Earth & Steel book a possibility to take field fortification as a combat platoon instead of a heavy platoon. Taking fortification is an interesting option, however, as usual it has some good and bad points. I decided to try fortifications because I wanted to play 1750-point games, but I didn't have enough miniatures to man such army.
If you go for fortifications you can actually spent as many points as you want on them. You can take trenches, minefields, barbed wire, or gun pits. All of them seems useful in some situations. However, the key point about SS field fortifications are HMG nests. You have to take at least two and up to four of them (each costs 40 points). With each of them you can take one segment of trenches. And this is in my opinion the main trade off. Trenches are extremely cheap (only 5 points per section) and more than useful (especially in fair fight battles). The benefits from taking HMG nests depend mainly on the type of forces you are fighting with, and the type of player you are facing. There were battles when they played a key role, and there were some when they stood in silence like monuments.
I've experimented with many sets of field fortifications. I've played with a bunch of minefields, barbed wires, and four nests. I've played also with minimalistic fortifications like two nests and two trench sections. I would like to share with you some thoughts about how to use them.
First of all, you have to remember that field fortification will not make a real defensive line. You will not have tons of trenches and pillboxes. Your line will be rather soft and will not hold enemy for long. However, what you can achieve is to prevent the enemy from attacking the places we don't want to defend. If you go for a minimalistic approach with two nests and two trenches, you will be able to fortify only one objective.
You have to deploy fortifications before our opponent will place the first objective, so you have to guess which place is worth to fortify. I will discuss it on the example of hold the line or no retreat missions. In these missions you will place the first objective, so you can easily fortify it.
Usually, I start from determining which side of the table has a better forward position to defend. I assume that that side of the table will be able to defend itself without the trenches (good terrain + prepared positions). Then I place my objective marker far on the other side of the table and place the trenches in such way that they enable transferring forces between the left and right flanks.
Such placement gives a dilemma to the opponent:
- place the second objective on the left side – it would be great for you to defend two objectives in the same vertical axis. In such situation you can leave your back objective not defended until reservers appear (or defend it only with HMG nests and independent teams).
- Place the second objective on the right side – you will defend the better part of the table! Moreover, trenches will give you a possibility to transfer forces from the left flank if enemy launches a strong attack on the forwarded position.
If you take minefields you could use them to guard flanks – especially if you play against some nasty Stuarts or other fast moving tanks.
But where to place your HMG nests? Of course it depends on situation, but you have to consider at least these issues:
- a single platoon – your nests will count as a single platoon on the table, so you don't want to place all of them at the same flank to give your opponent easy points (yes, they are fragile...)
- smoke'em – remember that nests cannot be ranged in by artillery, so enemy cannot smoke them with bombardment! However, if you place them near infantry, enemy can put smoke on the infantry also reducing visibility for the nests...
- defensive fire or not? - yes this is a problem. If you would like to use nests to support infantry with defensive fire, it will be easy to smoke them (a kind of trade off).
- 180 degrees – remember that nests can hit all the bases within 180 degrees. Your opponent can sometimes forget about it. Remember to place your nests in such a way so they have the best area of fire.
- 24'' range – nests have long range, so you can consider placing them in the second line to fire above gone to ground infantry. In such case opponent will not have possibility to knock them out (to do so they will have to stay near our lines exposing themselves).
- Line of sight – remember that nests will also block LOS for other nests and potential ambushes.
Who Is Your Enemy?
Because HMG Nests cannot hold objectives, they will be usable only against infantry. If you are facing armor forces you can use them to block small passages between woods. Even when they are destroyed they still remain as impassable terrain for tanks. However, again remember to place them far away from each other to prevent destroying the whole platoon.
If your enemy has bunker busters, it is a better idea to hide the nests from the direct fire.
Always Defend Rule
If you take field fortifications you will always be a defender in the defensive battles (unless your opponent will also have forces with the always defend rule). This is a nice feature when you play a single battle. However, it didn't work for me during the tournament battles. Why? If you spent many points on fortifications, you don't have a punch to attack. If you have a passive enemy, it will lead to a draw in most cases. This is why I decided to replace fortifications with additional mobile platoon in the future (probably panzer pioneers).
Modeling HMG Nests and Fortifications
For the trenches and minefields I use the markers provided by Battlefront.
I've modeled HMG nests according to the great tutorial provided by Justin at Model Dads Blog.