Monday, September 9, 2013

First Post! Why North Africa and why Flames of War 15mm?

This blog will hopefully document the completion of  projects begun almost ten years ago - WWII desert forces for FoW in 15mm.  I think it was v.1 that got me started with the desert forces.  Most of the models weren't even made by BF at that point, and I had access to an Old Glory discount, so most of my models are Old Glory Command Decision pieces.  So the first question in my mind for a blog is always - WHY?

Well, when I was a kid someone gave me "Brazen Chariots" by Robert Crisp, the the South African crickateer and journalist.  It had an impact with its vivid first-hand account, personal details, odd events, and honest evaluation of both his own performance and that of the 'higher-ups'.  Ever since I've loved the Stuart and his account.  In bullet form, there's lots of reasons to play this game and front:
  • Flames of War is THE WWII miniatures game.  While not without flaws, it has a finer balance of re-enactment, clear rules, scale, playability, sociability, and support community than of any set of WWII rules.  In other words, all the others have MORE overall problems.  FoW also provides you with a FREE INCLUDED framework to play a complete stranger at a moments notice, something many people don't appreciate since they don't remember the days when WWII gaming had no decent rules and no way to play, and was basically a dead end in the hobby.  Yep, it has its haters, but the huge community and success speaks for itself.  Every time I try another WWII game, all it makes me realize is how good FoW really is.
  • Interesting opponents and match-ups!  DAK don't fight like RE don't fight like 8th Army.  Each has their own play style, strengths and challenges.
  • Wild variety of equipment!  And if you're British, loads of it is on your side!  If you're German, you capture lots if it at one point or another!
  • Tons of information, inspiration and great history in English
  • Painting goes from very simple to very unusual camo and it's all historical!
  • Plenty of great models!
  • "War without Hate" as Rommel said.  As ugly as WWII often is, the desert war was without much of the horrors against civilians and generally the two sides respected each other and the rules of war.  Pretty much the polar opposite of the Eastern Front and the Pacific War.
  • The British Army alone fielded more national varieties in the desert than most nations fielded in the entire war.  And they can be replicated in FoW with relative ease.  The Italians also had some unusual units and equipment.  It's a front and time that's almost without standardization, and nearly anything can be fielded historically.
  • My local area has not only a large FoW community, but there's loads of FoW North African armies.  Since I have both British and Italians, it's easy for me to get an historical matchup.  
So basically, this is a no-brainer.

I've made a few attempts to finish my desert armies, but since I keep buying more and don't sell any unpainted stuff off, I haven't gotten anywhere close!  And I've hardly any DAK at all!  If nothing else, I need to finish two complete sides so that I can host desert games with people who don't have any and want to try it out, and also so that I can demo with people and play either Axis or Allies historically [not a fan of blue-on-blue, really].

Period & Theater
My favorite battle is definitely EW with Crusader.  It's a knock-down drag-out fight between two evenly matched opponents and there's plenty to game here.  There are great MW fights also, but they represent the end of the 'classical' desert war and make it into the North African and Mediterranean Theater with the entry of the US and British from the West and into Tunisia.

So it's all good, but I need to focus on Crusader at least for now.

Companies The original project somehow became a Crusader [Crud] Squadron and a Carri Compagnia. This despite the fact that the Stuart Honey is one of my favorite tanks.  I dimly remember using playtest EW lists and my first forays into making desert terrain in the basement of the house I had with wife #1.  With the divorce, house sale, and all those transitions the armies suffered severe neglect.  

Round 2. Eventually I got into playing again and did some more work.  I finished about 2000 pts of Italians that were official in MW and the v.2 rules, even playing a tournament with them. 

THE Tournament.  My only tournament play, it was memorable for a match against a Russian infantry company with KV1 support, and the guy was really mouthy!  He basically dismissed any thought of losing as soon as he found out I fielded Italians.  Because since the Italians lost the war they should lose the game...?  Of course, I won the game.  I ignored his KV1s and instead focused on wiping out his infantry with loads and loads of MG dice, including those occupying a town.  Then I circumnavigated the board at high speed and seized an objective from his depleted army.  I think the hilarious thing about the "heavy tank mentality" is the gamers who assume that since they bought an unbeatable object that they simply must win.  The fact that it's a game based upon a point system, fair fights, and carefully constructed missions seems to have been missed by them. Anyway...

Round 3. More personal developments lead to more neglect.  A second wife, a second house later, I was turning my attention to the Crud squadron - long overdue!  All went well until I was trying an ink wash with the models, and they game out way too dark.  Very discouraging.  And of course another disaster followed with me losing a [horrible, I must say] job and then an immediate move near my wife's family and job so we could pick up the pieces.  So the Cruds go back to the box with their almost-done but now problematic paint job. 

I resurrected the Italians and did enough additions to them to field a full Italian Compagnia Bersaglieri that was mostly driven by loads of gun teams and infantry with some tank support [tankette support, quite often].  It helped that a FLGS group did an EW league and I was able to get the occasional game in there.

Round 4.  Finally, I finished the paint job on the Cruds, cleaning, priming and basing some support platoons, and even playing a few games borrowing or substituting Italian gear as British.  Then...another move since I gained a [perfectly decent] job.  All back in the box, months in storage, spring and summer hiatus from FoW and most wargaming.  Good news is we live a couple minutes from the FLGS, and now...

Round 5. Tally-ho!


  1. Hello 40mm,

    I to read the Chariot book many years ago and still do at least once a year. I myself am doing Operation Compass but am using Blitzkrieg Commander rules instead. Still good to see someone also doing the desert.

  2. I've heard of those rules, and periodically I do consider trying another set besides FoW. There are of course some things about FoW that annoy me. What is BC like? I found the website and others say they like them but I don't have any familiarity.

  3. I like them. Its a larger scale than FOW. However your commands are rated 7 to 10. Each order given to units of that command adds a plus one to the next roll. If you roll higher the turn is over for that commander. There are other modifiers. Also your CinC can step in for a reroll. However if he fails the turn is over for that side. Highly recommended!

  4. Sounds like Warmaster's command system. I'll check these out also. Thanks!