Jeff K
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There are several excellent reviews done by people far more familiar with the game than I. However, I really feel that this game is very unique, and probably deserves a review of the design elements and mechanics which make it so innovative. So, I've listed here some observations about FF:GD, in particular how it differs from other wargames at the tactical scale. I should note that there aren't really that many games portrayed at exactly the analogous scale, so I have stuck to squad level games of which there are a plethora. This comes after one play, and many of these ideas have been expressed elsewhere, but I'd like to see them consolidated here. So please feel free to add your own, be it things I have overlooked or more subtle nuances I have yet to learn.

d10-1 Melee is not automatic NOR is it obligatory. The mere presence of enemy unit(s) in your hex does not precipitate a melee. You must spend an order to conduct a melee attack (unless in reaction to a melee attack conducted against your unit).

d10-2 "For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction." Be careful of what you choose to do, almost any action you take can draw an immediate reaction to the active unit. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the game. In many games, you find yourself mindlessly conducting attacks which often have no hope of succeeding, just because: "What the hell, it can't hurt." Well, in this case it CAN hurt!

d10-3 The firepower of the attack is not proportional to the damage which is dealt. Increasing FP makes it much more likely that you will hit, but even a "weak" attack which succeeds can be devastating. It all depends on the hit marker you draw.

d10-4 The next turn might not be yours... it all depends on the initiative pawn. This is great to model the back and forth momentum of a battle, something which is very difficult to do and doesn't really seem to show up in other games.

d10-5 Units may have different stats depending on if they are attacking (activated) or defending (reacting). Both your attack and defense numbers are collectively different, not just the fact that you have a different attack and defense number. (Does that make sense?)

d10-6 No stacking limit. Go ahead, stack all of them in there, I double-dog dare you... ninja (Unless you are in column dude, then you are hosed.)

d10-7 FF has an unique order system, with an asymmetric matrix of order "costs". You don't just get to move every unit and fire every unit every turn. You are limited in your command capabilities. Okay, so lots of games these days work on some kind of system to limit the number of things you can do in your turn. What makes FF different? Intriguingly, you can force the issue and pay more for a chance to move or fire, and you can even do this multiple times a turn , but you will pay for it by ceding initiative to your opponent. Brilliant!

d10-8 So, as mentioned above, the only limit to the number of times that your units can perform essentially the same activity (ie fire) is the number of order cubes available. Therefore, you could fire way more than once during the turn (again, at a cost).

d10-9 It's a tactical scale game, however, there are no leader units. The entire idea of command is completely abstracted out. This allows the scale to reflect the broader command structure, not just the physical squad leader himself. In fact, one could argue that the crux of the game is command, control and cohesion.

d10-0 Every unit has a ROF. Thus, you can actually play the tactic of drawing out a defender's fire in a fairly realistic way. As a defender, its not just a knee-jerk "fire!" reaction, you have to think about it a little.

Those are the major ones for me, please expand on this as you see fit!
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Tanks Alot
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Nice Job Jeff! Good to see another Carolinian playing this game!

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Benoit Larose
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Nice.

Comments:

d10-9 Command Control is not exclusively abstracted since Mission markers may be eliminated if alone with the enemy and they do have a command range. C3 is indeed a central concept.

d10-2 This is actually a very important concept to understand, especially on the defensive. Do not take pot shots in front of strong opposition or you're gonna get nailed down by Return Fire.

I would add:

d10-0d10-1 Higher echelon and assets contribution through the use of cards which can be hoarded and used at the right moment.
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Jeff K
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Benoitl33 wrote:
Nice.

Comments:

d10-9 Command Control is not exclusively abstracted since Mission markers may be eliminated if alone with the enemy and they do have a command range. C3 is indeed a central concept.


I can agree somewhat. However, the markers have a generic range which can be reduced globally. Thus, they do not really represent individual leaders as in other tac-scale games, ie one marker is the same as the next, whereas in other games you usually see different competencies for each leader. Also, they cannot be targeted for direct fire or barrage, and will not suffer the same fate as a squad which is eliminated in that manner. But indeed they can be "captured," so to speak, and they can be moved with units. To my mind, the abstraction is very high, but perhaps (as you suggest) not exclusive.

Benoitl33 wrote:
d10-2 This is actually a very important concept to understand, especially on the defensive. Do not take pot shots in front of strong opposition or you're gonna get nailed down by Return Fire.

Amen, brother!

Benoitl33 wrote:
I would add:

d10-0d10-1 Higher echelon and assets contribution through the use of cards which can be hoarded and used at the right moment.

Nice addition, this adds even more elements of higher echelon command. No doubt some of these are reminiscent of events such as off-board arty that do show up in other games, but in FF you can even give these card up for special actions. One that strikes me is the LMG action of a rifle squad. In this game, there are no support weapons, which took some getting used to. It was difficult to extend the capabilities of a regular unit. However the asset card/special action can allow these capabilities to show up, albeit in a very abstract way.

Thanks for the great comments!
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David
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A very good summation of some of the key unique features of the game.
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Jay Sheely
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Aside from Galaxy Trucker and Chess, FF:GD is my favorite game. By far my favorite wargame!

Thanks for the summary!
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It's a great game, but it doesn't seem to be getting much love of late, which I find strange.

Personally, I can't bloody wait for the first expansion.
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Chris Farrell
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Fair enough, but 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 all work almost exactly the same way as they do in the Conflict of Heroes series, from which FF:GD has borrowed, if not heavily, at least significantly. So maybe not quite so unique after all

The thing that makes FF:GD unusual is 7, the order cube system, which is quite different from anything else at this scale. The placement of the leader tokens is also somewhat different from how it's used in similar games (like Panzer Blitz: Hill of Death). That's the thing to focus on the implications of.
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Jeff K
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Thanks Chris, CoH is probably the one game I am not familiar with at all (unfortunately for this op-ed piece) so I'll take your word for it.
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Shauneroo wrote:
It's a great game, but it doesn't seem to be getting much love of late, which I find strange.

Personally, I can't bloody wait for the first expansion.


I can't find local opponents. While VASSAL is fine, I much prefer FtF gaming.

I guess you and I should try to schedule another VASSAL session, Shaun.
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cfarrell wrote:
Fair enough, but 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 all work almost exactly the same way as they do in the Conflict of Heroes series, from which FF:GD has borrowed, if not heavily, at least significantly. So maybe not quite so unique after all :)


The only thing I think FF:GD draws from CoH is the random chits for damage. Everything else can be found in all kinds of wargames.

To me, FF:GD is far more innovative than CoH. Not to mention, more interesting to play. CoH is the only wargame I am happy to never play again. It feels too simple and kind of.. flat, I guess.
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I'd like to give it more of a go, but I don't have time to play some of the larger scenarios so all too often it's easier to crack out CC or CoH instead.
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coffee demon wrote:
cfarrell wrote:
Fair enough, but 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 all work almost exactly the same way as they do in the Conflict of Heroes series, from which FF:GD has borrowed, if not heavily, at least significantly. So maybe not quite so unique after all


The only thing I think FF:GD draws from CoH is the random chits for damage. Everything else can be found in all kinds of wargames.

To me, FF:GD is far more innovative than CoH. Not to mention, more interesting to play. CoH is the only wargame I am happy to never play again. It feels too simple and kind of.. flat, I guess.


I'm not sure how FF:GD would rate as more innovative as CoH. The major innovation is the order/initiative matrix, and while I enjoy the game, I'm far from convinced that it adds to the simulative value in any way, and in fact I think it has a real opportunity to detract from it, as the effects of the matrix don't scale well in the larger scenarios. (The best tactic in Scenario 2, for instance, upon the arrival of the Panzers is to treat them as a new Maginot Line and blast away from stationary positions as long as possible rather than to fire and move.) CoH also happens to be a ton of fun--as is FF--but I know that my first impressions of the system were lukewarm. Takes a bit of playing around to pick up the nuances.
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Kozure wrote:
Shauneroo wrote:
It's a great game, but it doesn't seem to be getting much love of late, which I find strange.

Personally, I can't bloody wait for the first expansion.


I can't find local opponents. While VASSAL is fine, I much prefer FtF gaming.

I guess you and I should try to schedule another VASSAL session, Shaun.


Yeah, we should. I'll be in touch.
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seanmac wrote:

I'm not sure how FF:GD would rate as more innovative as CoH. The major innovation is the order/initiative matrix, and while I enjoy the game, I'm far from convinced that it adds to the simulative value in any way, and in fact I think it has a real opportunity to detract from it, as the effects of the matrix don't scale well in the larger scenarios.


I have recently been revisiting this idea and I can now say that I completely disagree with this comment. In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to overstate the value of this mechanic to the design.

One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of older wargames is the god-like control you have over units and the ability to make them blindly do anything and everything you could possibly want done during your turn. Most modern wargames address this situation by imposing some type of limit on what you can accomplish during your turn. Immediately, games became more "fun," certainly more tense, but perhaps more realistic (I mean, when did commanders exert that much control over their subordinates?)

I see the order matrix as a further evolution of this idea. Your opponent's actions should have a very real and tangible impact on what you are able to do. Take control of the order matrix, and you begin to dictate the rhythm of the battle. I think you would be very hard-pressed to name a wargame in which this aspect of battle is more tangibly simulated. The matrix combines c3i issues, battlefield chaos (ie "contact with the enemy"), logistics and asymmetry of the combatants. That makes it a pretty effective mechanic, I think.
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charlescab wrote:
Nice Job Jeff! Good to see another Carolinian playing this game!



Where are you guys located ? I am in Durham,NC and know absolutely no one with whom to play face to face.
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cfarrell wrote:
Fair enough, but 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 all work almost exactly the same way as they do in the Conflict of Heroes series, from which FF:GD has borrowed, if not heavily, at least significantly. So maybe not quite so unique after all :)

The thing that makes FF:GD unusual is 7, the order cube system, which is quite different from anything else at this scale. The placement of the leader tokens is also somewhat different from how it's used in similar games (like Panzer Blitz: Hill of Death). That's the thing to focus on the implications of.


This was exactly my thoughts while reading the OP points. I'm still planning on giving this game a try and am only stumbling on it now. I found this discussion to be useful.
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Xookliba wrote:
seanmac wrote:

I'm not sure how FF:GD would rate as more innovative as CoH. The major innovation is the order/initiative matrix, and while I enjoy the game, I'm far from convinced that it adds to the simulative value in any way, and in fact I think it has a real opportunity to detract from it, as the effects of the matrix don't scale well in the larger scenarios.


I have recently been revisiting this idea and I can now say that I completely disagree with this comment. In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to overstate the value of this mechanic to the design.

One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of older wargames is the god-like control you have over units and the ability to make them blindly do anything and everything you could possibly want done during your turn. Most modern wargames address this situation by imposing some type of limit on what you can accomplish during your turn. Immediately, games became more "fun," certainly more tense, but perhaps more realistic (I mean, when did commanders exert that much control over their subordinates?)

I see the order matrix as a further evolution of this idea. Your opponent's actions should have a very real and tangible impact on what you are able to do. Take control of the order matrix, and you begin to dictate the rhythm of the battle. I think you would be very hard-pressed to name a wargame in which this aspect of battle is more tangibly simulated. The matrix combines c3i issues, battlefield chaos (ie "contact with the enemy"), logistics and asymmetry of the combatants. That makes it a pretty effective mechanic, I think.


Only nine months late responding to this comment. Yes, there is something wrong with having god-like control of your units, particularly at the tactical level. It doesn't follow that any mechanism that removes control is an improvement. The asymmetry in the order matrix is sort of overwhelmed by the random cube seeding, and the game encourages some false choices, an effect that is greatly amplified in the bigger scenarios.
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seanmac wrote:

The asymmetry in the order matrix is sort of overwhelmed by the random cube seeding, and the game encourages some false choices, an effect that is greatly amplified in the bigger scenarios.


Can you go into more detail about false choices and these being amplified?
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mojayhawk wrote:
seanmac wrote:

The asymmetry in the order matrix is sort of overwhelmed by the random cube seeding, and the game encourages some false choices, an effect that is greatly amplified in the bigger scenarios.


Can you go into more detail about false choices and these being amplified?


The choice between fire and movement doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the way it is applied, particularly in a big scenario. Take Scenario 2. As the Germans, you are probably conducting two separate attacks across the railroad cut, and those attacks are separated by some distance. If you want to fire on positions on one half of the board, you have no choice but to fire on positions on the other half. If you want to move on one side, then again, you are stuck having to move on the other side. Basically, you are put in the position of making a local decision around one small group of units that are fighting in one area of the battlefield and extrapolating it across the entire zone of engagement. The only reason that exists is because the design takes all the different elements that went into a Squad Leader turn and dices them up into discrete actions (Combat Commander did the same thing) that you have to conduct sequentially, and frequently in random or semi-random order.
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On the other hand, you have I-go U-go style wargames with fixed Move Phase --> Combat Phase, for example, where you are put in the position of having to override local decisions around small groups of units that are fighting in one area of the battlefield because of extrapolation across the entire zone of engagement. In other words, your right flank may be ready for combat (*then* movement to exploit the breach) but is artificially compelled to move first because a forced sequence of play tells them that's what they have to do now.

Which is better or worse? Neither, though I think we clearly recognize each other's personal preferences.
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Chad Jensen wrote:
On the other hand, you have I-go U-go style wargames with fixed Move Phase --> Combat Phase, for example, where you are put in the position of having to override local decisions around small groups of units that are fighting in one area of the battlefield because of extrapolation across the entire zone of engagement. In other words, your right flank may be ready for combat (*then* movement to exploit the breach) but is artificially compelled to move first because a forced sequence of play tells them that's what they have to do now.

Which is better or worse? Neither, though I think we clearly recognize each other's personal preferences.


I'm not sure I would argue that those are the only two options. I certainly don't think they are. On the tactical level (and on all levels, really), I tend to be a fan of the kind of impulse movement that has become prominent in the genre--not necessarily the one for one movement you might get in Conflict of Heroes, but in small clusters of units moving, or perhaps a variation in the number of units capable of taking simultaneous action based on the situation on the board. And I think the way the command markers are used in Fighting Formations is fabulous in that regard--you end up very naturally with a diminishing ability to move large numbers of forces as control degrades over time. But I'm less certain about the way the order system works. I think at a fundamental level, there should always be the ability to have some combination of moving and shooting going on, and I don't think the assault order cuts it.
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