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Month: November 2012

Flames of War?

Ah, Flames of War. There’s been a sudden surge of interest in the WWII war game during 2012, and with the hope of finding something to mix up my war gaming routine I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces and played some games. Here’s a few thoughts for the beginner by the beginner. A lot of this will be from a 40k perspective, so should be familiar enough to most people.
Great rules. Fluff is sometimes a little unbelieveable.

While it used to be an expensive game to play a few years ago, smart people like the Plastic Soldier Company spotted this and started to produce excellent plastic kits for the most popular (and a few really bizarre) core choices in the lists. A typical platoon or unit will cost €24 if available, most contain five vehicles or a company of infantry. Depending on the choice it could be a considerable chunk of a list. 

Cheap and excellent quality.

The real winner here is the starter set “Open fire”. Containing an Allied mix of American and British tanks and infantry and German infantry supported by field guns and tank hunters, a full colour rulebook, dice, tokens, markers and probably the best start up rules I’ve ever seen. And clocking in at around €60 it’s a steal. Coming from 40K the price to play is remarkably lower. There some units that still require battlefront metal or resin models, namely artillery, but it’s about the same as GW prices.

So many of…everything!
This is quite different to 40K. Where you were judged on individual figures, here it’s all about the cohesive look of the force. Like most military engagements of the time the individual mattered much less then the overall force. Washes are your friend even more at the 15mm scale, a simple green uniform, back boots, face, hands and metal gun washed liberally with a brown ink produces some excellent results. This isn’t to say you can’t do the level of detail seen at the 28mm scale, there are some amazingly painted models around locally.
Simple, and great looking as a platoon
So you’ve picked up your starter, swapped one side with another person, and it’s off to write up some cheese flavoured bentness. But hang on where do you get a list from. Well this is one of the few hurdles in Flames of War. There are many, many books with lists available. Each focuses on a specific part of the war, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, Eastern Front clashes, and contains army lists based on the historical forces that took part. The most famous example I can think of is Easy Company from Band of Brothers which were released in Nuts, focusing on Bastone.
To play most german lists a dictionary is required at the start.
These lists have a slightly strange layout referring you to pages further back in the book, very different from the self contained codex page of a GW book. Some lists might look very similar, different Panzercompanies for instance, but small differences in organisation based on available resources or specific training make the key to spotting the really good stuff a little more difficult.
There is a website. A very good website that has a program similar to army builder but uses the force org charts as templates and lays everything out very clearly, and the output has all the stats in a very readable manner. This website is called Easyarmy. For a donation of one to two dollars per book you get access to a build any list from it with the website along with all the free books and PDFs released. Extremely worthwhile even for one book to get going. The basic forces one if free too!
The other thing with Flames of War is the names. Everything has it’s army designated title, which is fine for the English speaking countries but gets very complicated when looking at German or Russian lists. There’s a slight learning curve with it due to the slightly more technical nature of the naming than 40K but it starts to make sense after seeing it in action.
A lot of the terrain comes prepainted too!
The Table
After battling through the army lists trying to work out why one should choose a Panzercompanie from Grey Wolf source book over the Basic Forces book, we arrive at the table. And what a table it is. Forget about your GW building and hills, Flames of War has some of the most amazing looking tables out there. Russian villages, French countryside, bocage, railways, cratered roads, vineyards, churches, little houses with chimney pots and outhouses, the list goes on and looks better then the last. Reasonably densely terrained, the game plays very well with tables set up with historical semi-accuracy.
Some lists have fortifications included.
The Game
No, not that game. So you’ve got your tiny, tiny men set up in foxholes, tanks ready to roll over the French countryside with your artillery zeroed in, keeping the enemy pinned in place, what next?
Well it’s very similar to most turn based games. There’s a movement phase, with difficult terrain of various types, vehicles potentially getting stuck. All quite standard. The shooting phase is where things start to get interesting.
Pewpew tanks!
In Flames of War the roll to hit an enemy is based on their skill not yours. This is to represent the ability of veteran soldiers to dig in better, use cover to the fullest extent compared to a green rookie, poking his head up and silhouetting himself. It’s a strange one to get used to alright.
Cover works slightly differently with various effects resulting in penalties to hit not affecting your save. Saves are very similar to cover saves in 40K, you have a set one you either get or don’t, unless you’re a tank. They have a slightly different penetration mechanism not hugely different from 40K.
Assault is brutal. No being held in combat here, you either break the enemy or they break you. And being forced to fall back is no joke. Luckily to balance this there’s defensive fire at the unit making the assault, which with enough hits can be stopped dead. Leaving them in trouble indeed.
Infantry making a mess of armour.

It’s a game that requires a little bit of patience, charging down the centre will most sure get you your blaze but very little glory. There’s plenty of tricks and sneaky things, heavy armoured tough units, artillery batteries, infantry blobs, something for almost any play style.
Unfortunately there is one huge balance issue. The German Tiger 1e. This mechanical monstrosity is the terror of tank and soldier alike, coated in nigh impenetrable armour and wielding a weapon more suited to a Warlord Titan, these behemoths continue to ruin games driving straight over all forces in their path. A small black mark on an otherwise fun, informative and great looking war game.

The Beast itself.

The Decent Looking Tank Tutorial

I’m sleep-deprived and my hands are riddled with caffeine.  I squeeze in my painting an hour at a time after the kids are in bed.  Despite these personal and logistical deficiencies I don’t want an army that looks like shit.  Thus I present the following tutorial for people who want decent looking tanks but have neither the talent, time, or disposition for ‘best-in-show’ paint jobs.

For this tutorial I’m using 4 Plastic Soldier Company T-34/85s.  I need to add these to my existing collection for Karl’s Winter in Minsk tournament.

Here are the tanks assembled and primed with Soviet Armor from Army Painter with the tank tracks painted black.

The next step is to add your decals.  I use Battle Front Late-War Soviet decals as well as some from ebay.  Each tank gets a red star, a number, and a slogan.

Dry brush a bit of metal, not much, onto the tracks at this point.

The next step requires a bit of courage.  Give the tanks a heavy wash of Devlan Mud (or whatever name it goes by these days).  Make sure you get in the road wheels and the crevices in the tracks.  Don’t spare it.

Let it dry over night.  They’ll look better.  The decals have a nice weathered look now.

Next apply a heavy dry brush of Luftwaffe Green.

Now, very carefully, apply the lightest drybrush of a bright green.  I use Scorpion Green (or whatever it’s called these days).  You’re focusing on the hard edges and hatches.  Take it easy here.

From another angle:

Almost finished.  The next step is to apply a rust oxide pigment to the tracks.  You see I don’t have much time or talent but I do have the right material.  It makes all the difference.  I mix the pigment with a tiny bit of water so it goes on smoothly.  Let it dry over night and fix the pigment on with a couple of coats of matte varnish.
The second pigment now goes on for the mud.  I use another vallejo pigment.  Whereas you want to apply the rust oxide pigment like paint, the dirt pigment should be applied profligately.  You’ll also fix this with matte varnish but it will come off gradually through use and transport.  Voila:
Ready for action!

Preening Dandies: October Edition

It’s cold, damp and horrible. I hate November. To cheer us all up, let’s look at the mailbag.

French Infantry Colonel (Napoleonic Wargaming)
Craftfeld sends in his first entry ever, which coincidences nicely with rumours of historical wargaming being on the increase. Perry Miniatures are producing some really nice pieces in this field and people are noticing. But really, I’m giving it pride of place because the model is sporting impressive sideburns and a sneering pompous look. He’s also done some great terrain work which can see on his blog over in the side bar but for the lazy, check here.

Werewolf (Empire of the Dead)

The second entry comes in from Quozl. It’s a Hasslefree werewolf and it’s clearly intended for his Empire of the Dead skirmish band. For anyone interested in playing what appears to be an excellent Steampunk/Necromunda/Mordheim/League of Gentlemen blend, a battle report and the man himself can be found here. Not really a lot to be said here about the model, a eye-grabbing figurine, it’s monochrome with a good example of a very clean white.

 Typhus (Warhammer 40,000)
From clean to pure filthy. This comes from Lowry and forms part of his ongoing 40K Nurgle project which can be seen in all its glory here. The beetle effect on the boots is something I’ve never noticed before and credit to the sculptor, it’s subtle but fitting. The man himself seems to able to excel at whatever he turns his hand to, at this point, even if he’s reverted to not basing his models. Bad Lowry. Excellent painting with a nice dirty green/brown effect, most visible on the left shoulder pad.

Ork Blitzer (Blood Bowl)

Newbreed has been hard at work at North Vietnamese themed Blood Bowl team. He’s cursing the communist predeliction for stars. For any aspiring revolutionaries out there, please go with random blobs for your iconography and save me a world of pain. Free hand painting stars on curved armour is breaking my heart.

Fallschirmjager Company (Flames of War)

Check it. A full fallschirmjager company. I worry a little that I can now spell that word from memory. These are the work of Nosediver and display his unholy combination of speed painting and attention to detail. But more importantly, please, please tell me that someone else sees the micro-sized, vaguely terrifying child (doll?) in the top right of the picture.

Preening Dandies
Player Score
Lowry 7
Newbreed 7
Trget 5
Nosediver 4
Sycopat 4
Welshman 4
Quozl 3
The Big BZ 2
Bristolscale7 1
Craftfeld 1
Crazy Aido 1
Frogdog 1
Jiggy 1
Maynard 1

We’ll be doing another roundup at the start of December so get your works into prd@onthestep.net before the end of November. As ever, our local tech adept states that photos above 5MB in size tend to bounce back so keep your entries below that size.

Rules Refresher
1) Each participant may only send in one entry for a given month. You can send in multiple photos of the entry but only one will be used.
2) The entry can be a single model or single unit. The smaller the unit, the more detail in the photo so aim low.
3) The model can be from any game system. If it’s particularly esoteric, we’d appreciate a covering note explaining what it is.
4) The entry must have been finished within that given month. You can’t submit completed pieces from your back catalogue.
5) If you want us to include a link back to more of your work, we’d be delighted to do that.

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