Fortress Europe: British Spotlight

with Phil Yates

After defeating the Germans and Italians in North Africa, the British took the fight to the enemy, invading Italy. At this point, the British Army was in transition from the Desert Rats of Africa to the much larger army that invaded France on D-Day. This book covers that transition. You can either build a mid-war style force to fight in Italy, or get a head start on a British force for the battles in Normandy.

The workhorse of the British armoured forces is the venerable 75mm-armed Sherman tank. After encountering the new generation of German heavy tanks, the British developed the Sherman Firefly, replacing the 75mm gun with a 17pdr gun. Typical platoons mix Shermans and Fireflies together to make cheap, versatile platoons that are capable of handling most situations, especially when backed by their motor infantry platoons.

Some situations require a bit more armour. The Churchill maybe slower than the Sherman, but its heavier armour means it can take heavier hits. Churchills are ideally paired with infantry, where their lack of speed is not a problem.

British infantry are assault experts, hitting hard and then staying put. On top of this, in the right situation, rifle companies can launch night attacks—giving them much needed cover as they rush towards their objectives.

A British force is like a golf bag, it has a club for every stroke. The key is picking the tool for the job at hand.

Sherman Armoured Squadron

  • Uses same Sherman tanks as Mid War. The organisation is almost identical, so easy to transfer across.
  • Upgrade with Firefly (17 pdr) for extra anti-tank capability, and add Stuart recce patrols for extra sneakiness.
  • Solid, cost effective medium tanks with the option of a nasty surprise for enemy heavy tanks.

Churchill Italy Armoured Squadron

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Flexibility to mix Churchill and Sherman units, and to add Stuart recce patrols for extra sneakiness.
  • Tough, slow, infantry tanks to grind their way through the enemy.

Rifle Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Tough, assault-oriented infantry.
  • Formation has integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and reconnaissance.
  • 6 pdr anti-tank guns have better anti-tank with the latest ammunition.
  • Lots of carriers as armoured elements for scouting, flank protection, and raiding.
  • Use night attacks to overrun the enemy before they see you clearly.

Motor Company

  • Similar organisation and equipment to Mid War, with more infantry platoons available, so easy to transfer across.
  • Small infantry units with lots of firepower, backed up with integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and reconnaissance.
  • 6 pdr anti-tank guns have better anti-tank with the latest ammunition.
  • Lots of carriers as armoured elements for scouting, flank protection, and raiding.
  • Great for holding ground while the armour takes the fight to the enemy.

Support

  • Similar organisation and equipment to Mid War, so easy to transfer across, although obsolete equipment like Humber armoured cars and Hurricane tank-busters are no longer available.
  • New M10 self-propelled anti-tank gives the British excellent anti-tank, particularly with the upgunned 17 pdr version.
  • Three batteries of 25 pdr or self-propelled M7 Priest artillery give British forces powerful artillery support.
  • Mike Target rule allows multiple artillery batteries to range in quickly for rapid and effective artillery support.

How Do the British Play?
The Germans in Fortress Europe are among the last of the old guard, trained before the tide turned, in the days when Germany was winning the war. They are rated as Confident, Veteran, and Careful, so are some of the best trained and most experienced troops available. Their faith in the thousand-year ‘Third Reich’ gives them a better Last Stand rating, so you can trust them to hang in there, even when things look bad.

This training follows in the footsteps of their legendary forebears, the stormtroopers of the First World War. Their Stormtroopers ability allows German troops to attempt two movement orders in each turn. Combined with their high skill rating, this allows them to fight with a finesse that no other army can match.

To go with this superb level of tactical prowess, German engineering provides you with the best tanks, such as the Panther and Tiger, and the most powerful guns, like the long 8.8cm which can penetrate any tank with ease. Even older tanks like the Panzer III have been brought up to the latest standards with bazooka skirts and HEAT ammunition.

In summary, a successful German force will use their superiority in equipment, training, skill, and cleverness, combined with a good dose of aggression, to keep the initiative, hit the enemy in their weak spots, while minimising the enemy’s opportunities to hit them back.

What to Expect in D-Day: British
Fortress Europe forces will transfer easily to D-Day: British and form the basis of solid Late War forces, ready to add on all the new kit that will appear. D-Day will bring new tanks like the speedy Cromwell and unarmoured and upgunned late-model Churchills — including the savage Churchill Crocodile flame-thrower, the most powerful flame-tank in existence. For air support, they’ll have the frighteningly-effective rocket-firing Typhoon fighter-bombers.

To reflect the harsh fighting in Normandy, D-Day: British will have two flavours. The fresh divisions are a little less eager to walk into the meat grinder than the troops in Italy, demanding heavy fire support to suppress the enemy, while the old hands of the Desert Rats are wondering why they are still leading the charge with untried troops sitting in Britain, so are reluctant to take unnecessary risks.

There will be lots of totally new options for a whole new D-Day force as well.

This isn’t to say that a force from Fortress Europe will be superseded. The troops in Italy can still hold their own against any comers, the ‘D-Day Dodgers’ just don’t have as many flash new toys as the troops in Normandy. Whether you stay in Italy, or are preparing to land in Normandy, Fortress Europe is the place for any British player to start their journey.

Fortress Europe: Soviet Spotlight

with Phil Yates

Through 1943, the Soviet Union has gone from victory to victory, throwing the Germans back almost to the borders of Russia in a non-stop series offensives, never giving them time to recover before the next blow falls. These successes have bought time for the Red Army to sharpen their tactics, and despite high casualties, keep formations intact long enough to retain these new skills.

The unrelenting pace of these offensives has led to a dichotomy between formations freshly rebuilt with new conscripts ready for the next offensive, and the heroic survivors that remain after each bloody battle, pushing on as they have time after time. So desperate is the need for troops that even obsolete equipment like the M3 Lee and the KV-1 are still found fighting on the flanks of the latest equipment like the T-34/85 that form the spearheads. The question is simply which of the many options will you field?

T-34 Tank Battalion

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Big formations with up to 25 tanks for less than 50 points.
  • Extremely fast medium tanks.
  • Upgrade with 85mm guns for extra anti-tank capability.
  • Big units of up to ten T-34 tanks for maximum staying power.
  • T-70 and Valentine light tank companies add numbers cheaply.
  • Integrated SMG and mortar companies for combined arms attacks.
  • Outnumber, outmanoeuvre, and outfight the enemy.
    • Field twice as many tanks as the enemy.
    • Use speed to unbalance the enemy and get flank shots on their tanks.
    • Greater numbers give greater firepower to overwhelm the enemy.

Hero T-34 Tank Battalion

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Smaller units – the survivors of many battles. More skilled. A rapier rather than a sledgehammer.
  • Still using the same doctrine, so still Aggressive.
  • Extremely fast medium tanks..
  • Upgrade with 85mm guns for extra anti-tank capability.
  • T-70 and Valentine light tank companies give flexibility.
  • Integrated SMG and mortar companies for combined arms attacks.
  • Give the Germans a taste of their own medicine using movement orders and speed to keep them off balance.

KV-1s Guards Heavy Tank Regiment

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Fast tanks with heavy armour and excellent assault capabilities.
  • Ideal for infantry support, clearing out enemy defensive positions and driving off enemy tanks.

Churchill Guards Heavy Tank Regiment

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Slow, heavily-armoured assault tanks.
  • Cost effective infantry support.

M3 Lee Tank Battalion

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Obsolete medium tanks with thin armour and limited mobility.
  • Hull and turret gun can shoot at different targets.
  • Cheap and cheerful fire support for infantry attacks.

Rifle Battalion

  • Similar organisation and equipment to Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Huge formations with up to 29 teams in a single unit.
  • Unstoppable assaults with big, hard-to-pin down, easy to rally units that charge 6”/15cm to get masses of troops into combat.
  • Komissars improve motivation.
  • Submachine-gun units for assault firepower.
  • Integrated weapons at all levels.
    • Machine-guns, anti-tank rifles, mortars, and flame-throwers in each unit.
    • Massed machine-guns, anti-tank rifles, heavy mortars, and anti-tank guns to soften up the enemy as you charge.
  • Expect high casualties with only a 4+ save – you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs!
  • Quantity has a quality all of its own!

Hero Rifle Battalion

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Smaller units – the survivors of many battles. More skilled and deadly.
  • Komissars still improve motivation.
  • Better rate of fire as higher proportion of automatic weapons amongst survivors.
  • Still using the same doctrine, so still Aggressive, but fighting smarter so 3+ save.
  • Still have integrated weapons – high ratio of heavy weapons to riflemen. These are duplicated from the Rifle Battalion for ease of reference.
  • Tough, aggressive troops.

Motor Rifle Battalion

  • Sameorganisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Huge formations with up to 35 teams in a single unit.
  • Unstoppable assaults with big, hard-to-pin down, easy to rally units that charge 6”/15cm to get masses of troops into combat, then hit really hard with excellent assault ratings.
  • Komissars improve motivation.
  • Submachine-gun units for even more assault firepower.
  • Integrated T-34 or light tank company for speed and firepower.
  • Integrated weapons at all levels.
  • Expect high casualties with only a 4+ save – you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs!
  • Quantity has a quality all of its own!

Hero Motor Rifle Battalion

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Smaller units – the survivors of many battles. Extremely skilled and deadly.
  • Komissars still improve motivation.
  • Better rate of fire as higher proportion of automatic weapons amongst survivors.
  • Extremely deadly in assaults.
  • Still using the same doctrine, so still Aggressive, but fighting smarter so 3+ save.
  • Still have integrated tanks and weapons – high ratio of heavy weapons to riflemen.
  • Really hard-bitten troops. Deadly up close and clever tactics.

Reconnaissance Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Elite infantry mounted in armoured transports.
  • Integrated light tanks or armoured cars, anti-tank guns, and mortars for combined arms.
  • Deadly highly-mobile shock troops.

Support

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • SU self-propelled guns for any purpose from light to heavy. Dual-purpose weapons – ideal for blasting the enemy at point-blank range, back-up role as artillery.
  • Elite, highly-skilled, tank-killers earn their triple pay – a long gun, a large salary, a short life!
  • Lots of cheap artillery, light 76mm guns, powerful 122mm howitzers, and Katyusha rocket launchers for saturation fire.
  • Deadly Il-2 Shturmovik armoured ground-attack aircraft armed with cannon and anti-tank bomblets!

How Do the Soviets Play?
The victories won by the Soviet Union in 1943 — Stalingrad, Kursk, Donbass, Dneiper, Smolensk, and Kiev amongst them — showed the increasing skill and power of the Red Army and threw the Germans onto the strategic defensive. As 1944 begins these hammer blows continue without respite.

A Wide Variety of Styles
However, by 1944, the Red Army was running out of people to replace casualties, so they created several tiers of formations. At the bottom of the pile were the rifle divisions who were usually desperately short of riflemen. To solve this problem, they’d conscript any adult males from the areas they liberated straight into the ranks. The result was renewed strength, but very limited skill, so they are rated Confident, Green, and Aggressive with a save of just 4+. These massive formations were quickly attrited down to the same old band of heroes who had fought their way back westward since Stalingrad. These heroes are rated Confident, Veteran, and Aggressive, reflecting their crafty tactics and brutal hand-to-hand combat skills, while retaining their aggressive tactics that put defeating the Germans above personal survival.

The tank battalions follow a similar pattern, with the tough heroes of a dozen battles rated as Confident, Trained, and Aggressive with their ‘Crafty’ tricks reflected in a better Tactics rating. When rebuilt with conscripts fresh from training, of necessity their tactics become simpler and their skill rating drops to Green, although their determination to take ‘Not One Step Back’ gives them a better Last Stand rating.

The motor rifle brigades that supported the tanks were given priority for the available manpower as they were seen to be the key to ultimate victory. With almost as many officers and NCOs as soldiers, even freshly-raised units fought with skill, so are rated as Confident, Trained, and Aggressive, although still have the speed and lowered save associated with massed tactics. Once they get battle-hardened, the heroic survivors are rated as Veteran. Like most Soviet infantry, their aggressiveness and high proportion of automatic weapons give them an improved Assault rating as they fight ‘For the Motherland’.

The Sledgehammer or the Rapier?
As you can see, there are two distinct sides to the Red Army, the units brought back up to strength or the next offensive with raw recruits doomed to a very bloody and usually very brief introduction to combat, and the battle-hardened survivors, the heroes of many battles who had seen recruits come and go many times.

These two play very differently on the table. The huge units of new recruits are a sledgehammer, swung with maximum force at the key point in the enemy line, smashing through with devastating speed and crushing strength. They will take huge casualties, so you need to be bloody minded and focus on victory above all else. You must win quickly while you have the strength to shatter your foe, or watch your forces bleed away to nothing.

The heroes of many battles still need to fight aggressively, as their strength will also bleed away quickly, but they need to use finesse rather than massed numbers. They must use their superior speed and skill to gain local superiority in numbers, firepower, and position, then cut the enemy apart.

No matter what their level of skill, Soviet troops have lots of firepower, often from larger calibre guns than their opponents, and are deadly up close. The key to victory is using speed and aggression to overwhelm a section of the opponent’s force at close range, before exploiting their success to win victory.

What to Expect in Bagration
As you’d expect, when the Bagration book arrives, it will expand on the forces in Fortress Europe with bring new equipment like the powerful IS-2 heavy tank with its 122mm gun, thick armour, and the speed of a medium tank, the ISU self-propelled versions mounting guns as big as 152mm, and the deadly SU-100 tank killer that can easily make short work of a German Tiger or Panther! The book will introduce new formations such as specialist assault troops, ideal for breaking through German defences and clearing out fortified towns and cities.

However, we won’t get to Operation Bagration and the Eastern Front for a while, so to keep Soviet players going until then, the Soviet component of Fortress Europe is pretty beefy (easily the biggest in the whole book). It’s got lots of stuff to help you build the core of your collection and start playing.

Fortress Europe: Americans Spotlight

with Phil Yates

The US Army focused on standardisation to enable it to fight a war on a far-away continent. At the beginning of 1944, they had one type of medium tank, one type of light tank, one armoured infantry organisation and one infantry organisation.

This makes it easy if you are planning to field an American force. Your most important decision is how to combine these standardised components to win your battles. Do you want to go tank-heavy, with just a little infantry support? Do you want to field a solid infantry force with a few tanks for backup? Or do you want to field a balanced mix with the right tool for every situation?

M4 Sherman Tank Company

  • Uses same M4 Sherman tanks as Mid War, including the same T30 75mm assault guns and M3A1 armoured cars in the integrated support.
  • Cost-effective medium tanks with integrated support. A full company of 17 tanks with a recon patrol and self-propelled mortars and artillery for just 70 points!
  • Stabilisers for greater volume of fire on the move.
  • Flexibility. Can swap out a platoon of M4 Shermans medium tanks for a platoon of M5 Stuart light tanks.

M5 Stuart Tank Company

  • New upgraded M5 Stuart light tank. Just as fast as the Mid-War M3 Stuart, but better armour and not so reckless.
  • Exceptionally fast, ideal for flanking manoeuvres.
  • Cheap light tanks with the same integrated support as the M4 Sherman Tank Company.
  • Flexibility. Can swap out a platoon of M5 Stuart light tanks for a platoon of M4 Shermans medium tanks.

Armoured Rifle Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Armoured M3 half-tracks for battlefield mobility, even under fire.
  • A weapon for every occasion.
    • Platoons have riflemen, light machine-guns, mortars, bazookas, and half-track-mounted machine-guns.
    • Formation has integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and self-propelled artillery.
  • Massed firepower overwhelms the enemy when attacking and shoots down any attack.
  • Large, resilient platoons withstand a lot of enemy fire.

Rifle Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Cost-effective infantry with large, cheap platoons that can withstand a lot of enemy fire.
  • Platoons can be further reinforced with extra bazookas and light and heavy machine-guns for more firepower.
  • Formation has integrated heavy machine-guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and self-propelled artillery.
  • American riflemen manoeuvre quickly at dash speed.

M10 Tank Destroyer Company

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Massed self-propelled anti-tank guns, with up to 12 in a company.
  • Integrated recon patrols for perfect initial deployment spearheading into No Man’s Land to flank enemy tank attacks.
  • Use Seek, Strike, and Destroy doctrine to blitz into position and then scoot back out of sight after shooting up the enemy.
  • As mobile as a medium tank, and almost as well armoured, but fewer machine-guns and no top armour, so stay away from enemy infantry.

Support

  • Same organisation and equipment as Mid War, so easy to transfer across.
  • Three batteries of towed 105mm or self-propelled M7 Priest artillery give American forces powerful artillery support on top of the integrated artillery in formations.
  • Time on Target rule allows supporting artillery to make enemy infantry and guns re-roll successful saves for extra deadliness.

How Do the Americans Play?
The American forces in this book represent the fresh divisions pouring into Europe ready for the D-Day landings. They are well trained and eager for battle, although still lacking in actual combat experience to polish off the rough edges and teach them the difference between training and life-or-death battle. Most are rated as Confident, Trained, and Aggressive. Their eagerness shows in their ‘Blood and Guts’ approach to warfare which gives their tanks a better Last Stand rating and their infantry a better Rally rating.

American tanks have stabilisers, so they can fire as quickly on the move as at the halt (although not as accurately). On the other hand, they are not heavily armoured and mount mid-range guns, so need to use weight of numbers and clever manoeuvring rather than frontal firefights to defeat enemy tanks.

Their infantry have Garand semi-automatic rifles and BAR automatic rifles, as well as half-track-mounted weapons, and can fire just as well on the move as they can when halted. They are fast moving and have plenty of fire support. Let their support pound the enemy while the manoeuvre, then swamp the enemy in fire and roll over them from an unexpected direction.
The American strategy can be summarized in the phrase mobile tactics. They win by using their mobility and numbers to outflank their opponents and keep them off balance, while applying massed firepower to overwhelm any opposition.

What to Expect in D-Day: American
Your Fortress Europe force will easily transfer to D-Day: American, gaining some useful new kit and skills in the process. Your tankers will appreciate upgunned M4 Shermans mounting 76mm and 105mm guns, and your infantry will find the new 57mm anti-tank gun an improvement over their old 37mm gun.

Some of your older equipment like the M3A1 armoured car and T30 self-propelled guns will be phased out, to be replaced with improved M8 armoured cars, M20 scout cars, and M8 Scott self-propelled guns.

D-Day Americans will also bring veteran American formations. These troops have been through the school of hard knocks. They’ve learned the hard way, so they aren’t as gung ho any more, but their tactics are much better.

There will be lots of totally new options for a whole new D-Day force as well.

As you’d expect these improvements come at a cost, and some players will elect to stick with what they have in Fortress Europe, preferring extra numbers over increased performance. Whichever way you go, your Fortress Europe force is a solid base for any future developments.

Fortress Europe Overview

 with Phil Yates

Fortress Europe is the first step on the journey from the battlefields of Normandy to the ragnarok of Berlin. It is the first Late War book written specifically for the latest version of Flames Of War.

This book has three targets:

  1. It’s the ideal place for a beginner to start their journey, giving them a sampler from four different nations.
  2. It’s a great way to transition your Mid War army over to Late War.
  3. It gives British, Soviet, and Eastern Front German players a place to start collecting their Late War forces until they get their own campaign books.

For a Beginner Starting their Journey
Fortress Europe is a great sampler for a beginner just starting out as it covers the big four of Late War: Americans, Germans. British, and Soviets. This gives you the chance to see the types of equipment, the levels of training, and the play style of each army before deciding which to collect. It also has the added bonus of giving you valuable insights into the opposition you’ll face on the table top!

For a Mid War Player Transitioning
If you already have a Mid War army, you can probably use a lot of it as the basis of a Late War army. Fortress Europe includes all of the Mid War troops and equipment that can make this transition. The big difference between your Mid War army and its Late War incarnation will be the points.

While infantry are pretty much the same points in both periods, tanks get a lot cheaper, so the American M4 Sherman tank goes from 8 points each as a pretty powerful Mid War tank, to less than 4 points each as a baseline Late War tank, even with better skill! The Tiger changes even more, dropping from a hefty 29 points as the super tank of Mid War, to just 12 points as a powerful, but certainly not unbeatable, Late War tank.

At the top end though, the super tough Ferdinand tank-hunter still has exceptional armour and an exceptional gun, so its points only went down from 17 points to 13 points. At the bottom end, a patrol of three Luchs scout tanks went from 6 points to 5 points, since its function as a lightly-armed and lightly-armoured reconnaissance vehicle hasn’t really changed.

These changes make the same army play quite differently. Your M4 Sherman tank company goes from being a handful of powerful tanks to a horde, your Panther tank company moves from the realm of super tanks to become a good medium tank, and so forth. There’s a lot to learn about how to handle your force in this brave new world and a lot of fun to be had doing so.

For British and Eastern Front Players
Late War will be a journey from the beaches of Normandy to the end of the war at Berlin. It will be an exciting adventure, but like anything worthwhile, it will take time to reach our destination. So, much as we’d love to be able to give every nation and theatre exciting new books right now, someone has to wait. Meanwhile, Fortress Europe gives British, Soviet, and Eastern Front German players the opportunity to start collecting their army and get some games in while they are waiting.

What’s In The Book?
Fortress Europe starts with a brief history of the second half of World War Two before diving into the big four of late war: Americans, Germans. British, and Soviets. Each of these has an introduction giving you an idea of their approach to this war, a guide to their most important tanks, their force diagram, their special rules, and then an extensive list of various formations that they can field. The book ends with a comprehensive two-page basing guide telling you how all of the different infantry teams and guns are based, and a catalog of the exciting new Late War products arriving in stores near you.