Friday, October 28, 2011

WWII in 15mm Redux

I haven’t done much with 15mm WWII Flames of War stuff for many moons now. A little over a year ago or so, it looked like I would be relocating to Palmerston North, and as they have an active FoW community, I started gearing up. However the move didn’t come off and Kapiti looks to be my home for the foreseeable... I wish there were more active Kapiti based FoW players to hook up with…
Still, WWII is never really far from my thoughts, as it always gets so much airtime on SKY’s History Channel, which is just about the only TV I bother to sit down and watch.

Also, the occasional trip to the video rental store has me peering through the WAR section, at the old war movies I remember watching as a kid in the 70s & 80s. Several old ‘classics’ that were so exciting way back then, and would always have me scrambling to get my airfix plastic toy soldiers out to play with…

And yet, re-watching them now as an adult with a more critical eye, often leaves me very disappointed. The main reasons usually being cheesy and wooden ‘acting’, ridiculous Holywood ‘tactics’; – ah look there’s as German machine-gun nest over there, lets just run towards it over open ground without firing…and get mown down. Or perhaps I should stay where I am, but instead of staying down, I’ll stand up to shoot… oh damn I got shot…

The main disappointment though is the tanks used in the movies. What looked great to a young eye, that didn’t know any better, now really annoys me to see what I typically think are M60s or other unsuitable (wrong period) main battle tanks painted up to try and disguise the fact that they are actually completely the wrong tank.

Last couple of movies I hired were ‘The Bridge at Remagen’, which was OK apart from the US tanks used, and ‘Anzio’ – gods that was dire… I gave up watching halfway through…

There are some good classics out there though that at least try and look right, a family favourite here is Kelly’s Heroes, though its not your typical war movie, but at least they had Shermans and what looked like Tiger tanks (though I have since learnt were mock ups on I believe a T34 chassis).

’Saving Private Ryan’ goes without saying and of course Band of Brothers Series, and presumably ‘The Pacific’ though I have not seen this as yet, and I am more interested in the European theatre anyway.

‘A Bridge too Far’ wasn’t too bad either though not sure about the German tanks used. ‘Cross of Iron’ was pretty good too and was one of the first war movies I saw that you actually got to see what looked like ‘real bullet hits and blood effects’. I like ‘Patton’ for the way George C Scott takes the role, but again the wrong German tanks…

I’d welcome your thoughts [comments below] on other WWII movies for their accurate depictions, or just generally what you thought of them.

So with this once again renewed period interest, I decided to peruse the FoW stuff at Maelstromgames where I get most of games stuff from, only to find they are no longer stocking the range.

They are now stocking ranges called ‘Forged in Battle’ which appear to be traditional white metal based, and also the ‘Plastic Soldier Company’ is producing a range in hard plastics. Both in 15mm so direct competition for Battlefronts Flames of War.

I have stumbled across some blog posts on the web featuring some of these products and wondered at your opinions on these ranges in terms of compatibility with Battlefronts products and importantly, cost. I am especially keen to hear from NZ based players as presumably the Battlefront products are readily available on these shores still, yet the others would have to be shipped in.

Again I welcome your comments and opinions.

Finally, the last issue I have with 15mm FoW, is terrain. Nearly all my terrain is scaled for 28mm, though hills are fairly generic. What recommendations are there out there for 15mm WWII buildings - resin casts presumably? Where is best place and price to source, especially for here in NZ.
Thanks in advance.



  1. Scott, avoid "The Windtalkers" like the plague. The actual historical Navajo codetalker story would have been a great subject . . . but the Nicholas Cage abortion of history made a mockery of it.

    Of course you do realize that a grenade hitting the ground within a half dozen feet of a Japanese tank will destroy it, don't you?

    Or that if you are pinned down by troops to your front then what you do is to sneak up behind them (ignoring the question of how this is done, of course).

    The codetalkers deserved a movie about them . . . but Windtalkers is not it.

    -- Jeff

  2. Thanks for the feedback, I haven't heard of that one. Can't say I am a fan of Nicholas Cage at all. After I saw him in some helicopter thing (Topgun for helicopters or some such) screaming "I am the greatest" over and over... yeah well, nuff said...

  3. Hi Scott,

    Plastic Soldier Company are well-regarded in general and I know of a few guys with the T-34s and Craig C has picked up the Pz IVs and has reviewed them here:

    Like 'Forged in Battle' they are clearly intended as alternative FOW models and seem to be working well though you might want to get reviews of some of the newer kits just to double-check.

    I haven't been buying much FOW at all this year but did get a blister of Forged in Battle and it is fine. It is all moulded with bases on though, which means basing has to be done differently. Based on everything I've seen, I'd happily buy either of these and just use BF to fill in gaps.

    I'm really pleased they are out as the alternative was something like CD 15mm via the US and this is much harder to purchase, often no photos exist of specific models and range quality varies.

  4. I wandered into my interest in war movies later in life (I'm sure it was around my early twenties), and I have to say I totally identify with what you're saying. I realised that the things I was interested in--seeing the actual artifacts in action or being immersed in the moments/period--were generally NOT the things that Hollywood was trying to convey in their films.

    Apart from seeing 'Platoon' in my early teens, I suspect the first movie I saw that COUNTS was Das Boot. (Mind you...I saw 'Gallipoli' before 'Das Boot' so maybe DB counts as my second war movie that really counted--I seem to remember Gallipolli being pretty good...not sure how it would stack up as a WAR movie though.) I feel an Honourable mention must be given to Stanley Kubrik's 'Paths of Glory.'

    One of the first movies I saw that made an impact on me in every way was 'Stalingrad.' If you haven't seen it, befits the topic (and the battle), it's a pretty heavy film; I can't recommend it enough (just make sure to watch it in the afternoon...on a bright sunny day). Though the movie isn't dominated by battles (or Hollywood budgets spent on the battles), the ones in the movie are pretty awesome.

    I too very much enjoyed 'Band of Brothers' but found 'The Pacific' harder to enjoy--mostly due to the disjointed way it was told (it's three books by three different guys that are compiled into the mini-series). However, the subject matter and how it was handled is more grim than most of what was covered in 'Band of Brothers.'

    I think the big problem with most war movies is the time they were made: most of them seemed to be made during the cold war and were movies championing "The West" first and commemorating our veterans' experiences second.

  5. Hey Jamie - thanks for the comments much appreciated. I liked Craigs review too - very good.

  6. @imaginerywars - thanks for the feedback, you mention a couple of good ones there - Gallipoli, with Mel Gibson, gave me a taste of the futility and stupidity of many of the WWI actions. Das Boot was certainly a classic for suspense and drama. Platoon was indeed a good one, though I'm not such a fan of Vietnam era stuff - another futility issue I think for those unlucky to be involved due to political aims not matching military ones... I'll to check out Stalingrad. Thanks.

  7. Fun post! You touched upon several of my favourites. I LOVED Kelly's Heroes (especially Sutherland's 'Oddball' - WOOF! WOOF!). Pekinpah did great things with Cross of Iron (Max Schell was sooo slimy). Saving Private Ryan is also very solid. Here are a few other good 'uns not mentioned so far:

    The Eagle has Landed (Cain as a Fallshirmjaeger officer)
    Murphy's War (O'Toole at his best)
    Too Late the Hero (again Cain but in the Pacific)
    Winter War (excellent Finnish film)
    The Young Lions (Brando as a German officer with Dean Martin!)
    The Big Red One (American 1st Division)
    A Walk in the Sun
    Memphis Belle (American Bomber Crew)
    The Train (cool Lancaster film)
    They Were Expendable (pacific war)
    Enemy at the Gates (snipers!)
    Night of the Generals (a sadistic O'Toole)
    The Hill (a very young Sean Connery in North Africa)
    Bridge of the River Kwai (nothing more to be said)
    The English Patient (actually a very good 'war' movie in addition to a classic romance)
    A Piece of Cake (Brit mini series on the death of a Spitfire squadron in the battles of 1940)

    Some of these are not great 'technically' but do a really good job of conveying the feeling or spirit of the period.


  8. Thanks Curt, you mentioned a great many good ones there, that I have enjoyed plus a couple I have not heard of, will have to check them out.


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