Flames of War Debrief

So what went wrong for me in Saturday’s Flames of War game? Why did I lose so badly?

After the game I’ve spent a little time thinking about how the game played out, and chatting to my opponent about it and we’ve come to some conclusions about the tactics we both employed, and the rules themselves.

Flames of War Logo

The Rules

I think there’s a general feeling that Flames of War is a very simple ruleset by wargame standards. Definitely aimed at the fun end of the spectrum and I liken it to 40K – ie fast to play, accessible and with very high production standards.

This for me is no bad thing.

There were a couple of things in the game which we found a little odd though. Namely the lack of opportunity fire (overwatch) and the speed of the light tanks.

James and I have played a few games of Infinity – an excellent sci-fi skirmish game – and the rules there are entirely based around opportunity fire. If a mini moves or activates and you can see it then you get to shoot it. It actually feels more realistic and makes for some very cinematic encounters, providing you’ve got the required amount of terrain, as minis dive from cover to cover under fire.

Now in Flames of War this isn’t the case and it was particularly obvious when it came to my AT Guns which set up watching the road. The nippy British tanks could zig-zag freely in and out of the buildings in the village without any threat from my guns. Perhaps it’s one of the many abstractions in the game and represents how slow the guns are to prep, aim and fire. But it did seem a little odd.

Desert Rats Cromwell

And as for those tanks. The Cromwells, as a light tank, can move 16″ per activation on any terrain (assuming we were playing the rules correctly) and were able to cover practically half the board in a turn.

This meant that James could easily get them where they needed to be and keep them out of sight of the weapons I had which could deal with them. Not taking anything away from James here who played the cat and mouse game excellently, but I think we both agreed that the tanks were just moving way too fast.

Still, in fairness to the game, we were playing on a smaller than regulation table (4′ x 4′) and we didn’t have half as much bocage as we should have, which would have seriously slowed their progress.

German Tactics

And what did I do wrong?

Well there were a couple of obvious mistakes to me, which were only obvious after we tried them. We were learning the rules as we played after all.

Firstly my mortars were mostly ineffective. I wanted to unload them in the farmyard because it looked cool. But it took about three turns to get them there and their guns unpacked. Granted they had full cover and would have been very difficult to budge, but also as they didn’t have direct line of sight to anything were relying entirely on spotters. I simply didn’t use my spotters effectively. Instead they spent too much time driving backward and forward in their (cool little) Kubelwagen and never actually deciding on a good vantage point to get out with their binoculars.

In hindsight I should have got them off at a clear table edge where they would have a good view of the battlefield and would allow my mortars to provide their artillery support, and also serve as a potential distraction – perhaps causing some of the British troops to break off the assault and deal with them.

British Armoured vs German Panzergrenadiers (FoW)The other bit I clearly got wrong was the panzergrenadier assault. We found the rules on mounted assault hard to fathom so we may have got it wrong.

You can’t normally assault from a vehicle but it’s a German special rule and was called out as an exception in the rulebook. I think we got the gist of it in the end, but I really should have dismounted after my assault turn. I balked at it as there were so many infantry bases which would have turned to fire.

But infantry bases are actually pretty hardy, each getting a 3+ “armour save” (actually called an infantry save in FoW) for any damage they take. Having my MG teams dismounted would mean that the return charge of the Brits would have weathered 3 attacks from each of my surviving MG teams.

Instead they sat like sitting ducken in their half-tracks. And it didn’t end well for them.

Finally, I don’t think either force made good use of the pinning rule. It seems like the way one is meant to assault is to lay down enough fire to pin your opponents and then assault in to finish them off. This is where the mortars would have been great. Basically any platoon which suffers five or more hits, lethal or not, is pinned down and is prevented from defensive fire in the assault phase. To help with this you can opt to leave part of a platoon back providing fire cover as the other part assaults.

Like I said, neither of us got this to work. The situation didn’t arise naturally and, more importantly, we didn’t make any efforts to engineer such a situation.

This is actually a really nice feature of the game as it implies the importance of tactics rather than it being rock-paper-scissors with dice.

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~ by Max Von Deadlock on March 8, 2010.

5 Responses to “Flames of War Debrief”

  1. I was playing an infantry force, you were mechanised. In theory, you should have been attacking, pushing into good defensible positions in the middle before I could reach them, and forcing me onto the back foot. The tanks with their ridiculous mobility put a stop to that, plus the particular list you had put together was very static; the mortars and the towed AT guns which made up the bulk of your force essentially didn’t move the whole game – the game was almost down to your one halftracked infantry platoon against my tanks + the larger of my infantry platoons. Once that one-sided battle was over, I could pick off your static forces at my leisure.

    We’ll have to check about spotting from inside a vehicle – if you can that might have made a difference, at the least you would have gotten a few more shots off with the mortars, though they seemed pretty ineffective with only two.

    Re the fast tanks, another thing has occurred to me – they still only move 8″ on rough terrain. One thing we could have done was declare the gaps between the buildings as rough terrain for vehicles, representing the fact that you would have to slow down to maneuver the tanks through the alleyways – or plough through the buildings and risk getting bogged down.

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    • I was quite aware that my list wasn’t appropriate but it seemed way more interesting to play the mortars and AT guns than just load up with mechanised infantry, particularly as we were figuring out how different things worked. It was good to suss out the artillery ranging in rules for sure.

      I was wondering about your additional infantry weapon teams should the PIAT teams have been doing something differently against the half-tracks? As it happened the rifle/MG teams seemed to have their measure.

      I shall have to be mindful of adding mechanised units though in the future, such as self-propelled guns, tanks and tank-hunters.

      I say lets not worry about house-ruling the light tanks until we’ve played more games. But difficult terrain between the buildings might be appropriate representing hedges and gardens, etc. We’ll discuss case by case when we set up next time. I’d like to do building bases anyhow so can model stuff to suit.

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  2. For some reason my PIATs were at the back (in the second wave over the bocage) and were out of range until the fight was over. Had they been in range (8″?) to shoot, they could have made short work of a halftrack without all that messy melee and taking defensive fire rubbish! Really they are to deal with proper tanks though, without the PIAT you can’t assault Tigers at all (top armour 2, Rifle/MG teams have Tank Assault 2; even with the PIAT its only Tank Assault 3, so you have to roll 1 on your amour save to even stand a chance of bailing).

    I think even with the German special half-track assault rules, you should really just think of them as a way to get your infantry where you want them quickly, then send them to the rear. In the half-tracks they are vulnerable, but as a platoon of infantry they are really hard to shift, so if you can get them in some key positions, they can really shine. Do you get panzerfausts or something like that on your half-track platoons, at least as an option?

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    • I can replace the command SMG team in each combat platoon with a command panzerknacker (snigger) team for +5pts, or command panzerschreck SMG for +10pts. Definitely worth looking at the investment as you can feel pretty powerless when confronted with armour and no way to deal with them.

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  3. Definitely worth the points I think – from my random reading on the FoW forums, the general advice is to take as many PIATs as you can get your hands on. 5/10pts to make your 100-150 point unit stand up to a 300pt one? Good deal.

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