A Milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming

100KviewsThis week, this site rolled past 100,000 views and 56,000 visitors since its launch in July 2013. While Brooklyn Wargaming is by no means one of the more popular gaming sites out there, I am constantly pleased I garner so many visitors every day around the world coming to check out what’s new with me and my hobby.

Over the past few years, I written over 200 posts, played over 100 games, paid visits to numerous historic sites and museums, modeled a lot of terrain and painted a ton of miniatures. My blog has served as not only a diary of my gaming passion, but also as a way to share my love for this stuff with people who have visited my site from almost every country on the planet.

Here are some lessons learned and observations about blogging about gaming over the past two years:

Be Early

One of my earliest successes was from a post I wrote about the passing of famed wargamer and author Donald Featherstone in the autumn of 2013. Just as the story was breaking on the morning of September 4, 2013 in Europe, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of coverage in the United States as of yet. I work for a company that works partially in breaking news, so I know the value of being first to a story. By the end of the day, my traffic had spiked to nearly 200 visitors, by far the best day for my site which had just launched a couple months before.

Be Timely

As a historical wargamer, posts which tie in with anniversaries of particular battles and campaigns are great generators of traffic. My best examples are the two articles I wrote about modelling the Guards Armoured Division during Market Garden. Many months after originally posting them, the Flames of War website made the two posts featured articles in their weekly site update celebrating the anniversary of Market Garden. Traffic flooded in and each have seen about 3000 reads over their lifetime.

Be Unique

Now and then I write about my early years of gaming with my Retro Gaming the 70s & 80s series. In these posts, I look back at games from my childhood and teen years when I was just becoming passion about the hobby. Often times, these posts are love letters to obscure games which appeal to only certain people. While many of these articles get just a few views from my nostalgic visitors, I’ve been surprised that my piece on Crossbows and Catapults has become a popular post day in and day out since it was published in July 2014.

The Crossbows and Catapults article lingered in obscurity for a few months, but several months later the traffic started picking up. Since then, this piece has been getting about five reads a day. I find this to be an interesting stat given the game is not especially well-remembered nor is it played much today. What I think makes the post strong is that it is one of the few comprehensive articles about the game you can find online. The article contains a detailed history of the game and its subsequent editions plus lots of photos and scans of the original rules included in the game. Other sites have linked to the article over time, directing traffic to my site daily with people with fond memories for this game. Unwittingly, my written childhood memories have now become a go-to article online for Crossbows and Catapults.

Be Instructive

As a hobbyist, some of my favorite articles online fall into the ‘how-to’ category. It shouldn’t be surprising then that my posts which outline detailed descriptions, step-by-step guides and lots of illustrative photos are among my most popular. Over time, I’ve added more in-process descriptions and pictures of my painting and modelling projects, garnering traffic day in and day out. Whether it’s modelling 15mm Western European terrain, micro armor projects or my recent build of Pegasus Bridge in 15mm, these ‘how-to’ posts are visited multiple times day after day. The great thing about a solid, detailed instructional post is they have long ‘evergreen’ lives as both new and old hobbyists alike seek reference posts as they work their own projects.

Be Connected

People don’t find stuff online on their own, so connecting my blog to like-minded folks is an important way to get others to read my posts. Posting modelling projects and after action reports links to The Miniatures Page is the number one generator of outside traffic for my site. After that, connecting posts to various groups, museum, historic site and manufacturer pages on Facebook is the second best way to find readers. Facebook also gives the most ego-boosting immediate feedback as the likes, shares and comments flow with almost every post. Posting my articles directly to forums on manufacturer websites, like Flames of War and GHQ, also drive pretty significant views from people invested in a particular niche of the hobby. As a member and president of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, my posts also flow directly to the club’s homepage for current and prospective members to check out. I also use my Twitter account and have dabbled in Reddit, although each of these only see a trickle of visitors to the site. It’s a bit of work, but I definitely need to push my social media connectivity to keep my traffic boosted.

Getting to the next 100,000 visits…

So, with this first milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming, I’m asking myself where I go next. I’m certainly going to be continuing to post projects on a regular basis, and I’d like to break into miniatures of more eras beyond my core interest in World War II. I’m going to keep bringing reviews and plays through new board games to the site as I’m introduced to them. I’d also like to get into more feature articles, and I’ve got a few ideas churning away in the back of my head.

As a kid originally from a tiny rural Western New York town who’s been pushing little miniatures around tables and rolling dice for over thirty years, I’m grateful to my tens-of-thousands of readers who have come to my site over the past two years. Keep checking out the site, and, if you’re ever in Brooklyn, let’s play a game.

Flames of War: Buchholz Station 1944 Scenario

bulge

On December 16, 1944 what became known as the Battle of the Bulge began. The German surprise winter campaign offensive – Unternehmen Wacht am Rhen (“Operation Watch On The Rhine”) – would run until the end of the following month. In the cold, snowy forests of the Ardennes region of France, Luxembourg and Belgium, the series of ferocious engagements would see the highest casualties for the US during WWII severely set back the German war machine’s fighting ability for the remainder of the conflict.

BBmap

Map of the southern flank of the Battle of the Bulge, featuring Buchholz Station

Early in the morning of the 16th, a US company at Buchholz Station was taking a quick break from the morning’s action. Lining up for a hot breakfast, the weary American riflemen spotted distant shadowy shapes  moving through the fog along the nearby railway tracks. Initially figuring these troops to be fellow Americans, machine gun fire quickly erupted as the realization that these were in fact Germans moving to take the nearby train station. The Americans rushed to meet the Germans, eventually filling the area with exchanged mortar and gun fire. Late-arriving US anti-tank guns and some gutsy attacks eventually repelled the small German force.

IMG_2758Table set up for Buchholz Station at Metropolitan Wargamers

Recently on The Miniatures Page message boards I stumbled on a Buchholz Station scenario for Flames of War. A fellow blogger had sunk a fair amount of research into the scenario and presented a great overview on his blog known simply as Kevin’s Blog. Having never done a Battle of the Bulge scenario before, I was anxious to give Kevin’s game a try.

IMG_2761The US chow truck waiting for hungry GIs to show up at Buchholz Station

This past weekend I finally got around to running the scenario at Metropolitan Wargamers. Using the online scenario as a jumping off point, I modified it down to a 4′ x 4′ table decked out in snowy terrain (using regular baking flour). I also tweaked the US and German forces since my own collection didn’t have exactly what Kevin’s scenario called for as written.

IMG_2760The Buchholz Station depot — the main German objective

The Confident-Veteran Germans consisted of three rifle-machine gun Grenadier platoons, plus a heavy machine gun platoon. The Confident-Trained US company featured three rifle platoons, a light machine gun and mortar weapons platoon and a small anti-tank gun platoon towed by Jeeps. Both the US and Germans had large off-table mortars with German spotters deployed in the game and all US command spotting for their own mortar crews. Each company featured just under 750 points per side.

IMG_2776US deployment at the beginning of the game

As in the scenario outline, the Americans began with two rifle companies on the board. One was deployed within 4″ of the chow truck, and the second within 4″ of the small group of buildings at the table corner. All other US platoons were held in delayed reserve, meaning they would not come on until at least turn three. The towed anti-tank gun platoon would be the last reserves for the Americans.

IMG_2777German deployment after their first turn

The German platoons deployed all at once with their first turn, entering the table within 6″ of either side of the railroad tracks. They chose to move at the double and divided their force, heading toward the woods to hold off an American advance and straight toward their objective of the train station.

IMG_2778Turn one ends with a race to the train station

The Americans finished the first turn with their own movement at the double. The platoon at the chow truck headed for a small clump of trees, hoping the forest would provide just enough cover from the coming German fire. The second platoon stayed to one side of the road, out of range of German bullets and racing to the train station.

IMG_2779One US rifle platoon takes heavy fire while the second slides to cover the objective

In turn two, the Germans and US platoons each exchanged fire from their occupied woods. The US took their first casualties and were pinned from the withering German heavy machine gun fire. With most of the fire concentrated on the one US platoon in range, the second American platoon was able to slide toward the train station to control the objective ahead of the Germans.

IMG_2780US and German platoons fire between the woods

Turn three was somewhat of a repeat of turn two as the one US platoon swallowed a ton of German gunfire and remained pinned down in the woods. The US failed to roll any reserves on the table in their first attempt, but the platoon at the train station began occupying the buildings to hold off the coming German onslaught.

IMG_2781The Germans sprint in the open

With turn four, the Germans came out into the wide open looking to assault the remnants of the platoon in the woods and the train station objective. The Americans in the woods took more casualties but stuck it out with a motivation test roll as the Germans moved nearer to assault. The Americans in and around the train station benefited from cover and stayed in control of the objective with the Germans advancing. As the turn ended, two adjacent German platoons took American rifle and mortar fire, pinning the Germans in their advance to the train station.

IMG_2782Germans surround the train station

The last of the remaining Americans in the woods at the center of the table fled in turn five, just as the Germans prepared to assault them. Another German platoon reached the doors and windows of the train station but had their assault repulsed. At long last, the first American reserves arrived, and a light machine gun and mortar platoon platoon hit the ground running at the double. Additional US off-table mortar fire rained onto the assaulting Germans in the snowy open field.

IMG_2783US light machine gun and mortar reserves arrive

The Germans still in the woods broke from the trees iat the top of  turn six and made way toward the train station. Germans already at the station destroyed the remaining Americans there, effectively taking the objective. A few Americans ran at the double to contest the objective. The US responded with fire from the newly-arrived light machine guns and more from the mortars.

IMG_2785The final US reserves arrive…but too late

Things ended on turn seven with the last of the American reserves arriving too late and too far out of range movement and fire to contest the train station objective now in control by the Germans. Timing on the battlefield is everything, and the lack of US reserves arriving earlier in the game made it a tough slog for the Americans. The scenario is pretty fairly matched, and playing a FOW game without the usual mass of tanks was a refreshing break.

The Battle of the Bulge also seemed fitting, given the snowy winter we’ve had here in Brooklyn this past month. With the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge coming up at the end of the year, playing this first scenario already has me thinking of more wintery tabletop warfare about 11 months from now.

Flames of War: Modelling European Western Front Buildings

153770I got into miniatures wargaming through a combined set of interests I developed as a kid: history, role-playing and scale modelling. One of the aspects of gaming I enjoy is setting up a realistic and engaging tabletop battlefield, both for the visual effect but also to reproduce the playable advantages and challenges found in waging scenarios within scenery.

I’ve been searching high and low for an affordable and well-made set of buildings to add to my 15mm Flames of War World War II gaming set in the post D-Day Western Front. Battlefront Miniatures, the makers of Flames of War, launched their own series of buildings last year. The pre-painted buildings are beautiful, albeit a bit too perfect and pretty expensive at $40-50 each. Miniature Building Authority (MBA) has been a long-time producer of fine pre-painted buildings. Like the structures from Battlefront, MBA models feature removable roofs but also convert into ruined bombed-out versions. At $40-50 for single large buildings or for pairs of smaller ones, the MBA buildings are also pretty pricey. MBA keeps a small line in stock, but they have dozens of out-of-production models which you can also find at conventions and occasionally online. JR Miniatures is another standby in the industry, but I find their relatively low-priced line of buildings is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of casting and playability.

markivWith building up my gaming real estate on my mind, I posted to the message boards at The Miniatures Page. Some suggestions pointed to the above manufacturers, but several posters also mentioned Mark IV Miniatures. The company is run by Jeff McCarron, a second-generation gaming modeller out of Colorado who obviously puts great care and passion into his work. McCarron sells his models directly and distributes them through Musket Miniatures, and I found him to be incredibly responsive to a couple questions I had before ordering. As it turned out, a fellow member of Metropolitan Wargamers had recently picked up the large church model and a couple houses from Mark IV. After playing with his models during our big Summer FOW event and Barkmann’s Corner scenario at the club, I decided these were the buildings to sink an investment into.

1148873_10201247963855523_305675209_nI decided to go with several two and three-story buildings, a barn, a courtyard and some walls, all ordered from Musket Miniatures. With all these models, I’d have the flexibility to set up a fairly decent-sized town or play with them as a separate farm estates. The castings arrived clean and required little tidying-up of residual flash with a knife.

20130830-233936.jpgI did have to put in a bit of work gluing plastic tabs to the undersides of the floors and roofs to provide a snug fit for each story of the buildings. The larger one-story bank building also required a wall and metal cast windows to be glued in place.

20130830-234253.jpgFor painting reference, I searched online for photos of European villages. After a light grey spray basecoat, the stucco walls of the buildings were dabbed with a bit of foam sponge in sandy gray-brown stucco and then dry-brushed with an off-white paint to add variety to the wall surfaces. Exposed stonework, the courtyard cobbles and masonry details at the corners, doors and windows all got combinations of varying shades of grays, browns and whites to create some depth.

IMG_2115Shutters, doors and windows were painted with dull blue, white, green and red trim, mimicking some of the variety in paint schemes I had found in photos online. For the roofs, a black undercoat was dry brushed in a couple shades of grey with a bit of browns and dark green shades mixed in. On the barn model I glued on some thin pieces of lichen to add the look of vines covering part of the walls.

IMG_2117The walled courtyard and modular wall sections got a two-part paint scheme over the gray primer. A watered-down brown-black wash over the bricks and cobbles filled the cracks with a dark shading finished-off with an off-white dry-brushed highlighting coat. The courtyard and wall gates started with a dark brown base with a lighter brown adding aged detail to the wood. Iron hinges got a black undercoat with some rusty metal dabbed over it. The result was some very realistic stone and brickwork walls.

IMG_2112

IMG_2119

IMG_2123

IMG_2125I couldn’t be more pleased with the buildings. They’ve already seen some action on the tabletop in my recent Singling ’44 game and combining them with my existing trees, roads and lichen hedgerows really brings the battlefield to life. I’m already eying a few of the other models offered by Mark IV, including some ruined versions of the same buildings which come cast in some exciting bombed-out interior detail.

At Metropolitan Wargamers, there’s some early plans being laid for another big day of gaming to coincide with the fall’s Flames of War Tanksgiving 2013 event and there’s certain to be plenty of WWII action before then. With my new buildings from Mark IV on the table, these miniature landmarks are certain to add even more depth an interest to all out future games.