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Monday, September 15, 2014

Great War BatRep: Brits on the Offensive!

By Sean "Throckmorton" Sarah and Mitch Reed

When Battlefront announced the new Great War line I was eager to give it a test.  Mitch ordered both box sets and painted them up in record time, so we decided to give it a try.

We decided to show how you can build out a table on a budget using stuff you might already have. In our case, we went for simple and effective. Let's test the thing out and see how it works.

We used some battlefront tree bases to indicate blasted forests, areas that gave concealment and slow going and my personal collection of trenches, mine fields and barbed wire to act as a trench system.

Lists: We wanted to get all the toys on the table to see how they worked and it came out to be 2020 points. This out all of the British box on the table. We had to proxy the Stoss platoon and Mitch took the flamethrowers from the company HQ. 

Confident Vet Brits:
HQ with Sniper
2x Combat Platoon
2x Mark IV Male Tanks
1x Whippet
2x 18 pounder Artillery Detachment

Confident Vet Germans:
HQ with Flame Throwers
2x Combat Platoon
MG Platoon converted to 4 Nests
Stoss Platoon
Infantry Gun Platoon
2x A7V tanks. 

For the point value these seemed to be incredibly small model count lists. This is mostly because we wanted to check out the tanks that come in the box and both the German and British variations are quite spendy. 

Mission: The Big Push!

The Battlefield. Great War fights are only on a 4x3 table. We were going for conspicuously bleak and open. The brown bits here are blasted forests.

 The Brits, with a Whippet and two Mark IV Males.

Mitch loves to paint his tanks and these turned out great!

Much of the basing here was done with a plumbing clay.

German infantry platoon;

 The Germans went with two A7V's.

German HMGs

The trenchworks and German deployment.

Germans, on the defense, set up in the trenches with the HMGs in nests overlooking the trench lines. Remember there's a special rule in effect that allows you to fire over friendly teams in certain cases. So those MG's can put withering fire on the attacker while still allowing the infantry to shoot.

 All German units start pinned due to a preparatory bombardment.

The Brits start extremely close to the German trench works.

Having the Brits start so close made us realize that it is critical to set up well on defense

Overall field on turn 1. You get to start VERY close in this mission.

 The Brits jump off and are able to get into contact with the barbed wire on turn 1.

 Sniper appears and does most of nothing for the entire game.

Placement of your tanks is key as each side has a 180 degree arc of fire and they cannot fire across the front of the tank.

Here come the German reserves, entering in via the communications trench

If all your dudes can't make it on they keep pouring in on the next turn.

The 7.62 Krupp IGs, they were good while alive

Krupps score a damage on the Mk IV. The number tokens were a good way to keep track of your status

The 18 pounders open up and take out at least 1 infantry gun or MG nest each turn. Devastating to have them so close in.

 Brits take a ton of hits from return fire.

 And lose a staggering amount of stands.

 But stay in the fight, though they'll likely pull out soon.

 The Mark IV male makes a successful repair check.

 And the Brits press ever onward.

The far right platoon starts gobbling up barbed wire as the males start to head into the enemy trenches.

Having those two guns up close was a real pain all game.

It was almost unfair actually. Those two boys accounted for 3 MG nests, two IG guns and both A7V's. They were the stars of the show and straight munched most everything that wasn't infantry in Mitch's list.

The little Whippet's MGs actually served quite well and helped to hold down the flank while the other tanks and infantry moved up.

And, of course, the Male's were exceptional in an anti infantry role.

One of the male's assaults!

Doing grievous bodily harm to a single stand of Germans before the rest move back.

The other male jumps in

Takes a hit...

Can't do a thing...

And ignominiously falls back. 

On Mitch's go the Stosstruppen arrive. 

And the krauts continue to put a hurt on the already damaged Male. 

Turn 3

The male is able to, once again, repair some damage. 

While the 18 pounders continue to do most of the killing work. 

The infantry are completely ineffective at digging out other infantry (duh...) so it's really up to the tanks to get in there and soften them up a bit to give the PBI a fighting chance. 

In doing so the other male gets trounced with two wounds of it's own but hangs in there. 

On their turn the Germans start to set up the counter attack! An A7V shows up and the flame throwers are unleashed

Coring out an infantry platoon. 

Stosstruppen assault!

Pushing the Brits well off and leaving a Male stranded in their midsts. 

All the British infantry get pulled after the mauling (poor 1IC all alone sitting there all by himself) and...

Send in the next wave. 

The 18 pounder opens up 

And nabs an A7V

But Mitch gets his other on in the next turn. 

And it takes out a Male!

British flambe. 

And then more flame. 

The Stoss try to assault the Male and Whippet but fall back to defensive fire. 

Priority 1 on the Brit turn: Kill the A7V. Who you gonna call? 18 Pounder!

Mission: Accomplished. 

Priority 2: Get in the enemy trench. 

Mission: Not in any way accomplished. Maybe the tanks can pull it off?

The ensuing epic combat sees off the stosstruppen

And Mitch fails his company morale. Giving a 4-3 victory to the British.

Mitch's Comments:  Being a huge fan of the Great War I was excited to get the new boxes and get them on a table.  My overall impression after the first game was positive; having always been a fan of playing infantry lists I felt that the Great War is a great place for having your rifle platoons slug it out and I was not disappointed.  As for the tanks, I do like the way they take damage, however I am not sold on needing them for a solid list, I would rather of had the two gun artillery detachment up close to deal with Sean's tanks.  The two 18-Pdrs he had up close made my life tough, taking out my tanks and HMG nests in order.

Historically I found it accurate, showing the limited abilities of the tanks and how Sean was able to re-generate his rifle platoons which represented follow on waves of attackers.   Having no artillery available during the game was also realistic and  I noticed that this was the first game I ever played without either side using a template weapon. In the scenario we played I was pinned due to the pre-attack bombardment. In the Great War, commanders did not have many instances where they were able to call down a barrage in the middle of the fight, so I liked this aspect of the game.

As a rules engine, I felt that the Flames of War rules, with the special rules from the Great War booklet makes a great game.  Having previously played  a version of FoW in the Great War I knew that the basic game would be a good platform for for this very interesting period.

I have read many of the comments both pro and con on the new period and I have to say that the game will not appeal to everyone.  It is a different game than the three periods already published in FoW,  I will readily admit.   People in love with massive quick moving tanks lists will not love having to play infantry based lists where the tanks move as fast as the infantry.  However players who like a game that will be fun, challenging, and provide an insight into what fighting the Great War was about will like the new period.

Overall I really liked the game and I hope it catches on with other FoW players and that in the future more lists and nationalities are added into the mix.

Sean: I agree with most of what Mitch said here. But allow me to add it's almost impossible to kill a bunch of dug in vets in trenchworks relying on infantry assaults alone. As you all could see the infantry mostly sat there and took punishment (both mine and his) the primary difference was my ability to have my tanks on at the start and the extreme usefulness of the 18 pounders in seeing off every threat they were asked to take on.

Tanks are big, shooty and cool looking, but not as survivable as you think as Mitch was mostly unlucky with his firepower checks.

At first I was worried that this would be a game of "march across the table, get MG'd, die, rinse, repeat" but the scenario is set up in such a way as to put you right in the action, which I greatly appreciate. I look forward to trying out the other two scenarios in the book and painting up my Germans.

My one issue is even at 4x3 and even at 2000 points (mostly) out of the box we really only used a third of the table. This made the game look kind of sparse to me. Though I could see, if you dropped the tanks, leaving only the serried ranks of Brits or Germans crossing a crater packed field and charging into glory, the game might look much more packed giving that human wave feeling at the same points level.

As an addition to core Flames of War I think it's my favorite of the three "expansions" so far. And look forward to more games with friends.

Notes on Modeling From Mitch
The Bases
I wanted to give my Great War models the look of trench warfare despite the fact that in 1918 a lot of battles took place out of the trenches.

While I have used most of the stuff in the picture before, a trip to a local crafts store (in my case Michael's) will get you everything you need.  The J&B Plastic Weld  (which you can find at any hardware store) is excellent for creating berms or embankments for your models to take cover behind.  It dries quickly and taking and old thick brush (which I cut down) and dimpling the Plastic Weld before it dries gives it the earthy impression I was looking for.   I also used the air dry clay, but that takes a night to dry and is more brittle.  I created shell holes by taking a small piece of clay on a cardboard section and then taking the other end of that large bush I used with the Plastic Weld and pressing down on the center of the clay to create a raised shell hole.  I let that dry overnight and I glued it to the based and then covered the entire base and the edges of the hole with the ceramic stucco. I used the wooden sticks (both round and square) and Plastic Weld to create emplacements for my HMG teams.

I used the wire to quickly identify my MG and Rifle Grenade teams on the table; I found some artistic wire at a crafts store that looked excellent and I also created some wire using some thin gauge wire I had.  It is important to glue these down before the ceramic stucco, clay, or Plastic Weld dries.

The Figures
I finished this project before Battlefront published their painting guides.  However, as with any of my models I did my own research and used many of the same colors as recommended in the painting guides.  I did make my German uniforms a bit darker than recommended since by the end of the war the lack of proper dyes led to many of the uniforms worn in the field appear that way. I also painted most the Other Rank Tommies with black boots (officers wore brown) since that is what they wore by the end of the war.

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