28 March 2017

Project ACW Update - 28 March

What's that Johnny Reb? You ain't heard a peep from us Yankees in a while? Well, allow me to indulge you.

While a lot of our time of late here at Behind Enemy Lines HQ has been focused on our Flames of War V4 coverage and reviews, I've been studiously churning through the mountain of plastic and lead which makes up my 28mm ACW Union force and actually managing to get a couple of units finished off.

It looks like we've settled on 24 man units for our games and I understand that's reasonably standard for Black Powder so by that rationale I've got 2 full units based and ready to go.

I like the look of having two flags in the unit, especially when they're massing! All my models are painted in reasonably generic Union uniform. I hadn't planned on replicating any specific historical units at this stage to its seas of blue for me at the moment.

The models are mainly Perry plastics but there are also a number of (possibly) Peter Pig models thrown in as well for some variety. I do have a bunch of Dixon miniatures which I'm planning on using as I go.

And because man cannot survive painting infantry alone, I treated myself to a couple of cavalry models and a General for some painting variety...although in saying that, it's still seas of blue!

Again, the plastic cavalry are Perry plastics and the General is metal, also from Perry.

And lastly, what 19th century ACW would be complete without a cabin...

So there you have it. Definitely making progress but still a ways away from getting a full force ready for a game. Good things come to those who wait....

On the table at the moment, I'm testing my scheme for the Zouaves so hopefully the next update will see a couple of bases of those colourful gents ready for show!

23 March 2017

Flames of War V4 - Initial Verdict

- with Greg

So, Flames of War version 4 has been out for a couple of weeks now and if you've visited the Behind Enemy Lines YouTube channel, you'll have seen that Dan and I managed to get a LW game filmed and uploaded for you to have a gander at. If not, well here it is:

We're definitely going to get some mroe games under out belts especially with the tournament scene here in New Zealand already starting to embrace V4. So, what are my initial thoughts on V4...

1. It's definitely faster in playing. Despite having new movement orders and other changes, the game itself actually moves faster than it did previously in my opinion. Once you come to grips with how the changes themselves fit into what you're doing on a tactical level, they actually add another level of strategy to the game.

2. It's still Flames of War! Yep, believe it or not, it still plays like Flames of War just with a couple of bolted on extras to enhance what was already a great gaming experience.

3. It is NOT dumbed down; far from it in fact. As mentioned in point 2, the addition of the new movement orders actually add another strategic level to the game which you need to consider. Should you risk a Blitz move with your Trained troops knowing that if you succeed you could be in close range and still have full ROF...but if you fail, it's going to be harder for you to shoot your enemy.

4. Formation morale seems more realistic to me. I'm not 100% sure how to explain this one effectively but with the new order of operations allowing you to attempt to remount tanks before you check to see if they're in "Good Spirits" is a more logical order in which to do things. The higher level of casualties required to even consider making a test removes the emphasis on die rolls to break troops and puts it back on you and your opponent to make sure enough damage is dealt to ensure they're not coming back.

5. Hit allocation by the shooter is a no brainer! You choose the most likely strategic targets (front ranks or bazookas or whatever) for the option you're looking at and your opponent can see if, in the heat of battle, you were good enough.

6. Artillery and Air are more in line with their historical use. Using Artillery to move infantry from foxholes instead of killing tanks just makes sense. Aircraft being a finite resource is also a fantastic change. It means you have to be selective in what you target rather than being blase and going after whatever you can.

Final Thought: There was a lot of trepidation surrounding the changes that were being presented in V4. I hope that now players have had an opportunity to get stuck in and use the new rules "in anger" they've had some of their fears allayed. At it's core, it really is still the same game you know and love just with some of the ballast that was slowing us down removed.

I think we'll be looking at a couple more LW games as well as some EW action to round out the new V4 for these periods. From there, we're then gonna branch into some MW fun and games using the new full V4 ruleset, so keep an eye out for those!

09 March 2017

Flames of War V4 - Review: Desert Rats

-with Greg

The second release for intel briefings for the new MW rules covers the British forces in Africa looking closely at some of the units which took part in both Gazala and both battles of El Alamein. The volume also provides you with some of the background information on the formation of the Desert Rats and the battles themselves.

(For the record, yes I'm well aware there are no Sherman's in the book and no, I don't know why there aren't given the German's have access to Tigers.)

Featured in Desert Rats you're going to have the opportunity to field a few different formations drawn from the ranks of the 8th Army eventually under the commander of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery (I still hear Gene Hackman's Polish accent from A Bridge Too Far every time I type that).

Let's take a quick look at them.

The Royal Scots Greys - Grant Armoured Squadron

The heavy Grant tank (called the General Lee by the US Forces) was eagerly received by the British troops. The hull-mounted 75mm gun was more than a match for the German armour as well as protection in the form of its own heavy armour. 

To field your Grant Squadron, you must take your Squadron HQ comprising either 2 or 3 Grants. From there, you must have a least 1 Grant Troop with 3 Grants and you also must make a second compulsory choice of either another Grant Troop or either a Crusader or Honey Troop. There is also a 3rd optional slot for yet another Grant Troop meaning that if you fill out the formation, you're strolling into battle with 12 Grants....something not to be sniffed at by any German opponent!

The County of London Yeomanry - Crusader Armoured Squadron

The British Cruiser tanks were a mainstay of the British armoured forces. In the desert, three different versions of the Crusader tank were available for use. The Crusader II came armed with a 2 Pdr gun which, while great for knocking out armoured targets struggled with taking out infantry. The Crusader CS mounted a 3" gun which could dig out any infantry allowing the other tanks to run over them. The Crusader III mounted an even more powerful 6 Pdr gun but again carried very limited HE ammunition.

To field your Crusader Armoured Squadron, you again must take a Crusader HQ. This can consist of either 2 Crusader II and 2 Crusader CS tanks or you have the option of taking 1 Crusader II for a couple less points.

Again, you have a couple of compulsory choices you need to make. You must field at least 1 Crusader Troop and this can be either a Crusader II Troop with 3 Crusader II tanks or you can field a mixed Troop with both Crusader II and Crusader III tanks in combination. From there, you must take either another Crusader Troop or a Grant Troop to round out your compulsory choices. From there, you have 3 further slots which can be filled by another Crusader Troop each.

The 8th Hussars - Honey Armoured Squadron

As well as receiving the American Grant, the British also got the lighter Stuart which the re-monickered the Honey. This light tank was excellent a getting into the German flanks and wreaking havoc with its 37mm main gun.

Your HQ Troop will consist of either 3 or 4 Honeys depending on how many points you want to spend. From there, as always, your compulsory choices are made as follows.

You must take at least 1 Honey Troop of 3 Honeys. Your second choice can again be another Honey Troop or you can give them some heavy support in the form of some Grants. There are then 2 further slots for 2 more Honey Troops should you want them. With this formation and no support options, you could have access to 15 Honey tanks to really mess with the German lines!

The Rifle Brigade - Motor Platoon

And finally, we have the good old infantry! Motor Company's can really pack in quite a lot of kit if you decide to add one of the to your formation choices.

HQ here consists of 2 SMLE Rifle teams. No mess, no fuss.

From there, you've got to get the core. So, you must have at least 1 Motor Platoon which can be fielded at full strength with 4 Bren Gun teams, a Boys Anti-tank Rifle team and a 2" Mortar team or you can field it with only 3 Bren teams.

You must also field at least one Universal Carrier Patrol with 3 Carriers in it. You do have the option of upgrading them to carry a Boys AT Rifle as well. These guys are perfect for adding fire to your motor platoon or even protecting their flanks.

Your last compulsory choice is then either another Motor Platoon or you can take a 6 Pdr Anti Tank platoon with between 2 and 4 6 Pdr guns. While these aren't so good for hitting charging infantry if any enemy tanks stray too close, you can really mess up their advance.

Now, moving to your optional slots you can choose to field up to 2 more Carrier Patrols or another 6 Pdr Platoon. You also have slots for both a Vickers MMG Platoon or a 3" Mortar Section. 

The Vickers comes with either 2 or 4 MMG teams and while they can lay down a wall of fire to cover your infantry, they can also bombard enemy positions to allow the Motor Platoons the chance to get stuck in. An excellent dual-purpose choice.

The 3" Mortar section allows you a little more firepower to hit enemy positions with as well as the ability to lay down a concealing smoke screen for your advance.

Lets take a look at your support options now.

25 Pdr Field Troop: The good old QF 25 Pdr is still here to offer the big bangs for the British advance. You can choose to have either 2 or 4 guns in your battery. With a reasonable AT value they also can serve a dual-purpose role if required.

17 Prd Anti-tank Troop: Dubbed the 'Pheasant', the massive 17 Pdr AT gun was mounted on the 25 Pdr chassis to get them into action. With its massive AT, it can take out even the heaviest German tank!

Humber Armoured Car Troop: Scouting ahead of the advance, the quick and nimble Humber was well armed and able to deal with enemy scouts as well as the 15mm Besa MG can cut through lightly armoured enemies.

Bofors Light AA Troop: To protect the force from the harassment of the Stuka, the British employed the 40mm Bofors AA Gun to distract the Luftwaffe from their task. You'll be able to get either 3 or 6 guns here.

Hurricane Tank-Busting Flight: Mounting a pair of Vickers S Guns in the wings, the 40mm shell they fired would rip through the side armour of the German panzers. 

Right guys, well there you have it! There is a lot of variety to be had here and by taking a couple of formations you really get a complete combined arms force to take the Germans on with. As I already have a German force, I'm really considering getting a British force under way to use as I venture back into MW!

Thanks for reading team!


08 March 2017

Flames of War V4 - Review: Afrika Korps

- with Greg

First up in our force briefing reviews is the new book for the Afrika Korps. Now, the AK has a special place in my heart. I remember very vividly my old man painting 1/72 scale AK figures and vehicles in the late 80's for use on the tabletop battlefield.

My first foray into Flames of War was also with a German desert force, but I went for the FJ instead of the AK but my heart was still there.

So, with the new version hitting the world in the next couple of days, I thought I'd take a look at what the new intel briefing holds for us...

So Afrika Korps gives you the option to field three different formations.

Panzer III Tank Company

For this formation, you're going to have to field a Panzer III HQ consisting of 1-2 Pz III in either the short 5cm or the 7.5cm versions or the uparmoured version (armed with the long 5cm gun) with varying point costs as a result.

From there, you can either field 2 Panzer III tank platoons (with the same variations as the HQ) or a single Pz III platoon with a Pz IV platoon as well. These are your compulsory choices but you can also add up to 2 additional Pz III platoons and an Pz II platoon in your formation to bulk it out a little. With the new plastic Pz III and Pz IV models being released, this one could be a heap of fun and very cost effective to get on the table.

Panzer IV Tank Company

Much like its lighter cousins, there is a heap of choice with the Pz IV Company. Once again, you must take a Pz IV HQ with 1 or 2 Pz IV short 7.5cm but these can be upgraded to the long 7.5cm gun for additional points.

You must take at least 2 Panzer IV platoons consisting of 2 - 4 Pz IV short 7.5cm in each. Again, you can upgrade them to the long 7.5 as well. Once these are bought, if you want to bolster your formation, you can add an additional Pz IV platoon and also a Pz II platoon.

Afrika Rifle Company

Lastly, the ever important Rifle Company! So, for the Afrika Rifle Company, you're required to take your HQ unit which consists of 2 SMG teams. From there, you once again have some compulsory platoons.

You must take 2 Afrika Rifle platoons which you can run as short with only 3 x MG34 teams and an Anti-tank rifle team or as a full platoon with 4 x MG34 teams and the ATR. You also have the option of adding a little more heavy support in the form of an HMG team and a mortar team for a few additional points.

As well as the Rifle platoons, you must also have a 5cm Tank Hunter Platoon in your formation. You can field this with either 2 or 3 PaK38 guns.

Once you've bought these, once again you can bolster your ranks with another Afrika Rifle Platoon, 2 more Tank Hunter Platoons or a Light AA Platoon. Here, you get to field the Sd Kfz 10/4 with a 2cm AA gun mounted on it. You can have 2 - 4 of these in the platoon.

Now, because the rules have changed for V4, you can choose to have more than one of these formations in your force, meaning you could have both an Afrika Rifle Company and a Panzer III Company alongside each other, which is great for combined arms!

Support Options

Backing up your formations are your support platoons. And boy, do you have some choices to make! You can choose one of each from the following:

Tiger Heavy Tank Platoon: The massive Tiger showed up in Tunisia much to the dismay of allied tankers. These beasts are going to cost you a pretty penny though and can be fielded as a single tank or up to 2 tanks, if you have the points!

Marder (7.62cm) Tank Hunter Platoon: 2 - 4 of the Panzer 38(t) chassis-mounted AT guns are available to you. While lightly armoured, they pack a punch!

8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon: The fabled 88, you can get 1 - 4 of these tank killers as AT support for your Afrika platoons. They are able to take out even the most heavily armoured British tanks at long range.

Sd Kfz 221 & 222 Light Scout Troop: The Germans learned quickly that being able to scout ahead and spy on the British positions would be invaluable. The nimble 221 and 222 scout cars were perfect for the role.

Sd Kfz 231 Heavy Scout Troop: And sometimes, you just want something a little heavier to scout in! And that's where the mighty 231 8-wheeler comes in!

10.5cm Artillery Battery: Digging out the dug-in British positions required serious artillery support and the Afrika Korps has that in the massive 10.5cm gun! You can field a 2 or 4 gun battery here.

15cm (sf) Lorraine Schlepper Battery: And if you need a little more firepower, well call on Lorraine! The massive 15cm gun certainly packs a punch!

Ju 87 Stuka: What Afrika force wouldn't be complete with the mighty Stuka screaming in to drop death on the British forces?!

So there we have it! While there aren't all the choices in terms of formations as yet, these are coming in the future. What you do have here in Afrika Korps is a great start for a journey into the desert!

Next up, we'll be having a look at Desert Rats, but until then....