do I NEED a starter/base set to get the rules for a particular flavor (Task Force, Flank, Zebra, etc.) Does a base/starter set have enough pieces and parts to let us actually get started (even on a limited scale) to give it a test run without spending major $$$
You don’t need a starter or base set to play if you download the rules. Each domain (land, War at Sea, and Angels 20/Bandits High) is independent and incompatible with the others. Within each domain, all sets are completely compatible and no set is necessarily better than another. The exception is perhaps with the land based game. In the first four sets the vehicles were not always to scale. Players call them version 1 or V1. From the set 1939-1945 and thereafter, the vehicles were much more to scale. We call them version 2 or V2. Many, but not all of the vehicles were then reissued. Many of the soldiers were as well, but they are essentially identical.
The starters have barely enough to get started. I highly recommend buying some boosters or used collections on eBay. Btw, I have a few extra unopened 1939-1945 (land game) starter sets and a number of War at Sea boosters:
Flank Speed, x1 booster
Condition Zebra, x1 booster
Set V, x1 booster
Surface Action, x19 boosters
PM for more info if interested. Good luck and have fun!