Previously I went very in depth on the Rifle Platoon, and unfortunately our friends at Battlefront decided to minorly outdate my work a tad bit. No problem though, I’ll include my brief aside on how the veteran rifles in the Normandy book are ok, and get back on track. (Brief aside: for what you pay for, the vets are ok, its a personal preference thing for which to take, choose between maximizing numbers or skill). This time going on about one of the most overlooked unit types in the game period, the heavy machine gun platoon.
The heavy machine gun platoon, or HMG platoon changes little between armies, era, and even editions of the game. The most significant changes are that the Soviet Union can field up to 9 HMG teams in a unit and the switch between v3 and v4 removed gun unit command teams. But those are ancillary concerns to my project here so I won’t be addressing them. The real questions here are A. “What are HMG units good for?” B. “How do these strengths interplay with the American Rifle Company?” and C. “Are these worth running in a force?”
The m1917 HMG team is nearly identical to most other small arms units except in 2 key areas. The first is obvious, it has a massive rof of 6 shots per team sitting and a less impressive 2 shots on the move. The second is slightly more subtle and arguably one of the units greatest strengths, it has a 24″ range as opposed to the 16″ range that rifle teams and lmgs get. 4 of these can spit .30 cal ammo at a prodigious rate at quite the impressive range. Albeit this unit really can only kill infantry, guns and extremely lightly armored vehicles (front armor 1 or 0 or unarmored tank teams).
In my previous post I advocated against using HMGs in rifle platoons. I still do, HMGs play better to their strengths and contribute more to an American infantry force on their own. Individual rifle platoons are best served by taking cover and not taking potshots at distant targets, doing so removes their gone to ground status and paints an undeserved target on their backs. With its long range, an HMG team can take those potshots, but it loses effectiveness in a rifle unit because it forces the rest of the platoon out of gone to ground, and it loses the economy of scale of the HMG unit, which also can pool its shots more effectively. Beyond this the HMG unit is a core formation unit, so it makes your formation more tough overall.
The HMG team is best used in an HMG unit, which will typically be cheaper than buying the same number of HMGs in rifle platoons. There it can deploy defensively and punish enemy infantry foolish enough to attempt to harass your company. The long range also means that on the off chance your having to move your rifles forward, they can take a move into terrain, sit, and attempt to pin enemies. The HMG platoon really functions like a lot of powerful anti-tank weapons, covering a wide area of the table and effectively denying to enemy movement.
You should never expect the HMG unit to earn back its value by fighting off the enemy. Not against a skilled opponent anyway. The HMG platoon serves as an ablative morale buffer and preventing enemy infantry from going into the area it covers. The m1917 helps protect a lot of your units from infantry assaults. Even now in the late war, your units aren’t the strongest in assaults so anything to work to prevent the enemy from closing the gap helps, even marginally.
With these factors I highly recommend this unit, largely because of its utility and cost. In v4 you need to maximize your formations, and the HMG does this while providing some utility. The high rate of fire of m1917s helps make up for your rifle’s low rate of fire, short range, and bolster the formation. Not bad for the cost.
In most cases I give this unit a solid C+, usable, and recommended, but its not going to win you games.