Shermans Revisited

Three and a half years ago when this project started I never would have expected that it would have gone as far as it has, and for that I am truly grateful.

Looking back at my first couple of posts talking about building a Sherman Company it is awesome to look at how the force has developed with the release of Bulge: British and whilst some things have stayed the same, some have changed!

The biggest change is also the most obvious – two Firefly tanks per platoon really enhances the killing power of each unit and really makes each platoon more of a threat. The downside is that by adding the extra Firefly tanks (and going to AT 15) I have had to remove one of my go-to units, the M10s. But I feel like I am not going to miss them as much (time will tell).

But my (almost) complete Formation does look pretty awesome if I do say so myself…

Looking at it arrayed like this gives me a few ideas for lists that I want to run and I am very excited to get the Shermans on the table again. The only downside is that they are competing with all the other shiny new models I have recently painted!

First up is my “Shermans All Day” list where I focus on a single Formation with as many in-Formation units as possible. This should make it durable on the tabletop whilst still having all the tools to do what is needed (Spearhead, AA, high AT etc).

Having Platoons of four tanks are just that much more resilient than units of three and my previous experiences with this force really rammed that home as enemies only had to knock out two tanks to really remove the unit as a threat – either the Firefly was gone, or it was all by itself, and either way it was testing to stay on the table. Four tanks gives a little more redundancy inside each unit.

The second list I am keen to try is an evolution of my recon support force (how I love Daimlers and Dingos!) and removes a platoon of tanks (including 2 Firefly tanks) but adds an entire Recon Formation with a nice mix of models – infantry, mortars, and a lot of “fast-shooty-stuff” that should enhance the army when playing against more balanced enemy forces.

I genuinely love the idea of playing with both forces and the choice of which one to use would probably come down to which one of my regular opponents I am playing and how many tanks I think they are turning up with…

~Chris

 

 

 

Upgrading The 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars

Back in 2009 we released the book “Hells Highway” which focused on the mechanised forces involved in Operation Market Garden and the road march to link up with the British Paras in Arnhem. As a Studio we really went to town with the Market Garden releases; two books, our second Firestorm Campaign, and a whole lot of internal playtesting and games. It was a great time and many of us started building new armies, inspired by the books and the narrative we were trying to tell.

In my case I started building a Sherman Company, a Cromwell Company and a Household Cavalry force. Starting with a hiss and a roar the project ended up unfinished and relegated to the garage as I got distracted by “the next shiny project”.

Fast forwarding 13 or so years I am now a much leaner, meaner and more focused painting machine when it comes to Late War British…

So where are we now? Two and a half years ago I started work on my Cromwell Formation and I would be lying if I said I didn’t dig out some of our old V3 books and look ahead in time to see where we might be heading. Part of my reasoning for picking the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars was the future inclusion of the Challenger.

Now I have a full Cromwell Formation from D-Day: British with enough models that I can also field the force as Hussars Armoured Squadron or (if we ignore the decals) a Cromwell Armoured Squadron, both from Bulge: British.

Looking forward I have a couple of lists I am keen to try out against the team. The first list puts a lot of points into two full strength units of Challengers to maximise my tank killing potential at the loss of HE rounds to dig out enemy infantry. I’ve added in the Land Mattress Battery in as a counter to dug in infantry or guns, but the force is really tuned towards trying to kill the enemies tanks as fast as possible.

The second list trades out the second Challenger Platoon for another platoon of Cromwells, swapping the Land Mattress for some Cromwell CS tanks (which are in Formation) and the Belgian Resistance Command Card that allows me to remove a Minefield (great if I am trying to rush an enemy force that is keen on defence) or shift a Ranged-In Marker after deployment (to get the most out of my CS tanks).

I am really excited to try out both of these Formations and (hopefully) surprise some folks with what a high speed tank killing force can look like!

~Chris

Comets and the 11th Armoured Division

The return of the Comet to Late War is really going to change things up for British players as it gives us something that hits as hard as a Panther and is as fast, or faster, than almost anything else on the battlefield. If you are looking for a tank that can rapidly move around and strike then this might be the tank you have been waiting for – just make sure you kill whatever you are shooting at as a Front Armour of 7 isn’t putting up much of a fight…

Long time followers of the Big Four Journey will not be surprised that I jumped on the Comet bandwagon faster than… well faster than a Comet! I’ve had a stash of largely built models hiding in my pile of shame, tucked out in the garage for a long time now, but thanks the last few years of painting British tanks I saw a “small” Formation of 10 models as being something like a holiday compared with the masses of Shermans and Cromwells I’ve painted in the past!

Thinking about the list I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t really care about the list. I know that sounds weird but with Comets being a fairly expensive tank and 10 of them taking up 70 points I basically decided that I have a pile of support options already painted and a few more planned, so why sweat about how I was going to use them.

My finished Formation, ready for battle.

As I write this though I thought I should have some sort of a plan… so here goes.

A Bob Each Way…
This a very New Zealand (or Australian) saying and basically means you are hedging your bets. In this case it means I am thinking about a fairly well rounded force with a little bit of everything.

The force is based around the 10 Comets (of course) and includes a pair of CS tanks for some artillery and smoke support, whilst the Crusader AA are in there as my favourite 3 point Formation morale boosting unit. Rounding out the Formation are a unit of 3 Dingos. For 1 point they bring Spearhead and another unit to keep me on the table.

The list gets a little strange with the inclusion of the Bofors. These are really there as I was running out of good ideas, but some light guns struck me as a useful option to keep an objective safe from some roving recon or aggressive infantry.

Speaking of aggressive infantry, I have a Rifle Platoon to round out the force as these are good on attack or defence. I also picked them because if I am forced to keep a portion of my army off the table, then the Rifle Platoon, Crusader AA and a platoon of Comets come to 40 points. This makes a heck of a flanking force!

In Your Face!
The second list that I am keen to try is much simpler and way less cunning. It retains the 10 Comets, 3 Crusader AA and the Rifle Platoon, but trades everything else out to add in Chaffees and two units of Daimler Armoured Car Troops.

This gives me 3 units with Spearhead, a whole lot of fast and hard hitting tanks, a reasonably robust Formation and some infantry to go an assault an objective.

Sounds like a plan?

With the Comets now ready for some battlefield action I just need to organise a game with one of the boys..

~Chris

 

A Tank-Hunting We Shall Go!

As well as my Big Cats force already featured, I have also been painting some other new things for my Late-war Germans. The first of these is something I meant to get done for Bagration, but only finished as we started working on our Bulge units. These are a Unit of Panzerjäger 38(t) Hetzers done in base green with a hard-edge camouflage.

The second completed set of tank-hunters is a Heavy Tank-hunter Company of seven Jagdpanthers. I also painted this starting with a base olive green. Some late production Jagdpanthers and Panthers were based coated in green rather than dark yellow. These seem to then had dark yellow and red brown added as camouflage over the top.

I’ve organised this into a HQ of one Jagdpanther, and two platoons of three each. I based these on some black & white photos, as well as examples painted by 1/35 scale modellers.

I will run both these new additions to my collection with my other German forces as I feel the urge. With the Jagdpanthers now added, I have four different armoured formations I can run with my Late-war Germans now.

~Wayne

Big Four: Big Cats: Big Complete!

Another Big Four Detour in the books! Our Big Cats project was a lot of fun, and we’ve all ended up with quite unique armies, even though they share a similar theme.

Lets take a closer look at everyones hard work and see what the team thought of their new armies….

 

I really enjoyed painting this King Tiger army. It was nice to paint a small army for a change. The King Tigers and Pumas turned out well, but my favourite part of the army are the Fallschirmjäger. They took the longest, and were the most challenging to paint, but I’m quite proud of them. They are possibly some of the best infantry that I’ve painted.

Also, now I have painted three out of the four big four armies for Big Four of Late War… so I may have to paint a British army to complete the set.

~Casey

Like the rest of the guys, I was very excited to jump on the bandwagon and paint some Germans. If nothing else they would provide a nice change of pace from all the British Green I have been doing recently, but hopefully it would be the kick-start for a new late late very late German army.

I’m really excited to have completed this starter force, but a little embarrassed that I failed to do my stretch goal of a pair of Puma Platoons and a battery of Hummels. It wasn’t a lot of extra work, but I found my focus divided across too many projects and decided that they could wait. They sit at home next to my hobby space taunting me every time I sit down…

On the positive I have made a start and am eager to do the first of what I hope will be many expansions to the force over the coming months!

~Chris

For Bulge: German I‘ve added a few more Units to my Big Four Germans in general, but as an entirely separate challenge we all made a 100 point force based on one of the new Big Cats released for the book. I chose Tiger II heavy tanks. These were great kits to assemble and paint. I picked an unusual camouflage scheme known as “Octopus” because of its wavy lines and small rings. It did not prove as difficult as I thought it might be.

Other than the six Tiger IIs I painted I added some self-propelled artillery with 3x Hummel (also new plastic). I went with a simpler scheme to match my other Germans. To spot for these I converted up a Panzer IV OP, which I will just field using the Panzer III OP card and stats. I also painted a pair of Sd Kfz 234/1 (2cm) 8-wheeled armoured cars (the Puma’s less popular brother), these will also be used across multiple German Forces.

My final unit was a Volksgrenadier Rifle Platoon. For this force it is at minimum strength with just five teams to fit in the Force, but I have since painted another two teams and two Panzerschrecks. These have now become the start of a Volksgrenadier Company.

Still have more Bulge: German units I’ve completed, more on those next time.

~Wayne

When we started this little themed project I didn’t think I would end up with 7 reconnaissance vehicles and an infantry platoon, but here we are. The big cats are the stars of the show, and while I’m really happy with how the Tiger II’s turned out, I think the Panthers might be my favourite.

It has left me eager to expand the force with even more tanks (8 more Panthers perhaps?) and a second platoon of infantry (with half tracks). But for now the Dunklegelb must be washed off the brushes to make way for the next project…

~Victor

Germans… Germans… and more Germans

I have a massive list of Germans that I’ve been wanting to paint for a while now, but I’ve been too busy painting my Winter Soviets and Americans.

The Big Four: Big Cats detour gave me the chance to test paint schemes that I plan to expand across a large German project that I have been planning and building for many years.

The King Tigers were just the start of the army and eventually I’ll be able to field any German tank that I want. They will all be painted using the same method so will look consistent regardless of the models that I want to but on the table.

Rather than painting them in one big batch, I’m going to design some sensible armies to help split them into painting batches.

With the King Tigers and Pumas ticked off the list, the release of the new Mid War Eastern Front army deals makes it a great time to tick the Panzer III’s and Panzer IVs off the list.

The Humble Panzer III… In Late War
I love Panzer III’s. Ever since the old V3 book ‘Dogs & Devils’ came out I’ve wanted to paint a Herman Goring Mixed Panzer Company as it’s a great way to field a lot of them. At one point I even went and bought an entire army of resin and metal Panzer III’s and IV’s, but that been sitting in my drawer of shame… assembled… base coated… unloved… and it’s now time to replace them with plastic and move them from the armies started column to the armies completed column.

The great thing about the humble Panzer III’s and Panzer IVs is that (as long as you aren’t a power gamer) they are useful in both Mid War and Late War. While I’m going to primarily paint these tanks for Late War, these will definitely find their way into my Mid War games, and by painting them for Late War I’ll always have enough for any Mid War army that I want to build.

I’m basing my list off a Mixed Panzer Company from Fortress Europe, as that’s the only way of getting lots of Panzer III’s in an army in Late War.

All of the combat platoons are a mix of Panzer’s which are backed up by Fallschirmjäger and Marders, as that is on theme with Herman Goring in Italy and uses the Infantry that I’m currently painting for my Bulge: German Kingtiger force.

In a later batch I’m going to paint up a few Tigers and Elefants, which will end up in my Herman Goring list as they are also very thematic for Herman Goring.

Modeling The Vehicles
Since these Panzer III’s are old model tanks by Late-War standards, I’ve done a bit of surgery on the schürzen to remove some of the panels to help make the models look old and beaten up.

I’ve achieved this by using the blank schürzen rails from the Panzer IV H sprue and carefully cutting up and rebuilding the schürzen. The other bonus to doing this is that I can now leave the tracks separate for painting.

Since I like unique models, the Panzer IVs I am going to build as late production Panzer IV G models that were in production between 1943 and 44, which puts them at home in both Mid War and Late War.

It was actually an easier conversion to make my late production Panzer IV G’s than to modify my Panzer III’s.

Initially the Panzer IV G was armed with the L/43 barrel (which comes on the Panzer IV early model), but when the longer L/48 gun became available it became the standard armament for the tank and all the tanks that were returned to Germany were retrofitted with the new gun. For the L/48 barrels I stole the barrel off the same Panzer IV sprues that I stole the schürzen rails from.

Other visual changes include the addition of a spare wheel stowage box on the side of the hull, which comes on the Wirbelwind frame. Conveniently the Wirbelwind comes with the early Panzer IV sprue, so that was an easy way to get most of the model.

The Late Production Panzer IV G also removed the vision ports on the side of the turret for ease of production. Later Panzer IVs were starting to receive turret skirts anyway, which made the vision ports irrelevant. To model this it was quite easy to shave the vision ports off the turret.

Technically these should probably have Schurzen and the later single piece hatch, rather than the split commanders hatch, but I just prefer the look of Panzer IVs without the schürzen.

~Casey

Big Four: Big Cats!

The release of Bulge: German has resulted in much “list-noodling” here at Big Four, so we decided why don’t we all commit to a list each and see what we can achieve in a month. We also thought we should all include some of the new Tiger II or Jagdtiger plastic tanks. Some of us have gone for full Formations of these beasts, while others are being more subtle.

I was already planning to paint a whole lot of tanks from Bulge: German (to the point that I had already managed to scavenge, assemble and prime some King Tigers), so when Victor suggested Big Four: Big Cats I was all onboard (and already ahead).

My list is based around five Tiger II tanks, although I’ll be painting six for those extra big games. Since they are in Formation I’m also going to paint up a Fallschirmjager Platoon. Despite them being hit on 3+ they are such a large unit that they will be scary on attack and difficult to move on defence. I’m rounding out the army with some Pumas.

This is the first time in a while painting and German armour, and recently I got a new airbrush which I haven’t had much practice with yet. I started painting the camouflage on one of the Tiger II tanks, but wasn’t happy with either the colours or paint application. Luckily I had a few old metal and resin Hetzers lying around already base coated, which I sacrificed to do a bit of colour and paint consistency experiments, and to use to practice my camo on.

Happy with the colours, but not wanting to wreck any of my Kingtigers (since they are in short supply in the office), I have started painting a test Panzer IV/70 platoon, to make sure that I’m happy with the end result before I start the army (Victor thinks I’m crazy for painting a test platoon before starting my army).

At first I was worried that my Dunkelgelb was too light, but it’s interesting how a little bit of streaking and chipping changes the overall tone of the paint, despite the base colour not changing.

~Casey

Big Cats = Big Fun! When it comes to Flames Of War I feel like that is a moto to live by.

Over the years I have painted my fair share of Jagdtigers and King Tigers (not to mention Tigers and Panthers) so when Victor proposed this little detour I was a little on the fence… till I got the new plastics in hand and decided that 7 new plastic Jagdtigers would weigh about as much as one of my old metal and resin models.

I didn’t want to over think my list as I really wanted to do something straight forward and simple, and something that I could use as a springboard for future expansion or to integrate some old models I already had painted from my existing Jagdtiger Company.

So how do you make a simple Jagdtiger Company with no real thoughts about how it will compete? Simple, you just put in ALL the Jadgtigers… 7 to be precise, and then flavour with 4 Wirbelwinds to deal with pesky infantry, planes and light vehicles.

How am I going to fit 118 points of models in a 100 point list I hear you saying? Simple… you make them “less-good” through the use of the 512. Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 2nd Company Command Card. With this card I reduce my Motivation and Skill, but save quite a few points.

I did initially think about only doing 5 or 6 Jagdtigers so I would have some points for something a bit more useful in a competitive situation – some Panzer IV’s and/or Panzergrenadiers for example – but these are all things I can do later and right now I just wanted to paint some cool models and with 7 Jagdtigers and 4 Wirbelwinds I ‘never’ need to paint any more in the future.

~Chris

 

The idea of a Big Four: Big Cats detour wasn’t as simple for me as the other guys as I am already painting Germans. I umm’ed and ahh’ed about what to do, not out of indecision, but which to one to pick for this particular force. I have bunch of plans for all of them as part of my general Big Four German plan. In the end I decided to some of the new Tiger II heavy tanks. This is an impressive and easy to put together tank kit.

I went with SS just to get a little more in the force, but I will probably paint them so they can be used as Waffen-SS or Heer heavy tanks.

So that’s five Tiger II tanks, but I have assembled six, so I will paint all six. The other new plastic I’m building is the new Hummel self-propelled 15cm howitzer. This adds some heavy punch to my supporting fire. Me being weird and contrary again, I modelled up a Panzer IV OP out of spare Panzer IV bits I had. This is modelled as a Panzer IV J with bits from the Panzer IV F, Panzer IV H and some Panzer IV J bits from our old resin and plastic Panzer IV J model. Added the periscope made from plastic rod and some metal wire radio aerials and shaved off the Zimmerit.

I’m also going to paint up a Volksgrenadier Rifle Platoon. The list has five teams, but I’ll paint up all seven teams and maybe a Panzerschreck.

This should keep me busy over the next few weeks.

~Wayne

 

There’s plenty to be excited about in Bulge: German, it’s hard to choose where to start. When we decided to do this little 100 point challenge, I came up with many different lists. Most of them were my usual “max out on big tanks and then see how many points are left”. Instead I wanted to push myself to do something more varied that will also give me the building blocks for many lists later. So I settled on this:

Down the road I’ll have ways to expand it; add halftracks and mobile mortars, make a Panther or Tiger II company, add artillery, etc to further expand out the whole Kampfgruppe.

For now though this will be a fun little force to paint if I can get it all done in time. I’m lagging behind the others and haven’t started assembly, but I’ve got everything purchased…

As for painting, I did a quick test model to see if the scheme I had in my head would work. It uses blu-tac for the camo pattern, and relies on some simple chipping to act as highlights. I’m happy with the general look, and it’s actually quite fast to do.

Plus now I have a Panzer III OP ready for some Hummels later!

The one hurdle I see in my plan is that I’m not very fast at painting infantry. Luckily it’s not a lot of teams and I think I’ve got a nice quick way of doing German field grey, based on the commander of my panzer III OP.

Wish me luck!

~Victor

Stay tuned to see how we all progress with our armies over the coming weeks…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Army Bag…

Building my Czechoslovakian army has been a real labour of love over the past few years and other than a previously confessed love of the Vz. 61 Skorpion machine-pistol I have no idea what pushed me over the edge to start building the army, let alone how it go so big…

Thinking about this as I type I do have to pay credit to a gentleman called Tom Wise who, if you are a very old time Flames Of War player, you will know as the guy that when he built and army, he built the whole army!

Check out Tom’s Corner on the Flames Of War website…

Before I type anything more, lets look at the army in all of it’s glory (click the image for a bigger version).

With my current batch of painting finished (which included the 10 T-72B tanks with ERA, the Praga SP AA, and the 6 SU-17 aircraft) I can almost field any combination of models I want, but broadly speaking I have options for:

  • T-55AM2 Tank Battalion,
  • T-72M Tank Battalion,
  • T-72B Tank Battalion,
  • BMP Motor Rifle Battalion, or a
  • Wheeled Motor Rifle Battalion

Each of these have plenty of support options to choose from to “buff” the Formation or provide Force Support with some units like the BMP’s capable of doing double duty as infantry carriers, either in their own Formation or as a grey-box inside a tank Formation, or as Scouts if I am using the OT-64s to move the infantry around.

Strangely though, looking at the picture of everything on the table, I can tell you that I am still not done! I regret not painting both T-72 Battalions up to a slightly more resilient 16 tanks each, I’d like to add some Carnations, perhaps more Pragas, maybe some “what-if” Shilkas (I love the look of them),  another 7 T-55 tanks as a dedicated “T-55AM2 Missile Tank Company” (I’d just use a different numbering sequence to help me spot them on the battlefield), and last but certainly not least… Hinds. Four of them for a little more air support!

With all that being said and done though, I think I might take a break from green tanks for a bit. Victor is making noises about a short project he wants us to go and with the last part of the year being a return to my Late War British I think I need a break and a different colour of tank in front of my brush…

~Chris

Wayne’s French Connection

After much work I’ve completed my planned French force for 1944-45. It has actually turned out to be quite large with the recent additions of a third Rifle Platoon, a 105mm Artillery Battery, and a M4 Sherman Tank Platoon of 5x M4 Sherman tanks.

The Formation has ten Units, and I have another four Units in Support for 116 points total. However, I’ll most likely run it at 100 points most of the time, dropping 16 points off the force. This could be one of the armoured units, or a combination of smaller units. There is also plenty of room for points fine tuning within the rifle platoons, or I could even drop the 9e Division d’Infanterie Coloniale Colonial command card and run them as straight Battle Weary ratings.

The Miniatures
For the French Rifle Platoons I used some French Tirailleurs from the old Tirailleurs Platoon (Italy) (FR812) I had got back in 3rd Ed FOW for the Italy Campaign. These miniatures are French Evan made for the release of Road to Rome from the Winter Americans. The main difference is a few unique figures with Adrian Helmets and an Officer in a Kepi. These can be happily mixed with the winter Americans. For all the weapons and support units I mostly used the winter American packs with a few other French from the above pack and the old Mediterranean early-war range for the occasional Officer, NCO, and crewmen. I also did some head swaps to put French heads on miniatures such as on the Jeep crew.

The M4 Sherman Tank Platoon are actually Sherman V models from the British range. The official American designation of this tank is M4A4. Though, the Americans did not use the M4A4 Sherman themselves, they did supply them for the Lend-lease program not only to Britain, but to France as well where they made up about half of the French Shermans. The French also got large numbers of M4A2 diesel Sherman as well as small numbers of M4A1 & M4A3 76mm and M4A3 Jumbos. There may be a French Sherman Tank Company in my future. Check out these websites for more details:
French Shermans during WW2…

Chars-Francais.net

~Wayne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAK Detour Complete

An army that started life 7 years ago as a small Panzer force has now grown to 140 points with lots of options to bring to the battlefield.

I’m really proud of this army as it showcases all the painting techniques and tricks I’ve accrued over the years, in contrast to my Late-War American force which was more of a “get the models on the table” paint job.

Each unit has a lot of care put in to it, and seeing all 35 models together makes it all worth it.

Complete Panzer Tank Company

Check out the all units below (click on the images for larger versions).

Panzer III Tank Company HQ
Panzer III Tank Platoon
Panzer IV Tank Platoon
Panzer II Light Tank Platoon
Sd Kfz 221 and 222 Light Scout Troop
Sd Kfz 231 Heavy Scout Troop
Diana Tank-hunter Platoon
8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon
15cm Bison Infantry Gun Platoon
15cm (Sf) Lorraine Schlepper Artillery Battery
Tiger (P) Heavy Tank

Like Chris said there’s always more that could be added (Infantry, Captured 25 pdrs, long barrelled Panzer IV’s) but for now it’s time to move on to the next “Big” project…

~Victor