It’s been a while since my last article, but have no fear because I am now back, and like a demented racoon going through the bins of a gourmet restaurant, I’m ready to shift through the latest offering from Battlefront and pull out the tastiest morsels to nibble on, whilst occasionally running off to hide or screech at a random passer-by.
The subject of today’s rant/rank, (delete as you see fit,) is the big cats in the Berlin German book-what in my gaming group we would refer to as the “Panzerwankery”. By that I mean the tanks that are frankly a bit on the excessive side-do they really need a main gun that big, or armour that thick? Now despite having “panzer” in the phrase, this isn’t just limited to the Germans; you could ask the same of the Soviet late war ISUs and IS-2s, but the Germans do it the best.
Anyway, today we are discussing the German big cats, and by discussing I mean I’m rambling away and you’re sat there reading it. If you wanted me to stop you should have agreed a safe word before we started.
I hope you brought a change of clothes
The big issue when discussing these is that there are several versions of each tank in the book, depending on if you take Heer, SS or one of the other many weird and wonderful options. I’m not going to go through every single option for every tank as I can’t be bothered, so I will be speaking in more general terms. So like a parent watching on in horror as their hyperactive toddler eats a bag full of Haribo and climbs abord a trampoline, you need to brace yourself; this could get messy.
Tiger – The Original Flavour
Before we start discussing the myriad of other options available, we need a base line to compare those things to, and in our case the base line is the good old reliable Tiger tank. First seen in the Western desert and still going strong, it has armour of 9/8/2 and an AT 14 main gun with a range of 40”.
We should also talk about the big threats to our assorted German over compensators: what are you likely to be fighting against that might cause you grief? Well, the biggest badest thing that you might be forced to fight against in sufficient quantity to cause problems would be an IS-2 (Late). Yes, the Super Pershing is AT 18, but you’ll only ever fight against one of those, and we are not likely to see a British Black Prince semi mobile bunker any time soon (At least we hope not! – The Editor).
Let’s take look at the IS-2 (late)
Armour of 11/8/2 and an AT of 14, but only at 28” range, and with RoF 1/1 and slow firing, (although I won’t focus too much on the RoF or weapon special rules, as the allies have plenty of AT 14 as well; Pershings, Comets, Archers, M36 Jacksons you get the idea). How will our old Tiger stand up against it?
When a Tiger gets shot by AT 14 at close range, it will only get a save on a 6 in the front and nothing in the sides, depending on the range and firepower of the tank doing the shooting, (2+ for the IS-2,) so you’re at serious risk of exploding. If you don’t explode and get bailed instead, you do at least have a decent chance of getting back in thanks to the Protected Ammo rule, so even a Reluctant late war tanker will still get back in half the time.
If the Tiger is doing the shooting then the IS-2 will save on a 3+, (at close range,) which isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly good, is it?
The question is, can anything do any better?
Tiger 2 – Hail to the King
Ah the Tiger 2, also sometime known as the King Tiger or Royal Tiger. The allies tremble in fear at the mere mention of its name. Unless it needs to cross a bridge, in which case they may point and laugh. River crossing difficulties aside, this thing is a beast.
Its front armour is a hefty 16, meaning all that AT 14 mentioned above will just bounce off it, even the allies dedicated super heavy AT guns will have difficulty. the 90mm gun of the Super Pershing is only AT 18, so that’s only got a slim chance of penetrating.
When it comes to the main gun, the Tiger 2 has a frankly silly AT 17 main gun, which much like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, whatever it hits, it kills, although its only got a Firepower of 3+, so it might just bail and not kill. In short that’s a poor analogy.
Now onto the downsides, and sides if one of the key words here – the Tiger 2 only has a side armour of 8, meaning it can quite easily die to a reasonably priced late war tank swarm that gets round the sides. I’m not even talking about the cheap stuff like Cahffees, as even the cheapest platoon of 3 Tiger 2s costs roughly the same as 9 Soviet 76mm Shermans. If a few of those got round the sides you would have a very bad day. Now I know I said I wouldn’t talk about points too much, but it’s worth noting that which ever flavour of Tiger 2 you take, (SS, Heer Support, Tank Training Company etc,) you will be paying around double what you would for 3 of that type of bog-standard regular Tiger, and if it was 6 regular Tigers vs 3 Tiger 2s up against those 9 Soviet 76mm Shermans I know which I’d rather have.
It’s also worth noting that the Tiger 2 does not have the Protected Ammo rule, which could be quite important, depending on which flavour you take. The Heavy Tank Training company only have a Moral of 4+, so if you get bailed there’s a 50/50 chance you are staying that way.
Panther (Late) – Old detestable
Originally, I wasn’t going to include the Panther in this list as it’s a medium tank and I’m only here to talk about the heavy stuff. Well that and the fact that if you have read any of my articles about German tanks you’ll know about how much I despise it. But I have decided to put my old grievances aside and take about it in a grown up and rational manner (now there’s a contradiction in terms for any wargammer – The Editor).
The reason I’m including this steaming pile of goose manure in the article is because now we have the late version, it’s actually got better frontal armour then the Tiger and the same gun, (speaking in terms of game mechanics of course, I know in real life they are different guns as the Germans were of the opinion of why have 1 calibre of high end AT gun when you can have 673?)
A front armour of 10 is quite good in the late war period as it means your doubling your chance of bouncing that AT 14 shot that’s coming for you. I have already discussed the gun in my overview of the Tiger, so let’s move onto the downsides of this grotesque mockery of an armoured fighting vehicle.
It’s got a side armour of 5; that’s passable for a medium tank and I know that’s what this technically is, but when it’s roughly the same points cost as the T[AT1] iger, (there I go talking about points again,) it’s pitifully thin- never mind 76mm Shermans, you need to worry about some armoured cars getting into your sides. It’s also only got a top armour of 1, so it fears the rain.
Ultimately its doesn’t really belong on this list; it’s just an over cooked medium or an underdone heavy. If you want medium, get Panzer IVs, if you want heavy, get Tigers or something else on this list.
Plus its ugly and it smells funny.
Jagdpanther – my other Panther is a Jagd
Here is something else that shouldn’t really be on the list; it’s basically a Panther, but it loses a point of front armour and a turret in exchange for having the main gun from a Tiger 2 sticking out the front.
This Frankenstein’s monster of a “tank” deserves an equally Frankenstein’s monster of an overview – so just read the bit about the front armour in the section on the Tiger, the bit about the side armour from the Panther (Late), and the fun from the Tiger 2.
So, you would think that I would hate it, but being the monster it is, it does kind of work – sort of. I wouldn’t want to field an army of them, but I could see a unit working for some long-range heavy tank sniping. You’d just have to make sure you had something else on the table to distract your opponent with, because if they focus their attention on them, they will soon evaporate. It’s the ultimate glass cannon/chocolate trebuchet/bamboo bazooka.
In short, they don’t fill the roll of a heavy tank at all, but they might come in useful.
JagdTiger – my other Tiger is a Jagd
Take a Tiger 2 and remove the turret, then increase its front armour and imbed a massive 12.8cm gun in the hull instead. Tada, you now have a JagdTiger.
The Tiger 2 was basically impervious to any hits to the front and now this really is impervious; the 90mm of the Super Pershing will just bounce off at long range. The AT 17 of the King Tiger could basically kill anything on the table and this has an even higher AT of 18, with the Brutal ability and Firepower 2+ added just to be that little bit more silly.
To be frank, it’s all a bit of over kill; AT 17 is good enough, as is front armour 16. The JagdTiger still has the same weak side armour as the King Tiger and is even more expensive on points.
It does look cool though.
Elephant – the elephant in the room
Back in the day, the Elephant, (or Ferdinand – basically the same thing, just this time they remembered to add a machinegun,) was the ultimate in over compensation- super powerful, nigh on indestructible heavy “tank”, and it’s not aged too badly. It’s basically a poor man’s king Tiger with a fixed forward main gun and a bit less side armour. It’s not bad, but it’s not great – you might as well just take a Tiger 2.
This has been an odd sort of article really; I’ve talked about things you can’t take in formation alongside things that you can, and I’ve vaguely danced around points. Ultimately, I just wanted an excuse to talk about the ridiculous super heavy “tanks” that Germany fielded towards the end of the war and threw in some ranting about Panthers to keep me honest.
As to my thoughts on the best German heavy option for late war, I still think you can’t beat the classic Tiger. It’s fairly tough and has a great gun, it can be out fought by some of the Allied heavies, but will at least keep them honest, and you could always add in some Jagdpanthers if you want some higher end AT.
The other option would be to do a heavy tank training company with a single Tiger 2 as CHQ and then the rest as regular Tigers – in fact I might design a list for that and talk about it as my next article. But that’s enough heavy tank comparison for now.
Until the Maus comes out at Christmas of course – now that is a truly hideous tank.