Big Boys Toys

The Ardennes Offensive

Big Boys Toys:
Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
with Russell Briant

Like many others, I waited eagerly for the Battlefront book release schedule to get around to that ultimate World War Two expression of German armoured excess, the 72 tonne Jagdtiger (or 12.8cm PaK44 Auf Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf B, Sd Kfz 186 for its more fulsome official description). It finally arrived in the form of the Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung in Nuts, the second book in the Battle of the Bulge series, now compiled in The Ardennes Offensive.

The undeniably impressive characteristics of the Jagdtiger most certainly put them in the Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, “Hoh-hoh-hoh” – “More Power? You're darn right more power!". category of German vehicles.  This also makes them expensive to field.1

1 - Tim Taylor is the central character in the US TV comedy, Home Improvement – 1991-1999, who had a testosterone charged penchant for beefing kit up.

The Ardennes Offensive
In December 1944 the German forces on the Western Front made one last major push in the Ardennes and Alsace-Lorraine, trying to split the Allied forces in half and force them to negotiate a peace treaty. It was a daring all-or-nothing gamble.

Learn more about The Ardennes Offensive here...

The Ardennes Offensive: German Forces in Lorraine and the Ardennes, September 1944 - February 1945
Jagdtiger (GBX70) In this article I will attempt to work out some ways to field them competitively in Flames of War. I’ll build to a favourite Late War list size of 1750.

The hard-to-miss core of the Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung is the Jagdtiger. You are required to have a minimum of three Jagdtigers in your company so this is a good place to start - at least one in the Company HQ and one in each of your two combat platoons. At 345 points each the minimum Jagdtiger component to your company expends 1035 points. At that cost it will be hard to afford more without excessively unbalancing the force.

What’s the Jagdtiger got going for it? Well let’s start with the gun. It’s the reason for being for a Jagdpanzer and the Jagdtiger’s has the very best stat lines of any gun in the game. The 12.8cm PaK44 has an unbeaten Armour Penetration of 17 and an all but perfect Firepower of 2+. This combination is very likely to destroy all but the very heaviest or very luckiest armoured vehicles they hit.

Learn more about the Flames Of War Jagdtiger miniature here...

Reflecting its relatively roomy fighting compartment, two loaders and conveniently located ammunition racks for the two part ammunition (separately shorter and therefore more wieldy in a confined space than the single piece 8.8cm ammunition carried by a Königstiger), Battlefront have given the Jagdtiger’s 12.8cm gun a creditable rate of fire of 2. This allows the potential of 6 heavy shots from my core force or a single solid shot each if a Jagdtiger is forced to move locations during the turn. This isn’t a huge volume of fire so, like other German heavy armour forces, a Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie player will need to be patient and build up damage on the enemy force over time, picking off priority threats and working on down .

The 12.8cm gun does benefit from being a Breakthrough Gun so that any hits on infantry and guns bypass the team save step and only then need to roll 2+ firepower test to destroy if those targets are in bullet proof cover or have a gun shield facing. The Breakthrough Gun characteristic will allow this force to make efficient use of a relatively low number of possible hits.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
At 48”/120cm the 12.8cm PaK44 also has the longest reach of any direct fire weapon yet fielded in Flames of War, enabling the Jagdtiger to dominate large portions of the table if the terrain allows. The Jagdtiger is designed to sit back as a long range sniper and take apart an opponent at distance.

To support this mode of fighting the Jagdtiger was given a suite of frontal armour that, at 16, cannot be penetrated by any presently listed direct fire weapon.

Even a vehicle as big as the Jagdtiger had to compromise on some characteristics to accommodate its superlative main gun and frontal armour. Mobility was a source of constant concern. In game terms it’s a Slow Tank, Overloaded and Unreliable so they won’t be driving around too fast and I shouldn’t be entering them into difficult terrain too often. My game plan should mean I can work around this so it shouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem. My Jagdtigers will be finding a place in the shade with a commanding field of fire over the objective and sticking there as long as possible.

The rest of the protective suite does, however, provide opportunities for my opponents. The side armour at 8 and the top armour at 2 are respectable but not invulnerable and they are where their enemy will look to find a chink. Also the single self-defence hull machine leaves considerable areas uncovered around the vehicle and, by itself, is border-line for stopping a determined infantry attack.

So, before I select some supporting platoons to allow the Jagdtigers to be effective, let’s first think about the types of missions a Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie is likely to confront and what threats need to be overcome to succeed in those missions.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung

The Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie is a Tank Company so that means it is going to be the Attacker in a good number of scenarios and in Fair Fight missions this force is also going to need to get platoons across the table to capture an objective.

Taking objectives by assault is not the optimal use of my expensive and mechanically temperamental Jagdtigers. There are too few and they are too vulnerable to bogging to build a plan around being my primary assault force, so I will be looking for choices from the support platoons to lead that role.

Now let’s look at what the Jagdtigers need protection from.

Against their most common historical opponents, the US and Free French forces using American equipment a major threat is manoeuvrable Tanks and Tank Destroyers racing around to get flank shots and penetrating the side armour. At close range even 75mm gunned Shermans or Chaffees have a chance of penetrating the side armour and the AP 13 of a 76mm gun or AP 14 of a 90mm gun can do this at long range. On occasions a player can use terrain to provide some flank protection but I will look for some support platoons to actively assist with this task.

A standard US tactic when they ran into German heavy armour was to pull back out of the line of fire and bombard the monsters with artillery and air strikes.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung

US lists bristle with medium and heavy artillery with excellent special rules to go with them. Once ranged they are capable of penetrating the top armour of my Jagdtigers and even if they don’t the threat of repeat bombardment could well have a Jagdtiger player seeking a new firing position  thereby cutting down their rate of fire for that turn. Also, being Reluctant, I don’t want them throwing for too many Unbailing tests. So some counter to high AP artillery is also desirable.

Similarly the US forces have air options that are very good and need countering and my Jagdtigers also need protecting from swarms of infantry armed with man portable anti-tank weapons.

With so many threats to mitigate, I’m looking for good all-rounder platoon options that can cover several of the threats to my force.

Looking at what the list offers to do those jobs in support of my Jagdtiger core. The first thing you notice is that there are just 5 on table support slots and an air support option. None the less, with the limited points remaining available I might struggle to use them all.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
Firstly the Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie has two Anti-Aircraft platoon boxes.

The first is the integral Reluctant Veteran Panzerjäger Anti-aircraft Gun platoon. You can choose a platoon of between 2 and 4 Wirbelwind (Quad 2cm) and Möbelwagen (3.7cm) armoured AA vehicles. Both cost the same points at 50 points per vehicle. The Möbelwagen has the longer gun range and heavier firepower but the Wirbelwind has more shots, bullet resistant armour and a hull machine gun.

If I have a look at the roles these guns could play in the support tasks we need for my Jagdtigers then they both clearly fill the close AA support job description and the Wirbelwind in particular could be very helpful in protecting the Jagdtigers against infantry assault. Both choices could add fire power to help dig out dug in infantry off an objective, once all the immediate enemy heavy support choices have been eliminated of course.

The other Anti-aircraft support option is the SS Panzergrenadier Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon.

This provides 2 or 3 Fearless Trained SS 2cm Flakvierling 38 or 3.7cm FlaK 43. These are essentially a ground mounted version of the weapons mounted on the Wirbelwind or Möbelwagen. They are cheaper than the armoured versions, being effectively a place once weapon system. The points spread ranges from 55 points for 2x Flakvierling to 90 points for 3x 3.7cm FlaK43.

They could provide my AA support though they are a good chance to get left behind as the attack moves towards the objective. The 3.7cm umbrella does reach further in this regard. Or, at a pinch, I could use them to cover an objective I need to defend

Moving on, the Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie has two infantry platoon choice boxes. The options are the Volksgrenadier Sturm, Schurtzen or Pioneer platoons or the Panzergrenadier SS and Panzergrenadier Pioneer SS platoons. There are plenty of Panzerfausts and pioneer explosives in this lot to keep enemy tanks honest.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
Infantry are the best option for the Objective assault role in this company and can also provide close defence of the Jagdtigers against enemy infantry and tanks.

The last on table support choice is an artillery one with some interesting choices. The Volks Light artillery gives options of 3 or 6 Confident Veteran or cheaper Reluctant Trained 7.5cm FK40 (PaK40) guns or 10.5cm leFH18/40 howitzers. The Motorised Medium or Heavy artillery batteries offer 2 or 4 Confident Veteran or Fearless Trained 10.5cm leFH18/40 or 15cm sFH18 howitzers or long reaching s10cm K18 guns. Or the Volks Rocket Launcher Battery with 3 or 6 15cm, 21cm, or Super-heavy 30cm rocket launchers.

All have their uses. The FK 40 is basically a PaK40 with a harassment artillery capability. They are a great choice for supplementing the direct fire of the Jagdtigers. They fit the bill for making it costly for a tank force to get to a position to take long range flank shots at the Jagdtigers and they are an option to at least pin enemy artillery that otherwise threaten my Jagdtigers.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung

The 30cm NW42 rocket have their own new Super Heavy Rocket rule which requires them to take skill tests to reload meaning a player is likely to only get one full, double template, salvo out of them.

Their Firepower 1 means they will automatically kill any target that fails its armour or hit save test. But the Smoke trails rule makes them vulnerable to counter battery fire and their Reluctant morale means they may remain pinned and therefore unable to bombard at critical phases in the game. Lastly they may be too specialised, covering too few of my support platoon needs to get into my force.

The final support option is Sporadic Air Support with 105 points buying you the revolutionary Me 262 A2a Sturmvogel. Air support provides some Aircraft Interception capability and some anti-artillery capability while being VERY cool if not an entirely reliable option. The Me 262 does get the Fast Jet rule which means it cannot be intercepted by enemy air support.

653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung (1750 points)
Rated Reluctant Veteran
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ
 
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Combat Platoons  
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger 345 points
Divisional Support Platoons
 
Volksgrenadier Sturm Platoon (Confident Veteran)  
with two Assault Squads and one MG Squad
270 points
Volks Light Artillery Battery (Confident Veteran)  
with six 7.5cm FK40 guns and Horse Drawn Limbers
340 points
Air Support
 
Sporadic Me 262 A2a Sturmvogel 105 points
Total Points:
1750 points
Using This Force
This list has an even number of platoons first to try and remain efficient in half on half off games with a four platoon list. 


I expect to be outnumbered and attacking. In half off games I’d bring the two Jagdtiger platoons on from reserve. I see the Jagdtigers and FK40s doing the prep work to get the Sturm platoon into assault the enemy off the objective.

Jagdtigers with long range breakthrough gun fire take out enemy artillery, tanks and machine guns.
The FK40s provide a high volume of anti-ground target fire.

The assault rifles in the Sturm platoon provide pinning fire in an assault and the Panzerfausts make tank assault a viable possibility. 

The Me262 will attempt to suppress artillery, enemy air strikes and other high risk targets.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
A five platoon force could look like this:
653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung (1750 points)
Rated Reluctant Veteran
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ
 
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Combat Platoons  
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger 345 points
Weapons Platoons  
Panzerjäger Anti-aircraft Gun platoon
 
with four Wirbelwind (2cm) 200 points
Divisional Support Platoons
 
Volks Pioneer Platoon (Confident Veteran)  
with three Pioneer Squads and Command Panzerfaust SMG team
280 points
Volks Light Artillery Battery (Reluctant Trained)  
with six 7.5cm FK40 guns and Horse Drawn Limbers
230 points
Total Points:
1745 points
Using This Force
This force has a larger infantry assault force, relying on flame throwers or supporting fire to pin the defenders.

The Wirbelwinds are of sufficient numbers to have enough survivability to accompany the Jagdtigers and provide direct AA, infantry defence and a volume of fire to prep an assault.

The Reluctant Trained FK40s retain their task of keeping tanks away from the flanks of my Jagdtigers. They and the pioneers are the platoons I’d look to deploy in a half off scenario.

Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
Finally, a six platoon version:
653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung (1750 points)
Rated Reluctant Veteran
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie HQ
 
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Combat Platoons  
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger
345 points
Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie  
with one Jagdtiger 345 points
Weapons Platoons  
Panzerjäger Anti-aircraft Gun platoon
 
with two Möbelwagon (3.7cm) 100 points
Divisional Support Platoons
 
Panzergrenadier Pioneer Platoon (Fearless Trained)  
with three Pioneer Squads, Command Pioneer Panzerfaust SMG team and 3-ton trucks
200 points
Panzergrenadier Platoon (SS) (Fearless Trained)  
with three Panzergrenadier Squads, Command Panzerfaust MG team, Kübelwagen & 3-ton trucks.
230 points
Volks Light Artillery Battery (Confident Veteran)  
with three 7.5cm FK40 guns and Horse Drawn Limbers 185 points
Total Points:
1750 points
Big Boys Toys: Building The 653. Schwere Panzerjägerabteilung
Using This Force
Two infantry platoons double the objective assault options, though being trained they can expect more hits getting to that point.

The Panzergrenadiers will form the close escort platoon for my Jagdtigers. Armed with MGs they retain a rate of fire of 2 when pinned which might help giving defensive fire.

With fewer FK40s in this list to provide flank protection I have returned them to Confident Veteran to improve their survivability.

With the Panzergrenadiers taking the close escort role and there just being two AA vehicles I have opted for the longer range gun of Möbelwagen (3.7cm) in case they need to be more circumspect and providing AA cover from a bit more distance.

None of the forces will be easy to use but the victories will be sweet when they come.

If you want instead to exploit the qualities and historical use of the Jagdtiger as the lynch pin of a defending force then there is the option to work 1 or 2 into a Panzergrenadier company. But that can be a topic for a further article.

Enjoy building your own lists with the renowned Sd Kfz 186 Hunting Tiger.

~ Russell.