Murder, Stonk and Mike Target!

For many years these terms have struck fear in to Flames Of War opponents as British artillery pounded them in to submission – I even recall a play test game around 10 years ago where my artillery gun line spent 90 minutes plastering the opposition. Oh what fun we had – “we” being me, and a couple of people watching!

The 25 pdr battery represents the last models I need to paint for FlamesCon, as well as the first 100 points of my official list!

I’d be lying if I said I was 100 percent happy with how these turned out – the guns and limbers look great (if I do say so myself), but of course they are not that different to tanks and I’m really happy with how my process is working for those.

The bases has come out better than expected. Combining two of the the plastic Rural bases together to make gun bases worked out well, and thanks to some thin plastic card and milliput they are nice and durable. I really like all the cool details on them (tree stumps, tire marks, fences etc), and they made the detailing of the bases very simple.

I was initially a bit unsure about my selection of flocks – I like to mix up custom mix for armies and I was going for a darker tone to represent the coming winter months at the end of 1944. In the light of day though I was quite happy with how the colours (a dark green static grass, and a couple of GF9 flock blends) all came together.

The weak point is certainly my painting ability when it comes to the gun crews. Ales, our sculptor, did a lovely job on them and I don’t think I have really done them justice. However I am very happy with the overall result and think that the whole army will look great on the table.

Time to get my Universal Carrier crews painted and I’ll be able to put another unit in the “Done” column…

~Chris

British Sherman Tactics – 101

With FlamesCon coming up in about a month my army is going to have its first intensive gaming weekend, so in preparation I’ve been thinking a bit about how the various parts will worth together on the battlefield. It should come as no surprise that the key unit(s) in the army all have Sherman (or Firefly) tanks!

I’ve decided to maximise my number of Firefly tanks and their precious tank-busting 17pdr guns by taking four platoons of minimum strength Sherman Platoons, each with 2 Sherman tanks, and a single Firefly. Between these platoons and my M10 platoon, this gives me a good number of specialist tank killers that can be spread around the table.

If there is a downside to the Firefly (and M10) is that their 17pdr guns, whilst excellent at killing tanks, are not as good at killing infantry teams thanks to the “No HE” rule – A weapon with No HE targeting an Infantry or Gun Team, adds +1 to the score needed To Hit. This means it is important to keep some of the 75mm armed Sherman tanks around in case you run in to a dug-in infantry platoon, or anti-tank gun line, defending an objective.

My intention is to ensure that the M10s and (depending on the opponent) two platoons of Shermans are working together to attack an objective, or blunt an enemy armoured thrust. This gives me 10-12 tanks (if I include the HQ) working together with a mix of guns. This should be able to overcome most opposition forces.

One of the tactics that has crossed my mind, but I am not convinced is a good idea, is leaving the Firefly tanks behind as the Shermans advance on the objective. This means that they can provide covering fire without a loss of rate of fire, assuming they do not move. On paper this sounds good, but it does mean that the Shermans (and therefore the Firefly that is in the platoon) can find themselves not in Good Spirits if either of them are destroyed or bailed out. All it would take is for one Sherman to be bailed and not get back in, and then the Firefly and remaining Sherman will run for the hills. Maybe I will keep this tactic in reserve if I need it and let you know how it works out for me.

Alpha Strike or Firefight

I’ve included Stuarts in my army because, one they are cheap machine-gun carrier that can knock out small tanks, and two, the wonderful Spearhead rule. Spearhead will (in certain missions) let me significantly expand my deployment area and allow me to put a lot of tanks, close to the enemy in preparation for first turn rush. I am confident I can pack in most (if not all) of my Shermans inside the 8” bubble.

If I choose not to use the extra space for a rush, I can also use it to ensure my tanks are in a good defensive position in turn 1, potentially allowing them to be concealed and gone-to-ground.

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

One of the tactics that I am terrible at remembering to use is… Smoke! I tend to think about killing the enemy, rather than making their life more difficult. Why lob a Smoke round across the table when you can drop High Explosive on someones head? With the Shermans relatively average armour, placing a 16” / 40cm long smoke screen across the table can shield them for one valuable turn as they push up, or isolate part of the battlefield. This would be especially useful if I am planning on running head first in to an enemy gun line, or stopping a second line of defensive troops from shooting me up if I am more than 6” / 15cm away.

The worst outcome is that it forces the enemy to move, dropping their rate of fire and potentially exposing them to my other models.

There you have it, my basic plan for how the army will work. It is going to be fun to see if my armchair generalship will transfer to the tabletop – perhaps I had better arrange a game in the next couple of weeks with Wayne or Victor just to be safe.

~Chris

Time For A Cup Of Tea, and British Tank Markings

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but one of the things that I think really makes my British army pop on the tabletop (and in photos) is the use of decals. I always feel that the application of decals to a tank is that final step that really helps to make a difference – much like good basing on infantry.

I am quite lucky as the British army went to great lengths to mark their tanks, from Divisional, Regiment and Squadron Markings, to Bridge Weights and Serial Numbers, and of course Allied Stars. With so many options I found most vehicles having around 10-or-so markings for me to apply.

First things first, what are all the decals on the Late War British Decal Sheet? Casey has written a great article (which I have relied on heavily and you absolutely should read) but if you want the basic TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version here you go…

Looking at the tanks below you can see where I have chosen to apply the decals.

One of the things I learnt whilst doing a little reading through our guides on the website and Colours Of War, is that there was a “mandated” way to apply the markings.

Of course, this doesn’t always match up with what happens in real life as crews will often find ingenious places to put stowage or extra armour, which necessitates the moving of markings. Sometimes they just don’t want a great big white star on the side of the tank as a target for enemy gunners, and sometimes they just don’t get the memo. This means you can either follow the guides on the site like a definitive list, which is perfectly fine, or use a bit of artistic license (which is what I did).

If you don’t have a lot of experience adding decals to models, give it a go, they really make a huge difference. If you want to know more about how to do it, then check out Blake’s guide on our YouTube channel here…

~Chris

 

Step-By-Step British Painting Guide

Over the past couple of months I have had a few requests on our Instagram for a step-by-step painting or colour guide for how I painted my British armour. The steps are all fairly straight forward. The key was spending a little time trialing colours and talking about the process with the rest of the team, looking for their thoughts on how to achieve a fast, but striking looking army.

Step 1: I primed the model Black, and then airbrushed my base colour, Tamiya Dark Green 2, over the whole model. I took time to make sure that I applied a couple of light coats first, building up the colour over the black, and focusing on certain areas where I wanted the coverage to be opaque, and therefore brighter.Step 2: I then gave the model an overall drybrush with Colours Of War Firefly Green. I wasn’t trying to  completely cover the base coat, but rather highlight all the raised points and edges. The difference in colour between the two steps is quite striking however.Step 3 should really be two steps…

Step 3a: I tidied up the tracks by painting black over any areas that were accidentally drybrushed in the previous step, then painted them with a mix of Vallejo Black Grey and Oily Steel. I also picked out the chain (with just Oily Steel) on the side of the hull, and spare tracks.Step 3b: Next I airbrushed the entire model with a Gloss Varnish. This seals in all the work I had done up to this point and protects it during the Oil Wash. I normally create my own wash using artists oil paints and some white spirits. This is carefully applied in any recesses and along panel lines. Using a Q-tip or Cotton Bud I cleaned up any excess.

Step 4: Next I carefully applied some Gloss Varnish to the areas I was going to decal. Once the decals were applied I used a little Micro Sol (Decal Setting Solution)  just to help them look painted on. Once these completely dried I then gave the whole model a very light drybrush of Iraqi Sand, just to give some subtle edge highlights and add a little dust to the whole model.I hope that this has been useful, it is a really straight forward process that was quite quick to apply.

~Chris

Twelve Flavours, All Of Them Churchills

Having finished my Shermans I found myself with plenty of painting options sitting on the table, from the 25 pdr artillery, to a Motor Platoon and the Churchill tanks in the Army Deal. A smarter person would have picked the 25 pdrs to work on, primarily because I am planning on taking them to FlamesCon in a couple of months, I however picked the Churchills.

The Churchill frame is packed with options when it comes to how to assemble it. I decided to plan ahead and go a little off script and build them as Crocodiles. Having been terrorised by a friends models, I thought that having some of my own would be fun – their impossibly heavy armour, deadly flamethrower, and useful 75mm gun makes them a powerful weapon in arsenal.

Of course they are of limited use right now, since they are not included in Fortress Europe… I solved that issue by not gluing the flame trailers on to the model. This way I can leave the trailers in my box for the next few months and just field them as the 6 pdr armed versions in the book. None of the team in the office will mind and I get some great tanks right now.

With these complete I now need to turn to… the 25 pdrs and (more importantly) figuring out how I am going to paint the crews.

~Chris

p.s. stay tuned for some step by step photos and how-to guide for my British  tanks.

The Raging Bull of the 11th Armoured!

Phew! That is a lot of Sherman tanks to have finally finished and I can tell you I feel a real sense of accomplishment about how they look, especially when I put them on the table alongside my M10s and Stuarts. It is starting to look like a really legitimate army.

First up is my HQ Platoon – two Sherman tanks, easily identifiable thanks to their fairly clean look, no stowage, and (obviously) the Company Commander sitting up high, talking on the radio.

Next is First Platoon, once again looking clean and tidy, with Allied Stars on the engine decks of the two 75mm armed Shermans. I am really pleased with how the counter-shading of the Firefly 17 pdr guns turned out.

Second Platoon has stowage on the engine decks to help identify the unit. These were made by gluing stowage items to the deck, then pressing a piece of aluminum foil over and super gluing it in to place.

The Third Platoon knows that there are some nasty tanks lurking among the other Big Four armies so have added extra track links to the front of their tanks in the hope that it will help slow down a high-velocity round.

Last, but certainly not least, the Fourth Platoon is clean as well, but instead of having the Allied Stars on the engine decks, they are on the turrets of the 75mm tanks.

Like the rest of my models, I’ve had a few decal issues that are really exacerbated by the flash photography here at the office, but damn (if I do say so myself) the colour palette of the yellow 11th Armoured Division Markings, Bridge Weights and Squadron Markings, with the splash of red from the Regimental Marking along with the white from the Stars and Serial Numbers really add to the whole look and feel.

Looking at the whole army sitting in my tray here at work there are a couple of things I would have done slightly differently with the benefit of hindsight, but as a whole it looks really good and I cannot wait to tackle the Carriers, Churchills and Guns (and Infantry) to get the first wave finished.

~Chris

I call them Achilles!

It has been a while since I actually finished anything, primarily because I decided to try and plow ahead and finish all of my Shermans and M10s in one great big push… I both succeeded and failed; I managed to get a lot of work done on my Shermans, but at the same time got a little bogged down as I wasn’t getting that emotional boost by actually completing anything. To get that quick hit of positivity I decided just to crack on and finish my tank destroyers.

I am really pleased with how the whole platoon turned out and whilst there are a couple of elements I could have improved on; mainly some silvering on the decals – poor execution on my part. I do love how the other aspects of the models came out, especially the little stowage touches and shells sitting in the ready ammo stowage.

Time to make the final push on my Shermans and get those bad boys ready for the table because after that I just have a single battery of artillery to complete and I will have 100 points finished and ready for battle.

~Chris

Shes a Honey all right!

Looking through the contents of the British Starter Force I quickly zeroed in on the Stuarts and M10s. This was for the simple reason that I could paint a single, discrete unit that I could use to test out my painting and ensure I was happy with the plan for the army. It was also a good opportunity to sort my decal plan!

I’ll write up some notes on how I painted the tanks at a later date, but it was fairly straight forward, largely using some basic techniques. The hard part was figuring out the colours that I wanted to use. Luckily a quick chat with the rest of the Big Four and a flick through Colours Of War gave me some good ideas.

With one platoon down, I am really happy with how the army is (probably) going to turn out. The green looks good, the decals really add some nice colour and it is a pretty quick and simple paint scheme to replicate. Time to knock out some M10s!

~ Chris

Shermans, Shermans, and maybe a pinch more Shermans

With a plan firmly in place around some painting and modelling inspiration, it is now time to start thinking about the Army and what I will paint first. Like the rest of the Big Four I have grabbed one of the new Late War Starter Armies. With a great mix of models it can either be a complete legal army, or the foundation for one (or more).

My plan is to use it as the later – everything in the Army Deal has a place in my painting list, it is just the order that I am going to play around with. For Fortress Europe I have decided to base my Force around a Sherman Armored Squadron with as many Firefly tanks as I can fit in. That means a Squadron HQ of 2 Sherman (75mm) tanks, and 4 Troops, each containing 2 Sherman (75mm) tanks and 1 Firefly (17pdr). With 10 Sherman tanks that gives me plenty of Anti-tank 10 (which can deal with pesky T-34 and Panzer IV tanks) and high explosive rounds to knock out guns or infantry. The four Firefly tanks pack a massive wallop with Anti-tank 14 – that’s enough to punch through a Tiger or Panther. Best of all, it only comes in at 60 points.

Knowing that the other guys have plenty of armour in their forces it would be silly of me to not use the four M10 (17pdr) tank destroyers that is also in the Army Deal. These vehicles have the same gun as the Firefly, but I get four of them for only 18 points!

Painting infantry is certainly my least favourite part of the painting process, but I have been assured that the plastic British figures are both quick to paint and look really good so this is enough for me to add an under-strength Motor Platoon of 3 Bren Gun teams, a PIAT and 2-inch mortar. These will be hard-pressed to achieve much on the table, however it is a manageable figure count for me to punch out. At 6 points they are cheap and being Careful (Hit on 4+) if they hunker down they will stick around. Where there are infantry, there are Carriers… so I’ll be adding a Patrol of 3 – for 2 points they give me a cheap Scout and Spearhead unit.

Alternatively… 3 Stuarts is also 6 points (and coincidentally the number that come in the Army Deal) so I might knock these out initially as a good “test paint” platoon and then do the Motor Platoon later.

Rounding out the force is my battery of four 25 pdr guns. These are fantastic as they can lob HE rounds across the table knocking out dug-in troops (and guns) with ease, plus they have a handy AT rating of 9. Put them on an Objective, dig them in and they will defend it till they die thanks to their Fearless Motivation rating of 3+.

This leaves me with a few things left over from the Army Deal, mainly some extra infantry and Churchills. Assuming I get the understrength platoon painted, the remainder of the figures will be part of my second wave – painting the extra figures so that I have either 2 full-strength Motor Platoons, or 1 maxed out Rifle Platoon. Last, but not least, are the Churchill tanks. I have a plan for these, but it can wait a little while…

The Painting Plan: I don’t want to have to revisit things where possible so I am planning on doing some future proofing. I’ll start with the Stuarts as these are a tidy little platoon where I can knock out a small number of tanks in one go, testing out my paint colours and decal plan to make sure that the finished platoon looks good before tackling the rest. I should do a single test model but I’d rather just dive on in…

The Shermans will be my next port of call and I intend on doing some extras so that I can chop and change the list, as well as doing some extra Firefly tanks on the presumption that in later years we will get to add more. I also have some thoughts about decals and stowage, but more on this later…

Next on the shopping list will be the M10 tank destroyers, partially because they are great! And partially because the crew will give me a chance to experiment on painting infantry and gun crew, whilst still being able to hide any mistakes (since 90% of the figure is inside the turret).

The infantry and 25 pdr crews will probably be last on the painting list, simply because they will use similar colours and techniques and I enjoy painting tanks more than people.

Time to get building…

~Chris

Sherman Tanks: Advance!

Motivation and Skill are two of the most important stats in Flames Of War, determining how keen your troops are to do scary things, and how good they are at doing them. Selecting a Nation and an Army for the Big Four Project (for me at least) tapped in to the same two things…

Motivation: what drives us to do something. In the case of the Big Four we all wanted to go on the Late War Journey as a group of friends, whilst sharing it with a community of (hopefully) interested Flames Of War players. Drilling down further we see that:

  • Victor: wants to build a great looking, visually thematic American force that he can plug in new units into.
  • Casey: also wants a visually themed force, but one that challenges his ability (Skill) but working on a different painting style.
  • Wayne: is planning a historically themed force that fought throughout Late War.
  • Chris: well….

I am drawing on a few different areas, TV and Movies, Gaming, and a desire to finish a project that I have failed to complete previously…

TV, Movies and the Internet – if you haven’t watched A Bridge Too Far, then go to your favourite streaming service or movie rental and watch it… now!

Obviously ABTF isn’t the only reference that I am drawing from but there is just something about that movie and its portrayal of not just the Paras, but also the Irish Guards and their columns of Sherman tanks pushing up the road to Arnhem that has really stuck with me.

Then, just do a search on the internet for images of the British army in Normandy – from images of troops fighting in the hedgerows to Shermans covered in stowage and track links, there is plenty to draw inspiration from.

Gaming – I enjoy playing the mix of models that a British Army can run in Late War – middle of the road Sherman tanks, very shooty Firefly tanks, resilient Rifle Platoons, nippy (fast) Carriers, all rounders like the 25pdr gun, and heavily armoured Churchills. There is something for everyone, and in a game where you can field a good mix of models this means I am not short of options in my Army Building Toolbox. A balanced force can deal with anything…

Finishing Something – I’ve started British forces three times since I started at Battlefront… a Cromwell Company not long after I started, inspired by the individually sculpted resin models that Jeremy and James built and painted. A British Guards Sherman Company when we were working on the Bridge Too Far Firestorm Campaign – a terrible paint job left me too grumpy to complete the project. The final false start was my Comet Company, still sitting in a box, assembled and ready for painting, relegated to a box in the garage. Spoiler Alert – year four of the Journey it will be coming back to the painting table!

This brings me to Skill – I am the least capable painter/hobbyist of the group. I am handy with a paintbrush but my painting ability is not what brings me to the hobby. However, I have a plan here as I work alongside some pretty clever guys. I will be picking their brains to come up with a painting plan that means I can complete a nice looking (hopefully) tabletop army using some of the tips and tricks from Colours Of War, along with a few of the skills I have picked up along the way.

On the good side, British vehicles can have a lot of colourful markings on them and there is nothing like a pile of decals and a couple of interesting pieces of stowage to really help finish off a tank and make it look good.

Where I am backing myself is the gaming side of things. I feel like I have a very solid list to build initially that will let me dish out some hurt on the tabletop. Casey, Wayne and Victor’s tanks will all burn the same colour after my Firefly tanks brew them up…

So with the Late War Journey just beginning I feel like have the basis of solid plan put together – time to sort out an initial painting list and get it assembled.

~ Chris