Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Hawker Typhoon

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The story of the British Hawker Typhoon in WWII is one best told in two acts. Its early use beginning  in 1941 met with very mixed service results against superior planes in the German Luftwaffe  and production of the plane was nearly scrapped by the Royal Air Force. However, with a bit of re-purposing, the Typhoon’s speed was soon coupled with increasingly-heavy bomb payloads to become an effective fighter bomber against ground targets.

In 1943, the Typhoon really came into its own when armed with wing-mounted rockets and fuel tanks providing greater flight range. While of questionable effectiveness against tough-armored German tanks, a run from a squadron of  Typhoons with rockets firing struck fear into German forces and devastated supply lines and production facilities in Western Europe. The Typhoon’s role in D-Day, Operation Goodwood, Operation Varsity and other engagements was both disruptive and deadly in support of ground campaigns all the way to the war’s end.

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Flames of War offers a model of the Typhoon as well as a short online guide to painting their model. With my British ground forces fairly well built out with artillery, tanks, infantry and support weapons, adding some air support seemed to be the next natural step as well as another interesting modelling project.

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I picked up my model online at a slight discount online and went straight to work. I painted the plane in a RAF grey and green camouflage pattern with yellow details to the nose and leading wing edges. Next, I added black and white “invasion stripes” which had been used on Typhoons since earlier in the war, although my plane was going to be flying over late war Normandy. The decals included with the kit finished off the plane with “V” markings, subtly allowing me to add my own initial to my completed plane. Finally, a little watery rusty brown wash brushed along the seams in the fuselage added a weathered look of many previously-flown missions.

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With my existing American P-47 Thunderbolt, having the Typhoon in my miniature Allied arsenal is sure to add more depth and choice to my Late War Western Europe gaming. With the Typhoon hitting the table in the near future, my hope is its presence above the battlefield will rain rocket-fueled terror and distraction on my German opponents just as they did over Europe some 70 years ago.

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New Game Weekend: Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal

AandAguadalcanalboxThe  Battle of Guadalcanal between August 1942 and February 1943 was the first major Allied campaign set on crushing the Japanese foothold in the Pacific region. Fought in bloody air, sea and island engagements, the seven months of battle resulted in a significant shift in superiority to the Allies in the region and led to the beginnings of the downfall of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific.

Most of my wargaming happens on dry land and usually somewhere in Europe. The Pacific War in WWII always seems so separate, sprawling and overwhelming to me with its mix of different combined combats, complex supply lines and different territorial agendas. That said, dabbling in this portion of the war gives me a chance to use some very different tactics and strategies I’m not used to gaming. So, with a short couple of hours to spare recently at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, I tried my hand at some WWII Pacific action with Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.

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The popular Axis & Allies boardgame series from Avalon Hill (owned by Wizards of the Coast) has been around for more than 20 years and covers many specific eras, battles and theaters of WWII. More recently, a WWI game has also been added in time for the 100th-anniversary of that conflict. The A&A games are readily available from a number of book and department stores, and they vary in complexity and time commitment. Mt first introduction to the series was with the Spring 1942 game which weaned my younger son and I off much simpler war board games like Risk forever. The great design, hundreds of sculpted plastic playing pieces, economic factors and combat mechanics make the A&A games a great way for old and new wargamers alike to engage in hours of very satisfying play.

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A&A: Guadalcanal board and game pieces (including the “battle box” at left)

The Guadalcanal game presents a map of the South Pacific islands and sea zones contested by US and Japanese forces. Victory points are determined by building and controlling island airstrips. As in the actual campaign, quickly capturing islands and building airstrips is critical not only to endgame victory but in providing bases to supply and deploy additional forces. Aside from capturing islands, controlling the three main sea zones at the center of the board (aka “The Slot”) is key in controlling the transport of crucial supllies and reinforcements.

The combat system in the game uses a “battle box” containing a dozen dice which are shaken and reveal various randomized target effects. With land, air and sea units crowding the board, the confused mass of combined arms is neatly accounted for with a few shakes of the unique battle box.

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Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal at Metropolitan Wargamers

In my first play as the Americans, I quickly captured the southern half of Guadalcanal while my Japanese opponent began a big push with his navy toward The Slot. In the second turn I was able to press on to Malaita and build a second airstrip of Guadalcanal to take an early lead in victory points.

With the Japanese navy massing in the central sea zone I made a risky gamble in turn three sending in a huge air attack which destroyed a few ships and damaged a battleship but was repulsed with overwhelming deadly force. With a vastly-depleted air force, I scrambled to build myself back up as the Japanese built an airstrip on Bougainville and I made moves toward Santa Isabel. By turn four my navy headed west along the southern coast of New georgia in the hopes of catching the Japanese navy from behind. While I was able to destroy a number of Japanese submarines at the western edge of the island, my attack on Santa Isabel was halted and the Japanese took the game.

A&A: Guadalcanal moves fast for two players, playing in about 2 hours. The short nature of the game makes every move from turn one onward important with little room for error. My lesson learned in the first game was not to run too fast toward facing-off against the superior Japanese fleet early, perhaps opting instead for a greater build-up of supply to gain island footholds to launch later game attacks.

The Axis & Allies series is fantastic for out-of-the-box playability with the different game versions each offering realistically-specific game dynamics for several WWII theaters and battles. Not being a big Pacific War gamer, A&A: Guadalcanal makes for a perfect way for me to get my feet wet and expand a bit of my gaming experience to another corner of the 20th-century’s greatest conflict.

Flames of War: Fielding the Guards Armoured Division Part II

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Since starting with 15mm World War II Flames of War gaming a number of years ago now, my Allied modelling has focused exclusively on United States forces. Beginning with basic US infantry rifle, artillery and armored companies, I eventually added in some US Airborne forces plus some air support. Recently I’ve felt maxed-out on the US, so I’ve taken to looking to build out my Allies with another country’s army.

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After a bit of research and reading, I’ve settled on the British Guards Armored Division. I began this new journey with the plastic Guards Armored Sherman and Firefly models included in the excellent Open Fire! starter game box set. While these can be played as Allied support to my existing US Airborne, I really wanted to give the British their own space on the board.

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Along with my existing plastic Shermans and Fireflies I already have painted-up, I bought another set from a fellow member at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. This gives me a full four-platoon armoured squadron with four Shermans in the command section.

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 To fill out my Guards Armored Division, I’ve also added the special Lieutenent Colonel Joe Vandeleur warrior character. As a leader of the Irish Guards during such famed actions as Operation Market Garden, Vandeleur proved to be a solid field commander known for his by-the-book leadership.

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 Michael Caine as Lt. Col. Joe Vandeleur in ‘Bridge Too Far’

I’m a big fan of 1977’s A Bridge Too Far in which Michael Caine co-stars as Vandeleur during Market Garden, so I couldn’t help but add this model to my new force with the colonel riding upright in his armoured car.

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In the coming month or so I’ll be filling out my British force. I have one completed Royal Artillery section and another on the workbench, enabling me to field a full eight-battery platoon. I’ve also got Battlefront’s British Rifle Company box allowing me to march three full platoons on the table of what was known affectionately during WWII as the PBI – Poor Bloody Infantry.

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I’m really looking forward to playing with my new British units this coming year, along with all their special national rules. The Brits are really going to open possibilities with new scenarios and new fronts. As Caine says as Vandeleur in A Bridge Too Far, “I’ve got nothing else planned.” At least for now.

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