15mm Madness! Starting a Flames of War US Army.

Why?

Why do I need another army? Why, in fact, do I need a whole new game system? On top of that, why do I need to start collecting an entirely different scale models?

I am sure these are questions that all gamers ask themselves at some point in their gaming career. In the past, farther back than I care to admit, this always used to be for a tournament or event. The new army was always Games Workshop and generally Warhammer Fantasy. At least three times they were also Empire.

Around ten years ago, this started to change as I started building a large 28mm Napoleonic Austrian force to face my Dad’s French (who, may I point out, still lie unpainted in a box somewhere in his loft).  This made me look at the numerous rules sets out there for Napoleonics. This was the beginning of something, as I realised there were loads of rules sets for various different games. Most of them were nowhere near as sophisticated as the GW sets. Some of them had D100 tables which you rolled on for every unit that fired. But this at least got me looking.

Since then, I have moved on to various games and armies but these have always been 28mm. It has made sense. The terrain is generally interchangeable: a wood is a wood in the 10th or 20th century, after all! Even some of the armies are can function in different systems, my Byzantines showing up in Saga Dark Ages, Crusades and Warhammer Ancient Battles as one example.

This will be the first time that I have completely changed scale. So why is that? I already have World War 2 forces in the Soviets and Italians, so it wasn’t the need to access a new period of history. It wasn’t the rules, as I bought the books at the same time as most of my miniatures.

A Soviet infantryman and Italian Alpini Mountaineer look on disapprovingly on some tiny Americans

It could be the miniatures themselves, which have come on a great deal at this scale since I was younger. They are really crisp and detailed now and, as the Brush and Boltgun guys know well, I am a great fan of having masses of troops on the table. 15mm models let you do just that. The formations you field are generally company level, and you have multiple companies on the board at one time. Whereas in Bolt Action I get one tank, in Flames of War I get 15, and they are still large enough and detailed enough for the players to easily tell what is what.

This is definitely a big draw for me. With some systems like Black Powder (the systems I  finally settled on for Napoleonics), I do feel that the options for manoeuvring are  limited unless you start playing on non-standard board sizes- as in over 6ft by 8ft. By reducing the scale of the miniatures and terrain, you remove that need to expand the board size.

Above all, though, I would have to blame Rob for this army. Any game system you collect needs opponents to make it more than a painting project, and he has been mightily enthusiastic about me getting on board with Flames of War since I mentioned it was a possibility. Having conversations with people who are passionate about the figures, rules and history of the period is a great way to ruin your bank balance as you get drawn in to their enthusiasm. And that is one of the best things about this hobby.

“So, what did you get!?” I hear you cry. I have discussed in depth why I started the force but not how I did it.

Luckily, I had a wealth of knowledge to draw on from Rob. Obviously we would be playing together, so I needed to collect a force from the same time period. He has late war armies, and I wanted to do Americans, having recently watched Fury, so that was a simple choice: US 1944-45.

Flames of War’s new edition rulebook comes with details for Mid-War battles in the rulebook (1942-43), so alongside this I picked up the Late War forces book. What’s great about these is they are only £15 each, for A4 colour, hardback books. Can’t say fairer than that!

At the same time I picked up an Infantry Company, some half-tracks to make them armoured infantry, and a big bunch of Shermans.

Airbrush-tastic! 15 Shermans and five half-tracks

Having looked online before buying, I saw that the minimum platoon size for tanks is eight (two in command, and two platoons of three tanks each). But there was a deal on Plastic Soldier Company’s website where you could buy three boxes of five tanks for a discount. This gives me some flexibility on the size of my platoon, as well as the equipment the tanks have – later models have better armour and bigger guns.

These tanks went together really easily. I was slightly reticent about building multi-part plastics at this scale but actually there was no need to be.

The Infantry Company, box is primarily riflemen, so I also picked up a Heavy Weapons box to add in some of the other units that armoured infantry tended to go to war with. This gives me enough for two platoons.

Or at least I thought it did. On second glance, I require an additional box of half tracks- my second armoured infantry platoon has no transport! However, that should be easy enough to fix on my next order.

All of the first platoon that I currently have bases for…

As I have now read the rules, I am looking forward to adding some more units to round out the final force. Some artillery is a must, although I have yet to decide if it will be tracked or towed, as well as some anti-tank guns for the heavier German tanks. Relying on always getting my Shermans around the side of the bigger Panzers seems a little dangerous for my liking.

One thing to note too, if you buy Plastic Soldier Company troops, is that they don’t come with bases like the official FoW ones do. I forgot this and got quite slowed down on my infantry building. I still don’t have enough small bases but fortunately I need to order some half tracks anyway!

If you have played Flames of War and have any thoughts or advice for Adam, please leave a comment below. Or if you just want to share some general thoughts about wargaming or heckle him, that’s cool too.

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