Bulge American: Top picks and weaker links

The new US Bulge Book and Command Cards are packed with options.  Covering the battles from Market Garden, Bulge and into Germany this completes the US Late War journey.  However, as we all know, while all units are equal, some are more equal than others.  Today I look at what my picks are for the ‘best’ units in the new book and discuss those that I think will struggle/see less table action.  The analysis/opinion is primarily through a competitive play lense i.e best bang for your points, but also, on occasion the rule of cool creeps in!  Ultimately always field what you think works and what makes you smile!

Top picks

Patton

General Patton has been a mainstay of Flames of War armies for many years.  In V3 he was so good that a LFTF entry eventually had to scale that army back.  Here is what he can do.

At 4pts this is red hot.  An 8 inch command radius with a 2+ remount and rally is immense and almost worth the points alone, but with a re-roll for reserves this is literally game changing.  We all know that games can hinge on reserve rolls and other cards charge 1 pt for a single dice reserve re-roll (once) here we can re-roll 1 dice EVERY TURN.  That’s on top of the other ability.

This is a perfect combo to the 3AD card that downgrades your Vet Sherman or Vet Chaffee company to Reluctant (with 4+ protected ammo).  Patton mitigates this to a large part.  Sure they still have a poor counter attack but a 2+ remount with HQ reroll is just amazing, we have only seen this before with SS tanks.  It will also help the US Battle Weary Infantry to keep moving and become a really effective offensive asset.  I can see this being featured in many lists.

Battle Weary Rifle Formation

The humble rifle formation has always performed well but often been overlooked for its armoured cousin.  Coming in at 9pts for 10 rifle stands with a bazooka and an option to add a second bazooka, LMG and/or a HMG this is a very large, effective unit.  It is cautious (hugely important) and trained with 3+ tactics.  While reluctant it has a 4+ rally to keep it moving.

Three platoons, a Hq, and two 60mm mortar abtteries (with smoke) is a measly 33pts!  That is 35 cautious infantry stands with two HE/Smoke bombardments.  Yes please!  Add Patton and they will keep moving on a 2+ for only 37pts.  With two platoons of three 57mm guns that is still only 47pts (51 with Patton). Personally I think this is a surprisingly offensive option.  Use Patton to keep it moving and smoke to get into assault.  Even without him the fact that you have three platoons helps mitigate getting pinned.  Remember, you can use a command card to add a Priest unit as core (4th Ivy), which is another steal at 8pts for a FP3+ time on target, veteran bombardment that can’t be pinned.  Plus, that’s even more smoke.  Add some Sherman Crocodiles plus some high AT and you have a rather cheeky force.

Sherman Crocs

Only four Sherman Crocs were utilised on the Western Front and luckily you can field them all.  Coming in at 20pts you get a FA7 flame-throwing Sherman which retains it’s main gun.  Clever use of smoke (super cheap for the yanks) will get these up close and personnel and are a natural tonic to those pesky Pakfront 88s, they will also burn up any infantry silly enough to leave their foxholes.  They are a great pairing to the rifle formation above.  Perhaps not quite as good as the three Churchill Crocs for 21 pts but still a stand out unit.

3rd Armoured Division

This is a command card that changes the stats on your Veteran Chaffee and Sherman formation (excluding any Pershings or Super Pershing).  You buy back 3pts per Sherman Platoon, 2 Pts per Sherman Assault Gun, Chaffee and Stuart Platoon and 1pt for everything else.  Given the high costs of the Vet Shermans by the time you add the bells and whistles (76mm guns, AT13 upgrade and Jumbo) this will really help you get your toys on the table.  The downside is that you become reluctant (4+ remount with protected ammo) which means bails will hurt more and these are not things you want to get into an assault where they enemy has a good counter value.  Again add Patton and your tanks will keep remounting and running like a Duracell Bunny.

M18 with AT13

We all know the Achilles is perhaps the most terrifying unit to a lot of tank armies.  18pts for four cautious AT14 beasts is the British auto include (if not 8!).  The US M10 now has an upgrade to start to compete to it; the AT13 Hyper Velocity AP rounds.  Four M10s with AT13 will cost you 18 points.  Okay, worse than the Achilles, but you do get veterans and seek and destroy.

M18s are real glass hammers.  FA2 but with tactical 12 and a super fast dash they will fly around to where they are needed.  With a 3+ skill and the ability to Blitz and then Shoot & Scoot these will be a popular choice.  Suddenly those nasty Tigers are looking a bit more venerable.

Weaker Links

T27 Xylophone

The Xylophone is a truck based rocket artillery platform that produces a AT2 FP5+ salvo with four for 7pts.  Each truck has a 5+ save due to being unarmoured, meaning that counter bombardment and some rapid advancing recce MGs will ruin it’s day very fast.  While a salvo is great, the FP means that kills will be somewhat rare, although it is a great suppression tool that will pin.  Also many players will not risk deploying under it so you can influence your opponents deployment.

The main issue is that it is just too expensive compared to the better Calliope.  Here you pay 8pts for 3 x FA7 Callopies with the same template. Sure, you lose one and you are re-rolling hits, but it’s a lot harder to kill a medium tank than a 5+ save truck.  Also you can apply the 3AD card to them to drop the pts to 7 and the M4 card to drop them to FA6 making them a steal at 6pts for 3 (Plus they have a cool new plastic kit)!

Sorry Xylophone you are just a 1-2 pts too much compared to your big brother.

Easy Eight

Okay it pains me to say this as they look so cool.  The Easy Eight is a 1pt upgrade to your 76mm Shermans which gives you the ability to move 4″ and not be affected by the +1 to hit for stabilisers.  Combine with a blitz and that becomes 8 inches.  Surprisingly you don’t get a 12 inch tactical move.

The issue here is stacking costs.  A cautious E8 comes in at 7pts or 7.5 with AT13 (which you really want).  That is a lot of points for what is, at the end of the day, a FA7 tank.  The bigger issue is that by the time you add these to your Sherman lists you just have so few hulls.

Two E8 with AT13, a Jumbo (75mm) and a 75mm (late) Vet Sherman will cost you 27pts.  That means two platoons (only kicking out the same AT13 as 18pts of Hellcats or M10s) plus a completely bog standard HQ (ie 2 x 75mm Late) is 65pts.  That’s still only three platoons and FA7 can be eaten up quickly by many German forces.

I want to love them, I really do.  Perhaps I am being too harsh.  There is a certain satisfaction to what is basically a 8 inch blitz.  Frankly I am just looking forward to the new plastic E8s.

Paras

Lets just all agree that Band of Brothers is the coolest TV show ever.  That aside it also pains me to see how tricky it is to field a strong Para army.  Paras in previous versions were feared, they ran around with AT3 grenades assaulting tanks and generally killing things.  While you can still get these with a single use 2 pt card they just dont compare to the 1pt Soviet RPGs (The paras so should have had the same).

While they are Fearless, Veteran and Cautious, a HQ, two Para platoons, mortars and 57mm guns (i.e. a fairly standard infantry formation) will set you back 52pts.  That is not a lot on table when you have to defend, i.e. no high AT.  With the Bastogne flavour you do gain a 2+ last stand but, if you have got down to two stands or a gun on such a small force, then, well, you have bigger issues.  I truly want to love them, I really do, but they are just so expensive and die as fast as the battle weary troops.

M36 Jackson

Earlier I mentioned the British Achilles that packs FA5 and AT14 for a 18pts with 4 hulls.  The M36 Jackson comes with AT14 for 24pts a 25% increase.  Now it does get a better 3+ remount, HE and Vet status with seek and destroy but 6pts seems steep.  I don’t need HE, I want to kill tanks plus I have a 50cal.  Vet and remount is useful absolutely I will concede that however seek and destroy  often lands you in trouble and even with vet you will fail 1 of your 2 actions over 50% of the time.   Now, I love AT14; its just enough without being so high it’s wasted, but 24pts for 4, just doesn’t land with me.  Hellcats (Vet) and M10s at AT13 are 18pts. 

3-Inch Towed Tank Destroyer.

While not new for Bulge I was hoping to see something change with this unit.  For 12pts you get four AT12 stationary guns , 14pts with AT13.  For 12pts you get four 8.8cm Heavy AA guns with AT14, turntables, 3+ last stand, AA capability, and longer range.  That means the US guns aren’t really that good of a deal.  The saving grace is that they can now become outpost guns which allows them to deploy independently in the same way as Pak front. The towed guns can also be ambushed within 16 inches unlike the large 88s.

Conclusion

There are tons of great things in the new book and like all books (in all games) there are winners and losers.  Somethings I didn’t have room to mention (I like Chaffees and Pershings) but I will be delving into them in another article.  The ‘weaker links’ list is of course subjective, you may desperately need AT14 and be willing to pay for it or you may be making fluffy defence of the Bastogne list and want Paras supported by Towed Tank Destroyers.  Either way options are great and if this book is a taste of things to come then I can’t wait to see what the Germans and Brits yet.

Category: Flames of War

One comment

  1. That the 3in towed tank destroyer unit is the same points as the 88mm doesn’t make sense. The 3in is a great model that belongs on the table but that is highly unlikely until the points are reviewed 🙁

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Article by: Mark Goddard