The Churchill Crocodile was the 2007 Gen Con Axis & Allies miniatures tournament MVP!
With heavy armor, low cost and a deadly close-range attack, the Crocodile was a popular choice in the 100-point pre-constructed tournament armies.
One of the players who built his army around the Crocodile was Bruce Kenny, a 35-year old medical equipment technician from Chicago. Bruce deployed the Crocodile, along with a Bofors 40mm AA gun, Vickers MG team, an inspiring hero, Royal engineers and several SMLE rifle squads. For support, Bruce also included an HQ section, ammo dump, several minefields and barbed wire.
"I think the 'Croc' was so popular amongst players this year because they can see it is a terrific value piece that works well with many different strategies despite its lack of mobility," Bruce said.
The Bofors gun didn't see much action against enemy aircraft, but it was a potent threat against enemy infantry, with good attack values and long-range capability. The Hero was a tough warrior, and allowed adjacent friendly infantry to move at double speed. The Royal Engineers had a close assault value of 16, enough to damage or kill almost any enemy tank on the field.
The HQ section would allow Bruce to retain the initiative, and the ammo dump gave him the chance to re-roll some of his attacks. The mines and barbed wire would be useful for forcing opponents away from the objective.
Bruce and I faced off several times throughout the weekend, but we always had a good time, and soon became fast friends. Bruce was, in fact, my first opponent!
Bruce rolls the dice during an attack with his Crocodile tank. A successful flamethrower hit will immediately destroy his target!
I fielded an elite infantry company on day 1, consisting of:
- 3 x SS Storm troopers
- 4 x SS Panzer grenadiers
- 4 x SNLF Fanatics
- 2 x SS Hauptsturmfuhrer
- 1 x Honor Bound Hero
However, I soon found out I probably should have diversified a little bit to include at least one or two fallschrimjager and a Wehrmacht expert sniper. I had expected to face similar opponents, and I wasn't able to react to all the threats I encountered, such as heavy mortars or tanks.
Bruce used his hero to quickly advance to the objective and engaged my elite infantry with rifle and machine-gun fire. However, even with his ammo dump, I was able to advance and destroy most of his infantry. As time ran out, Bruce moved his Crocodile into the objective and my infantry were able to get in for a close assault. However, the tank's flamethrower ability killed several of my units, and the Bofors AA gun also inflicted casualties. It came down to the wire, but I was able to destroy the Crocodile and claim victory!
Bruce said he wanted to pin my infantry down and harass them before they got to the objective - however, it wasn't very effective. My SS commanders allowed my infantry to keep moving, even while under fire. "In hindsight, I should have been more aggressive," he said.
But his Crocodile was definitely an effective tool. With high armor values, it was tough for my infantry to score hits with close assault. He also got several important flamethrower kills, including one against my IS-2 tank in a later game! Flamethrower attacks ignore cover, and if successful, the target is destroyed immediately, before it can fire back.
"Flamethrowers are in my humble opinion a great equalizer for any army, especially when outgunned by a more robust piece like a Jagdtiger," Bruce said.
The Croc was a popular choice in the first round of play, and Bruce even faced off against another player who fielded two of them! Although he was able to kill one, Bruce's Croc eventually met the same fate.
Two crocodile tanks face off at the objective, while British infantry try to navigate a minefield to the north.
In my second game, I faced off against Peter Franke, a computer specialist at the University of Iowa. He eventually won the entire tournament, going undefeated at 10-0! He fielded an American army, including Tommy gunners, paratroopers, a heavy mortar and Sherman tank.
I was forced to surrender at the end of turn five because he was able to devastate my infantry with indirect mortar fire. My slow-moving infantry were frequently caught in the open while advancing to the objective, and Peter used his mortar with devastating effect. By the time I reached the objective, most of my men were dead! If I had included some paratroopers, I could have dropped them behind the lines and engaged the mortar team. A sniper could also have killed the Sherman commander and allowed me to pin down the crew.
My third battle was a quick and decisive victory on my part. My opponent deployed a platoon of tanks and M1 riflemen, but my Japanese infantry quickly dispatched them in hand-to-hand combat. My stormtroopers also got lucky during a close assault and scored eight hits against a Sherman, killing it in one shot!
My final battle, late on Thursday night, was a close contest! I faced a Wehrmacht force deployed by Chad from Indianapolis that included a Panther, Nebelwerfer, several panzergrenadiers and a panzerschrek. I quickly seized the objective, but the Nebelwerfer was able to kill several of my infantry squads. On the last turn, my two SS commanders and two squads of grenadiers were sitting on the objective and the Panther was forced to move in to contest control. However, I wasn't able to eliminate it before time ran out!
If both players contest the objective at the end of play, victory is determined by the point value of units on the objective. Both Chad and I had 35 points on the objective! The second tie breaker is based on the value of enemy units killed: Chad had 49 points, I only had 31. In the end, it was a tough loss, but a very intense and hard-fought game!
At the end of Day 1, I was 2-2. My next battle was scheduled for Friday morning, so I decided to totally rework my army to counter the Crocodile threat. I chose an M4A3 with 105mm howitzer to engage enemy infantry, and the IS-2 to destroy any Crocodiles before they could get close enough to use their deadly flamethrowers! I filled out my army with two Tommy gunners to prevent enemy infantry from using close assault against my tanks.
But, throughout the day, I got very little in return for my large investment (68 points) in the IS-2 tank. In my first battle, I faced a mixed Wehrmacht army from Sean Sparks, of Dayton, Ohio. He fielded several Pz IV Ausf. D tanks, a Jagdpanzer IV, and several K98 rifle squads.
This time, my defeat came about quickly because I was too aggressive! I was able to damage the tank destroyer and kill one Pz IV, but lost my M4A3. My IS-2 retreated to the objective, but couldn't hold out against the swarm of enemy tanks. Two Pz IVs scored hits at point-blank range, destroying my tank in one turn!
Next, I faced my old nemesis Bruce Kenny! This time, he used his mines and barbed wire to force me away from the objective. My Tommy gunners held off his infantry, but by the end of turn 7, we both had to move in on the objective.
"I think the most interesting battle I fought this weekend was against you," Bruce said. "I thought it was going to be a total annihilation. The other battles I fought didn't quite have the same feeling of urgency to them, and hence the reason I chased down your IS2 and made it fight head on."
Despite my massive 122mm main gun, my gunner wasn't able to score a single hit against the Crocodile! In the end, I was forced to close with the Crocodile, and Bruce got another critical flame-kill! I had chosen this unit specifically to avoid this situation, but my investment was wasted. Bruce routed my forces and claimed revenge for his loss on Day 1.
My third battle on Friday (Day 2) was against John Jeter, from Arizona. John only recently began playing the Axis & Allies miniatures game, so he had a small collection and was only able to field an M4A3, M16 half-track, Stuart tank, a mortar and M1 rifle squads.
He didn't have much that could damage my IS-2, so he was hoping to win on points. But I was able to destroy his half-track, Stuart and M4A3, and only lost my Tommy gunners. My tanks closed in on the objective, and John's 81mm mortar scored a lucky hit on the rear armor of my M4A3, killing it! However, my IS-2 was able to control the objective and shrug off several infantry attacks.
The day came to an anti-climatic end when my fourth and final opponent withdrew. My record for the weekend was 4-4.
Peter, my opponent from Day 1, was able to show that a balanced army is very competitive. Although he lacked long-range anti-tank firepower, his heavy mortar and Tommy gunners could inflict serious damage on enemy infantry. But Peter also said he had respect for the Crocodile tank, and called it one of his toughest obstacles in the tournament.
"It's tough as nails with 7/6 defense, Superior Armor 2, and its packing a flamethrower," he said. "The Churchill tank build requires a lot more tactical strategy to play."
Each year, the Axis & Allies booth includes an elaborate display, sometimes with restored half-tracks or scout cars! This year, the new Axis & Allies naval miniatures was the highlight, including this sailor manning an AA gun...
...and this signals officer.