Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Israeli Tanks: Strengths and Weaknesses

Fate Of A Nation gives players a wide range of tank options for building their Israeli force. Because of the variety, trimming the list down might be harder than it seems depending on your preferences and criteria. Right now I have a little of everything painted, but these lists will require me to add some extra models if I want to maximise the performance of the Formations.

For now, I am using history to guide me as I want to paint more Sho't tanks (Centurions) and Isherman (105mm) tanks as I am going for a Golan Heights based Force. However, I am going to want to paint a bit more of everything in time so I can do whatever I want, or just play really big games!

To help guide me with my painting prioritisation I thought I look at each of the tanks that the Israelis can field and share my thoughts.

Tank X vs T-54
I am going to use the good old T-54 as my baseline enemy tank. Whilst the Arab nations can field other options I think the T-54 provides a good enemy for comparison and is likely to be the most common tank that players will face. A Syrian T-54 comes in a little over 4 points per tank and has a Courage and Remount of 4+, with a Morale of 3+, whilst the Skill is a base of 6 with improved Assault (5+) and excellent Counterattack of 3+. Finally, it is Hit On 3+.

The T-54 has good armour with Front 13, Side, 9 and Top 2, whilst the gun is average with a Range of 32"/80cm, Rate Of Fire (ROF) 1 across the board, AT 16, Firepower (FP) 2+, HEAT (no long range penalty to the AT value) but Slow Firing (+1 to Hit when moving). Rush to a position and then concentrate fire is the order of the day when playing with T-54 tanks.

Sho't vs T-54
The Sho't comes in two varieties, the original 20pdr version (8pts each) that was fairly uncommon even in 1967, or the much improved 105mm version (9pts each). What differentiates the two versions in terms of stat lines is that the 105mm has a higher AT (18 vs 16), Firepower (2+ vs 3+) and has the Brutal rule which means infantry, guns and so on need to re-roll successful saves.

Comparing it with the T-54 we see that the 20pdr gun is slightly better than the T-54s 100mm gun, with better Range, better ROF, and the Accurate rule (no long range penalty). However, the T-54 does claw a little back with slightly improved Firepower and the HEAT rule. The 105mm version is clearly superior on all counts.

Turning to the rest of their details, they both have the same Front Armour (13), whilst the T-54 has slightly better Side (9 vs 6). The T-54 is slightly improved in terms of its Dash speeds but the Sho't has an excellent Cross of 2+. In terms of the crews it comes as no surprise that the Israeli crews have equal or better Courage and Skill across the board.

For the points I think the Sho't (105mm) is easily the best buy. They should out shoot a pair or T-54 tanks every time, whilst I think a pair of T-54 tanks vs a Sho't (20pdr) is a much closer match up. Forcing the T-54 tanks to come to you, even if they get off the first shot should still result in you winning the firefight. Just remember though you don't have many so each loss is costly.

Magach vs T-54
Much like the Sho't, the Magach can come with a 90mm gun (7pts each) which has the same stat lines as the Sho't 20pdr, or the upgraded 105mm version (10pts each) that has the exact same gun as the Sho't (a British L7 105mm gun).

As the guns are the same, the differences in points is driven by an increase in Side Armour on the Magach (8 vs the Sho'ts 6), higher Dash speeds but slightly lower remount (4+ on the Magach vs 3+ on the Sho't).

Frankly all of these changes are bad news for the T-54 as it means that in the areas where the T-54 eclipsed the Sho't, the Magach narrows the gap. In terms of battlefield performance I think it comes down play style, although the Magach (90mm) does look pretty effective for its points.

Magach 6 vs T-54
Magach 6 is the Israeli designation for the US built M60 tank. Israel had a relatively small number of these at the start of the 1973 war and received emergency shipments from the US stocks in Europe. The tank is armed with a 105mm gun and the stat line is the same as other Israeli 105mm armed tanks, but it has even more armour (Front 15) making it impenetrable at long range when engaging in firefights with T-54 tanks. However, Sagger
teams will still cause some consternation thanks to their AT18 missiles.

So why would you even bother with the other tanks if this is the wonder weapon of the IDF? Two reasons jump to mind; they are 12 points each making them very expensive and whilst I feel they are worth their points it means you are not going to have many of them on the table and if you start rolling 1's you might find a tank or two dead and (assuming you are playing 100 point games) then the relatively small platoon sizes will start causing you to take tests to stay on the table. The second reason is simple history. They weren't there in 1967 if that is where your interest sits.

Sherman (75mm) and Isherman (105mm)
Putting my cards on the table here, Isherman (105mm) are the absolute best looking tanks in the game. End. Of. Story! 

Sherman (75mm) tanks are good old fashioned World War II Sherman tanks with an upgraded French made 75mm gun that was influence by the German Panther 75mm gun. With 36"/ 90cm range it is more than good enough, ROF 2/1, AT14 (bit low for killing T-54 tanks) and Firepower 3+. Great for hunting everything except front line Arab armour.

Isherman (105mm) tanks are the same Shermans but with a few upgrades, starting with a very long 105mm gun that bumps the AT up to 17, Firepower up to 2+, adds HEAT (so no armour penetration penalty for long range) and Brutal which is great for killing enemy Sagger teams.

Both tanks have average Courage and Skill ratings (identical to the Sho't) of 4+/3+/3+ and 3+/4+/3+ but thanks to their heritage have terrible armour ratings of Front 6, Side 4 and Top 1. Both versions have a Cross of 3+, with the Isherman (105mm) mitigating its overly long gun with HVSS style suspension (think Easy 8 from WWII).

Where they truly shine though is that they come in at 3 and 4 points respectively. A 10 tank company, with support platoon and integrated mortar battery will be around 55 points making it a great foundational Formation for your army, or a cheap backup Formation if you strip back the numbers.

Don't have a stand up fight in the open against T-54 tanks as the disparity of armour values will result in a poor result for the Shermans.

Tiran 5
During the 1967 war the Israelis captured many T-54 tanks from the Arabs. Short of modern tanks they pressed these into service under the designation of Tiran (Tyrant). In Fate Of A Nation they have been significantly modernised adding improved weapon systems (the traditional 105mm gun and extra machine-guns), new engines, gun sights as well as crew comfort improvements.

So how does the Israeli "T-54" compare with the Arab/Soviet one? First up the Tiran-5 comes in at 7 points each vs 4.3 each for the Syrian model. They both have the same armour values but the Tiran packs an AT 18 gun (with Brutal and Smoke) but still has the drawback of of the cramped T-54 turret leading to ROF 1/1 and Slow Firing. So mobile engagements are not going to be high on your list. However, since the Syrian T-54 has the same penalties but only AT16 it is still looking good for the Israeli player.

Despite a new engine both versions still have the same movement stats, but the Israeli version does still win out on the Courage and Skill side, although the stats are the same as most other Israeli tanks.

The Tiran 5 looks good, but this is a really close decision for me as to which is actually better. The Tiran should win the shoot-out thanks to the higher AT making it approximately twice as likely to kill the T-54 (at close range) than vice versa. However the Slow Firing and low ROF means it is less suitable for a mobile engagement that an Israeli force will have to be ready for against a much more numerous opponent. Either way a shoot out between the two tanks will be entertaining.

Another favourite of mine, the AMX-13 is (like the Sherman tank) outclassed by the T-54. With the same gun as the Sherman (75mm) and Front Armour of 4 there is no shoot out that these are going to win.

However, they are only 2 points a pop and fairly fast when Dashing (24"/ 60cm Cross Country) which means that whilst they cannot win a head-to-head fight, they are a cheap support Formation (10 tanks for 20 points) that can harass all of the Syrian support units and if they get around the flank of a T-54 their guns will penetrate like a hot knife through butter.

So which one (or ones) are the best? Good question that. I think that it really comes down to how you want to play but you should really be looking at either some Magach or Sho't tanks, and in both cases it is hard to beat the 105mm armed versions thanks to their increased killing power.

I still love the Isherman (105mm) though and think they make an excellent addition for some cheap firepower, just don't let them get caught in the open.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Syrian Army Shots

For the release of Fate Of A Nation I volunteered to paint all the models shown in the book. There is still a way to go before it is a complete army as I didn't manage to get enough of everything done to be ready for gaming, however I do have enough of a mix of models to start playing assuming my opponents are okay with most of my armour being unpainted.

I'm still working on a painting list of what to work on next to finish the army...

One of our new T-62 tanks next to a T-55. They look so similar yet so different!
A mechanised platoon backed up by BMP-1
BTR-60 APCs with infantry
A selection of APCs, a BMP-1, BTR-60, BTR-50 and BTR-152
ZSU-23-4 Shilkas and the somewhat more venerable ZSU-57-2
Two small recce sections of PT-76 and BRDM-2

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Brief Distraction? Returning to Battletech?

Many years ago, perhaps more than I care to admit, I watched some of my club mates playing Battletech. They had lovely models, terrific terrain and it all looked like fun. It wasn't long before I headed down that particular rabbit hole. A hole I went down hard and stayed inside for many years.

Even now, years since I picked up a book or miniature I still have all of my old Battletech source books sitting on a shelf in the office next to my computer and whilst the miniatures are relegated to the garage I know exactly where they are (and that is really saying something).

Over the years I've supported my enthusiasm with a variety of games, whether it was the original Crescent Hawks Inception (which I first played in Farmers, a chain department store here in NZ) as a much younger man, through to the most recent release, Battletech - Tactical Mech Combat.

Playing this most recent Battletech game over the past few nights I've found my original love for the game rekindled, so much so that I've been having silly thoughts about pausing all my other hobby projects to dig out some old and rather badly painted mechs, strip them off and attack them with the airbrush.

That is the problem with rabbit holes, they can be so warm and cosy you just want to try heading down them one more time to relive all the good memories... Surely it shouldn't take long to paint strip, rebuild and paint the 24 mechs, o that the Black Widow Company and Fox's Teeth can once again roam the battlefield?