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Monday, August 15, 2016

The Ardennes Offensive Reviewed and Spoiled

As someone who loves to play with his Panzer’s, I was very excited when I had the opportunity to review “The Ardennes Offensive” the new release from Battlefront that covers the fighting along the German frontier from late 1944 until early 1945.  This book combines the German lists from a few previous releases such as Blood, Guts, and Glory, Devil’s Charge, Nut’s, and some downloadable content that was available from the Flames of War website such as Panzer’s to the Meuse.  In the past I have played a few lists that have come out of these books, and was interested to see what this new release had in store for these older lists as well as what new lists they had to offer. 

The 234 page book features all of the background history of the campaign and the units involved in the fighting; but most of us want to know about this lists.  The Ardennes Offensive (AO) features over 20 core lists, with a few of them having different options depending on what unit you wish to model your force after.  You have a lot to choose from in AO, from top of the line Panzer units featuring the biggest of cats to units that represent the last ditch effort of Germany to stave off defeat.

I plan to review each group of lists to give you better insight as to what this book has for the dedicated Germany player.

The first group of lists covers the Feldherrnhalle, which we first saw in Blood, Guts, and Glory book.

AO has three Feldherrnhalle lists that you can play, a Panzer, the Sturmgrenadier or a Panzergrenadier company. The one tank and two mechanized lists lose their “Stormtropper” national special rule and are “always attack”, however they do come in two varieties.  You can field a newly formed Reluctant Trained unit or use the more experienced version of the 106th which is rated as Confident Veteran which is an addition from its previous iteration.   The Reluctant Trained Panzer Company gives a player the ability to put a ton on Panthers on the table at just under 129 points per tank, however based on their rating, they may not last long.  With the more experienced version of the 106th, you are paying the standard price for your Panthers which may not be a great option at a game that uses a lower point total.

The mechanized lists can also be fielded as new and experienced and one of the two mandatory combat platoons are halftrack mounted AAA, which leaves you more points to buy some big tanks  including some Jagdpanthers.
I knew some folks that liked these lists when they were R/T and should really like play them now that they can be played C/V.  These three lists lack any sort of recon, so players who like the ability to use those types of units would have to look elsewhere.

111th Panzer Brigade
This is also another holdover from Blood, Guts and Glory and it comes with two choices as for ratings; either a Reluctant/Trained or Confident/Trained force.  The 111th has two lists, a Panzer Company and an infantry company much like the previous version. Much like the FHH lists above, the 111th is an always attack list that does not get to use Stormtrooper. What is really noticeable about the 111th, is that other than the small mortar platoon in the infantry list, these forces are devoid of any artillery and like the FHH above, no Recce.

After like 1000 pages we get to see an infantry list!
So lumping these lists into one category (as the book does), I would have to say it gives you some great point options to field a German force that may be limited on capability.  I always felt that Blood, Guts, and Glory was focused more on the American’s than German’s, however by adding in forces at different levels of skill and motivation may lead to some finding options in AO that were previously overlooked.

The SS in the Woods
The next few lists come out of the Devil’s Charge book, which contained one of my favorite German lists, KG Peiper.   I know a lot of others played this list and liked it, however it came with a steep learning curve. Fans will be happy to know than other than a few changes in how support options are laid out, very little with KG Peiper has changed. 
It is here, a third of the way into AO does a player get some new lists to look at.  Here we are introduced to KG Hansen a infantry company, and the mechanized SS Schnellgruppe Knittel which are both Fearless/Trained.
Could this be a good list?  I am willing to try it.
KG Hansen is best described as an infantry version of KG Peiper, however what made Peiper good was the tanks and the spearhead move.  While this has some good support options, it is nowhere near as good as the SS KG Spindler in Bridge by Bridge.  Schnellgruppe Knittel may appeal to those folks who love a lot of recce and can field 12 Puma’s. However this units only tank options are King Tiger’s; which may be a tough beast, but they are also slow and expensive.  I have always played around with the idea of playing a recce based force in the past and talked myself out of it, however Knittel does little to make me go for it at this time.   I really want to try this list out and see what it can and cannot do before I give final judgment.
Now who didn't take these guys?
The second list from Devil’s Charge is also in AO; which is the 150th Panzer Brigade, which gets the title of the most interesting list I have never taken seriously. Many of you will recall this list which features German Panzers disguised as US tanks and of course the in-famous Skorzeny commandos.   These commandoes have one of the better rules changes in AO, in the past when you failed to roll successfully when you used these teams the unit was exposed, however this is not the case anymore and your unit stays put and does not give itself away.  This may make it worthwhile for a bunch of folks like me who always wanted to try out this list. 

Panzer’s to the Meuse
The next group of lists are from the digital version of Devil’s Charge and prior to that they were available in a PDF download from the Flames of War website.  I remember when Panzer’s to the Meuse came out and I actually used a few lists in tournaments, including the late war nationals one year.   When they first came out they must have been the most confusing set of lists created, where each of the four divisions represented get vastly different support options.  However that confusion was the beauty of these lists and why they were not more popular I will never understand.
In AO you get a bunch of Confident/Veteran lists from the 1st, 9th, 116th and Panzer Lehr divisions; which each can field a Panzer, Gepanzerte Aufklärungsschwadron, Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier or a Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier list, so like before the Panzers to the Meuse addition gives 16 solid lists to AO.  While I have not gone line by line with these set of lists, I do not see any changes from the previous version.
I always loved these guys!
Fuhrer Brigades
In keeping with the PDF to book theme the next group of units are from the Fuhrer Brigades PDF, which was available via download.  Much like the Meuse lists, since they were downloads, not a lot of folks knew about them or played them.  In this section you get 4 core lists and not much else has changed from the PDF as far as I can tell.

Things We Were Not Nuts About
List’s that are coming over from the Nut’s book are the Volksgrenadiers (both 12th and 277th), 17th SS, 25th PgD, and the Heavy Tank Hunter Company.  I know some players tried out the Volksgrenadier’s and until Bridge at Remagen came out some people loved fielding the Jagdtigers of the heavy tank hunter list, however it seems like little changed from the original.  I will need to look into these lists deeper to see if any of these changes may make these lists popular (or playable) once again.
That's all Volks!
The Hunters
The last two lists I will discuss are the Fallschirmjager and Gebigrsjager lists contained in AO.  The Mountain troops seem to be a repeat from the PDF that was published a while ago and was available on the website; however the FJ’s are new, or at least I have not seen them before.  I was excited about the FJ’s, since I have a huge collection of them.  They are Confident/Trained and have a new special rule called “Arrogance”; which voids the “Concerted Effort” special rule for all other lists in the book where they can avoid the “Reich Divided” special rule. The other rule is that they can make a spearhead deployment in certain situations and their captured M4A3 tanks get to use the ‘Detroit’s Finest” Special Rule.   The unit is a mix of a lot of different types of support platoons, however this FJ list is still not as good as the one from the Digital version of Nachtjager.

Once again, its best not to be a dick
Wrapping up the book, you have a painting guide and special rules to play in fog or heavy snow.  The how to set up terrain is also a neat addition as well.

For a period German FoW players saw three books that seemed dedicated to the American player.  Nuts, Devil’s Charge, and Blood Guts and Glory always seemed like they had a focus on giving the American’s some really good lists while the German’s were given lists that showed the desperation of the Reich during the late war.  I feel that the devs at Battlefront saw this and sought to mitigate this disparity by coming out with some great downloads that helped me and my fellow German players out.  The worst thing I could have heard a few years ago was “we are having a themed tournament based on the Bugle, you can only take forces out of “Nuts” and “Devils Charge”.  Tourney organizers often leave PDFs out of the mix during themed tournaments, so you would see a ton of guys showing up with KG Peiper. The Ardennes Offensive does consolidate a ton of good if not great lists into one book, which may expose a lot of folks to the PDFs they may have missed over the last few years.
If that is not the case for you since you are always on the FoW website, I think Ardennes is still a good book for you to check out.  I am wrapping up my draft for the site after going over the book for 4 days, so I may have missed a tweak or two; which for the German player may make a huge difference.  Ask a German player what they think about a certain list and you will hear the term “support options”, since that often is the determining factor in building a German list.  Every other nationality seems to have the same options available all the time, so a small change or tweak to a German list may have a major impact. 

Out of the two new releases the “fireworks” seem to be in the “Battle of the Bulge” book, which is ok by me.  All I need is some good tanks and a platoon or two of panzergrenadiers to have a chance. Even with this said, I feel any player who has a collection of late war Germans should get this book, it offers up such a wide range of forces and capabilities that you can find a list or two that fits your playing style and is also competitive in a tournament.

Twitter: @MitchWWPD.

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