The basics of platoon building

It’s me again - WSS’s resident newbie wargamer and demon painter. Since my last blog entry, I’ve manage to make huge progress with my platoon - I’ve finished my command team and two complete squads. I’ve got some interesting things I’d like to say about painting all of these figures, but I think I’ll wait till another post to do that. For now, I thought it might be a good idea to try and give some structure for wargaming newbs like me who are really interested in the idea of a WWII platoon-based game, but just don’t know what they need or where to begin. I know from experience that getting started with something like this can at times seem overwhelming when you don’t know what you need to paint or buy to get a playable army together… and I’ve got an advantage since I can just pick the brains of any of our experts if I have a question.

Since we’re building our armies for the ultimate goal of testing out a variety of rulesets, it isn’t possible to really tweak our forces for optimal play in one game. It’s important to have a good basic force, but at the same time include a variety of specialist units so we can really test how the different rules handle these special cases. Luckily, the basic requirements for an army are pretty similar in most of the rules we want to try out, so it is possible to build an army that will work in a variety of systems with minor adjustment.

A command team is an absolute must for nearly all games. This team generally consists of between 3-6 figures. At it’s core, you’ll generally need a commanding officer/lieutenant type, a headquarters NCO and a radio operator. The rest of the group is usually rounded out by your basic grunts. Some rulesets also allow for a medic character or other specialists. I am definitely making a medic. In the cases where he can’t be used, he’ll still make a nice figure.

Besides the HQ, most rulesets require you to have a bare-minimum of basic squads. Depending on your army’s nationality, type, and the allocation points you have available, you are probably going to want more squads than this though! A basic squad is probably going to include between 8 and 12 units. One or two of these will be NCO’s. A machine gunner or machine gun team is also a frequent requirement in most rules. Since Kampfgruppe Panzerhosen is a panzergrenadier army, my squads tend to be low on actual units, but compensate with a lot of extra firepower. I have only eight men per squad, but each squad has two machine guns standard, plus two NCO’s who are carrying SMG’s. Obviously, a British, Russian or American army is likely to have a somewhat different squad makeup - more units and a bit less heavy firepower.

Besides the core infantry squads, every platoon is allowed by most rulesets to have various types of support units. I am personally opting in my army not to make more than two infantry squads, but to fill things out with specialty units. I am actually planning to make a variety of specialist teams which may or may not be used in every game, depending on what the rules allow. I will be building a sniper, mortar and heavy machine gun teams to supplement my existing squads, which I may or may not use. Also, because I have panzergrenadiers, I HAVE to have some armor! Currently, I’m planning on making two half-tracks for transporting my two main squads. Additionally, because it’s cool, there is also going to be one of those lovely Warlord Panther tanks. Point’s wise, having such a beast is expensive and not necessarily the most effective unit, but for me, it’s more about building a cool army than one that’s hyper-effective.

It is definitely a pleasant surprise for any new player to see how easily and with how few units you can really start to put together a playable force for a lot of games. Of course, I make it hard for myself by keeping to very high painting standards, but for most, less critical wargamers, building your platoon doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect.

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