Contested Skies Unit Reviews

| March 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

AUSTRALIA

Veteran SMLE Rifleman – Set III Common
An increased attack against infantry and close assault value compared to the UK SMLE.  The Veteran SMLE is not too bad, and slightly harder to kill because of Steely Resolve. However their cost can quickly add up.  Best used to support your regular infantry.

FRANCE

Bold Captain – Set III Uncommon
The French finally get a leader and at 7 points he’s not too expensive. He has no combat ability, and Initiative +2 is nice, if average. Elan makes him worth using; +1/+1 defence against defencive fire is nice with 5/5 defence soldiers, and even standard 4/4 soldiers moving into an enemy’s position have their odds greatly increased (22%)

Char B1-Bis – Set III Rare
Like Set I’s M3 Lee the Char B1 seems to be a little costly, with a moderate drawback.  With complexity it’s best not to take the chance with the roll unless you absolutely have to. It’s attacks are mediocre and it probably won’t see much play in later games, but in early war games the 5/5 defence is formidable.

Lebel 86M93 Grenadier – Set III Common
No Close Assault, Limited Range 2 and Inaccurate 1 make the Lebel Grenadier pretty useless. It’s not even good in early war games. As a House Rule I would change Restricted Range to not effect the infantry attack, but even then it’s not a great choice over an MAS Rifle.

SOVIET UNION

82mm PM-37 Mortar – Set III Common
This 11 point common packs a lot of firepower and good range.  For only 2 points more than the Japanese mortar you get +0/+1/+1 dice, and more importantly, enhanced range 16.  A spotter will allow you to indirect against soldiers but is very vulnerable so you need to make the most of it while you can. They’re best in larger games where you can afford mortar batteries supported by a few spotters, as the spotters are likely to be hunted down quickly.

BM-13 Katyusha Rocket Launder – Set III Rare
I can think of but one word to describe this unit – “Fun”.  It dies easily, but has great firepower. Bombardment and Blast add to the fun factor.  What prevents this unit from being overpowered is that it has to have LOS to the targets, meaning it’s unlikely to survive the exchange.  A Rocket Salvo could make it worth the points despite that.

Communist Partisans – Set III Common
Great units for disrupting the enemy. The ability to place them nearly anywhere, and to have 3+ cover in cities makes them very useful, especially if the objective is there. They will mainly be an annoyance to the enemy, and can be easily bypassed depending on where they are placed, so don’t go overboard with Partisans.

Cossack Cavalrymen – Set III Uncommon
Inferior to the Polish Cavalry in most respects, the Cossacks lack the important SA – Determined Charge. With it the Polish could be assured they were at least going to go where you wanted; not so with the Cossacks.  Elusive hardly makes the slower Cossacks a better choice over the Polish Cavalry.  It’s unfortunately because the Polish Cavalry is just too good, most other Cavalry will look bad next to it.  If the Polish one had been speed 3, and the Russian speed 4 it might have been worth using.

IL-10 Sturmovik – Set III Rare
An interesting little plane.  It’s AI stats are the same as a standard soldier, and it has decent AT stats.  As a plane this gives you some versatility to pop-up anywhere and take out annoyances.  The Superior Armour 2 is alright against a single attack, but obviously is pretty useless against multiple hits. Still it adds some survivability. Overall, I think the Sturmovik will make an excellent harassment unit without being too overpowering.  The spotter works fairly well with the Sturmovik, and can be used with Mortars as well, making a decent team.

Soviet Red Army Forward Observer – Set III Common
An interesting unit, the FO should be kept in cover whenever possible In a standard games he’s a bit expensive, but works well with the Soviet mortar.  The effect on planes is minor, so I wouldn’t add a Spotter in just for that, but if you’re going to have one anyway then it could be useful.

Soviet Grenadier – Set III Common
Like the French Lebel Grenadier, the Soviet Grenadier has a very small range. Unlike the Leble Grenadier, with Close Assault 7 and Hand-To-Hand 9 he’s a significant threat to enemy infantry and vehicles up close. The Soviet Grenadier makes for another decent Tank Rider in the soviet army; one a little less specialized than the PPsh. How many games have you had wishing your PPSh could harm the tanks it’s running around?

Su-85 – Set III Rare
Somewhat comparable to a T-34/76 (same speed and defence), for a few points less you get +1/+1/+0 against vehicles, and pretty much lose all anti-infantry capability.  On top of that, instead of transport you get the negative SA – No Turret.  I’m sure we’ll see lots of scenarios making use of this one, just like they did with the Lee.  The best use for this unit is in a tank battle, or at least tank heavy game where the loss of AI dice doesn’t have a big impact.

UNITED KINGDOM

17-Pounder Antitank Gun – Set III Uncommon
16 points is a lot for a Panzer IV G cannon that only remembered to bring a single AP round, especially as it has the standard artillery 3/3 defence.  Still it’s a nice unit to transport in the Universal Carrier. My personal preference is still not to use antitank guns as they’re just too fragile, and 16 points is a fair investment.

40mm Bofors L60 – Set III Uncommon
A very powerful AA gun, it removes infantry fairly easily as well.  It has a few minor drawbacks but the sheer firepower and AA coverage it gives at a low cost of 9 points makes it worth taking.  In early war scenarios they can also double as antitank guns.  They work well with Universal Carriers,  though unloading them will be tricky as your opponent gets to chose where (over the stacking limit since it’s large) and you can never again load it (since the carrier can’t be in the same hex anymore), it’s still potentially good especially since the British seem to be able to field a decent fast striking force.

Comet A-34 – Set III Rare
The Comet is pretty much just an improved Panzer IV G; +1/+0 defence, superior armour, same attack dice against infantry and vehicles.  It lacks range 10, but gains +1 speed, high gear, and battlefield awareness – which may help protect it’s vulnerable rear.  A decent tank, but a bit pricey, and needs to watch out for Stukas or fast AT units.

Gurkha Rifleman – Set III Common
For an extra point you get +1 close assault and Hand-to-Hand 10. Best used in a defencive position, such as the objective, where the enemy won’t want to risk getting into close combat.  They also work well with an Inspiring Lieutenant, and supported by MG fire (much like standard Japanese tactics).

Universal Carrier – Set III Uncommon
A great uncommon from this set, and especially for the UK. The Universal Carrier is the first unit able to transport artillery; Bofors AA or antitank guns both work nicely, though the Bofors is a one shot transport.  The carrier may not be as good against infantry as the M5 Halftrack, but packs a little more of a punch against vehicles.  A good unit, 10 points seems quite reasonable for it.

UNITED STATES

FO Jeep – Set III Uncommon
11 points is quite an investment for this unit which can easily be destroyed by pretty much anything. If you provide enough threats your opponent might decide the FO Jeep isn’t worth shooting at, but I think I’d much rather got with the Red Army Spotter given the choice as it moves through most terrain freely and has better cover. The biggest drawback is not being able to move in the assault phase, which can potentially leave your Jeep exposed and destroyed.  Also somewhat amusing that the Set I Jeep with a gun has no attack value, while this covered Jeep does.

Hunting Sniper – Set III Uncommon
It costs more then either the Russian or Japanese Sniper and specializes in killing an already easy to kill target.  It’s not completely useless, as it can target AA guns without being shot at in return, but then so can the other snipers. Unless the Set IV 88 proves to have a better than 3/3 defence, their just isn’t much point to this unit outside of Historical or ‘Nation-Pure’ armies.

M26 Pershing – Set III Rare
For 3 points less than the Russian IS-2 you lose 1 rear defence, and -1/-1/-0 attack against vehicles, but you gain both +1/+1/+0 against infantry and extended range 12.  The Pershing is a better choice for ranged combat, but on the current standard maps the IS-2 has the better dice against vehicles, and extended range is rarely used.  The extra dice against infantry is relatively minor as well.

M36 MGC – Set III Rare
An improved version of the M18 Hellcat, the M36 MGC at least doesn’t have a feeble 3/2 defence.  It’s not quite as fast as it’s gigantic cousin, but packs a tremendous punch that the Pershing has; nearly equal to that of a Tiger.  If you manage to get a Flanking Attack it gives the M36 the equivalent firepower of a King Tiger, and all for 36 points.  While it’s got the Pz4G 5/3 defence, it’s otherwise a great unit.

M4A3 (105) – Set III Rare
A specialized infantry killer which doubles as decent AA, but its vehicle attack dice are a bit lacking, but for 24 points it certainly does it’s one job well: A defence 5/5 infantry, has a 50% chance of  being killed with no cover roll to save him. It’s basically the Allied Brummbar, paying a bit more for extra dice but losing blast.

Marine Rifleman – Set III Common
Compared to an M1 Garand Rifle, the Marine Rifleman gets +1 on defencive fire, and a mere 2 dice at long range.  However he loses Stars & Stripes, making him less effective against infantry.  The Marine’s SA is potentially useful for pinning down vehicles though.  The trick however is getting the marine there and undisrupted.

P-51D Mustang – Set III Rare
Dubbed the ‘Flying Sherman’ the Mustang’s rockets are fairly powerful, as it can pick and chose when, where, and what angle to attack from, but they are still only one use and 8 dice is not too effective against heavy tanks.  It’s has good anti-infantry attack with antiair, making it good at shooting down other aircraft or shooting up ground-based infantry, but after its rocket is all but useless against vehicles.  Still for 17 points it’s a decent investment.

Quad 50 – Set III Common
A decent AA gun that doubles as the American’s only MG-type unit.  For 2 more points than a Vickers it gains AA, but is -1 speed / relocate 2, making it somewhat less mobile.  It’s quite powerful as an AA gun as long as you can get within medium range, otherwise the Bofors is generally superior.

GERMANY

20mm Flak 38 – Set III Uncommon
A low cost AA unit, just what the Germans need to protect their extremely vulnerable tanks.  It’s fairly typical of the German’s specialized units thus far, and doesn’t work nearly as well in any other role.

BMW  R75 – Set III Uncommon
For this motorcycle has good potential. It’s still quite capable of sneaking around and taking out weak enemy units such as Snipers, Spotters, and Russian Mortars

Elite Panzer IV Ausf D – Set III Rare
A deceptively powerful Axis tank for a decent point cost, Crack Shot makes it’s seemingly low number of dice very powerful; don’t underestimate them as their antitank firepower is better then a Panzer IV’s and their anti-infantry is better than the M4A1 Sherman’s. It is however easily destroyed, and should be kept in cover whenever possible. Crack Shot also negates the Aircraft penalty, making it a decent if not great AA unit.  The Elite Panzer IV D is practically the Axis M4A1 Sherman.

Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind – Set III Rare
A high point cost with low defence and no cover makes the Wirbelwind an unreliable investment.  It is very good against aircraft and can serve as an infantry hunter if need be.

Jagdpanzer IV/48 – Set III Rare
An interesting variant of the Panzer IV; compared to the PzIVG you give up AI dice, and lose rear arc to gain superior armour in the front and +1 cover.  Superior Armour is, while obviously better than nothing, is not all that great, as the standard tactic is for quick units to flank around behind – where not only does the Jagdpanzer have the standard German weak armour, but also can’t fire back; forcing it to either was time to turn and be attacked anyway, or try to sneak away at a low speed of 3. The Jagdpanzer will require careful positioning and use.  Overall a nice tank, though like all Panzers it’s extremely vulnerable to aircraft and fast units.  It will compliment my Panzer IV G’s nicely.

Junkers JU 87G Stuka – Set III Rare
With it’s 10/8 attack dice that can be placed anywhere each turn, it’s ironic that the Stuka is best used against other German vehicles with their low defence.  The dice are good enough against standard units such as the M4A1, and even T-34s.  It’s  fairly usable as long as you have air superiority, but any enemy aircraft – especially fighters – will easily shoot it down.

Luftwaffe Infantrymen – Set III Common
Sub par at best, the Luftwaffe Infantrymen seem to have one purpose only – guarding the vulnerable rears of your tanks. Though at medium range a Mauser has a better chance of doing damage to a defence 4/4 aircraft.  Their only importance is that they can at least defencive fire against aircraft, which could be very useful if placed well, but will slow your armour down to a crawl.

Messerschmitt Bf109E – Set III Rare
The Messerschmitt is only particularily effective against either other aircraft, or defence 4 or less infantry. It’s relatively low cost means you can field more of these than other aircraft, but so far the effectiveness of most AA guns – the Bofors especially, as it’s equally effective against ground based targets – makes fielding aircraft risky.  The Messerschmitt can be useful in protecting Stukas from enemy fighters.

Panzerschreck – Set III Common
With all the high defence tanks available now Set I’s Panzerfaust 30 might just not be enough anymore.  The Panzerschreck answers that problem with improved antitank capabilities for only two more points. It’s not bad, but overkill against medium and light tanks. Generally a Panzerfaust will be better as it the Panzerschrecks mere 5 dice at range won’t be able to harm many units

Sd Kfz 234/2 “Puma” – Set III Uncommon
Thought of as the Axis Hellcat, the Puma is a surpisingly useful unit.  Unlike most Axis vehicles the Puma not only has great speed, but also packs a fairly decent vehicle attack.  Strike and Fade means you should have a fair chance of attacking without retaliation too.  It will definitely shine in larger games where maneuvering comes more into play

SS Stormtroopers – Set III Common
Overpriced and hard to use as the Axis currently have no transport worth using in a standard game.  The SS Panzergrenadiers are two less points, aren’t limited range, have only 1 less dice at close range, and 8 dice at medium. They simply aren’t worth using.

StuG III Ausf. D – Set III Uncommon
An interesting low cost unit that gives you some options, the StuG isn’t quite a sIG, but has some advantages.  The StuG isn’t as good at killing infantry, but is much better against vehicles, and has a better chance of survivable with 4/3 defence. Overall the StuG is a nice unit, but overshadowed by the Elite Panzer IV.

ITALY

Brixia M35 45mm Mortar – Set III Common
An interesting unit, though it’s not particularily good without long range.  While it is probably worth taking over a German Light Mortar, a Blackshirt would be better than either. For casual games one could field a mortar or two just for the cheap rapid fire.

Stalwart Lieutenant – Set III Uncommon
Terrible initiative and combat statistics, the Stalwart Lieutenant doesn’t even have a decent command ability.  It doesn’t, and just isn’t the worth 6 points. The SNLF Captain at least has a great command ability and can fight, if poorly. For one more point the SS Haupsturmfurher is clearly superior.  The Stalwart Lieutenant will likely never see competitve play, and even rarely see casual play outside of Italian themed armies (and even then one is surely more than enough).

JAPAN

#40 Mitsubishi A6M Zero  – Set III Rare
The Zero isn’t much different from the Messerschmitt.  You can save 2 points for 3/3 defence instead; hardly a good trade off. However the low point cost does mean you can field a few Zeros for relatively few points.  Too fragile for my taste though.

SNLF Fanatics – Set III Common
A great unit despite it’s cost, 7 points is a lot for a unit, but his 5/5 defence and great abilities make up for it.  A few of these guys make for a great spearhead; pressing their way into enemy defences.  Most units will have difficulting stoping the Fanatics with defencive fire, and at the end of the movement phase even if the defencive fire was successful the disruption comes off anyway. Get these guys into close combat as soon as you can.

Type 87 Armoured Car – Set III Uncommon
An odd unit, it is obviously best used on roads.  8 points seems a bit much for it though as it’s attacks aren’t all that great. However, the strike and fade means at least it may survive a bit longer than many of the other low defence Japanese vehicles.

Type 89A Chi-Ro – Set III Rare
Trench Crossing could be quite a good ability, but there’s not a great chance it will come into play.  Weak Suspension can effect you on any map. Otherwise it’s an improved Te-Ke, losing out on 1 speed but gaining an infantry attack worth mentioning. Hardly worth using.

ROMANIA

Bohler 47mm Antitank Gun – Set III Common
I’m not sure what the Romanians have against tanks, but they have managed to field a decent antitank gun.  For the same cost as the Japanese AT gun.. it’s the Japanese AT gun with camoflauge. It can be difficult to play as you don’t want to move or shoot and lose camoflauge, but sometimes it will be worth moving to position for a better shot.

Vigilant Lieutenant – Set III Uncommon
Finally a commander that wants to do something about the AT guns’ poor defence.  For 8 points he’s a little expensive, but defencive preparation can be quite useful, and covers AA guns as well. Will make the 88’s that much better.

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