After posting my First Impressions of Flames of War 4th Edition last night, I hurried over to the hobby shop to pick up my copies of the Afrika Korp and Desert Rats books that came in. I also picked up the Fog of War Objective Cards and Desert Rats Command Cards. As soon as I got home I read both books cover to cover which was surprisingly easy since they were both only about 40 pages. What I discovered was very, very disappointing. Both books were pretty weak and the list building confirmed my worst fears.
4th Edition List Building
I was finally able to get a good look at the new list building mechanism since there are no formation diagrams available in main rule book. While some people claim that it’s easier I didn’t find it so. In the old books you had a single diagram with all of the options for that company on one page and then individual entries in the books for each platoon. Now you have a force diagram which has the possible formations and support options, separate diagrams for each formation on separate pages, and then individual entries in the books for each platoon. So instead of a single page with all my platoon options I now have to flip between the force diagram and multiple formation diagrams as the core units of the other formations can be support options.. For example if you are building a Rifle company and want some Panzer III support. You need to start at the Force diagram, then go to the Rifle Company Formation diagram to determine your core units, then over to the Panzer III formation diagram to find out which Panzer III platoons are available for support and back to the Force diagram to choose your other support options. If you’re like me list building is an iterative process and so you’re jumping back and forth between these diagrams multiple times. I’m not sure who at Battlefront thought this was a simpler process than everything on a single page but they failed… badly.
In general, there are much fewer options: Fewer companies, fewer platoons, and fewer types of models. I’ll cover that below in detail but there are also fewer options for the individual models as well. Like you can’t spend a few extra points to add AA MGs to you tanks. As I said yesterday in my first impressions post, when the changed the point values I figured that was what was going to happen. Not surprising, just depressing.
Afrika Korp – German Forces in the Desert 1942-1943
At only 40 pages, that works out to $1 per sheet of paper between the hard covers. Now granted the quality of the graphics is very high as usual but you’re still not getting much for your money. There is a lot more fluff in these books than in the rule book. There are only 3 formations (companies) available: Panzer III Company, Panzer IV Company, and African Rifle Company. The old Panzer company allowed you to mix and match Panzer III and Panzer IVs. In the new version these are spate units. The cynical side says that this is because the sell the models in homogenous boxes of either Panzer IIIs or Panzer IVs as opposed to historical accuracy. So no pioneer company, which is not surprising since they removed pioneers from the game. I was surprised that there was no Panzerspahkompanie (Recon Company) though. The other company which is no longer available to DAK in Mid-War is the Fallschirmjagers. In addition to the companies which have been removed, there are a number of platoons types and miniatures which are no longer available:
- Light Infantry Gun Platoon (7.5cm IeI18s)
- Heavy Infantry Gun Platoon (15cm sIG33s).
- Schutzen Spah Platoon (Motorcycles)
- 5cm Armoured Car Platoon
- Assault Gun Platoon (StuG Ds)
- Light Tank-Hunter Platoon (Panzerjager Is)
- Tank-Hunter Platoon (Dianas)
- Self-Propelled Infantry Gun Platoon (Bisons)
- Rocket Launcher Battery (Nebelwerfers)
Basically if they don’t have models in the new range they just removed support for them in the rules. It seems wrong that for a new release the big news is what’s missing instead of what’s been added. It’s a long list. If they add the models back at some point, I’m sure Battlefront will add the lists in Forces of War to support those models (once they add Mid-War to Forces of War) which they will gladly charge you extra for. I’m not convinced they will add them back in this edition though.
There were also a few additional companies and platoons available to the Germans in Tunisa which were removed as well. However most of the options in the North Africa book under the heading Tunisia and Italy were really Italy only. For example, I don’t count the Armoured Artillery Battery (Wespes or Hummels) as missing because to be fair the Germans only had these in Italy in 43 never in North Africa. I really feel like the only units missing from the later Desert War in Tunisia are the Options to field Gepanzerte Panzer Grenadiers (Mechanized Company in Sd Kfz251 halftracks) and the recon company and platoon options which include the Sd Kfs 250 halftracks. I actually really like the facts that they separated Italy and Sicily out from the North African Campaigns.
When you’re choosing your panzers you no longer get to pick the tank by the historical designation (e.g., Panzer III M). They are now Panzer III Short, Panzer III Long, Panzer III Uparmoured, and Panzer III 7.5cm. As far as I can tell here is the mapping:
- Panzer III Short = Panzer III G, H, or J
- Panzer III Long = Panzer III J (late)
- Panzer III Uparmoured = Panzer III L or M
- Panzer III 7.5cm = Panzer III N
- Panzer IV Short = Panzer IV E or F1
- Panzer IV Long = F2 or G
Note: The Panzer IV G (late) or H is no longer an option
I had to rewrite this paragraph three times before I was finally able to remove all of the bitterness and sarcasm. In my opinion changing the names of the Panzers did little to simplify anything. It’s not a big deal from a game perspective but I play this game because I really like the history. If I didn’t, I’d go play 40K. One of the things that attracted me to Flames of War was the historical accuracy and detail. The least they could have done was to list the actual designation on the page which includes the technical specs for the Panzers (gun, length, weight, speed etc. Applause for this!). I play this game because of the historical details not in spite of them.
Desert Rats – British Forces in the Desert 1942-43
Desert Rats gives you four formation options which replace companies in the old North Africa book. The Grant Armoured Squadron replaces Heavy Armoured Squadron. The Heavy Armoured Squadron also had options to use Shermans and Lees as well as Grants. While they don’t have new desert Shermans in yellow plastic out yet, they are available in plastic so this would have been easy to leave in. The Lees would have been even easier to provide as an option since the Grant sprues in the new line of models have the option to build Lees instead of Grants. I can’t understand why they would not make that an option. The Crusader Armoured Squadron and Honey Armoured Squadron replace the Crusader and Honey versions of the old Light Armoured Squadron. The last formation, the Motor Company updates the old the Motor Company.
Nothing in the Desert Rats book addresses commonwealth troops (Scots, Indian, Australian, New Zealand, or South African). These troops historically made up a significant part of the Eighth Army. In the earlier editions in addition to the variant versions of the companies for these commonwealth troops they also had their own national special rules and changes to Motivation and Skill ratings. This is all gone and putting the stats for a model on a card for that specific model, sold with the models, it will be hard to add this. You would need separate cards for Australian, New Zealand, etc. Rifle platoons. In addition they also removed the option to field Guard versions of a formations as well.
Here is the full list of companies and platoons no longer available:
- Infantry Tank Company (Matilda IIs or Valentine IIs)
- Motor Platoon (Indian)
- Motor Anti-Tank Platoon (2 Pdr Portee)
- Kingforce Armoured Platoon (Churchill IIIs)
- Heavy Mortar Platoon (4.2” Mortar Teams)
- Transport Section (3-Ton Lorrys)
- Mine Flail Platoon (Matilda Scorpians)
- Divisional Cavalry Squadron – Africa (See my notes on the Desert Rat Command Cards for more info) with Divisional Cavalry Platoon and Divisional Cavalry Carrier Platoon
- Armoured Car Squadron – Africa
- Armoured Car Platoon (is still available as a support option with Humbers but you cannot take Marmon Herrinton III, Daimler, Dingo, or AECI armoured cars.
- Jeep Platoon (Jeeps)
- Scout Car Platoon (White Scout Cars)
- Air Support Platoon – This is still available but the only option is what essentially a Hurricane IID, so Hurricane IIB, IIC and Kittyhawks are no longer options.
- Anti-Tank Platoon, Royal Artillery (6 pdr and 17 pdr options are available but not the portee models, no 2 pdr)
- Anti-Tank Platoon (SP), Royal Artillery (Deacons)
- Field Platoon, Royal Engineers (No more pioneers in the game at all)
- Heavy Anti-Aircraft Platoon (OQF 3.7”)
- Field Battery (SP), Royal Artillery (Bishops)
- Royal Horse Artillery Battery (use the OQF 25pdr but had special rules)
- Royal Horse Artillery Battery (SP) (Priests)
- Medium Battery, Royal Artillery (OQF 5.5”)
So again if it’s not in the new series of models you can’t field it. That sucks if you have an old Mid-War company lying around that you want to spruce up to use in 4th Edition. I’m sure this was a business decision as opposed to a game quality decision but as a customer I still hate it. I wonder if I can field these types of units in Battlegroup?
The quality of the books was high but there is a significant lack of content. I’d say save your money but if you want to play Flames of War 4th Edition Mid-War, they are the only game in town. In both of these books the list of stuff that is no longer available is so much longer than the list of what you get that it’s just crushing. I just feel very let down and frustrated by these books. I feel like I just spent a bunch of money on the brand new 2017 model of car only to find out that while the new engine is kick ass, it only comes in green, with a tape deck, no AC, no power windows, and no options to upgrade. When it comes to the range of options for building your company the key word from these books seems to be less. Less company choices, less platoon types, less models, less options, less, less, less.