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Planning a Great War Army (Belgium) Part 2

With Chris Potter, BF UK Office
It was with some trepidation that approached painting my first ever Great War army. But the plan as ever for me was a simple one: Break everything down into manageable units to prepare and paint, and then hope the kids stayed asleep late into the evenings. Oh and find something good on TV to keep the background ambience going. The choice this time around was Silent Witness on the BBC iPlayer. Not that this has anything to do with painting Great War Belgians!

I started by sorting out the pile of minis and working out a legal and viable army list. I’m not one for building lists to win games… The main aim for me is to have a coherent force that is a joy to play. Even if I get thrashed everytime that I bring them out to battle.

My first draft went a little something like this:

Unit Points Running Total
HQ with Mauser Rifle 2 2
Infantrie Platoon (Full) with Extra Flamethrower (+2) and 37mm Rifle (+3) 13 15
Infantrie Platoon (Full) with Extra Flamethrower (+2) and 37mm Rifle (+3) 13 28
Machine Gun Platoon x2 MG 5 33
Machine Gun Platoon x2 MG 5 38
Trench Mortar x1 Stokes 4 42
Trench Mortar x1 Stokes 4 46
Artillery Battery x2 mle 1897 – Support 14 60
FT-17 Platoon x3 & x2 – Support 36 96
Sniper – Support 4 100

This is a cool 100pts exactly and ticks all the boxes for me – there is some infantry which is pretty key to Great War gaming, Machine Guns to attack the other guy’s infantry, as well as big guns in the form of the 1897 Field Artillery and also some Tank Support.

I really love the FT-17, as it’s a small tank compared to other tanks, I’ve been painting for Team Yankee recently, but also packs a punch in game terms, able to tie down infantry as well as engaging more dug in units.

Whilst not having the landships of the other nations in my list, there is some room for moving units around. If I wanted to take some St Chamonds instead of the FT-17 I would also be able to add in another infantry platoon to hold objectives.

In terms of painting I figured it was best to split the force into 3 stages. The first was the tanks. I couldn’t wait to paint these tanks with their crazy camo patterns (by WW2 and Modern Standards) Not only did I paint the FT-17s but I also painted some St Chamonds at the same time, to increase tactical choice, but also to get the tanks done. Stage 2 was the Infantrie Platoons and Machine Guns, as they were the most time bound for the main part of the force. Stage 3 was to finish up the force with the trench mortars and the Artillery Battery.

I like the force as it is. There is a degree of tactical flexibility if needed with the extra tanks and also I managed to paint up some extra guns if required.

Next step is a battle report between some of the other guys in the office to learn the new V4 rules.
~Chris

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Aaron’s Great War

By Aaron Mathie

Like many people I grew up believing the ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ myth when it came to the first world war.
Whilst there is truth to the war, like all wars, being a horrific event in which millions were killed or maimed, from a military history standpoint it was far more nuanced than many of the post-World War Two generations believe.
A decade ago I completed a Batchelors Degree in military studies, during which time my eyes were opened to just how transformational the Great War was. Far from unimaginative, incompetents many of the military leaders were caught short by just how much human conflict had been altered by mass industrialisation. The conflict saw a complete transformation from the doctrine, tactics and equipment of the 18th century, to what we in the 21st century recognise.
The mass introduction of armoured vehicles, aircraft, rapid fire artillery and automatic small arms both caused the stalemate that resulted during the first couple of years of the war, and proved to be some of the solutions.

The last four years have marked the centenary of the First World War, and have sparked a fresh interest globally in the study of the war. YouTube has a number of great documentaries on the subject of the war.

Here are a couple of my favourite picks:

The Great War Youtube Channel…

C&Rsenal: In Depth Firearm History Youtube Channel…

The Great War is a week by week retelling of the war, with supplementary episodes on specialist subjects. C&Rsenal is a channel that has very in-depth episodes on small arms development (a personal favourite subject of mine) leading up to and during the war. I would highly recommend both.

At Battlefront the Great War is a subject that has been touched on a few times, and now with the release of the latest (and most complete yet) version, there has never been a better time to ignite (or re-ignite) an interest in the subject. I’ve had a longstanding interest in the United States Army/Marine Corps, and I am intending to start a project where I build an army from every major epoch of the 20th century, starting with the first world war. It is a mammoth task, but like all hobbyists those are the tasks that are the most engaging. I hope the release of The Great War will whet all of your appetites for this oft misunderstood period of history (if it wasn’t already) as much as it has mine.

Happy hobbying all.
~Aaron

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Weathering Great War Tanks

With Victor Pesch
Great War tanks offer an opportunity to try some weathering techniques due to their large flat armoured surfaces and the conditions they were fighting in.

Here are some simple techniques I’ve used on my German tanks that might help you get that weathered look quickly.

Rain/ Rust Streaks

Scale modellers often use oils and white spirits to achieve great streaking effects, but this requires specialty products, advanced techniques, and a gloss coat prior to the streaking. I went with an easy alternative using two paints from the Vallejo range that can be applied after you’ve finished the base coats and shading on your tanks.

First I used Sepia Wash (200) to flick down from the top of the tanks sides, and also made some longer lines downward. I used my finger to feather the tails of these lines while it was still wet. Then I did the same but this time using Light Brown (929) and focusing on the centre of some of the bigger streaks. You can experiment using varying shades of brown and orange to find a combination that works well with your chosen camouflage colours.

Mud

Mud looks very different when it’s dry versus when it’s wet, so I’ve tried to replicate this effect with two Vallejo colours and a wash.

To start off I dry-brushed some Tan Earth (874) around the lower half of the tanks, trying not to go too high up the sides.

Next I used more of the same colour but this time using a stiff bristled brush and a toothpick to flick paint onto the tank, simulating dried mud splashes. Be subtle with this as a little goes a long way.

Practice on something first to get a feel for how hard to flick the bristles. If you get any big globs you’re not happy with you can wick them away with a moistened brush.

With the dried mud applied, I then used Chocolate Brown (872) for the darker wet mud. I again dry-brushed around the bottom of the tanks, but trying to only cover about half as much as I did with the dried mud. I also got mud into the running gear on the A7Vs.

I then repeated the flicking technique again with this darker colour for wet splashes, being careful to keep it to the lower areas.

To add some shading back to the mud areas I applied some Sepia Wash (200) in the recesses.

Again you can use different colours for your dirt and mud, just try to stick to lighter tones for dry mud, and darker tones for wet mud. You might like to use the same colours that you’ve used for the basing of your infantry to really tie your force together.

Have fun getting messy with your tanks, and I’d love to see everyone’s results in the Great War Facebook group.
~Victor

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Planning a Great War Army (Belgium) Part 1

With Chris Potter, BF UK Office

Speak of The Great War (more commonly referred to as World War One, or the First World War in the UK) and most people will be able to tell you that Germany, France, and Britain were involved on the Western Front. Toward the end of the War the USA joined the fighting, sending the American Expeditionary force to fight in France, which again most of the general public tend to know.

Little did I know and I’d wager, the vast majority of people, that there was a fifth Major Nation, on the allied side, that fought throughout the entirety of the Great War: Belgium.

In fact, it was my colleague Sebastien who is himself Belgian, who told me: even though the Belgians had lost the majority of their territory in the initial invasion by Germany in 1914, they held out in a small corner next to the sea for the entire conflict. However, not only did they hold out, but the brave nation even continued to send troops to fight in the trenches against the Germans, led by their king Albert 1st as field commander, and supplied fighting know-how to their own specific sector on the Western Front.

All it took was getting my hands on the new Great War book, and reading the background for the Belgians. Then I knew my army choice had been made. They are seriously cool.

In Great War, Belgians are generally clothed as French Colonial troops. This includes the distinctive M15 Adrian Helmet, greatcoat, backpack and webbing, as well as the gaiters and green/brown colours introduced around 1915. This means that you can readily use French units as Belgians. The Belgians even used French rifles such as the Lebel 1886 and man-portable machine guns such as the Chauchat 1915 later in the war.

In game terms, this means they have access to some very nice kit (the Chauchat being a rather nice choice as I absolutely adore the look and sound of the gun…) but aren’t as pricey in points as pure French. Plus, you don’t have to paint them with all that blue! So there is a nice mix of green/brown on the uniform, but with a contrasting Adrian Helmet of a darker hue than the colonial French.

The other key feature that drew me to the Belgians, is the quirk whereby their formations have access to British and French tanks. This means I can have St Chamond and FT-17 tanks painted in the crazy French camouflage of yellows, blues, greens and browns, but also Mark IV tanks with their distinctive tracks that went all the way around their outer hull.

And the access to varied options doesn’t stop there. French mle 1897 artillery field guns, Hotchkiss Machine Gun platoons and also Stokes 3” Mortars. All in all, some nice kit to take to the field toward victory.

This presents some interesting painting opportunities for me on the French tanks, as well as in gaming terms, being able to field large armies of troops which have access to some quite tasty kit. And the plus side is I have already got a pile of French troops sat in my to-do pile from the first time Battlefront released Great War before this current version. So hurrah! All I need is to pick up some extra weapons platoons and a Unit Card Pack, and I will be good to go.

Now to plan out the paint schemes, getting the queue cleared ready to paint troops en masse and lead the charge to retake the homeland!
~Chris

Click here to read part 2…

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Great War Book Spotlight

1918 Western Front further expanded!

This year we have expanded our original Great War book and expanded it to include full rules and more forces. Great War now uses the same rules system as the new version of Flames Of War, version 4 as is commonly called. Great War has come a long way since it was released as a free booklet with Wargames Illustrated 324. The book now comes with the complete rules, missions and comprehensive forces for the Western Front in 1918.

 

Great War, like ‘Nam and Fate Of A Nation, comes with a full set of rules based of Flames Of War. This means that the Great War book contains all the rules and force list you need to play. Just add your Great War models, terrain, some dice, and a tape measure and you are ready to go.

Like Flames Of War, Great War Units and Formations have their own cards for quick reference. These are available in four card packs, German, British, American and French (which includes the Belgians).

Forces include British and Dominion, German, French, United States, and Belgium.

The Germans

The Germans now have four Formations in their Force. These are the original Infanteriekompanie (Infantry Company) and Stosskompanie (Shock Company). To this we have added a Jägerkompanie (Light Infantry Company) and a Siegfriedstellung (Siegfried Line Position).

The Infanteriekompanie represents the average German formation found in the front lines. It is a strong formation with plenty of weapons options like machine-guns, anti-tank guns, and mortars (minenwerfer).

During 1918 the Germans launched a series of offensives to take advantage of the influx of manpower available when the Russians dropped out of the war after their revolution. One the key elements to lead these attacks were the Stoss (Shock) or Sturm (Assault) Battalions. To represent these elements you can field a Stosskompanie. This company of elite shock troops is supported by machine-guns and mortars to pin the enemy while they close quickly to launch their deadly assault.

As the doctrine of Stosstaktik (Shock Tactics) began to spread throughout the German armies, other units began to be utilised in a similar manner. The Jäger battalions (Light Infantry) began to be trained in Stosstaktik methods. The Jäger troops retained much of their standard equipment, but combined with the new tactics. This proved very successful, giving them a reputation almost as great as that of the specialist Stoss units.

The final German formation represents of the German defensive tactics of the final campaigns of the war, where defence in depth based around strongpoints, backed by vigorous counterattacks, became the standard German tactics. This formation is a few men, many weapons unit. These veterans hold the front line. To back these up to take another formation to act as your counterattacking force to arrive from reserve.

The British

The British force now includes Line Division, Elite Division, ANZAC or Canadian Rifle Companies, and Cavalry Squadron formations.

The Line Division Rifle Company formation represents the bulk of the British divisions in France in 1918. The distinction between the regulars, volunteers, and conscripts had mostly disappeared by 1918 and a good standard of training and leadership existed across most divisions.

For those considered Elite Divisions or Assault Divisions there are two options, you can represent the best of the British divisions with the Elite Division Rifle Company, or the Dominion Divisions of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand with the ANZAC or Canadian Rifle Company.

All three Rifle Company are based around a core of 2 to 4 Rifle Platoons, with machine-guns and trench mortars for fire support. The Canadians, are a little different, and can take Armoured Autocar motorised machine-gun instead of standard Vickers HMGs if they choose.

The final formation is the Cavalry Squadron. The kept a number of cavalry divisions and brigade in reserve, ready for the exploitation phase of any offensive. During the Hundred Days campaigns at the end of the war they were finally able to show their advantages in mobile warfare.

The British have wide selection of tanks. The Mark V and Mark V* tanks are a more reliable improvement on the Mark IV and was used in the later battles of 1918. The Mark V* introduced a new concept as a battle taxi. It was made longer to accommodate a section of infantry to be deployed from the tank once it had reached the enemy positions.

To fight alongside the cavalry in the exploitation the British also fielded Austin armoured cars. The Austin mounted a pair of machine-gun turret and was ideal for advancing along roads and the green fields of the rear areas.

The French

Any representation of the fighting on the Western Front is not complete without the French. Most of the fighting was on their soil and they held the majority of the front line. They were also tactical innovators, and just like the British and Germans, did much to devise ideas and methods for overcoming the tactical stalemate of the Western Front. They also had a wide variety of colonial troops fighting under their flag.

In Great War you can now field five French formations.

You can field four different infantry formations. The bulk of the French Army can be represented by the Metropolitan Compagnie de Fusiliers (Rifle Company) recruited from around France. France’s Colonial troops come from Frances colonies around the world and are found in the Compagnie de Tirailleurs (Light Infantry Company) and have a reputation for their aggressiveness as assault troops.

The other two formations are more unusual in that that are not French at all, just trained and equipped by the French and fighting under French command. These are the Compagnie de Fusiliers Russe (Russian Rifle Company) of the Russian Legion and the American Harlem Hellfighters Rifle Company. A Russian Expeditionary Force was originally sent to France by the Russian Tsar, and when the Revolution brought his reign to an end, some stayed on to fight for France as the Russian Legion. The Harlem Hellfighters were units of US 93rd Infantry Division made up entirely of African American soldiers. Due to American Army segregation it was decided to put them under French command, the French having no such problems with their race or fighting qualities. The French armed them, gave them combat training, and sent them into battle.

The final French formation is the Escadron de Cavalerie (Cavalry Squadron). Like the British the French saw Cavalry as something to be used for the final exploitation phase of an offensive. The French went on step further and actually integrated their White AM 1915/18 armoured cars into the squadrons.

The French were quick to realise the advantages of the British tank and soon devised a number of their own design known as Char d’Assault (Assault Car). Two large vehicles were made and saw combat and shared many featured of the British and German tanks (Schneider CA.1 and Char Saint Chamond), but their most innovative design was the Renault FT-17. This light tank was small and relatively mobile with a fully rotating weapon turret. The rotating turret would heavily influence the design of tanks after the war.

The Americans

The arrival of the American on the Western Front was celebrated by both the British and French. The French in particular as the Americans were deployed among the French Armies and trained in the latest French methods. The American commanders was fiercely independent and didn’t just want to make up the numbers. They were soon conducting operations of their own.

In Great War you can field three different American Rifle Companies, 1st Infantry Division veterans, fresh 42nd Infantry Divisions and elite 4th Marine Brigade troops. The selection of the 1st and 42nd Infantry divisions does not limit your choice of them. Select your favourite divisions and use which ever one you think best suit them. American rifle companies are large with up to eight half platoons, with supporting firepower from machine-guns and mortars.

Support can include British and French and they have their own tank support in the form of American crewed Renault FT-17 light tanks.

The Belgians

The Belgian Force contain one type of formation, the Compagnie d’Infanterie (Infantry Company). The Belgians held their particularly waterlogged sector of the line, hold on to the last remaining section of their homeland not occupied by the Germans. This they held with great tenacity.

Missions

Great War comes with four specialist Great War missions and nine general missions suitable for the open warfare of the Hundred Days campaign.

With this new book, Great War is expanded out to cover most of the battles of the Western Front in 1918 (and quite a few in 1916 and 1917). It’s time to break through the enemy’s lines and advance into the green fields beyond!
~Wayne