Monday, 1 May 2017

Flames of War V4 4eva *love heart*

Ok, so maybe a bit over the top, but the title of the post shows that I am really enjoying Version 4 of Flames of War.

Now, I'm one of the original players of FoW going waaaay back to 2000 when Wayne Turner, Evan Allen, Phil Yates and I were playing Phil's hastily scrawled notes for a new 15mm WW2 game. This is pre, pre preV1! Since then I have played a lot of Flames of War in the last 17 years as a playtester and I have been suffering from game burnout recently. So much so, I started selling off my collection! With the release of V4, however, my enjoyment of the game has been rekindled and I've found myself go back to old habits, you know, making lists, making them different, perusing the online shop, making dicky lists that I'd never field, making 'I wish' lists etc etc etc.

Tank Engine and I both had last Friday off (he is a teacher so never works normal hours anyway, and as it was school holidays here, I had the Friday off to look after the kids) and so we decided to get together for a game. Both of my boys (C and L) expressed an interest in learning the rules as well, so seeing the rules have a 'simpler' feel to them, I thought it was a good time to try them on the game again.

We decided to play 1500 point of late war using the V4 conversion rules. Tank rocked up with a Finnish infantry list ably assisted by C:

CHQ + hero and Panzershreck
Big Platoon of SMG
Big Platoon of SMG
3x PaK 40
3x T34/85
Mortar platoon
MG platoon
3x 75mm Artillery platoon

L wanted to run German tanks so I gave him the Nachtjaeger book to go and work out a list. What we came up with was:

Panther HQ
3 x Panthers
3x StuGs
Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers
4x 120mm mortars
Sporatic Air - Me262

Here are a few in game pictures.

The table. Due to flooding in the gaming room recently, we had adjourned to the garage.

Finns (on the left) count their dead and wave their middle fingers at the panzergrenadiers who have retreated back behind the hedge with their halftracks after failing to counter attack in the assault.

The defensive position of the Finns. Infantry, AT guns, and Artillery.

New smoke bombardment! The Finns protecting their gun line from the Panthers.

Oh dear! The T34/85s arrive from Reserve and shoot up the halftracks.

The StuG platoon on overwatch, waiting for the T34s to make their move.

We played Dust Up. Tank started with both large infantry platoons, the artillery and the PaKs. The Germans began with the Panther platoon, the Gepanzerte panzergrenadiers, the Mortars and the Volkssturm. Why so many platoons when you are only allowed 60% on? The Volkssturm must be deployed on table, but count as only worth 0 points for your split!

Both sides deployed conservatively, the Germans more so as the Finns start with two pre-planned artillery aiming points! Each were placed on an objective point. Tank tried to send one infantry platoon around the flank, but that was countered by the halftracked platoon while the Panthers kept the rest of the Finns in their foxholes.

After a ding dong battle between the half tracks and the flanking Finn platoon, both platoons were reduced to bad spirits and were destroyed after failing morale tests. The Finn reserves came on, but were countered by the Panthers and the recently arrived StuGs while the CO and the same Panther platoon brassed up the other Finn infantry platoon when it got excited and attempted a sneaky assault on the Panthers.

In the end the Finns broke with Bad Spirits for their Formation leaving the Germans winners 100-0 (or whatever the new scoring is now!)

Version 4 Rules

I think the simplification of Version 4 works really well, but with a caveat. I feel the rules have been simplified enough that there is quite a bit of inference in the rules - is some things are not explicitly stated. This is quite a change from V3 where each step was laid out minutely to make sure people played the same way. I don't think this is a major issue, and its one that can be solved by one simple litmus test:

Am I being a dick?

If answer is Yes, stop it.

That being said, here is one example. It may take a bit of explaining and I hope I make sense!

The Assault Step.

One of the things that I think most people felt was that under V3, the Assault step consisted of many point-by-point steps to make sure it was conducted exactly right. There was not much leeway and it made for a very long section in the rules. Under V4 the Assault Step is far simpler, however I think writing simple is a very complex skill to learn.

Step 1 Charge to Contact
An Assaulting Unit Moves any of it Tank or Infantry Teams up to 4"/10cm into Contact with an enemy Team by the shortest route. These Teams are now Assaulting Teams.

Now, when we read these rules, words in the sentences with capitals are Important Words. They require some description or explanation.  'Assaulting', 'Unit', 'Tank', 'Infantry', Team' are all terms explained in the book. Then we come to 'Contact' and the explanation for what is Contact.

A Team is in Contact with an enemy Team if:
  • its front edge is as close  as it can get to the enemy Team, or
  • it is an Infantry Team and its front edge is as close as it can get to another Infantry Team from its own Unit that is directly in Contact with an enemy Team
The thing I'd like to point out is that in the first bullet point, the one that should declare exactly what constitutes 'Contact', at no point mentions anything about base to base contact, or even 'touching'. The second bullet point does allow for a second Infantry Team to be in 'Contact' if it as close as it can get to another Infantry Team that is directly (my emphasis) in Contact with an enemy Team.

On first reading this says to me that our opposing platoons could be 48" away when I initiate the Assault. I move my teams 4"/10cm to 'be as close as they can get' to your teams (still 44" away). There would be no Defensive Fire (as you'd have to be within 8"/20cm of the Assaulting Teams) and I would roll my dice To Hit - hopefully wiping out your platoon. Again, the description does not say my teams have to touch your teams.

The way to solve this is to look back at the Golden Rule. Am I being a Dick? I would say yes. Yes I am. The way to read this is to look at the common sense term, 'Contact'. The dictionary says Contact is a 'State of Physical Touching', therefore Contact in the V4 Flames of War meaning infers that Contact must mean touch. This makes much more sense.

To make this easier to read/understand, something like this would have been better (in my opinion):

A Team is in Contact with an enemy Team if:
  • its front edge is touching the enemy Team, or
  • blah blah touching from behind (fnarr!)

Now, take this with the good will in which it is offered up as an example. I may, of course, be completely wrong about this and either you can assault from the next table or there is a passage in the text that explains this better. I hope the latter is true, but I think that common sense should prevail if not.

What do you think? Is this a case of poor writing, or a case of a writer assuming that we as players as not as big of gamer lawyer asshats than we actually are?  Can you Blitz over minefields with out testing for being hit, or keep your Foxholes in the new position seeing that the movement in the Blitz move does not count as Movement? Do rules need to be written to stop dickheads? Or can we just play a game?


  1. I'm picking that V4 is not tourney 'friendly'. At least in V3, these types of things WERE explicitly stated...

    1. I do fear you are right, Bob, but fervently hope you are wrong! We can only but play more games to find out...

  2. I agree. If V4 doesn't work at tourneys, I don't know what I'm going to play �� TY..???

    1. "calm yer teets" Bob, :) that's all I can say at the moment. You'll have to come down to the club for some games! Saturday week is the next meeting and we'll be playing some Flames then...

  3. Similar thoughts from a game I had with Bede. Not the exact same issue, but a general case of rules not being as detailed as we're used to.

    If I'm in contact with you, are you in contact with me? Obviously should be yes, but my front rank doesn't meet any of the criteria for being in contact with your back rank. How about, is my back rank in contact with your back rank? Understanding these is important for allocating hits, and working out how to keep panzerknackers alive now that they're no longer immortal.

    1. Yep, I agree Richard. Although (now I don't have the rules in front of me), I think it says you can only hit teams in Contact. If Contact is touching, or touching from behind (snarf!) then those are the only teams that can be hit. No more 2" bubble of death...

  4. I'm calm. I don't even have a set of the rules yet... I doubt I'll be able to get to club before December...

    1. Ah, of course. The big OE. Fair enough!

  5. First, I think it is a fun game and I will play more for sure. I too am re-enthused, and I think it will work for tournament play once people get a better understanding of how things work (like winning when defending with infantry - that is no longer easy ;). However, I foresee that we will need a V4.1 before too long as there are just too many weird things going on. Not Bolt Action weird, but weird enough to raise eyebrows. Still, I'm enjoying the ride at the moment!!