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.

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: JR Miniatures 15mm Arnhem Row Houses

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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 Infantry Aces Campaign

MWGInfantry Aces

Two weekends ago we kicked off a Flames of War Infantry Aces campaign at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY.

A friend of the club and organizer of the campaign has created a special Infantry Aces blog to track the campaign’s progress throughout the summer. The site will be updated weekly as the battle unfolds with after action reports, lots of photos and tracking of each player’s progress in the campaign.

While the battle rumbles on, here’s a brief look at the forces we’ve had fun researching, modelling and painting specifically for our campaign for Italy.

Allied Forces

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(clockwise from top left) 504th Parachute Infantry, 92nd Infantry “Buffalo Soldiers,” Gurkha Rifles and members of the 2nd New Zealand Division

Our Allied forces are a mixed group from the Road To Rome book and reflect the mutlinational forces which came together in the late war Italy campaign to break the Axis lines. From the United States, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment is bringing their experience to the field after having fought for years from North Africa and Sicily in 1943 to Operation Market Garden to The Battle of The Bulge in 1944. Joining them, are the untested 92nd Infantry Division “Buffalo Soldiers,” the first African-American infantry to fight as wholly-segregated unit in the war.

Allied with the US troops are some unique UK Commonwealth forces. The Indian Gurkha Rifles had a long history in service of the British dating back to the mid-19th-century, and their skill in close combat and rocky terrain would serve them well in Italy. The  2nd New Zealand Division served most of the war in North Africa and hopping around the islands of the Mediterranean until joining the Allied effort to break the Axis lines severing Italy from the rest of Europe.

Axis Forces

germanyia (clockwise from top left) Fallschirmjagers, Hermann Göring troops and Grenadiers

Using the updated Fortress Italy book, our Axis players have fielded some of the classic, war-hardened forces whose mission it was to hold the line against the Allied push up the Italian Peninsula. The 1. Fallschirmjägerdivision in Italy had already proven themselves throughout Europe with wide-ranging early war operations in Denmark and Norway, the Netherlands, Crete and the invasion of the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa.

Two other veteran companies fill out the Axis forces. The Hermann Göring Fallschirmpanzerdivision saw action throughout Europe and Africa before fighting in Italy. Finally, the 362.Infanterie-division had seen a long war (including the Battle of Stalingrad) by the time they joined the final Axis defense of Italy.

The Campaign Begins…

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Recent FOW Infantry Aces campaign action at Metropolitan Wargamers

We’ve got two weeks of campaign games in so far, and playing with small infantry forces of 500 points has been a refreshing break from the larger FOW games in which we all usually play. Special rules, varying troop ratings and small tables clogged with Italian terrain have also added to the challenges and enjoyment we’ve all had so far. There’s a lot of gaming to do as the campaign escalates over the coming weeks to 700 and 900 point companies with added support. Check back frequently for more of the action over at the Infantry Aces Metropolitan Wargamers Italian Flames of War site.

Metropolitan Wargamers D-Day Plus 70 Event Report

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This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, dozens of gamers came together for three days commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Throughout the weekend, we ran multiple WWII-themed games, including Normandy ’44, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, Flames of War, World In Flames and Memoir ’44. Dice were rolled, strategies were debated, prizes were won and Allied and Axis forces vied for control of France. In all, it was another great weekend full of gaming at our club’s space in the heart of Brooklyn.

Friday Games

IMG_3586The invasion of France begins with Normandy ’44 at Metropolitan Wargamers

Friday kicked off after work with a few players unpacking a fresh copy of the classic Normandy ’44 from GMT Games. This one-map game covers the pre-dawn D-Day Airborne landing areas, five Allied invasion beaches and the charge to the initial inland objectives. The game scale plays with regiments and battalions with each turn representing one day of action. The small, self-contained game provides a great introduction to game mechanics at this scale with a tight, clear rules set. With a quick look at the game, I decided I’m going to have to personally give this one a shot sometime soon.

IMG_3587 US infantry blinds move toward unsuspecting German defenders at a farm outside Vierville

At the back of the club, we ran a game of our new favorite WWII tactical miniatures game, IABSM  from Too Fat Lardies. In our ongoing campaign of the Normandy scenarios in the IABSM Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, our game focused on the battle at Vierville-sur-Mer. With the 116th Infantry Division supported by the 5th Ranger Batallion, the Allied mission was to drive inland to capture and defend the church at Vierville.

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German and US units exchange fire in and around the farm at Vierville

As per the scenario, initial Allied blinds approach a farm outside Vierville where a German blind sits unknowingly in the complex of buildings. With Allied infantry closing in over dense bocage hedgerows and orchards, a firefight erupted and drove the German defenders through the buildings and into the orchard beyond.

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German reserves arrive at the flanks of the advancing US infantry outside Vierville

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Germans reinforcements push the Americans from the farm

As the first force of Germans fled the farm, their reinforcing comrades came on to the rear and flank of the US infantry. The Americans made consecutive moves of firing and moving back to defend at a series of stone walls across the road from the farm. The retreating defensive US actions held off the German onslaught until enough Americans could take up position amid Vierville’s houses. At the same time, the US Rangers moved in at the far end of town to hold the objective at the church.

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Americans pull back from the farm to take position in Vierville

The game eventually settled into a bloody house-to-house and hedge-to-hedge fight along the road leading toward the church. Occasional lucky shots from US Ranger light machine guns at the church also harassed the Germans lying low behind their stone wall position at the farm’s orchard. By midnight, much of the initial American force had been destroyed or was retreating to a final stand at the church held by the Rangers. While the Germans had also lost a sizable amount of their force, their heavy machine guns were still in play as they closed in through the town. This time around, we called the action at Vierville a draw.

Saturday Games

IMG_3603The Americans hit the Easy Green sector of Omaha Beach

The next day kicked-off with a running of a FOW beach landing at Easy Green on Omaha Beach. We have been play testing the FOW scenario over the past two months, tweaking our forces and strategies to cope with the clumsy beach landing rules. In our past games, the US invaders only manage to win about a third of the time. Even so, we decided no D-Day weekend was complete without a return to “Bloody Omaha” on one of the club’s award-winning sand tables.

IMG_3604German defenders hold their positions behind a burning bunker

The opening turns found a lot of US boats on the beach and a quick push to the seawall. So early combined arms fire managed to destroy the main bunker at the beach, but the battle was far from over. The initial US push followed on to the left of the beach, but multiple turns at clearing the barbed wire stalled the advance as the Americans took heavy fire.

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American armor and artillery follow-up the infantry landings

As US armor arrived, several tanks managed to drive off the beach to the minefield position to lay down fire on the German trenches. One tank wound up spending three turns bobbing in the surf offshore only to arrive and bog for two more turns on the beach. As this most inexperienced tank crew in Normandy struggled, the other Shermans took fire from German rockets and reserve tank platoon which rolled to bulk up the beach defense. American artillery also arrived but proved pretty ineffective to the Germans at the trenches. Wave after wave of US infantry pushed to the trenches, eliminating most of the defenders but never managing to clear the barbed wire lines to seize the German position. At the final turn, the Americans just hadn’t made enough headway to control the beach.

IMG_3627World In Flames continued over D-Day weekend

With action raging on the sand table, a group of club members showed up to continue playing their massive World In Flames game. Australian Design Group’s WIF from 1985 is the standard in grand-scale strategic fighting of the entire WWII period. The game’s rich playable detail, dizzying number of 1400 playing counters and sprawling maps makes it a commitment for only the most experienced gamers over many months of play.

IMG_3630Allied forces push from the beaches inland to Caen in Normandy ’44

The Normandy ’44 game from the evening before concluded with a decisive Allied victory Saturday afternoon. Pushing the Germans back from all but Utah Beach, the Allies captured Bayeux and several smaller towns. With German defenders routed from roads leading inland from the landing beaches, the victors rolled in to control half of Caen by the game’s end.

IMG_3625No one was going hungry at Metropolitan Wargamers over the weekend

Saturday also included a lot of other club members down for the usual variety of board, Euro and card games, making for a packed house. As the crowd rolled in, a longtime club member showed up with an enormous fresh-caught fish which he proceeded to gut with a huge military-style knife. With fish on the grill and food ordered in, there was plenty of food to sustain the crowd of gamers throughout the day.

We all took a mid-afternoon break to dice-off in a game, books, DVD and miniatures raffle to raise funds for the club. I was fortunate to score a copy of A Few Acres of Snow from Treefrog Games, and another lucky person picked up an unused copy of out-of-print the Games Workshop classic Dreadfleet.

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Initial deployment of Allied and Axis blinds in our Saturday evening IABSM scenario

As the main crowd thinned out, we ran an evening IABSM game continuing the assault beyond Easy Green. The scenario found initial US forces deployed around a small French farm with the objective of moving men off the table on the roads beyond. The Germans were tasked with preventing the American advance and seizing the farmhouse stronghold.

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Settling in for a contested fight at the farmhouse above Omaha Beach

Using initial blind deployment, Germans quickly moved to the farm along thick hedgerows as the Americans drove into the building for cover. Turns followed with the Americans jumping from cover to fire on the dwindling German force which returned fire over the hedges to unfortunate US infantry hanging out in the open. A US flamethrower attack from the window of the farmhouse decimated another German squad sitting close behind a nearby hedge. Pressing their luck, a group from the farmhouse made a run for the road exit only to be stalled by a reinforcing German heavy machine gun squad. Returning fire, the German MG42s were eliminated from their position in the open field. However, the damage had been done. Although the Germans had not captured the farm objective, the Americans no longer had a sufficient force to push off the table. The night ended with a German victory beyond Easy Green.

Sunday Games

IMG_3620The war continues on the Memoir ’44 Hedgerow Hell battle map

With the first days of Operation Overlord behind us, Sunday’s game focused on the breakout actions. A couple visiting players showed up for the club’s Memoir ’44 game around noon on Sunday. Using the wide Hedgerow Hell expansion map, the Allies beat the scenario odds to win the game in the Overlord scenario. There was much talk of getting larger games of Memoir ’44 back in rotation at the club soon, so hopefully getting the game back on the table will bring some renewed interest in the coming months.

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The initial armored encounter outside Lingevres leaves British tanks in flames

I finished off my weekend as the British at Lingevres using the same scenario I first ran at the club a few months ago. The mission ahead for the Brits was to move into the heavily defended town and take two of the buildings. Historically, the battle played out as a tank duel between UK Sherman Firefly and German Panther tanks, and our game this past weekend played out in a similar way.

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A Panther meets its end at the hand of the British Royal Artillery as a close assault is attempted on another in the woods nearby

At the outset, my first platoon of tanks got a bit overly aggressive and charged into contact with the full Panther platoon at the farm outside Lingevres. With the first Firefly destroyed in the opening turns, my remaining Shermans pulled back as the Panthers rattled to the middle of the field to hold off UK infantry advancing through the woods and bocage-lined fields beyond. One Panther bogged on a hedgerow and another was destroyed in an initial volley from the Royal Artillery in the fields outside town. Several turns became ensnared in attempted infantry assaults on the third Panther in the woods, but eventually the German tank rolled away to deal with the building reinforcing infantry and tank platoon in the fields on the other side of the table.

IMG_3622British Shermans and infantry break across a field toward Lingevres

With the Panthers moving away, fresh British infantry and the surviving Shermans moved to the farm and fields beyond. British artillery fire winnowed and pinned the German platoon in the church over several turns. Artillery fire also sought to keep the reinforcing German spotter pinned to limit the effectiveness of the reserve Nebelwerfer battery which as delayed reserves to the rear of Lingevres.

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The duel between the Panther and Firefly ends with the British tank in flames as the remaining Shermans destroy a Panzer IV platoon in the distance

In the meantime, a multi-turn tank duel had settled in between a lone Firefly and Panther while a reinforcing Panzer IV platoon arrived at the edge of town. Both tank groups traded fire, and in the end, the Panzers were routed with two or their three destroyed and the Firefly fell to the Panther’s gun. Back at the farm field, Shermans traded fire with Pak 40s and destroyed an anti-aircraft platoon defending the town’s flank. With two Panthers left on either side of the church, Shermans on each side of town and advancing British infantry, we called the game a draw.

 Weekend Debrief

After more than 20 hours of gaming over two nights and days, I was pretty worn out, but the interest in the D-Day event had made the weekend well worth it. WWII still holds enormous interest to this day, as demonstrated not only by our weekend of gaming but by the mainstream media’s coverage of D-Day over the week leading up. In the next week, we’re kicking off an FOW Infantry Aces campaign with fresh forces hitting the tables in rounds of Italy-themed WWII games. This fall we’ll be playing out some Market Garden battles and by the winter we hope to host some Battle of the Bulge engagements. It was a pretty special weekend in Brooklyn, but for regular visitors to Metropolitan Wargamers, there’s always the next game in this very unique New York City community.

Downloading: A Century of British Pathé Newsreels

pathe_6da6dceb176b5785e86615b8619ffb28With today’s constant digital feed of news both major and minor, it’s fascinating to think back to an era where newsreels supplied much of the world’s news in motion. In an era still ruled by newspapers and radio, newsreel series from The March of Time, Fox Movietone News, Universal Newsreels, British Pathé and others brought events from far corners of the world to local movie house audiences. Presenting news in motion with dramatic music, voiceovers, selective edits and even reenactments, newsreels provided important foundations for how people would eventually consume video news via television in the latter half of the 20th-century and online in the 21st-century.

British Pathé announced this past week the availability of much of its archive of some 85,000+ HD videos available via YouTube. Some videos appear in their original full newsreels including iconic opening titles, graphics and voiceovers. The A Day That Shook The World series offers more modern edits of pivotal world events from a UK perspective. Other videos are mere snippets, often presented without sound or much context.

Topics covered in the British Pathé newsreels range from celebrity, politics and British royalty to industry, disasters, contemporary slices of life and news from the British Empire worldwide. From the historical to the humorous to the downright bizarre, the newsreel collection paints a wide picture of nearly 100 years of life on Earth.

For people with an interest in armed conflict of the 20th-century, the British Pathé collection has some gems. The Second Boer War gets a little coverage in some amazing footage from the years around the turn of the 20th-century. World War I is covered in major battles such as the Somme and Verdun, but also short features on new technologies like tanks and news from the home front.

Second Boer War

World War I

World War II coincided with the peak era of newsreels, and the British Pathé collection provides an amazing document. There are full newsreels covering the Battle of Dunkirk and the Battle of Arnhem from Operation Market Garden. The brutal siege and liberation of Stalingrad gets a lot of coverage, as does the major battles of the Pacific like Iwo Jima. Nail-biting aerial and naval combat from throughout the war is also documented in some stellar footage.

World War II

There’s a ton of additional military-themed footage in the post-WWII era covering the Cold War events, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Six Day War and the Falkands War. Seeing history come alive in video vignettes from British Pathé, often with more than a glint of heroic propagandist presentation, is just another opportunity to view history as contemporary audiences once saw it. With more and more archives enabling wide distribution of their photo, film, map and document collections online, armchair historians everywhere can tap into a wealth of information painting an ever-widening picture of our past.

New Game Weekend: Memoir ’44

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I’m about 10 years late to the WWII board game Memoir ’44, but after a few first plays through it this past weekend I’m glad this modern classic is now part of my gaming arsenal. Released by Days of Wonder on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy Invasion in 2004, the game has won numerous awards and remains high in the esteem of casual and serious wargamers alike.

mem44contentsContents of the basic Memoir ’44 game from Days of Wonder

The base Memoir ’44 game runs about $40 and contains over 300 playing pieces. The blue-grey Axis and green Allies tank, infantry, artillery and defensive features look fantastic, and playing with them evokes the little plastic toy soldiers of many a kid’s youth. The reversible game board with a beach on one side and countryside map on the other provides the basic layout for the more than a dozen historic scenarios included in the easily-read rulebook. Scenarios are laid out using hex tiles with various terrain features such as towns, forests, hills, rivers and hedgerows. Each historic game scenario is presented with a clear illustration on how to lay out the appropriate terrain tiles and initially deploy forces on each side.

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Sample Command Cards from Memoir ’44

Command cards and battle dice provide the basic drivers of game mechanics. Cards provide activation of one or more units in the left, right and/or center portions of the board. Infantry may move once and attack or move twice, artillery may move or shoot, and tanks may move up to three hexes and engage in combat. Attacks are resolved with a simple roll of special battle dice which hit units based on the icon results on each die face and what units are present in the combat. Die rolls may also result in misses of forced retreats. When a player finishes their moves and combats, they draw a fresh card and play passes to the opposite side of the board. Games are scored by destroying units or securing objectives like bridges.

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The Sainte-Mère-Église scenario for Memoir ’44

As fairly experienced WWII historical miniatures players with Flames of War, both my son and I were pleasantly surprised by the fun to be had with Memoir ’44. The intro scenario is for Pegasus Bridge which we tackled in about 20 minutes to get a feel for the game. Next up, we tried Sainte-Mère-Église with a fun added feature of actually dropping a fistful of paratroopers onto the board. We both found the command cards to be a good mechanic to represent the effectiveness of delivering orders on the battlefield. In out second game, my son’s tanks lay parked at the corner of the board the entire game since he never drew a card allowing activation of units to his left. We each pulled a couple special cards, allowing things like airstrikes and close assaults to happen as the game quickly moved to a finish in about four or five turns. With the basic rules under our belts, we’re anxious to push on through the remaining scenarios included in the basic rules.

M44terrainContents of the Memoir ’44 Terrain Pack expansion

The scores of  available official scenarios, expansion editions, campaign books and army packs add an amazing amount of replay value to Memoir ’44’s basic rules and mechanics. A nifty online design scenario design tool also allows armchair historians to have a go at creating official-looking games of their own, and I can just imagine the educational possibilities in using it in school settings. Along with the base game, I snatched a copy of the Terrain Pack expansion which offers nearly 150 additional tiles, markers, special unit tokens and four additional scenarios. With the vast expansions of Memoir ’44, just about any interest in the air and land battles of every major front in WWII can be endlessly played and explored.

I realize I’ve just begun with Memoir ’44, and I’m certain to have both my boys playing along with me. There’s so much appeal in Memoir ’44 for kids or adults who have dabbled casually in war-themed board games like Risk or Stratego, plus the added interest of easily replaying historic WWII battles. Quick games, some real history and a fun box of toys — Memoir ’44 brings the complete package to the table.