I’ll limit this post to mid war period, as it is the only period that I play, and which interests me (things might change if rules for early war come out).
I played hundreds of battles in many different wargame systems, so I like to consider myself able to comment on things like game-balance, army balance, rules complexity, and other stuff that people might be interested in.
That being said, I’ll start with saying that FoW is one of the games that has good balance. I played around 30 games so far, with my UK rifle infantry. Unlike with other systems, where you usually have 1 thing which is preferrable to “boost points into”, FoW is good, all-around game. Neither tanks, nor infantry, nor reccee teams are at big advantage compared to other models. Each unit / model has its own purpose, advantages and disadvantages. You need to make good combination of everything your army has to offer in order to be good overall. If you stick to only 1 thing, you’ll probably be very good in 1 field of war, while at big disadvantage at some other field of war. And that’s not good idea for tournaments .
As for army balance, I’d say that all “big” nations and some “small” nations are pretty much balanced out. There are some army lists that are just not competative enough for tournament play, because they can’t field “response” to everything that they can see on the table, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t play those same lists in casual play . And that mainly applies to “minor” nations (for example – Finnish tank army is as bad as Finnish infantry army is good ). I beleive that each nation, except for maybe Romanians, could be effectively played on tournament level. And every nation, with each of its army list is good for casual play. That level of equalness (where only 1 army is actually “underdog”) is not so common in wargames.
Regarding “money sink” part of this wargame, I’d say that it’s not as bad as with other games. For example, you can field good army, 1500 points strong (standard game) for some 100 pounds, through there are some armies that are a lot more expensive (USSR being the worst, with some 200-300 pounds for start). Still, even 300 pounds is less than you would spend on avarage Games Workshop army for warhammer / warhammer 40k. Not to mention that, unlike with WH / 40K, rules don’t have some big room for changing – game is based on history, so, for example, tiger tanks would always be great; there might be some small changes in rules, but nothing collosal, that makes you start from the scratch.
As for painting, miniatures are, of course, not as good as those in 28mm scale, they have loads of loads less detail, and when you look from above on your models on table, infantry models are smaller than 1 bean. That means 2 things – if you are not good at painting, it is great, because you can make good enough painting without any skill; and if you have good skill, you will still easly make your army stand out from other armies. For infantry models, I’d say that the most important part of painting, is modeling and painting your bases, because, unlike with bigger scales, your bases are actually way bigger than your models. So, if you invest some time in modeling your base, you would get good looking army. As for infantry models, base paint + single inking is usually good enough. Of course, if you are insane as I am , you can add lots of details. As for tank models, the best way would probably be painting with small air brush, because it allows you to get the best look on your models. Since air brushes can be as expansive as army itself (and even more!), you can still stick to good old brush. Your tanks would still look great.
Rules are not too much complex, althou they are far away from simple. You have a lot of specific, small, rules, and even after 30 games I still learn something new each time I play. Dice rolls are not as important as many people tend to say – I won last local tournament here in Belgrade, so I can say that with good tactics you would always increase your chances. For example – if you have tanks that are as good as opponent’s are, it’s not good idea to stand in open and try getting advantage with shooting first; because, if you miss things, you might easly end up dead. So the most important thing in game isn’t dice rolling, or strength of your models, but rather how good you are able to use terrain to your advantage, and opponent’s disadvantage.
Unlike with some of the games which I played, where terrain is there just for “cool look of the table”, terrain in FoW is “your best friend”... or “your worse enemy”. It is very important to make good use of each and every piece of terrain on the table. Don’t forget to agree with your opponent, before the game begins, which terain gives what type of protection, what blocks line of sight, etc.
Regarding the people that play this game, and this is the most important thing for me, unlike with other systems (primarly talking about WH / 40K at this moment), this system doesn’t attract some specific types, like “I must win”, “man without life”, and other titles, that, unfortunately, you can apply to many gamers of GW systems. At least that’s case here in Serbia (I don’t say that GW systems isn’t played by good people – in my ~15 years long carrer of playing GW systems, I met a lot of people, and some of them are my really good real life friends now). But I doubt that it’s much different in other countries either – first of all, game is history based, and not fantasy / SF based, which automatically cuts out lots of people that you wouldn’t like to play against (and I’m sad to say this, since I’m fan of fantasy games); next, with good balanced system, types that must win at all costs don’t take part in game. There are some other factors, like the thing that I’m 2nd youngest player in our community, with 25 years, but I won’t get much into them, because I don’t want you to drop asleep on keyboard while reading this paragraph . All in all, you end up with decent people, and you can have some really good time playing.
Also, I’m really, really not a fan of historical wargaming, yet I play this game. Because I like the way that game engine is implemented very much. I guess that speaks for itself.
I would say that this game is underrated, but I, of course, know that different people like different things. So, where I like all the aspects of wargames (modeling, painting, collecting, playing, and invensting good afternoon in a single wargame), other players might respect other values of games (fast paced systems, where you can start as soon as you buy your box, and which don’t last more than 2 hours).
Hope this review would help those that were “on the edge” with choosing to start collecting some army .
Cheers, happy gaming
Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
Graduate of Barlinnie
VENI, VIDI, VISA - my reaction on entering my FLGS.
Like a good red wine, I improve with age... and being laid.
A nice well-rounded review.
Be sure to taste your words, before you spit them out.
If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.
Almost makes me want to start back into miniatures. Must resist, must resist...
Excellent review! Also, this line was classic...
...this system doesn’t attract some specific types, like “I must win”, “man without life”, and other titles, that, unfortunately, you can apply to many gamers of GW systems...
I'm still laughing! Thanks for the review and the laugh!
This is a wonderful, clear and useful review.
I think you pointed exactly at all the best issues about FoW.
Just one suggestion: like you, I always preferred Mid War, but you must definitely try some Late War games: it is really interesting and Battlefront produced the most terrific, detailed and fun supplement about that period.
Dzon Vejn wrote:
Regarding the people that play this game, and this is the most important thing for me, unlike with other systems (primarly talking about WH / 40K at this moment), this system doesn’t attract some specific types, like “I must win”, “man without life”, and other titles, that, unfortunately, you can apply to many gamers of GW systems. At least that’s case here in Serbia (I don’t say that GW systems isn’t played by good people – in my ~15 years long carrer of playing GW systems, I met a lot of people, and some of them are my really good real life friends now). But I doubt that it’s much different in other countries either –
I completely agree: I found exactly the same situation in Italy. Most FoW players are nice and interesting persons, and even in tournaments you won't usually find the "My army is meaner than your" attitude so common with most (non historical) miniature games.
Following your opinion, I think there are three main reasons for this:
- FoW rules are clear and give much less reasons to discuss or fight about the right interpretation.
- Victory conditions stress the conquest of tactical objectives over the simple destruction of the enemy: to have a solid win you must hold the mission objectives AND lose as few platoons as possible.
- FoW usually rewards good play and tactical acumen over luck: I remember my astonishment when I lost my first games at the second or third turn just because of some big tactical mistakes I made against a more expert player: you learn soon that (like in real life) you need some luck, but without a good and solid strategy luck could not be enough.
So Flames of War (like most historical games) generally attracts more mature and serious people (no kids full of self-image problems) who thinks that, even if winning is always welcomed, losing a good and hard fight is more fun than an easy victory.
Moreover, a lot of FoW players are already or become learned guys who love history and want to learn more about their army, uniforms and tactics on books and web sites.
Not bad for playing with toy soldiers, uh ?
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Almost makes me want to start back into miniatures. Must resist, must resist...
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