Sunday, July 7, 2013

Start Yer Motors!

After some time away, I've finally got some time together to write up a little article about Motor companies. This came up as a topic because I just finished my M5 half-tracks for my Grenadier Guards motor platoon.

I'm keen to expand this into a full motor company. You know that British force everyone says is horrible? Well, from this player's perspective, its not. And here's why: FIREPOWER.

Let's talk a little Flames of Theory.


Veteran vs. Trained
I'll start with the caveat and disclaimer that I tend to use Veteran Motor Companies and platoons. That's important as I believe this seriously alleviates the Motor troops' hugest weakness: small combat platoons. Veteran troops are just better at not being seen and therefore that much harder to hit. Trained platoons are do-able, but need to rely more on their support to do the heavy lifting. Trained forces also have a good chance of hitting that magical 9-platoon mark, where you can ignore the first platoon lost in terms of VPs. So Trained motor troops can be a bit durable in that regard. Trained also works well if you are taking them as a cheap support platoon to plop onto your objective or pin (in the Chess sense of the word) enemy troops to theirs.

The Mission
The purpose of the motor companies was to occupy ground secured by the tanks and guard against counterattacks. This is why the motor companies in Flames Of War are rated as Infantry Companies rather than Mechanised like other nations' armored infantry. So, the list is configured to defend, and if you are trying to attack with it, you'll be pushing shit uphill, as they say, to do so.

Basically, my word of advice at this point is don't ask your motorised troops to do something they are not equipped to do and expect them to succeed. You are only setting them up to fail. You need to know what they can and cannot handle, which will be different than other infantry forces. Stick with them and remember to rely on your supporting platoons to help. Put it another way, a motor company is an exercise in the Economy of Force. Such an army must rely on applying the correct weapon at the correct time, rather than using raw luck and bludgeoning.

To back up your motorised defenders, you've got some serious support platoons. Most obvious are your anti-tank assets, including 2x anti-tank platoons and 2x self-propelled anti-tank platoons. You've got HMGs, universal carriers, artillery, and air support, among others. Sure, these things are expensive in terms of points, but luckily you can afford them with your cheap combat platoons...


The Motor Platoon
The platoons are quite small: 4x MG teams, 1x PIAT, and 1x Light Mortar for a total of six teams. That's many people's main complaint, but its only one less team than a German Panzergrenadier platoon and it breaks at the same point as the PzGrens as well. Still, you see players rolling with 7-stand platoons and doing well with them (at least they do well in this area).

The other thing that gets missed is that they have MG teams, not Rifle/MG teams. Assuming the enemy pins you down (which any half-competent opponent should be doing always), each MG team will still be putting out 2 dice in defensive fire, so an undamaged platoon should still put about 8 shots down range, plus two more at +1 to hit. A damaged platoon will obviously put down less, but with the MG teams rolling two dice, you can still keep up a steady amount of firepower. But lets think about whats killing your infantry for a second...

Your motor platoons are small and brittle, so your goal should be to screen them for as long as possible. Luckily the trade off for small platoons are a few extra points to spend on support gear, so lets have a look at what's picking on your motor troops and see if we can counter them.

Enemy Artillery
If you are being hounded by enemy artillery, you have a couple of excellent weapons to bring to bear. The first are Universal Carriers, and lots of the little bastards. As a compulsory platoon, you need to have at least three in your force, but you can have up to nine. Fit these with extra MGs and .50cals and you'll have a lot of arty killing/pinning firepower that can use a recce move and sneaky tactics to get into the artillery park and start harassing the guns.

The next thing I'd recommend, after the carriers, are Typhoons. These are excellent at knocking out guns. People get obsessed with spreading out their tanks and guns when they hear you have air, which is what you want because it will allow you to blow up guns and tanks so as to put platoons out of command. This may not sound like a good or useful idea against artillery, but once out of command, you can pick off the bits that are out of command with regular shooting and whittle down the guns (Against tanks, simply KO the command tank and watch the platoon have to figure out how to move forward!).

Finally, you can take your own artillery to deal with the enemy's guns. Sextons may not seem great, but they are relatively cheap, and, more importantly, ignore being Pinned Down.This means you can keep a steady barrage of fire on the enemy guns using All Guns Repeat and Mike Target. Of course you can also reinforce your artillery with heavy 5.5" guns. While expensive, they are lethal. Not my first choice, however, but if that suits your style they are an excellent option, especially when combining bombardments with the Sextons to make the SP guns' firepower a bit heavier.


Enemy Tanks
This is easy. You've got two platoons of 4x 6pdr anti-tank guns at your disposal. These have a ROF of 3 (!) and anti-tank of 11 (thanks to some excellent ammunition). So a platoon of four guns will deliver 12 shots. Double that with a second platoon... What StuGs?

You also have a pair of SP Anti-tank platoons available. The Achilles units tended to operate with the motor troops so this is why you've got a pair of platoons. They are cheaper than normal tanks, and each vehicle is armed with a 17pdr gun (unlike 1 or 2 in the tank platoon). With Anti-tank 14 (or AT15 in Market Garden), these tanks can deal with Panthers and Tigers frontally, which is pretty great.

Having 8 of these SP Guns in your force will cause your enemy to think twice about leading with his tanks! Remember, however, that SP guns are just that: guns. They are not tanks, so be careful with them and once again don't ask them to do something they can't.

Enemy Infantry
If your enemy attacks you with infantry, you have a surprising amount of firepower outside your Motor Platoons. Universal Carriers and Armoured Cars are great at harassing the infantry, but don't forget about the Motor Machine-gun platoon. It may not be able to bombard, like its Rifle Company cousin, but it can put down a shitload of fire (24 dice per turn).

You can increase the platoon's effectiveness by mounting the HMGs in MMG carriers. These are MG carriers, meaning that you can fire on the move as an MG with ROF 3, or if you stay put you can fire ROF 6, all while mounted! The other thing to remember is that they can fire out to 24" while stationary... think about the applications there for a second!

Combine your Arms
A motor company relies on combined arms, so there are some steps to take to make sure you can do this properly. First, build a balanced force. You can't do this with many forces, but with cheap combat platoons of a Motor Company, you can. Artillery, anti-tank, and infantry are your three main components. Don't leave home without them.

Attacking
You'll be asked to attack occasionally. Don't panic, but be prepared. Armoured Platoons and Breaching Groups are excellent tools to help you out here. Soften the living hell out of your target and don't commit your infantry until you have overwhelming odds.

Stay Mobile
You are mobile, so keep an even footing and exploit gaps in your opponent's line. Don't be afraid to get mobile and bring your transports up and rush for an open objective. If nothing else you can put the enemy on their back foot and buy you some time. Remember it only takes one team to capture or contest an objective!


Forgotten (but Essential) Weapons
Don't forget your HQ mortars to help give you a little smoke and extra artillery support. These can blind enemy tanks or break up enemy infantry attacks.

Armored half-tracks and carriers are essentially bulletproof. Use this to get your guns and infantry into difficult spots where the enemy can only muster small arms. Don't try to be heroic or anything as this will only end up bad. However, learn to know when to take the risk and you'll be rolling out those Loyd Carriers before you know it!

Need more firepower? Bofors SPAA! ROF 4, FP 4+ is pretty great for knocking out enemy gun teams. And they are cheap! They may be soft-skinned but they have a gunshield, making them more resilient to small arms fire. Just because the Luftwaffe is rare, doesn't mean these guys don't have any more love to give.

Ok, these are not self-propelled Bofors, and I know that they are not available to motor companies.
But I painted them along side the M5 half-tracks and wanted to show 'em off!
In Conclusion
Alright, I've said my piece and now its time for bed. I'm confident that there are some contrary opinions out there about motor companies, and I know their disadvantages are well talked about. I wrote this not so much as to convince you they are a great force that will win tournaments (actually Phil won FlamesCon 2012 with his Desert Rats motor company!), but I wanted to put some ideas out there so that you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Motor companies have some excellent qualities that get overlooked, and I wanted to highlight those qualities here and maybe get you to have a try with them. I enjoy the force and it is great fun to play.

Until next time, take care and motor on!
-M

7 comments:

  1. If its not too much trouble, how did you do your US Halftracks? I love the faded, sun beaten look of them!!!

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    1. Thats probably because I'm using the sun to light my photos ;)

      The 'tracks are British as therefore use Vallejo Russian Uniform (VP924) with a very light drybrush of Khaki (VP988).

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  2. Enjoyed reading this Mike. I have to agree with you. V3 Motor platoons are pretty awesome. MG teams rock! And you really nailed it with how important it is to keep in mind they are an Infantry company. They are not Armored Rifles or Gepanzerte, and should not be expected to be utilized like them.

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  3. Great read Mike. Funnily enough I was looking at an 11th Armoured Motor Platoon for my Cromwells as they get .50 cals. Your thought on what they are used for are very interesting and I will try to use your advice.

    Ben

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  4. You jerk -- you are going to MAKE ME get some Sextons, aren't you? =) Great write up!

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    1. Yes I am. Do it, or I'll nerf Frost. Don't make me do it...

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  5. Very nice tactical discussion. Good to so an unpopular list getting some love!

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