In and out of love with Flames of War

A long while back most of the World War II gaming I did was skirmish stuff with Battleground WW2. I really enjoyed the tactics of small unit infantry action and along with a tank or two that game handled it pretty well. Larger forces for smaller scales wasn’t something I was interested in. This attitude was mimicked with my 40K gaming also. After a while, interest in skirmish-type gaming sort of waned some playing 40K and BGWW2 a lot simultaneously. I was itching for something different.

Flames of War was making some noise as trial rules were making the rounds on TMP and it caught my interest. 15mm wasn’t a scale I was too keen on painting, but the idea of company-sized engagements with combined arms sort of hooked me. What absolutely got me into FoW though was a local mini gaming club that met monthly at a local library. Those guys were really into historical gaming (and miniature wargames in general) and that really drove me to play Flames of War.FoW1

I enjoyed the combined arms aspect of the game, while still retaining a company-sized force. The telescopic range was also interesting with longer ranges being longer distances. Yeah, artillery really should be off board assets but with the idea of telescopic ranges, it allowed me to field a few guns on the table which looked cool. I liked the idea of target experience being the factor for how easy it was to inflict casualties. I liked the idea that hits on a unit could impede movement and shooting so that casualties weren’t the only means to cripple command of a force.

The game had abstract mechanics but they typically led to historical outcomes. FoW tanks ruled the battlefield and could cut through infantry. But get those infantry dug in, and within bulletproof cover, those stands are suddenly a bit tougher to dislodge. Throw in some AT assets and they become a nightmare for tanks to effectively attack, going back to using infantry to assault infantry in those conditions. I liked that.

Another big thing was we used tables with lots of cover. Oodles of terrain were used in our games. I’ve heard of nightmare stories of some employing 40K-like tournament tables, with not a lot of terrain. We never had that issue with plenty of cover and stuff to break up LoS. We also didn’t get into min/max forces with much of the group leaning towards historical company composition for certain periods (even tried a longer campaign with Operation Husky for the invasion of Sicily). So I think I lucked out getting with a great group of FoW players.

But there were rough spots with the game. A glaring aspect was the IGOUGO turn order and no real chance for opportunity fire. Even with pinning units, they could still throw out some dice in attacks. It all became a little predictable. Add to this the meta of super efficient lists, with guaranteed attackers and defenders for certain missions, you ended up with the potential for an alpha strike army. A player could move in and cripple certain forces within the first couple of turns (especially seen with light tank armies). There were specific counters to this, which sort of made for a game where players took relatively safe lists and weren’t willing to tinker around with something different.FoW2

Moving across the world, I packed up my Flames of War models. I ended up taking a few 15mm Russian troops with me in hopes of possibly painting up an infantry force. However I let them languish for the most part as I haven’t played the game in over 8 years. Not getting an opportunity to play certainly had diminished my desire to paint.

Another bit that soured me some on the game was Battlefront’s response to competition. They always seemed to accept folks were going to use other manufacturer’s models. However when Plastic Soldier Co. hit the scene with their 15mm kits, they completely changed their attitude going for a more restrictive policy for hosted tournaments. I don’t blame them. It’s their show and their rodeo with official tournaments. Yet given they release so many different rule and campaign books and have that as a source of revenue, it seemed a little bitter on their part rather than trying to offer a more competitive priced product.

So where does that leave me now? I’m getting the itch some to dabble in 15mm again. I’m feeling the call to paint up those Russians. I’m just not sure that Flames of War will be my go to for 15mm gaming any more.

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