Monday, January 31, 2011
8 Panzer IV H
3 Panzer III N
After priming with your preferred primer (I prefer a cheap grey automobile primer), I use Vallejo Desert Yellow as my basecoat. Be sure to coat the entire tank, including the drive wheels.
The next step is to apply the camouflage colors. Using a mix of 1 part water to 1 part Vallejo Bestial Brown, use the natural surface tension of the water to form paint lines. Try to make them fairly random, and don't use the same brush strokes all the time.
The third step is very similar to the 2nd step. Using the same 1:1 ratio, this time using Vallejo Cayman Green, paint additional camo lines in the gaps left by the last step. You are not trying to cover all the yellow, but rather just break it up.
This step is where you pick out all the details. Paint tracks black, as with any unfinished metal surfaces. Paint tool handles brown. Then move on to the final required step (and extra credit after that)!
I ran out of Devlan Mud wash from citadel, so I got out a Tiger to use as an example. Using Devlan Mud, wash down the entire tank. This dulls down the yellow and makes it more closely resemble the dark yellow used by Axis Panzers. Get it especially heavy in the drive wheels, to add shading and definition. After this wash is completely dry, take a soft-leaded graphite pencil and rub the lead on the metal edges to make them appear worn, such as track edges and tool edges.
And there you have it: my formula for painting Panzers up fast. I finished all but the wash in under three hours for my entire Panzerkompanie of 11 Panzers.
When dry, get out your decals! There are other, more detailed, guides out there that can walk you through that process. Also, you can further add definition by blacklining or highlighting, also covered elsewhere in more detail. Go wild!
EDIT 2/12/2013: This is still one of my biggest hits on this site, but I had let the pictures go down, much to my shame. I finally decided to fix the links so that others may benefit from this technique, which they clearly still want to know about!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A while back, I had heard references to a company that made 15mm WWII armor models on the cheap. After quite a bit of searching, I finally found the site:
A fellow named Craig runs the site. Based in Ohio, he advertises to cater to educators or event organizers that need a large amount of models for not a lot of cash.
His site looks like he wrote the HTML himself, but things are clear and well organized. It is easily viewed from my IPhone. He has no online shopping cart, but instructions for placing an order are very clear: he has an up-to-date price list and provides his email address, so you simply write out what models and their quantities and he will send you a Paypal invoice shortly thereafter.
I filled out a modest order of 8 Panzer IV H tanks, 6 M3 Halftracks, 4 Jeeps, and 4 M10 SP TDs. He was very quick to reply, informing me that I could pick three additional models for free! This was a great deal, since the vehicles each cost 4 dollars each already, which was very inexpensive as it was. So I added 3 Panzer III N models. Shipping for up to 40 models is a flat 5 dollars (within the USA). This is also a great deal, since he ships via priority mail!
Since he casts to-order, it took him a bit under a week to complete my order, and he sent me an email when he sent it out. A few (business) days later, the package arrived. I was impressed by the packing: he had cut individual sections for each tank into a low-density foam (like a mattress topper). All the turrets had been put into a single plastic bag that had it's own spot in the foam, and only a single barrel to a Panzer IV had broken. The other barrels were serviceable using the resin-bending hot water trick.
Models are pre-assembled and usually pre-painted (admittedly though, the paint job didn't seem too appealing by the photos on the site, so I requested that he not pre-paint the models.) when attempting to paint them myself, I discovered it is absolutely essential to prime the models first, as the resin they are cast in has a tendency to repel water (and water-based paints) on flat surfaces. I wasn't thrilled about that, since spray-priming in the house in the middle of winter is usually a no-go with the missus. Luckily, she wasn't there when I set about doing just that... You married fellas know what I mean when I say it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission... Right?
So anyway, back to the models:
They are not very detailed, but they are mostly accurate and in-scale. The resin could be better, as the surface is sometimes pocked with minute air bubbles. In comparison with Battlefront Miniatures, they don't look nearly as good. But for 1/3rd the price, you get models perfectly acceptable for gaming pieces. They won't win any awards, but they are quite functional, exactly as advertised.
Customer Service: 5 out of 5
Quality / Price: 3.75 out of 5 (+.25 for the free models)
Shipping Cost / Speed: 5 out of 5
TOTAL AVERAGE: 4.38 out of 5
Next, I will try to get ahold of some Old Glory models, as they are said to be comparable in price.
So until next time,
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Today, me and the Missus broke out the semi-portable game board we threw some new paint on the other night. Wanting her to have a better chance than normal, we decided to play an "unfair" game, with her using a full Schwere Panzerkompanie of 5 Tigers and supporting Grenadier platoon vs my US Tank Co. I've been putting together. I had a total of 13 shermans, and a full-strength Armored Rifle platoon in support aided by limited air support provided by P-38 Lightning aircraft.
I'll spare you the boring turn-by-turn wall of text (since I didn't take photos), but I'll make a few notes of some lessons I learned about fighting against Tigers while getting my posterior handed to me:
1. Focus fire. Sure, most weapons in MW cannot penetrate a Tiger's tough shell, but many of them can force the crew to bail out at least. The more dice you have those Schwere Panzers rolling, the more likely it will happen. Once it does...
2. Keep on the pressure. If you force a tank to bail twice in a row, you may scare the crew off, effectively getting a kill. Alternatively, if you can assault a bailed tank with infantry, you can capture the crew, again effectively killing the tank.
3. Attack from unexpected directions. Try to outmaneuver the slow Tigers with fancy footwork, and hit the weaker side armor to better your chances. Also, remember that the Top armor value of a tiger isn't all that much better than other tanks, so hit it with artillery bombardments or ground attack aircraft to take advantage of this.
4. Smoke 'em. Trust me, you do not want those Tigers getting full ROF with those 88's. Smoking them forces their owning player to make a choice- move and shoot at lower ROF, or take a penalty to the dice and stay put to fire full ROF.
5. Remember to play to the mission. 5 tigers are ridiculously tough, but they can't be everywhere at once. Use this to your advantage, and try to isolate the objectives so that you can handle them piecemeal. Having one tiger on an objective is a challenge, but having 5 on an objective is a lost cause. This may go with...
6. Utilize the terrain. Try to take shot from positions that give you cover or concealment (better yet, both!) to reduce the impact of return fire. Go Hull Down, shoot from the trees, whatever it takes to get that extra protection.
I made several glaring mistakes this game:
1. I forgot the 16" safe zone aircraft require to attack ground targets. A few times, I had Lightnings ready to go but forgot this rule.
2. Defender gets 2nd move in Breakthrough scenarios. I forgot this, and deployed my halftracks poorly.
3. I didn't use smoke enough. If I had, my armored Rifles assault may not have gotten MG'd to death, losing all my bazookas.
Well, feel free to discuss.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Armed with my research from This Article, I went about my basing project.
First off, I start by making sure my miniatures are mounted on the base, and then I apply a coat of PVA glue to it. (I use Mod Podge gloss for this part.) I then dip the base in model railroading ballast, such as what is pictured here:
After the base material is on, I follow that up with another coat of the mod-podge gloss. I find the gloss adheres slightly better than the matte, so I use that first. Really, I should have done a second coat of ballast and glue, but for the expediency of this tutorial I decided to double-up on foliage later.
Then, I go ahead and paint my miniatures. Many people choose to paint them BEFORE mounting them to the base, but I like to have playable teams first, artistic pieces second. Your mileage may vary though, so do that in whatever order pleases you.
Once this has been done, I start with a reddish-brown color. Most any kind of paint will do, as long as it is able to be thinned down with water. I make sure to get a good thick coat over the base:
Once that has dried, I go on to the drybrushing. Starting with the Apple Barrel color Desert Tan (though other desert colors like Khaki could be used, but I find Apple Barrel's colors easy on my wallet), I dip a old crummy brush in the paint. I then find a piece of paper or cardboard, then rub my brush on it to remove excess paint, like so:
To get the drybrush effect, I use a horizontal motion to drag the bristles across only the raised edges of the base, like so:
When you are finished, the base should look like this:
The next step is to apply a dark "wash" to the base. Either black or brown washes are suitable, but I use a home-made brew of acrylic paints and water for terrain pieces. To make a home-made brew, you need to experiment. It is something like 1 part paint (I usually use brown and black combined) to 3 or 4 parts water, but I have not narrowed it down to an exact science. When finished, the base should look like this:
This part takes a while to dry. I usually finish this part on the unit I am working on, and either call it a night or come back in an hour or two. Of course, heat and relative humidity will have an effect on drying times (I imagine someone living in Arizona might not require as much drying time).
When you decide to come back, make a mixture of your tan color and pure white. Mix roughly 50-50 of the two. Use the resulting mix to drybrush on a new layer onto the base, and that is it for painting! You should have something like this:
While browsing my local art supplier (Michael's, for USA residents), I stumbled across a wonderful package product:
For 12 USD I got a kit that has a little bit of several different kinds of turf, good for creating many types of foliage and ground cover. After looking at my research materials, I decided that Sicilian grasslands would be lighter in color than European fronts. So, I mixed up a portion of the Yellow Flowers turf and the Green Fine turf into the provided shaker. I didn't measure out ratios exactly, but it was roughly 1 part yellow to 3 parts green. This yielded a turf solution that was yellowish-green in color.
Using Mod-Podge Matte, I then brushed on a random pattern onto the base of the model (I got ahead of myself on the model used in the above tutorial, so I had to take a picture of a model I hadn't done yet). Make sure to get the hard edges of the miniatures' bases still visible above the ballast.
Place the miniature in a plastic tub to catch the excess. Using the shaker, evenly coat the entire base.
Shake the base clean. Shake from side to side inside the tub first, then hold the base between your thumb and middle finger. Using your index finger, tap the back. Or use both hands, if you want to be lazy...
Now you have a finished base... or do you?
For extra credit, attach some foliage clumps. Using the scenic project glue bottle, squeeze out some small dabs of glue onto the base, then firmly press the provided foliage clumps into the glue. To go even farther, brush on some glue onto the foliage clump and sprinkle on some green and yellow fine turf:
Ta-da! You now have Sicilian themed bases. They also work for any sparsely-grassed areas. Extra tip: adding large rocks helps to break up the bases as well. Try to use slate, or other rocks of similar shape, as it looks similar to limestone when painted.
When in Sicily...
Thanks for reading!
(Click to Enlarge)
"The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis (Italy and Nazi Germany). It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.
Husky began on the night of 9–10 July 1943, and ended 17 August. Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners. The Allies drove Axis air, land and naval forces from the island; the Mediterranean's sea lanes were opened and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was toppled from power. It opened the way to the Allied invasion of Italy."
Below is a picture of the Sicilian countryside around Caltanissetta, in central Sicily:
Finally, I found a topographical map of Sicily:
From what I can make out by the troop movement map above, is that my model Infantry Division (The 9th ID) entered the south-eastern tip of the island (south-west of Syracuse) with what looks like the 45th Infantry. According to http://bio.sicilian.net/ :
"The Southeast corner comprises a series of high plateaus made up of lava, tuff and above all limestone, and features a number of impressive gorges carved out by water erosion through the centuries.The innermost part of the island is predominantly hilly, consisting mainly of the so called A1topiano Solfifero (literally the sulphur uplands'), with altitudes ranging from 500-700 m. Its summit, however, with the snow, rises to almost 1,OOOm."
Limestone. That was what stuck out to me the most. I could do that! Also, beaches are of a similar color. So, I started my basing project, intending to make a multipurpose Sicilian base theme for my US infantry.
Part Two of this guide will show step-by-step how I went about achieving the desired affect.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I finished my first teams representing US forces in Sicily and Italy. Having little experience in basing and flocking, I am very pleased with the result I got. I was using this photo as a reference to Mediterranean terrain:
So I think I did alright. I even managed to bumble through the application of decals, which thus far have been the bane of my existence.
So, that brings me to:
5 M3 Halftracks
2 M1919 LMG teams
2 Bazooka Light AT teams
1 Mortar team, 60mm (my fav, reminds me of my enlisted days...)
Still have in this platoon:
1 Platoon Command team
3 Bazooka Light AT teams
5 Rifle teams
I'm not even going to list out other platoons, as that might discourage me... But hey, nearly done with this platoon! I might still have a shot at having everything done by the BFW2011.
Here's to hopes and dreams.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
THE SHOOTING PHASE:
Now that you have made it through the Starting Step and the Movement Step, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty... the Shooting Step.
In Flames of War, since things are done by platoon, the first thing to do is choose the platoon you wish to fire with. Once you have selected the firing platoon, you then select a target platoon. This platoon must be within the Range characteristic for the team or weapon being fired, as listed in the Arsenal.
The amount of dice you roll is dependant on the ROF (rate of fire) characteristic for the team/weapon. Moving usually reduces this to a value of 1, though there are exceptions to this. The number you need to roll on each die to hit the target relies on a few factors: the targets skill rating, the distance to the target, whether the target is concealed or gone-to-ground (more on that in a bit), ect. For each die that rolls above the modified number you need to hit, you score a hit. Now, the player owning the target platoon can "allocate" which teams take the hits and make the saves.
Unlike WH40k, where the player that owns the target unit can allocate hits to whatever he pleases within the unit, in Flames of War there are some restrictions on which teams can have hits allocated to.
First off, to allocate a hit to a team, it must be a Valid Target. This means it must be in view (LOS) and within range. Furthermore, if there are any Gun teams in the platoon (such as heavy machine guns, anti-tank guns, etc) they can have the most powerful hits allocated to them first. There are more rules on this, but I'll leave them for you to find on your own!
Once hits have been allocated to teams, it is time for the target platoon's player to roll their saves. Infantry are horrendously durable, and always get a good save. Vehicles are a bit more complicated, as you have compare the vehicle's armor value to the shooter's Anti Tank (AT) rating to see if the round has any effect. Gun teams are more fragile, since the team has to stay with their gun to be combat-effective. For each hit, the target rolls a single save. If the rolled die is above the unit's save (for infantry, guns, and unarmored vehicles), then the save was successful and the unit takes no damage. For vehicles, you add the armor value of the facing taking the hit to the die roll. If it is more than the AT value of the shooter's weapon, then the vehicle make's it save.
Being Concealed and Gone-to-Ground make it more difficult for the unit to hit the target in the first place, but what really adds the extra oomph is Bulletproof Cover.
Bulletproof Cover adds ANOTHER roll to be made by the attacking platoon, after the saves are rolled. The attacking platoon must roll equal to or higher than their weapon's Firepower rating to destroy a unit in Bulletproof cover. That goes back to the Digging In of units that we discussed in the previous part of this primer.
But those are mostly just the boring mechanics. You'll have to read the rules to get more into the crunchy bits. What I want to do now is introduce a bit of the rules that go beyond normal shooting that can become your best friend: the smoke rules.
Certain weapons can fire specialized smoke rounds, if it is listed in the weapon's notes in the Arsenal.
You can only fire smoke at enemy units, but you'll rarely regret it. For things you know you likely will not kill in a single round of shooting, smoking it instead reduces the amount of fire you will receive from that unit in the next turn. Smoke conceals all targets that need to draw LOS through it, making it harder for a unit to hit you. If they want to hit you without a modifier to their roll, they'll need to move, reducing their ROF. Oftentimes, my Sherman Tanks (AT 10) will do this against heavy German tanks they don't have much chance of damaging (Such as Tigers facing the platoon, AV 9). It forces the enemy to make a choice: stay in place, and miss more shots, or move, and make less shots to begin with.
So, now you know the basics of scoot, shoot, and boogie. Next part, we'll get into another major step: the Assault Step.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
So, now you have an idea on what goes into a list. By now, you've either supported Battlefront directly by buying their awesome miniatures, by far the greatest out there, or you went a cheaper route like ordering your tanks from this guy:
Whichever way you did it, Battlefront doesn't mind too much. They know they have the best sculpts, and that keeps them happy. So, let's get into actually playing the game...
It takes some getting used to; playing on a Flames of War board. The scale is a bit smaller if you are used to games like Warhammer 40k, or if you are used to video games doing all the work for you. Trees are only an inch or two tall, single family homes are rarely over a few inches wide, and roads seem especially diminutive. Don't let this daunt you, however. The game actually moves pretty readily over the terrain.
For natives of 40k, you will enjoy Flames of War for at least one reason: the models actually stand up. The infantry bases are low and wide, and the vehicles are made from heavy resin. This means that inclines in the game board can be used with little danger of the models tipping over. That means actual hills! Not the goofy-looking plateau hills, but actual sloping gradients.
I like to adhere to a general rule: If the board isn't covered by at least %25 of terrain, then it's not enough. That means all the terrain for the board should at least fill up one table quarter. The terrain can be woods, rivers, tall grass, large hills, farmhouses or what-have-you, but you gotta have it (unless you are trying to simulate a fight in the open desert or something). Since the standard size game board is 6' by 4', that means at least 3' by 2' should be filled with terrain of some kind.
Here's what I would Dream of playing a game on:
Beautiful board by Duellist on Flames of War Forum, photography by his wife!
But for your first games, you'll more likely be playing on something like this:
It's ok, just throw a green sheet or piece of felt over it. Stack up books underneath the felt, or roll up towels underneath it, to get hills. Throw on some of the green Scotch pads (scouring pads, brillo pads, whatever you want to call them) with the corners ripped off for areas of rough terrain. Make cardboard houses that measure only a few inches wide or tall. Building really pretty boards takes a lot of time, money, and experience that will come later. For now, you just want to get to playing!
Ok, so now you have a board, and you have your army. What now?
Instead of always playing the same boring "Let's just kill each other" mission, the guys at Battlefront have already stocked you with a collage of well-written and thoroughly-playtested missions to try, as well as a table to roll on if you want to leave the mission you play up to chance!
BEFORE YOU START THE MISSION, ALWAYS READ THE MISSION'S SPECIAL RULES!!! Many times, games will get off to a bad start because the players didn't read ALL the special rules before sitting down to play the game. These rules will set the tone for the rest of the game, and they have been carefully playtested to create a balanced scenario for the players. Omitting or adding special rules is a surefire way to unbalance the scenario. That being said...
For your first game, it is advised to stick with the basics. There are the time-honored traditional missions, Firefight and Encounter, which are pretty basic as far as scenarios go. They are basically variants of the same thing. In these missions, each player gets one of the long edges of the board. For a set distance away from this edge, it is what is called their "Deployment Zone". It is the zone that you have space to put your miniatures at the start of the game.
Each player then puts a pair of objectives in his OPPONENT'S deployment zone. Objectives measure 2 inches by 2.5 inches, and usually are modeled to represent something strategically important to your force. It is your mission to take either of the objectives, by destroying all enemies near it. At the same time, the enemy is trying to capture his own objectives. This creates a very "Capture the Flag" kind of mentality, and the question is: "How can I take my objective while keeping him from his?"
After objectives are set, players take turns deploying their units, starting with their Platoons. A Platoon is one of the smallest operational units that can act independently. Generally a handful of vehicles, or a few squads (2-3 stands) of infantry, the platoon must stick together wherever they are going. This is called "Command Distance". Depending on the unit's Skill Rating (see Part 1 of the primer), this distance that the teams must remain within from each other varies from a couple inches to as much as 8 inches! This ensures that units operate as a group to achieve their goals. In Flames of War, all actions usually are performed by whole platoons, rather than by individuals. There are a few exceptions to this however, such as Independent Teams. But for now, just focus on the Platoons.
Once all platoons are placed, its time to begin. The player who gets the first turn now has a chance to act.
PLAYING THE GAME (Finally!)
In Flames of War, the game is broken down into player turns, and then further broken down into "Steps" (or phases) of a player turn. 40k players will be familiar with this, as that game system operates similarly. It is sometimes called the "I-go-you-go" style of play.
So the first player starts his turn with a Starting Step. Not much will go on here his first turn, but later in the game this is a step you don't want to skip. First, you check your victory conditions. This means you check to see if you have won the game in this step (usually by controlling an objective, meaning you wiped out all the enemies around one and you have teams nearby it). You also can Rally platoons if they are pinned down by enemy fire, or remount tanks that the crew have Bailed Out of. You can also use this step to attempt to free vehicles bogged down by the terrain. This stuff may seem unimportant at first, but remember to always do this step! Make a mental checklist:
1) Check my Company Morale (if half or more of your platoons have been destroyed)
2) Check my victory conditions?
3) Roll for reinforcements? (if applicable)
4) Request Air Support? (if applicable)
5) Rally pinned platoons, Remount Bailed Out vehicles, and free Bogged Down vehicles?
6) Remove Smoke markers?
You also sometimes can deploy ambushes in this phase, depending on the rules of the scenario you are playing. Again, make sure you read all the scenario's special rules BEFORE playing, to make sure both you and your opponent are on equal footing.
Once all this has been done, the player can then move into the Movement Step. This is the step where you get teams from Point A to Point B.
Not all teams are created equal. You have some teams that are comprised of Infantry, who are quite rugged and can move through most difficult terrain. You also have Gun Teams, which have nearly no manueverability unless they are light enough to be Man-packed (move like infantry) or have a vehicle to tow them. There are also several classifications of vehicles: Fully Tracked, Halftracks and Jeeps, and Wheeled. A vehicle will have its type listed in its section of the Arsenal (the large summary of units and weapons at the back of an army's Intelligence Briefing). Basically, Fully Tracked rigs are more capable off-road, but have little benefit from a road. Half-tracks and Jeeps combine a little of the rugged durability of Full Tracked, but maintain a small speed increase while on roads. They aren't quite as good off-road as Fully Tracked, but it is a good compromise between Fully tracked and the last vehicle type: Wheeled. These vehicles have the least off-road capability, but they get the most speed on open roads.
Most teams have the ability to move "At the Double." If you plan to forgo shooting for a unit in the following Shooting Step, you can move your team up to twice its standard movement distance. Unfortunately, moving so fast in the open sets up that unit for nasty return fire, but we'll cover that later.
You CANNOT "Double Time" it if you plan on going through any rough terrain. Troops can't run as fast through a thick wood or rubble-strewn city block as they could through an open field.
Vehicles and Gun Teams that are not man-packed can sometimes get stuck in the mud, or on other rough terrain. This is called getting "Bogged Down" and it usually requires the crew having to get out and try to un-stick the vehicle from whatever obstacle it got lodged in/on, but you can only make that roll during your next starting step. There are two classifications of terrain that could bog you down: Difficult Going and Very Difficult Going. The more difficult the going, the easier it is to get stuck (duh). Difficult going also reduces the speed of the unit moving through it (depending on the type of unit). The more difficult the terrain, the more it slows the unit down (duh again). The exception to this is Infantry, which are not slowed by anything short of Impassable terrain such as sheer cliff-faces or rushing rivers.
If you don't feel like moving a unit, it might be a good decision to "Dig them in". Digging them in requires them to stay in place, and makes them count as moving during the Shooting Step (more on that later). Upon a successful skill test, the unit prepares itself a defensive position (by digging foxholes, stacking rubble or sandbags, etc). Once dug in, they are more resistant to enemy shooting. Be warned, however: if you decide to leave your position after you've dug the unit it, they will not be dug in even if you return to the same spot. You have to make another skill test to do so, as the foxholes do not become a permanent part of the board.
Some more advanced actions for the moving phase include disembarking from transports, entering buildings, and the like, but they are a bit outside the scope of this primer. You'll just have to read the rules to get all the info!
Most of the information presented here can be seen by downloading the "Quickplay Sheet" from the download section at www.flamesofwar.com , which has tables and references to many of the game's concepts.
Stay tuned for part 3, in which I'll go over Shooting and Assaults!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Now that I have a few practice games under my belt with the missus (she even won a few!), I feel that I can do a proper write-up for those of you who have little experience with this awesome historical game. This primer was primarily written with players of 40k in mind, but I'll try to keep my terms and examples simple for those who have little to no experience with wargaming in general.
Flames of War by Battlefront Miniatures is a historical wargame ruleset used to recreate the battles of World War Two in the 1/100 scale. In this scale, 1 foot of game table space is equal to 100 feet in real life. That means that a person that is normally 6 feet tall in real life would equate to .06 feet on the table, or roughly three quarters of an inch! This scale is also sometimes referred to as "15mm," though to be honest I'm not entirely sure why. I imagine that it may be because 15mm is the standard height of a human-sized model in this scale, but I am not certain.
Fist thing you will need is a rulebook. Like Warhammer 40k, there are two ways to get it: The Open Fire! Starter Set contains a miniature version of the rulebook that has some sections non-essential to the game ommitted, such as rules on Fortifications. The set costs anywhere from $40-$50 USD, depending on the retailer, and also contains some models to get you started (3 M4A1 Shermans and 2 StuG Gs). At this price, its quite a steal (as the tanks alone would cost in the range of $50). The rulebook can be completed with the additional rulebook supplement, called "Das Book" for somewhere in the range of $10. Alternatively, if you don't expect to need Sherman Tanks or Stug Gs, you can buy the full-sized hardcover rulebook for around $50. This book has all the rules that are not force-specific, and even nice summaries of the major battles and nations in the war. It also has tips for modeling, painting, and terrain-creation. It is invariably better than the miniature rulebook, as it is more solidly bound and less likely to break at the spine. However, it is quite large and heavy. Personally, I have one of each type of rulebook: my large one for home-reading, and my miniature one for the road.
Now that you have a rulebook, we can continue on.
Flames of War can be daunting for new players to get into. The miniatures are beautiful, and the ruleset solid, but before one can even begin to play, that person has some decisions to make. First, the setting is divided into several time periods that cover various stages of the war. Currently, only the European theater is covered, but the grapevine informs us that plans for the Pacific are currently underway. So, the player has three periods of war to choose from currently: Early War (the German Blitzkrieg), Mid-War (This covers battles in North Africa, the Eastern Front, and the Mediterranean), or Late-War (Italy, Normandy D-Day, Operation Market Garden, the Soviet's Turning Point, etc).
Once having chosen the time period, the player can then purchase a corresponding "Intelligence Briefing" that details what nations and units were involved during that time period. There are a few of what I call "Blanket" intel briefing books; books that cover a time period in general. For Early War, the only intel briefing out currently is called Blitzkrieg. I am not familiar with this book, as it is relatively new, and I have no suitable models for this time period. From what I understand, it has intelligence on German, French, and British forces that fought during the opening stages of the war. For Mid-War, there are two main books: North Africa covers the conflict for that continent, as well as other battles in the Mediterranean at that time (such as Sicily). Eastern Front details the struggle between the Axis powers and the USSR during the time period of 1942-1943. For Late-War, the blanket book is Fortress Europe, which details a generalized view of the closing stages of the war in Europe. There are MANY Late-War supplements to add onto the "Blanket" intel briefing, many of which cover individual conflicts or operations (such as D-Day, Operation Market Garden, etc.) that can be used to add onto the basis provided by the Intel Briefing.
Another great thing about Flames of War, is that new versions of the Intelligence Briefings do not invalidate the old. For example, the older versions of Mid-War Intel Briefings were called "Afrika" and "Ostfront." These books have mostly the same content as the new ones, but the layout of the unit organizations was a little bit more confusing for the new player. The new books are slimmer and trimmer, with better layout of unit diagrams so that the new player can get to playing quicker with less confusion.
In addition to this, there are several free-to-download intelligence briefings available from the Flames of War website. These usually cover irregular units, but the cost can't be beat!
Each Intelligence Briefing has in it details on the time period or battles for the theater it is based on, as well as Force Lists detailing what kind of Company you can create based on historical forces that fought there.
With the appropriate Intel Briefing in hand, now you know what you need to create a playable army of your own. Select a company from the briefing (or battalion for Soviets) and start building it! I'll show you how:
MAKING YOUR FORCE
Tank Companies (forces comprised primarily of tanks) are a bit easier to build, so we'll start there. (Though not easier to play... I'll save the tactics for a later post however.) I will use the Intelligence Briefing "Tigers in Tunisia", available for download from the Flames of War website, as an example.
This is part of a Intelligence Briefing chart on a Schwere Panzerkompanie. In this chart, it shows you the minimum requirement to make a Schwere Panzerkompanie, the HQ section and two Combat Platoons comprised of Schwere Panzers. The grayed-out, or desaturated, boxes represent available options for expansion.
You might see this a lot in the description for the Company: "You may select one support platoon from each box shown "Infantry, Armor, etc.". This means that for all the platoons shown in a single box, you may only choose one to add to the force. For example, under "Infantry" in the Divisional Support section, you may see options for a Panzergrenadier Platoon, a Afrika Schützen Platoon, a Grenadier Platoon, or a Fallschirmjäger Platoon. This does not mean you can take one of each, but rather you may choose one platoon to take from the group and you must omit the rest.
The chart also shows you what page to look at to see the points cost and description for a particular platoon or unit. First off, let's look at what makes up a HQ. We'll flip over to the next page and read the description.
Looking at the description for the HQ, you may notice a pattern. Optional units are again desaturated or grayed-out, and you have one or several "Must-Have" units in solid black. In the example above, the only tank you are required to take is a single Tiger 1E tank. You have the option of adding a 2iC (second in command) tank or a recovery vehicle, but neither one is absolutely necessary to field the unit.
So for the HQ unit, you simply need to purchase at least the one Tiger 1E tank, build it and paint it. Easy enough!
Infantry units are the ones that require the most detail. In the diagram of the unit, it tells you what each "team" (a single stand of infantry) will have on it. This is done for a reason: each team must have WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) representation of the historically-accurate armament they would have carried. For example, in an American Rifle platoon, a squad has 3 stands of 4 troopers each. One trooper on one stand would be equipped with a Browning Automatic Rifle to provide fire support. On another stand, the NCO would be equipped with a Thompson M4A1 automatic. On the remaining stand, and for the rest of the troopers on the first two stands, they would be equipped with M1 Garand rifles.
Let's get back to our example:
In contrast to the American Rifle Platoon I described, the Grenadier Platoon in our briefing have only 2 stands of infantry with 5 members on each stand per squad. Looking closely at the pictures, you can see what armament should go on each stand: at least one member from each squad of two stands should have a MG. This is because the stands are classified as "Rifle/MG" teams, which tells us in-game that there is usually at least 1 MG per squad. For "Rifle" teams, there are none, for "MG" teams there are at least two or more!
You'll also notice that the Command Team has only 3 members. The Command Team is usually mounted on a smaller base, 1 1/2" x 1" as opposed to the 2" x 1 1/2" base used by the normal infantry teams.
Building infantry units usually requires a bit of historical knowledge beforehand, so you can appropriately identify the weapons depicted in the silhouetted images in the diagrams. It is best to do some research if you don't already know a fair bit about the historical weaponry used by the force of your choice.
Sometimes, you will have the option to choose a different division or organization to model the force after. Usually the reason for doing so will be a different degree of competency, reflected by the unit's "Rating". This is their "Motivation" (how inspired they are to fight), followed by their "Skill" (how experienced they are in battle). The motivational ratings include "Reluctant" (Fairly unwilling to be participating, and will likely break at earliest opportunity), "Confident" (mostly willing to put up a fight, but might break under strenuous circumstances), and "Fearless" (pretty self explanatory, unwilling to break under anything but the direst of situations). Skill ratings include "Conscript" (thrown into battle with little or no training), "Trained" (given extensive training, but unlikely to have seen battle yet), and "Veteran" (seen multiple battlefields and lived). These ratings greatly affect the efficiency of your force.
The Intelligence Briefing can provide more information on using alternate motivation and skill ratings for your force, if alternate ratings are available.
ON POINTS VALUES
In Flames of War, the most commonly-seen points limit I have seen is 1500 points. It is generally accepted to go under this limit, but never over. Even if you are a single point over, you must find something to alter or cut out to bring your points total under the limit.
However, for your first few games or when starting a new force, a far more achievable points limit is 600 points. When playing a game of this size, you can ignore the requirement to take 2 Combat Platoons from your chosen company. You are only required to take at least 1 HQ, and 1 Combat Platoon. These games also go quickly, being played in usually an hour or less. Usually a 600 point battle will only consist of a couple platoons per side maximum. This makes 600 point battles the easiest to prepare a force for.
Be sure to use the points values from your chosen army list, because points values may vary from time-period to time-period or even list-to-list. For example, tanks in Mid-War are typically more expensive than tanks in Late-War, because there were fewer ways to deal with armor in the Mid-War era.
Once you have chosen a list in the points value range agreed-upon by your opponent, you can then get on to playing the game! If you bought the Open Fire! boxed set, I suggest you and your opponent (if he/she is also new to the game) run through the scenarios provided in the introduction booklet, to get a feel for some of the game concepts. The forces provided in the boxed set are fairly equal in points.
Playing the game will be covered in Part 2 of this article, so stay tuned!
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