Whelp, here it is. The day finally arrived that we could sit down and play Flames of War. I’ve had everything ready for a couple of weeks but their was some schedule conflicts and we had some other games that needed played on the docket. There’s a few painting and assembly tutorials for the miniatures I wrote for those interested, but you can see some of the finished products on the table below!
Flames of War is a two player table top miniatures game. It’s put out by a company called Battlefront Miniatures based out of New Zealand and is a 15mm scale WWII historical game. You’ll command a force typically the size of a company, or there abouts, and duke it out for control of objectives or other mission parameters determined my scenarios. The ‘Open Fire!’ starter set is everything you need to get started within a single box. As of May 2017 the Open Fire! kit isn’t actually in production which is a bit of a shame. This is partly because it uses 3rd Edition rules, which have now been superseded with 4th Edition. On top of that, with the release of 4th Edition, they made a huge focus on the Mid-War era, so there’s a new starter set called El Alamein, but it’s got far fewer pieces in it so I’m glad I had the chance to get this a couple of years back. Hopefully, they put out an updated V4 edition of this boxed set because it’s a great entry point into the hobby for new gamers.
One thing you need to know about me, is that I’m a bit of a hobbyist at heart. I grew up painting and building old Airfix, Revell and Matchbox tanks and planes in 1:72nd scale, and trying to play wargames on our old 00 gauge model railway layout. Whilst that was awesome at the time, we were using my dad’s old Airfix rules from the early 1980’s, which were… well, somewhat antiquated. But for me, I just loved having finished models, and painting nice details and weathering and great camo schemes. I was the youngest of three sons so the wargaming aspect was a little bit beyond me, if I’m being honest. When I saw this set, however, I could not pass it up. I had seen Flames of War set up on various tables at my FLGS and I was deeply nostalgic for those care free wargaming days. I just had to have my toys!
The set comes with eight Shermans, three Stug III’s, some PaK 40’s and infantry units for both sides. The Allies have a full airborne platoon, and the Germans have two panzergrenadier platoons. You do have to assemble and paint them, so just understand that going into this hobby. The nice thing with this set is that once you build the models and base the figurines you can start playing immediately. There’s a few thick carboard sheets with punch-out 2-D terrain, all the tokens you need and some really nice custom dice. There’s a few different manuals in the box, one for making armies if you choose to expand on the box set, one for paint and assembly guides, and another quick start rule rook.
If I’m honest, the quickstart rules were a little bit of a hurdle for me. They’re laid out almost like a comic book strip with a ton of pictures (helpful) and a lot of bubble text all over the show (somewhat less helpful). It was nice to follow along as I learned the game sat down in front of the TV, but as a rules reference whilst we were playing, it was pretty inconvenient. I say that because I’m used to very strict, numbered and organized rules manuals from the likes of GMT Games and Compass Games – If I need a specific rule there’s an easy glossary and I can find that rule pretty quickly. The Open Fire! quick start guide was not quite that.
But the reality is, once we got playing, the gameplay itself was pretty smooth all things considered. This was our first real tabletop wargame. We’ve played some X-Wing and Star Wars Armada, but nothing on this scale. There were a few times I wanted something a little crunchier; ‘well what about this very specific and minute situation?’. But then I had to realize that without a massive tome of rules we’d have to just come to a reasonable decision and play the game! That was just a board game hangup that I had to overcome in order to just keep the pieces on the table moving: understanding that the difference of a few millimeters, or some abstraction with distance and terrain, is necessary to keep the games chugging along.
The starter set is great because it teaches you enough and exposes you to different aspects where you feel fulfilled – including armour, infantry, anti tank guns, mortars, and a few other bits and pieces. But you don’t feel over whelmed with a billion rules. In that sense, I felt they did a great job of presenting you with the perfect amount of rules, equipment and meat in the box. A very satisfying and fun experience!
Whilst no game, let alone wargame, will be perfect, I can say that I had a total blast playing this. Maybe it was the simplicity of the rules, maybe it was the final visual realization of all my hard work, as the tanks and infantry maneuvered around the field taking advantage of my homemade terrain and obstacles, or maybe it was just the deep, rich nostalgia of having tanks on my table one more time. But either way it was really, really fun! I remember one situation where a platoon of Shermans assaulted my panzergrenadiers and it was so bloody it reminded me of watching Fury (not devoid of it’s own faults). And that’s what I want in a wargame. I’m not playing competitively in tournaments, etc. I’m here to move toys around on a table and have some fun tactics and ultimately shoot at each other. Open Fire! resoundingly provided that for me.
If you’re a table top snob, then this obviously isn’t for you, but for someone that hasn’t played a table top in 20 years, and is new to the system, this little box is perfect. It’s expensive on the aftermarket right now, but your local FLGS will often have people that play and the community I hear is very welcoming!
P.S. I lost. My StuG III’s defended valiantly, but the Allies captured the V-1 launcher control HQ located in a building and shut down the launch. No doodlebugs today Jerry! There’s a more detailed exposition of the table, terrain and a sort of AAR on the YouTube channel if you want some more specifics!