“And we have the best team—we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit and the best men in the world.” – George Scott Patton, addressing the 3rd army prior to the D-Day attacks.
Regardless of your thoughts on the war in general, little can be said in regards to the material superiority of the American rifleman. He went into battle ahead of a logistical machine that provided the best in food, healthcare, and small arms that could reasonably be provided to an army during the mid 20th century. He wielded on average a better rifle than his counterparts, ate more food, and had easy access to whatever tools necessary to complete whatever was assigned to him.
The American rifleman is my favorite character of the war, I suppose largely because I can relate to him the best (my affinity for the look of the M1943 uniform aside). So as a result I always look for chances to put my Americans on the table.
I love the look of the American army on the table, most of its smoother and bulbous cast armor designs give it a friendly look that the angles of the Soviets and Germans and rivets of the British cannot compete with. Sherman tanks aside my first love always has been and always will be infantry. So as a result my choice for Americans has been the humble and favorite infantry company. Unlike many of my other favorite unit types, I own just about all the components for an infantry company (in fact it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that I only own US units that serve the purpose of supporting my dogfaces), which means I can reasonably talk about every single option, and why I would and wouldn’t take it. Today I’m starting with the core of every american rifle force, the rifle platoon.
V4 doesn’t have a ton of American materials, so I’ll just be covering the fighting first units, and the recently released Fortress Europe book. I’ll probably cover the D-Day book after it comes out in a more truncated style.
The very basics of the platoon remain the same between all books. American platoons, in theory, consist of a small command section, 3 squads of twelve men, and a bazooka. In Flames of War at max strength you end up with a small base command team 9 4 man rifle teams, and one bazooka team. The rifle teams don’t suffer when moving, so they retain their rate of fire, and the unit is an observer (highly important).
Compared to the other offerings in the mid war and in our limited late war, the American rifle platoon is in an odd place. It is just cheap enough, even with unit card upgrades, to be spammable, but unlike any other horde army in the meta, it lacks significant strength in the assault. Italians, for example, have good morale, the Russians have excellent morale and most of their infantry units have modified skill ratings for better assaults. Comparatively the American mid war rifle platoon is one of the worst assaulting infantry units in the game.
To expand on that premise, in addition to the Italians and Soviets, they fall behind the British rifle platoon which has both increased hit chance in assaults and and a good counterattack score. The Germans are all around good too, generally hitting on 3+ in accordance with their veteran skill rating. So your GIs aren’t going to be trying to get stuck in unless they have a clear and strong numerical advantage.
Americans really stick out over other armies in terms of support options and maneuverability. Since we are only covering the rifle platoon, I’ll really only dwell on it, support options will have to wait for now. Your rifles can dash faster than other infantry, still benefiting from the old ‘Truscott Trot’ rule, dashing 2″ more on roads and across country. Admittedly, this only applies to your HQ and rifles, and is situational, but a spare 2″ can save games. The other major related movement advantage you have over the competition is that your rifle teams do not suffer from the slow firing rule, they have no firing penalty when they move tactically.
Along with that, your guys all have rate of fire 1 and your platoons usually come with a free bazooka, so the platoon ends up being 10 rifle stands (1 as a smaller command stand) and a bazooka at full strength.
Contextually speaking, Americans are fairly middling to cheap in terms of cost, skill and potency in the Mid War. Fighting First gives your men a horrid skill roll of 5+ but a rally from unpinning on a 3+, which does help mitigate artillery. They take shots on an average 3+ as well. You can get a max sized platoon for 8 points and for another point you can grab a light machine gun with 5 sitting rof. These guys beg for the always prepared command card which ups their skill and hit on score, giving them staying power and a fighting chance in assaults. I normally like to kit out my rifle companies with two fully kitted platoons with the upgrade cards, I see little reason in taking them in any smaller amount and the LMG is usually too good to ignore.
Unlike the Germans, these guys are pretty cheap for their hit on score, so they can be economically be used to sit on objectives, soak up artillery barrages and reliably unpin with their 3+ ready to fight the next turn. At 13 stands total they are fairly difficult to shift too, and that many shots (including the lmg) can ward off most infantry assaults. Your guys are fairly cheap even when upgraded so can hold their own competently.
Despite their movement advantages, a competent player will tend to use them defensively, like most infantry, taking advantage of their movement abilities as the need arises. On the attack they can in theory dash from cover to cover but usually flounder about as infantry tend to.
Another point to consider is how much better the bazooka is over other available in unit anti-tank options. It outperforms everything available stock in the mid war and is at parity with the British PIAT in raw firepower. If it hits in defensive fire, you are more than likely to bail out your enemy’s armor.
All in all, they function as a solid, cost effective, bedrock unit to a formation that exemplifies the american infantry play style, being hard to move with a secondary focus on versatility. Considering the hefty support options they have available, peeling 13 stands of GIs off an objective is a daunting task for any army.
Fortress Europe changes the platoon slightly, while they lose the ability to upgrade their skill, the boys retain their unpin rating and have a reasonable skill of 4+, making them more useful than their un-upgraded 1943 era predecessors. Despite the same base points cost here they favor the defensive positioning even further, being hit on a 3+ is near suicidal trying to advance in the open, and with Late War being vehicle heavy in an edition saturated with light vehicles and the light machine guns that they wield.
However early 1944 is not without its blessings, the guys get a new must take option, a single point for YET ANOTHER bazooka. Redundancy is great, especially with critical anti tank teams, and at 1 point try justifying not taking the spare anti-panzer death tube. Beyond this they can take up to two lmg teams at 1 point each, and 1 hmg at 2 points. I personally would take the 2 lmgs for the substantial boost (the 3 points for the 2 lmgs and bazooka means the platoon is still cheaper than its Fighting First counterpart, despite being arguably tougher).
The heavy machine gun is harder to justify, you can get a platoon of 4 for almost the cost of 1 in the rifle platoon, and you can add 10 shots on 2 teams for the same cost. Albeit it does have a 24″ range, greater than the 16″ range of everything else, but that benefit is wasted in a platoon that will spend most of its shooting in defensive fire anyway. Therefore I advise avoiding the m1917 upgrade. Personally I would take the platoon fully kitted with 10 rifle stands, 2 bazookas and 2 m1919 light machine guns. A very tough platoon for its cost that comes in cheaper than other rifle units stand for stand (except the regular soviet rifle company) when upgraded.
Overall the American Rifle platoon is a relatively large unit for a decent cost, it can stay in the fight, avoid being pinned, and can hold objectives fiercely. On the defense it can use cheap lmg upgrades to ward off enemy infantry. Its ability sight in artillery in a pinch while sitting in place allows you to place bombardments in unexpected locations as well. And on top of it all, it has some of the better anti-tank options of any standard infantry platoon. The rifle platoon is a strong bedrock foundation for the rifle company, ready to defend anything from anyone.
Overall Unite Rating: B+, a must take for a defensive American army but lacking in raw firepower and assault ability