Today Lee looks at one of the interesting developments from Stripes, the appearance of “Allied formations”.
Lying in the shell of what had once been a shop, Lance Corporal Sam “Welshie” Jones of 2 Para kept the Cark Gustav “Charlie G” cradled in his arms and watched the road. The company had been airlifted into position by RAF Chinook only a few hours ago to hold one of the many river crossings that stood between the Soviets and the Dutch border. The fighting had been intense and the ammo expenditure greater than anticipated, but the bridge had to be held until relieved so that a new defensive line could be established.
The Soviet barrage had lifted moments ago, the launch signature of the last of the surviving Milan posts opening up heralding the beginning of the latest red push. Now the Paras’ own 81mm mortars were opening up with a ‘Final Protective Fire” of HE and White Phosphorous to force the enemy infantry to seek cover or stay bottled in their BMP.
Not that that would likely stop the tanks.
Right on cue one of the beasts rounded the corner ahead of him. Welshie knew that he had to wait for the T-64 to draw level and try and shoot into the thin(er) hull side where the ammo-cassette sat; he just didn’t fancy his chances. The fact his loader had a LAW in his hands rather than another anti-tank round for the Carl Gustav suggested that he agreed with Welshie’s assessment.
Suddenly there was a double flash; one to his rear, then one to his front as the T-64’s turret started its ascent skyward, followed by a tremendous roar that physically battered him as the pressure wave from a tank’s main gun washed over his firing position.
Ear’s ringing, Welshie watched as a slab sided tank cruised past the window, star bangled banner fluttering from the radio mast, a ghetto blaster lashed to the side rails blasting out Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” over the clatter of treads and a surprisingly quiet vacuum cleaner like hum.
Welshie let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding and lowered the Recoilless Rifle before shaking his head. “Bloody Yanks. Always got to make a bloody grand entrance.”
Its easy to focus on all the new US options in Stripes but one of the interesting developments was tucked away on the Force diagram. In the bottom right corner is an additional formation in a Green box labelled “NATO ALLIED FORMATION” with a Leopard 2 silhouette.
This, for example.
The war in Europe was always going to be a multi-national affair. The US would end up fighting alongside the Canadians and Germans in CENTAG and the British, Dutch and Belgians in NORTHAG. Whilst the forces would be largely self-contained, the chaotic nature of warfare would occasionally have thrown forces together on the battlefield. The new “allied formation” slot lets us represent that in the game in a formal manner.
The Allied formation has some limitations – the formation commander only benefits his own formation and the formation does not count for determining how many formations are left. But the allied formation can also cover any holes in the US capability or accentuate its existing strengths. What follows are some thoughts on how to use this to create some interesting (not necessarily great in a tourne) forces.
Preparing the Base
As only the US Formation count for seeing if the force is in good spirits, we need to make sure we have a suitable base to work with. What we need is a formation that will have two units in good spirits through the game, whilst still leaving points to spend on some allied goodies. Here are some logical bases to work with:
The USMC and 82nd Airborne both bring a mass of infantry that the enemy will struggle to whittle down to the two stands required for a break test. The USMC can field as many as 14 infantry teams in the platoon and have a morale of 3+ should the enemy manage to kill 12 of them! The 82nd Airborne are slightly smaller at 12 teams in a maxed out platoon, and not as motivated with a morale of 4+ but do unpin on a 3+ which can be handy in keeping the M47 Dragons active. Both can get two fully equipped platoons and a HQ for 25-29 points leaving a good chunk of our 85pts left to spend. Its a bit dangerous leaving the formation at only three units including HQ, but what units they are! It’s going to take a lot to shift.
The US Mechanised Infantry don’t benefit from the big units of the Airborne or USMC, having only 8 stands per unit, maximum, but w three of those platoons and a HQ and still be cheaper than two maxed platoons of the others, with points to spare on some mortars or ITV.
Any of the above three work well with an Armoured ally but may produce too much redundancy with an Infantry based ally.
Armour survives in one of two ways
- Lots of medium armour that lurks on the flanks, picking its shots, preferably under a heavy anti-air umbrella.
- A few pieces of nigh invincible heavy armour that *really* needs a heavy anti-air umbrella as aircraft based AT is pretty much the only thing that can kill it.
The USMC M60A1 and US Army M60A3 can get a HQ and three platoons of 4 tanks each for just over fifty points for 13 tanks (or 26 AT20 shots a turn). With a front armour of ‘only’ 15 then they are going to struggle against massed Spam-drel tactics and even T-55AM2 can get a cheeky front armour jab in on occasion. Terrain masking will be your friend. With just under 35 points left, less some serious anti-air coverage (10-16 points easily depending on taste), that doesn’t leave much for the allied component.
Another option is the IPM1, sporting a front armour of 19 and a side of 10 with Cobham. A BMP-2 can’t kill it with flank 30mm fire (screw you Nathan and your Crusader-esque BMP tactics!) and front arc Spandrels are mostly going to bounce. But the IPM1 comes in at 9 points a tank. Even a minimum Armoured Combat Team is going to be 45 points for a HQ and two, two tank platoons. How much do you trust your dice on that one?
Another avenue is the Armoured Cavalry. We can get 4 IPM1, two M901/M113 combo scout teams and some mortars for less than we’d spend on the M60. The mortars can hang back, the scouts can stay hidden and the formation will hold, even if the dice decide to curse our hurbis on relying on the best that Chrysler can manufacture.
Needless to say, an Armoured base works best with an infantry ally.
The HMWVV and LAV formations both produce very cheap maxed out formations that can produce some firepower and numbers. But you are also relying on some (admittedly stealthy) glass cannons for your base and relying on your allies to bring infantry and armour to the party. I’m sure there are some interesting synergies that can be created (especially at 100pts) but be wary with using these formations as your base.
Friends with Benefits
Right now, the rest of NATO is represented by the Germans and the British. We know there will be a NATO book of some flavour in the future and I can’t believable that the French won’t appear but lets make like Rumsfeld and field the army we have.
Special Relationship – The British
The British are the king of the Infantry formation thanks in main to three things: the skill and assault advantage of the British infantry, the Carl Gustav and the Milan ATGW. The Milan outperforms the Dragon and the Carl Gustav has similar performance to the USMC SMAW but benefits from being on a four person base so doesn’t suffer a hit to its close combat performance – essential for a point defence against rampant BDD armoured tanks.
The Mechanised Infantry have both, plus the numbers to stick around and the skill to best utilise them. Combine that with access to more Milan sections/MCT, machine guns, mortars, tanks and recce, all in the formation, and you have a very versatile formation to compliment the US base. A HQ with two GPMG, two full strength platoons with Milan, plus a 4 post Milan section comes in at 25pts, perfect to provide support to the IPM1, either on the attack or sitting back to hold objectives.
The other British infantry formation is the Airmobile Infantry. Whilst it lacks the Carl Gustav for point anti-tank defence, and has a smaller squad size, it still brings eight teams to the table, 3 of which are Milan ATGW aka “T-don’tcareitsonfire killers”. A maxed out company comes in at 28pts and brings a whopping 14 Milan teams, 8 GPMG/LAW teams, 2 GPMG(SF) LMG teams and a HQ. These provide a useful base of fire to support the M60 tanks of a US Armoured Mech company.
The Chieftain may be showing its age, but its AT22 main gun still packs a punch and a stillbrew equipped Mk.10 is still cheaper than an M1 whilst being equally well armoured in the front arc. Just under 50pts buys us 7 Mk.10 Chieftains so we have over half the hulls (and therefore shots) of the M60 lists but a lot more survive-ability versus all but the high end threats and could provide a useful compliment to a US Infantry formation.
The Medium Recce Squadron doesn’t really offer much that the LAV or HUMVEE formation isn’t already doing.
Vorsprung durch Technik – The Germans
The German Infantry, like the British, also hold some advantages over their US counterparts. Along with integral Milan ATGW support, the Panzerfaust 44 is no Carl Gustav but its still better than a 66mm LAW and the Germans also have a better skill and a much better motivation – understandable when the Soviets are marching through your home turf! They can also have the Marder IFV which beats the M113 on all but side armour. However, the Germans are no better in an assault than the US and have tiny platoons (a max of 5 strong for a Marder platoon, 6 for an M113 platoon). Still, 22 points secures us 6 Milan, 10 Marder and 9 MG3/Panzerfaust 44 teams (or 9 Milan, 9 MG3/PzF44 teams and 10 M113). We can even squeeze in some 120mm skill 3+ heavy mortars too!
The real strength of the Germans is, much like WWII, its armour. The Leopard 1 is less armoured than the M60 but can drive circles around it. So long as the table has terrain, the Leopard 1 can turn a flank and drive some AT19 fin rounds into a Soviet tank or BMP formation. One force concept I sketched out was to go double tanks – an Armoured Cavalry force with 4 IPM1, 2 x 2 Scouts and a small Aerorifle platoon backed up by a German Leopard 1 Panzerkompanie of 2 x 3 Leopard 1, plus 4 Gepards and 4 Redeye teams.
Of course, the real star of the Panzer show is the Leopard 2. It outperforms the base M1 in most key characteristics (remount and side armour being less than the US counterpart) and can still outshoot the better armoured IPM1. But its a hefty 11pts a tank and difficult to build a formation around. The best bet is to take a Marder company with a HQ, Marder platoon and 3 leopard 2 and that still comes in at 41pts. But pair that up with a USMC Rifle company with two full strength platoons and we can still squeeze in a trio of PanzerMorser, a quartet of Gepards and attendant Redeye teams. Of course, with only two US platoons and less than a third of the total points, we have crossed dangerously into the bounds of “US in name only”!
I should also point out that almost every German formation has access to the Gepard and its attached Redeye teams. The Gepard out performs the Sgt York on all factors (AT, cross and dash mobility, actual service history) bar front and side armour and that really comes down to how much paper you want between you and everything that can kill you. You pay for this though, an extra 2pts! Four Gepard + four Redeye is 14 pts whilst Four Sgt York and four HMWVV Stingers cost 12pt (I should note that the Stinger has a firepower of 4 and all the mobility of a HMWVV whilst the Redeyes are only 5+ firepower and have to walk!). If you are taking Germans its well worth thinking about adding the organic AA support.
Conclusion – War is better with friends
The NATO formation wildcard is an interesting development and one that I hope we’ll see more of (including a corresponding Warsaw Pact equivalent). One has to be wary of people gaming the system but the fact that the NATO formation doesn’t count for morale should stop the worse cases of abuse and hopefully we’ll instead see some interesting fluffy forces developed instead.
At the very least the NATO wildcard allows those of us with a German or British army to expand slowly into a US force, or an existing US player to expand out into the rest of NATO.
Note – since writing this, Battlefront have added the allied formation to all other nations. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the reverse scenario – adding US formations as allies to other NATO forces.