Monday, 6 February 2012

Unit Synergy in Flames of War

It's another Flames Article, to draw you over to the dark side of 15mm combat.

All pictures belong to Flames of War, without permission, but friendly nontheless!

For a Flames player, you'll notice that quite a few of the 'innovations' leaked in the 6th Edition WIP 40k ruleset came directly from the world of flames.  Defensive fire and pinning are things that really work in flames, and can prove absolutely devastating.  In addition, they tend to encourage combined arms tactics, as frequently a good team is a mixed team, as all vehicles come with their own advantages and disadvantages...

So here follows a little article to get you interested in Flames of War, in particular, unit synergy.


[sin-er-jee] Show IPA
noun, plural -gies.
1.  combined action or functioning; synergism.
2.  the cooperative action of two or more muscles, nerves, or the like.
3.  the cooperative action of two or more stimuli or drugs.

Synergy in 40k does work, because at core a synergy is a simple game of "Paper-scissors-Stone" that we all play in our heads.  The autocannons in one team may not fire on the Terminators next to them, but instead trust to the plasmaguns of the command team to whittle the superhumans down.  It works in 40k because the sliding scale of toughnesses and saving throws, throws up probabilities that we try to best exploit.  In a term, it's fire discipline.

Unit Synergy in Flames of War

In Flames, the synergy is made more complex.  Unlike 40k, not all weapons in Flames are effective against all units.  In some cases, you are better advised to deploy different weapons against the same unit under different circumstances.

Example One: Entrenched Veteran Troops.

In flames, infantry (unlike tanks) get a 3+ cover save whereever they are.  Even shooting at point blank range, troops get a 3+.  To make matters worse, the roll to hit is governed on their skill at using cover rather than YOUR skill at shooting.  You hit conscripts on a 2+, trained teams on a 3+, and veterans on a 4+.  To make it harder, it gets tougher at over 16" range, and you get yet more negative modifiers if they are in cover, and even more if they don't fire.

A veteran team (4+ to hit), in cover ("concealed", 5+ to hit), over 16" (6+) to hit, who hasn't moved or fired (gone to ground, 7+ to hit), just cannot be hit on a D6.

These rules reflect the reality of the situation (and the opposite to 40k), troops in cover who aren't shooting at you are nearly impossible to hit.

Bullet-proof Cover

To further compound this advantage, if you are in bullet proof cover (ie in or against a building, in foxholes (you dug yourself), in trenches etc, then your opponent doesn't just have to hit you, but they also have to pass a firepower test to penetrate your cover.

Rifles and Machineguns have a firepower of 6.  This means that after scoring a hit on a 6 to hit (within 16"), you then have to roll a further 6 to kill a unit.

Let's add another problem - a HMG nest

Of course, the obvious solution is to attack them, close combat gets you a lot of advantages - eliminating cover being one of them.  The problem is that all those advantages above dissapear as soon as you step out of your entrenched/foxhole position.  You still get a 3+ save, but that's it.  They can hit you easier, and your boys will go down.  Added to the problem are a couple of HMG nests.  These can pump out 6 shots each a turn, creating a kill zone for advancing infantry.

Maybe running will help, but maybe not - in Flames moving at the double means that you are moving without caution.  This gives the shooter "DOUBLE DICE" to shoot at you, representing the risk very effectively.  So simply running at the enemy (A 40k stalwart) won't work.  What's a girl to do?

Option 1: Heavy Mortars

Nestle in a mortar spotter with your dug in infantry and give 'em hell.  Heavy Mortars are very effective at pinning and killing your opponent.  They'll still get a 3+ save, but the scale of the template should give you 3-4 hits and any hit pins the whole unit (pinned units, if they don't shake it, are RoF 1 for the next turn).  Due to the parabolic, Heavy mortars are completely useless against machinegun nests.  The other advantage is that they are immune to retaliation.

Option 2: Light Mortars

Even worse than heavy mortars at killing dug in troops (firepower 6 compared to the HM 3+), some light mortars have a very useful trick.  They can fire direct!  With 24" range, 2 shots and firepower 3+, they can put the pain on your opponent and can cause casulaties.  Downside?  Gun teams have a saving throw of 5+ rather than the normal 3+, so make sure they are dug in!  Mortars can prove very useful against a machine gun nest.  You CAN destroy machine gun nests with simple machine gun and rifle fire, but it takes 72 shots to guarantee a kill. Since a platoon only offers 16 shots, this is a big ask.  6 mortar shots, costing half the price - should silence the HMG.  And it's all down to firepower.

Option 3: Light Antitank guns

At the same price as two HMG machineguns (pushing out 12 shots), two 45mm guns can offer little in the way of antitank (Light tanks and armoured transports only!).  They can however make very short work of a machinegun nest.  Only two guns (firing 6 shots), can put down a machinegun nest.  For the soviets they have several key advantages.  Firstly, they have a gun-shield.  This means that although they only have a 5+ save (as with all gun-teams), they are AUTOMATICALLY in bulletproof cover.  This means that they can move up and shoot at the MG nest at their leisure.  To add insult to injury, you can only hit a machinegun nest at less than 16".  At 16" or less, the artillery "volley fire" rule comes in.  This means that you get a reroll to hit.  Meaning that you only need commit 2 guns to kill a machinegun nest.

Option 4: Assault Guns

Assault guns like the SU122 or the STuH 42 (STuG variant) sacrifice their armour piercing gun for mounting a destructive howitser.  They are designed as infantry support tanks, and their main goal is the clear out infantry rather than kill tanks (which they are still moderately good at).  This means that these tank variants have hugely explosive firepower (2+), and are also what are termed 'breakthrough guns' , breakthrough guns or bunker busters automatically deny infantry a saving throw (they fire explosive rounds which are just too lethal to survive!  This means that if they hit, they invariably kill.

3 SU122's move on an assault gun, with armour 5 they are impervious to the machine gun fire.  They move up and fire 3 shots (moving reduces RoF to 1).  Thanks to a reroll (volley fire) at 16" they get 2 hits.  After rolling a 2+ four times,  they are almost guaranteed a kill.  They then turn their attention on the infantry with 6 shots scoring 2-3 hits next turn and guaranteed kills.

Ancilliaries - Scouts

Scouts play a crucial defensive and aggressive role in flames.  While their shooting potential is paltry, they can move cautiously (meaning they always count as gone to ground if they are concealed in cover and they didn't run or shoot).  As scouts are invariably veterans, that a 7+ to hit at over 16", in addition, they get a withdrawal attempt after the first shot, which allows them a free move if successful.  So they are hard to hit.  They also stop ambushers from 'appearing' within 8" of them, meaning that scouts in a key position can stifle an ambush.  Add to this their 'eyes and ears' rule and they can remove 'gone to ground' from any unit within 16".

So with just 240pts of Rifles and Machine guns, you would have 32 shots with a 44% chance of destroying a gun nest and a 10% chance of destroying entrenched veteran infantry stand at less than 16".  A combination of a scout team (100pts) removing their conceal, and a su122 assault gun team (130pts), would lead to you hitting on a 5+ with a reroll, and a 47% chance to kill per shot.  IE three dead teams.  Move up and kill the machine gun team, and then start blowing big chunks in the infantry next turn.

Conclusion - it's obviously not that easy...

Clearly a 'real' tank, some simple anti-tank guns or panzerfaust will make short work of an assault gun - but that leads into a whole other plethora of options and complexities.  I hope this helps you understand that picking a Flames list is less "best option in codex * spam" and more about understanding the adversary, synergy and combined arms tactics.

And also why a game set in WW2 with realistic adversaries is actually far more challenging and varied than fighting aliens one minute and space marines the next (and the next, and the next, and the next.... lol).  Suneokun out.
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