Purchase these Items

Products mentioned in this Article



Sample tables

Operation: MOAB
Part 1: Planning a Flames of War tournament

3, 4 and 5 October 2009 sees the 6th Annual Battlefront Australian Flames of War Tournament taking place as part of MOAB 2009. Run by the Southern Battle Gamers MOAB or “Mother Of All Battles” is the largest wargaming tournament held in Sydney each year with over 300 gamers playing dozens of systems.

MOAB 2009 sees the return of Michael Wong (MW), who this year is being joined by Richard Chambers (RC) as Tournament Organisers.

It’s quite an effort to put together a tournament and each week in the lead up to the big weekend they’re going to share with you the work being done preparing for the tournament and some of their thoughts on the process – from the point-of-view of a seasoned TO and from a long time gamer but first time organiser.

MW: The 2008 Flames Of War tournament at MOAB had a first day starting field of 42 players. Despite an initial hiccup of bringing the wrong USB cable for the printer (quickly solved thanks to my wonderful wife Nadya) the tournament rounds ran smoothly thanks to all the players and the attitude they brought with them. Tournaments are a great way to meet your fellow Flames Of War enthusiasts, and in 2008 MOAB brought together local players from across Sydney - as well as from Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra.

With a wide mix of players ranging from long time tourney veterans to first timers, 8 rounds of Late War gaming wrapped up with the winners receiving their trophies and prizes from Battlecraft Games.

Let the gaming begin
Let the gaming begin

However there was a last minute mix up of the Best General winner - thank you Kris Sundstrom and Deniz Lorenz for their patience and good grace. 

After having spent a few years running the Flames Of War tournament at WSGS’ Leviathan event I thought taking over the reins at MOAB would be easy. Averaging around 26 players each year, Leviathan is a two-day tournament held out at Quakers Hill High in April, acting as a sort of bookend in the past with MOAB for the Sydney Flames Of War calendar. 

Funny thing about tournaments is adding just under 50% more players very quickly more than doubles the work involved, and going from two days to three makes an already big weekend a very long one for any Tournament Organiser.

Kym Pennell and the crew at Southern Battle Gamers do an amazing job running Sydney’s largest wargaming event, and as a MOAB Tournament Organiser you need to do all you can to make the weekend the most challenging, welcoming and enjoyable possible for everyone involved.

With this in mind when I finally got round to reviewing the tournament there were some obvious lessons learnt. The single biggest was that this was too large an event for one person to handle, and having known and respected Richard over the years and knowing he was keen to help out in 2009 despite all my moaning, it was a no brainer to get a co pilot for this year. Richard and I spent many hours over email and in person discussing what we felt works and doesn’t work for large tournaments and quickly found we were on the same page for how to resolve the challenges you face.

RC: In our minds running a successful tournament comes down to getting right the following 5 things – mess up any of the first 4 and the event may not work out quite as you expected. Each week we’ll explore these one by one.

1. Planning
2. Coordination
3. Preparation
4. Execution
5. Evaluation

Planning – The Tables

RC: We started thinking about what we wanted for MOAB 2009 soon after the end of MOAB 2008.

The event

Then we did what all good wargamers do – moved on to our individual lists of 137 other projects we had on the boil and fiddled around with those for a while. Closer to the date – we got back to Project 138 – MOAB.

One of Micheal's table templates First we tried to work out how many tables we’d need to run the tourney. Last year, with 42 players Michael needed to sort out 21 tables.We thought that was a pretty safe bet this year as well but our goal for MOAB 2009 is to have 60 players – so are planning for 30 tables, each of which needs to provide for a challenging game, be visually stunning, have sturdy terrain and scenery that can handle 24 hours worth of intense play and not be a logistical nightmare to store, transport and set up.

We started to look around at what others had done – in fact we spent a great deal of time checking out the forum and other sites looking for inspiration out there. And yes –we found a ton of it. There certainly are a heap of excellent FoW tables – both in tournaments and in people’s homes that we looked at with envy. This set the bar and pushed us in our expectations for how we wanted to present MOAB 2009.

One of Micheal's table templates
One of Micheal's table templates

I also trawled through the Battlefront website and books looking at scenarios and photos of tables – always thinking which of these will give a good base for a tournament game. We saw what was possible, what was first class and what we wanted to avoid. We didn’t want MOAB 2009 to look random – a bunch of tables thrown together the day before with little thought put into the process.

MW: This is the eternal curse of any tournament, and something that often can’t be avoided.

Many tournaments do not have a big lead in time, or bump in, to set up the tables. With nearly always only one day for getting a completely empty venue ready for hundreds of gamers to start gaming at 9am the next morning too often TO’s time is used getting everything set up that careful thought about how to lay out the terrain and scenery is left to the very end of the day. Looking at some of the pictures of last year’s event you can see this for yourself. While no table was outright rubbish a lot of them are your typical North West European farm or small town setting.

Having two people this year doubled the time resources available, and while I was working with Kym and Southern Battle Gamers, Richard was able to do a lot of research and put a lot of thought into getting the best possible table layouts. 

RC: I began designing tables, putting them into themed groups to try and help the tourney have a feel of cohesiveness about it. Whilst time consuming this helped focus our minds to the task and showed that some of our ideas wouldn’t be possible in the time (and budget) frame. My goal is that the designs will be usable again, and compact enough to help us with their transport.

Village table inspiration
St Lo bombing

They also needed to be good representations of actual historical battlefields across the entire European Theatre, so I shared with Michael a series of maps and photos of places like Sainte-Mère-Église, Arnhem (and the surrounding landing zones), Minsk and the Lorraine region that both showed the sort of terrain and scenery we needed to use as well as being the basis for my table designs.

Once the designs were completed we now had a good idea of how many hills, swamps, trees, houses, roads bridges etc were needed. Both of us had a bit of a gulp at the number of things needed, in fact it was a big reality check.

Even though Michael has a full blown, chronic and incurable terrain fetish and Richard has more houses than reasonable – at least in the eyes of his wife – two average blokes can’t realistically supply 20 to 30 tables worth of terrain. (10 to 15 is much more reasonable ☺ ).

After visiting Southern Battle Gamers to take stock of what terrain and tables were available and reviewing our own terrain and scenery collections we had a good idea of where the gaps were, and what we needed to build, buy or borrow! The first scenery challenge we encountered were roads. 


MW: Roads are an eternal challenge for any tournament. There are plenty of commercially available products on the market, including some very good locally made latex products in Australia that I’ve used happily in the past for my own gaming and tournaments. But the simple truth is that you’ll never have enough of them, especially if you want to have a variety of road types – dirt roads, paved roads, roads in a city, the list goes on – for use by 60 players.

RC: We expended a lot of much needed brain cells trying to find a simple, modular and cheap product we could make into roads. Just when we decided on a difficult, expensive option we happened to be watching a mate play a 20mm game of Partisans and Polizei using cork sheets for roads – BINGO – we had found our solution and hopefully will be able to produce the large number of roads we need with a lot less hassle and at a far better cost than we first thought. The next challenge was buildings and urban scenery. 

MOAB 2007 MW: In a lot of people’s terrain collections you’ll find a great selection of north western French and Russian farm houses and a fair few ruins. Some of the more advanced collections will include French and Russian town houses and buildings, as well as industrial buildings. But what if you wanted to do a table for Market Garden? Or Belgium? Or an airfield? And even if you have the buildings, putting them down on a green flocked table with roads across it often makes the whole set up look out of place and not like a town at all. Richard and I spent a fair bit of time working out what buildings we needed, and after discussing the situation with Southern Battle Gamers we worked out an order for a wide range of buildings.

But this still didn’t resolve how to get a town layout onto a green flocked 6 x 4 table without having to build, paint and flock the table from scratch.

RC: Going back to our aim that the terrain and scenery not be too fiddly or time consuming to set up and put down we developed simple templates or as Michael calls them “Terrain Overlays” made of 3mm MDF to lay on top of tables around which the rest of the table is then constructed. These can be prepared to be virtually any sort of scenery; you just need to make sure that the edges “bleed” in to the existing green flocked surface.

Planning – The Missions

RC: This is an easy one. Battlefront has a good selection of missions – more than enough for a 3 day, 8 game, event. We decided that this year the missions will be a mix of No Retreat, Encounter, Free-for-all, Breakthrough, Hold the Line and Fighting Withdrawal. Any game that uses the Free-For-All mission may be replaced with the Seize and Hold mission if one of the armies is an Allied Airborne Company.

We’ve also been talking with Battlefront to see if we can run one of the new missions coming out with Firestorm: Market Garden as a special preview treat for participants of MOAB 2009. Stay tuned to see if we can pull that one off…

MOAB 2007
The event

You’ll notice that we’ve chosen to not run a couple of the missions available. It’s a personal thing, but we’re happy to go with the ones listed above.

Planning – The Sponsor, Trophies and Prizes

RC: This is another area that was easy for us. We are very lucky that as part of a larger wargaming weekend, Southern Battle Gamers, the host club, organise all the sponsorships across every game. This is great news for us, and for Flames of War this means they have worked with Battlefront and one of Sydney’s Local Game Stores – Battlecraft Games in Eastwood – who will be our main sponsor for the second year in a row.

MW: Once again MOAB is able to supply a range of excellent prizes for the winners of the FoW tournament.

• First Place - Trophy and $200 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
• Second Place - Trophy and $100 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
• Third Place - Trophy and $100 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
• Best General - $100 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
• Best Painted Army - $100 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
• Most Sporting Player - $100 of Flames of War products from Battlecraft Games
MOAB 2007
MOAB 2007

RC: We’ve also spoken to another supplier, who has helped us out immensely with buildings for the tournament and without giving the game away too much; he’ll be helping us with the award for the best club – details closer to the event. 

Planning –
Advertising & Information

MW: One of the most important components of a successful tournament is promoting the event and getting information into the hands of the players.

We supplied Southern Battle Gamers with the info required for the MOAB 2009 entry booklet and on their website : www.southernbattlegamers.org/moabsite/
(this is where you go to enter, hint hint!)

RC: Players will find all they need to know about the tournament, what they can expect from it and what we expect of them so the whole thing runs smoothly from the above two links. We tried to be clear and up front and to answer as many of the questions that inevitably arise – before anybody had the chance to ask them!

The event

If you do have any questions visit our forum thread and either Michael or I will get you the answer.

So right now we’re still getting terrain ready, working hard and wishing we had a couple of extra weeks! 

Next week – We see if the boys have bitten off more than they can chew as they start making roads, building terrain overlays and painting buildings…lot of buildings. Plus learn all about what’s involved in Coordinating a Flames Of War tournament.

Last Updated On Monday, October 4, 2010 by Blake at Battlefront