10 March 2018

Back into the Desert - Armoured Fist Review

With the latest volume for Flames of War Mid-war, we're back on to the Allied side of the ledger and now look at some more of the British Forces that fought in North Africa, this time the tank forces in support of the 8th Army.

Armoured Fist is going to allow you to field formations from the following:

7th 'Desert Rats' Armoured Division

- The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry fielding the mighty Sherman.
- The Royal Scots Greys and their Grant's.
- The County of London Yeomanry fielding varying Crusader models, and
- The 8th Hussars and their Honey Stuarts.

6th 'Mailed Fist' Armoured Division

- 'Death or Glory' squadron comprising various tanks including Valentines and Crusaders.

78th 'Battleaxe' Division

- The North Irish Horse fielding the heavy Churchill tank
- The 40th (The King's) RTR and their Valentines 
- The Rifle Companies of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

You'll also have access to support options for all formations to cover you in terms of air support, artillery support and other facets of combined arms.

As we've come to expect from these volumes from Battlefront, they're decked out with fantastic colour shots of the forces in action as well as a bunch of historical information on the battles in the desert such as Gazala and the Battles of El Alamein. 

Each of the different parts of the Divisions listed above allows you to field formations of specific British or American tanks in British service to suit your taste. From there you can select your support options as you'd expect.

If, for instance, you wanted to take a force of the might Churchill III (and with the coming plastic kits from Battlefront, why wouldn't you?!), then you're immediately looking at a North Irish Horse force to take these monsters.

While I won't be looking at each of the individual units in this article, I am going to take a look at what I think is my favourite; the Death and Glory Boys of the 17th/21st Lancers.

Like most other formations as part of V4 Flames of War, you have some compulsory choices to make here.

Your formation HQ can be made up of either:

- A Valentine III HQ with either 1 or 2 Valentine III tanks supported by 2 Crusader CS in both instances, or
- A Lee HQ with 3 Lee tanks.

From there, you must take:

- A Valentine III Death or Glory Troop of 3 Valentine III tanks, and
- A Crusader III Death or Glory Troop of 3 Crusader III tanks.

From there you have 2 more optional slots which you can fill with an additional Valentine III squadron or either another Valentine Squadron or another Crusader III Squadron.

I think the thing that excites me most about this one is the nature of how you play them. You just get straight up into your opponents grill with fast tanks like the Crusader while the highly armoured Valentines roll in behind to mop up.

You have to get them in there quick because they're Aggressive, meaning they're hit on a 3+ and while they have relatively good armour, you still need to make sure you have a few that make it through. 

With a few carefully selected support choices, you really have the makings of a great force!

So, there's your introduction to Armoured Fist. Over the next few articles, we'll delve a bit deeper into some of the other forces at your disposal.

And don't forget.....the like it up 'em.

12 February 2018

US Forces in Vietnam - Part 2

In part 2 of our delve into the US forces available for selection the new 'Nam release from Battlefront and Osprey, we'll take a look at the Marines in Vietnam and also Task Force 117.

We'll finish off with taking you through all the support choice you have approved to you via MACV.

Let's crack into it!

The United States Marine Corps

The USMC were some of the first US units to be deployed to Vietnam. They didn't have all the extra bells and whistles that the Army had in terms of air mobile support, so had airbases and firebases set up from which to launch operations, such as that at Khe Sanh.

In 'Nam, you can take a couple of different Marine formations. You have access to either the Marine Rifle Company or an M48 Patton Tank Company.

If you're taking a Marine Rifle Company, your HQ is 2 M16 teams.

You have to take 2 Marine Rifle Platoons with an option for a third if you want it. There are 3 options in terms of size for the Marines, giving you either 10, 7 or 4 M16 teams with integrated LAW. You can also add up to 2 M60 teams, 2 90mm AT teams or 2 LVTP-5 Transports.

Being Marines, you'll note that these guys are a bit tougher than their buddies in the Army, with better Courage, Morale and Rally ratings as a result.

Rounding out your formation choices for your Rifle Company you can choose to take some artillery support as one of either:

- an 81mm Mortar Platoon giving you 3 tubes, or
- an 81mm Mortar Firebase from Tropic Lightning, or
- a 4.2" Mortar Firebase from Tropic Lightning.

In your tank support options, you can choose to take one of either:

- an M48 Zippo Flame-tank Platoon, or
- an M48 Patton Platoon.

These are both Marine options and so benefit from being slightly better.

In your Zippo tank platoon, you can choose to have between 1 and 5 Flame-Tanks.

Your final option here is 2 Ontos Anti-tank Platoons. This was a unique piece of kit for the Corps. Originally built as a tank destroyer, due to the massive power of it's 6 106mm recoiless guns, it also found a place as a bunker buster and infantry support weapon.

You can have between 2 and 5 Ontos in each platoon.

Your other Marine formation option is the M48 Patton Tank Company.

Your HQ will consist of either 1 or 2 tanks.

You have to take at least 2 tank platoons with an option for a third. Each platoon can have between 2 and 5 M48 Patton tanks.

Rounding out your formation choices for the Tank Company, you can choose to take:

- a Marine Rifle Platoon, and
- an Ontos Anti-tank platoon, or
- an M48 Zippo Flame-tank Platoon

River Assault Flotilla One - Task Force 117

 It wasn't just the jungles of Vietnam where battle were fought. In the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta, control of the waterways was needed to ensure the ongoing supply of food, mainly rice, to the South Vietnamese people.

In 1966, Task Force 117 was set up as part of the US Navy and Army river operations. This task force became known as the Mobile Riverine Force or MRF.

You only have a single formation choice here in the River Assault Squadron. Your HQ choice is a single Monitor Boat.

From there, your compulsory choices are:

- An Armoured Transport Carrier (ATC) with an attached Rifle Platoon, and
- An Assault Support Boat

Your ATC is just that, its an armoured troop carrier, based on a WWII landing craft. You do have the option of replacing your 20mm gun with a 40mm grenade launcher and you can also add a helipad.

Your Rifle Platoon is the same as we've seen previously in the Tropic Lightning article part, with full and short options.

You can also expand by taking another 2 ATC - Rifle Platoon combinations.

As well as these, you take an Assault Support Patrol BOAT (ASPB) to lead the column.  These "Alpha boats" are there to provide fire support for the troop carriers. As well as your compulsory ASPB, you have the option for 2 additional Alpha Boats.

Fleshing out your formation, your remaining choice in terms of options are:

- an ATC(H) Aid Boat
- an 81mm Mortar Platoon with between 3 and 4 tubes.
- 2 Zippo Monitor Boats
- 2 Monitor Boats
- a Scout Platoon from Tropic Lightning, and
- either an 81mm or 4.2" Mortar Firebase from Tropic Lightning.

Your ATC(H) is essentially a floating hospital which has the Medevac Special Rule, which we'll take a look at at the end of the article.

Monitors are slower than the ASPB but have a huge amount of firepower to support the convoy and were known as 'Mike boat'. There were also four Monitors which were converted into Zippo Monitors by the addition of two M10-8 flame guns.

US Support Units

The sheer volume of equipment sent to Vietnam was immense ranging from air support, artillery support and everything in between. We'll take a quick skim through your options here.

M42 Duster AA Platoon: Even the PAVN have air support now and then. The best defence is a good offence, or something like that....the M42 Duster should be able to sort that side of things out. You can get these in either 2 or 4 tank platoons.

Patrol Boats: Some more support in the water for the BWN. You can buy between 1 and 4 PBR's to offer some support...or maybe go hunting for Colonel Kurtz?

Pink Team: Allowing you some more support in the air, a Pink Team secures you an additional Loach and Cobra Gunship.

Skyraiders and Skyhawks: What? You want MORE air support? Well, fast movers inbound! You can choose from either the A-1 Skyraider or the A-4 Skyhawk. Both come in either pairs or quartets and can be upgraded with either Cluster bombs, Napalm bombs or Twin miniguns.

Special Forces Patrol: Be it the SEAL's, Force Recon or the LRRP's, these Special teams are represented as Special Forces patrols. You have 4 variants to choose from here:

1. Full Patrol with Helos: 6 x M16/LAW teams with 2 Huey's.
2. Full Patrol without Helos: As above without the Huey's.
3. Short Patrol with Helo: 3 x M16/LAW teams with a Huey/
4. Short Patrol without Helo: As above, no chopper.

You also have the option of replacing your M16's with Stoner 63 teams and from there you can also replace 2 M16 or Stoner 63 teams with M60 MG teams.

Artillery: Boom.....! Nothing better than pasting an area with some heavy shells before you go in, right? We have 4 options here, but you'll likely need some eyes in the sky as well, so there is a Huey available as your C&C OP.

1. M101 105mm Firebase which come in 3 or 6 gun batteries
2. M114 155mm Firebase, again in 3 or 6 gun batteries.

You can choose to also arm these with Firecracker ammo for some Salvo fun. As they're Firebases they count as Nests.

Your other options are Tank artillery in the form of either M108 (105mm) and M109 (155mm) SP artillery guns. These are again in either 3 or 6 gun batteries but you don't have the Firecracker option here.

Those are all approved for use...


"Dust-off" was the callsign for the medevac choppers, able to quickly enter the combat zone and get the wounded out of danger.

Combining either your medevac chopper or hospital boat, you can remove wounded markers from your troops and Medics and get rid of them.

Medevac choppers can hold 6 wounded markers instead of the 3 the Medic team has, while hospital boats have an unlimited wounded marker capacity. The catch is the team transferring the marker cannot be more than 2"/5cm away.

A Medevac chopper also loses all wounded markers when it loiters, which is pretty cool.

That does it for the US Forces in 'Nam. Next up, we'll be looking at the ANZAC forces.

04 February 2018

US Forces in Vietnam - Part 1

Today, I'm going to start digging a bit deeper into to force compositions and selections you can make for the forces in 'Nam. 

The US Forces in Vietnam are massive so I'm going to cover them across 2 articles so you don't get too bored in the process. This one will focus on the 1st Cavalry Division, The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 25th Infantry Division.

The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) - 'The First Team'

The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) proved that the an airmobile division could actually be an effective means of stunting the guerilla tactics being used in Vietnam.

The 1st Cavalry used their major mobility advantage to locate and engage the Vietnamese B3 front in the Pleiku area of the Western Highlands. This ended with the famous Battle of Ia Drang, depicted on the silver screen in 'We Were Soldiers'.

In 'Nam, you have a couple of options for fielding the 1st Cavalry. You can use them in an Airmobile Rifle Company or an Air Cavalry Troop.

In the Airmobile Rifle Company, you need to select your HQ, as always. This gives you 2 x M16 Rifle Teams.

Your compulsory choices in your Rifle Company are 2 Rifle Platoons and a UH-1 Huey Aviation Platoon. You can choose to add another Rifle Platoon though.

Rifle Platoons come in either full or short options. The full option gets you 7 M16 teams which have integrated M72 LAW's and 2 M60 MG teams (PIG TIME!) while the short version only has 5 M16/M72 teams. You also have the option of adding a 90mm Anti-tank team as well.

To get these guys in, you also need some Slicks! The UH-1 Huey Aviation Platoon allows you to buy either 3 or 4 Hueys. Each Slick can transport 3 teams.

Rounding out the choices for your formation, you can also add a Machine Gun Platoon, an 81mm Mortar Platoon and a Medic Team.

The Machine Gun platoon gives you access to an additional 4 M60 MG teams to provide suppressing fire. 

Buying an 81mm Mortar Platoon gives you either 3 or 4 tubes, depending on which option you take.

We'll have a look at Medic teams at the end of this article.

If you decide to go down the route of the Air Cavalry Troop, you're getting the whole hog here, so to speak. You take an Air Cavalry Troop HQ, which comes as 4 differing options:

1. 9 x M60 MG Teams with integrated M72 LAW and 4 x Huey
2. 7 x M60 MG Teams with LAW and 3 x Huey
3. 5 x M60 MG Teams with LAW and 2 x Huey
4. 3 x M60 MG Teams with LAW and 1 x Huey

As well as this, you need to also take an OH-6 Aeroscout Platoon and a Gunship Aeroweapons Platoon with the option of taking an additional selection of each of them.

In your OH-6 platoon, you can choose between 2 and 4 OH-6 Loach choppers with miniguns to lay-down supporting fire. 

And if you want even more fire support...how about some Cobras?!

You get to take either 2 or 4 Gunships and you can also replace any or all of them with Gatling Gunships.

(Yes, I have noted the typo here and pointed it out to Battlefront, save your flaming)

For me, this is likely where I'll start my 'Nam force, as I already have all the fixin's needed! Easy right?!

The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment - 'Blackhorse'

As the US involvement in Vietnam increased, there was a need for extra combat formations and in March 1966, the Blackhorse was on it's way.

They changed the way they were outfitted, exchanging their Jeeps and M114 recon carriers for the better armoured and bigger M113 APC. With a few modifications, the M113 became the ACAV - Armoured Cavalry Assault Vehicle.

In 'Nam, you have 2 options for the Blackhorse. You can either take an M113 Armored Cavalry Troop or you can field a Tank Company equipped with the M48 Patton.

The Armored Cavalry Troop, depending on your points levels, can be MASSIVE!

You need to start with your HQ which is made up of either 1 or 2 M113 ACAV.

From there, you must have an M113 ACAV Section and can then choose either another M113 section or a Sheridan Cavalry Tank Section.

The M113 ACAV Cavalry Section is easy. 2 M113's. Done. You do get the option of replacing  one of your .50 cals with a 40mm grenade launcher though.

In your Sheridan Section, you can choose either 2 or 3 M551 tanks and can also choose to equip each tank with the Shillelagh AT guided missile. Guided AT22 please!

Now, once you've made your choices here, you can expand your Cavalry Troop. You also have access, as core force selections, to:

2 additional ACAV/Sheridan selections (choose one as a slot)
5 additional ACAV sections
3 M125 Cavalry Support sections
1 M48 Patton Platoon
1 Zippo Flame-thrower Platoon
1 M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon, and
1 M109 Artillery Battery

So, in all, if you fielded every choice, you could conceivably have 17 platoons including HQ....or in less delicate terms, a fuck-load of kit!

The M125 Cavalry Support Section has 2 options:

1. 2 x M113 ACAV and an M125 81mm mortar track
2. One of each.

This offers you some initial artillery support for your advance to try and dig infantry out of their foxholes.

If you want to get a bit bigger on your artillery support, then the M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon has you covered. You can choose either 2 or 4 4.2" Mortar tracks.

And then heavier still...the 155mm M109 SP gun. You can select either 3 or 6 of these monsters.

And finally, the M132 'Zippo' Flame-thrower track option allows you to get between 2 and 4 fire-dealing carriers.

If you want to have less hulls on the ground, you can take the M48 Patton Tank Company.

You'll need to take an HQ of 1 or 2 Patton's initially. From there, your compulsory options are 2 M48 Patton platoons. These can range in size from 1 to 5 tanks. Once you've completed your compulsory selection, you also have the option of taking another platoon.

To finish your Tank Company, you can also add to your core an M113 ACAV Section, a Zippo Platoon and either an M106 Platoon or an M109 Battery.

The 25th Infantry Division - 'Tropic Lightning'

Tropic Lightning was one of two mech divisions that were sent into Vietnam and served there from the beginning of the war right until it's end.

As a mechanised force, each brigade in the 25th operated with a mech infantry battalion and two foot battalions while the third brigade also had Patton tanks.

If you're wanting to field a formation from the 'Electric Strawberry', you have four options to choose from. A standard Rifle Company, a Mechanised Rifle Company, an M113 Armored Cavalry Troop and a Tank Company.

Your Rifle Company is pretty much as it sounds. Grunts on the ground. You choose your Company HQ which gives you 2 M16 teams.

From there, compulsory choices are a minimum of 2 Rifle Platoons with an option for a third. There are two sizes here with the full option containing 7 M16 teams with integrated LAW and 2 M60 Pig teams. The short option scales you back to 5 M16/LAW teams.

Additionally though, you can add both a 90mm AT team and a single M48 Patton to the platoon, which I think is a great option to add some massive weight of fire to the platoon and some screening cover as well.

From there, your other optional selections include:

- A Scout Platoon
- An 81mm Mortar Section
- A Medic Team, and
- Either an 81mm or 4.2" Mortar Firebase

The Scout Platoon is exactly the same make-up as your Rifle Platoon, with both long ans short options, but these also add the Scout and Spearhead special rules to your formation. If they're not needed, then effectively you have an additional Rifle Platoon.

You have some artillery support in the 81mm Mortar section. This gives you 2 tubes.

If you want more firepower though, you can choose either the 81mm or 4.2" Mortar firebase. This gives you access to either 2 or 4 tubes, depending on your points spend.

Should you decide to head down the Mech Infantry path, you have a slightly different formation make-up.

Again, you need an HQ which comes in the form of 2 M16 teams and 2 M113 ACAV.

You need to take 2 Rifle Platoon (Mech) with the option for a third. Here, much like the Rifle Platoon, you have long and short options with the same structure as above with respect to team numbers. The long version also adds 4 x M113 while the short option only has 3.

Once again, you can add a 90mm AT team but you can also replace an MG on one of your M113's with a 106mm Recoiless Rifle or an M134 minigun.

Your other core selections can now be taken from:

Up to 2 M113 ACAV Scout Patrols
An M125 Mortar Platoon
An M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon
An M48 Patton Tank Platoon, and
A Zippo Platoon.

These are all the same as we've seen previously in the article, so I wont go over them again.

The exception here is the M113 ACAV Scout Patrol. This is made up of either 2 or 4 M113 ACAV which have the Spearhead special rule. You can also replace one of your .50 cals with a 40mm grenade launcher.

The M113 Armored Cavalry Troop for the 25th is similar to that of Blackhorse, but there are a couple if differences worth noting.

You must select your M113 Troop HQ of 1 or 2 ACAV. Easy, simple.

You must have 2 M113 ACAV Cavalry Sections with the option for 4 more for a maximum possible 6 sections.

The differences come in the optional selections. Here, you have the choice of:

- Up to 3 M125 Cavalry Support Sections (the same as we saw with Blackhorse) 
- An M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon
- A Zippo Flame-thrower Platoon, and
- 3 Tank Platoons of either Sheridan's or Patton's.

And finally for the 25th, you have your Tank Company. 

Patton's are the tank of choice here and you Company HQ has either 1 or 2 of them.

You must have 2 Platoons with an option for a third. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

To round out the formation, you can also take:

- An M113 ACAV Scout Patrol
- A Mech Rifle Platoon, and
- An M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon.

Whew! That's a lot of stuff!

In the next part of looking at the US Forces in Nam, we'll take a look at the USMC and their options, including the weird M50 ONTOS, as well as the men of the Brown Water Navy, Task Force 117.

We'll also look at all the support options available to the US forces in 'Nam.

One final thing, as promised, is the Medic Team.

The Medic Team operates as an Independent Infantry Unit and it also has the 'Triage' Special Rule. This works along with any Missions that have the Triage and Medevac special rules.

In Missions that have these rules, if a Free World player has an Infantry or Gun team destroyed through shooting, the Shooting player rolls a die. On a 5+ the team is Destroyed as normal, otherwise they receive a Wounded marker.

A Team cannot have more than one Wounded marker and those that have them are reduced in their effectiveness to fight.

At the start of the Movement step, however, a Wounded team may transfer their marker to another unwounded team with in 2"/5cm.

This is where the Medic Team comes into play as this Team may have up to three Wounded Markers instead of one, meaning they can take more hits off your teams. 

I think its a great addition to the rules and if you couple this with a Medevac chopper (which we'll look at in the next article) then you can really start making a difference with these units.

Until next time, make sure and keep your socks changed.