Coming to Terms with US Rifles

Pat's Tiger duals with my 155mm howitzers
I've been doing some reading about the battle of Aachen in October 1944. Its a really interesting battle and its inspired me to run a Big Red One company, hopefully for the FlamesCon 2012 coming up in November. I've never owned a US Rifle Company before, so I found myself completely caught flat-footed in terms of the platoons needed. I have played US Armored Rifles a lot and have pretty much everything for that list, but normal Rifles will require building a lot of the support from scratch. Lucky for me there's a whole new range of US figures in winter gear, so I've been making use of them as much as I can in making my US rifles ready for combat.

Painting them is one thing, playing them is another. The tactics I use for Armored Rifles are completely different and they really suit my aggressive play style. However, regular rifles will take a little re-training. So I gathered up what I had for my list and probably worked out about 20 different forces. I kept hitting the 1575 point ceiling so early with veterans. I even tried several Trained lists, but quickly abandoned them as they didn't fit the theme of the Big Red One. So I eventually just built a list with a sample of everything I wanted and tossed it into a list without any further thought about how they'd work together. Like with any new forces I try out, I figured some combinations and tactics would make themselves clear once I had a few games.

A bolstered Rifle Platoon screens the artillery.
My US Rifles
(1575pt - Turning Tide)

HQ w/ 2x Bazookas
Rifle Platoon (2/3 Strength)

Rifle Platoon (2/3 Strength)
HMG Platoon (Full, w/2x Bazookas)
Mortar Platoon (4x tubes)
Anti-tank Platoon (full, w/3x Bazookas)
Tank Platoon (3x Sherman, CT)
Cavalry Platoon (1x Patrol)
Field Battery (4x 105mm)
Field Battery (4x 155mm)

Tactics I wanted to Try
There were a few things that I considered to help make my Rifles work a bit closer to my Armored Rifles, just so that I keep the agressive initiative that I prefer to hold in the game.

1. Under-strength platoons
At 200 points a pop, a CV rifle platoon is pretty expensive. A lot of its points are tied up in having 10x rifle teams in each platoon plus a bazooka for a total of 11. While this is pretty great in defense, I reckon its a lot of points tied up in doing the same thing: being a rifle team. After playing with reduced Fallschirmjager during my Cassino days, I felt that tactic would work here too and I could bolster the loss with some combat attachments, exactly as I had done with the FJ. Even reduced, a US Rifle platoon has 8 stands, making it pretty durable.

2. Combat Attachments.
I wanted to provide my two small rifle platoons with extra firepower. There were a few ways of doing this, first the Weapons Platoon offers some 60mm mortars and LMGs. While tempting, I wanted heavier support from HMGs. Two HMGs bolsters a platoons ROF by 12 (vs 10) and its ROF while pinned is also a serious advantage. Plus the HMGs' bazookas further increased my stand count in the Rifle Platoons. Speaking of which I also added a bazooka each to the rifle platoons from the HQ. So in the end I had 12 stands in each rifle platoon.

3. The AT Gun Ambush/Assault
I wanted to test the ambush potential of the 3x 57mm anti-tank guns. These have a good ROF and reasonable AT, so I want to try a tactic that I used successfully with my Finnish army. By upgrading the platoon with bazooka teams, the theory is to ambush and then assault to bag a hapless enemy platoon. Its cost effective at 150 points, so I thought I'd give it a try. 

4. Artillery
Most of my US lists are tanks or armored rifles and I've only rarely get the chance to use all of the US special rules. I have always considered this a loss, but in this case I wanted to try it out to the full. I've never been a serious Arty user, opting for mortars 99% of the time. So I wanted to see how an artillery park could be used with the leg infantry.

Perhaps the most important thing that I did not want to test: Digging in and sitting there.

Patrick was kind enough to play his newly finished SS-Panzergrenadiers against me, so we arranged for our wives to have a scrapbooking night, our kids were all in bed by 7pm, and Pat and I set up a massive battlefield in his dining room. All was set! Since these were practice games, I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow analysis of the games. Instead I'll give a quick run-down and offer some lessons learned.

Game 1: Hasty Attack, the deployment. Many apologizes for the unpainted figures!

Game 1: Hasty Attack
Theo rolled his first FOW dice: a gun save!
In the first game we played Hasty Attack. I drew the short straw and had to defend. Still I had a hot objective to capture so that was something. I didn't spend nearly 500 points in artillery to let play out the game in reserve. So I deployed them and the bolstered Rifle Platoons on the objectives. Patrick deployed his 88s, Tigers, and one platoon of infantry across his front.

The game turned out exactly how I didn't want it. My troops were dug in and the artillery did all of the work through long and arduous effort. All I really learned from this game was about the artillery, becoming acquainted with what artillery can and cannot do. The mission didn't help as Pat and I never really made use of our reserves which were late in coming, so really it was a 700 point game.

In the end it was a 6-1. Strangely only about 6 teams were destroyed on both sides...

Game 2: No Retreat
Game 2: No Retreat
I wanted to test the list's offensive capability, so I was pleased to win the dice off to attack. I did so down the center and the game got really bloody, really quick. I was able to test a few things out and it was much more informative than the previous game. I went on to lose 3-4, but it was insanely bloody. Opposite to the last game there was less than a dozen models left on both sides!

The main thing I discovered was just how essential the AOP is. I've often used it before, but when you are using an artillery park, its vital to make sure that the enemy is really easy to range in on so that you can get that critical TOT bombardment. If you can reduce the difficulty to Range In, you get more chances at a TOT, making quick work of infantry, guns, and tanks alike.

Holding the flank in game 1.
Moving On from Here...
I'll probably make some adjustments based on these games. The Shermans were more of a liability being Trained, so I think there is somewhere better to use those points, perhaps another Rifle Platoon and heavy weapons to give me some more offensive power. I'd hate to loose the mobility, however. Well, something to think about!

I really liked the bolstered Rifle platoons. They were small enough to stay out of the way, but also had lots of fire power that I could rely on to keep the enemy's heads down. The fact that the HMGs had 24" range was also helpful when the enemy presented themselves.

The best lesson I've learned in these games is that the Rifle Company has an interesting impact on the behavior of the enemy. The artillery forces them to spread out, while the mortars and machine-guns force them to stay put, punishing anything that moves within range. My next plan is to use this to my advantage by focusing on building a mobile task-force to hit the enemy and force my way through and onto the objective, destroying (or severely maiming) enemy reinforcements before they arrive on the scene.

Anyway, thanks for reading my brain dump. I'll try and post some pictures of the WIP army as I can!

Thoughts on US Rifles? Post below, I appreciate the discussion!


  1. c'mon Mike, you know you want 2ID with TDs for the US rifles. :)
    I may be jumping on that bandwagon pretty soon, just has the perfect storm of all that is good in FOW.

  2. Would be nice if you could trade those Shermans in for Stuarts, you would be more mobile, and front armour 6 may as well be front armour 4 in late war, its still not going to stop panthers and tigers.

    Another thought is 6 tubes of mortars and start using them more to smoke your opponent and cover your advance.

  3. I agree on swapping the Shermans for Stuarts. Get more mobility and much more effective at buzzing enemy arty and 'soft' platoons such as recce.

    I'd consider running the Infantry out of Devil's Charge also as you get more choices than the slightly more restrictive Turning Tide Lists.


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