" ...We've enjoyed the hell out of playing it. "
Title: Flames of War by Battlefront Games
Format: Miniatures Game Core Rulebook
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: The term "historical war gaming" has always conjured images of humorless gamers hovering over tiny miniatures and religiously consulting rigid rulebooks full of pages and pages of lawyer-speak-esque text. They are the geeks that even geeks like to make fun of. That is until Battlefront came along with their new World War II historical game Flames of War. Sporting streamlined rules reminiscent of Warhammer or Warmachine, Flames of War wants to pull new gamers into a genre that has historically scared them away. But will it work? Read on, my monkeys, and find out.
What This Monkey Thought...
Playability: Given that this is a core
rulebook for a brand new miniatures game, unquestionably the focus of this review
must be the base playability of the game. But before we can get to it we have
to look a little bit at the history of the genre. Why? Well, since every other
historical miniatures game I've been exposed to requires charts, graphs, slide
rulers, and quantum physics, it's worth noting straight away that the biggest
thing that sets Flames of War (FoW) apart is it's simplicity. Played using a
simple D6 roll to resolve every aspect of the game and issuing no rules so complex
that you can't play from memory if you have to, the first, and probably most
pleasant, thing I noticed about FoW is how easy it is to play. And that's a
huge plus in my book…since I'd rather play a fun but quick game in an hour or
two than make sure the angle of impact and penetration of a 76mm gun vs. the
armor of a Panzer Mark IV is perfectly historically accurate.
All that said, the system behind FoW is both functional and logical. In the majority "to hit" rolls are simple "roll equal to or better than target number" on a single six sided dice and are generally based on the skill level of the target. The logic, simply enough, is that the ability of the target to take cover, stay out of sight, and generally maneuver the battlefield is more influential than the skill of the shooter in determining whether or not a soldier catches incoming bullets or flak. It's that kind of practical forethought that keeps the game simple and but also allows for a level of historical accuracy. Tanks and gun emplacements, for example, deal with fairly rigid fields of fire and concepts of armor piercing and penetration, but sport only a front armor, side, and top armor rating, foregoing the vulnerable rear armor area in an attempt to balance gameplay. The same is true with artillery, which can, for example, only target directly at enemy units and so prevents blind "saturation bombing" of enemy forces.
Morale and company organization play critical roles, and one of the largest issues for your troops on the battlefield will be their ability to stay "under command" and their continued belief that they're not pushing into a losing battle. Forces are assembled based on historical chains of command and the relative availability of divisional and detached support, and a point system very similar to a number of fantasy strategy games allows both sides of a battle to create a force of approximately the same strength and threat.
It's all in an effort to keep the game swift and playable, and the results certainly show through. Though riddled with historical inaccuracies and guaranteed to make any World War II buff grind their teeth periodically with its occasional over-simplifications, the intention and effect is unmistakable. This makes Flames of War not only a remarkably entertaining and marvelously engrossing game to play, but also keeps it fast and fresh enough to appeal to all but the stodgiest historical gaming buffs. 4.5 out of 5
Layout and Presentation: Filled with stylized historical photos and snippets of flavor text and background info, this core rulebook does a decent job of setting a tone for your games but certainly leaves the bulk of the research to you. The rules are, in the majority, presented logically and in an easy to peruse format, though the grouping of all of the examples of play in the rear of the book, and the lack of an index of any kind, will certainly frustrate the majority of you (as it did me)…especially on your first read through. 3.75 out of 5
Value vs. Cost: At 40 bucks the Flames of War core rulebook will run you about as much as a typical roleplaying core, which ends up being a remarkably reasonable comparison given that, unlike the vast majority of table top strategy games, it includes stats and army lists for four armies: the US, Brits, Italians, and Germans. That means that the only other thing you really shy need to play is the miniatures. 4 out of 5
|All in all, Flames of War ends up being a really entertaining miniatures game that may be just the thing for the gamer who'd love to play a historical World War II game but that wants to invest neither the money nor the time to pick up the myriad of rigid and rules heavy traditional war games that make up most of the hobby. It took us no time at all to pick FoW up and get playing and, despite a few notable situations where historical accuracy is traded for a more playable solution, we've enjoyed the hell out of playing it.|
The Good: Great system that gives a balance between historical accuracy and playability.
The Bad: Definitely counts as "light history" in terms of accuracy and suffers from a few presentation issues.
The Overall Ugly: It's my new wargame. 'Nuff said.
What it's Worth: Market