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.
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