The new starter set for WWIII:TY – Americans is up for pre-order and, to help those joining us for the first time, I thought it would be a good idea to look at using the box to create a force and how to expand it out.
What’s in the box?
Firstly, lets take a look at the model contents:
5 Abrams Main Battle Tanks (able to build M1, IPM1, M1A1 and M1A1(HC))
4 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles/Cavalry Scouts (able to build M2/M3 or M2A2/M3A2)
4 HMMWV (able to be built as M60, M2, Mk.19 AGL and TOW variants. Its not clear if Stingers and Miniguns are also present)
3 M109 Self Propelled Howitzers
2 AH-64 Apache gunships
Now, what to do with all that?
The box is marketed as an Armored Cavalry Troop so lets go with that. We looked at the formation in my previous article but lets remind ourselves of the org chart.
As we need the Bradleys to fill the two mandatory Scout slots we need to assign one of the tanks to be our HQ. That’s not really a problem as the maximum unit size for an M1 platoon is four tanks so it would otherwise be surplus anyway! The remaining four tanks can either form a single platoon of four tanks, filling our mandatory tank slot, or two platoons of two tanks (one filling one of the two optional tank platoon slots). Whilst that allows more ground to be covered by a single unit, we should be wary as two-tank platoons can make a formation brittle. Best to leave it to the scouts!
We need to make a couple decision here. As noted above, both the M1 and M3 can be fielded in a number of variants.
The M3 is the easiest decision; for a single point, both Scouts can be fielded as M3A2 vaiants with extra armour. This protects them from heavy machine guns and small calibre autocannons, as well as versus most hand held anti-tank rockets. They are still glass cannons when it comes to large calibre autocannons, main battle tanks and anti-tank guided missiles, so they are generally better relying on stealth to not be hit, but every little helps.
The M1 can be found in four variants. I’m going to go into more detail on this in a future article but these are:
- The original M1 – the cheapest one, with still decent front and side armour and a 105mm gun that can deal with any Warsaw Pact tank in the game frontally, and kill anything on the flank which it has all the mobility to do.
- The IPM1 – a 1pt per tank upgrade that ups the front and side armour to 19 and 10 respectively, rendering it immune to a swath of guns and anti-tank missiles whilst still having all the benfits of mobility and firepower itself.
- The M1A1 – the first 120mm version. Retains the armour of the IPM1 but combines it with a larger gun firing Depleted Uranium (DU)rods down range that can still easily turn any current Warsaw Pact tank inside out but now also threaten the upcoming T-80 and all the NATO tanks too.
- The M1A1(HC) – take the above, whack more DU into the armour matrix and laugh as everything but heavy air launched missiles bounce off your front arc. Just don’t let your small numbers get you flanked by more numerous cheap tanks with their own fin rounds…
To my mind, the IPM1 is the best value tank of the four, balancing cost versus the more traditional elements of the Iron Triangle. That said, the M1A1 may need to be considered if the local meta tips to blue-on-blue or the Soviet players already have the FA T-80 on pre-order! For the purposes of this article I’ll go with the IPM1 but we can discuss the M1A1 at the end.
The AH-64 is fairly simple to slot in, filling the formations helicopter slot. The M109 likely fills the M109 atillery slot. Here we have a few optional extras we can add. Minelets allows the M109 to drop a minefield token one per game, useful for causing some mischief in a densely packed Pact tank company. Bomblets is more situational but handy to have if you expect the enemy to use lots of light skinned vehicles or infantry. Copperheads are a gucchi option but need an OP (not in the box) to use so can be ignored for now.
That leaves our formation at a cost of 76pts, assuming we spent the points to take the M3A3 and Minlets.
The final thing in the box is the quartet of HMMWV. These are listed as being scouts which would give us another Spearhead unit some more TOW missiles and a bit of light firepower. The only thing is that, with two Bradley sections able to Spearhead, we don’t really need HMMWV scouts. Thankfully the versatile vehicle has other uses. The Fire Support Platoon from the 9th Division is a black box choice and brings four TOW HMMWV (with a TOW2 option), boosting our anti-tank. Alternatively, if the air threat is a concern, we can field the four HMMWV as an air defence platoon (assuming the box does include the Stinger teams) . I’d say the latter is more useful as it means we now have all the combined arms elements save infantry.
That brings our force to 81pts.
If we want the heavier punch of the M1A1 then that brings the force to 106pts. To get it back under 100pts, we need to drop to a three tank platoon, getting us to 92pts. That still gives us four M1A1 main battle tanks!
That will get the ball rolling but most people play 100pts so what to do to expand to that?
The obvious first step is to expand the Apache platoon to a full four-ship flight. That takes a big chunk of our remaining 19 pts!
Personally, I think its a brave force that leaves home without an infantry platoon so an under-strength Huey Rifle platoon with an extra M47 Dragon. That gives us an in-formation infantry force that, even at below strength, still offers five SAW teams and two M47 ATGW teams. More than enough to hold an objective.
At this point we have a force built around a large formation with some sturdy units as its footing. We can put the IPM1 platoon and a M3 section in reserve and still have the Apache, HQ tank, artillery and infantry on with the remaining M3 section with the potential to kill ten tanks a turn until the reserves arrive. Use the infantry to act as a breakwater to stop hordes flanking the tanks, whilst the Bradley and Apache hang back and use the range of TOW to get some non-returnable punches in.
I can see the force working well with attack or manoeuvre stances, though Defend should be avoided as the tanks, Apaches and up-armoured Bradley all fall foul of deep reserve restrictions.
If going the M1A1 route then the infantry can be purchased but the extra Apache will break the bank.
With your powers combined
A final thought is the upcoming starter set.
The starter has an eclectic mix of three M1, two M3 Bradley and two M60 Pattons, plus a bunch of Soviet kit. If you can find a Soviet player to split the expected £40 retail price then its not a bad way to get some extra M1 and M3. We can slot them into the 81pt force our starter box creates to give us a 123pt force. It also gives us the option of switching to an Abrams Combat Team with a M2 Bradley infantry platoon (if we buy the infantry blister too), am M3 Scout platoon and then the HMMWV, M109 and Apache in support. Something to consider!