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

 

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

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

Finishing the American Desert Detour

Finishing an army* should be a chance to look back at the time spent scheming, building, painting and finishing up the force. It doesn’t matter if that army is six models or 60, you should still look at the army and say “Hey, I did a thing!” The next step of course is to take it out and destroy your enemies with it…

As it stands with my Mid War American force I have ticked the first box and will need to make time to so the second. Looking back at the painting there were some real highlights and low lights for me, and if you have been following the process on Instagram you will know that colour matching was a real problem. Turning that into something good I can now honestly say I’m better at keeping painting records (not as good as Victor though) and so this shouldn’t be a problem in the future (famous last words).

Here… is the finished army in all it’s glory (click on them for bigger versions)!

M3 Lee Company HQ
M3 Lee Tank Platoon
M4 81mm Armored Mortar Platoon
T30 75mm Assault Gun Platoon
Armored Recon Patrol
T19 105mm HMC Artillery Platoon
M3 Stuart Tank Platoon

M3 75mm GMC Tank Destroyer Platoon

T28E1 37mm AAA Platoon

With everything added up, the force comes in at a respectable 130 points. That means I have a little bit extra for some bigger games, along with ability to remove a platoon or two to get the force down to 100 points.

I think for now I will call the army finished!

~Chris

*is an army really finished? A platoon of M4 Shermans and perhaps an Armored Rifle Platoon would really round out this collection and bring in the points total to a little under 200 points for a really big game!

 

 

 

Detour to the Desert

Chris and Victor are heading to the desert!

They’ve both started armies a while ago, and hot on the heels of ‘North Africa’ they’ve decided to dig them out and breath new life into their forces.

Victor’s Afrikakorps

About 7 years ago I started an Early-War DAK army. It began as just 6 Panzer III’s (and a captured Stuart…) which allied with Waynes Italians for a doubles tournament.

Check out the coverage of the Panzerchreck 2016 event over on the Flames Of War website…

The following year I added Panzer IV’s, Panzer II’s, 88’s, and 222 armoured cars. The plan was to have units that could swing between early-war and mid-war, so the Panzers were all earlier versions.

This left me with a good mix of units, but it never really felt like a complete army. The release of North Africa gave me the motivation to move this force into Version 4, and skew it more towards mid-war by adding some cool new units.

Apart from a few touch ups due to showing their age, here’s what I’ve currently got painted from years ago:

6x Panzer III J
4x Panzer IV D
5x Panzer II C
4x SdKfz 221 & 222
2x 8.8cm FlaK36
2x Objectives!

And here’s what I’m planning to add, which will give me 140 points to work with!

3x Dianas
2x Bison
4x Lorraine Schlepper
2x SdKfz 231 8-rad
1x Tiger

One day I’d like to do some infantry, captured 25 pdrs, and long barrelled Panzer IV’s, but for now I’ve got a lot to keep me busy!

~Victor

Chris’s Fighting First

When we released Fighting First I, for some reason, fell in love with the idea of a full company of M3 Lee tanks. I guess it was just a combination of a wierd looking tank, a decent stat line, and a points cost that let me field a lot of them and still have room to pack some extra units in.

As is often the case, the army started with a hiss and a roar, getting most of it built, painted and decal’ed. But like so many projects I hit a point where army stalled… when I had to paint a massive pile of vehicle crew.

Part of my reticence was that not only did I have a full company of Lee’s in the force, but also a (for me) massive number of halftracks with M4 Mortar Carriers, converted T19 105mm HMC’s, M3 75mm GMC’s, and T30 75mm HMC’s. Each of these vehicles needed crews painted up and I failed my last stand test and retreated…

Fast forward a few years and I’m in my peak painting condition having done so many models as part of the Big Four project that finishing this army actually seemed like a holiday from everything else!

My baseline list looks pretty straight forward.

But for some variation, and for the ability to add a few extra points I have the T19’s and M3 GMC’s that I can add. These are both Community Cards that have been created by players out in the world so whilst there aren’t models for them currently I managed to convert them using existing halftracks and guns.

You can find out more about them on the Flames Of War website.
M3 75mm GMC…
T19 105mm HMC…

I’ll be finishing off everything that I started (way back when) and then moving on to a few new units, like the Stuarts and T28E1 SP AA… I might even set myself a stretch goal of some infantry and Shermans but we will see how everything else progresses

~Chris

Follow along with us on Instagram as we finish our units, and who knows, we may have a battle to decide who’s king of the desert!

 

 

Churchills and Daimlers For Everyone!

A long time ago (well 18 months) I finished up my first platoons of Churchills and Daimlers (and Dingos).

Churchills are one of the most iconic tanks of World War II and the Daimler (and Dingo) are just very cool little models. Even back then I knew I wanted to paint more, but with so many other things to work on I put the extra platoon of each on the back burner. Needless to the say for the past year or so I have been feeling guilty about that as I have been trying to paint “entire” Formations, or at least as close to an entire Formation as makes sense given the points.

You can check out the previous articles on these units here:
Churchill By Name, Churchill By Nature! article…
Daimlers and Dingos Lead The Way article…

Over Christmas I managed to finish up a few units that had been hanging over me, so whilst I was on a roll I decided to knock these out as well. Finally having “full” sized Formations makes me pretty keen to get them on the tabletop.

First up, the Churchills… as you can see that is a lot of armour!

And once you work out the points on Forces, it is close to a full 100 points without the Crocodiles or AVREs. Of course that just means I need to challenge one of the other Big Four to a 150 point game…

On the flip side, we have the awesome little Daimlers and Dingos whose size belies their capabilities. Awesome as a recon unit, fantastic as a small strike force, and capable of punching above their weight they are now and forever one of my favourite models in the game.

A full Formation has something for everyone with Universal Carriers, Infantry, 6 pdr guns and mortars in support. All this and less than 50 points!

Maybe I need to put the Churchills and the Recce Squadron together and challenge someone to a 200 point game!

Now with these two platoons done, along with the extra bits and pieces I completed over Christmas I have (more or less) finished everything that I was planning on doing from the D-Day: British book. Guess I can take a break, think about what is coming in the Bulge: British book and start planning…

What’s that Victor? You want to talk to me about some new project? But… but… okay…

~Chris

 

 

 

 

Chris’ Christmas Campaign

Every Christmas I budget some time to hide out in the garage and get some painting done. Last year was no different as I knew I had a few projects that had been lurking around on my to-do list for as long as I could remember.

First up on my list were my Bofors guns and 6 pdrs. My guilt factor had been dialed up to 11 on these as base coated the guns back in 2020 but had just not gotten around to progressing them any further. Each time I went out to my painting desk I saw them sitting them. A sad reminder of something that I should have finished long ago!

In the end I took a couple of shortcuts and reduced the crew counts on both guns to slightly cut down the painting but to also give me so space on the bases for scenic elements. For the Bofors guns it was quite fun turning a pairs of medium rural scenic bases into large bases with a little plastic card and milliput!

Next up were the mortars and HMGs. The mortars were for my Recce Squadron where you can have a battery of six, whilst the HMGs… they were on the off chance I end up painting a second Motor Platoon and fielded a company at some point. I thought that whilst I was “in the zone” I may as well get them done now or risk never doing them.

I’m really happy to have finished these units off as it clears the way for me to start planning my next round of British painting with the Bulge book coming out later in the year, it also frees me up for a couple of detours with the Warsaw Pact and Bulge: German books both coming up…

Who knows what the future will hold on those fronts, but it is safe to say that tanks will be involved!

~Chris