Flames of War
Like the Sherman, the casting quality is outstanding with almost no flash and only minor seam lines. The halftrack has about as many parts as the Sherman but seems less fiddly to assemble. There is a bit of room in the nose (engine area) for some lead weight although we simply squished a couple sinkers and glued them to the bottom of the hull between the tracks. This worked well and you can’t see them. If you want to use the crew figures you will need to put them in before you glue the hull together. There are five troop figures included with a mix of mid and late war uniforms plus some nice stowage. Also included are the various machine guns. These are very nice as well but are of scale size. The rear mounted MG would not last more than a minute in actual play before getting snapped off. Of course the metal equivalents are not much better but we do wish PSC would beef these up just a tad.
Best of all the Plastic Soldier Company SdKfz 251D scales almost perfectly with the Battlefront 15mm model. It is even a better match than the Sherman. In fact, for all practical purposes, they are identical in size. As you can see from the accompanying photos they would mix just fine in a unit. Also note that the details on the PSC model are extremely crisp and clean.
Also see the WWPD review of the halftracks.
The Plastic Soldier Company has made quite a splash in the wargaming community with its new line of plastic miniatures. They are producing a line of excellent vehicles, figures and guns in 15mm, 28mm, and 1/72 scale. For us the first question we had was, ‘How do they compare to Battlefront’s vehicles?’ We liked the Forged in Battle line but it did not scale very well with Battlefront and of course were still resin and metal. Having all plastic miniatures not only saves a bit of money but they are far easier to work with as well.
We grabbed a few boxes of the PSC 15mm minis to see for ourselves. The plastic casting quality is outstanding with almost no flash and only minor mold lines on certain parts. In the case of the Sherman, and all of the other tanks released so far, the track assemblies are in four pieces per side including: The main bogey assembly, a final drive sprocket and top and bottom track pieces. This is as finicky to assemble as it sounds. With the Sherman the track halves fit well and just a tiny bit of putty was used to fill the seam in the tracks but you could probably even skip this without worry. Why PSC did not produce single piece track assemblies like Battlefront has is a mystery. But compared to the work needed for BF metal tracks the PSC Sherman is much easier to work with. Compared to a BF tank with plastic tracks it is probably more work. But not having to worry about the resin is nice and the detail on the PSC Sherman is extremely crisp. Others have commented that the plastic tanks are simply too light once finished and we can see where they could move around on the table a bit simply because they lack mass. We simply glued a couple lead fishing sinkers in ours to give them some heft. Overall the Plastic Soldier Company Sherman is of excellent quality and assembly time is just fine but could certainly be improved in the future with different design. You can also see a look at the MKIV kit assembly.
We are happy to report that the Plastic Soldier Company Shermans scale very well with the Battlefront vehicles. As you can see from the accompanying photos the PSC Sherman is a few millimeters shorter in length at the back deck and maybe 1 mm shorter in height. But unless the two miniatures are placed directly side-by-side it is almost impossible to notice the difference. Checking reference photos against the back deck on the PSC Sherman it does in fact look a touch short or the rear idler wheel is a bit far out. But again, from a practical standpoint you really can’t tell the difference. With luck we hope this size comparison will apply for the other vehicles as well.
The 15mm German infantry are also very well cast with a nice variety of poses. They are a bit slighter (more realistic) in build but still look ok with the Battlefront figures but we doubt you would want to mix them on the same stand. The biggest problem is that the PSC heads are a lot smaller than the Battlefront heads. Many think BF figure heads are too large but the PSC heads almost seem too small. They almost seem scaled properly as a head but not as a head wearing a helmet. So with the infantry which to choose is going to come down to personal preference. Our guess is those assembling large infantry forces may opt for PSC but some folks will certainly prefer the character of the BF figures.
For gamers this is a real win as you now have some choices. If you do prefer plastic you can happily use the PSC products where possible. We recommend you give them a look for yourself.
Also see our look at the PSC SdKfz 251D Halftrack.
The gents over at the WWPD Podcast now have an excellent compilation of their n00b zone segments. They compiled over an hour of segments from seven shows and Steve adds in some nice new additional commentary and clarifications between segments. The noob zone covers tricky rules issues and basic tactics that newcomers and even veterans to FoW often get wrong. Name aside, this compilation is valuable to the new Flames of War player and veteran alike. The issues covered come directly from the experience of the WWPD crew playing lots of other FoW gamers in competitive games. For only $2.50 this is the best FoW value you can get. Recommended.
And now you can have twice the fun with the new n00b zone compilation 2.
If you are a WW2 miniatures gamer who has ever tried to battle across the fields of Normandy you know you can never have enough bocage. A while back we looked at the Miniature Building Authority Bocage terrain pieces but we needed more. We are huge fans of the WWPD podcast and heard them talk about Luke’s bocage on one of the shows. After hearing about him selling some at a convention we contacted him about getting some for ourselves.
Please be aware that Luke makes his bocage on the side for some extra fun and profit not as a fulltime business. Thus we will leave the details of particular pricing/ordering/composition to him as he may need to adjust them based on circumstances. But basically you simply ask Luke for as many feet of bocage as you wish. The more you buy the more corner pieces, paths, and trees he will throw in. The basic straight sections come in 6″ and 12″ lengths. The stuff is very impressive and well made. Its base is of solid backer board and the stones are a very hard material. On top of that he adds nice flock and foliage (what looks very much like Woodland Scenics Bushes material). Luke’s bocage will easily stand up to repeated play and transport and looks great on the table.
The only possible small negative to Luke’s bocage is that it can perhaps be considered a bit short. If you desire the stereotypical tall bocage of around 10-15 feet in height then please be aware Luke’s is closer to 5-8 feet in scale height. Luke likes the look of the rock and prefers his bocage to represent the average thick barriers found across Normandy rather than specifically the tall bocage. As a result, his bocage will not hide a 15mm tank but will put it hull down. This of course has advantages and disadvantages in actual play. Those who want truly high bocage will be disappointed but the lower height does make tight corridors easy to get at and it is a simple matter to just play the terrain as if it was full height. Additionally, it is easy for one to add more foliage and/or trees to make it higher. Luke may even make it higher for you if you ask him.
All in all Luke’s bocage is great stuff and a great value. If you would like to get some for yourself just contact Luke Melia at Luke [at] whatwouldpattondo [dot] net.
Battlefront has thrown us a few nice surprises with their new Flames of War Vietnam series. First was bringing the line back at all and then there was the addition of plastic rotors for the helicopters.
Most recently we discovered that the M113 line of vehicles are not just solid blocks of resin. The cargo space of the M113 is actually open and detailed appropriately. The top deck and back ramp are metal castings. Of course there are pluses and minuses to this approach. The downsides are that any set of Battlefront’s metal castings often have some minor defects. The parts we have seen are very nice but there were a few minor issues. Another issue of course is this design creates more assembly work and can be a bit fiddly. On the positive side though you get more modeling options and those who like to do detail can really go crazy. Being able to have the rear ramp open should look especially nice on the mortar tracks.
Note: As of mid-2013 Battlefront’s M113 series of vehicle miniatures are now all plastic and very well done.
Battlefront’s full entry into Vietnam has officially begun with their release of Wargames Illustrated Issue 282 and the included 40-page Tropic Lightning: Armoured and Airborne Combat in Vietnam 1965-1971 army book.
WI Issue 282 itself includes some nice material including a quick history of the Vietnam War with a look at the forces covered by the game, a battle report, a look at U.S. tracks and helicopters, and lastly a painting and markings guide.
But the main attraction of course is Tropic Lightning. TL includes the army lists for U.S. and PAVN forces as well as the rules changes/additions from WW2 FoW and four missions. The U.S. forces of course have all the really fun toys including M-48 tanks, UH-1 Cobra gunships and a whole lot more. The only glaring omission is the OH-6 Loach helicopter. Both armored and airmobile forces are covered for the U.S.. The included U.S. lists are,
- Tank Company -M-48 heavy
- Armoured Cavalry Troop -ACAV heavy
- Rifle Company (Mech) -Troop heavy in M-113s
- Blackhourse Cavalry Troop -M-113s and M-48s with M-109 support artillery
- Rifle Company (Airmobile) -Troops in helicopters
PAVN forces cover the Tiêu Doàn Bô Binh infantry battalion. This is the only force list on the PAVN side and variety comes from simply choosing among the various supporting forces. These include recoilless guns, mortars, anti-aircraft MGs, and sappers. Booby traps, bunkers and minefields also play a big role on the PAVN side.
The army specific rules for each side only take up a couple of pages each as well as a couple of pages for helicopter rules and booby traps. The only thing that seems to be missing is fast mover strikes (fixed-wing CAS) but one could argue those are out of scale for the game. Thus seasoned Flames of War players will be able to get going with a minimum of work.
There are only four missions included,
- Hot LZ -An assault landing into a contested landing zone
- Indian Country -Where cavalry units are ambushed en route to a pick-up
- Contact! Contact! -Where a U.S. patrol stumbles upon a PAVN force prepared to stand and fight
- Big Bang -A Vietnamese attack on a temporary U.S. Fire Support Base
Battlefront included the wave one model release schedule in WI282 (and they are now on the BF website). Basically the month of April 2011 will see all of the initial models released. It will be interesting to see if anything new gets produced later this year although, besides the OH-6, we are not sure what they might release besides the M-109 and the M114A1, which are the only units in the book not listed for release, and perhaps U.S. supply trucks. Historically, the U.S. did have an odd selection of vehicles supporting supply convoys.
The Radio Free Battlefront Episode 9 podcast has a great overview of Tropic Lightning by Evan, the game’s designer.
Also see Flames of War — M113 Series.
If you are interested in reading more on armor/cav and airmobile operations in Vietnam check out,
- A Hundred Miles of Bad Road
- Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam
- Praying for Slack
- Tank Sergeant
- To the Limit: An Air Cav Huey Pilot in Vietnam
- We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
- The First Cav in Vietnam
- 1st Air Cavalry In Vietnam: The ‘First Team
- Low Level Hell
Also see Flames of War Vietnam — Is Back?!
The new AT bunker from Battlefront is now available for your Flames of War and other 15mm WW2 battles. The 5cm KwK Nest is direct order only. It is a rather basic model. The gun is in three metal parts and the bunker itself is two large resin pieces. The casting is all typical Battlefront quality. The only minor issue is that the top and bottom halves of the bunker did not fit perfectly together and you will need to file them a tad. But the fit is very close so it just depends how picky you want to be.
Whether you want to glue the two bunker halves together or not is a question. There is enough room inside to place a few crew figures but not enough for a stand. The only reason to not glue them would seem to be if you were worried about the gun knocking loose. But otherwise it might look better to just glue it together and fill the seam.
Overall it is a nice looking piece. Battlefront has a nice article on detailing the bunker (with a part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5) if you want to take it to the next level. Battlefront also has a nice article on using bunkers and fortifications in Flames of War.
Also see New Flames of War Fortifications.
If you would like to read more on German fortifications in WW2 check out,
- Fortress Third Reich: German Fortifications and Defense Systems in World War II
- German Field Fortifications 1939-45 (Fortress)Military Strategy History Books)