21st Panzer Division Tactics

21st Panzer Division Tactics
with Michael McSwiney

Fielding a 21st Panzer Division force in Flames Of War can be challenging, but very fun as well. It was the first army I collected and painted for Flames Of War owing to my keen interest in oddball German armour of World War II from my days building 1/35th scale model tanks, and I’m very happy to see the force make a return to Flames Of War.

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21st Panzer Division
The 21st Panzerdivision is a unique force that is largely equipped with modified French halftracks and home-made self-propelled guns based on old French tanks. The British and Canadians land at dawn, pouring ashore across Juno and Sword Beaches, pushing inland as they overran the German defences. Impatiently the veterans of the 21. Panzerdivision await the order to counterattack. General Marcks, frustrated by the delay, arrives to take charge. Ordering the tanks of Kampfgruppe Oppeln to counterattack, he confides to Oberst Oppeln, ‘If you don’t succeed in throwing the British into the sea, we will have lost the war.’

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21st Panzer Hotchkiss Assault Gun Company
To effectively field the assault gun company, a player must remember that it is made up of several very potent glass cannon. While their 7.5cm and 10.5cm guns are strong enough to defeat most Allied armour, the protection afforded the assault guns is poor. With front and side armour of 2, your assault guns are vulnerable to any enemy anti-tank gun including the effectively obsolete 37mm gun on an M5 Stuart tank.

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Platoon sizes for the assault guns are also small because there were only 10 vehicles per company. It therefore makes good sense to field the maximum platoon size of three for each of your units whenever possible. This will allow the unit a better chance of maintaining the minimum of two Tank Teams that are not Bailed Out precluding the need for a Last Stand check.

21st Panzer Division Tactics

To facilitate his work, Becker set up a workshop facility just outside of Paris at Maison-Lafitte which became known as “Baustab Becker”. The development and conversion process was hampered somewhat by the poor state of the captured stocks of French equipment, which were essentially obsolete by 1943 standards and had not been maintained. Each vehicle was individually reviewed and graded based on its overall condition. Only those in reasonable shape would be converted to new vehicles, while those in the worst condition would donate any usable parts as spares.

The 7.5cm armed assault guns are excellent tank hunters. With an anti-tank rating of 12, there are few Allied tanks that can stand up to the gun’s punishment, and with a 32”/80cm range the assault gun is capable of projecting its firepower across large portions of the board. In addition to ensuring that the assault guns are afforded a good field of fire, it is important to provide them with concealment as well. Given the assault guns lack the armour to absorb hits, one must make them hard to hit. Providing concealment will make their normal 4+ “is hit on” roll at least a 5+ or even a 6+ at long range. Always have at least one unit in Ambush if the Mission rules allow it (as this is how they were actually fielded by 21st Panzer to great effect against the British). 

While the 10.5cm armed assault guns can also be used (and were actually used) in the anti-armour role, it is not necessarily their forte. In direct fire, the 10.5cm gun has a poorer anti-tank rating of 10, though its firepower is better.The 10.5cm guns are better used to either bombard the enemy (having a unit of 3 means that hits will not need to be re-rolled) and can fire smoke to cover the advance of or protect other units on the tabletop.

One downfall of both versions of the assault gun is their mobility. With a cross value of 4+, the Hotchkiss guns lack the mobility of the Panzer IV, Panther, or even Tiger tanks. 

21st Panzer Division Tactics

Getting the assault guns into or out of difficult terrain is therefore a risk, and it may be worth considering the “Lucky” command card to get a free reroll just in case.

21st Panzergrenadier Company
The Panzergrenadier Company is in many respects like the normal Armoured Panzergrenadier Company from the D-Day German book, with a few key differences. The 21st Panzer force is mounted in the U304(F) halftrack. These were modified by Becker to serve as troop transports. They French machines are both smaller (Passengers 1) and slower (8”/20cm vs. 10”/25cm tactical move) than the German Sd Kfz 251. They do, however, share the Mounted Assault rule, but the force will have a larger number of halftracks to bring to bear in that assault. One half track per team can also be upgraded to mounting a 3.7cm gun providing at least some light anti-tank capability. It is usually worth taking the Panzerfaust upgrade as this will help especially in defensive situations.

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21st Panzer Division Tactics

The Panzergrenadier Company also has access to the S307(F) tank hunter platoon which I’d consider an absolute must with this force. It has the firepower of the 7.5cm Hotchkiss and can be taken in a platoon of four. They are slower than the Hotchkiss, and have even less armoured protection, but one should never rely on the armour of any of these vehicles for serious protection.

While lacking some of the variety of the normal Armoured Panzergrenadier Company (no flamethrowers or 7.5cm halftracks for example), the formation otherwise has analogous support. 15cm Lorraines take the place of the Grille 15cm Platoon. Mortar support is provided by the unique and potentially very potent Reihenwerfer which allows use of the larger Salvo template.

21st Panzer Division Tactics

21st Panzer Division Tactics

Command Cards
There are a few Command Cards worth considering that will provide some unique flavor to a 21st Panzer Division force. Hans Ulrich von Luck commanded Kampfgruppe Luck which seriously hindered the British advance during Operation Goodwood. He is available as both a Panzer IV team and a SMG team depending on the needs of your formation. Heinz Meyer is a good choice for the Panzergrenadier Company providing extra machine gun support. Any formation can also make use of the dug in Panzer IV Platoons as well.

Bringing It All Together
Taken at face value, the Hotchkiss Assault Gun Company is more of a defensive formation than an offensive formation. The Assault guns are slow and extremely vulnerable to enemy fire and therefore can only reliably attack units without any serious anti-tank assets. Even on the defensive, without an infantry screen and more mobile support, they will find themselves quickly outflanked and overrun.

When using the Assault Gun Company, assembling a tabletop version of “Kampfgruppe Luck” would seem to be a logical choice

 21st Panzer Division Tactics

A variation on this theme which would still be accurate to Kampfgruppe Luck would be to substitute Tigers for the Panzer IV tanks, but to get more than two this would require losing one of the 7.5cm Hotchkiss platoons.

The force above will rely on artillery to soften up enemy positions while the 7.5cm Hotchkiss and Panzer IVs deal with enemy armour. The Panzergrenadier platoon or the Panzer IV platoon can then attack any objectives which need to be secured to win the game. It also provides at least some dedicated anti-aircraft support. 

As discussed in a previous article, fielding a formation based on the Panzergrenadier company with its plethora of halftracks can result in an overwhelming amount of machine gun firepower being available to bring to bear from the sheer volume of half-tracks available. 

 21st Panzer Division Tactics

The Panzergrenadier force relies more on its infantry and machine guns, but still retains strong artillery and anti-tank support. Against other infantry formations, the volume of firepower should help carry the day, while the Panzer IV platoon will need to act as a fire brigade moving to any locations enemy armour is threatening a breakthrough.

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Though its unique vehicles are fragile, 21st Panzer Division affords some wonderful opportunities to assemble a strong force for the tabletop, not to mention one that looks very distinctive! As with any formation, the key is understanding the role of each piece and ensuring the various pieces complement each other. One must work to protect the vulnerable assault and anti-tank guns while affording them large fields of fire. Support from mobile tank units like the Panzer IV and/or strong mechanized infantry support are a must. The unit’s artillery is also very versatile and can soften up enemy targets and in many instances fire smoke or smoke bombardments. Once the objectives have been softened up, Panzergrenadiers should be able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear to secure them.


Last Updated On Friday, January 10, 2020