In the grim darkness of 70 years ago…

We tried out Flames of War a little this weekend. I say a little because I don’t think the experience of pitting 2 German tanks against 3 US tanks is indicative of the game itself. I get the sense that it may be a more defensive game than our experience would lend us to believe, with strategy, lines of battle, defensive positions etc. If it is just zooming around a hill trying not to be the guy that gets shot in the side, then I’m badly wrong.

Everything looks less intimidating at that scale. At $220+ though, it creeps up on you.

FoW is a European/African theatre (exclusively?) game about three different stages of the 2nd World War. There is a “Codex” or stat book of sorts for each period, Early, Middle and Late with German, UK, US and USSR forces covered in each. Each power has its own special ability, the Germans have a bunch of Tank Ace abilities and they’re generally well practiced at brutalizing enemies by the time the war gets going. The British, on the other hand, tend not to run away and have Sergeants that can take command of leaderless units. The Soviets… they have the Commissar rule, almost exactly like 40k.
No, wait a minute, the era of the war necessarily dictates the terrain, right? Mid would be North Africa and Italy, Late would be France, Early would be… I dunno, Poland? i could look this up, but I’m just going to guess and pass that on as fact.
The rules seem a tad daunting at first, because it seems really quite dense and the summary sheet is really packed. But I think as it was played we eventually managed to get in line with what should be happening.

Yelling while going to war was in its infancy back then.

There are a few things foreign to my 40k weaned eye. How hard it is to hit a tank isn’t based on what a great shot you are, but how good your target is at maneuvering. Veterans, presumably, don’t drive in predictable or dangerous ways. You make armour saves first, then figure out if the gun was powerful enough to destroy the tank or just scare everyone out of it. Facing is done in an interesting way. There is no True-Line-Of-Sight, which works much better with this scale of model.
You shoot less if you move, something that is painfully familiar from the Tau days and you can still get bogged down in difficult terrain. So those things are familiar. Also, 50% of the table will be playing fascists, so that is familiar too.
The cost of the models is prohibitive for me, at least, at about 100 New Zealand dollars ($80) or so for a company box. I’m not sure how much crossover there is between time period – is the technology in the late period substantially different from that in the early or is it just slightly upgraded? Or is it reflected in change of crew experience? If the models don’t change much across time periods, then it seems like you’d get quite a bit out of an army, basically three Codices with variations of the same flavour.

You know who else couldn't buy his way to having a winning army? Hitler.

That said, since there is no TLOS and no WYSIWYG, it would seems like proxies would work fairly well. Tiles or counters, cut to the correct size and marked with the appropriate information would fill in nicely. That’s how we did it back in the Napoleonics days and it was good enough for us.
So I’m curious as to how easy a tile-based game of FoW would be and I also want to know about other armies: is there a pacific theatre sourcebook? What about the Italians and Canadians, do they just fit in with their allies? Free French? Poles? I know they do mission specific sourcebooks too and I’m interested in those. For some reason, I don’t think I’ll have a feel for the game, until there are infantry involved.

9 Comments on “In the grim darkness of 70 years ago…

  1. This was pretty much my sense of it too. Of all the minis games I’ve been picking up and fucking with in the past three or four years, this has to bee the crummiest introductory box we’ve seen so far.

    I’m trying not to hold that against FoW, though, because as much of a microcosm of the game as they give you in the box they do give you the full rulebook, which a few games I can think of don’t do. Flipping through the rulebook it looks like not playing that game with infantry is pretty much playing something else.

    I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was authentically interested in picking a time period and getting me a small company of Soviets. As 40k and Games Workshop have been alternating between disappointing me and pissing me off over the past year, I’ve been more and more curious about checking out more authentically combined-arms rule sets. FoW seems like the most realistic I’ve seen so far (which is as likely to be a strike against it as anything), and as expensive as it looks to collect, it does look like you might get a richer experience from a pretty static collection of models… especially as easy as it seems like it’d be to proxy.

  2. Oh, plus: 6mm scale might get Overbo to paint something someday.

  3. One thing I like about historical games is that you can take an actual battle or skirmish, with the actual order of battle and try your hand at it. It is wargaming’s way of saying “okay, smart guy, win this”. That’s an oddly more satisfying game than fighting the Battle of Random Terrain Field. I’m not sure why.

    More people than I must be interested in that though; I think “Could Napoleon have won Waterloo?” was what prompted H.G. Wells to come up with a game in the first place and FoW feeds this with sourcebooks for particular battles and campaigns.

  4. The rules are much more robust than you can explore with just a few tanks and piecing together an army is complicated.
    BUT the starter box does include 5 tanks, dice and a rule book; not super playable but a good deal. The $60 box has more to it.

    As a kid I was into HO scaled stuff so the terrain building aspect is something I am into.

  5. The Boot Camp page on the website gives you a much better idea of the rules:

    I particularly like that assaults are resolved. One side either runs or dies. None of this swirling morass bullshit. Also, I’m used to that from playing Tau and dying as soon as someone grimdarksneezes on me.

  6. So, you’ve got five infantry units there, right? And each unit in the FOC represents a platoon, right? How many bases of infantry does that mean miniatures-wise?