Hello there boys and girls, Fred here, looking at a good dive into the new book for Late War, Berlin German. I will try to provide a fair look from a general point of view and from my favourite application, competition. Put on your gloves, this one is full of fistfighters!
What’s new for the Germans?
Whether you are a German player or not, you have to give this new book a read: apart from the traditional historical, maps, orders of battles, and pictures, all of the great quality Battlefront has accustomed us to, this book really brings many new things to the game for the Edelweiss Lovers and their adversaries. It’s a very good investment to explore new ways to play this game!
It is the 6th Book for the Germans in Late War, more than any other Nation. Some would say they are BF’s favourites, but I would be tempted in saying it’s a book they deeply need. We still get several Formations organized as before, Tank, Mechanized and Infantry companies, having the familiar pattern, with an organisation not really different from what we have seen so far. But some Units and Formations are fairly different from before…
We can divide the novelties of the book into :
- New Reluctant Germans: forget about the overly motivated troops we had been served since the inception of V4, here we are talking about men who in the main want the conflict to be over! They want to come home. They generally have a lower Motivation than before and without the Third Reich special rule, many are plain Reluctant 5+, and some even Last Stand 6+! across many units and formations of the book. It’s a heck of a change, and we will go into the detail and what’s the impact.
- Cheaper Panzers: firstly a consequence of the above new rating, but also with the addition of “new” toys. Well, to be more accurate: older toys, revamped to serve the Germans in their last days, with the comeback of things like the Panzer II and Panzer III. Straight from the factory or the scrap yard, either way they are still vehicles with armour and a gun to fight.
- Hoards of Infantry: quite a lot of new Aggressive (or worse…) Units enter the game, to reflect the lack of seasoned troops for the German High Command and the necessity of getting more bodies onto the battlefield with the Allies at the gates of the country. Make no mistake they may be poor quality, but their equipment is still superb.
- New New Toys : Infra-Red night vision, Pak40 on Sdfzk 251, Aufklarer, Waffentrager, Kleinpanzer, Railway flak cars… new material coming in late, but making a splash when they hit the table tops!
In the new book, we have options for battle groups that represent:
- The remnants of the Panzerwaffe, with experienced yet demotivated tankers represented by Clausewitz PanzerDivision and Panzer Battle Group.
- The last Panzers, inexperienced troops rushed into the front with whatever they have left in stock represented by the Tank Training Companies.
- Germany’s last foot soldiers, with a motley collection of equipment, variable experience and motivation represented by the Berlin Fallschirmjager and Berlin Battle Group
- Lastly we have a mixed collection of Support options across Heer, Super Soaps, and Luftwaffe, similar to Bulge German
From a first analysis to me this book provides players with many new ways to run their Germans and fight against them, in non-competitive and competitive environments. It is a significant boost to German players in LW V4 and provides a lot of tools to address the current meta … and make a new meta all of their own.
I believe it is a meta-changer, and we are going to see why.
The Eye of the Tiger
By 1945, the Allies had Germany on the run. Everywhere German counter offensives had failed, and for the Allies it was time to finish the job. But the Iron Nation will not go down without a fight… comparing the Germans in this Berlin book to boxers: they are in the corner, taking massive blows, but they refuse to yield. And their coach is Balboa – they have a few aces up their sleeves.
First to enter the show, and most importantly to me with the Panzer Divisions becoming Reluctant. Keeping all the classic Veteran + Careful + known equipment, but with lower motivation. The book focuses first on Clausewitz Panzer Divison, introducing the Infra-Red (IR) equipment and rules. Stopping there for a second, IR basically gives you better fighting capacities at Night, but also a new way to play, launching offensives in the dark. This of course comes at a premium but can be quite the cornerstone of your strategy if your list and Battle Plan are built well. In Missions without the Meeting Engagement rule, if you Attack, you can start at Dawn, with all Units of your Night Fighters Formations moving freely out of their deployment area.
You don’t have to play IR you can opt to build Panzer Divisions without it. They are organized after the Late Panzer Divisions, with their Tank Formations being an assortment of tanks including Panther, Panzer IV, StuG, Panzer IV/70, and even Hetzer and Jadgpanther tanks, all this is supported by integral infantry and anti-aircraft artillery. All these folks come with a sweet point cost, such as 9 points for a Late Panther or Tiger, 4 points for an IV or StuG, and 7 points for an IV/70.
You have the option to field the Mechanized Infantry, organized as per the Brigade Infantry of Bulge: only 2 Compulsory Infantry Units (HQ + 1 platoon), all with Faust (a regular platoon being Limted 2), the 2nd Compulsory choice can be AAA (Sdkfz 20mm or Triple 15mm), and fewer choices or lower models count.
Before the internet starts flamming about the low point costs of all this starts, a couple of things to consider:
A. Reluctant is a major handicap in V4. You will keep on being Pinned Down/Bailed Out often, you can’t really count on your models to sustain Assault, and as soon as bullets come flying, your boys will flee rapidly. And to mitigate that, you have to invest in large squads to delay the moment when it happens.
B. Germans have been expensive since Fortress Europe. These new toys aren’t all cheap, 12 points for a PanzerGrenadier Unit is still fairly expensive, especially if they are poor in Assault; simply put the reduction is well welcomed to allow them to compete with the Usual Suspects, looking at you USA/UK.
One noticeably revamped Unit, the StuH is the new bane of Recce. Impervious to the Recce from the front, with top 1, and a gun that can raze the tiny Scouts (and any other light armour with top 0) from the surface of the board, those bad boys will shift radically the concept of Recce being the Apex-Predator of LW V4 in competition. Available to all German lists (it’s a Black Box Unit and a Black Box Formation), with a price in line with the Wespe, it allows German to align 2+ Units of AT3/FP3+ templates, on top of a complement for Berlin Germans to play the Rule of 4 with Artillery. There will be a before and an after, and I’m glad this Unit makes its way into the meta to shift it heavily.
Continuing on the “no-so-great-anymore” Panzer road, Germans players now have access to even more downgraded tanks. The Last Panzers (or Training Tanks) provide Confident + Green + Aggressive panzers, something like having a very decent car piloted by your kid. Those are quite similar to the models introduced in Bulge with the Brigade or what the Super Soaps are accustomed to having, but even worse overall. With Panzer IV, StuG and Hetzer being in the 3-4 points area, and Panther and Tiger within the 7 points area, players can now experience even worse Tanks with the Panzer III and Panzer II, both being quite obsolete (when facing other Tanks) by 1945. They also have access to a poorer Tiger II, which, for 12 to 14 points a model (depending on if its made by Porsche or not), which are clearly worse than the Motivation 2+ ones of the Bulge, these allow different options with Reserves. The Formations are interesting because they are led by an HQ that is a seasoned boss, retaining its normal ratings (Confident + Veteran + Careful), and passing its skill to nearby Tanks (with the Old Hand Rule, identical to the Silked Specters), and supported by AAA and up to 2 PanzerGrenadier platoons, which you can equip with a variety of options (inbuilt or with Command Cards), for a much-needed support.
Last to arrive, the Infantry Soup. Berlin provides the Germans with the option to field troops of whatever quality you desire – you can have highly or poorly motivated, skilled or not, seasoned or fresh. In effect, the Berlin BattleGroup gives the choice between 7 (!) Units. We have back the Bulge Late PanzerGrenadiers (and their Ardennes SS counterpart), as well as the Bulge Volksgrenadier, and are introduced to 4 new Units. The Training PanzerGrenadiers (see above), the Berlin Fallschirmjager, the Volkssturm and the “Men without Moustaches” (H.J). Almost all of them can have a Formation on their own to bring the most flavour. FJ are Fearless Aggressive foot-sloggers who get a discount for being Green, pay their option cheap (1 point, HMG and Shrek available), are quite decent in Assault (4+ and Faust 2), and can be Stg44 focused or K98. When you add all the options, they are not going to end up cheap though. But is perhaps the first truely viable FJ Formation we see since V4’s inception.
Volkssturm and HJ are another meta shifter, being a Black Box, you can add them everywhere, and you will probably do it first because of Local Militia rule – same as FFI/FTP or other Partisans, they always start on the table, not counting their points for Reserves, they have poor ratings (with the prize plum being the HJ being Reckless … yes, it’s Hit on 2+ !), but those are speed bumps the opponent can’t ignore. Volkssturm is 9-10 with twin Panzerfaust + LMG, HJ can all be equipped with Panzerfaust if you want (on top of being Fearless).
In the Berlin BattleGroup, you can mix and match all of them, to truly represent the German Capital fighting with what it had left, with a mix of similar various ratings weapons (Pak, Artillery…). Command Cards also allow changing some supporting weapons (like HMG, and Mortars…) into Local Militia. They are worse, but they are always on the table. To be noticed, the Command Cards bring the option to field Westfallen and Kriegsmarine troops, for some kind of Super Soap (Fearless / Trained / Aggressive) variant with some interesting options (like the dreaded two Panzerfausts and three Panzerschrek Tank-Hunting platoon). The soup can be made spicier!
Lastly, some new Units are available in Support (which is soup, much like the Berlin KG). Alongside classical Recce, Guns, aircraft and Artillery, you will find the option to field :
new Recce (Auflkarer 38t, which is less effective but cheaper Luch, 234-Pak40 for a much punchier Recce)
single Elefants or JadgTigers (with accompanying huge debate on which one to the field for almost the same points cost – my money is on the plastic one, Martin),
new Tank Destroyers Waffentrager 8.8, a cheaper Hornisse sporting a Pak43, Kleinpanzer, a tiny 3-man 5 point Unit (Fearless Trained Careful with 2 PanzerShrek shots each), a Marder II, to go with the new Panzer II plastic kit,
Luftwaffe AA Reluctant Trained Aggressive guns of every calibre, including the option for Railway AA Guns, a long-range ambushing glass cannon.
On Command Cards
Again there are several new Command Card Formations, you get access to the Luch Scout, Auflkarer Scout, and Sdkfz 234 Scout, for an alternative to the classic 221-222 and 250 Scout options. There are some fun heroes as well, one 2-man Units of Faust-doomers, an expensive Panther Commander to Rally/Remount/Last Stand Clausewitz Panzers on 3+, another one bringing sTactic 2+, and Mister 2000 target destroyed, aircraft pilot Hans Rudel makes another appearance.
Punching their way into defeat
Gamewise, I reckon BF did a great job with this book. It does bring new flavours to the game, and it enables German players to addresses the meta, something they have been struggling with following the Bulge releases.
First, the cheaper troops, at the expense of worse ratings, offer a wide range of opportunities. Make no mistake, toying with ratings such as Reluctant, Aggressive, or Green, is not easy: it’s a massive change to the classical Confident/Fearless + Veteran + Careful security many players often rely on. Same goes for the equipment available, you don’t run the best car around any more. German players will need to carefully weigh their decisions to go the “cheap way” compared to a more “secure way”, pondering their choice by the actual efficiency of their troops on the tabletop. In effect, you can expect to deploy more toys on the table, or toys you couldn’t afford before (notably the big cats). But those will be more vulnerable and notably less reliable in return. You will need to consider the opportunity to be more aggressive in your offence and defence, potentially using numerical superiority to swamp objectives – a novel experience for German players.
Second, the book adds key elements for a better list building and playing experience. The reserves system is no longer the guarded field of Bulge SS Tiger 2: now you can expand with Berlin Tiger 2, Reluctant Panzer, and Local Militia, as well as a bigger toolbox, deciding what kind of Reserves system you want, instead of being one dimensional. Previously struggling to address offensive gameplay, Berlin German brings both Panzer en-masse, US or UK style if taken as Careful, or Soviet-style if taken as Training Tanks, and effective armoured artillery: the Wespe is no longer the sole solution, the StuH is a much-needed relief to complement them, or even go the pushy road of 3 or 4 of them. Also, the various infantry options are quite interesting for those who want to play 3+ platoons of foot-sloggers, or only a single one, while previously constrained by an even number (such as 4 platoons to field 2 mechanized formations). Eventually, you will like to try the new toys for a wider experience: the expanded Recce (Auflka, 234/Pak40), TD (Waffentrager/Kleinpanzers), and Luftwaffe (notably the Railway) are not changing the game, but do add some fun and goodness.
What will be interesting in the months to come is how players drive the Book. You can run it solo (or as your Primary – Formation/Support/Command Cards), but you can also run it combined with the Core Formations and Black Box Units, thrown in the bucket from another Book. That offers a huge range of happiness when you consider several of the new entries with this publication.
We already see with Bulge how a single Unit (Tiger 2) or Formation (Brigade) can find its effective way into German Builds: I believe Berlin is a better Bulge. It continues the trends initiated by Bulge (multiple-faust infantry, Big Cats, cheaper Panzer, new Formations specifics…), and takes them to another level.
I forecast FoW boards in the next weeks will see a lot of testing for Reluctant/Veteran/Careful troops, Aggressive Panzers, StuH, Worse-Big-Cats-which-are-still-Big-Cats, Volkssturm, HJ… and much more stuff!
I am very excited by the arrival of this book: it really wraps up the deal for the Germans in LW, now able to play the full scope of the game: very expensive super great troops, or cheap bad troops, and variances in between.
What’s great is it’s up to the players to decide what they want to bring and how it will work.
Competitive-wise, I rank German Berlin 3rd overall, behind UK D-Day and US Bulge. A nice spot!
I put my money on the Clausewitz and friends because it suits my play style, but I know others are already looking at hoarding Local Militia or mixing weaker Panzers and elite ones.
Diversity and players’ choices, are beautiful ain’t it?
Knowledge is power: share it widely!