Saturday, 16 June 2012

Planning a Finnish war game army - Part 1

While I've been making a few initial models - just to experiment with the idea of making an army - the need to formally settle on what that whole army might look like hasn't been a big issue. Indeed, as this is my first ever attempt to build a small army for war gaming I not only don't expect to get it right first time but I'm not even sure that I actually intend to utilize this army for an actual game. I simply look at this project as an extended model making project and as a learning tool.

Above: A quite spectacular shot of a Late-War German Army for the Rapid Fire 2 ruleset by 'Big P' from Kildare, Ireland. You can see this amazing collection in detail on the Dakka Dakka forum.

That said I do want to collect the models for it that adhere to some sort of historical and game rule parameters so that the army has some sort of cohesion and authentic relevance. This series of posts is about how I am going about planning my little army, the research I am doing whilst planning it and my choice of the game rules on which I will be basing it's elements and construction.
Da Rulz - the framework for the collection
I've been busily winding my way through the miriade of web sites that have published information about WW2 scale model war gaming, boy are there a lot of different rules out there!

Though my job is made a little easier in that I do have some simple criteria for choosing said rules. Any rules I use - as a complete ignoramus to what table top war gaming is about - have to be:
  • Simple to understand
  • Flexible enough to allow for a small army
  • Be well supported by a friendly community
  • Support 20mm - 1/72 scale models
To cut a long story short, two game rules caught my eye as I have wandered about the internet - Flames of War and Rapid Fire!

Now, Flames of War (FoW) is actually intended for 15mm figures and models and while I have read that you can 'scale' it's rules for use with 20mm> models the real reason I mention it as a desirable rule set is because of it's huge community base and support. Had I gone about this whole thing a different way and chosen the rules first and then the model scale to go with them chances are that I may have picked FoW as the ideal rules for me. (Upmost in my mind are the many videos - official and unofficial - available on YouTube which clearly explain how the game works. As a visual person rather than a book person when it comes to learning new things this feature is very attractive to me.)

However, for straight 20mm> play I have determined that Rapid Fire! (RF!) shares a lot of the same kind of support net that FoW and it also seems to broadly address the rest of my basic criteria. Plus, I have been so very lucky to make the acquaintance of a fantastic chap - Bob Peyton - who is not only an excellent modeller but is a veteran war gamer who has a lot of experience playing with the RF! ruleset.

If I have one piece of advice for others in my situation - just starting out - it is that having access to a local guru or club which plays the ruleset that you are interested in is of prime importance if you want to avoid making what could end up being costly mistakes (in money and wasted time). Plus having other mad bods like yourself to talk to is part of the fun AND - of course - you need someone to play against.

The army - what, where and when
OK, I actually chose what army I was modelling before I chose my ruleset, but as with everything I do learning things by doing them the wrong way does at least make a project challenging!

I picked a World War 2 Finnish army for several reasons. First of all it's a novel subject, not everyone has hear of Finland's struggle during WW2, and because I hate running with the pack it makes a change from the huge amount of people that seem to thing that only the big four armies of WW2 are worth doing - those being Germany, America, Britain and The Soviet Union (that's Russia for those of you who do 'history lite').

When you enter this hobby - via the modelling side door or straight through the main war gaming entrance - you soon become aware that there is a rather imbalanced interest in the Germans. But even in the wider sense of the war it still amazes me that so many people are not aware that the term 'world war' was not just an acknowledgment of the geographic span of the conflagration.

Nations such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Finland, Thailand, San Marino and Iraq just do not seem to register with the popular understanding of what the 'bad guys' were in the popular consciousness and if you tell anyone that a Brazillian army fought along side the Allies in Italy then you can see the person's brain melting! But these protagonists are just scratching the surface.

Above: Here a DUTCH infantry crew man Solothum 20mm A/T Rifle circa 1940. You are thinking 'Come on! The Dutch lasted 2 minutes'? Well,  in actual fact the Dutch took a high toll of the German invaders and (not a lot of people know this) it was probably due to the stiff Dutch resistance that the Germans were not able to commence their planned invasion of Britain! (Figures by SHQ.)

That said, when it comes to modelling or war gaming picking a nation that is obscure simply for the sake of it can lead to problems, the main of which is that model manufacturers naturally tend to produce what models and figures that will sell and the demand for, for example, a WW2 'Free Indian' army isn't huge!

And so...I based my choice of a Finnish army on the fact it was just different enough, but not so different that there is no model support out there for it. In fact, the Finnish role in WW2 seems to be something of theme which is growing in popularity, and indeed FoW has created a special set of rules for them as well a a nice series of 15mm figures and vehicles.

Next: The nitty-gritty of designing a WW2 Finnish Army (it isn't all about snow)!


  1. Hey your like me. wants to wargame but never played one? yes the hunt for rules is daunting.i settled on Charles Grants` Battle.

    1. Hi there! I haven't come across those rules - shows you just how many there are! There was another reason I chose Rapid Fire! and that's because of the 'Fight Your Own Battles' solo rules are designed to work with Rapid Fire!

      Nice to hear from someone else like me. Keep in touch! :)

  2. Just researching for an East Africa campaign army. And I found that significant free Dutch forces fought there (admittedly colonial style formations)