With the release of the new D-Day Britsh book, the focus has been, and rightly so, on the British units making their full-blown entrance into the fighting in Normandy and beyond.
From my perspective, I’d like to take a moment to look at the unique challenges that the D-Day British book will throw up for long term German players as they can be a very different proposition to their Allied compatriots – the US. For the purposes of this article, I’m just going to be focussing on the D-Day German book and how D-Day British means you have to think differently.
Proper Heavy Armour
In the D-Day US book the bulk of armour was the ubiquitous Sherman and, while the British still has access to the 75mm stalwart, the appearance of the Churchill Mk VII in Normandy means that your anti-tank mindset has to change as a German player.
The 7.5cm Tank-Hunter Platoons that were sufficient to deal with any model of Sherman cannot, I repeat CANNOT, take on a Churchill VII from the front and will struggle at range against a Churchill IV.
To compound this the man-packed anti-tank of the panzerfaust can potentially stop a Churchill assault by targetting, the slightly, weaker sides of these beasts but you cannot rely on this at all.
So where does this leave the poor defenders of the Atlantik Wall?
Well, the obvious choice is to look at the super high end anti-tank available to your Normandy forces – the 8.8cm guns. The issue with these monster AT assets is that they are expensive, largely immobile and vulnerable to artillery barrages. But their AT17 shot means that you can punch through even the FA11 of the late Churchill reasonably reliably and, importantly, at significant range.
Other than that obvious, rather blunt, answer to the extreme armour of the Churchills what else can you do to mitigate their impact on your forces?
The Churchill armour is only (*only being an extremely relative term*) SA8 which does mean any mobile assets with a PaK40 or better are a definitely a threat.
To my mind, this brings the Panzer IV into the mix very nicely. Relatively cheap and versatile for a German tank unit and the turreted AT11 means that if you can get around the sides, you will always have a shot. The Panzer IV is also perfectly adequate for dealing with Sherman and British infantry so should always have something to do.
Finally, whilst the panzerfaust is not going to stop an assault all on it’s lonesome it can be used aggressively in defence. As you now nominate a stand to be equipped with panzerfausts as the Churchills close in on you you can leap forward and flank them with single, sacrificial, stands to take potshots at AT12 into their exposed flanks.
It’s important to remember that the Churchill is tough but not invulnerable – the more saves you force your opponent to make the more chance you give yourself of squeezing palpable hits through.
In my mind, the British infantry, remains, some of the best in the game. Hardy, well equipped and reasonably priced generally there is also an excellent variety which makes it versatile and universally useful.
Units like the Paras can get across the board, hit hard in assault and will keep on hitting, whereas your standard British Rifle Company has a decent seven stands of Rifle/MG teams, integral AT in the form of a PIAT and a 2″ mortar for a bargain price! All British infantry being Careful 4+ is a major boon and the Bulldog special rule means that they will be tough to shift.
Depending on what flavour of British troops is coming your way across the tabletop will depend on how you will need to deal with them – which is what is going to make it trickier.
Artillery seems and obvious choice. It is worth bearing in mind though that the speed at which units like the Paras will come at you will mean that salvo templates can have only limited use in the game. I’d veer away from units like nebelwerfers as they only have a barrage weapon and once the Brits are on your positions they are simply toast.
If you are considering a salvo platform I’d look at units like the Reihenwerfer multiple mortars from the 21st Panzer booklet as they are at least mobile and armoured. This means you can redeploy and cannot be pinned so the limited fire window you have will be maximised.
The other thing I have learned playing the British is don’t range in where they are – unless you are convinced that they are going to remain to hold an objective – range in where they need to go. For example, ranging in 12″ in front of you Beach Defender platoons with the salvo template with Paras running towards you means that they will likely have to stop at 12.1″ or more away to cross that area without being under a repeat bombardment.
This means that they will be in range of your Beach Defenders, who can open up and fire, and also allow you to re-range in directly on the Paras should they stop. What you need to give the British player is jeopardy – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
[I was using language harsher than “damn” when Duncan executed this perfectly on my advancing airlanding – Lee]
I also really like the Command Card – “265th Infantry Division – Russian Guns”. This gives you access to either 76mm or 122mm Soviet artillery. I like the 122mm option to counter British troops hugging objectives. They are much more cost-effective than the 10.5cm German howitzer option and give you a tasty 3+ firepower to dig out infantry. You do compromise on Motivation, Skill and Hit On values but having a solid template weapon on a budget is very useful.
Half tracked Panzer Grenadiers are also a useful counter to British infantry, especially in the form of the SdKfz 250 and U304(f) varients gives you a tonne of mobile MG platforms to counter British infantry moving across the table at you.
The SdKfz and U304(f) units are superior to the SdKfz 251 troops in this regard as they have one half-track per infantry stand giving you 7 in a unit. That is 28 dice of MG fire in a turn – even with a 4+ to hit and 3+ save that is some serious hurt that you can apply to British assault forces.
Big Bang Theory
The final thing that I think that the British book brings is access to the 17pdr anti-tank gun. Whether it is a Firefly, Achilles or 17pdr ground mount this deadly AT14 weapon system is pervasive and comes in a variety of options.
British players have had access to the Firefly since Fortress Europe but the difference now is that you can have them as troops of three (in the DD Sherman formation), mixed in with other Shermans or mixed in with Cromwells. Again the variety of inclusion in the book makes it very hard to plan for countering this threat as a German player.
To my mind taking the big cats of the Tiger and Panther against the British is a trap. I’m sure other players will feel differently but to me, the investment in the FA9 against a force with multiple ways to bring AT14 en masse against you is too risky. A platoon as support might be viable but will have to play cautiously to limit the amount of 17pdr rounds flying your way.
The other issue with only having a small number of AT14 shots is that on a group of four Shermans you need to score four hits to guarantee to hit the Firefly – and on a 4+ Hit On value, without range and cover, that is going to be a tough ask.
Taking out the Firefly once you hit it should be no tougher than a standard Sherman so I think AT12 is the sweet spot that you should be aiming for. 7.5cm Tank Hunter platoons, whilst static, give a solid foundation to your defensive capabilities.
Much like dealing with Churchills, when looking at mobile assets anything toting a PaK40 on a mobile chassis is favourable, although they tend to not work out much cheaper than Panzer IVs in the end. If you are investing in mobility, and again seeking out those flanks then you shouldn’t overlook anything with AT9.
With SA 4 the Sherman is vulnerable to these lighter AT weapons and they will be cheap enough that you can include some without to much compromise to your main force. Look again at units like Pumas, SdKfz 234s, SdKfz 251 (7.5cm) etc. with decent AT and Firepower that can use cover to conceal themselves while getting into decent flanking positions.
Static 17pdr guns are less of an issue when you know where they are placed – barrage weapons will eventually whittle them down to the point where they aren’t really effective. Real problems will come when they ambush.
If you are facing 17pdrs in ambush you have to use your forces to limit how and where they can deploy. As a large gun, they can’t deploy within 16″ so make use of your scout troops and other assets to get them on the table where they don’t want to be.
If you can get them to ‘ball’ up so you can maximise the effect of artillery and minimise the angles that they can shoot – remember they don’t have a turntable so even getting them to deploy at the wrong angle means a turn or two of them being unable to shoot what they want.
Terrain, Terrain and More Terrain
More than ever the German player will need to master their environment to be successful. Linear blocking terrain will allow you to stay mobile but without exposing yourself to unnecessary fire. When you commit you will have to wholeheartedly.
Wooded areas can be a double-edged sword – providing you cover but potentially hampering your manoeuvrability. Think carefully before committing tanks or armoured vehicles to areas that could trip you up with failed cross-checks and remember the best defence is not being shot at all!
Patience will be a virtue when facing the British. You will have to time your attacks correctly; this should be nothing new to German players but I think that the British have shaken up the mix considerably.
On the plus side if you like a brew the kettle should always be on!