Prowling the Bocage

with Adam Brooker

With the release of D-Day: German, which details the forces available to the Wehrmacht in Normandy 1944, the two Big Cats on the table are Tiger and the Panther. Now it may seem at first glance that the Tiger at 12 points a model, with the same FA (9) as the Panther and a better side armour is a no-brainer. the Panther has the same gun, is slightly faster and normally 1 point cheaper. When you start taking a few of them, the extra points add up and can allow you a few extra goodies. I don’t know about you, but I find in German lists I am always scraping for extra points, and the points you can save by taking Panthers instead of Tigers can buy you some extra Recce units, an interesting Command Card, or an upgrade for a infantry platoon.
Also it comes down to what you are using them for. Tigers are more of an assault tank, going forwards, taking the hits and assaulting a strong-point or objective. Panthers are better used at range, to reduce the risk of them being flanked, and using the excellent 40” range of their guns to knock out enemy armour at a distance. You should really only get close up with your Panthers when you are very sure there is little risk of being flanked, as the low side armour of 5 compared to 8 of the Tiger means that any decent tank or anti-tank gun that flanks you has a very good chance of taking you out. At long range, you are totally immune to Sherman 75mm guns (AT10), and the 76mm Shermans and 3” M10 guns (both AT12), only penetrate you on a roll of 1 for your armour save. Only the AT 14 of the British 17 pounder has an easy time penetrating you at range, or heaven forbid any German 8.8cm gun in a friendly fire incident.

Panthers were a significant portion of the German panzer strength available to the Wehrmacht in Normandy. Initially there were only two Panther equipped Panzer Regiments at the Western Front at the start of the Normandy D-Day campaign with 156 Panthers between them. From June through to August of 1944, an additional seven Panther Panzer regiments were sent to France, and they reached a maximum strength of 432 Panthers at one point on 30th July 1944. So they should be a common sight in German lists from the German D-Day book, and could represent Wehrmacht forces from Panzer Lehr Division, 2. Panzer Division, 9. Panzer Divison, and 116. Panzer Division. There was also some SS Panzer Divisions that had Panthers (1. SS, 2. SS,12. SS) but these will be represented in the upcoming German D-Day SS book.
The easiest way that you can include them in your force, is as a support option of 4 Panthers, at 44 points. This is an easy choice if your mission requires Reserves, and they are a significant threat to your opponent. Also as a large unit, you will need to have lost/bailed 3 Panthers before you need to worry about last stand checks, which you will pass on a 3+. This unit will definitely be a focus for your opponent when it arrives, and you can use this to distract him from other units in your list that may be a bigger threat to an objective.

The basic tactics you should be using to get the best out of your expensive felines, is the same you should be using for all your expensive German armour. Your high to hit of 4+, high skill or tactics of 3+, small platoon size and excellent 2+ cross value in the case of the Panther, give you all the tools you need to defeat your opponent. You should be using hills from a hull-down concealed position or short/long terrain at long range, which combined will make any return fire need a 6 to hit you. Also weaken your opponent, who will usually have a numerical advantage, using your excellent 40” range to either force them to advance towards you under fire, or weaken them enough that it is unlikely they can flank you. Importantly you should also be using your movement orders to give you the advantage, I mean, you are paying for the 3+ skill and the stormtrooper rule, so Blitz and Shoot and Scoot should be an integral part of your gameplay. Also as noted before, the FA of 9 can mean in a lot of cases, you are invulnerable at range from enemy fire of AT10 or less, so keep that in mind.

Fielding Panthers as a full Formation in a standard 100 point list will be very expensive, at a minimum 77 points for 7 Tanks, only leaving you 23 points for some support troops. It is not impossible to use and will do very well vs Allied armour lists, but it may struggle to defend two objectives and can easily be swamped by a more numerous opponent.Your best bet would be to try to break the enemy formation, and use your range, and movement orders to pick out enemy units and destroy them one by one. I would also make sure to invest in some AA, as the ‘Jabos’ are now very dangerous, and can easily make your Panthers kaput with their damn rockets and bombs! Even worse they seem to have gotten better at hitting things in 44.… For me I’m getting my hands on 4 Mobelwagens, and putting out 12 AT7, 4+ firepower shots should make them think twice. They also make mincemeat of light vehicles!
To round it out, I would take either 3 Wespe Self-Propelled Artillery vehicles or 3 Nebelwerfer rocket launchers. Both cost the same, but personally I like the ability of the Wespe to be able to reposition- but it does have a smaller template.
Lastly I would take some kind of scouting/spearhead unit, so some Sd Kfz 250 half tracks, or 2 Pumas/Sd Kfz 234 (2cm). To give you that little bit extra deployment forwards if you need it, and to stop your opponent doing the same thing in an area. I will take 2 x Sd Kfz 234 (2cm), and the Lucky Card. In this way you are not tempted to use the Puma as a tank, and I can use the Lucky card to re-roll my first failed Reserves roll. As you have a significant portion of your army in Reserves in a lot of missions, you want them on the table and earning their points back as soon as possible.

Now this may not be the most competitive list, but it is fun to play, quick to play (and paint up), and if you can do well with this list, you have gone a long way to mastering the use of terrain and movement orders to get the best from your Panzers! So give the Panthers a go, I know all the Fraulines love a Tiger Ace, but a real Barkmann knows how to get the best from a Panther!