Tuesday, 18 September 2012

If you want to swim, you’ve got to get in the pool.

 So, you’re all enthused to get into Flames of War. What next? What first, for that matter? If you’re an experienced miniature wargamer you’ll know the drill and can skip this first bit. If you’re completely new, don’t skip this first bit!

Friendly FoW Gamers - in silly hats - thanks Nate (NDC Weblog)

 Step one, before buying anything, is to find people who already play, and watch or better yet play a game. Gamers are for the most part friendly people, and being used to looks of confusion and derision from non-gamers we are only too happy to help people who are genuinely interested in getting into the hobby. Playing a game will answer more questions than weeks of trolling blogs and reading rule books. It will also make the game seem a lot less daunting as FoW plays a lot smoother than the 200+ pages of rules may suggest. Don’t be intimidated about playing the best opponents you can find - gamers love explaining in detail how they have just handed your backside to you and you will learn lots. The hotter the forge, the keener the blade!

This will be your Bible!

If hooking up with existing players is not an option, get a copy of the rules and a friend/opponent to learn and play with. Like a lot of rule sets, FoW has a core rule book and then supplementary books which detail the various companies you can field. You will need some form of army list to start playing. A rules box set is available containing the rule book, a “hobby” book, and basic tank, mechanised and infantry lists for Germany, Britain, USA and USSR. An even cheaper alternative is to buy just the rulebook and visit www.easyarmy.com where you can unlock online copies of army lists for a couple of dollars each. Battlefront are also releasing an updated version of their “Open Fire” set next month, which includes rules, miniatures, dice, markers and even cardboard terrain. It has everything you need to get playing, and if you’re starting from scratch you can’t really beat it.

Useful starter set

With the rules procured, the next step is to read them. You don’t have to memorise it all, just read it through once and you’ll have an idea of where to go when you need to look something up. The rules will sink in with playing time, so don’t stress about getting everything perfect, but do take the time to ensure you are playing the basics correctly. Start off small, just a couple of platoons a side and not too many different things at once. A tank battle, or a few platoons of infantry with a platoon of artillery each will keep it simple for your first few games. If you can’t borrow some models to play with, use pieces of cardboard or proxy other models, improvise some terrain, anything to let you get hands-on before you splash the cash on the next step – your first FoW army.

Phil and Evan, the men behind it all!

Choosing your first FoW army is like deciding which football team you support. Choose carefully as you will be stuck with it for life! Even if you ditch it after one game, you will be forever known as the “Romanian cavalry guy”. Most likely you will stick with it out of a mix of loyalty, sentimentality and pig-headedness. A FoW army is also an investment of time and money that you don’t want to waste on something you won’t enjoy.  Some key points to consider when choosing what to play:

Starter set contents
      Does it suit my style of play/personality? If you’ve played other games before you’ll know whether you’re a rash, over-aggressive hot-head or a durable plodder who grinds down the enemy. If you haven’t played at all, play a few games with different forces before committing. Brett loves playing hard charging Americans with Patton at the helm, but a German Festungs company would send him to sleep. I like a high body count and will fight to the death, so Brit Para’s and street fighting Soviets are right up my alley. Scott has tank, mech and infantry companies, some of these both German and British. Possible multiple-personality disorder?

Scott's multiple personality Germans

      Does it fit with what’s played in my area? If your potential opponents all have Late War, Normandy themed armies, your Mid War,AfrikaKorps force is not going to be a good fit. Filling a gap in the ranks can be a good idea. If your area is full to the brim with German armies, some historical opposition will provide interest and probably help you get games.
You must learn ze rules , Hans!
      Morphability. Not the little plasticine man from the kids TV programme, but how much bang for your buck can you get out of the same figures? For example, German Grenadiers can be used in a wide variety of infantry and mechanised companies across all periods of the war, without the need for many specialised figures. My beloved British Airborne, however, are distinctively British Airborne, and can only be used in a few specific lists. My Shermans on the other hand have masqueraded as Brits, Canadians and Americans, and have fought in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. And although I don’t have a regular British Rifle Company, my 25 pounders can be used with all of my British/Commonwealth forces, making them highly versatile and great value for money/painting time. Period crossover is the Siamese twin of morphability.

Tiger tank, coz everyone likes a Tiger! Suits you Sir!

      Lots of equipment was used for long periods of the war, and with a bit of plotting and planning only a few additions can be required to turn a Mid War force into its Late War equivalent.

Russian strelkovy horde, thanks to WWPD
      Will I get it finished? Lots of people like the idea of a Soviet infantry horde. Not many people like 500 metal Ivans staring them down across the painting table. This quirk of human nature has let me pick up a lot of half-finished figures on the cheap. Once you’ve decided on a force to build, work out a few lists and the essential platoons. Early and Mid War games are typically 1500pts a side, Late War around 1750pts. Look at how many figures you’re going to have to paint and be realistic. Starting with a tank force will let you get into the game quicker. Painting the figures you’ll need to field a 600pt company will give you something you can play games with while you work on the rest (600pts is a popular level for small, quick games on a 4’x4’ table).

We're supposed to be saving who?
      Do I like it? Don’t overlook this one! Sometimes the only reason you need to collect an army is because you want to. Everyone has their favourite battles, divisions or heroic individuals. Lots of people have family connections to certain units or places. Maybe you’ve just seen Saving Private Ryan too many times, or have a penchant for funny hats! If your chosen force is something that gets you excited then you’re going to get more enjoyment from it. 

One day you too could be the Master

Right, enough waffling on for one day. Next time I’ll offer my observations on the various nations available in FoW and some of their strengths and weaknesses in the game (perceived and actual).



  1. In my 'schizophrenic' defense - may I just point out that my Speer-like assembly of my varied German Wehrmacht forces, has not been about a quest of finding that 'killer' tounament army, rather it gives me a chance of fielding a wide variety of forces for when I finally get round to opening my Firestorm Bagration set! (That's my excuse and I am sticking to it!)
    That, and I just enjoy collecting and painting these troops! Far quicker to do too, thanks to sprays, washes and drybrushing techniques, than painting my other gaming passions of 28mm scale figures!

    Nice article Paul, well done.


  2. Great post, I love the idea of a russian mass of troops. I've already got 150 or so Strelkovy to assemble over the holidays.

    1. Excellent, we looking forward to seeing your troops on the table :-)