Casey “Comrade” Davies has built more Soviet models than anyone can count, with an astounding seven complete Strelkovy Companies to his name. After some debate, he grabbed the new Soviet Army Deal whilst making noises about wanting to try his hand at building a new Hero Company. Like Victor, he spends his days creating the books, cards, and imagery that you see whenever you play a game of Flames Of War (or Team Yankee).
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!
“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
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.
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.
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.
Everyone here in the Auckland Studio is getting along with their Launch Day projects:
Patch is editing my interview with Phil (and looks none too pleased with the interruption):
Ales is working on his very special secret project:
Chris is readying his German force for a battle against Victor later today:
Aaron is chipping away at those British Shermans he’s tasked himself with finishing:
And Andrew and Wayne are throwing down in the break room:
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.
Join Andrew as he walks you through our upcoming Hobby League! Be sure to pester your local store or club to get a copy so you and your gaming buddies can help grow a Flames Of War group in your community!