Welcome to a continuing series of articles providing an in-depth mathematical analysis (or as I like to call it: Mathnalysis!) of individual units and their relative strengths and weaknesses on the Flames of War tabletop.
"It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." - Sun Tzu (one of many translations from The Art of War)
While the roll of the D6 prevents us from 'knowing' with 100% certainty, Sun Tzu makes it clear that intelligence is the key to winning the fight. Knowing when to engage, when not to engage, when the odds are in your favor or against you are all key to playing well. This series aims to arm you, the player, with the information necessary to make the best decisions possible and lead you to victory.
Today's topic: LW Heer Panthers!
Continuing from our conversation on the Wiking version of the Panther tank, I'd like to take a closer look at the Heer version of the Panther and more about what makes them the dominant force they are in LW.
Before the proliferation of cheap AT 13 and AT 14 assets, the Panther tank was easily one of the most powerful tanks on the Flames of War board. High front armor, high AT, and unparallelled maneuverability in difficult terrain made it a "must have" tank for any German (or Soviet!) list.
Just as a reminder, let's roll that beautiful bean footage:
The Heer Panther is still a force to be reckoned with on the FoW battlefield, but it's always a good idea to know what the odds are before wading into the fight.
Nearly identical to the Wiking Panther, the Heer Panther can easily destroy most foes - the most difficult to kill being another Panther! Nearly any other tank platoon can be dispatched at a rate of about 1 tank per turn. King Tigers are obviously not included in this match up, as any AT weapon needs to look for side shots there - they are a case all their own. In assault work, the Panthers do nearly as well as the Wiking variant, maintaining solid hit numbers even in Very Difficult Terrain.
Here is where the Heer Panther surpasses the Wiking variant - especially versus those big RoF 1 Soviet guns. For a relatively small increase in points, you take 50% less hit from SU-100 guns on the move - a moving IS-2 is a bigger threat than a dedicated tank destroyer!
Here is also where we can see the impact of up-gunned M10/M18's and the appearance of M36 Jacksons: a 1 point increase in AT from 12 to 13 results in double the number of expected Panther kills, and triple the kills from 12 to 14. All while experiencing a 0% (from AT 12 to AT 13) to 20% (12 to 14) increase in points.
While AT 12 or AT 14 doesn't matter when you're shooting at FA 4 targets, it does make a difference when the vast majority of opponents are bringing Panthers, Jagdpanthers, or IS-2's as their heavy support.
Even with said proliferation, a Panther is still relatively successful at surviving an encounter with Allied TD's. While the next logical step up is the King Tiger and can obviously resist all shots from the front, it will struggle to keep that front armor facing de-cloaking TD's with 14" or 16" movements.
Mobility is still key to winning a tank vs tank engagement, and this is especially true against Soviet tanks. Staying on the move will keep the RoF 1 guns from hitting you and keep the T-34/85's from flanking you. While it might be tempting to stand, fire full RoF, and lean on a Stormtrooper; it is far safer to move and leave a statistically accurate number of enemy teams (say 1 or 2) as valid targets. Whittle down your opponents slowly, rather than going for a straight platoon kill against heavy targets - even two lucky 6's to hit from SU-100's will ruin your day. 4 Panthers are expensive - you can't afford to lose them to a few lucky shots from a 310 point SU-100 platoon.
|Any Panthers Over Here? No? You Sure?|
While up-gunned M18's and M10's are not especially worrisome when dropped as 2 platoons of 4 against your front, two platoons of M36 Jacksons spell trouble. Against a double drop of this nature, it is very possible to lose 3 Panthers and relatively likely that your mighty platoon of 4 CV Panthers vanishes before your very eyes. Jacksons were made for killing Panthers, so it's going to be an uphill fight. Do your best to keep those TD at long range, sacrificing lesser platoons if necessary.
Are They Worth It?
This is now a very difficult question to answer. Certainly, if you are going to take Panthers, it is a good idea to bring CV Heer Panthers. However, M36 Jacksons (and even up-gunned Hellcats and M10's) make them a very expensive and risky purchase. If you try to avoid the ambush, then you could be wasting half the point value of your list. If you directly engage them, you could immediately lose half the point value of your list.
In a general tournament setting, I believe they would be worth the points as you will not be dealing with US TD's every round (hopefully); however, it is no longer as sure a bet as it once was. Include them in your list only if you have supporting elements capable of effectively mitigating the TD ambush. If you do not or the points level does not provide the room for it, then trade your Panthers for Panzer IV's, StuG's, or a pair of King Tigers.