Today we have a guest article from Jim Naughton and Brent DeVos
Using smoke effectively is one of those next-level skills, like fully exploiting the potential of movement orders and the careful planning, and use, of reserves.
Smoke is, of course, used to impede the enemy’s shooting by providing concealment or by blocking line of sight entirely. That’s what we’ll mostly talk about, naturally. But smoke has another important general use. In Flames of War, as in real war, you want your enemy reacting to your initiative and not the other way around. Smoke, as you will see, can be used to force your enemy to react to you, to limit their options and compel them to make difficult decisions.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear that this article is not an explanation of the rules regarding smoke. It is a discussion of various tactical uses of smoke. So, if you are relatively new to using smoke, to get the most out of our suggestions, we suggest that you first review the rules about direct fire smoke (p. 65) and smoke bombardments (p. 71).
Okay, let’s get started.
Uses for Smoke Bombardments
- Screen an attack.
This is perhaps the most obvious use of the smoke. But it can be for two different purposes:
(1) it can prevent or inhibit an on-table enemy from shooting and
(2) it can discourage ambush placement, because the surprise appearance of a close-range ambush can be denied. Remember, nothing requires you to immediately use smoke after ranging in. So, you can place your pre-planned ranged-in markers near places that are likely to hold defending units or ambushes. Then, when you enter that area, send in the smoke to screen you.
- Force your opponent to move before shooting.
If you place your smoke screen to deny Line of Sight, your opponent will have to move to shoot, reducing their rate of fire. This is particularly effective at reducing the danger of high AT tanks like German Tigers and Soviet IS-2s. Note that coaxing big tanks with heavy front armour to move towards you may also allow you to move forward on your next turn and shoot into their side armour.
- Smoke gaps between Tall Terrain.
By laying smoke screens in the gaps between stands of trees, buildings, etc. you can effectively increase the length of your screen and often prevent long range shooting and spotting for artillery.
- Use smoke to protect an assault.
Lay down a smoke screen on the defending teams. Shooting through smoke is always +1 and max 6″, so smoke can eliminate some defenders completely from the defensive fire equation and, if combined with terrain cover, it can give you +2 making Cautious infantry 6+ to hit.
- Clearing minefields.
When a defending enemy gets 4-5 minefields and places them well, it can be difficult to find paths to the objectives. And clearing minefields leaves you exposed in the open for a turn. But a 4-tube battery can provide 16″ of smoke in front of minefields, allowing you to move mine-clearing teams to within 2” of up to 4 minefield markers on your turn. Since the smoke prevents your opponent from shooting at your teams, (unless they were clairvoyant and placed a ranged in marker in the minefield) you are safe until the start the next turn, when you can issue a mine-clearing order (p. 112) and then roar through the gap with any teams that did not participate in the mine-clearing.
- Prepare bombardments for teams with a 5+ skill.
Use the smoke screen to prep for follow-on bombardments. You can place the ranged-in token anywhere your spotter can see, and it does not have the modifier for ranging in over terrain, which makes it more probable for skill 5+ gunners to range in. Then, on the next turn, you can fire with “real” shells and gain the repeat bombardment effect.
- Dealing with escorts.
Place a smoke screen in front of the escort tank so that you can no longer see it. Then shoot the escorted tank. All the hits go on the escorted tank. Alternately, you could screen the escorted tank and eliminate the escort.
- Finally, a little tip.
When placing smoke bombardment markers, if you are firing smoke from more than one unit, you can increase the effective length of your overall screen by ensuring a ½” gap between the bombardments. For example, if I have a smoke bombardment unit of four teams and another smoking unit of two teams, position the two tokens 8.5″ away from one another, so that there will be 8” of smoke from the unit with two teams, a ½” gap and 16” of smoke from the unit of four teams. The narrow gap is not shootable under the rules, so when both units fire, they will effectively provide a 24.5″ smoke screen. ½” isn’t much, but it’s not nothing.
Uses for Direct Fire Smoke
- Smoke targets between you and the probable site of an ambush.
This may delay or force the bad placement of all or part of the ambush by impeding their Line of Sight.
- Smoke your enemies when destroying them is unlikely.
If your enemy’s Armour value is close to your AT value and they are likely to save against your regular shots, consider smoking them instead. This will force them to either accept the +1 to hit you or move out of the smoke, causing them to shoot with a moving rate of fire. Or they may choose another target altogether. In any case, they will be less likely to hit you on their turn, making it more likely that you will be able to subsequently move into a better shooting position or avoid them entirely.
- Make up for the lack of smoke bombardments.
Use direct fire smoke to create what is effectively a smoke screen by shooting at individual teams in a line, placing 2” x 2″ smoke markers for each hit. A platoon of tanks shooting smoke could create a solid screen, giving the smoked teams +1 to hit and potentially eliminating Line of Sight for enemy teams behind them. Remember, direct fire smoke markers do not have to be placed at the front of a target team, they must simply be placed “on the team” (p. 65). Also remember that they can’t shoot through a 1/2” gap. So, place your smoke markers carefully to screen the maximum number of teams.
- Smoke buildings.
While you cannot actually target a building with direct fire, if you shoot smoke at an infantry team in a building, the marker will be placed immediately in front of the building, which, if placed carefully, could screen many, if not all of the windows and doors.
Well, that’s it for now. We hope you find these ideas useful, and that they will help you to make better and more frequent tactical use of smoke in your games. To use smoke effectively, you need to choose your target and your moment well, which takes practice. Try incorporating one or two of these ideas in your next game and see how it goes. Then try a few more. Before long you’ll be smoking like a pro.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks again to Jim and Brent for the article!