tisdag 8 februari 2011

US Weapons platoon

One of the first platoons I painted up for my US Riflemen was the Weapons platoon, because I figured every US force needed this kind of thing. Turns out I was fooling myself. I used it for two games and it didn't do anything at all, really.

The platoon is divided up into two sections: light machine guns and light mortars. You always get three 60mm mortars, which could be useful in a direct fire mode or to pin the enemy, but if you have other artillery, you're better off using that as the 60mm has a lousy fire power rating. When it comes to the LMGs, you get 1 section (two teams) for the standard 85 point platoon, and can expand this to 2 sections (four teams) for an additional 35 points, making the full platoon (minus Jeep) come in at 130 points. This is way too much, in my opinion. The mortars aren't good enough to warrant the price, and the LMGs are all but useless, unless you're playing against an infantry horde who's about to assault you. You get ROF 5 FP 6, which is fairly ok, but the range of 40cm makes the LMGs rank in among the worst in the game for infantry MGs.

I have been meaning to put the platoon in again, attaching the LMGs to my rifle platoons and keeping the mortars in a platoon of their own, but I always find I have a better use for 130 points. For larger games I tend to go with a machine gun platoon, giving you ROF 6 range 60cm weapons that you can attach out, and a mortar platoon giving you the much more useful 81mm mortars (which are capable of firing smoke).

I don't know if I'm "doing it wrong", but I just find the weapons platoon to be next to useless. I would appreciate being called dumb and shown how to use them by any veteran US players out there.

To air or not to air

Air support can be such a boon, both on the attack and on the defense. The best us poor Allied saps can get in mid-war is 5 dice, ranging in at about 130-140 points, but I find that having aircraft at your disposal has such a great effect on what your opponent does that it's worth having a few dice of it wether they decide to appear or not.

I use the P-40 Warhawk, which in my opinion is the best US plane of this era (the P-38 Lightning isn't far off, but I'd rather have that extra chance to hit with MGs than that extra point of AT), and the US planes rank fairly low when it comes to effective air power. The British Hurricane IIC and D are pure monsters in comparison, with their AT 11 cannons, capable of murdering tanks and anything else that stand in their way. The German flying tanks are a pain as well, requiring rerolls of successful ack-ack firepower tests. The two latter planes make air power virtually essential for those armies, but for the US, it's more touch and go in my opinion.

I take air power only if I have spare points after getting everything else that I want. I don't make it a priority for me, and I'd rather take AAA than aircraft, although this will no doubt change when I get into late game matches with my US infantry.

måndag 7 februari 2011

Battlereport: US Rifle Company vs British Armored Squadron 1400 pts

Yesterday, the monthly campaign meeting was taking place at our local hobby center, so me and Jesper figured we'd get a game in at the same time. I had challenged him earlier to an oil-match - a campaign connected game that only gives oil points (a form of credits); see full campaign rules here (.pdf) - and now we finally had a chance to face off.

Jesper's list is a monster. In a hobby center tournament a couple of weeks ago, he finished second with this list (I finished sixth), and only lost the top place because the time ran out. The list relies on speed and massed assaults rather than long range fire-power, and is ably backed up by loads of artillery and air power. In short, my prospects for winning didn't look good. My own list is very defensive and slow, so I was a tad worried that Jesper would concentrate on a part of my line and simply blast through it. I needed something to counter this, and I figured I'd try to trick him. Turns out I totally underestimated the speed his list was capable of.
We rolled up the scenario Fighting Withdrawal, with Jesper attacking me.

lördag 5 februari 2011

US AAA Battery update

Reflecting a bit on my last post on my Bofors 40mm, I went ahead and ordered a couple of half-track quad-.50cals. The reason for this is primarily two-fold:

I've had mixed success with my Bofors. It basically all comes down to deployment, and given our usual gaming table of 6 by 4 foot, 4 large bases tend to take up a lot of space in your deployment area - space that is already needed for artillery pieces and your advancing troops. I don't like bunching my guns up, as that attracts counter-battery fire, so I have had to cram the AAA into sometimes unfavorable terrain.

The other reason is basic mobility. This is especially important on the attack, and as a part of my ongoing struggle to get better at attacking with my infantry, I'm going to give them some close fire support with heavy machine guns in armored cars.

There's also the added benefit of bringing the cost down. With mobile AAA I can take a single section of two vehicles, instead of a full battery of four, cutting points costs by 25 points. That doesn't seem like much, but it represents an extra bazooka team and transports.

I'm going to try painting these vehicles up for the next round of our campaign. This will allow me to flesh an infantry squad out by another section and to take limited air support instead of sporadic. Hopefully this'll help me win that damned round.

fredag 4 februari 2011

Battlereport: 1300pts US Rifle vs Italian Berzaglieri

As part of an ongoing campaign at our local hobby center, me and Jonas were going to face off at the 1300 point level. First, a quick rundown on how the campaign works:

Each player gets to challenge another player. A win gives 4-6 points, depending on how solid the victory was. A loss gives 2 points, and a draw 3 points. The points are spent during a campaign meeting each month, allowing you to claim territory, build ships, factories and other things to help your side claim the overall victory. You also get to chose a strategy each month that applies to your campaign battles.

Jonas had challenged me, so battle had to follow. My army was already finished, but Jonas had to cram in some late painting sessions to be able to field his Berzaglieri, and even so, one of his platoons weren't even based yet. Moral victory to me! I went for my standard list with a slight alteration; the 57mm AT guns were replaced with a heavy machine gun platoon, and the 40mm Bofors ack-ack were traded for a two-section 81mm mortar platoon, as I knew I'd be facing a bunch of infantry. Jonas' Bersaglieri list was basically him cramming in all his infantery; two full Berzaglieri platoons with all the bells and whistles, a mortar platoon as artillery and some Carri and AT. Both lists were at 1420 points, so we were equally heavy. As per the campagin rules, we were able to add on an extra 10% to the points level, so we were close to the limit.

tisdag 1 februari 2011

Essential tools: Army Builder

Right, now I'm going to do a bit of promotion, and chances are I'm preaching to the choir, so bear with me please

Army Builder by Lone Wolf Development, Inc. is a stand-alone program allowing you to construct army lists very easily. Army lists are downloadable for many (if not most) miniature games, and all downloads are free. Of course, the program isn't free, coming in at $39.99 for a new license, which includes one year of subscription. After that, subscription renewal runs at about $12.50 per year. There is a free-trial, but that doesn't allow you to save army-lists above 500 pts (for the game systems I use).

A US Rifle Company list with added pictures.
Is it worth the price? Well, that depends, but for my personal use I would say absolutely. I literally spend hours tinkering about with army-lists, both that of my own and that of my opponents, scheeming as I go. The program is regularly updated to include new features - which includes saving your list in a pretty .pdf format with pictures - and the game systems are updated all the time. The program is based on a fairly simple data-base system, which means that if you're technically savvy, you can make your own game system. This is a genious move on Lone Wolf Development's part, as they don't have to do squat when it comes to furnishing the users with army lists - the users do that themselves!

The interface is intuitive and easy to use, and you soon discover all the different features, allowing you to come to your game prepared with a gorgeous list representing your force. This might seem redundant as the information provided in these lists are all covered in the various game supplements, but it's extremely handy to have a short list containing all your army's stats and values.

There are a few bugs in the system. For example, I tried my darndest to add a picture to a HMG platoon and a section of air support. For some reason, the picture for one of them was transferred to the other whenever I clicked any of them, causing me to pull my hair in frustration after the tenth time it happened. I eventually managed to solve it by adding the picture through a different menue. Complaining about bugs is sort of useless, though, as it's better to just report them. As I said, the program is updated regularly, and kinks like this are sorted out.

To summarize, Army Builder is an essential tool for me, and it allows me to easily work out army lists without having to flip through rule books with a pen and paper and a calculator.

US Anti-Aircraft Artillery Platoon

Having a plane come in and drop a bomb on your bunched up tanks or artillery isn't fun, so there's every reason to get some guns that can take down those planes before they do any damage. I haven't encountered many people who run with AAA, but those that do generally opt for a self propelled version.

Not me.

I go with gold old Swedish M1 Bofors 40 mm anti-aicraft guns, mainly because I have a personal relationship with this piece of equipment (we have them at the museum where I work), but also because these are beastly guns if used properly.

The M1 Bofors does stick out like a sore thumb, and you can't really do much about concealing it, as it needs clean fire arcs to do it's main job - keeping aircraft away. Digging the guns in is absolutely vital, and even then they probably aren't going to survive the game, as they don't become concealed when dug in. On the other hand, every shot directed at these guns is a shot that isn't going into what's going to win you the game - your infantery - so having these guns in a central position, drawing fire, is helping your cause.

I've had good luck taking out light tanks, infantery and even the odd medium tank foolish enough to present its side armor. With a full platoon, you're getting 16 shots at AP 6, FP 4+ over 60 cm. That is, if you can keep them unpinned, which is tricky. Having a 1IC lurking around does help with that kind of thing.

The main task of taking out aircraft is of course a breeze, provided the enemy is dumb enough to even try bombing within range of your AAA. Most opponents won't do this, of course, so what you're getting with these guns is a safe-zone with a diameter of 120 cm around the platoon. That's good for a defensive setup, but if you're going to be attacking a lot, you might want to invest in mobile M15s. That'll cost you a bit more, and they're only AP 5, but you get a mobile platform and armor to boot.