Hello Readers, Fred here, back with the 2nd part of GER Competitive in LW. Thank you for staying with us after this dark introduction for our toys with white crosses on the flank. Your wait hadn’t been in vain : today, I give you hope !
Saving Private Schultz
Now we have said Germans (GER) struggles in Competitive LW, let’s work on solutions that don’t involve waiting for a 5th Edition to drop. I’ve plaid the bad guys GER since 2009 and I like those challenging times, it’s part of the wargaming life. I’m pretty sure most of the aforementioned friends (who actually performed quite decently last summer) can agree as well.
Let’s have a look at some key Units helping the GER to achieve results in a competitive environment :
Half (Mad) Tracks : to me, they are the iconic models of LW GER V4. 251 transports, Stummels, AA Tracks, Flames Tracks, 250 and 250/9… they all share the same basis : a lightly armored vehicle (granting decent survivability to small arm fire and artilleries that are not heavy), with correct mobility and AP capacities (and sometimes even AT). While V3 was more sitzkrieg, V4 favors mobility and responsiveness. Enter the Mad Tracks, who will die a lot, may not handle as many situations as Infantry or Tanks or Guns, will need careful combinations (= they are all specialists), but can play pretty much all the battlefield positions, for a good points cost (from less than 1 point to up to 2 points – more toys to the party baby !) and be highly dependable. Mad Tracks are super great as storming an enemy position with crushing numbers of shots or create deep layers of steel on Objectives. The twin-6 Careful Stummels I played extensively last season is the combo I enjoyed the most @FoW since years. For the purists, we are only lacking the Pak40 version to have the Mad Tracks fill all positional… but Berlin is around the corner, no ?
Tank Destroyers : Stormtroopers is not that great a rule. Especially when you pay for it and can seldom use it (because it’s not possible, or risky, or not wise, or just can’t … yes, this is really most of the time actually). But if you are a very lightly armored model not designed to reach Contact and are looking at delivering supporting shots to your friends, you will surely appreciate to be able to play hide&seek. GER TD may not hit as hard as US/UK TD, but they are the best Unit to use properly the Careful + Veteran + Stormtroopers trio granted by the standard LW GER package. Hornisse are a bit too expensive (yet they can play their role if well managed), but Marder and Hetzers are fairly OK (albeith Hetzer mostly need a baby sitter – more on that below). If you want to actually use GER ratings/rules to their maximum, you should definitely look at these guys, a better investment than the other Panzers right now.
Super Heavies : tired of having your opponent saving against your AT ? sick of sweating every time you roll a save for your pricy Panzers ? fed up of brainstorming your Reserves system ? Just cross the Rubicon and play super heavies ! King Tiger, Elefant, and Jadgtiger sport the heaviest AT of LW, one that only other GER super heavies can resist to, have a front armor that will bounce 95% of the shots aimed at it, and are so expensive they are the perfect candidates for your Reserves pool ! All joke aside, Super Heavies have been around since V4 beginning (hello FE Ferdinand), but GER Bulge simply take them to another level. Points wise, they will hardly reimburse themselves. But they are not here for this. They are your gate keepers (especially those KT with 2+ Morale) that will either save your day when your lines are broken, or will deal the final blow to enemy’s ones, big Cats your opponent have to properly deal with while most of its tools won’t work against them. To be honest, Super Heavies are currently a much safer bet than the regular Panzers.
AT Guns : GER have a huge variance of ATG, from all calibers and prices. Awkwardly enough, I would rate the Flak36 8.8 as the standard ATG for LW GER now. 2 to 3 points (depending on Aggressive or Veteran), range 100cm, ROF2/AT14/FP3+, 360° field of fire, they are really interesting to negate battlefield areas with a threat the opponent can’t ignore and will have to deal with. The pricing allows them to reimburse themselves steadily (or trade by having opponent commits resources to handle them). They can’t Ambush properly (it’s not their role – you have far better Units for it), AA role is suboptimal (but as per every AA in this game), they can’t move (unless Light, ATG seldom move anyway), and they will suffer from Assault and Artillery (like any other Gun Team). Pak40 (the previous standard ATG for LW GER) do have better save (3+, unless Volks Arti) and can Ambush properly (again, unless Volks Arti), but they are higer price, with same vulnerabilities yet less efficiency (Range 80cm, AT12 (bad against Heavies), Forward Firing). To be noted, Bulge introduced Volks Artillery who allows the GER to decently play the game of 4-Artilleries while maintaining a fairly decent AT-Park. 3/4 batteries of KG Von Swoboda 8.8 (2×4) and Pak43/Pak40 Volks may be highly vulnerable (notably to counter artillery), but they scare a lot of things… All in all, GER ATG can usefully cover holes in the game plan as Utilities or participate strongly in the Core.
Artillery : GER can have both accurate, decently priced and resilient Artillery. Thanks to Heer and Slippery Slopes ranging in 3+ (a huge improvement over most of other Nations artilleries), Careful (or cheaper Aggressive) and Armoured. Some GER Artillery are fairly poor (too expensive, lacking Smoke Bombardments, too vulnerabe etc,), but HT Mortars and Wespe are stellar Units, Mortars can do the trick (if you are prepared to lose them during the game). Note : the above mentioned Volks Arti don’t really go into that category due to ranging in native 4+ and vulnerability. I would highly recommend having access to at least one Smoke Bombardment Unit to protect your expensive GER troops.
Infantry : We have already seen previously how important Infantry can be in competitive FoW V4 LW. GER Infantry in LW have several key advantages. While pretty much everybody has a least 1 weapon for their Infantry Unit to deal with Tanks (Defensive Fire + Assault), GER excel in having the best one (Faust, AT12), that hits normally (no smaller Tank Assault rating), and that can’t die unless everyone in the Unit is removed (it’s so good Soviets stole the idea for themselves !). Combined with sneaky Moving Out of Command, and access to 2+ of them in Units (either native (Bulge) or combining with HQ), this expensive option can really save the day and be a game changer. Then, Infantry works well in Assault when you can tick most of the criteria of reliability (Reaching / Damaging / Continuing). Being per default Careful / Veteran / Confident, they can reach Contact, deal damages, and keep being in the fight (especially with the aforementioned Faust), making GER Infantry really good here. Super Soaps trade lower reach for higher continuing, which, IMHO, is worse (you can’t continue a fight if you never reach it right ?), but manageable. Be careful though, non-standard (such as VolksGrenadiers/Brigade – unless upgraded) are not meant to play the same : they have other uses. Lastly, GER Infantry can be over equipped compared to the other Nations ones. On top of the excellent Faust, they can get the “standard” Shrek (albeit it is most of the time expensive) for even better integrated AT capacities; they can also get much valuable anti-personel options (my favorite one being the MG, having 2 shots while pinned down, really great to protect your Infantry from other Infantry Assaults).
Finally, depending on your Playstyles, Builds, Concepts, there are surely other GER Units you will find useful and interesting. E.G : Brigade Panther may not be great in a 8-Achille / Super Heavies meta, but they do provide a highly mobile Reserve Unit (20 points 50% of the 40 reserves for a standard 100-points game) with AT14 and Armor safe but for AT12+.
Form up the ranks!
Having decent Units is good, but which Books/Formations are best to choose, and how about the budget? Remember Nightmare on Helm’s Street, right? The GER currently have 5 Books & Cards Decks from which to pick Forces / Formations / Units from, 6 once Berlin is out, considerably more than any other Nation.
Before digging into this huge mountain (something us, meta chasers do … well, if the young son is kind enough to let us time to do it), just remember:
a) Choosing the Book grants the Support and the Command Cards => they are high variances here for the GER
b) Any standard Formation (= one not created by Command Card or modified by Command Card) can be mixed with another one/Book => phrasing it differently, if your Build relies on something specific, it will drive how you construct the full list, limiting your options, or, on the contrary, you just need a non-modified standard Formation (and GER have several interesting ones)
c) The modifications of the ratings in the 1944-1945 period considered by BF for the GER can lead to Builds with lot of diversity in them => if you use it well, diversity is a great strength. If not, it’s going to be a huge liability.
Instead of sorting out all the available Formations for the GER (had anybody ever counted them ? including Command Cards of course !), I will try to focus on the ones I believe have their sit at the competitive table.
Awkwardly enough, I will start with a Utility one, which, to me, is the most reliable Secondary Formation for the GER. Unless you play two Primary Formations (such as the twin 116th of 2021-2022 season) or a specific Build/Concept with a single strong Formation, this little one is literally perfect for its roles : the Half Track Scout Company. Available in all Books (but for Fortress Europe. Unless … Italy ?), meaning whatever your choice, you can access it, and benefit from it. In some Books, it’s branded differently (e.g : SS KG Schnell in Bulge) but it’s quite the same. The other version, similar (Armored Cars) is slightly less efficient (due to lesser armor), but does the job as well. What it does is quite straightforward : for a small points tax, you get a couple of Mad Tracks Units that can Spearhead (you needed one anyway) and annoy the opponent (in Offense or Defense) as fighting vehicles. But more importantly, you significantly boost your Force Morale with a 2nd Formation and a 2nd HQ.
I would recommend taking HQ and at least 3 Units (4 if SS) : Mad Tracks do die fast, so a safety net is always good, especially when it costs 2 or 3 points.
As Core, I believe most Competitive GER will focus on Infantry or Mechanized Infantry Formations. A couple of reasons to that :
a)Tank Formations are built around Panzers or Panzers-like (HQ + 2 Tanks Units). Considering the price tag of the Panzers, those Units will cripple the budget or make the Force fairly hard to field. It’s complicated with Medium Panzers, it’s close to impossible with Heavy Panzers (Panther, Tiger, Tiger II, JadgT/P…)
b) Tank Formations have a small Units count (usually : HQ + 3x Units + Anti-Air). Even if fully loaded (with the difficulty listed just above), it makes Formations largely vulnerable to Morale. This can be partially mitigated with a Secondary Formation (such as the HT Scouts) but hardly with another decent Primary Formation.
c) Efficiency and battlefield roles. A Tank Formation lacks artillery, infantry, recce, and, in general, Utilities. Sure you can take all those Utilities in Support, but consider your whole Force Morale will rely on an handful of Tanks Units in the Formation. Also, you seldom need these 2nd Panzers Unit : for the same price, you would be much more happy with a combo of several Units (such as Tracks / Infantry / Arti / ATG) which will, individually, be less efficient than the Panzers, but, combined, perform way better for lesser risks.
To me, the 2 reliable Core Formations the LW GER should lean on are :
– Infantry (Inf)
– Mechanized Infantry (Meca Inf)
Both share the same base of an Inf HQ, 2 Inf Units, and a lot of optional slots including infantry, arti and ATG, some going wider with AA, flames, SPG or even Recce. The main difference between both is the use and presence of Half Tracks.
Inf Formations such as Grenadiers, Super Soaps Gren., Volks … are slower and cheaper. Having limited to no access to Mad Tracks means they can’t run around the field with high mobility, but they do pay less for their troops, as the consequence of no Tracks (a “tax” of 2 points on average per Unit). Also, they do have access to less efficient weapons (R/MG vs MG, Pak36/Pak50 vs Pak40), lowering the bill. Such Formations will have the benefit of being less terrain dependent (Mad Tracks are great if you can hide/conceal them, fairly less if they are in the open) but have to consider they will suffer from concentrate fire (artillery as they have limited protection, difficulty to move around in MG-loaded field of tanks…). Consider this Formation as a decent anchor point around your Objectives and/or a slow and purposeful moving blob of offensive troopers.
E.G : basis of Grenadiers from FE, with HQ (no faust) + 2x Grenadiers (Faust) + 4x Mortars + 4x Pak36 = 34 points.
Meca Inf Formations such as PanzerGrenadier, Reconnaissance, both their Super Soaps versions, and Brigade… are faster and more expensive. They do share many characteristics of their foot-slogger counterparts, but the Mad Tracks are the key here. Because they provide them many optional slots (e.g : Reco Formation got acces to 2 units of SPG and 2 units of Recce) and because they change their gameplay (protection from small arms fire, mobility in Offense and Defense). Their better equipment make them more dependable on holding Objectives, while, on Offense, it’s the use of the mobility and strike power of the Tracks that will make the difference.
E.G : basis of Armoured PanzerGrenadiers from Bulge, with HQ (HT + faust) + 2x Arm. PzGrenadiers (4 HT + Twin Faust) + 4x HT Mortars + 6x Stummels = 51 points.
It shall be noted that, by Summer 1944, a couple of Meca Inf Formations provide an hybrid solution, by having compulsory : 1 Inf HQ, 1 Inf Unit, 1 Inf OR Tank Unit. This is notably the case for Bagration (4th Pz Div) or Bulge SS Ardennes. This mix is interesting because it effectively:
a) Removes 1 compulsory Inf/Meca Inf Unit from the Formation
b) Adds 1 compulsory Tank Unit in the Formation, moving it from Support to Core Formation
c) Keeps the package of the Meca Inf Formation intact.
Those hybrid Formations also preclude the end-War Builds for GER, with less Infantry, bringing new gameplay opportunities (stay tuned for a future article on that !).
Exceptions to the main focus on Inf/Meca Inf Formations as Core, it shall be noted a couple of Tanks Formations can actually make the competitive cut IMHO :
Hetzers Tank Destroyers : keeping in mind all that has been said on Panzers, and these turtles that can’t move and shoot straight and hate terrains. Add one man : Dietrich Von Saucken. This Command Card provides a solid Hero option that not only reduce the randomness of Reserves but also provides closeby Units in the Formation a 2+ Tactics rating. Now the turtles lose their very bad and crippling Tactics 4+ and get access to a strong “pika-boo” gameplay. Watch out thou, you will roll 6 to 8 Blitz/Shoot&Scoot dice per round, you WILL fail some (on average : at least 1 per turn). Armor 7 will protect you from time to time, but consider this in your strategy as it will lower your firing efficiency, and you have a very bad Side armor, so being flanked IS critical to you. Their weapons aren’t great, but the list plays by saturating the target you pick with numerous shooting. This Build is only available if you pick Bagration as your Book, and consider what Formation you will bring alongside them to tackle the other requirements (infantry, scouts, arti, heavier AT…).
Aggressive Panzers : Super Soaps or Brigade have downgraded Tanks. They are still expensive, but they do provide better protection and AT compared to the Tracks, keeping or bettering their Mobility and Motivation overall. They won’t win one-on-one fights versus the Allies Tanks (Sherman, M10, M36…) but they can complement your strategy. They are notably not bad in Reserves, where their vulnerability (being hit on 3+ base) can be mitigated, while their Mobility and armament (MG/ATG) allow them to play firefighters. The main issue being those Formations have 3 units with FA4+, meaning in scenarios with Deep Reserves, only 1 can be on board at the start of the battle. A mitigation way can be either don’t tag your list Defense (only occurrence of Deep Reserves possible) and/or to play solely 1 HQ + 2 Tanks Units + 1 AAA Unit in the Formation. For example, this works not that bad for the Brigade Panther, which 2×3 Panther (20 points each) will fill the 40 points Reserves slots of a 100 points game, and HQ Panther will play carefully on the board, with the AAA acting as life points (hello Mistaken Target). Last word of caution here : do think carefully about the 2nd Formation you bring along with them, as Aggressive Panzers are not reliable and still costy.
Keep your friends close … or the usefulness of Allies to GER
The V4 Allies system can be highly beneficial to the GER. There are 3 possible Alliances :
Those 3 Nations are available from Axis – Allies Bagration.
As a foreword, given how the rules are redacted, you can be quite liberal on this.
Yes, you can field a late 1944-early 1945 GER Build with FIN, or you can field King Tigers with ROM. I won’t debate historical accuracy here. My point is simply to explore what those Allies can add to GER in a competitive world :
FIN : not so great equipment on super soldiers. And that works. The captured Tanks are great : T26 bringing a fully armored vehicle with MG, small ATG, Fearless/Careful/Veteran assaulting machines, T-28 and KV hitting like a freight train in Assault, all those are very suitable Panzer replacement, dealing less damages in AT (limited to Light and Medium at best) but far more reliable and cost efficient. Infantry is interesting as well, with basic Confident troops (with Faust) will low price due to poor equipment, and option to field Fearless for a lower cost than the GER version (looking at you Fallschirmjager !). True FIN can bring alongside 1944 equipment, but their price is steep so hard to live by (StuG, T34/85, Pak40, full-Faust guys). Either a Secondary Formation added to a GER Build, or a Primary Build seconded by a GER Formation, the 2 Nations get along very well, complementing each other superbly.
HUN : the closest to the GER, on principle they are basically worse GER with points discounts. There is indeed an interest in fielding them alongside the GER to fill up gaps in the Build (because they are cheaper), or explore tactics (a 2-men strong nimble Panther unit, a turn 1 charging Huzars…), or make variances (HUN infantry as different Inf Formation). Notable exceptions are pure HUN Tanks, with Toldi/Turan bringing solid Confident Careful cheaper armored fighting vehicles. Unfortunately, the Zrinyi are fairly the shadow of what they use to be in V3, competing with the already not great GER StuG.
ROM : a pattern similar to the FIN, less the Morale. ROM are interesting in bringing Early War Tanks to the party, for suitable complement or replacement to the Mad Tracks. They do gain more armor (notably Side and Top 1+) and can be more versatile (R-2 and T-38 having 4 dices of MG and a light ATG). We also have discounted Panzer IV, StuG and Marder in. Infantry is on the same trend, for sure less resilient and dependable than the classic GER, but more affordable. Same goes with Guns. Careful thou with the discounts of these troops, they are indeed less effective. Apart from Morale (Motivation/low model count), the main drawback of ROM is their lack of powerful AT (being limited to the “Marder-like” topping AT12 at best and “Pak40-like” topping AT13 but fairly static). Here you can see the relationship they can build with the GER and their laser canons.
Going Allies, single Unit or a full Formation, is really up to the players (pondering also the weight of historical/non-historical). Each of these Nations can be good partners with the GER, notably in the areas where they don’t excel or where their Build is limited (e.g : Light/Medium Tanks). Also, while adding Allies, you should bear in mind they don’t count for your Force Morale. So playing a full Formation of Allies can be quite strong, but it can be wiped out without a single blow on them if the GER Formation(s) is/are defeated. This is a significant trade off and point of attention.
Bring me that horizon
Now we have seen what we can do with the GER toys we have (and hopefully this article restrains you from selling them on the Bay), what more can we expect ? It may be child whim considering how wide is the GER pool of toys, but surely we can expect a little bit of love from BF, can’t we ? Here is my wishes list :
Playable Panzers. To me, the GER Panzers should not be limited to only no armor/big gun or super heavies or niche play as they are now. I reckon the Panzers should be better priced for what they do. Maybe BF shall consider revamping the pricing of already produced toys that really don’t see battlefield often (if not never) : Panther, JadgP, IV/70… Also, with Berlin coming and an Italy focuss not produced, there is surely ground for “Panzers with flaws” (under the pattern of US and UK) : Reluctant Veteran Careful Panzer IV/StuG/Panther can be quite interesting, discounted 1942-1943 Panzer III (come on, this tank shall not worth more than 3 point each !), or even worse Aggressive Panzers (remember Desperate Measures Training Panzers?).
Another tank destroyers Formation. Granted we have Von Saucken Hetzers. But I really like the spirit of GER TD with limited armor playing around with Stormtroopers. Right now, the US TD do have this Formation (3 of them actually !) and are way more efficient at it, and UK TD are deadlier. I would love to be able to play 3 slots of Tank Destoyers without having to take the very too much expensive Hornisse. Or just revised the price of these ones ? New Formation perhaps ?
Formations playing with the Ratings and Special Rules. Opposite to the point just above, it’s nice that Bulge introduced troops diverting from the Confident/Veteran/Careful (Heer) or Fearless/Trained-but-not-Trained/Aggressive (Super Soaps) trios. I reckon we need more of those in LW : by 1945, GER are losing badly the war, they can’t just be pictured as Elite troops any more. The use of Reluctant rating is great (add that Third R* no more please), we should have more Trained troops, less Stormtroopers availability. Heck, we need diversity and we need the big bad wolf to have troops that are struggling as they were during that period of the war ! Yep, that should transcript in less expensive toy soldiers.
Review of the shelves Units and Formations. There are many Units in the GER arsenal that don’t see the light of day because they are plainly bad or wrongly pointed. It may be details (like Hummels not having Smoke B.) or clear issues (when was the last time you saw Brumbar ?) or high unbalancing (anything tagged Fearless/Veteran/Careful cost way too much to be considered fielded). And I’m not even talking about the vast majority of Command Cards that you seldom know they even exist. I mean : it’s the XXIst Century, the era of digital! Wouldn’t it be great to have regular updates on Nations ? Points, Cards, Builds… there is a lot to play with! (Seems we are slowly going that way with the Dynamic Points – Martin)
A way to replay the twin Stummels Build. OK, that’s super personal. It was so great I miss it so badly since LFTF 2022. I’m considering writing a letter to BF’s Customers Service to have it back…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. I firmly believe GER are trailing backward behind UK and US in the current meta. But by acknowledging their flaws and thinking about ways to tackle their defaults, I’m certain you can make your GER Builds a hard nut to crack in competition and have fun playing them.
Happy to hear your thoughts, feedback and experiences in Comments.
Knowledge is power : share it widely !