Ghosts of Big Cats

A victory at Kursk would shine like a beacon to the world.

Adolf Hitler to his Generals

Intro

The Battle Kursk is known as the largest armoured engagement in history.  A mighty clash of steel in 1943 which would decide the fate of not only the Soviet Union, but arguably set the conditions for the inevitable defeat of the Third Reich.  It is these battles that the new German Army book ‘Ghost Panzers’ allows you to recreate.

1943 is an interesting time for the Germany forces.  The iconic tanks that will become common sights of WW2 (Such as the mighty Panther) are making an appearance as German engineering starts to churn out some excellent equipment, albeit not as fast as the awoken Soviet juggernaut and its allies.

The focus of the book is on these new armoured units and their supporting armoured infantry.  Yup that’s right, the armoured infantry many having been waiting for since it was revealed they were not in the Stalingrad book are now here.

Special rules

No book would be complete without special rules and before we look at the forces there are a couple of note which make their first appearance;

  • Mounted Assault – A bit of a change here to previous versions of Flames of War.  Instead of granting an extra attack you now get a better assault rating.  With a halftrack having a base 5+ to hit, one passenger increases this to 4+ and two increases it to an impressive 3+.  Additionally your counterattack goes from 6 to 4+ making your platoons vicious assault beasts if they can get past that defensive fire.
  • The second rule is for the Borgward demolition carrier and allows a control tank to take charge of these small monsters packed with explosives and charge them at the enemy.  Get them past the defensive fire (or even dont as on a 1-2 they blow up when they die) and their artillery template which is auto ranged in will do huge damage with AT4, auto FP and brutal. Oh and it takes out minefields touched by the template automatically as well.  I can see these being a ton of fun!

The Lists

I have procrastinated long and enough and I know what everyone wants to know what formations can you run and what new toys.  Well read on and all shall be revealed.

Panther Company

After experience with the T-34 in earlier battles the Germans knew they needed a new main battle tank, one that could survive but also pack a powerful punch.  Combining sloped armour and a 7.5cm gun the Panther was born.  Somewhat rushed to the front, the crews had to learn a great deal about the tank in the crucible of battle, however they were keen to bloody the enemy and test out their new addition.  This is why the Panther unlike other German units has an aggressive rating and is green.  This works somewhat well for the German player keeping the points down.  However it is understandably an expensive tank and you can only field five in a 100pt army.  Yes you can field a formation with two platoons of two and a HQ however this will be very vulnerable to formation morale.  I think we will see these taken more as support, adding a mobile, survivable main battle tank which can punch through armour with ease.

Mixed Panzer Company

By this stage of the war the Panzer III and IV have moved onto the late version (all FA6) with the Panzer III having the 5cm AT9 gun by default (with the 7.5cm option) and the Panzer IV sporting the AT11 gun which is also standard in Late War.  Additionally experience vs the Soviet Anti Tank Rifles has lead to the development of Skirts which come as standard and increase the SA to 5 vs FP 5+ and 6 weapons.  These are the work horses of the period and remain a hugely flexible all rounder, capable of engaging armour one turn and reliably assaulting the next.  

What is interesting about the formation is that you get a core Tiger option  as well as the ability to combine Panthers and Panzers in one formation.  A great way to fit some heavier armour into a force while building formation morale.  Additionally you can take Flame Panzers, which sacrifice morale and assault skill as well as the main gun for a rather nasty ROF 5 flame thrower.  All for a discount on a 5cm Panzer III late.

As an example a player could field five Panzer III late 5cm and three Panthers in a 100pt force with some points to spare for support.

Armoured Panzer Grenadiers

Yup it isnt all tanks.  There are some tinned infantry as well!  The iconic German Armoured Panzer Grenadiers are here.  Based around a platoon of seven MG stands with an optional ATR, they can be taken on foot or with their transports. 

Supported by Armoured Mortars, Armoured 7.5cm guns as well as Grilles and the tasty Armoured Flame platoon (with non armoured, dismounted, versions for the first three option) players will now have a hugely mobile elite army which can be backed up by the most powerful (and arguably cool) tanks of the war.

I have always been a big fan of German Armoured Infantry in all periods and I can see these being a hugely popular force.  HQ, two full platoons, four 8cm mortars, four Armoured 7.5cm Guns as well as two Grilles (giving a hugely respectable 2+ FP bombardment albeit re-rolling hits) comes to 54pts which leaves lots of points for additional forces.  I can see Nelly the Elephant Ferdinand being a hugely popular addition!

Tiger Company

We all knew it was coming. 

mainly from the rumbling of its tracks…

The mighty Tiger can now be fielded on its own. 
The points for this are already well know at 29 therefore a minimum formation is possible in 100pt army with three Tigers and 13 points spare.  The difficultly comes in working out how to round that force out, do you take some artillery, armoured infantry, or even an armoured car formation (Yes to the latter for me please).  At first glance three Tigers may seem a bit gimmicky however it could be a hard nut for some forces to crack especially when fighting Russians but it would need a steady and experienced player to make the most of it.  Ill be really interested to see how games go with these.  Once I am back from the land of sand I may just get some test games uploaded to look at some tactics I have in my mind…

Stug Assault Battalion

Now we are talking, FA7 tanks packing an AT11 gun and priced the same as a Panzer IV late.  Yes you sacrifice a turret and some assault ability (lower assault rating and counter attack), however FA7 on a careful tank with a 3+ last stand is quite impressive and massively survivable, just dont get flanked!  You can also swap one for a STuH when taking a platoon of 3.  You gain better FP, HEAT and Brutal but lose 1 AT, gain slow firing and are only RoF 1.  For me the cons far out weigh the benefit.  RoF 1 is a massive deal especially with slow firing. 

Another very good choice as a support option.

The Borgward demolition carriers add a really cool dimension to the force and allow you to clear out positions, making up for your lack of assault capability. and limited hull numbers.  

You can field seven Stugs and eight Demolition Carriers in a 100pt force.  Another quirky list I am going to try out (Fez/Ben aren’t you proud that I am expanding my horizons!).

Support

Here are the new units you an field in ‘Ghost Panzers’ 

  • Ferdinand – I called this my ‘Nelly the Elephant’ and I have fielded her since V2.  A mobile pill box, neigh on impossible to kill from the front and with a very respectable side armour.  Just dont let her get assaulted as she has no MG, although TA2 keeps her alive.  With a 5+ counter attack and 5+ assault she will struggle on the offensive but with SA7 its not a bad option to assault some positions  covered by AT8 guns (like the 47mm long).  If the enemy fails to counter they are likely to get captured, and now you have a survivable monster in your lines.  SPOILER ALERT you can take a formation of these using the command cards and mix them with Brummbars.  More to follow in another article.
  • Brummbar – Speaking of Brummbars these are now support.  Well armoured to the front although made of glass to the side.  They provide mobile auto FP shooting to dig out guns and strong points.  They also provide a FP 2+ bombardment.  For me they sit in an odd spot.  Too expensive to field in a larger platoon to produce a ‘proper’ bombardment and suffering from RoF1 and low AT in direct fire.  It will appeal to some however i’d rather have two batteries of Wespes.
  • Hornisse – AT17 what else do I need to say.  When you have to have a laser beam of armour death, these are the guys.  Basically Marders on steroids for a fair price increase.  The answer to what is likely to be the popular lend lease Chruchill Formation in Red Banner.  These will hugely alter the meta in a world of KV-1s.
  • 8.8cm Anti Tank Gun (PAK43) – The Hornisse Gun as a gun team with a 4+ save.  Trading additional survivabilty for less manoeuvrability and the same points.
  • Luch Scouts – Tracked scouts, basically updated Panzer IIs but now limited to platoons of 3.  With FA3 they will be good vs other recce and protect your flanks.
  • Wespes – Basically a SP version of the 10.5cm gun the Germans had been using since the start of the war.  A significant drop in points compared to the 10.5cm gun battery due to it only being 3 guns.  Keep them safe and they will produce the same effect for less investment.
  • Hummel – The Germans had need for a 15cm gun and the Hummel was the answer.  It actually entered service before its small Wespe brother but the larger calibre provides FP2+ bombardment and AT11 direct fire. A nice upgrade from the Wespe if you have the extra points to spare.
  • SD KFZ 7/1 (2cm) – A quad gun AA platoon with a pretty tasty ROF5.  Look out for an armoured version in the command cards.
  • HS 129 – The Germans first dedicated air to ground attack aircraft.  Using the flying tank rule first seen with the IL-2 it packs a ROF3 AT7 cannon which will eat up medium armour.  However the combination of the armour, ROF and AT value make this much more expensive than its smaller brother the JU-87 Tank Hunter.
  • JU-87 Tank Hunter – AT9 thats the headline.  ROF 2 AT9 aircraft, this is game changing.  Medium tanks need to be very afraid especially as its also FP 4+.  Ironically they are a hard counter if you face a red on red battle against German armour in an tournament or pick up game.   However they are twice as expensive as other nations versions of Air to Ground fighters so its a large investment. 

Formation structure

Its worth pointing out that the new book links in with both Afrika and Iron Cross.  You can field the formations found in these books with Ghost Panzer support choices.  Thus you could have a Grenadier company with a Ferdinand or Panthers.  This greatly expands the German options but also ensures that its easy to theme and army to a specific Theatre for something like a Campaign event. 

What next?

We will have loads of content over the coming weeks on the new both Ghost Panzers and Red Banner.  We will be looking at lists and delving into the cards.  While I wont give out all my sweeties at once, lets just say the Cards add a lot of new formations.  Did someone say Das Reich? [Yes, almost certainly Duncan. Repeatedly. – Lee]

Category: BattlefrontEastern FrontFlames of WarGermansList DiscussionMid WarV4

7 comments

  1. thanks for the review and… teasers. The units look quite interesting and I enjoyed your assessment on the different options to field.

    I am always on the fence between buying the cards or the books because both start to be a bit expensive. Which do you think is best?

  2. History also tells us that yes, Kursk was the Panther’s debut, but more than half broke down or caught on fire before even getting to the battle. Not a great start and they didn’t have a noticeable impact on the first battles fought.
    I find it strange that the technical difficulties aren’t represented by a special rule. Yes they have a worse To Hit rating and skill because of lack of training, but why stop there? Look at what can possibly counter a front armour of 9 and anti-tank rating of 14. The Panthers really need a handicap as I see it, as for now, they are rather overpowered.

  3. The Panther handicap is the points. While not much can hurt them from the front, especially at long range they are very vulnerable to the side with even fast AT7 light tanks causing it issues. A 100 point force is going to have a max of 5 Panthers with probably a single support unit. They have no answer to an awful lot of things.

    As support to other forces they provide effect fire power however their points mean they will rarely deploy in missions with reserves and unless bought as a unit of three they are very vulnerable to be being in bad spirits.

  4. Thank you Mark, great news you can combine support to Africa list allowing for a historical Tunisia campaign. Exiting!

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Article by: Mark Goddard