|Tactics 102: Completing Your Army|
|by Jon Mayes|
Choosing Effective Units
Last time we explored the basics of building your army; classifying units, your battle concept, and creating a rough build. Now despite this you may notice that some of your builds aren’t as worthwhile as they should be. Your Panzer IV Ausf. G might have the right number of attack dice, but doesn’t seem quite up to par. This is because despite the attack dice, defence, speed, or abilities of a unit it’s only good if it’s cost effective.
Take for example the MAS 7.5mm Rifle and the SMLE No. 4 Rifle.
In this case it’s not hard to see which unit is more cost effective – not only does the MAS Rifle have the same statistics as the SMLE Rifle, but it also has Urban Combat without having anything negative to offset it. Even if the majority of your battles don’t involve town hexes the possibility that even a handful will means the MAS Rifle is the obvious choice to take over the SMLE. Unfortunately not all comparisons are as clear cut as this, and just because a unit seems better than another doesn’t always make it a good choice for your army – the MAS might be a better choice than the SMLE but it still lacks the firepower against enemy Elite infantry.
So how does one determine if a unit is cost effective? Compare units with similar roles – it doesn’t make sense to evaluate a Jeep against a Centurion, but a Pershing to a Centurion might give you a better idea of which to use. When comparing tanks with the Allies it’s best to start with their workhorse, the M4A1 Sherman. For the Axis it’s the Panther Ausf D. Using them as a guideline you can contrast various units to see which are effective elements in your army. For infantry the two staple ground pounders are the US Rangers and German SS-Panzergrenadiers.
Let’s take the prolific Sherman family as an example for determining which unit to use. We start by taking the 21 point M4A1 Sherman as the baseline for comparison. Examining the Canadian Sherman DD we find that you pay three extra points for the Amphibious and Collapsible Screen abilities. Since you can’t be sure there will be any water terrain in the game it may not be the most effective use of your points, unless you have a few leftover.
Next we have the 29 point British Sherman VC Firefly. Eight points is a fairly significant amount in a 100 point game, and the net difference is a trade of -2/-2/-2 anti-soldier dice for +2/+2/+2 anti-vehicle dice. While this gives it the average attack dice we want against vehicles, it’s no longer effective against elite infantry. Unless you are sorely lacking anti-vehicle capability, the Firefly won’t be a cost effective choice.
The M4A3 (105) Sherman trades in one set of dice -3/-3/-2 anti-vehicle dice for +2/+2/+2 anti-soldier dice. However unlike the Firefly’s trade, the 105 has two significant differences – it costs only 3 more points than an M4A1, and has a very good special ability – Bombardment. 11/11/9 anti-soldier dice is enough to have a 50% chance of destroying an enemy soldier with no chance of him rolling cover against your attack. While the anti-vehicle dice are lower than the M4A1s, once more bombardment comes into play. The 105 may not be able to destroy heavier tanks by itself, but it makes a good unit to follow up an attack with to score additional hits that can’t be stopped by cover.
Take for example the above scenario: The M4A3 fires on the Panzer, but only scores a single hit – a disrupt. Next the M4A1 fires on the Panzer scoring two hits which would destroy it – however the Panzer Rolls cover. If the M4A3 had fired second there would be a good chance the Panzer would be at least damaged.
The M4 Sherman T-34 Calliope trades some speed for +1/+1/+2 anti-soldier attack, and Top-Mounted Rockets, but at a cost of eight points and the inability to fire at aircraft. However like the M4A3 (105) it ignores cover. A bit of a hefty price, but if your force isn’t worried about its speed then it could be useful.
Next we have the Veteran M4 Sherman “Rhino”, for five more points it gets Brushcutters and Veteran Crew, a combination that has some nice synergy. Brushcutters allow it to easily move into forest terrain that gives it a good chance of only being disrupted, while Veteran Crew means the tank doesn’t lose any of its effectiveness when disrupted. Even if there’s no forest terrain, the Veteran Crew is still very effective, making this a good tank, if a slightly more expensive than the regular M4A1.
Lastly we have the M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight”; the monster of the Sherman family. For over twice the costs of the M4A1 it has a worse attack against soldiers, and a mere +1/+1/+1 against vehicles. It does have a very impressive 7/6 defence with an assortment of decent abilities. Yet despite all this, the unit rarely sees play in competitive games; it lacks firepower for such an expensive tank – an Elefant is only 4 more points. For most players an investment of over half of your army into a unit that isn’t that good at removing enemy threats isn’t worth taking.
So clearly we can see that some of the Shermans are definitely worth using; the M4A1, the Veteran Rhino, and the M4A3 (105). Others, like the Calliope and Firefly are expensive and may be situational. Lastly the Easy Eight is simply a bad choice for most builds.
“Quantity has a Quality all its own”– Joseph Stalin
While in the previous article I had emphasized units that are effective against defense 5/5 infantry or defence 7 vehicles, sometimes it can be more effective to use many units over a few powerful ones. The T-70 Model 1942 by itself is not exactly a fear-inspiring unit, however it’s rarely found alone; they travel in packs. At the cost of one Tiger I you can afford five T-70s. It may seem ludicrous to see a Tiger running from these tanks, but the numbers and speed of them mean the T-70s will be able to flank the Tiger at short range and have a 1-in-4 chance of scoring a hit at close range. In return the Tiger will likely destroy one Tank on the first round; but there’s still four more to deal with which have now doubled their odds of scoring hits against your immobile tank. It’s only a matter of time before the Tiger is taken out.
Infantry often work well in swarms too. A horde of SS-Panzergrenadiers is a fearsome sight; most vehicles will have difficulty taking them out, and the sheer firepower of that many SS can decimate your infantry. However when making an army that focuses on quantity, remember they have definite weaknesses as well. If your opponent is using a Brummbar or M4A3 (105) your SS are in trouble. The T-70s will find an IS-2 a tough nut to crack since it has no vulnerable rear. While one of these builds might overwhelm some opponents, it will eventually run into someone that outmatches it. Try to include units that can eliminate these potential threats; aircraft are usually useful in this roll as they can fly in and hopefully eliminate the target before it has much of an impact on the battle.
Learning to Live with Luck
Any game that requires rolling dice is going to have an element of luck to it, the key in AAM is removing it as much as possible and making it work in your favour. In the previous ‘Sherman Family’ example the M4A3 (105) was useful because of it’s bombardment ability – removing the ‘luck’ out of cover rolls by negating them completely. The Calliope is just as expensive as the Firefly, and yet it seemed a better possibility because, like the 105, it ignores cover.
Several Axis units have the Seasoned Crew ability; it doesn’t completely negate cover but gives a significant penalty to it, cutting a vehicles defense in half and reducing that of soldiers from 50% to 33%; not insignificant. The SNLF Captain and Red Devil Captain grant the Pinpointer ability to adjacent infantry, greatly enhancing their effectiveness, especially if the unit already has Seasoned Crew.
By swaying the odds in your favour, you can gain an advantage. The MAS Rifle with its Urban Combat is difficult for most units to dig out of a city, as it rolls cover on a 3+. The Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer is a popular unit in part because it can be so difficult to kill with its Hard to Spot ability, shrugging off blows from more powerful tanks.
Similar to improving cover, special abilities such as Steely Resolve, Superior Armour and Hulking Mass increase a units survivability. Steely Resolve and Superior Armour can viewed as adding a ½ point to the defense of units; Superior Armour 2 on a defense 4/4 unit isn’t quite as good as defense 5/5, but almost. Hulking Mass allows the units to shrug off a hit that would otherwise permanently handicap the vehicle, and sometimes prevents a single lucky hit from taking out the unit in one shot.
While it helps you survive, defensive abilities aren’t always the best, way to use luck to your advantage. Units like the Guards T-34/85 and Rangers explore another option; re-rolls. Turning a miss into a success can be all that you need to turn a miss into a hit. Working on a large scale, the Ammo Depot gives all of your units re-rolls giving it a huge impact on the game, though it’s offset by its vulnerability. The Headquarters unit is useful for Flamethrower or Strike & Fade units that are most effective at going before your enemy does
Shaping the Battlefield
There are a few ways to shape the battlefield to your advantage just by the units you bring to the game. The most obvious are of course obstacles, which can divert and delay your enemy, buying your forces time to get into position. Minefields give you the potential to suddenly disrupt the route of your opponents units.. It’s important to be careful when placing obstacles – you don’t want your opponent to find a way to turn them into an advantage. For example placing a Pillbox closer to the middle may seem like a good idea... until your opponent sends a paratrooper to take control of it on the first round.
Minefields can be an interesting addition to an army, since you can build a force to take advantage of them. Heroes effectively ignore them. Units with Veteran Crew, SS-Determination, and Tough don’t suffer as much from them as others might, though they aren’t completely unaffected. It’s not something that you should do lightly, but occasionally can be used to your advantage. For example a disrupted SS-Panther Ausf. G might want to retreat from enemy units to get rid of a disruption; it can simply move over a minefield with no additional effect (it’s already disrupted), but any pursuing unit will have to decide if it’s worth the risk of hitting mines.
The other way to shape the battlefield is through the units you select. A Veteran Tiger may not change the terrain, but has a definite impact on the battlefield; enemy units will be stuck hiding behind cover or risk being destroyed. Snipers, Machine-Guns, and Mortars have a similar effect on infantry – few players want to simply throw away their units for little gain.
Thus concludes the section on Army Building. Now that the basics have been covered, we can begin on the next most important issue in AAM – Battlefield Tactics that can be employed by any size of army. Because, believe it or not, sometimes throwing your forces at your enemy isn’t the best way to go! Now go talk about this article on our message boards.