Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Fun tank combo's in World of Tanks

Abandoned SU-26
One of the joys of World of Tanks isn't just that you can play in 15-a-side WW2 tank battles and blow up the opponent, but that you can also play 'with a friend' in a mini-platoon.  This means that you can chat live with your 'buddy' within mixed games and share tactics etc...

Did I mention that you could do this for free?

Once you've got your head around the possibilities, here's some great fun double-team options you can play, I've selected all these options as they are great fun in their own and can be reached within a couple of hours of play time for free as they are all low tier options (or very cheap to purchase).

SU-26:  The Tinpot Tank - Tier 3

The SU-26 is tier three, meaning you are two steps (SU-18 to SU-26) from the bottom tier.  This is arguably one of the funniest tanks in WoT's, aritllery with a turret is unique and makes this tank a joy to play.  Maxed out with the best equipment, a load-rammer to speed up your Rate of Fire and some camoflague (and XP), this tank is a beaut.  It's exceptionally accurate, with a high rate of fire.  It can even 'put the willies' up level seven tanks with sustained fire.

Strength.  A team of two SU-26s can be devastating.  Think of the SU-26 as an infantry mortar team, moving in 100m behind the front line.  It can suppress a charge, or zero-in on a 'hiding' opponent and force them out.  A combination of 2 mediums, a smart fast tank some accurate SU-26's can completely own a flank.  Ripping 10-15% off a KV per shot, double trouble for anything in tier 4-7 and instant killers in tier 2-3.

Weakness.  It's actually got good options (thanks to its turret) against most scout tanks that come after it.  Sadly the T-50 has put the SU-26 in a tricky situation, as the T-50 can hit your base as the SU-26 barely leaves it!  That said, clever placement and map knowledge means you're barely suckered, but watch out for Ensk and Prokovia.  Staying in behind a big group of tanks helps, and they'll love your accurate mortar work.

T-50 Light tank - Greased Lightning - Tier 4

If any tank is due a significant nerf, it's this one.  Put simply, this is the best Tier 3-5 tank across the board.  Nothing has it's acceleration, bounces shots, goes up hills, circles like a buzzard like a T-50.  This is one tank that has the whole enemy army reacting to it and usually firing off everything they have.  Taking two T-50's is brilliant fun, and twice the headache for the enemy.  Level 4, but everyone should own one.

Strength.  Really quick.  Adding the cheap suspension boost means this thing barely slows for hills, it's always a useful tank.  In higher tier games a pure and menancing scout, in lower tier it's an awesome mixed light-medium with a solid gun and great firepower.  It's speed, movement and 'kinkiness' make it the bane of enemy loners as you can simply run round them.  Expect a lot of love (bullets) in this tank.  Double-teaming makes no effect on your tier and double the fun, after you die, you can watch and advise your maniac buddy!

Weakness.  It's got good bounce on very light armour, sporting down a flank will often get you one-shotted and in larger games those big tanks have fast traverse - taking you to one shot deathville.  Gotta hit you first.

T-57:  Agressive Artillery - Tier 2

The T-57 is a weird level 2 arty.  It's got great armour for it's tier, good speed and movement and actually can beat off a lot of tanks.  Double teamed at high tier, you become a standard arty (although end game base attacks become possible).  In lower tier, this tank works very well as a tank hunter, giving you some serious prestige in close range killing.

Strength.  Quick, well armoured, bounces shots and with an above tier damage rating.  This tank can bring the pain and is cheap to rebuild.

Weakness. Against anything serious - you are toast.

Panzer 4/T-34 combo - Tier 5

Taking either both or one of each will guarantee a fun game.  The Panzer 4 has an awesome top gun, giving you above tier reach to hurt mediums and heavies.  The turret is well armoured, but the chassis isn't, meaning hull down is a must.  The T-34 is a classic design, and on reputation should be dominant.  If you know the field and other tanks well, this little fighter can really harass.  It can penetrate a Tiger from the front and offer 20-30 shots a minute. 

The Panzer has the raw punch and stopping power, but lacks the speed and low profile to spot.  It's also cumbersome at close range as the turret traverse lacks.  The T-34 fits well with it, offering a more balanced approach with a solid, high ROF gun.

A tasty combination.

PanzerKampfWagon B2 (actually a french B1 Char)

The PzB2 costs £4.22, and for that you get a lot of value for money.   Thanks to the tiering restructure, the B2 habitually starts game at 'top of tier', and at only tier 4, the worst you can face ain't that scary.  In line with other premium tanks, the B2 is cheaper to repair and makes more money than other 'standard' tanks.  This means that the B2 can quickly churn you up some ready cash.  Unlike most other premium tanks, this one's actually a joy to play.

With front and side armour and 60, the B2 can ignore a good number of tanks in battle and concentrate fire on the heaviest armed (the M3 Lee, Hetzer, PzIII and SU85B are its natural enemies.  It's gun is sub-par, but perfectly capable to punching holes in the majority of tier 2-4 tanks.  Unlike it's appearances, the B2 is surprisingly agile and has great movement, although the top speed is capped at 30kph.  This means that you are a hard target for artillery and not a heavy that can be jumped and circled by a leopard or t-50 that easily... you are not easy prey like a lone KV for example.

Taken as a pair, the B2 is hilarious.  My buddy and I have jointly sandwiched a fixed gun STuG III between us and then shot his side armour to bits, I've run a whole game ramming opponents and drawing fire and with the great movement, its a natural city fighter.  You need to be tactically aware in a B2 though, as you can't "race back to base" if you've been flanked ... so keep your buddies in check.

Best Combination Ever: B2 plus Su-26.

One of you plays enormous bullet magnet, while the other one racks up the kills with a super accurate mortar.  Great fun and 'productive'.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Flames Tardis: Armies in both time AND space

The Tardis for your fish tank ... gotta love google images.
In THIS article I had a bit of a rant about all the things I think are broken in 40k.  One of the thigs that 'makes me sad' about 40k is that despite all the fluff and stuff, most players ditch their 'fluffy' armylist as soon as they start hitting the gaming table in earnest.  The lovingly painted squads of "sub-par unit of choice" gets left on the shelf as the players is forced to "not waste points" on throwaway units and buy HiveGuard/Trygons/Manticores/Hydras/Paladins.

Fact is, half those "great" units in the fluff are actually overpriced and pointless in the tournaments and even in your 'friendly neighbourhood club'.  Let's reflect on that for a moment...

Flames of War approach

Rather than using a formula army list approach like other games, Flames of War forces the user to choose a 'type' of army and then select company options that are available to that force.  Many individual units appear in many different army structures, but the structures are built to be reflective of historical unit AND balanced. 

Example: A tank battalion forces you to take a command unit (in a tank, obviously) and then a minumum of 2 tank companies (5-10 tanks).  In fact, you can 'optimise' up to 31 'standard' tanks within the structure, plus Heavy tanks (IS-2s or ISU122/152s) plus tank killer companys, assault guns etc etc.  What you'll sacrifice is access to masses of infantry, heavy machine guns, recon vehicles etc etc.  A Reconnaissance Company in comparison can field 0-25 tanks (still perfectly healthy), sacrifices all 'heavy' options, but gets better and more recon units, better infantry units (with flamethrowers!) and other options unavailable to the prior.  The 'motor rifle company' comes with the most 'vanilla' force, allowing you access to all areas, but limiting the numbers of each particular type - ie, you can take 1-2 of everything.

Using this approach forces the player to consider their army carefully, and consider their preferred tactical approach with caution.  Do you want to swarm the enemy with T-34s, then a tank company is yours (46 tanks), do you want to blow them apart from range, Motorised will give you the most 'arty', allowing you 46 artillery (including mortars) and anti-tank guns. But you'll be limited in what else you can bring.

The advantage is two-fold, structure AND time.

The strength of this approach is that in a similar fashion to 40k, you can 'try out' and test bed your units and easily switch from one structure to another.  To make this even easier, many of the lists come with two price structures, one for better trained or motivated, one for less so.  One is cheaper.  This adds another careful layer of control though, as 'Guards' are better than Red Army troops, but you couldn't have Guards and Red army in the same battalion.

Exceptions do apply though and many units come with either both options, or are 'add on' reserves units, that equally apply to both.  User beware though, as switching price brackets may exclude your 'must have' units!

So you can field wildly different forces while settling into the game (infantry are fairly transferable), trying out different approaches.  To make this more fun, you can also field army list from different time periods, giving you strikingly different forces, which will fight different opponents.  Here's an example:

1500pt Soviet Army Tank Battalion (Mid War)

This is before and during Stalingrad and way before Kursk, the Russians are on the defensive and throwing everything they have out of the factory and into the way of the Germans.  As such, the majority of the troops are cheap, and are classed as 'Fearless Conscripts', they are highly motivated to save the motherland, but largely untrained and inept.

This means that the tanks and troops are hit more often as they are comparatively incompetent, but will rarely rout or desert their vehicle when hit. (Commissars are SOOOO motivating)
  • T34/76 - Company Commander (Fearless Trained)
  • 6 x T34/76 - Fearless Conscripts
  • 6 x T34/76 - Fearless Conscripts
  • Tank Rider Platoon, including 1 Maksim HMG and a commissar (reroll motivational checks but remove a stand of infantry as traitors, sound familiar?) - Fearless Conscripts
  • 5 x Katyushas with extra crew (double Rate of Fire) and spotter team - Fearless Trained (these guys are reserves from base and less disposible than their brethren).
1510pt Soviet Army Tank Battalion (Late War)

This is during the 'Bagration' counter attack for Minsk, after Stalingrad and racing towards Kursk.  All Russian troops are now trained, although their 'fearless' drops to 'confident' if their just Red Army and not Guards forces. The Russians are now facing man-power shortages after the desparate sacrifice of Moscow and Stalingrad ... but their training and confidence is better.
  • T-34/85 - Company Commander (Fearless Trained)
  • 6 x T-34/85 - Fearless Trained
  • 6 x T-34/85 - Fearless Trained
  • Tank Rider Platoon, including 1 Maksim HMG and a commissar (reroll motivational checks but remove a stand of infantry as traitors, sound familiar?) - Fearless Trained
  • 6 x Katyushas with extra crew (double Rate of Fire) and spotter team - Fearless Trained (these guys are reserves from base and less disposible than their brethren).

So what's the difference?

The prior force will be facing mostly Stug and Panzer 4 medium tanks, lots of German infantry and   the occassional Tiger (which they'll struggle with, as the Russians did).  They are easier to hit, but highly motivated and will be facing less dangerous anti-tank weapons.  The tanks are all faster and are capable of blistering speed.

The latter force will face german (and other) armies where both vehicle, fixed gun and infantry weapons can cause havok with the T-34's armour.  It's slightly better, and thanks to training the T-34's are also harder to hit (you hit on your TARGETS skill level, rather than your own).  The Rider Platoon will be a more serious challenge in close combat - as will the 85's, but their guns are vastly better, capable of damaging all the troops.


Both armies represent the same (ish) number of models, but will face vastly different opponents and have vastly different capabilities.  The two armies will work in a similar fashion, using speed and armour to exploit a weak point in the line and then push through hard into the enemy defensive line, flanking the enemy.  This bring me to my final discussion point of the day...

Scale and tactics

Something that has occured to me since starting in flames of war is that flanking doesn't really work in 40k.  This has something to do with scale, but also something to do with tanks.

Unlike 40k, an infantry man is about a centimetre high.  The best infantry weapons are effective at 24" and guns get ranges up to 32", artillery is longer still, but lacks the accuracy (as you'd expect). This is roughly equivilent to 40k, but there's actually a huge difference in scale. 

Smaller: Flames Tanks are generally smaller than a matchbox, allowing them to 'hide' behind hills and other terrain easier than 40k infantry.  This means that terrain has a greater impact in denying firing altogether.  Obviously the terrain is much smaller, but this doesn't lead to huge terrain pieces absorbing large chunks of the board in order to 'make' the game competitive.

Faster: A standard tank can 'double time' at 24" in a turn.  A tank can move 12" and fire (although at a reduced Rate of Fire), a 'fast tank' can move up to 32" in a turn!  This makes breakthroughs a real threat.  Additionally, the scale of the models means that an dug in infantry line is a line an 1" wide.  Meaning that 'artillery' can be a long way (comparatively) behind the front line, and open to assault by the breakthrough!

Scaled: Blocking tactics (like with rhinos) are near impossible at this scale.  Defences are 'deeper', as scale means that if you punch through my front line, my 57mm zis-2 are going to punch straight through your side armour! Attack, penetration and counter attack are more tactically dynamic as there is more 'room' to maneuver on the same board.

Example:  I set up a defensive line on troops.  They carry SMG's and HMG's, so the Germans won't want to assault with infantry or half tracks.  They punch through the 'weak' part of my line with a panther tank group in assault, and push through with several units of crack panzergrenadier units.  The panzers are their front armour left to face the T-34's they are going to flank next turn.  I then reveal my 4 zis-2 guns hidden in a wood on a hill.  They open up on the exposed Panthers and score 6 hits from my 12 shots.  The panthers cannot pass the side armour hits (armour 5, antitank 11, requiring 6's to avoid penetration!) and 5 penetrating shots later (one bail-out test) you have 3 destroyed tanks and 2 bailouts, crippling the German breakthrough.

40k tanks are a bit of a joke.  Normal tanks are barely faster than troops, and can only escape 'fleet' troops due to a bad dice roll for the chaser.  In Flames, the relationship is reversed, with tanks providing the maneurvability, whilst the infantry provide the fixed durability.

But 40k Infantry aren't durable and treat foxholes and cover as 'optional' ... hence the weird reversal of reality.  40k tanks as mobile pillboxes.


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Rush to Flames of War?!?

Farmpunk unwraps his Flames of War Starter Set - Open Fire!

Ok, so I'm talking about it, but there seems to be a real smoulder about Flames of War on the 40k blogs I requent.  Games Workshop should pay serious attention to this.
  1. Unlike Hordes & Warmachine (Hormachine lol), Malifaux, Infinity or Cutlass! Flames of war isn't a skirmish game (like Necromunda or Advanced Space Crusade).  It's entirely within that medium to large scale battle that GW have placed 40k. 
  2. WW2 is just as cool as space monsters from mars, and is actually more appealing to the older player.  Post 30's, Space Marines are a bit childish and the appeal of guardsmen, humans in an inhuman war (or Tau, the 'most' Startrekian race) appeals more.  Plus, something about getting older and having kids makes WW2 and the sacrifice for their childrens, children more meaningful.  Something about growing up methinks...
  3. The models are as attractive and beguiling as 40k models.  In fact they are more so as they are smaller, you can actually focus more effort on every vehicle and unit.
  4. The game scales really well.  500 point battles are very quick, but just as urgent as 1500pt engagements.  I'm also told it scales exceptionally well to larger points brackets.  This means a player can get engaged from the start, without accumulating a huge cost.
  5. The models are cheaper, a FoW 1500pt army may cost £172 (last army list, Wayland Games prices), an equivilent 1500pt 40k army with will be significantly more.  My Blogwars list of Guardsmen would cost £250+ (discounted prices at Gifts for Geeks, excluding the custom made rough riders).
  6. There's competition in the 15mm field, keeping prices low.  The same sort of 'healthy competition' doesn't exist (ok, maybe marginally) in 40k - so GW price hikes are habitual, based upon shareholder feedback.  To put this into context, the same army list above would cost just £81.75 in Plastic Soldier Company and Zvezda models (Gifts for Geeks Prices).  £80 for a brand new 1500pt army, I'm getting all nostalgic for the early days of 40k, 30 orks a box man @ £12 each!
  7. Finally, the game system actually works.  It has the pace and zing of 40k, combined with the tactical acumen and strategy (thanks to a lack of stupid dice rolls) of EPIC.  Yes, I said EPIC.
So Games Workshop should look out.  Flames of War is a well built, well thought through and much more competitive environment than the flabby old 40k.  It's also a well networked sales stream, as available online and every Hobbycraft store.

And once you start to play (and the entry level game is £20), you'll realise that 40k's rules are about as flabby as 40k's prices.

Grown up gamers, revolt against the prices. (You weren't really buying 40k anyway) and get into something awesome - Flames of War.

Friday, 9 December 2011

40k 6th Edition ... what needs fixing?

I typed GW rules fail into google and look what popped up ... funny.
Warhammer Tau (or just plain Tau, as he's now called) got me thinking.  What's wrong with 40k and how could they fix it?

Here's the Macro-problems:
  1. Uber-Unit Spamming is leading GW down a cul-de-sac to WAAC boredom.
  2. Space Marines are over powered in the macro and that, plus problem 1, is yawning the tournament scene into boredomville.
  3. 40k does not scale, armies vary greatly depending on points listings.
  4. The idea that identical deployment equals 'fair playing field' is childish.
  5. The obsession with the 'fairness of a dice roll' makes reserves frequently pointless.
  6. 40k is moronic in some senses, and overtly over-complicated in others.
Here's some suggestions:
  1. SPAM: Drop the 2+3+6+3+3 choices and define builds based upon balanced (fake) historical precident.  You can take three squads of the first company, but you lose the chance of fielding x, y and z.  For example, codex Blood Angels could give you 10 different company structures to chose from, each with different essential and optional units to build with.  This stops the 'best unit in codex *X = win' and shuts STTH's down in one go.  Flames of War have made this the cornerstone of their army building and it allows both balance on the army wide scale AND better scalability.
  2. Spezz Merins:  Simply changing the 'cover save' rules aren't enough.  A torrent of fire should do more than just bounce off Terminators, the addition of a cumulative 'armour save reduction' on torrent of fire might mean that achieving 15 wounding hits on a 5 man Terminator squad reduces their armour save to 4+.  In addition, and this isn't original, TSKNF has no relevance in 40k.  It is an opt-out, and Speez Merins either need to opt in to Europe and leadership tests, or piss off.  Genestealers run away, but Smurf's don't, Necrons run away?  Bollocks.
  3. Scale: 40k armies vary greatly from points band to points band.  Building structures that can't be spammed would stop this cycle, see option 1.  In addition, fixing the leadership rules (which are 90% ignored) and applying those modifiers fairly to the points of units would dramatically balance the game at all levels.  It's not enough that something is tough/weak, but it's ability to stick/run adds a balancing dimension.
  4. The 'classic' deployments: They are childish, they are so stupid, they hand a huge advantage to the first turn 'grabber' to the point where 'Alpha strike leaf blower' guard armies can dominate.  Using grown up 'scenario' rules with benefits for the 2nd turn player would be key.  Changing the rules to "Infinity", so there is a tradeoff between deployment and first turn (ie you can't have both the good one's) - making the choice tactically telling would be a start.  See flames of war, for more grown up ideas.
  5. Random equals fair: This is a stupid religion at 40k.  Many games build some brilliant concepts around having reserves arrive 'when you want them', not piecemeal like idiots.  Changing the reserves rules into something more dynamic would transform 40k and create a real buzz on the game.  All armies have good reserves, but they are largely ignored (unless you're old school Fritz), making reserves more tactical and less random would up the game level significantly.
  6. Moronic Example 1: Tank Shock (lol): Tanks can ram other tanks, people can assault tanks, but tanks can 'tank shock' units.  Give me a break.  A Landraider runs through a mass of gaunts ... I want gaunt goo oozing in the mud.  Don't you?  I want to use my Leman Russ's (and heaven forefend my super heavy tanks) to crush Terminators like popsicles (or bury them so deep in solid rock that it's not funny.  Why not?  Ork Battlewagons can do it, why not other vehicles (instead of the faintly ridiculous shuffle bottom move).
  7. Moronic Example 2: Defensive fire: In infinity every action has a reaction (but thats time consuming), but in Flames of War, the defending unit can open fire at full Rate of Fire at the assaulters.  Which makes sense.  As such, charging a group of genestealers into a 60 man guard unit armed with rapid fire and assault weapons then becomes near impossible.  In flames, this is achieved through 'pinning' the unit - reducing or eliminating the ability of the unit to wipe you out on the way in.  This would be easy to fix.

Now some of the above would break the game (can't see assault-worthy tanks reducing the number of boxes sold, or the meta), but the current game system ain't working ... there's my brain splurge that took 20 minutes to write.

Pull your finger out GW - you lost the initiative at 4th edition and now everyone knows you are the old bullying crabby old man on the block and needs a royal kicking. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Wonderful Surprise, and 40k Hangovers

Visit Hyperwar
Last night I arranged to visit my local store/club and "join in" on a 1500pt mid-war flames of war kick off between the Germans and the Brits.

Dustin was facing off against Coops and Dustin (very kindly) offered to crow bar me in a company or two to take part.

I arrived at the club with my 10-ish tanks, and boy was I in for a surprise (and a learning curve!).

Coops had double booked himself, arranging a game against Dustin in Mid-WW2, and a game against Anton (of the Anarchy) in Vietnam based Tropic Thunder US v VietCong!

As a true gentleman he is (and delighted FoW player of 6 years with a vast collection) ... Coops had brought me along an entire Soviet mid war army of 1500pts, written me an army list and even brought me his special soviet dice and markers for the different units!

Wow, this was special treatment!

The Army Lists

Russian Mid War - 1500 pts.  

Description: This is a lot of tanks supported by a single stand of infantry and some awesome Katyusha artillery support.   The tanks and infantry are so numerous because they are all consripted, meaning that they are easy to hit AND have poor abilities when these are called upon.

Command Tank T34/76
Tankovy Company #1: 3xT-34/76 and 3xT-34/57

Tankovy Company #2: 3xT-34/76 and 3xT-34/57
Tank Rider Company: 14 Infantry, 1 Officer, 1 Maksim Heavy Machine Gun and Commissar.
5 Katyusha Rocket Launchers with Staff Officer and Spotters

The Katyusha are Trained/Fearless, all the others are Conscript/Fearless.

British Mid-War - 8th Army Indian Irregulars

Infantry Company, Rifles and Light machine guns, piat recoiless antitank guns and mortars.
Indian Heavy Bombards - antitank weapons x 2
Two British "Sideways Firing" Bofors Mobile Antitank Armoured Trucks
Heavy Mortar Platoon (4 x Fearless Veteran Squads) - best of the best with 2 spotters.
3 x Matilda Tanks
3 x Sherman Tanks
Lots of other infantry.

Deployment - Aggressive tanks versus defensive Infantry

Unlike 40k, FoW has more balanced encounters than 'equal' ones.  This means that while the deployment of the attacker and the defender are totally alien to eachother, the special rules of the defender (who are usually dug in and camoflagued, with multiple 'ambush' units), gets significant advantages over the attacking tanks.  This helps to negate the alpha strike as a tactical 'game-winner', because outside Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and 40k - "Alpha Strike" isn't actually in reality.

So while I got first turn and ALL my troops on the table.  Dustin could beploy his units in and around the objective and make his 'anti-tank' units invisible.  The turn he 'declared their attack' they would hit at full rate of fire (in some circumstances they would get both full RoF and hit against side armour ... that's ambuscade).

The downside for dustin is that half his army is in reserve - meaning that he would be in a positive position, but with only half his troops.

Turn 1 - the rush.

Dropping my Katyusha spotter inside the command T-34/76, I rushed forwards on the left AND the right.  The heavy mortars were camped around the objetcive to my right flank, and the commander and other made a bee line for that.  The other group of 6 tanks moved towards the dug-in infantry on the left flank.  Moving over 6" in a russian tank means losing your ability to fire, although the 24" movement more than made up for this.  The conscripts in the middle moved forward under the reproachful eye of their Commissar.

In return, Dustin 'uncovered' two camoflagued unit in the open on the right flank.

Notes on Ambush in Flames of War: Unlike 40k and Infinity, there's no requirement to 'write down' where the camoflagued unit in located, the player can simply 'deep strike' them without a roll.  This represents a good reflection on the lack of 'micromanagement' of Flames, as its assumed the unit NCO or officer is perfectly capable of setting up in a good position.  The downside is that ambushers cannot set up within 16" of an enemy is plain sight or 4" of an enemy within cover (or 8" of a recce patrol), this means that any wood can become the hidey hole for a platoon of 6 pound artillery or tank hunters ... rushing forward and securing this ambush spot will stop the ambush happening (or force it out early!), but equally you cannot 'clear' the spot - only occupy it!  This represents well th ability of artillery and tank hunters to lie dormant, biting their nerve and then fire a massed volley into the sides and rears of the enemy!

The Bofors gun and dug in bombards opened up on the T-34's on the right flank at full rate of fire.  Destroying one tank and bailing out a further two.  My tanks are manned by conscripts, they get hit on a 2+, eeeeeeek!  The mortars on the right flank pinged my command tank squad, but to no avail.

Turn 2 - Dithering and Blathering

This left me in a panic ... umm, what to do?  Well, first of all I reacted just like that crap commander at Easy Company's attack on Foy - I panicked and had the tanks hunker down in some cover and try shooting it out with the enemy.  Suddenly I discovered that firing on dug-in infantry in cover at more than 16" was a recipe for disaster.  My shooting required a 5+, followed by a 3+ cover save for them and then a 3+ firepower check for me ... I killed nothing.  Rethink required.  Likewise, the tanks on the right flank awaited the move up by the Conscripts and tried to land another Katyusha attack on the mortars - to no avail!

Dustin pressed to exploit his hesitant idiot opponents mistake on the left flank and shot up the tanks, evacuating another 2 (although no more explosions, mid-war british anti-tank is shocking!).  In addition, 3 Mathilda's trundled on to the board (and we discovered they have shocking guns with useless range AND shocking armour - who knew?)

The mortars pinged the tanks on the right flank and managed to evac one.

Turn 3

Dustin kindly pointed out that charging the tanks into the heavily defended RPG and antitank regiment on the left flank wasn't bright and maybe I should just move left.  It's useful when your opponent helps you.  Taking his advice I moved right with everything I has (that wasn't bailed out) and worked out that he had some weak spots in his lines.

One of the bailed out tanks on the left and the bailee on the right pulled it together and joined in.  Moving the tanks to the right flank and centre I asked about tank assaults.

I have been digesting the rules over the last weeks, and I had registered in the back on my mind that tanks couldn't assault tanks, but COULD ASSAULT INFANTRY.  Well this is a novel idea and an alien one to 40k players.  My tanks could fight with infantry, not shoot them.  But what I didn't understand is that when infantry are in dug in positions, assaulting them with tanks (ie driving over them/driving them off) is the best approach and FAR MORE EFFECTIVE THAN SHOOTING AT THEM.

So what's 40k thinking: I mean tank-shock, Tank shock?  Tank Shock?  Where's tank squish, or tank supressing your ass and ramming your dug out and scattering your unit to the four winds?  Tank shock? Boo!  It's like the Scooby Doo version of warfare!  Which beggars the question, why can't trucks just run people over in 40k?  Why can't landraiders run over Terminators and pop them like little spider eggs?  Why is the infantry/tank relationship in 40k so weird?  

So four tanks assaulted one spotter unit and 3 tanks assaulted the other, still requiring a 5+ to hit him (Assaults are tested against ability rather than opponents ability, the reverse of shooting, which makes sense to me.)  Any hits automatically kill, there's no saving throw and no cover save.  Your fox hole is full of grenades and you buddies full of bayonets.  Or the tank equivilent - you are ketchup.

NB: On Shooting and Fighting.  If I'm shooting at you, it matters more how incompetent you are than how 'good' I am.  A crack shot is a crack shot, but over a company of men it'll even out.  A bunch of conscripts won't have the awareness, ability and experience to anticipate/locate/avoid/circumvent/zigzag around enemy fire, veterans will.  Whereas in assault, if I'm a highly trained Spetsnaz unit, I'm gonna kick your ass.  The assault unit ROLLS FIRST, but the defending units (and every friendly within 4") gets to fire everything they've got at the attackers, either wiping them out, or scoring 5 or more hits and pinning them (and stopping the assault).  Likewise the assaulters CAN FIRE at the assaulted, giving them a good chance of 'pinning' the assaulted and avoiding that defensive fire... which is kind of, well, realistic really.  Hits in combat kill - immediately, once it's into the trenches - there's no quarter.

SO, I assault the spotters and I assault the far end of the trench line.  I massacre the spotters (4 tanks on one and 3 on another and also kill 3 units in the centre.  Running over men with tanks is really effective, I mean, who knew?  (Hint: Not GW.)

At this point the Mathilda's arrive and prove their uselessness, some Shermans arrive as well and after exchanging some shots (that the Russians win), we've wasted enough time already and call it a night.


A good game in the learning curve, although understanding tanks in Flames of War is a learning curve over 40k.  If I had moved up 32" in turn one, swung right 32" decisively in turn two, I could have surpressed and charge the mortars (massacring them as they only had antitank 3 - useless against my side armour in defensive fire.)  I could then have mopped up half the infantry and sent my infantry in under a barrage of denfensive fire on the bombards and blown the Antitank jokes to bits by turn 3-4.  On turn four, I would have been facing 3 Mathilda's and 3 Shermans with 13 T-34 - no contest.  And had Katyusha's and tank assault to throw at the legion of standard infantry slogging towards my position.

The game was mine for the dithering ... and I dithered.  But that's the learning curve!

But this game is cool.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Flames of War 15mm Soviet Purchasing Guide

The Soviets are an interesting army to fight in flames of war as they change dramatically throughout the war, and have access to the widest variety of technology throughout the war.

As the Russians you can field American and British (lend lease) vehicles, Russian made vehicles and captured German vehicle.  While your troops will rarely equal the quality of the German equivilents, they are cheap and plentiful ("Quantity is it's own Quality") and come with some very effective weapons like SMG, Maksim HMG and flamethrowers by the later war (there's a fairly obvious troops numbers to technology pay off, as man power becomes shorter in the later war years).

Your tanks are fast, and the equal of the Americans, while your T-34/85's are cheap and very effective.  Later war monsters like the ISU122/152 and the IS-2 tanks offer you the ability to face down the German behemoths (which are 'surprisingly' common on the tabletop due to popularity) but you are always tempering your numbers against the individual effectiveness (and cost) of German units.

The Russians are famous for their artillery and their 'God Of War' approach to battering the enemy.  However, until the end of the war, many of the artillery and antitank lack anymore bite than a T34/85 (which is still good) for taking on Panthers and Tigers, and lack the punch for delivering the kill on the larger monsters (Elephant/Ferdinand/King Tiger).

Purchasing 15mm Russians is an interesting experience, let me share my research with you:

Plastic Soldier Company

Represents great value for money for bulk buys, although it's worth remembering that the infantry will require proper FoW bases.

Best Russian Buy: T34 tank, this comes with both the 76mm and 85mm turrets at Plastic Soldier Company.  meaning you can run mid-war and late war variants with little change AND mixed units from Hammer and Sickle.  £16.50 for 5, that's 53% off normal FoW prices (with both variants).

Next Best Buy: Summer Infantry represents a fantastic core force, with 130 models at £18.50.  The models are mixed submachinegun, rifle, light machine gun and officer models - either building variable infantry stands - or separated out to build SMG tank riders or Spetnatz, Rifle Armed Sappers and Rifle/MG Razvedki recon units.  Remember you need to buy FoW stands though.


Zvezda offer brilliant value at 'per unit' prices, which is unusual in this market.  They are a Russian company, so their soviet units are particularly strong.  All their vehicles are £2.75, making purchasing like candy (or under the radar purchases) easy.  The models are hardened grey plastic, well molded with intricate details.  Their range includes everything from the ubiquitous german half-track (ideal for Razvedki or Spetnatz units), the mid war KV1 monsters, T-34's (although these are age related), Zis 5 trucks (and German Opel Blitz trucks) and Ktyusha Rocket trucks.  They're single 'best buy' has to be the IL-2 Shturmovik, 3 for £7.50 gives you one the best return on investment of any unit!

Best Russian Buy: 3 x IL-2 Shturmovik at Plastic Soldiers for £7.50 for 3. That's a 77% discount on Flames of War.

Next Best:  Take your pick - cheap trucks and half tracks are probably quite high on the list!

Forged in Battle

The Russian Vehicles really aren't worth looking at, but the infantry units are.  Although the standard infantry packs are behind the Plastic Soldiers in per unit price, they win in detail and character.  These models are very pretty.

Where the brand really deserves mention is in it's specialist units.  The mortars and Maksim units are nice 'fillers' for the plastic soldier units, and the 40 man sub-machine gun platoon is worth mention too.

Best Buy: 120mm Mortars (4) @ £9.75 (30% discount, but no observers)
Second Best Buy: Maksim HMG (4) @ £5.75 (18% discount)

Old Glory Miniatures

If there ever was an example of a dreadful website underselling some great kit - it's Old Glory Miniatures.  They have one of the best selections built up over many years.  The detail and quality isn't quite Flames of War, but its at a better price and they handle pretty much everything.

My particular favourites are their Artillery and antitank guns and their super heavy tanks.

Best Buys: 6 x 57mm Zis2 guns at £11.  3 x ISU122's at £19.  Beware that the artillery don't include crew, but they sell crew separate at 50 pieces for £11.  Confusing and weird website and layout - but you cannot argue with those prices!

After years buying 40k - it's a refreshing release!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Red Bear Release

Red Bears are made in Oxford, unless they are books written in New Zealand
Red Bear's are made in Oxford (unless they are Kiwi books about the Soviet Eastern Front)
I've just been informed that further to 14 days from now, new rules for the Russian Front in Flames of War will be released.  Red Bear will include all the regiments on the late war eastern front and new rules to boot.

After reviewing the online forums for Soviet tactics, I'm readdressing my ideas.  It appears that soviet list require 'a lot' of everything to work.  5 tank T-34 squads are bad, 9-10 tanks in a squad are good.

This means I'm going to be buying a lot more T-34's in the future.  The Tankovy Batalon (Tank Company) in the Hammer and Sickle rules allows you to take both T-34's and T-85's in the same list.  A Company of each (9 T34-85's and 10 T34's) seems the way to go as the core of a force.

Example list - Tank Company:

Command T-34-85 Tank, with Anti aircraft trucks @ 125pts
9 x T-34-85 @ 540 pts
10 x T-34/76 @ 415pts

3 Tank Rider Platoons (19 bases) @ 310pts
Kommissar Team @ 15pts
4 Kaksim HEavy Machine Guns @ 100pts

1505 pts

This means rolling with 20 tanks at 1500pts... the lightweight T-34's are very quick and can get up close and personal with the enemy.  They can move 32" in a turn, allowing them to exploit flanks and isolate units.  Their guns are 'meh' at Antitank 9 (they can't actually damage a Tiger tank, only force a bailout check), but the combination of their speed and carrying 24 bases of Maksim and SMG toting Tank Riders is a potent thought.

At 6"+, the tanks may as well steam it like crazy, interestingly at 6" move or less, the tanks can shoot AND the tank riders can shoot their SMG's.  So that's 19x3 = lots of machine gun fire (at 4", but who's counting).  So they could be very dangerous for infantry/guns and charging into the enemy.  But it seems a bit of a cul-de-sac tactically.

The T-34-85's are a more measured (and better armed) variant.  The new 'hens and chicks' rule being released with RED BEAR indicates that the tanks will be capable of firing if they move over 6", but with a +1 modifier to hit (that makes it harder, not easier, people.), and at a standard RoF of 1.

This allows for some more tactical flexibility, but means that you'll be rolling a 5+ to hit, unless you moved less than 6".

Real Armour penetration problems

Looking through the Soviet Arsenal, they lack any weapon with greater antitank than 15, meanwhile the Germans have plenty of armour 9 or 10 options (Tiger and Panther) and even Elephants, Ferdinands and King Tigers (armour 14-15), all of which carry weapons that can make mincemeat of my armour.  So my options are to attack the side armour ... or maybe go the classic Russian route and target the top of these tanks:

The best 'top armour' for these vehicles is 2.  This means that artillery, rockets and aircraft are probably the best route to downing these monsters.

The cheapest (in coinage) to obtain are purchase 3 IL-2 Shturmoviks for £7.50.  Even the basic Shturmovik can deliver rocket attacks at strength 6 against that top armour, or strength 12 against side armour ... the problem is their accuracy and dependability.  You have to roll to see if they arrive or are intercepted.  They then need to range the target and place the artillery template and then roll to hit the tanks.  Even then, you only have a 50% chance of cracking them, and a 2/3rd chance of blowing them up.... them's quite long odds.

Plus, if the Tiger is close - the aircraft won't risk firing.  Now T34-85 CAN duke it out with Tigers and Panthers, but they will need side armour shots to really hurt them.  Likewise Panther tanks only have side armour 5, so a bum-rush of T-34/76's could swarm them ... but T34's don't have the best armour and they'd need to get away with some serious luck to survive until the next turn to jump the Panthers (would could just drive off 24" and start again rather than fight).

Mortars and Hammer and Sickle Era Artillery bring antitank 3, so unless they roll a 1, they are sound.  Not good.  Rockets are only antitank 2, so even worse.

The only weapon in the Russian arsenal which seems purpose built for monster antitank is the flamethrower.  I've heard great reviews.  This weapon is rate of fire (RoF) 4, and hits via an ability check (4+ for Russians), followed by a firepower check to destroy a tank, oh wait - that's a 6.  It does however force a bailout on any other roll.  You need to be 4" away to use it as well... so that's a 1/3 chance of a kill (or auto bailout).


The other option is sappers.  They need to pass a leadership test (4+) to assault a tank, but once in combat they have the antitank of 4.  A platoon (if it arrives intact) rolls a 4+ to hit with every team, the enemy only has to roll a 1 or 2 to be destroyed, or a 3 to be bailed out (in this case cowering inside as bits are ripped off the tank)... the advantage of this over flamethrowers is that a 'bailout' tank that is isolated in close combat automatically counts as captured.  Which is a nice result. 

Other Russian Considerations:

In Red Bear you can get access to the 122 and 152 artillery piece's, which have marginal direct fire, but artillery potential with antiank 4 and 5 against the top armour. 

The only hardcore options are the Russian heavy tanks, both the IS-2 (Iofef Stalin tank) and the ISU-122 carry a big ass antitank 15 monster gun.  This still doesn't challenge the KingTiger - but it could hurt the side armour.

The Best Options?

Gamers aren't restricted like in real war-time ... so the inclusion of an Elephant, Ferdinand or KingTiger seems pretty inevitable.  While very very dangerous to any vehicle, they are less of a threat to infantry.  This makes engineers and flamers essential for attacking tanks, (and the 40k flamer rule seem all the more silly) and they should certainly be included.

The ISU-122 seems to be the way forward in providing heavy antitank at antitank 15 and 2+ bunker destroying options.  In addition, the 'volley fire' rule means that if the target is within 16" it gets a re-roll to hit (which is useful with a single shot gun!).

Finally (and for the money), investing in three IL-2 Shturmovik's seems like a no-brainer.  £7.50 for the potential to rain cannon, rocket and bomb death every turn!  Yes please!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

I need more trucks ... Flames of War army list,

Check out Wikipedia for the full Soviet Armoured breakdown
Insomnia hit last night ... awake until 5am.  Groan!  Anyhow, I use the time constructively and built myself my first 'wishlist' for Flames of War Soviet forces.

I'm running with the standard "Motor Rifle Batalion" from the "Hammer and Sickle" book (yes in FoW, not only do you get different periods, with totally different tank, armour, transports, planes and guns, batalions and companys are represented, so you can choose Motorised companies or tank companies or scouting companies.  All historically fairly accurate (with balance) and only able to access certain weapons/units.

Red Army Mechanised Company

HQ: Rifle Company command, 2iC (2nd in command) and Kommissar team (reroll motivation tests) - 30pts
DshK AA Machine Gun Platoon (3) - 55pts

Motor Rifle Platoon #1 (1) - including 2 Maksim HMG  - 170pts
Motor Rifle Platoon #2 (1) - including 2 Maksim HMG  - 170pts

Sapper Platoon (1) - 105pts

Tank Company (5) - T34 (76mm) with tank riders - 340pts
Tank Company (5) - T34 (upgraded to 85mm) - 340pts

2 Heavy Mortar Platoons, command team and 4 mortar teams, and truck - 135pts

Rocket Mortar Platoon with command team and truck, 6 Rocket Trucks - 135pts

Spetsnaz Platoon, 2 captured german armoured half tracks, a command squad and 2 teams - 110pts

IL-2 Shturmovik Air Support - Limited Support @ 200pts

Now this list is probably totally rubbish, but its a balancing act between the sort of army I want to run, the sort of army I can run (due to list restrictions) and units which are effective but 1/3 of the price of Flames of War stock online.

The Spetsnaz, Motor Rifle Platoons and tank riders on the T34-76's are all armed with effective, but short range sub-machine guns.  These weapons are ideal for pinning troops during an assault, or defending from assault, but not much else really.

Hence why both the motor rifle platoons get some addition HMG support.  Which kinds makes up for the range deficiencies and allows them maximum firepower during charges (the HMG can hang back and offering covering fire).  7 SMG's plus 2 Maksim's offering up 33 dice firing at 4" on the charge ... which is enough to put the willies up most opponents.

The tank riders don't need HMG support (and can't have it), they are, after all, riding on a T34 tank.

The Pioneer sappers are there as they are supposed (?!?) to work well in conjunction with the Motor Rifles, and have the added advantage of better range (although not as good as the Maksims) and Antitank 4 in close combat.  This should allow us to deter any german tank coming near as they can pile on a lot of hits.

The two tank companies are nicely interchangeable (just like the turrets ... funny that), with the T34-85's offering steady, good strength anti-tank support while the T-34-76's base rush for flanking moves on isolated units.  Combined with the Spetsnaz' ability to pull a single unit forward a normal movement (12") and disguise them, this could work well, in putting the T34-85's in a commanding position turn 1 and then having them cover the 76's (32" in a turn is a hell of a bum rush!)  As I mentioned earlier, the tank riders on the 76's are able to assault, defend from assaults, add they firepower (at 3 dice a tank) to the already impressive firepower ... and get a 3+ saving throw.  Overall they turn this tank from a quick and nasty eploitation force into a really reallyhorrible one.

The Heavy Mortars are due to nice set done in 'forged in war' range.  The ability to hit foxholed troops at 56" and kill them on a 3+ (when normally you need a six!), they can fire over friendly troops (naturally) and hit everything on a 4+.  It's nice!  Plus artillery strikes have the advantage of getting nasty with the pinning hits.  All adding to my assaulting, charging morass of blokes!

The Rocket Mortars bring more of the same ... offering devastating firepower across the board at a minimal price, while the Shturmovik's offer great anti-tank fire with rockets!

Finally the Spetnatz can drag a unit forward, spot the enemy and hag about looking cool in their german armourd half-tracks - pure win!

To do all this I'll need to buy:

5 Trucks (Zis) @ £12
6 Rocket Mortars (5+1) @ £14.75
3 Shturmoviks @ £7.50
5 more t34's @ £16.50
4 Maksim Teams @ £5.75
4 Heavy Mortar Teams @ £9.75

£66.25 - nice!