Friday 29 April 2011

OMG! Flames of War - Firestorm Style

"This will be a tale to tell your grandchildren - and mightily bored they'll be!"

OMG - Operation Market Garden - is without a doubt one of my favourite campaigns of WW2. For me - it had everything - a bold plan, elite troops on both sides, heroic attacks and dogged defence, colourful personalities, German troops ranging in quality from veteran paratroopers to training troops, several very good campaign histories and even a film that was not too bad! Over the years I have gamed this operation using several different boardgames ranging greatly in size and scope from a several thousand counter version down to a little over a hundred or so. These games have always been tense and exciting affairs and true to history, invariably the 1st Airborne is usually overwhelmed as 30 Corps fails to make the all-important breakthrough.

Flames of War is a WW2 gaming system designed for use with their extensive range of 15mm figures and equipment and in addition to the rulebook there are loads of supplements covering many different forces and campaigns. I should point out that I have not used their rules at all although the 15mm kit appears to be of a very high standard. The company seems to work in a similar fashion to Games Workshop and I suppose for that reason alone I have tended to steer clear of it which is probably doing it a great injustice! I am not averse to using GW kit but I find the whole 'Games Workshop Hobby' idea a little overpowering and can see many similarities in the way FOW is evolving. Enough of my cynical rambling though and on with the review in hand!

Flames of War have released two boardgames in a series described as Firestorm (I believe) - the first of which covered Operation Bagration in 1944 (the 'Destruction of Army Group Centre') and the second covering Operation Market Garden. Initially I was under the mistaken impression that these games were in fact campaign kits to use with the appropriate range of figures but happily this is not the case. They are in fact very good standalone boardgames that are not only challenging enough to be considered as such in their own right but could also be used as the basis for a miniatures based campaign.

The map board covers all of the campaign theatre (the picture shows just one of the three panels) from the border to Arnhem itself and movement is by area of which there are 60. The terrain in an area can obviously have an impact on any combat fought therein. Twenty of the ares are objectives and points are awarded for their capture.

The game pieces are little gems - they are moulded in hard plastic and there are 18 assorted pieces for the Germans and 28 for the allies. The Germans get the following:  2 x King Tiger, 1 x panther, 1 x Panzer 4, 5 x 88mm, 2 x half track, 2 x Fallschirmjager, 4 x security and an FW 190. The Allies get 5 x Sherman, 3 x Sexton, 4 x British/Polish paratroopers, 3 x British Infantry, 3 5.5" gun, 2 x US Glider Infantry (Jeeps), 6 x US Paratroopers and a pair of Typhoons. There is also a sheet of cardboard counters, some d6 and 6 Battle Arrows used for deciding the forces used in a battle. The game comes with only two scenarios - the historic operation and a 'free' version in which the allies can decide where to drop what. I should point out that the German King Tiger, 88mm and Security pieces do not always represent what the piece depicts. When these pieces are selected for combat the German rolls a dice and the score tells the commander exactly what troops he will using from pure security troops to SS or 88mm guns to Jagdpanthers (via Stugs) or King Tigers to Stugs via Tigers or Flammpanzers. A neat game mechanic to ensure that the German player never knows what he will be using.

Supply lines are important as is the resupply of the airborne troops and this is handled very easily by the use of card counters. The combat arrows hold up to 4 units and the troops used add their combat bonus to the roll of the dice to determine the victor. The difference in scores is then used to see what roll would be needed to destroy the enemy units so a player could win a battle only to see the losers pull back to return to the fray later.

The rulebook is a work of art with a useful historical guide and plenty of examples of play together with the inevitable adverts. the eye candy is very inspiring though!

This is a simple game with a lot of potential - especially if used in conjunction with a simple set of tactical rules - and I am thinking of something like Bob Cordery's Morschauser set as this fits in nicely with the level of complexity of the game itself. Alternatively, the tactical rules themselves could form the basis of something similar bearing in mind that we are not specifically concerned with an ultra-detailed tactical game.

As ever, much to ponder but in any event, it is a great addition to the collection and I shall certainly look out for the Operation Bagration game and any further ones they might bring out in the future.


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Nice report David :)
Something that I would not normally have looked at

Market Garden is enigmatic bit of history for me too, for all the reasons you mentioned

Mmm, I'll have to Google for the price (and can I sneak it past 'her' at the watchtower, I missed my chance with the Royal Wedding methinks)

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

I picked my copy up at the Orc's Nest in London for £30. Production values are very high and it is very good value for the price in my opinion.

As for smuggling it in past SWMBO well that is a whole different ball of string! I always soften the financial blow by selling something beforehand!

Go know you want to...;-)

All the best,


Conrad Kinch said...

Curious, I didn't realise that it was a self contained game.

Is there a section on how to use it as a campaign engine?

David Crook said...

Hi CK,

Not exactly although it does give the orbats. I am curious as to where they wanted to go with this idea as it appears to be neither fish nor fowl although very tasty all the same.

I note in you recent Memoir 44 post you played the Arnhem large scenario - I have this but have yet to try it so I am thinking if there could perhaps be some crossover between the two.

I would happily use Memoir 44 for the games resulting from the map movement so will put this on to the 'to do' list!

I downloaded that C and C Napoleonic Vassal freeware - very useful indeed so thanks for the heads up in your Sahagan post.

All the best,