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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bolt Action - Listing Tank War, Part One

As the forum and other online avenues have showed me over the last few weeks, lots of us are hammering through our first "official" tank lists. In this first part of a two-part article series, I'll walk through my own thought processes for my first list.

Later, I'll get back to you with a second article after facing my dreaded nemesis Andy's forces. For now, though, allow me to offer a glimpse into the disjointed thoughts that go into the making a Judson tank list.

First things first, I looked to the Soviet Union book because I am a huge fan of the SU-76 and somewhat infamously finished two SU-122 tanks recently. Additionally, that book is amazing in every way possible, at least from a gamer's point of view. Unfortunately for the five SU series tanks I have finished, the fact that those damn 76s are open-topped. I've been playing relatively soft lists lately, but I imagine the many American players out there would love nothing more than to see several open-topped vehicles as targets for their over-machine-gun'ed tanks to spray down. I just can't seem to bring myself to putting a list like that on the table at a competition where I know there will be plenty of MMGs, so the open-topped route gets nixed!

With all the recent sale activity buzzing around the internet, I could talk myself into a frivolous purchase or six, so of course the opportunity arose to branch out into something new! I decided almost arbitrarily to thumb through the German book, and there finally dove into the different variants of Panzer III and IV tanks available. Previously, I'd breezed over the whole section, thinking they'd be essentially similar to each other. While that's not entirely false, there were some differences that appealed to me, most notably in the Panzer III G.

At first, the reason I decided to use some Gs was so I could type this sentence.

After that, my reasons were half gamey and half for painting purposes. To cover the first angle, I need to first explain my problem with most of the German tanks. In general, they've been given the "benefit" of having more potent main guns than their allied counterparts. Unfortunately, this isn't really beneficial, because the German player pays for the gun upgrade, unlike the Allied player receiving the HE upgrade to their standard anti-tank weapon system for free. All sobbing and tearing-up aside - thank you for passing the tissues - I liked the Panzer III G because you only pay for a light tank hull.

Yes, my disappointment with up-gunned German tanks and my appreciation for light tanks over medium tanks are related. You see, paying a premium for a weapon with +6 penetration versus one with +5 penetration seems like a bad investment to me, considering that more often than not you'll be looking for fives or sixes on a single six-sided die in order to even hit with the weapon. If you can convince yourself that these are the sorts of odds you can rely upon achieving often over the course of a game where the weapon only fires six times, I've got more good news for you. After rolling your five, you then need to roll a four or better on another single die to penetrate a medium tank with a medium anti-tank gun, while an expensive heavy gun allows you to penetrate the tank on a three or better. Did I mention that you then have to roll a four or better to destroy the tank? These are the reasons why I'm not a fan of paying for massive anti-tank weapons - who cares how hard they hit if they can't be relied up to hit in the first place?

That said, this is exactly why I would rather buy a light tank than a medium tank. Unsurprisingly to anyone that has ever listened to one of our podcasts, I will always move into a single shot where my opponent needs a five or six if I feel like it increases the pressure I'm putting on his objectives. For me, the benefit of having a hull with a 9+ damage value is not worth the price premium paid over a vehicle with an 8+ damage value. These two reasons are why I think the Panzer III G is a great choice for a game like tank wars. At 155 points for a regular tank, you get a fully-enclosed light tank hull mounting a hull MMG and a turret medium anti-tank gun with a coaxial MMG. You don't overpay for a heavy anti-tank gun like in the case of the StuG III, and while you appreciate the benefits of being fully-enclosed, you don't pay extra for the armor that will only be considered in the off chance that something hits it.

As I'd mentioned before, I really think the +5 point cost to make your platoon command tank provide a +2 morale bonus to other AFVs within 12" is amazing, so I plan on purchasing three regular Panzer III G tanks and upgrading one in this fashion. Additionally, I'd been looking for an excuse to paint a grey tank with a white wash over the top of it. According to what I'd read, the G tanks did appear in this scheme on the Eastern Front.

Long before the Tank War book came out, CH and I played in a tank event where we followed the sophisticated "bring whatever you have" method for listing. To hog points, we brought an artillery observer. This ended up being accidentally amazing. On top of its ability to potentially shut down a couple enemy tanks with early pin markers, it also requires very little transport capacity. This is a German list! It's not like I can skate out on the transport requirement with a bunch of Tank Rider units!

I also knew that I wanted to take the most infantry possible in a Tank War list. Buildings feature prominently on many tables, and nothing guarantees that objectives in the Tank War scenario won't be placed inside or very close to a building. For me, that means I have to bring infantry to get in there and contest the objective - the MMGs on the Panzer III Gs can't be counted on to uproot those stubborn troops. Three smallish squads of Volkssturm around fifty points each are all I'm willing to invest in for this list, since every extra body means more transport capacity is needed, and half the list's points are tied up in three tanks. I'll throw in an inexperienced MMG to flesh the infantry portion out, because at thirty-five points I don't feel too guilty about it's five shots at thirty-six inches. Also, because I want to. There's really no other reason to include one of those.

Since this is a Tank War list, I've decided to throw in a bit of a recon element to this list in the form of a regular MMG Motorbike and a regular 8-rad. I picture these as almost exclusively for threatening objectives away from the real action. They'll probably be relegated to reserve duty in every possible scenario, but this is Tank War, right? It's about bringing tanks!

Of course, I can't forget the two Opel Blitz that will be carting all those legs around the table. I wish I had something extra to say about them, but at this point if you haven't tried a truck in any of your lists I'm probably never going to convince you.

What have you been listing lately? We're ready to talk shop on the forum.

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