Detours have become one the of the hallmarks of the Big Four project as, like most hobbyists, we get distracted or excited about a new release.
The release of Bulge: British proved to be no exception as everyone (including Chris) had unfinished business when it came to the British forces – whether it was an army that had been on the painting list for a long time, or something that provoked excitement during the design phase, everyone wanted to take part in a Great British Paint Off…
A little while ago, whilst I was powering through my last batches of painting for my British I thought it would be fun if the four of us took another detour. Casey was already talking about doing a Ram Formation, Wayne had been wanting to do Comets since the plastics originally came out, and Victor is always onboard for some painting fun.
Fast forward a few weeks after having “finished” all my short-term British goals and I said the words “Whose idea was this again?” (having genuinely forgotten it was my idea) only to be met with a resounding chorus of “YOURS!”
So here we are… I’m getting back on the British wagon and much like Casey I am going to be working on Canadian Rams. I figured this was the only Tank Formation I hadn’t painted so that made it the safe option to be able to complete over the Christmas break.
I am keeping the force all about the in-Formation units as much as possible as I already have a lot of support units.
Eagle-eyed readers will know that I have already completed the Land Mattresses so I will be painting an additional troop of Rams to make up for that minor shortcut (and an OP tank). In order to keep the theme of a Canadian force running through the army I will be painting up the extra Firefly tanks (since all of mine have 11th Armoured decals on them and these will need Maple Leaf insignia), adding platoons of Staghounds for recon, and even Staghound AA instead of the normal Crusaders (they will be using the Crusader stat line, I’m just doing it for fun).
It should be a fun army to paint and play with, and best of all it pushes me ever closer to have 200 British teams painted!
A few years ago, I built ten Comets with the intention of collecting a British Comet Armoured Squadron. However, a bunch of other projects got in the way and I never got around to painting them. With our next Big Four challenge being to build a Bulge: British force it has given me a chance to get this project going again.
I’ve decided to base my Comet force on the 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry, 29th Armoured Brigade, 11th Armoured Division. This armoured regiment was the junior regiment in the 29th Armoured Brigade, and is from the region of Scotland between Firth of Forth and the River Tay (Fife) and then north of that around Dundee and Forfar. By World War II this regiment had transformed into an armoured regiment from its humble beginnings in the 18th Century as two volunteer cavalry units.
My force is pretty simple, I start with a core of my ten Comets, organised into an HQ of two, and two troops of four. Added to the HQ I have two Cromwell CS tanks armed with 95mm howitzer that can fire as artillery and provide smoke. My third Formation Unit is a Stuart Recce Patrol from the regimental headquarters. My support will consist of a Rifle Platoon from the 159th Brigade, to which the 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry had been attached. These are from the 1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment. My last unit is a SAS Section of three jeeps for another Spearhead option on top of the Stuarts.
As the junior regiment of the 29th Armoured Brigade, the 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry’s arm of service number is 53, and this was displayed on the left of the hull in a red box, with the 11th Armoured Division’s bull on the right. Their turret tactical markings are blue, and as I have selected B Squadron to field, these will be squares. The Stuarts, being from the HQ, will have blue diamonds.
When we first started the Big Four of Late War project my first choice of army was actually British as I had never done a British army before, but had always wanted to.
So when Chris started driving the Bulge: British detour bus I was all on board.
While working on the book the list that really grabbed my attention was the Ram Armoured Squadron. They are just so ugly and cool at the same time. It’s like a giant sat on a Sherman. I’m also a sucker for extra machine gun turrets, so they tick that box as well.
A quick Google search turned up a colourised Ram tank photo with black Mickey Mouse camouflage on the top of the turret and bottom of the hull, which was all the evidence that I needed to decide on a unique paint scheme to help make my army look different to everyone else’s.
For the Force I decided to go with a three-tank HQ supported by three Ram Armoured Troops and a Firefly (late) Armoured Troop. For the sake of completeness, and to have some flexibility in the force, I’m also going to paint up an extra Ram Armoured Troop, for a total of fifteen Ram tanks.
Game-wise I think the Ram tanks are an interesting choice over Shermans as they are very similar, with the 6 pounder trading a point of firepower for increased anti-tank over the Sherman. They will penetrate slightly more often, but won’t have quite as many effective shots.
Since it’s a Canadian list, like Chris I’m really leaning into the theme by taking the Crusader AA Troop, but modelling them as Staghound AA vehicles since the divisional support comes in the form of Staghounds from the 12th Manitoba Dragoons. The final unit in the force is an Archer Anti-tank Troop since they were used by the Third Canadian Division.
I’m already planning to expand this army by Adding some Stuarts, M10’s and a Kangaroo Rifle platoon later to give me even more options.
The year was 2009. I had just started working at Battlefront, and Casey had recently sent “Hell’s Highway” to print. When we got the first copies back, I was immediately drawn to the Cromwell and Challenger tanks. These became my first Flames Of War army, the Welsh Guards in operation Market Garden.
Unfortunately I have since sold this army, without having any pictures of it. 13+ years later I’m looking to rebuild this force, but now in glorious plastic!
The resin and metal army made use of the individually sculpted Cromwells, with a bit of character and fun details on each tank. This time I’ve gone to town adding my own, with a mix of old metal bits, paper, bandage gauze, and sculpting putty. I’m not very experienced or confident with sculpting, but found organic shapes like bags and tarps fairly easy. Hopefully they look convincing when painted!
My list almost wrote itself. I’ve been burnt in the past by not painting enough of a formation, and having to go back a year later to add 3-4 more tanks, so this time I made sure to include all the Cromwells and Challengers I’ll ever need (ok maybe a 4th troop one day…). So it was only those last 6 points I had to decide on, and the Stuarts made sense both for theme and valuable Spearhead. My 2009 army had more Cromwells, and less Challengers, but who can resist that AT 15 …
Later on I’ll have list options to include my American Paratrooper platoon which is thematic as the Welsh Guards responded to a German counterattack against Waal River bridge held by Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.
I’m eager to get started on these, but painting all the stowage is a little daunting. Nothing a little Christmas relaxation time can’t handle!
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
Stay tuned to see how we all progress with our armies over the coming weeks…
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.
Check out the all units below (click on the images for larger versions).
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…
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
And here’s what I’m planning to add, which will give me 140 points to work with!
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!
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.
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
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!
Here’s the last of my AFV’s I plan to do for my Hungarian force. These are all the German supplied vehicles, so it was fun to do a mix of different looking units to go along side my Zrinyi’s.
The Panthers were the first ones I painted, and I’d say the ones I’m least happy with. I applied too much green camo, as I was trying to tie them in with the Zrinyis. I think this was a mistake and made them too dark, but otherwise they turned out ok.
I’m much happier with the StuGs. They’re very simple, but I find the plain dunkelgelb suits the models.
For the big numbers on the shurtzen, I used the Gulf War number decals from the WWIII: Britsh pack. I made the “7” using part of an “A” trimmed down and painted the top line.
Lastly was the Hetzers, which I went for a mix of the above two, using a simple green camo but with plenty of dunkelgelb still showing.
I now have a lot of options for running different assault gun formations (or even two at once!). Later down the road I will add infantry to this army, as well as some recon. But for now, it’s time to get back to my Americans…
The ability (and freedom) to travel to a tournament, hang out with friends and play some games has been something that most gamers have been able to take for granted. After a year (or more) of lockdowns, cancelled events, and the need to maintain some sort of social distance here in New Zealand, things are returning to normal and events are happening with a little more regularity. One of our favourite events of the year is always Panzerschreck – the oldest Flames Of War tournament in the world. There is no one reason as to why it is great, it really is the combination; the road trip down with friends, the short stops to shop, climbing over tanks at the National Army Museum, hanging out with resident sculptor Evan, catching up with friends, too much eating, winning (or losing) some games, and then finishing it with a post-tournament “what went wrong, what are we doing next year” cathartic road trip back home!
Road Trips, Shopping, Eating and Tanks!
This year the four of us crammed in to a rental Jeep Cherokee, which should have been big enough but thanks to a small pile of orders we were taking down for customers we ended up filling every available space with gear, miniatures, or clothes. I think next year we are going to need a bigger boat… I mean car! The road trip really is all about hanging out, talking about work, gaming, life and everything else going on. There is also time for a fair amount of pre-tournament smack talk! Our trips each year take a similar course (unless snow gets in the way) with a stop in Hamilton (about 90 minutes in to our journey) to swing by one of our favourite gaming shops (Games Centre) for a chat and to pick up any “essentials”. Short on space this year some of those essentials kept falling from their precarious perch in the back of the car on to Victors head… Hamilton is also a good spot for a coffee and sausage roll (an NZ delicacy!).
Back on the road we then have a quick 2 hour sprint down to Taupo in the middle of the North Island. Marking the halfway point it is a great chance to have lunch (yes we do always stop at the same Turkish restaurant each year!) and swing by our next hobby shop; Taupo Hobbies. We didn’t end up adding to the load this time (which was a surprise) but it didn’t stop us having a really good look and contemplating the idea of building some rather larger World War II naval models!
Next stop is Waiouru and the home of the New Zealand Army Museum. We normally arrive too late to hit the gift/book shop but we are always prepared to brave the cold to check out some of New Zealand’s tank history parked out the front. There is nothing like climbing up on a Centurion (or even the Scorpion) to give the models that we play with a real sense of scale. With this taken care of it is the final push to Palmerston North and Evan’s house… A total trip of around 512km (318 miles) in a very leisurely 11 hours!
Stalin Approved – Casey and Chris’ Experience
The weekend turned in to a glorious mess of dice, explosions (some on the table and some in our heads), great opponents and fun games so I can’t give a breakdown of the individual games… and based on our performance I am not sure anyone wants my tactical advice. So what went right or wrong? Casey’s army was fantastic to play with, not only was it really well painted but it was a great combination of models. In hindsight though we really could have dropped one of our infantry units and replaced it with a template delivery device. Any sort would have done; Katyushas or SU-76 assault guns being my preference, but anything would have been useful. The IS-2s were great at knocking out dug-in troops IF they hit. I spent most of the weekend looking for 5’s and often 6’s to hit. In one game I literally got 2 hits in 6 turns, with 10 tanks. The IS-2’s did excel in surviving however with their armour allowing them to stand up to any opposition and hang around, and what they hit generally stayed hit!
Casey’s T-34/85 company found itself doing a lot of the heavy lifting over the weekend, rushing flanks, having gun-fights, being assaulted (and counter-attacking) and generally being in the mix. Of course this meant that they didn’t tend to survive! Casey may have wished once or twice over the weekend that they still had the front armour 7 of the “good old days!”
Favourite Game: Too hard to pick… our loss to Tom and Alex with their Elefants was a hard fought game of manoeuvre and thrust that could have gone either way, whilst our narrow victory vs Bob and Steve could have just as easily been
a loss if not for the resilience of the IS-2 and their ability to go head-to-head with Tigers.
Hungarian Hooves and Howitzers a.k.a. Triple H – Victor and Wayne’s Weekend
Wayne has always been a fan of Hungarians in Flames Of War, and I’ve caught the bug too, especially with the Zrínyi. The release of Bagration: Axis-Allies was going to fall shortly before Panzerschreck, so it made sense to take my new Zrínyi force, and Wayne being my usual team mate, I knew he would have plenty of Hungarian units to build a force to go with mine. Then Wayne said “But I want to paint something new for the tournament”, and I said something silly like “You should paint a full Huszar Squadron!” Thus our team was formed. We knew it wasn’t going to dominate the tabletop, but we were hoping for some funny moments and glorious cavalry charges.
Unfortunately when it came to the games, we found ourselves defending against heavy tanks, or attacking elite MG infantry. This isn’t to say the games weren’t fun, just that there weren’t as many chances for a good cavalry charge as we would’ve liked. It’s lucky Wayne painted the dismounted versions of his platoons too, as they were great in defence. The Zrínyi’s on the other hand did great work, and their bombardments were quite effective. The Panthers kept our opponent’s tanks cautious, which kept our Zrínyi’s alive in most of our games.
Overall the tournament was a lot of fun, and was great seeing familiar faces that we missed out on last year.
The Long Road Home
With the weekend’s gaming over and done with (and after a good nights rest) we headed home on the Monday morning, stopping for a coffee and a tank of gas. Based on the comments from the back seat the coffee may have been made by Baldrick during World War I so next year we might find somewhere better than going with “hey Google, where can we get a coffee?”
The drive north is a lot like the drive south, just with different stops (the Army Museum book shop which is now open, Subway, since everything else was busy in Taupo, and Gaming DNA in Hamilton) and conversation that revolves around what went right, what went wrong, and what we are taking next year (140 points, Mid War, doubles! Oh yeah!). Stay tuned for some initial thoughts over the coming months on what we might like to build.
As always Panzerschreck is a blast and this year was no different. Roll on 2022!
Here’s my finished Zrínyi Assault Gun Battery. I love this little assault gun. It’s like a Semovente on steroids, or a StuG trying to hide behind a wall…
I chose to go with plain green as I thought the shape and details of the kits are interesting enough (glorious rivets!), and I think it helps the markings stand out. However, part of me is still tempted to do a second formation one day in 3 colour camo…
I’ll do a future article about some of the research I did, and some of the unique markings and details on the Zrínyi, but for now, here are each of my units.
I’ve painted two HQ options, one with the long 75mm barrel. There was only one prototype built, but I’m glad we included it in the kit. It’s a cool option for the HQ to have an extra direct fire threat.
You can see some work in progress pictures on our Instagram. My next step is to add some Panthers and either Hetzers or StuGs, and challenge Casey to a game!
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