D-Day Germans: Tigers Marsch

If the tanks succeed, victory will follow

Guderian 1937

Big Cats

Tigers are perhaps one of the most iconic tanks of WW2.  Feared by the Allies and beloved by the Germans this beast of a tank is also a beast on the FOW table top.

Now, a health warning this article is looking at running a Tiger company and how to make it work (which equally helps others learn to defeat it), so we are talking about competitive play.  That said, apart from one version of the list with a particular command card I would argue there isn’t much that wouldn’t appeal the historical player either.

First off we need to discuss the whole idea of heavy tanks.  They are high armour, few in number, and pack powerful guns.  If running a list based around them you have to accept that there are some match ups they will just struggle against.  However the trade is that there are lots of lists which will be very fearful of them.  The Germans have two heavy options the Panther and the Tiger.  The first question is “why not Panthers”, after all they are cheaper.  Well based on running seven heavies the spare seven points just aren’t worth the drop in points; just look what you get for an extra 1 pt per tank;

  •  +3 Side Armour –  Worth a point alone.  Not only does it mean you can ignore (pretty much) AT9 and below, and even risk AT10, it also means you can assault pinned bazookas with a degree of confidence.  With Panther SA5 its a huge risk.
  • +1 Top Armour –  Again a huge advantage.  You cant be killed by AT3 and you have a reliable save vs bombs and rockets.  Not only that but basic infantry can’t hurt you.  
  • 2+ remount and last stand – When running only seven tanks, keeping them on table is vital.  A 2+ remount and last stand allows two-strong tank platoons to become quite viable.  Combine with a HQ re-roll and you only have a 1/36 chance of running away or failing to remount!
Surprise Big Cat is best Big Cat

While an extra seven points is nice, it doesn’t buy you an extra Panther.  Yes it gets you a platoon of infantry but for for me the math is strongly on the side of Tigers.  If I was offered all of that for a point difference on any other tank I would grasp it with both hands.

The basics

Now firmly set on Tigers, it’s time to work out how many.  I need three platoons; I have to be able to take some loses and not break the formation.  Therefore I have opted for seven tanks.  Yes I could get eight, but then I’ll have basically no support and later you will see how this is a force multiplier. 
Therefore I will split those seven hulls as 2+2+3.  This means the three-strong platoon goes into reserve, along with four more points of something, leaving the two-strong platoon plus the HQ which provide those vital re-rolls starting the game.

Next up I need to think about support.  My wish list is ;

  • something to help mitigate a small number of core platoons and therefore a formation morale risk.
  • A good template to dig out guns and provide smoke.
  • Infantry for anti minefield and objective holding duties.
  • Recce for sneaky alpha strikes. 

The first thing you are going to realize is that you can’t afford all of this so you have to prioritize.   Therefore on both my list choices I have dropped the infantry.  I just cant squeeze it in.  It means buildings will be an issue, however I can mitigate that with objective placement and artillery.

Artillery wise, my go to unit is a three-strong battery of Wespes at 9pts.   It’s 3+ FP and AT3 (handy for anti-Achilles duties) is excellent and the smaller template means that it can stayed ranged in even as you close for assault, something the similarly priced Nebs cant do.

Recce is the SdKfz 250 Halftrack Recce platoon.  3pts gives me three vehicles, so a nice wide spearhead bubble and two losses before a morale test.

The only option to mitigate formation morale is the AA, its the only other platoon I can afford.  Now I’ll stress this is not here to shoot down planes, though they can certainly have a go.  AA is too expensive for that, given the odds.  No, its role is to keep my Company in good spirits and, in a pinch, help deal with light stuff and inf on the move.

Taking all this into account I have come up with two choices

Option 1

This fits three of my four wish list items.  The main downside to it that the AA is only two-strong.  However, to mitigate this, the two AA vehicles are now armoured thanks to the command card.  This also has the benefit of making the AA 4pts whic,h combined with the three-strong Tiger platoon, is bang on 40pts for reserve forces.  This allows AA to remain in reserve, most likely coming on in turn 3-4, which keeps it safe.  Its role here is formation morale nothing else.  I will not be driving it forward and allowing it to get killed.

Option 2

The main difference here is that I have used the 9th Panzer Div card [cue Lee rolling his eyes and reaching for the “big book of Panzer division order of battles” to bash Mark with] to save me four points, allowing the AA to be upgraded to four-strong, and to gain the “lucky” card. That card is rather handy when running big tanks.  A failed armour save or that horrible roll of a 1 for remount or last stand can be disastrous when you have so few tanks.

That said while four AA is nice and makes it much more survivable, I still don’t think it makes the AA usable.  Every gun not hunting Tigers (Ie AT10 minus) is going to be after them so they will have to remain hidden.  Plus, reducing the Tiger tactics rating to 4+ I am pretty confident will cost me a shoot and scoot or blitz during a game, and again with so few tanks this could be game changing.

On the table

Now decided on option 1, I need to consider how to run this list.  Key advantages and strengths:

  • Immune to most AT.  Only really getting worried from the front at AT12 and close range.  Even at long range I only actually get killed on a 1.
  • Best assault tank in the game.  TA2 and SA8.  With pinned zooks and no concealment or smoke thats 1/3 to hit x (1/6 to beat armour + (1/6 x 1/3 to meet FP on a matched result)  x2  =  14% chance  to stop and assault (rough maths!)*.  
  • High AT gun and good FP mitigates small ROF.  What it hits is killed or bailed.  
  • Single reserve roll to bring on all your reserves (well all the reserves I want on table).

Now for the disadvantages and challenges.

  • Small number of core tanks means bad luck can be exponentially powerful.  I.e. a great roll by an Achilles ambush with poor saves on my part could be pretty much game ending.
  • Weak in games with reserves.  Only four tanks and arty on table.
  • Not really enough MGs to reliably bounce infantry assaults, therefore Tigers can get ‘bullied’ around the board.
  • No ability to clear minefields and no ability to assault buildings means objective placement is limited and tanks can be funneled in defensive battles.

So while a lot of people think Tigers companies are uber scary they really have a similar number of pros and cons.  Perhaps more than other armies which can be more forgiving, skill is key here.  You are playing with a scapel, you have to have a plan and be precise.  

Most games are won by taking objectives not trading blows with the enemy so you must focus on this.  Use your mobility to get to the objective (hence the recce) quickly and start to apply pressure; even two Tigers are a huge threat to any objective.  Also be ready for the Tiger alpha strike.  In some missions using recce you can start 16 inches away from the enemy deployment zone.  Now you have a 10 inch tactical move, hopefully a 4 inch follow me and then a 4 inch assault.  This means that if the enemy are foolish enough to deploy within 2 inches of the edge of their deployment you can be on them turn 1.  This is huge because its before they can ambush and you can use pre-ranged in arty (in non meeting engagement missions) to drop smoke, limiting return fire in the enemy turn and helping you to get into assault.  I’ve seen this happen and it can really throw off an opponent even if the assault didn’t actually achieve much.  Its the shock factor of an assault on or at least near and objective.

You cant let the enemy dictate the game.  Get behind their decision curve and you will suffer.

Until next time

Well that’s my ideas for my Tiger Company I just need to make it.  I am am patiently awaiting the arrival of my SdKfz 250 recce patrol and the 5 x Tiger Set (combined with a box of 2 from MW).   That reminds me, one final set of advantages; not much to paint and also cheaper than most armies.

Lets see how it gets on, bye for now.

[* Editor note – I didn’t check Mark’s maths.  I watched the Scott Steiner statistic monologue and called it there]

Category: Flames of WarGermansLate WarList DiscussionV4

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8 comments

  1. Please check “Assault Range” in rules version 4 – if moving more than 10 inchs with the Follow-Me order you no longer allowed to assault…
    Therefore no Round1 objective capture!

  2. Great article again Mark, and unfortunately confirms my ideas regarding Tiger and Panther formations. They just don’t work reliably against infantry formations, especially since now every infantry team and his mother has anti-tank capabilities above and beyond (‘fausts, ‘schrecks, bazookas).
    Yes, the Tiger is great in close combat, but one failed armor save or remount check (that 1 is always going to pop-up at the worst of times) and you can lose the entire platoon.
    With a morale re-roll from the HQ tank you can improve the statistics a bit but it is, just like you said, a hit-or-miss formation.

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Article by: Mark Goddard