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Monday, August 22, 2016

Preview: Commonwealth forces in the Battle of the Bulge Book

By Mitch Reed

History is usually biased by the nationality of the writer, which is why many Americans do not realize that the British participated in the Battle of the Bulge. After the Allies recovered from the shock of the attack, General Eisenhower gave Field Marshall Montgomery temporary command of all forces north of the German thrust.   To be fair Monty did not do a bad job and held the Germans on his end of the salient.  Problems did arise after the battle where Monty, true to form, took credit for winning the battle.  These claims did not endear the Field Marshall with his American boss and made their relationship deteriorate further.

The developers of Battlefront did their research when creating the new Battle of the Bulge book and much to my pleasure included the forces under Monty that took part in the battle.  I have been playing with Commonwealth lists since I first started playing this game and I am always looking for new lists in which I can use my huge collection of Cromwell tanks in.

The Lucky 7th
I was not disappointed in what the Battle of the Bulge (BoB) had in store for me; the Desert Rats yet again make an appearance in the game.  The last time we saw these guys was in the Overlord book and they were Reluctant/Veteran; however a few months later in the war BoB lets us play them as Confident Veterans.  I like the fact that you can have two Cromwell’s and two Firefly’s in a platoon for 435 points.  You can even upgrade the Firefly’s to Challengers for 20 points each.  Yes it’s pricey, but at 475 points you have a very strong platoon.  Personally I would go for the 3 Cromwell with one Challenger option at 425 points.  It takes some getting used to playing with fast tanks, however a lists that can field a lot Crowell’s is always fun. This list also lets you field Commandos which are sometimes a great option to have.  Other than the commando platoon the list is the standard British lists we have seen before.

Supporting the Desert Rats are some infantry battalions, the Motor Company is an infantry company with half-track mounted troops or a Rifle Company which is oddly listed as a mechanized company. These lists look a lot like the ones in Market Garden as far as support options go.  The Rifle Company can get a Breaching Platoon, which is fun to play.

Rifle Company as Mech?? Yes
The Bulls are back in town
The 29h Armoured Brigade is also included and these guys are built like the 7th but with Sherman’s.  No Commandos, and only one Firefly per armored platoon.  You can get infantry support from the British 6th Airborne Division or from the divisions own motor company (also listed as an infantry company) which is also has its own list.  I like the fact you can get those Belgian SAS guys on both of these lists.  I used a platoon of them on my Comet list from Nachtjager and they are a lot of fun to use.

Motor as Infantry?? Also yes
Wales and Scotland
I love British infantry lists and BoB has one that are interesting.   Players have the option of playing either a 51st Highland or the 52 Welsh Division list, both are rated as Confident/Veteran which is an upgrade for the highway decorators, when we last saw them in Normandy they were Reluctant/Veteran.

While the list does not differ from most other British infantry lists, you can get your riflemen in Kangaroo APCs for 20 points for the platoon, add a .50 cal HMG for another 5 points each.  Each version of the list add one special rule for the unit you choose and the Welsh are able to take “Skins” (5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards) tank support which is rated Confident/Trained. The Welsh can also take a Breaching Group where the Scots cannot.  Both forces have the ability to take British Tank or Armoured platoons to support them and of course the ubiquitous Crocodile Platoon. I plan to take a deep dive into these lists to see how they compare with other British infantry lists.

Men of the Clouds
The British 6th Airborne was also called upon to stop the German offensive.  In BoB you can field either a Parachute or Air Landing company and with the Para’s you can make you company Canadian to represent the only Canadian unit to fight in the Bulge, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.  Other than the addition of the Belgian SAS, nothing here is new or exciting and these lists are not as good as the ones you can find in either Market Garden or Nachtjager.

Overall Impressions
So are these lists a “Must buy” for the dedicated commonwealth player? I would say that depends; if you like your Cromwell’s, the new Desert Rats list is the only one that is rated as veteran where you can get two 17pdr guns per platoon.  Yes they are pricey, but in the right hands very effective, however for 5 more points you can field Comets out of Nachtjager, so the choice is yours to make.
As for the infantry lists, I will do some digging on them and see what they are like on the table.  As with most infantry lists it depends on who historically they were paired up with that can make or break them.  These may work out to be good lists, I will see how they stack up against my current favorites from Market Garden or Road to Rome.

Always good to have these guys around!
This leaves the Airborne, and that is what I will do, leave them.  Nachtjager, Market Garden, and even Overlord gave us some very good airborne lists.  As someone who can field an entire airborne army (except Tetrarch tanks) I was not impressed by what these list have to offer.
One thought struck me as I was wondering why they included the two airborne lists. Knowing that tournament organizers love to create events where they only draw lists from the newest double book release, perhaps this was a way to open things up to a wider set of lists? The counter argument to this could be that many folks complain when a historical book is done and a force is omitted.  If true this puts a lot of pressure for a writer to make changes to a list that appears elsewhere, I mean how many variations of an airborne or infantry list can someone make?
So based on the small amount of really “New” British lists in this book is it still worthwhile for a player to buy?  Well I do not play yanks, but I will still get this book when it comes out. 

Late Add:
I asked the Developer Wayne Turner on why the Motor Company was listed as infantry and the Rifle Company was mechanized.
Answer from Wayne:
Motor Companies are usually Infantry Companies. It is mainly to do with their role within a British Armoured division, being the units that hold the ground taken by the Armoured Squadrons.  The Rifle Company from the 7th Armoured Division played quite an aggressive role so we made them Mechanised.
Twitter: @MitchWWPD.

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