Thursday, May 29, 2014

Battle Report: HG Panzergrenadiers vs. Nisei

I have been hoping to play an Italy-themed game for weeks now, given the release of the stunning Italy campaign compilation books. These are gorgeous books, with excellently themed and balanced lists. The problem was that in my gaming group everyone has been absorbed in a non-themed campaign. Luckily one of my weekly opponents wanted a break from the campaign as well, and was down to try the Nisei infantry list. For my part I couldn't wait to give my HG Panzergrenadier list a chance to show what they're made of.

This little jerk has taken up a lot of hobby time

We set up the table with what terrain was available. This was the second game to be hosted at my apartment, and so in preparation I completed two hills, made some woods bases, re-configured my green trees, and ordered the "Small Autumn Wood" tree set from Battlefront/GF9. We rolled randomly for mission and got Pincer, with my HG Panzergrens attacking. This is exactly the type of situation I wanted to test out with them! Little did I know that this would become one of my all-time favorite Flames of War games.

We were each playing 1650 lists. My opponent generally likes to play Fearless Vet infantry, so he usually goes with American Airborne lists when playing as the Allies. However lately he has found the airborne lists to be a bit lacking, so I suggested he try the Nisei. I wrote him a list, and he was game to give it a try:

Nisei Infantry Company - Fearless Vet unless otherwise indicated

HQ - 1iC, 2iC, 2 bazookas 
Platoon (9 Rifle teams + command + bazooka) 
Platoon (as above) 
I&R Jeep Recon - 3 .50cal jeeps
Nisei AT Platoon - command, 2 57mm guns
3 Priests (CV) 
4 105's (CV) 
Cav Recon (CV) 
4 M10 Tank Destroyers (CV, AT 12 version)

Daniel Inouye, arguably the most famous of the Nisei

Here are the Nisei special rules, for those who may not be aware:

- Pass platoon morale checks on a 2+
- Pass company morale checks on a 2+
- Pass motivation checks to rally from being pinned down on a 2+
- If a Nisei platoon is forced to fall back by defensive fire, immediately roll a motivation test (on a normal fearless 3+). If that test is successful the platoon attempts to carry on with the assault; the enemy immediately shoots again in defensive fire; if the Nisei are not pinned down again then continue with the assault as normal, otherwise they're pinned by defensive fire 

So the goal of that list is to attach out the HQ bazookas and form huge, elite infantry platoons that can take and hold any objective, especially when supported by the other options in the list.

And I was running the Herman Goering Panzergrenadiers, which are a Confident Veteran Infantry Company:

HQ - 1iC and 2iC with kubelwagens, 3 Panzerschrecks
HG Panzergren Platoon - 7 MG stands, 4 trucks
HG Panzergren Platoon - 7 MG stands, 4 trucks
4 HMG's - with two trucks
4 HG Panzer IV H's
4 HG StuH's
HG Light Recon - SdKfz 221, 2 SdKfz 222 (though I used the incorrect unit configuration in this game)

I lost my panzerschreck teams when I moved, but these will do for now!

As per the HG special rules, every one of my platoons except the nebelwerfers re-rolls failed platoon morale checks, and the company as a whole is allowed to re-roll any failed company morale checks. So both of our armies are designed to stick it out to the bitter end!

As indicated above the mission was Pincer and I would be attacking, which is what I wanted so I could test how useful the soft-skinned transports are for my troops. I combat-attached the panzerschrecks from the HQ and the HMG's, bringing one platoon up to 11 stands and the other up to 10. My opponent decided to deploy his 105's, Priests, one Nisei platoon, and the M10's (which were held in Ambush). He placed one objective in the back-center of his deployment area, and I placed mine in the front-center. Usually I would placed it off to one side, but his reserves will enter from the sides in Pincer and I wanted to make the objective difficult for him to reach.

I deployed with the idea that my armor would drive for the center, lending support where needed (especially the StuHs). My recce would keep the tree lines clear of ambushing M10's, and the infantry platoons would envelop the Nisei platoon on the hill. Good plan? Alright, go team!

That's a very threatening tree line 

How is the terrain on this table? Enough variety in my collection?

The "left" side. Just added some blu-tac to one platoon's trucks to differentiate them 

The "right" side 

The first phase of my plan went off perfectly. The recce blocked the tree line from ambushes and both infantry platoons managed to move up in their trucks and then dismount during the stormtrooper step (I can sense you reaching for your rulebooks now and I'll save you the trip, it's allowed). On my opponent's first turn he dropped artillery on my StuHs and on my "left" flank infantry. The StuHs survived despite the Time on Target, but a couple infantry stands were sent packing.


On turn two my "left" flank infantry were now in a position to assault the edge of the Nisei platoon (along with an observer). I dropped smoke and killed a couple of teams, and my opponent wisely pulled back (he would have pulled back anyway, but he also rolled a 1 for the motivation check). On the other side of the board combined fire from the Panzers and the StuHs killed two bazooka teams and a couple of infantry stands, while my HMG's moved into the second floor of a house and the rest of the platoon pushed forward for a turn 3 assault. His Nisei infantry failed to unpin, rolling 1's for both the first test and the 1iC re-roll. He dropped his M10 ambushed, but only managed to kill a single Panzer. His artillery got a couple more infantry stands, but my large platoons kept me from needing to test at this point. 

Getting ready to assault

Smoke! Smoke for everyone! 

StuHs clear the village of bazookas

Clear the area! 

The Nisei roll to counterattack 

Stormtrooper into the buildings


Nisei roll to unpin...and the 1iC re-roll

Arty continues to nibble at the infantry 

M10's drop, and will bag a Panzer

On the start of my turn 3 things were looking dire for the Nisei. Infantry platoons were advancing from two directions, and my armor was relatively unscathed. I was feeling pretty good, and moved both infantry platoons into assault positions that minimized defensive fire. My smoke barrage failed to range in, but I went ahead anyway. My StuHs and Panzers also killed two of the M10's. My left infantry would face 7 defensive fire shots, and my right infantry would face 8 shots.

Getting ready to assault

It was at this moment that disaster struck my army. The 8 defensive fire shots on my right flank not only stopped the assault (he hit 6 times on 8 shots needing 4+) but killed several teams, dropped that platoons below half, causing them to flee despite having the HG re-roll! On the other side my assault made it in, but once again I failed several infantry saves, and the platoon was now down to 4 teams! They at least stuck around, but were now ineffective. My opponent managed to pass his platoon morale check this time (he had failed 4/5 tests up to this point, despite needing 2+).

This assault makes it in, but not without casualties for the Germans 

The right side infantry quits the field!

On my opponent's turn 3 his got a reserve platoon and brought on the I&R platoon with their .50cals. My recce was sent packing and the remaining infantry were shredded, although a lone HMG stuck around. Both of my commanders were now dead, and next turn he would surely killed the HMG which would put me at half strength. I had one chance to salvage this game. I needed to kill the M10's and the I&R, then assault the infantry. If this happened I would be holding the objective.

Well, I completely whiffed on the M10's, and the StuHs and nebelwerfers only managed to kill one Jeep. Two panzers then died to the M10's, and it was clear that the game was now lost. Even worse, it was a 6-1!

Honestly, despite losing, this was the most fun I've had playing FoW in quite a while. I think the Italy lists are very well-balanced against each other, and the HG Panzergrens were a blast to play. There are so many die rolls that could be catastrophic because of unarmored transports, and while that'd be frustrating in a tournament setting it adds some great tension for friendly games. The battle itself was like something out of a movie: when all hope seemed lost for the Americans, when the end seemed near, that's the moment they found their courage (stopped rolling 1's for motivation) and started shooting (actually managed to hit my troops).

Some tactical lessons: 

- I should have kept the infantry together and let the Panzers go on the flanking run. This would have given me more infantry to hold the objective, concentrated the fire from the HMG's, and forced the M10's to deploy away from the objective. The StuHs were fine in the center, and are awesome! Their breakthrough guns decimated high-value targets. But the panzers should have made the enveloping movement.

- Maybe I should have placed the objective off to one side, as opposed to the center. Although it makes it easier for his reserves to counterattack the objective, it forces his reserves to enter from a specific flank, which would allow me to better prepare for the defense of the objective.

- I found the trucks to be high-risk high-reward. They can absolutely win games for infantry lists, but you have to devote resources to keep them safe. I'm lucky that both platoons stormtroopered out of their trucks. That said, the tactical flexibility of that extra movement is well-worth the few extra points, and can really surprise an opponent.

That's it for now, thanks for reading. For more Flames of War content and other goodness be sure to follow me on Twitter @PIflamesofwar 

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