Flames of War: Fielding the 15cm sFH18 Heavy Howitzer Battery

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The long-lived and commonly-found 15cm sFH18 howitzer was fielded by German forces from the 1930s and all through World War II. Tough to haul and a lesser weapon than many of the large artillery pieces fielded by Allied forces during the war, the German gun nevertheless went through several wartime design iterations and served multiple nations in post-war decades.

I’ve been in the home stretch of getting ready for my Flames of War Sint-Oedenrode scenario at the upcoming HMGS Fall In! convention, and getting some big German 15cm sFH18 howitzers finished was the last on my to-paint list. FOW offers a beautiful box set of the German heavy artillery battery, featuring four guns, crew, staff, command, spotting teams and individually-sculpted resin bases. The set of models is a bit pricey, but given the heft of models and their usefulness in so many German army lists, the battery is sure to pay off over time.

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With so many parts in the box, getting organized from the get go is key. After cleaning up and dry-fitting all the pieces, I get everything glued up. After drying, I use wood filler to cover the spotter and command bases and to also hide any seams where the figures glue into the cast resin bases. From there, my usual German painting scheme in greys over flat black primer plus other details makes finishing the models move pretty quickly.

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Parts get cleaned and organized before assembly

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Glued models with filler being added to the bases

IMG_6862Base coats painted on the guns, uniforms, bases and ruins

As with most of the big sets of FOW models, the details on the models is a lot of fun. The intensely-posed four-figure vignette of the staff team in their little bombed-out bunker is a new favorite of mine. Even with repetitive gun crew figures, each unique base makes the whole battery just varied enough at arm’s length and are certain to make an impact when the Axis next hit the table.

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Flames of War: Fielding the US M1 57mm Anti-Tank Platoon

m157mmIt was clear to the Allies from the early years of World War II that German tanks were a big problem. From the early Panzer models to the medium Panthers and finally to the famed Tiger I and Königstiger, German armor combined with German tactics were major threats to Allies forces throughout the war.

To help counter the German armor threat on the battlefield, the Allies quickly evolved their anti-tank weaponry. Building on earlier. lighter guns, the British introduced the “6 pounder” early in the war. Even before entering the war, the United States began production of its version with the M1 57mm anti-tank gun which it exported for use by UK and Soviet forces. Despite the gun’s mixed effectiveness against the strongest German tanks and only occasional use against infantry, the M1 57mm became the standard Allied anti-tank gun of the war with some 15,000 produced.

I’ve previously modeled the British 6 pounder version of these guns for Flames of War, but I wanted to add some of the American M1 57mm models to my miniatures arsenal ahead of the Sint-Oedenrode scenario I’ll be running at the upcoming Fall In! convention in November. As luck would have it, a member of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY was getting rid of some extra packs of the models and I picked them up on the cheap.

Getting these assembled, painted and ready for the table was a quick process. After gluing everything up and covering the bases in a layer of filler putty, they got hit with a basic olive drab spray base undercoat. Flesh and equipment details got picked out, and skin was topped off in a flesh wash. The guns themselves received a brown wash and a lightened green highlighted brush coat. The bases were flocked, I added little bits of shrubby and then everything got a matte spray finish.

The resulting four guns and two command stands gives me a lot of flexibility to add these to a lot of forces throughout the late war period I generally play. As a ubiquitous gun on the battlefields of World War II, these M1 57mm artillery pieces are certain to be making a lot of appearances in my games to come.

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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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Getting Ready For HMGS Fall In! 2015

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FALL IN!™ 2015 (Nov. 6 – 8)

Convention Theme: “Campaign of the 100 Days”

Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center

Lancaster, PA

Less than two months from now, a number of us from Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY will be attending this year’s HMGS Fall In! convention the weekend of November 6-8, 2015 in Lancaster, PA. I, some fellow club members and my brother have a variety of games from different periods we’re presenting in several scales, and the events will be geared toward a variety of levels of gamer experience from beginner to veteran.

Here’s a rundown of our scheduled games so far which you can find along with hundreds of other games listed online in the convention’s event list.

Friday, November 6th Events

F: 351 Rivoli – 1797 – 1:00-6:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 10mm, Rules: TBD

Re-fight the Battle of Rivoli that crushed the first coalition and set Napoleon on a trajectory toward consulate and empire. Will 23,000 French repeat their historical victory over Alvinczi’s 28,000 Austrians? Or will Napoleon’s rise end in the fields of Piedmont? A follow-up to the truly spectacular award-winning Battle of Marengo on a custom-built terrain board from previous HMGS conventions which you can view here.

F: 257 Battle Of Waterloo 200th Anniversary – 3:00-8:00 PM

Period: Napoleonic, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Home Rules

Play one of the greatest battles in history on the 200th anniversary — Waterloo. Napoleon’s French attack the Anglo-Dutch army led by the Duke of Wellington. Time tested home rules perfect for anyone new to Napoleonics or for experienced players. Fast play for convention yet with all the detail and pageantry of the era. This game is being run by my brother who presents games of the Napoleonic Wars in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm with gorgeous hand-crafted tables and his beautifully painted figures, so this one will also be a treat.

F: 374 Barkmann’s Corner – July 17, 1944 – 4:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the summer of 1944. Famed German tank ace Ernst Barkmann is rolling through Normandy commanding his Panther and looking to halt the Allied advance. Amid the bocage of the French countryside, a US armored column encounters Barkmann in a showdown at a crossroads which will become legend. A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). I’ve run this short scenario before (report and pics here) and it’s a blast to play if you like pushing tanks around the table.

F: 377 A Peaceful Exchange Of Prisoners…Hopefully. Wheeling, VA, 1777 – 6:00-10:00 PM

Period: American War for Independence, Scale: 25mm, Rules: Muskets And Tomahawks

A British/Indian delegation during the American War of Independence has arrived in wheeling to discuss a prisoner exchange. Both commanders hope the exchange goes off everything might go off without a hitch, and everyone might go home happy. But this is a wargaming convention, so don’t count on it. Winning will require negotiation, flexibility, deceit, and the element of surprise. Each player has his her own victory conditions. A club member who is a college instructor with expertise on American Colonial warfare is running this game, so it’s sure to be laced with colorful historic narrative.

 Friday (night pick-up game): Churchill’s Nightmare – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British home fleet stop the German breakthrough into the Atlantic?

Saturday, November 7th Events

S: 376 St. Oedenrode – September 17-24, 1944 – 2:00-6:00 PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 15mm, Rules: Flames Of War

It’s the autumn of 1944. As part of Operation Market Garden, the US 502nd Parachute Infantry regiment has parachuted into Holland and seized an important bridge on the Dommel river at St. Oedenrode. Rushing to counter attack are German Fallschrimjager regiments supported by artillery and armor. Can the allies hold the bridge until reserves arrive or will the axis rush to retake the objective? A great learning game for people new to FOW (including kids with adults). This is another scenario I’ve run several times before (report and pics here), and I’m also working on some new models to bring along in time for the convention.

Saturday (night pick-up game): Engagement in the Mediterranean – 8:00-11:PM

Period: World War II, Scale: 1:200, Rules: Naval Home Rules

Can the British Mediterranean fleet stop the Italian fleet?

Come to Fall In! and meet the Members of Metropolitan Wargamers

We’ll also be planning to run other games including two games based on the 1980s movie classics Mad Max and Red Dawn. You will be able to spot the members of Metropolitan Wargamers wearing our new club shirts celebrating over three decades of gaming in New York City. We’re certain to have a some other surprises at the convention, so sign up for Fall In! and we’ll see you in Lancaster in November.

New Game Weekend: Shoot N’ Skedaddle

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One of my favorite parts of attending gaming conventions is playing scales, periods and scenarios I usually don’t game. Getting the chance to play in scenarios run by the authors of rules is also a big bonus opportunity to experience a game “straight from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak. This past weekend at Fall In! I had one of those rare sessions that hit all these marks, playing in an Old West 28mm skirmish game of Shoot N’ Skedaddle by Oscar Turner.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been a big fan of Westerns. Starting with re-runs of the old Lone Ranger TV show and radio serials, I graduated up through American Western classics like Red River and The Searchers to the Italian “Spaghetti Westerns” of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. Over the years I’ve remained dedicated to the now-declining genre, and I’m an enormous fan of Eastwood’s later Unforgiven and Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained

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1992’s Academy Award-winning Unforgiven, produced, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood

Like a lot of American boys, my  interest in Western TV, radio and movies spilled over into my play time. I spent a lot of time gunfighting on my bedroom floor in the 1970s with Gabriel Lone Ranger dolls  and the earlier Marx Johnny West toys. I also had plenty of cheap dimestore plastic cowboys and indians, plus a pretty substantial collection of the cowboys and indians from Britains Deetail and a pile of Western-themed Playmobil toys.

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1970s ad for Gabriel’s Lone Ranger toys

Despite all my interest in Westerns, gaming the genre never became my thing. TSR’s Boot Hill, released in 1975 just as Dungeons & Dragons was taking off, has been a popular RPG option for years. There are a number miniatures ruelsets for the Wild West, and 1992’s Desperado by Monday Knight Productions seems to be the standard I’ve seen played at conventions. So, with nearly zero experience with shoot-outs on the streets of dusty tabletop frontier towns, I was really impressed with my three hours playing through my first game of Shoot N’ Skedaddle this past weekend.

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The Shoot N’ Skedadle cards, dice and equipment needed to play

 With a visually stellar town laid out with incredible laser-cut and plastic scenery, Oscar’s scenario presented a simple scenario of outlaws on the lam with lawmen in hot pursuit. In Shoot N’ Skedaddle, play begins with character cards dealt to players playing on either the Outlaw Gang or Lawmen Posse side. Main characters such as “Judge,”Doc” and “Bandit” team-up with neutral characters like “Thug,” “Cowboy,” “Townsperson” and “Thug.” Characters then draw primary and secondary weapons (if any) which can include anything from a deringer, knife or carbine to a gattling gun, buffalo gun or dynamite. There are 40 character and 72 weapons cards, making for tremedously fun variations in the player Gangs and Posses in Shoot N’ Skedaddle.

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The town set-up for Shoot N’ Skedaddle at Fall In!

After initial deployment according to the scenario, regular playing cards are drawn to randomly activate characters in turn. I really loved this thematically-appropriate mechanic, tying the iconic Old West card game into the play. On a turn, a player can perform a combination of movements and action. Special event cards are also randonly drawn for each side, allowing the resurrection of dead characters, the arrest of an outlaw or an extra character activation. With this simple framework, characters can perform a seemingly endless variety of feats including running, hiding, shooting, grabbing a mule by the reins, jumping between rooftops, crashing through windows, kicking in doors or starting a fist fight. Player imagination bordering on role-playing is really the only boundary to the game.

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Lawmen with guns blazin’ in Shoot N’ Skedaddle at Fall In!

To resolve actions, an incredibly elegant dice mechanic is used. Characters each come with key attributes — Strength, Agility, Scrap, Marksmanship and Guts — with each of these weighted with a D6, D8, D12 or D20. Success when using a particular attribute is resolved by rolling a 5 or better, no matter what the action and no matter what the die. For example, a poor shot would roll a D6 when firing their pistol while a more skilled character might roll a D12. In either case, the player would need to roll a 5 or better to succeed. Wounds, hiding in cover or other game conditions modify the dice downward, so that same crack shot with the D12 Marksmanship would roll a D8 when shooting at someone hiding behind a barrel.

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A local woman acting just a little suspicious in Shoot N’ Skedaddle at Fall In!

Shoot and Skedaddle’s wonderful card and dice structure puts the focus back on the fun on the table like any really great game should. Oscar offers his game as a free PDF ruleset or in a printed set of cards for $25 ($30 with a box). Check out his website at http://shootnskedaddle.blogspot.com/ for downloads, ordering info, development news and more pics and information. The basic rules contain scenarios and a campaign option for longer-term  storylines to be played. I can’t say I’m going to run out and invest in a dozen Western buildings and paint up a bunch of cowboys and local citizens, but if you’re a fan of Old West gaming, I highly recommend checking out Shoot N’ Skedaddle. It’s a bullseye.