Sunday, 22 June 2014

Flames of War World War 1? London Bus found on the Moon! Shock! Horror! Vicar Expose!

I saw on TMP and at the back of my latest edition of Flames of War Illustrated, er, sorry Wargames Illustrated that we are to be blessed by the arrival of a new set of rules and presumably models covering the Great War. I am still recoiling in shock and horror at the thought of reading the Flames of War version of the First World War.  Legions of massed panzers tearing through the Allied lines, poor Tommy seriously outclassed by the genius Hun, no sign of the troops from across the British Empire, French, Russians, Belgians, Austrians or maybe a disproportionate and perhaps over-egged representation of the Americans (yes, their numbers made all the difference in the end, but there were other factors too).

Anyway, having nothing much else to do at 5 a.m. today I then delved deeper and on the Battlefront Miniatures website is a piece heralding the arrival of this new range, together with the now very familiar army lists (and yes Andy, I wholly agree with your article in MW this month). The blurb puts the players on opposite sides as "Blitz's Battlegroup vs Mitchell's Marauders" (OMG!), during the Battle of Villers Bretonneux, one of the very few tank v tank actions of the war. Lt. Blitz did command one of the A7Vs and Lieutenant Mitchell commanded the British MkIV tank platoon in the real battle so I guess thats  +1 for historical accuracy?

The German player can have a platoon of A7V tanks supported by an other of captured British MkIVs. To quote the blurb about the A7V:

"The panzer is a new and unstoppable weapon. Our A7V is more powerful, faster, and better armoured than Tommy’s tanks. These steel beasts will break the British frontline, opening the way to victory." 

 "The cutting edge of your attack is the imposing A7V panzer and Stoss (shock) platoons. This tank is superior to British tanks in practically every way. Mass them against a weak point in the enemy line and use its overwhelming firepower to tear open a gap in Tommy’s trenches."

Bollocks. OK, the German tanks did see very limited success on one or two occasions but they were not new (er, it was us Brits who invented and had considerable success with tanks), and were not unstoppable (see the full account of Battle of Villers Bretonneux)

They broke down or were unable to actually get into combat so much that they were not thought to be a very successful piece of kit, they were perhaps more powerful in terms of guns and machine guns stuffed into every corner of the lumbering beast (but its not what you have but what you do with it that matters), their road speed was marginally faster than that of a British Whippet tank and they were faster than the MkIV  but their cross country performance was very poor by comparison. The driver had a 10m blind spot to his front for heaven's sake! Better armoured? Certainly, and losses to direct enemy action were few compared to those that broke  down or got stuck, but they could still be knocked out. So hardly superior to British tanks in every way and indeed the Germans used about 50 captured British tanks with far more success. Only 20 or so A7Vs were actually constructed.

I'm sure someone can pick holes in my argument (not a challenge) but not I hope the underlying sentiment in response to the "oh no! its the centenary of the start of dubya dubya one so lets cash in on it somehow and give it our own particular ahistorical twist!!!!" Of course, there's nothing necessarily wrong with gaming the Great War per se (and I have) but please, not the FoW way. The models of the tanks do however look very nice and you wouldn't need very many of them, for the Germans anyway.  Armoured cars, FT17s and other nationalities and theatres of war on the way by any chance....? Time for coffee and more mid-altering drugs.......


  1. IIRC the Germans used about 50 tanks total in WW1 of which about 20 were A7Vs , the rest being captured British and I can imagine now seeing games with lines of A7Vs backed up by British tanks on many a table, representing all of these!
    It seems to me that the current trend of gamers only need a glossy set of rules and an army list and away they go on some flight of fantasy, away from something purportedly historic (a sweeping statement, but it's just my impression)

    1. Joe, you're right and my thoughts exactly!

  2. Colin- as it happens Blue moon already do WW1 in 15mm- with a rather nice A7V and other tanks for the 4 major nations so far- Brits Germans French and - well yes the USA Trucks Amulance GS waggons in fact quite a shedload but I wouldn't dream of going the Zap !Pow !FOW ! way- if ever I wanted to do the Western Front-
    In 28mm we do much the same but with fewer vehicles and more small nations- Italians Austrians and Serbs- not to mention the Russians- which I think you have some of
    Joe is of course right(as are you) and its nice to see that there is more than one beared heretic about the place