Flames of War - Great War Battle Report
Battlefront have recently re-released their First World War game Great War, and I thought this would be a fine opportunity to kick start the blog again with a battle report. I have had Flames of War miniatures for the First World War for nearly five years, and recently finished a French army, so it didn't take us long to decide a First World War game was in order and pull together 200pts each. There was a mixed force of Germans, including regulars, reserve troops and elite Stoss assault units, facing off against an Anglo-French force which was supported by some powerful artillery.
Much of our group's historical wargaming is now in 15mm, and I've been doing a lot of commission painting for friends so I was particularly pleased at being able to try out this campaign. We've done a fair bit of tactical WW1 gaming with Trench Raiders, and our Lys River campaign in 6mm covered the operational side of things, so this is a nice company-level game for us to try. Our group has played most of the Flames of War series, including Vietnam and Team Yankee and I'm currently working on a Soviet tank brigade for the WW2 version of the game.
|As you can see, this is something we take very seriously.|
So, yesterday we set up a fairly balanced trench board which included some buildings, woods, fields and fences as well as the blasted wastes of No Man's Land. With tea and coffee in full flow and an unhealthy supply of bacon sandwiches, we passed an excellent and long overdue game. True to form we had plenty of hats, jackets and guns to make the whole thing a little bit more... immersive. There were some odd looks from overtaking cars as I was driving down to this game.
We decided to use a larger board than the 4' x 4' laid down in the book, purely because we had very large forces and wanted to leave room for some manoeuvre and tactical creativity.
The GameWe played eight turns, in a scenario where each side had to leave their trenches and capture an objective on the opponent's table half. One side would win when they began a turn (after Turn 6) holding their objective.
Each side had a balanced force of infantry of varying quality, artillery, machine guns and mortars. The Germans had two A7V tanks, while the Allies had only one Whippet.
|Deployment. One unit began the game on patrol in No Man's Land, and the fighting would revolve around the two objectives. The Germans had to capture Low Wood on the left, the French were trying to seize the huge Mine Crater on the right.|
Overall it couldn't have been more evenly-matched. The French and British were rather bolder and made some costly frontal attacks, suffering far heavier casualties, but in the end the section holding the mine crater just couldn't be driven off and inched it over the line for the Allies.
|A battery of quick-firing 75mm guns rushes on from the rear. These excellent field guns have rate of fire bonuses compared to their German and British equivalents. They made short work of two rampaging A7Vs, firing over open sights.|
|The French and British make a push on Low Wood, trying to keep the objective out of German hands. The French section was carelessly exposed to whithering machine gun fire, and a powerful attack by two Stoss platoons wiped out the attack.|
|The Mine Crater. As has been said, both sides were pinned for most of the game and the fighting was largely a stalemate. However the French hung on long enough for a British section to push through and secure the objective.|
|The whole board. You can see a British column of reinforcements moving up from the edge of the board; this would prove the crucial fresh unit which would go on to secure the objective and win the game.|
|A shot from early on in the game, when a rampaging Stoss platoon was cut down by a determined counterattack.|
|Of course, the presence of a Whippet tank contributed to its success.|
|The German Hauptmann looks on from his trench.|
|While the Stoss platoon's attack lasted it was devastating - in particular their flamethrower assaults.|
|The German trenches. Troops in trenches are extremely difficult to dislodge and kill, although it's quite possible to pin them down with artillery and machine gun fire.|
|The German attack on the trench was successful at first, but soon lost momentum.|
|Troops eyeing one another across the blasted waste of No Man's Land.|
|The Germans looking out over the Mine Crater.|
|The German artillery struggled to inflict heavy casualties with its small batteries, although since even non-fatal artillery hits automatically pin their targets, they did an excellent job of pinning large parts of the Allied force.|
|This section had the rather unglamorous and unenviable task of sitting on the objective and being shot at for most of the game, and it inflicted few casualties - but both sides agreed it was the lynchpin of the Allied victory.|
|Low Wood was the scene of some vicious fighting, with the objective changing hands several times.|
What an excellent game!
Both sides had tremendous fun and learned some costly lessons about WW1 tactics. Some were obvious - machine guns are deadly to troops in the open, for instance. But we also found the game revolved around momentum and speed, more so than any other Flames of War game. In short, it was easy to pin and difficult to kill. Even successful attacks were quickly bogged down, and even concentrated machine gun fire was insufficient to drive off dug-in troops. Tanks also had their limitations, and artillery was essential and certainly lived up to its name as the God of War.
All in all, this was an excellent play through of some great rules which really captured the feel of the period. We all agreed that there would be plenty more WW1 games to come, and left with plans to build an extensive trench network which would cover a 20' x 8' board...