Flames of War: Najewitz Modellbau 15mm Pegasus Bridge

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Most of my 15mm wargaming terrain building I do is generic enough to be used throughout Western Europe during World War II. Even with a large collection of buildings at my disposal, there are a few iconic WWII landmarks that have long stood out in my imagination as projects I should tackle at some point. One of those is Pegasus Bridge at Bénouville, France.

The bridge was made famous by a brief but important battle in the early morning hours of D-Day on June 6, 1944. Glider units from the British 6th Airborne Division landed near two bridges just past midnight and quickly secured the Caen Canal crossings with minimal casualties. The quick nighttime action ensured movement and counterattack by German forces would be significantly limited in the coming days and weeks after the Allied landings in Normandy.

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Building Pegasus Bridge would turn out to be a number of firsts for me. The model I picked up from Najewitz Modellbau in Germany is laser-cut, a model material I had not worked with before. The nature of the model and its situation crossing the Caen Canal would also necessitate I create surrounding terrain. In all, the project allowed me to try out a bunch of new things on a signature set piece which wound up being much more of a project than I originally envisioned.

Building the Bridge

The Pegasus Bridge model shipped in plastic bag folded into a flat, short cardboard box which had definitely shown some wear and tear during its journey from Germany to Brooklyn. Some pieces of the model had come loose from the MDF sheets during transit, but everything was there and unbroken. The rest of the model was easily punched or carefully cut out using a fresh blade in a hobby knife. With all the parts cut out, I sorted them on a tray to get a handle on the task of things before me. The model does not ship with assembly instructions, but they are available for download once registered to the Najewitz Modellbau website. The instructions are pretty spare, relying on simple wordless graphics and some imagination to put all the pieces together. I found referring to historic and contemporary images of the bridge online was just as helpful as the actual manufacturer instructions. Since there were no images online of the bridge being constructed, I decided to offer up a visual step-by-step for others looking to add this model to their terrain collection.

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I started by laying out the parts into subsections, including the little control house which sits adjacent to the bridge and the two large sections which are found at the top of the bridge. I dry fit all the pieces to test them at first and then used carpenters wood glue to put the pieces together. Getting the stairs to the control house together was a little finicky. The curved roof on the small structure at the top of the bridge was achieved by scoring the flat roof and carefully bending it to the shape of the arched roof line.

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Next, I tackled all the trusses and supporting elements of the main bridge structure. This is where the fine lasercut detail really started to pop as I glued pieces together to resemble the plates and seams of the metal work on the bridge. After each section dried, I glued them to the main deck. The fine railings which run all around the bridge again were a challenge to figure out which went where, but some careful test fitting before gluing everything in the correct place.

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To finish the bridge, I glued the small gatehouse to an extra piece of square basing, attached it to the main bridge and cut some of the railings to fit around the building. The separate piece of the road approach on the other end was glued to the main bridge using a thin piece of cardboard glued to the underside to create a flexible hinge-like connection. The model doesn’t come with crossing guards, so I used extra pieces of the kit’s wood to cut some simple shapes. The cross guards were simply painted white with red stripes. The entire structure got a grey sprayed base coat and was then dry brushed in an off white paint to produce a worn look to the entire bridge.

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Building the Terrain

As I was constructing the bridge I quickly realized it was going to need to be elevated off the table to accommodate the graded approach and a span over the canal. I went to the trusty standby of foam sheets in order to create sections of terrain on either side of the canal to create roads to the bridge and banks of the canal.

Using a ruler and marker, I outlined the areas to be cut away and sculpted. After making the rough cuts, I smoothed the edges out using wood filler and then sanding everything to a relative smooth shape. The foundation under each side of the bridge would also feature stone sections which I gently carved by using a pencil to create rows of masonry. Everything got an undercoat of brown spray paint followed by a coat of watered-down white glue and mixed flocking. The stone foundations received several coats of gray and off white dry brushed paint to create a realistic. The roads were likewise dry brushed in various shades of browns. Small chunks of foliage were glued here and there around the stone sections to add a little detail.

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Pegasus Bridge

With all the painting and construction done, everything got a dull coat spray to seal the model and terrain. I decided to keep the bridge and two terrain section separate and unglued from each other to ease transport and storage. Laid out on the table, the bridge spans the canal with approaches on either side. The only thing left to do is get the model on the table, and the heroic early morning raid on Pegasus Bridge will be ready to be replayed on the tabletop soon.

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Flames of War: Novus Design Studio 15mm City Block Ruins

ruinsWar is destructive by its very nature, and World War II was the most destructive war in history. Aside from the tens of millions of military personnel and civilian deaths, the war brought unprecedented ruin to the thousands of villages, towns, cities and industrial areas through and over which the war was fought. The nearly immeasurable physical and financial impacts of WWII rippled for decades to come, including enormous effects on buildings and other physical spaces worldwide.

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My 15mm European terrain during a recent game

For my 15mm WWII wargaming using Flames of War and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules systems, my terrain has been modeled almost entirely on Western Europe using buildings from numerous manufacturers collected over the past few years. In all my 15mm modelling, destroyed buildings have largely been absent so far, so I’ve been really happy to add my new city block ruin models from Novus Design Studio to my terrain collection.

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NDS was founded just about a year ago in April 2014 by Robert and Nancy Rumfelt, the founders and original owners of JR Miniatures. Like many wargamers, I’ve got a long history with models from JR Minis and so in many ways I knew what to expect from NDS when the company’s launch was first announced. I watched their inventory grow in the past year covering 6mm, 15mm and 28mm scales across WWII, sci-fi, fantasy and modern themes, and they’ve continued to add new products in the new year.

IMG_4969A complete set of four 15mm city block ruins from Novus Design Studio

The two and three story 15mm urban ruins retail for $26-31 USD each but I picked up a full set of four in a 40% off deal NDS ran at the end of 2014. The straight and corner buildings match up nicely together in a row or bunched into a city block in various configurations. The models also look great placed among buildings from other manufacturers, especially other city row houses from JR Minis. The castings in a creamy resin require a little flash clean up with a sharp hobby knife and air pocket holes show up here and there but don’t distract from the destroyed nature of the structures.

Novus Sample Front BackFront and rear view depicting multiple removable floors of a typical city block ruin model

All the NDS city block ruins feature removable floors molded with plank floors, piles of rubble, walls and interior doorways. The buildings have staircases and walls on the interior, broken window panes and more rubble on the attached sidewalks at the front. Everything about these make them very usable for 15mm gaming whether it be for 20th-century historical scenarios or contemporary and near-future gaming in European or even American urban settings. Getting multiples of the models on the table would easily allow setting up a truly impressive cityscape ravaged by the impacts of war.

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After cleaning up the flash on the models, I washed them all in warm soapy water to remove excess casting residue. The main building structures got a spray of flat gray as a base coat followed by layers of dry brushed tan, light gray and off white paint on the exteriors. Sidewalks also received grays and off white to highlight piles of ash and broken masonry heaped on the ground. On building had shutters which were painted in a dark blue and green and then highlighted with the same color mixed with a bit of white.

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For the interiors, the removable floor levels were base coated in flat black. Plank floors were built up in layers of browns ranging from dark to light in each coat. I went basic on interior walls, using an off white to create a simple plaster look. As with the exterior, the rubble and tile floors on the ground floors were built up in grays and off white.

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After a finish of a few coats of clear matte spray, the city block ruins were done. Arranged in a square block or stretched out in a row, these models easily blend in with other 15mm terrain manufacturers and add a great bit of variety to a tabletop set up. Bringing a bit of destruction to my overly neat wargaming battlefields is a welcome addition with my first buildings from Novus Design Studio.

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I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm July 12, 1943 Scenario

t34OktiabrskiThis past week, two of us at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY headed back to the summer of 1943 and the opening days of what would become known as the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive in Soviet territory, known as “Operation Citadel,” took place southwest of Moscow and led to one of the largest tank battles of all time, the Battle of Prokhorovka. It was south of Prokhorovka at the Oktiabrski State Farm where our game began.

BKCover‘Battlegroup Kursk’ from Iron Fist Publishing

Our 15mm battle was a mash-up of game systems, using Flames of War models, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a scenario lifted from the Battlegroup Kursk book by Iron Fist Publishing. Aside from its own set of tabletop rules, the Battlegroup Kursk book offers some well-drawn scenarios easily adaptable to a variety of gaming systems and scales. Our scenario, “West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm,” was the second of seven scenarios from the section entitled “The Inglorious 12th July.”

oktMAPMap of the West Of The Oktiabrski State Farm scenario

IMG_5577Soviet blinds deploy and move as T-34s are spotted pushing on the left

Our first Eastern Front and largest IABSM game to date started with the German infantry, Pak 40 anti-tank guns and two StuG III units deployed in hidden on a third of the table. Across a wide field, the Soviets deployed on blinds along the table edge in and around a collective farm complex. The initial Soviet blinds featured three infantry platoons at the center, a T-34 tank platoon to the left flank and one more tank platoon arriving on blinds in the second and third turns. Each side also featured off board artillery and the German side also had air fire to draw on throughout the game, although none of it would play a measurable role during the battle.

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IMG_5578A Pak 40 reveals itself to the approaching Soviet T-34s

IMG_5569The T-34s and Pak 40 exchange fire across the open field

IMG_5571The Soviet commander exposes Germans dug into the field just as his tank is destroyed

IMG_5575The first wave of Soviet armor burns in the field as reinforcements arrive on a blind to the rear

Soviet objectives sat at the German-defended crossroads, and so the T-34s pushed hard in the initial turns toward the road entry at the edge of the table at the Soviet left. Rolling quickly toward the road, the T-34s encountered a Pak 40 position at a hedge dominating a field of fire at the center of the table. The Pak 40s immediately hit the tanks, damaging the turrets, sights and mobility of the T-34s. Over several turns, fire was exchanged between the T-34s and the German anti-tank crews, leaving several burning tanks and a partially destroyed German gun position. Mid-game, a reinforcing platoon of T-34s moved to support the first wave of nearly-destroyed Soviet armor but were likewise halted in a crossfire from the surviving Pak 40s and three StuGs moving out their hidden positions and toward the road. The Soviet tank commander managed to close gloriously on the objective, but the StuGs and hidden German infantry positions stalled the advance and his tank went up in flames with those of his comrades, too.

IMG_5570Mid-game with Soviet blinds arriving on each flank, infantry at the middle and thick lines of German defenders in the distance

IMG_5572German Pak 40s and MG42s hold the center

With the Soviet attack on the left completely at a standstill, infantry moved from the farm complex toward the crossroads objective in the distance as T-34s maneuvered to their right using a forested area to cover their advance. The Germans moved to strengthen their center with the deployment of MG42s which laid fire into the Soviet infantry. German infantry deployed across the crossroads objective and were buoyed by the support of another StuG platoon on the opposite side of the trees.

IMG_5573T-34s try to push from the right using the forest as cover

IMG_5574T-34s and StuGs duel at the edge of the forest as infantry begins to take heavy casualties on both sides

Between the road and forest, the battle for crossroads began. Soviet infantry were cut down in the open and the Soviet armor moved cautiously around the woods to fire into the German infantry and armor. As the T-34s rounded the edge of the forest, a crossfire of Pak 40 and StuG shots stalled the Soviet tank advance with the Germans suffering a loss of only one StuG in the firefight. With the objectives at the crossroads and road at the table edge still secure, the day tipped to a German win effectively repelling the Soviet attack.

I hardly ever play Soviets, and in a look at the battle afterward I reasoned a consolidated attack to the road on the German right may have provided the critical mass of armor needed to sway the victory. The German anti-tank guns had effectively pinned the center, and a replay with T-34s massing to one side may have provided just enough of a steel wall to allow the other tanks to move to the objective instead of dying in the open. With our largest IABSM battle played out over several hours, we thought having a crack at one of the other Eastern Front scenarios would be worth it to test if Soviet metal might prevail over the German invaders on another day.

Flames of War: 70th Anniversary Battle Of The Bulge Mission

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This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge fought between Allied and German forces in the snowy, wooded Ardennes region of Western Europe. The six-week German offensive through a frigid December 1944 and January 1945 surprised Allied forces and proved to be costly for all involved. At its conclusion, commanders on both sides counted nearly 100,000 casualties and much of the German ground and air reserves had been smashed as a result of their ill-fated gambit against the Allies.

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The Battle of the Bulge Mission rules from Flames of War

To mark the occasion, several of us met at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY to run through the big Battle of the Bulge Mission available free online for Flames of War. The simple scenario plays out on a huge 6′ x 8′ tabletop with 4000-point forces on either side drawn from the Nuts! and Devil’s Charge books as well as the Panzers To The Meuse PDF. We set our table using a large off-white canvas with roads crisscrossing the forested field dotted with a few small structures.

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101st Airborne US Parachute Rifle Company from Nuts!

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US Glider Rifle Company from Nuts!

On the Allied defending side, I ran my US 101st Airborne Division “Easy Company” list made famous by the book and TV series Band of Brothers. Several special character Warrior figures were included in my list and I also added a hefty group of five M4A3 76mm Shermans and an 81mm mortar platoon. My partner fielded a US Glider Rifle Company, also with 81mm mortars and a 57mm anti-tank platoon. In support, his list was rounded out with M7 Priests, M18 Hellcats and a tank platoon with a Jumbo, two Easy Eights and two more M4A3 76mm Shermans.

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Lehr Panzerkompanie from Panzers To The Meuse

For the armored attacking Germans, both players pulled Lehr Panzerkompanie lists from the Panzers To The Meuse PDF from FOW. Across the lists, a swarm of Panzer IV platoons were accompanied by Panther G and Jagdpanther tanks, Puma armored cars, rocket launchers, Wirbelwinds and two Panzergrenadier platoons. To supplement their massive armored ground forces, the German players also opted for limited air support from a ME 262 A2a Sturmvogel jet plane.

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Initial Battle of the Bulge set up as German players plot their offensive

Per the scenario, the largely infantry US forces were deployed with the exception of our 76mm tank platoon and anti-tank guns which we held in reserve. The US anti tank platoon deployed at the center of the board with their M20 Greyhound scout cars, ready to spring support with the soft but deadly Hellcats to either flank.

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Panzer Lehr forces deploy and move toward the American right

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The German armored assault pushes to the American left

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German ME 262 jet attempts to dig the 101st Airborne out of their positions

The German forces moved quickly onto the board with reconnaissance moves from the Pumas stretching across the table. A mass of Panzer IVs and the Jagdpanthers rolled to the US right. On the American left, Panthers moved to cover in a small wood while the two platoons of mounted Panzergrenadiers pushed down the road toward a US rifle team dug into another woods looking to attack with an armored assault. At the rear, the first run of the Sturmvogel took after the US Airborne in position protecting an objective to no effect.

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The German armored assault on the US rifles in the woods

The German armored assault commenced but was bounced back over the first couple turns with the Americans taking only a few losses from the protection of the trees. Panzer IVs moved in to support from behind the German halftracks and took fire from the Jumbo, Easy Eights and 76mm Shermans sitting in a treeline across the road. The Americans sprang their first ambush, placing anti-tank guns nearby the Panthers. While shots from the US AT platoon were unable to crack the heavy panther armor, their position would go on to strongly limit the maneuverability of the Panthers for the whole game.

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US 76mm tank platoon springs an ambush on the right

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US tanks receive heavy fire from the Panzer Lehr

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US Hellcats move to stop the German armor advance

Over on the German right, the Panzer IV and Jagdpanther force divided around a wooded area and was engaged by the platoon of five 76mm Shermans exposing themselves in ambush. Over the next several turns, armor fire was exchanged as the German tanks sought cover in and around the woods. Three 76mm Shermans were quickly destroyed and the position was quickly reinforced with the US Hellcats deploying from behind a nearby barn. One Jagdpanther quickly bogged and sat stalled over repeated attempts to unbog for the majority of the remainder of the game.

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Panzer IVs are devastated by US armor fire from the woods at the left

Back on the US left flank, the German armored assault was pushed back with most of two platoons destroyed in a crossfire from American rifle infantry in one woods and tank fire from another. the combined fire from the US armor likewise laid waste to the approaching Panzer IVs and Pumas. At mid-game, the American left was holding but the US right was in trouble.

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The ME 262 Sturmvogel takes a run at the US Priests

Supporting fire from both sides proved relatively ineffective throughout the game. The German ME 62 failed to score a hit on multiple runs over the table both to infantry and the rear American Priest platoon. The Priests themselves served to only stall the German armor advance with poor results from multiple bombardments. German rocket fire from their rear also showed little for its repeated efforts once spotting teams were in position on both flanks.

IMG_4840German Panthers are thwarted by smoke rounds at the US left

IMG_4841German armor pushes for the crossroads objective

By the sixth and seventh turns, the game continued to progress steadily on two fronts. At the US left, Panther tanks moved into position after their allied Panzer IVs sat burning all around them. Smoke rounds from two US mortar platoons effectively kept the Panthers out of most of the fight as they crept forward and back in the woods. Finally, a couple of side armor shots from the American anti-tank 57mm guns took a couple of the Panthers out and effectively ended the German threat on one side of the field.

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101st Airborne troops rush forward to contest the crossroads objective

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Panzer Lehr forces attempt to push out the 101st Airborne

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German armor continues to roll to a second objective crossroads at the rear

Things were fairing much better for the Germans all along at the other end of the field. Over several late game turns, the German armor pushed forward, leaving all the US Hellcats in flame and the final surviving 76mm Sherman fleeing the field. The veteran 101st Airborne troops continued to snarl the German advance, remaining static and dug in under wooded cover. With the Americans handily holding their left, two US platoons ran to the right to shore up the defense of two objectives. Just as one platoon of US paratroopers broke, a round of fire from the Priests took out one of the Jagdpanthers. With German armor at one objective and pushing hard at a second, a lot of American troops were poised to go down contesting two crossroads with plenty of mortar support ready to shift their attention across the table.

The written scenario doesn’t call for a turn limit, but after having played for nearly eight hours we called the game at the ninth turn. This was one of the longer and larger FOW battles we had played at the club in Brooklyn in this year. In a year of 70th anniversaries, wrapping up with an exhausting and dynamic Battle of the Bulge game seemed the best way to play some tribute in miniature to the largest battle fought in US history.

Flames of War: Forces of War Launches

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This month, Battlefront Miniatures, the makers of the popular World War II miniatures game Flames of War, took its first big digital step forward with the introduction of the first of their two new digital services — Forces of War.

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The soon-to-be retired EasyArmy.com

Debates have been raging through online message boards, Facebook groups, Twitter and over WWII-themed tabletops ever since the announcement that the beloved EasyArmy was being closed down and absorbed into Battlefront with Forces of War. During its run, EasyArmy had become a much relied-upon tool for FOW players worldwide. Battlefront has maintained a lengthy working relationship with EasyArmy’s designer in an incredibly rare example of a corporation willing to cede some control of their intellectual property. Now, like so many other companies working in the digital space today, Battlefront has brought the ideas and work of a passionate outsider in-house with this month’s launch of Forces of War.

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The New Companies menu on Forces of War

Beginning with Forces of War, buying a company list will run $1.00 USD with a 25% discount extended when buying all lists from an entire book or compilations at about $16.50 USD. The initial offering of lists is meager, focusing on the more recent FOW books Road To Rome, Barbarossa, Road To Remagen and the World War I themed Great War. Devil’s Charge is listed but the complete book is not available and instead points to the popular Panzers To The Meuse list. This set of German companies is the only free offering at launch, allowing for some limited experimentation with the site before buying additional lists. Being a Late War player who mostly plays US and British lists of the D-Day, Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge operations, my hope is that FOW quickly updated Forces of War with these lists as well as Eastern Front lists for Late War Russian and German players.

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 Company builder on Forces of War

As a test, I went through the quick PayPal process of buying the US 92nd Infantry list from the Road To Rome book. The performance was familiar to my experience on EasyArmy, although I did find the Forces of War site to be somewhat faster than its predecessor. Within a platoon, options are selected with simple clicks, and a running points total is tracked along the top of the page by company and platoon. Forces can be saved with custom names and a nice (but minor) new feature allows notes to be added within each platoon.

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A sample Saved Company page on Forces of War

Saved companies are accessed through easy to view lists which can be filtered by period, country, type, name, source, motivation and skill. Companies can be exported and saved as PDFs or printed. The printed lists are somewhat clearer with better page breaks than those with EasyArmy, a simple but welcome tweak. Frustratingly, the platoon motivation and skill ratings still print within unnecessarily colored text boxes which are nearly unreadable on the page.

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Scenarios selector on Forces of War

Most other aspects of EasyArmy have been ported over to Forces of War, including the handy Scenarios map. The Scenarios page could use some upgrades with a search or menu feature to allow quicker access and some better designed graphics or links.

Much like EasyArmy before, Forces of War offers an easy interface in which to view and manage force lists for FOW. In a nutshell, all the core functionality of EasyArmy has been preserved and then packaged with an official FOW wrapper.  Like a lot of players, I would have very much liked to have seen more lists available at launch. As more lists become available in the coming months, re-buying lists already purchased via EasyArmy is also a sticking point for many but I find the new pricing scheme to be completely in-line with FOW balancing customer usability with needed company profit. Some will also continue to complain about the inaccuracies in some lists, but clean-up edits over time, cross-checking the books and being a considerate, mindful and fair player will always trump any gaming tool.  Gone too are all the ads which cluttered the layout of EasyArmy — a true step forward for any premium digital offer. As transitions go, the evolution of EasyArmy to Forces of War is a good start with room for greater improvements to hopefully occur in the very near term.

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: JR Miniatures 15mm Arnhem Row Houses

arnhemstreet

I picked up two different 15mm JR Miniatures Arnhem row house models on my recent trip to the HMGS Fall In! 2014 convention at a real steal of 40% off the list price. At nearly 12″ long and up to 8″ tall, these cast resin models create a quick urban feel to a tabletop battlefield. Each model has lift off roofs and interior floor and wall sections which pull out to allow for stands of troops to occupy varying rooms and levels. The roofs on the models also contain open parapet areas where artillery spotters, machine gunners or other troops can placed to command the battlefield from high upon the rooftops.

IMG_4674Cleaned and primed Arnhem row houses from JR Miniatures

As with most of my experiences with JR Miniatures models, there’s a fair amount of clean up to flash before getting started. The castings also contain a few air holes here and there, but nothing that detracts too much from the overall models. If anything, missing pieces of a cornice or a small hole in a wall might be chalked up to gunfire.

Here’s a simple outline of my technique for painting resin buildings:

Painting Western European Buildings

  1. Use a sharp hobby knife to carefully remove extra resin flash from casting. Particular care should be taken to make sure interior floor sections lift out of the model easily.
  2. Wash models in warm soapy water to remove molding residues. Allow models to dry overnight.
  3. Spray prime roof and removable interior floor sections in flat black and main building sections in flat grey. Allow primer to dry overnight.
  4. Paint roofs:
    1. Tile roofs begin with a dry brush of 50/50 black and red paint, followed by a dry brush coat of red paint and finished with a dry brush of orange paint to highlight.
    2. Shingled roofs begin with a dry brush of dark grey, followed by dry brushed coats of lighter browns, light greys and dark green.
    3. Stuccoed areas in roof gables and dormer windows receive a dry stipple brushed coat of light brown followed by off-white paint dry brushed with the same stipple brush.
  5. Paint floor sections:
    1. Dry brush floorboards with layers of dark and lighter brown paints.
    2. Paint wall sections in off-white paint.
  6. Paint building facades:
    1. Stucco walls receive a dry stipple brushed coat of light brown followed by off-white paint dry brushed with the same stipple brush. Dab some random areas with more off-white to create areas of more fresh stucco to create variations along the street.
    2. Dry brush a slightly heavier amount of off-white paint over cornices and door a window molding to create more depth of highlights.
    3. Stone areas receive a dry brush of light grey followed by off-white dry brush highlights and a dark brown wash in recesses.
    4. Brick areas are dry brushed with 50/50 black and red paint followed by random dry brushing in off white paint to highlight.
    5. Paint doors and shutters with a variety of blues, whites, greens, reds and browns. Follow basecoat with highlight in same color slightly lightened with off-white. Dab doorknobs with brass paint with a fine brush.
    6. Window panes are all carefully given a light coat of black and then dry brushed with dabs of lightly dry brushed white paint to give the illusion of glass.
    7. Sidewalks are dry brushed with light greys over a medium grey basecoat.
  7. Ground areas at the rear of the buildings receive brown and green dry brush coats followed by grass flocking and small clumps of foliage.
  8. Coat models in several layers of spray clear matte finish, allowing each coat to dry before applying an additional coat.

I was able to achieve a pretty decent tabletop quality finish to my buildings with maybe three hours of work on each model using the painting scheme above. Since colors on buildings are rarely monotone (unless newly constructed), I use a plastic surface on which I dab a variety paint shades and mix colors from this palette as I go with my dry brushing. I then build up areas with heavier amounts of one color or another to pull out highlights, create varying textures and differentiate from one building to the next along the street.

IMG_4695A completed JR Miniatures Arnhem row house

IMG_4694 The other completed row house with corner shop

IMG_4692Close up of the corner shop

IMG_4698A view along both row house blocks

IMG_4697Rear detail of one of the blocks

IMG_4693Close up view of the facades

IMG_4696A German Stug parked in front of the row houses

IMG_4691Overhead view of the interior floors

IMG_4690A floor section being removed for placing troops inside

I’m really excited about these models which nearly double the footprint of my existing Western European buildings in 15mm. Models from JR Miniatures fit in nicely with my buildings from Mark IV Miniatures and terrain from a variety of other manufacturers. Although modeled on actual streetscapes of Arnhem, the buildings are easily usable in creating the look of many densely populated areas of France, the Netherlands or elsewhere in Western Europe during late war operations.

Flames of War: Metropolitan Wargamers Tanksgiving 2014

Tanks2014

For the second year in a row, we’ll be hosting a day of armored Flames of War tank battles on Sunday November 30th at noon at Metropolitan Wargamers in Park Slope, Brooklyn. At last year’s Tanksgiving 2013 we hosted about ten players stretched over two tables participating in Early War Africa and a Late War Europe scenarios. This year we’ll be running multiple Late War Europe games using 1500 points of armored forces on a side. We’ll have plenty of US, British, Germand and Russian models on some gorgeous tables, so experienced players can bring their own forces or newcomers are welcome to just come along, move some armor, roll some dice learn the game.

The event will be held at Metropolitan Wargamers at 522 5th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn (enter through basement level). Visitors pay just $15 and regular club members are free. The event will be a great opportunity for new people to meet some of us at the club and experience the best and oldest wargaming community in New York City. If you’d like to come, RSVP via our club’s Yahoo group.

Flames of War: Fielding the CD and FOW M13/M16 MGMC AA

M1650cal AA

One of my favorite blogs, War Is Boring, recently ran an article about the famed Browning M2 machine gun. Introduced in the 1930s, the .50 cal machine gun went on to become one of the most common heavy weapons used in the field by US infantry, mounted on ground vehicles and installed in aircraft. Whether used on the ground or against air targets, the gun is beloved by troops for its ferocious stopping power. Installed in combinations in half tracks as anti-aircraft guns, the weapon earned affectionate nicknames like the “Ma Deuce,” the “Quad 50” or simply “The Fifty.” To this day, the .50 cal is still in wide use wherever US forces deploy.

IMG_4295M13/M16 MGMC AA model comparisons with Flames of War (left) and Command Decision (right)

My recent projects for  my 15mm World War II gaming have focused on filling in extra support units, and adding some AA was key to filling a gap in my forces. Needing four models for a full platoon, I was faced with a choice of manufacturers. Flames of War sells their M13 MGMC models separately for about $13 each. Old Glory Miniatures offers a 3-pack of M16 Quad AA SP Halftracks for $25. So, I was looking at choices of purchasing four of the FOW models for $52, buying two of the CD sets for $50 (and having two leftover, unused models) or ordering from each manufacturer and getting exactly the four models I needed for $38.

I opted for the economical route and wound up with some pretty different models. Side-by-side, the FOW resin and plastic truck is taller, longer and wider than the CD all-metal castings. Everything glued-up nicely, but the guns for both companies proved to be very delicate and prone to bending. The FOW model has crisper lines, but the rougher CD half tracks have a fair amount more detail.

IMG_4296My completed M13/M16 MGMC AA platoon

With four half tracks in the platoon, the larger FOW model literally stands out among the other three smaller CD models. With its bigger profile, I’ve decided to take advantage of its differences and use the FOW half track as the command model in the unit. Since I won’t be fielding the platoon all the time, the delicate gun barrels are less of concern as they are bound to sit comfortably in one corner of the table and blaze away at any Axis aircraft or unfortunate ground forces who dare get too close.

Flames of War: Fielding the FOW L-4 Grasshopper AOP

L4Grasshopper1944

Piper Aircraft was founded in the late 1920s with an eye toward building planes for general civilian use. From 1938 to 1947, Piper sold nearly 30,000 of their relatively inexpensive J-3 Cub models, making the plane one of the most ubiquitous non-commercial planes soaring over the United States by the mid-20th-century.

1943 industrial film of the building of a Piper Aircraft J-3 Cub

During World War II, Piper supplied the US Army Air Forces with nearly 6000 of their J-3 Cub planes in a modified military version known as the L-4 Grasshopper. The main modification of the light plane was the installation of wide banks of plexiglass windows, making it usable as a radio observer and reconnaissance plane during key missions like the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The Grasshopper also found varied service transporting supplies to the front, carrying wounded to the rear and ferrying military and political dignitaries. In rare cases later in the war, the plane was also equipped with light weapons for use as an air-to-ground attack platform.

IMG_4250My completed Flames of War US AOP Grasshopper

My modelling for Flames of War has been focusing as of late on filling in some odd little gaps in my forces. Since I run some US artillery from time to time, adding an air observation plane not only allowed me to add to my gaming but also take a break to model another plane. This time around I also decided to pay a bit more attention to basing my plane to add a bit of visual interest to an otherwise simple model. I like the quick work on the base so much that I’m going to go back and add the same to my US P-47 Thunderbolt and British Hawker Typhoon models. While relatively inexpensive and easy to assemble and paint like my other aircraft, my one criticism of the FOW Grasshopper model is the lack of decals.

Even with the one shortcoming in markings, my new Grasshopper will be a welcome addition to my FOW games. In most American army lists, adding an AOP is a cheap point spend while also greatly expanding the effectiveness of the already devastating US 105mm howitzer battery. Getting this little plane zipping over the heads of my Axis opponents on the tabletop battlefield may not prove to be a total game changer. It is, however, going to give the enemy one more thing to worry about and may just provide an edge like this classic of American engineering did some 70 years ago in the skies of Europe.