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!
Doing most of my WW2 wargaming in 15mm, and occasionally 20mm, it is some time since I made and painted anything in 28mm scale. Looking around on the internet there are quite a few manufacturers who have WW2 ranges in this scale but I liked the look of the Warlord Games range of 28mm figures and equipment, especially as the plastic kits they do are very much like the old Airfix 1/35th scale multipose figures I made as a kid.
While Warlord do starter sets for the Bolt Action rulesets using their figures, I decided to start on safe ground and purchased a box of their British infantry for the North-West European theatre: D-Day to Berlin period. The box is nicely illustrated with some supporting information and inside are ten sprues giving you 25 figures in total for £24.00 which is not bad value.
Starting with five figures I really liked the variation the kit gives you from pose to weapon choice, and even choice of back-packs with tin mugs hanging down! It is easy to begin to put together a ten man infantry section based around a Bren team and make the figures all very different. With five figures put together, next stage is to base spray-paint them and then begin a paint job: that will be the subject of a later blog post.
When I was at Salute 2015 I picked up from the Battlefront stand some of the new Colours of War paints and one of the new base sprays, as well as the new book about the paint range itself. These were not generally on sale at that point but last week was the first chance I’d had to use them so excuse this delayed review as I am sure many gamers are curious about them.
The paints come in boxes as they did before but the paints all now have different names and different codes.
I decided to try them out on a Flames of War Sherman from their plastic platoon box. I sprayed the Sherman with the new Firefly Green base spray. Having used some of the Plastic Soldier Company sprays (and liked them), this one is just as good and left a good even coating in a good basic colour as seen below.
The paints themselves come in two sizes in the box; most are small bottles, but with one large. The paint bottles are designed to look like bullets and that is quite neat to be honest. The lids open easily and the paint is dispensed in a good mix; there did not seem a need to give them much of a shake like Vallejo paints. There is nothing on the packaging to say who makes these paints but they do seem different to Vallejo, so it appears they are indeed new and not just an exercise in re-packaging.
I then following the instructions in the book about the next stages of painting the tank; the painting guides in the book are really good and offer solutions for basic table top quality painting through to higher standards.
I’m a functional painter rather than a good one, but it was a pleasure to use these new paints which using the hints in the book gave a good result to the tank. The finished example is below.
If this is what to come with the new paint range then I am delighted; they were better in my view than Vallejo, the box contained a good selection of relevant colours, and the paint was easily used and applied. Looking forward to using some more again soon.
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.
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.
The rear of the tank was often just in dunkelgelb as seen below.
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.
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.
As a long term fan of Battlefront Miniatures’ Flames of War franchise – largely because it’s ‘easy’ to buy into for a lazy, real-life occupied old gamer like me – I was interested at Salute 2015 to pick up the new Colours Of War painting guide, one of the new sprays and a pack of the new paints.
It was announced over the winter that Battlefront were bringing in a new paint range and this was the first phase of it. I have yet to test the actual paints and when I do a review will follow here, but the book is in some respects a work of art in its own right. It follows the usual high production values of Battlefront and tackles some basic aspects of wargaming and painting miniatures and then goes into a country by country guide offering types on painting uniforms as well as tank camouflage. For an average miniature painter like me it is not too intimidating in the way some similar Games Workshop products are, and there are some really useful tips which I will be trying out.
The book cost me £15 at Salute and I have no idea of what it will retail at, but there is a page for it on the FoW website.
Inspired by the recent articles in Henry Hyde’s excellent Miniature Wargames magazine I decided to follow his advice and become a wargamer who embraced Twitter and the Blogosphere.
While the Blog is really just for me in the first instance, it is here to give some structure to my often sporadic interest in wargaming and let me put down a few ideas as I make models, paint figures and build some tabletops to recreate the battlefields of the Second World War.
I largely play Flames of War (but with no points system) and build 15mm scale WW2 models, but am looking to expand a bit this summer into 28mm.
See you on the tabletop and enjoy the Blog.