SG Guide: Steel Division: Deck Building [Part Two]

By Charles Ellis 26 Jun 2017 0

Welcome to the first part of a two part series on creating Division decks in Steel Division: Normandy ‘44. The first part dealt with general principles and the basic building blocks of a force, and this Part two will look at the more specialised units to you in your force. Here, I discuss the supporting elements of your force and provide you with some final thoughts on building an effective deck.

Support

If support went by any other name, it would be “misc”. This section is where all the units which don’t really fit into any other category go. Don’t ignore support however. There are vital units which you are almost required to have. First and foremost are logistics vehicles. These come in the form of jeeps and trucks, with varying capacities. Make no mistake, do not leave home without these! Even if you do not have artillery or tanks (somehow), you will always find that even a single selection of logistics vehicles is worth their weight in gold for resupplying your units at critical moments. And if you do have artillery, especially rocket artillery, plentiful supply trucks are a must.

Support units also cover lightly armed armoured cars and halftracks which lack reconnaissance ability. These are often very useful, depending on your division. If you happen to run a German armoured division whose most effective units are not available until late game, the halftracks available to you in this tab are worth their weight in gold. Often there will also be command vehicles available too, which are ideal for cheaply strengthening your forces with that extra bit of veterancy. Also of note are the specialist engineering and close support vehicles, including the Churchill Crocodile and StuH-42. Although these vehicles often arrive too late to be effective in many cases, they can be deadly when facing infantry.

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Support options vary wildly between divisions. Always bring some logistics, but otherwise, it’s up to the player and their playstyle to decide on what else they might need.

Highlights:

  • Logistics Trucks (all divisions) 

Wildcards:

  • Churchill AVRE (15th (Scottish))
  • Wasp (3rd Canadian)
  • Sdkfz 250/9 (12. SS-Panzer, 21. Panzer, 116. Panzer)
  • Flammpanzer B2 (716. Infanterie) 

Anti-Tank

The anti-tank section of your deck consists of large guns on generally immobile platforms (exceptions apply). Anti-tank guns are the bread and butter of this category. These weapons are manhandled into position and whilst they lack the mobility of tanks can be just as deadly fighting them. They are fragile however, meaning that they are serious trouble if attacked by infantry, artillery or aircraft. They should be used carefully and should avoid aggressive movement as much as possible. The point is for the armoured vehicles to come to them to allow the gun to get the first (and potentially lethal) shot.

Other units available under this tab include infantry anti-tank weapons. These have poor range, poor durability and cannot defend themselves effectively. In all other respects they perform like regular infantry, allowing them to remain hidden far better than any vehicle and to occupy buildings. It’s a tough decision at the best of times to include these in any deck. Whether to include them or not ultimately comes down to what your deck will be doing. If you will be fighting in hedgerows or built up areas, these units are ideal for sneak attacks on enemy vehicles. A single vehicle kill can make the unit’s value back and more. In open areas, these units are useless. By the time the enemy is within range of these units, you’ve probably lost already. Choose these units carefully, be mindful of the terrain you want to fight with, the unit’s timing and make your decision accordingly.

Steel Division Screenshot 15 small

The final category of this section are tank destroyers. Tank destroyers are effectively tanks, but designed specifically to fight other tanks at the expense of anti-infantry firepower or protection. These units are often lightly armoured, but when properly positioned and prepared are deadly. These vehicles vary heavily between forces. Some, such as the Jagdpanzer IV, are well armoured with a deadly gun. Others, such as the M10, have good anti-infantry firepower but are open topped, making them critically vulnerable to air attack. In many decks, tank destroyers are a vital part of their mobile tank force. In others, they are merely icing on the cake.

The anti-tank tank tab is an important part of any deck. Use it to bulk up your forces in an area they might lack or as a safety blanket if things go wrong. 

Highlights:

  • Pak-40 75mm (All German Divisions)
  • 17-Pounder (15th (Scottish), 6th Airborne, 1. Pancerna, 3rd Canadian, Guards Armoured)
  • Jagdpanther (352. Infanterie) 

Wildcards:

  • All infantry anti-tank teams. 

Anti-Air

The anti-air section of a division is a place of difficult choices. Anti-aircraft weapons occupy a strange place in Steel Division. Counter-intuitively, they are designed more to frighten attackers away rather than to actually shoot anything down. The system works so that smaller caliber AA (20mm and below) are more effective at shooting aircraft down whilst their larger caliber brethren are better at frightening them away. Unfortunately, the result is that you need a large number of often very expensive units that might go many minutes without seeing action. Yours truly, in some decks, has forgone anti-aircraft weapons entirely in favour of more aircraft, with some good results. AA screens represent a good safety net for a new player, and an AA screen carefully added to throughout the game can prevent most attacking aircraft from completing their attack runs on you.

In selecting your anti-aircraft units, make sure you have a wide range of units of varying calibers available in varying phases. There is nothing worse than finding your AA units are a phase away when a steady stream of aircraft are destroying your units one by one.

Highlights:

  • Flak 41 88mm (21. Panzer, 352. Infanterie, Panzer-Lehr, 12. SS-Panzer, 91. Luftlande 3. Fallschirmjager)
  • M16 MGMC (101st Airborne, 2e Blindee, 2nd Infantry, 3rd Armoured) 

Steel Division Screenshot 7

Artillery

Artillery ranges from light 50mm mortars to 300mm rocket artillery pieces. Observer vehicles can bring to bear even larger guns, with 381mm naval guns available to some units. There are four categories of artillery pieces, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The primary role of artillery is suppression. Artillery is often inaccurate and cannot be relied upon to do direct damage to a unit, but it is great for suppressing and pinning units so that they become useless. Artillery is ideal for supporting your units in the defense or the attack.

Mortars are usually relatively low caliber weapons. Although they are short ranged and often do little damage, they are accurate and fire quickly. This makes them ideal close support units and are effective at getting your infantry out of trouble if something goes wrong or supporting an advance .

Howitzers are medium to large caliber weapons. They have a long range, good damage, but are slow to aim and quite inaccurate. They are ideal for spoiling enemy buildups and counter-battery fire. In a prepared attack they can be very effective at pinning down enemy infantry and knocking out AT guns. Howitzers are also effective in the counter-battery role, where their long range and large supply of ammunition means they can keep a constant barrage up against enemy positions.

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Rocket artillery are short ranged but extremely high damage weapons. If you’re looking for the last word in terrifying everything in that wood or village over there, rocket artillery is it. Slow to fire and requiring large amounts of logistic support, they are usually out of ammunition by the time they fire off a second barrage. Concentrated upon a small area, rocket artillery is capable of annihilating almost anything that isn’t a heavy tank. Effective use of rocket artillery can spoil an entire defensive line.

Observers are vehicles, usually a jeep, that can call off-map artillery three times onto a specified area after a short delay with varying precision and intensity. The delay between your barrage request and the barrage’s arrival makes it difficult to use observers on the defensive, but in an attack, these units are, along with rocket artillery, ideal for preparing the ground.

Selecting artillery units for your force will depend upon its role and composition. An aggressive infantry force will be well supported by a few humble mortars in the early game, whilst a defensive force will appreciate the constant support of howitzers to soften up an enemy’s support units.

Highlights:

  • AB 3-in Mortar (6th Airborne)
  • M2A1 Howitzer 105mm (2nd Infantry)
  • Beo.Kubel. (380mm) (91. Luftlande, 3. Fallschirmjager)
  • Sk 18 (17. SS-Panzergrenadier, 352. Infanterie) 

Wildcards:

  • Nebelwerfer 42 (17. SS-Panzergrenadier, 352. Infanterie)
  • M4A3(W) Calliope (3rd Armoured) 

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Air

Airpower in Steel Division is tricky to get your head around. Play well, and your force of a few veteran fighters will sweep the skies clean. Play poorly (or just be unlucky) and the enemy will be able to strike your forces at any time. The options the division provides you in a deck is crucial to deciding on how to structure your air force. Generally, a unit with a small amount of aircraft to select should select fighters with perhaps a bomber or two in case of emergency. In airborne decks, where a vast number of aircraft are available, a mix of fighters and ground support in the form of both rocket and bomb carrying aircraft is ideal. The effect of a steady stream of medium bombers upon an enemy advance is devastating, so don’t be afraid to mix and match to your preferences. In selecting fighters, veterancy is crucial. Many times, green fighters will not do enough damage to bring an enemy down, whilst veteran fighters will shoot them down in moments. Whether a player selects veteran or green fighters is up to them, based on how confident they are with air combat and their experience.

Highlights:

  • Tempest (6th Airborne, Guards Armoured)
  • Hs 129 B3 (91. Luftlande, 352. Infanterie)
  • FW 190 G1 (21. Panzer, 116. Panzer, 12. SS-Panzer, 3. Fallschirmjager)
  • P-47D Thunderbolt (101st Airborne, 3rd Armored, 2nd Infantry)
  • Typhoon (Guards Armoured, 6th Airborne, 15th (Scottish) Division, 3rd Canadian)

Wildcards:

  • Rosie (3rd Armored)
  • All Polish fighters (“Repeat please!”)
  • Mosquito Pathfinder (6th Airborne)

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Conclusion

Your deck does not define the battle. I’ve had Staghounds ambush Panzer IVs from 200m and knock out four in rapid succession. I doubt anyone would recommend using Staghounds as a counter to a Panzer IV. Deckbuilding plays a significant part in Steel Division, but never forget that you, the player, still have agency. The enemy also has agency. It is perfectly possible to create a deck perfectly designed to suppress and kill any kind of infantry it may face. But it would be helpless against armour. Balance, flexibility and usability are all important aspect of any successful deck. Recognise what you are good at, what your enemy may potentially be good at, and aim to help the one and protect against the other. Whilst you can never be certain of victory, a good, well rounded deck is half of the journey to victory. Good luck.

This article is part of our SG-1 Volunteer Initiative and was kindly donated to us by the author. For more information, please see this post.

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