Fire in the Sky: German Rocket Artillery in Late War

Rockets are the most useful and unique artillery the Germans possess in Late War.  They get by far the most types of rocket batteries and these groups tend to be reasonably priced.  Nearly every German company has access to these weapons and they can complement any list.  Rocket barrages are quick hitting and rocket batteries can swiftly respond to fluid situations.  No weapon is better poised to inflict maximum damage to an out of position enemy platoon.  This article will look at the types of weapons available to a German player and the tactics to use them. 

Special Rules:  While Allied gun artillery has all sorts of options and special rules, rocket artillery for the Germans provides a nice counter-balance.  Rocket special rules are not German specific, but since they get the lions share of these types of weapons, they can almost count as such.  Since rockets were fired in massive barrages they were not ranged in like conventional artillery.  To represent this, a German player suffers no penalty for ranging in on either their second or third attempt.  Combined with the fact that nearly every rocket battery is a Veteran platoon, rocket barrages are almost always inflicting hits on a 3+.  This is the rule that allows Rocket arty to be so devastating against your opponent.  Besides gone-to-ground Veterans (which would require a 6 to range in on) there is no target a German rocket barrage should not realistically be able to range in on.  With three dice you should statistically always be able to roll at least a 5 if needed. (gone-to-ground Trained for ex.)  Of course statistics never come out perfectly in a game, but rockets can be relied apon to a degree that many other weapons cant.

Next, rockets have a unique advantage for larger artillery batteries.  If a German player has a battery of six or more rockets, instead of rerolling hits he puts down a double-width artillery template.  With three attempts to range in and a double-width template hitting targets on a 3+, the destructive potential of these weapons starts to become apparent.  I have devastated entire Soviet companies with a few well placed shots from my rockets.  Since rocket artillery has no staff team and cant call in all-gun-repeat bombardments, I believe that rocket artillery is better firing at targets of opportunity that pop up turn to turn.  Unlike howitzer arty which can pick a spot and then summarily pound it into dust, rockets should work to weaken the enemy over multiple parts of the board.  Inflicting maximum damage every turn should be the goal, not smashing open a hole in the opponents line.  A British player may use “Mike Target” to seal off a key part of the board for several turns so that his platoons can advance unmolested to an objective.  A German player using rocket arty should never keep his bombardment in one place unless the enemy keeps presenting easy targets.

The last special rule is the only negative one.  With their large smoke trails, rocket bombardments were not hard to spot.  Counter-battery fire could be called in quickly since the general location of the rockets was easily discernable.  In Flame of War this means that if your rocket battery fired, in your opponents next shooting phase, even if they cant get direct line-of-sight to your battery, they can range their artillery on your smoke trails.  However this has happened to me so few times as a player that I dont really worry about it too much.

Rocket Artillery Platoons:  The most common rockets a German player will use are Nebelwerfers.  The 15cm NW41 launcher saw widespread use in the German army during WW2 and in FoW it is well represented.  It has a 64″ range, AT3 FP4+ bombardment and can also be used to fire smoke if needed.  Almost every list can take these and combined with their low cost nearly every list can fit these weapons in.  For a minimum battery of three, only 120 pts. have to be spent.  This is a great bargain because a German play gets an artillery battery that hits relatively hard and doesnt have to rely on repeated range ins.  For aggresive players looking to press their assaults home early in a game, no other artillery platoon does more for less.  Another boon is that fact that these are light gun teams making movement (if neccessary) a realistic option.  A 4″ move plus a stormtrooper roll gives an impressive eight inches of potential movement.  If a full battery of six is taken, still only 220 pts. have to be spent.  For comparison this is the average cost of a four gun battery of German 105mm howitzers.  It should be noted that in the new Earth and Steel book, rocket costs have gone down even further with an average discount of around twenty points for all platoons.  The only downside of Nebelwerfers is the lack of a gun shield and no ability for direct fire.  Nebelwerfers should be treated as large mortars and never as convential howitzer artillery.

The last unit I will look at is the Panzerwerfer 42.  For in game purposes this weapon essentially mounts a Nebelwerfer on an armoured half-track chassis.  I think this is the most cost effective artillery platoon available to the Germans in Late War.  They have almost all the advantages of armoured mechanized artillery but with none of the disadvantages associated with Wespes and Hummels.  First and foremost is cost.  A platoon of three of these vehicals is only going to cost 180 pts. (165 in Earth and Steel).  Extra crews to make each gun count as two when firing a bombardment only cost 5 pts. for each team.  So for less than 200 pts. a German player get to lay down a double width template with just three vehicals shooting.  If five or six Panzerwerfer 42s are taken with extra crews the German player gets to reroll hits for his double-width.  If seven or eight are taken, than the devastating bombardment template is used (a massive 12″ by 12″!) with rerolls to hit.  Even with a full platoon of eight with extra crews the cost is still going to be under 400 pts.  Again for comparison 4 Hummels run about 430 pts.  Nobody likes to shoot counterbattery fire at these units because of their 8″ spacing.  They are most vulnerable to armoured recce or light armour so be sure to either purchase the Pak gun upgrade for the platoon or back them up with other assets in your company.  With their all around armour rating of 0 though, they can stand up to small arms fire (unlike the Soviet Katyushas which are mounted on unarmoured trucks).  Simply by forcing you opponent to pass firepower checks to destroy these vehicals can keep Panzerwerfer 42s alive for many more turns than tradional Nebelwerfers.  Panzerwerfer 42s can also get rid of their smoke trails if they pass a stormtrooper role at the end of the German players turn.  In addition, many German infantry lists have access to these weapons, giving them the abilty to field armoured artillery. 

In conclusion every German player should have at least three of these vehicals or six Nebelwerfers.  Either one of these options would only cost around $40 dollars so they are not going to hurt your wallet.  Rocket artillery is too versatile and cheap for German players not to take.  It is their one real advantage over Allied artillery and it should be taken advantage of fully.

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About chimera1715

College Grad who loves military history, sci-fi, tabletop gaming and football.
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