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Category: Army Lists

Unit/Model Review: Warlord Games ZiS-3 divisional gun

The unit/model under review today is the Warlord Games ZiS 3 divisional gun.  It is available here.

The Soviet Union produced over 60,000 of these guns.  They played a decisive role at the Battle of Kursk where they formed the backbone of anti-tank strong points.   Versatile, rugged, and beloved by its crew, from 1942 until the end of the war the ZiS-3 was a key ingredient for the success of the Red Army.

We can assert apodictically: this unit belongs in any Soviet list.  Nevertheless, propriety demands that we conduct a formal review.  This is our third Warlord Games model review.  We previously reviewed the Warlord Games SU-76M and their 2 1/2 ton truck.  As before, our goal is to present the reader with a guide to assess a model in terms of gameplay, hobby elements, and value:

1.  Functionality
2.  Kit characteristics
3.  Value (a judgement which considers the price in reference to the unit’s functionality).

1.  Functionality
In Bolt Action the ZiS-3 is a medium anti-tank gun and light howitzer.  It has a gun shield and follows the rules for fixed, team weapons (4 crew).  A ZiS-3 with a regular rating costs 80 points.  The gun is a good source of HE (d6) firing either directly or indirectly.  It can fire smoke, and its medium AT gun has a range of 60″.  It is not immobile and this affords it protection from repeat indirect fire as well as giving it the chance to deploy on to the table from reserve.  The gun takes an artillery slot and is a nice compliment to another AT asset.  Bolt Action tracked vehicle rules allow for only one 90-degree turn with an advance order.  In addition, the front armor arc is significantly narrower than in Flames of War.  Thus, with two anti-tank assets carefully deployed you can make it difficult for an opponent to keep his front arc facing all the AT threats.

2.  Kit characteristics
This is a metal kit.   For an experienced hobbyist assembly is straightforward but not easy.  It contains a number of thin and spindly pieces: the gun barrel, two towing trails, and gun shield.   Beginners will have to be careful straightening any pieces that may be bent.  The pieces may also need to be cleaned up with a hobby file.  There are three metal crew figures.  These are outstanding sculpts.  Interestingly, Warlord Games crew models appear to be unique for different guns (or at least the four–ZiS-3, 81mm mortar, 45mm anti-tank gun, and maxim MMG–that we possess).  This is a real mark of class.  Our only complaint is the lack of a supplied base.

3.  Value
This model costs £16/€20/$26.50.  A relatively pricey blister, the sting is lessened by quality of the crew models and the utility of the unit; the ZiS-3 is an “auto-include” for the Soviet player.  For a mere 30 points more than a medium mortar you get a unit that can fire indirectly or directly using either AP or HE, possesses a gunshield, and cannot be one-shotted by a sniper. Soulless monsters can use the Seelow Heights theatre selector to construct a list with four of these potent guns with plenty of points left over (the War Altar fully endorses the use of generic, single platoon forces for tournament games).  A ZiS-3 combined with a SU-76 provides two sources of direct-fire d6 HE as well as two medium anti-tank guns for a mere 210 points.  Add a medium mortar and you have three units that can fire d6 HE–that’s going to red mist a few infantry squads!  Below is our assembled and painted ZiS-3.  Next week we’ll review the Soviet maxim MMG.

Open Fire! Making a 1750 point Armoured Squadron

Open Fire! the new Battle Front starter goes on sale at the end of the month.  Last week I showed you the 1750 point U.S. infantry list I was going to make using Open Fire! models as a core.  Now I want to go through the British Armoured Squadron I will be able to field (click it). 

Once again I’m using the book Hell’s Highway because it has good options for combining U.S./U.K. forces.  In addition, the British armoured lists are Guards which has two advantages.  First, they are veterans.  Shermans are quite fragile in Late War.  I’ll want to keep the fireflies at long range to take advantage of the semi-indirect fire rule (re-roll to hit beyond 16″).  Veteran tanks are hit on a 5+ base at long range, on 6s if they are hull-down.  Being hard to hit at range, not armor, is the key to their survival.  Secondly, Guards reroll both platoon and company morale checks. They’ll stay in the fight longer.

The good news is that all of the tanks are taken from the starter set.  Once again, the key here is to find a person with whom you can trade box contents.  My CiC and 2iC are standard Shermans with an additional .50 machine-gun mounted.  Then I’ve got three armoured platoons.  Two have two shermans and one firefly, the third has two shermans and two fireflies.

The Firefly has an excellent anti-tank rating, and it re-rolls to hit when stationary and shooting at long-range targets.  It’s a fine tank.  The shermans will drive off trying to take advantage of terrain to get side-armor shots on targets.  If you have low expectations for shermans then you’ll do just great.  So the core of the list consists of 3 armoured platoons–6 shermans and 4 fireflies, supplemented by the 2 shermans from the command group.

Next I’ve added the parachute rifle platoon.  Again, this is straight from the starter box.  Like my list from last week, I’m using British armoured cars as a recon element.  Here you’ll have to buy the Battle Front blister BR310 Daimler Dingo (x3) for €11 and two of the Battle Front blister BR311 Daimler I for €9 each.  Pricey, yes but great little things with a gun almost as powerful as a sherman. 

 The final and 6th platoon for the list consists of heavy mortars.  The British 4.2″ ones pack a decent punch and shooting as veterans they should be able to range-in easily enough.  The mortar unit will pin enemy units and provide you with the threat of counter-battery fire against enemy artillery.  You get the unit in the Battle Front blister BR726 Heavy Mortar Platoon for €14.

The total cost for this list comes out to €103.  Frankly, the list is going to struggle against veteran infantry.  However, the combination of armor, an elite infantry unit, recon, and some artillery will give you a fun, mobile army. 

Open Fire! Making a 1750 U.S. Paratrooper List

Newbreed has previously given a preview of Battle Front’s Open Fire! (€60) starter set here.  At the most basic level the box has 1005 points of U.S./U.K. forces.  The purpose of this article is to outline the 1750 point force I’ll be making from the starter set.  The premise is that you will be trading the Germans in the box to a friend in exchange for the allied forces from his or her box (thanks Nosediver!).  What’s that you say?  Job done you’ve got 2010 points now so feck off?  Now now, bear with me.  You’ve actually got some choices to make to run a 1750 tournament list that can be considered competitive.  Do you want to run a U.S. infantry list with U.K. support, or do you want to run a U.K armor list with U.S. support?  I’m choosing the former.  Using the book Hell’s Highway I’ve generated the following list for the 101st Airborne (click it):

The above uses Open Fire! as the core but tops up with blisters from Battle Front.  For the purists out there all these blisters are U.S. parachute blisters.  So we’re not buying regular U.S. army mortars or bazookas.  You’ll have to purchase a Company HQ consisting of two teams, the CiC and the 2iC.  I’m using the Battle Front blister USO117 Brigadier General James Gavin for my CiC.  He costs €2 and comes with a beret-wearing British guy which fits the allied composition of the list nicely.  For the 2iC I’m using the Battle Front blister USO118 Major General Maxwell Taylor.  Similarly, he runs €2.  I’ve paid the points to upgrade them to SMG teams.  I’ve added three bazooka teams (Battle Front blister US729 Parachute Bazooka Teams €9 for 10 teams).  You attach these to your parachute rifle teams.  O.k. so that’s your Rifle Company HQ.

The two Parachute Rifle Platoons are straight out of the starter set.  No additonal purchases needed here.  Likewise, the two Guards Armored Platoons are starter set miniatures.

I’ve added a small mortar platoon (Battle Front blister US725 Parachute Mortar Platoon for €14.  You actually get four mortars and a bazooka upgrade in the blister but I’m only using two).  This is not going to do much.  What it will do is fire smoke bombardments against tanks that like to remain stationary.  They’ll be forced to move and lose 1/2 of their rate of fire.

Moving through the list we arrive at the recon element: three British armored car.  This is an inexpensive platoon points wise and feel free to swap it out for a small anti-tank gun platoon or something else.  Personally, I want recon in a list.  For this you’ll need the Battle Front blister BR310 Daimler Dingo (x3) for €11 and the Battle Front blister BR311 Daimler I for €9.

I’ve added limited air support from a Typhoon.  This is to keep German and Soviet heavy tanks honest.  Battle Front makes the plane for €14 AC005 Typhoon (1:144).

That does it.  We’ve got a fairly solid list.  It has set you back €121:
€60 Open Fire!
€4 for Gavin and Taylor
€9 for the bazookas
€14 for the mortars
€14 for the Typhoon
€20 for the recon

Do not under-estimate the clout that those two armored platoons give the list.  Likewise, you can be confident that those fearless veteran paratroopers will stick around.  Some folks might eschew the use of air power, preferring to drop it and the small mortar squad for some heavy-hitting artillery.  Fair enough.  That will add to the price tag of the list, however.  This is a 100% WYSIWYG paratrooper list and let’s not forget that you’re getting a rulebook and a V1 rocket.

Battlefleet Gothic Tournament Lists


As previously mentioned, Ireland’s first Battlefleet Gothic tournament will be held in Bray this October. I’m very happy to see an actual Specialist Game tournament in Ireland. The organisers had space for twelve players and they have gotten their twelve with a minimum of effort. Amusingly, that makes it bigger than the famous BFG tournament held every year at Adepticon.

As part of our new “other wargames” campaign, we’re sending three Warheads to this event. Or to be more accurate, two fully fledged Warheads and a body servant called John. Or Mary.  Honestly, who can keep track of the help? But with no prior experience to draw on, our lust for victory is sending us haywire.

It’s generally acknowledged that winning requires good list design and we’re operating in the void of zero match-day experience here. Yes, yes, we know that the battles themselves are only a portion of the overall score and the tournament boasts a strong “soft” scoring element. But still… good list design demands information. How can we find tournament lists to base our theories on? The best place to start is Adepticon. The Irish tournament seems to be following their lead with a very, very similar rules set. Let’s look at the strongest finishers from the 2012 tournament.

Space Marines
Venerable Battle Barge,
3 Strike Cruisers w/ extra shield
3 Strike Cruisers w/ extra shield and extra bombardment swap

When we strip away all soft scores and examine the actual battle results, this list finishes well ahead of the rest. What do we see? A list playing to its strengths. They’re all large ships with good armour and upgraded shields. He has bet heavily on light to moderate enemy lances and trusted in his armour. He’ll need it because he has to close to make best use of his bombardment cannons.

Really, it’s Wargaming 101, build in redundancy and focus on enhancing your strengths. His ships simply go for a stand-up fight. You will notice the lack of escorts. That’s because most escorts are terrible.

Craftworld Eldar

Flame of Asuryan
Dragonship with Weapon Battery and Launch Bay
3 Wraithships with Lances and Launch Bays
3 Shadowhunters w/ Weapon Batteries
3 Shadowhunters w/ Phantom Lances
This list falls behind the Space Marines in raw battle scores but is still well clear of the chasing pack. Some will not be familiar with this new fleet list, which is distinct from the traditional Eldar pirate lists. The Craftworld Eldar have slightly stronger armour on their ships but the main strength is the ability to customise their ships as they wish. This player has gone for an even mix of weapon batteries and lances to threaten all ship classes.

You might think he’s skimped on defensive air power but this is deceptive. The Shadowhunters have special rules which boost his anti-ordnance ability. Like the pirates, it’s all about using asteroid fields and gas clouds to choose his battles, launching strikes against isolated elements of the enemy fleet.

2 Devastation
2 Murder, 
3 Iconoclasts

This falls well behind the two previous lists in battle scores. The Chaos player has focused on one thing, long-range (60cm) lances. There are some launch bays and weapons batteries mixed in but this is clearly a stand-off list. It could run into serious difficulty against a holofield-equipped opponent but will murder slow, heavily armoured fleets. In theory.

I’m guessing he didn’t draw the Space Marine list above as it would have been an interesting match-up. The flaw here is that all the long range firepower comes at a cost. The list can’t output enough shots to win a short range duel. If a canny opponent can use celestial phenomena to close without crippling losses, he’s goosed.

Imperial Navy

2 Vengeance
2 Lunar w/Nova Cannon
2 Endurance light cruisers

This list finished similarly to the Chaos list above. A quick glance shows it to be an all-round force, based on some of the best classes in the Imperial fleet registry. The Emperor is a solid, all-round battleship that finds it way into most fleets. The Vengeance grand cruisers support it by adding some long range firepower. The dual nova cannons give the fleet even more reach.

The list designer has attempted to patch the weakness of the Imperial Navy at long range firefights with some success. The price is less actual hulls on the table and less potency at close range.

Hive Ship w/ 2 Prow Pyroacids and 3 Side Launch Bays
Hive Ship w/ 2 Prow Bioplasma + 2 Side Bioplasma + 1 Side Launch Bays
8 Bio-drones
6 Pyro-drones
8 Feeder-Vanguards
6 Claw-Kraken
4 Pyro-Kraken w/ 1 Feeder-Kraken

After all those stand-off fighters, someone has gone with the blunt club approach. This list came close to the Chaos and Imperials in battle scores. A single brawling Hiveship and one stand-off Hiveship form the heart of a true swarm fleet. The Feeder Vanguard are designed to swarm into the enemy fleet and provide targeting buffs. The rest of the escorts are balanced between close, medium and stand-off combatants.

This player is going to have a lot of fun. His list is solid and has every threat vector imaginable, from boarding actions out to 45cm pyro-acid batteries. His main vulnerability is the amount of VPs given up by those swarms of escorts as they inevitably explode into goo.

Back to the local scene, the fleet composition of the Irish tournament is as follows. It’s a mixed bag although the various forms of Eldar are probably happy to see no Necron players. We’re also lacking Tyranid and Ork players this time out. The classic fleets make a strong showing with six Imperial and Traitor fleets.

(3) Chaos

(3) Imperial Navy 
(1) Craftworld Eldar
(1) Eldar Pirates
(1) Dark Eldar
(1) Tau
(1) Space Marines
(1) Space Wolves
The key issue, as I see it, is to strike the correct balance between lance and battery type weapons. The former are strong against heavily armoured ships and the latter are best against average and lightly armoured ships. With five heavily armoured lists and seven lighter lists, it appears that weapon batteries might be the slightly better option. The players will have to weigh the benefits of an all-rounder force against focusing on one element and hoping Lady Luck is kind.

Personally, I’m going with an all-rounder force while maintaining my “no escorts, ever” policy.

How Many Points? The New Flames of War Starter Set

The Games Workshop starter sets have always been the bread and butter of their retail stores, self-contained little packages beloved of parents, children and veteran gamers alike. Even after the endless price hikes, they represent the closest thing to value for money in the range. Having experimented with smaller quick start boxes, Battlefront have finally noticed the benefits and released details of their own version.

You could buy two sets for e120 and get two full armies but the prudent move is to adopt the age-old tactic of the GW player. Buy a set, find/make a friend and swop your Germans for their Allies. Aside from the bolstered armies, each player then ends up with a rulebook, tokens, objectives, terrain and dice.

Points-wise, what do you actually get in the box?

Ze Germans

The exact details have not been released but the rear box image details all the contents and it’s not to difficult to identify the components. The Germans get an infantry company backed by tank destroyers and some anti-tank guns. One of the perks of Flames of War is the wide range of army lists, you can build almost anything with the contents of the box. You could go with the desperate rearguard of the  Sperrverband, bog-standard Wehrmacht grenadiers or something more esoteric.

We’re going to go with one of the Fearless Veteran infantry lists to get the maximum benefit from each model. The “Nederland” SS Panzergrenadier division from Grey Wolf (pg.38) seems suitable, a Dutch volunteer formation fighting on the Eastern Front. Let’s add up the points.

Infantry Platoon (3 Squads) = 220 points
Infantry Platoon (3 Squads) = 220 points
Gun Platoon (2 PaK40s) = 120 points
Tank Platoon (3 StuGs) =325 points

That’s 885 points of Germans in a solid list. If the command teams come with panzerfausts, you’ll get closer to 900 points. Considering that a tournament list comes in at 1750 points, a single starter set gets you over halfway. The infantry have a host of special rules to keep them moving under fire and the AT support will mangle all but heavy tanks. Against the heavies, you’ll need to take your side armour shots.

 The Yanks

The Allies are an armoured company with infantry support from some paratroopers. This would be about 865 points in a standard American armoured list. But again, there are so many army lists that you can build from this. Let’s go with the Irish Guards Armoured Squadron from Hell’s Highway (p.16). It’s the relief force from Operation Market Garden and the list is, in essence, British tanks backed by British/American infantry, all Confident Veterans.

Parachute Rifle Platoon (3 Squads) = 255 points
Tank Platoon (3 Shermans, 1 Firefly) = 375 points
Tank Platoon (3 Shermans, 1 Firefly) = 375 points
That’s a grand total of 1005 points. Once swopped, you’ll come in well over a full tournament list. The regular Shermans are not the world’s best tank but they’re cheap and numerous enough to menace infantry, light vehicles and most tanks. The Fireflies are a threat to all but the King Tigers of this world.
So there you have it, e60 and a friend (who can afford a similar outlay) gets you a full-size Flames of War army and all the little bits you need to play.

ArmyMan – Army Lists Made Easy

ArmyMan LogoThe biggest delay after playing a game of Warhammer 40,000 is usually figuring out your Victory Points and Kill Points. This most frequently happens at Tournaments, and to a lesser extent at friendly games. Players sometimes forget units or their costs, and this slows things down.

ArmyMan is an Android App that was written specifically to solve this problem, by serving as an easy reference for the armylist and speeding up scoring at the end of the game. Join us after the jump for more.

ArmyMan keeps track of lists, units and results.  This means you can store multiple lists in the app, and can also save results from your games as a record of how you do.

The sample list.
New Unit Prompt
Units in an Army List

Within each list it keeps track of each unit in that list, as well as its points cost and even a quick description of that unit. Additionally you can also add temporary units, such as those spawned by a Tervigon, that don’t contribute to the overall list value, and liability units, which is Lone Wolves in a Space Wolves list.

 Using this display you also easily keep track of how much damage your units are taking in a game. Simply set the skulls across the top of the list to indicate how much damage the unit has taken. The number of ticks across the skulls show which percentage of the unit is still alive, and allows you to easily keep track of multiple Combat Squads in a Marine list. Going from full squad to wiped out in 25% increments, with each tick essentially representing a quarter of the unit.

Unit #1 is at half strength.
Unit #2 is at full strength.
You can also see the Score
button on the bottom.

So a unit below half strength would have half it’s ticks left, and a Combat Squad-ed Marine unit that has lost half a combat squad would still have 3/4 of its ticks left.

Everything you need
about the score.

When you’ve finished a game, you can also easily save the result right from inside the list. Kill Points and Victory Points are automatically calculated, you just need your opponent’s results and you are good to go. Additionally you can also add modifiers to both your opponents Victory Point and Kill Point tallies. Currently this is for things like multiple Combat Squads which shouldn’t be worth a single Kill Point, or losing a Banner in a game of Warhammer Fantasy.

ArmyMan was built to be as generic as possible, so you should also be able to easily store Flames of War lists, or any other system with a similar unit costing mechanics. It is also actively being developed, and the next release, hopefully in a couple of weeks, will add support to import and export lists easily.

ArmyMan can be found in the Google Play store, and is currently on sale for €1 until midnight Sunday the 3rd June when it will revert to it’s usual price of €2. And remember, all proceeds from sales go towards maintaining the On The Step community. Any questions, feedback or suggestions can be answered through the support forum, found at On The Step.

Blood, Guts and Glory Review

The latest FoW release focuses on the US-German tank battles in the Lorraine from September 1944 to January 1945. Following the Allied breakout from Normandy, the German position in France has completely collapsed. Little stands between the lead American echelons and Germany. Only their crippling supply difficulties slows the Allies. Patton, starved of resources, begs, borrows and steals fuel to keep his attack pressing on. In a bid to stall Patton’s Third Army’s drive on the Rhine, newly formed German Panzer Brigades are thrown into a hasty counterattack. The result was the largest series of tank battles on the Western Front.

In game terms, the setting provides us with a moderate reversal of the traditional US-German clash. We have inexperienced German troops with a surplus of the most modern tanks and equipment trying to overwhelm units of hardened American veterans. The Germans formations are operating with the bare minimum of support, lacking in reconnaissance and artillery but well-supplied with AA assets. The Americans have the full array of divisional support. If you have a fondness for armoured lists, read on.

US Section
The Americans have two special characters available, Lt General Patton and Lt Colonel Abrams. Patton provides a bewildering list of army-wide buffs while Abrams boosts your armoured assets. On a historical note, the modern day Abrams tank is named after the latter.

The advantage to these smaller sourcebooks is that the lists have a certain character which can be missed in more generic army lists. The Americans can go with the veterans of the 4th Armoured or the less-capable 7th Armoured Division. You can choose Armoured Rifle Companies or Tank Companies from either division. There is also a Tank Destroyer Company representing the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion or the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion. These are the classic punch hard and leg it units. Frankly, it’s the most broken list in the book and the internet is brimming with love for it.

Pimping your Sherman tank.

For me, the main draw is that a vast range of late war Sherman designs are available within these lists. Aside from the basic M4 (read: rubbish) model, we can bring the up-gunned (76mm) version, the heavily armoured “Jumbo” and the speedy but stable “Easy Eight”. These, respectively, give us the standard Sherman horde, guns which can take out anything short of a King Tiger, tanks with armour superior to the Panther and the ability to move and fire without penalty. The customisation options within a single tank platoon are generous and you can tailor it to be a jack of all trades, sniping unit or a heavy assault force.

To give an idea of the points costs, here’s a 1725 point tank company from the 4th Armoured Division.
Company HQ
2x M4A1 Shermans
Tank Platoon
2x M4A1 Shermans
2x M4A1 (76mm)
1x M4A3E2 Jumbo
Tank Platoon
2x M4A1 Shermans
2x M4A1 (76mm)
1x M4A3E2 Jumbo
Assault Gun Platoon
6x M4 (105mm)

To put it in terms that will resonate with the MMORPG-addled youth of today, that’s 6 painfully average tanks, 4 snipers and 2 shield tanks. Along with six tanks that specialise in pounding infantry and guns into field-grey goo. They can also fire bombardments.

German Lists 
The German may not have any special characters but the book lets you combine the best German equipment with the low points cost of a Reluctant Trained rating. In previous army books, sub-standard German troops were generally reserve or police formations caught in the wrong place. This meant that the lists lacked access to the good toys that make the Germans feasible in competitive play. No more.

When we say that we get all the good toys, we actually mean three good toys. Cheap Panthers, soldiers bristling with panzerfausts (each stand gets one as standard) and excellent AA platforms. Brace yourself for the shock of having points to spare after buying all your tanks. The sample list below fills all but two slots in its OOB. That’s the Force Organisation Chart to the 40kers amongst us.

There are two groups of lists in the book. The first units deployed were fully equipped and are represented by a FHH Tank and two FHH Mechanised lists. For the later stages of the operation, we have slightly more ragged Tank and Infantry companies.

For illustration, a 1750 point force from the 113. Panzer Brigade.
Company HQ
 2x Panther G
Tank Platoon
 4x Panther G
Tank Platoon
4x Panther G
AA Gun Platoon
4x Mobelwagon
Motorised Platoon
3x Panzer Grenadier Squads
Motorised Platoon
3x Panzer Grenadier Squads
Ten Panthers for the price of six. They may break if tested but the armour and gun are the same no matter who the crew are. One the best AA options in any German list at a ludicrously low price. And enough points to bring two full infantry platoons. Crazy.

Tank Aces
About a third of the book is devoted to the Tank Aces campaign, which pits small platoons of armour against each other in vicious firefights. The campaign structure is based on the fighting around Arracourt and consists of three to four campaign turns. The points totals are small, starting at 500 points and increasing to a maximum of 900 points. Each player has a Tank Ace,which acts as their avatar during the campaign.

You begin with one average commander and less than a handful of tanks. Battles are fought, your forces expand and your commander gets that little bit tougher with each fight. There’s an RPG element as your Tank Ace levels up over the course of a campaign. There are thirty-six upgrades to choose from, spread over nine tech trees.

As a self-contained series of missions leading to a grand finale, it seems very well suited to club play.

The inaugural Flames of War league in Gamer’s World, Dublin was successful (apart from the damning fact that I’m not going to win it) and we’ll be looking to build on its success by running a Tank Aces campaign over three weeks later in the year. So grab yourself a box of PSC tanks and watch this space for more.

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