Sunday, 29 April 2018

FOTR BATTLEGROUP BUILDING, AN EXAMPLE

For a change I thought I’d write-up a brief article about how/why etc, I selected my Battlegroup force for a recent one-off afternoon pick-up game.

Walhausen Mine... a fortress!

The game we had arranged would be using Fall of the Reich, and my opponent was keen to get his under-used Russian out for some tabletop time. They hadn’t seen serious battle for too long, and it’s rather depressing to see all that painting time and hobby £s sitting about gathering dust. Hence, I would be the Germans, which suits me, as I like my motley collection of late war garbage (and some good stuff0. My German collection is, err, eclectic, bits and bobs and stuff I just fancied or got for a specific game… rather incoherent, perfect for FotR, as the messier the force the better in my opinion!

We both know the game rules very well, we play fast, barely looking at the charts etc, so we knew we could finish 700 pts in the 3 hours we had. 700 points doesn’t go so far in late war as in early war, anyway. As a German in 1945 I could chose to be the defender, rather than face-up in a meeting engagement. I did, it seemed only right to dig-in deep and make my last stand. The scenario would be an Attack/Defence one – as yet unrolled for. I would be defending the Walhausen Mine… my terrain piece which I’m yet to fight over. A chance to use it… so why not?

So, time to start figuring out a force. First up, how to play this? Well, I always think you stand the best chance of meeting whatever the enemy throws at you with a balanced all-round force, so a bit of everything. Here, on the defensive, I’d weight it towards infantry, defences and artillery. Tanks would be there, but only in a secondary supporting roll. I had my eye on my barely used Jagdtiger model – 1 run-out in about 8 years ain’t much… I’m thinking Panzer Ace too! A beast that would give the Russians kittens (except it’ll most likely just get pinned and be a massive waste of points). But using the model is part of the fun… it doesn’t always have to make great gaming sense. Really I just want to see the look on the enemy’s face when it rolls on from reserve and opens up with +1 to hit…

Uppermost in my mind here is; poor infantry being low BR, defences bring low (or no) BR, off artillery bring no BR… if I spend too many of my points like this the break rating will be very low indeed, and this battle will be over fast. I need to think around this problem a bit.

Next up, the compulsary infantry platoon required in this size of game. Having looked through the list I was tempted with a Volkssturm platoon, as it’s characterful, but their lack of machine gun firepower put me off. I face German MGs so often, I want some of that pinning-fun for me for once. Volksgrenadier platoon then, well, yeah, but my models are half finished on the painting tray… and I don’t have much time or space for painting atm (building work and DIY come first). They were out, unlikely to be ready, so I turned to the Atypical platoon. My German’s have three Fallshirmjager platoons, for use throughout the war… mostly for Normandy, but some earlier stuff too. I would use one of them, taken as Regulars for the BR. They’d be the heart of my infantry defence and have respectable BR.

Next, some strong defences. The overall plan I had in mind was to turn the mine-head buildings into a mini-fortress, screen it with a skirmish line/ambushers and launch a sneaky counter-attack, with hard-hitting troops via the ‘tunnels’ defence (the mine tunnels underground of course). The counter-attack would be a suicide mission, but it could emerge unscathed in any building and, with enough panzerfausts, should be able to wreak havoc before dying. So on Defences, fortified building, 3+ cover for the mine-head, that’ll mean the Fallschirmjager defenders are tough to winkle-out, even with large artillery. I assume he’ll plan a PRTP on the mine-head, meaning holding it in force will get hot quickly as the accurate IDF falls on all those troops… so, for the close defenders of ‘Festung Walhausen’, a cellar bunker… 2+ cover against the expected IDF fire. Hiding underground, the defenders would get onto Reserve move early, be ready to come running out into the fortified build when the Russian closed in, with Panzerfausts and MG-42s bristling. For longer range defence a anti-tank gun of some sort was called for. With a dug-out and loader team, it all looks expensive. Instead, I have another option, a Pantherturm! I have a model (well dug-in Panther that’s close enough), never used it… time to get it into a game. That, hidden on ambush fire, covering open ground, would be a huge deterrent to the Russian armour, and tough to knock-out in return. At 35 points it’s cheap, but 0 BR again. Concerning. This current force lacks BR badly.

That covers the central defence of the mine-head itself, now for the skirmish screen. These would just be to slow the enemy down a bit and offer resistance before the mine was under direct assault. 2 Volkssturm squads, very cheap (but not so unreliable as Auxiliaries), armed with a Panzerfaust to at least threaten the inevitable Russian tank assault. Out in the open they’d all be dead men, so foxholes and an improvised barricades for them, to try and stay alive long enough to fight back - ambush fire for these guys too will help.

For the surprise counter-attack, I’d use part of the FJ platoon and an elite Hitler Youth squad… suicide troops with 5 Panzerfausts and AT grenades, elite and keen for the assault. These boys would die heroically for the Fatherland, but make a big noise on the way out. They’ll be accompanied by a FJ Panzerschreck team, extra anti-tank weaponry that is reliable when in range. Timing this surprise counter-attack would be crucial, but the men (boys) committed to it would be safe until they arrived. Hopefully they get the jump on Russian armour and gut-it… and being elite, they bring good BR too – yes!

For infantry I had now maxed out. 1 platoon + support plus 3 squads (call it an ad-hoc platoon). That’s 1 officer only… eek! I need the Forward HQ for his senior officer, re-roll and as a spotter too. He’s in. All this infantry needs a BR boost too, the defences don’t offer much in that department. I’d take ‘To the Last Bullet’ to try and compensate.

Time for some artillery support. With platoon officers as mortar spotters, it seems silly to have no mortars to call for, always worth the points just for harassment value. 80mm will do the job, off-table. My problem now was one of BR, the total looked low, and off-table artillery bring none, for serious points cost. Too much off-table artillery to go with the Defences would mean a few bad counter pulls and this defence would crumble very quickly. Instead I’d save points and use requests from additional fire support section. It’s not reliable, and I’d need some comms support to assist in getting any guns firing, so a comms relay team was added and a FOO dedicated to the task. That gave me 4 additional support fire slots to use, all of which went on 2nd priority requests (best I can get in these dark days for the Reich). The comms relay team gives me a re-roll on the comms test (not the priority test of 4+), so I could get serious guns if I risked it on the support fire tables. The whole requested fire strategy is very risky, but if it comes off, well worth the points saved over dedicated artillery guns. Maybe I’d get a big Nebelwerfer strike, one can but hope. I’m at the vagaries of the dice on this one.

The point total was wracking up now, and still no tanks… I didn’t have enough for the full platoon of Panthers I’d like… so it would have to be be single tanks (no officers again). First up my Hetzer, a rarely used model and here was his chance. Next, the Jagdtiger, which was starting to look very expensive… too expensive in fact. I downgrade it to merely a Jagdpanther, still potent gun-power, enough to make T-34s baulk. Panzer ace? … Err, hell yeah. Fear this guy! With only ammo 6, a supply truck would be required, I’d expect my ace to be busy and 6 shots for the entire game won’t cut it. A reload option would be needed and the truck would stick close-by and hope no stray mortar bombs blew him up (to often the fate of my supply trucks)!

Just a few points left to spend, I have infantry, defences, artillery and armour. No scouts… not really the battle for them. I’d take one, just so I might not be out-scouted (but most likely will be). A sniper, cheap and if used/placed well, a pain in the bum for the enemy.

I only have 2 officers, but can’t see an easy way to get an extra, and my BR total is still dangerously on the low side for the points (always likely to be for defenders). I can fix this though, with a forward aid post. 5 BR for 20 points is a great deal, a useful boost. But it’s a Restricted unit, and I already have 3 (the maximum) Restricted units (Hitler Youth squad, Jagdpanther, Pantherturm). Drat, an illegal move. No forward aid post. Instead, I’d go with the ‘Backs to Berlin’ special rule (I am facing Russians), and hope for good dice roll.

Last few points to spend… I’d overlooked AA defence (again). Having recently suffered badly under air attacks, and it being 1945 with little hope of any Luftwaffe aid (I’ll be taking my Me-262 model  along just in case though), I needed something to shoot back with. It needed to be cheap too. A quick scan of my models and I go with a 251/17, 20mm-armed half-track. It’ll be easy on orders (waiting on ambush only) and just cover the defence area. My opponent’s a big fan of the timed air strike, for the free counter draw inflicted if not the damage, and as largely static defender an air strike was likely to be on-target. My 20mm would be waiting to drive it off…

I add up the points and – I’m over… time to lose something, but what? The Jagdpanther? But it’s my killer big-hitter… Defences? The Pantherturm? No, instead it’s the Hetzer, he doesn’t have a defined role in this defence plan, so the little guy is out, benched for this battle. His time will come - one day.

With the Hetzer removed, I have a few points left to spend again. The first is, in the quest for more BR (3 just went with the Hetzer), to upgrade the FJ to veteran. Not for the fighting ability, just for the BR boost. These guys are going to be a tough nut, in all that cover with panzerfausts and MG-42s.

Next, with 12 points still left in the bank, I have 1 additional support slot unused. 10 points gets me… not much, another priority request? No, a timed strike, for variety, 105mm field guns… that’ll do.

So, that comes to 698 points, gives me 32 + 2D6 BR (please roll high), 2 officers (terrible, but I’m most in static defences and intend to use a lot of ambush fire) and 1 scout (the sniper).

OK, time to dig-in and prepare the defence of the Walhausen Kohlenmine… the red tide is coming in! Can we turn it back? The AAR will follow very soon.


Holding the Walhausen Kohlenmine, FotR, 700 pts

HQ Assets
FHQ in Kubelwagen              
Comms Relay Team
‘To the Last Bullet’
‘Backs to Berlin’

Infantry Assets
Atypical FJ Platoon
(from Overlord)
Pzschreck team

Ad Hoc Platoon
Volksturm Squad
Volksturm Squad    
Hitler Youth Squad

Artillery Assets
FO Team in Kubelwagen         
2 x 80mm mortars       

Defences
Fortified Building
Tunnels           
Cellar Shelter           
Foxholes           
Improvised Barricades   
Pantherturm           

Recce
Sniper               

Specialist
Jagdpanther           
Panzer Ace            

SdKfz 251/17           

Logistics
Supply Truck          

Additional Fire Support
4 x 2nd Priority Requests   
1 x Timed 105mm Barrage   

Totals:                698 pts    32+2D6 BR    2 officers, 1 scout




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