Fields of Honor: World War II is a miniatures/tabletop wargame from Pinnacle Entertainment Group. At the writing of this review, there is only a PDF version available of the rules. While the market is starting to get flooded with WWII games, with boardgames such as Memoir '44 and miniatures games such as Axis & Allies Miniatures and Flames of War, this new game offers enough innovation to make it worth checking out.
What You Get
Pinnacle offers components for this wargame as separate purchases or in a convenient bundle. With the purchase of the basic rules you get a 49 page rulebook (PDF), in both a very richly graphic format for viewing on screen and a "printer friendly" format. You also get a campaign book with over 15 campaigns (there's no table of contents for the campaigns, and I didn't count them out past 15).
The rulebook includes basic rules and advanced rules, army lists for American and German forces, Commander Cards, Battle Cards and tokens for play (such as Hit, Hold and Spotting counters). At the very least, the cards and counters must be printed out and cut out. The cards are normal sized, and I found they worked great by printing on heavy card and then inserting into card protectors.
You can also buy a terrain PDF, which has most of the major features you would encounter in the campaign scenarios, such as hills, woods, rivers, etc. This is a 26 page PDF that you can print out to create almost any kind of battlefield needed for the Western Front. All of the terrain is rendered in a top-down manner consistant with the rules and the troops and looks very nice on the tabletop.
Finally, you will want to buy the "Battleset1" PDF, which has 26 more pages of American and German unit flat to play the game. You could use miniatures instead of these flats, but one of the values of the game is how inexpensive and portable it is. Rather than requiring hundreds of dollars of miniatures, you can print out many companies of troops to use on the battlefield. Again, these are rendered top-down and are graphically fantastic. All of the units from the army lists are represented, and the vehicles are especially stunning to see.
With the terrain flats and the unit flats on a green table (they recommend and I agree that felt works very well), the scene looks fantastic. Which is one of the goals Pinnacle had when creating the game, a beautiful, but functional map to do battle on. I think this is a great idea and one that I see sparking in different wargame areas.
The rules are of the Beer & Pretzels variety. The core mechanics are quite simple. First of all units are collected into Companies. Each player will have at least one company, and often more. Based on the agreed points value or the scenario you buy companies of troops up to that total. In the army lists, there's sections for Infantry and Armor companies. Each company is given a letter designation which is written on each unit's flat and is written on the Command Card.
You can also buy Battle Cards at the time you are buying your forces. These cards are a clever way to represent effects that are difficult to model with miniatures wargames. Airstrikes, ambushes, Off-Board Artillery and even spies come into play with these cards. There is a set of cards for the Americans and one for the Germans. Most of the cards are kept hidden and played by a player whenever appropriate.
All of the Command Cards for each side are gathered together and shuffled, along with a "Fortune & Calamity" card which offers some interesting random elements to the game. At the start of the turn, a Command Card is turned up. The unit designated by that card is now activated. If it is a "Fortune & Calamity" card, you roll dice to determine the outcome, which range from beneficial (you might get a bonus to fire with all units in your next active company) or detrimental (you might lose an entire company's turn).
An activated company then goes through a movement phase. Movement is rather simple, with a few different terrain features affecting Infantry and Armor movement. Most terrains other than clear are considered "Difficult Ground" and cost twice the movement.
Then, all units in the activated company can fire. Firing is also rather simple. Each unit rolls 1 six-sided die and rolls of 5 or 6 score a hit against a unit. Of course there are modifiers both for and against the firing unit. Cover and armor make enemies harder to hit, while elite units have a better chance at firing.
Whenever a unit suffers a hit, you must make a saving throw for that unit to avoid losing it. The savings throw is again a roll of 5 or 6 on 1 six-sided die, which can be modified by elite units or the presence of a commander. Units which fail the savings throw are considered killed and removed from play.
There is a short rules section for extended campaign play and units becoming more experienced through battle, advancing from green to seasoned to veteran. Victory conditions and objectives are discussed generically, with the included scenarios giving more details. The advanced rules include Airbursts, AT rounds, Combat Engineers, Spotting and Illumination Rounds, as well as more armor rules.
The campaign, titled "War In The West" takes troops from D-Day across Europe to hit a lot of the major themes in WWII wargames. There's the storming of Omaha Beach, to the "Battle of the Bulge" to the "Bridge at Remagen". Some of the scenarios seem more cinematic than historical in nature, but as I love WWII movies, that is a positive thing to me.
Fields of Honor is an interesting step in the direction of tabletop wargames. Very little of it seems particularly original, but the packaging of it together makes for a somewhat innovative game. The rules are reminiscent of Memoir '44, in their simplicity to learn and execute and also in the fact that you don't get to pick which company activates next (like the flank cards in M'44). However, the number of units for each side (about 30 different units per side) help to differentiate this game from M'44. The campaign scenarios are about average for this sort of game, not being particulary dull nor thrilling. The battle flats and terrain are definitely nice and do look pretty fantastic on the table.
The use of Command Cards and Battle Cards add a good bit of chaos to the game, which I find refreshing, but won't be for everyone. None of the cards seem terrifically imbalanced, but will require changes of strategy for each commander. I think adding random elements to miniatures battles is a good thing if done sparingly and this is a good showing of that.
There are a few things I find fault with in the game. It seems like the game was created for new wargamers, low complexity rules and included flats for miniatures and terrain, but the rules also assume you already know how to play these sorts of games. I don't think this is a huge obstacle as almost anyone can figure out quickly how to get the most out of the game. I think most of the terrain flats are brilliant to look at, but a few seem hastily put together and don't match the high quality of the others. Again, I don't see this as a big issue as it is still functional and you could also use any other terrain like felt to represent some of the terrain features. Finally, I would make one rule change in that hit units make their save at the end of the turn rather than immediately to make the action more simultaneous and deadly. That's probably just a variant I would try when I play.
Another fault that some will find with this game is the fact that you have to print out all of the components to play. While the game is relatively cheap to buy (the bundle of all components was $25 at the time of this review), it can easily cost you double that with printing costs (either if you do it yourself or get it done from a professional printer). Assembling the materials is relatively simple after printing, and consists of just cutting out the many units, cards, counters and terrain.
In conclusion, I don't like to give number ratings in a review, as it comes down in the end to whether or not I would recommend this game to a friend. I would definitely recommend Fields of Honor and I hope that I get in quite a few plays of it this year. See you on the bloody beaches of Omaha soldiers!
This is the third version of Fields of Honor, although the 1st that covers WWII. I don't know anything about the earlier versions, so I don't know how the rules compare, but it's worth noting.
Excellent review! I think it hit it right on the head. Thanks!
What is the scale? Is one card an infantry squad/individual vehicle or are they platoons?