Sunday, 23 March 2014

Panzerfaust v PIAT


You know that weird place you end up in, when you sit looking at youTube videos for too long, you try to stop but you end up thinking "just one more."  This happened to me a while ago and I ended  up watching "Top 6 Weapons we wish we hadn't invented" or something like that.  What stood out in this video was that HEAT rounds were featured as one of the six.  I didn't know much about HEAT rounds, so during a quiet period at work I had a sneaky look at what they are and how they work.  I found some good resources,which explained it all and lead onto me reading about panzer fausts and PIATs.
With my interest peaked, I thought about the abstraction of these weapons into a stat line within our favourite that's what I'm going to do the two with respect to their stats in FOW.
Let's cut to the chase...Anti Tank value

At AT12 a panzerfaust is a whole 2 points above a PIAT.  AT value in part (not wholly) represents a weapons ability to penetrate armour.  These values are pretty high compared to the AT of your average Tank, but why? and why is a faust 2 more than the PIAT.

As I've already alluded to fausts and PIATs fired HEAT rounds.  The key behind a HEAT round is the shaped charge, surrounding a metal core.  A shaped charge is generally a hollow cone shape, which resides at the rear of the round. The pointy end of the cone points away from the target (this was a surprise to me).  The reason for this, is thanks to the Munroe effect, named after Charles Munroe who discovered it in 1888.  Due to the shape a concentration of explosive force is produced at a single point thrusting forwards at the centre of the cone.  This is far more efficient than a blob or block of unshaped explosive.

When this cone of explosive surrounds a metal core (also cone shaped) explodes the core forms a metal slug, super thin and travelling very fast.  So fast it can penetrate armour 150%-20% thicker, than the diameter of the core.

The velocity a HEAT round is fired at has no impact on the resulting penetrative force.  This works in a very different way to your run-of-the-mill AT round, which relies on shear power from the point of firing and only reduce in effectiveness with range.

Back to FOW, we've seen that the AT value doesn't depend on the delivery mechanism, in fact it's all to do with the warhead and the diameter of the metal core.  The PzFaust 60 was the most common faust model, it had a warhead diameter of 149mm and could penetrate armour of upto 200mm.  In contrast a PIAT had a warhead size of 75mm, about half and correspondingly could penetrate 100mm worth of armour.  I don't know what that means in terms of AT values in FOW exactly, but at the very least, the penetration values 200mm v 100mm must contribute to the reason a faust is AT12 and a PIAT is AT10.

Fire Power - 5up please !

So having examined the effectiveness of a HEAT round, why only 5+ for firepower?  Bear in mind that firepower is an abstraction, which I think translates to how well a weapon does it's job against armoured targets.  You don't kill a tank with a HEAT kill the crew.  Hence why it made it's way into that youtube video I ended up wishing I wasn't watching.  That thin sliver of a slug having to penetrated the target's armour, now splits up and bounces around inside the tank, like ball bearings rattling around in a baked bean can.  Quite a dreadful thought, however for this to happen a number of circumstances must be met and there's quite a lot that can go wrong.

The formation of that super-heated, super sonic, carrot shaped, armour piercing slug is a delicate matter.  If the charge explodes too close to the target, the slug doesn't have time to form, which is partly why the warheads have casing in-front of the charge, the other reason being stream lining.  Too far away from the target, the slug forms, but the tip is travelling so much faster than the tail, it literally rips itself apart given enough space.

Should the slug fail to fully penetrate the armour, it leaves very little damage except a carrot shaped hole in the armour and some crew wondering what that loud bang was.

Ideally, the warhead wants to land perpendicular to the target, which is one of the reasons a faust's warhead is flat (at the expense of stream lining).

Sloped armour not only effectively increases the armour's thickness, but also means the slug of a HEAT round has further to travel.  Spaced armour, Schurzen, sand bags etc, also mean the round will explode too soon and the slug will lose its shape before it hits the main armour.  It is therefore defeatable and modern tanks are adept at doing so.

That, at least to my mind, qualifies for a 5+ firepower, provided you penetrate, you have  a 1 in 3 chance of everything going right and the warhead knocking the target out of action.  On second thoughts...that's fine for an armoured vehicle...but I wonder if that's fair if the target is a bunker...HEAT rounds are still used today as anti-bunker weapons.

This is turning into a much longer post than I anticipated.


Let's look at range, in FOW, a faust has a 4" range  but a PIAT has double the range at 8".  Both weapons had a similar method for propelling the warhead towards the enemy, using an explosive charge.  

A faust's propellant was held in the handle, which make's it a single use weapon.  The bomb of a PIAT had the propellant held internally.  A faust's range was pretty poor, the upgraded PzFaust 100 increased the size of the handle and charge, making the warhead fly faster and giving it an effective range of 100m.  However I think FOW fausts are based on the PzFaust 60, which had a range of 60m.

The PIAT used the infamous Spigot mortar delivery system, which required 2 men to cock it.  Incidentally, this meant the weapon could fire almost silently.  It had an effective range of 110m, so again roughly double what the PzFaust 60 had.

One final note and I'll sign this ramble off.  In FOW you can't move and shoot with a Faust (by extension you can't shoot and assault with a faust).  I don't know for sure, but I think this simply reflects that a faust is a single shot weapon.  I guess you could have gone with a rule that allows them to move and shoot, but you can only use it once, but that means markers and markers tend to equal confusion.

I've enjoyed reading up all this information, it's made me appreciate the time and effort that must go into deciding what stats you give an historical weapon (unlike a super mega laser blasting wave creating pop-pop gun, which can have any value you want).

Hope you've enjoyed this read, until next time


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