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Fields of Fire» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Fields of Fire Review rss

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Thomas Gingras

Weymouth
Massachusetts
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Fields of Fire 2ed, GMT Games
From publisher's website:
Fields of Fire is a solitaire game of commanding a rifle company between World War II and Present Day. The game is different from many tactical games in that it is diceless and card based. There are two decks used to play. The Terrain Deck is based on a specific region and is used to build a map for the various missions your company must perform. The Action deck serves many purposes in controlling combat, command and control, various activity attempts. The units of the company are counters representing headquarters elements, squads, weapons teams, forward observers, individual vehicles or helicopters. A single game is a mission and several missions from a historical campaign are strung together for the player to manage experience and replacements. A mission can be played in about 1 – 4 hours.

Bottom Line Up Front, this is a great game. This game is heavier on the charts and tables than a lot of other games, but this is largely a mechanism of the game being strictly solitaire. Additionally there was a learning curve to gain mastery of the system to then start seeing how the game shines. I preordered this from GMT on the P500 and I am glad that I did, along with their decision to print it even though the numbers were not up there. All the parts and pieces are standard GMT quality, which is to say excellent, and of course I sleeved all of the cards for the game.

The game mechanics for this game are based on cards, both for the action deck and the terrain deck. The action deck works like Combat Commander in that the Action deck provides everything the game needs to function. Like Combat Commander there are no dice, instead the cards give you numbers or results to actions. The cards look busy, but the player only uses a fraction of what’s on there for any one action. The cards also provide Orders or Command points like many other games. One of the aspects I like about this Initiative System is that there is both a leader based initiative segment and a general unit based segment, which I really like. The terrain for the game is also determined by card draws. There is a deck of terrain cards for Normandy, Korea, and Vietnam respectively. Each Mission tells you how many rows and columns you need to deal out and then the units move on the cards. This means that the replayability of a mission is endless. With five plays in of the first mission of the first campaign none of them have been the same.

As stated above the initiative system is one of the elements of the game that I really like. As the Company Commander you are getting orders or commands from higher headquarters. This translates into command points, so that you can activate your subordinate commanders, similar to the Panzer Grenadier system. If you or a subordinate unit is within Command you get a greater number of actions. The Commander can then use his actions to activate a platoon or the Company XO or 1SG to draw for their own number of commands. Units then spend their commands to perform a list of actions that roughly break down into Command and Control, Movement, Combat, and Rally actions. Should a unit not be in command they still get a draw, but get commands at a lesser value. Once all the command units have acted there is an additional Initiative segment called General initiative in which units may perform an action on their own. I think that this is a great mechanic and effectively provides for lower unit leaders taking the initiative without bogging the game down with more leadership counters.

After the terrain has been established and the objectives identified the graphic control measures are added to the map. These measures provide things like Phase Lines and Limits of Advance, which will help you control your units on the board. Once complete the Company Commander task organized his units and Company assets, these include mortars, machine guns, bazooka teams, and pyrotechnics. . The smoke and signals maybe used to give orders to the units for a limited cost, such as Red smoke means shift fire, or Red Star Cluster means infiltrate the Primary Objective. At this stage in the game you are asked to look at the map, design a plan for how you want to accomplish it, and then organize your forces to do so. I have not seen this level or planning before in a game and frankly it brought me back to my days as a Rifle Company Commander. The mental exercise of planning the mission was a joy in and of itself. This may be a little overwhelming to someone who is coming at the game cold, but even without any formal training or understanding of the rules the concept is simple. This is what you have and that’s where you are trying to go, figure it out. The ability to task organize means that platoons or Leaders will be able to give attachments group orders like the rest of their platoon in order to conserve Orders. The pyro also allows you to tie commands so the units perform that function without an Order. This saving of orders is important.

The units will move out across the cards, which each have a potential contact marker on them. Through card draws and the level of existing combat you are able to determine what you find and where it shows up. As your units start to move across the board it gets harder and harder to command them with your leaders. I found this mechanic to be very true of combat actions that relied mostly on visual and voice communication. This also demonstrated the breakdown of Command and Control once an operation is underway.
Combat. A turn is an undetermined length of time, this is important to understanding how combat works. With this firmly in mind it makes it easier to make game type decisions without getting lost. Thinking of a turn as a finite measure of time will lead you to making mistakes based on flawed logical assumptions. For instance, once units make contact with an enemy unit they automatically start firing at them and wont stop until ordered to do so, even if they move or are eliminated. Units place a volume of fire marker on a card, this determines the impact that the bullets or bits of metal have in that particular space. This is based on the type of fire, such as small arms, automatic machinegun fire, etc. When determining the combat modifier you use only the lowest number on the card. So small arms is Volume of Fire of o and Automatic VOF is -1. You will use the -1 and modify it for terrain. At first I was a bit skeptical of this as there was really no mechanism for mass of fire inherent in the VOF placement. Mechanically there is no difference between having one or three machine guns firing at the same positon. As I thought about this I was able to circle the square and rationalize it. The target is reacting to the volume of fire, more of the same isn’t necessarily going to create a different result. The game does however manage massing fire by having a Concentrate Fire command. This places a -1 maker on the VOF, which when you start playing you realize is a big deal.

The game prides itself on being a model of modern small unit tactics. This is typically described as find, fix, flank, finish and is the basis of modern doctrine today. As previously stated the blasting away at a unit from one spot doesn’t increase your ability to eliminate enemy units. To effect that better you need to start to maneuver on the position by creating crossfire and attacking the unit from multiple directions. With this in mind it begins to make sense why the mass of fire mechanism works as it does. This encourages you to have to move on the enemy, which makes it harder to command and control your units, which makes command and signaling a real thing. I have had a couple of missions where a leader had to run up, to issue orders to troops to shift fire or to move. As the situation changes during the turn the VOF on the different cards may change. This is where it becomes critical to remember a turn is not a specific amount of time. A unit may move onto a card, find cover and start firing. This means the unit is both exposed and under cover at the same time to determine the combat modifier. This takes into account the status of the unit throughout a turn without only using the final resting place as a modifier. Once the combat segment starts all of the VOFs are frozen in place. This means that the fire that the unit was putting out is the level it will be resolved regardless of what happens to the unit as a result of receiving fire of its own. This means that combat results will not affect the current turn so it doesn’t matter in which order or where combat is resolved. As units take damage they start to fracture into fire teams and teams that can only perform a limited number of actions. This makes them less effective and harder to control. A failed attack or assault will rely be a high cost in Orders and reorganization time if it falls apart. I have laughed at a simple -1 VOF only to see a whole platoon get knocked to bits. I had a German light machine gun hold up a whole company advance as they pinned one unit to then shift fire on the attacking unit. Those guys surely got Iron Crosses. I have also had my Company Xo and all the support units get blasted on a hilltop with no cover when I thought that Line of Sight across the whole map would be a good base of fire position. I have also suffered a German Counter Attack which snatched victory from my hands. I am now starting the campaign game of linked missions, the experience system seems a bit clunky, but I’ll give it a shot.

Invest the time to learn the rules, and just play. Make a decision and then go back and look it up later. Also take a look at some of the YOUTUBE videos that are out there. The game is fantastic, tells a great narrative, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. If you want to feel like a commander of combat arms unit at the company and below level play this game.
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Hernan Ruiz Camauer
Argentina
Buenos Aires
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Wall of text. Maybe add some line returns to get people to read the review?
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Stuart
United Kingdom
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I read every word of your review and thoroughly enjoyed it, Thomas.

As a recent P500 purchaser I'm always eager to learn the thoughts and suggestions of other players. Well done!

Suggest you disregard superficial comments which fixate on the form rather than the substance of your insightful review.

Stuart
 
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Trevor Wilson
United Kingdom
Plymouth
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Great review, but I do agree that it could be spaced a little better to make it easier to read.
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Luke Hughes
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Thanks for the review. You might find the following book on tactical psychology intriguing given your own experience: Brains and Bullets by Leo Murray.
 
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Sequella Deville
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Stu123 wrote:
I read every word of your review and thoroughly enjoyed it, Thomas.

Suggest you disregard superficial comments which fixate on the form rather than the substance of your insightful review.

Stuart


Suggest you disregard your own superficial comments fixated on deriding reasonable, helpful suggestions of peer review readers.

All of the other reviews by this individual are reasonably well formatted, there's no reason this review couldn't be adjusted for common sense legibility as well.













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Tom Duensing
United States
Bartlett
Illinois
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Thanks for the detailed review. I pre-ordered Vol 2 and am looking forward to it. I'm an Up Front player from when Up Front came out and after playing a game without a map, I've found games with maps a bit less interesting. The game looks a bit fiddly from some of the video play throughs I watched but I think, I'll be okay with that. Looks like it is a lot of fun.
 
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Thomas Gingras

Weymouth
Massachusetts
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That was the way it carrried over from pasting it in, but I edited it to include the original paragraph breaks.
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Thomas Gingras

Weymouth
Massachusetts
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LibertyToad wrote:
Thanks for the detailed review. I pre-ordered Vol 2 and am looking forward to it. I'm an Up Front player from when Up Front came out and after playing a game without a map, I've found games with maps a bit less interesting. The game looks a bit fiddly from some of the video play throughs I watched but I think, I'll be okay with that. Looks like it is a lot of fun.


Tom,
On the surfcae this game is a little fiddily, but as you play the game the reasons for it start to come out and I found the mental gymnastics I went through to get there were worth it. Also I cant stress enough to not worry about getting everything right on the first couple of play throughs. I played the first mission four times before I was ready to tackle the campaign. Just make a decision to keep the game going and then go back and look it up.

Also take your time and go methodically though the sequence of play. The first couple games I skipped ammo tracking, and radio comms. I also forgot a couple of items like using the smaller number on the cards for self initiative. I still had a blast, but tried not to eat the whole elephant in the first couple goes and focused on getting familiar with the charts and process.

First game took a looong time to get through, but play got faster as I learned the game, and also learned where things were.
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The Algebraist
Canada
Fredericton
New Brunswick
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I haven't played Fields of Fire, but my guess is that if you can't make it through that review, you aren't going to make it through the game.
 
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