June 6, 2016 by crew
One more time, Beasts of War, we embark upon our explorations of the “Battlegroup” World War II miniatures game, presented by Ironfist Publishing and Plastic Soldier Company. My name is James Johnson (@oriskany), and if you are just joining us, so far in this article series we have covered…
In this final article, myself and Piers Brand (@piers) will overview how scenarios work in Battlegroup. We’ll also take a look at the library of amazing campaign books that have been produced for this great game.
Please remember, you need at least one of these campaign books to play, so pick your favourite and give this game a try!
The Battlegroup core rulebook gives players a series of basic scenarios to with which to experiment, such as Attack and Counterattack, Flanking Attack, Defence Line, and High Ground. These are generalized “scenario types” that show players how games are built in Battlegroup and offer a framework upon which players can build their own.
In the campaign supplements, however, the scenarios get much more detailed, highlighting conditions and factors particular to the theatre in question. There are also “campaign games,” where players can fight their way through a whole swath of historical combat, like Prokhorovka at Kursk or the Breakthrough to Berlin in 1945.
Of course, players can build their own scenarios, using the unit lists in the campaign supplements. Each unit type has a “Battle Rating” value in addition to a traditional point cost. These Battle Rating values add up to give your force’s “Battle Rating threshold,” against which your opponent will be forcing you to draw counters in the game.
The first campaign supplement produced for this game was Battlegroup: Kursk in 2012, and right off the bat we knew the guys at Ironfirst Publishing weren’t kidding around. After all, the Battle of Kursk (July-August 1943) is widely regarded as the largest land battle in history, an ambitious choice for a company’s first supplement.
Battlegroup: Kursk sets an impressive standard for historical gaming. Detailed information, both historical and gaming oriented, is provided for a huge choice of available units. Lists include everything from horse-drawn wagons to Tiger tanks, ISU-152 assault guns, and Stuka dive-bombers converted to mount 37mm autocannon pods.
The book also includes the full array of what would become standard in these books: painting guides, charts, even “army list” forms players can use to build proper battlegroups. New players might be anxious about all the charts, but these are here only to offer all the choices in the best possible detail, without the headache of memorization.
For their next supplement, Ironfist Publishing would swerve westward and present Battlegroup: Overlord, themed on the Allied invasion of France in 1944. From the midnight airborne landings to the bloody beach assaults, then all the way to the “Westwall” fortifications along the German border, the liberation of France is ready for players to explore.
Battlegroup: Overlord delves players into the near-bottomless texture of World War II history, all while sparing them hours of research. It’s all done for you, including details on amphibious landings, specialist landing equipment and tanks, and the curious vehicles used by the 21st Panzer Division.
Battlegroup: Fall of the Reich
With epic entries made on the Eastern and Western Fronts, Ironfist Publishing decided to bring the two together with Battlegroup: Fall of the Reich. This supplement covers the final months of the war, when an imploding Germany was being invaded by the Soviets from the east, and the Americans, British, and French from the west.
Many people like “late war” gaming just so they can play with the “biggest toys.” While this is true for the Allies, the Germans don’t usually have the men or supplies to go with their latest “wonder weapons.” Their tattered army lists show it, much to the game’s credit. Expect to see civilian pensioners with panzerfausts more often than King Tigers.
Completing their “Eastern Front trilogy,” Ironfist Publishing next released Battlegroup: Barbarossa, detailing the initial Axis invasion of Soviet Russia in the summer of 1941. This was Battlegroup’s first big push into what most consider the “early war” period, with tanks, vehicles, and guns that are far lighter than we see in later years.
Battlegroup: Barbarossa does a great job with describing not only the German Army of 1941 but also their allies, the Hungarians, the Rumanians, and even the Finns. The book also details how the Red Army was organized in 1941, which was very different from its structure in 1943 or 1945 (i.e., in Battlegroup: Kursk or Fall of the Reich).
All this information, together with the usual detailed unit lists, scenarios, stunning photos, and great painting guides, probably explain how Battlegroup Barbarossa was nominated for the 2015 Origins Awards Best Historical Miniature Rules Supplement.
Ironfist Publishing continued to expand through early war gaming with Battlegroup: Blitzkrieg in 2015. With this sourcebook, players can explore the opening campaigns of World War II in Europe, including the German invasion of Poland in 1939, followed by Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France in the summer of 1940.
Of course Battlegroup Blitzkrieg brings in whole new armies, including the Poles, the Belgians, and especially the French. Also included are detailed descriptions of how the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was put together, equipped, and expected to fight the German onslaught.
Speaking only for myself, I find the early parts of World War II to be a much more interesting wargaming experience. The odds are much more even than later in the conflict. Also, the weapons don’t reach as far or hit as hard, opening the battlefield (and the gaming table) to a much wider arena of fast manoeuvre.
Battlegroup: Wacht am Rhein
Finally we come to the very latest release from Ironfirst Publishing, Battlegroup: Wacht am Rhein (Watch on the Rhine). This was one of the code words used by the Germans for their surprise assault against the Americans in the Ardennes in December 1944. The ensuing fight would be remembered forever as “The Battle of the Bulge.”
This book contains the usual background narrative, great scenarios, and lavish photography – along with lists for “Volksgrenadier” divisions and the elite (but brutal) Waffen SS battlegroup known as “Kamfgruppe Peiper.”
Please note that you need the Battlegroup: Overlord campaign book to get the best use out of Wacht am Rhein. But by “connecting” this book with Battlegroup: Overlord and Fall of the Reich, players get an unparalleled end-to-end look of the entire Western Front, and the ability to run solid, credible engagements anywhere from D-Day to VE Day.
Battlegroup: The Future?
So what’s in store for Battlegroup going forward? Generally speaking, more of the “campaign guides” seem to be in the works, less expensive and more accessible, like the Wacht am Rhein supplement for Battlegroup: Overlord. Possibilities include Arnhem (A Bridge Too Far) and Budapest (the Eastern Front’s “Battle of the Bulge”).
Never fear, however, Ironfist Publishing is certainly not giving up on their full-size campaign books. Although a final title has yet to be chosen, keep an eye out for news on a campaign book covering the first half of the Western Desert war, perhaps including information on the German airborne invasion of Crete in May, 1941.
Sadly, that brings our article series on Battlegroup to a close. But if you have any interest in World War II tactical wargaming, do not let this be the end of your explorations into this game. While no wargame is perfect, for what it’s worth, when it comes to World War II miniatures, Battlegroup is the “Oriskany All-Time Pick” hands-down.
As always, I’d like to thank Ben, Lance, and the rest of the BoW team for letting us publish and making our work look so great in the site layout. I’d also like to thank Piers Brand (one of the writers for the Battlegroup game), not only for keeping my facts straight but for letting me use so many of his amazing photos in this article series.
Highest thanks, however, go to all of you, the Beast of War community members who’ve read these articles and shown your support with your great comments, questions, and suggestions. Mountains of gratitude as always, and let us know what you think in the comments below!
If you have an article that you’d like to write for Beasts Of War then you con get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
"There are also “campaign games,” where players can fight their way through a whole swath of historical combat, like Prokhorovka at Kursk or the Breakthrough to Berlin in 1945..."
"Never fear, however, Ironfist Publishing is certainly not giving up on their full-size campaign books..."