British Command Cards

Australian 9th Divisional Cavalry – coming soon to a bar serving Fosters near you

One of the new innovations with v4 is the introduction of cards which affect game play in a manner similar to Tanks. Many players have been eagerly awaiting their release, and there has been much speculation on various social media for a while about what will be on them.

Breakthrough Assault were given access to the cards prior to release and we divided them up to give our opinions, as I don’t play Germans I offered to do the British cards. As a gamer I tend to place more importance on the historicity of a ruleset that on gaming systems, and I appreciate that my views in that respect may differ from other players, as a radio show over here in the UK is fond of saying “other opinions are available”

I struggle to get Mid War games in Scotland, as the period never really took off up here, and my non-Scottish regular opponent has his hands full with other priorities (new baby – Mark) at the moment so this article won’t be a Battle Report or full of interesting uses we’ve put the cards too, it’s simply a look at the cards, and my opinions about them. Battle reports and tactics articles will come later.

In my view the cards breakdown into 3 basic types:

Firstly new units or teams that can be added to the existing basic forces in Desert Rats. So there are cards which allow you to add a Formation of Australian or New Zealand Divisional Cavalry, to field your Motor Company as a Guards Unit or Indian Unit (from 22nd Guards Brigade or 3rd Indian Motorised Brigade), or to use a Humber Armoured Car formation. There are also cards for Pip Roberts and Arthur Currie – both granting bonuses to the Grant troops.

Unlike the old Mid War lists however, where non standard troop types often had different skill and motivation ratings and special rules, so for example Australian Div Cav were Fearless Veteran with the Australian special rules, the new cards either simply depict the “new” formations using the standard Desert Rats book organisations (in the case of both Div Cavs), or they change 1 of the stats on the standard unit organisation such as Morale or Counterattack. Now I suspect that this might not go down too well with all those players used to Fearless Veteran Aussies or Confident Veteran Kiwis, but from an historic perspective is there really a valid reason for rating the antipodean tank crews as better than their British counterparts? Yes, the Aussies had been using some tanks since the Syrian operation in 1941, but then so had many of the Tank, Cavalry and Yeomanry units in 7th Armoured Division.

Portees & Motor Transport

Secondly there are cards which add something or modify the way that standard British units work. There are quite a few different ways that the cards do this, either by adding something to a unit, changing the stats for a specific unit, or giving the formation commander a changed skillset. So in the first case for example there are cards which add motor transports to the Motor Company, or changes your 6pdr teams into Portees (unarmoured tank teams). In the second case there is a card which give Crusader units a special “Cavalry” ability, increasing their ability to make a “follow me” move and still shoot, whilst there is a card that gives a units tanks the “Scout” ability. I’ve picked these two because I think they are historically very good ( and I like Crusaders !), the cavalry card gives Crusaders the potential 18 inch move and shoot capability, whilst the “Scout” card gives the Div Cav tanks a realistic “recce” style role. For you Honey fans out there there is a “Short Halts” card which increase a Honeys speed to 14 inches, but only for the HQ vehicles, so not quite as useful as the “Cavalry” card. There are also cards which give bonuses on counterattack or shooting to a specific unit. Thirdly there are cards which give specific bonuses, but only to a Formation HQ team, so for example “semi-indirect fire” (which allows the Unit HQ to re-roll all misses in shooting step if halted, but irrespective of range), “teamwork” (increased rate of fire), “sweet shooting” (re-roll failed firepowers), “broadside” (a Crusader specific move and shoot full rate of fire card) and quite a few others, some with humorous (or not depending on your point of view) titles. For me these are less historic, why for example would only the Squadron commander be taught semi-indirect fire? Also their usefulness is somewhat mitigated by having to have the Formation commander in harms way, which is somewhat counter intuitive to my gaming style however limiting these abilities also help provide balance.

Lastly there are cards which can be played during the game to change outcomes. Some of these I think are actually a very good representation of wider strategic actions beyond the board, such as SAS Raid (which negates the first roll you opponent successfully makes for air support) or LRDG Raid (your opponent re-rolls their reserve rolls – note it doesn’t say successful reserve rolls so it may force reserves arriving early into your trap. These capture the flavour of the deep desert operations by special forces much better than fielding an SAS troop or LRDG troop on table in an unhistoric way would do (though I still think there is room for a wholly “raiding” list in time).
Others basically are discarded to make a specific change to one particular circumstances, so “Sticky Bombs” gives a one off Tank Assault 3 to an infantry unit in assault (with no-risk of blowing themselves up), whilst “For King and Country” means a unit automatically passes it’s last stand test if close to it’s Formation HQ, or “Artillery Expert” (moving a pre-programmed artillery marker), “Charmed Life” (discard to automatically pass a save) and lastly “Captured Tank” (discard the card and an infantry team, to use a tank you have destroyed in assault). Here my opinion is divided. From a historically perspective it makes sense to limit the supply of sticky bombs, units did not cart around the numbers necessary to allow unlimited use, I think there is probably less historically accuracy in some of the other cards.

So that’s a brief overview of what you’ll be getting. Going by some of the debate on various forums it might not be what people were expecting, they are certainly not just a method of expanding the lists in Desert Rats. Now all I have to do is find a willing victim to use my Cavalry Crusaders on (well my Germans are now painted – Mark)

14 thoughts on “British Command Cards

  1. Re: is there really a valid reason for rating certain sub-factions within nations as being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in the game, on an actual historical basis?

    Maybe or maybe not, but I want it and think its important just for the sake of putting some damned more variety in the game. Not the frankly boring, vanilla cookie cutter nonsense we are being sold by Battlefront here.

    I really do honestly wonder if we will even get SS going into the new Eastern front. Probably won’t be PC enough for the new target audience, plus it might be simply *too confusing* for new gamers to manage having two factions within the one nation.

  2. Got my command cards today, not very impressed to be honest. I’ve wargamed all my life and enjoyed the variety you got with V3, it really was a WW2 game. Now we seem to have a basic, and, honestly, pretty bland army list. I also don’t think the command cards are as simple as Battlefront want us to believe, for example “Cut them down”, explained as “…may re-roll failed To Hit rolls when Shooting during Defensive fire while being assaulted.” WTF. If BF wanted to do FoW lite, then they should have used Tanks as a basis.

    1. Im not sure why you dont think that is simple? While this is a different approach (being cost/optional on cards), its not really any different to the special rules you find for companies and units in the old books.

      1. That’s my point, the reason BF have given to introducing cards is to simplify the rules so as not to look through the book, just look at the card. The issue is, the book can give you examples that won’t fit onto a card. If they feel this will attract people that prefer cards, making the cards difficult to understand will more likely put them off.

        1. Totaly agree. The new mid war in the desert missing alot of flavor the last Editions got.
          It´s a nice game but nothing more. Nothing Special anymore to stand out of the simplified ruelset.
          And the Cards just Show what way BF is trying to go making. Not a way me as a Veteran of many FoW games realy like.

  3. I can probably live in a wargaming world without the SS if I’m being honest, but then I don’t play and of the fascist nations in Flames, and so my view is probably not reflective of the wider gaming world, but for me from an historical perspective the “flavour” that goes into a game needs to be justifiable, so in respect of the Australian and New Zealand Divisional cavalry in the desert, were they substantially so much better than their British counterparts to be graded differently, I’m yet to see any evidence of this, so I’m not sure it is “vanilla cookie cutter nonsense ” (though to be fair I’m also not 100% certain what this actually means). On the cards, I can say that I prefer my special rules in a book, that’s how I’ve always wargamed, and I’m not overly bought into the sort of hybridisation of board and wargames that cards brings (so for example I never really got on with Command and Colours or Memoir ’44), though I do play X Wing. My personal view is that about 30% of the cards are worthwhile (the new units and some unit wide add ons) whilst the rest leave me a bit “meh” or worse. I think like Paul, rules are best in books not on cards

  4. Rich

    Vanilla – A basic option with no special or unusual features.
    Cookie Cutter – Everything is the same.

    The Command Cards add sprinkles and chocolate sauce to the lists 🙂

  5. First of all, I am happy as a desert fan that BF is revisiting this battlefield with MW/V4. Finally a reason to finish my Brits 😉

    Got my cards last week but have not tried them yet. There are certainly some interesting options here. But to be honest it is not the “jump” in variety I hoped for. I was and I am a big fan of the old tomes Afrika and North Africa because you have everything you need in one place (so you see – I am in for quite a while), but am open to trying a book/card mix. It worked very well for me in the C&C world created by Richard Borg.

    I confess although these Cards brought some variety, I miss many of the little things that made units special such as the Portees being able to Tip&Run; now they are just mere carrieres for 6pdrs (which is not bad, just a pity). I could go on but will leave it with this.
    Anyway, looking forward to the second “Desert Book Round” to come (including more Germans, more Brits and Italians as well) to bring the variety and flavor I personally seek.

  6. Depending on how you choose to play Command cards i.e added to normal point limit or agree to a set amount of points. How do they factor in when working out reserves i.e may not deploy more than 60% of points on board ?

    Unit card upgrades – e.g deadly gunner add points to unit – so that unit now costs more
    Formation upgrades ?

  7. Marcel – I thought there was a special rule on portees that they get a plus one on a shoot and scoot roll in the main rule….though it’s been a long few days so I could be hallucinating that and am at work so can’t check

    Mark – the honest answer is I don’t know, I haven’t played with the cards I just reviewed the advance copy we got so not sure how they interact with the percentages, hopefully one of the other BA guys can tell you

    1. Richard – thanks for the hint. But as much as I wanted such a rule to be there, either I could not detect it in the main rulebook, CCs or the “army book” (for a lack of a better world but that it essentially is now).
      Anyway, I am not much of a tournament man which is why I am pretty free in my choice (not) to use them. Some are very cool like the one let you capturing an enemy tank, my beloved sticky bombs (although the Brits are now less prone to blowing themselves up accidentally) or or or…
      In the end it is a nice, non-mandatory addition that for now do not quite meet my expectations – saying that before I tried them out generously. But somehow just only a few of them yell at me: Support your men! Buy more Command Cards! which limits my eagerness to try out and combine them cards X-Wing style.

      I am excited how this card issue will sort out until MW Nationals/ MW Grand Tournaments coming up in 2018.

      1. Marcel – tip and run rules are in the V3/V4 hybrid for EW / LW so not in MW but at least I know I’m not imagining things !!

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