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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tactics of the Armored Rifle Platoon

By John Desch

So you want to be an ARPer?  You heard tell that US Armored Rifle Platoons (ARPs) are the shizzle and now you’re finally ready to jump in?  That’s good news, because you just signed up to play what is possibly the single most effective platoon in Flames of War. This is no accident because General Leslie McNair, chief architect of the US Army in World War II, strayed uncharacteristically from his stingy approach to All Things TO&E, and opened his administrative wallet to make sure the American Tank Corps had effective mobile infantry support.  It’s a self-contained army and a proven tournament winner. 

A Modeler’s Nightmare, A Gamer’s Dream

Once you’ve made the decision, the process of buying, building and painting our newly-chosen armies can be a painful metamorphosis for some of us.  In the case of the ARP in Flames of War, the bad news is that we have our work cut out for us.  The initial outlay of funds is not inconsiderable, and the investment in scarce hobby time is substantial by any measure.  You have tracks and little men to paint, and the platoon is big.  Moreover, you’ll need two of them plus a command group to field an Armored Rifle Company (ARC). The good news is that your finished ARP is the one of the Type O’s (as opposed to typos) – universal donors – of Flames of War.  The ARP is as good in Mid War as it is in Late War, and once the initial investment is made, great for both.  Take the time to crew your tracks, and even add in a few extra figures for little individual vignettes.  For a small additional effort, your opponents will be awed and your overall gaming experience enhanced. 

Mortar platoon support for the ARP
Here's a couple of hints on markings and getting playing aids to help you run this fairly complex platoon.  Firstly, mark your tracks so you know what’s in ‘em.  This is key.  I put a gold stripe on my platoon leader’s track, white stripes on the rifle section tracks, and red on the crew-served weapons. You, of course, can do any scheme you like, but make sure it’s sufficiently visible at a glance.  Additionally, you need a handy carrying tray for your platoon.  Admin playing space (Ed: that magical space where you store your dice, your dudes and your rules) can be a premium at some tournaments, so the easier it is to lay your ARP eggs, the easier it will be for you to play smoothly.  Time is often not on your side as the attacker, so the less time you take in putting teams out the better.  Mark a dedicated, labeled spot for each team so you – and your opponent – can instantly figure out what’s what.  The less time you spend unraveling your admin, the more you have for critical on table tactical decisions.   

Dice Before Dishonor

Each full strength ARP is outfitted with a command carbine team (“Hey, LT.”), five auto-rifle teams, four or five bazookas (“zooks”), two light machine guns (LMGs) and one deadly little 60mm mortar: a salty 14-team strong death dealer of dice-whipping punishment that can take a punch too. When configured for maximum firepower, and factoring in crews to fire passenger-fired weapons and the anti-tank gun option, you can bust 22 AT2, FP6; 6 AT4, FP5; 2 AT10, FP5; 3 AT7, FP4; and 2 AT1, FP3 caps downrange.  That’s 37 shots of morale-sapping loving!  Personal morale check, please!  Double that for two ARPs in each company and you can begin to see why these platoons are General Tso good. 

Raw firepower is awesome in its own right, but wait, there’s more.  The ARP is Transformer-like in its ability to change modes from defense to attack and back.  Attacking in this mission?  Mobility and firepower are there at your fingertips.  Defending?  You can do that too with a lot of boots capable of holding ground against either tanks or infantry or both.  Attacking and defending at the same time?  No sweat, you can do both with your company.   Sometimes your initial plans goes to sh…seed, and you need another one – fast.  Your ARPs are up to the task.  

Proper marking of the platoon is key. 
Putting Your War Face On

So you’ve painted your ass-kicking little American army, and you’re ready to build your tournament force.  Here’s more good news:  Americans get excellent support options in both Mid and Late War periods.  You’ve started with the basic ARPs.  I strongly urge you to swap out a zook and take the pugnacious little 37mm in each platoon.  This will keep light armor from sniffing around too much and is great for blowing infantry out of foxholes when attacking.

Always buy adult leadership when you can.  In Mid War, Harmonize your list with the utterly indispensable 40-point General Harmon in his low profile jeep.  He not only gives you the extra higher level warrior rerolls, he allows a super-Avanti move half the time, can unpin platoons at the beginning of the fire phase (two sips at the cup for crucial platoons), and frees up your XO to threaten objectives or lead flank marches.  Opponents will surely get angry at him, and go gunning, but you don’t really care as he doesn't bleed victory points like his chum Patton.  Speaking of Old B&G, he’s pure cheese and worth every bit of his 100-points.   

Next, you need tanks.  Lees seem to be in vogue these days with their cheaper price and fistful of dice per tank.  Shermans are pricier, but better at standing up to many Mid War weapons and winning the tank duel.  Finally, when it comes to offsetting the threat of heavy armor, there is no better choice than the M-10 tank destroyer platoon.  Buy four if you can, but consider a section of two if your buds like to run KVs and Tigers.  It’s dangerous to field a two-ship flotilla of TDs, as they die fast, but sometimes it’s just as important to nerf a rampaging bull.  I really like Stuarts, but find I can’t afford them after taking other necessities.  They are nifty gutter runners, but not main battle tanks. 

Recon, get your Recon, here!  Spend the extra points and get the fighting cavalrymen – the armored recon patrol with two Ma Deuce (50 cal) toting scout cars and two jeeps.  These guys fight with relatively little risk using the two-up, two-back tactic, brush back the occasional ambush, lift gone to ground half the time, and provide fast reinforcing firepower when you have to leave half your stuff off the table.  Avoid the little recon platoon as it can’t fight that well and dies fast. 

Finally, get some TOT-toting self-propelled artillery.  This won’t kill much being trained and all, but will get you respect, disperse the bad guys, provide you with pinning indirect fire support or even direct fire no save heavy breakthrough dice. 

Other options, points permitting, are self-propelled anti-aircraft (sweet for knocking down Hs-129 Flying Pigs) and armored mortars (cheaper than artillery and great for smoke).  I tend not to see armored MGs as you have lots of intrinsic firepower or towed AT guns and those are of limited utility in this Swiss Army Knife force

Steve the ARP wizard!
Just the Tactics, Ma’am.  

Tactics are simple in theory and difficult in application.  But some basic tenets will help you.  You will face two types of enemy: tanks and infantry.  I include all tracked forces in the tanks category.  When facing tanks:  get your zooks out, send your LMG tracks to the rear (but keep the two Ma Deuce tracks for punching light armor) and dig in.  Keep some infantry up to help with the tank fight and to police up crucial bailed enemy tanks.  When facing infantry, keep all your tracks on the table, crew them with zooks, set your LMGs up in bulletproof cover, and get that mortar to start pumping out rounds.

An ARP as part of Tank company is great tool.

Bill Willcox shows his ARP "War Face"!!

Combat team working together.

Add some Bazookas to your tracks for some flavor.

In all games, push hard.  If you've not lost five or six teams per ARP, you’re not pressing hard enough and on the right road for a Patton Slapping.  Your platoons are big, so be a bully!  Punch and take a punch.  This is not to say that you should act foolishly, as after all, in Mid War you’re only trained.  But be bold.  In the face of stern AT assets, dismount two of three teams in each track.  Also, if you have the time, bust jungle.  Bogged is not dead.  (Okay, so usually it isn’t.)

Sadly, your trained MW ARP will not excel at assaults.  They’ll mop up a decimated opponent in good shape, but rarely bust through a stout line.  LW vet ARPs can, on the other hand, assault effectively.

I’ve enjoyed running ARs for years.  I hope this little piece fosters a bit of thought and helps you win your next game!  Good luck!     

John Desch is a wily sage of painting and playing this little hobby of ours. As a key member of the I-95 crew he can be seen regularly running and playing in a host of high quality tournaments up and down the East Coast here in the States. 

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