Historical Forces in Fortress Europe

with Phil Yates

Flames Of War is a varied hobby with many players with a wide variety of interests. Some are avid historians and others more interested in playing the game as a game. This article explores how you can research and create historical forces using Fortress Europe.

If you choose to go down this path, but don’t have a deep knowledge of history yet, the most important thing to note is that by and large most forces that you can make from Fortress Europe won’t be far off some historical unit somewhere. There are some notable exceptions where you could cross the wires, and I’ll look at them later, but mostly, if you build a force, it will probably be historical!

Start with a Loose Thread
The first step with building any historical force is deciding which bit of history you want to recreate. Start by grabbing some inspiration: a piece of equipment that you love, a battle that you find interesting, a unit that an ancestor fought in, or a historical figure that you have come across. Take hold of this thread and follow it, seeing what happens as you unravel the history behind it.

Hit the Books
With your loose thread firmly in hand, start looking for more information. Search the internet. Find a Wikipedia article on the subject (and if it is about a foreign unit, use Google Translate to read the Wikipedia article in that language too — it’s often very interesting to see both sides of the story!). Go to your local library and see what they have on the matter. There are lots of places to start looking for more threads to unravel.

As you dig, you’ll start refining what the force you want to field looks like. You’ll find references to units and equipment that will give you the basics. Add in information on the state of the troops, their strength and experience, and you’ll be in a position to choose between green troops and veterans, or between full-strength and weakened by previous casualties.

Make a Force
At this point, start building your force using what you have found. You’ll probably come up with more questions as you go along, things like ‘Was this division supported by these?’. If you can’t find an answer, ask around. It’s likely that someone on a forum will know. If you still can’t find the answer, the good news is that it is difficult for anyone to say you’re wrong!

 

Play Games
The ultimate goal is of course to play games, so get out there and enjoy the fruits of your labour, pitting your new force against others on the tabletop. Learn its strengths and weaknesses and see if you can recreate some of your unit’s battlefield exploits.

Don’t worry if your force doesn’t have the things that the ‘experts’ are saying are ‘essential’ in every force, trust me, they’re not. Every force has its capabilities and shortcomings. If you play to your strengths and mitigate your vulnerabilities, you can be successful, regardless of your force.

Making Unhistorical Forces
If you are using Fortress Europe, it’s not that easy to actually make an unhistorical force unless you start adding some constraints such as it has to be in 1944, or it has to be in Normandy. The best (only?) way of building an unhistorical force is putting things that really weren’t at the same place and time together.

Churchills in Italy
One example of this can be found in the Churchill Italy Armoured Squadron. If you just build a force with Churchill tanks and a Stuart recce patrol, you’re pretty much spot on for a Churchill squadron in Italy. However, some regiments wanted 75mm guns for better firepower, and were less worried about armour as there weren’t so many German tanks in Italy. As a result, they fielded mixed squadrons with both Churchill and Sherman troops. So far, so good. The Churchill Italy Armoured Squadron allows you to do that too. If you want to take it beyond history, the only way to do that is to put Fireflies in your Sherman troops. This is because, while Sherman armoured squadrons had Fireflies, the Churchill squadrons didn’t since by the time the Firefly came along, they had replaced their Shermans with 75mm-armed Churchills (you’ll have to wait for D-Day: British for that option though).

But you say, I want 17 pdr guns to give my Churchills some better anti-tank capability. No problem, the Churchill crews wanted that too. They often had M10 self-propelled guns attached for anti-tank support (although they weren’t armed with 17 pdr guns at this stage, just their original 3-inch guns). So now we have two ways we could make our Churchills unhistorical, and a solution. Which way you go is up to you.

The Eastern Front
OK, you say, that’s pretty specific, but what other unhistorical forces can I build? Well, if you want to fight in Normandy or Italy rather than on the Eastern Front, you could take German aircraft! If you are fighting in Normandy, you could field Panzer III tanks and flame-thrower tanks, or Hornisse or Ferdinand tank-hunters. But those same forces wouldn’t be unhistorical on the Eastern Front.

If you are playing a Soviet force and wanted to push the bounds of history, you could field KV-1, Churchill, or M3 Lee tanks as part of a tank or motor rifle force, since by this time they were obsolete and relegated to infantry support on quiet sectors of the front (not that Stavka let any sector remain quiet for long!).

As you can see, it’s not that easy to stray too far outside the bounds of history with Fortress Europe. Remember though, if you really don’t care about the history side of things, there’s no reason at all that you shouldn’t build an interesting force that recombines elements of history in new and wonderful ways!

Military History Visualized feat. Flames Of War

with Military History Visualized

“Following the initial landings on D-Day the Allies encountered an environment that favored the German defense, namely the Bocage, which was an area that was  fragmented by strong hedgerows that severely limited the mobility of both tanks and infantry. This in combination with bad weather and experienced German defenders lead to several delays. Many of you likely know about the Sherman Rhino and Dozer, yet those were only one of the few options on how the Allies overcame the hedgerows
and very important was also an improvement in tactics and also tank-infantry cooperation”.- MHV

Our Final Countdown Winners!

Congratulations to:

OCDPaul on Twitter,
grahamklaka on Instagram,
Justin Rodriguez on Facebook.

You guys have all picked up a copy of D-Day: American so you’ll be ready for the D-Day releases. Get your details to [email protected] and those books will be shipping mid to late June.

Thank you to everyone who has joined in on the Countdown and congratulations to all our winners.

Alex’s Hit The Beach Germans

                with Alexander Nebesky

Way back in the distant days of this time-mid 2018, myself and a friend split the very last copy of Battlefront’s Open Fire! Two-player box set from our local game store in Hamilton, an hour-and-a-half south of Auckland. My first foray into building and painting yielded a passably painted grenadier company, a V1 flying bomb that now sits on my desk, and a trio of StuGs that have fallen victim to a continuous cycle of stripping and repainting.

Now that I’m on the other side of the curtain as it were, I’m given the chance to expand on or replace my first starter set with our brand new one. To that end, I’m freshening up, repainting, and adding to Hit the Beach to see if I can’t put together a better force than I did last time around.

Grenadiers in Early Morning Fog
The first step is to replace the Grenadiers form my initial run at Open Fire! With a fresh pair of platoons. I’m not too disappointed with my initial work, but I did spray varnish the grenadiers in less than ideal conditions leaving them with a cloudy film over them, as if they were out on a foggy winter morning between 6 and 11 am. It’s not such a bad thing if I decide to pretend they have been standing out on a football pitch all morning, but I want to replace them anyway with a fresh pair of Hit the Beach platoons. Besides, if I need to I can always add one of the foggy platoons to my grenadier formation to give me even more bodies to man the defences.

The plan, based on what one gets in the Hit the Beach is to run with the Grenadier Company. I like painting up infantry, and Fortress Europe gives me the classic and robust Grenadier Company to field.

Each of my Grenadier platoons will carry the Panzerfaust rule for +2 points a platoon, allowing one of my teams to fire as a Panzerfaust team each firing step. I’m also going to attach a Panzerschreck team to each of my platoons to up my anti-tank for +2 points each.

My two Grenadier platoons from Hit the Beach will require some heavier weapons to fill out the roster, so I’ll add 4 sMG34 HMG teams at 6 points and 6 8cm Mortar teams for 9 points.

I’m also going to add the two Hit the Beach 7.5cm Tank-Hunter teams to my surviving Open Fire! Guns to give me a four-gun strong platoon for 15 points.

I’ve opted for a generic green plants and brown earth basing style because I have neither the skill nor inclination to faithfully reproduce a slice of beach or French countryside on teeny bases.

Fortress Europe Grenadier Company

Grenadier Company HQ- 2 pts
            +Paunzerfaust- 2 pts

Grenadier Platoon- 7 pts
+Panzerfaust- 2 pts
           +Panzerschreck- 2 pts

Grenadier Platoon- 7 pts
           +Panzerfaust- 2 pts
           +Panzerschreck- 2 pts

sMG34 Machine-Gun Platoon- 6 pts
8cm Mortar Platoon- 9 pts
7.5cm Tank-Hunter Platoon- 15 pts

FORMATION TOTAL—  56 pts

Guns That Are Bigger Than a Regular Sized Gun
My Grenadier company has plenty of gnarly small arms and infantry support weapons but I just can’t help but feel I need something a little gnarlier to get my point across. Now, when I started buying and painting Flames Of War models I obviously bought a box of Tiger Tanks so I could tear through my enemies with reckless abandon, and that’s very much an option for me currently.

I could add a three-tank Tiger Tank Platoon to my force, bringing the total up to 92 points and giving me 8 spare points to goof around with- a pair of HS 129s or a JU 87 Stuka Dive Bomber Flight would both fit into that setup. However, I do have a four-gun strong 10.5cm Artillery Battery left over from this force’s previous iteration, and that’ll set me back 14 points. I could take them as a 7 point pair and keep the Tigers, but I kind of feel like I don’t want to be re-rolling hits with only two guns and having such fragile artillery support so that’s not a particularly appealing proposition. 

Instead, I could take two Tiger Tanks for 24 points and all four of my 10.5cm Guns for a total of 94 points, with 6 to play with, but I think given that Hit The Beach generously comes with three Panzer IVs, there’s a better option on offer.

What I’ll do is add two Panzer IVs to the three already in Hit The Beach and field a five-tank strong Panzer IV Mixed Tank Platoon as Formation Support for 28 points, and keep all four of my 10.5cm Guns. That’s 98 points, plus one for a dinky little Panzer II OP Observation Post bringing my total to 99 points.

I had a gander at some of the Panzer IV Normandy camouflage schemes on the Flames Of War website and found a few options. I put the choice to a few friends, and they unanimously voted that the top scheme was the best, and that I should in no uncertain terms, avoid the middle scheme. So I painted my Panzer IVs in a general approximation the top scheme, and of course took the middle scheme as inspiration for my Panzer II’s camo.

Panzer IV H in Normandy, France 1944. Base Colour: Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow). Camouflage: Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown).
Panzer IV H in Normandy, France 1944. Base Colour: Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow). Camouflage: Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown).
Panzer IV H in Normandy, France 1944. Base Colour: Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow). Camouflage: Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown).|

Fortress Europe Grenadier Company

Grenadier Company HQ- 2 pts
            +Paunzerfaust- 2 pts

Grenadier Platoon- 7 pts
+Panzerfaust- 2 pts
           +Panzerschreck- 2 pts

Grenadier Platoon- 7 pts
           +Panzerfaust- 2 pts
           +Panzerschreck- 2 pts

sMG34 Machine-Gun Platoon- 6 pts
8cm Mortar Platoon- 9 pts
7.5cm Tank-Hunter Platoon- 15 pts

FORMATION TOTAL—  56 pts

Support
Panzer IV Mixed Tank Platoon- 28 pts
10.5cm Artillery Battery- 14 pts
Panzer II OP Observation Post- 1 pts

SUPPORT TOTAL— 43 pts
GRAND TOTAL— 99 pts

So, assuming a friend and I decided to split two Hit The Beach boxes, and my friend took the US forces and I took the Germans, all I’ve added here is a few guns and some infantry weapons to give me a full army.

Not a bad force, and I’m looking forward to pitting it against another studio army.

Fortress Europe: Late War Additions

with Alexander Nebesky

When Fortress Europe arrives in June, Flames Of War players will be able to bring forward their Mid War forces to the Late War battlefields with a collection of formations comprising largely of units already existent in our Mid War range.

While most every Unit entry in Fortress Europe corresponds with a unit already available for purchase for Mid War, some units have a few alterations required to bring them up to speed with combat in Late War. I’ve written this handy list to give you an idea of what you can add to your units to give them all the options available to them in Fortress Europe.

M5 Stuart- The M5 Stuart is listed as an option for both British and American forces in Fortress Europe. Our brand new plastic M5 Stuart sprue is part of both our American and British Starter Forces and will be available as part of our July D-Day: American releases, so until then, grab a Starter Force or proxy in your Mid War M3 Stuarts. [UBX56]

StuG: The StuG in Fortress Europe is the same kit as the StuG (Late)  from Ghost Panzers, not the StuG (Early) from Iron Cross. [GBX123]

Panzerfaust: Although the new Panzerfausts special rule doesn’t require you to actually model any specific bases with Panzerfausts on them, we do like to do it for the look of it all. If you also want to sprinkle your Grenadier and Panzergrenadier platoons with Panzerfausts you can pick up [GSO113] from the web store.

Panzerschreck: The Fortress Europe Grenadier platoon can take a Panzerschreck anti-tank weapon for 2 points. If you want to add a Panzerschreck team to your platoon you’ll need [GSO112] from the online store.

Piat: The British Motor and Rifle platoons both receive an upgrade in anti-tank capability with the welcome addition of the Piat. To add a Piat to your Mid War British Desert infantry use [BSO103], a Piat team dressed in uniforms for the Italian theatre to match your Eighth Army figures, which you can pick up from the online store.

British Rifle: If you want to run a European theatre British infantry army in battle-dress brown, pick up a few sprues of [BSO197], two of which make a full Motor or Rifle platoon dressed and ready to storm the beaches.

The Big Four Of Late War – A Flames Of War Journey

with The Big Four, NZ Studio

On June 6, 1944, thousands of men were nervously waiting in landing craft, transport aircraft and bunkers as the fate of the world rested on their shoulders. The liberation of Europe was about to begin.

Collectively we (the “Big Four”) have been playing Flames Of War for around 50 years and we think that the Late War Journey is the one of the most exciting things to happen to the game since its original release back in 2001. Now, with people all around the world taking their first look at Late War and building new armies, we wanted to come on the journey with you and take a fresh look at our favourite period of Flames Of War.

Starting with the release of Fortress Europe we will be creating armies using our new Army Deals as the basis, building and painting from scratch, and then getting them on the tabletop to play some games…

Follow the Big Four on their own blog here…

Phil’s Move to Late War

with Phil Yates

I’m looking forward to the new late war books and trying out my various armies to see how they perform. I have nine mid and late-war forces that I could use, so let’s see how they go.

Late War British
Let’s start with my biggest collection, the Desert Rats in Normandy. I have a Motor Company and a Cromwell Armoured Squadron.

The Motor Company is fairly straightforward and can easily be built from Fortress Europe, although I’ll have to wait for the D-Day: British book next year for the specifically Desert Rats version with slightly different ratings and the command cards for their transport vehicles. My company has:

  • Motor Company HQ
  • 3-inch Mortar Section
  • 3x Motor Platoons
  • 3x Carrier Patrols
  • Vickers MG Platoon
  • 2x 6 pdr Anti-tank Platoon
  • 2x M10C 17 pdr SP Platoon

In Fortress Europe that comes to 94 points, so there’s room to add my Typhoons (using the Kittyhawk card for the moment) to take it to a round 100 points. For comparison, the same force from the old Overlord book comes to 1610 points* without the Typhoons.

With my Cromwell Armoured Squadron, I have two choices: field them as Shermans in the meantime, or wait for the D-Day: British book. I’d rather get them onto the table and have a few games, even if my Cromwells won’t be as fast as I’d like (but then again, the extra speed will be an exciting bonus when the Cromwell arrives!).

  • Sherman Armoured Squadron
  • 4x Sherman Armoured Troop
  • Stuart Recce Patrol
  • Motor Platoon

That comes to 97 points, so I might take the opportunity to throw in a Daimler armoured car troop as well.

Late War German
My German forces are a bit smaller with a very small Tiger SS Tank Company and a FHH Panzergrenadier Company.

My Tiger SS Tank Company is normally commanded by Michael Wittmann for a tiny, but elite force. Using Fortress Europe, I can field this six-tank company without Wittmann (I’ll have to wait for D-Day: Waffen-SS to add him). The company has:

  • Tiger Tank Company HQ
  • 2x Tiger Tank Platoons

Six tanks for 72 points, so that’s a better deal than before (it would have been 1300 points previously*). To bring the force up to 100 points, I could add a Panzergrenadier Platoon from my FHH Panzergrenadier Company and finally get around to adding some Sd Kfz 7/1 quad 20mm AA to my collection (although I could use some of my single 2cm AA from FHH in the meanwhile..

It will be a while before we get to the Lorraine battles where the Feldherrnhalle (FHH) panzer brigade fought, so meanwhile I’ll just field them as a normal Panzergrenadier Company. It would have:

  • Panzergrenadier Company HQ
  • 2x Panzergrenadier Platoon
  • Light AA Platoon (using my Sd Kfz 251/21 AA half-tracks)
  • Armoured 8cm Mortar Platoon (using my 12cm mortar platoon)
  • Armoured 7.5cm Gun Platoon
  • Armoured Flame-thrower Platoon
  • 2x StuG Assault Gun Platoons (using my Panzer IV/70)

That comes out at 96 points in Fortress Europe, so that’s pretty good. I’ll have to ponder what I might add to use those last four points.

So far then, it’s looking good for a conversion across from the old books to the new. I’ll have to wait a little for a perfect translation for a couple of my forces, but they’ll be fun to play in the meanwhile.

Mid War Forces
So what about my Mid-War forces? How will they fare? I have a Grant Armoured Squadron, a Panzer III Tank Company, and two variants of Soviet Tank Battalions.

My Enemy At the Gates Soviet mixed tank battalion isn’t really a good fit for Late War as both the KV-1 and T-60 are pretty much long gone by then (there were apparently a handful of KV-1 still fighting around Leningrad though!), although if I used the T-60s as T-70s and ignored the odd organisation, I could probably make a small 60-point force.

On the other hand, the Red Banner version transfers over nicely (especially if I get that SMG Company painted!).

  • T-34 Tank Battalion HQ
  • T-34 Tank Company
  • Valentine Tank Company
  • T-70 Tank Company

That all comes in at 51 points under Fortress Europe, so I might need to invest in another T-34 company to replace the T-70s, and possibly model some of the new tanks as up-gunned T-34/85. That would give me 28 tanks for 100 points!

My Grant Armoured Squadron really doesn’t cross over to Late War. The Grant was already on its way out at the Battle of El Alamein where my force fought, so it would be optimistic to expect to see it in battles nearly two years later. On the other hand, if I didn’t already have a late war armoured squadron and I wanted to give a mate a game, I’d probably consider fielding them as Shermans while I worked on a new Late-War force.

My Panzer III Tank Company would translate across a bit better as Fortress Europe has a Mixed Panzer III & IV Tank Company. My models are much earlier marks than you’d find in early 1944, and are painted in desert sand camouflage, but they’d do at a pinch, but it would have to be a small game as my whole force wouldn’t be much over 60 points – even proxying them as later model Panzers!

All-in-all though, if I didn’t have any Late-War forces and wanted to give it a go, I could certainly try out a few games using my Mid-War forces while I built up my Late-War collection.

What About the Romanians?
I also have a Late-War Romanian Panzer IV Tank Company. If I field it using the German Panzer IV Tank Company formation, it gets a bit of a skill and reliability upgrade, but works fine. Just focussing on the tanks, I’d have:

  • Panzer IV Tank Company HQ
  • 5x Panzer IV Tank Platoon (3 tanks each)
  • Grenadier Platoon

Since they are relatively better, and hence more expensive, I’d need to drop some tanks to get my 100mm howitzers in there, and even more to field a small infantry company. Or, looking at it from the bright side, I can field nearly 150 points for a really big game!

And the Score is…
Well, out of nine forces, five transfer over almost without a hitch, although I would need another ten T-34s to get to 100 points with my Soviets. Of the other four, I’ll need to proxy my Cromwells as Shermans to make that one work, and the other three Mid-War forces could be transferred across in some form, even though they are 1942 forces, but since I already have Late-War forces, I don’t think I’ll bother.

All-in-all, transferring over to Late War using the new books looks like it will be fairly straightforward for me..   

*The old books used a different points scale with typical forces being 1500 to 1750 points rather than 100 points.