Monday, March 13, 2017

Flames of War v4 Test Run



Tom and I got together yesterday to try out the new version 4 of Flames of War.  Actually we played what we are locally calling v3.5 which is the EW/LW free rules.  But we committed a terrible heresy by playing these rules with our mid-war armies.  This was done because we really wanted to get our old stuff back on the table but Tom has Italians and I have British Infantry, neither of which are playable with the proper mid-war v4 rules.  We figured that since most of the special rules are covered in either EW or LW lists there should be no reason that the MW lists would not work.



We played 1500 points of infantry heavy forces but with a balance of tanks and artillery.  Neither of us had air support so we did not get to try those rules.  In the interest of full disclosure neither of us have actually read the entire rule book so there is a slight chance that we did something wrong.  In fact it is almost a certainty.

British tanks and carriers move into the village in the center of the battlefield.

This post is not a proper battle report but really just a collection of thoughts about the game.  So first and foremost this is really 90% Flames of War.  There are some differences but I was really surprised and please this this is still the game I love.

British dug in on a ridge with mortars in support.
The first set of differences are the changes to the artillery and indirect fire rules.  The thing many people were concerned about before the release was the limit to the number of FO on the table.  My British army has 4, 1 for the 25 pdr battery and 3 for the 6 tube mortar platoon.  Now you can only take one.  The others are redundant teams and are not used at all.  I must admit I though this would be a major issue but in practice I did not find this all that limiting.  The fact that the formation HQ can spot as well as the battery self-spotting really meant that it is rare that you can't get a barrage off.

Italian infantry company takes up a position in a palm grove.
Another change with artillery is the aim point.  In v3 you aimed at a team but in v4 you aim at any point on the table.  This resulted in changing how ranging in works.  Since you no longer have to target a team you roll the range in against the spotter's skill level.  Once ranged in you then roll to hit based on the target's skill level.  This actually makes this consistent with how other types of shooting are resolved.   Since this is really the reverse of v3 it does take some getting used to.

Semoventis taking hits but only one would be lost the entire battle.
 Lots of players were concerned with the general increase in fire power that artillery particularly mortars received in the new edition.  The fear is that infantry will just be slaughtered by artillery and being dug in and attempting to hold ground will be suicide.  In our game I did not find this to be the case.  The first consideration is that increased fire power only plays a part after the target has failed their save and that is the same as last edition.  This means that infantry in the open are in no more danger than ever and are really only in slightly more danger when dug in.  The part that really stands out, however, are repeat bombardments.  Now all batteries can repeat as long as the FO still has LOS to the original target point and did not move.  These repeat bombardments are devastating in that the target must re-roll successful saves.  It is the combination of increased FP and repeat bombardments that will be the true bane of infantry.  Even with this improvement I spent three consecutive turns shelling an Italian infantry company that was dug and and I was not able to do enough damage to destroy them but they did take a pounding.  I really think this change is going to be a good one for the flow of the game.

British hold the town but AT fire is pounding the carriers and Matildas.

The next interesting change, and one that gave Tom and I fits, is the new target allocation method.  Gone are all the complex allocation rules from 3rd edition.  Now the shooter picks the primary target and resolves the shooting.  The the shooter allocates the hits to the primary target and then all eligible targets within 6".  The defender can then attempt to reallocate.  That is it in a nutshell and it is much quicker and much easier.  So easy, in fact, it was actually hard to do as we were both stuck in the old way of doing things.  Once we get this down it's a whole new game.

Matildas coming out on the loosing end of the gun duel.
 The change to movement may be the area where you feel the biggest change from v3.  There are now 4 different kinds of movement each with their own movement rate as well as 3 movement orders or tactics.  At first this seems like a lot, and to be honest I am still trying to digest it, but it actually not that much different than the old system. In v3 there were different movement rates based on the type of terrian you were passing through and then there was the at the double move.  Now you have a tactical move rate that you can use at any time and then you have three different dash moves depending on if you are dashing through terrain, cross country or on a road.  Gone is the at the double move and the silly double hits penalty!  The new movement system is going to take some practice but I see that this will change the tactical aspect of the game in a huge way.

The fight for the village rages on...
 The movement orders are Blitz (which is ironically named), Shoot and Scoot and Dig In.  Obviously the Dig In order is the same as last version but the other two are new.  Blitz is used before the Movement phase and if a skill test is passed allows the unit to move 4".  Since this is outside the Movement Phase the unit will still count as stationary if they do not move in the Movement Phase.  This is a pretty handy order and I used it with great success in our game.  The Shoot and Scoot order allows a unit that did not move in the Movement Phase to make a 4" move after shooting upon passing a skill test.  Again, a pretty useful order.

The Semoventi platoon would make good use of the Shoot and Scoot rule.
One big change that I think will really help mid-war and early war armies is how v4 handles guns listed as No HE.  In v3 No HE (High Explosives) was a very limiting attribute for a gun.  I basically meant you can only shoot the main gun at armored targets and never against guns or infantry.  This was a brutal limitation and didn't do a good job in representing how a tank like the Matilda would have been used in combat.  In v4 this limitation has been removed and replaced with a +1 to hit modifier.  This allows those 2 pdr guns to engage the enemy AT guns with something other than the machine guns.  This is especially helpful when the target is dug in or behind a gun shield as the main gun will have a better fire power rating.

Italian troops advance on the village after destroying much of the British support units.
 Next lets look at the new in command method for v4.  In the old version determining if a team was in command involved looking at the skill level of the team to get the command distance and then making sure that the team was within that distance from another member of the unit.  This could and often did result in units that were spread wide across the table.  This wide configuration really added to the complexity of the game without really adding anything to the playibility or historical 'accuracy' of the game.
Italian troops break cover and advance in the open.
 Version 4 changes this to a simple command distance for all units based on their size and is measured from the unit commander.  As an example, a 7 stand unit of infantry has a command distance of 6" so all teams must remain within that distance from the unit leader.  Units with 8 or more stands have a command distance of 8".  This forces the units to be tighter on the table than the old edition.  There is some concern that the tighter formations, particularly for infantry, will result in greater danger from artillery.  I found that this really didn't make a difference with how I usually play the game.  I never really used the full command distance allowed in v3 and I tended to run units closer together than say a regular tournament player.  Ironically most people ran their tanks fender to fender in the old edition even though tanks had 2" greater command distance than infantry. This will not change with v4 - tank parks will live on.  I the end this change will not really change how I play but others may find this extremely limiting.
Matilda platoon presents their side armor to the Semoventi platoon in a very foolish move that would cost me the platoon.
 I really like how in v4 most of your motivation testing will happen at the star of your turn and only happens once a turn.  The only exceptions I saw where tests for counter attacking in assault.  Version 3 had lots of testing and these tests could happen in any phase of the turn.  It was also possible that a unit would need to test several times a turn.  Now is it basically only once.  Additionally, the threshold for unit break tests is much lower than the previous version.  In v3 you tested for break at under 50% but now it is based on a minimum number of stands still in command.  This actually means that at times units are more resilient than the previous version and sometimes thes might actually be less resilient depending on how well you have managed to keep them in command and how your opponent allocated hits during shooting.

Italian troops prepare to swarm the village.
Well, that is all I can think of now after only one game and an incomplete reading of the rules.  Hopefully, everything I have discussed turns out to be things that we did correctly.  I will need to really digest this new rule book very carefully and certainly get in many more games before I feel fully comfortable ith how this game plays.  My first impressions are very positive at least as far as the rules are concerned.

2 comments:

Dai said...

Thanks for writing and posting this up - nice to read a different take on the new rules. Yet to pick up mine, but I'm reading more and more positive reviews, so I'm hopeful they'll breath life back into FoW for me.

Robert Brightwell said...

Thanks for the comments. So far it looks good but I worry a bit about army construction.