The Pieces of World at War 85: US units
This article is the first in a series that will look at the units available for each nationality in the World at War 85 series from Lock ‘n Load Publishing. It has its origin in a series of articles written by Larry McAneny, Robert C. Clark and Alan Arvold in The Wargamer’s Guide to Panzer Blitz, General Magazine and The Boardgamer’s Guide to Panzer Leader. Those articles looked at the many units available in Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader and assorted expansion published in the General Magazine.
The Panzer Blitz rules, and the wide range of hardware that the games and expansions covered, meant that the older articles were very dense. Luckily for us the World at War 85 series has a smaller number of units and the intent of them, both in the real world and in game, is also more obvious so that we can focus on looking at the best way to use the units and also any rules that you want to keep in mind while playing. This first article will look at the US units available in the Storming the Gap core game.
While not quite the beast that the M1A1 is, the M-1 is still a solid tank but, at this point in its development really only at par with the Soviet T80s that it will encounter. The Orange AP and HE firepower numbers mean that it has an Enhanced Move and Fire action allowing it to move and fire with a lower penalty. It is this factor in which it is superior to its Soviet counterparts in that it can move up to half its movement factor with no penalty.
In many scenarios you will need to use this capability as the US and NATO forces will be outnumbered by Soviet tanks. Sadly the M1 doesn’t have a range advantage on the T-80 or T-72 so the best use for the advanced optics and stabilization in the M1 is to either keep the Soviets out of reduced range or to move into cover.
Like many tanks of the era, the M1 is equipped with Composite armor that helps to protect it against ATGMs. Combined with the bonus against ATGMs by being in blocking terrain the M1 has very good survivability against the Sagger and Sniper missiles that the Soviets carry.
Developer notes: When we broke down the metrics for the M-1 to build the counter values, everyone was expecting a combat-monster. On the surface, the 105mm guns the platoon is armed with don’t seem as powerful as people thought they might be but it turned out that combined with better command control (the formation cards), enhanced move and fire, fast movement, and Chobham armor, the M-1 platoons are even more formidable than we thought.
M-2 Bradley IFV
Armed with TOW missiles, the M-2 Bradley has, in game, the equivalent firepower of the M-1 Abrams. It just doesn’t have the same armor so while it can take out a T-80 it can’t survive the return fire. The M-2 is a transport and it also has Enhanced Move and Fire with its HE firepower.
The M-2 can do many things and is quite good at hunting enemy armor but its main task is to deliver troops to their forward positions. Soften up enemy infantry on the move with your HE firepower and then protect your troops from armor with the TOWs. Do note that since the M-2 is a Transport that when it fails an ATGM Ammo Check it is marked with a No Missile Ammo counter immediately.
Developer notes: 1985 was a time of equipment transition for the U.S, Army. M-113s were being replaced by M-2 Bradleys, but that process was in the middle, not yet at the end. We often still get comments from ex-soldiers of the time who either say there were no M-2s, or there were no M-113s left. From the perspective of their organization that may have been true, but across V Corps covering the Fulda gap, it appears to have been half-and-half in 1985. So we have them both in our scenarios.
M-3 Bradley CFV
The M-3 is the M-2 with the troop transport areas filled with additional radio equipment. The red triangle on the counter marks it as a recon unit which allows it to call in off-board artillery, always be in command and strip concealment from enemy units. It has the same attack capabilities as the M-2 without the focus on delivering and protecting infantry.
The TOW fire and the ability to call in artillery strikes will make the M-3 a prime target for Soviet units. It is capable of causing problems for the Soviets in many ways and so the best use for the unit will depend on the scenario you are playing.
Developer notes: With an inherent scout section built into the unit, this cavalry vehicle platoon has reconnaissance ability. The Bradley’s themselves give excellent fire support for the same. Cross-attached with a couple of platoons of M-1 Abrams tanks and the Cavalry Squadrons of the 11th ACR come alive in the game.
Both the M-2 and M-3 are High Rate of Fire vehicles which means that if they run out of ATGM ammunition they can use their HE firepower as an alternate AP firepower.
The Patton is a peculiarity in that it is a generation of tank design prior to the M-1 Abrams but is still almost identical in game statistics with the exception of the composite armor. Anything you can do with the M-1 you can do with a Patton. Just keep them away from ATGMs.
Developer notes: The 105mm guns in these platoons could still keep up with the M-1s; some have commented that their targeting systems were even better than the M-1s.
The M-106 is a variant of the venerable M-113 troop transport with the seating replaced by ammo racks and a 107mm mortar. This game represents the last hurrah of the M-106 which is set to be replaced in a few years, in the real world, by the 120mm Soltam K6.
It has a minimum range of 2 hexes but can cover an entire map with its 25 hex effective range. The grey triangle on the counter allows it to be used for indirect fire. What makes this a more impressive unit than the stats would indicate is that most US units have the ability to call in indirect fire. Compared to the Soviets the number of possible units that can attempt a Spotting Check is impressive and makes the M-106 a very flexible offensive unit.
In World at War 85 the M-113 doesn’t fare as poorly in comparison to other units such as the BMP 1 or the Bradley series of vehicles. It is just as fast and has equivalent armor protection. Where it truly suffers is in terms of firepower. Not only does the M-113 only have a 215 HE firepower but it also has a truly deficient 15 Assault factor.
Quite a number of the scenarios have US formations equipped with the M-113 which has to be treated as nothing but a shuttle to get troops from point A to point B as soon as possible. While it is as survivable as an M-2 it has nothing with which to threaten enemy units and keep them at arm’s length.
Developer notes: Aging out and being actively replaced by the more sophisticated and heavily armed M-2 and M-3 Bradleys, these battle-taxis were unfortunately thin-skinned. Yet it was the basis for many a transportable weapon also (see M-901 Self-propelled ATGM below).
M-163 Vulcan SPAAG
Mounting a M61 Vulcan rotary cannon, the M-163 is a short-ranged AA vehicle that is also effective against infantry and light armor. It is one of three single step units that the US fields. The blue Firepower values mark it as a AA capable unit and the white range values tell us that this is a gun equipped unit. It has the lowest range of any other AA unit in the US arsenal making it tricky to use in its intended role. The 25 in its AP and HE values means that the M-163 needs to save its fire for units with lower armor or no cover to be most effective.
The best thing about the M-901 is the dual TOW launcher attached to the M-113 chassis. Other than that, it has the same deficiencies as the other M-113 series vehicles. Mainly low armor and no way to affect other units other than its TOW launcher. The M-901 can project a serious threat to Pact tank units but it needs the added benefit of cover to keep firing TOWs. The guidance systems in the M-901 does give it the Advanced Night Fighting capability so it can make Night Targeting Checks at a reduced penalty.
The Jeep TOW, or the M151A2 TOW, is a single tube TOW launcher mounted on the back of an M-151 jeep. It has no HE firepower or an Assault value and so its main function is as an inexpensive way to position an ATGM to pose a threat to Pact tank units. All it can do is fire a TOW and consequently its loss won’t really impact the game much. It is an irritant to Soviet forces because they have to take it seriously since it is an ATGM but it has no real battlefield value other than that. The Jeep TOW is also a single step unit to make its survivability even less likely.
The Chaparral is a devastating AA unit with an incredible range of 60 hexes. And a Point Blank range of 30. Firing at any air unit within 30 hexes gives it a 23 firepower which almost guarantees a hit. The Chaparral is armed with missiles based on the AIM 9 Sparrow which gives it the incredible range but also means that it can’t fire against helicopters flying NOE.
It is a single step unit and has no HE firepower or Assault factor so it is almost defenceless but with the a 60 hex range you should be able to find a place for it to park far away from any Soviet or Pact units. The Chaparral is very effective against Close Air Support units but trying to target helicopters can be a bit tricky due to the lower heights they can achieve on the board.
Infantry and Support
The US infantry in World at War 85 are largely equivalent to those of other nationalities with the exception that the US troops have a shorter range on their inherent AP firepower. Infantry excel at holding locations and also at digging out armored units from Blocking terrain that interferes with ATGM fire.
The major threat that infantry units, of any nation, pose in the game is that they can deploy support weapons without having to be stacked with them when the game starts. So any US infantry counter could possibly have a Dragon or TOW launcher ready to fire. And until you do deploy it the quantum threat remains. The TOW could be with any infantry unit and your opponent needs to treat them as if they possibly did.
The M47 Dragon is a wire-guided ATGM which helps explain its short range. The missile also needed the operator to keep the target marked while the missile was in flight. The Dragon still packs a solid punch and can be a nasty surprise for Pact armor that have assumed they were safe from ATGMs because of the range to the enemy infantry.
The Mine Plow is equipped on Heavy Armor units to allow them to attempt to breach minefields (16.3.1). Check the Defense Type column on the appropriate National Unit Table to determine which armored units count as Heavy. It is a scenario dependent support attachment that is only seen in scenarios where an opponent has prepared minefields. The roll to breach a minefield is based on the unit’s morale so the best way to try to stop your own minefields from being breached is to reduce the HQ of the formation that has the Plow. The Mine Plow can also be used to breach rubble hexes as well.
The Stinger counter represents multiple MANPACK Stinger teams to provide an AA capability to infantry units. While it doesn’t have the range of the Chaparral it can still reach almost any CAS or Helicopter unit on the map. As with the other infantry support weapons in the game its main power is in its unpredictability. Until fired the Stinger teams could be anywhere and this should help keep your opponent wary of getting too close to infantry units when plotting air attacks.
It is the same TOW weapon that other US vehicles carry. It is the defining weapon of this era, giving the lowly infantryman the same anti-armor killing power as an M-1 tank. The usual caveats about support weapons apply but even moreso for the TOW support weapon given its range. The Soviets have their Sagger systems but they are hampered by a slightly shorter range as well as a three hex minimum range.
The AH-1 Cobra provides two different attack profiles. While Flying it has a fairly effective HE attack that isn’t affected by movement. You can easily zip around the map and target infantry and Light Armor units. Its second mode is enabled when it Hovers and this allows you to fire its TOW ATGMs and threaten Heavy Armor units.
The drawback is that when it Hovers it stops being considered a Heavy Armor unit with a 25 armor rating and becomes a Light Armor target with an armor rating of 5. It does have the Advanced Night Fighting capability that other US TOW armed units have so it can provide a bit of a surprise in nighttime battles.
Close Air Support assets in the game have largely similar statistics and so there isn’t anything that the A-10 provides the US that isn’t provided by the CAS units of other nationalities. Close Air Support attacks are unique in the game because of the vast speed of the units involved. They appear on the map at their target location and if not driven off or destroyed by AA fire they attack every unit in a hex. They can even use their AP and HE attack values if the hex contains a mix of units.
Developer notes: A flying tank where the pilot sits in a titanium bathtub for protection from ground fire, and the premiere US Close Air support platform provided by Army aviation. Its 30mm centerline cannon and large guided and unguided munitions capacity made these flights something of which the PACT would have been wary during the entire war.