13 April 2011

Know your support options - Germany

Since I have some painting related stuff coming up later this week I thought I would post part 2 of “Know your support options” a few days earlier than I had planned.

This week, Germany – the  nation with the most weird units in Secrets of the Third Reich. This has to a certain degree been balanced with the Doomsday book, allowing the other nations to  catch up a little.

Still, the Germans have a wide variety of very good support options and a couple of interesting characters as well. German Grenadier squads which form the backbone of any German platoon can be customized rather well - which does not make the German player depend on support options to get the job done to the same extent as the platoons of the US. But adding support options with specific battlefield roles allow you to customize your platoon options quite a lot so that the whole platoon works together in a way that the other platoons can't compete to the same extent.

Just as with my US guide, I only write about the units and characters that I have had the chance to play with to this date.

Wolfgang Faust
A cheap character that is often purchased to boost your platoon initiative to 10 as long as he’s alive.  Almost always giving you the edge over the situation and allowing you to go first each turn.  He comes with one other very good skill and one penalty. First, he’s a “Wolf runner”, a genetically modified human that is in between human and werewolf shape. This gives him the ability to field Werewolves and Wolf Runner units as part of your regular platoon- they will not take up any support option slots!  The penalty of Wolfgang Faust is that you can never field anything above Light Vehicle armor starting on the table. You can get Medium armored Drop mechas but there is no way of getting heavier stuff.

Often Light/Medium armored vehisles are enough though and all in all, having those Werewolf units as part of your platoon gives you the option to field even more standard support options which can turn a Wolfgang Faust platoon into a very tough force. A tip, if you play the WF platoon, buy the Light Personnel armor upgrade, since your werewolves and wolf runners will receive the comfort of at least having some protection against fire and monster hunters should you run into any of those.

Werewolves
They come in packs of 3 and are loners, so you get 3 activations for 5RP. Activations are always valuable in SoTR as much of the game boils down to activating the right unit at the right time, and often trying to “push” your good activations towards the end of the turn where they can move about freely when everything on the opposing side has activated. They are superb in close combat, they will tear through unit after unit given a bit of luck. The first unit which comes into contact with a werewolf is dead meat. What a player can do is try to flee away from your charge leaving your werewolf standing in the open and getting shot to pieces. One of the more difficult to play assault units in the game since they completely lack ranged weapons. They are however worth including for the 3 activations, and to scare the enemy throughout the game running around along the flanks.

Just avoid getting caught by a flamethrower inside a forest!

The Doomsday book has the “Blitzhund” upgrade for Werewolf packs, paying 1 additional RP you will get a faster and more agile Werewolf – and it is totally worth it as very very few units will have movement ranges that can take them safely out of the Blitzhunds charge range.

Wolf Runners
One of my favorite units in the game. They are not as good in close combat as the werewolf pack but they are a 5 man unit with SMG weapons and a few nice upgrades. They are as tough to kill as the werewolves and fast enough to outrun regular units if they need to. I usually use them to race ahead  and contest some good terrain with them until the rest of the troops arrive. They are good at suppressing the enemy with their 5 SMG’s and RoF 10+ the enemy receive -6 to their cool checks!

Frau Tear
At 16RP this lady is EXPENSIVE!  Taking a close look at what you get: 1 Vampire commander (8RP), Uncanny Resilient and Utterly Fearless troops! No real need to upgrade the platoon with morale since you won’t need it for anything else than throwing back grenades (which does not happen often enough to justify more points put into non units). It might however be a good idea to buy Light Personnel armor, just like with the Wolfgang Faust platoon, fire is absolutely brutal against Uncanny Resilience.  You don’t have to fear anything else than monster hunters and fire.  I very rarely play with Frau Tear, simply because 16RP is a LOT of points in SoTR and you will get a good few units for that amount of points. Still if you like to play a vampire themed force of utter evil – this is it.

Vampire
At 8RP the Vampire is a very expensive and situational asset. You won’t often cash in those 8RP in kills. And while the vampire can move around in mist form and deep insert making most opponents a bit nervous – the vampire is still one lonely model. You should never let him slip into a vehicle with more than 2-3 crewmen as they will gang up on him and kick his ass.

He is good at hunting down lone platoon support units like HMG teams, Mortar teams,  Chameleon Snipers etc, he might even have a fair chance to rip apart a lonely fire team. The problem is of course, once again, Fire and Monster Hunters special rule. Fire can kill him even when in mistform – and he dies very easily as he’s treated as an “unarmored” soldier in that case. A vampire is very hard to play with, you will be tempted to use him in situations that might be too hard for this guy, it takes some practice to learn what targets are good pickings. If you can spare the points you can add a Vampire, but there are better and more flexible support options for less RP out there. Still a cool looking unit and battlefield presence though.

Drop Troopers
A favorite among German Players, one of the best support options in the game for a couple of reasons but mainly because their ability to drop down and unleash hell with flamethrowers. Their Heavy personell armor protects them from a lot, but don’t leave them in the open. One should also consider what purpose they should will in each battle as their unit upgrades make this unit very versatile.

You can upgrade the unit with Anti Tank rifles, Packed LMG’s and Flamethrowers – you also have to chose between Assault Rifles and SMG’s.  If you want to use them as an ultra aggressive punch in the back of the enemy line then go for flamethrowers and SMG’s which will allow you to hit stuff easier. If you plan to use them as a tough fire support unit then arm them with assault rifles, packed lmg and anti tank rifles and really make sure to use those “no range penalty” weapons as much as possible. They come at 6RP with a lot of configurations for free, those are always well invested RP. You can also upgrade one guy with a twin linked panzerfaust for an additional RP if you want to turn them into heavy hitters against vehicles.

Zombie hordes
A very cheap unit that can annoy the hell out of the enemy. Especially if you use them as a stretched out meat shield. Place your regular troops behind the advancing zombies and enemy Light Infantry class weapons will almost always have to fire at the tough zombies – which stand back up at the start of each turn as part of their special rule. Enemy units will waste a lot of fire to wear down the zombie horde, Down isn’t good enough for them.

German zombies also come with a Pinger controller allowing you some control over zombies within a 6” radius. This can be extra useful is you have included zombie bombs and don’t want them to wander off aimlessly. Zombies are really just a defensive unit, look at them as something of a minefield – they will slow the enemy down but they won’t win you the battle.

Sturmzombies
Now we’re talking, these zombies are limited to 10/unit. They can also be upgraded with a more powerful zombie bomb as well (Heavy AT!). They are not as braindead as the regular zombies and have better movement and allows you to control them like any other infantry. They do lack ranged weapons however. They are also more expensive than their less enhanced brethren. 

Sturmzombies are great at punching enemy armor to pieces and rip units up in close combat. If you can get them in, little will stop them. You can bet on the enemy becoming distracted by the presence of Sturmzombies as they have to be dealt with quickly. If you are not careful they will be destroyed by massed fire from multiple units.  A good idea might be to have them in reserve around an objective you know that the enemy has to claim.

Drohne
Another favorite of mine. 3 brains in a jar, with twin linked Packed LMG and the ability to hover over terrain  during their movement. Their combined firepower is good, and the twin linked guns make you hit a bit easier. They are a little fragile with their low numbers, things start to go downhill pretty much as soon as you lose 1 Drohne. Bulletproof is a very good ability though, and if you can force yourself to use Suppressing fire instead of trying to kill stuff they are good at that too, combined cool check penalty is -4 which is often good enough to suppress Green and Veteran troops.
Their drawback is the “Tweaker” rule, making you roll a D6 every time you issue orders to this unit. On a roll of 1 the unit shuts down for the remainder of the turn. As such I never give them orders. At 5RP they are a very nice addition to almost any German platoon if you can spare the support slot.

The Von X children

Doomsday also includes rules for Hans the hunter, and Gretel & Ilsa. Just as with Frau Tear they are more of “adding character” than really being “good” additions to your platoon as they are all expensive and hard to play with.

Gretel & Ilsa can only be fielded with a Sturmzombie platoon which is a bit hard to play. The girls go for 14RP and each can take control of a Sturmzombie unit boosting it with their own unique special rules. However, there is one slight problem. Gretel is the Platoon commander and though both girls have super strength Gretel is completely unprotected, she has only Thick Skull (restraining myself from making any blonde jokes).  As such she is very easy to kill. Ilsa is Bulletproof and can take a hit or two without having to worry too much about it and is as such better suited to run along with their Sturmzombie friends. I think the Sturmzombie platoon led by Gretel and Ilsa is one if not the hardest platoon to play.

Hans the Hunter, at 7RP he is quite expensive for what he brings to the table looking at his rules. He is a LOT of fun to have around though. Small chassis vehicles can be harpooned and dragged by Hans. Medium+ vehicles can drag Hans if he Harpoons them which can make for some hilarious and cinematic game sequences. He can be fielded with any German platoon, but can never join any unit. He can be upgraded with “pet” Bomber zombies of the Sturmzombie kind if you like.

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend using him – but he does add a lot of flavor, and SoTR is very often about just having a great time and experiencing WTF moments with your friends as crazy stuff happen. Having Hans around will increase the amount of those moment.

Historical Vehicles
Germany has a wide array of heavy hitting tanks. I would recommend going for the PzIV for your regular 50-55RP games since it is affordable enough to include, packs a great gun and machine guns to match the Sherman tank. If you want to go balls to the walls you can always include a Panther or Tiger tank, though in 50-55RP games these expensive vehicles with very heavy guns rarely get to do much tank killing. Even a PzIII could do the trick if you make sure not to expose the paper thin side and rear armor.

This concludes the German guide, next week I’ll take a look at the Soviet support options.

10 comments:

  1. Excellent stuff! I have been I have been interested in SSTR range and intend to get a few models at Salute this weekend...
    Regards,
    Monty

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  2. Thanks Monty, SoTR is an incredibly fun skirmish game. It was the game that made me go on with miniature wargaming when I quit WHFB and WH40k and really opened my eyes on how many great games and manufacturers of miniatures are out there that I never knew of before.

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  3. I totally agree with everything you've written - the Germans have some great toys but they can be very expensive. The Drop troops now I think, are almost cheesy and cliche because they are so popular in almost any German force.

    I would also suggest that the Germans have the greatest range of intermediate vehicles, the Hetzer being a favourite of mine. The great array of Panzers, all the way up to the Tiger series, allows them to really specialise their suppoort. Not sure I'll ever be able to justify a Tiger for its points though!

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  4. Yes there are a few units in the game that should have a RP reduction. US sentinels and Vampire could easily be reduced to 6RP, 7 at the most. They are a big dent in the RP budget in regular games. In bigger battles, say 100RP, that doesn't matter as much since you still have 92RP worth of other troops making up for it.

    I love the Hetzer, I use if for my Polish partisan platoon as a captured tank. Though we play it with the house rules suggested by someone over at the SoTR forum (11RP and Medium armor).

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  5. "Gretel is completely unprotected, she has only Thick Skull (restraining myself from making any blonde jokes)."

    Probably wise. You are in one of the two regions on this planet where I'd be hesitant to make any blonde jokes myself...

    Also, for the Sturmzombie Squad you mention "punching enemy armor to pieces." Wasn't the enhanced strength errata'd? I'd be curious to read your thoughts on how you would build a sturmzombie platoon.

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  6. @Robert, good question.

    While writing this I looked at my FAQ papers and was feeling unsure about two things, one of them the enhanced strength of sturmzombies. I played a Sturmzombie platoon once with 2 units of sturmzombies, the von X sisters, Drohne squad, regular zombies and and mecha in support. But they didn't do very well. IIRC one of the girls was killed by a mortar (just my luck).

    I remember during beta testing and my game, that the enhanced strength was still in play - I got to use it against a mecha. I have memories of a discussion whether or not the enhanced strength should be removed or not.

    The other thing I was unsure about, was when writing the soviet guide - I was almost certain that we had removed the "large" from Urzine's profile but I just could not find it anywhere!

    Must have forgotten about it, I actually looked at the FAQ documents while writing this stuff

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  7. Seems like alot of the errata is scattered over the SoTR boards, I just happen to remember that particular bit because I'm really trying to think of a configuration that works for the Sturmzombie platoon but with 14 rp eaten up by the girls and sturmzombies (at 6 rp for 10) acting only as well heeled zombies. I'm at a loss, personally.

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  8. Thanks for putting this together, always appreciate reading stuff like this- it is worth the effort you put in.
    Fallschirmjager, SoTR Forums

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  9. Yes, the problem is if you want a heavy zombie flavor you pretty much end up with no ranged weapons at all. If you dilute the zombie options and take support options instead you end up with a weak zombie backbone and regular support option section.

    The main problem is that the girls are so damn expensive and that you have to take them as a command. 14RP is a LOT on 50RP. The sturmzombie platoon may be playable in larger games 70-100RP maybe. But I don't know, the one time I gave it a try I got beaten badly - and that ended that little platoon build experiment.

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  10. So if you have Sturmzombies, just squeeze them in as a regular support option in your Grenadier platoon or something.

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