That's right, the Panther! I wanted to incorporate them into my list to deal with both Soviet heavy armor and British Churchills that I'm likely to face at the tourney. But at a whopping 550 points for two tanks, I was a little nervous about maximizing their effectiveness. Ultimately I would learn that being over-cautious can lead to serious trouble; read on!
My list: Trucked Panzerpioneers out of Eastern Front
Full Pioneer Platoon
Full Pioneer Platoon
3 Panzer III G
4 8-Rads (two patrols)
2 Mobile AA Guns
The plan was for the Panthers to knock out the best of the enemy's armor. The two 8-Rad patrols could keep any tank destroyers from popping out and also lift Gone-to-Ground when needed. In Mid-War there is much less integral anti-tank assets in infantry units, so the Panzer III's make a great assault unit. The Pioneers are tough units with Tank Assault 4, and I could also equip them with flamethrowers. The Nebs would drop smoke where needed, and the AA guns would keep my Panthers safe from enemy aircraft.
My opponent for this game was running American Airborne out of North Africa:
Full Airborne Platoon w/ Bazooka
Full Airborne Platoon w/ Bazooka
Weapons platoon (combat attached)
Dismounted Recon (two patrols)
He didn't have a lot of the models for Mid-War so he was a little limited in what he could take, but I still think he put together a pretty tough list.
We rolled for mission and got Dust-Up, one of my favorites.
Dividing the above image into quarters, I chose to deploy in the bottom-right corner, leaving him with the top-left. This would give my reserve infantry some cover through the woods as I approached his lines. I decided to leave both Recce patrols, the Panzers, and a Pioneer platoon in reserve. Each Pioneer platoon was given two flamethrowers. he left his Shermans and two Recce patrols in reserve (we may have played this wrong with the dividing of his platoons/patrols, but we didn't want to get hung up on it).
After deployment. My AA guns are off to the left guarding the Panthers.
Even during deployment I already forsaw a problem. In missions where half of my force would be left off-table, I couldn't separate my Panthers and AA if my opponent had air (which many people take at local tournaments), so that would be half of my platoons right there! I also should have deployed my infantry closer to the other objective. My thinking was to keep them in cover, but as long as they stayed Gone-to-Ground I'd be concealed anyway. I simply need to play infantry more often and get out of my comfort zone.
The first couple of turns went by quick. I kept my Panthers out of sight from his artillery observer and fended off planes as best I could. I just dug in all of my on-table guns and infantry and waited for the assault group to materialize.
On one turn he fails to range in with 3 planes after I whiff on my AA. Hug those buildings!
And on another turn I blow him out of the sky.
He also targeted my Nebs once with his aircraft but they passed their saves.
My reserves arrive on turn 4, and they wait for the tanks to make the assault.
But then his reserves arrive...
And that's where it started to unravel for me. I had been so concerned about the planes and artillery that I made the bonehead mistake of opening up the flanks of my Panthers. Since his guns couldn't even damage the front armor of the Panthers, all hits had to go against the side armor of a single Panther. This was a stupid mistake on my part that should never have happened. In a way though these are the kind of mistakes that need to happen from time to time to keep gamers on their toes.
The assault group begins to move out (Panzers and rest of Pios to move after photo is taken)
While the Panther pulls back, bailing a Sherman.
My flamethrowers kill three enemy teams, pinning them down and leaving the path open for my tanks. But...I fail to get my smoke ranged in. Still, I risk the assault.
One tank is bailed on the way in...
And is captured after the platoon is forced to break off!
His Shermans take out my AA...
While his artillery nails my Panzers, who then fail their platoon morale check!
My assault group is now in tatters, and I resolve to try and kill one of his infantry platoons and then focus on killing his two Recce patrols and the Shermans, hopefully forcing a company morale check on him before he forces one on me.
Two hits, two bails...Gonna have to replace this Panther's gunner
Pios take cover in the wheat, resolved to shoot-out the Airborne troopers
No quarter asked, none given
One Sherman finally pays the price for getting sneaky...
But he is soon threatening an objective!
Now I'm forced to feed my Recce patrols into the meat grinder to keep the objective contested. It's not looking good for the Germans. On my turn I decide to go for broke, and move the Pioneers in my deployment zone out for a final gambit.
Panther knocks out another Sherman
Pios charge in, killing 4 stands of enemy infantry...
But are beaten back with equal savagery. Both platoons have to test morale. He passes, I fail!
The final, desperate thrust
The Shermans are assaulted and forced to break off, but I am knocked below half for that platoon...
That last Pio platoon fails their morale check, putting me below half. I subsequently fail my company morale check. I destroyed a Recce patrol, but that was it, handing a 5-2 victory to the Americans.
Had my Panther killed just one more Sherman I would have forced a morale check, perhaps making the game 4-3, but I can't avoid the fact that my army was far more fragile than it looked. I probably should have hung my Panthers way back in my deployment zone and just gone after the objectives from the start with my Pios and Armor. If I had to do it over again I probably would have deployed my Panthers, AA, Panzers, and a Pio platoon.
On the whole however, this list revealed that it is far too fragile for my liking, especially as I'm likely to make mistakes playing infantry since I'm just not used to relying on footsloggers. I am thinking about swapping out the Panthers for more, better Panzers and another pioneer platoon. Marders would probably also be a good option. German tanks are just so expensive in Mid-War that it's hard to see their value. Under Version 3, would you rather have 4 Panzer IV E's (FA 5, AT 9, FP 3+) at 400 points or 4 Shermans (FA 6, AT 10, FP 3+, stablisers, direct-fire smoke) for 460 points? It's the Shermans any day of the week.
Anyway, thanks for reading! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @piflamesofwar