Friday, July 24, 2009

Axis & Allies miniatures: 57mm ATG

I'll be posting, on an occasional basis, musings about particular pieces in the Axis & Allies series of miniatures.

Base set 6 pdr

The entire efficacy of the light anti-tank gun is based on the tactic of the ambush, but nothing is harder to reflect in most tactical wargames. Light anti-tank guns are designed to be as inconspicuous as possible, but hiding them on the wargame board is virtually impossible unless the game uses some sort of hidden units rule -- and even then the tank-equipped player still knows that there's an ATG out there, somewhere, so there's much less chance for surprise than in real life. So it's no surprise that accurately representing anti-tank guns is one of the weakest areas in tactical wargames -- and Axis & Axis miniatures, being decidedly on the simpler side as such things go, is no exception. It's very hard to use ATGs of any sort in AAM, and the lighter weapons, which rely on ambush and getting shots at favorable angles such as the flank are even harder to use. Because of that, ATGs are not all that popular with players, even when "priced" low for DYO scenarios. Despite how ubiquitous they were (often battalion-level weapons) the 57mm anti-tank weapons that equipped the U.S., U.K. and U.S.S.R. wont see the table top battlefield very often.

Set II ZIS-2

The weapon does show up multiple times across the sets, however. The first time is as the British 6-pounder Antitank Gun, No. 7/48 in the base set. Although not identified as such, it's clearly the same weapon that is the Canadian Entrenched Antitank Gun (1/45) in the Reserves set and the British Entrenched Antitank Gun (5/60) in the Eastern Front set. Although a different weapon, the Soviet ZIS-2 57mm Model 1943 in Set II (14/45) and 1939-45 set (26/60) is identical in game terms.

Reserves set Entrenched Antitank Gun

The 6-pounder model is a little funky, with a dwarfed-sized trail. The Entrenched ATGs are better, although the small pile of sandbags in front of the gun is more suggestive of an entrenchment than being one. The Canadian piece is in desert colors, while the British piece is suitable for northern Europe. The ZIS models are both serviceable, with the main visible difference between the two is the sand color in the base of the older one.

1939-45 set ZIS-2

Rarity: Common (except for the 1939-45 set ZIS, which is uncommon)
Speed: 0
Defense: 3/3
Cost: 7* (Higher values are printed on the cards for most, but all have bee revised to 7 by the updated cards online)
Attacks vs troops at short-medium-long ranges: 3-3-3
Attacks vs vehicles at short-medium-long ranges: 11-9-8

Special abilities:

All: Relocate 2 -- This unit has speed 2 during your assault phase

Entrenched antitank guns: Entrenched -- Until this unit moves, it gets +1/+1 defense.

Historical text


On 20 September 19444, Lance-Sergeant Baskeyfield and his crew destroyed two Tigers and at least one self-propelled gun with their 6-Pounder gun from less than a hundred yards. He won a posthumous Victoria Cross for the action.
Entrenched ATG

Antitank guns were more effective when the gun team had time to provide additional protection for themselves.


The ZIS-2 antitank gun saw action in Operation Zitadelle, at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. It was the largest tank battle in history and one from which the German Army in Russia never really recovered.

The unit in history: Early antitank doctrine in most armies revolved around very small, portable antitank guns in the 20mm-40mm range deployed as battalion support weapons. While adequate against the light armor common at the start of the war, it quickly became evident that the rapid up-armoring of tanks would rapidly require bigger guns and by 1942 larger guns in the 47mm-57mm range were making it to the front in most armies. These weapons were handicapped by the desire to keep them light enough to operate with the infantry, but soon tank armor outstripped the capacity of anything other than field artillery-sized weapons to cope with. Despite being unable to cope with heavy tanks and of marginal utility against most medium tanks, these weapons served to the end of the war. They were still useful against light armor such as half tracks and armored cars. The 6-pounder, besides serving in all the Commonwealth armies, was also used by the US as the M-1 57mm ATG. The Soviet ZIS-2 was a different design, but was a comparable weapon in every way.

Eastern Front set Entrenched Antitank Gun

The unit in the game: Overpriced at first (at 8 or 9 points) these light ATG are still of doubtful worth at 7 points. The basic problem is that they are not hidden, and therefore enemy tank will not blunder into ambushes against them. One wonders why they haven't been given the special ability of Superior Camouflage, which would better approximate their historical usage. Still, for low cost they do allow a player to field several times the antitank firepower of a comparable tank. If the scenario design is such that enemy tanks will be forced by terrain or other reasons into a kill zone they may get in some shots. Initial placement for ordnance is vital, because Relocate 2 is only for very local and/or emergency use. You really don't want to have to redeploy. The only advantage the 6-pounder has over the Entrenched ATG is that it's available in 1942, but from 1943 on there's no reason to pick it. By the time the ZIS-2 becomes available in 1943 there's a lot of German armor that it can't handle so unless you have some reason to think the Germans won't be bringing any "cats" to the fight, don't bother with it. At best the ZIS has a 50% chance of disrupting a Panther at close range and the chances for doing anything at all drop off rapidly. Only the flank of a Tiger is assailable, but it's unlikely a fully visible ATG will get that chance. Meanwhile most German tanks will have a 50% or better chance of getting a disruption or better against an ATG at long range. The +1 for the Entrenched ATG helps a little, but only that.

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