08 October 2011

Observations of the FoW rules - overwritten?

Just returned home from my friend Thomas a little while ago, expect another Flames of War battle report tomorrow with lots of pictures as usual.

As we played today, Thomas friend Patrik came over and joined us from pretty early on into the scenario. Really nice guy. His presence as our "rule guru", him having played FoW a lot and me and Thomas having played FoW very little highlighted a few interesting things.

Me and Thomas, I would say we grasp the basics of the game. Movement, shooting, most of the assault stuff, artillery, smoke etc. We manage. And if ever something comes up that makes us hesitate we just have the "Does this feel reasonable? If so let's play it that way" approach to rule obstacles.

Now with Patrik by our side we were pretty much introduced to the full range of micro management and special rules for every situation. Just to name a few (and this may make veteran FoW players smirk) "closest easiest target" when shooting at a unit in mixed terrain, assault step technicalities with Recon vehicles etc.

One part of me thought, "well that makes sense", another part of me went "this seems ridiculously complicated when taking the entire game in regard". Because, with Patrik by our side we played 100% correctly in every situation, on the other hand things felt overly complicated. The basic rules and approach me and Thomas had played had worked out and been pretty smooth - without necessarily feeling "dumbed down" to be honest. There was still lots of tactics with pinning stuff down, keeping track of morale, assault approaches, smoke bombardments etc. Add to that stuff like bogged down checks, special rules for vehicles, for units, for shooting, hit modifiers etc. It had felt extremely fleshed out at the level we have played it.

Then adding everything Patrik said we should do, I started thinking if this game actually benefits from every single rule written into it. And a part of me really thinks the Flames of War rules are overwritten. There seem to be a rule for absolutely everything and more.
That does lend a great deal of detail, but at this point when we get to play FoW every now and again I'm pretty sure I will never be able to learn more than 75% of the stuff. And with the stuff Patrik pointed out for us, most of it just felt as "more rules for the sake of having more rules".

I'm usually a player who likes detailed rules. I hate simplified stuff that just feel like Yahtzee. But I also like to know every single aspect of the game and have it memorized after a couple of games. At this point there are two games in my collection where I really don't know them through and through. Malifaux, with the hundreds of individual unit profiles which I will never bother to learn, and Flames of War.

Me and Thomas have discussed the Flames of War rulebook at length recently, and I should add that we like the game. But it does feel a bit bloated. Many of the paragraphs describing rules are really long and don't have the best wording. Sometimes you can have the description of what a rules is supposed to represent mixed in with the actual rule text which makes it longer and harder to grasp quickly.

I don't know if I'm alone thinking about this when everyone is busy nagging about "tank parking lots" and "overpowered army lists". There are rumors of a 3rd edition being on its way. If so, I hope that Battlefront shrinks the rules a little. They don't have to dumb it down, but just remove the stuff that causes confusion, the overwritten paragraphs and rewrite the wording on some rules. I also understand the idea behind the layout of the rules as they are, but I think the book would benefit by having everything involving certain aspects of the game in one single place rather than spread out 30 pages apart.

The most valuable pages, and often the only ones you need to play the game are the summary page at the end of each "chapter" and the crib sheet at the back.

This is not meant as a rant, I just want to share some observations that have been accumulating over the course of my brief Flames of War experience.


  1. I think your on to something here. I have been playing Fow for a long time and I still don't have the rules 100% down. I recently played with someone who does and it got to the point where the game was just dragged down by tinny little things and I just did not enjoy the experience. For a rule set that claims to "keep it simple" there is a whole lot more there than needs to be in certain situations.

  2. Yeah, I mean the experience before Patrik joined up with us didn't feel "simplified", after he turned up we were made aware of a LOT of stuff that in the end did not really improve the gameplay, the flow of the game or in fact the actual outcome of most situations that arose.

    At this point one has to ask himself if everything included in the rulebook really is worth keeping. Of all the people I know here in my gaming group that play FoW I can't say 1 person who knows them well enough without having to consult the rulebook multiple times during a game to at least "make sure he remembered them correctly".

    What I would consider the "basics", more like 50-75% of the game actually makes sense and flows really well. The idea of having two standard values like the skill and morale, the generic infantry save, gun team save, firepower tests etc. But I really don't think this game needs to have 160+ pages of rules to be what it is or play the way it does.

  3. When the rules first came out they were great. It was a miniatures game that was fairly basic and great fun to play. Very few special rules to deviate from the core mechanics. It was unbalanced, but hey. All war is unbalanced. Introduce US tournament power gamers to the FOW forums. The rules changed based on the views of very vocal lobby groups. FOW is no longer the same game it was when it was first released.

  4. I agree with you Anatoli. I still have the first edition and I am considering switching back to it. Too much stuff in the v2 plus supplement and special cases and fortifications and... and...

    If I need to constantly look up in the rulebook, let me play ASL :-)

  5. I feel like the anti-santa claus now. taking away the fun of the game.

    FoW has alot of rules agree, some of then have really long and complicated wordings to a point of stupidity in some.

    I do think that the game is best played with two persons with the same agree of understanding. That way you will either do the same amount of wrong or same amount of right. Wich hopefully will get a nice flow in the game.

    As I tried to point out during the game(Yes Im the evil rule git) "This's the rules, do with them what you feel is right"

    When you played a few more matches you will have grasped, movment, shotting so such a point that it will be very smooth. The Rules I still don't grasp is the assault rules. Now were in history has there been more rules for one element of the game. And to preform a good and tactical assault i FOW you most have a good picture of the rules, sadly.

  6. Quite interesting from my point of view as I have not played FOW, from "looking over the shoulder" at other peoples games it did look quite heavy rules wise. I think a lot of rule sets suffer from overly complex writing and long examples.

  7. No experience in FOW, but I did want to get into it on several occasions with a fairly large local player plase and the plastic stuff coming from Plastic Soldier Company.
    The way I see it FOW somewhat suffered from the publishing policy of continuous influx of books, that each introduce new rules. It seems to me like Battlefron wanted to become the GW of WW2 gaming, with their version of the "hobby", bringing the whole package of books, minis and terrain. The only problem is you can't hold an IP on the 15mm WW2 minis, so they make up for that with a bloated system of rule books.
    It's, of course, just a speculation, so I might be completely wrong, but the excess of rules is what ultimately kept me out of it; what seemed like a fun version of the historic hobby appeared to me a little tedious in the end.


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