Fred here, back with more in our article series on Assault.
After our 1st part on what / why / how Assault, here is the 2nd one on details of an Assault and the decisions you will have to make. Hold on to your but, it’s going to be shaky!
Phase 3 – Being involved in an Assault
The 3 factors you need to consider to appreciate the expectancies of success in Assault are :
is the capacity of your Unit to actually get into the Assault. Your Unit may hit like a freight train, if it doesn’t reach the enemy, its damage output will be zero. Here you have to consider the super important feature Defensive Fire (or DF).
DF being a free shooting phase granted to all Teams within 8’/20cm of an assaulting Team ending in contact with a defending Team. You determine who can shoot (distance + LoS) from the ending position of the assaulting Team, not its starting position. There is a subtle tolerance granted here by LFTF for models with the Forward Firing rule: these can still conduct DF if the assaulting Team started fully within their 180° frontal arc and ends its move to contact at least partially still within this arc. All shooting models count as stationary (counting non-moving ROF, allowing to shoot over Infantry). Once you have determined who can shoot, roll dice like a normal shooting. Against Infantry, if 5 or more hits had been scored (8 if you have 12+ Infantry teams assaulting), the Assaulting Unit is pinned down, repelled, and all assaulting teams fall back 2’/5cm. Against Tanks, if 2 or more are Bailed Out or Destroyed, the Assaulting Unit is repelled, and they fall back 2’/5cm. You can perform DF as many times as your Team is assaulted, so if you got charged 3 times by 3 enemy assaults, you will get 3 lots of DF. #UnlimitedBullets
Connecting is all about maths-of-war : it’s a balance between the Assaulting Unit resilience and how many enemy models are going to shoot plus what damage they are able to inflict. E.G : if your Unit is Reckless (Hit on 2+) and Assault in the Open, then the opponent need very few dice to score the 5/8 hits on a 2+ to stop you. On the other hand, if your Unit is Careful, assaulting through Smoke and Terrain at Night, your opponent will really struggle to reach the 5/8 hits on 7+ to prevent contact.
Using line of sight and negative modifiers to influence the to hit score is key : Terrain and Smoke are usually quite common, Slow Firing (or anything making +1 to Hit because of Pinned Down) less so and Night is much more circumstantial. As a sub factor, the Save of your Unit is relevant : if you manage to reach the enemy because it doesn’t score enough hits, but your Unit is wiped out… dust can’t fight. To that extent, obviously this matters for the Tanks (which can only be stopped if they fail saves), but also for the number of Teams you will commit in the Assault. A single Infantry stand, assaulting cunningly in a weak spot of the line, may not draw much fire, but a single save missed and it is down and the assault fails.
On a side note, Cross is also something to consider in Connecting. If the enemy is not in the open, your non-Infantry assaulting teams will have to makea cross check if see they can actually reach them. If they fail the test, then they are not connecting. Failing a cross check is quite common in standard Armored Teams have a cross of 3+, some are blessed with 2+, and a significant propostion with 4+ or worse. Just be vigilant here, and remember DF is done after the In Contact move, So the number of Teams that make contact is quitre important to the outcome.
is the capacity of your Unit to be efficient during the Assault. It is measured with its « hit » capacity (Skill or Assault if better) and its equipment. To damage an In Contact enemy team, you roll Skill/Assault check : if you pass, the target is destroyed unless its an Armored Team. So, yeah, Tanks can roll over Infantry and Gun, crushing them under their tracks, and Infantry vs Infantry can be bloody. There is no quicker way to damage troops than Assault @FoW, another reason why it’s a key step in a time-driven game. Told you it was way more efficient than pew-pewing…
Equipment comes in play when facing Armored Teams. Unlike most other Teams, these have a save against hits in Assault. Infantry and Gun Team can choose to hit the Top or the Side (sometimes they don’t have the choice, like Forward Firing Gun being assaulted in the back). Hitting top will be AT2 / FP1+, which is relatively squishy against Armor. E.G : a regular Tank with Top 1 will never be destroyed, only bailed out. Some Command Cards give AT3, but those are limited, and are seldom great value. If you want your troops to damage Armored Teams in combat, you need proper equipment. Either because you are a Gun with AT assaulted from the front, either because you are an Infantry and you have portable AT. The benefit of both is hitting against the side armour rating of tanks, thus having a greater chances to penetrate (but for some silly unhistorical monsters, the actual best side armor a tank can get in FoW is 8). All of the sudden, the prey can become the hunter.
Bear in mind that, although damaging is important, Assault is not all about causing damages to the enemy. So if you have limited Damaging capacity, it may still worth while to launch an Assault to Push/Repel/Gain. E.G : a pair of Scout Armored Cars charging an Infantry without AT-portable weapons : the Scouts are unlikely to be stopped by DF, they will cause very few damages, but they will still force the opponent to test for Counter Attack.
is the capacity of your Unit and the targeted Unit to keep being involved in the fight while blows land. The two main drivers of continuing are motivation and sustainability.
Regardless of the damage done, if the target Unit is not destroyed, it all falls down to a dice roll to check if it can stay involved or is forced to fall back. Basic motivation (4+) gives Units a 50/50 chances of success. Several unfit for assault units are worse (5+ or 6+), while tailored to assault units get better (3+ or even 2+). At first glance, you don’t need to be expert to determine that it is better to be involved in an Assault with fitted to the job units. But that’s a little bit deceptive as the key of motivation is risk mitigation, a.k.a command re-roll. The easiest way to achieve it is through the Formation Commander(s). Make sure they are within Command Distance and Line of Sight of the assaulting/assaulted Unit Leader, bearing in mind you don’t need your Commander to be involved in the Assault to provide its reroll. Another way is through Lucky command cards, which can compensate the loss or lack of presence of the commander. Maths-of-war wise, a re-roll is far better than a better native motivation. E.G : a 4+ Motivation with re-roll is 75% chances of success, while a 3+ Motivation without re-roll is 66,66%.
If you want to involve your Unit in an Assault or if you are Assaulted, it is key to calculate the odds of your Units succeeding or failing those motivation tests. Engaging a poor motivation unit in Assault and expecting it to keep on being in the fight is poor play. If you expect your Unit to be assaulted, forecast the number of turns it may last in combat, if possible on at least 2 game turns (and same if you are the assaulting player). E.G : a classical 4+ motivation Unit backed up by an HQ may fail its 1st test (25%), fall back and regroup. The following turn, it is unlikely it will also fail its 1st test (odd of failing twice in a row a 4+ reroll test is 6,25%). From another perspective, the Unit is likely to success its 1st test (75%), but this will degrade the longer the combat lasts (2nd test success is only 56,25% if 1st was success, so barely above 50-50).
Sustainability is closely linked to damaging. It represents the capacity of the Unit to actually take blows. Assault is absolutely deadly on teams without Armor. You hit, you remove Teams, period. Teams that don’t have Armor thus must count on numbers. A small unit assaulted by a decent enemy is at high risk of being wiped out in a short time frame. A big unit will definitely stands longer. Same, sustainability does take into consideration retaliation, which is the capacity of the assaulted unit to strike back, providing they are not forced to fall back. Both notions being connected to the damaging data detailed above. The deadliness of Assault is a two way street : the assaulted Unit may take heavy blows, but if it counter attacks, it will in turn damage the assaulting unit. E.G : a 12 men strong platoon of Green Infantry may seem helpless when assaulted by a deadly full platoon of UK Commandos (Assault 2+), but it can effectively hold them for 3 turns in Combat and impair them quite well in return.
Armor brings a new data element into acount here, because teams with armor roll saves. Even the most humble armoured team, with side 0 or 1 and top 0, has a much bigger chance to sustain an assault. Let’s consider that, unless you have a specific dedicated AT weapon (either portable such as Bazooka, PIAT, Panzerfaust… or specific, such as anti-tank gun), Armored Teams will have at least a 3+ save (2+ if Bail Out is a manageable outcome for you), which is huge compared to no save at all! AT weapons are a good, if no compulsory, way for Units to handle Armor in Assault, bearing in mind :
1. Unless you have portable AT, your AT weapons won’t be able to move to engage the Armour, nor can they strike if they are outside the firing arc (which limits quite a bit the efficiency in Assault of AT Guns notably)
2. Portable AT can be protected within your Unit. Even if they can be targeted in the shooting step (and most notably when the enemy is too close for mistaken target), both the size of the Infantry Unit per se, and the fact the defender in Assault is allocating hits amongst eligible targets, make them last longer. And the longer they are in an assault, the lower the sustainability of enemy Armored Unit is.
Continuing is the perfect complement to damaging. They are not quite opposed, as damaging can affect sustainability thus impact continuing, but it goes without saying that forcing an opponent to flee a key position is, most of the time @FoW, a game where you need to claim objectives, quite a success already (on top of being easier than rampaging a whole enemy platoon!).
Combining those 3 factors, you can weigh your decision to commit or not in an Assault.
As a side note, the player who is « receiving » the Assault will also ponder the 3 factors and not only 2 (damaging and continuing) to determine its expectancy. Because if the opponent does not succeed in its Assault, in the next turn or after, they may be able launch an Assault on their own !
E.G : Player A has its Fearless Conscript Reckless unit assaulted by Player B. Not having managed to repel the Assault with DF, Player A weights in the decision to keep on being involved. Conscript means very few hits will be damaging, but Fearless grants good continuing. What would make Player A decision to carrying on the Assault or not is Reckless, which makes connecting very difficult. If Player A can withdraw and still prevents Player B from winning, he may do so safely. On the other end, if leaving the assault makes it compulsory for Player A to get back next turn in the Assault, it may worth it to stay and fight.
Appreciating opponent Unit’s factors are also key to take your decision of commitment in an Assault.
E.G : continuing the above example, Player A is assaulted by Player B large Unit of British Commando, which are Fearless Careful, but also Deadly (Assault 2+), making them grinding machine against infantry. If Player A decides to keep on committing in the Assault, he can’t expect to beat Player B on continuing (both being Fearless) and can’t expect to beat Player B on damaging (its troops hitting on 5+ while being hit back on 2+). So he really has to pounders the reasons (or choices) to stay and fight.
The perfect Assaulting unit is obviously Fearless Veteran Careful. But those, even if lethal, are quite expensive, so you may not be able to afford them in your budget. In my opinion, if you need to choose between the 3 factors, I would favor Units able to achieve the most Connecting. Simply because the other factors won’t matter if you don’t make contact with your target.
Also, consider in How to Assault? That it is vastly in the offender’s hands : the one who launch the Assault has control. They are the one :
– making the choice to go for combat or not,
– optimizing the Reaching, Damaging, and Continuing probabilities,
– appreciating the outcome of the Assault.
But as per every wargame, control is not only in one player’s hand. Both players have to be active, and appreciate the full scale of the battle to determine how to make the most of the Assault step, and mitigate both the risks and losses.
We will go into details of this last part in the final article of our series next time.
Knowledge is power : share it widely!