Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Flames of War? On the Cheap? I Say!!

Flames of War or FOW, is currently the fastest growing war-game worldwide. 

t has just revised its rules and released FOW 3rd Edition to a fair bit of welcome from its fans.  So, now is a good time to pick up your battle kit and wage 15mm war like nobodies business.

However, unlike other popular game systems you are not limited in your choice of miniature supplier.  Of course, there is the 'official' FOW miniature company, but that is only a starting point.

The idea behind this article is to highlight what choices you have to make before you play FOW, and to spotlight the options available in an effort to keep the cost down. 

What nation and period? 
The first decision you have to make is what nation you want to use. The main choices are 
  • Britain
  • the Soviet Union
  • Germany or 
  • the USA. 
Obviously you are not limited to just these 4 options, you can re-enact the Polish defence of Warsaw in 1939 if you wish, but they give you scope to build a collection capable of covering the vast majority of the campaigns fought in or around Europe.

This leads on to the second question you have to answer: 

What period do I like?
Here you are spoilt for choice, and there is more to be covered. To date FOW covers the German invasions of Poland, France and the Low Countries, the Balkan states (including Greece and Crete), the early and mid periods of the Desert War, the Eastern front from 1942 to early 1945, and the Allied invasion of Normandy and the drive to Germany up to September 1944. 

These two decisions will have a direct impact on how expensive the hobby will be. 

Where to start? 
Your initial outlay will have to be either the starter set (currently unsure if a new one will be available for 3rd Edition), or the hardback rulebook.  The new 3rd Edition rule book has plenty of advice for the new player on building and painting an army. 

Next, you need an intelligence handbook, a codex by another name. These are period specific, and give you historic background on the major forces involved. The army lists included give you plenty of options from infantry based to reconnaissance only armies. Again, this hobby allows you more scope than many other systems when it comes to building your army. 

As the lists are historically accurate, you can build a specific unit from WWII and a sizeable collection which lets you field more than one list type at a time. These books can be expensive, around £30.00 in some cases, but I would recommend searching Amazon first.  Also check out FOW forums and the main website at Flames of War

Recruiting to your ranks. 
Before we look at what options are available, I would recommend having an army list to build to. Around 2000 points would be best to start with, as most games range from 1500 to 2000 points. I’ll discuss 5 companies in this section, and include links to the respective websites where possible. 

From the Battlefront 
Flames of War should be your first point of call. The website shows the complete range of products, from dice sets to box sets, and contains many interesting articles. The forum is a good place for beginners to get great ideas for their armies, and occasionally good advice as well.

This will give you a base price for most of the models you will need. These products are available from a number of websites at a discounted price. Currently, two of them Wayland Games and  Maelstrom Games are doing an offer for the new FOW rulebook and normally have a decent discount on Battlefront products.

Although buying the “genuine” models can be an expensive option, Battlefront products have a lot to recommend them. The quality of the models is superb and they produce almost every option currently mentioned in the intelligence handbooks, in some cases in box sets which give your either a complete infantry company or battery of artillery.

Forged in other factories 
Forged in Battle, Skytrex and Peter Pig are three companies who, while they don't have as large a range of products as Battlefront, do produce some kits that are unavailable elsewhere. They also offer good variation to add some individuality to your force. Check out the links below, and for Forged in Battle, check them out at either Wayland or Maelstrom Games.  
Not really much to say about these products, they are good quality and look as good on the table as a Battlefront equivalent. There are some problems with Forged in Battle, for example the vehicles are smaller than other 15mm models available, and the infantry come without bases. 

The Plastic option 
There are currently two choices here, Zvedza and the Plastic Soldier Company.  Both are available from the same site, and are readily available elsewhere on-line. The Zvedza range is superb for early war Germans and Soviet tanks, and I would highly recommend them. Not only are they very detailed and true to scale, they are very cheap and they produce aircraft for the Germans and Soviets. The only downside is that the range is currently very small. But there are plans to release British and late war Eastern front ranges soon. Rumour has it that Revel are planning on releasing 1:144th scale aircraft this year. This is the perfect scale for FOW, and they plan a large range covering all the major nations. 

The Plastic Soldier Company (PSC), is a new company which is constantly producing new kits, and is without doubt the best thing to happen in 15mm WWII gaming in years. Being the owner of a large number of their models, and regular opponent of the rest of their range, I have to recommend them to anyone thinking of starting this hobby. They produce highly detailed, easy to build kits in boxes of 5, with single models now available. This is great value as each box provides enough for a complete unit in the game. The range gives you the mainstay tanks for each of the four major nations, from PIIIs to T-34s, with the German Panther available very shortly. Their website has an extensive list of forthcoming products, including Tigers. 

There are some problems with the PSC though. The range currently covers 1942 to 1944, and is dominated by German kits so far. Ordering their products, either direct from them or from any other retailer, can be a slow process and availability is also a problem. However, the biggest problem in my opinion, is their infantry. If you buy no other infantry they are perfect for generic troops, especially when coupled to some of the upcoming kits. Unfortunately, they don’t make specialist troops like engineers or paratroopers, and they don’t look right when fielded alongside the metal versions offered by the other companies. But when all is said and done, if you plan on playing FOW, you’ll be hard pressed NOT to have some PSC models in your army. 

Debrief
As a hobby FOW can be done reasonably cheaply, but only with serious limitations. However, with the growing number of high quality plastic kits available, and the planned new releases, the cost of collecting a great looking large force will decrease. 

Take my collection for example. My 3000 point early war German Panzer company is 90% plastic, while my 5000 point mid/late war SS force is 80% metal and resin. Flames of War is not the most expensive wargame out there, but with a bit of effort you can save yourself a lot of money. 

To this end I have some tips which may be helpful. Do your research. Find the nation/period/force you want Buy the rules and intelligence handbooks first. Design your army before you buy anything Shop around before you buy.
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James Owens plays with little toy WWII soldiers and tanks along with his comrades in the Causeway Giants Gaming club - Website ¦ Facebook Group ¦ Facebook Page.  They are currently obsessed with Flames of War.
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