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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lists We Play: the Waffen-SS

Lists We Play: The Waffen-SS
By Mitch Reed

In the last article I discussed my first army, the Canadians, now I will go over my second army, the German Waffen-SS.  While I play this game for fun, and stay as politically agnostic as possible, I did have some hardship in fielding a force whose mark on history was so disturbing.  However, taking the history out of it, and looking at a force that is competitive, I was able to put my issues aside to build an SS list.

The Waffen-SS, which means Armed Protection Squadron has its roots in the Nazi party and was a military force separate from the regular German Army (Heer).  This is why the game has Reich Divided national rule for lists that have both SS and Heer units.

Where to Find the SS
Almost every book that features the Germans (the one big exception is the North Africa book) has the option to field both Heer and SS lists.  The one distinction of the SS in the game is that they have a Fearless motivation rating through all periods.  This is due to the recruiting standards, political indoctrination and aggressiveness the SS displayed during the war.  While many could argue why certain forces are rated as Fearless, I have never heard anyone say that the SS does not deserve such a rating. 

The SS started out as a small force in the beginning of the war and grew as the war progressed.  In early war you can find five SS lists, three are infantry and two are mechanized motorcycle infantry lists.  This grows in mid-war to 7, and in late war to over 25 lists of all types.   

SS Special Rules
The SS enjoys all the German special rules found in the game, some SS lists enjoy special rules that make them worth the extra points they cost when compared to a similar Heer list.  I will highlight a few of the special rules that have stood out in my mind.

SS Division Wiking, which is Fearless Trained, is a late war list found in Grey Wolf and the player has the option of making their list a Flemish or Danish company.  The Danes artillery hits as veterans while the Belgians can Stormtrooper when pinned down and can move towards the enemy.  Another great bonus of this list is the Panzer-Kanone rules, which gives Tiger-Ace type abilities to the platoon leaders of Panther, Panzer IV, and StuG platoons.  While this costs an additional 65 points, and you have to roll for these skills, they are well worth the cost.

In the Atlantik Wall book a player has the option from building a force from a number of SS units that each gain additional special rules.  Depending on the unit picked, you can gain Panzer Ace (same as Tiger-Ace) skills for your tank commanders, the ability to roll off a pin during an assault, or the ability not re-roll a failed motivation test to counter attack in an assault.  This last rule comes with a downside that if the platoon in question fails another motivation roll in that assault it is destroyed instead, ouch. 

Another benefit of an SS list that is not a special rule, but does deserve mentioning is that when fielding an SS tank company, you do not have to have a platoon that has the same type of tank as your company command team.  This gives you the ability to have a different mix of tanks that a Heer list cannot emulate. 

Fielding an SS Force
Unlike other nationalities where the uniforms and equipment are similar between lists (i.e Soviet Red Army or Guards), the SS is very different.  As stated before the SS was a creation of the Nazi Party and not the army and had a different supply system. This led to the SS wearing a different uniform as the Heer.  SS soldiers all wore camouflage smocks which varied in style during the war and was very distinct from the camouflage worn by the Heer or Luftwaffe.  This gives the SS a different look than other German units on the playing table.
SS Heavy Mortars in action; this is my one attempt at the Plane Tree camouflage 

A casual SS player can get away with using Heer models in most cases where a player who plans to play SS lists more frequently may wish to buy and paint some of the dedicated SS products that are available.  These are great models and even with the naked eye, you can see the difference in the SS models as compared to a similar platoon of Heer models. While I wanted to use my SS models interchangeably with other Germans lists, somehow I have painted separate infantry platoons of Panzer Lehr, Luftwaffe/Hermann Goering, and Heer. 

The biggest issue players who are mediocre painters, such as myself, have with the SS is painting that camouflage. They key thing to remember is that the SS had three basic patters’ Plane Tree, Oak Leaf (which has two shades) and Pea Dot.  I have painted most of my SS using both of the Oak Leaf patterns and some with the Plane Tree and found that if you follow the guides online or in the books that it is pretty easy to paint your force.  I found the key is to use the recommended colors found in aforementioned guides, at 15mm they really make the difference and leaves your models looking very historically accurate. 

Note the Summer and Fall Oak Leaf Pattern Camo

While I have painted different infantry and pioneer platoons for my different German lists, I tend to use my tanks and guns interchangeably.  With some of my artillery and anti-tank guns you can tell they are SS because of the different uniforms, however this is not the case with my tanks.  I found very little difference in the paint schemes of SS and Heer tanks and vehicles during war and it seems that while they had different uniforms, both forces seemed to paint and mark their vehicles identically based on the periods painting schemes.  So other than a special characters tank (i.e. Whittmann or Barkmann) you can use your tanks for either a Heer or SS list.

SS  Pioneers move up 

Why Play the SS
To me the SS seems to hold a curious place in history; they were created by the Nazi Party for protection and to run the concentration camp system with their recruits being examples of the Aryan race; they ended up being something totally different by the end of the war.  As the war progressed and Germany acquired more territory they tried to recruit the local populaces into the ranks of the SS.

Units were recruited from Bosnian Muslims, Latvians, Finnish, and Lithuanians as well as from many other nations under the German yoke.  In fact some of the last defenders of Berlin were the SS units recruited from France and Belgium, whose fear and hatred of Communism caused them to fight until the bitter end.  So in the end, this force that was created to showcase a master race was made up of many non-Germans and even former enemies. They even raised a small unit made up of British prisoners of war, however this was for propaganda purposes and never saw any combat. 

SS Lists I like to Play

SS Division Wiking Tank List (Grey Wolf): The reason why I started an SS force (thanks Caleb).  While only rated as Trained, they have some great special rules and the Kanone option is excellent.  You can get also get lot of Panthers on the table.

SS-Kampfgruppe Spindler Infantry List (Bridge to Bridge): If you like infantry lists with a lot of cool options, this list is for you. This list gets one re-roll for reserves and the location where scattered reserves arrive.  The mandatory infantry platoons have 3 options each and any list where you can get a King Tiger and StuH platoon is nice.

SS-Kampfgruppe Peiper Tank List (Devils Charge): Another list with great options and only one mandatory tank platoon.   The list is always attack with some units getting a spearhead move.

SS-Brigade Westfalen Infantry List (Remagen): The most recent SS list I have played.  Cheap big cats, Panzer-trap teams, Enjoy the War special rule, and maybe some Volkssturm makes this a list I've already taken to a tournament. 

     Armed with a Panzerfaust an SS trooper awaits yet another attack.  Note the camouflage smock and helmet cover

Reading about the SS
The author Michael Reynolds has written a series of books on the battle history of the I and II SS Panzer Corps as well as a biography on Joachim Peiper.  Each book is very well written and informative.

Army of Evil: A History of the SS by Adrian Weale is one of the best books I have read that explores the complete history and role of the SS on and off the battlefield with a lot of attention paid to the foreign volunteers that the SS recruited.

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