Building a Combat Engineer Company for Flames of War   Leave a comment

Combat Engineers hold a place near and dear to my heart, so I jumped on the chance to build a full company for FOW.

A combat engineer, also called pioneer or sapper in many armies, is a soldier who performs a variety of construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions. Such tasks typically include constructing and breaching trenches, tank traps and other fortifications, bunker construction, bridge and road construction or destruction, laying or clearing land mines, and other physical work in the battlefield. More generally, the combat engineer’s goals involve facilitating movement and support of friendly forces while impeding that of the enemy.

My experience in military engineering is as a Civil Engineer Corps officer for the Navy (That’s me on the far right on a FEX at Fort Hunter Liggett.  Crappy photo).  Seabees are generally tasked with construction in support of the combat forces.  We are trained to defend ourselves and rely on more heavily armed units to handle superior combat forces.

Flames of War doesn’t support the pacific theater where most of the Seabees were active.  However, there were a number battalions and units involved in the ETO.  Seabees were one of the first units ashore on D Day in the role of demolition of obstacles (precursor to SEALS or EOD).  Seabees also helped Patton cross the Rhine by building pontoon ferries.  However, there is little evidence that Seabees in Europe fought in encounters similar to that Army combat engineer units found themselves involved in.  In the Spirit of the Seabees, I put together s Combat Engineer Company at least until I can make a PTO Seabee Company, Det, or even Battalion!

I also thought it would be a good idea to detail the process I use to building FOW infantry based units.  Hopefully, it can help one or two fellow gamers out there and remind me later when I forget!

The idea of capturing the process came after I had already based the engineers.  So, to demonstrate the first steps I used the winter rifle company sitting on my shelf for the initial steps.

First, we all get that giddy feeling of acquiring another box of miniatures to add to our growing heaps of metal and plastic.  Once you open the box, the first thing you will need to do is clean the models.  I usually use a large file for the bottom of the bases and exacto knife to clean the mold lines, flash, and dingle berries that are on the models.

Next up is to organize your force according to the force diagrams and then glue the figures to the base.  The new Battlefront base (brown and old is grey) with holes preset requires less material, but you have to fill the gaps and also maybe do a little extra work to fit old miniatures or miniatures from other manufacturers.  Jury is out on what I feel about them.  They reduce the material, but do not really reduce the effort with respect to time.  Also, using other manufacturers will be a problem as they typically don’t fit the little round holes.

Once the force is based according to organization, the next step is to add some type of filler to the base.  I use Dry-Drx spackle.  It goes on pink and turns white when dry.  To place the material on the base I use a small putty knife.  It took a couple tries to learn how best to apply the spackle without messing up the miniatures.  You can always wipe off the pink material or knock off the dried white material later.

You might notice I only added three figures per medium base.  I read some where on some forum about using three for engineers and I liked the idea.  It looks more appealing for combat engineers.

In the above photo I went back and added additional material to form a dug in position.  I find it easier to do that after the base material has dried a little.

To add even more texture to the base I now add ballast from woodland scenics to the base with PVA glue.

Now it is time to paint!  Make sure to let the bases dry a little.  It can wait as little as an hour or less before the primer is applied.  I use Army Painter matte black primer or lately Rustoleum Dark Grey Auto Primer.

After the primer has dried for several hours or more depending on your climate, I then spray on a base coat.  In this case it is the Battlefront spray UK armor (Italy) which is supposed to be close to khaki.

I wish BF made some spray paints that matches the uniforms more closely.  Helps save time in my book.  Hand painting starts with the base.  I use cheap craft paints and in this case Americana Mississippi Mud for the main color and a couple of others for dry brushing.  I wanted a darker feel for Autumn in Europe.  I usually use Territorial Beige.

Next up was painting the details over the last week.

Above is the final step of painting including unit identification.  I didnt want to bore you!!  I have three platoons as I always try to make full companies.   I add the unit ID before flocking so it is easier to accomplish

Another detail before flocking is to add the magnetic tape below the stand.  I use 2 inch tape from  It is $25 for 50 feet of the stuff!!!

For flocking I use a mix of different woodland scenics and some silflor tufts (autumn in the photo below).  I only added the flock to areas without the gravel.  I wanted a lot of exposed dirt to represent a wet, muddy, and dreary season.

The full Company with support vehicles.  I am not sure what type of list to put together.  I will probably try to keep three platoons and get some tank destroyers.  There are enough stands to replace the HMG teams with rifle teams if needed.  Each platoon has 4 bazookas plus the HQ element of three.  As you have probably seen already I mixed in a few older BF engineers.  I stripped my old platoon and mixed them in to create a full company.

I designed the third platoon to have the option to split into two roadblock strongpoints.  I just needed another command team and they can use the HQ 57mm guns.

Every Army needs a home.  This is especially true when you have kids and dogs roaming the house.  My primary method of storage for infantry is to use white mail boxes from Staples.  I then cut out ducting metal to fit the box.  The magnetic bases stick very nice to them.  You need special cutters and the metal can be a bit sharp, so be careful!!  Its like getting a nasty paper cut 😦

Measuring out the box.  As you can see my daughters dog wants to get in here and cause mischief!  He already knocked my vikings and scots around.  He has managed to get a 2 ton truck and tank recently.  Dont think he liked them as chew toys.

The tools that you need

I feel a bit more reassured now that they wont get damaged.

Thanks for taking the time away from painting or playing.  I know its difficult!!  Hopefully, this gives you some ideas.  Feel free to drop any suggestions that could help improve my process or describe your process.


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