The latest release from Battlefront is the book Nachtjager, which covers the British and German forces involved in the last days of the war. Nachtjager follows up the release of the Bridge at Remagen book and with the next book on the Battle of Berlin; Battlefront will have closed the chapter on the fighting that took place in 1945. It is hard not to lump Nachtjager in with Remagen, since they both represent the most modern versions of the US and Commonwealth armies fighting the Germans who are fighting with a hodgepodge of forces to stave of defeat. Another common trait this book shares with Remagen is that they are both closer to representing “what if” forces for the Allies than recreating actual major battles.
After the Rhine River line was pierced by the Allies the remainder of the campaign was about heading east as fast as possible to prevent the Soviets from claiming most of Germany. Often this race was assisted by the Germans themselves who wanted to fall under the control of the Allies rather than the Soviets (for very good reason). Comet and Pershing tanks were being used by the Allies at this time, they never faced off with the Germans in any major engagement and were fielded for as many political and test bed reasons than for operational need. The German forces in both books show the desperation of the German military in 1945; units were patched together to stop the Allied advance and troops not normally used for ground combat were pressed into service. Among these forces you still had some die-hard types who still believed in ultimate victory under the Fuhrer.
I am writing this part of the article based upon the initial release of the book, and I will review the added digital content in a later article. This fact alone makes me wonder why Battlefront chose to release Nachtjager in such a fashion. The book itself contains only 6 lists (3 British and 3 German) that can be found in the British race across the North German plain. While some of the forces in Nachtjager were used during Operations Plunder and Varsity (the actual Rhine crossing), they are not a true representative of the forces involved in the crossing. The upcoming digital only content contains 12 new lists, (3 German, 3 American, and 6 British) that in my opinion better represent Plunder and Varsity. As we have seen with Barbarossa, Battlefront is really trying to make Flames of War Digital popular by releasing content that will only be available to those of us who have iPads and want to pay more for the new content. This may be a risk; however time will tell how well this multi-platform release was.
As for Nachtjager, I plunked my digital $14.95 down and picked up a copy as soon it was available on Flames of War Digital. Coming in at 84 pages, Nachtjager has six lists as I mentioned before, along with all of the usual background history that Battlefront puts in its books. I do a lot of history reading on my own and I can admit to never reading the background history, I would recommend it in this case since so little is written about the war in 1945. Nachtjager is supposed to cover the fighting from March to May 1945, however as I wrote above, the units that are listed in the book really have more to do with the race across Germany than the Rhine crossing.
The three British lists cover the 11th Armoured Division which we have followed thought the war, and the two Scottish infantry divisions the 15th and 51st Highland.
New UnitsThe two biggest additions to the British inventory are the Comet tanks and the jeep mounted SAS Troop, both of which are only available (so far) in the Armoured Squadron list. I was very excited to finally get the Comets on a list, and really expected it since I saw the Pershing was included in the Remagen book , since far more Comets made it to the front than the Pershing. While I like the hitting power given to the Comet (AT 14), it only gets a front armor rating of 7. I have to disagree on the armor value, the Comet was as heavily armored as most of the Churchill (all but the Mk VII) models produced in the war. A front armor rating of 8 would have been a better choice, but the Comet makes up for it with its speed, and moves as a Light Tank. The cost for a platoon of 4 Comets comes in at 580 points, which makes it pricey.
The other British addition is the SAS Troop, it’s not really “new”, since we have seen these guys in early and late war, but it is new to North-Western Europe. This Fearless Veteran unit gains the Mission Tactics Special rule, and cost 75 points for a section of three jeeps of which you can get 3. While they come with a twin machine gun, you can add an AA MG, substitute the twin MG with a .50 cal MG, and you can add armor your jeeps. With the armor, you lose your 3+ save and take armor save instead. I like the sound of both of these units and I picked up two boxes of Comets and a blister of the SAS troop. Your command can be one or two Comets with up to two Cromwell VI CS tanks in the HQ.
Armoured SquadronThe new toys mentioned above can only be used in the Armoured Squadron list so far. The list has its core platoons being made up of 3-4 Comets apiece, as I mentioned before, coming in at 580 points each, a full complement of Comets will eat up over half of your 1900 point list. The other options on this list are typical to any other late war British armor list, however you can take up to two platoons of Commandos who can ride on your tanks and take a 3+ save when doing so since the 11AD gets the Platoon Debus special rule (along with Duckbills). The list has over 5 different recce options; however the SAS Troop, based on its price makes a logical choice.
B Squadron, 15th/19th HussarsThis is another old unit that makes its appearance in 1945. While this list has nothing new as far as toys, but does have your Cromwell and Challenger tanks in separate troops. With this list you must take a platoon of each type, being made up of 2-4 Challengers or 3-4 Cromwell tanks. So you can field a force of 4 platoons made up 8 Challengers and 8 Cromwells if you like. Other than this change, the list has the standard British support of recce (3 platoon spots), lorried infantry, TDs and artillery, nothing too wild.
Rifle CompanyThe North Country makes its appearance with two Scottish divisions being the historical basis of the infantry list. What is odd that for two Scottish units, you have to buy the Bagpiper, so I guess you can field a unit from the 11th Armoured’s 159th Infantry Brigade, however then the armor choice you then have makes no sense. Your infantry can be mounted in Buffaloes or Rams, much like lists out of Market Garden and Road to Rome. Your armor support has some options, you can take Churchill tanks, or mixture of Sherman’s, that can be duplex drive or Sherman I’s, with the option to take 1-2 Fireflies. You also have the ability to take a Crocodile platoon or a breaching group. For the remainder of your support you once again have the standard fare.
I made it my point to play with the British in late war in 2015 as much as possible, however these lists, other than the Comets, gives me little to be excited about. For infantry lists, I feel the 3 other late war books give you better or equal options. The idea of having the separate Cromwell and Challengers is not all that appealing to me since I wonder how well the Challengers (who do not have HE) will perform now that they are not married to the Cromwells in a unit. I am excited about the Comets since I made the investment in playing with them.
While very little imagination was put into the British lists, you cannot say that about the Germans. Along with new units, the Germans also get to fight at night, a special rule once limited to only the British in late war.
The new book contains 3 German lists and adds some new rules for the German player. Two of the three lists, which are units belonging to Panzer Division Clausewitz have the option to use infra-red technology. This gives some of their units a night capability which is new to the game. If a German player chooses to use IR equipment, they become “Always Attack” and can attack at night. If they chose this option, all units with IR equipment get to make a Spearhead move as described in page 261 of the Flames of War rulebook.
New UnitsUHU! Which means eagle owl in German is a new unit that you can field in order to fight in the dark. The Uhu was basically an IR light mounted on a 251 chassis which illuminates targets for other units equipped with IR devices. The other new units that are worth mentioning are the “Flak Trains” found in the Marine Grenadier Division list. These units have some deadly 10.5cm and 8.8cm guns on them along with some new rules that can conceal these new units.
New RulesObviously the new rule featured in Nachtjager is the changes to night combat that pertains to units equipped with night vision equipment. The rules are very simple; units that have IR equipment get to roll twice on the Night Visibility Table, taking the higher of the two die rolls. The Uhu, which can only come out on night turns, can illuminate any target up to 24”, without rolling for visibility. Any teams that have IR equipment that are within 24” (that have a line of site I assume) can fire at the target, also without needing to roll for visibility. Remember, once you fire at night you can be seen, so you may want to pick and choose on when you take your night shots.
The other new twist the railway AAA platoon, which can be placed in ambush (the track which they have to ride on is placed pre-game) and if it has not shot, can only be seen by a unit within 16”, however once they shoot, they can be seen for the rest of the game.
The German Lists
The last Panzer unit created by the Germans was the ‘Clausewitz’ division; which shares the name with the operation that made Berlin a front line city at the very end of the war. Clausewitz has two main Panzerkampfgruppe, Von Benningsen and Wallenberg.
KG Von BenningsenThis list at first glance reminded me of some of the lists found in the Desperate Measures book, however after looking after a while I realized that the list, paired with the new night rules, gives the German player a very balanced and fun list. The list is rated as Reluctant Veteran which may throw many off, however it is loaded with Panthers that can be equipped with IR capabilities for 10 points, then you can add a Uhu for another five points. Costing 505 (without IR) for three R/V tanks is not a huge bargain, however with LW tournaments at 1900, you can put a lot of these things on the table. The Panthers and Uhu’s (you can get one per Panther platoon) are the only units which freatyre the equipment on this list. If you do not want Panthers, your combat platoons can be made up of the reliable PZIVJ tanks, or a Panzerjager platoon with STuG G, Panzer IV/70 (V), or Jagpanzer IV tanks. For support you can get a bunch of half-track mounted infantry, mobile AAA, and different types of recce. The only artillery you can get are two Grille’s, which is not so bad. You can also get the last line of defense, the Volkssturm for this list.
KG WallenbergYet another R/V Panther heavy list, however you have options to get some Jagdpanthers with your force. All the Panthers and Jagdpanthers can be upgraded with IR equipment for ten points per tank, and you also can take one Uhu per platoon for another five points. Besides the Jagdpanthers, this list features Panzersturm platoons, which is a Panzergrenadier platoon whose troops and halftracks have IR equipment for ten points, and that is for the whole platoon. Your only artillery option is a halftrack mounted heavy mortar platoon (no smoke!) that also can have two Stuka zu Fuss halftracks. The recce is limited as compared to KG Benningsen, with the infantry options being mostly the same.
Marine-GrenadierkompanieThis list is like Nuts meets Grey Wolf, with a train yard thrown in. This list is rated as Fearless/Trained and always defends. This list has a lot of stuff thrown into it, but not tanks which are limited to one platoon that can be mixed with Panther, Tiger and STuG G tanks, or a Hetzer platoon. If you want a ton of infantry options this list is for you; you can have Heer, SS, Volksstrum lining up with your naval infantry as well as some Hungarians who happened to be in the area at the end of the war. These units have different skill and morale ratings, so you will have more to keep up with during a game, not to mention the Reich Divided special rule. The big twist on this list the fact you can get two rail mounted Luftwaffe AA platoons. I mentioned the special rules with these above and I am sure someone will bring this list (Steve?) to a tournament near you soon.
Overall the German lists are at the very least interesting and will give German players some fun options. If running an R/V list is your thing then the Clausewitz KGs may be right up your alley. I think these lists have a few special rules that will give their opponents fits and can be a very competitive list in the hands of the right player. For the hardcore infantry players, the naval list seems like a lot of fun; however I do not know how competitive it will be.
Featuring only six lists, with only two (Clausewitz) really new and interesting and a limited scope, the Nachtjager book will not have a very wide appeal. To me the lists I want to see will be part of the thirteen that will be released as digital only content, however as of today only a few have been made public. I will review those and comment on my impressions of this type of release method in a future post here on WWPD.