Flames of War – Bulge British Review (Competitive) – Part One

Hi there boys and girls, Fred here with my first article for Breakthrough Assault.
Today I would like to take a dive into the new book for Late War, Bulge British. While we have already looked at the book from a general point of view I will leap into it from a competitive perspective. So buckle in because it’s going to be a journey! 

New toys, same gameplay ?

What’s new for the British ?

First of all, let me say that this book is pretty much in line with what Bulge US did for competitive lists compared to D-Day US.
We got back our “old favourites” (or not…) with Sherman, Cromwell, Churchill, Armoured Cars/Carriers, Tank Destroyers, Artillery/AT/AA Guns (including SP), Infantry (Regular, Motor and Paras), Typhoon, and Engineers Tanks.
We also got new toys to play with (Comet, Challenger, Rams, Land Mattress, Matador AC, Staghound, more Paratroops), as well as different builds with  AT15, Artillery, and “Assaulting Troops”…

The British book and US book releases do differ though. Bulge US was a much need expansion to their forces to get the US Faction up to where I consider it competitive in Late War. This is mainly due to improved access to AT13+ to deal with medium and heavy tanks something sorely lacking with D-Day and Fortress Europe). The Brits didn’t need to wait for their Bulge book to be competitive: they are already and some would argue they were top of the food chain; the apex predator.

History! by Zhukov - The Military History Emporium — A Canadian Universal  Carrier tows a 6-pounder...
Apex. Predator.

Playing this book straight off the shelf, British players will notice their forces from late 1944 – early 1945 are tougher, leaner and meaner.  Increased armour, increased anti-tank, easier access to artillery, troops that have/can get better motivation … the Brits sure wanted the war to be over ASAP!

The Cromwell tanks line got expanded to include its familial cousins the Challenger and Comet.  Same “speedy” pattern, more punch/armour – what is not to like!

The Sherman tanks got a boost too with access to more Fireflies with better anti-tank, as well as having an option for artillery platforms (also with an option to get angry Sherman 76mm (Poland Division)).

The Churchill remains pretty much the same as D-Day, with the notable inclusion of being able to make all Churchill units Fearless (the addition of an awkward single independent Panther is, well, instantly forgettable).

The Ram tanks are introduced as an alternative to Sherman (same price, 6pdr instead of 75mm, which is at best an OK trade-off… but there are less options in the formation. Interesting that a Remount 2+, which, as per “Patton precedent”, is not something to be dismissed that quickly). Both the Sherman and Ram formations sport lot of inbuilt Recce (Stuart, Jalopies, Chaffee and Dingo) and some AA for nicely rounded formations.

Next up, the infantry formations (Motor and Rifle) are the same as they were from Fortress Europe/D-Day, but with the additional sauciness of access to armoured transport options, in the form of either half-tracks (with the possibility of machineguns now) or Ram Kangaroos (a much better version than the D-Day one!), respectively. This is all further enhanced with Command Cards boosting their motivation so they can get into and hang around longer in assaults. 

The Paratroopers have options with the possibility to tailor the size/composition of their platoons. So you can have Last Stand 2+ or Counter Attack 2+ (Polish Black Berets). Both options are much better in the offence than defence considering their low access to AT.

All of this is backed up by a variety of strong support options. Artillery (25pdr/Sexton, Priest, Land Mattress, AVRE), AT 15 Tank Destroyers (17pdr, M10, Archers), Flames Tanks (Crocodile but also RAM Badgers) and Air/AA (Typhoon, Bofors).

Out of all of these options of note are the Sextons, same as D-Day, but 4 are 2 points cheaper, the Land Mattress, a delightful mix of Fearless + Salvo + each gun counts as two for firing purposes (these are sold in a box of 4 and surely that means you might see two units of 2!), and PIAT Battery, Bren Carrier having no other weapons but short range Saturation bombardment template.

One box, 3 (4 actually…) vehicle options: good product BF!

Even with AT 15, the Archer’s inability to move and shoot at the same cost as the already pervasive M-10C (Achilles) from British D-Day, will mean it may struggle to find a spot in your list. It is useful as an ambushing unit/one-use weapon but you might find those points better invested elsewhere. On foot 17pdr may be more welcomed as, even if they are more expensive than in D-Day, they can get Ram Kangaroos transports for cheap (and move if need be).

We then have even more assault units including engineers, with new (expensive) flamethrowers. And Finally, of course, even more Recce than those already offered by the D-Day iteration (like… a lot more).

So what does this all mean from a competitive stand point?

Late War Brits in V4 had always been an army of specialists; their army is the made up of experts troops, with aggressive to very aggressive pricing, at the expense of options for all-comers units. Position your troops well against the proper target, you will win the day. If not, the opponent will exploit their lack of flexibility to wipe them. For me, Bulge British has two layers :

1. Making the specialists even better at what they do.

2. Providing all-comers Units.

The first layer is truly in line with the V4 LW British approach, but not always a needed addition for British players.  After all, “better” can be the enemy of “good”, and if it’s not broken, why fix it ? To that extent, the tougher/meaner options provided by this book do make the British units more scary individually, but can make their overall list balance challenging.

For example:

The 17pdr gaining +1 AT makes tank busting all the more easier for the British, but it isn’t free. Considering AT 14 was, most of the time, good enough to tackle tanks, the trade-off of  +1 AT for the points may not worth it. Still, being better at what you do when you are a specialist is frankly not bad. The whole point of the book is letting players decide if they do want their specialists to be even more expert (and thus pay the price), or not.

The second layer is an interesting development, as it opens new horizons for the British players and their builds. While they used to rely heavily on combining forces, they gain access to self-supporting, independent units that can pretty much cover a variety of roles their commander requires.

For example:

The new Sherman Guards unit can have a combination of two Sherman 75mm, two Sherman Firefly with AT 15, and also be all equipped with Tulip Rockets that allows for a one use short-range saturation artillery bombardment that can threaten infantry and gun teams with its Firepower 2+. 

This gives a mobile, armoured unit with several layers of threats, able to play most roles on the battlefield, and even shift roles as the battle progresses. This also applies with the infantry, where the Rifle Formation, with its Ram, PIAT Carriers and Command Cards options make for very versatile formation albeit in need off some AT to back it up (no, the British Rifle companies are are not the new US Armoured Rifle Company with its bazooka-a-thon).

Competively, I rate Bulge British still below D-Day British though, which remains, I believe, the most competitive book of V4 Late War so far. So, how does this book stack up with what we already have from D-Day British? Tune in next time when I dive even deeper in to the Bulge…  

Cheers from France! 

9 thoughts on “Flames of War – Bulge British Review (Competitive) – Part One

  1. It’s very hard to write an article on competitiveness without actually talking about points cost of units. Having two firefly’s at AT15 in a sherman platoon now does me no good if they cost too much relative to the M10 Achilles from D-Day.

    1. You can’t compare exactly 4 M10 to 4 Sherman (whatever AT or Firefly you put in them).
      As stated in the article, prices goes up with an algorythm which is « abnormal » but understandable globally. Now, as always, the question is about balance. If you are « over paying » some items compare to DDay but « underpaying » others, then the trade may worth it.
      You can’t do a « like for like » Bulge list compared to DDay.

  2. I was worried about this because I have found the D-Day book to be a very good book against most armies. I am casual but I can also easily make a strong army from D-Day. I run paratroopers, crocs, and m-10 achillies and the list runs rather well and is very balanced. The points increase for just one at is a lot when you can get another take for a few points and weight of dice makes a difference. Running 8x D-Day achillies rips through most units and smoke takes care of units like the king tiger. I am hoping for some highlights for the other half of the book. I am interested in the land mattress and hoping the aircraft is there is some in the set.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Nicely done, and makes this Brit player looking forward to the book.

    I understand your “competition” view, but I’m also disheartened as a historical-based player. Ram formation?? Really??? Where was this used in the ETO?

    1. the quick answer is that of course it wasn’t and we’re planning an article on this for the New Year

    2. My question to these comments about the what-if units, whilst I’m not discrediting them, is have you ever played a game with two forces that never fought each other, or ensured you only ever play a perfect like for like of a battle that actually took place with exact unit type matches etc? If not, you have played a what-if version of WW2, which is what these units also are. I just think the counter argument should be considered, as I see a lot of hypocritical noise around them. There is enough scope in the game to play historical and have some fun, and still providing formations to give more real world historical battles.

  4. Enjoyed the article. Looking forward to getting the Comets on the table.

    Is the RAM 6 pdr AT 11 with no HE?

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