Second Steps, How to Grow Your Starter Sets – D-Day American

Today we have a guest article from Michael Robinson, one of our readers from the USA (hence the weird spelling and currency symbols below) as he tries to help the rookies with some sage advice.

Team Yankee and Flames of War have a problem. Information for newer players isn’t as accessible compared to the games that dominate our hobby.
So, to rectify this, I’m going to be writing up a few guides to help new players grow their armies from the faction specific army deals. There are plenty of articles about how to grow from Hit the Beach and the WWIII starters, so this series will instead focus on taking starter forces to tournament levels while using as many of the included models as possible.

To kick off this series I’m going to start with my own humble beginnings in this hobby; the D-Day American ‘Combat Command’. The box is a good place to start mechanized American armies with a variety of units that can support or form the core of multiple formations. So let’s take a look at what comes in the box:

  • Two Plastic M4 Sherman (75mm) tanks
  • Three Plastic M4 Sherman (75mm) or M4 Sherman (76mm) tanks
  • Three Plastic M5 Stuart (37mm) tanks
  • One Armored Rifle Platoon
  • Five M3 Half-tracks
  • Four Plastic M10 (3-inch) tank destroyers
  • Three M7 Priest (105mm)

We should start by understanding why all this stuff is good.
The Sherman is a quality workhorse tank, with plenty of machine guns, decent speed and armor, and the thing that
sets apart American tanks from all others: the gyroscopic stabilizer.

Which tank was superior in hypothetical head to head in WW2 - Sherman or  T34? - Quora

Almost all American tanks are armed with stabilizers, meaning they never lose rate of fire by moving; instead taking a +1 penalty to accuracy.  This lets them continuously reposition while taking on enemy armor.
We also get the choice of using 75 or 76mm guns letting us tailor the unit to digging out enemies or putting more
punch into enemy armor.

The Stuart might seem off putting by being a light tank, but there are plenty of upsides to them. Each has five dice of machine gun fire to make them a threat to any infantry, and the 37mm gun makes them perfect for taking out armored cars. Overall a good little infantry support tank.


The Armored Rifle Platoon provides a flexible infantry unit. On defense there are plenty of bodies making them hard to chew through, especially if they’re dug into foxholes.  The platoon is armed with enough bazookas to make any opponent think twice about assaulting with armor and the attached transport M3 half-tracks each bring a 30 or 50 cal machine gun to put the hurt on any infantry brave enough to move in the open.
On the offense the half-tracks provide speedy transport and small arms protection to help get the infantry into strategic positions.


M10 tank destroyers will require a bit of finesse to use.  The 3-inch gun gives us a strong AT12 gun, giving you a fighting chance against heavier tanks. The special rule “Seek, Strike, and Destroy” gives you the ability to blitz out of cover to take your shots and then retreat back to safety with a shoot and scoot order.
This is important because the M10 isn’t equipped with a stabilizer; it’s a tank destroyer and distinctly different from a tank.  We know this because the Army was very insistent it wasn’t a tank. So if you move normally you are going to lose a die to moving rate of fire.


Finally the Priests provide us with a quality artillery
barrage, helping pin enemy infantry and gun teams, plus the ever important smoke barrage to help protect out of position units or set up the infantry for an assault.

M7 Priest Armored Artilley Battery (Plastic) (UBX54)

Now that we understand why we have a solid base, let’s start with just beefing up the formation on the box, the M4 Sherman Tank Company.
Now we hit a critical choice:
Regular or Veteran formations?

For any new player I would recommend taking the Veteran
options; being hit on 4+ is a massive boost to survivability, helping you keep your toys on the table and getting more chances to learn how to run them, and they cost more points reducing the amount we have to spend.
Flames of War might be cheap in the grand scheme of the hobby but asking brand new players to invest $110 on the starter box already. We can always change to regular units in the future to make room for more gear and units. The point difference of taking everything as their veteran version takes this box set from 65 points to 75, so there is still a good amount of points to go to take us to the current tournament standard of 105 points.

Right now here’s what our list looks like as Battlefront suggests.

That got us to 75pts but the core formation is a little brittle with only three units; the army will run once it loses two of them!   So let’s add in a box of M4 Shermans for $50*. We’ll leave the Stuarts in-formation because they help bulk out our formation preventing breaks. We’ll simply use our third platoon option to add in some 75mm Shermans. Now the kit is great, giving us enough parts to make all the tanks either 75mm or 76mm with a simple turret swap. So with our five shiny new Shermans we’ll use four of them in the new platoon of 75s and use the fifth to bulk up our 76s. Three is a fine number of Shermans for a platoon but we only get one platoon of 76s in our formation so giving them a bit more survivability and extra firepower will only make them a bigger threat on the table.

M4 Sherman Tank Platoon (Plastic) (UBX69)

We’re now sitting at a solid 98 points and we still have another seven points to play with. So let’s continue to bulk out our main forces and add in one of my favorite units: the Armored Mortars. Now this is a $37 investment but it gives us a cheap artillery option for 3 more points and any veteran American player will tell you they’re worth their weight in gold.  They can’t be pinned and made useless like infantry mortars, they’re in formation further preventing breaks, and they’ve got .50 cal machine guns so they can protect themselves from aircraft, infantry, and armored cars.

M4 81mm Armoured Mortar Platoon (UBX78)

Now that puts us at 101 points, leaving a scant four points to add a bit more. Let’s go ahead and add in a Greyhound cavalry recon patrol for $30. We don’t have enough points left for the large version with two Greyhounds, but we can take the smaller one Greyhound version for 3 points. This gives us a spearhead to get our tanks into better positions and an extra observer to help our mortars and Priests range in from safety.

Recon Patrol Security Section  (Plastic) (UBX79)

Finally for the last point we earn Duncan’s wrath and go with the standby “Lucky” card.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at our final list:

We’ll finish up by taking a look at the monetary value of the list, after all this is meant to help new players expand their starters!

  • Combat Command Starter $110
  • M4 Sherman box $50
  • M4 81mm Armored Mortar Platoon $37
  • M8 Cavalry Recon Platoon $30
  • D-Day American Command Cards $10

Grand Total, $237

There you have it, a tournament ready army for under $250 with only a single M8 Greyhound going unused!

[*Lee here. I’m obliged to point out that buying Hit the Beach (with its eight Sherman) for a little more is almost always a better choice than buying a box of Shermans.  Especially if you can split the cost with a German player!]

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