Friday, February 26, 2010

Axis & Allies miniatures M3 Lee/Grant medium tanks

I'll be posting on an occasional basis reviews of the figures in the Axis & Allies miniatures game.

M3 Lee from the Base Set

The United States found itself facing an imminent war with barely any combat-worthy tanks. Combat experience in Europe and North Africa demonstrated that medium tanks needed heavier gun than the 37mm previously thought to be adequate, but U.S. tank manufacturers were still designing the larger turret needed for the 75mm-gun armed M4 medium tank and a stop-gap was needed for immediate use. The result was the M3 series tank, which used the chassis of the M4 tank, mounted a 37mm gun in a rotating turret and held a hull-mounted 75mm gun. The hull mounting was understood to be suboptimal, but using it meant shaving several critical months off the fielding of the gun. The resulting tank saw use with the British in North Africa, with U.S. troops in their first campaigns, Lend-lease service with the Soviets and even soldiered on later in the war in secondary theaters such as Burma. This varied service is reflected in the appearance of M3-series tanks four times in the game: As the (USA) M3 Lee in the Base Set (20/48); the Soviet M3 Lee in the Reserves Set (11/45); the (UK) Grant I in the North Africa Set (14/60) and the (USA) M3A5 Lee in the Eastern Front Set (10/60).

Soviet M3 Lee from the Reserves Set

* Officially revised by the downloadable cards

Rarity: Rare
Speed: 3
Defense: 5/4
Cost: 32* (M3 lee); 30 (Soviet M3 Lee); 28 (Grant I & M3A5 Lee)
Attacks vs. troops at close-medium-long range: 9-9-7
Attacks vs. vehicles at close-medium-long range: 9-7-5
(This represents the turret mounted 37mm gun)

Special Abilities:

Strike and Fade 1 -- In your assault phase, this unit can move at speed 1 after attacking. (M3 Lee only)

Exposed Transport* -- This unit can carry one Soldier. That Soldier can be attacked while it's boarded on this transport. (Soviet M3 Lee only)

Additional Hull-Mounted Cannon -- In your assault phase, this unit can make an extra attack at 12/10/8. The target must be a Vehicle in front of this unit. (all)

Tall Silhouette -- This unit fails cover rolls. (M3 Lee, Soviet M3 Lee & M3A5 Lee)

Large Silhouette -- This unit gets -1 on cover rolls. (Grant I)

Grant I from the North Africa Set

Historical Text:

M3 Lee -- The awkward location of the Lee's sponson-mounted 75mm gun was a serious tactical drawback.

Soviet M3 Lee -- While the Soviets received over 1,300 M3 version tanks on lend-lease from America, Soviet crews hated them, calling the tank a "grave for seven brothers."

Grant I -- The British requested American M3 tanks, such as the Grant I, with modified turrets that were lower and could contain radio equipment.

M3A5 Lee -- Over 5,000 M3s were made in various versions. After Sherman tanks went into mass production, the Lees were sent to the Pacific theater and performed well there.

Crewmen practice bailing out of an M3 Lee

The unit in history: The first orders for the M3 were placed before the factory that would make them was even built, illustrating the time pressures involved as the United States struggled to field battle-worthy armor after its late start. Production ran from April 1941 to August 1942, with about 5,000 being made. The tank had a successful combat debut at Gazala where, despite its shortcomings and awkward layout, its powerful 75 mm gun finally gave the British a tank gun that could match German armor. While also seeing some combat use with U.S. troops in North Africa, the tank was replaced in Western frontline service as soon as M4 Shermans became available. The M3 series tanks saw extended service in the Pacific where they outclassed the light armor fielded by the Japanese. Many were also sent to the Soviets, who used them reluctantly, justifiably considering them inferior to the T-34.

M3A5 Lee from the Eastern Front Set

The unit in the game: The tank wasn't popular at first, being overpriced, although this has been corrected in the revised cards. Overall it's a useful tank in 1942 scenarios, with good armor protection, adequate mobility and good firepower. The Strike and Fade ability of the M3 Lee is useful, the Exposed Transport SA of the Soviet M3 Lee is less so. The key special ability, of course, is the Additional Hull-Mounted Cannon, which compares very well to 1942 German armor and Japanese armor of any year. The Tall Silhouette special (dis)ability spares the player from having to skulk around in cover. The Grant I's slightly lower, cupola-less turret gives it a chance at cover rolls with the Large Silhouette, but probably not enough to make a difference -- as is suggested by the fact it doesn't get any point cost change compared to the M3A5 Lee.

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