Musings of a Hobby Hipster: The Road to the UK Nationals

Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

Dr. Emmett Brown

Every year (pandemic permitting ) the Wargames Association of Reading runs Warfare, their annual wargames show. It is one of the largest in the UK  and in 2021, it is being held on the 27th and 28th of November at Ascot Race Course. There is always a vast array of tournament games available, including our beloved Flames of War, but this year it is also the Late War UK Nationals home.

This adds a little zip to the proceedings, even for a not really very competitive, or in fact good, player like yours truly. In the run-up to previous events, I’ve always tried to commit to a list and play it as much as possible against a variety of opponents and lists.

The Parameters

This year Warfare is going to be a straight-up Late War 100pts affair. Simple. Straight to the point. Clear. Or is it…? 

Late War has seen a plethora of releases (and with some more on the horizon) who knows what the list landscape will look like in November this year. Currently, the options on the table are: 

  • D-Day: American
  • D-Day: British
  • D-Day: German
  • D-Day: German 21st Panzer Division
  • D-Day: SS
  • Bagration: Soviet
  • Bagration: German
  • Fortress Europe

Now, I think that we can probably discount the majority of Fortress Europe lists now as, with the release of Bagration: Soviet, every major nation has its own Late War release. I’m not saying that there is not still some nuggets of raw gold in that book; especially combined with support options from another Late War tome; Soviet Churchills, you glorious machines, I am squarely looking at you! However, I think most people will gravitate to one or another of the newer, nation dedicated,  volumes.

And therein is the rub; which one do I go for?

The Options

I realised that by discussing this that my poker face is gone and my proverbial trousers are at half-mast but sometimes in the discussion I find that a light bulb appears, so we shall press on and damn the trousers!

The Soviets

There were a few options when it came to Soviets – Churchills, IS-2s, ISU-122/152s but what I finally settled on was a Forward Detachment. I’d completely forgotten about the Forward Detachment because it’s in the Command Card stack and it’s a really flexible force. 

The formation gives you access to Anti-Tank, artillery and infantry, all in the core formation and this means you have the ability to be really creative in your support options.

I plumped for Hero T-34/85 and Valentines as the armoured elements in the formation giving me decent, mobile AT 12 and a useful, cheap armoured assault force in the Valentines.  

The six 82mm mortars and five SU-76 give me real crunch in some template weapons – re-rolling misses with both batteries – the SU-76s also have enough armoured punch to deterred lightly armoured recce. There is a lack of smoke there but there is HE galore!

The SMG infantry isn’t great just sitting on an objective but they are at going and getting one; especially coupled with the artillery firepower and the support of the Valentines. Pairing these assets together gives an opponent different things to think about and giving the infantry the RPG-6 Command Card means that they can hold their own, if required, against opposing tanks and AFVs.

In support of this formation, I’ve included the old faithful air support of the IL-2 Shturmovik to give me, more than anything, a way of dealing with the high front armour of Tigers and IS-2s in the mirror match; they keep things honest if nothing else.

The final unit is the big boys of the IS-85s. Coming in a 40pts for five gives me that most desirable of reserves – the one drop – and adds more AT 12. Their front armour means that they can operate with impunity against all but the highest calibre of anti-tank gun and their rate of fire 2 gun gives a more reliable moving anti-tank asset than that of the IS-2 and its single shot 122mm.

The US

This 2nd Infantry Division force was my original force for the ill-fated Warfare 2020 and remains a favourite of mine despite never hitting the tabletop yet. This is a more historically themed force so scores well in that all-important look and feel category.

The use of the 2nd Infantry Division Command Card gives each rifle company a real kick in short-range firepower and assaults. Adding extra bazookas and LMGs give these Rifle platoons autonomy and less reliance on what needs to support them.

The two platoons of 57mm guns in the formation gives a consistent threat against medium armour from the front and a deterrent against even the most heavily armoured tanks in the assault. The three gun footprint gives an excellent option for an ambushing unit. 

Finally, in the formation, the 60mm mortar platoon gives some excellent indirect support – albeit short-ranged – to support an assaulting Rifle platoon and the HMGs provide another strong anti-infantry threat and importantly another platoon to hold objectives and for formation morale. 

The Rifle Company is so cost-effective that this left me with a fair chunk of points to spend on some excellent support, beginning with the M4 76mm Shermans and the 3″ Towed Tank Destroyers.

The M4 76mm Shermans give me mobile AT 12 to tackle the front armour of medium tanks and the speed to get around the flanks of beefier armoured assets.  Coupled with the 3″ Towed Tank Destroyers, again more AT 12 to challenge opposing tanks and make sure that I can deny areas of the board with their long-range and stubborn resistance. 

The M12 self-propelled artillery is an interesting inclusion as they can perform a dual role. Their indirect firepower is awesome 2+ so anything that can get a template ranged in on it is getting smooshed! The Grasshopper AOP means that there is nowhere to hide from any of the artillery in my list either. 

The last couple of units of note are the M15 and M16 platoon. Again, in combination with the Ivory-X Command Card,  this is a dual-purpose unit. Able to see off lightly armoured recce and infantry, and capable of at least some anti-air cover, the inclusion of Ivory-X means that it can also join in as a cheap artillery unit and provide some much needed indirect support. 

Finally, I’ve chosen to include the Thunderbolt flight. This gives me more utility with their cannons able to hunt lightly armoured support units like Wespes and armoured mortars, whilst their bombs add another firepower 2+ template into the artillery mix and their rockets are a credible threat against an opponent’s heavy armour. 

The British

The British are probably the outlier of all these lists in that they are not painted and I have never played a British list but the allure of the Keith Flint list is a strong pull indeed. 

This list is similar to the 2nd Infantry Division list for the US we just looked at as again it is built around the less frequently seen Rifle Company. 

The joy with this list is that it can deal with the static PAK nest gun line and still pack a punch with a variety of anti-tank options and a host of artillery variations too.

I really like the versatility of this list, for example, the Crocodiles can hammer dug in guns and infantry with their flame throwers but the 75mm is more than capable of taking on medium armour.

Likewise,  the MMG carriers can deter massed infantry formations but can also lay down a handy barrage template, should they need to. It a real swiss army knife of a list and I am completely in love with the aesthetic and the historical nature of it as well.

The Germans

Last, but by no means least we have the Germans. Here I was, am, and remain torn. I was pulled towards the 21st Panzer Beute StuG formation, then pushed towards the flexibility of the Panzer IV.  I even dabbled with Panzergrenadiers from Fortress Europe to represent Herman Goering in Italy. Finally, I came to an uneasy rest on the Beach Defenders from the D-Day German book.

Over the various lockdowns, I have expanded my options with the D-Day Germans, and specifically the Beach Defenders – adding plenty of support options to the basic company. 

This gives me a sizeable force for the unwilling defenders of the Atlantik Wall and so I felt a slight obligation to see what I could make of them. The cheapness of the poorly motivated grenadiers means that the whole formation comes in at just under 40% of the list, and that gave me some real wiggle room for support. 

I like the notion of the single drop reserve and the SS book gave me one heck of an option with five SS Panthers. The 8.8cm Assault FlaK with PAK Front is brilliant and means that my lowly Beach Defenders have some dispersed heavy anti-tank until the Panthers appear. 

Lots of template weapon options give me a wealth of suppressive fire – albeit a little hit and miss – and, with points left to tinker with, I opted for the 352nd Eastern Front title card for the Beach Defenders. This makes them a lot more reliable and capable of even going on the offensive. The 3+ rally and 4+ assault mean that I don’t have to risk the Panthers having to assault an objective – unless I really am in dire straits! – and makes them generally more dependable when defending.

Conclusions

Well, the journey of this article is reaching a conclusion and I’m still not convinced that I am any the wiser with which of the Big Four nations that I might take to the UK Nationals but the race is not yet run and there is some time to test drive some lists with gaming (hopefully) resuming in the near future. If I had to decide today which list I would go for it would probably be the US Rifles of the 2nd Infantry Division but then again… 

I’ll be back soon with a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee with more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.

– Dunc

Category: BritishFlames of WarGermansHobby HipsterLate WarList DiscussionSovietsUSAV4

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Article by: Duncan Gosling