Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lehr In Winter, The Evolution of an Army. Throck of War Capstone Part 1

(So, I'm coming up on 6 months of being in the Flames hobby and the first big milestone I set for myself, the NOVA Open Tournament, is quickly approaching. As a part of that I'm going to do a series of blog posts looking at how I thought about the army I'm bringing. What I did to paint it up. The Tournament itself and my thoughts overall on the game 6 months in. I'm calling this the Capstone Series as it caps off the first chapter of my FOW gaming life)

The first big goal for this blog was to showcase how me and a group of my friends discovered Flames of War, learned to play, paint and enjoy the historical WW2 war gaming hobby. 

A major part of that for me was setting some goals in terms of painting and competing. I made NOVA open  a major benchmark in my early FOW path, because for me, competitions give me goals and let me get out of my local meta, get drunk and meet cool people. So, I knew I'd need to choose an army, paint it, test it and get to know and love it.

And I've finally done it. I've figured out, bought and painted my 1750 late war army for 2012 NOVA Open.

As you can tell by the name of the post and the giant image, I've settled on Panzer Lehr Panzer Grenadiers.

Why? Well a bunch of reasons. First off, they've got a ton of cool history and were one of the key units of the Normandy Campaign. Secondly, they get all the cool toys. Rockets, tanks, flammtracks, recce you name this mechanized list can pretty much be built to taste. Finally, I think it's a stronger "all comers" list than a standard PzrGren list do to the addition of the tank hunter teams as organic elements in each platoon.

This is my first fully painted, cohesive army. I've only been in the hobby for 6 months and I've painted up a bunch of dudes, King Tigers, Stug batteries and a slew of panthers and panzers. But, this is the first time I've tested and winnowed down a list to what I think I'd like to play and will be most effective.

A classic image from the Korsun Pocket and a key influence in
the visual theme of my army. 
That's a critical balance for me. I could go out and buy and the coolest new toy on the block, paint it up and play. But is that as fun and figuring out my own play style, how to best implement it and then researching the history on the units that best fight that way? To some, sure, to me, most certainly not.

Back to the army at hand. I went with a winter scheme, partly by necessity and partly because I think there's something about German's in winter that just looks sweet. It was by necessity because my original army was going to be a straight Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier army out of Grey Wolf, and I wanted to set it around a Korsun Pocket theme.

Because of that many of my early models were painted in a winter scheme with long coats and unless I wanted to buy new grenadiers/Lehr infantry I was stuck. But that's ok, like I said, winter is fine by me. At first I was a little nervous because, historically, I wasn't sure of Lehr's operational history after summer of '44. But after some (very little :) digging I found they fought under Manteuffel during Wacht Am Rhine/Battle of the Bulge and actually were involved in the fighting around Bastogne.

So while they were not going to be painted in a classic, summer '44 Lehr scheme, they would be at least arguably accurate in a winter look. Having decided that, it was time to build the army.

BUT OH GOD, there are so many options. Do you go with full or short squads or a mix? Panthers, Panzers or Tigers? Do you go for the Grille or a straight mess of PaK 40's? What about artillery and anti-aircraft options?

List building is always the hardest part for me. I tend to swing from one option to another over and over and play test lists a lot of different ways. This time, with huge thanks to Loon, Rotny, Jeb, Yank and all the Throck of War crew, we play tested this list A TON before we finally came up with this:

After 6 months of learning the rules, reading a ton of bat reps and getting advice from all over the place this will be the final iteration of the list that I will use for NOVA open next weekend.  The breakdown is pretty simple, the three short Lehr Platoons are each given 2 HMG's or the 2 Panzerschrek teams to build "full platoons" that have a bit more flexibility. In cases of delayed reserves against infantry I assign the schrecks to the 2iC for an 8th platoon and against majority tank companies I assign 2 HMGs to the 2iC for an 8th Platoon. Mortars and rockets pin and smoke, 88's kill most tanks and can double as long range AA in a pinch, and the tigers provide heavy infantry support when assaulting or are a blocking force on defense.

I know, it has no recce and is light on AA. But what it does I think it does very well and that's assault infantry and kill tanks. As a mech list I'll be hunkering down on defense against Armor Lists. To which I say, come get me, with 88's, 10 Schreck shots, & 2 tigers the tanks I fear I couldn't really solve for at range (other than bombardment) anyways: Konigstigers, Churchills (Especially Crocodiles) and to a lesser extent, Jumbos.

Against infantry, I'll be at a disadvantage because I lack the recce to remove gone to ground. but by taking Mortars and Rockets i feel like I've removed some of the uncertainty as the mortar re-roll and the rocket rules mitigate some of that on ranging in.

I'm a Recce Heretic. Tru Fax.
Otherwise, I have kind of a radical oppinion of recce and that's this: It has it's uses, but it's not the be all end all must take. Why? Because defending infantry is mostly dug in anyways and most small arms have a FP of 6+. Meaning even if you reduce the die roll to hit to a 4 or 5 you've still got to rely on a 1 in 6 chance of killing the bastard after they fail a 3+ save. In otherwords, in a best case scenario, you have a 50% chance to hit, then they have a 66% chance to save, and then if they fail, you've still only got a 16.6% chance to kill with your rifles and non .50cal MG's.

The real question for me was whether to take armor or not. At first I was dead set against it, but the more I thought about it in terms of utility vs. points spent I realized there were a few options that would add a ton of value to the list. It came down to Panthers Vs. Tigers (ahhh the age old debate). I love the Panther, it's cool, it's got a great gun and is all around one of the best tanks in the game. In the Lehr list I can get 3 for 560 points, a bit pricey to be sure. Alternatively I could grab two tigers for 480 points.

Now, why did I choose the Tigers over the Panthers?

If I were looking for a tank to prowl the back of my lines hunting other tanks at range, the Panther would have been the clear choice. But because I'll be defending against tanks and opponents will have to be at least within 16 inches to hit my infantry (Vets, dug in, gone to ground) I force an attacking opponent to get up close and it's at close range where I think the advantages of the tiger excel over that of the panther. The Tiger is less susceptible to side armor shots and to artillery, with solid use of cover it'll will be difficult to hit and the Tiger Ace skills will, for the most part, be a huge boon (For the fatherland is meh, otherwise, I'll be happy with whatever I roll).

Tony, in winter. 
In other words, what I needed was an infantry support tank that could stand up to the rigors of close in combat. And here is where the Tiger wins out. They are, for the most part, more survivable in close combat and seem to be serviceable enough at long range/defending. I have plenty of toys that can take on incoming tanks, so the addition of the Panther's gun and front armor wasn't as appealing as the ability to take hits on the side armor from defensive fire and the top armor from assault hits.  When attacking, I'm less worried about bazookas, AT guns, and other mid range firepower weapons, and standard infantry simply cannot hurt it in an assault. So, hi didley dee, a Tigers life for me.

Now, I've got the army figured out. It's time to paint it up! Next installment, tomorrow probably, I'll showcase the full army. Cheers and thanks for reading.


  1. Great post! Good luck at the tournament.

  2. I like your paint job. I think that it turned out very nice and I like the character of the piece. Shame to hear about your troubles with the mini itself

  3. @Locker: Thanks!
    @Minutiae: Thanks also! It's a horrible mini. I've added your blog to my roll, it looks great.

  4. Are your Lehr platoons short a Sdkfz 251 your list shows 1 command and 2 for total of 3 you should have 4 for a full platoon IIRC? or am I missing something on you list?

  5. The platoons are short platoons. Each track carries 2 mg teams and Tank Hunter Team. However, depending on the mission, I assign an additional two teams (either MG or Panzerschreck) to each platoon. In essence, each platoon is "full" by dint of having the attached HQ or weapons assets.

    The best bit it, it gives me "full" platoons for less points than buying a full Lehr platoon, just with a little bit of a different operational capability.