Flames of War: Fielding the 8.8cm FlaK 36 Platoon

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One of the most common, flexible and deadly weapons used by German forces in World War II was the 8.8cm FlaK 36 gun. Building on earlier models from the late 1920s and early 1930s, the piece could be used for both anti-aircraft and direct anti-tank fire. Known commonly as an “Eighty-Eight,” this iconic artillery was encountered on battlefields from Africa to the Eastern Front to the coast of Normandy in both fixed defensive positions or in support of mobile ground forces.

FOW88flakI’ve been away from modelling any Flames of War miniatures for a while, but I’m planning on running a couple historic beginner games at the HMGS Fall In! convention in Lancaster, PA in early November. One of the scenarios, Sint-Oedenrode, requires some 88s, and I’ve long relied on loaners from other members at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. I figured it was high time I add these weapons to my 15mm collection, so I ordered the set from my go-to supplier The Warstore and the box arrived in just over a day.

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The models, including two metal 88s, a resin Sd. Kfz. 15 command car, two resin Sd. Kfz. 7 half-track tractors and a ton of crew and bits, glued up quickly on the marvelous cast scenic bases I’ve come to expect from FOW designers. My German painting goes pretty quickly with a black spray primer coat followed by some dark grey brushed on as base for uniforms, vehicles and guns.

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Log emplacements, ammo boxes and equipment get painted up in coats of varying browns and greys. The gun and vehicle grey basecoat are washed in a dark brown and then followed up with some highlights in dry-brushed silver, light grey and brown muds. The huge shells scattered on the ground and fresh rounds in the arms of the crew are done in metallics, and the vehicles are detailed with decals. The final touches are done with static grass applied with white glue around the bases and a few sprays of matte finish to protect the models and dull down any remaining shine.

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IMG_0781In all, the entire platoon took me a couple hours. As with most FOW models, there’s a lot of personality, poses and details in this kit. I love the commander’s stance with binoculars aimed at the horizon and his junior officer reaching for his bag. The main gun bases and the extended separate bases of extra crew make each piece a little diorama of its own. By carefully applying grass to certain areas, I was able to blur the line between the bases, making them appear as one big piece with a quick look. Of course, along with the detail in the models does come some cost, but the usability of these models in so many FOW games makes adding the 8.8cm FlaK 36 platoon a fantastic long-term investment.

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Flames of War: Tanksgiving 2014 After Action Report

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This past weekend seven of us gathered at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY for our second annual Flames of War Tanksgiving event. One new player and six experienced FOW gamers (including two father/son pairs) played through five Late War games using 1750-point companies stretching over three tables — two from Western Europe and one from the Eastern Front. Over the course of the afternoon, British, US, German, Soviet and Hungarian forces fought it out with a mixed results but a slight edge toward the Axis for the day.

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Setting up two Western Europe tables for Tanksgiving 2014

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Western European tables ready to go at Metropolitan Wargamers with an Eastern Front table at the back

British Guards Armoured vs German Schwere SS-Panzerkompanie

The first Western Europe table presented a No Retreat Mission with the Guards Armoured defending a small town from a raiding Tiger-led German force attacking from the open farm area across a river. The Guards deployed an eight 25-pound gun Royal Artillery at the back edge of the table and one objective near the bridge spanning the river to the town. With three other platoons of Sherman and Sherman Firefly tanks in reserve, the initial British force would need to hold fast against the German onslaught.

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Guards Armoured tanks deploy at an objective

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Tigers roll toward the bridge and are covered in smoke rounds

The Germans began the game fully deployed and slowly moving their Tigers toward the bridge and an objective just beyond. With famed tank ace Michael Wittman commanding, the key for the spare British force was to stay away from the deadly guns of the German tanks. At the river ford in the center, the Panzer IVs moved to flank the other side of town with Panzer Grenadiers mounted in half tracks at the rear. The best the British could do was fire smoke rounds into the Tigers across the river and follow-up with long-range shots from the single Firefly deployed at the beginning of the game.

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A Firefly destroys a Tiger at the bridge

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Panzer IVs and Shermans face off in the town streets as a Firefly covers the bridge

Over the next two turns, British reserves arrived and made way for the center of the town, using the tight cobblestone streets and buildings as cover. Artillery spotters stationed in the rooftops of buildings called in several turns of artillery fire but failed to have any effect on the Tigers and destroying only one German halftrack at the river. A crack shot from a Firefly at the center of the town destroyed the first Tiger over the bridge. By the end of the fourth turn, the Panzer IVs wheeled to get into the town at the British left but were pushed back by fire from British Shermans.

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Reserve platoons from the Guards Armoured arrive to engage the Panzer IVs

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Tigers position themselves on two flanks of the town

In the fifth turn, the two remaining platoons from the Guards Armoured arrived to the British left and pushed forward toward the Panzer IVs. With two German tanks quickly lit up, the surviving Panzer IV fell back to the treeline where it was destroyed in the next turn. The British held their left for the moment, but in the cover of the raging tank fight, the dismounted Panzer Grenadiers had managed to slip into the town’s buildings unharmed.

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Firefly Shermans and Tigers face off to protect the objective

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Three Tigers charge hard toward the objective beyond the road

As smoke continued to hold the Tigers from firing at the bridge, a second Tiger was destroyed from a volley from the same Firefly that had sent the first Tiger into flames. While action at the bridge stalled, the three other Tigers had been working their way through wrecking the British tanks which had destroyed the Panzer IVs. All the while, the German infantry had continued to work through the town’s building’s untouched and toward the objective back the rear of town. The British command tanks rolled to stall the advance of the Panzer Grenadiers with machine gun fire and cover the objective.

With most of the British armour ablaze throughout the town, three Tigers rolled toward the objective at the bridge. The surviving British tanks had continued to make successful morale checks with the benefit of their special rerolls. The two surviving Firefly Shermans took a combined shot at a Tiger’s rear and missed. The Tiger’s spun around to return fire, destroying a Firefly. With further ineffective artillery rounds and just one Firefly sitting between three Tigers and the objective, the game was called with a victory for the Germans.

Final Result: Victory for the Germans!

Soviet Tankovy Batalon vs. Hungarian Harckocsizó Század

The day also saw a couple Eastern Front games with Hungarian and Soviet forces facing off on tables set up using a random terrain generator. The Eastern Front table showcased log structures from the excellent Miniature Building Authority Russian Village set along with some rural farm buildings from FOW. Each game saw the Soviets as the attacker, the first taking place on a table representing the bleak steppes of Russia in a Fighting Withdrawal Mission. The defending Hungarians began in prepared positions with a howitzer battery and Panzer IVs to their right, infantry at the center and tanks at the left. The Soviets with T-34 obr 1942 tanks at their extreme  left and right,  SU-100 tank killers and a Gvardeyskiy Tyazheliy Tankovy company at the center and a heavy mortar company at the rear.

IMG_4725The Soviet line moves toward the Hungarian positions

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Soviet tanks roll toward the Hungarian positions

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Hungarian armor proves to be no match for the Soviets

The second Eastern Europe match-up occurred around a collective farm complex with a Dust Up Mission. Starting from opposite corners, both the Hungarians and Soviets positioned themselves into a fantastic series of turns in and around the small farm. With both players moving, dodging for cover and firing at close range, the Hungarians and Soviets sparred for victory as tanks burned all around.

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Game two on the Eastern Front with the central Soviet farm complex

As Hungarian reserves arrived late in the game, infantry climbed out of their trucks and assaulted the Soviet T-34s. Soviet reserves likewise entered the game and made way for the Hungarian howitzers and the objective at the opposite corner. With two intense assaults at either end of the field, the Soviets gained a slight edge and were able to score their second victory on the day.

Final Results: Two Victories for the Soviets!

US 7th Division vs. German Panzer Ausbildungs Abteilung

Back on the other Western Front table a spare rural village anchored by a prominent church and surrounding hill and forests, a deadly force of German Panthers, Tiger Is and Königstigers squared off against the US 7th Division. The Americans rolled into the first Pincer Mission with standard Shermans, M4A3E8 Easy Eights and M4A3E2 Jumbo. At the rear, M7 Priests and 81mm mortars mounted in half tracks were positioned to cover the field in smoke while a P-47 Thunderbolt was on call to swoop in against the German force.

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The US 7th Division deploys in cover on the Western Front

Hoping to avoid German fire, the US tanks crowded into position using the church and other structures for cover as they eased across the field. Once engaged, the Jumbos did their job of eating up fire from the German guns and allowed the other US tanks to advance toward the objectives. Even with smoke cover fired from the rear, air support above and a mass of US armor, the cautious pace of the Americans was no match against the German Tigers firing from the woods. By the time the Americans made a push for the objective in the open, the German tanks were squarely deployed to defend the objective and take the game.

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American tanks bide their time waiting for clear shots at the heavy German armor

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Overwhelming German presence holds the objective

The players switched sides in the second No Retreat Mission on the same table. Again, the Americans came on the table on the far side of the town but this time chose to race aggressively toward their objectives. Defending from the wooded areas again, the Germans were able to fire at will on the advancing Americans. Quickly moving to a close series of short-range duels, tanks on both sides shifted to get into important side armor shot positions. With a tight cluster of models crowding the field near the objectives, American artillery smoke and air support quickly became irrelevant and some lively debate erupted around lines of sight and facings. The second game was a much closer match, but in the end, the thick hulls of the German tanks were no match for the American guns.

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Tanks on both sides jockey for effective shots near an objective

With two victories for the Germans, there was a fair amount of discussion as to whether the Panzer Ausbildungs Abteilung list is an example of a “broken” and unbeatable list in FOW. The Americans tried their best with both cautious and forceful tactics using some great available equipment

Final Results: Two victories for the Germans!

At day’s end, the Axis came out with a slight edge of a 3-2 victory over the Allies across two European fronts. The presence of tough late war German Tiger tanks are a hard force to crack, even with quality American and British armor with lots of air and artillery support. On the other hand, the Russian tank horde always proves to be a formidable Allied opponent whether facing Hungarians or Germans. Force quality, tactics and a bit of luck always play a role, and our five Tanksgiving games were all unique examples of how Flames of War tank battles can go on any given day.

Flames of War: “Desperate Measures” Tanks On The Steppe

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Late in 2013, Flames of War re-launched their Late War Eastern European Front books and models with the release of Desperate Measures. The slim guide to the German and Soviet forces of 1945 is packed with lots of fun and flexibility in fielding tons of armor and mechanized troops slugging it out in the final months of World War II.

My usual FOW gaming opponent at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY has made a sizable investment in Soviet models and Eastern Front terrain. His rural church model in particular looks fantastic on the table with real gold leaf applied to the classic onion dome. Playing from the Desperate Measures book for the first time this past week allowed me to field a bunch of German armor which has mostly sat idle for a year or two as I’ve focused on playing Allied forces in Western Europe.

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My German list was a Confident-Trained Panzer Kampfgruppe with a Panther G HQ, two Jagdpanthers, two Panzer IVs and a Confident/Veteran Schwere Panzer platoon of three Tiger I Es. The Soviets rolled out a Confident-Trained Tankavoy Batalon with a T-34/84 obr 1944 HQ tank, a platoon of seven T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks, a ten-tank T-34 obr 1942 platoon and two four-gun platoons of the heavy SU-100 tank killers. At 1500-points on a side, there was a ton of Soviet hardware sitting on the tabletop against a small, but diverse German force.

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This was my first time playing these lists, so we went with a straight-forward Free-For-All from the basic FOW missions list. The table presented a mix of woods and buildings for cover, and roads and a railway cutting across the table. We placed out objectives, deployed our lines of tanks and the Soviets rolled for the first turn.

IMG_3092Following deployment, Soviet tanks roll forward on turn one

IMG_3094T-34s reach the railway and center with SU-100s in support

IMG_3093Panzer IV’s lie idling in the woods with Panther command tanks nearby

IMG_3096Tigers defend the objective at the middle of the table

With the Soviets beginning the game as having moved, they weren’t able to take any valid shots. The T-34s pressed to the edge of the railroad tracks on their left and the central forested area at the middle of the table. On either flank, the SU-100s sat parked and looked to take advantage of their ability to re-roll misses by firing from stationary positions. I perched my Jagdpanthers in a wood at my left flank and aimed at one platoon of SU-100s in the distance. The Tigers sat at the middle of the table, looking to attack from behind two huts and defend an objective. My Panthers and Panzer IVs took up position on my right, hoping to stall the massed T-34 assault over the railway.

IMG_3097T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks take up position around the central woods

IMG_3099The T-34 obr 1942 platoon is lit up by  fire from the Panzer IVs and Panthers

IMG_3098A Panther explodes with returned fire from the surviving T-34s

IMG_3102With one Panzer IV crew bailed out, the T-34s press the attack

IMG_3104Surviving T-34s burn after closing on the Panzer IVs

The game quickly divided into three main fronts. The Panzer IVs and Panthers dueled over the railroad with the T-34 obr 1942s. In three successive turns, the advancing Russian tanks were hit twice and then fled the field with a failed morale test. Along the way, the Germans lost a Panther from the command HQ and a Panzer IV, cutting German tank force in half on that end of the table.

IMG_3103T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks roll to the center and engage the Tigers

IMG_3105Tigers burn on the field

At the table’s center, the T-34/84 obr 1944 tanks moved into position around the central forest and fields. The Tigers moved in and out of cover, taking deadly shots. By the third turn, two of the Tigers had been bailed by combined fire from the T-34/84 obr 1944s and the SU-100s on either side. Struggling to remount their tanks, two Tigers were destroyed and the remaining tank fled the field.

IMG_3101Jagdpanthers blaze away at SU-100s in the distance

Beyond the church at the German left, the two Jagdpanthers destroyed the SU-100 guns in front of them in two turns. With the flank open and the rest of the table locked in mobile tank duels, the Jagdpanthers fired their engines at the double to occupy the objective beyond the burning SU-100s. With the Germans below half-strength following the destruction of the final Panzer IV, the game came down to one company morale check which the Germans passed to win.

We were both pretty pleased with how evenly matched the game had been on the Eastern Front. The sheer number of tanks kept the Soviets in the game even as the Germans rolled devastating hits in almost every turn. The SU-100s at the railroad, on the other hand, managed to miss most of the game until their combined fire with the T-34/84 obr 1944 platoon ran the Tigers off the table.

I’ve spent the past couple years gaming back and forth across Western Europe from D-Day onward, so a new front and some new forces was a great change of pace. Leafing through the rest of Desperate Measures, I can see there’s plenty of opportunity to run around more tanks and maybe even some poor, unlucky troops on the Eastern Front again soon.

2014: Opening New Fronts

wraondsnyIn the middle of 2013 I somewhat unexpectedly re-launched Brooklyn Wargaming with a new design and a renewed posting vigor. Since then, I’ve had more than 10,000 visits from readers all over the world. Together with these folks I’m sure to never know, we share a continued passion for gaming I am committed to infusing in every one of my postsings here.

My World War II Flames of War posts are clearly the favorites for visitors to the site. My FOW After Action Reports continue to garner a lot of daily views, and people in particular seem to love the Barkmann’s Corner scenario I played in July at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. More AARs and building-out my various national forces in my FOW Modelling posts will be a big part of 2014.

As for other stuff on the site, my few posts on Warfare In The Age of Reason are quickly shooting to the top of popularity. I really enjoy writing up my plays a variety of board and card games through my New Game Weekend posts, and taking a look backward at Retro Gaming The 70s & 80s often result in emails from people like me who have fond memories of hours spent at play in the past.

Looking to 2014, here’s where my focus will continue and grow on Brooklyn Wargaming and the tabletop each week.

World War II

For years, I’ve played a lot of FOW with a big focus on Western Europe. To start the year, I’ll be playing a beach landing or two as a way to prep for the 70th anniversary of D-Day this summer, and I’ve also got a handful of other historic scenarios I’ve been working-up over the past few months.

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Over Thanksgiving, my brother (another lifelong gamer like myself) handed me a copy of Antony Breevor’s Stalingrad and told me it was the best military history book he’d ever read. The highly-readable account of the vicious siege of Stalingrad has gotten my hooked on the idea of expanding my WWII gaming into the Eastern Front in the new year.

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As a first step toward this front of the war, I picked up the new FOW Desperate Measures book. While this intelligence briefing is centered on the closing months of the war battled among German and Soviet forces, there’s also a newly-released updated edition of the FOW Red Bear book which gives a broader look at the Allied forces on the Eastern Front. These resources coupled with my historical reading on Stalingrad have whet my appetite for fielding some large masses of Russian forces on the table. A couple other guys at the club in Brooklyn have already started putting together some of Stalin’s finest and I’m very much looking forward to the Eastern Front opening up my WWII gaming with some scenarios this year.

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I spent a chunk of the past year reading Rick Atkinson’s Guns At Last Light, the third book in his World War II Liberation Trilogy. The book’s focus on the D-Day landings through the campaigns in Western Europe to the fall of the Third Reich squares with the majority of my FOW gaming from the past year. Working my way back through Atkinson’s books, I’m just starting in on The Day Of Battle for Christmas. As with my new swing in interest toward the Soviets and Eastern Front, I’m looking to Atkinson’s second WWII book to fill in my knowledge on the southern European campaigns in Sicily and Italy. Whether I get some Italian troops on the table by year’s end remains to be seen, but I’m really looking to 2014 as another big year of WWII gaming and learning.

Seven Years War

I grew up in Western New York State and then lived for a period of time in Western Pennsylvania, so the French and Indian War has always lingered as an interest but has never found its way into my gaming.

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James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and other books in his Leatherstocking Tales series have also been favorites since boyhood. These colorful stories are set within the wilderness backdrop of the colonial wars of the Americas fuel much of my love for the French and Indian War period, and my visits to historic sites like Fort Niagara and Fort Necessity have added physical understanding to the frontier conflicts of the period.

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Toward the end of 2013, a fellow club member introduced me to the Warfare In the Age Of Reason rules and the Seven Years War. While my experience gaming battles from the period have thus far had a European focus, my long-time interest in what most consider the world’s first global-scale war holds tremendous interest for me. To this end, I hope to make wargaming the Americas front with the FIW a project for the coming year. Modelling 15mm miniatures of colonists, French, British and Native Americans, along with requisite early American frontier terrain, is sure to be making an appearance here in the coming months.

World War I

While I’m on the subject of world wars, I can’t help but acknowledge the calendar and the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of World War I this coming July.keegan_first_l

My only real exposure to the war so far has been with John Keegan’s excellent The First World War. I’ve read a half-dozen of Keegan’s books, and his 1999 overview of the Great War gave me a solid introduction to a war that’s often overlooked by most Americans like myself. Clearly this is a major period in modern warfare I could stand to learn more about.

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To get myself back into the period, I’m planning on reading Max Hasting’s Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War which made many top nonfiction lists at the end of 2013. I’ve only gamed WWI once with a 28mm French-German trench warfare scenario at a convention back in 2011, but there are a number of club members with miniatures from the period I may prod into using in some games this year. There are also rumors afoot that the makers of FOW are expanding into WWI just in time for this year’s anniversary, but for now I think some time with a few good books should be enough tribute from me in 2014.

And…

I can’t really tell with complete certainty where this coming year in gaming will take me. Like with most battle plans, a grand strategy can be laid out but actual events often unfold very differently in the fog of war. I can say there will be more miniatures, more scenarios and more completely fresh games to come here on Brooklyn Wargaming by New Year’s Day 2015. For now, here’s to old fronts not forgotten from 2013 and new fronts to come in 2014.

Flames of War: Barkmann’s Corner Scenario

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Ernst Barkmann was one of the top German tank aces to fight in World War II. Commanding a Panther tank, Barkmann served throughout the entire war on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. Not only was he deadly while at the command, but his crew became adept at making on-the-fly field repairs and getting back into action. By the time he surrendered to British forces in the spring of 1945, Barkmann had become one of the most decorated German tank commanders of the war. He was not yet 26 years of age.

barkmannmapFlames of War offers a special Ernst Barkmann warrior set which includes Barkmann commanding his Panther plus a separate mobile repair shop. FOW also provides free scenario rules for the famed “Barkmann’s Corner” engagement from July 27, 1944. Fought in the Normandy region of France, the small battle is a classic in which Barkmann’s single tank went up against a column of over a dozen US Sherman tanks. In the end, nine Shermans and other vehicles were destroyed before Barkmann was able to slip away to safety. I’ve had the Barkmann model painted up for a few years, but I had never fielded it in a game of his most famed run-in with the Americans. With a frequent summer guest of the Metropolitan Wargamers club leaving NYC for home in Florida this coming week, the two of us got together this past weekend to have a go at the scenario.

As per the rules, the small 4′ x 4′ playing area is set with fields and roads heavily crisscrossed with the high bocage hedgerows of Normandy in which I love to set my games. Barkmann’s tank and his supporting Panzergrenadier platoon begin dug into positions around a small farm at one end of the board. In the opposite corner, the US tank command group and their first platoon of M4A1s begin the game slowly rolling down the narrow road but blocked by a burning tank. The first platoon is strengthened by the presence of Staff Sgt. Lafayette Pool, another special figure offered from FOW. Historically, Pool wasn’t at this engagement but the inclusion of the hard-charging tank ace from Texas helps balance the scenario a bit. Two larger platoons of Shermans lie in the column off the board but enter on turn two and three. The Americans need to keep things moving and Barkmann’s there to stop them.

With the first turn, the US armor column begins down the road toward the farm objective in the near distance.

bark1Barkmann lies in wait behind a small copse of trees with the Panzergrenadiers gone to ground behind the bocage.

1075723_10201126852027803_1689119621_nIn the next few turns as the Americans slowly moved over the dense bocage lining the roads, the US plan became clear. The command tanks and Pool’s platoon headed toward the house and the German right flank. The remainder of the Shermans broke toward the German center and left, bogging repeatedly along the way. In the meantime, Barkmann moved to the far side of the farm house to protect his side and line up several shots on Pool’s platoon.

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3637_10201126853787847_675127225_nWith the Americans splitting in two directions and the German infantry safely in the house, Barkmann took several side shot’s at Pool’s platoon and then rode bravely to the road to begin taking shots at the approaching center Shermans. As Pool became the final survivor of his platoon, Barkmann swung his attention back to his left flank and the bulk of the closing US force which had freed itself from a series of challenging bogged turns.

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1012007_10201126856347911_1734345823_nAs the two largely-intact surviving Sherman platoons continued to attempt a flanking move on Barkmann, his Panther was forced into movement each turn to align shots and stay covered. Pool also managed to pour fire into the farmhouse with his main gun, eliminating some of the Panzergrenadiers before fleeing the table on a failed motivation test. With the twelfth and final turn, Barkmann had backed himself up to the house to protect the objective and eliminated a couple more tanks along the way. Had there been one more turn and roll of the dice, and the game would’ve gone for the Americans.

1011343_10201126857107930_1603972880_nAfter the large Total War scenarios at the club the previous weekend, it was a welcome break to play a small yet engaging battle with a limited amount of models to command. The bocage is the great equalizer in the scenario, providing alternate turns of benefit and frustration to each side as movement is stalled and lines of sight are blocked. Having read a number of historic accounts of the field-to-field fighting throughout Normandy in the spring and summer of 1944, the Barkmann’s Corner scenario went a long way in showing that choosing where you fight can be one of the most important factors in the outcome.

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Flames of War: Metropolitan Wargamers Summer 2013 FOW Day

Taking advantage of a renewed interest in the popular Flames of War 15mm miniatures WWII wargame, Metropolitan Wargamers in Park Slope, Brooklyn hosted a big day of gaming this past weekend. Both experienced and new players alike came together on two of the club’s largest tables to play to big scenarios over the better part of Saturday afternoon.

Metropolitan Wargamers

MWGFOWI mention it often, but the amazing group of people who make up the Metropolitan Wargamers club bears mentioning again. The club will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and it’s a real gamers paradise for those of us living in New York City. Visitors and a core group of long-time members drop by the club throughout the week and engage in all manner of games, from boardgame favorites and card games to large scale historical miniatures battles and grand strategic campaigns. The club’s space occupies an entire basement-level of a typical Brooklyn rowhouse and is lined with shelves full of games and miniatures collected by members over two decades. Playing space includes a number of the club’s award-winning sand tables, regular tables and racks on which ongoing games can be stored as they are played out over the course of weeks or even months.

The club is an incredibly diverse and supportive environment for those of us who share our common passion in gaming. With 2014’s anniversary coming up, I hope to dedicate more space here in the near future with some history and perspectives from members.

Summer 2013 FOW Day

totalwarThe folks at Flames of War provide special Total War rules for gaming large-scale matches like those we played this past weekend. With a few weeks of planning, I helped round up 10 players for the day’s game. We settled on two games from the late war, one each on the Eastern and Western Front. The Western Front game featured two teams of two players each on the German and US sides with each team running 3000 points on a 4’x8′ table. On the Eastern Front, two three-player teams squared off in a tank-heavy scenario on one of the club’s famed sand tables with each team compromised of 5000 points. Each game featured endgame objectives and were slated to run to eight turns. With games these large, we were up for a very long day of action.

On the Eastern Front, the table was wide open with widely-sloping sculpted sand hills, small copses of trees along each long side and a Y-shaped road bisecting the table. I spent the day riveted to my own game on the Western Front table, but the German and Russian armor spent the day pounding away at each other. By mid-day, things had looked pretty good for the Germans as many destroyed Russian tanks stood smouldering midfield. All that changed in the latter half of the game as the Russians rallied to victory.

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My game on the Western Front featured a generic French landscape cut up into winding narrow roads lined with the notoriously difficult bocage hedgerows which stymied both sides in the engagements fought in the region throughout 1944 and 1945. A church stared across the board to a stone bridge crossing a narrow stream to a small village. On the other end of the table, a small farm was set beside two wheatfields with two more rural stone houses in the near distance.

IMG_1903Our US plan was to place the majority of our armor on our right flank, supported by mobile infantry deployed in a small wood. On the left flank, the US Airborne deployed just outside the wheatfields with its small parachute battery to the rear. At the center of the board, our M7 Priests with their 105mm guns formed another battery while one lone Airborne platoon pushed to hold the buildings in the town with a vantage covering the bridge.

The game started poorly for the Americans as the Germans quickly pummeled the American Shermans and kept the infantry hiding in the woods. In the center, the US infantry struggled to occupy the buildings as the Germans quickly rolled five exceedingly threatening tanks behind a row of bocage overlooking two objectives. The American’s P7 Thunderbolt was likewise ineffective through the first few turns of the gaming, missing all targets except on German tank which burst into flames while bogged over a hedgerow.

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The fight on the American left went better from the start as the US Airborne filled the wheatfields and headed for the hedge and road beyond. A brief scare from a platoon of German Stugs, a row of halftracks and a platoon occupying the farmhouse  was solved with our trusty American Shermans. With a combination of artillery bombardments, heavy fire from the US tanks and some shooting from the advancing Airborne, the crossroads in front of the farm was turned into a smoking mass of destroyed German armor. Just as the German right flank stood wide open to the rolling Shermans, the command tank bogged in the woods where it and its entire platoon would remain for the rest of the game.

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IMG_1924By mid-game things looked good for the Germans, but the resilience of the Americans would prove to be the edge in the second half. The American armor was pretty torn up on our right flank, but the US kept making some remarkable morale rolls to stay on in the fight with the dwindling German tanks. At the center, the Priests had lost one of their guns but snuck back into cover to continue taking direct shots across the river at the remaining German armor. The US Airborne platoon occupying the town’s buildings risked a run toward the river, taking casualties along the way despite the smoke covering the German line on the far side. The fight between the wheatfields and adjoining treeline saw the Germans and Americans whittling each other down.

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In the final turn, the 101st Airborne finally got in close enough for a tank assault, destroying one tank and pushing another back from an objective. It was a bloody fight, but in the end it was an American victory with four of six objectives held. On both tables, it had been a good day for the Allies.

And it was a long one, too. With a nearly eight hours of gaming and only brief breaks to grab a drink from the fridge up front or a hotdog off the grill out back, the two games had been exhausting but enjoyed by everyone – win or lose. That’s the kind of spirit we at the club experience every week, and already there’s some after-action discussion about when we’re planning our next big Flames of War day in Brooklyn.