So you've made the rather splendid decision of picking up the Open Fire boxset. You love the models and now want to build on the core forces you now have to develop them into a winning army? But perhaps you simply can't afford to go out there and buy all of the options off the bat? Or maybe you find the vast amount of choices overwhelming? There are certainly a lot of options out there and so I hope this guide can help point in you the right direction. Your spouse/partners and parents alike will be thankful that you're not spending ALL of your months income on toy soldiers again, and you get to build your army in an efficient, organised and (most importantly) nag-free way! - Everyone's a winner!
I really wanted to cover the contents of Open Fire as part of my Survival Guide, because with exception to my first army (Finnish Jaakari company mentioned in part one of this series), the two armies I have ever taken to late war events so far have only been either German infantry or British Armoured Squadron, both of which stemmed from this boxset!
Now I don't want to spend time talking about what's in the box as you can find all of this on the Flames Of War website easily enough. I want to use this space instead to talk about how we can build on these two forces and the key additions needed to turn each of them into a cohesive, well oiled machine! To help me I have designed a set of questions to ask two of the top players from the FOW UK scene.
First up is Steve Charlton, long time standing UK No.1. He will be answering my questions regarding the British Armoured Squadron and how you can fulfil the potential of the infamous Sherman tank!
British Armoured Squadron (Steve Charlton)
1. What is the single most important addition I need to make to this army?
In my opinion there are two things this list will need to go to a tourney list which will be competitive. These are:-
a. Recce; This is so important for two reasons firstly all tanks are expensive assets which being only medium tanks can be destroyed easily by a well placed ambush. The next thing is there are alot of good veteran infantry armies around which if a tank army has no recce to lift 'gone to ground' status on these then they would be very difficult to get rid of. The same goes for AT guns being able to make these easier to destroy.
b. A battery of guns to be able to lay smoke. (I will cover this in the next point)
2. I keep reading that I need lots of units capable of smoke in a tank company. Why is this so important and what is the best choice for this role?
Smoke is so important to tanks for a few reasons. I am a big advocate of smoke. If the enemy cannot shoot at you with their big AT guns or tanks you have just made him waste points. Next if by laying smoke you force them to move then you have reduced their effectiveness by 50%... so what this means is that you could reduce the effectiveness of your enemy by 50% to 100% with clever use of smoke. There are some caveats to this though as US tanks do get some special rules such as smooth ride or stabilisers which may negate this a little. The next reason to have smoke is that in A LOT of games you will need to carry out an assault to finish off the enemy. Now usually one well timed and lined up assault will win the game. So if your assault can go in under smoke the odds of this working is vastly improved. Then after the assault you can consolidate under the smoke so if there are AT guns about it will be hard for them to take you out.
3. I am worried about the German Tiger tanks and Panthers. How can I deal with these effectively? Their stats are so much better than my Shermans?
So smoke is the first thing which will allow you to stay alive, however this has to be used well. So if you put a smoke bombardment down on the top of a tank platoon and leave one tank in the open what this will do is allow your fireflies to take out that tank, yes its only one dead at long rang but the odds of killing more are low from one firefly or two moving. Now lets say you lay down the smoke shoot with you FF and do nothing (yes this happens) well if you save the 1 & 2 IC shooting until all other shooting is done they can lay smoke on any surviving tanks which may hurt you which you have very little if ANY chance of destroying. So order of shooting is very important to analyse before you just go off shooting here and there. Another weapon the Brits have are the M10 Achilles 17pdr tank destroyer. These are AT15! Reasonably priced. The rule of thumb for tank destroyers is range keeps them alive if your vets at long range that's 6s to hit your armour is irrelevant if they cant hit you.
4. The Open Fire Sherman platoons consist of only three tanks (each including a firefly). Am I better off with 3 tanks, or 4 in my tank platoons?
The important thing with most units is to have EVEN numbers. The reason for this is when a unit is forced to take a platoon moral test can be vital and also most economical points wise. For example a unit of three Shermans has two tanks destroyed this means a platoon moral test. Now a unit of 4 looses the same 2 tanks this means NO TEST. So on an economical basis even numbers are USUALLY better....sometimes you just cant do this though.
5. What should I be doing with the US paratroopers in an army like this? Is their role restricted to holding/ defending my objectives?
In my opinion only I believe the US paras were put there purely from a marketing point of view. Really in a British Armoured unit I would never have allied units, yes these are FVs but there are major disadvantages to this. It would be cheaper on the points to have a British Rifle platoon which are not allied. So the best thing to do with these are paint them up nicely and put them on EBay and buy a British Unit.....If you decided to keep them though (or in fact any infantry) is to support the tanks well and ensure any assault is successful. In games where you have an objective to defend support the artillery.
6. My tanks need to attack an objective, but there are dug-in anti tank guns guarding it. How can I tackle these effectively?
Smoke firstly.....get your recce and tanks into position at close range...next turn you smoke lifts remove GTG ....then open fire with EVERYTHING you've got! Remember keep your 1&2IC to shoot individually to decide whether you want them to shoot smoke or killing stuff.
7. Do I need A/A (anti aircraft) capability in this army? If so what are my best choices?
No. AA in British armour are often not that great so just space out. If you want to take AA though there are companies which can take two AA crusaders - these are a cheap unit.
8. How many platoons should I be looking at for a standard points game?
ALL medium tank armies should be looking at 6 platoons MINIMUM.
9. How many of these platoons should be core tank platoons?
10. What is the biggest weakness to a list like this and how can I help nullify this weakness?
The biggest problem with British armour is their 'special' rules. So being a tank army you'll be attacking more often than not and therefore needing to get close to your opponents forces. This is a pain as you have paid for semi indirect fire which needs you to be stationary and at long range this is a bit of a contradiction to the use of the army. The next weakness of the list can be NOT auto attacking. There are many tank lists which get auto attack this is not one of those unless you can get a breaching group in the list, which makes it auto attack. If it defends its not that strong a list and may have issues.
The other weakness like most tank lists is massed US artillery its difficult to get nulif its really just practice which will teach you how to beat these behemoths. Spread out try and shoot down any AOP. Manouver is then important.
There are other things which are a threat but I could then go on and on...
I think its fair to conclude that this would be a tough force to take to a tournament given the points raised above by Steve. However that doesn't mean to say you won't have fun with it! Personally I would recommend purchasing some British infantry and artillery (25 pdrs) to create the beginnings of a British Infantry list. This is where the British Sherman comes into its own - Semi in-direct fire works so much better when the tanks are playing a supporting role.
Next week we shall be asking Dave Coombs (Army Dave) about the German Grenadier Company and how you can build on from the boxset options also provided in Open Fire.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading