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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3092Following deployment, Soviet tanks roll forward on turn one

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

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

IMG_3096Tigers defend the objective at the middle of the table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3105Tigers burn on the field

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

IMG_3101Jagdpanthers blaze away at SU-100s in the distance

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

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

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

Flames of War: Metropolitan Wargamers Summer 2013 FOW Day

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

Metropolitan Wargamers

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

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

Summer 2013 FOW Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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