By Mike Strasser, Fort Lee Public AffairsJanuary 23, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (Jan. 24, 2008) - This is not a game where you move red pegs along a board to sink your opponent's battleship. The Flames of War miniatures game requires battlefield strategy, tactical reasoning and just a little luck to ensure one's miniscule "band of brothers" survives the war.
The U.S. Army Women's Museum brought a group of such strategists together Saturday for the third annual Flames of War Day.
"The Relief of Stalingrad was the theme of this year's competition and recreated that ferocious fight between the Soviet Union and the Axis forces on the Russian front in October - November of 1942," said Ron Bingham, tournament organizer at the museum. "The Germans held Stalingrad but were surrounded as the Russians prevailed. Over a million German troops were killed or captured."
After several hours of scenarios varying from free-for-all skirmishes to a trench fight, history was altered at the museum when the Germans won the battle over the Soviets. Joe Berry from Virginia Beach earned the first Germany victory of the day by forcing the Russians to retreat from the battlefield. Berry brought with him a Panzer-Grenadier company to wage war with, but his collection also includes Patton's Third Army and the 101st Airborne Division - depending on the tournament he is playing in. Shan Palmatier earned two victories for the Soviets. First using his anti-tank guns against the German Panzers in a free-for-all, then engaging in what he described as "a meat grinder," Palmatier defended his ground for the win. Palmatier traveled from Silver Spring, Md., for the tournament and said the competition is always enjoyable and worth the drive.
"It's also a good thing that I have a very forgiving wife," he said.
J.D. and Patrick Martin had a shorter deployment from Chester, Va., and was the tournament's only father-son team. Patrick, 15, was also the youngest among the players.
"Our second battle was not quite the massacre as the first," said Patrick, midway through the second round.
The Martins lost their first battle but recouped after the lunch break for a close victory with their German SS Panzer Company from the Wiking Division. Things were bleak when their opponent brought in the Russian reserves, but timely air support and some good dice rolls ended the fight in their favor.
After battles were decided, competitors watched the outcome of other games, or discussed lessons learned and strategies from previous scenarios. Most players are incredibly knowledgeable of the actual events behind the battles, and the miniatures are crafted and detailed with historical authenticity, said Bingham. An added bonus he said, was that it provided an opportunity for the gamers to learn a little quartermaster history at the Women's Museum and the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum as well.
"This was certainly a plus for us at the museum because it not only brought them in for the competition, but they - as well as the family and friends who came to watch - were able to tour both museums."