Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Flames of War: A Primer for the Conscript Pt 1
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!
Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon,Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon, Gorkamorka, Great Unclean One, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, the Inquisitor device, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Keeper of Secrets, Khorne, Kroot, Lord of Change, Necron, Nurgle, Ork, Ork skull devices, Sisters of Battle, Slaanesh, Space Hulk, Space Marine, Space Marine chapters, Space Marine chapter logos, Tau, the Tau caste designations, Tyranid, Tyrannid, Tzeentch, Ultramarines, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k Device, White Dwarf, the White Dwarf logo, and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Warhammer 40,000 universe are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Games Workshop, the Games Workshop logo, Epic, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Battlefleet Gothic, the Battlefleet Gothic logo, Necromunda, the Necromunda Plate logo, the Necromuinda Stencil logo, Mordheim, the Mordheim logo, City of the Damned, Blood Bowl, the Blood Bowl logo, the Blood Bowl Spike device, Fanatic, the Fanatic logo, the Fanatic II logo, Warmaster and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Blood Bowl game, Warhammer 40,000 universe and the Warhammer World are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Flames of war are either (R), TM and/or (C) Battlefront Miniatures.
Unless mentioned otherwise, the contents of this site are (C) Matt Darnell, 2008-2017