Lots of gaming lately!

Someday, if my social situation changes, or if I move from the Chicago-land area, I may experience a period of gaming drought. In this period I will think back to the present time, and realize how great it is to have gaming opportunities and options!  I should appreciate it more, I know. Its easy to underrate the great things in your life if they are relatively common. Looking at my gaming & hobby activities from the last several months makes me realize that it has been pretty great.

Recently we started a work gaming group.  We usually play a game or two every other week after hours.  Last week we played a board game called Cave Evil which was pretty sweet in atmosphere and game-play. It has a heavy random factor, but that mostly helps people stay in the game, even when another player seems to have a lead.

Last weekend was Blood in the Sun IV tournament.  I jumped on the paint judging team again, looked at some sweet armies, and judged them. Most of that weekend was spent kvetching about gaming and hobby.  It was an excellent time, and it was great to catch up with the Garagehammer folks again!

This week my Flames of War group kicked off our modified Italy campaign!  I am very excited about this. I played my first game running the ‘Hoch Und Deutchmeister’ Grenadier Company with some tanks in support.  My opponent was JP, one of the owners of the Dice Dojo here in Chicago, which is also hosting our campaign. He brought his dismounted US cav recon company.  This is the force I would seriously consider running were I playing allies in this event. I was able to take the game 6-1 largely thanks to the static face off (each side had minefields and barbwire galore!) nature of the game, and JP’s lousy dice.

Tomorrow I am rolling out to John’s (of Plastic Legion fame) for a game of Bolt Action.  It will be good to get my revised German list on the table again. We are going to try to get some more folks over for BA, and going to talk shop about the upcoming Operation Sting tournament.

SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY… Descent with my buddies Mike & Adam.  Dungeon Crawl action.

Flames of War: Soviet DShK AA Truck

DSHK5

I recently completed an anti-aircraft platoon for my Soviet Army.  I have always been a fan of this model and when I had faced Soviet players in the past found that the AA gun mounted on the back of a truck really added a unique element to an otherwise rubber-stamped feeling army.

Defensive tactics

One thing that I like about this unit is that it is actually very versatile.  I have found that I really appreciate anything in FoW that can fill several roles or can be modified to fit a scenario before the game starts.  Obviously this platoon can be used to scare of aircraft… it’s an AA unit, but thanks to the mobility of the truck that it is mounted on and FoW’s ‘portee’ rules, this unit has some utility if there are no aircraft around.  The gun team can dismount and become a AA man packed gun team.  This feature of the unit allows AA gun teams to integrate with an infantry force nicely.  As man packed gun teams the dismounted DShKs can be dug in to a Strelkovy line to add defensive fire support, or help hold an objective.  The fact that one of the platoon’s gun teams is the platoon commander gives a small buff to the unit as the command team cannot be isolated by enemy fire (priority target: infantry teams).  The DShK is a a proper heavy machine-gun.  Being part of the .50 family it has an AT of 4 and a firepower of 5+.  This means that it can be a threat to armored cars, light tanks, and even medium tanks in defensive fire.

DSHK1

Offensive tactics

On the attack the DShK can contribute a bit to shooting out dug in infantry as well.  Its better than 6 firepower and it’s 4 rate of fire give it a slight edge over other infantry weapons for shooting teams in bulletproof cover.  If dismounted these guys can keep up with an infantry advance, or if kept on their trucks, they can act as an additional maneuver unit.  The platoon has only 3 teams, so they are very fragile and can be an easy kill for your opponent.  This shouldn’t be underestimated.  It would be easy to accidentially throw these guys away, and unless you are gaining the benefit of saving shots from something more critical by sacrificing the AA MG Platoon, getting them shot off the table for no reason really needs to be avoided (duh… easier said than done).

DSHK4

Great fit for all lists

Most AA units in FoW are very cheap, but this one is a bargain points-wise even by those standards.  At 60 points they are an easy fit to round out an army, bringing you up to an even amount of platoons.  If you can neutralize a light armored attack or an airstrike they quickly start earning those points in your list.  If you can use them to jump a target of opportunity, or support an attack on an objective then you really are seeing them prove their worth.

DSHK2

Building & painting the models

As I had mentioned before I like the way this unit adds a visual dimension to the rest of a Soviet Army.  Having a couple of trucks in an infantry or armored battalion really adds character.  I opted to employ the popular technique of magnetizing the gun to the base via a sub-base made with a bit of the plastic from the blister that the unit came in.   The sub base has a bit of metal in it which allows it to stick to magnets mounted in the base as well as the bed of the truck.  If I were to do this unit again, I would use larger magnet – the magnetization as is not isn’t very strong.  The 1/8th” magnets I used are adequate for the job, but it would be possible to shake the gunner loose from the base or truck with little effort.

I avoided adding grass to the sub-base, but did paint it brown and texture it with sand.  The goal here was to create a surface which wouldn’t be dramatically out of place on both the truck bed and the actual gun team base.  I may pull more highlights out of the greens in the truck paint scheme.  On the fence with that at the moment.  I opted to mount the truck to a base to give it a bit more stability.  I don’t usually do this with my vehicles, but I think that I will be from now one with the ones that have separate metal wheels.    It really helps the truck feel finished and keeps it stable on the gaming surface.

DSHK4

Kingdom Death Interview & Kickstarter

I’d not discovered the site pins of war until tonight.  The content that drew me there is this interesting interview with Kingdom Death’s founder Adam Poots.  I’ve been following Kingdom Death for a while and some of what this interview reveals is very interesting.  Check it out!

http://blog.pinsofwar.net/kingdom-death-interview/

The concept of a co-op miniatures game has appealed to me for sometime, and I had often wondered why there weren’t any out there.  Good for KD.

Flames of War V3 observations

In the back of the V2 Flames of War rulebook is a very handy synopsis of the game’s core rules.  This guide was a fantastic way for players to get to grips with the basics of the game’s rules, and to look up particulars while playing.  Recently Battlefront has posted a link on their site to the Flames of War Quick Reference Guide for V3!  I’ve been checking this out, and while the changes are subtle, I can see how they will drastically affect how the game is played in the future.  Here are a few of the items which jumped out at me:

  • Wheeled vehicle movement is increased in most cases.  Armored cars are no longer wildly inferior to their tracked counterparts.  Jeeps and motorcycles move 16″ standard.  Wheeled vehicles now move 12″ over open ground, and faster on roads!  I believe that agile, but delicate armored car forces may now appear in games more often.  This certainly gives me incentive to field my 11th Hussars force for Mid War some day.
  • Smoke ammo is more effective for those guns and vehicles which get it.  A smoke shot must be fired first, drops two smoke markers, and blinds teams more effectively than before.
  • Recce vehicles, and Gone to Ground gun teams (man packed only?) receive a 3+ save.  This is a clear effort to create some parity for these teams with other elements in the game.  This will probably help make them more common on the table-top.
  •  When firing artillery with a large amount of guns, the firer can often choose between re-rolling misses, or getting a larger template.  This scales up to the massive devastating bombardments that rocket launchers are fond of doing.  What was once a British national rule is now a general tactic.  I love it!
  • There are a ton of changes in the assault phase.  Defensive fire needs to be planned more carefully thanks to the 8″ bubble rule.
  • Getting one or two teams into contact doesn’t allow the entire platoon (or company – people who have faced off against Strelkovy know what I am talking about) to advance.  Only teams within 8″ can now try to contribute to an assault.  I have heard that units with ‘quality of quantity’ have this region extended to 12″.
  • Gun teams have circumstances where they can attack tank teams in an assault.
  • Those very same gun teams are likely to be lost if their side has to fall back during an assault.
  • Aggressive teams from the winning side can force enemy teams back thanks to a 2″ push back zone that is applied to the teams which fell back.  This will be handy to force platoons off objectives, or out of advantageous terrain.
  • Tank Terror is now actually called Tank Terror.
  • AA fire now has 8″ extra range when shooting at aircraft.
  • Airplanes don’t need to roll to range in if their targets are more than 2″ away from woods or buildings.  I love this rule.  It is very effective at representation, and while I am bummed out that it may be easier for Typhoons, and P-40s to knock out my panzers, it will be historically accurate when I hide them in the woods for the first several turns of the game.

The above certainly aren’t all the changes, and many of which have details and caveats that I am missing without reading the actual rulebook.  Based on these changes I am pretty excited about V3.  I think its going to be a good ruleset. 

If you find any misinterpretations in the above post, my bad!  I am writing this giddily after an initial perusal of the new quick reference guide. 

V3 News from Battlefront

Flames of War LogoAs many of you know, Battlefront is about to release Flames of War version 3.  Check out this video for some news about the new books, and the sweet freebie that our Kiwi friends are giving to folks who own a copy of V2.

Initially I was very worried when I heard that V3 was coming out.  I felt this way because I am very fond of the version 2 rules, and can think of little that I would change.  Now that I have heard some of the rumors about what is likely to change, and how, I am very excited about the new edition!  It’s going to be quite a hustle to get up on these prior to Adepticon, but the rest of the group is chomping at the bit as well, so I imagine that the spring will be replete with the sound of tank engines, machine-gun fire, and exploding artillery shells!

Say what you want about various game companies, their supporters (fan-boys), and detractors (whine-asses), but I am often impressed by Battlefront’s ability to rock!  I guess this makes me a fan-boy!  😀

Base marking in Flames of War

Anyone who has played a handful of games of Flames of War has probably noticed that it is easy to mix up teams between platoons.  The problem is that when you are looking down at your infantry teams, gun teams, and in some cases even tank teams, everything tends to look the same (they are wearing something called a uniform after all).  This can cause issues in the game when you need to remove teams as casualties, determining which platoon has what weapon attachment, or how many teams are in a platoon when it can take it’s defensive fire shots against an assaulting platoon.  Most of these issues come up with infantry companies which have platoons which are deployed interwoven, or simply next door to another platoon.  It can be very easy to mix up which team is with what platoon.

There are loads of ways to mark your units to help alleviate the problems above, and here I am going to show you some of my favorite methods.  The easiest thing to do, and what I tend to do with each of my armies in Flames of War is to come up with a simple marking system for the edges of your bases.  I have seen some people put little dots on the edges of bases with permanent markers, the number of dots showing what unit a team is part of, but I think you can push this method a little farther.  I tend to paint a wide region on the back left side of the base with white paint.  I will put one or more colored dashes to illustrate which platoon the team belongs to.  The colors and number of dashes that you use to mark the teams can vary in any way you find appealing.  For example I will mark my combat platoons with red dashes, but a different number for each platoon.  1st platoon would have 1 red dash, 2nd 2 re dashes, ect.  A weapons platoon would get orange, blue, or other color dashes in the same way.

On the white background, these colored dashes really stand out, and are very easy to read.

Another step that I like to take is to make an additional mark, sometimes on the right side of the base to mark a special unit.  My PAVN Infantry Companies have many RPG teams in them, and it is important to me that I don’t position them incorrectly, or remove them as casualties before I want to.  These teams get an additional mark on the right hand side of the base to help them stand out from the rest of the company.  Teams such as command teams usually don’t get any additional marking as they are pretty easy to identify from a distance based on their base-size.  This method is very easy to do, and makes keeping your teams organized very easy.

US gun team with base marking
This infantry team is part of the 2nd platoon.
The dark blue dash next to the platoon identifier shows that this is a RPG team.

Another method, one favored by my good friend Jason is to give the bases some special detail which will identify them from one another.  His US Paratroopers combat platoons have either pumpkins (made from greenstuff) or tombstones (made from plasticard) which identify them as either 1st or 2nd platoon.  This method, while taking a bit of extra work adds a lot of character, and appeal to a platoon.  At 15mm, the base of an infantry team is effectively half the model, so extra work put into bases is never wasted.  This subtle method can also be used creatively to give an overall theme to your army, much in the way that Jason gave his US paratroopers a Halloween theme.

US Paratroopers (Tombstone Platoon) by Jason Misuinas

The two primary platoons of Jason’s US paratroopers are defined by pumpkins, and tombstones.  These simple thematic devices identify what platoon the team is in while giving the entire army its own flavor.

US Paratroopers (Pumpkin Platoon) by Jason Misuinas
Gasmask wearing Grenadiers by Jason Misuinas

Jason’s Pioneer Grenadiers are a very individualistic unit who’s base really causes them to stand out.  This unit is usually the lone infantry unit supporting his Panzerkompanie, but if he were to add more units, he could apply variations to the basing to both maintain uniformity, and give them some unique trait that he could use to help identify the unit.

One popular method for marking bases that I don’t think is very useful is to put a sticker on the bottom of the miniature’s base.  While marking the unit this way looks nice (because you don’t see the markings unless you look at the bottom of the base), it makes spot identifying the team impossible, and when it comes time to figure out who is who, you need to physically move the team.  This is usually not a big deal, but can occasionally cause troubles.  In a tournament I participated in an opponent needed to make sure that the command team that was between two platoons was his 2iC.  After picking the team up and checking out the bottom of it’s base, he put the team down around an inch closer to a neighboring platoon.  I don’t believe that he was intentionally trying to influence the game, but that fudge could have changed whether both units could link up to provide defensive fire or not.  This method is better than nothing, but not ideal.

Marking your bases is extremely important for your flames of war army.  It will help you keep the army organized, will keep you from forgetting to put teams down (I have forgotten an observer team on occasion), and will help maintain accurate gameplay which your opponent will appreciate.  On that last note, if  you are going to tournaments than this step is critical.  Nothing is quite as frustrating for an opponent in a tournament as when you can’t clearly tell them where platoon boundaries are.  Mark up your teams.  Its good for everyone!  🙂