Monday, 8 September 2014

Working Out The Kinks - Westfalen Style

Hello all,

As I write this article I've played about 4 games with my SS Westfalen list - and I'm just not finding it working! What do I mean by that? Well despite the fact I've tried variants every time and won every game (4-3, 4-3, 5-2 and 6-1) I'm just not happy with how it's performed in game.

I think if I'd lost it would be easier - you know what went wrong, as it is I keep looking at it's weakness's - artillery target and being assaulted, keep looking at ways to mitigate this - and keep coming up blank. Is it luck I've won?

Against winner I won as he failed a 3+ company moral test, against Alex I made more saves than I really should of - I would love to have the time to play against some of our other local players, Ben with his soviets, Robin with his 7th armoured or KP with Brit Para's - yet I can rationalise in my head how to beat those lists - for the soviets I have lists with enough High AT firepower and decent front armour to go toe to toe with his tanks, same with the US I think it wouldn't be easy - but he can't easily assault me off objectives, and realistically whilst ToT is an ever present danger I can deal with it. Strangely the Brit Para's fear me the most - probably because I know how to use them - and I know exactly how I would deal with this list (range in artillery and remove infantry until the Para's can assault - and 5 tanks vs Gammon bombs is easy. But I also know how hard it is to set up, for the assault etc, and that even a few tanks adding to defensive fire can be outrageously effective. Conversely maybe as I don't know the other lists as well I'm being a little too over confident.
The other issue with a list like this is about the play style and synergy in the list. I have to keep remembering that this is a defensive list - and with the exceptions of the fair fights all I have to do is 'Hold' (myself and Ben often talk about German list never being able to do everything - this list I almost accept can't attack). So how do I design this list (I wrote an article here for BoLS when I first got hold of the book and before I read Rhia's article - I'd change so many of my thoughts now!) I know there are certain things I must have HQ and 2 combat platoons. But what else - this is a defensive list - but as a) it's trained and b) I get bored sitting still, I need component to go out a punch my opponent - a counter punch really. But dealing with the defensive aspect first - I have realised that if I am hit in combat I'm fragile - strangely less so vs Tanks as I have Fausts everywhere. So I need to stop that happening, two things so far have helped, lots of shots and tank terror tests (against both Alex and James it was hilarious having tanks behind my infantry stopping then assaulting) and in many ways the option in the list which would really help kill both these birds with one stone are the Panzer 3's, tank terror + lots of MG's but this leads to the great problem - armoured reserves - in most missions I only get one mobile asset - and looking at projecting my Anti-Tank fire power I need to be using either the 507/508 units to do this, (I could also use Jagdtigers but the love isn't there right now) I think having these big cats can really help you have some initiative against an opponent - it stops your infantry just being shot from 10.1 inches away! So how do I deal with this conundrum of needing AT and anti infantry to beef up my infantry whilst keeping a mobile element? I end up with two solutions either HMG's for anti infantry with some panthers backing them up, or some panzer 3/4's with some artillery PaK40's backing them up. Neither of these options is satisfactory - a compromise must be reached, I could go for PaK's and HMG's but then with points already stretched thin what else could be purchased as far as armour goes? The other issue with both of these options is that they involve trained top armour one tanks - if I'm then up against US lists I need some AA to keep them safe - this also rules out my lovely ostwinds - can't have them and armour both on the table in a mobile battle!
As you can see there is a lot of compromise needed here the other issue is platoon numbers - I've used only 6 platoons with this list - it makes me so uncomfortable - I really want/need 8 - that almost categorically stops me having two 'big cat' platoons. But it's needing that ability to hit back at the opposition which two King Tigers just can't do.
So maybe I need to go back to basics, how does this list work? The answer is 'It holds' you have core platoons which are designed to sit there and not move. They are fearless, they enjoy the war on a 2+ and they can make tanks very unhappy - alongside this are the trap teams - unlike the FJ one's they can't assault, but they can shoot and block off approaches to the objectives. So maybe that should be the philosophy of this list - it's not there to counter punch - it's there to slow the enemy enough that the things that can hurt them will do the job. So where does this thinking take me? Well something like this

HQ, 4x Trap Teams & 2x Schreks
2 Full Infantry Platoons (FT)
2 HMG's (FT)
2 King Tigers (RV)
3 Flak 43's (RT)
3 Pak 40 Artillery (RT)
2 Mortars (FT)
2 Section Scout Platoon (FT)
2 Panzer 3's and 2 Panzer 4's (FT)

The advantage if this design is the big infantry platoon on the objectives - you will take casualties - and unlike vet infantry I've found trained infantry on defence do better shooting approaching infantry that the veteran 'sit there GtG'. With tanks sitting opposite you hiding works best - I would consider though a mix of pak40 + direct smoke mortars or King Tigers will work there!
The bigger concern is when you have half the force and are defending two or even three objectives, which are far apart in a mission such as fighting withdrawal or encounter. On these instances you need the big platoons to almost be independent - the lack of support for both platoons will be tough, but not impossible.
The issue I initially had was the loss of nebs (in the same slot as the Pak40's) and initially that's also the loss of a template - but I keep forgetting the Pak40's are artillery, they may only be AT3 6+ compared to a Nebs AT3 4+ but it still hurts infantry moving towards you and top armour 1 vehicles. The scouts are a cheap option with absolutely no frills (I considered dropping the panzer 4's, to give all the panzer 3's schurzen and the command of the scouts a Faust) but that's how they are needed - to lift GtG in fair fights - you don't need fancy weapons - otherwise they run and hide. Same with the AA it is very situational so don't spend the points - if I had the option for 3 flak 38's I'd have gone for this instead (the book gives you 4 for the same points as the 3 flak 43's) those two platoons are 130 points of 'situationally useful' if I could get them cheaper I would - I need them for a rainy day more than any thing.
The big loss in my head is the panthers for the panzer 3/4's - and basically this is the trade off in the list. But I feel it's worth it. They give a mobility otherwise lacking in missions such as counter attack or breakthrough - they also can go after opposing artillery in the back field - a little bit of force projection - yes they are only trained FA6, with two AT11, 2AT9 shots, but that's able to worry the side armour of enemy tanks - well some enemy tanks.
So what does this mean? Well once again the theory and the practicalities of gaming are very far away! Playing the list has thrown up some flaws and luck will only take me so far. But this is what I love about practicing with a list - you get the chance to develop it and learn it - I know I still need to better use the trap teams, but at the same time I'm gaining an understanding of trained infantry. Is this a tournament winning list? I don't think so - will it be hard for certain lists to beat - I think so - and please no Brit para lists!

Wish me luck



  1. Eh, trap teams can't assault? Or assault badly? I think the rule is the same in the book as it is for FJ's? I have my issues with the list as well, I find it pretty boring to play. :P

    1. Panzerfaust Trap teams are Independent Teams. However, they may never join a platoon or other Independent Teams. Also, unlike normal Independent Teams, they may Launch Assaults.

  2. It's assault badly! Trained is not a good gamble I find

    1. Well, you shoot, they are bailed out, then assault. Or bugs down, same stuff that works with FJ's. The 1 Vet assaulting against tanks wasn't that easy, really.

  3. I think the difference between the 66% chance to hit vs the 50% chance is significant, especially when the shooting is unchanged (as obviously not skill dependent) I think it really move these guys to a shooting unit over a multi purpose unit.

    1. Sure, still when you assault something that can't fight back, it's same still.