My experience in previous theaters of war had taught me that the more critical a situation, or the more alarming the reports, the more calmly every experienced leader should react.Hans von Luck, Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck
As many of you know I have been waiting with bated breathe since the release of the German D-Day book for my beloved 21st Panzer Division to make an appearance on the Normandy coast. There has been a foggy patch on my front windows and a nose imprint permanently impressed into the glass waiting for the U304(f) to come into sight and in the words of The Great One: “Finally Hans Von Luck has come back to Flames of War!”
What we have asked for; we have received… and in some style. The 21st Panzer booklet comes with its own mini-book as well as some Command cards – very much like the new German and US Mid-War Para books.
For those new 21st Panzer players there is a nice introduction to the unit from it’s destruction in North Africa, reformation in France and final surrender in Silesia in 1945. It’s only 4 pages but gives a nice appraisal that people can then choose to read around should they wish to*.
*I can heartily recommend Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Hans von Luck as well as the excellent The Combat History of 21st Panzer Division 1943-45 as additional reading material.
The additional D-Day rules that you need to play the 21st Panzer in Normandy, Salvo, Panzerfaust, HEAT, etc. are all included which is also handy.
So on to the in-game stuff… starting with the Companies of which there are two.
Hotchkiss Assualt Gun Company
AKA Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 200
The wonderful innovations of Major Becker are back and at company strength again. With the option to take 7.5cm (Sf) 39H or 10.5cm (Sf) 39H in 2 or 3 AFV platoons this cheap PaK-40 toting mobile platform is an excellent addition to your 21st Panzer arsenal.
You can now have 3 platoons, one of which can be the beute StuH 10.5cm 39H, as well as the awesome S307(f) Reihenwerfer and some 2cm AA all within your formation.
Much like the Marder 7.62cm your armour is nothing to write home about but the 3+ Skill and 4+ Hit On values are there as is AT12 and 3+ Firepower. I am slightly surprised that the poor little 39H chassis gets a 4+ Cross value and with all the repurposed French vehicles that make up 21st Panzer, you will find that you are a little slower across the ground than your German “born and bred” counterparts.
16 tubes of French 8cm mortar, salvo slinging death the S307(f) Reihenwerfer is impressive in its ability to deliver a stunning volume of 4+ Firepower pie plate to the tabletop.
This all comes at a price. All of you veteran 21st Panzer players will now really have to consider how, and indeed if, you deploy these on the board.
21st Panzer Grenadier Company
The 21st Panzer Grenadier Company is now much more akin to the Sd Kfz 250 Company than the Sd Kfz 251; you will need more U304(f) half-tracks if you already are committed to the 21st.
The full-sized Panzer Grenadier platoon no longer has the option to take short transport platoons – you must have one transport per stand. But, much like the other Panzer Grenadiers, you can opt to leave your funky transports behind and slog it out on foot which does give you options (combine with the “softskin” command card to do the trucked Panzer Grenadier companies)
As well as the option to take the Sd Kfz 250 Reconnaissance platoon, the S307(f) Reihenwerfer again, a short 15cm Lorraine Schlepper battery, either mobile or static 2cm AA and an MG34 platoon in your formation, you may also bring along the S307(f) (7.5cm PaK 40) for more AT12 punch.
Your 4+ To Hit value really will be your armour with these lightweight anti-tank vehicles, but their mobility will be a useful asset to supplement your Panzer Grenadiers. You can have a quite chunky formation that has a lot of inbuilt mobility and flexibility to counter the invading Allies.
The in force support you have is limited to the 10.5cm and 15cm Lorraine Schlepper batteries. Mid-War players will be familiar with the 15cm Lorraine Schleppers, and their relative points cost, but they will now be purchased in either 3 or 6 gun batteries.
The 10.5cm (sf) is to its 15cm brethren as the Wespe is to the Hummel and gives you a similar, rather attractive, points break.
The final support option, in the booklet, is the useful, if not essential, Panzer III OP which can only be purchased if you invest in either of the support artillery batteries.
The Command Cards give you access to some of the same Command Cards as the D-Day German ones, notably; PaK Front, Armour Half-Tracks, Machine Gun Nests and Looted Tank.
If you want to create a rounded 21st Panzer Force then getting a copy of the D-Day German book and Command Cards will allow you to include the 12.2cm FH 396(r), for example.
Having the D-Day German book will also let you bring your Panzer IV platoons and company to help drive the Allies back into the sea.
All in all the 21st Panzer booklet is a very welcome addition to the German forces in Normandy. The Beute StuG formation gives you access to something completely different to play and the fantastical creatures from Baukommando Becker give you access to a unique style of play in Late War.
Having said that you will need to be creative in order to include some vehicles that you would have previously had access to. For example, the U304(f) (2cm) can stand in for Armoured Sd Kfz 10/4 and the option to include an Sd Kfz 250 OP instead of the Panzer III will have to suffice for the Panzerbeobachtungswagen auf Lorraine Schlepper (f) – you will have seen one skulking in the 10.5cm (sf) battery picture.
The 48-Rails, misappropriated from Stalin’s Organ, of the mSPW 303/307(f) (R-Vielfachwerfer) will now have to stand in for a short S307(f) (8cm Reihenwerfer) battery.
This proxying is fine on a club night, it worries me slightly more should I go to a more tournament environment but more than that it just feels like a missed opportunity to include these short-lived, Rommels Funnies in a booklet dedicated to their 8 weeks, from June 1944 – July 1944, of existence.
The 21st Panzer is so evocative of the hard fighting around Caen and the Normandy countryside; it’s unique hybrid vehicles and colourful history and character never fail to intrigue players and out of game observers alike. It is wonderful that it is back in Version 4.
Overall I extremely pleased that the 21st Panzer is here and operational on the tabletop – my little Dunkelgelb tinted mind is already playing around with lists and next time will look at recreating the Kampfgruppe Luck (Panzergrenadier-Regiment 125) in Flames of War.
Until next time, fuel the U304(f); we drive for the sea.