Thursday, January 21, 2016

BatRep & Review: Flames of War - 1500pts, Mid War - Canadian vs Germans!

First, sorry for the delays (again).  There was a death in the family just before Christmas.  I’ve been in no mood to do these reports for a while as a result.
Checking over the blog, I realize I never did a Flames of War report, so we’ll start off with a quick overview:

Flames of War is an “I-Go; You Go” system that originally was a derivative of Warhammer 40k in its beginnings, but has since evolved to its own ruleset.  The battles are company-based (200 – 200 soldiers or 10 – 20 tanks) rather than squad based and infantry stands represent a team of 4-5 soldiers, vehicles are still individual vehicles.  The models are in 15mm scale.  The advantage of this scale of battle and models is that you can play larger Infantry and Tank companies on a standard 4’ X 6’ table.  It is also more easily scaled up to Battalion Level (500 – 1000 soldiers or 30 – 50 tanks) battles.  Battle Front makes most models that you will need, but many other 3rd party manufacturers make WWII Models in this scale.

The game has split World War II (WWII) into 3 “Eras”: Early War (Pre 1942ish), Mid War (~1942 – 1943) and Late War (1944 and onwards).  Lists are split into the various Theaters of Operations: Africa/Italy, Western Front and Eastern Front.  Battlefront – the makers of the game, have announced Pacific Theatre rules and lists are coming but not available at the time of this report.  While battles can be fought with armies that are normally on different Theaters of Operation (or even allies – Russians vs British anyone?), they shouldn’t be played across different Eras as the points values and availability of (superior) equipment and arms changes drastically.

Battlefront has released new versions of the ruleset as well:  World War 1, Vietnam, Arab – Israelis wars and “Team Yankee” – the hypothetical WWIII between NATO and the USSR.  I’ve only played WWII and will not attempt to make note of the differences between the different versions.  ‘Cause I don’t know what they are!  (Good reason, EH?)
So, on to the battle report!

I brought out an Infantry Company from the Canadians from 1st Infantry in Italy:
  • Headquarters with the Company Commander, the Second In Command and an extra PIAT team
  • 3 Combat Platoons each consisting of 3 Rifle Squads (6 stands), a Morar team, a PIAT team and the Command Team
  • 2 Armoured Platoons with 3 Sherman Tanks each (1 platoon with AA Guns, the other without)
  • 1 Heavy Mortar Platoon with 2 Sections (4 Tubes), a Command Team and an Observer Team; with Trucks
  • Limited Air Support with Hurricane IIC

I chose an Infantry Company as a way of increasing the number of units I would have on the table.  I was required to take 2 Platoons, but chose the 3rd as 2 platoons is usually not enough if you want to attack.  To Support an attack, I wanted a Unit of tanks for covering fire and weakening the opposition.  Heavy Mortars were a good Artillery support and have the option for smoke screens, for fairly cheap. 

Now that I had my Essentials, I had to round off my force. I chose a 2nd Tank Platoon as insurance to help with an attack.  Now I was in a quandary.  I wanted another Artillery Support, but didn’t have the points or models to add more.  If it was a larger battle, I could have had a battery of 25lb artillery.  So, wracking my brain, I remembered I could take Air Support to attack ground targets.  Air Support is quite random and unpredictable, but it was better than the alternatives that I could think about. It would also provide Anti-Aircraft capability if the Germans brought Air Support as well.

My opponent brought out a German Grenadierkompanie which consisted of (from memory):
  • Company Command including Company Commanders, Second in command and a Mortar Section of 2 mortars.
  • 3 Combat Platoons of 3 Grenadier Squads (6 teams) and a Command team, each.
  • 1 Grenadier Machine Gun Platoon of 2 sections (2 teams each), split up and attached to two of the Grenadier Squads
  • 1 Grenadier Mortar Squad of 2 Sections (4 tubes), a Command Squad and an Observer
  • 1 Grenadier Anti-Tank Platoon with 3 PaK38 guns and a Command team
  • 1 Tiger Tank 
  • 1 Grenadier Scout Platoon with 2 squads (4 stands) and a Command Team

After setting up the table, we needed to determine who the Attacker was and who was the Defender.  Standard Missions always have an Attacker and Defender which (usually) define who goes first, deploys first and any special rules associated with either side.  

Unlike most games, Flames of War doesn’t just randomly roll to determine this.  There is a “Pecking Order” as some Companies are more suitable for attack, while others are defensive in nature.  Order of preference of “Attacker” are:
  • Tank Companies
  • Mechanized Companies
  • Infantry Companies
  • Fortified Companies (Always Defends)

There are some army lists that by their very nature are “Always Attack” or Always Defend” as defined in the unit’s special rules.

In the event that 2 armies of the same type are forced to fight each other, then a roll-off determines who attacks.

Germans won the roll of Attacker – Canadians Defend

Flames of war has 12 standard missions, so we followed the instructions to roll for a mission and ended up with “Encounter”: two small forces encounter each other and the call goes out for re-enforcements from both sides.  Both sides have 12” deployment zones and 2 objectives are placed within 8 inches of the long board edges but more than 8” from the short edges.  Both teams must hold back ½ their units (rounded up) off the table and they are delayed.  Rolls for re-enforcements don’t begin until turn 3. 

That could be a very long time to wait for help…

Players then start deploying their troops, alternating teams until all remaining troops are deployed.
  • Canadians deployed 2 Combat Platoons and the Mortar Platoon.
  • Germans deployed 2 Grenadier Platoons, the HQ Mortar Platoon and the Anti-Tank platoon.

Start of Game

Turn 1:
All platoons spent the turn trying to “Dig In” (make Foxholes).  Only the Mortar team behind the hill succeeded.

All the Canadian units attempted to Dig In, but failed the required skill test to do so.

Hurricanes arrived and bombed the units on the Eastern hill protecting one of the Objectives, but only succeeded in killing one team.  The unit became pinned as a result.

Turn 2:
The Infantry squad on the hill failed their Moral Test and remained pinned for the turn.

The AT teams in the wood successfully dug in inside the woods near the German Centre. 

German Mortars bombarded and killed 2 teams in the Canadian Centre, 2nd Platoon, pinning the Canadians.

The Centre Squad failed to unpin.

First Squadron moved to the left, behind a hill and out of sight.  None of the Canadian shooting this turn did any damage.

Turn 3:
Germans rolled and succeeded in getting an infantry platoon to arrive this turn.  Unfortunately, all Reserves are randomly deployed and the new platoon arrived on the far West Corner, far from the action.  In the movement phase, the new Reserves did a double-march, allowing them to march twice as far, but leaving the teams more exposed to fire.

The unit on top the Eastern hill finally unpinned.  PaK38s in the woods managed to shoot and kill 2 teams from the 1st Platoon who didn’t quite make it out of range or sight around the hill.  Mortars once more hit 2nd Platoon, but failed to kill any.

Canadians rolled for Reserves and successfully brought on an Armoured Platoon of 3 Shermans in the Centre. Worse for the Germans, another flight of Hurricanes arrived and caught the Reserves in the open ground with no cover!  2nd Platoon managed to unpin

1st Platoon moved further around the hill.  The Shermans took position and fired on the Infantry Platoon on the Eastern hill, killing 1 team.  The rest of the teams failed to hit except the Hurricanes.  The Hurricanes strafed the doble-marching re-enforcements and killing 9 teams!  The survivors failed their Moral test and fled the field!  Canadians were holding their own!

Turn 4:
Germans failed to get any Re-enforcements this turn.

The Squad on the Eastern Hill FINALLY dug in and positioned themselves (more) safely in their foxholes.

After another turn of firing, only the Mortars managed to hit (the luckless 2nd Canadian Platoon, again), but though failed to kill any teams, managed to pin them once more.

So once again, 2nd Platoon stayed pinned…

No Air Support this turn, either..

The 2nd Armoured Platoon arrived on the Eastern Corner and drove forward, following the 1st (infantry) platoon around the east side of the hill (away from the PaK38s) while the other Armoured Platoon moved to the East, behind a hill. 

The Mortar team changed tactics and successfully laid smoke that covered one PaK 38 Team and most of the Infantry Platoon on the Eastern hill, limiting their range of view.

Laying A Smoke Screen

Turn 5:
Uh Oh.

The last Grenadier Infantry Platoon arrived on the Eastern Corner and moved towards the woods.  Worse, the German Tiger tank arrived this turn in the German Centre. 

For those not familiar with the Tiger, it was probably the second most feared tank in the Second World War.  (The Most Feared would probably be the King Tiger.)  A Sherman’s 75mm gun would have to hit a Tiger in the rear or flank from very close AND be very lucky to knock it out.  A Tiger’s 88mm gun would kill a Sherman from outside the Sherman’s 75mm range…

(Stories are told that a Sherman could beat a Tiger by driving in rings around the Tiger as the Sherman could drive faster than the Tiger’s turret would rotate.  Of course, it usually cost 5 Shermans to get 1 Sherman close enough to do that!)

To make me worry more, the Tiger drove towards the East, obviously trying to intercept my Shermans, presently out-of-sight, thanks to the smoke screen.

German shooting was lack lustre – no casualties, but the Canadian 2nd Platoon was pinned (still).

The last (3rd) Infantry Platoon arrived in the center.  Two Hurricanes arrived and tried to bomb out the Tiger tank.  2nd Platoon (again) failed to unpin.

Mortars laid Smoke once again.  Then we all stood back and waited for the Hurricanes’ bombs to land…

So, the bombs landed on the Tiger, casing “5 points” of damage.  A Tiger has 2 points of Armour and rolls a D6 to add to its armour to try to cancel the 5 points of damage.  All Graham needed to do was roll 4+.  A 3 would “tie”, which could result in a “bail-out” (the crew evacuates the tank).  A 1 or 2 would mean the Bombs would have to roll a “Firepower test” which if passed, would destroy the tank.  A fail would also cause the crew to bail out.

Graham rolled a 2!

I passed the Firepower Test and the Tiger was destroyed!

Death of a Tiger!

Turn 6:
The last German (RECCE) platoon arrived in the German Centre.

The Platoon in the Eastern woods moved farther forward, while German Mortar fire all failed to hit their targets. Smoke hampered the rest of the German shooting.

The 2nd Platoon FINALLY unpinned. 

The Mortars failed to spot and drop smoke this turn.  One Sherman Troop moved on top of the hill and fired at the infantry team guarding one of the objectives, somehow killed to teams.  Surprisingly, the Germans had had enough and broke! 

That made 2 platoons out of 8 that had fled the battle!  Instead of going for an objective, the Canadians’ new battle plan was to try and make 2 more platoons break and run.  This would force a Company Morale Check and (if I was REALLY lucky) the Germans could fail and abandon the battlefield to me – an Auto Win!

Turn 7:
The Germans, realizing my new plan, started to hide and dig in where they could.  While the Command Mortar Team missed their target, the other Mortar team hit 2nd Platoon (AGAIN), and killed 2 stands, this time taking out the last stand that was in range!  Fortunately for me, the squad was still over 50% so I didn’t need a Morale Test.

All squads that were pinned successfully unpinned.  (I think it’s the first time since the fist platoon was pinned in turn 2?)

All Canadian shooting missed this turn.  2 Hurricanes bombed the Mortars on the west side, but only succeeded in pinning them.

Turn 8:  (Last Turn)
The Mortar team succeeded in getting unpinned.  Anyone that wasn’t dug in before succeeded this turn.  The Mortar teams both failed to hit targets.  They then waited for the Canadians to do their worse.

Being a Jerk and knowing it was last turn, the one platoon of Shermans behind 1st Platoon moved to the Hedge row to get off some shots off this turn.

When the smoke cleared from the tank shells, Mortar bombardment and the Hurricane bomb drops; 1 PaK 38 was destroyed.  Not enough to cause a morale test for the squad, let alone the entire company!

A Draw!
Or Was It?

End of Game


After getting home and writing this Battle Report, I discovered something we missed during the game.  According to Flames of War, there are no draws!

Usually a battle goes on until one side or the other achieves its Objectives or forces their enemy to retreat off the table.  The exception is a timed game (either based on actual time or number of turns).  If NEITHER side achieves their Objective, then you work out how many Victory Points each team earned.  These VPs are based on the number of losses the Winner or Enemy suffered during the game.

In this case,
Germans suffered 2 lost platoons, so Canadians got 3 VP.
Canadians suffered no lost platoons, so Germans got 1 VP.

Canadians Won the Battle!

(What would have happened if both sides had same amount of casualties, I don’t know!)

First of all, I know I didn’t go into too much detail.  There’s good reasons.

1 – It was only the second game in ___ Years.
2 – As such, we made a lot of errors
      (I’m too embarrassed to say how badly, but at least we played our errors consistently!)
3 – I took VERY poor notes!

Evaluating the battle itself:

The Canadians were LUCKY!  The Hero of the battle has to be the Air Support and the Hurricane Pilots that did a wonderful job!  If the planes hadn’t taken out the Tiger, I dread to think what would have happened to the Canadians!  Brrrrrrr.

However, that brings up a weakness in these types of missions.  When you have Infantry vs Infantry battles (and 2 cautious players), they can quickly become highly Defensive battles; neither side willing to move until they think they have the advantage to move.  If this hadn’t been a “Timed” game (8 turns), we could easily have had the battle go on another 8 turns OR MORE!  Though with 2 undamaged tank squads, Canadians definitely had an advantage.

A Motor Company or Armoured Company, being more “attack-oriented”, will tend to result in battles with more movement (and definite action) than this battle.

So, because I’m a chicken, no real Infantry fighting happened in this battle – it just became a long-range duel until we ran out of time.  Canadians could (and should) have been far more aggressive once the Tiger was knocked out.

So, what are my impressions of Flames of War?

Overall, a decent rule set.  It allows for larger scale battles than a Squad-based game, though the models are smaller and less detailed at 15mm compared to 25-29mm scaled models.  There are some weaknesses to the rules that can create some interesting situations.

First, this is more of an “Era-Specific” issue.  Tanks are VERY expensive (points-wise) in this era.  For Example, 1 squadron of 3 Sherman Tanks for the Canadians is 350 points.  Two Infantry Platoons are only 155 points.  (And Canadians are cheaper than British…) 1500 points would be on the “lower-Standard” Battle size.  To take a Tank Company would give you your minimum tanks and not much else.  Late war, tanks are “cheaper” in general, but you have to worry more about the escalation factor.  It’s no fun facing off a company of Shermans against a company of Panthers, Tigers or worse, King Tigers.  (A valid list is 3 King Tigers and an option or two in late war.)

One “pet peeve” of mine about the rules; you have to target an enemy team when you want to do a smoke screen.  I would much rather be able to target a spot on the table for laying smoke so that it conceals the area I want hidden, rather than concealing the enemy!  If an Enemy shoots from the concealment of the woods and it makes it that much harder to spot the teams in the woods to zero the mortars in, why wouldn’t you drop smoke in front of the woods…

While there are a number of mission options and rules for just about every conceivable weapon system and situation, there can be a case of the “I’m gonna Lose!” if you draw the wrong forces against someone else’s list or mission. 

Case and Point: Graham’s Germans had no ability to deal with the Hurricanes in the British Air Support.  There are units that are AA and MOST tanks can buy an AA machine gun (I did for 1 unit of Shermans), but in this one battle, Graham had NO AA at all.  I hadn’t taken the AA to be an “Overwhelming Force”, but in this case, Graham’s list was caught flat-footed with no defense.
On the other hand, if I had taken my typical Anti-Tank squad with 6lb cannons, I would have a rule that says I can’t shoot them at Infantry (No HE (shells)) and they would have been useless against a Tiger.  There can be a lot of “Rock – Paper – Scissors” in Flames of War, as a result.

In my defense for taking Air Support, historically, Canadians would have called down for Air Support to deal with German Armour.  So in theory, it was historically accurate.

One HUGE advantage to Flames of War is the Army lists.  There is a very active testing and review group and if someone can work out something historically accurate that isn’t too far over the top, you can probably find it.  If they uncover a flaw in a Table of Organization, they will address it.  Eventually.

Also, when you buy a book for a Theatre of operations and era, it includes armies for both sides.  The “Intelligence Handbook” for North Africa, contains multiple lists for each the Germans, the Italians, the British and the Americans. This allows you to see the potential enemy lists in the same volume as your own lists.  This is a much cheaper alternative to buying each and every army book (like other game systems I could name…).  If you are not interested in a particular theatre, there’s no reason to buy the book.  On the other hand, armies in the same era should be “playable” against each other, no matter what theatre of operations.

Overall, Flames of War is a good choice for those wanting to experiment with WWII battles.  They’re well known and should be easy enough to find someone else almost anywhere that has played or is willing to play.

Hope you enjoyed the battle and the review.  Good Luck and keep your dice hot!

Overall, Flames of War is a Decent Game.  There are flaws, but so do most games.