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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

AAR: Iron Maiden Vs Volks-Armee

As the clock was running out for 2016 I was anxious to get my newest army on the table in force. I think I flooded all of you with how much I liked building my British force for Team-Yankee and I could not wait to get a full 100 point force on the table. In the time since I finished my Chieftain force I also was able to review Volks-Armee and in an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I was able to play my British force against the yet to be released East German’s. Let me get one fact straight before I proceed; I do not have any of the new models for Volks-Armee, so those hoping to see the new models can stop reading now.  What I did do was proxy the NVA force with the Soviets I have in my collection. Well even the term proxy is not quite fitting here since the list I built used the same T-72 and BMP-1 models I have in my collection, in fact the only real models I substituted was using my Soviet infantry for East German Mot-Schutzen.


So with two days left to go in the year, Throck, Ben (from Team Bro-Go) headed up to Glen Burnie Maryland to meet our gaming buddy Kato, who also wanted to get his West German’s on a table before the year ended. We love going to Games and Stuff in Maryland, it’s such a well-stocked store with an excellent staff that I always end up spending a few bucks in.

The Horde
By now many of you have seen some of the AAR that show the effectiveness of the Soviet BMP spam in the game, which follows suit with how Soviet forces are presented in Flames of War as well. Being a graduate of Air War College I know a bit about the horde concept. The US has 9 Principles of War, which is taught to the officer corps in every step of military education. The one principle I will discuss here is Mass; which is defined as; to concentrate the effects of combat power at the place and time to achieve decisive results. I know, the definition in Joint Publication-1 does not directly reference a horde or even suggest you need to outnumber your enemy.

However in Team Yankee, “Mass” takes on a different meaning and is well represented in the game. Large conscript armies, which lack the skill and technology to take on a near-peer opponent rely on overwhelming numbers to compensate for their weaknesses. The Soviets have used this ideology very well, and how they defeated the German’s, who had a well-trained and well equipped military in WWII is a testament on how mass can be applied to great effect. This way of waging war was a huge part of Warsaw Pact strategy during the Cold War and can be seen in some of the lists that are available in Volks-Armee.

Now a player who uses the mass concept when making a list is not necessarily making up for being a weak player. Running a horde is hard, and few players can run such a list with the skill enough to win with it. Steve MacLauchlan  was great at running masses of Soviet tanks, and if you ever want to see a master run Soviet infantry I suggest watching Tim Grimmett move his infantry to victory. I would throw Chris Gobel (the other half of team Bro-Go) on this list too, who can effectively run either a Soviet tank or infantry force in Flames of War.

The Volks-Armee horde I built for this play test is probably one of the best so far in Team-Yankee and looks like this.

T-72M Panzer Battalion
HQ 1 x T-72M (3 Points)
A Company: 10 x T-72M (35 points)
B Company: 10 x T-72M (35 points)
BMP Mot-Schuzen Company (19 Points) 12 x BMP-1, 10 Rifle stands, 9 RPG stands, 2 LMG stands
BMP Scout 2 x BMP-1 (2 points)
Carnation Battery 3x 2S1 (6 points)
Since I knew we were not playing with air assets, the Carnation was swapped from 2 x Gopher, 2 x Shilka, and 2 x SA-14 Gremlin teams which total 6 points.

Why run this list? Well because I can; with 21 T-72 tanks in my collection I can either run them as Soviets for 99 points, or as East German with room left over for the infantry and a robust AA defense. This gives a player a full complement of tanks to attack with and a force that can hold objectives on their side of the table. While the T-72M has a lower FA (15 vice 16) and a higher remount rating (4+ vice 3+) it does have a higher skill rating (4+ vice 5+). The infantry and support teams have the same stat lines as the Soviet versions, however they too have a higher skill rating.
While running a T-55AM2 horde would be bigger the fact that it would set me back a lot of $$ made me decide on making a T-72M force. The T-55AM2 also has some draw backs (lower FA, lower AT gun, Slow Firing gun) besides the cost per model. In Volks-Armee, many Soviet players will have the ability to just paint the Mot-Schurzen Company and Weapons Platoon to field this force from what they already have in their collection.

The other horde is my British list that has changed some from one I talked about before since we had no aircraft on the table, so I swapped my Rapier battery for another Chieftain in the HQ Troop.
Formation: 1 2x HQ Chieftain (12 Pts)
A Troop 3 x Chieftains (18 Pts)
B Troop 3 x Chieftains (18 Pts)
C Troop 3 x Chieftains (18 Pts)
Swingfire Troop 3 x Vehicles (6 Pts)
Recce Troop 4 x Scorpions (4 Points)
Formation 2: 1 x HQ (1 Pt) w 1 x GPMG*
Full Infantry Platoon with 2 extra Milan teams (9 Pts)
Full Infantry Platoon with 2 extra Milan teams (9 Pts)
Spartan Mobile Milan Section 4 x Spartans (4 Points)
*I did plan on using a section of two mortars (1 point) but I have to get another FV 432 to field it.

The Game
So Throck and I rolled up a mission and got the Encounter mission which uses the Meeting Engagement and Scattered and Delayed Reserves special rules. Missions with reserves prevents the full horde from starting on the table in turn 1 which I think reduces its effectiveness. Having the reserves come in scattered also hurts the horde, since you cannot plan your battle as well as you would like to. So Throck started with 2 units on the table, a tank company and his infantry, leaving the rest in reserve.

I was able to get 4 on the table, I picked both of my infantry platoons, one troop of Chieftains and my Swingfire unit. I think I made a mistake in this selection which was not obvious at first. I should have taken the Mobile Milan troop instead of the tanks. The rationale is simple, the missile units can kill at long range and I needed to whittle down Throck’s force before it got close.  I can get in a few shots in with the Mobile Milan vehicles before they get knocked out or becomes useless at close range.

Throck used is infantry to cover one objective and his tanks the other one. I used an infantry platoon to cover each objective and placed my tanks on my left flank. I was also able to pick a great spot for the Swingfire troop. In cover these guys are always a 6 or more to hit even after they fire.

From the outset Throck who moved first started to press his BMPs and tanks forward. He used great cover for the BMPs (getting most stuck) so I could not get shots at them. Around this time I made my second mistake in meeting his 10 T-72M tanks with my 5 Chieftains (troop of 3 and 2 in the HQ). I was also getting stuck in the woods and I was never able to get effective shots. Plus I wanted to move up via Blitz moves to retain my RoF of 2. I forgot what I recommended in previous articles on how to play the Chief, keep them in the rear and use them as you would a TD. The missile shots from the Swingfire and my infantry were more effective than the tanks since at range they are so tough to hit and kill. I was quickly testing on the Chieftain troop and prayed for reinforcements.

Despite the delayed reserves I still faced a horde, with 23 vehicles coming right at me. I needed time, so borrowing a tactic from my opponent I moved out my FV 432 troop carriers to machine gun his infantry which had yet to move. As I did this Throck kept saying “I dunno why you are doing this?” I did this confuse him and buy some time, which did cause his BMPs, which were getting stuck in the woods, to come back to take care of the threat. So the gallant FV 432 crews served their King and Country very well in a diversion.

One aspect of this mission which I thought was challenging even in FoW is how your reserves come on. You are really forced to throw them into the fight piecemeal, either supporting victory or preventing defeat, an outcome that usually is determined by the time they come on the table.

Throck was able to get his other T-72M company on during the first turn he rolled for reserves and they came in on the opposite side of the table from his other tank unit, so while he was spread out, I was getting pushed in 3 directions. This how a horde list can overcome the challenge of scattered and delayed reserves, no matter where he pushed he was going to have numbers on me.

Let’s talk about the numbers. The danger of a horde is how they can take a pasting and will not slow down. A horde will offer more targets than an opponent can prosecute in any given turn. Even If I took the Mobile Milan troop instead of the tanks at the start, I would be getting at most 11 missile shots at range, with an average number hitting then passing a FP roll, I can expect to kill 3 per turn at best. With 23 vehicles bearing down on me it is impossible to not to have one close in on you in just a few turns which makes the missiles, who have an 8” minimum range useless. The morale rules in TY makes breaking a unit near impossible, so you really need to make some decisions much like a real commander. What is the biggest threat THIS TURN and how do I stop it, then REPEAT next turn.  While this is going on, the T-72Ms are shooting at you. They have a gun good enough to kill all tanks in the game and they are Brutal against the dug in infantry. You cannot afford to trade tanks with a horde.

Back to the game. As Throck was advancing I was feeding in my reserves to prevent him from pushing me off an objective. As they were coming in, they were dying just as quick and my Tank formation was down to only the Swingfire and the Scorpions, neither of them was in great shape. Throck did manage to get close to my infantry, and he learned that the Charlie G was dangerous, so he backed of his tanks. As his tanks moved back, Throck moved his infantry forward and was prepared bum rush me. To be frank the saving grace of the British in this fight is that they really cannot lose the game, since assault is not a good game plan for the HVA. It is a comfort to know that you have the best infantry for close quarters combat in the game.

So coming up on the two and a half hour mark we both knew we could not win the game and called it as a draw, with Throck losing one panzer platoon and with me losing all three of my Chieftain troops.

 Lessons Learned (Hopefully)

  • The game is very bloody and making your formations as large as possible is key. While I could have taken the recce troop in divisional support, taking them in the tank squadron kept me from having to check for formation good spirits. 
  • As the British, keep your attack forces safe until they are all on the table.  By this time your missile shooters and infantry inflicted enough damage make your counter attack easier. Yes, in some missions you have to think about a counter attack. 
  • The T-72M really has to worry about the Carl Gustav teams at close range, they have an AT of 17 and you have a FA of 15, so they can kill you. I would stand off with the tanks and use that Brutal gun on them. Since you can pick out your hits, focus on the Charlie G and Milan teams. 
  • Be careful of terrain where you have to take a Cross Check. This limits how you can move up on your opponent. It is also what makes the hordes so hard to manage.  Every bogged tank means one less shot down range.
  • Do not get into a close range dogfight with a horde with your Chieftains (or any tank). They will win, and losing 2 tanks per turn is nothing for them; however for you its really bad. For the horde player, you want to close in on the enemy, negate their missiles, or knock out their tanks.

  • For its effectiveness and cost, the Volks-Armee horde is great. Yes I know folks love the 48 BMP formation, but I think most folks are doing that in 6mm, it would be very expensive to do it in 15mm. Plus the NVA horde has a good tank, and support elements that can stay back or join the fray. 
  • Remember your transports and roam the table. Some folks love this game mechanic, some do not, but it is in the game and it is something you will encounter.  For this the BMP is excellent, just drop your infantry off and even the BMP-1 with its less capable missile and gun (as compared to the BMP-2 or Marder) can flood your enemies front with something they cannot ignore. The M-113 and the FV 432 are not that capable with just a MG and you cannot get enough Marder IFVs in your force to gather the same type of attention. Remember your ATGM can fire at infantry that are stationary. 
  • Even after losing all my Chieftains I still think taking the non-Stillbrew version is the way to go. With the cross rating of 3+ (vice 2+) it means your tanks have less effectiveness in the event you have to go through terrain. I lost my tanks because I used them poorly, and the +1 added to the FA would have made little difference. With my tank force having 11 Chieftains, this means I would have to find the points elsewhere on my list. So you can remove some of the missile shooters like the Swingfire and Mobile Milan teams for 10 points, but then you will have less shots at long range where the enemy cannot touch you. Removing an infantry platoon is just not an option (see below), and you will need the recce to get a Spearhead. It’s your choice however on how you compose your force.  
  • British infantry is deadly and can hold any objective they are assigned. Just dig them in and its one less thing to worry about. I think the full platoon and the two extra Milan ATGMs should be standard. If pressed by enemy infantry remember to bring up your carriers for MG support. 
  • The Chieftain is a great tank, less so if you move it. When possible make sure your troops can cover one another and use movement orders to get into a long range duel with enemy tanks. At 2 shots each my 11 tanks could have inflicted some huge damage. 
  • Set up you missile shooting teams/vehicles last to ensure they can cover an enemy axis of approach. With a range of 36" (Milan) and 48" (Swingfire) you should get at least one turn of fire on an open table before your opponent can fire back.

Final Impressions 
While the game ended in a tie I was once again impressed with Team Yankee. It is a great game that has more under the hood than folks realize. The mobility and level of destruction makes it such a fast paced game, you really have to think about how to use your force during every single phase and set up winning moves for the next turn. I think this adds a layer of complexity we do not see right now in FoW. Yes folks knock it for the scale, but be realistic, FoW has the same issue with scale and I never heard anyone complain, I mean 155mm guns near the front line?

As for the British, I am strongly thinking about making this my go-to tournament force. After a few more games I should be able to handle this force better. This game does have a learning curve even for seasoned FoW players which I feel is another reason folks steer away from it.

As for the new Volks-Armee release, at first I was not thrilled with it. The T-55AM2 is not a great tank and to collect a full complement is pricey. Now I think this force can offer the player who can control a horde a great force that can be even bigger than the hordes the Soviets can currently run. I wish I painted some of my T-72s in that great DDR Camo.
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