Monday, April 24, 2017

FOW V4-LW Game Review

Let me get this out of the way first: Flames of War Version 4 is an excellent game.

McZermof and I played two games at the club on Saturday. The set-up was 1750pt late war tank companies on an 8x6 table. We were a bit light on terrain, particularly roads, so that's something we'll have to work on for next time. 48 square feet is a lot of real estate to cover, but we managed to arrange it to avoid having large lines of sight.
For the first game, we tried the "Battle Plans" mission selector from the More Missions PDF. I chose a Prepared Attack posture, while McZermof went for Hasty Attack. The die roll to chose the specific mission had me defending in Breakthrough. This made sense: you could imagine that the British were in the process of preparing for a major operation when the Germans threw in a spoiling attack. I quite like the Battle Plans concept, but would need to think through how it would work in a tournament context.

Due to the size of the table, the game broke into three separate actions: a German left hook of three StuGs running into three Comets, which was a matchup the Germans were never likely to win; a right hook of seven StuGs and two Hornisse against five Comets, which were slightly better odds; and a flank march of Sturm Scouts that had to come onto the table in the face of four Stuart Jalopies and three Universal Carriers. The end result was a British victory for the lost of five of their eight Comets, most of the damage being done by an Hs129B3, with the Germans hitting Formation Last Stand at the start of their Turn 5. All up, the game lasted a bit over an hour.
The British Right Flank: Comets afloat in a sea of burning StuGs.
The Killer Blow: The StuG missed, the Typhoon hit, the Germans broke.
For the second game we decided to play Dust Up. This game went much better for the Germans. Their reserves turned up and were able to make a concentrated push for their objectives, while the British reserves were late and had to be committed piecemeal to try and stop them. The Luftwaffe turned up every turn except for the first, and their lone Hs129 single-handedly removed five Comets from the British left flank. It all came down to a single 4+ Unit Last Stand for the Stuart Jalopies, who through speed and determination had managed to get themselves past three StuGs and onto an objective before being reduced to a single tank. They failed, leading to Formation Last Stand for the British at the start of their Turn 7. This game was a bit longer, at about two hours, but still pretty good for a 1750pt game that involved a lot of chat and leafing through the rulebook.
The End of Game 2. Note Stuart Jalopy on the objective in the far distance, about to fail its Unit Last Stand
As mentioned in my previous post, there were three main things I had wanted to learn from the day.
  1. Pace and Space. Light Tank mobility is amazing, particularly on such a large board. Special mention goes to the Stuart Jalopies, whose combination of Light Tank and Spearhead opened up interesting possibilities for deployment in Dust Up. Half-tracked is not as good cross country, but given a decent road network it would come into its own.
  2. Transport. I didn't end up using the halftracks at all. The infantry in fact didn't move much at all, due to me being the defender in both games: they parked themselves on the objectives and sat there. The lack of roads on our table would have limited their advantage anyway.
  3. Air Support. The Hs129 was the MVP of game two, and my Typhoons did pretty well on the occasions that they turned up. While the reduction in AT to 3 for all bombs and rockets means that those weapons are not going to be a huge problem for tanks, cannon-armed aircraft are incredibly potent against medium armour. An immediate change I will be making to this particular list is dropping the Carriers for a pair of Bofors SPs so that I don't feel like such a sitting duck next time around.
To summarise my thoughts from the day, the ruleset is quick and clean, yet are still undeniably Flames of War. Many rules have been stripped back or removed entirely, but it's evident that an awful lot of thought has gone into what has remained. This would be the benefit of having had Team Yankee in the wild for a couple of years prior to V4 being released, in what was effectively a massive open beta of the revised mechanics. No matter how thorough the playtesting process, there is no possible way that V4 could have been as significantly a change from V3 while still being as slick as it is, were it not for the influence of TY.

There were only a few issues that we came across.

  1. Fighter Interception. Under V3, purchasing air support gave you access to both ground-attack aircraft and fighter interception. It appears that under V4 the only fighter interception available is the 25pt purchase in the Early War British and French lists. I have no idea why this would be the case.
  2. Hans-Ulrich Rudel. Not present in this game, but if your opponent happens to bring Rudel along, then all you can do is resign yourself to losing two tanks a turn for the entire game. First impressions, given what I've already noted above regarding cannon-armed aircraft, are that he's probably broken. I cannot understand the logic of making him immortal (Charmed Life, page 43 of Special Rules and Warriors), rather than being given a variation of the 3+ Warrior Save (page 3 of the same book).
  3. Semi-indirect Fire. It took us a few minutes to try and work out what exactly can be rerolled by Semi-indirect Fire when needing 7s or 8s to hit. I'm still not quite sure that I understand how it's meant to work.
And that was it. Two full 1750pt games with a new set of rules resulted in only three quibbles. To reiterate my opening statement, V4 is an excellent game, and I look forward to playing more of it.

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