Know Thy Enemy, and Thyself - MW US Shermans!
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)
[Author's Note: It has become apparent after publishing that the Sherman Smoke Shuffle tactic described later in the article is actually not possible. It looks like I was on vacation when Phil answered this question in the FoW Rules Forum. Thanks to WinterWolf8601 for pointing it out.]
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: MW US Shermans!
One of the most seen faces of WWII, the American Sherman Tank is often over looked in the search for 'flavor' in one's army list: Panzers look cooler, Soviets can run scads of T-26's or T-34's, Brits can run with massive Churchills or loads of Crusaders, and so on and so forth.
However, the oft forgotten US Sherman Tank is one of the most powerful tanks available in Mid-War, and is for two main reasons: smoke and stabilizers. The armor and armament is nothing to laugh at either!
While I'm sure everyone is familiar with the US Sherman in Flames of War, I would say many people underestimate this fighting vehicle in Mid-War - if only because they are so used to fighting them with Panthers in Late War. I would even wager to say the US Sherman is the Panther of Mid-War - if only Panthers didn't already exist in 1943!
That being said, the US Sherman is clearly outmatched when facing Tigers and KV-85's. The only way to penetrate the armor on these targets is from the side, and you can clearly see your chances aren't good even if you make it there.
Unlike the Sherman Tank in Late War, the Mid-War variant is actually capable of surviving a fair number of shots from average AT weapon systems. An ambush of 6pdrs, Pak40's, or 88's will still mess you up, so make sure to use recon elements to push those ambushes out to long range.
The main opponents of the Sherman tank will other solid medium tanks, often the German Panzer IV F2 and the Russian T-34. Comparing point to point, 5 CT US Shermans (575) is roughly equivalent to 4 CV Panzer IV F2's (580) and 9 FC T-34's (570). However, in a straight up fight, the US Sherman has the advantage in both matchups.
If running vs Panzer VI F2's, do your best to get the first shot - especially at short range if possible. Even if you don't, you'll statistically win a long range gun due, but it'll be bloody on both sides (You'll have .72 Shermans to his 0 Panzer IV's after 10 rounds of shooting).
If running vs T-34's, try to bait him into taking the first shot at long range. Even with 9 tanks, H&C puts him at a severe disadvantage and, even stationary, your shots are twice as effective than his at long range.
If you choose to close, use a maneuver I like to call the Sherman Smoke Shuffle:
2) Use 2 tanks to fire AP rounds with Stabilizers, and 3 tanks to fire smoke rounds with stabilizers.
3) Smoke round hits are assigned first, and by the shooter. Assign the smoke hits to tanks at long range, blocking as much LoS as possible. Remember, smoke blocks all LoS beyond 16".
4) Now the AP shots ring through. If you've blocked LoS to all other tanks, any additional hits must be assigned to the tanks at short range, doubling up and ensuring the kill.
Smoked enemy tanks remaining in the platoon will now have to move and shoot - which adds the H&C modifier back in for the entire platoon. Super Awesome Bonus Points!
The Sherman Smoke Shuffle also works against other opponents, just not quite as dramatically. If used when getting the first shot against 4 Panzer IV's, it will increase the number of US Shermans remaining at the end of the engagement by ".23 tanks". Big Whoopedie Do.
I would recommend against using it versus light tanks, or other US Sherman platoons - just fire straight AP.
Are They Worth It?
Absolutely. The US Sherman tank is the Cadillac of medium tanks in Mid-War. It's special abilties make it superior to any other medium tank, and it blows the doors off Trained/Conscript Soviet options via Stabilizer rounds. Against dug-in infantry, it serves as a very effective support platoon while you bring in an Armour Rifle Platoon to do the dirty assault work.
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