I’ll admit to some cynicism when I picked up the Free Nations review PDF. Four nations covered by one book, one a major NATO member (France left the intergrated command structure but still remained within NATO)? Surely, given previous TY books had about four lists in, that would mean some sacrifices on army lists and units? Did we really need Australians to take away content?
Well, I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Free Nations is a lot closer to Stripes in content than the previous books, giving France and the Dutch four lists each – on par with the Iron Maiden and Leopards content, whilst the Canadians and ANZAC gain a tank and mechanised infantry list each. Not too bad for an ensemble piece!
We will be going over each nation in more detail over the next few weeks, with Mark looking at the Australians (having previously written some “get you by” ANZAC content for Firestorm: Red Thunder), Richard looking at the French, and myself dealing with the remaining two countries. In this article I’ll provide a quick look at the contents of the book and a brief overview of the nations.
The book follows the now standard format for Team Yankee army books. The inside cover shows the situation of Europe with the Warsaw Pact pushing into West Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, but the US led counter attacks starting to push in from Jutland and central Germany. The news snippets (a plot device borrowed from the start of the novel Team Yankee and used since by the army books) deal with the build-up and start of the war, covering French, Dutch, Canadian and Australian sources.
After that we go into the Day 1 map showing the split and location of commands (LANDJUST, NORTHAG, etc) and associated units. Importantly for the book, we can see the ANZAC brigade, Netherlands 1st Corp and French 3rd Corps in NORTHAG; French 2nd Corps and 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in the newly formed SOUTHAG with 1st French Corps in reserve in France but positioned to reinforce SOUTHAG. This may help players inform as to which allies will go with which forces, and what drives the allied support units that appear in some lists.
Corp level maps in each section show how the units interact with other nations, plus the threat they face – one day Czechs. One day…
The army lists follow, grouped by nation with armoured lists leading the pecking order. Each list has the normal flavour text (a short vignette and then a more detailed analysis of unit history pre and post the first shots), a corps level map and then a fictional account of the unit in battle, with posed pictures of nicely painted models doing their thing. As usual NATO kill droves of hapless Warsaw Pact BMP and tanks, but some of the forces do at least have NATO having to give up ground under the onslaught.
I especially liked the Netherlands map, showing the frontage a corps would have to cover
As with other books, appropriate sized forces are illustrated.
After the army lists, we have the scenarios. We get Dutch Infantry vs a T-64 Battalion in a fighting withdrawal style mission; Canadian Leopards attacking a defending BMP Motor Rife Battalion with T-64 in support in a hasty-attack style mission; French AMX-30 and AMX-10P formations versus a Soviet T-72 battalion in an inserting mission with two objectives in one corner, the Russians in the opposing corner and the French all along the far long edge in a mobile battle/meeting engagement affair. The latter is probably the most interesting scenario and one I may try with alternate forces.
It’s the age old race the wheeled vehicles down the roa…ah crap. The enemy did that too…
Despite being three different forces, the scenario can be played as a linked campaign and, as ever, the points values are provided for alternative forces.
We next have the painting section which covers olive drab vehicles and NATO 3 colour, ANZAC infantry camo and “NATO Infantry” to cover everyone who wears a plain green uniform. The aircraft section covers the Gazelle and Mirage 5.
Finally we have the catalogue sections. This confirms that the Leopard 1 kit does cast and welded hulls and that the cast hull has extra armour for the Dutch configuration. We also have a new “Canadian” M113 box which does TOW and Blowpipe versions, and an Australian version which has T50 turrets and includes mortar crews and Redeye teams. Infantry appear to be metal with each nation having its own set. Curious in its absence is the AMX-10P which has previously been mentioned as a plastic kit but does not appear in the catalogue. The YPR-765 and VAB are both resin kits though the YPR-765 includes the plastic M901 sprue for the launcher.
Finally the inside back covers compare the Leopard 1 to AMX-30 and covers their history and performance. A nice closer to the book.
The Canadian force chart for the 4th Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group allows a player to field:
- up to three Leopard C1 squadrons from the Royal Canadian Dragoons
- four M113 Mechanised Company form the 1st Battalion Royal 22 Regiment
- plus an allied NATO formation (all the lists in the book allow this latter option).
The Canadians have stats similar to the US (4’s across the board) but with a better base skill of 3+ making them more reliable on following movement orders.
The Canadian Leopard 1 is similar to its West German counter-part, excepting a slightly lower morale (4+ not 3+) but a gain of “Brutal” for the L7 105mm and a marginal increase in the price per tank. The formation can also field up to 19 of the tanks, thanks to a 3 tank strong HQ troop.
If the Leopard 1 company has parallels to the West Germans then the infantry platoons of the M113 Mechanized Infantry Company feel a bit more like the British thanks to the large platoons, Carl Gustavs, platoon mortars (60mm rather than 51!) and sustained fire GPMG (albeit integral rather than attached and rechambered M1919 rather than the FN FAL). What that they do lack is a man portable ATGW. Instead they gain up to nine M150 TOW tracks (three in three troops), a poor man’s ITV that lacks ‘Hammerhead’, making them slightly more wary of enemy fire.
Both formations have the Lynx as recce too
The force has Canadian support in the form of M109 SP howitzers, Blowpipe MANPADS (fighting mounted in M113 rather than FV432 as with the British lists) and the bonkers SAM-but-with-anti-tank-24-fround-attack ADATS (Air-Defence Anti-Tank System. Yes, that’s its name); Its early appearance being hand waved as twist units rushed to the front. Given it didn’t enter service till 1988, that’s a hell of a rush! It also has in-force support from the US (Cobras, warthogs and a choice of M1, M60 or an M113 mechanised platoon) OR West Germany (LARS, a PAH flight, Tornado or a choice of Leopard 2 or Marder mounted infantry). These are separate to any NATO allied formation you may field from, the already mentioned slot.
I’ll be looking at the Canadians in more detail, including list ideas, in the coming weeks.
The French finally arrive but make up for lost time with quality and quantity. The force can field:
- Up to three AMX-30 Escadron Blindé formations from the 12Ème Regiment de Cuirassiers
- Up to three AMX-10P Compagnie De Shasseurs formations from the 19Ème Groupement De Chasseurs
- Up to four VAB Compagnie D’Infanterie formations from 110Ème Regiment D’Infanterie
- Up to three AMX-10RC Escadron de Cavalerie from the 3Ème Regiment de Hussards
- One NATO allied formation
French troops have a high skill and courage (3+) good assault and counter attack (4+) but a low morale (5+). Casualty management will be a necessity.
The French formations have little in the way of supporting assets in-formation, generally restricted to be able to swap out one non-compulsory platoon for a platoon of the opposing type (So tanks can have a supporting infantry platoon, etc).
The AMX-30 is a relatively light main battle tank that follows the same logic as the Leopard 1 – “we can’t defeat anti-armour rounds, so better to be fast enough to not be where the enemy shoots”. The French 105mm matches the L7 for capability (albeit unstabilised) whilst the chassis can match it for speed (but not for obstacle clearing being only a 4+ cross). It also has a better front armour of 11, enough to turn small calibre auto cannons and provide some marginal protection versus shoulder fired anti-tank rockets. Finally, it packs a 20mm autocannon, elevating independently of the main armament, to protect against enemy helicopters and soft skins.
The AMX-10P is similar to the Marder in terms of IFV performance, but is amphibious. The platoons are larger; nine infantry and five IFV, if the Milan section is added, versus five infantry and three IFV for the Germans; and they include shoulder launched rocket teams in the form of the AT17 LRAC or AT21 APILAS giving good close and long range anti-tank. The infantry themselves have FAMAS assault rifles and a surprisingly punchy (AT13) anti-tank rifle grenade optional shot. The VAB infantry are similar, differing mainly by having an extra two FAMAS teams; the AMX-10P being swapped for a VAB wheeled transport with attendant mobility advantages and disadvantage, a 12.7 MG as the only armament but interestingly better side armour; and a smaller optional MILAN section of only one team.
But what really differentiates the VAB formation is the ability to take an eight post Milan missile team (plus 4 VAB transports)! Combined with the extra infantry platoon compared to an AMX-10P formation, I find myself liking the motorised infantry a lot.
Finally, the AMX-10RC is by far one of the most deadly recce vehicles introduced to NATO so far. Packing a 105mm of similar performance to the AMX-30, the AMX-10RC hits hard, but its something of a glass cannon with only armour 2! Its also only marginally cheaper than a AMX-30 platoon of similar size. Still, it does have that typical French sense of style, plus Scout and Spearhead, going for it. Definitely one for those with a sense of élan and probably one of the more unique formations in the NATO range.
Frankly the 105mm seems like overkill for this scenario…
The force also has a full range of French support assets with anti-tank (VAB Mephisto and its elevating HOT launcher), anti-air (Roland and the auto-cannon armed AMX-13 based DCA) and up to two batteries of artillery (AMX AuF1 which, as previously reported, is a plastic kit with the AMX-30).
Air assets consist of the Mirage 5 day fighter bomber armed with yet another AT8 FP3 Salvo cluster bomb and interestingly two flavours of Gazelle, a HOT Hunter Killer and a 20mm autocannon armed “gunslinger” version to escort them. “Gunslinger” allows it to fire before air defence reaction shots, allowing them to suppress or kill generally weakly armoured Anti-air assets. It certainly sounds like something that may mix up the air war somewhat.
All in all, its exciting stuff. Resident Warsaw Pact player Richard has finally found a NATO force he can get behind and will be looking at the French in more detail over the next few weeks and no doubt an army project in the longer term!
Much like the French, the Dutch bring four formations to the fight. The force for the 4th Divisie consists of:
- Up to three Leopard 2 Eskadron formations from the 43 Tank Batalion
- Up to three Leopard 1 Eskadron formations from the 41 Tank Batalion
- Up to three YPR-765 mounted Pantserinfanterie Compagnie formations from 42 Pantserinfanterie Batalion
- Up to one Verkennings Eskadron from 103 Verkennins Batalion, bringing a mix of Leopard tanks and Lynx Recce vehicles – effectively armoured Cavalry
- Plus up one NATO allied formation
The Dutch are 4’s across the board (excepting tank remount and the infantry save of course!)
The Dutch Leopard Eskadrons are basically similar in composition; four tank peloton, one of which can be exchanged for a Pantserinfanterie peloton. A PRAT (YPR chassis with M901 Hammerhead turret) antitank peloton, a PRTL (Dutch Gepard basically – same chassis, same turret, different radar systems) peloton and a M113 C&V verkennings Ploed with the M113 and a half recce vehicle. The tanks match their German equivalents, with the Leopard 1 have the same cost as the German ones (which feels slightly harsh given the lower skill and morale), whilst the Leopard 2 offers a small saving.
This would appear to confirm that the cast turret has separate extra armour as we discussed in the Salute news article
The Dutch infantry can field up to three platoons, each with a mix of GPMG, Carl Gustav and Dragons (think a British infantry platoon but no mortar and backed by a pair of M72 Dragon instead of Milan), plus a quartet of the YPR-765 IFV, combining M113 levels of protection with similar firepower to a USMC LAV-25. The non-compulsory third platoon can be swapped out for a Leopard (1 or 2) platoon. The formation also boasts the same support assests as the tanks (anti-tank, recce and anti-air), plus a 120mm mortar platoon.
The final formation is the most interesting in the book to my mind, though it may be in the chinese “interesting times” way if I ever fielded it!
The Verkenings Eskadron is made up of two to six M113 C&V ploeg (Team) , one to three Leopard Verkennings peloton(choose 1 or 2 and no mixing), plus an optional M106 Mortar Peloton (three 107mm mortars) and up to one M113 Tirailleur Peloton (somewhat akin to the CVR(T)’s Spartan infantry platoon.
Its a bit like the US Armoured cavalry but there is an important catch; The C&V and Leopard platoons are all two tank strong platoons. Given how the game’s morale system hates two tank platoons, this seems like a formation that will bleed VP, if not outright dissolve.
Yet the the M113 C&V, with its 25mm autocannon, is such a great looking recce vehicle I still kinda want to try fielding this formation!
Dutch force support is just the ubiquitous M109, a YPR-765 based OP and a PRTL Peloton to further bolster anti-air. The Dutch also gain in-force West German support in the form of Roland, LARS, up to two PAH anti-tank helicopters and a Tornado flight (I was holding out for Dutch F-16 given its one of the first foreign aircraft I worked on in my career – a proxy may have to take place).
I’ll be covering the Dutch in more detail in the coming weeks. I may even look at doing a Verkennings formation as allies for my West Germans!
Now for the Kangaroo in the room. The ANZAC are going to be the Vegemite of the book; you can either go with them being present in the theatre in a limited manner, or they are going to throw the suspension of disbelief too out of whack.
For myself, I’m content to roll with Battlefront wanting to get a home turf force in and they have at least come up with an explanation even if its a little stretched.
That aside, lets look at the brigade. It consists of;
- Up to two Leopard AS1 Armoured Squadrons
- Up to three M113 Mechanised Companies
- Up to one NATO allied formation
Australians are a mix of stats. They all have Courage and Skill 3+ but 4+ morale and rally, with some variability on Assault and counter-attack (always at least 4+, sometimes 3+).
The Leopard AS1 Squadron consists of two to four Leopard AS1 troops. The third platoon can be an M113 mechanised platoon to give the formation some infantry. The formation also has up to two M113 Cavalry Troops. The Australian Leopard has the same addition of “Brutal” as the Candians (did only commonwealth troops use HESH or something?), They can field one less tank (due to the HQ being only one to two tanks strong) than the Canadians but have the slight advantage in being Assault 3+.
The Cavalry don’t get their own formation (as they do in ‘Nam) but bring a mix of T50 turreted M113 (Light Reconnaissance Vehicles) and a supporting M113 Meduium Reconnaissance Vehicle that sports a Scorpion’s turret and hard hitting, for its weight, 76mm gun.
The Mechanised Infantry formation has two to three mechanised platoons, with an option to take leopards in place of the third; up to two Cavalry platoons, up to one M125 mortar platoon (with 2-6 tubes) and up to two Milan sections. The mechanised platoon is along the lines of a British platoon mounted in turreted M113 (4 M60 teams and 3 Carl Gustav teams) but no mortar or Milan options. The infantry have an assault value of 4+ but will counter-attack on a 3+, so good for holding turf. The Milan section adds 2-4 Milan posts, making for a total of 8 posts per formation.
Brigade support see the Land Rover make its Team Yankee debut, sporting an M106mm recoiless gun for some rather primitive anti-tank support.
Its joined by a M113 Redeye section and the sole Kiwi content; a troop of Scorpions. This is bolstered by British support in the form of one artillery battery, one Rapier section, up to two Lynx HELARM flights and a Harrier flight.
All in all the ANZAC have some interesting aspects and, even if you are not keen, don’t distract greatly from the book.
Having produced some home brew/officially approved Aussie rules for the Red Thunder/Stripes campaign, Mark Nisbet will cover the Australians over the coming weeks.
All in all there’s a lot covered by this book, and its probably ungrateful to speak of omissions, but given their mention in the Stripes book, it would have been nice to see the Danish defenders of LANDJUT, mainly for the Recce squadrtons with M41 Bulldog; and Belgians. The Dutch can probably be used as an imperfect stand in and maybe we’ll see a Northern front book one day (covering Norwegians, Danes and the Anglo-Dutch Amphibious Force contribution).
This aside, the Free Nations book is a pleasant surprise, being an ensemble piece that covers each force in enough detail to be satisfying enough.
Now Battlefront, can we please have the “glorious free socialist nations!” book to bring the Czech and Poles into the war? Us Warsaw Pact players are feeling a little out-numbered!