Reconnaissance serves an important fuction on the Flames of War battlefield. Be it the extra recce move before the game begins or using “eyes and ears” to rid an enemy platoon of its “gone to ground” statues, recce platoons can be critical components to any German list. This article will look at the some of the more common recce platoons and their uses.
Unlike many Allied or Soviet lists, the deployment of German recce platoons is heavily dependent on the the type of company deployed. Standand Grenadier or Luftwaffe companies usually only have access to basic 5-team platoons made up of Rifle teams. While seemingly a very “lame” platoon, this recce group’s main beneift lays in its cost, which is quite cheap. The Grenadier Scout Platoon does only one thing well, so a German player shouldnt be tempted to try anything fancy with it. These platoons should get into scouting position and go to ground. Movement should be kept to an absolute minimum. If the situation does call for it, Scout Platoons can be used as a cheap assault force since (despite their utter lack of equipement) they are usually Veterans, and still hit on a 3+ in the assault step. If a German player does want to up their firepower, there are a few options. The command team can be replaced with a SMG/Panzerfaust team and in some grenadier lists, the Rifle teams can be replaced by Assault Rifle teams. While these upgrades significantly increase the squads shooting potential, they also make it prohibitivly expensive. A wiser option would be to just purchase another Grenadier infantry platoon.
As usual with German forces in Late War, it is the Panzergrenadier divisions that get access to the higher quality and more capable recce forces. Unlike Grenadier or Luftwaffe divisions, all recce platoons for panzergrenadier companies are motorized or armoured. The most common of these platoons is the Panzer Scout Platoon ( ex. image at top of post). Made up of four MG teams they are usually equiped with motorcycles, kübelwagens, or schwimmwagens. The great advantage of these vehicals is their “jeep” classification, meaning they can move a full 12″ over cross-country terrain. If the German player has the first turn, this unit can traverse 24″ on the board before the enemy ever gets a shot off. Getting into a spotting position before the rest of a German force engages in battle ensures no wasted time and maximizes the effeciency of all units. Also, being MG teams this unit can put out a decent amount of support fire. One nifty use for these units is that the SS versions of this platoon can swap out their MGs and recce status to equip every team with SMG/Panzerfausts. Now designated as tank hunters, teams in this platoon can make combat attachments. Properly employed, this small platoon can be an effective blocking force as enemy armour will be very leery of engaging so many ‘fausts. The main downside to these units is cost; having motorised transport and machine guns for every team puts the unit at around 160-185pts.
The real strength of German reconnaissance forces in Late War is their mechanized recce platoons. Made up of armoured cars and halftracks, they are generally better armed, armoured and more mobile than their Allied or Soviet counterparts. The main armament for most of these vehicals is the 2 cm KwK 38 gun which in game has a 16″ range, RoF3 and AT5 with a 5+ firepower check. While not suited for engaging enemy armour, the 2cm KwK 38 is a heavier armament than most enemy recce will mount. Be it British Universal Carriers, Soviet BA-64s or American Jeeps, German recce should have the advantage in most engagements against enemy light forces. Popular examples of these vehicals include the Sd. Kfz 222 (2cm) armoured car and the Sd Kfz 250/9 (2cm) half-track. Both can be taken in group of up to 6 (2 patrols of 3) and both platoons are readily available in lists from Panzergrenadier divisions. Both are armed witht the 2cm gun and have frontal armour 1. The main difference is that the Sd. Kfz 222 is only a wheeled vehical (8″ move cross country), while the Sd. Kfz 250/9 is half-tracked giving it greater mobility.
The most useful recce platoons in my opinion are the heavy armoured cars. These include the Sd.Kfz 231 (8-Rad) and the Sd.Kfz. 234/2 “Puma”. With frontal armour values of 2 and 3 respectively they are immune to enemy small arms fire and as they are classified as “Jeeps” they can move around the board freely. Indeed the Puma is probally the second best recce unit in the whole game (the best being British Stuarts). With its 5cm KwK 39 armament, it essentially mounts the same gun as the Panzer III. This allows the Puma to act as both a recce and dedicated light armour unit since they can effectively dominate enemy light forces and even engage medium tanks. Costing 150 pts for a platoon of three, Pumas can be a very cost-effective unit that is capable and multipurpose. The main disadvantage to the Puma is accessability. Only a select few divisions recieved this vehical so not many German list will have the ability to field it. The Sd.Kfz 231 (8-Rad) can be used in a similar fashion sans taking on enemy tanks. At around 170-180 pts for four vehicals (split into 2 patrols) a German player adds two platoons for the price of one and gets two units that can spot out enemy platoons for fire. Both of these vehicals mount a coaxial MG as well meaning that even on the move they can lay down decent anti-infantry fire.
While German doctrine dictated that armoured recce forces should only engage the enemy as a last resort, I believe that in FoW these units are too valuable to only spot enemy platoons. These platoons can fill a critical gap in a German players force between Tanks/Assault Guns and infantry. Having fast, mobile groups of light armour can be invaluable as added firepower or rapid reaction forces. Being relatively cheap (by German standards anyway) they can add extra platoons to a company while being a serious harassing force.