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.
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.
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.
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.
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.