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Burning Empires is a different sort of book than you might be expecting. Think of this book as ‘Part II’, or a compendium, to Hellfire and Back. It covers all of major forces that fought in the Mediterranean Theatre during 1940 and 1941 that are not covered in Hellfire and Back, such as the Fucilieri, Greeks, and French. With these two books you should be able to field all of the major forces in the region.
Burning Empires also covers the wide world of the desert raiding war. Deep in the Sahara Desert, another war was being waged and Burning Empires drops you in the middle of that fight between Axis and Allied Special Forces. This raiding war will introduce you to another type of Flames Of War battles where high mobility, not thick armour, is the decisive factor in victory.
So, what’s this book all about? Here’s some of the most commonly asked questions that came up during the process of creating Burning Empires. Have fun, and see you in the desert!
What is this book about?
Burning Empires is about all of the fighting that went on around the periphery of the famous North Africa campaign. It is about the battle for the Mediterranean Sea and struggle between the Axis and Allied sides to secure their flanks in Greece, Crete, Syria and the deep Sahara Desert.
What historical campaigns covered by Burning Empires?
Greece, Crete, Syria, and the Sahara Desert.
How is the book organised?
Burning Empires is divided into two sections. The first, which I have unimaginatively been calling the “main section”, includes the full-scale forces that fought in Greece, Crete, and Syria.
The second part, called the “raiding section”, covers the exciting world of desert raiders such as the British Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and the Italian Sahariana deep in the Sahara Desert.
What makes the army lists from the main section different than other books?
1. The Italians in Burning Empires represent Mussolini’s invasion force poised to take Greece in 1940. As such they not inherently defensive like they are in mid-war, and neither are they fortified as they are in Hellfire and Back.
2. Like in Hellfire and Back the Italians in Burning Empires use the Early War 8 Million Bayonets special rules. However, it has the addition of the Black Shirt column to represent the Black Shirt battalions in Greece, which have slightly better motivation, but a bit lacking in the training department!
3. The Alpini mountain troops add a new dimension (up!) to the Early War Italians with unique gear such as mountain artillery and pack mules. Their mountain training allows them to scramble over supposedly impossible terrain and surprise the enemy.
1. The Greeks are completely new to Early War. In Burning Empires, they have two forces: a mechanised and an infantry company. They are both based around the unique 19th Motorised Division which had the majority of Greece’s mobile assets.
2. The Greeks used mostly captured Italian gear as well as some British and French stuff purchased before and during the war. For simplicity we have recommended that people use Italian figures and vehicles for their force with perhaps a few Brits sprinkled in if they would like. But also keep your eye out for a special Greek command blister with some unique figures to add to your Greek army.
3. All five of the Greek special rules play on the fact that the Greeks soundly defeated the Italians in 1940-41. Even when the Germans invaded in 1941, the Greeks stood firm against some serious military might before eventually being overwhelmed.
4. Greeks are rated Fearless Trained to reflect their steadfast and effective resistance against the powers of fascism.
1. The Germans have four types of forces: an SS-Kradshützensturmkompanie (SS Motorcycle Rifle Company), an Infanteriekompanie (Infantry Company), a Fallschirmjägerkompanie (Parachute Light Infantry), and a Luftlandesturmkompanie (Glider Assault Company).
The Infanteriekompanie comes in two varieties based on Gebirgsjager (mountain) and Waffen-SS (SS-Leibstandearte) troops that fought in Greece and Crete.
2. The SS in this book are rated Fearless Veteran (compared to Fearless Trained in Blitzkrieg) because they have learned a lot from their campaigns in France and Poland, and their actions in Greece established them as tough fighting force.
3. SS-Sturmbannführer Kurt Meyer is a warrior in Burning Empires. He has some rules to help bolster his elite SS troops’ morale and speed. He can command the motorcycle troops like he did historically, or you can field him in the infantry company, representing a number of other SS infantry commanders.
4. The Gebirgsjager are rated Confident Veteran. They have some interesting new mountain equipment, such as the 7.5cm GebK15 mountain gun, which can be transported by pack mule (giving them man-packed mobility). Like the Italian Alpini, the Gebirgsjäger can use the Mountaineers special rule, meaning they can practically get anywhere on the table!
5. The Assault Gun platoon is the same as what you’d expect in Blitzkrieg with the additional option to take a single StuG. This allows German players to save a few points while still brings some serious firepower. Players with an SS army from Burning Empires can purchase a soon-to-be-famous Michael Wittmann as a small “mini-warrior”. He is added to one of the platoon’s assault guns and gets his same Ambush special rule as can be found in Earth & Steel. Note: He does not get the other Michael Wittman special rules from Earth & Steel because they are based around his Tiger I E crew in Normandy.
6. Fallschirmjäger! This is their debut in Early War. While Crete was not their first action in the war, it was certainly a definitive moment in their career, making this the obvious point to bring them into Early War. They are rated Fearless Veteran and come in two varieties: parachuting Fallschirmjäger, and glider-borne Luftlandesturm.
The Fallschirmjäger were the elite paratroopers of the Luftwaffe. They had seen some action in Holland in 1940, but Crete would be their most well known operation, perhaps of the entire war. The invasion of the island was undertaken completely by airborne troops and though they suffered horrible casualties, they still captured their objectives and won the battle.
The Luftlandesturm can land anywhere on the table by glider in the first turn. This means they can land on top of an objective straight away, but they will have to hold out for a few turns before they can claim it. They are Pioneers equipped with flame-throwers and HMGs. For these abilities they are expensive, but if successful in their assault, you won’t need anything else as they can literally handle anything the enemy can throw at them.
You can also augment your expensive glider-troop combat platoons with paratrooper pioneer platoons. You don’t have to take gliders if you don’t want to.
1. The French army in Burning Empires is a Companie de Tirailleurs (Light Infantry Company). These were the backbone of the Vichy and Free French forces in the Levant (French Syria and Lebanon). The company has two variants: Colonial and Foreign Legion.
2. Players can choose to play either a Vichy (Axis) or Free (Allied) French army. The pro-Axis Vichy French were isolated from any support, but still fought the Allied invasion in Syria with French equipment. They also are unique in that they can field a Desert Fort as a fortification in their list.
The Free French are small in number, but are heavily supported by Australian, British, and Indian platoons.
3. Colonial troops are rated Confident Trained due to the fact that the French army in 1941 was somewhat demoralised. Still, the Colonial troops are hard fighters with their special rule that allows them hit in Assault combat on a 3+ (rather than the usual 4+ that Trained troops require).
4. Foreign Legion troops are rated Confident Veteran and have several special rules to reflect the legends surrounding the Legion. These make them roughly equivalent to the Guards in the British army. They are hard as nails, highly professional, and legendary, end of story.
Where are the obvious missing forces such as German Panzer and Italian Armoured divisions?
Like with the British and Commonwealth forces I mentioned above, the German and Italian tank forces that fought in Greece differed little from those found in Hellfire and Back. So rather than repeat these forces again, we’ve used the space for new forces and recommend that you use Hellfire and Back or Blitzkrieg to represent the tank companies in Greece.
Are there any Scenarios or Missions in the book?
Yes, we have included a scenario for the seizure of Maleme Airfield during the Battle of Crete. This critical and exciting battle was fought between the New Zealanders and the Fallschirmjäger on 20 May 1941. Gliders swoop into action, Matilda tanks counterattack, and abandoned anti-aircraft guns are up for grabs in this action-packed scenario!
Also, at the end of the book there is a new mission called Seize Outpost, which allows players to refight a WWII-style siege of a Desert Fort. Don’t forget to pack your trebuchet and siege ladders, and have fun storming the castle!
How do players use the raiding section?
This section is meant to be stand-alone from the rest of the book. The forces here are best suited to face other forces from the section. Most nations have both a raiding force and a garrison force in this section, so there are plenty of armies to choose from.
Can these forces interact with normal forces?
Sure. Raiding forces can be played in games just like any other force. They have some special rules to help them compete against numerically superior forces. For example, they can disrupt reserves in missions using reserves special rules, or send platoons into reserve in missions that do not have reserve rules. They can also choose the time of day if they are the attackers.
However, due to their small operations, all of the forces have their own points ceiling. Some forces can reach 1500 (or more) points while others cannot. This is simply something that players will have to be conscious of this when setting up their games.
What has changed from the original Flames Of War raiding sets?
With the old raiding briefings, Infantry teams rode on transport teams for their missions. This left the raiders at great risk with only a 5+ transport save between being hit by MG fire and survival! In these briefings I’ve simplified it by using the Blitzkrieg motorcycle rules, meaning the infantry team and transport team become one with a 3+ infantry save. This gives them speed and survivability, as well as the option to dismount if needed. Furthermore, unlike normal motorcycle teams, they can call their trucks back on the table if they have been sent to or deployed in the rear. This allows you to start on foot close to the target, blow your charges and make a fast escape on your vehicles.
Also, further research has allowed me to expand the unit organizations with interesting equipment and format them to our current easy-to-use company diagram. It also allowed me to add a large amount of new garrison forces to oppose the raiders.
What forces are included in the raiding section?
For the British we have the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), the Special Air Service (SAS), and a Sudan Rifle Company from the Sudan Defence Force (SDF). These played a critical role in the desert raiding war from 1940-1943.
The French also participated in the Sahara campaign, earning Free France its first victories of the war. The French forces include a more standard force in the Compagnie De Tirailleurs Sénégalais (Senegalese Light Infantry Company) and a raiding force in the Compagnie Découverte de Combat (Combat Reconnaissance Company).
Opposing the British and French were the Italian Sahariana (Saharan) troops. These troops were actually well equipped and prepared for the war, an uncharacteristic thing for the Italian Army in World War II! Their raiding forces include the highly mobile and professional Compagnia Autosahariana (Saharan Motor Company), and the 103a Compagnia Arditi Camionettisti (103rd Arditi Jeep Company). Their garrison force is a Compagnia Mitraglieri (Machine-gun Company), which is well armed and ready behind the safe confines of a desert fort!
The German raiding force is a Brandenburger Halbkompanie (Half Company). These sneaky Germans took to wearing disguises, typically enemy uniforms, to get past the front lines and cause havoc in the rear areas. The briefing covers their operations in Russia as well as in North Africa.
Finally, not to be forgotten, the American OSS is represented by the Operational Group. These were based loosely on the success of the SAS and LRDG and went into action in Corsica and Italy toward the end of 1943. The Operational Group is based around a core of elite American troops with partisan and guerrilla support to get the job done.
How to you use the forces in the raiding section?
The book includes four special ‘raiding’ missions, which have been designed with raiding forces in mind. They recreate the hit and run missions of the raiders and their daring rescues and escapes. You can also play normal Flames Of War missions with these forces.
What is the Desert Fort mentioned above?
Bedouin merchants have used the Sahara Desert for centuries to link North and Equatorial Africa. During the time of the Ottoman Turks, forts and castles were built to protect the few oases that dotted the desert. Since then many have fallen into ruin, but in the 1930s the Italian Sahariana modernised them or built new ones. The Mitraglieri garrisoned them to protect important oases such as Murzuk and Kufra.
In early 1941 the French captured the fort at Kufra and the Allies garrisoned it for the remainder of the war. Desert forts were also found closer to the Mediterranean coastline in places like Capuzzo and Mechili in Libya. There were also a significant amount of ancient Turkish and Crusader castles in the French Levant that had been modernised and guarded the vital entrances into the region.
The desert fort in Flames Of War is a massive fortification. Think of each wall as a double-decker trench that also acts as barbed wire and an anti-tank obstacle. It costs 300 points to field in your force, but you can take ruined walls to decrease its overall cost at the risk of making it easier for your opponent to beach.
It is an imposing and awesome terrain piece. It doesn’t have to be something that is restricted to forces that can field it. It is perfectly suitable as a general terrain piece for any desert battlefield.
I really enjoyed writing this book. I’ve always been interested in the ‘other guys’ and this book covers most of those battles that are sometimes eclipsed by other more famous examples. Perhaps more importantly, I’m hopelessly addicted to Special Forces. The stories of the LRDG and SAS have had a major impact on my WWII interests and I was very eager to see them come into their own in Flames Of War. I, for one, plan to build a force from all of the raiding and garrison companies!
I hope you will enjoy fighting these battles and raids. They have a lot of interesting history and are full of action and awesome miniatures!