09 August 2017

Review - Fighting First - US Forces in North Africa

The first new book for Flames of War V4 MW covers the US forces who dirtied their boots first in the World War in the deserts of North Africa; the Fighting First.

We've been lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of the new book from Battlefront as well as the new Command Cards that accompany it. Let's take a look at the book and what you can expect to find inside in more detail.

The new volume clocks in a 53 pages and covers the American forces fighting in North Africa through the Tunisian campaign. You'll have access to all the information you need to field regiments from across the 1st Armoured Division. We'll have a look at each of these in detail.

As well as the force lists, you also get background of the US exploits in the desert with background on Operation Torch, the battle at Kasserine Pass and the battle of El Guettar. There's also history and information on the American tanks such as the M3 Lee and the M4 Sherman as well as painting guides at the back.

So, let's crack into it!

So, your force must contain at least 1 formation from the Fighting First Force list (alliteration rocks!) and these include 3 tank formation choices in the M4 Sherman, M3 Lee or M3 Stuart formations. There are also 2 infantry choices in the Armoured Rifle Company or the standard Rifle Company. Finally, you could go all out and choose an M10 Tank Destroyer Company. You really are spoiled for choice here. Let's dig into them...

M4 Sherman Tank Company

The workhorse of the American and British forces in the desert is the M4 Sherman. In Tunisia, the Fighting First fielded the M4A1 version with its distinctive rounded, cast hull.

Fielding a Sherman Tank Company in Flames of War means you must take:

- Sherman Tank Company HQ
- A Sherman Platoon and,
- Either another Sherman Platoon, a Lee Platoon or a Stuart Platoon.

You then have the option of another Sherman Platoon to round out your core formation choices. You can also field either the M4 81mm Armoured Mortar Platoon, the T30 75mm Assault Gun Platoon or an Armoured Recon Patrol as well.

Your Sherman HQ will cost you 8 or 16 points depending on if you take 1 or 2 Shermans. They have a 4+ Motivation Rating, a 5+ Skill Rating (being newly trained and new to the war) and they're hit on a 3+ being Aggressive. 

These ratings are mirrored in your Sherman Platoons. You can buy these in platoons of 3-5 tanks for 24, 32 and 40 points, respectively.

The Sherman itself is a pretty good tank, always has been.Wielding the 75mm M3 gun firing APCBC ammo, it's a match for all the German tanks with the exception of the Tiger. Having Stabilisers also means that you're getting just as many shots with the 75mm gun as you are standing still, just at a +1 to hit.

M3 Lee Tank Company

Created on the hull of the M2A1 pre-war medium tank with adjustments to house the M3 75mm gun, the M3 Lee was a far-from-perfect design but it definitely was an effective tank. With a back-up 37mm gun in the turret, it could certainly hold it's own against the German ranks.

The M3 Lee Company operates in a similar manner to that of the M4 Sherman in that you must field the Company HQ and a compulsory M3 Lee platoon, but again, your second compulsory platoon can be either another Lee platoon, a Sherman platoon or a Stuart platoon. You also have the optional 3rd slot for more Lee's if you need them. The Armoured Mortar platoon, Assault Gun platoon and Armoured Recon Patrol are still here as well.

The M3 Lee HQ costs 5 or 10 points for 1 or 2 Lee's, respectively. They're armed with the short 75mm gun but can be upgraded to the long 75mm for a point each. Again, being MW Americans, you have a Motivation of 4+, Skill 5+ and are hit on 3+.

Lee platoons, like the Shermans, are bought in platoons of 3-5 tanks for 15, 20 or 25 points. These, again, are armed with the short 75mm gun but can be upgraded to the long 75mm for a point each. It wasn't unusual to see mixed-gun platoons in action. These guns are again equipped with Stabilisers for more boom boom on the move. You also have the option of firing the turret mounted 37mm gun at the same time. Should you do so, it fires with a +1 to hit. It's great for eliminating smaller, lower armoured targets such as armoured cars while the big gun takes care of the Panzers.

M3 Stuart Tank Company

The mighty, little Stuart. The American Light tank saw a great deal of action and despite it's thin armour, it was a nimble and deadly little tank! Armed with a reasonable 37mm gun, it could get in behind the enemy and take advantage of the weaker side and rear armour of the German Panzers.

The Stuart company is slightly different in formation than its bigger cousins. While you're still required to take your Company HQ, your 2 compulsory slots must be filled by Stuart platoons with the 3rd optional platoon able to have the bigger M3 or M4 if you decide to. Artillery and Recon options are also here.

The Company HQ is made up of 2 Stuarts for 4 points. They retain the 4+ Motivation and 5+ Skill of their bigger mates, but these guys are Reckless. They're going to be hit on a 2+ so you really want them to remain hidden until they can strike.

Your Stuart platoons come in 3-5 tank groups again for 6, 8 or 10 points. They're lightly armoured but they really are quick! The 37mm AT gun can also pack a punch in the right spot as well!

You have a couple of artillery options in the M4 81mm Armoured Mortar platoon and the T30 75mm Assault Gun platoon.

A great, mobile mortar option, the 81mm mortar mounted in the back of the M3 half-track can give you some serious power for digging out the German infantry. These are bought in platoons of 3 half-tracks for 2 points.

As well as giving you a secondary artillery option, the T30 HMC (Howitzer Motor Carriage) mounting the 75mm Pack Howitzer can also give you another direct-fire AT option in a pinch. You can buy these as 2 or 3 gun platoons for 2 or 3 points, respectively.

Armoured Rifle Company

The 6th Armoured Infantry regiment was attached to the Fighting First. Rather than walking into battle like the 'doughboys' the 'blitzboys' of the ARP's rode in half-tracks allowing them access to heavier equipment.

Your Armoured Rifle company must include an Armoured Rifle HQ and 2 Armoured Rifle Platoons. You have the option of a 3rd ARP if you'd like it. You also get access to the M3 81mm Armoured Mortar and T30 Assault guns above, as well as the M1917 Machine Gun platoon and the 37mm AT Gun platoon.

Your HQ platoon can consist of either 2 M1 Carbine teams and an M3 Halftrack or the same 2 Carbine teams with 2 Jeeps. Both options are 2 points each. These guys have a 4+ Motivation, although this is improved to 3+ when Rallying. They retain the 5+ Skill and are Hit on 3+.

You can run your ARP's as full platoons for 15 points or short platoons for 12 points. They give you access to all the toys though!

Both options have their pros and cons but given the amount of combined arms forces the Germans tend to run, taking the full ARP option seems like the best bang for buck for my money here. You're getting an extra Zook, a couple of more stands of infantry and a whole extra .30 cal M3 half track for the 3 points.

The M3's are great for providing a heap of back up fire support when you're going in after the infantry, something definitely not to be taken lightly!

In the support roles, you get access to the M1917 Machine Gun platoon and the M3 75mm AT Gun platoon. These are fielded as armoured options and come with their own M3 Halftracks.

The massive firepower of the M1917 HMG cannot be ignored! More than enough shots to make Jerry keep his head down! You get 4 of these for 3 points but spending an extra point gives them their own rides in the form of 2 .50 cal armed M3 Halftracks.

The 37mm AT gun is a great option for staving off attack from those pesky Panzers. It'll drill a hole through the hull of almost anything!

You can buy these in a number of options, with varying points costs. 9 points will get you 4 guns and 4 M3 Halftracks to tow them, while just 3 points will get you 2 guns on their own.

Rifle Company

The Big Red One....the doughboys still have a place in this fight, despite all the fancy new toys everyone else has. There is a lot that can be said about a well-drilled infantry force!

For your Rifle Company, you must field your Company HQ and at least 2 Rifle Platoons. You have the option to field a 3rd Rifle platoon as well as including some heavy support in up 2 each of the M1917 HMG platoon, 37mm AT Gun platoon and 81mm Mortar platoon as well as a solitary T30 platoon.

Your Rifle Company HQ costs you 1 point for the 2 M1 Carbine teams. They are again 4+ Motivation with a 3+ on Rally, 5+ Skill and they're hit on 3+.

You can buy your Rifle platoons in 2 options as well. Spend 8 points and you'll get 10 Rifle teams and a Bazooka team or you can spend 6 points for 7 Rifle teams and a Bazooka. You can also spend an additional point for each option and add an M1919 LMG team.

The ground artillery in the form of the Mortar Platoon cannot be overlooked. It has the potential to really soften up the enemy infantry before the killing blow.

You can buy either 3 or 6 mortars for 3 or 6 points, respectively.

This is backed up by the power of the M1917 HMG, withering hails of fire spewing forth...

4 HMG's for 3 points? Yes please!

Finally, the 37mm AT as we've seen with the ARP.

Tank Destroyer Company

The idea of Tank Destroyers came as out of a need to destroy the enemy tanks without having to rely on static AT assets which could be prone to artillery fire. You now have the option of fielding a Tank Destroyer company in MW.

You must field the TD Company HQ along with at least 2 Tank Destroyer platoons. You have an option for the 3rd as well as slots for 2 Recon Patrols.

Your Tank Destroyer company HQ costs you 4 points for a pair of M3 Stuarts.

The M10 GMC (Gun Motor Carriage) mounting the massive 3" AT gun is the Tank Destroyer of choice for the Fighting First.

The Tank Destroyer platoon comes in groups of 2-4 tanks for 16, 24 and 32 points, respectively. They have the Seek, Strike, Destroy special rule which allows them to Shoot and Scoot if they've made a successful Blitz. You'll note they have an improved Skill rating.

Providing support and the potential to increase your deployment zone to make your TD's more survivable, you can take up to 2 Armoured Recon patrols.

For 3 points, you get 2 M3A1 Armoured Cars, a Jeep armed with an MG and a Jeep armed with a 60mm mortar.

The M3A1's have both Scout and Spearhead while the Jeeps have the Scout rule.

These effectively take the place of the security section you used to have but without the teleportation ability.

Support Options

Support in the desert is a must, so now we'll have a look at what the Americans can get to back them up.

P-40 Warhawk

The USAAF is here to support and hopefully keep the Luftwaffe at bay...

You'll get a hold of 2 planes for 6 points.

T28E1 37mm AAA Platoon

Of course, if you don't want chase the Luftwaffe off, you could always just shoot them down?

You can buy either 2 or 4 AAA Halftracks for 3 or 6 points, respectively.

105mm Field Artillery

The M2 105mm howitzer is the divisional-level artillery piece of choice.

You'll have access to either a 2 or 4 gun battery for 5 or 10 points.

Of course, you can always put your 105mm howitzer on tracks! The M7 HMC dubbed the 'Priest' is a great artillery choice.

You can buy 3 or 6 Priests for 11 or 22 points.

All American artillery gets the Time on Target special rule as well meaning if they range in on the first attempt, infantry and gun teams under the template must re-roll any successful saves.

So there you have it, the Fighting First is ready for deployment into the desert. Time to show those German's who's boss!!

The book is a great addition to the MW ranks and gets the Sherman into the desert, something many people have been screaming for. A lot of the problems people had with Afrika Korps and Desert Rats was the lack of options in force selection. I dont think that we have a problem with that here, we're definitely given a heap of options to use. I'm really excited to get a hold of some more Lee's into my collection and get them painted for the desert.

We will be taking a look at the command cards for the Americans which add Rangers and characters to your US forces.

Head on over to www.flamesofwar.com for more info and pre-order information!


  1. So there's NO 60mm mortar option in the rifle coy ?

  2. "Your Tank Destroyer company costs you 4 points for a pair of M3 Stuarts." You mean HQ?

  3. Well, done...I'm dusting off the Torch force!!!