“… I will show you, where the Iron Crosses grow”
– Sargeant Steiner
Today, Duncan looks at the new Eastern Front book Iron Cross… shiny!
Welcome to a new beginning; welcome to a new front. Since the release of V4 I know many people have been waiting, watching and wanting to see the Soviets in MW and their German adversaries – that wait is now over. The new Eastern Front book for the German, entitled Iron Cross, focuses on the battles of 1942 the German Case Blue, Kharkov Offensive and very interestingly the fighting in, and around, Stalingrad.
Similarly to the Afrika Korps book, Iron Cross has two Panzer formations and two Infanterie formations – so Panzer IIIs, Panzer IVs, Panzer Grenadiers and Grenadiers – and a wealth of support units which give the list flavour and distinctiveness.
With regards to all the German special rules Storm Trooper and Third Reich remain the same as they appear in Afrika Korps and new rules for Tiger Aces (awesome), Flame Throwers (double awesome), and Snipers (triple awesome!) all bring a new flavour to familiar units.
Finally, there are new, specialised rules for city fighting which will give your games a very different feel as you struggle over the burnt out husk of a Soviet city or push into the outskirts of a new virgin urban centre.
German desert players will be familiar with the formations of both the Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs from their Afrika Korps incarnations but we’ll scoot through them quickly for completeness.
The Panzer IVs again have the option to substitute their short 7.5cm guns, if they wish, for the long 7.5cm in exchange for a significant investment in points and up to 3 platoons in the formation of these workhorses gives them real staying power.
The Panzer III outdoes its big brother by allowing up to 4 Panzer III platoons in the formation, as well as the ubiquitous Panzer II platoon, which reflects the large fighting formations on the Eastern Front (see German 4-digit platoon numbering). There are again options to replace any or all 5cm gun with the 5cm long, or all of the tanks in a platoon with the short 7.5cm gun, or go up-armoured and increase your front armour to 6 whilst till sporting a long 5cm.
There are lots of options in the Panzer III company but be aware you will be stretched for points very quickly if you start up-gunning and up-armouring everything.
The Panzer IIs still keep their role as the eyes and ears of your tank formations with the inclusion of Spearhead and are cheap enough and useful enough to make their way into almost every Panzer formation.
For me, this is where this book really begins to shine. The Panzer Grenadiers and Grenadier formations give you real options when composing your force as both have in formation units that mean choosing which you go for depends on a) how you want to play and b) the composition of the rest of your army.
First up the Panzer Grenadiers; the inclusion of up to 7 stands of MG34 teams makes for a hard-hitting, many dice rolling machine. This is nearly double the size of an Africa Rifle Platoon so be prepared for a cost that reflects that. Interestingly you have to pay extra for the AT Rifle as opposed to getting it included in the platoon but I think that you will have to take the Anti-Tank rifle almost all of the time as a deterrent to armoured assaults. Note also that the options to have an additional HMG and 8cm mortar in the platoon have gone and now form their own dedicated platoons in formation.
There are also options for 7.5cm and 15cm Infantry Gun Platoons, with the 7.5cm option allowing for a full 4 gun battery, and you can access both in formation as they occupy different slots in the formation.
You can also have two platoons of 5cm Tank Hunters and sdkfz 10/4 self-propelled AA so you can end up with quite a chunky formation that can bring a lot of indirect and direct firepower to the table.
The Grenadiers are different to the Panzer Grenadiers in that they may take even larger Grenadier Platoons (up to 9 Teams) or Assault Pioneer Platoons in formation. This is frankly awesome as you can now do either a full-blown Assault Pioneer formation or mixed them into the Grenadier Platoons giving you a lot of flexibility.
The Grenadier Platoons are not as shooty as the Panzer Grenadiers, being Rifle/MG Teams, but to offset that they may include up to two HMGs, as well as the Anti-Tank Rifle team. The full twelve-team platoon is very pricey but will take some shifting!
The Assault Pioneers are engorgingly good, with integral Flame Thrower teams and all other Tteams equipped with SMGs. These are you City Fighters but they are not cheap at all. I think that the majority of the time if you are including a single Platoon you will go for the 7 x SMGs and 2 x Flame Thrower Team option for the full fear factor and if you have the points I would definitely be including the optional HMG in a standard game to give them some way of reaching out and deterring a Soviet infantry horde.
The other in-formation support for the Grenadiers is the same as for the Panzer Grenadiers with the notable exceptions of only having one Tank Hunter platoon, which can be 3.7cm rather than 5cm, and no integral AA option. It’s not all doom and gloom however as it’s the Grenadiers who have the option to include the Sniper in their ranks!
There is a wealth of support units available to tailor your force; it is a double edge sword though as you can easily go down the rabbit hole of overspending here and leaving your formations brittle and undermanned. The temptation is there, but just be mindful that nothing is super cheap in this book and the cool stuff will need to pull its weight.
Inclusions that we have seen before, and therefore I won’t go into detail on, are the Tiger Platoon, Marder 7.62cm Platoon, sdkfz 221 and 222 Platoon, sdkfz 231 Platoon, 5cm Tank Hunter Platoon, 10.5cm Artillery Battery, sdkfz 10/4 Platoon, 8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon and JU97 Stuka Dive Bomber Flight are all present and correct but there are some new toys too!
The StuG Assault Gun Platoon make a welcome return to the German arsenal and is available as both the short and long 7.5cm variants but you cannot mix the two. They are effectively Fearless Veteran and pay for it in terms of cost, although the up-gunned long 7.5cm option works out a point cheaper per vehicle than it’s similarly armed, turreted cousin the 7.5cm Long Panzer IV.
The 3.7cm Tank Hunters give you access to some very cheap AT but they really aren’t going to do anything against the mainline Soviet armour other than deter them from conducting an assault where you can prey on their weaker side armours. The inclusion of the option for a Stielgranate round for 50% extra points does at least threaten enemy armour but at a range of only 10” you’d better be popping those shots from Ambush.
And now on to the big boys, the 7.5cm Tank Hunter Platoon! The PAK40 is back and it’s as mean as ever with AT12 and a 32” range. I can’t see any reason not to try and include these in your force. Even a small Platoon of just two guns is enough to make those hit on 2+ Soviet tanks pause for thought.
If you needed to make sure your opponents Nebels were well and truly Werfed then the 15cm Nebelwerfer Battery returns as either a cheap 3 gun or insane 6 gun entries. It will be interesting to see if its inclusion in seemingly every list will remain true with the V4 changes to Smoke, but whilst the Salvo and 4+ Firepower has me intrigued, its presence is not as cut and dried as it once was, that is for sure.
Hopefully, you will find that quick jog through the new Eastern Front forces available to the Germans (and those engaged in Tunisia don’t forget!), useful. To be honest the Eastern Front wasn’t a draw for me as much as the desert was, but this new volume in the V4 library has got the cogs whirring for me. Whilst the Panzer formations are reassuringly familiar the Infanterie and Support options make this a new book an interesting dynamic in the MW setting.
The epic struggle for Stalingrad and the coming unprecedented engagement around the Kursk salient has given the MW period a new angle and I’m excited to see what people come up with as the modelling and hobbying available now are vast. Dealing with 30 or more Soviet Tanks is going to be a very different, very interesting proposition for the Wehrmacht – and as we all know interesting is great!
Until next time keep you Panzers running and your PAK40s hidden.