Monday, November 22, 2010

Product Review: Flames of War

I finally finished reading through my copy of the Flames of War core rulebook, by Battlefront Miniatures LTD and boy, was I impressed!  The book is lavishly illustrated and contains plenty of examples of play, along with "summary toolbars," which provide a quick references to various rules.  This way, you don't have to mark-up this beautiful book with a highlighter and there are end-of-chapter summaries, along with a quick reference chart that can be photocopied.  Despite weighing-in at 256 pages, the rulebook is well written and quick to read, thanks to all the illustrations.

My experience so far in actually playing the game is one session as an observer.  I photographed an entire game during NHMGS's (Northwest Historical Gaming Society's) Enfilade 09 convention. Regardless of my lack of in-depth experience with "FoW," as it is abbreviated, the rules are easy to understand, especially since the game mechanics are similar to Warhammer and Warhammer 40K

Based on WYSIWYG ("What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get"), each vehicle represents a single vehicle, while a stand of several infantry, or cavalry figures represents a fire team or half-squad.  Each game turn is divided into 4 steps for each player in an "I-Go-You-Go" manner:  Start, Move, Shoot and Assault.  Movement can be based on inches or centimeters, with travel distance based on a unit's mobility category. 

Once a player moves his forces, then the shooting starts.  FoW uses a simple mechanic based on the target unit's training.  The basis for this is:  Well-trained units will take better advantage of the terrain than poorly trained ones.  So it's easier to hit a conscript unit than a trained unit, or a veteran unit.  However, even conscript units are harder to hit once they dig in.  To dig them out a player can assault enemy units within 2 inches/5 centimeters.  There are also rules covering artillery, air support, along with combat in urban and fortified areas.

But this is just the core rule book.  Battlefront Miniatures provides a plethora of supplemental material on the TO&E (Tables of Organization and Equipment) and historical information regarding the various campaigns.

Wikipedia has the run-down on both first and second editions:

I own several of these books and from scanning through them, they appear as well done as the core rulebook.

Regardless of the high quality of all this material, not every gamer is happy with this product.  First of all--these books are not cheap.  The core rulebook alone cost $50, while the supplements run anywhere from $25-45 each.  Fortunately, I was able to get some of them second-hand.  Otherwise, this is an expensive invetstment just for the printed material alone.

As I mentioned earlier, the game mechanics are similar to Warhammer (and not everyone is happy with this game system either), which means "buckets of dice" rolling.  For every unit in range of it's target, one or more six-sided die (d6) is rolled to see if any hits were scored.  Some units are specially trained that under certain circumstances they can re-roll a miss.  Once all the hits are finally determined, the target often gets a saving roll.  See what I mean about "buckets of dice?"

In addition to the rule book and printed supplements, Battlefront Miniatures also provides an entire line of 15mm figures for FoW.  Once assembled and painted, they look stunning.  However, once they're crammed onto the battlefield, the game table often looks like a miniature parking lot.  One remedy for this was discussed on The Miniatures Page and other gaming sites, is to use 6mm (1/285th, 1/300 or "micro" scale figures), but keep the same measurement distances.  This helps alleviate the parking-lot effect.  Investing in smaller figures is also easier on your wallet too!

Despite the downside mentioned in the last three paragraphs, FoW's ease of play and pro-active support by Battlefront Miniatures, makes this a very popular game among World War II miniature enthusiasts.  So I'm glad to give this rule system a solid 4.5 stars.
Additional (and free!) information and material can be found on the Flames of War website, making this a living rule-set:


DeanM said...


I've never played FoW yet; if you ever host a game, please let me know. Dean

Ted Henkle said...

Love to Dean! Although, I plan on following the advice of some folks on The Miniatures Page, and use my micro armor.