Friday, July 13, 2012

My 1625 Mid-War List Deconstructed

by SandWyrm

I'm officially qualified for the FoW Mid-War Nationals at the end of the month, but I won't be able to go due to a conflict. So there's no harm in breaking down how my German 1625 Mid-War list works. That should help folks who might be interested in the thinking behind how a competitive Flames of War army is put together. I know it's been hard to find good info on this myself.

This list is very strong and has gone 7-3-1 so far. With the losses and draws due not to any weakness of the list, but of my own inexperience in the intricacies of Flames. There's simply stuff I don't know to expect. But I am getting better as I learn some of the tricks and read the missions better. :)

Consideration 1: What Period Do You Want To Play?

As SinSynn would say, late-war gets all of the fancy toys, but Mid-War is more characterful in my opinion. As it has the greatest differences in how the various factions play. Though some of the more recent late-war books have introduced more interesting options than veteran-on-veteran all of the time. :)

Consideration 2: What Kind Of Army Do You Want To Play?

That's easy! I want to play tanks in the desert (shocking, I know).

Some individual lists are better than others in terms of competitiveness, but if you want to play static infantry with lots of guns, you can do that. There is no one kind of list or faction that's automatically better than others. Though statistically infantry lists tend to do better than others at tournaments. They're considered a 'safe' choice to take, since more likely than not you'll get to defend and pick your deployment area. It's also easy to get a little of everything in an infantry list, even when points are scarce. With tanks, you have to make harder choices about what you can take.

Tanks can also suffer from a few bad matchups if the terrain isn't well distributed on the table. Particularly against other tank lists. It's why I've come to believe that you have to build a list to kill tanks first and everything else second.

Edit: I've been told by the local FoW tourney players that the mission structure at tourneys has a lot to do with the viability of tanks vs. infantry. In previous years, the missions were fixed and published ahead of time, which favored infantry lists because it's easier to tailor them for specific missions. But this year all missions have been randomly rolled from the book instead of being fixed. So you can't tailor your lists to them anymore. As a result tanks are doing much better this year than previously.

It shows real concern on the part of Battlefront for addressing balance problems in their tournament system. Kudos to them!

Consideration 3: What Book Should You Use?

My favorite campaign is North Africa, and I like Rommel's Afrikakorps, so it's the mid-war North Africa book for me.

If you lust after Panthers or anything Russian, you'll want to get hold of the Eastern Front book.

As far as I know, those are the only Mid-War books. Though John Paul of Battlefront said in a recent interview that North Africa would be getting new books within a year or two for each major battle (Tobruk, El Alamein, etc.) in much the same way that they're releasing books right now for each of the major late-war battles. Cool!

Consideration 3: What Is The Most Competitive List In The Book?

This one's trickier, as it requires some experience in order to judge. There are 3 Tank lists in the book. One for North Africa (Egypt really), and 2 for Tunisia/Italy. Which is a pretty wide grouping of theaters into one set of lists, but hey. The book is 4 years old and Battlefront hasn't broken this book into 3-4 new ones yet. :)

The problem with the Egypt lists (all of them) is that you simply don't get a lot of options compared to the Tunisia/Italy lists, which have all sorts of needed stuff. So unless you're going to play your Panzers in a historicaly accurate charge against a hodge-podge British army full of Matildas and Valentines for the port of Tobruk, you're going to be at an inherent disadvantage versus lists drawn from Tunisia/Italy when the Americans arrived in force with better equipment and the British started to shed their home-grown armor for American tanks and other vehicles.

Rommel also never had to deal with American paratroopers armed with crap-loads of bazookas in Egypt, so you don't have the advancements (Shürzen Side-Skirts) needed to protect your tanks when they assault those kinds of troops. So... If you want to be able to fight anyone in mid-war, including Russians, you need to go with a Tunisia/Italy list.

Now, you have 2 choices in Tunisia/Italy. A Schwere Panzer list made up of Tigers and Panzer III's, or a Medium armor list made up of Panzer III's and IV's.

Tigers are a fun and powerful rock, but you won't have more than 4 of them (for 1550 points!) in a 1625 list. Which only leaves you 75 points for support troops. Good luck with that. The big cats are just too easily countered by smoke and fast units like Stuarts that zip around them to grab objectives. Against a competent player, you just can't do enough damage to an enemy with them over the course of a game. Sure, you'll kill what you hit, but you won't hit enough stuff to matter.

So Medium Panzerkompanie it is.  You can still drop a Tiger or two in this list, but I think that you're better off with a higher quantity of lower quality shots. Unless it's a casual game. In which case BRING ON THE CATS! ;)

Now What To Take?

First and foremost, you need a way to kill tanks. If you can't kill tanks, then you might as well go home.

Light tanks like the Stuart or T-70 aren't much of a problem to kill. Even the lowly Panzer III feels like a Tiger when facing them down. No, the real problem is that these tanks tend to come in large swarms and some of them are pretty fast. So they can zip right by you and rape your backfield before you can do much about it. Forcing you to disengage from the medium and heavy tanks in front of you so that you can rescue your objective. That's when you die. :)

The answer to countering light tanks is actually not so much other tanks, but infantry. Since a line of grunts will block their movement, you can park your own tanks and guns behind their protection and dare these light tanks to come up and assault you. Because if they do, you'll rip them a new one when you get your defensive fire. :)

So bring some infantry. At least one platoon of 3-4 stands. More wouldn't hurt. Just don't leave them unsupported, or the light tanks will blow right through them in an assault.

Now, the guys you really have to worry about are the allied mediums like the Sherman and the T-34. Because they have the armor and the speed to run up right into your face and put shots into your much weaker side armor. Whereas you want your enemies to stay at range and trade shots with you, because you're much harder to hit than they are.

So you need to be able to reliably penetrate AV6 at range (counts as AV7 at long range). Most of your medium tank guns are AP9, so that can be a problem. So you'll need some stronger guns that can hit at AP11 or (even better) AP13. Because you want to kill as many of these bastards at range as you can. Because when they're in your face, you're dead. Blocking infantry can help here too.

Then there's the big boys, like the Russian KV or (say it ain't so Hans!) a German player with Tigers or Panthers. Everything short of your best guns will bounce off of them. So you need weapons that can penetrate them. Especially if someone pulls a rock on you and you have to deal with 5 8 Panthers across the table like Farmpunk did at the tourney (or the 3 Tiger list I also ran across -fp).

Next up: Infantry. You need to be able to kill them. Both at range and in assault. Particularly if they have bazookas or other weapons that can ruin an assaulting tank's day.

Last, but not least, you need some Recon (Recce in Flames-speak) units. Recce teams will lift gone-to-ground on enemy infantry units, making them easier to hit at range. They'll also allow you to deny key parts of the table to enemy ambushes so that, for instance, a platoon of anti-tank guns doesn't suddenly pop out of the wood that you intend to take cover behind and ruin your whole day.

And it wouldn't hurt to have some anti-aircraft protection either. As planes can be annoying now that they range in automatically in the open.

So Let's Look At My List

Ok, first up I have to take at least 2 tank platoons of either PzIII's or PzIV's. While my HQ is 2 tanks of any PzIII or PzIV type. So here's my base:

HQ (White)
1iC: Panzer IV F2
2iC: Panzer III N

Combat Platoons
Panzer Platoon (Red)
3 Panzer IV F2's

Panzer Platoon (Blue)
4 Panzer III N's w/Shürzen Side-Skirts

The Panzer IV's are my snipers. Their AP11 guns can reliably kill Shermans and T-34's at range. Their front armor is only AV5 though, so they can't get to close to the AP9 and AP10 guns on the allied mediums. Because a hit will usually mean that they're dead. Keep 'em concealed and far away so that they're only hit on 6's.

The Panzer III's have AV6 on the front and are therefore better able to take a pounding (don't let them see your sides though). These are my my general-purpose brawlers. They're there to run interference for the PzIV's, kill light tanks, and assault enemy infantry lines after peppering them with Machine Gun and HE main gun fire. To protect them against bazookas and anti-tank rifles, they have Shürzen. Which gives them an additional 4+ save against light AT weapons. Without the side-skirts, they'll never make it past the enemy's defensive fire and into assault.

Now for the other additions.

Like I said before, everyone needs Recon units, and the T/I list gives you two choices for a Panzerkompanie. Panzer II's or Panzer Scouts.

Panzer II's are light tanks, and have just enough armor to be able to sit in front of a line of infantry and and lift their Gone-To-Ground status without having to worry about taking damage from enemy machine guns. They also have some duality, in that they can also be used to assault enemy infantry. In 2nd Edition, this was pretty nice, as they're only 50 points each compared to the 115 points that you pay for PzIII N's. So you could take a nice big unit of them and roll over an opponent's line for a bit more than the cost of 2 Panzer III's.

But... they got nerfed a bit in 3rd Edition. Normal tanks, when assaulting, can only be stopped by 2 penetrating hits. But RECON tanks can be stopped by 5 hits, penetrating or not, just like infantry. So they don't really want to be the first unit to assault the enemy any more. It doesn't make them useless, but now I would only take 3 of them instead of 5 and use them for recon only.

My other choice is Panzer Scouts. Basically regular infantry that moves around on motorcycles or Kübelwagons (Jeeps). They're less sexy than the PzII's , but they have an important duality. Not only can they perform recon duties while zooming around the table, but I can deploy them defensively as infantry and block enemy tank movement near my objectives.  And... Since they're all Machine Gun teams (command bases usually aren't) they can put down a withering amount of fire on infantry that moves up to assault them.

So taking this one unit achieves 2 of my goals at once and frees up points for other things.

Weapons Platoons
Panzer Scout Platoon (Green)
3 Scout Squads (Plus Command Base) w/Kübelwagons

(Note: These could be transported on motorcycles too, but I had the Kübels already and they work exactly the same in the rules.)

Now, how do I deal with heavy (and medium/light) tanks?

Since I don't have access to Panthers (the reigning favorite for this duty), the obvious choice is a Tiger tank. But the Tiger has problems. For one, it's 385 points just for one. For another, it's just one tank, with 2 shots standing still (unless you roll the +1 ROF for it's skill). So lucky hits can kill you. Or the enemy will just smoke you and you're not hitting anything reliably. And Well, it's a lot of points in a list that doesn't have many to spare.

That leaves another option. Which Farmpunk can attest that I resisted for a long time, but which I'm now in total love with. The famous German 88mm Anti-Aircraft gun. Which, as Rommel found out one day in the desert during a desperate stand, was also the best tank killing weapon he had.

Taking two of them costs just 235 points. You can then spend 10 more points (and model additional crew)per gun so that they get 3 shots each instead of 2. That's 6 shots per turn of AP13 goodness that scares the crap out of pretty much any tank out there. Put them down on one side of the table and you can be sure that your opponent will send all of his tanks to the other side. :)

Being infantry, they can also block tank movement on an objective and are harder than most tanks to kill with ranged fire. With the command base between them, you can also spread them out just over 13" apart. Frustrating allied smoke bombardments

Their downsides are their lack of mobility and a need for very careful placement. Since they can't get concealment in open terrain like smaller guns can. So putting them on the edge of woods works best.

Using these guns well is as much about what you force your opponent to do (or not do) as it is about how many tanks they kill. Put one on a road and you'll shut it down. Put one on a hill and you'll push your opponent elsewhere. It's all about the intimidation factor. The only tank that can reliably take a hit from one is a Panther; and they'll be so scared that something can actually hurt them that they'll hug cover too. :)

Support Platoons
Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon (Yellow)
2 8.8cm Flak36 w/Extra Crew
That leaves just 65 points to spend on... something. There aren't many choices for that few points, so you're kind of forced into taking a couple of these guys:

Now at first you'll be like... yeah whatever. They're cheap at least, and can shoot at planes. But they're actually much better than I thought at first. In 2nd Edition, they were unarmored vehicles. So if you got hit by anything (even infantry rifles) you only got a 5+ save or you're dead. Combined with their 16" range, this wasn't a very useful unit for peppering infantry with.

But in 3rd Edition, they got a big boost in survivability. Because there's a gun shield on them (it's not listed in the NA book, but it's in the new Forces reference book) they don't get the 5+ save. Instead, you have to roll a firepower test to kill them. Against rifles and light machine guns, this is the equivalent of a 2+ save. While against most anti-tank guns, it's the equivalent of a 5+ save. Which is no worse than they had before. Had I known this at the time, I'd have won one of those 3 games that I've lost with this list. :(

SO NOW you can run these AA half-tracks right up in front of a line of Infantry and blaze away. Standing still they get 4 shots (6 on the quad version) and just terrify infantry. I've had guys pour round after round into these things to try and kill them off before an assault, and I've won a game where it was the defensive fire from these guys that turned the tide in my favor.

As a bonus, enemy airplanes now have a VERY hard time making through both my Kfz's and my 88's. So if that's all you have, I can bunch up instead of spreading out as I usually do when I fear aircraft and artillery. :)

So let's look at the whole list now.
HQ (White)
1iC: Panzer IV F2
2iC: Panzer III N

Combat Platoons
Panzer Platoon (Red)
3 Panzer IV F2's

Panzer Platoon (Blue)
4 Panzer III N's w/Shürzen Side-Skirts

Weapons Platoons
Panzer Scout Platoon (Green)
3 Scout Squads (Plus Command Base) w/Kübelwagons

Support Platoons
Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon (Yellow)
2 8.8cm Flak36 w/Extra Crew

Light Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon (Purple)
2 Sd Kfz 10/5 (2cm) Half-Tracks
So now I have all of the tools I need to take on pretty much anything. But wait... there's one more BIG factor to consider for tournaments.

What About The Mission Deployments?

SinSynn has called this the single most important thing to consider in a list, and I think he's right. You have to know how the list will be deployed in all of the basic missions.

What Goes In Reserve?

There is only 1 mission out of the 12 defined in the FoW rulebook that has both sides set up all of their forces in a way that's similar to most 40K battles. The other 11 missions limit the number of platoons that the attacker or the defender (or both) can put on the table. So most of the time you're going to have to put half of your army (rounded up) in reserve, and sometimes those reserves won't be able to come on until turns 3, 4, or 5.

There's also one mission with 'Mobile Reserves'. Which means that EVERY tank and vehicle unit but one has to be put in reserve. This obviously hurts pure tank forces quite a bit. Fortunately, I'm not running a pure tank force.

So in missions where I have to split up my 5 platoons, I use my super-special German powers to make a new platoon using my 2nd In Command (2iC). The most cost-effective way to keep as few points as possible off-table is for him to grab one of the recon squads and tell them to follow his tank around in their Kübelwagon.

That gives me the following breakdown of units:
  1. Kampfgruppe of my 2iC and one Panzer Scout Squad
  2. My Panzer IV's
  3. My Panzer III's
  4. My Panzer Scouts (3 Stands Left)
  5. My 88's
  6. My AA Trucks
If I'm defending, I'll deploy the 88's, the Panzer Scouts, and put the Panzer IV's in ambush. Since I'll only ever be defending against other Tank Companies, this limits their mobility (Scouts + 88's blocking objectives), and lets me put holes in them with my best AT units (PzIV's + 88's). The PzIV's back up the infantry, while the 88's secure the other objective (usually the furthest one from the enemy).

Thanks to 2 of those units being non-vehicle (once the scouts dismount), the deployment is exactly the same if Mobile Reserves are used. Yay!

On offense, I'll deploy the 88's, the PzIV's, and the PzIII's. Which puts 1295 of my 1625 points on the table. That's a nice weight to throw against an opponent who's deploying large infantry platoons and only a few tanks. (Edit: If I think I need the recon, I'll deploy the Panzer Scouts instead of the PzIII's).

Well, that's all I can think of. I hope it's informative!


  1. Very informative. Perhaps it would have been better as a 2 or 3 part series. Neat perspective none the less.

    1. Thanks!

      I thought about breaking it up, but I prefer to finish my thoughts all at once. We're not chasing hits for advertising, so I prefer to optimize for clarity and completeness. It's been the hallmark of all our best articles.

  2. Yeah, you could've split it... but this way it was one coherent article so I don't mind.

    Btw. nice article. I enjoyed your thoughts and the way you go about creating your list.
    *thumbs up*

  3. Very helpful article. I liked having it all in one piece so everything was fresh and easy to compare against other bits. Nicely done.

  4. Hope you don't plan on attending official events with non-Battlefront minis, Sandy.

    I'm beyond disappointed with Battlefront right now. So sad to see Flames of War go the Games Workshop route in not allowing 3rd party minis at their events.
    Since the only way I can protest this is with my wallet, that's exactly what I'm going to do.
    I suppose I can blog about it, too.

    That being said...this was a great post.

    1. Heh, I was writing my opinion on that when you posted this.

      I think I'll... delay... picking up Devil's Charge for a while. Maybe even for the entire summer. I just found a copy of Casino in a clearance pile. So I'll put together some more of the models I already have and Farmpunk and I will play that for a while. The only thing I might buy for that would be Panthers, and I can get those from PSC I think. ;)


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