Sunday, 17 July 2016

Tactica: Guide to using the British Armoured Squadron in Flames of War

All right you ‘orrible lot get in line. Now you’ve been sent to me to be turned into tank crews, yet I bet ‘alf of you have never even seen a tank before, let alone operated one! Well that’s where you’re lucky to have an ‘xperienced man like myself who’s been around a bit to explain things to ya! Stop that sniggering that the back there Private! You’ll be ‘eading over the channel soon, so I’d pay attention if I were you.”

This is my guide to using the British Armoured Squadron in Late War. They were my first army over 5 years ago, and while I use other forces from time to time, I still go back to them on a regular basis. As such I've illustrated this article with pictures of my models as well. 

The British Armoured Squadron and their Shermans are often spurned in favour of the heavier armour of the Churchill, the speed of the Cromwell or the flashy Sherman variants of the US Armoured Company, however I think the British can still hold their own and have a few tricks up their sleeve.

This is where you’ll find the officers and you’ll stay away from them if you want to keep out of trouble. Mind they’re always prepared to pitch in when things get a bit sticky, and that’s quite motivational to the lads. “

The squadron is always lead by the Company Commander and 2iC, both in Sherman tanks. In addition, you can add a platoon of up two additional Shermans to the HQ. This has advantages and disadvantages. Firstly it’s a platoon, so it can bring you up to even platoons, and can be left in reserve. Unfortunately, your opponent only has to kill the two none-2iC Shermans to kill it, so it can be vulnerable. The two extra 75mm Shermans can be useful however, with their HE rounds and direct fire smoke. Generally I’ve found it best to save the points and allow the Company Commander and 2iC to float around on their own. If you are running the Italy list, the HQ additions can be one of the few ways to run some Firefly tanks, you also get the option to change the command tanks for Sherman 105mm tanks, which fire slower and have a weaker anti-tank, but are more heavily armoured and mount a breakthrough gun for rapidly killing infantry.

Always ‘andy when you throw a track, the engineers in their armoured recovery vehicle will get you going again. After all, the last thing you want to ‘appen on a battlefield is to be sitting stationary under fire.”
The ARV is inexpensive, and can be very useful to drag bogged tanks out of terrain. In a trained list you are likely to struggle to unbog all your tanks in a turn, while a veteran list doesn’t have the numbers to really afford to have tanks out of action for a long period of time, due to some bad dice rolling. All in all, I’ve found them useful in the past, especially since they are an independent team. About their only downside is the lack of a machine gun (some mounted .50 cals in real life), so they are not much use offensively.

Combat Platoons

The platoons are the core of the squadron. They are equipped with US-built Sherman tanks. A good reliable bit of kit, with a good explosive round. Mine you, they ‘ave a bit of trouble penetrating some of the later models of Panzer like the Tiger, so with some traditional British lateral thinking we came up with the Sherman Firefly. These tanks mount the 17pdr anti-tank gun in the reliable Sherman which is more than enough to worry almost any Panzer that should show it’s face. Oh, try to avoid getting shot as well, your tanks armour is good, but the Jerries have learnt that and started bringing bigger guns!”

The core of an armoured company are the armoured platoons and you’ll have at least two of them, normally comprising of 3 Shermans and 1 Firefly. It is possible to take smaller platoons, but I don’t recommend it, and would advise taking Veteran platoons if you want to give it a go. I’ve generally found the more tanks the better, so I try to field 3 platoons if veteran or 4 if trained.
The Sherman tank is the core of your platoons. It’s quite easy to knock the Sherman, it’s armour and gun is slightly weaker than that of a Stug G (which I’d argue is the average LW tank), and with top armour 1 and side armour 4 without a special save vs infantry AT weapons you’re not going to be assaulting into waves of Panzerfausts. So what are it’s strengths?

The 75mm Sherman’s first advantage is that it’s fairly cheap, which in an armoured company, means you can afford a lot of them. It’s gun has a decent firepower, so you can put a lot of firepower 3+ shots downrange, this is bad news for guns, especially once they’ve shot. Secondly, while AT 10 isn’t great, it is still adequate for shooting a lot of vehicles, such as Halftracks, recce, light tanks or ‘glass hammers’ like Marders or tank destroyers (which are popular at the moment due to the high AT values available in late war). Even vs most mediums (Front Armour 6-7) you can have an effect with the large number of shots you’ll get, especially if you can get into short range. The final big benefit of the 75mm Sherman’s gun is direct fire smoke, which is hugely useful for allowing you to block or reduce incoming fire while you advance, or force opponents to advance towards you when defending.
The remainder of the Sherman is fairly average, but that’s not a bad thing as it keeps the cost low. It’s front armour of 6 is below average, but still requires the commitment of a proper AT gun to knock it out, and will still get a save vs the average (AT 11) gun shooting. It’s speed is standard, and the veteran Market Garden lists can fit duckbill grousers to their tracks if facing heavy terrain (the tank becomes slow tank but gains wide tracks). The tanks mount two machine guns and can add a AA .50 cal MG if desired, which provides air defence, as well as an effective weapon for killing dug in infantry and guns.

Special rules-wise, at first it looks a bit bleak, Towhooks is hardly a game winner, and Semi-Indirect Fire requires you to be stationary, yet as a tank army, you attack a lot. It gets better with British Bulldog, which means you get to re-roll morale checks to counter attack in an assault, and Duckbills is useful on a terrain heavy table, making all your Sherman tanks and M10s slow, but giving them Wide Tracks. Let me bring you back to Semi-Indirect Fire at this point however, as I’ve found this is the key to running British tanks. True, you don’t get the re-roll if you move, and you don’t get it at short range (so veterans are safe as long as they stay concealed and gone to ground), however if you can hit at long range the re-roll to hit and second shot (vs Guns and infantry) means mathematically you are better of shooting stationary at long range, than moving into short range. This means that some time you are better off halting your advance, or advancing with alternate platoons, while some tanks provide covering fire from the halt to suppress, smoke or destroy threats. On the other hand, vs tanks you can be better off advancing into short range to avoid granting the bonus point of armour or to get onto the flank. Semi-Indirect Fire can be very situational like this, and learning when and where to use it, and when you are better off moving or closing the range is the mark of a good British armour player.

If the gun on the Sherman tank is a bit weak, the same can’t be said for the gun on the Firefly. These tanks mount a 17 pdr anti-tank gun, which is a potent threat to nearly any vehicle hit by it. Only the most heavily armoured vehicles can ignore a Firefly (AT14 in Normandy, AT 15 late 1944 onwards when it acquires APDS ammunition). Unfortunately this gun comes at a cost, as well as being more expensive, the Firefly only carries a co-axial machine gun to fend off infantry, although an anti-aircraft .50 cal machine gun can be added in some lists to help with this. The Firefly also doesn’t get smoke, although it still gets Semi-Indirect Fire, a powerful combination vs tanks when combined with the 17 pdr main gun. 

The Firefly’s armour is the same as the Sherman, so it’s main defence is going to be to take hits on the other tanks in the platoon. Whether you want to take a hit on the platoon commander rather than the Firefly is a decision which often depends if you plan to move much further in the game, how many tanks you’re facing and the location of your company and 2iC teams. Similarly vs infantry with no vehicles, Fireflies can adopt a reverse role, taking a hit to try and keep the normal Shermans (which get HE) alive. Sadly due to their AT value, opponents will want to hit the Firefly and will use the gun tank rule and direct fire smoke to try do so. If you want to keep them alive it’s generally worth trying to keep them at long range to the threat as this will make it harder to place a hit on them, and boosts their armour, while with Semi-Indirect Fire and their high AT, it makes small difference to the Firefly vs most targets.

It’s also possible to field an armoured squadron (or Independent Armoured Brigade) with platoons of just Shermans or Fireflies. I must admit I haven’t tried this, but it strikes me as a balance, on one hand, you can concentrate the Fireflies where they are needed, and get better results from an ambush. On the other hand, if poorly deployed, they will struggle vs infantry. You will also lose the protection of the ‘ablative’ Shermans, so every hit is a dead Firefly.

Italy lists also get the option to take the 76mm Shermans, often as Firefly replacements. These have a better anti-tank and front armour than a standard Sherman, and keep their HE rounds and extra machine gun unlike the Firefly. They are good vs medium tanks but will still have trouble with the front armour of a lot of the heavy tanks.

Weapon Platoons

A beautiful bit of kit, the Stuart or ‘oney’ is fast and reliable. Unfortunately it’s starting to show it’s age now, it’s armour and gun are both no longer fit for main line combat. As such, we use them for reconnaissance, it’s still more than a match for the German armoured cars it tends to face. Providing you are quiet and don’t go drawing attention to yourself, you should be fine”

The Stuart light tank is the main weapon in the battalion reconnaissance platoon. Most use uparmoured Stuart V and VI (M3A3 and M5A1) tanks, however the independant armoured squadrons use the older Stuart III (M3A2) tank. Either way, it makes little difference versus most anti-tank weapons, and your main aim is not to be hit in the first place.
Thankfully as a recce unit, the Stuarts get cautious movement to help them dodge fire. And thin as their armour is, they are better armoured than most recce units, and are well protected against the light weapons these platforms mount. The same goes for the Stuart’s 37mm gun, while it is going to struggle to hurt a proper tank from the front, opposing recce, infantry and other light units like halftracks are still valid targets. Some commanders may wish to take the Jalopies with have a .50 cal MG and Wide Tracks instead, the same targets are good for them too.
Where the Stuart comes into it’s own is mobility. As light tanks, they can go 8” through rough going or 16” across open ground. The Jalopies with wide tracks are even more mobile, giving them a lower risk of bogging down in difficult terrain. This mobility allows the Stuart to even offer a threat against medium tanks as they have the speed to get into a flank, where their 37mm gun can actually do some damage.

They can also use this mobility to make good use of their machine guns. Stuarts get a hull and co-axial machine gun as standard, and adding an additional AA MG is a good use of points. This gives an extra dice of machine gun fire as well as offering an admittedly limited threat to enemy aircraft. Still the more the merrier when dealing with AOPs!

Their main role isn’t offence however, although they are quite good at that, which is useful when defending, or when trying to destroy a tank destroyer platoon before it pops. Stuarts are also recce platoons. Note this makes them worse at assaulting as they can be driven back by 5 hits in defensive fire, so they are not the assault units the US and French Stuarts are. However British Stuarts gain Cautious Movement (which makes them harder to hit on the move if they don’t shoot) and Eyes and Ears (which allows them to remove Gone to Ground from enemy units). They also get a reconnaissance deployment move, push back ambushes to 8” and get the ability to disengage, allowing them to act as an effective distraction platoon to tie down enemy platoons to defend objectives.

This flexibility is all sadly reflected in the price and they are the most expensive of the recce options. However, what they gain for the extra points is pretty good, and they always tempt me in any British armoured list I’m writing.

A cracking bit of British ingenuity, rather than discard our old Crusader tanks, we’ve used the ‘ulls to provide the basis for an AA tank. Mounting twin 20mm Oerlikon or Polsten cannon, they’ll provide a threat jerry aircraft can’t ignore. Mind, as they seem to be failing to show up these days, the ‘igh rate of fire can also be put to good use against infantry and light vehicles. Just avoid taking on any proper tanks with them“

The Crusader AA tank can be a surprisingly useful piece of kit in a Normandy list. They are the most expensive of your AA options and some would say the least effective, mounted on a weakly armoured chassis, carrying a less effective and shorter ranged gun than the Bofors and being a small platoon for your opponent to pick on. So why do I like them so much?

Firstly, due to these downsides, they are quite cheap. True they are slightly more expensive than two towed or self-propelled Bofors, but they are still only 85pts for 2. This makes them useful as a even platoon in your list when points are tight. As I like to concentrate on armoured platoons in my tank lists (to reduce the impact of my opponents machine guns) points often are tight! This cheapness also makes them useful as a distraction platoon, allowing them to tie down a more expensive platoon on an objective (In fighting withdrawal, for example), or be deployed on the wrong flank in an alternating deployment. As they are fast tanks, they can double (at a slight risk with unreliable) to get back into a useful position or run away if threatened.

Despite ‘only’ having a twin 20mm gun, I think the armament is my favourite part about the Crusader AA tank. 5 shots will worry an AOP, assist when shooting light vehicles and infantry, and gives the Crusader 2 shots on the move, unlike the Bofors which can’t move and shoot. Best of all, 5 unpinnable shots in a turret mount greatly assists your defensive fire, helping to protect your Shermans from infantry assaults if bailed out. The 20mm also gets a 5+ firepower, which combined with it’s ROF, help to remove dug in infantry and guns, while the volley of AT 5 shots will worry lightly armoured vehicles, such as self-propelled guns, armoured transports, armoured cars and halftracks.

While the hull is not greatly armoured, the Crusader AA is better than the average armoured AA platform. Front and Side armour 2 is enough to make you fully bulletproof, while Top armour 1, not only protects from artillery, but also allows you to assault as a fully armoured vehicle. Care should be exercised with this as they only come in a platoon of 2, and are trained, so will likely only kill 1 team per round, but it is another option which can be used if you’re desperate, or if you’re facing something like mortars which are unlikely to successfully fight back. Take care around light anti-tank guns however, as anything unlikely to hurt the Shermans (small calibre AT guns, AA etc) is likely to be aimed at your AA tanks, so don't give them the chance!

Regimental Support

The Universal Carrier is a uniquely British invention, acting as the companies armoured transport. These light tankettes do a lot of the short ‘aul lifting in an infantry company. They’re useful for loads of tasks, acting as the boss’s runabout, moving ‘eavy weapons forwards, scouting for the enemy, supporting your infantry advance and even burning Jerry out of their ‘oles if you’re luckily enough to have a Wasp carrier or two”

Carrier and Scout Patrol are a great recce option. They are small, half-tracked, have enough armour to repel most machine gun bullets, can take multiple platoons in 1 force organisation slot and further more are cheap. Their cost makes them a popular recce option, freeing up points for other units, but it also makes multiple patrols affordable, with up to 3 patrols available in a platoon. They can also be upgraded with either an extra MG or a .50 cal. The .50 cal is a popular choice but it is expensive, so sometimes I’ve found the extra MG to be a more cost effective upgrade, giving a carrier 4 MG shots. Another option is to mount a PIAT on these, giving them a single AT10 FP 5+ shot. This is useful vs tanks and dug in infantry, but is ROF 1 so difficult to fire on the move and is hull mounted, so stops you firing the hull MG with the PIAT at the same time. Personally I feel this is more of a threat to play on your opponents mind, rather than a genuine AT asset to rely on. However if you can make your opponent move his panther and lose a shot “because the carrier might get luckily”, or adjust his plan because “the PIAT carrier may arrive from reserve, and shoot me in the flank” then that’s probably worth the 5 points on its own! The weapon upgrades are usually points filler for me, generally I find carriers most effective acting as recce, either going to ground or removing it, both of which involve not shooting.

If you are lucky you may find you get Wasp Carriers as an option. These are a not a recce platoon, but each mounts a flamethrower instead. These are great for breaking open enemy infantry formations, destroying open topped vehicles and pinning units down. This is very useful for weakening a strong infantry position prior to an assault.

The Irish Guards used a special formation when advancing during Operation Market Garden. They split their support units up and attached small units down the column of match so they had easy access to mortars, recce carriers or anti-tank guns”
The Guards List in Market Garden gets access to a column patrol. This useful choice costs a mere 100pts, but gives you the choice to deploy one of the following as a Confident Veteran platoon at the start of the game: 3 Universal Carriers, 2 6pdr Anti-tank guns with Command and armoured transports or 2 Mortars, an Observer and Command team. This unit give you a lot of flexibility, allowing you to tailor your force with a smoke/bombardment platoon, recce platoon or a small anti-tank platoon, depending on what you’re facing. On the attack you are likely to go for the recce or the smoke screen, while on the defence, the smoke and template or the extra anti-tank unit may prove vital.

To provide infantry support the brigade motor infantry battalion have been issued with US built M5 armoured ‘alftracks, rather the trucks they used to have. These allow your infantry support to follow up behind the tanks under the protection of armour plate. They can rapidly secure objectives once you’ve seized them, or clear infantry out of buildings and other terrain that’ll bog your tanks down”

British Motor Platoons have their uses, but are awkward to use. Their main advantages are their mobility under armour, they can keep pace with your advancing armour over normal going, and don’t have to worry too much about bullets. As most teams are MG teams, they also spit out a lot of shots on the defence, even if pinned (14, or 10 if pinned for a full strength squad). On the downside they are a small platoon, which is especially awkward when they are Trained as they are easier to hit and therefore pin and kill. 

I tend to use them more in a Veteran Grenadier Guards lists where not only are the teams harder to hit and you are less likely to fail platoon morale, but you can also add an extra team, making the platoon 7 strong, which also helps increase the effectiveness of the platoon in most situations. The South African motor platoon are the best at this as they are organised like a rifle platoon and have 6 Rifle/MG rather than 3 MG teams. Another good option is the ability of the 11th Armoured to mount .50 cals on their halftracks. This adds an effective way for the platoon to fight from under armour, and they can be used to effectively tackle light vehicles and soften up dug in infantry prior to launching an assault on a weakened foe. All in all they can be effective, but need proper planning and ideally veteran status to make best use of them.

Of course, the division will need more than just the motor infantry to ‘old the objectives. As such, the lorried rifles often follow up shortly behind the tanks and hold the flanks of the attack.”

Lorried Rifle Platoons rely on trucks to keep place with the tanks, which means they tend to have to dismount further away from the enemy and walk into combat. While only Rifle/MG teams, they get a much bigger platoon than the motor infantry with 9 teams in total. If you want to field infantry these guys are a more durable choice than a Motor platoon, although they often don’t get the protection of armoured transports, which can hurt if you are only facing machine guns and mortars. As such, they are often best advancing on foot, rather than in their lorries, which can be slow. They can also hitch a ride on the back of your tanks if you need to speed up their advance, something which is quicker, but riskier, especially in Normandy/Italy lists where you don’t get the Platoon Debus rule for a 3+ save!

Sometimes Jerry uses Mines or Roadblocks to stop your advance. Luckily the division has engineers, and small units are often attached to the front unit to tackle any obstacles you may encounter”

The Pioneer platoon is an interesting unit. It gives you access to pioneer teams for clearing obstacles, is a cheap extra platoon and can equip 1 team with a flamethrower. On the downside the platoon is very small and is normally mounted at least partially in unarmoured vehicles, which makes getting them to where you want them to be without casualties tricky. It takes very few casualties to make this platoon combat ineffective. As such, I would only really include them if I knew I needed a flamethrower or I would have to clear obstacles in my plan. I find the platoon doesn’t multi-task well, can be quite vulnerable, and I would prefer to take a unit of anti-aircraft or recce carriers for the points instead.

Divisional Support

You don’t see as many Jerry aircraft as you used too, but when they do show up, the good old boys from the Royal Artillery are ready and waiting for them with their Bofors.”

The main anti-aircraft defence in a British force is the Bofors Guns of the Royal Artillery. These come both towed and mounted on a 3 ton truck as Bofors(SP). They are useful in several ways, they have a good direct fire stats and a good rate of fire, making useful for light anti-tank and fire support vs infantry. They are also very good in their primary roles as anti-aircraft guns, worrying any plane in it’s 32” anti-aircraft range. They are a good guard unit, allowing you to protect a flank or another unit (such as Mortars) against a fast flanking unit. Finally the towed guns are one of the cheapest platoons available, making them very useful to bring a force up to an even platoon count.

I do prefer the towed guns to the self-propelled Bofors, as the towed guns can dig in and improve their save by Going to Ground. Also Awkward Layout greatly limits the self-propelled Bofors’ ability to respond to threats, this makes Stormtrooper or direct fire smoke a real pain for the SPs. They are better as mobile AA however, as the can move and conduct anti-aircraft fire in the opponents turn, unlike the immobile Bofors Guns who would still be limbered to their tow vehicles. They also get a gun shield save on the move unlike a limbered Bofors. I’ve generally found that well positioned towed Bofors can be dug in and achieve much the same effect while being more survivable however, as well as saving 15 points to spend elsewhere.

The cavalry ‘ave always ‘ad airs and graces, an absence of common sense and a rose tinted view of their effect on the battle. To survive on a modern battlefield ‘owever, they’ve shown that the ‘orse doesn’t have all the brains in the relationship and swapped their steeds for some good old armour plate. They performed the same reconnaissance role as before, but now use armoured cars, allowing them to get out of (and into) trouble quicker."
Armoured Cars are the final recce choice for an armoured squadron. The basic platoon normally consists of 2 gun armed armoured cars and 1-2 scout cars. However this differs from unit to unit, with each having it’s own organisational quirks and special rules. The armoured cars are either Daimler I or the more heavily armoured Staghound, while the scout cars are normally Daimler Dingos or Ford Lynx armed with a machine gun. A useful, and historical tactic is to lead the advance with the quicker scout cars, and use them to remove Gone to Ground, allowing the better armed armoured cars to provide covering fire. This works well with veteran platoons with two scout cars, as 2 cars have a strong likelihood of lifting Gone to Ground.

I like the armoured cars as they strike a nice balance between cost, armour, mobility and firepower. They mount a useful number of machine gun dice, and the 2 2 pdr (or 37mm) guns offer a decent firepower and the ability to threaten the flanks of medium tanks. You can upgrade the 2 pdr with a Littlejohn adaptor to aid with this, but I generally find the reduced firepower and No HE reduces the units flexibility, as well as allowing German tanks a Schutzen save if you go for the flank. Front armour 1 on all the teams in the platoon is reasonable, certainly enough to be pretty much bulletproof from the front, while not being too heavy to push up the costs. Versus heavier weapons, the armoured cars have to rely on cautious movement and the ability to disengage to survive the threat. Finally armoured cars go 12” and scout cars go 16” over cross country terrain. Combined with their recce move and ideally a good road network, this gives them good mobility around the table.

I find the armoured cars fill a nice medium recce gap, they are not as good as Stuarts, but are cheaper, and while not as cheap as a bare bones carrier platoon, they have better armour and are effective against a wider band of threats. As such, they feature in quite a few of my lists!

The lads from the Royal Artillery ‘ave been attached to the armoured divisions to fill a variety of roles. One of these is anti-tank support. Lend lease from America ‘as provided us with some excellent new bits of kit and the M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyer is one of them. Equipped with a good 3” gun, all round armour plate and the mobility of a tank, these will make most Jerry panzers think twice before messing with our troops.

Doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement 'owever, and our good old boffins ‘ave found a way to fit the 17 Pdr gun into the M10 in place of the 3” gun. The upgunned M10c Achillies is truly an opponent to be feared, by all but the most ‘eavily armoured tank.

The other vehicle you might see is the Archer, another classic piece of British reuse, mounting the 17 Pdr on an old Valentine tank chassis. This combines a reliable chassis with an excellent gun, just with the minor downside that the driver doesn’t want to be in ‘is seat when the gun fires, unless ‘e wants a real ‘eadache!

Of course sometimes these self-propelled guns aren’t available and you’ll ‘ave to make do with towed anti-tank guns. Even so, if Jerry gets into their sights, the 6 Pdr and 17 Pdr guns will make ‘im pay.” 
Self-propelled Anti-Tank Guns are a useful addition to the tank list, allowing you to take a dedicated ant-tank platoon. This allows your tanks to concentrate on killing infantry, or allow you to pummel one enemy tank platoon, while screening yourself with smoke from return fire. 

The M10c Achillies is the most common model in this slot. It mounts a 17 Pdr anti-tank gun and a .50 AA MG, giving it a good tank killing weapon and a decent anti-infantry option if the enemy fail to bring any tanks. The .50 cal even gets a shot at an attacking planes! It’s gets standard tank movement, so it has a reasonable amount of mobility. It’s main downsides are No HE for the main gun (although the .50 cal compensates for this to a degree), it’s light armour (about the same as a Stuart) and it’s open top, which means you have to be wary of bombardments, assaults and flamethrowers. The other downside is that like all M10 variants it gets slow traverse, so rotating the turret beyond the front arc is a +1 to hit penalty. The other thing to remember is that sadly they do not get Semi-Indirect Fire.

Other options occasionally available are the normal M10 (which is similar to the Achillies, but only gets AT 12, but gets HE to compensate) and the Archer, which is slower, struggles to fight on the move (awkward layout and a hull mounted gun), lighter armoured and only has a normal AA MG, but is significantly cheaper as a result. 

Occasionally you may find that you have a normal Royal Artillery, Anti-Tank platoon as an option instead. These feature either the 6 Pdr and the 17 Pdr gun, and both are fairly efficient at knocking out tanks, the 6 Pdr compensating for it’s lower AT with it’s RoF 3. Both are better off fighting stationary and rely on armoured transports (M5 halftracks or re-purposed Crusader Gun Tractors) for mobility without the vulnerability.

Now while the British army can often be a bunch of pig headed traditionalist, they aren’t entirely adverse to innovation. Take the Royal Engineers, for example, they can struggle to keep place with the tanks, and when they catch up they ‘ave to clear minefields and tackle bunkers under fire. Their solution was simple, ‘ave their own, specially modified, tanks so they can do their jobs from behind the safety of armour plate.”

Some players consider the Breaching Group a no brainer inclusion, as it gives you 4-5 cheap Sherman Crabs and allows you to auto-attack. I’m a bit more wary of this and think the Breaching Group can actually sometimes be a double edged sword for British Armour. Due to Semi-Indirect Fire, it can actually sometimes be advantageous for British Armour to defend, where as with a Breaching Group you become Auto-Attack and will attack almost all of the time, removing this option. They also share a slot with the Self-Propelled Anti-Tank guns, which means you can’t have both in a list.

On the plus side, what you do get is another 4 or 5 cheap Shermans for shooting and mine clearance. These all get semi-indirect fire, making them just as good at normal Shermans at shooting. A common trick is to shoot the breaching group last (as they all get smoke) and use them to deploy direct fire smoke over the biggest threat to your force.

Alternatively, you can also deploy Churchill AVRE tanks instead of some of the Crab tanks, allowing you to have another platoon in your force. These are slow but heavily armoured, and are best facing infantry, bunkers and obstacles, as they struggle to use their main guns vs tanks due to the short range and Bunker Buster. If you park within range of infantry in terrain you also have to be wary as they can assault you without taking defensive fire from the AVREs, so they will need some support with them. They do get 2 machine guns, and Wide Tracks however and can be useful as mobile machine bunkers. They are at their best vs fortifications, as they can move and attack obstacles and bunkers, and have a decent armour to repel incoming fire. They can also mount Fascines and Assault Bridges, which allows them to make paths through rough terrain for your troops.

The final unit is the Catapillar D7 Armoured Bulldozer. It’s main use is clearing obstacles, however it also can assault bunkers and try and bury them. It’s an independent team, so can act independently on the battlefield.

 “Occasionally on operations you’ll find yourself linking up with paras, either ours or the yanks. While they are just as mad, try to avoid treating them the same way you treat the German paras, and offer them a brew, rather than a burst of machine gun fire”

US Airborne are becoming a more common choice with British tanks as that is what you get in the Open Fire set. Personally I don’t find them a great combination, as I feel the leg infantry slow the tanks down. They do have First Sergeant however, which helps prevent a dead commander immobilising the unit, a common reason for allied units to cause problems when a new commander can’t be appointed. They are also Fearless Veteran, which makes them an excellent assault unit, have gammon bombs and a bazooka for handling tanks, and have a unit mortar to provide an additional pin. They are very expensive however, and I’d normally rather take British infantry who tend to have a similar effect on the game for fewer points.

Not content with their Vickers, the machine gun battalions of the armoured divisions have re-equipped a company with ‘eavy 4.2” mortars, allowing them to provide rapid artillery support to the units they are attached to”

The Heavy Mortars of the divisional machine gun company are an excellent support unit for an armoured company. With both a smoke bombardment and a useful firepower 4+ bombardment, together with a re-roll to the first attempt to range in, all for a cheap cost, they are often my first choice for artillery support in my forces. 

They do have some downsides however. Firstly they are quite short ranged, with means they have to be deployed far forwards, so they can still support you towards the end of the battle. Poor planning will limit their usefulness. Secondly their AT is only 3 which means that they are not that useful for killing tanks. Thirdly in a tank force make sure you pay the extra points for transports, so that all your units have vehicles and you can choose to leave them off the table if defending in mobile battle. Finally they are very vulnerable to attack and will either need either to be defended or sacrificed on occasions, if units can get round your armoured units to hit them, or they are left exposed with their short range.

The so called queen of the battlefield, the Royal Artillery mostly focus on guns. It’s a rare opponent that the British army attacks that ‘asn’t been given a good working over by 25 pdr and 5.5” guns before’and”

The Field Battery, Royal Artillery, Field Battery, Royal Artillery (SP) and Medium Battery, Royal Artillery, are all good artillery options for a British armoured company. At first glance the 25 pounder does not look that effective with it’s firepower of 5+, and if you are relying on them to get you a kill then you may well be disappointed. What 25 pdrs do well however, is dropping smoke and pinning the enemy due to the reroll on the first attempt to range in due to Mike Target. With Mike Target, not only are they more effective at ranging in than normal artillery, but if the enemy sits still under the bombardment he has to start rerolling saves (if the enemy are dug in or pinned, for example). This helps compensate for their weak firepower vs dug in infantry. Their bombardment AT of 4 also gives them a reasonable chance to knock out a tank.

“But I still can’t see them doing much that mortars can’t and they are more expensive” I hear you cry. This is true, but a platoon of mortars on their own is often left behind by your advance, which leaves them at risk of being attacked by marauding light tanks and recce. 25 pounders are mounted on turntables for a 360° arc, and can direct fire with RoF 2, AT 9 and Firepower 3+ each. This is normally more than enough to discourage most lighter threats and can even cause most medium tanks to pause for thought. Mortars would not be able to fight this sort of threat off and have to rely on supporting units to keep them safe.

The self-propelled artillery at first seems to have all the weaknesses of a 25 pdr (weak firepower bombardment), with a greater cost and the loss of the 360° arc. There are some advantages to being armoured however. Firstly Sextons, as armoured vehicles, can bombard even if they’re pinned. Secondly, if the battery is attacked by infantry or aircraft, each Sexton has an AA machine gun to defend itself with. Thirdly, their armour will protect them from light threats such as rifle and machine gun fire, although the battery command and staff team have to take greater care. The final advantage is mobility, not only are Sextons better suited to arrive from reserve as compared to towed guns, but in the event there is not a priority target for the guns bombardment, the Sextons can relocate to make use of the guns direct fire, either as a light anti-tank weapon seeking a flank, or as an assault gun shooting dug in infantry. Sextons also get direct fire smoke, which is another good use of their abilities.

Italian lists get Priests instead, which have a better bombardment (Firepower 4+), an AA .50 cal machine gun and are better in direct fire vs infantry as they get breakthrough gun, but only have RoF 1, which make them trickier to fight tanks with, as ideally, they wish to remain stationary, and get less shots. This is partially compensated for by their Firepower 2+ however.

Medium Artillery consists of 5.5” guns, the British heavy hitters of Flames of War. These produce a powerful bombardment (AT5 Firepower 2+), and can combine with your 25 pounders to deliver an impressive AT5 Firepower 4+ Bombardment (or with the Priests for firepower 3+). However have the important provisio that you must have at least as many 25 pdrs or Sextons as you have 5.5” guns. This make getting them into a list awkward, as they are not only expensive, but also take up two platoon slots. As I prefer to concentrate my points into my fighting units, rather than my support units, I’ve never really found room to fit them into an Armoured list, without losing a unit of Shermans, which I consider more useful in an attacking force.

Another option the Italy lists have is access to US artillery. This is a powerful addition to your force, giving you access to a decent bombardment with Time on Target. You have access to both 105mm and 155mm guns (although you need to field some 105mm to get the 155mm). You can have both batteries and get a useful AT5 FP3+ bombardment, although again this is expensive and takes points away from the tanks in your list. The 105mm guns are a very useful asset however combining a useful smoke or HE bombardment, which some direct fire ability giving them an element of self defence.

 A final addition to the artillery is an AOP spotter plane. This makes artillery particularly deadly, as it allows an extra repositionable observer anywhere on the table, that grants an reroll to range in on the 3rd attempt. This is very useful for dropping smoke as effectively it gives you 5 attempt to range in with Mike Target, which makes it better than mortars for this purpose. The main strength of the AOP is it’s mobility however, which makes it very hard for your opponent to avoid you getting an optimal shot with the artillery. Watch out for anti-aircraft guns however, as even self-defence AA, gets to have a shot at you if you are in range, often at no cost to themselves. US armies with an excess of .50 cals can be very dangerous in this regard.

The Germans ‘ave a lot of ‘eavy tanks such as the Tiger and the Panther. Thankfully our Sherman don’t ‘ave to tackle these monstrosities alone. The Tiffies of the RAF provide us with close air support from their 4.5” rockets, which pack the same punch as a shell from a cruiser. I’m glad it’s Jerry on the receiving end and not me!”

Typhoons are expensive, unreliable and can backfire if you have to attack and push into their wave off range. However, they are capable of taking out any enemy in the game with their powerful rockets which means your opponent will give them a fair amount of respect, especially if they’re fielding expensive tanks! I don’t include them regularly, but like to take them every once in a while, or if my opponent has been cackling about their new heavy tanks for the week prior to the game. Typhoons also mount cannons, these are generally not worth using due to their lower firepower, however they are some rare occasions where they are to your benefit (if you want each hit to guarantee at least a bail on a fully armoured, side armour 2 vehicle, for example). 

Despite occasionally fielding them I do feel Typhoons are more useful with infantry, than with the tanks however, as tanks normally need to get close, causing the planes to have to select a less juicy target to avoid being waved off. They are also a risky way to spend points as if the dice fall badly, or you are attacked at night, your planes may not see the table at all!

Italy lists don’t get Typhoons, but do get a variety of bomb armed planes such as the Spitfire and the Warhawk. These are slightly less likely to hit then the Typhoons, and less likely to penetrate, but have a better firepower if they do and are slightly cheaper to compensate.

Right lads, that seems to ‘ave covered about everything. Before you go though, I should mention the other brave lads supporting us. It’s not just the British in an Armoured Squadron, you’ll meet people from all over the Commonwealth, and likely a fair few Poles too. So don’t think we’re alone in our dislike of Jerry! Just remember, if he’s in your squadron, he’s your best mate and brother in arms! Dismissed!”

This about concludes my tour of the British Armoured squadron and my conclusions on their capabilities. Before I go however, it would be churlish not to mention the different variants of armoured squadron you can get (In addition to Trained and Veteran lists). While my favourite variant is the Guards Armoured Division (for family reasons, more than anything else) who get to re-roll failed morale checks with their Unflappable rule, there are also options for fielding Canadian, Polish, New Zealand and South African Armoured Squadrons, each with their own quirks and special rules. If you wish to field the quicker but pricier Cromwell, you have further options in the Desert Rats Armoured Squadron, Division Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron or Czech Independent Armoured Brigade Group. This allows you to pick a flavour of British Armour to your preference and field a unique list. Good luck!

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