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Monday, February 20, 2017

Afrika Korps for V4 Previewed and Spoiled

Welcome to V4! With the first two mid-war books now upon us (or nearly so) it’s time for some good ole’ spoilers and thoughts from your WWPD team.

First up, we’re taking a look at Afrika Corps, the German V4 book covering the fight in North Africa.

This book, and it’s counter part Desert Rats, are supposed to show us how the implementation for V4 will work. Unlike Early and Late-War Battlefront is waving a magic version wand and changing everything all at once.

The books also give us great insight into what future books built entirely for V4 may look like. We already know that US and Italian forces are coming by the early summer with the Eastern front due to arrive before the fall. We also heard rumors that the Pacific and the Far East will be added in late 2017 or early next year.

Let me make one thing clear, I am not writing this article on the core V4 rules, which I really like, but on the one of the two books that are supposed to replace the old North Africa book. Afrika Korps covers the German forces from the 1942-1943 campaign against the British 8th Army. When I first glanced at Afrika Korps I was struck by how light it was on lists, and those lists were even lighter as far as options.

To get some perspective, let’s look at the Africa Company infantry list from the older V3 North Africa book; it has a lot of neat options at the company level:

Drilling down to the platoon level, once again you have so many options, which fits in with the Kampfgruppe style organization this unit found itself having to cobble together during the Western Desert campaign.

Now let’s look at how the 90th is portrayed in the Afrika Korps book.

Not a lot of options for a player. Even the size of the infantry platoon is slimmed down by 3 stands, sure you can take an HMG and an 8cm mortar team in the unit, but that is about it. I also cannot recall to many times (if at all) guns were a mandatory purchase on a list.

For support all these guys get is up to 3 platoons of 5cm PaK 38 guns, which is a change from the ability to take either these or the deadlier 7.5cm PaK 40 guns.

Besides the lack of options, for those who like infantry, this is it for the new book. No Fallschirmjager or pioneer lists, no lists for other German formations from the desert war, and gone is the ability to have your command stands armed with Panzerknackers - which we all enjoyed. In fact, at the platoon level, the command stands are identical in capability to the rest of your infantry stands, except for the fact they are on smaller bases.

So where did all the support choices go?  Well above you can see the type and amount of supporting platoons you can get for your formations. Looking at the support, it is easy to see that options are now extremely limited compared to the previous book/version. Artillery comes in two forms, 10.5cm towed guns or 15.0cm guns mounted on the Lorraine Schlepper and... that is it. So you went from 4-5 (no towed 15cm, captured 25-pdrs, Nebs) choices in artillery to only two.

Maybe this is part of the direction on where this game is supposed to go. In other words, why do we need infantry killing artillery, when the infantry plays such a small role in the game now?

The good news here is that all the folks who never wanted to know the difference in the types of a certain tank are in luck. Gone are having to know the difference between the Panzer III G, H, and J or early or late model. Panzer III’s now come in 4 types, “7.5cm”, “short 5cm” “long 5cm” or “up armored”.

In a way, it signals another departure from the game being historically based and it also means that someone thought the previous (correct) nomenclature was too hard for gamers to learn.
I can’t wait for the Churchill series in Mid-War; we will have the “One with fenders”, “No fenders ”, “Gun sounds British” and the “Gun sounds American” versions.

Afrika Korps gives you two types of Panzer companies to take: either a Panzer III or a Panzer IV company. The Panzer III Company gives you the option to take a mix of PzIII’s, PzIV’s, and PzII’s.

While the PzIV only has the PzIV and the PzII. The PzII is given the spearhead rule so they can expand your deployment zone when you set up.

The mix of tanks you can get here are pretty much the same from North Africa. Let’s talk about the Tiger Tank for a bit.  At 29 points per tank, it will eat up a third of your points on a 100 point force. However they are worth it because in a blue on red fight the only thing that can kill it from the front in the game is the British 17pdr gun. You will need side shots or hope for a bail and a failed “Last Stand” roll for any other gun, or artillery piece, or aircraft in the British arsenal.

As you can see above the Tiger is pricey and you can only get two of them. The escort tanks do not count against the platoon having to take a check and with “Mistaken Target” you can keep them alive a bit longer (as if the tigers needed the help).

Another thing about the Tiger - those of you who know what a Panzer III J (Late) will likely also notice that the British forces in Desert Rats seem to be a mix from around the time just before and during the battle of El Alamein, whereas the Tiger made its appearance in Tunisia in January 1943. So either these two books have a limited (and a-historical) scope, or the devs went for recognizable tank porn to fill up the game.

So finishing off the panzer lists, all you get are the two types of companies, with 4-5 tank platoons each, with all the support being taken from the division. So what do those support options look like?

Above are the light and heavy scout troops. The armored cars and the PzII’s from the panzer companies give you all the spearhead forces you get for your German force. Gone are interesting recce units like motorcycles.

Above are your only two artillery options, and the only observer available is the PzII OP.

Anti-tank gun options, only two, one mobile (above), the other fixed (5cm previously shown)

The only mobile AAA option, which also can be taken on the infantry list.

At least the Dual Purpose 88 is available!

Finishing off the list is the Stuka.

Folks, this is it, above you have all of the unit diagrams, and most of the weapon stats. I know a lot is missing, and what is included above may only cover a portion of the figures you have painted up as DAK forces. I assume that these other German forces may be used in the upcoming MW books, but for Germans in the western desert this is all you have available to you as of now.

The point system
As for the switch to the new point system, the costs for the forces are roughly the same as you pay under V3 with a 1500 points total. Light tanks cost less because they can do less, however a unit such as the Tiger is just as expensive for a 100 point list as it was for a 1500 list in V3. The graphic below is from the older North Africa book and going by percentage of points (1500 vs. 100) they change very little and may be even more balanced in V4.

List Building vice Formation Grouping
So with the lack of diversity in what you can select for your force we go from “List Building” in V3 (and EW/LW V4) to Formation Grouping.  The book states that you must have one formation in your force and can take as many formations as you like. This is a change from how the multiple formations work in Team Yankee, where you can only take as many companies as the parent unit had available of that type.This opens up a lot of crazy options for players. Let’s look at a possible pure infantry players list.

Afrika Infantry Company
Hq 2 x SMG teams (2 Points)
Infantry Platoon (4 x MG 34, 1 x 2.8 cm) with 1 x HMG (9 points)
Infantry Platoon (4 x MG 34, 1 x 2.8 cm) with 1 x HMG (9 points)
Infantry Platoon (4 x MG 34, 1 x 2.8 cm) with 1 x HMG (9 points)
5cm ATG Platoon, 3 x 5cm ATGs (12 points)
5cm ATG Platoon, 3 x 5cm ATGs (12 points)
5cm ATG Platoon, 3 x 5cm ATGs (12 points)
Light AAA Platoon, 3 x 10/4 (2cm) (6 points)

Above are all the options from a single formation. You can that into 2 separate formations if you choose, but why would you? Keep it as one to ensure they will never break. So far you have spent 71 points and we know we need tanks, or just one tank!

You have to add the un-killable Tiger for 29 points, and you are now at 100 points.
You can also add a platoon from support or a single compulsory platoon from any formation, so instead of the Tiger you can take a nice sized Panzer III or IV unit.

Since formation grouping has no limitations (other than in support), will players try to find a formation grouping to break the game? The 9 AT guns backed up by the hard to kill Tiger would be a major challenge in some of the missions, especially ones on a very open desert table.

Now switching our focus to a player who likes tanks, the Panzer III platoon will be the one folks pick more often since you have the ability to take all 3 of the tanks available to the German player.

Panzer III Company
HQ Panzer III 2 x (short 5cm) (5 points)
PZIII Platoon 5 x (up armored) (40 points)
PZIV Platoon 3 x (Short 7.5) (18 Points)
PZII Platoon 5 x 2cm (10 points)
--Divisional Support
Marder Platoon 4 x 7.62 (16 points)
Light AAA Platoon, 2 x 10/4 (2cm) (4 points)
Lorraine Schleper  2 x 15cm (6 points)
PzII 1 x OP (1 point)
So it comes out to about 24 vehicles and can fit in one jeweler’s box.

I think this 100 point list will be similar to many of the German lists you will see. The infantry in AK is an afterthought. This lists gives me a bit of everything I’ll need, plus it has the ability to Spearhead, and with the PzIV tanks, I have a separate template weapon who can also direct fire smoke. Without dedicated platoon spotters and a staff team in the game now, the OP tank can even spot for the PZ IV platoon. I also can dig out infantry and kill tanks with this list. In fact this list looks like an EW list I have run before.

So after looking over the force selections available in Afrika Korps, we have nothing new and a lot less to pick from.

State of Mid-War in Version 4
I have loved playing mid-war. Many say it was the most balanced, which is hard to dispute. It also was period of the war where the tools designed before the war were slowly replaced by more modern and mass produced weapons. It was also a period where experimental weapons were field tested in combat to see if they were any good. The previous Mid-War lists had these things in them, a mix of new and old, and some odd weapons, which is what makes them so much fun to play. Afrika Korps has none of these options, and we have the possibility lists will all become similar shades of tan.
I know these two new books are the first in a wave of books that will cover the mid war period. I worry that the minimalist approach to product code will lead to a push away from the diversity and history I have enjoyed about the game. My MW collection is more focused on the British in Sicily (and Tunisia which this book covers) or the Germans on the East Front; and I hope the new books will not make more of my models extinct like my 2-pdr portee guns?

I would seek the advice of a wise sage on what forces I would field for V4 MW, like the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, but that iconic figure of the desert is no longer in the mid war game.

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