The British provide us with an interesting mix of units. Before 1944 most of their tanks are undergunned and fairly ineffective against infantry (the M3 Stuart being a notable exception). However, they have quite a few staple AI units, including the tournament-worthy Humber Scout Car. With their units the British seam to emphasize an infantry army supported by heavier tanks, though other forces will work quite well. In earlier games many of the British units are quite tough (Valentine II), fast (Crusader II) or useful for a variety of purposes (Bofors, Humber, etc). With the late war tanks Britain finally has some units with a punch, and although they still suffer against infantry, it has been lessened somewhat. An important aspect of British armies I’ve found is their mobility; whether it’s moving your normally immobile artillery during the movement phase, all of the Vanguard units, or just the sheer speed of units, the British are fast.
I’m leaving it up to you if you want to count the Australian Veteran SMLE Riflemen as a British unit, but for the purposes of this review I’ll only be counting the regular SMLE and Gurkha riflemen. Much of what does for those units goes for the Veterans as well.
Britain has two very specialized AT units in the form of the PIAT Gunner and Royal Engineer. The PIAT is a hideously overpriced Bazooka, but compared to the Engineer it can at least harm units when beside them. The Royal Engineer can only harm vehicles in the same hex, making it difficult to use. Your best strategy for either is to try and disrupt the enemy AFV while your Engineer/PIAT sneaks in and destroy it. When used with an Inspiring Lieutenant though, they can rapidly make their way to enemy tanks, or (more likely) scare them off. Personally I prefer not to use them but I do know they have their uses.
The SMLE No. 4 Rifle is your basic infantry, not particularly good at anything but not bad at it either. Generally you should take them as filler, or if you find your force lacking infantry. The Gurkha Riflemen is an upgrades SMLE for only 1 point more; which on a small scale isn’t bad, but quickly adds up when you use a few of them. The Gurkhas are basically the British Arisaka Rifle, and are useful in similar ways. Have your MGs or other infantry soften up and disrupt the enemy, while on the next turn your Gurkhas use the Lieutenant’s Tally-Ho to move from 2 hexes away to on top of them. To be a real sneaky git, have the Lieutenant 2 hexes away from the Gurkhas as well, so your opponent may not see it coming.
A decent infantry support weapon, the Vickers Machine-Gun Team is fairly reliable against basic enemy troops, but lacking against elite troops (especially at long range). For the same points, the Humber Scout Car exchanges the Vickers double shot for a lot of mobility. With a front defence of 3 most enemy infantry, MGs and armoured cars won’t be able to harm you except at extremely close ranges. Always use Strike & Fade to your advantage; move in close, avoid LOS to the enemy, or use it to draw your enemy out into LOS of your forces for the next turn. The Humber is a great unit to have in your force, and emphasizes the mobility of most British units.
As an AT gun the 6-Pounder Antitank Gun provides you with some extra firepower, but at the cost of mobility and survivability. The Inspiring Lt helps you offset some of the mobility however. For almost double the cost the 17-Pounder Antitank Gun is nearly a PAK 40, but gains a single use AP round. As with the PAK it’s a lot of points for such a fragile unit, but it does hit hard. Unlike other nations which can usually discount their AT guns, the British could have some use of the 17lber, especially loaded on a carrier, since very few of their tanks that are worth using can match that firepower. For 5 more points, the Archer is a mobile 17-pounder it works best along roads entering into hindering terrain where it can move faster, pull up, fire, and fade behind the blocking terrain.
Speaking of the Universal Carrier this nifty little vehicle is another great unit the UK finally got in Set III. It’s slightly slower on the road than a halftrack, but is able to carry artillery units and costs less. It has slightly worse AI attack as well, but the improved AT makes up for it; making it so when you’ve no transporting left to do you can harass the rears of enemy AFVs quite easily. It’s great for carrying either a Bofors or 17-pounder into position, then scooting off to harass or move other troops. The drawback of transporting large units can be decreased if you run Humbers by it, reducing the number of ‘bad’ hexes your enemy can deploy the artillery in.
A great unit, the 40mm Bofors L60 is deadly against planes, infantry, light or even medium AFVs. With enhanced range 10 and a carrier to transport it, it can hit aircraft nearly anywhere on the map. At only 9 points it’s not that expensive either. However, you will have to protect them from scout/armoured cars, paratroopers, and similar units.
The Inspiring Lieutenant is an expensive infantry for 10 points, but with a great command ability. Just remember when making your army not to focus the core around a single Lieutenant, as only so many units can be useful adjacent to him, and it’s quite possible for your opponent to assassinate him early on.
Inexpensive but often hard to use, the Crusader II is poor against infantry, and ineffective against high defence vehicles. With its Vanguard and decent speed of 4, the Crusader should be used primarily to harass the enemy and flank them while your bigger tanks move into position.
Heavily armoured, but slow the Valentine II has the same firepower as the Crusader II. It’s best used in early war games where its high defence is formidable. In later or standard games the Valentine is simply too slow and doesn’t have the necessary firepower to make it worth using.
A great little tank, the M3 Stuart essentially gets a free shot if your opponent keeps infantry exposed to it. With speed 5 you can quickly flank the enemy. They work well in ‘packs’ with Humbers, or tanks like the Comet or Cromwell.
A solid British tank, the Cromwell IV has the speed, defence, and AT stats of a Sherman, but trades some AI attack for Vanguard. With Vanguard your tanks can be all over the enemy, and quickly supported by Humbers or Stuarts.
The Comet A-34 combines good forward armour with high speed and good firepower, but at a high cost. Battlefield awareness is good ability; if you go first you can aggressively move up to an opponent’s vehicle and give them a tough decision. Overall a decent tank, but pricey, making it’s inclusion a matter of taste.
Lastly, there’s the Churchill Crocodile. It has only average AT dice, and is very slow, but with it’s defence 7/6 superior armour 2 it’s very difficult to stop the Crocodile from reaching their objective (like one of those creepy crawlies from a horror movie; whatever you throw at it only slows it at best). Most infantry will have to get in close to harm it, but will be wary of its flamethrowers. Once there, a Crocodile on the objective can be hard to get rid of. A typical British fast army can tie up the enemy, giving the Croc time to get into position.
A fast moving / vanguard British army is only one type of British force you can make, but one I feel has some potential in a competitive game. Use the Lieutenant to move your infantry into position, while attacking with your vehicles. Harass harass harass. Alternatively you could make a slower army, based on 1-2 Crocodiles, and using the Infantry to support their advance.
The army I’ve been tinkering with is:
Cromwell IV x2
Humber Scout Car x2 (or M3 Stuart)
Universal Carrier x1
Bofors AA x1
Inspiring Lieutenant x1
Gurkha Riflemen x2 (or Gurkha x3, SMLE x0)
SMLE Riflemen x1
As I’ve outlined, most of the units will press forward to rapidly engage the enemy. The Carrier gives you the option to help out against either infantry light/medium AFVs, or to instead help bring your riflemen to the front; whichever seems more important. The Gurkhas are generally used to hold the objective, though may be called on to support the tanks. No promises with this army, as I haven’t had much time to play test it.