Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Battle Report - Flames of War, 15mm WW2

Tanks on fire during a Flames of War game played last week
It's been quiet for a while on the Fawcett Avenue gaming front, with several of the fellows making a visit to Europe for the Waterloo anniversary, and others taking up opportunities to enjoy our brief (and below standard) summer - any respite from the hell of winter on the Canadian Prairies must be enjoyed to the maximum extent possible.

Forward for the Rodina!
But we are still getting some gaming in - last week conscripts Byron and Dallas stopped by for a game of "Flames of War", the popular 15mm WW2 gaming rules. The game was set on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1944, and the scenario was "hold fast", one of the basic scenarios from the rule book.  The Germans would be hoping to hold back a Soviet tide - not very original, but basic and fun. We played it straight from the book with one modification - I left out the "ambush" for the defenders.  We don't play much Flames of War, and I was trying to keep it simple.

The Soviet tidal wave - part 1
Soviet tidal wave - Part 2 - a Maxim team in the foreground is trying to give some covering fire
The Soviet battlegroup was an infantry battalion - two big companies of infantry backed with mortars, light anti-tank guns and a whole company of T-34/76 tanks.  They had the services of a battery of 122mm guns (kept off table, because that sort of stuff should just not be on the table).  The Soviets would (of course) be the attackers - Dallas took command.

Company of T-34s roars forward

Nervous German grenadiers dug in and waiting for the Soviets to that possible?
The German battlegroup was a worn down motorised infantry company - two grenadier platoons, a section of 8cm mortars, a pair of MG42s, two PaK 40 anti-tank guns, a battery of StuGs and a platoon of Panzer IVHs.  The Germans also got some off-table fire-support in the form of a battery of 10.5cm guns, but I limited the ammo to just four fire missions. Byron took command of the German side.

Iron Crosses to be handed out...
Nobody left to award them to...the Germans knocked out one T-34 with a Panzerfaust, but the infantry are overrun!
Both battlegroups worked out to about 1400 points a side. The table was 6' x 4', with the short edges as the base for each side.  Two objectives were placed in the German half of the table, and if the Soviets could capture one of them, the jig was up and the Germans were done. Straight up, all this German stuff would mow down the Russians in short order - but the problem for the Germans was they didn't get all of this stuff at first - half of it was in delayed reserve. Byron had to decide which units he thought could hold out the best under the tide of Russian steel, and hope for the best.

StuGs arrive to even the odds for Byron
Byron put his two infantry platoons, his mortars and his PaK40s on the table. They got to start the game "dug-in", concealed and gone-to-ground.  The attack was on!  The Soviets got to pile their entire force on the table, 18" away from the centre line, and they started with the first turn.  Dallas unleashed the Russian horde!

The T-34s feel the effects of shooting from the German StuGs
It was pretty cool - scads of Russian troops roared toward the Germans, firing as they went, but having little effect as the Germans were dug in and hard to hit. Their artillery barrages did a lot of damage, however, causing a lot of pins.

Byron's commanding officer directs the battle
Byron and the Germans replied with withering fire, but the big Soviet infantry companies are difficult to slow down (one of them had 16 stands in a single mass - yikes!).  And his PaK40s could not draw a bead on the T-34s as they roared up the flank. Soviet losses mounted, but not enough to seriously stem the advance.

Remnants of a mauled grenadier platoon try and add their fire from the flank
By the fourth turn the Soviets were in position to launch assaults, and it got really bloody for the Germans, as one of the Grenadier platoons was crushed by Soviet tank treads, while the second one was mauled with point-blank fire.  One of the Pak40s was overrun.  The Soviets captured an objective, and things looked grim.  

Panzer IVs add their fire against the T-34s...suddenly the tide is turning!
But then reserves arrived for the Germans! Byron's StuG battery appeared and blasted the Soviet tank company to pieces over turns five and six.  The flaming wrecks were not able to hold the objective. Dallas' infantry horde tried to follow into the breach, but once the T-34s were gone, the Soviets could not grapple with the armour - the 45mm anti-tank guns were trailing along in the assault, but were not in position to assist, and the artillery could not get ranged in. Once the Panzer IVs showed up, that was that - a close and costly win for the Germans...the Panzers showing up to assist this company likely meant doom for some other poor force elsewhere on the line, but hey - that's the Eastern Front for you...

The Germans recapture the objective!
I'm something of a gaming snob, and many aspects of the Flames of War game cause a wrinkle in my proverbial nose - the overuse of the word "army", the hub-to-hub tanks, the easy access to rare assets like heavy tanks, air support and anti-aircraft, the presence of heavy artillery on the table, the specials rules...blah blah - many more articulate gamers than I have outlined these issues elsewhere. And yet...and yet.  You know what? It's still a fun game.  Really, really fun. More and more lately the "hey, let's just have a fun game" side of my gaming brain has been kicking the sh!t out of my "oh, this just won't do" side of my gaming brain.  For throwing down a Thursday night game, Flames of War is a good time.

Infantry race in to fill the gap, but they falter in the fact of fire from the German armour...
And from that perspective, Flames of War is a lot of fun.  I'm sure I screwed up some of the rules, but overall we had a 1400 point game in just over two hours - tons of carnage and wreckage on the table, and it was all good.  Of course this is not the complex, immersing and thoughtful experience you can get with a game like Chain of Command (which is also excellent), but I have to say the more I play Flames of War, the more fun it is (as long as I can keep it simple). 

Thanks to Byron and Dallas for coming out to play, and to Byron for helping me test out the scenario (and practice a bit with the rules) during a short game earlier in the week.  Also a big thank you to Dallas for letting me use his terrain bits again :)


Lasgunpacker said...

Maybe the way to reconcile the two sides of your brain is to play FOW as if it were a real wargame? I.e. real orbats to cut down on the "flame engineers + Tigers and a ME262" sort of forces, and then have non-balanced forces to make for more challenging scenarios?

That said, there is something to be said for point balanced throw downs... just show up and play has a lot going for it in these hectic times.

Cameron said...

About 2/3 of the scenarios for flames of war have that imbalance built in somewhat with reserves (1/2 of company starts off table).

Dallas said...

Super-fun game Greg, and the terrain and models were just awesome too. Thanks for putting it on for us!

MurdocK said...

The usual problem with attempting to be accurate with most WWII minis game systems is that - at company and often battalion level, there are few, if any, historical 'even up' matches.

The fronts were attacked and counter-attacked at divisional level, meaning that more often than not 'the defenders' were outnumbered.

This makes for a really dull tabletop experience, as you already know which side is going to win. Hence the need for the 'extra support' or other balancing items (that are not at all historical) in order to make the 'game' either playable or fun for both sides.

Wonderful models you have and as long as all came away with a sense of having fun then great!

Admiral Drax said...

I'm with MurdocK (although of course I can see your frustration). No sane commander given the chance is very often going to think, "Hey, it looks as if I've absolutely no realistic advantage over the enemy: perfect! - CHAAAARGE!"

I don't get to play Flames often, but when I do I always try to go for a 'historical' force (or as close to it as I can get); ditto with Bolt Action. Then again, when you play Brits, it's usually hard to find something on your ORBAT that's too overpowered!