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

By Charles Ellis 20 Jun 2017 1

Welcome to the first part of a two part series on creating Division decks in Steel Division: Normandy ‘44. This first part will deal general principles and the basic building blocks of a force. Part two will look at the more specialised units to you in your force.

With Steel Division’s release, there are now a pile of new Divisions to create decks from. With so many units and so many options available in the game for units, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what you can choose in a deck. Here’s a basic guide to help you along with creating a force for the Steel Division battlefield.

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General Principles

The first thing you should ask yourself when creating a deck in Steel Division is how knowledgeable about the game you are. A new player should select different decks and play differently to a veteran player to succeed. If you are a new player, having more of everything and large numbers of units available to call in will ensure that mistakes will not be catastrophic and you will not be left with an empty deck and no use to anyone. Defensive play, where there is less pressure upon you to make the opening moves and simply holding the line whilst calling in units to plug gaps is usually a good way to begin to understand game mechanics.

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Having recognized what level of play you are at, you should recognize what kind of player you are and select a deck accordingly. An aggressive player will want to use a deck with large amounts of armour, reconnaissance vehicles and mechanized infantry. A defensive player will appreciate a mountain of infantry, with plentiful artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank gun support.

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Usually, aggressive units will be armoured divisions, such as the German 12th SS Panzer Division, US 3rd Armoured Division and the French 2nd Divisione Blindee. Mechanised divisions will sometimes bridge the gap between the two, and infantry divisions will often be defensive units, such as the British 6th Airborne Division and the German 91. Luftlande Division. There are of course exceptions, it’s possible to use units such as the British 15th (Scottish) Division aggressively and the 21. Panzer Division must be played extremely conservatively until phase C for it to receive units strong enough for it to push effectively. Knowledge of decks and units in Steel Division are key to success upon the battlefield and can only be learned through experience.

Building a Deck

By now you’ve picked your unit. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is the British 15th (Scottish) Division. It has a good mixture of veteran and standard units and can perform just about any role from aggressive pushes to strong defense, given the right deck make up.

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Consider first how you want to play this deck and what kind of territory you’d play it on. A deck designed for fighting in the open fields of Carpiquet will be very different to one that is designed to fight in the factory at Colombelles. Upon starting a game, if it is a multiplayer game, ensure that your team are aware of where you are heading and be prepared to compromise if someone gets in ahead of you. There is a particular art in balancing a deck so that it can take on all comers and yet still perform well in its chosen specialty. One of the advantages of Steel Division is that each division provides a range of specialties to the player.

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It is important to recognize the limitations of each deck as well. Expecting Blitzkrieg style armoured advances from the 91. Luftlande is a recipe for disaster on the battlefield. Try to mask your force’s weak points as much as possible (airpower in particular is very good at this) and think about how the position will exacerbate your strengths or weaknesses. The finest deck in the world will not be enough to protect a poor commander from defeat.

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Recon

Working from the left, Reconnaissance units are your first port of call. Make no mistake, these units are critical to success in Steel Division. Recon units are able to spot more effectively than any other unit in the game. Having them in a good position can often tip the balance in your favour decisively. Always take phase A infantry recon. No ifs, no buts, get it and deploy it at the beginning of the game. These men are the bread and butter recon of your army. They come in a variety of sizes and vehicles but generally you will be interested in either the two or five man squads, who will come in light vehicles, some armed, some not.

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Deciding whether you need a vehicle with an MG or more men in your squads (or if you are willing to pay for both) will depend on the recon squads you choose. Also included in the recon tab are snipers and light vehicles. Snipers are dangerous to infantry squads and deal a large amount of suppression, but they should not be used for recon unless you have no other choice. Light vehicles, including armoured cars and half-tracks can be very dangerous, although in phase A when they are truly dangerous they are often few in number. A couple of these vehicles can do significant damage to an enemy’s advance. German Panzer Divisions often have the strongest armoured recce at the beginning of the game, although the allies are not without their own types. The use of these vehicles is a high risk, high reward venture, with successful attacks by fast moving armoured cars devastating enemy early game forces. Failure often leaves you at a serious disadvantage throughout phase A. Expect to lose recce units often, but their survival will always pay dividends into the late game, with holdouts behind enemy lines providing very valuable information about enemy buildups. It’s always important to have recce available in later phases as attrition sets in.

Highlights:

  • Fallschirmjager Panzer-Abwehr. (91. Luftlande, 3. Fallschirmjager)
  • SPW 231 (21. Panzer, 12. SS. Panzer)
  • M8 (3rd Armoured, 2e Blindee)
  • Airborne Sniper (6th Airborne)

Infantry

Artillery prepares ground, tanks take ground, infantry holds ground. It is very hard to hold any amount of land without infantry, even in just a few key locations. It is impossible to cover the full range of infantry from unwilling osttruppen to crack paratroopers, instead we shall restrict ourselves to a few general guidelines. First, and most importantly, have them. Although infantry isn’t very exciting oftentimes, it fulfills a vital role on the battlefield and having them available to cover a key town or woodland is critical. Even the most powerful armoured unit needs infantry to protect it from unexpected surprises. Secondly, recognize what your infantry is good at, or not. Infantry perform a variety of roles from standard frontline infantry to specialist engineers and flamethrower squads. These should be used for the roles are intended for as much as possible unless in extremis. Thirdly, make sure to note what kinds of transports your units come in. The cheapest will come in trucks that will be removed from the battlefield once the infantry are deployed. The most expensive meanwhile come in heavily armed halftracks (and even modified tanks!) which are major threats to enemy infantry. Striking a balance between effective infantry support and cost-effectiveness is key.

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Highlights:

  • Fallschirmjager (91. Luftlande, 3. Fallschirmjager)
  • Italian Freiwillige (716. Infanterie)
  • Airborne Paratroopers (6th Airborne)
  • Armoured Rifles (3rd Armoured)

Wildcards:

  • Osttruppen (352. Infanterie, 716. Infanterie)
  • Stormtroopers (3rd Canadian)

Tanks

Whilst you can be confident of infantry and reconnaissance units being available in effective quantities in all the available divisions, from here, your options begin to diversify, with the different kinds of unit available to each division varying greatly.

Tanks are the bread and butter of many divisions. An aggressive division will often be an armoured division, with a plentiful selection of tanks making up the bulk of their forces. These tanks will range from light or outdated tanks in the early game, to the most powerful medium and heavy tanks in the late game. Although early game tanks will be completely outgunned in the late game, effective use of them in the early game will often tip the balance in your favour, placing you in a favourable position in the later game.

In selecting your tanks, be mindful of your skill and how useful these tanks will be to your division’s intended playstyle. Often, a few veteran tanks will perform far better than the same number of green rookie tanks. Armoured warfare in Steel Division is a dark and complex art, worthy of a guide by itself. Newer players however, would be well advised to take more, less veteran, units. Mistakes happen and it’s better to have a new unit to fall back on then to waste your precious veteran unit to some silly and easily rectified mistake.

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It's worth noting the different types of tanks available to you in this tab. There are light tanks, usually lightly armed, but often with plentiful machine guns to allow them to be ideal infantry support tanks. Medium tanks cut a balance between light and heavy tanks, with good guns, relatively effective armour and plentiful supply.

Unfortunately, in the current state of Steel Division, standard medium armour, such as the 75mm armed Shermans, Cromwells and Panzer IVs, are simply too expensive and not powerful enough for their price, and they will often be made mincemeat of by 76mm armed Shermans, Panthers and Tigers. Although the standard medium tanks are not without their uses, players choosing them should keep these limitations in mind.

Heavy tanks are expensive, slow, but extremely powerful. Once they are on the battlefield, the enemy is likely to throw anything they can at the vehicle to prevent it from performing from its full potential. Although powerful, these expensive units should never be used without effective support.

The final category is Assault guns. These vehicles are roughly equivalent to medium and heavy tanks, but with the exception that their guns are mounted on the hull and not in a turret. Largely the preserve of axis divisions, these vehicles are widespread amongst axis infantry divisions which lack any other form of armoured support. Used defensively, or in well-coordinated pushes, assault guns are effective, but lack the flexibility of proper turreted tanks. What tanks you choose are some of the most important decisions you can make in Steel Division.

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Highlights:

  • Konigtiger (21. Panzer, Panzer Lehr)
  • Panther (12. SS Panzer, Panzer Lehr, 116. Panzer)
  • Sherman Firefly (Guards Armoured, 1. Pancerna)
  • M5A1 (3rd Armoured, 2e Blindee)


Wildcards:

  • Phase A Cromwell V (Guards Armoured)
  • Phase A M4 Sherman (2e Blindee, 3rd Armoured, 2nd Infantry)
  • Tetrarchs (6th Airborne)
  • Captured French tanks (716. Infanterie, 352. Infanterie, 21. Panzer, 91. Luftlande)


Join us for part two when we go over the more specialised units in Steel Division.

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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