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Monday, August 11, 2014

Bolt Action - Listception: Luftwaffe Field Division

For most of us, a good list idea isn't about discovering a powerful unit in the rule book and building a force around it. No, sir! It's about something from the story of it all that grabs you. I'll leave it as a loose generalization like "story" because that can come from all sorts of sources, which we've discussed before. This listception came to me in the form of those blue uniformed gents sometimes referred to as Goring's Grenadiers.

I can't say with a straight face that the only reason I'm putting a Luftwaffe Field Division force together is because I enjoy the story behind them. Something much less benign also contributed to the decision.

Yes, fellow BARbarians, the insidious, wallet-leeching influence of Black Tree Design has struck again. During this last half-off sale, I managed to resist the wiles of BTD until the final day. It's probably more accurate for me to say that the list didn't come to me first, but the models. I saw these Gebrigsjager miniatures that Black Tree sells, and figured they'd make a fantastic Luftwaffe Field Division too. Eighty or so little metal dudes later and Judson bought himself more than enough to put some blue uniforms on the table! Looks like there'll be a moron's dozen of toy soldiers to paint pronto!

Tough to find images of these troops in any other sort of "action".
For those of you that don't already know, the Luftwaffe Field Divisions represented an interesting little portion of the German war effort during the second world war. Here's a generic starting point for those interested in checking these forces out a bit more. The Judson version of their story, though, only takes a few lines. Things started going badly for the Germans on the Eastern Front, and soon there was not a lot of air operations for thousands of Luftwaffe personnel to support. Command wasn't going to let these men stand around with their hands in their pockets! Equipment was issued to these newly organized fighting formations like Wehrmacht formations, only in drastically lower proportions, and some of them were promptly shipped to the front to face the oncoming Soviets.

These re-purposed soldiers have always interested me. Having served in the armed forces, but never as infantry, I can only begin to imagine the feeling of dread that must have come over some of these guys as they were rapidly retrained and refit for front line duty. Unsurprisingly to me, they formations served to varying degrees of success. Some divisions were led by German paratrooper officers, highly experienced and knowledgeable in the infantry business. Others were led by German air force officers with barely any experience leading men in such a manner. This variety in leadership quality, mixed with the certain mixed morale and quality of the ersatz infantrymen themselves, led to great some great victories and many great defeats.

The first of what will doubtless be many interesting challenges in assembling this list is the question: What should the list include other than the infantry? Of course the legendary 8.8 cm anti-aircraft gun springs to mind immediately. While this weapon system delivers laughable results for the ridiculous amount of points it costs - 185 at Regular - it is quite iconic, and obviously a Luftwaffe Field Division in Bolt Action isn't the sort of list you put together to go defeat four vehicle flamethrowers. Some other very Luftwaffe weapons include all sorts of anti-aircraft weaponry. I'm not overly excited about any of these options either, but four twenty millimeter cannons firing at a single target has some potential.

There are also plenty of unexpected options to use as support for a Luftwaffe Field Division. Many regular army units supported these units, up to and including heavy tank companies fielding Tiger tanks. For the scale Bolt Action plays at, I feel confident that I could include almost any non-artillery weapon system as support for the men of the field divisions. One tank here or there is not an inaccurate representation of what really happened on the Eastern Front where the Luftwaffe troops were involved in the fighting.

I'm not looking forward to committing to any support decisions, because the variety is immense, and the anti-aircraft weapons really lack value. I am, however, looking forward to trying to fit the marginally trained infantry into one of the categories the Armies of Germany book offers. If there was an option to take Volksgrenadier squads without assault rifles, then I would probably pick that. Of course, that would be too easy, and it's not an option. Instead, I'm left with many inexperienced options, and let's say for now I won't be playing them as regular, much less veteran.

I could field them as Ostruppen. This isn't something I've ever tried before, as I know Shirkers is simply awful to try and deal with. Additionally, they lack the Green ability; which while unreliable is at least something to hope for when you're fielding inexperienced. That said, I plan on taking full or nearly full squads - at this point I feel like it's the only way I'm comfortable fielding inexperienced troops - and would like an LMG in at least a couple of them. The Shirkers ability does not frighten me at all when it comes to shooting. More often than not in my games with Soviet inexperienced infantry, they needed sixes on sixes to hit their targets. Shirkers makes me hesitate because it means I'll often fail to activate with them, and they'll only take four unit-turns of pins to be destroyed. Still, at forty points for ten men, or sixty with an LMG, these are tempting.

The Green rule, to me, really captures the Luftwaffe Field Division feel, so I'd like to take units with Green if possible. Unfortunately Kriegsmarine don't have Green. If I want to combine inexperienced with LMGs, however, I will need to use either Ostruppen or Kriegsmarine. For the squads with LMGs, I may end up taking Ostruppen at first. While I'm terrified of Shirkers on the table, the points saved can nearly buy an entire additional squad of Ostruppen. If Shirkers proves unplayable, then the Kriegsmarine will have to do, even without Green. Unfortunately, the remaining inexperienced squads cannot take LMGs.

 So what do you say, BARbarians? How would you represent a Luftwaffe Field Division on the tabletop? Hit me with both barrels, on the forum! I need some advice to really make the list fun.

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