Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Meeting Engagement Near Kröpke - A Team Yankee Firestorm After Action Report

The online Team Yankee Firestorm campaign is currently in full swing. I'm serving as one of the liaisons for Warsaw Pact forces, and based on the experience so far I can tell you if you haven't done one of these before, you really don't know what you're missing. The campaign is easy to join, and intuitive to report battles - all you really have to do is play some games. Once you sign up you'll get access to your faction's command room (Warsaw Pact, U.S., British, or West German), and there should be plenty of good advice there to help you make your way around the site.

What follows is a report from a game I got in this week at my favorite local gaming store, Guardian Games. I feel very lucky to have a store of this caliber in my local area, especially with all of the struggles many local stores have experienced.

Guardian Games - your mecca for all things Geek in Portland, OR!

As I'm still painting up my East Germans, a friend of mine from the Ordo group kindly brought out some of his miniatures so we could get a few games in. He also invited a couple of new players and they fought as a group in this game. It was great to meet some new people and hopefully get them sucked in to the miniatures wargaming hobby!

What follows is the battle report - which can also be accessed at the Firestorm site (you may have to sign up to view it there), though it doesn't have the preamble and the forces themselves are in a separate PDF.

We ended up playing Free for All because we wanted to start with something basic as we taught the new players.  We played roughly 60 points, and the game ended up in a 5-2 victory for the Soviets.  For the after action report, I took a few pictures and decided to go with a more narrative style - I think I'll stick with it going forward

U.S. Force

M1 Abrams Armored Combat Team – 2x Abrams (16 points)
M1 Abrams Tank Platoon – 3x Abrams (24 points)
M1 Abrams Tank Platoon – 3x Abrams (16 points)
M163 VADS AA Platoon – 2x M163 (3 points)
M901 ITV Anti-Tank Platoon – 2x M901(3 points)
Total:  62 points


Soviet Force:

T-72 Tank Battalion – 1x T-72 (5 points)
T-72 Tank Company – 5x T-72 with on mine clearing device (23 points)
T-72 Tank Company – 5x T-72 with on mine clearing device (23 points)
BMP-2 Recon Battalion – 2x BMP-2 (3 points)
2S1 Carnation SP Howitzer Battery – 3x 2S1 Carnation (5 points)
BMP-1 Observation Post – 1x BMP-1 OP (1 point)
Total:  60 points



Major Mikhail Tupolev’s personal journal

Sunday, 4 August 1985

The drive toward Hanover has gone far better than expected.  We are north of the city across the Aller near a town called Kröpke if I’m reading the signs correctly – and they haven’t been changed to confuse our advance.  I’ve moved forward with a small advanced force to try and secure an interchange allowing better access for the main force to follow, but I fear I’m still north of a good interchange – fortunately the Red Army doesn’t have to obey traffic laws!  Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave my anti-aircraft assets behind to protect the main body as NATO airpower has been a far greater thorn in our side than we were led to believe.  The Air Force promised they’d clear the skies of enemy aircraft, but that hasn’t happened.  I’ll likely be unable to call on our own air support either.  We’ll move forward again in the morning and secure the Autobahn.

Monday 5 August 1985

Our reconnaissance team has identified a small American force heading this way.  I can’t let them delay our advance to the interchange.  I immediately order the battlegroup into action.  The Gvozdika battery can shield our armor against enemy light vehicles, while the T-72’s will take care of any American armor. 


As we make contact I see several of the new American M1 tanks, but they have also brought their anti-aircraft support – they may not have air assets.  They appear to have TOW equipped M113 IFVs in a small stand of trees.  Cover is sparse in this agricultural area.  I deploy my armor to the flanks while the Gvozdika battery holds the center, unfortunately it will take them some time to get in firing position, and I can’t simply wait and let the Yankees dictate the pace of the battle.


My second company of T-72s advances, but all can’t reach cover.  Two fire at a unit of three Abrams tanks, and score hits but do no damage.  The company nearest me fares better destroying an Abrams and causing two more to panic.  One of the BMP-2 scouts closes with the TOW launchers firing his cannon, but fails to destroy either of them.


The Americans return fire destroys one of the BMP-2 scouts, but the remaining reconnaissance team continues to work its way around a small stand of trees to outflank the Americans.  TOW missile fire ultimately destroys my observer, complicating matters for the Gvozdika battery, but a couple of them still have good fields of view, and if all else fails they can fire directly.  The American commander seems concerned with the batter and moves his anti-aircraft and TOW assets in that direction – perhaps he wants flanking shots on my first T-72 company?

I order the second company to stop its advance – there are a couple of tanks which can try and keep the American armor pinned down while I advance along the other flank.  First company manages to take out the remaining American tank on this flank and decimate the TOW battery as well.  The BMP-2 scout reports that he has pushed forward and is entering what appears to be a command and control area.  I order him to hold and defend the area.  Second company continues to trade fire with the Abrams, but now they are reacting to the threat of first company as well.  A couple of crews bail out of their T-72 tanks, but another Abrams is smoking on the horizon.


Sensing the threat to his command post, the Yankee commander moves his anti-aircraft vehicles in range of the BMP-2 scout, destroying it in a withering crossfire.  However, by this point it is too little, too late, only two of the American tanks remain, and are facing eleven T-72’s – I order all armor forward and the remaining Yankee armor is quickly decimated allowing us to secure the area. 

These American tanks are much better than their older models, though they are still using the old British gun.  Intelligence gained from the 1973 War in the Middle East taught us that American armor would be no match for our advanced guns and ammunition, but these tanks are something else entirely.  The Americans also suffered from poor gunnery today (i.e. some bad dice rolls) – if their gunnery had been better, this would have been a far costlier exercise.

... End Report...


So there you have it - fun game, reported to the site - that's all there is to it. I encourage everyone interested in Team Yankee at all to consider joining the campaign. It promises to be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

DDR Build Log Progress - Infantry and Recon!

Here is the latest on painting my East Germans - the good news is I'm making some progress, the bad news is it looks like I'm going to have to continue to borrow and proxy for the first few rounds of the Firestorm Campaign. If you haven't gotten in on the latest online Firestorm campaign, it really is worth your time. I'm one of the helpers for Warsaw Pact, and so far the discussion is good and people are getting a lot of games in.

Over the past week or so I've spent a lot of time going through the infantry. In my last entry, I'd indicated that one of the figure styles was missing from my Mot-Schützen Kompanie (TEBX02). True to form, Battlefront quickly responded with the replacement figures, and a few more for good measure. Overall clean up on the infantry wasn't bad, it just took a while.

I also went ahead and cleaned up the East German Mot-Schützen Heavy Weapons platoon (TEG706) as I'm going to need the SA-14 Gremlin team and the AGS-17 grenade team for my main force. I went ahead and built up the AT-4 Spigot teams as well, though the first incarnation of my force won't need them. The Spigot teams were a little more challenging to assemble, and the grenade launchers will likely provide some challenges as well in final assembly.

Once I had all of the teams assembled on the ubiquitous "craft sticks," I went ahead and primed them with a white primer - I just used a standard can based white primer and it worked well. I try not to use thick primers as they can obscure detail.


I then moved on to base coating the infantry. I'm still using Vallejo paints, so I used the Battlefront color conversion. They recommend English Uniform as the replacement for Battlefield Brown which is recommended in the Volksarmee book as the base coat. To my eye it looks a lot darker than what was actually used on the figures, at least in the large detail pictures. If you look at the distance shots near the end of the modeling guide, the uniforms look much darker.


I'm not going to bother trying to do the camouflage as the detail is simply much too small to bother with at 1/100 scale (see actual uniform below).  I may end up going with a slightly lighter shade then what is recommended for the final uniform based on the Vallejo to Colours of War conversion chart, but I'm going to play with some images and see what "net color" I visually get when I shrink an image of the "real thing" to the right size. I have a hunch the uniform guide in the book may not be too far off as long as I add a good highlight as the final step.


I've also been working to finish up the vehicles, which are going to take a bit to paint, but should come out nicely. I finished up my recon section which consists of the BRDM-2 Recon Platoon (TSBX10). The resin pieces are some of the nicest I've seen from Battlefront, but the guns take a little clean up.


So again - slow progress - but steady progress. I'm going to be "at it again" tonight to see if I can mostly finish up the building. I've been playing with the T-55AM both from Battlefront and PSC, and it is an interesting comparison which I'll talk about more in a future blog.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Edition Wars - What Are They, and is Flames of War in One?

Like any business, game companies like Battlefront need a constant, reliable flow of cash (sales) to remain healthy. Therefore every so many years we see a refresh cycle in rules which allows a company to update and revise their core offerings to re-invigorate the market for flagship products. The venerable role playing game Dungeons and Dragons is currently on its 5th edition, the less venerable but very popular Warhammer 40K miniatures game just released its 8th edition, and Flames of War has recently released its 4th edition.

Any time a new edition of a game comes out, there is the risk of alienating existing players because they suddenly need to buy all new books and supplements to continue playing the game they've already invested both time and money in. Some players won't make the switch - they'll continue on with the old edition or drift away from the game entirely. Others will make the switch and continue to buy, but the main goal is to draw new players to the game as they generally represent the largest potential new revenue base.

I've only played Flames of War since 2nd edition, but moving from 2nd edition to 3rd edition was relatively painless. The changes to the rules were relatively minor and improved some of the "gamier" elements that crept in to 2nd edition. Over the course of 3rd edition, several players faded away for a variety of reasons covering normal attrition through problems with stacked special rules which gave some lists inherent advantages when constructed properly, meaning sales were likely flat to down cueing the need for a game refresh cycle.

However, 4th edition marked a major shift in the rules for Flames of War based on the earlier Team Yankee model. The MW lists have also seen major changes in depth and organization. While one can play 4th edition for EW and LW, the points values have not been adjusted for the new rules and have some major balance issues. Therefore anecdotally the 4th edition transition appears to be more contentious than previous changes, and in fact in some ways resembles other major shifts in system - like the 4th edition of Dungeons of Dragons or GW's Age of Sigmar.

There's a good write-up of the Dungeons and Dragons edition wars, which went way beyond just the major changes with 4th edition, but ultimately resulted a competing system (Pathfinder) taking over the top spot in the pen and paper role playing game market.  Conversely, when Games Workshop quite literally blew up Warhammer Fantasy Battle to create Age of Sigmar, it has at least been successful at bringing new players in though it completely alienated a lot of their existing (and viewed as saturated) customer base.

So that brings us back to Flames of War. Even a cursory read of the official forums or other third party sites will show that there is a wide array of opinions from the very positive to the extremely negative - with most of the negative coming from established players. Overall the discussion seems to be more polarized than in previous editions, and the proportion of negative comments seems higher. That being said, comments on a forum a movement does not make, so what's the bottom line?

For me it is too soon to say whether or not we have a full fledged "edition war" going on with Flames of War, or if this is simply going to be a disruptive shift in the player base. At this point I see some people expressing a desire to stay with V3, but as of today I don't see a lot of support for a continued V3 tournament scene or organized play. That may change as time goes by. Another factor is there is no easy outlet for 15mm World War II gaming that fills the same niche as Flames of War - so there is currently no Pathfinder waiting in the wings to siphon off those who were looking for an update to FoW V3. Again, that could change over the next 12 to 18 months with varying levels of impact. There also seems to be a contingent waiting for the rules and/or the lists to be brought up to the depth of previous editions. Again, only time will tell whether those hopes are founded.

All of that being said, as maligned as some products like D&D 4th Edition were, there were a lot of people who truly enjoyed them - especially new players brought into the game with that edition. When one has a great deal invested in a hobby or pastime, it can be hard to take two steps back and understand how someone could see a particular version or ruleset completely differently - and that works both ways.

So, some points to remember as we try to navigate the stormy waters of the Flames of War V4 transition:

  1. Version 4 impacts both the game mechanics and the lists. Like and dislike for Version 4 can be focused on either or both of those facets of the game.
  2. Don't automatically assume someone with a negative opinion of the new version "simply hasn't played enough games." Some people aren't going to get past the new lists. Others will be able to tell from a read through of the rules whether or not it is the game for them. Others will need more time. It is sort of like buying a new car - sometimes you know it is the wrong car from a glance, others you'll need to sit in the seat, others you'll need a full test-drive.
  3. At the end of the day I think we all want Battlefront to continue to be a successful company. Ultimately Version 4 will fail or succeed based on sales and profitability. If either of those metrics fall short - Battlefront will work to revise the system to appeal to a more reliable customer base.
Until next time, no matter what version of Flames of War - or other miniatures game - you prefer, to quote Wil Wheaton, "Play more games!!!"