Keeping the Cost Down
A guide to starting a Flames of War army. (Whether the first army or adding to the Battalion)
A Guide by Igor.
Generally speaking playing Flames of War is a relatively cheap hobby. Unless one orders pro-painting services, it is reasonable to spread the cost of collecting an army over several months required to paint it. As a result, 300 CAD expense becomes 75 CAD monthly instalments, which are well within entertainment budget for the majority of the people. However, from the new player’s perspective it may appear to be quite different. So, I think it is worth presenting a quick overview of the cost-controlling methods in our hobby.
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1) Collect a an EW/MW/LW force
There are only a few things more annoying for a new player than to find that his force is going to collect dust, because local community decided to switch to a different period for an upcoming gaming season. Indeed, WW2 caused tremendous advances in technologies (and military fashion), so it is natural that the 1945 fighting force greatly differs from 1939 one. However, there are still some forces requiring minimal changes to switch between periods:
- Finnish infantry:
One can use the same infantry models (which are the main fighting strength of Finns) for all three periods. Moreover the majority of the support weapons (artillery, mortars, AA guns) stayed the same as well. The primary difference between different periods is AT assets. So, to get from EW to LW one simply has to change PaK 36 guns to PaK 40, and add some panzerfaust-armed teams to the platoons.
- Hungarian/Romanian infantry:
As with Finns one can easily use the bulk of the force throughout all three periods. However, game-wise they are more reliant on the support platoons, namely, tanks, which do change between periods. Nevertheless, the cost of updating your force remains quite low in comparison to major nations.
- Major Nations:
There is still some room for cost saving for major nations themselves. Say greatcoat-wearing Germans are an equally good fit for the Battle of Moscow or Ardennes offensive. Similarly, the uniform of Soviet Cossacks hasn’t changed enough to be noticed in 15 mm scale. However, nearly all support weapons do change. In case of Germans the primary problem is a switch from grey (Feldgrau) to yellow (dunkelgelb) as a primary camo colour . It affects all equipment from mortars and artillery to tanks and trucks. For Soviets it is a sheer amount of support weapons which makes the transition quite expensive. Nevertheless, with proper planning it is possible to devise a force for major nations covering two out of three periods.
2) Look for alternative manufacturers.
Pz-38(t) remains itself regardless of the manufacturer’s label on the box. There are number of companies producing WW2 scaled models, which are often much cheaper than BF versions. Moreover, some of these alternatives are available in the local gaming stores. Here, I will list some of the producers:
- The plastic soldier company:
It produces an ever expanding range for major nations. As its name implies, everything is made of plastic. Its vehicles sets normally include options for the different versions of the vehicle. Eg. IS-2 box includes both obr. 1943 and obr.1944 options; Panther box allows to assemble Panther ausf. D; A and G versions of this tank.
Probably, the cheapest tanks and planes around. Everything is made out of plastic. The range is quite limited and significantly biased towards beginning of the war (EW/MW). Its low prices are particularly welcome for Soviet players. Savings over a single tank platoon of 5 tanks may approach 50 CAD, when compared to BF. However, I should caution people that some of Zvezda models represent extremely early version, which is of limited use in Flames of War. Its KV-1 and t-34 are suitable only for summer 1941 lists, corresponding to KV-1 obr. 1939 and t-34 obr. 1940 in the Barbarossa book (EW briefing for eastern front).
- Forged in battle:
This company has quite good range mixing mainstay equipment (vehicles and guns) with some rarities and experimental designs for major nations. Additionally, it has quite interesting choice of infantry, featuring, for example German fallschrmjäger and Polish troops (incl. cavalry). The materials are similar to ones used by BF: resin hulls with metal parts for vehicles; white metal for infantry and guns. It is important to note that its vehicles are cast together with a base, which some people may dislike.
Manufacturer from south of the 49th parallel, what makes it worth considering on this continent (in Europe I would have never paid for delivery across the Pond and possible import taxes). It has quite cheap guns and not so cheap vehicles. Everything is made out of a white metal. Personally, I tend to buy their guns for use with BF crew. This solution, apart from being cheaper, also solves BF gun scale problems. Their biggest disadvantage is their web-site: there are no images for the significant fraction of the range (which is why I have never bought their infantry).
In many respects similar to the previous entry. Quite expensive vehicles and cheap guns, which I have used with BF crew. Regretfully, I haven’t bought anything from their infantry range, but some entries (Soviet dug-in infantry, British paras etc.) appear to be quite interesting. Their primary disadvantage (apart from being on different continent) is somehow obscure naming system for their models. E.g. I have found that their Soviet “76.2 mm Field Guns” are not ZiS-3 (as I have expected) but F-22 USV (EW soviet gun of the same calibre), which somehow got a muzzle brake.
There are more producers, which may offer significant savings or simply fill the gap in the BF range like Old Glory Miniatures or Peterpig. Regretfully, I don’t have personal experience to comment on their range.
3) Ask on forum
Ask these (or similar) questions and you may save yourself a great deal of time and money:
Which period is being played locally?
Which point level is the most popular?
Are there any club restrictions?
Which books are legitimate sources for list-building?
What do you think about my list?
I want to buy 20 Kingtigers. Is it a good list?
I hope these advices will help you avoid some of the frustrations of this hobby. Moreover, bargain hunting itself sometimes becomes an important part of the tabletop wargaming. Just don’t let it develop into mania overshadowing everything else.