Fall is here! ….Even though the weather, what with its freakishly hot days and barely cool nights and mornings, makes it feel like summer is still in full swing. The end of summer at Imaginary Wars was marked not just by shorter daylight hours and kids’ returning to school but also by the closing of our in-store Flames of War campaign.
If you’ve been following Imaginary Wars on Instagram, you’ve likely seen not just what comics I’m catching up on but also the painting progress of my German Afrika Korps tank army…along with its victories and many and various defeats. I use Instagram to highlight my hobby-involvement aspects of Imaginary Wars—be it painting, gaming or comic collecting (and perchance even reading them!). All my Flames of War pictures were part of the escalation league we had running weekly for Flames of War from July 21st through to a closing narrative tournament on the Labour Day weekend.
The league was designed and run hand in hand by Imaginary Wars and The REGIMENT, the store’s resident miniatures-gaming club. Beyond just encouraging people to come game and have some fun, the campaign had two other goals: increase players’ competency with the new fourth edition rules of Flames of War (released this past spring) and motivate players to make more painting progress on their models. The makers of Flames of War, Battlefront Miniatures, generally recommend that each player’s army total should be 100 points for a proper-sized game in the new points system of Version Four. So, like any good escalation league, we started this one conspicuously low so as to encourage new players to jump into the new system.
Weeks 1 & 2 = 50 points
Weeks 3 & 4 = 80 points
Weeks 5 & 6 = 110 points
Labour Day tournament = 125 points
For a sense of scale: players’ armies in Flames of War are a collection of platoons; a platoon of infantry is typically made up of about three ten-man squads, while a platoon of tanks has typically two-to-eight tanks (all depends on nationality and combat role of the tanks in question). So if a platoon of five German Panzer III tanks–five being the amount that comes in the Flames of War box of Panzers–all armed with the short-barrell 5cm gun (the cheapest gun option for tanks in the Afrika Korps) has a total points value of 25 points, the buy-in for a beginner player can be as little as just two boxes of tanks: that’s a pretty easy entry level for a campaign.
A League of its Own
We decided early on that this should feel more like a league that was rewarding people for playing rather than just rewarding people for winning games. Every week when a participant gamed, they would earn two perks: a Raffle ticket for a $10 Imaginary Wars Gift Certificate (drawn each week) and a cumulative discount on the entry fee for the Labour Day weekend tournament.
It was decided that simply escalating the points value of the armies every two weeks wasn’t a very enticing theme or narrative, so it was decided to make the league’s gaming element be a map-based campaign where the British were trying to keep the Afrika Korps from reaching Alexandria in Egypt (which, if lost, would have closed down British use of the Suez Canal, quite likely pushed the British out of the Middle East, and harmed Brittain’s overall ability to wage war against the Axis).
Digging up the game board from the my copy of the classic wargame, “Rommel in the Desert” by Columbia Games, I practiced my Photoshop-fu and modified the board so that we could use its board as the campaign map. If ever you’ve considered trying to use Google to find a decent campaign map, you’ll instantly recognize what an incredible map this game board map makes!
The starting position of the German Afrika Korps was at Bardia (green territory on the map): for no other reason than the Gulf of Sollum was the approximate middle of the campaign map and would make it so that the campaign felt it could go either way with equal threat/advantage for both factions.
Props to The Regiment: Credit Where it’s Due
While I was the one responsible for the campaign map, the initial push to get the ball rolling and some of the campaign rules, it was only because of the considerable and ongoing efforts of Bradford, one of the Regiment’s members, that made the campaign and the concluding tournament such a success. Every week, he came up with the narrative framework and missions for that week of gaming AND once the week’s battles had all been reported, he did a newsletter that kept the narrative moving forward and called attention to players’ moments of note in the weekly games. PLUS he did all the book keeping for everyone’s tournament-fee discount and managed the weekly raffle!
Rather than insufficiently try and summarize the campaign’s progress and outcome, I thought I’d instead post the weekly newsletters that Bradford had done up—newsletters I had meant to print and post up in the store each week…but that fell to the side as store work creeped its way into all my spare time (as it is wont to do).
Weeks One and Two: 50 Points
Weeks Three and Four: 80 Points
Weeks Five and Six: 110 Points
Labour Day Tournament: A Long Weekend in Alamein
After weeks of being pushed back and launching cunning counterattacks all summer long, the conditions at the “final” battle for Beghazi, though not at El Alamein, were still a bit similar: one side was desperately needing to stop a breakthrough by the other side… it just so happened that the shoe was on the other foot when compared to history!
But what a closing event it was! Thrills! Spills! Chills! It was safe to say a fun time was had by all.
The results? The day started off well for the Desert Rats, whose players won every single game in the first round: it was a crushing start to the day for the German forces. However, by the end of the day, the German players managed to win as many games as the Desert Rats, making it a complete tie. For the campaign, this meant that the Germans were no longer being pushed back from Egypt: they held Benghazi…and amazingly they still held the deep port of Tobruk.
The End of the Beginning…
At the end of the summer campaign and closing tournament, it is fitting and important that the Germans held. Why? Because with Battlefront releasing the American forces that historically arrived in North Africa to further combat Rommel this fall, we’ll be launching a second escalation league! The second escalation campaign will start up in November and will strive to emulate “Operation Torch,” the American landings in North Africa and the campaign that saw the Afrika Korps fighting in Tunisia, caught in the pincers of the Americans to the west and the British to the east!
With November still a couple months away, that gives everyone plenty of time to get a few more platoons purchased and painted….