Elite armies vs quantity

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    I’ve been playing Bolt Action for nearly 2 years now, I play either as British or Russian commander but have started to notice my regular opponents being German are starting to field the same mix of forces, I can automatically guess their army lists will always include fallscirmjager units with max assault rifles, small grendadier squads with 2 mg42 guns per squad, assault engineers with flame thrower carried in a hanomag, mortar, sniper, HMG, sdzf22 with assault cannon and if tank included stug or PantherV, last night we played a large 4000 point game per side Brit infantry and paras vs above forces with 3 panthers and a stug, needless to say although a great game the brits had little chance with Sherman’s and Cromwell’s against such enemy armour and we got our arses handed to us. What I’m getting at is where are the German Wehrmacht in all this, do all German players max out on assault rifles and engineers? Elite forces etc… my opponent was apologetic and used the argument of cost against quality vs quantity but I still feel the allies are up against elite armies all the time? What else do German players field normally and how do you beat these elite armies?

    Alan Hamilton

    Not sure what you mean by “where are the German Wehrmacht in all this”? As Falschirmjager are Luftwaffe, “Grenadiers” is the term for late war standard infantry of the Heer as are the Pioniers, Panzer Grenadiers, Artillery, Panzers and other services. Since both Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Heer (Army) are 2 of the three components of the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) the opposition are fielding a “Wehrmacht” force. The Wafen SS were Party troops and not part of the Wehrmacht structure though they did fight under (at least nominal) OKH control.

    Most (points based competition style) rules favour “elites” though it is arguable that by 1944 there were few “elites” available to either side. The casualty rates had seen to that!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by Alan Hamilton. Reason: spelling corrected

    Hi Alan, sorry I should have specified, by elite I mea; they are usually veterans meaning I only wound on a dice roll of 5 plus rather than trained on a4 plus, by June 1944 just how many troops other than the SS divisions in Normandy would be veterans?

    Alan Hamilton

    Many of the German divisions in France were refitting (even the SS) after severe losses on the Eastern Front. The fittest and most able of the majority of the Infantry Divisions had already been extracted to be sent to the Eastern Front. The Army and Luftwaffe (Falschirmjager) field divisions were generally well equipped and trained with a reasonable number of veterans at NCO and Officer level but also mostly under strength. The Festung (static/coastal) divisions were the repository of the sick, oklder or recovering from wounds soldiers lacking transport. About a sixth of the 7th Army manpower were the Osttruppen generally regarded as being of little combat value.

    Only the 9 Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions could be regarded in any way “elite” in terms of morale but they, too, were often refitting with a fairly large proprtion of raw conscripts. That said most young Germans males had service in the RAD, HJ and other Flak, Air Raid precautions, damage repair organisations and so were no strangers to discipline, death and destruction.

    Of the 5 Divisions holding the beaches on D-Day 243 and 709 Divisions were low quality while only the 6th Parachute Regt of 91 Air Landing Div was veteran as was the experienced, well trained and veteran 352 Inf Div, 716 Static Div was well trained with a strong reinforcement of Veteran NCOs and Officers.

    So really – not many veterans, quite a few raw and fair number of trained.

    It is common in NW European games (probably East Front too) for the German player to represent the Panzer, Panzer Grenadiers and Falschirmjager even though the bulk of the army was the standard Infantry Divisions dependent upon horse drawn transport. Mind you I have seen a disproportionate representation of armoured divisions, paras and commandos on the allied side!

    Greg S

    I tend to find that armies with German vetrana squads loaded with autorifles get outnumbered and outpinned.

    If you put more pins on your opponent, then you are more likely to be the one that can claim the objectives.

    invisible officer

    the “elite” 6. Fallschirmjägerregiment was nothing like veteran. Mostly young men, near to no transport and little AT. Most of these “Fallschirmjäger” had not even done jump training.

    Bodenständige Divisions lacked the transport an ordinary Division had. Being used for occupation. The 716th ID was nothing like well trained and had no strong reinforcement of Veteran NCOs and Officers. They had long times of service but not in front Units. Classic “Etappenhengste”

    A lot of the men of that Division had been unfit for full service. Companies got organised around the illness to give the unit special diet.

    To name “Luftwaffe (Falschirmjager) field divisions” together is wrong. The 16th Luftwaffenfelddivision that fought at Caen lacked AT and well trained artillery (The guns are Soviet) . They had not even enough Panzerfäuste. Many of the company and platoon leaders had no infantry fighting experience. Being send from Luftwaffe ground organisation pools. Many OR are just redirected recruits from Luftwaffe allocated numbers. Getting trained by these “Veteran” NCOs that has served for years on airfields or Luftwaffe stores and transport.

    Sturmgewehr and FG 42 had been rare in the mid 44 Units in France. Not even “elite” Units had a significant numer. One even finds water cooled MG 08 and 08/15 withe the front Units there. Many System 98 rifles being taken from other countries and used here.

    HJ training was far away from real war. 12th SS Panzerdiv Hitlerjugend had not more Hitlerjungen than others (all German Boys had to be in that organisation) . It had 1.000 men of all ranks from Leibstandarte as base but lacked 2.6oo experienced Officers and NCO. Former HJ group leaders without fighting experience and short training had been a poor replacement. If there was anything special on that unit it was that.

    Waffen SS was 1944 no longer a “Party troop” of volunteers only but used conscription like Heer. The classic Heer Panzerdivision was not inferior to it in moral and had often more experienced men.

    I dare to say that no full German unit in Normandie could be rated Veteran. Many had a core but these survivors knew how to survive. It was the new guy that took risks.

    Charge The Guns

    Interesting history, IO!

    I think that if you play points based games then this approach of ‘list building’ is the end result for some players. In fact some gamers like this as a key part of the game they play. If you don’t like this then either play against people who want to field historical lists, or play GM’d scenarios?

    Alan Hamilton

    “The 716th ID was nothing like well trained and had no strong reinforcement of Veteran NCOs and Officers. They had long times of service but not in front Units. Classic “Etappenhengste”

    You might like to have a look at the 736. Grenadier Regiment of the Division which was composed largely of veteran Italian Bersaglieri who launched spirited counter attacks on D-Day. Many if not all the soldiers recovering from wounds would be “veterans”.

    As has been said before – points based competition style games are most unrealistic. Commanders at the level of Bolt Action almost never get to chose their forces. They have what they have in their understrength unit and on the occasions that they get supporting units these are assigned by higher command. That is why we play scenario based games with historically organised forces. My main opponent is my son. He is a serving soldier and I am a veteran. Both of us have combat experience and we play toy soldiers for fun as the rules bear little resemblance to real warfare, thank goodness!

    invisible officer

    The 736. GR had Italians, but the core was German. The attached 4th. Bat. was Ost-Bataillon 642

    KTB 716. Division: The Italian truck-drivers from Piedmont, deserted at the beginning of the attack. Taking with them the few lorries the Division had.

    That these “Bersaglieri” fought bravely was stated by Italians post war. In an article in Corriere della Sera that has many mistakes. But is often cited as “source”. (I had access to the original KTB in archive, it sounds a bit different) They had been no Bersaglieri veterans but from newly formed Northern Italy Fascist units. With a few veterans.

    The German Bodenständige Units fought well. Compared to their enemies. If you read Allied books comparing the officer/NCO training the German performance is less impressive.

    Most Normandie Italians served with the artillery. Many from Italian Navy. Serving for example in:
    – 645. Kust.Art.Rgt.
    – 651. Fest.Art.Rgt.
    – 855. Fest.Art.Rgt.
    In 1261., 1262., 1709. Artillery Regiments a third of the soldiers was Italian, fighting against British tanks in Montebourg between 19 and 27 June 1944.

    Some did well, more …..KTB SeeKo Normandie on D-Day:

    Soldaten ital. Marinekorps schlecht. Werfen Koppel und Waffen weg. Scharfes Durchgreifen angeordnet.”

    In many long held bunkers the defenders are the German officers and NCO, the non Germans having gone. For good reasons. Ukrainians or Italians fighting for Germany in France …….


    As someone who plays late war Germans I am always reluctant to field a force full of elites. For the very reason mentioned above – you will get pinned too often and not get the order dice out of the bag when you really need them!

    My usual opponent is Soviet so maybe I’m in a different position, I think the situation is slightly different with the armour. I’m facing Panthers Vs T-34/85s. The difference is not that great. Panzer IVj vs T34/85 are identical!

    I try to vary the forces I field so as to get an interesting mix.

    If I was faced with your challenge my response would be to use Churchill tanks rather than Shermans or Cromwells, add an M10c Achilles with the 17pdr. This armour combination is historical, the Tank Brigades with the Churchills didn’t have their own 17pdr tanks, so would get Royal Artillery Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Batteries attached, specifically with the Achilles.

    In regards to the Infantry, try to bulk up on Regular infantry plus enough smaller teams to keep the number of order dice high.

    This might help.

    Alan Tibbetts

    I play Germans and Soviets. My go-to German tank if the Mk IVG because it gets Tiger Fear and is reasonably priced. STuG III is only slightly cheaper, but does not get Fear rule.

    Brits can field the M10 Wolverine and they are dirt cheap with heavy AT gun.

    Both Germans and Soviets have squad integrated Panzerfaust, which I prefer over dedicated PIAT and Panzerschreck (you can buy 16 P-faust for the cost on one P-shreck.

    My advice, with that many points switch to Soviets and buy 20-man Bielski Partisan Squads equipped with AT Grenades and 1x P-faust/squad (Ostfront), 5-man Mounted Recon Squads with flamethrower (Fortress Budapest), Anti-Tank Dog teams, Guards (1x P-faust/squad), veteran Squads (2x P-faust and 2x LMG/squad). You can flood the map with a Red Tide armed to the teeth with AT weapons.

    Throw in the usual mortars, snipers, maybe a BM-13 and some M-10 Wolverines (Lend-Lease). A Captain or two for the +3 12-inch morale bonuses would be a good buy.

    This Soviet force doesn’t need to contain many veteran units but you will need a ton of infantry figures.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by Alan Tibbetts.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by Alan Tibbetts.

    So lots of people have gone into history. Which is great, so I’ll talk a bit about game play.

    Most players in any army have a tendency to go for very veteran heavy lists. We will talk about veterans and regulars because under the current rules inexperienced infantry are very seldom worth it. As compared to regulars veterans are tougher (wound on a 5+) and they are more reliable (base leadership 10 vs 9). In Bolt Action failing an order check is a big deal, because odds are you did not want to send that unit down, and having a better chance of succeeding can be critical for big plays. The durability also really starts coming into play as the game wears on, as veteran armies typically end up taking fewer casualties throughout the game. Add to that, veterans are far superior in close quarters to regulars. Most opponents that I have played, whether they be late war Germans, Americans, Brits, you name it, are all centered around veterans. Germans have an extra incentive to take veterans as a lot of their best squad load outs are veteran locked, like taking 2 LMGs on a shooting squad, etc.

    To answer your other concern, why do German players take these load outs? Because their book selectors are flexible, and taking specialized squad load outs is superior in game. Soviets can do this as well, and they absolutely should. If your German opponents are taking full squads of ARs and double lmg rifle squads, then you as a Soviet player should absoultley be responding with Guards Squads with 2 LMGs and full or almost full squads of SMGs for assault troops.

    My main force is Soviets, and my armies typically have a backbone of regular troopers. I actually think regulars are in large part underrated in general play. They have the same offensive firepower that veterans have, and can more easily have more numbers and additional order dice. Where veterans falter is they die just as fast as regulars under fire from heavier weapons, and due to the cost of each squad they will typically be out activated, and thus susceptible to being out pinned by their more numerous regular opponents.

    You can beat veteran opponents by using pins to hold them in place while you move positions and taking weapons in your force capable of killing them efficiently. Remember, at some point during most games a big gun will find its target. The veteran player will be hurting a lot more than the regular player will be. I’m not saying that regulars actually have an edge over veteran lists. But I wouldn’t say they are at any real disadvantage. Its about taking advantage of having more order dice. Applying pressure with pins, and moving your units to advantageous positions.

    Here is the thing with veterans. Typically they run in squad sizes of 7-8. And they are very susceptible to losing engagements with regulars. I like to run a full sized regular guards squad with smgs in most of my soviet lists. If they don’t have a transport they will frequently outflank. Once they drop within 6 of a veteran squad they can typically severely mangle them. And 3-4 veterans generally will be afraid to charge 10+ tough fighter regulars. The actual difference between veterans and regulars is generally overstated by most BA players, in both casual and competitive communities and you can build rock solid lists with both as a backbone.

    What it really comes down to is the skill of the players in executing their battle plans, and efficiently playing to the objectives.

    EDIT: In terms of weapons which are good for killing veterans, basically any high pen weapon. Things that kill veterans as fast as they kill regulars are really scary for elite armies. Flamethrowers, Heavy Mortars, Howitzers, Auto Cannons and similar weapons are all very scary for veteran forces.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by akaean.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by akaean.

    Another game play issue that the German players can have is buying the really expensive Tiger and Panther tanks. These can suck up far too many points and will receive a lot of attention from your opponent.

    I played a game at the weekend where I fielded my recently completed Tiger II. I managed to squeeze in a handful of other, cheaper tanks and a few infantry.

    The Tiger received the brunt of the Soviet attack, but it did effectively fight back. I lost the game but did manage to destroy or damage all of the Soviet tanks and kill the majority of his tank riders.

    I probably would have done better with a more co-ordinated platoon of Stug IIIGs plus maybe a Jagdpanzer IV (L70) in support.


    last night we played a large 4000 point game per side Brit infantry and paras vs above forces with 3 panthers and a stug, needless to say although a great game the brits had little chance with Sherman’s and Cromwell’s against such enemy armour

    I know we have been talking about regular sized games for the most part here. But I did want to point a few things out. While it depends on your selector, Brits generally are able to keep up with Germans in a heavy armor arms race. The noticeable choices that you should be looking towards are the
    – Cruiser Tank Comet: 9+ tank, up armored front to 10+, and a super heavy anti tank gun. Under the rules, the Comet is basically a Panther.
    – Sherman Firefly: 9+ tank with a Super Heavy Anti Tank Gun. Solid anti vehicle.
    – Wasps are always a good choice, as vehicle flamethrowers are capable of killing elite infantry and medium tanks like Panthers with frightening efficiency if they close in.

    At 4000 points, you probably will see some heavy tanks on the board. Brits definitely have good answers to them. Arguably better answers than the Russians do.

    Big games are harder to account for, as the Game Balance starts breaking down as the dice bag gets more and more bloated. Also note that armies like Germany, which center around unit buffs like Buzzsaw and Tiger Fear get stronger in larger and larger point games, and free unit armies like Soviets and to a lesser extent Brits, tend to get weaker as points increase and their free unit has less of an impact. Now, that isn’t a perfect metaphor, as both Soviets and Brits have very strong passive rules as well.

    If you get really desperate you can also sell your soul. Gurkha Rush with Brits, or shamelessly abuse the Stalingrad selector with Soviets. If your German players are min maxing, then min max right back at them.

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