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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

FOW: After Open Fire - Part 2

Back in part 1 of this piece, I began to offer some advice for the new recruits to the Flames of War game, after they've purchased the Open Fire boxed set from Battlefront.

In this part, let's look at topics like: more basic items to get for your gaming bag or box, and things to consider as you make that initial decision on which nation’s army to begin collecting.

More stuff to buy!

Talk to any gamer, and you'll probably find they prefer something different than the last gamer you talked to. Take measuring devices. My own preference for this tool is either a small tape measure, or one of BattleFront's weirdly shaped measuring sticks (they call them “RangeFinders"). This little tool has different sides, each with a measurement that is used in the game. Since I'm in the US, the Imperial measurements of six inches, four inches, one inch and two inches are all represented on the rangefinder.

Tape Measures come in various lengths and thicknesses. 

They are useful for determining ranges, as well as using them on edge to determine line of sight.

One of the gents in our gaming group prefers a flexible ruler that young students in primary school might have in their pencil box. In the US, such rules go up to 12 inches. He likes the flexibility so he can bend the ruler along the path he's going to move a vehicle (most travel 12 inches, or 8 inches, etc). I can bend the metal tape from my construction tape measure along a similar route, but, it makes harder corners and doesn't always maximize a legitimate measurement.

There are all sorts of accessories to purchase for Flames of War. The "double wide" Artillery template pictured above is available from Battlefront.

Both the RangeFinder and the artillery template have tables on them that provide data for the game. On the range finder, you'll find movement ranges for various vehicles, in a variety of terrain. Also, along the edges, it shows the appropriate command ranges for the various types of units.

 Lasers in WWII
? Yep. We use them. Why? because FOW is WYSIWYG. As you play, you'll find yourself crouching at table level trying to get an eyeball on what your tanks or guns can actually see down range. Two types of lasers help here. The standard small laser pointers can be placed next to, or directly above the model trying to spot an opponent, and the red dot can help you see what is actually visible.

Can the 8-Rad see enough of the enemy tank to shoot at it? 

A line laser helps determine that.

The line laser is also helpful. It can be positioned above the battlefield and the line used to determine line of sight along the vertical axis. How much of that vehicle is visible past the building.

Hyato checks line of sight on an 8-rad.

Or, drop a periscope on the table. There are several varieties of these available, with designs out there for a make your own version. One that a gent in our gaming group has comes from Game Craft Miniatures. If there's room behind your mini, you can position one of these to get the trooper's eye view of what your vehicle/infantry can see.

There is probably not enough of the enemy tank behind the building for this 8-Rad to effectively fire at.

Along with the RangeFinder, you should also investigate artillery templates on the FOW page. These are handy to have as well. Since they are six inches square, you can also use them for measuring if your veteran infantry are in command range of each other.

But I want to buy tanks!

Understandable. You've got the initial investment out of the way with the Open Fire boxed set. You've also got your rule book, and you've made contact with your local gaming group to find other FOW players. What should you purchase first? What Nationality are you going to begin collecting?

There are a few things to consider before plunking down your credit card for that Army you're just dying to play. For instance, if you really want to play French troops... you'll be limited to (mostly) the Early War period. If you Love the Yanks, and want to put Patton on the table, you're limited to Mid and Late war.

Or, you love reading about the Russian's defense of Stalingrad, and want to collect and run a Soviet  horde army. Yes. A horde army. Even with armor, the soviet troops are low in point cost, so you get more little tin soldiers or plastic tanks to paint.

Remember, the more T-34s you put on the table, the more chances you have to bog or bail out the tanks!

Fortunately, Battlefront, the makers of Flames of War, has just released several army starter kits that have good value for the money. You can purchase (as of now) Rommel's Wolves, Stalin's Bears, Monty's Hounds, and Patton's Eagles. Each set comes with the paperback "pocket" version of the rule book I wrote about in part 1 of this piece, as well as  one of the recent paperback Army List books. You'll find an infantry unit (except for the Stalin's Bears set), along with several armored platoons. Overall, these are a good way to get into the Late War period, but some of the armored units are not usable outside of specific late war lists (eg: Comets).

Things to keep in mind as you select the models for your list:

-PERIOD:  Look at what your local gaming group is playing. Are they all Late War, and rarely get an early war game in? Do you have a lot of Eastern Front players, who could use a good American force to face off against occasionally? There's no sense in investing in all Early War models and forces if your likely opponents are not interested in playing that period.

-ARMOR: Not all armor crosses time periods well. Thickness of the tank's armor, as well as punching power of the gun changed radically over the course of the war. Panzer III and IVs are fairly generic, as are the various Sherman tanks. But, in the game, the footprint of the model determines if it can be seen.

-PROXY: Proxying a Sherman with a 75mm gun for a 76mm Sherman is fine in most friendly games. But trying to pass off a Sherman for a Churchill tank may lead to some line of sight problems if the enemy is firing at that model. Try to keep in mind what you can use to proxy various models as you slowly build your forces. Trying to pass off a Panther or a Comet as early war tanks will get the anachronism groans from your fellow players. I'd suggest starting with the more "vanilla" armor such as Panzer IV or Shermans or T34s to form a core you build your forces around.

You'll find that infantry works well when your oasis is infested with enemy tanks. 

-INFANTRY: Even in an armored list, you'll eventually want to tinker with having some infantry. The grunts and  ground pounders are the ones who hold the objectives in your own backfield, or run into assault the heavy armor that your other platoons just don't have the firepower to take out. Be sure to look at support for these units. Do you have a unit of mortars, or HMGs? The latter are good choices in the British lists, since their army specific rules allow most HMG platoons to fire bombardments that can pin other platoons prior to your other forces assaulting them.

-RECCE: Reconnaissance can be an important part of your force. Denying ambush avenues, or lifting gone to ground are its key roles. For the Germans, you don't have to worry. Take the 8-rads. They work in almost all periods and books and forces. For other armies, such as the British and Commonwealth lists, you'll have a myriad of options. Spend some time in the various army books between periods, and see which recce (usually armored cars) cross most lists (Humbers are a good place to begin for the Brit players).

-SUPPORT: Sorry, but your opponent will probably have some big tanks on the table. How are you going to deal with them? Anti-tank guns, of course! Or, artillery - that can work as well. If you need to proxy some of these models to figure out what to purchase next, just cut some rectangles out of cereal box the same size as the plastic base the guns fit on. But, for German players, once you get your first set of 8.8s you'll probably also want some PaK 38s or 40s as well as some Nebelwerfer rocket launchers. Allied players will want to pick up some 25 pounder or 105 mm guns. For the Brits, however, for Early and Mid war, you'll need to look at units like the 2 and 6 pounder, which can be used en portee (on trucks) or ground based. That's two different types of models for the same unit. 

This screen-grab from the Flame of War site shows what is included in the Rommel's Wolves boxed set.

If you're looking for more flexibility in your army from the outset, I'd suggest going "generic" in your unit selection for the first several platoons. If you want to develop a German list, you'll have a good start on your infantry with what came in the Open Fire boxed set. Next, decide if you want to start with an infantry company or an armored company. Selecting armor is a quick way to get your points used up in force selection, and allows you to start rolling dice and pushing models around faster. Infantry can take longer to paint up, so you'll probably have to have incompletely painted figures for your first few games. Don't worry too much about that. Most gaming groups understand the need for players to have some time to paint their models while learning the rules.

Nothing says "welcome to the war" like an 8.8 shell through your enemy's tanks.
The advice I received when I first started playing was to pick Mid War, and build a generic force based on that time period. Most of the models from it can be used in Late War. The infantry, at least, can also be used in Early war (with exceptions for forces like the Americans). Get a couple of tank platoons, at least one infantry platoon, and one way to add smoke (artillery or mortars). Play some low point games, and learn what you are lacking before spending money on the new shiny whatevers. You can aLways paint up period specific versions of your infantry (BEF vs British Africa, etc)

Most importantly, listen to the advice from the more experienced players in your group. They usually want a fun and challenging game, so they will probably share solid advice on what your next few units should entail.

Once you've got your Open Fire set, and added the main rule book, you'll want to play. Listen to the folks in the gaming groups you find. Bring in friends you believe might be interested in learning as well. Now that you've cracked open the hobby, the fun is unlimited.

Troy recently relocated from crossroads of America, and home of Able Kompanie – Indianapolis Indiana in the USA — to the “Western Front” of North America — Los Angeles California. He is a long time gamer, having dabbled in almost every type of gamer-crack. His small claim to fame is editing a Forgotten Realms supplement, “FR-16 The Shining South” back when TSR still existed.

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