Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Axis & Allies -- Bazooka

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

Base Set

The Bazooka, collector No. 16/48 from the Base Set and No. 27/60 from the 1939-45 set, is the game depiction of one of the most distinctive American weapons of World War II, formally known as the Rocket Launcher, M1 (and later M1A1, M9 and other models).

Rarity: Common
Speed: 1
Defense: 4/4
Cost: 4
Attacks vs troops at short-medium-long ranges: 4 - 0 - 0
Attacks vs vehicles at short-medium-long ranges: 9 - 4 - 0

Special abilities:

Close Assault 10 — This unit has an attack value of 10 against Vehicles in its hex. This attack
ignores cover.

Historical text: The M1 rocket launcher, or bazooka, fired a 60mm rocket. It was rushed into production for the North African campaign in 1942.

A bazooka team destroys a German tank in street fighting in 1944.

The unit in history: Ever since tank started terrifying infantrymen in the Great War there's been a search for a man-portable anti-tank weapon to hold the beasts at bay. Close-in weapons such as Molotov cocktails, satchel charges and grenades were risky to use and of limited effectiveness. The usual solution at the beginning of World War II was the same one from a generation before, the anti-tank rifle. Unfortunately ATR's were already reaching the limits of their effectiveness against the lightly armored tanks of 1939 and would soon be hopelessly inadequate against the up-armored later tanks.

1939-45 set

The bazooka was a happy marriage of two technologies, recoilless rockets and shaped charge warheads, and was tested by the U.S. Army's Ordnance Corps on the very eve of World War II. The initial tests were so successful that the weapon was rushed into production for fielding with the troops invading North Africa in November, 1942. It was such a rush job that the troops weren't even trained in how to use it, so its combat debut was unimpressive. In fact, it backfired on the Allies. The Germans captured some bazookas and, recognizing a good idea when they saw one, reverse-engineered and improved it to create their own Panzerschreck.

Unsurprisingly for a hastily fielded weapon the bazooka had a lot of flaws in field service, but it was still a very popular, versatile and useful weapon. Among its tactical drawbacks was the large back blast, which created a friendly fire danger and gave away the firer's position while making the weapon hard to use in confined spaces such as buildings.

The unit in the game: The bazooka is an economical way to make American infantry units dangerous to approach. The 10-dice close combat attack is enough to threaten the heaviest armor with damage. The back blast drawbacks are not reflected in the game, but neither is the bazooka's ability to stealthily stalk tanks. The Axis player will be very aware of where the bazookas are. Still, it's well worth tossing a few bazookas into any mix of U.S. infantry that might face any armor.

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