Hello dear readers!
So my friend Anders and I got together to battle it out, which would actually be the first time that I got to use my Sini-Soviet Union against his Axis forces. We put together a 300 point army each, of course using Jacobson's excellent Dust Warfare Force Builder.
Neither of us had played a battle at this size before so were happy to be able to include so many troops! Well, enough blathering and onto the actual reporting. First off, let's have a look at the armies.
The SSU Army
Koshka Rudinova with Grand'ma (53)
--- Defense Platoon (150)
Command Section: "The Medvedi" SSU Command Squad (25)
1st Section: "Ohotniki" SSU Rifle Squad (20)
2nd Section: "Frontoviki" SSU Battle Squad (20)
3rd Section: "Ohotniki" SSU Rifle Squad (20)
Commissar: "The Sumarokov" (5)
Support: KV47-C "Natalya" (30)
Support: KV47-C "Natalya" (30)
--- Defense Platoon (96)
Upgrade: Cavalry Platoon (5)
Command Section: "The Medvedi" SSU Command Squad (25)
1st Section: "Fakyeli" SSU Close Combat Squad (21)
Commissar: "The Derzhavin" (5)
Support: MIL MI-45 Airborne Transport (40)
What I had in mind was armoured attack with infantry working as support and to anchor the force. Basically using the two Medvedi to advance together with the walkers and repair them as needed while the Ohotniki provided fire support. I would have prefered a fourth walker and another Fakyeli squad, but since they didn't arrive in time I went with the Mil Mi-45 instead. However I strongly suspected facing a Sturmkönig so didn't really expect it to amount to a lot.
The Axis Army
--- Blutkreuz Platoon (244)
Upgrade: Improved Command (5)
Command Section: Sturmpioniere (25)
1st Section: Axis Zombies (19)
2nd Section: Heavy Flak Grenadiers (26)
3rd Section: Axis Gorillas (24)
Support: HPW VI-B "Sturmkönig" (90)
Support: MPW III-A "Wotan" [Upgrade] (Zv) (55)
Anders chose a very different route for his army, mainly because he wanted to include his two new toys I imagine. Hehe! It's a very elite heavy army with expensive units and two heroes and I think Anders would have wanted to include another squad of zombies but like in my case they hadn't arrived yet. He was also debating whether to take Totenmeister or Grenadier X, but went with Totenmeister in the end.
Battle Building and Deployment
This time we tried using the tournament battle builder that FFG have made available on their homepage, which is a little bit different from the one in the book. We ended up with Critical Positions, Force Collision and.... None! So after setting up the terrain we had to each secretly pick one piece of terrain outside our deployment zone which would be our Critical Position. Each infantry squad completely within the objective at the end of a turn would provide one Superiority Point (ie VP). You can see the positions we each picked in the picture below. Force collision simply meant that we would setup at opposite corners of each other.
I deployed my "human wave" interspersed with walkers and tried to keep a Medvedi squad close to each (except for Grand'Ma who was off to one flank). I opted to combine the two Ohotniki squads using a Commissar although this would give me less points for holding the critical position it would also give me a slightly better chance of getting the initiative. The helicopter was loaded with the Fakyeli joined by the second commissar and stayed a back a little so it wouldn't get blasted out of the sky during the first turn.
The Axis walkers were deployed fairly aggressively, aiming towards the center of the battlefield, while most of the infantry were off to one flank and in cover. With their long firing range the Wotan and Sturmköning just needed to advance a little bit to be able to cover most of the table. Fortunately I there were some ruins blocking line of sight here and there.
Rolling a lot less dice Anders won the initiative on the first turn but decided against using any orders during the Command Phase. I didn't feel the need for it either so our respective forces started advancing during the Unit Phase.
Just as I had suspected the two walkers advanced far enough to be able to dominate the midfield but my chopper was luckily just out of range. The Sturmpionere and Heavy Flak Grenadiers moved forward and suspiciously started to hug the big container juuuust outside of the Axis deployment zone. The Apes and Zombies (joined by their respective heroes) advanced a little bit further but didn't rush headlong.
When it was time for my turn I pretty much moved 12" with everything toward the enemy lines and/or my critical position. I didn't reach the objective in just one turn though so I suspected Anders would take the lead with his important container! Most of my troops found some terrain to hide behind or clustered around the walkers for protection. I debated whether to fly low with my chopper and try to take cover behind one of the large ruined buildings, hoping to avoid fire altogether but opening up the risk of getting attacked by ground troops, or to simply fly high and face the four flak cannons of the Sturmkönig! In the end I opted for the latter as I reasoned that the chopper would at least survive one attack before going down.
At the end of the turn we each revealed our objectives and Anders got two points for being in (contact of) his.
Again Anders won the initiative (rolling six dice against my nine) but again I don't think he used any orders in the Command Phase, choosing to be able to react instead. I didn't either so on it was to the Unit Phase again.
The Apes and Zombies ran further ahead this time. The Apes reaching a point where they could threaten most of my line, but not without fear of reaction fire. The Zombies moved up and basically stood outside of my Critical Position. The Sturmpioniere and Heavy Flak Grenadiers stayed put to get some points. The Wotan used a sustained fire action to shoot at the closest Natalya walker but was unlycky enough to still miss completely! Phew! Finally, what I had feared the most; the Sturmköning fired on the helicopter and rolled.... not enough to kill it! It did inflict a couple of hits and a critical hit damaged the engine, preventing the helicopter for making double moves. Ouch!
During my turn the Ohotniki and one of the Medvedi squads advanced into the Objective building while the rest of my force raced forward. The Frontoviki took up a position where they could hopefully block the advancing apes and protect the flanks of Grand'Ma and the Ohotniki. The Medvedi on the left flank didn't advance behind the Natalya this time, but instead stayed put to fire on the zombies, wounding Totenmeister.
Finally the Mil Mi-45 turned the corner around the ruined bulding and flew straight toward the Sturmkönig! Of course my original plan had been to fly straight past the two walkers, drop the Fakyeli behind them and then simply go nuts with the molotovs and sulfur thrower against their thin rear armour. Unfortunately the engine critical hit meant that I just had enough movement to get right in front of the heavy walker. Urgh. At least this allowed me to fire at the Zombies below as the helicopter passed above them, inflicting a couple of wounds.
Heading straight at the heavy walker was a pretty desperate maneuver, but I knew it was the only way I would get my Fakyeli in a decent position, and with the Sturmkönig on the table my chopper didn't stand much chance in doing anything else anyway. It flew as close as it could but was then blown out of the sky by the heavy flak guns of the large walker! However, since I had bought the Air Cavalry upgrade for this platoon this meant that the Fakyeli simply popped out next to the wreck and with a reaction marker. Not to shabby! They followed this up by attacking the Wotan but only managed to do one hit and set it on fire. Hmm.
At the end of the turn we each scored two more points for a total of 4-2 to the Axis.
This turn I had a stroke of luck and managed to win the initiative! For the first couple of turns this hadn't been of much importance but this time it would prove fairly decisive. I used my commmand phase to issue an order to the Fakyeli standing right in front of the two heavy walker. They simply moved to the side of the Wotan, forcing it (and the Sturmkönig) to choose between turning to be able to fire on them, or to keep their facing to fire on the chainsaw wielding Natalya heading their way. Also since the Wotan was on fire Anders was of a mind to simply run over my infantry hoping to kill a few of them that way. I used another order on the Medvedi who again fire at the Zombies, bringing Totenmeister down to a single wound and killing a zombie.
The Axis used their two orders on the walkers who both fired on the Natalya. Fortunately the Wotan missed completely and the hits from the Sturmkönig only managed to penetrate armour plating of the lumbering machine once. For some reason (perhaps because it wasn't attached!) we forgot all about the MG44 in the turret mount of the Wotan which could have been used to put some fire on the Fakyli. It probably wouldn't have made a difference in the long run, but still.
During the unit phase things were really starting to heat up as the two forces were now in small arms range of each other! The Fakyeli again attacked the Wotan but the rain of molotovs only infliced another hit and the Sulfur thrower missed. Damnit! The Natalya charged forward and juuuust made it into range to attack the Sturmkönig. I decided to use its Berserk ability, which allow you to reroll all misses, except I got it mixed up with All In One and doubled my dice instead. Statistically I don't think there's all that much difference but there is of course a lot more potential damage when rolling 20 dice instead of 10 with a reroll. However, this time around it didn't make much of a difference as I only rolled two or three hits(!) that were easily negated by the heavy armour. So much for VK powered chainsaws! I did manage to inflict a critical hit though so it wouldn't be able to use sustained fire any more.
Both my Medvedi squads moved toward the objective building and the large Ohotniki squad split their fire between the zombies below (grenades), the apes nearby (submachine guns) and the Heavy Flak Grenadiers further off (Widowmakers) and succeded in completely wiping out the zombies, wounding Markus a couple of times and at least put some suppression on the Heavy Flak Grenadiers. The apes stayed their ground though... however when my second Natalya rounded the corner and came towards them they started to get worried. Anders debated whether it would be better to stand and fight back or to use their reaction to move around the corners where they would be exposed to my Frontoviki squad. In the end he opted for the latter so I didn't get to slice and dice any gorillas! The Frontoviki made up for it by wiping them out completely in a fusilade of machine gun fire and grenades! Woo! Finally Grand'Ma advanced a bit and fired on the Heavy Flak Grenadiers but failed to actually inflict any damage.
Things were looking grim for the Axis with both of their shock troops gone. They were still in the lead points-wise though so they had far from lost yet! Anders began with the Wotan firing its massive laser cannons at the uncomfortably close Natalya and this time the dice were finally with him as it blew it straight up! Of course, using his single action to fire instead of putting out the fire meant that the Wotan took another point of damage. The Sturmkönig followed this up by firing at the Medvedi and killed two of them. With the loss of the zombies and apes the Axis left flank looked very vulnerable and the Flak Grenadiers started to move towards a better cover position, but still in contact with the objective. Finally the Sturmpionere stared to string out, trying to get in range of my Fakyeli while still staying in contact with the objective container. In hindsight we played this wrong as well as it states that the minis have to be completely inside (or as close as possible I guess) the terrain to get the points.
At the end of the third turn the score was 6-5 to the Axis, but the SSU now had three squads within their objective building...
Only rolling four dice meant the Axis easily won the initiative. Anders used his single order on the Sturmkönig to fire on the Ohotniki in the ruined building, but only managed to inflict a single wound. I used my command phase to again attack the Wotan with my Fakyeli and this time they seemed to have cleared the jam that was obviously preventing the Sulfur thrower from firing! The large Axis walker was engulfed in white flame and slowly toppled over, fire belching from the crew hatch up top! I also moved the decimated Medvedi completely inside the ruins and out of sight of the Sturmkönig.
There wasn't much the Axis could do in the unit phase. The heavy walker fired again on the Ohotniki but still only managed to inflict a single casualty. The Heavy Flak Grenadiers moved completely into cover and the Sturmpioniere fired their Panzerfausts at the Natalya who was closing in on them rather quickly. Unfortunately they either went wild or simply clanged off the armour and the machine continued to advance...
...and before they had a chance to get more Panzerfausts ready it was upon them! Chainsaws whirred and bodies were rent apart. The entire command squad was wiped out by the Natalya, who was looking at the Heavy Flak Grenadeirs next. The Fakyeli moved towards the rear of the Sturmkönig although, preparing for a molotov assault next turn. The Medvedi squads both used their medics on the decimated one and managed to restore one member of the squad back to health. Grand'Ma continued her advance, but much like the Ohotniki there were no targets left for her to attack.
With four squads in the objective building the score at the end of the fourth turn was 7-9 to the SSU and we decided to call it at this point.
Victory to the Motherland!!
Post Battle Ponderings
It was a lot of fun bringing the game up to its full 300 point potential! I think this is considered the "standard" level when playing and it's what is used for tournaments. It certainly allows you to bring a lot of toys in your army and I think you can start to expect seeing the really heavy walkers turn up more often than not. Even with this amount of troops on the table the game never feeled like it was dragging on, or going too slow which I was really happy to see. I was afraid that it would be 40k all over again as the battles became larger (although I can imagine 350-400 would be pushing it).
It was interesting seeing the interaction between a small elite army with a few heavy hitters and my horde of soldiers and cheap walkers. While Anders won the initive three times out of four and had some pretty scary units he simply wasn't able to do enough damage fast enough. That's not to discount the small elite army as I think if Anders had planned his army a bit more in advance, instead of throwing it together as we were setting up, I'm sure I would have faced a much more coherent enemy force. As it was there was very little synergy between the different units which allowed me to destroy them piecemeal.
The other downfall of the Axis happened during the battle builder step of the steup when I managed to bump the objective from "Destroy the Enemy" to "Critical Position" which my large army with many soldier units in it was naturally more adept at. This really shows that the Battle Builder is a critical step in winning or loosing the game. What this meant was that Anders Sturmpioniere and Heavy Flak Grenadiers didn't actually influence the game at all (besides scoring of course). This might have been remedied somewhat by choosing an objective closer to the action instead of the container near the deployment zone. Then again, doing it this way did mean that the Axis got one turn of point scoring while the SSU were still moving towards their objective. Perhaps the zombies and apes should have stayed put the first turn as well to secure a large lead in points. Hmm...
The two new (for us) walkers were interesting! I didn't really manage to make much of a dent in the Sturmkönig and when the Natalya failed I pretty much gave up on it and decided to put my resources elsewhere. It simply didn't prove to be enough of a threat to warrant an all-out attack. The Wotan who could easily have popped all three of my walkers on the other hand needed to be taken care of. While Anders had some bad luck with it and missed all but one of his rolls I think it's a terrifying machine if you bring lots of armour! I'd rank it above the Königsluther actually when it comes to antitank duty. The heavy walkers can definitely take a pummeling, but you do pay for it as well and I wonder if investing in medium and light walkers isn't the better choice.
I'm pretty satisfied overall with the performance of my army. The helicopter was of course doomed from the start and I would have preferred another walker, but in the end it did manage to deliver its cargo... more or less. I think just having one of them is a bad idea in a large game such as this as it will inevitable be on the receiving end of focused fire and go down in the first or second turn. For full effect two or three is what's needed I think. If you can just manage to take out the opponents main AA platform you can then just cruise around killing those poor ants at your mercy!
Definitely a fun game! I'm looking forward to a rematch where Anders have had time to put some more thoughts into his army. It would also be fun to play against the Allies to see how things would change. I guess their mobility might be a bit scary...
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Until next time!