TITLE: Flames of War: The World War II Miniatures Game (2nd Edition)
AUTHOR: Phil Yates
PUBLISHER: Battlefront Miniatures
PUBLICATION DATE: 2006
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM:
Player support can be obtained on the Flames of War web site. The extensive site includes forums for discussing army lists, rules questions etc. There are also forums for the variants of the rules for Vietnam (Tour of Duty), Cold War Gone Hot (Team Yankee) and the Arab-Israeli Wars (Fate of a Nation).
PRICE (with date): $23.00 (in 2008)
REVIEWED BY: Mark “Extra Crispy” Severin
PERIOD COVERED: World War II from 1939-45
The Flames of War books - rules and army/theater books are full color with copious illustrations, diagrams and photographs. The design quality is very high and is certainly a source of inspiration for painting and terrain. The book itself runs 164 pages, which includes the rules, 7 basic scenarios and the quick reference sheet. This review is based on the pocket-sized book they gave free to owners of 1st edition).
While visually gorgeous, the books are known for having poor bindings, falling apart after even light use. Many gamers take books to Kinkos and have them coil bound. They will cut off the spine and add the coil - typically for around $5. A good investment for the rule book which also helps it lay flat during play.
SCOPE: Flames of War (FoW) recreates company sized battles. Players build armies of a base company with supporting units (units are platoons).
ARMY SIZE: FoW is normally a tournament/points style game. Army size can vary quite a bit depending on whether you build an armor or infantry force. An infantry company will require around 75 infantry plus supports. Tanks platoons are 3-5 tanks, and batteries are usually 2-4 guns.
BASE UNIT: Units are based in squads, which make up platoons. Platoons are the base unit.
- Ground Scale: Not stated (ranges are noted as being deliberately distorted)
- Time scale 1 turn = Not stated
- Figure/Base Ratio: 1:1 Each figure represents one soldier, gun or vehicle.
- Recommended Figure Size: 15mm (Naturally since their main business is selling the FoW brand of figures).
- Table Size: The game is designed for 6 x 4 foot tables.
- Game Length: Most games should be playable in 2-3 hours.
FoW uses three base sizes - small, medium and large. Bases are included with their miniatures. The small bases are 1.25 x 1”, the medium are 2 x 1.25, the large are 2 x 2.5 Each base or vehicle is called a “team” in the rules.
FoW uses a strict I Go, You Go turn sequence. Each player takes it in his turn to perform the following, in this order:
- Start Step: The Start Step is largely administrative. Players check morale, roll for reinforcements, and deploy ambushes. Players may also rally units that are pinned, etc.
- Move Step: The active player moves all of his units.
- Shoot Step: The active player fires with all eligible units, including any artillery or other bombardments.
- Assault Step: Eligible units may now assault enemy units that are within range.
All units in FoW fall into a movement class which determines their movement allowance. These include Infantry, wheeled vehicles, tracked vehicles, etc. Terrain is broken down in to three simple classes: road, cross-country or rough. Movement in FoW is not pro-rated. If a unit spends any part of movement in rough terrain it moves at the rough movement rate for the entire turn.
Units may move “At the Double” by passing a skill check. If successful they move at double speed but are highly vulnerable to enemy fire.
Terrain is also classed as Difficult Going or Very Difficult for tracked vehicles. If tracked vehicles attempt to move through Difficult Going, they may become bogged down. A D6 is rolled and the vehicle is Bogged on a roll of 1. In Very Difficult the vehicle becomes bogged down unless they pass a skill check (see below).
Teams may not move within 2” of the enemy, and the rules specify how to move through gaps, and buildings (through doors/windows only). Platoons are moved one at a time.
Units may be moved via transports. Teams may mount a transport at the end of their move. The transport may move prior, but not after loading. When dismounting, the passengers may move away from the transport. The transport can only move after the troops dismount. Transports are rated for carrying capacity, including tank riders.
There are also numerous “Special” rules for movement that typically only apply to specific units or troop types. For example, Slow Tanks move 8” instead of 12; Wdie Tracks allow some tanks to re-roll bog checks, etc.
Command and Control:
Each unit is required to keep to a given command distance. Units in FoW have an Experience rating (Conscript, Trained, Veteran). All teams in a platoon must remain within command distance. Teams may “daisy chain” so if a team is within distance of another team that is itself in command, the team is likewise in command.
Any teams that are out of command must move to be back in command if they move at all. Some teams are independent and are not bound by this rule (Forward Observers, for example). Further, the command team must alway smove such that at least half its teams are in command (this allows a platoon to split into a stationary fire portion and a maneuver portion led by the command team).
Skill Checks: Each unit in FoW has a skill rating. To make a skill check a D6 is rolle. If the result is equal to or higher than the unit’s skill rating it has passed the skill check. Skill checks are used for a variety of purposes: Stormtrooper Moves; Digging In; Bogging, etc.
Shooting at Troops:
FoW uses the familiar “buckets of dice” system. Each team has a Rate of Fire (ROF) based on its armament. The base is a rifle team with an ROF of 1. Units that move fire at a reduced ROF (usually 1). The shooting player rolls one D6 for each ROF point. The number needed To Hit is based on the target’s experience. Conscripts are easier to hit than veterans.
Naturally the target must lie in the firer’s field of fire; within the range of its weapon, and in line of sight.
Shooting is by platoon. The active player selects a platoon to shoot with, and then his target(s). He rolls one D6 for each ROF point, and counts his hits. The score needed to hit may be modified by cover, distance, etc. Hits are then allocated to eligible enemy teams (must be in LOS, closer teams hit first) and saving throws rolled. Saving throws are based on unit type. Infantry, for example, save on a 3+, gun teams on a 5+. Teams that fail the save are eliminated.
Any target unit that suffers 5 hits (10 for Soviets), even if they made all their saving throws, is pinned down. Units recover from being pinned in the Start Step by passing a Motivation (Morale) test.
Shooting At Vehicles:
Shooting at vehicles works like shooting at infantry except for the Saving Throw. For armored vehicles, the saving throw is based on their armor. Armor is rated for Front/Side/Rear. Weapons are rated for Anti Tank and Firepower (FP). To save, a D6 is added to the appropriate armor value. If it exceeds the AT Rating the hit has no effect. If less the target is either destroyed or bailed out. A D6 is rolled and if the FP is equaled or exceeded, the target is destroyed. Otherwise it is Bailed Out. Tanks that are Bailed Out may recover by passing a Motivation (Morale) test.
If players have artillery or mortars as part of their forces they may call in bombardments. To fire indirectly, a battery must have a spotter that has a Line of Sight (LOS) to the target. All bombardments must target an enemy team. The target is chosen and the template (a 6x6 template, in some cases 10x10 for larger batteries) placed.
The first step is Ranging In. A D6 is rolled against the battery’s training level. If successful, the bombardment lands on target and damage is assessed. The bombarding player gets 3 attempts to Range In (mortars get 4). The more attempts needed the weaker the bombardment will be. Artillery does not “drift” in FoW.
Once Raged In, a roll to hit each team under the template is made, just as for shooting. Each team must now make a save (vehicles use top armor if applicable). Teams that fail are eliminated. If the artillery scored one hit (even if the save was made) the target unit is pinned down.
At the conclusion of the Move and Shoot steps, eligible platoons may assault. Teams may move up to 4” into contact with the enemy. The defending unit then takes a free shoot action using the normal shooting rules (even teams not contacted may fire). If the assaulting platoon is pinned as a result the assault is canceled. The assaulting teams are moved back and the assault is over.
Otherwise, the attacker now rolls to hit with his attacking teams. Each attacking team makes a Skill Check. If successful they have scored a hit. There are no infantry saving throws in assaults. The enemy team is eliminated. Armored vehicles get a normla save using their top armor.
If there are surviving defending teams, they take a Motivation Check. If successful they have the option to counter attack or break off. A counter attack is assault combat - use a skill check, no saves allowed (the original attacker does not get defensive fire). To break off take up to a full move away from the enemy. Any teams that are caught within 4” and LOS of the enemy are destroyed.
Assaults go back and forth until one side has broken off or been eliminated. Victorious assaulters may occupy the vacated positions and consolidate by moving any assaulting teams up to 4” in any direction.
The game is won by breaking the enemy force. When a platoon is below half strenth it takes a Motivation Check, If it fails the entire platoon is removed from play. Likewise, when one player’s army has lost half its platoons the entire force takes a check. Failure ends the game.
The rule book includes sections on other ancillary rules such as:
- Air Support: If part of your forces you roll to see if the Air Support appears. If it does it attacks using the shooting and bombardment rules, depending on the weapons of the aircraft selected.
- Ambushes: Some units may be hidden and placed on the table mid-game. They may be placed anywhere on the table that is concealed and not within 16” of the enemy.
- Recon Units: Recon units may “disenagage” basically getting a free move before shooting, making them hard to hit.
- National Characteristics: The various nationalities and specific units may have additional rules and abilities not in the standard rules. The US has especially effective artillery; the German may make a post-shooting Stormtrooper move with a skill check, the Soviets have very limited command and control for many units, etc.
The book includes 7 different scenario types. Each assumes a 4x6 table and is oriented to tournament play. Army books are sold separately for each theater/campaign of the war. While stats for units remain constant, their “point” values change. A Panzer IV is expensive in 1942, but very cheap in 1945, and so on.
I have played FoW many times and enjoy it a great deal. It rewards tables with lots of terrain and lower unit density. It has a reputation for being a “parking lot” of tanks, but that is just too may tanks in too little table. I play it with 1:285 Micro Armor which I think increases the visual look - especially with regard to ranges.
The major complaint about the rules is the lack of overwatch, but that is an easy rule to add. here is mine that I use on some occasions:
A platoon that neither moves nor shoots may instead be placed on “Overwatch.” In the ensuing enemy player turn, that unit may interrupt the enemy at any time and shoot. Resolve the shooting immediately, then allow the opposing player to continue. A platoon may fire some, none or all of its teams. It may fire half at one enemy unit and save the second half for another (that may or may not present itself). Overwatch firing uses the normal shooting rules.