Thursday, June 27, 2013

Battle Report: Early War DAK vs. French Armor

There are many ornery folks out in the Flames of War hobby world who can't stand the site of historically inaccurate battles. If you're one of those people then turn away now, because we've got French armor in the desert!

Brothers Grim Games and Hobbies, my FLGS, will be hosting its first Early War tournament in August. Each game will be played at 1200 points per side. This is really just to try and spur interest in a fun and different flavor of Flames of War. This battle would serve as a test to see what table size and missions could work. Is a 6x4 table too big? What missions are balanced for this point level? These are questions that a tournament organizer has to answer.

The board after deployment and recce moves. Overlord game in background.

We decided to try Free For All on a 6x4 table. This would give us a chance to use all of our toys while testing out a mission that is all about balance. 

As I said, he was running French armor. His list:

HQ - Long-barreled Hotchkiss 
3 Hotchkiss tanks, one with a long barrel
3 Hotchkiss tanks, one with a long barrel
4 Somuas
5 Panhards

My Panzerschutzen List (picked at random from three possibilities):

Panzerschutzen - four stands of infantry with an anti-tank rifle
Schutzen - four stands of infantry with an anti-tank rifle
2 Panzer IV D's
4 Panzerjagers
2 8-rads (models are inaccurate but just deal with it)

Incidentally, we were playing on a table that I have been putting together for quite some time. I have always wanted to put together a desert table that wasn't just a wide-open expanse. I used pink insulation foam for the hills, a welcome mat for the wheat fields, and invested in multiple Battlefront products for the rest (which will be part of a separate review because they're that good). The battlemat is brown fabric from Wal-Mart.

I was worried that the list I drew simply didn't have the numbers of AT shots necessary to neutralize his horde of tanks. My plan was to rely on Stormtrooper to allow me to shoot-and-scoot, while concentrating my fire on single platoons at a time to knock them out. This would be difficult, since he deployed and recce-moved in a way that specifically avoided my Panzerjagers (Early War, where Armor 0 AT 8 vehicles reign supreme).

You can see in the above photo that I deployed an infantry platoon to cover the "lower" objective (from the perspective of the picture, while deploying the meat of my army (Panzerschutzen, Panzerjagers, and Panzer IV's) in the center, ready to counter his thrusts. My 8-rads would be used to annoy his Hotchkiss platoons and keep them from being able to redeploy away from the "top" objective". I would hopefully take out enough of his armor for the Panzerschutzen to launch an assault against his infantry and win the game! But you know what they say about plans....

 Panzers move to occupy the village, and take aim at the Panhards

 I needed 6's to hit, but one goes up in flames!

The Panzerjagers also moved to engage the Panhards, but whiff

 Don't worry, we'll just stormtrooper away

Uh oh....

My opponent was licking his chops. If he managed to take out the Panzerjagers he would have little to fear in the way of my anti-tank capabilities. His Panhards and Somuas maneuver to engage the Panzer IV's, while his Hotchkiss tanks all line-up shots on the Panzerjagers. Amazingly, the only damage was one dead Panzerjager and one bailed, which promptly re-mounted.

Revenge was swift, between the 8-rads and the Panzerjagers my return fire netted an entire Hotchkiss platoon. What's more, my 8-rads were now sitting on the objective! What was once a distraction had now become my battle plan!

 Hotchkiss platoon vaporized

He's forced to move to contest

On his turn he fails to make any dents in my force, and is forced to shift his armored forces to cover the objective.

At the start of Turn 3 I believe I made a critical mistake. I should have mounted my Panzerschutzen and moved them toward the objective, leaving the Panzer IV's behind for covering fire and to keep an eye on my own objectives. Yes, I was nervous that they'd be shredded, but anything shooting at them would not have been shooting at the Panzerjagers or 8-rads. I didn't do this, and now would have to hope that I could get the other Hotchkiss platoon to run away (a very likely scenario I must say, given the amount of firepower I still had and the fact that they were French *boom* French jokes).

In my next turn the Panzerjagers and 8-rads killed two remaining Hotchkiss tanks and bailed another, forcing a platoon morale check, which was passed. In another critical roll, I failed in my Warrior Save roll and his commander lived on. Then my opponent killed one 8-rad, 3 Panzerjagers, and bailed a Panzer IV.

Things were getting desperate now. In my next turn my Panzerjager completely whiffed, but my 8-rad managed to bail a Hotchkiss. Even though he passed his double-bail test, he would have to take a platoon morale test. His first roll: a 2! He still got his 1iC re-roll now, but victory would be mine if it was failed. His roll: a 4, keeping him in the game. It should be noted that my Panzer IV's didn't hit shit after Turn 1.

In his next turn he continued to shift his Somuas to cover the threatened objective. He destroyed the final panzerjager, as well as a Panzer IV. Nevertheless, my 8-rad was still alive. 

In a last-ditch move I tried to get my remaining Panzer IV over a wall and within range to shoot a Hotchkiss, but he bogged down. My 8-rad's shooting again forced a platoon morale check off a bail, but this time the platoon passed without drama. 

In my opponent's next turn the Panzer was blown sky-high, and his Somuas were now contesting the "top" objective. With that we decided to call the game, as he would kill the 8-rad and then just hang back until I failed a company morale check. 5-2 to the French.

Overall we loved Early War. It's almost like playing a different game. I can see why players say it's dominated by tanks, but I enjoy that dynamic. I think Early War lists, at least at 1200 points, benefit from having a lack of balance. I should try and include more AT in the future, but somehow without putting all my eggs in one basket. In the end it was close, but the wine-drinkers won.

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