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Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German
with Ryan Jeffares

Raised from the shattered remnants of destroyed divisions, second line personnel, new conscripts as well as surplus Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe troops, the Volksgrenadier Divisions were created to help shore up the faltering frontlines of late 1944. Incorporating trained officers, these formations focused more on firepower to help counteract the acute manpower shortages suffered by Nazi Germany, which was evident in the proliferation of panzerfausts and StG44 assault rifles in Volksgrenadier Divisions.

Formation Structure
A Volksgrenadier Company consists of a Company HQ, a Rifle Platoon and 1-2 Assault Platoons, supported by a vast array of optional HMGs, mortars, Anti-tank guns and infantry guns. The core elements of the formation are the Rifle and Assault Platoons, which are rated as Reluctant, Trained and Aggressive and are both compulsory choices.

Assault platoons are made up of 5-7 StG44 assault rifle teams, whose ROF 3/3 can put out tremendous firepower, making them deadly at close range, whilst two teams can fire as MG42s, which can fire further. The rifle platoons are the same size but are equipped with a mix of MG42s and K98 rifles, having a lower ROF of 2/1, but a longer range of 16”/40cm. Both platoons can be upgraded with extra panzershrek and HMG teams and are well equipped with panzerfausts capable of destroying any tank up close.

These core infantry platoons can be supported by HMG platoons as well as both medium and heavy mortars and PaK40 anti-tank guns, which are common weapons that are available to most German infantry companies in Late War. Volksgrenadier Companies also have access to up to two platoons of the new PaK50 infantry gun, which is a multi-purpose gun, capable of laying down artillery bombardments as well as threating medium and light armour at range. Finally, the company can also include a unit of Volksgrenadier scouts, also armed with StG44s, which are able to make a spearhead move to extend your deployment zone before the game begins.

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

Whilst the Volksgrenadiers are loaded with firepower and panzerfausts, they have a variety of weaknesses that must be kept in mind, both when designing an army list and when using the formation on the tabletop. Compared to ‘regular’ Grenadier or Panzergrenadier platoons, the assault platoons of a Volksgrenadier Company have comparably less firepower at range as the StG44 only has a range of 8”/20cm and the platoons can only fire two stands as MG42s each turn, leaving the platoon outgunned at longer ranges. When you’re on the attack this will leave you exposed to enemy fire, but will be mitigated when your infantry gets within 8”/20cm and your high ROF will begin to tell.

Volksgrenadiers can also be vulnerable on the defensive, as the combination of short range and a Pinned ROF of 1 allows enemy infantry to sit outside of 8”/20cm firing at your infantry and goading you to leave your foxholes. If you get pinned down, you’ll be very vulnerable to enemy assaults as your low skill and poor ROF will entice enemy infantry to charge in and clear out your platoons without much fear of defensive fire or a counterattack.

The units in the formation also clearly have lower ratings than many other forces, though this is both a negative and a positive. Being rated as Aggressive, your troops will be much more vulnerable to enemy fire, as they will get hit and pinned down more often as a result. Likewise, being only trained, Volksgrenadiers are less likely to hit in assault, range in artillery batteries or make use of movement orders, while their poor morale leaves them less likely to unpin or pass crucial last stand tests. However, these poor stats have a corresponding impact on the points costs for your units, as they are cheaper than comparably armed Cautious or Veteran troops. Whilst less brave and not as well trained as Heer infantry, Volksgrenadiers shoot just as effectively and with their better equipment they can make an impact out of all proportion to their poor stats.

This makes Volksgrenadier formations somewhat of a glass cannon, as they can certainly dish out ranged punishment with their cheap firepower and assault rifles, but when they start taking losses or getting pinned down your plan can all fall apart.

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

Tactics and List Building
When designing a list, we’ll keep the aforementioned weaknesses in mind, namely short range and poor ratings. Firstly, if you’re planning on attacking, your infantry will need supporting units with longer range in order to pin down your enemies to reduce your infantry casualties, so units like HMGs or tanks can provide valuable supporting fire. This is just as crucial on the defence, in which case I’d suggest that adding HMG teams to your Assault platoons is a must, as your firepower will be anaemic if you get pinned down. 

Artillery is another crucial component in a Volksgrenadier list, whether on attack or defence. Due to your skill, many enemies will have better skill than you, so will be more likely to range in and shift their bombardments when they need to. This makes enemy artillery a serious threat to your forces as they can blow large holes in your infantry platoons and pin then down. The best counter to enemy artillery is to mass your own artillery to counteract your poor skill, which is pretty viable due to how cheap your artillery is and it is certainly viable to fit 3-4 batteries in a list. Artillery can also help mitigate the short range of your core infantry, as it is able to pin and start grinding down enemy infantry.

 When facing enemy infantry with better ratings, avoid engaging in prolonged engagements, they’ll be harder to hit than you and your Volksgrenadiers will generally suffer more casualties and are less likely to unpin. To mitigate this weakness, you need to make use of your superior numbers and firepower, get within 8”/20cm as soon as possible and make use of those StG44s! By concentrating several platoons in the same part of the table, you can use your weight of numbers to overwhelm the enemy, pinning them down before launching a decisive massed assault. Though this may seem daunting, as you will certainly take losses, it will pay off in the long term. Multiple platoons focusing on a single enemy unit are more likely to inflict a decisive blow, rather than a single platoon, which would probably charge in, kill a stand or two and then break off. Furthermore, by massing your platoons together, you can maximise the impact of your commander’s morale reroll, helping to mitigate the poor motivation of your Volksgrenadiers.

This poor motivation is also a key reason I’d recommend always taking two Assault platoons, otherwise your formation will be too brittle and simply won’t have enough combat platoons to absorb casualties and still be able to defeat the enemy. Furthermore, by taking three platoons, you can leave your rifle platoon further back to guard an objective if needed, whilst your shorter-ranged Assault platoons move forwards together to attack the enemy.

Command Cards
Though this isn’t the main focus of this article, there are a few command cards which are very relevant to Volksgrenadier Formations, which I’ll briefly discuss.

One of the standout command cards here is the Volks Artillery, which allow you to upgrade Volks 10.5cm Artillery Batteries to be equipped with either 7.5cm PaK40s or 8.8cm PaK43s, greatly increasing their anti-tank capability at the cost of less mobility and a weaker AT 2, FP 4+ bombardment. The lower firepower is a good trade-off in my mind, as artillery is often useless against opponents with tank-heavy armies and in particular, PaK43s can threaten almost any enemy tank.

The Warrior card, Siegfried Moldenhauer is also another good option, as he significantly buffs infantry units near him. Moldenhauer hits on a 2+ in assaults, and any unit he launches a joint assault with hits one a roll one better than usual, allowing your Volksgrenadiers to hit on a 3+.  He also helps improve your motivation, as formation units within 6”/15cm of him pass counterattack and rally tests on a 3+, which coupled with his formation commander reroll will keep your Assault Platoons moving forwards and hitting hard in assaults.

Finally, there are the 12. Volksgrenadierdivision Veteran Volksgrenadiers cards, which allow you to upgrade your entire formation’s ratings to Confident, Veteran and Cautious. These cards are not cheap, but they do alleviate all the shortcomings of the Volksgrenadiers bar the short range of the StG44. These Veterans will play very differently to the ‘regular’ Volksgrenadiers as they will be more survivable but will be less numerous. I’d recommend leveraging the cheaper support options to try and squeeze in as much support as possible, as you’ll be spending a lot of points on your core formation. Unlike the sample lists below, you’re probably better off not having a second formation of tanks to support your Volksgrenadiers as you’ll have to take two small, weak formations due to the points involved. A decent sized support platoon of Panthers or Tigers would be a good choice, as they concentrate a lot of firepower into a single unit, and can therefore make a big impact when they arrive on the table. I’d also hazard against using Moldenhauer here, even though he did serve with 12. Volksgrenadierdivision, simply because your infantry are so expensive already, putting an extra half platoon worth of points into a warrior is probably not the most sensible choice.

Sample List 1:

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

This list can either attack or defend fairly ably, it has two batteries of PaK40 artillery to either anchor your defensive line or bombard your opponent’s infantry, with plenty of additional HMGs to help fend off enemy infantry and bulk out your defensive fire. The Panthers are intended to act as a mobile reserve, using their strong front armour and guns to make a decisive impact from reserve, destroying enemy armour or using their MGs to help thin out enemy infantry. On the attack, you can spearhead forwards and use your three batteries of artillery to pick a weak point in the enemy line and exploit it, pinning your opponent and launching an infantry assault with the Assault Platoons. In this case, the panthers would first focus on destroying any enemy armour, before using their mobility to take advantage of any weakness to pick off enemy artillery or help support the infantry.

Sample List 2:

Volksgrenadier Formations in Bulge: German

This list is very similar to the previous one, but is heavier on artillery, with an extra battery of 8cm mortars and one battery of Pak40s replaced by 8.8cm guns, upping the anti-tank punch. Moldenhauer gives the list much more offensive power and will help your infantrymen stay unpinned and up their offensive capabilities in Assaults.  The Hetzers aren’t as capable as the Panthers, but there are more of them and they are effective against medium armour, though they will need to flank heavier targets.