Flames of War: Metropolitan Wargamers Tanksgiving 2013

Tanksgiving PicAbout ten of us at Metropolitan Wargamers in beautiful Park Slope, Brooklyn kicked off the holiday season this past weekend with a day of WWII armored action in conjunction with our first Flames of War Tanksgiving event. The official rules for the event called for 1500-point companies facing off in multiple games throughout the day. Given we had so many new players interested in playing their first games of Flames of War, a few of the more experienced players decided to play host with our own forces brought along for the day over two tables.

FFAMissionThe bigger of the two tables featured Allied forces facing off against Germans in a Late War Western Europe scenario. The Flames of War website offers a group of basic missions of increasingly-complex scenarios, each easily playable in about three hours. Given we were dealing with an entry-level game, we went with a beginner-friendly Free-For-All mission with two 1500-point companies on each side.

IMG_2442Allied defenders (left) and German attackers (right) deployed

Since this was a tank-focused game, we went easy on terrain with just a smattering of wooded areas, buildings and fields spread over the table. The Allied forces defended, beginning on the side of the table defined primarily by a small river crossing bridge on the Allied right and a field and nearby farmhouse on the Allied left.  On the attacking German side of the table, a walled farm complex surrounded by a tree-lined road sat to the German left and a group of wooded areas to their right. A small town was situated squarely at a crossroad at the center of the field.

IMG_2446Guards Armoured and 101st Airborne started in the farm field

The British Guards Armoured Company began near the farm at their left, deploying its Sherman and Firefly tanks along with one platoon from the US 101st Airborne. Near the bridge, the US 4th Armored Company set its 75mm and 76mm tanks and finally deployed its 105mm artillery platoon at the center of the table edge hidden behind a copse of trees. The Germans deployed Panzer IVs, two Tiger tanks and a Grenadier platoon near a forest at their right. A large group of Panthers started near the center behind the small town with a supporting dismounted Panzergrenadier platoon on their left and a two-tank Panther command platoon at their extreme left.

IMG_2444US 75mm and 76mm Shermans tanks at the bridge near the German objective

With the German player starting things off, their main thrust of Panthers moved toward the center of the table while their Panzer IVs and Tigers made a move looking to shutdown to the advance of the Guards Armoured and US airborne troops. The Panzergrenadiers made their way for the walled farm and the treeline at the neighboring road, and the commanding Panthers looped around the farm toward the river and the American right flank.

IMG_2448A Tiger sits burning after being hit by a Firefly

On the Allied first turn, the 101st Airborne made a beeline for the neighboring forest across from the field while tanks rolled into the gap between the forest and the field. A lucky opening shot from a British Firefly took out a German Tiger, providing one of the only bright spots for the Allies during the entire afternoon. The spotter for the US howitzers ran for the cover of the town’s buildings while the mass of American tanks on the right split to hold off the center German advance as well as the German command section’s coming end-run at the river.

IMG_2453The Armoured Guards take ferocious fire from the German tanks

In the second and third turns, the German players began running the table to their victory. A concentration of fire into the town destroyed the US artillery spotter, effectively shutting down any good chance of Allied artillery support. The Tigers began laying waste to the line of advancing Shermans in the field and rolling in the open. A failed assault on the German tanks by the 101st Airborne out of the woods stalled under a hail of machine gun before it began, but the Guards Armoured managed to route the Panzer IVs off the board and whittle-down the Grenadiers making their way between the town and farm house nearby.

IMG_2460Panzer IVs and Shermans aflame as the 101st Airborne sprints across the field

By the fourth turn, German infantry making their way through the open both for the bridge and objective near the American artillery were mowed down under heavy machine gun fire from the US Shermans. Finding a gap amid the tank fight around them, the 101st made a dash to the next forested area while German tanks poured more fire into the British armor at the rear. At the bridge, American 76mm guns managed to destroy one command tank and bail the crew from the other. Unfortunately, the remnants of the American armor were outgunned and entangled in the burning shells of their comrade’s tanks. With nothing left to stop the advance, German tanks rolled to the center and seized their objective.

IMG_2458Nothing left to stop the German advance to victory

While things raged away on the European table, an Early War showdown between 1500-point British and Italian forces in Africa dustily clamored away one table over. You couldn’t get a more different game with less advanced equipment and differently skilled troops battling in a desert environment laced with prepared defensive positions. Since most of my gaming has focused on Late War Europe, the earlier war stuff fascinates me and I’m definitely going to make some time to try my hand at this other period soon.

IMG_2440Early War Italian and British desert action at Tanksgiving in Brooklyn

As it turned out, the Italians took the game on the Africa table, making our first Tanksgiving event a 2-0 victory for the Axis powers. I learned a mass of German armor is really hard nut to crack unless you’ve got some effective artillery and enough infantry to assault and push to an objective. Every game under my belt gives me ideas for the next. Win or lose, I think a few hours of playing may have hooked a couple new players on Flames of War. For that, we’ll all be thankful as we deploy our platoons for another game very soon.

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Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Cromwell and Firefly Tank

dratsBy the time of the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the British 7th Armoured Division had already seen plenty of war. The division first distinguished itself early in the war in the dusty North African campaign, going brutally head-to-head with General Erwin Rommel’s tough Afrika Korps and earning the nickname “Desert Rats.” In the mid-war invasion of Italy, the division adapted to the southern terrain of Salerno and Naples and helped in securing the Allied push northward.

cromwellA British Cromwell in WWII Europe

fftankSherman Firefly on a street during WWII

Back in the UK following its successes in Africa and Italy, the 7th Armoured rested and retrofitted with new Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks in preparation as a follow-on force in the D-Day landings in mid-1944. Over the next six months, the division’s 75mm-armed Cromwells and 17-pound-gunned Fireflies were present during Operation Perch, Operation Goodwood, the Battle of Villers-Bocage, Operation Spring, Operation Bluecoat, Operation Cobra and the final pushes into the Low Countries and Germany. By the war’s end, the battle-weary Desert Rats had cemented themselves as one of the most celebrated divisions in World War II.

fowcromwellAfter being introduced to British Armoured forces with the excellent plastic Sherman and Firefly models included in Flames of War Open Fire! box set, I’ve recently swung some significant focus on building-out a decent amount of UK late-war forces. Modelling the storied 7th Armoured Division seemed like a logical next step in bringing the UK to my Allied forces on the table.

Through some serendipity, I happened to score a couple of half-price box sets of the FOW Cromwell Armoured Platoon from a fellow club member at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Between the two boxes, I’ve been able to assemble a company command of two Cromwells plus two platoons of three Cromwells and one Firefly each. The models feature individually-cast resin tanks, each with their own detail of stowage and ragged camouflage, along with cast metal treads, gun barrels, crew and other details. Compared to curvaceous US Sherman tanks, I also really enjoy the flatter hull profile and boxy riveted turrets on the Cromwells. Although pricier than alternatives from makes like Plastic Soldier Company and Command Decision from Old Glory Miniatures, official FOW models are generally hard to beat for their heft and historical accuracy.

IMG_2334Primer and base coat on treads and stowage

After assembly, my models were hit with a green armor base coat. Tank treads start with a black coat followed a slight wash of metal. Tools, stowage, ropes and the other stuff on the tanks all get a mix of built-up layers of browns, greens and metallic colors. I especially liked the tiny tennis rackets strapped to a couple of the tanks, a nod to the British gentlemen who came to Europe not only equipped for war but for hopeful yet unlikely leisure pursuits. These details really create a lot of depth, interest and personality among the tanks which can otherwise get very visually redundant en masse on the table. Finally, the exposed crews get a a bit of brown-drab uniform color and some flesh tones to finish off those brave Brits.

IMG_2344Decals being applied (grrrrrr….)

I do have to say, the red-and-white Desert Rats vehicle marking has a really big cool factor for me. The FOW kits conveniently come with appropriate decals for the 7th Armoured Division, making finishing off the tanks one step easier than with competitor model-makers that don’t generally supply decals with their models. That said, I find the FOW decals to be incredibly finicky and fragile, and I found myself re-applying several to get them on just right. Once the decals are dry, all the tanks got splashed with mud here and there with some earthy dry-brushing.

IMG_2350Cromwell command section

IMG_2352One platoon of three Cromwells and one Sherman Firefly

IMG_2354Cromwell close-up

IMG_2356Sherman Firefly close-up

In terms of gameplay, I can’t wait for the 7th Armoured Division to go up against some Germans. The combined one-two punch of the faster-moving Cromwells and the hefty-gunned Fireflies should reinvigorate my games away from the sameness I’ve had in just playing with my large group of US Shermans for a couple years. Already, I want more of these platoons to really get the division bulked-out. I’m thinking a follow-up with Cromwells and Fireflies from the Plastic Soldier Company will supplement the finished FOW models nicely. Until then, the 7thArmoured are ready to roll and there’ll be more to report soon on my post-D-Day British force project.

IMG_2348The Desert Rats ready for action in France and beyond…

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Flames of War: Fielding the Guards Armoured Division

guardstanks

Among the multi-national Allied forces that participated in the campaign following Operation Overlord on D-Day on June 6, 1944 were the British Guards Armoured Division. Arriving a couple weeks late to the party on June 26, the Guards would roll on to participate in many of the key post-D-Day engagements including Operation Goodwood, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. I’ve been encountering the Guards over and over again in Rick Atkinson’s engaging The Guns At Last Light, the latest and final volume in his “Liberation Trilogy” telling of the Allied march to victory in World War II. And so, it is great timing that I’m finally getting around to adding the Guards as my first allied group supplementing my already extensive US forces in my Flames of War gaming.

FWOFBoxI’ve been working away for half this year on finishing up the models included in the excellent Flames of War Open Fire! box set. Among all the plastic goodies included, the set offers up a nice Guards platoon to provide support to their allied US Airborne infantry. The eight models include six of the US-supplied Sherman V tanks and two of the famed Sherman Firefly tanks, retrofitted by the British with a massive 17-pound anti-tank gun.

Aside from a rather significant and well-documented issue with some parts fitting together, the models glue up pretty nicely. To the included stowage and gear included on the sprues I also added some leftover bits. A quick coat of green armor spray paint followed by black and silver lightly brushed on the treads made up the majority of the painting work. The exposed drivers received a tan uniform, black beret and radio headset picked out in detail. Crates and tool handles strapped to the hull got a quick touch of brown.

IMG_1894For decals — a big oversight in not being a part of the Open Fire! kit — I used a set from the Plastic Soldier Company and guidelines found on the Flames of War site. I found the decals from PSC to be easier to apply than those I had used from FOW in the past, but I did still use a few Allied “star” markings I had lying around from previous US tank models from FOW. With the decals dry, a bit of dried mud color and watered-down brown wash added some wear and tear around the tanks before they were hit with a matte finish.

IMG_1896

IMG_1898Now that I’ve got some Brits on the table, I’m eying some UK infantry to add some depth to my collection and flavor to my games. There’s a big full-day Flames of War gaming event coming up in just a few days at Metropolitan Wargamers, but I don’t think the Guards will be making an appearance this time around. Still, it will be good to know they’re waiting to throw in with the Yanks on another day in the near future.