News for October 2008
Re: Vehicles
From: Daniel Clark, ToI Support Staff, FFG H.Q.
Tide Of Iron | Published 28 October 2008

The art of command is finding not only the best tool for the job, but the best job for the tool. A commander has only so many assets at his disposal – men and materiel and time. Wasting any of them leads to defeat. All pieces of a commander's army should be deployed to maximum effect at all times. If the best use for a mobile asset is as a rapidly-responding reserve unit, then it should be kept in reserve until the optimal moment, and no longer. An asset unused is as wasted as an asset used wrongly.

In our last briefing, we covered the fighting men of both the American and German nations. We emphasized the importance of cover to the preservation of force, and the inherent flexibility of the infantry command structure.

In this briefing we will cover the vehicles used by both the American and German armies. While many of the fighting machines available to both sorts of commanders are equivalent, there are some key differences that must be accounted for.

       

SDKFZ 251 Half-Track (German) and M3A1 Half-Track (American)
Transport (1), Light Vehicle
Move: 7
Vs. Infantry: 5 Range, 4 Firepower
Vs. Vehicles: 3 Range, 2 Firepower
ARMOR 1

These armored transports can be used to quickly move squads to the front line of the battle, and to provide fire support once they have arrived. With unmatched speed (only trucks are faster, and then only on roads) and longer-than-average range, the half-track is able to reach and fire upon nearly any target.

Although armored, half-tracks are far from invulnerable. They are both faster and more durable than the squad they may be transporting, but commanders should still make use of cover where possible. Also note that the half-track is primarily effective against infantry. Although capable of damaging enemy vehicles, its firepower will prove ineffective against enemy tanks.

       

Opel Blitz 3 Ton S (German) and GMC CCKW 353 (American)
Transport (2), Light Vehicle
Move: 4
No weapons.
ARMOR 0
Effective on Roads: Costs one third of a movement point to enter a contiguous road hex.
Fragile: Is destroyed when heavily damaged.

The transport trucks are excellent at moving squads rapidly along roads and of extremely limited utility otherwise. When traveling off-road, trucks are no faster than the infantry they carry, but when moving on roads they can cover 12 hexes in a single turn.

With no armor and no weapons, the GMC CCKW 353 and Opel Blitz are clearly ill-suited for combat. However, once a truck has delivered its soldiers to the front lines commanders will still find the machine useful. Since it is slightly more durable than infantry, a truck can serve as a forward spotter for mortar crews, and of course can be used to rapidly shuttle troops between flanks if the situation requires.

M4A1 Sherman
Tank, Heavy Vehicle
Move: 6
Vs. Infantry: 5 Range, 6 Firepower
Vs. Vehicles: 6 Range, 8 Firepower
ARMOR 4
Concussive Firepower: Receives +3 range and +3 firepower when attacking a squad in a building or pillbox.
Overrun: May move through an enemy hex, pinning all squads present (+1 movement cost per enemy unit).

This is the most powerful single unit available to the American commander. Mobile, heavily armored, and with impressive firepower, the Sherman must form the core of any commander's strategy when it is available for use. It is strong on both the attack and defense, excels at destroying fortified positions, and is the only asset capable of truly rivaling enemy armor.

The Sherman is not, however, without its limitations. It has only 4 armor, which is sufficient to protect it from most small arms fire (especially when combined with cover), but far from proof against enemy tanks. Although its firepower is the best available to the American commander, it is still outmatched by certain enemy tanks, and even the best trained gunnery teams firing the most powerful weapons can miss. Commanders should use the Sherman neither recklessly, allowing combined enemy fire to destroy their most powerful fighting vehicle, nor too carefully, allowing caution to prevent their tank from deploying to maximum effect.

Panzer IV
Tank, Heavy Vehicle
Move: 6
Vs. Infantry: 5 Range, 6 Firepower
Vs. Vehicles: 8 Range, 10 Firepower
ARMOR 4
Concussive Firepower: Receives +3 range and +3 firepower when attacking a squad in a building or pillbox.
Overrun: May move through an enemy hex, pinning all squads present (+1 movement cost per enemy unit).

This is the closest equivalent the German army has to the M4A1 Sherman. As is readily apparent, it is a very similar machine with a more powerful gun. The same basic concepts as using the M4A1 apply for the Panzer IV – strength on attack and defense, effectiveness against enemy armor and fortifications, good mobility.

Again, like the Sherman, the Panzer IV is not indestructible. It does, however, have an important edge on the M4A1: it will not be facing opposing Panzer IVs and Tiger Is. The primary danger to the Panzer IV is the M4A1, and that machine only bears 8 firepower against vehicles. The commander must still be wary of combined fire, but has slightly more leeway than his American counterpart.

Tiger I
Tank, Heavy Vehicle
Move: 5
Vs. Infantry: 5 Range, 6 Firepower
Vs. Vehicles: 8 Range, 13 Firepower
ARMOR 6
Concussive Firepower: Receives +3 range and +3 firepower when attacking a squad in a building or pillbox.
Overrun: May move through an enemy hex, pinning all squads present (+1 movement cost per enemy unit).
Thick Armor: After defense dice are rolled, change one defense die into a "6" result.

The Tiger I is the most powerful war machine commanders of any nation are likely to see. While slower than the other tanks and with no greater anti-infantry capability, it is incredibly well-armored and has enough firepower to destroy any target. Its thick armor ability combined with its naturally high armor value make it difficult to destroy even when caught in the open, and even when firing at half-strength due to moving the Tiger I deploys firepower comparable to most other tanks. When entrenched in a defensive position with a commanding field of fire, the Tiger I is nearly impervious to harm.

Of course, such a powerful war machine is never seen in large numbers and is only dispatched to a commander likely to need its firepower and armor to accomplish his objectives. Losing a Tiger I to combined enemy fire is possible, and perhaps even more likely given the tank's relatively low speed is the chance of being unable to effectively deploy its superlative firepower. Place and use the Tiger I carefully – it may be the difference between victory and defeat.

With a clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of the men and materiel under his command, a commander is well-equipped to accomplish his mission objectives. Using assets to their best effect is the core of any sound strategy – every casualty taken by a squad inappropriately deployed and every damaged vehicle that must be abandoned is a wasted resource. Keep this in mind when you forge your battle plans.

Dismissed!

    
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