Bagration German; First Reading

“Russia has no good generals. The only exception is Bagration.”

 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon might have been right but Stavka definitely came up with a good plan when they put together the concept for Operation Bagration. In June 1944 the Soviets were primed to unleash this monster of an offensive and push the Germans from Mother Russian soil once and for all. 

Opposing the 1.6M men of the Red Army were the weary, strung out 468,000 men of Army Group Centre – it was going to be a long summer for the forces of the 3rd Reich. 

So, we now have the complimentary book to the Bagration Soviets and there is plenty in store for the stoic defenders of the German Fatherland.

The Formations

For completeness, I’m going to list all the Formations available to a German player, but as some are similar to those already available in the D-Day German book I’m not going to dwell on every single entry but instead highlight the interesting new options to the D-Day Veteran and explore the brand new possibilities that Bagration Germans give us. 

Grenadier Company

Similar in composition to their unfortunate Beach Defender contemporaries from the D-Day book – the poor footsloggers of the Wehrmacht have some additional formation accessible options like a Scout Platoon and 2cm AA as well as much better Morale and Skill. 

A well-rounded force with access to pretty much everything you need in the main formation. The Grenadiers now have Panzerfausts baked into their points cost which is nice and can still add in extra HMGs and Panzerschreks for a few extra points. 

Storm Grenadier Company

The first new inclusion in the book is the much-anticipated reappearance of the 78h Sturm Division formation. The Storm Grenadiers are much like the Grenadier Company but more so. 

Like Grenadiers turned up to 11 the Storm Grenadiers have access to even more options – note 8cm AND 12cm mortars, 2 x 7.5cm Tank Hunter platoons etc. – as well as beefing up on the firepower in each platoon.  

These platoons will get expensive quickly, topping out at nearly 1/5th of your points in a normal game for the “full fat” version but that is so much firepower it’s terrifying to a charging Soviet infantry horde. 

StuG Assault Gun Company

The StuG life returns with some tweaks from the D-Day German book – now with added Escorts. The StuG life choose me indeed! 

In this iteration, you have to choose between having a StuG platoon or two StuGs mixed in with a StuH rather than the either/or of the Fallschirmjager StuGs of D-Day. The StuG stats are exactly the same as D-Day but the Escort Platoon most certainly is not. 

First thing I noticed is the absence of any integral anti-tank – I assume that is because they are accompanied by 24 tonnes of 7.5cm armed assault gun – but they have assault rifles. 10 stands are bringing a terrifying amount of dakka to the tabletop and a 2+ assault is bananas*

*bananas are good. 

Hetzer Tank Company

What is a Hetzer gonna do?
That’s right – destroys tanks… I don’t know what you were all thinking there…  The reappearance of the cute little over-gunned tank destroyer is a welcome one.

There is not much variety in the formation but what it lacks in diversity it makes up for in the Hetzer itself! 

So here is the decision – the Hetzer has the same armour and same gun stats as the StuG but worse Motivation, Skill and Cross as well as Overworked then you save enough points to get the 4th tank in your platoon. Weirdly the thing that scares me most on that list of compromises is the 5+ Cross value – makes sitting in cover extremely dicey if you need to get out in a hurry.

There is a decision to be made there and I think that the Hetzer is winning but I’m not sure if it’s a heart or mind choice.

Tiger Tank Company

Well there they are – our friends in the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E company! Still tough, still scary and still punching the T-34 squarely in the nose. 

The Tiger is the same as it always was but as always if you are planning on fielding anything more than a handful then be prepared to have very little support in a standard-sized game. 

Armour 9 is not the immovable wall that it once was but AT 14 is still formidable and with a 2+ Last Stand these big cats are going to take some eliminating. You will definitely see Tigers – they’re iconic and still as solid as ever. 

Panther Tank Company

Ahh the poor old lesser cousin of the Tiger – the Panther. I saw poor in the sense that the Panther was rarely seen in, my limited, experience as the points investment was higher than, for example, two Tigers. 

Whilst this doesn’t change in the Bagration German book you do have some different options in how you can fill that second compulsory unit within the formation to help mitigate some of that investment in the Panthers. 

The Panther is an excellent tank but still suffers from being a single point less expensive than the Tiger and with a minimum unit size of 3. The pricey little Panther packs some punch but persists in its predilection to be passed over for more points efficient possibilities. 

Panzer IV Company

The stalwart of the Panzer Divisions the trusty Panzer IV returns in a very similar incarnation to that found in the D-Day German book. 

Again the Mix n’ Match options available in the second compulsory platoon allow for some interesting combinations – mainly I think in the inclusion of some truly high end, mobile anti-tank paired with the perfectly serviceable 7.5cm of the Panzer IV. 

I still like, and rate, the Panzer IV when taking on medium armour – the issue in Late War is that medium armour becomes superseded by heavy tanks with big guns. 

Panzer IV/70 Tank Company

*Cue hyperventilation on a scale rarely seen before* 

That’s right that saucy little minx of a flat panzer is back for V4  and my oh my it is glorious to behold! 

The formation is solid for the Panzer IV/70(v) and again allows you flexibility in the second compulsory platoon – this time I think you look at armoured panzergreandiers as that gives you infantry in the core formation as well as decent AA. For me, for the flat panzer/tank destroyers the Panzer IV/70 wins out vs. the others: Panzer IV/70 > StuG > Hetzers. 

Can you hear that? Can you? Do you know what it is? It’s the sound of the Panther crying in the corner as the new kid in town has come over and stolen its lunch money. For 2 points less than a Panther you get the same gun and the same front armour. Yes, the Motivation is less and so is it’s Assault capabilities as it’s side armour and ability to stumble over a small misplaced log but it is 2 points cheaper per tank. 2. POINTS. I think that we will see quite a few of these on the tabletop and I for one will not mind one bit. 

AA Support 

Now is a good moment to pause and reflect on the AA options that are available to the majority of all these armoured units. We’ve encountered the Mobelwagen before but the Ostwind and Wirbelwind are new to V4. 

Wirbelwind

PONK PONK PONK PONK PONK… four 2cm cannons mounted in a properly armoured turret gives you plenty of cheap AA support for your Panzer Brigades. 

Now, the 2cm isn’t that scary to a IL-2 but 20 x Veteran shots might give it pause for thought. Even if your opponent isn’t bringing any airpower the sheer weight of 2cm fire is going to prove invaluable in dealing with infantry and other softer targets that don’t warrant your armours attention. 

Ostwind

PONK… PONK…PONK… just a single cannon this time but it’s a significant leap in killing potential with the 3.7cm cannon on the Ostwind.

Slightly better armoured than the wirbelwind is not without it’s uses – it keeps the guns of light recce off your back while the single 3.7cm cannon still gives you some punch against light targets and keeps those troublesome IL-2s honest if nothing else. All this comes at a price and the full platoon is 33% more expensive than the wirbelwind and is creeping up towards the cost of a Tiger tank so prudence might mean restricting its deployment to short platoons in the majority of cases. 

Armoured Panzergrenadier Company

Supporting your panzers are the armoured infantry of the Panzergrenadiers. Similar to their D-Day siblings – they have plenty of options in their chunky formation. 

I can see having a platoon of Panzer IV/70 in the core formation being popular as well as mixing in unarmoured panzergrenadiers to keep the costs down. 

Confident, Veteran, Careful with lots of MG42s comes at a price and these guys are not cheap with the full platoon and additional panzerschrek clocking in at 16 points. This makes a very tasty inclusion in an armoured company as an alternative to a 25+ points tank unit but equally can mean that your points don’t stretch very far if you want lots of them.

Panzergrenadier Company

Ostensibly the same as the armoured variant the Panzergrenadier Company still gives you decent flexibility whilst shaving some points off for not including lots of SdKfz 251 half-tracks.

Again you have access to armour in your formation if you so choose as well as options for the 12cm mortars and lovely new plastic ground-mounted 2cm AA! 

A saving of 3 points means you kiss goodbye to the SdKfz 251 but still remain a valid option within the German arsenal. I think that the formation supports the unarmoured panzergrenadier a little better. 

Reconnaissance Company

The little diddy SdKfz 250 haft-track infantry return with their in formation Pumas – exactly as they were for the D-Day German book.

The inclusion of more (MORE!) half-tracks makes these scout troops potentially eye-wateringly expensive for infantry.

For the princely sum of 16 points – that is correct panzerfausts are extra for these guys – and no option for an additional panzerschrek. There is so much infantry shredding potential for this formation but you will have to be careful when and where you deploy it. 

Support Units

So what is back for Bagration? Some old favourites return once again to the tabletop so let’s start with a firm favourite (of me! – selfish I know but it’s my ball and I’m Kevin Keegan) 

Marder Tank-Hunter Platoon

I know that we have seen Marders in Late War previously in Fortress Europe but these are the best ones – the Marder III M. Not only a lovely looking beast but also excellent on the table with up to 16 AT12 shots for a bargain points cost. My only worry for these is that you will run out of points before they make the cuts as AT12 is good but not great in Late War.

Elephant Tank-Hunter Platoon

It’s amazing the difference that a cupola and a bow machine gun make. The Elephant the Ferdinand that the Ferdinand wished it was. Let’s face it unless you are playing a scenario or a mega-game four of these wideboys isn’t going to make it to the table but I can see a single Elephant being just as awkward to deal with as the single Ferdinand is/was. I’m just glad to have these bricks so I can do Italy… I’ve said too much… 

Panzerwerfer 42 Battery

When you absolutely, positively need to werfer something the Panzerwerfer 42 is here to werfer it and then some. I’m so pleased to see these back as they are such an iconic German vehicle. From a gaming perspective, I think that they might be answering a question that no German player is asking. They are pricey for artillery and unlike the Wespe, Hummel or Nebelwefer batteries you can’t take them in threes or sixes so it feels like it is the full battery or nothing and that makes it nearly twice the cost of the minimum Wespe battery.

2cm Light AA Platoon

That’s right the humble 2cm on a turntable is back and even more noteworthy is that it now comes in the box with the unarmoured half-track version so I think with some clever use of rare earth magnets you might be able to swap the guns around and give you some additional flexibility in your force. As a force on the tabletop, it’s… ok… I mean it’s a 2cm AA gun!

Missions

As with all the new books we get three new missions that can be linked together into a mini-campaign. 

These look really interesting and focus on the German  Feste Plätze defensive approach the Army Group Centre took during the 1944 Soviet offensive.

Final Thoughts

There are some really interesting units returning to V4 in this book and I think that the Hetzer and Panzer IV/70 look like excellent additions to the German playbook. The fighting in Hungary is touched upon in the book – even though the main thrust is around the collapse of Army Group Centre – and I’m hopeful that means that there may be some additional focus in the future on the interesting fighting in and around Budapest but we will have to wait and see. 

There are many parallels that can be drawn to the D-Day German book but again keep an eye out for the article on the Command Cards as these will add additional flavour and options to this book and the lists that you will be able to compile. 

Overall I think that this is a solid addition to the Flames of War family and provides the Wehrmacht German commander with some thought-provoking new fodder for the fight against the ever encroaching Allies. 

Until next time I will leave you with the prescience words of General of the 9th Army Hans Jordan.

– Dunc

 “If a Soviet offensive breaks out the Army will either have to go over to a mobile defence or see its front smashed”

Category: BattlefrontEastern FrontFlames of WarGermansLate WarV4

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Article by: Duncan Gosling