Eugen Systems’ Steel Division: Normandy '44 can be hard on a new player, something that gets worse with every patch. With an ever-increasing line up of arcane vehicles which require expert knowledge to even recognise, Steel Division pulls no punches. To make matters worse, the number of different play styles available means that knowing which division does what well defines how you approach each battle. Is it better to hold off early on against the 3. Fallschirmjager? Or should I push as fast and as hard possible from the moment the game starts?
Despite its learning curve, Steel Division is one of our favourite WW2 wargames. You should check out the others.
This guide aims to, very quickly and very simply, tell you what each division in the game does, what general strengths it has, what units to watch out for, and obvious weaknesses. Whilst every division arguably deserves a guide specific to them, we’re interested in the big picture here.
General comments: As a rule, Allied Divisions have large numbers of thinly armoured tanks, some packing a bigger punch than others. Their infantry generally comes off worse in a long range firefight, but the generous support options available to them can even the odds. Allied divisions want to gain an advantage in the early phases before the Axis big-hitters come out. Their aircraft are usually better, but if they do lose the air war the allies will suffer heavily from axis ground attack aircraft as their air defences are weaker than their Axis counterparts. Seizing the initiative from the first encounter and keeping it is the name of the game here.
US 3rd Armored
Strengths: Shermans, endless Shermans. Endless Airpower. Surprisingly powerful AA (because every vehicle has a .50 machine gun).
Weaknesses: Expensive but only adequate infantry. Shermans are thinly armoured, and support vehicles means that you are often in for a hard time in phase C.
Beware: Sherman Jumbo, it will bounce almost anything. M16 AA vehicles that shoot down a surprising number of aircraft for what they are.
Commonwealth 15th (Scottish) Division
Strengths: A very well-balanced deck. A good choice for a beginner with every unit available in some form. Good veteran infantry, backed by effective armour. Rounded out by good airpower and artillery.
Weaknesses: If the division loses its relatively meagre (and thinly armoured) supply of tanks, late Axis armour can cause real problems.
Beware: Churchills, the AVRE and Crocodile are devastating to anything they see that’s not a vehicle.
US 2nd Infantry Division
Strengths: Infantry, endless infantry. Beware phase A Ranger units especially. This is coupled with endless artillery – 12 tubes of 105mm howitzers can lay waste to any area of the map the player doesn’t like.
Weaknesses: Armour is very poor. 75mm armed Shermans do not go far in phase C. US anti-tank weapons aren’t much either.
Beware: Rangers! And the oncoming artillery storm.
Commonwealth 3rd Canadian Division
Strengths: Strong infantry; Stormtroopers are terrific for early game pushes. Good artillery support and effective anti-tank weapons.
Weaknesses: Suffers in open warfare, limited armoured support, thin skinned tank destroyers.
Beware: Wasps – a Bren Carrier outfitted with a flamethrower that will clear any building it sees.
Polish 1. Pancerna Division
Strengths: Large quantities of fast armour and reconnaissance.
Weaknesses: Very ordinary infantry. Pitiful airpower that is good only for laughs if it actually manages to achieve something.
Beware: Early game pushes, Stuarts and Cromwells can be very dangerous.
Commonwealth 6th Airborne Division
Strengths: Strong veteran infantry, exceptional air support. Good artillery observers into the bargain, if you want a block of buildings levelled, bring these guys in. This division loves a city fight.
Weaknesses: Limited armour and anti-tank weapons. Vulnerable without its airpower.
Beware: Mosquito Pathfinder, setting fire to the road your forces are going down really puts a crimp in any plan to get to a town before the airborne does. Naval artillery.
US 4th Armored Division
Strengths: The faster, shootier cousin of the 3rd Armored. Less Shermans but they’ve been replaced by Hellcats.
Weaknesses: Extremely thin skinned armour, concerted pushes by heavy armour will break this glass cannon.
Beware: Hellcats, faster than a speeding greyhound, more stopping power than a locomotive (we haven’t tried the tall buildings bit yet). The B-26 Marauder with its multiple .50 calibre machine guns can give thin skinned axis vehicles an incredibly bad day.
French Demi-Brigade SAS
Strengths: 3 distinct phases of strong infantry. Strong armour arrives in phase C. Very powerful air support. A surprising number of tricks up its sleeve as well.
Weaknesses: Very slow start. Artillery, armor and infantry support is very lacking.
Beware: FFI Partisans; A Panzerfaust works both ways. FFI Jagdpanzer IV, the most effective way to shut down any push against this division for all of phase A.
Allied 1st Special Service Brigade
Strengths: Veteran infantry, thousands of 'em. Plentiful phase A armour and infantry support vehicles.
Weaknesses: Pitiful late game armour. Very little anti-tank weaponry that isn’t handheld (and therefore very squishy). Poor early game artillery. Airpower seems strong but suffers against Axis fighters.
Beware: Morris LRC OP, because there’s not much that beats unloading 960 rockets into the countryside. Seafire L.III: they might be just a recon aircraft, but they pack a decent amount of weapons into the bargain.
Commonwealth Guards Armoured Division
Strengths: Plentiful armour, much of which has a chance of knocking out the majority of what it’ll face. Veteran air support that makes up for in quality what it lacks in quantity.
Weaknesses: Thin skinned and non-veteran tanks, very average infantry.
Beware: The amount of Fireflies this deck can bring is ridiculous. Its Tempests are also some of the best aircraft in Steel Division.
US 101st Airborne Division
Strengths: Vast quantities of well-armed infantry. Ridiculous amounts of air support. Not bad tank destroyers late game either.
Weaknesses: Infantry is relatively green. Tanks suffer heavily in the late game. Artillery is adequate but will suffer against the more artillery orientated German decks.
Beware: All that airpower.
French 2e Blindee Division
Strengths: Very powerful & fast moving early game. Plentiful armour and tank destroyers. Veteran infantry in the early game. Light vehicles and armoured cars, if played well, can be very dangerous when used in a push.
Weaknesses: Thin skinned armour, infantry are few in number in all phases.
Beware: The early game. This unit can run amok given half a chance. Its early game infantry are hard as nails.
Commonwealth 7th Armoured Division
Strengths: Large quantities of veteran armour and infantry. Its air power, if not dealt with, can be extremely dangerous.
Weaknesses: Very expensive infantry and armour. The tanks especially are very vulnerable. Its artillery is not much to write home about. Airpower at a disadvantage in a dogfight.
Beware: All those Fireflies.
US 1st Infantry Division
Strengths: Vast quantities of veteran infantry and assault infantry. Infantry support of all kinds is very dangerous. Artillery is plentiful and varied, including phase A rocket artillery observers.
Weaknesses: Extremely lacking armour. No tank destroyers. Bazookas and anti-tank guns will run into issues with heavier axis armour.
Beware: All that infantry. Early on, anything the division wants it can take. Its Phase A infantry support vehicles will make the infantry’s job all the easier.
General Comments: Axis Divisions are often far more specialised than Allied divisions: being very good a specific ‘thing’ but falling far short in areas that don’t come within that strategy. In this regard, a jack of all trades Axis deck is difficult to identify. Axis armour, of course, is some of the toughest in the game, and a King Tiger on the attack or the defence is a fearsome weapon.
Axis infantry is strong and, with their long-range firepower thanks to the omnipresent MG-42s, extremely dangerous. Their airpower depends heavily on the player. Played well it is very dangerous thanks to veteran pilots and powerful armaments, even despite their aircraft as a rule being slower than allied fighters. Played poorly and the Axis player will find themselves out of aircraft and under constant air attack. Axis air defences, one of their strong points, can only go so far to alleviate this, especially if the enemy brings the artillery.
German 91. Luftlande Division
Strengths: Very strong early game infantry. Reconnaissance infantry are some of the best in the game. Large amount of airpower and eclectic mix of artillery.
Weaknesses: Rapid decline in strength of infantry. Limited armour selection consisting of outdated French Vehicles and relatively modern assault guns. Artillery suffers against Allied counter-battery fire.
Beware: The recon infantry, especially the ones packing Panzershreks, no hedgerow is safe. The HS 129 B3, a tank buster that will kill almost any enemy vehicle it comes across from the right position. Hide your armour.
German 12. SS-Panzer Division
Strengths: Deadly armour that will be a match for anything the Allies can bring out. A large variety of armoured artillery, ranging from mortars to rockets. A dangerous and overlooked anti-tank section.
Weaknesses: Expensive infantry in only 'reasonable' quantities. Expensive armour that makes every loss hurt all the more. Airpower limited to three choices. Every loss here counts as well.
Beware: The phase A Firefly will shut down any vehicle push made by the allies in that phase. Panthers, Tigers and Wittman round things out. The rocket artillery can really mess up anti-tank weapons.
German 3. Fallschirmjager Division
Strengths: Extremely powerful infantry, the equal of anything the allies can bring. Dangerous early game armour that can be tricky to deal with. A very powerful air force that can easily wrest air superiority from the allies. Their AA screen, whilst limited, brings a lot of FlaK 88s.
Weaknesses: A slow decline in infantry effectiveness as the game progresses. Relatively weak armour and a merely adequate artillery tab.
Beware: Veteran axis pilots, their aircraft will shoot down anything they can reach. Early game infantry are to be feared.
German 17. SS-Panzergrenadier Division
Strengths: Decent numbers of infantry including many varieties of specialised assault infantry. An artillery line up that includes a ridiculous amount of rocket artillery. A variety of large calibre anti-tank guns and light vehicles. AA defences are equally varied.
Weaknesses: Infantry can suffer against a stronger infantry deck. The armour isn’t much to write home about, being more assault guns and the occasional tank. The artillery chews through supplies like nothing else and requires a lot of logistics vehicles. Rockets tend to get easily hit by counter-battery fire.
Beware: All the rocket artillery, especially the 300mm varieties. The specialist infantry can be very dangerous if used properly.
German 21. Panzer Division
Strengths: Vast quantities of armour in all phases, ranging from French cast offs and captured Shermans to King Tigers. Good armoured car selection and an impressive amount of (very odd) artillery pieces.
Weaknesses: Very, very limited infantry. Do not take this deck if a friendly player is using a similarly poorly equipped armoured deck. You will be thrashed as your infantry are rolled over by endless allied infantry and 'good enough' armour. Expensive armour and logistics heavy specialist artillery . Limited (if veteran) airpower.
Beware: King Tigers. All that scary rocket artillery.
German 352. Infanterie Division
Strengths: Endless quantities of budget infantry. Ridiculous amounts of AA and artillery (including some of the longest ranged pieces in the game). All of this is rounded out by extremely deadly tank destroyers.
Weaknesses: Very budget infantry. These guys will need plentiful support to hold a coherent line. Limited armoured support with assault guns the best available.
Beware: All the 88s! This deck can bring a lot of them. Jagdpanthers will destroy just about any allied tank without breaking a sweat.
German 716. Infanterie Division
Strengths: Endless quantities of budget infantry, but they get better as the game goes on. Even more ridiculous quantities of AA. Artillery pieces that look like something out of Warhammer 40,000 round things out. The veteran air power isn’t bad either.
Weaknesses: Poor armoured support, reconnaissance infantry is quite limited. Artillery and AA vulnerable to enemy artillery fire.
Beware: All the 88s! If you thought the last deck was bad… The Flammpanzer B2(f) makes for a terrific support vehicle early on – whenever it actually reaches the frontline.
Strengths: Very strong armoured cars, a massive armour tab with all the Tigers even the most dedicated Wehraboo could wish for. This deck lives for phase C.
Weaknesses: Everything else. Infantry is poor, AA and artillery is limited. Aircraft are few and everything is expensive. You will need to be carried in the early game.
Beware: The Tigers.
German 9. Panzer Division
Strengths: Slightly more infantry (for once) than your standard armoured deck. An eclectic mix of vehicles, ranging from some nifty phase A recce options all the way up to Tigers.
Weaknesses: Most of the tabs are simply 'average'. Airpower is average, AA is average, Artillery is limited AND average. None of it is necessarily bad however. The armour, as usual, is very expensive. So is the infantry, though the halftracks they come in are pretty nifty.
Beware: The Tigers and/or the endless waves of Panzer IVs. The infantry will put up a stronger fight than one might expect.
German 116. Panzer Division
Strengths: A very strong phase A, with large quantities of armoured cars backed by a very strong selection of veteran tanks. A very dangerous rush deck.
Weaknesses: Infantry is extremely limited in the early game. The early game armour advantage is good, but things change in the late game with the formation becoming merely a mid-tier armour unit with none of the fancy things like Tigers. Likewise the artillery is expensive and not overly numerous.
Beware: The early game vehicle rush.
German 2. Panzer Division
Strengths: Another strong phase A division. Armoured cars are good for charging around wreaking havoc, and are veterans too. A wide array of 'eclectic' specialist vehicles. A larger selection of infantry than we’re used to with panzer divisions. A large selection of veteran tanks.
Weaknesses: Very expensive infantry; those halftracks take their toll. AA selection is good but you have few slots to put them in, same with the artillery.
Beware: Veteran Panthers. The Borgward IV, there’s nothing like saying hello to the enemy with half a ton of explosive.
German 16. Luftwaffe Division
Strengths: Hordes of throwaway infantry, mountains of anti-tank guns and an endless supply of AA defences. The veteran 88s are to be feared.
Weaknesses: The throwaway infantry, while numerous has little to redeem them except a few selections that come with panzerfausts. Artillery is thoroughly ordinary and the airpower, whilst plentiful, has no dedicated fighters. Armoured support is the standard set of French castoffs and assault guns. Recon is equally ordinary.
Beware: The endless veteran 88s – keep your airforce at home for this one.
German Festung Gross-Paris
Strengths: A Frankenstein’s monster of a division. Endless quantities of infantry and armour. Some of these are pretty good too. Tigers and plentiful infantry is a relatively rare combination. Everything else comes in decent quantities as well.
Weaknesses: Poor quality air power, antiquated French models do not cut it against Mustangs. Artillery is limited, as is recce infantry.
Beware: The Tigers and the sheer amount and variety of stuff this division can chuck at you.
German 1. SS-Panzer Division
Strengths: A very dangerous variety of veteran armour. An impressive selection of veteran infantry as well. The recce options may be some of the best available in the game.
Weaknesses: Infantry comes in relatively small amounts. Its airpower, whilst good, lacks fighters. Almost everything it can buy is expensive.
Beware: All this those veteran tanks! The infantry will put up a stiff fight as well. Veteran Pumas are a menace in phase A.
It should be emphasised that every division in Steel Division is vastly more complex than the very short summaries I have given them here. However, I hope that the information will at least provide the neophyte with at least some small idea of what each divisions does - as well as saving you from some nasty surprises along the way!