When Mike voiced the idea of a small “round robin” style event, I knew that I’d end up having to play axis to keep the allied and axis forces balanced. This then left the dilemma of what to take. Thankfully the lockdown was ending, Dice Saloon was opening (in an excellent new venue) and Duncan, Eddie and Nathan were all keen to try out their US forces they had been painting over lockdown…
List Building Goals
As ever, theming was first and foremost in my mind and so I set two challenges; I wanted the list to reflect 2nd Panzer, either in Normandy or after, and I wanted the list to “make a Pantherkompanie work”.
That last caveat was something of a challenge as I hadn’t really found a way of doing so, so far. None the less I tried an initial stab at a list. A HQ Panther and a minimum strength platoon of three Oanthers formed the core. To provide some mass the second box was used to add a full strength platoon of the PzIVH. The late addition of a pair of Ostwind sprues from Duncan pushed me to an Ardennes version of 2nd Pz and rounded out the formation.
Next up was support. A battery of Wespes, an OP and a recce troop of SDKfz 234/1 formed the basis for that. This left me needing some infantry but points were running low. It was time to turn to the cards.
First up was “Rebuilding”. This was a little cheeky given it was a title card for 16th Panzer but it helped get the Ostwinds in the list and felt suitable for 2nd Panzer given it went through a rebuilding phase just before the Ardennes started. The “Sperrverband” card was also of interest as it allowed me to take a Panzergrenadier unit as a support choice and have it in addition to my 60pt on-board force. I figured Panthers would need as much on table as possible! I added a Panzerfaust and Pansershrek which made for a 13pt unit and ensured I would only need a 27pt reserve; equal to the large Panzer IV platoon! My force eventually looked like this.
The Games – Panthers to the front!
Game One vs Nathan’s M5 Stuart Company and M10 Tank Destroyer Company – Dust Up
Nathan was a regular opponent of mine in the v3 days and was now returning to the fray with v4. His force combined a large number of M5s with a moderately sized M10 company, giving him mass and firepower.
Nathan elected to Manoeuvre and I went Attack, leading to Nathan defending in Dust Up, an old favourite.
I placed my PzIV in reserve, though I did briefly consider putting the three Panthers in reserve so I could maximise my on table fire power. The Panthers ability to resist the M10 fire swayed me but I think, in hindsight, the PzIV on table would have been better.
Nathan won the roll for first turn and wasted no time in putting the pressure on me, moving the Stuarts around to move towards my quarter, then, after losing an M10 to long range panther fire, moving the Tank Destroyers forward to improve the odds of a hit.
Whilst I was landing hits and winning small victories (the SdKfz234 knocked out the mortar carriers, the panthers eventually took out the M10 in a knife fight), the Stuarts were starting to work their angles and got my Panthers in a cross fire.
The Panzer IV were slow to turn up and, when they did, all they could do was head for Nathan’s engineers in a bold attempt to assault them off the objective, hoping to do so before Nathan got mine. But the Ostwinds died to Sherman fire and the HQ Panther, fighting to the last, got swamped, breaking my formation.
The take-away from Nathan’s game was that the Panther’s couldn’t kill light armour quick enough and, if a mobile battle, I’d likely soon be swamped and die to a hundred 37mm shaped knives in the flank.
Up next was Duncan.
Game 2 vs Duncan’s Indianhead Rifle Company- Free For All
Duncan has been working on this force as one of the potential candidates for a Warfare showing so was eager to try it out. Two large platoons of SMG armed infantry were backed up by six 57mm Anti-Tank guns, four M4(105), HMG and Mortars plus force support of five M4(76), four M10 and a pair of Thunderbolts. There was a lot of firepower to contend with.
I had the first turn and went aggressive, moving the Panzer IV up to just away from the tree-line separating them from the 57mm and moved the Panthers through the woods (go Cross 2+), staying out of sight of the M10 but ready to pounce on the Tank Destroyers in the next turn. The SdKfz 234/1 also advanced to try and keep the far left infantry platoon suppressed.
Duncan’s air power was relatively consistent in turning up but also consistent in not doing anything when it did. The first pass missed all the PzIV and a second pass on the Wespes killed one artillery piece but also saw one fighter-bomber downed by the defensive MG42 fire!
Duncan went aggressive with his infantry from the go, pounding my infantry with light artillery whilst advancing his men, killing my armoured cars along the way. The artillery pinned my reluctant infantry for most the game and forced the surviving infantry in the buildings to fall back away from the falling rounds. The Indianheads would eventually assault the Sperrverband and push them back to end the game contesting the objective.
On the right flank, the second infantry platoon moved to assault my tanks whilst the M10 and 57mm tried to bail and kill my tanks. I initially weathered this fire but then the Panthers assaulted the infantry and succeeded in driving them back. But I had done so in the wrong order, leaving my CO with his butt pointing to the distant 76mm. Sure enough they managed to land a hit, only bailing the tank but allowing his infantry to assault and capture it.
The platoon of three Panthers fell victim to M10 fire and then a moving bazooka shot! The Panthers ran, once again seeing the game end in a formation break.
Okay, apparently I still can’t make a Pantherkompanie work. Once again the Panthers had impressed me with mobility and protection but they were just sucking up so many points that the enemy were able to out number and outmanoeuvre the tanks. In hindsight I probably should have had the Panzer IV and Panthers swapped, with the PzIV tackling the infantry and M10 whilst the Panthers went aggressive against the 57mm on the objectives. That likely would have forced Duncan to drag his forces over to the right, allowing the PzIV to capitalise on flank shots.
Still, it was feeling like I was trying to ice skate up hill with Panthers.
Panzers (IV) Marsch
Before the “round robin”, I had one last game versus Eddie’s US Sherman company and I decided to try a change in list. I dumped the Panthers and instead swapped them out for more PzIVH. I then realised that this was more PzIV than I actually had so the last platoon of three tanks became a platoon of three StuG assault guns (a type 2nd Panzer received in its pre-Ardennes rebuilding), the extra point upgrading the SdKfz234/1 to Puma SdKfz234/2.
That left my list as:
Game 3 vs Eddie’s M4 Sherman Company – Free For All
I did note with some bemusement that my choice of using the Sperrverband to negate reserves had been, itself, negated by not having reserves in two of the three games!
Eddie’s force consisted of an M4(75) platoon, an M4(76) platoon, an M4 (105) platoon, armoured mortars, M5 stuarts and support in the form of a pair of heavy hitters; four M12 155mm guns and a pair of Lightning as proxy Thunderbolts.
This game went much better.
Masssed PzIV pushed down the right flank, initially squaring off against the HQ and M4(105). The StuG supported with long range fire but were positioned to fall back onto my central objective if it was threatened. The Pumas pushed the small PzIV platoon to the centre of the table to keep some options.
Eddie sent the Stuarts down the centre, forcing my StuG to react. He also moved the 76mm to the right as my HQ and large PzIV platoon landed more hits on the M4(105), weakening his hold on the objective.
On the left flank, the Pumas ran early but the small PzIV platoon had a successful dual with the M4(75), forcing the M12 to stop firing artillery and instead come and do something about the Germans on their doorstep. 155mm fire certainly did!
The game came down to who could clear their objective first. Eddie needed his aircraft to kill two StuG. They turned up… and failed. But they looked majestic doing it!
It was my turn to try and win and the PzIV managed to kill the M4 contesting the objective, granting me a win at long last!
The PzIV took a bruising in the last game, but I was much more able to cover ground and the tanks were still more than a match for US medium and light armour. The “rebuild” card generally didn’t hurt their performance too much, though I did curse the occasional failed blitz/shoot and scoot.
The Ostwinds proved surprisingly useful, so long as I didn’t get too carrier away. They had surprisingly good front armour and the 37mm proved useful versus infantry and light armour. In desperation it may work versus a medium tank from the side too! They are very much in the list to bulk out the formation but they appear to more useful than that. They even got to fire at an aircraft, blasting Eddie’s AOP out the sky!
The Pumas were a concern, usually running without achieving much. But I needed the Spearhead unit and that was all I had for Late War Germans. Some SdKfz250/9 may feature in the future hobby pile!
The Wespes have proven to be a useful and cost effective artillery piece, especially supported by an OP. The direct fire capability of the gun was not tested but hopfully it may help them hold an objective.
Finally the infantry did was Sperrverbands do best. Hold an objective. I don’t need them to do much more than that and I suspect they would be Reluctant to do more than that anyway!
I knew Nathan’s list and suspected Mike and Gav would be taking Cromwells and Shermans respectively (I eventually helped Gav write his list; after I had sealed mine, of course) so massed PzIV was more than sufficient to deal with those.
It was time to put this all to the test…