Second World War museums

Flames Of War As Old School Gaming Part 1

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I describe myself as an Old School Wargamer on my Twitter profile. On the one hand that refers to the fact that I have been Wargaming since 1973, when being a young and impressionable modeller obsessed with military history, I first read about it in the pages of Military Modelling. I was lucky we had an active local Wargames club and the library was well stocked with books by Asquith, Featherstone, Grant and Quarrie et al.
Second World War Wargaming then was quite simple: easy move rates, armour points, penetration points and the emphasis was on historical re-fights which is I suppose is where the second part of being an Old School Wargamer come in. The history is important: it’s not on the periphery, it is the core.

And now more than 40 years later I play Flames of War. ‘Heretic!’ I hear some cry. Well FoW for me has some advantages. Being time poor for the hobby, it’s an easy franchise to buy into with some nicely produced books and a steady stream of good models, especially since Battlefront’s move into plastics. They cost a little more but there are good deals on eBay and the cost side isn’t really an issue for me. There are also a lot of good blogs and Facebook groups which means you can feel attached to the hobby even if you mainly game on your own.

Having said all that, there are sides to FoW that I don’t like. I would never play in a tournament as they have little to do with the history side of the game: platoons of T34s facing Sherman Fireflys just because one list is ‘better’ than another. Nope, go to 40K if you want that. And linked in with the tournament side of it is the dreaded Points System FoW uses. This is is one of its weakest angles: points are irrelevant to any real battle situation and a rule set needs to be able to reflect that. I think FoW does if you let it but players have to be persuaded that it’s a good idea. And as they are often so invested in the points system, they can’t be persuaded! So that’s one of the directions I’m looking at in trying to apply some Old School to FoW.

Incidentally there was an interesting article in a recent edition of the superb Minature Wargames about Point Systems in Wargaming and while it is true several of the ‘old guard’ of gaming were in favour of such a system, making it Old School in a sense, I’m still not sure it can ever apply to a WW2 game.

And that leads into the FoW organisational ORBAT charts… and a subject for another blog post!

Jagdpanzer IV Late War Tank Camouflage

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The German Panzer Museum in Munster has a staggering array of WW2 vehicles and visiting places like this helps to get a wider visual impression of the models we paint as well as offering inspiration to paint more realistic camouflage patterns. A quick scan of say painted 15mm WW2 German tanks on eBay shows a wide impression of what many believe camo on late war tanks looked like, but actual examples in museums can be very different to these models.

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This Jagdpanzer IV is a good example showing a common pattern of camouflage used. This was applied often by a tired tank crew and done with large, often dirty and grubby brushes, so there is room for interpretation: nothing was done to a template. The aim was to break up the uniform appearance of the tank and made it blend more with its surroundings, which is always worth bearing in mind when painting the models.

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The rear of the tank was often just in dunkelgelb as seen below.

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German M35 Helmet Cover

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The M35 helmet was the original design of German helmet used by the Germany Army in the early stages of the Second World War and one that while it had later designations such as the M1940 and there were later variants such as the M1942, it was the design of helmet that we most directly associate with the German Armed forces in WW2.

I photographed this example in the superb La Gleize December 44 Museum which has a huge amount of WW2 material with even a King Tiger parked outside which was part of Kampfgruppe Peiper. The helmet cover shows the typical camouflage used in the autumn of 1944 and hopefully offers some good guidelines for painting this onto model soldiers.

The example below, from the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne, shows a more simpler version with some camo visible but basic green cloth being used.

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Museums & Wargaming

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As part of my work life I get to visit a lot of Second World War museums, and always use these visits as a chance to build up an image archive showing uniforms, equipment and camouflage patterns, all very useful when painting figures. It struck me that a potentially useful part of this blog could be some photos from these trips showing the sort of things that could be useful to wargamers. So starting this weekend, I will begin some posts that should be useful to not only those who paint 15mm figures and tanks like me, but the larger scales too.