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Friday, February 17, 2012

HMG Love

MG 42 at Cassino
This article is about my love for the HMG. 

Many FoW players shy away from HMGs.  They are largely useless against vehicles of any sort.  Under v2, they weren't very survivable, either.  Armies that couldn't attach them, like the Brits, had trouble bringing them into defensive fire.  Why bother?

I've played in several infantry-only or infantry-centric tournaments over the last year, and my respect for these weapons has increased as a result. (Shan's Eastern Front tactics articles were a major influence.)  Now, they are one of the first things I add to any general purpose infantry list.

The reason?  Defensive fire.  When infantry fights infantry, stopping an assault can be all-important.

Let's review the math.*

The following table shows the average number of dice need to generate 5 hits, at each level of difficulty.  Most Trained attackers will require a 3+ or 4+ to hit.  Most Veteran Attackers will require a 4+ or 5+. 
To Hit
Average RoF needed

Now, naturally, this is a dice game.  You could roll really well, or really badly.  Flukey things do happen. To be safe, the defender will want as many more dice as possible, to create a greater buffer against mischance.

The following table shows the RoF rate for various common infantry platoon compositions. Naturally, the exact rate will vary depending on the selection of support weapons like mortars, bazookas, SMGs etc.

Rifles x 10
Rifle (US) x10
Rifle/MG x 7
Rifle/MG x 10
MG x 7
10 (at +1)

If you compare this to the pinning chart above, the mathematics of assault becomes clear.  Most unpinned units can easily deflect an assault by a Trained or even Veteran attacker, but once Pinned and Smoked, they will struggle to muster the dice needed to stop any assault.   Again, the chart shows an optimum: a full platoon, where everybody has LoS, and no one is out of the 8" magic zone.  In an actual game, a canny opponent will try to reduce your platoon, flank you, and attack only a portion of your platoon.  When you take this into account, even mighty MG teams like PzGrens, when Pinned, will have a hard time reaching the 5 hits needed to stop an assault by Concealed Veterans.

Here is where the HMGs have a role.  When attached to a combat platoon, or just hanging out behind the lines, each HMG adds 3 dice to a pinned platoon's RoF.  This can make up the numbers rapidly.  Armies without Combat attachments are more viable now, too.  Under v3, you no longer have to do weird micro-measuring to be sure they will be pulled into an assault.

When playing German Grenadiers, I almost always take four HMGs.  If I can, I take 8.  Ditto for US Rifles. Only heavily mechanized force like Lehr don't need the extra dice.  A big platoon with attached HMGs makes an excellent holding platoon for objectives, or to back up an assault. Even on the move they can discourage counter-assaults. 

* I know there are some Wargamers out there who hate math.  "I want to see how they play on the table." Or "Well, once my three pioneers destroyed a whole Stelkovy." Or just "Math makes my head hurt."  Whatever.  If you don't do the math in a wargame, you're playing blind.  Quit embarrassing us, math-haters. Take up blindfolded golf or Zen archery instead.

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