  The game ended when Stephen's company broke.  5-2 for me.

Game Two
 vs. James Renteria's Guards Tankovy

James ran a terrifying force consisting of 5 IS-2s, 5 refrigerator assault guns, two platoons of 5-7 T34/85s, commissar Dandelion-whatever, a full company of sappers, AT guns, AA guns, and heavy mortars.  Holy crap! 

The mission was a short-edge version of Encounter.  I put some Panzer IVs and Panthers on the board.  James put on all his armor.  The board had a long cell of bocage along one flank, and town and hedges across the center.

We quickly engaged in a viscous center battle between Panzer IVs and T34/85s. The IS-2s supported his side, and my Panthers supported mine.  My IVs struggled to pop the T34/85's higher front armor, and James made some decisive flanking moves.  My IVs and Panthers eventually won, but not before taking crippling casualties.

On the other flank, the refrigerators kept two platoons of Panzer IVs locked down in a stand off.  Only when the T34s had died, and I was able to shift my Panthers, did I manage to push along that flank.  Again, however, I took heavy casualties.  

The game ended with both of us trying to snipe our remaining platoons.  My remnant tanks and Nebelwerfers turned out to be more effective than James' heavy mortars, and I eventually broke his company after several nail-biting last few rounds.

Anyway, I am confirmed in my belief that Panthers are the bane of Soviet heavy armor.  Panzer IVs on the other hand, were less effective against T34/85s than I expected.
 4-3 win. 
Game Three  
vs.Jon Pate's SS. Panzers

Jon brought two platoons of pz IVs, 2 Tiger IEs, 2 Jagdpanzers, a platoon of 3 Panthers including Barkmann, 88s and some Fallschrimjägers.

 This game was a modified Total War, fought long-edge to long edge.  The whole table was a checkerboard of bocage.

I really messed up my deployment, and Jon punished me for it  I intended to turn the center cells into a zone of death.  Instead, Jon turned them into a zone of death for me.  I rapidly lost about half my Panzer IVs.  Worse, he was able to seize a greater number of objectives.  My mood was only slightly lightened when I destroyed his Fallschrimjägers and 88s. 

By around turn three, I realized I wasn't going to ever catch up on victory points.  I had to try to break his company.  To that end, I made a series of sucide runs with my remaining Panzer IVs and my Panthers.  Barkmann and his platoon eventually destroyed my Panthers, but I was able at the last minute to ninja some IVs onto the flank of his Jagdpanthers and destroy them. 

We both fell below half and began rolling off to see whose company ran away first.  

I lost 3-4.

Jon brought a powerful list and played it well.  The Bocage funneled us along the flanks and largely separated our platoons, preventing side shots or swarming.  His heavy armor simply outnumbered mine, creating a fight in which he had the advantage.  My dumb-ass deployment didn't help.


I really enjoyed this tournament.  My three opponents were all great to play against, and my skepticism about its size and format proved largely unfounded.  A round of appreciation to the organizers and players.

I still love my medium tank swarm, but I think it may suffer more than I expected against a concentration of German heavies.  The T34/85s were also disconcertingly effective against Panzer IVs. 

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