Follow Matt aka Papa Bear as he covers all things FOW for the beginner in his fun, light hearted survival guide. So if you are new to the game, or simply enjoy the idea of learning by someone else’s mistakes instead of your own, then this is the place for you!
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!
Last time we looked at the British Armoured Squadron and how we can build on the core elements provided in the boxset. Next up we will be speaking to Dave Coombs (Army Dave) about the German Grenadier Company. He has taken this list-type to a lot of big events and has achieved some excellent results! Needless to say, he is the go-to man when it comes to building a German infantry army. Let’s see what he has to say!
German Grenadier Company (Army Dave)
1. What books should I use to get the best Grenadier lists?
“There are a lot of Grenadier lists spread out over a lot of books, but using the Grenadier models in the Open Fire set I would go for either Atlantik Wall or Grey Wolf. Out of these two books I would prefer to use the Grenadier list from Grey Wolf due to their Veteran skill rating and support options.”
2. What is the first unit I need to add to my Grenadier company?
“The answer to this question depends on the mindset of the player. The Grenadiers are good while defending but you will need something to reach out and damage the opponent while they’re advancing on your positions. So a platoon of artillery will be very useful for this, as well as covering your advance if you are the attacker in a mission. The type of artillery is up to you, but make sure that it can also fire a smoke bombardment in addition a normal one.
Another thing an infantry list needs is an Ambush unit. My favourite unit for this is a platoon of 4 Marder tank hunters with Pak40s. 8 Pak40 shots will make a mess of almost any Medium or Light tank platoon (it’ll even make a dent in a Soviet Tank company) but they main reason I like the Marders are their ability to use the German National Rules to Stormtrooper away to safety/long range/out of sight after their ambush.”
3. The Germans get a lot of cool toys! Would you recommend adding Tigers & other big cats?
“An important requirement of an Infantry force in Flames Of War is the ability to counter attack. There will be games where the enemy force reach the objectives that you are trying to defend and you will need to push them back. The Panthers and Tigers are good at this. The Panther is better at counter attacking Tanks due to its speed and better gun, while the Tiger is very good at counter attacking infantry due to its side armour of 8 (to deflect PIATs and Bazookas in defensive fire) and its top armour of 2 (making it immune to normal infantry and much more survivable against pioneers/sappers and Paras armed with Gammon Bombs) However, these fun toys are a lot of points. Sometimes it will make more sense to take a larger unit of something like 4 StugGs rather than a small platoon of 2 Tigers.”
4. German infantry platoons are quite small it seems. Surely they don’t have a chance against the big hordes the allies can put on the table?
“Sadly that is what German players have to work with. And looking deeper, it isn’t as bad as it first seems. Yes the Grenadier platoons are 7 stands strong, but they are still veteran. This means that you hit very hard in assault as well as being difficult to shoot at -remember that if you are Gone To Ground and Concealed, you can’t be shot at from long range. Your Grenadiers are also armed with Rifle/MG or MG which is can through a lot of shots down range.
A lot of lists also arm your Grenadiers with Panzerfausts to help with defending against Tanks. I’m personally not a fan of these due to the huge points increase they have. Also, because you become completely unassailable by Tanks you end up not using the Panzerfausts as they will simply blow you out if your foxholes.
The key to getting around the small platoon sizes though is unit interaction and focus of fire. Because your infantry platoons are small you need to protect them with anti tank platoons within defensive fire range. The focus of fire will come from the platoon numbers advantage that you should have. Against the ‘horde armies’, you need to concentrate on the most dangerous enemy platoon and keep on it until it’s no longer a threat ( this doesn’t necessarily mean the platoon is dead – it could mean that the Soviet Strelkovy company no longer has Quality of Quantity, or that a tank platoon has taken enough casualties to require a morale check).”
5. I keep hearing about how important smoke is in Flames of War. Do I need a smoke bombardment platoon even if I am defending most of the time?
“Definitely. Smoke is one of the most important tactical parts of Flames Of War. There is very little that provides a smoke bombardment that can’t also provide a normal bombardment (if preferred), but smoke will be needed just as often. An important thing to remember is that you can not see more than 16 inches through smoke. For example, if there is an enemy anti-tank platoon about to snipe your counter attacking unit at long range, then if you smoke the anti tank guns they can not see your tanks and therefore can’t shoot at them. Also, Ranged In artllery requires the same team to be the spotter. If you smoke the spotting team then they will lose their ranged in marker.”
6. How many platoons should I look at having in a standard 1750 point game?
“I aim for 8 to 10 platoons (4-5 good defending platoons plus 1 good counter attacking platoon). The other platoons are cheap to bulk out the numbers, but are also chosen for their counter attacking ability. The army is built around static defending platoons that are on table in half on/off missions and mobile units that ride to the rescue from reserve. When designing your list remember that in many missions you will only have half of your platoons on table, and only one mobile unit.”
7. Is anti aircraft important?
“Not necessarily. They are useful as a cheap platoon to bolster your platoon count, and are very useful if a Brit or American player has an AOP, but I don’t see them as a necessity. I would rather have a plane myself if I’m worried out opposing air.”
8. Is recce worth having for this army?
“Recce is a luxury in this type of force. Veteran German lists struggle to fit every element in that it needs and for me Recce is the first thing to be cut in a Grenadier list.”
9. I see that I can buy halftracks and turn my Grenadiers into a mechanised company. Would you recommend doing this or the infantry fare better?
“When starting out in Flames Of War I would not recommend using Armoured Grenadiers. They interact with the rules in a different way and take a lot of skill to use well. I would learn the rules using normal Grenadiers and expand with half tracks when you’re ready for your next force.”
10. What is the biggest weakness to a Grenadier list and how can I help nullify this weakness?
“I’m not sure what the biggest weakness is. It’s probably the size of your platoons. You can’t send them off on their own like you can with an ARP or Soviet Company, but with good use of combined arms and supporting units you can both attack defend well. Don’t be afraid to use your Veteran skill rating as an extra type of armour. And don’t feel that you have to shoot just because you have a target. Sometimes keeping your anti-tank guns Gone To Ground is the right decision rather than taking a long range speculative potshot and losing your 3+ save.”
Firstly, big thanks to Dave for providing us with his insights and expert advice above. Personally I love playing the Grenadiers in late war. Once you get past the rather small infantry platoons, you will find that they still can pack a pretty good punch! In addition they always have so many good support options. It takes some practice but this can be a really tough list to beat in the right hands! I highly recommend purchasing a German Nebelwerfer NW41 platoon next – cheap but very effective artillery.. They can provide smoke and have different (better) ranging in rules than a standard artillery battery. In short – No FOW German army is complete without Nebs, so why not start with them!
As always thanks for reading guys. I hope these posts are useful and informative. Please feel free to get in touch if there are certain topics you would like me to cover in detail as part of this Survival Guide and I’ll be happy to cover them.
Until next time