Like most members of this hobby, I have a, ahem, healthy reserve of unpainted models.
Among this array of boxes and sprues is three boxes of Puma armoured cars from the dying days of v3. I bought these when the kit was first released with the intention of doing a mix of 2nd Panzer Normandy Pumas and Ardennes 234/1 and 234/3 patrols. As it was Team Yankee had my full attention, so I never quite got them to the front of my painting queue and the mid war focus of v4 meant that didn’t change for quite a while.
But now we find ourselves in a new and shiny late war, with a new and shiny German D-day book and suddenly its very much ‘game on’ as the book and command cards offer three ways of fielding the 234 armoured car and its variants. Let’s take a look!
Aufklärung – Reconnaissance Company
This company makes a welcome return to Flames of War (well, there was a Ghost Panzer command card), bringing with it a shiny new plastic SdKfz250 neu halftrack model too.
It’s an amazingly self-contained force. We have infantry, artillery, light armour, recce and anti-tank, all organic to the formation. All we really lack is medium-heavy armour and anti-air!
Let’s look at the Recce Platoon first.
This is basically an armoured panzer grenadier platoon that is mounted on the short chassis SdKfz 250, rather than the SdKfz 251. This gives the platoon far more machine gun firepower as it has almost double the number of halftracks, as well as a bit more resilience as you only risk losing one infantry team if an enemy 6pdr rips the halftrack apart! The SdKfz250 also has “scout” so can help get the Recce platoon into position unscathed.
There is a price to pay for this, both in points, pounds and in options as the platoon lacks the optional Panzerschrecks and machine guns of the Panzer grenadiers. This is partly countered by the fact that only one of the mandatory choices has to be a Recce Platoon, the other one and the optional third infantry slot can be a Recce platoon or a PanzerGrenadier platoon (armoured or otherwise), allowing us to tailor our composition to an optimum combination of mobility, cost and firepower.
The company also has two slots for armoured cars. These can be either the “Sd Kfz 250 Scout Troop” or the 234 chassis based “Puma troop”.
The SdKfz 250 troop combines one standard, albeit empty, SdKfz 250 with two turreted SdKfz 250/9 2cm autocannon armed types. In this it mirrors the SdKfz221/222 wheeled armoured car troop, but with a more mobile (over all but roads) chassis. It still boasts Scout, Spearhead and Stormtroop, but also has the morale penalties common to all recce teams.
The Puma troop consists of either two Puma (SdKfz 234/2) or two 2cm armed SdKfz 234/1. The latter is much like an 8-rad, albeit with the self-defence AA capability that was previously the preserve of just the SdKfz 222.
The Puma, by comparison sports a 5cm main gun that gives the armoured car a surprisingly lethal punch with only a small impact on mobility (The 234 has 4” less road dash than an 8-rad). The Puma troop also shares one other issue with the 8-rad, the downsides of being a two-tank platoon, especially with a 5+ morale.
Accompanying the armoured cars is a slot for the 234(7.5cm) assault gun platoon. This combines the 234 chassis with the short 7.5cm of the early StuG/PzIV to give a handy mobile, direct fire, infantry gun with, thanks to its HEAT rounds, a secondary anti-tank role. That lets the AT9 be more effective at long range than the solid shot of the Pumas, perfect for a support role but still making it necessary to reign in ambitions on going toe to toe with tanks, or be ultra-sneaky and put the “scout” and “stormtroopers” abilities to maximum use for protection and finding the vulnerable angles on the enemy.
There are two more slots for assault guns. There is one for the SdKfz 250 based variant (250/8), which still retains “scout”, and one for the SdKfz 251 based one (250/9), making for up to twelve assault guns in the formation, a significant amount of mobile firepower.
Panzerspäh – Puma and Halftrack Scout Companies
That’s the Aufklarung sorted, but what about the Panzerspah? Whilst not in the book, the command cards provides us two alternative formations:
- Puma Scout Company
- Halftrack Scout Company
Both cards allow us to field a full company of light recce armour, backed up by a pair of 234/4 assault gun platoons and a Reconnaissance Platoon.
With the price difference between light and medium armour having tumbled in late war, the armoured car company is less of a “marder delivery system” and more respectable as a legitimate choice for players.
Finally, its worth noting that the Force diagram also has two Recce slots so any force can bring a pair of Puma or Half-track scout platoons for some Spearhead capability.
Example Force – Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung 2, 1st Kompanie
So, how can we put all that together?
With three boxes of Pumas giving me 18 hulls, a Puma company is an obvious stating point. I went for a HQ Puma, six puma patrols (in reality, a company had four platoons, each of three two-car patrols) and a half strength Kannon platoon of 3 234/3 cars. This left two hulls surplus which I built up as the PaK40 armed 234/4 for late late war.
I also have plenty of German MG infantry courtesy of Hit the Beach so, along with a box of the new SdKfz250, that will give me a Reconnaissance Platoon.
1st Company HQ – 1 Puma (100)
Puma Patrol 1 – 2 x Puma (111, 112)
Puma Patrol 2 – 2 x Puma (121, 122)
Puma Patrol 3 – 2 x Puma (131, 132)
Puma Patrol 4 – 2 x Puma (141, 142)
Puma Patrol 5 – 2 x Puma (151, 152)
Puma Patrol 6 – 2 x Puma (161, 162)
234/3 Platoon – 3 x 234/3
Full strength Recon Platoon with Panzerfaust (from 3rd Aufkl. Kompanie)
Formation total – 48pts
4 x PzIV
8.8 Tankhunter plaoon – 4 x PAK43 plus “8.8 tank hunter” card
3 x 15cm Nebelwerfers
OP with SdKFz 250 command card
Force Total – 100pts
A platoon of Panzer IV fits in with the 2nd Panzer theme and gives me four hulls with decent armour, mobility and fire power.
Next up is something to deal with Churchills, a platoon of 88’s. I’ll admit this is more because I really like the new PAK43 plastic model and is, largely, overkill versus anything Fez or Duncan are likely to field in the short term! Whilst these wouldn’t accompany the recce company normally, I can see the Recce element having to cover the withdrawal of the heavier elements and this will no doubt bring some towed guns under their control briefly.
Some Nebelwerfers provide some artillery punch, though the “keep out” zone for the salvo template can make it a little unwieldy at times. I may replace these with three Wespes at a later date. I pair these up with an OP using the SdKfz250 command card, letting me swap out the Panzer III with an SdKfz 250 as a 0pt upgrade. I figure I’ll have a SdKfz250 going spare!
This left two points. I went back to the 88’s and gave them the artillery upgrade card, boosting their flexibility by letting them fire as light artillery. I then used the last point on “lucky” which is always worth burning that last unused point on.
It would be nice to have some quad 2cm anti-aircraft in the army, but I’ll just have to hope my opponents can’t roll 4+ on their air support!
My early thoughts on a game plan is to try going “Defend” versus enemy forces, putting my HQ, Recce Platoon and PzIV platoon in reserve. This puts 12 Pumas, the four 88’s and the artillery into play from the start to sap the enemies fighting strength with a defence in depth, using the recce infantry and Panzer IV to assault onto an objective to retrieve it if necessary.
All of this is fine in theory, but it’s time to assemble an army and put it to the test.