D-Day: Waffen SS – to Waffen Panzer or Not

In this article, Martin takes a look in some more detail at the differences between the D-Day tank formations from D-Day Germans and D-Day Waffen-SS that are now available to German Force players.

As with all things, there are personal choices that are made in choosing a force to collect and play in FoW.  But if, like me, you have no specific historical driver for choosing a particular flavour of German force then hopefully this article will give you something to think on when deciding exactly which list to choose to collect for your German Tank Force.

I’ll start with a simple comparison of the unit and then provide some thoughts on what these differences may mean for you in game terms.

I am only going to cover the Tiger, Panther and Panzer IV company in this article. The reason being the StuG Panzer Company isn’t in the D-Day Germans book and the Falschirmjager Assault Gun company is a different type of organisation altogether. The SS StuG’s are a conventional german Tank Company whilst, the FJ follow the Soviet model of an all-arms formation. Put simply they are too different to compare in the same way as I have here.

Tiger Tank Company

The Formation for both the Heer and SS are the same an HQ, three Tiger Tank Platoons and Anti-aircraft platoon so far no difference. The unit sizes are the same so no changes there either. So, let’s look at the profiles of the tanks. I am ignoring weapons and armour as here there is no difference; a Tiger is a Tiger and a Panther is a Panther, etc. My formation under consideration is a pretty typical seven Tigers and a four-team integrated AA option.

Skill and Hit On are the same, but we see a change in the Motivation profile with the SS option having a fixed 2+ Motivation. What this means. compared to the Heer profile is your tanks can counterattack and pass a Follow Me order more easily, as the Heer tanks only get a bonus to their Last Stand and Rally rolls. This isn’t much of a bonus and this is reflected in the points increase of a straight +1pt to the unit cost irrespective of the number of tanks, but in a force that will always be short of points, I’m not convinced there is enough benefit to justify having to part with an extra 3pts across the black box choices. [Mark disagrees with this as noted in our overview article – Lee]

The other platoon choice is the integral AA unit and these are noticeably different, with the SS having both a lower Skill and Hit On rating in exchange for the improved Motivation. 

With unarmoured tank teams susceptible even to infantry shooting, being easier to hit is most definitely not a benefit, and neither is the reduced skill making the Stormtrooper rule less of a benefit than with veteran units. For all this downside, you save just one to two points; not enough to cover the uplift in the cost of your Tigers.

My conclusion there isn’t much difference overall in either how these units will play or the cost for the two options. That being said the Heer option is a tiny bit more mobile and marginally cheaper. So, if I am going to play with a Tiger force I’ll be sticking with the D-Day Germans.

Panther Tank Company

The formations between the Heer and SS are slightly different, the SS gain the option to include a StuG platoon as the third platoon and the anti-aircraft choice changes from 10/4 2cm half-track and Mobelwagens for the Heer, to the unarmoured choices the same as the Tiger Company for the SS; thus making the AA choice a bit weaker with the loss of an AA option that is invulnerable to small arms fire

The changes in organisation make the Panther platoon a really flexible choice as you could field as few as four Panther tanks!

Let’s start with the platoons.  They benefit from Fearless motivation and Trained Skill but are penalised by being Aggressive.  With FA9 this isn’t such a bad trade off, especially as you save a point into the bargain.

The HQ platoon is a bit different as they still benefit from Veteran skill.  Added to this, they have the new SS rule Old Hands, allowing you to negate the tank platoons Trained skill rating by simply keeping the Platoon commanders close to the HQ.  With the points saving, this makes the SS Panthers a really viable choice compared to the Heer list.

With the way the profile points are balanced, the platoons are much cheaper than their Heer equivalent (at between -7pts and -11pts) and if used on mass, with say eight Panthers and a four-team AA option, you still have a quarter of your typical 100 point force left. 

By comparison, with the Heer, you would have as few as 4 points left for support. For the Heer’s cost, you can field three SS Panther platoons and still add in some support units; now that will make your opponent worry!
You will need to be careful early on in the game to try and eliminate any AT14 or more weapons platforms your opponent may have, but even against these you still have a 1 in 3 chance of survival at close range. Choosing Manoeuvre or even Defend battle stances as an option will make life easier in identifying where those high AT assets are on the tabletop; not something I would consider with a Heer based list.

My conclusion if you are going for lots of Panthers then the SS are almost the no brainer choice of German Forces to take.

The mixed tank formation is the most interesting aspect of this list, as it is with the Heer. With the reduced Panther costs if you want both Tigers and Panthers in your formation, the SS is the “go-to” option. If you go with just medium tanks there are real savings to be made, amazingly you can squeeze in 13 tanks for 100 points and still add some support. This gives the German player the opportunity to play with a much larger force than has been possible up to this point in the v4 journey.

Panzer IV Company

Again we see the same structure but also like the Panther Company there are some subtle changes with the option to swap the third platoon for a unit of StuG’s and the same AA option changes.

Motivation is still a mix of ratings like the Heer units but, with an improved remount of 2+, nothing to complain about and is handy vs infantry anti-tank weapons which are more likely to cause a bail result with their FP 5+ rating. Again the SS are Trained and Aggressive compared to Veteran and Careful so you lose out here.

Again, like the Panthers, the Panzer IV’s HQ is still Veteran rated and benefits from the Old Hands rule so you can mitigate against some of the loss of skill rating if you are careful in your deployment and positioning of units. 

Given you only have FA6 and AT11 you will need to try and negate being Aggressive by closing the range and overcoming your opponent quickly the SS Panzer IV’s are probably best suited to an Attack battle plan and I see them playing in a similar way to Soviet T-34 Hero formations. Maximising your Stormtrooper rule will be a key, so look for ways on the table top to use the Old Hands rule to maximum effect, try to concentrate your force, getting spread out may prove fatal.

Taking a formation of HQ and three platoons of four tanks with AA generates a saving of 14 points versus the Heer, enough to make a difference to allow you to field a fourth platoon of three extra tanks or bolster your units to five tank platoons. 

That should compensate for the loss of combat effectiveness from a higher attrition rate or gives a wider support choice. Overall the SS Panzer IV Company is, to me, a better option than the Heer one.

To sum up, of the three comparable formations the Tigers aren’t really different enough to what was already available but, the Panther and Panzer IV companies are. Both of these offer a new competitive additional formation choice introduced with the D-Day Waffen-SS book.