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Subject: Why am I so Excited for the Initial Slog??? rss

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Bryan Watson
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I'm placing my P500 preorder for this game this morning. I've read through the reviews and BGG comments about the game complexity and the learning curve. I've watched the gameplay videos. I've downloaded the rule book. I'm well-aware of the slog I'll face when I first put this out on the table. SO WHY AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO PUTTING MYSELF THROUGH THAT???

This may seem like an out-of-left-field question, but anyone out there have experience with this and Mage Knight? I'm referencing a learning curve perspective here more so than anything else (realizing there might not be a significant population of users interested in both genres). I own and enjoy Mage Knight, and am looking for a frame of reference as to the learning curve of that game versus Fields of Fire.
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Bryan Watson
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By orders of magnitude or somewhere in the same zip code?
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Andreas Krüger
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kenosha_kid wrote:
Having played both, I'd say that the FoF learning curve is definitely steeper.

FoF did not feel that complicated to me. It has just a different type of complexity.

I haven't played many war games. When I was a student, we played Empires in Arms. And really, I would not want to learn this game again, now. For each and every turn, something comes up that is covered in the exceptions from the errata of rules 5.4.2.8.8.7.5.c and if you don't know all these, you cannot play at all. But when you know all rules, there is not much you could do wrong. So you pick up the rule book before your turn, reread the rules for the supply of loan corps on allied fleets and then you do your turn.

FoF is different. It is a bit like a roleplaying game. The game is very flexible and kind of auto-generates all these exceptions on the fly that the old Avalon Hill rulebooks have covered in all their paragraphs. So you do your turn, check up a rule, then something happens and then you start looking up. Can the enemy be placed on card with friendly overhead fire from a tripod mounted weapon? What does an out of ammo sniper do again? What is the target priority of vehicles? The structure of the rules is a bit lacking and they really need an index (does the new edition have one, finally?).

When you read through the rules, they appear to be quite simple, actually. So I found it very easy to start playing. But during the game, the difficulties come up. Then is the point when you must not be discouraged. Remember, it is a solo game. You haver the choice. If you don't find the correct rule fast, you can play by whatever rule you can make up which gives you the best narrative. Or makes the game most difficult. Or easier. Or, if you are like me, you really NEED to play by the rule sas written, and take your time to reread some paragraphs.

And then there are the things that are not covered by the rules. For example, you can key commands to pyros. But the rules are not very clear what exactly you can do. I am satisfied by picking something that appears realistic to me. Others are not and demand that rules should cover each possibility. The FoF rules do not always do that.
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Andreas Krüger
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Oh, and the game is STILL great and fun to play. The rules are not hard to understand, they are just hard to find.
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David Janik-Jones
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Up Front fan | In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this | Combat Commander series fan | The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me! | Fields of Fire fan
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The game is a masterpiece ... perhaps even on par with Up Front (did I just say that?). The difficulty comes from the non-similarity to any other wargame (again, like Up Front), and (currently) incoherent and poorly organized rules. And sometimes a few things actually not exactly covered in the rules. The actual gameplay, once grokked, is actually quite simple and makes perfect sense if you assume the role of the company commander you're supposed to be.

The new version of the rulebook you'll get (and should also be posted online for previous owners) will have yet another rewrite and I've said that if it's as much an improvement as 1 -> 2.1 was, and it seems to be shaping up that way, then we'll all be fine.

I have an nicely marked up PDF of the v2.1 living rules that I use with certain critical things highlighted and a few notes added, if you wanted me to pass that along. GM me.
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Anders Young
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I'll second what others have said and say that FoF, once you've learned the game and have some perspective on it, really isn't that complicated. Once you've gotten used it, it's really pretty intuitive, with only a handful of basic mechanics that are fairly straight forward and logical. In my experience, upon finally figuring out what should happen in an instance that stumped me, the answer usually involved the rules making happen what seemed most reasonable at the time. Have a German HMG team and can't figure out where it should go or what it should do? Just do what seems logically; it's probably what the rules would have you do anyway. And in extreme cases of not knowing what should happen, just determine it randomly (within reason, of course) the game's built-in random number generator is a great resource.

As you go on, you'll figure it out. In my experience, the only that is really important to get right is the order of the various phases. I had some of them wrong for a while (particularly when you draw for potential contacts) and it made a significant difference in the flow of the game.

The main barrier to entry is that when you do have a question--which will be often at first, because the game,despite being fairly simple, is quite robust--the answer is either buried in some obscure corner of the rulebook, poorly worded or non-existent.

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Bryan Watson
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kenosha_kid wrote:

Let's put it this way: I broke out Mage Knight after about a year of not playing it, and was back up to speed in about a half hour after scanning through the rules again.

I tried the same with FoF, but it just didn't come back the same way. I basically had to re-learn the game from scratch.

Interesting. My experience with Mage Knight was very much the same as yours. Played and learned it last year, it sat on the shelf for 8-9 months, pulled it back out and had very little difficulty getting back into it.

Thanks for the perspective. I've gone through the rules and started watching some of the gameplay videos to get a feel for Fields of Fire as time presents itself.
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Bryan Watson
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DaveyJJ wrote:
The game is a masterpiece ... perhaps even on par with Up Front (did I just say that?).

I have an nicely marked up PDF of the v2.1 living rules that I use with certain critical things highlighted and a few notes added, if you wanted me to pass that along. GM me.


Funny enough, I wanted to back Up front on Kickstarter, but my real opportunities to play war games are only solitaire due to the fact that life is conspiring to force me into other activities during normal hours. My plan was to "just buy Up Front at retail when it comes out". Guess that worked out OK for me personally, but I'd still like the game produced.

Fields of fire's appeal to me was that it is a solitaire war game with a different play style that echoes my conception of Up Front. And of course, the game play videos and rules appeal to me.

Thanks for the offer of the rules markup. GM sent.
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Tony Oddo
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Initially, I was frustrated with the game as well. I read the rules a few times still resulting in many questions. But once the videos came out, everything clicked into place. When I put the game on the table while still referring to the videos, it all came together.
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Daniel Schulz
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The next edition rules will only be a minor update to the Ver 2 rules posted on GMT's website (at least that's what I heard Ben say on a podcast). Those rules are fine, but assume you know a few things about the military (like what a radio network is, rank structure). The reason people have trouble learning this game is that the mechanics are so different.

Andreas is spot on with his assessment. The core mechanic is simple, but there are many complexities that come up.

edit: here's what Ben posted on consimworld...

The version of the rules that is available at GMT is the base, released with Heart Break Ridge campaign. The next edition will not be a rewrite, just an edited version to add clarifications and incorporate some of the new rules in the second volume.

The briefing booklets will be redone, though, which is great news. I thought they were more difficult to figure out than the rules.
 
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David Janik-Jones
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Up Front fan | In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this | Combat Commander series fan | The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me! | Fields of Fire fan
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horrido wrote:
The core mechanic is simple, but there are many complexities that come up.
True. I agree 100%.

But part of the learning curve with the game, aside from the blatantly missing rules, is the fact that the rulebook lacks any sense of proper flow, hierarchy and organisation in terms of one rule leading logically to the next. And consistent cross-referencing. That's why it needs more than edits, it needs to be reorganised as well. And some simpler jargon around many of the basic things like casualties and the like.

Based on the comments in the last few days, I don't hold anywhere near as much hope out for a largely improved rulebook as I did back in February. I was hoping for a 1 (original morass) -> 2.1 (current living rules) -> 3 significant type of improvement. Its sound amore like a simple 2.2 iteration now. I went so far as to cancel my preorder when I learned that the rulebook won't be even made available for review prior to the game's release. That decision alone made me exceptionally wary, as if the GMT editors were admitting that they know they can't get the necessary changes made even this go-around.

horrido wrote:
The reason people have trouble learning this game is that the mechanics are so different.
I find that only partly the case. It's only "one of many" reasons. Others include long gameplay, fiddliness, dense and poorly organised charts, constant chart lookups on said charts, 30 minute game prep, over-use of jargon, poor rulebook, situations not addressed at all by the rules, etc also contribute. And that the mechanics actually aren't explained right up front, in basic terms, with simple examples of said mechanics. Additionally, if the rules were written with proper flow in mind, i.e., this leads to that, etc, and were better cross-referenced, it'd be a lot easier to learn because the fundamental mechanics are, as you've said, simple. I can explain the basic mechanics in 15 minutes to even a non-wargamer. But those basic mechanics (and how they fit together into a coherent whole) are never properly explained, oddly enough.

If GMT isn't going to the effort of a rewrite, I know a fan of the game eventually will.
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