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Friday, April 25, 2014

Two Years In, A Flames of War Retrospective

By Sean "Throckmorton" Sarah

So, about two years ago I walked in to my FLGS and finally took notice of all those cool looking World War 2 models on the rack and asked my mildly friendly proprietor "what the hell is that game all about?"

I was, you see, fed up with the ever increasing costs of Warhammer, the douche baggery of the Warmachine tournament scene and the failed attempts to buy into other miniatures games that seemed to show up, look cool, and disappear without notice.

I loved modelling, gaming and all the stuff that goes along with it. I'm a nerd, and pretty proud of it. But I was a nerd without a community. I needed a game I could call home for the long term, something I could dig my teeth into, paint a ton of cool looking stuff and go places to meet and game with new people. Plus, I freaking love World War 2 history.

And, after a good long time, I finally found a community to call home.

Say what you will about model shortages, housing delivery botches, odd editing flaws and ruling off the cuff
on the Flames of War forums; the game, it's system and the people who play it are simply superb.
He doesn't get bogged down....
I think we get bogged down in the day to day craziness of a small group of people trying to run a business for a group of dedicated, and well informed people, so I wanted to take a minute to reflect on how, after two years, I still wake up in the mornings wondering what my next army project will be and what drove me to first create my own blog then move on over here to the home of Flames of War for players around the world.

It... It just feels right Brian.
The Game:

At first, I was unconvinced by Flames, it seemed small. I'd never played in 15mm before and there was just something off about it to my 28mm aspect eye. But after seeing a few games on the table, all that changed for me. There's something about the feel and scope of the game that just clicks for me far better than 28mm games. I can see the board better or something, I don't exactly what it is, but now 15mm feels just right.

But really, the thing that drew me to the game and kept me here were the rules.

With the Flames of War rules we're very lucky.

Allow me to restate that: We're very very lucky with this rule set.

This is what I was used to...
Not only does the rule book do a great job explaining in detail how to play the game, the system itself is deep enough to allow multiple permutations and viable lists without toppling over itself in complexity. This is tough road to travel and, at least in V3 (as I've never played V2 or V1) Battlefront seems to have hit the right balance.

Having played a TON of other miniature games I can tell you that the balance issues we see in Flames are nothing compared with the flavor of the month, stupid tricksy combo driven rule sets that are in asecendance today. Instead of relying on combo's and tricks, Flames rewards solid game play and rules fluency. As the guys on the Breakthrough Assault podcast noted in a recent show, the difference between an OK guy and great guy is how consistent the great guy plays.

Sure there are special rules that need work and under powered lists and there are certainly lists you should not take to a tournament and expect to win. But none of the major powers (especially with the new Russian stuff) lacks for viable options.

There's good balance and excellent replay-ability.

The Models

This is the thing that took the most getting used to for me.

I painted in 28mm for a very long time and looking at the tiny dudes and relatively tiny tanks made my detail loving heart whimper. But when you get down to it, modelling in 15mm is all about contrast and the feel of a unit together, less about any single model. Once I wrapped my head around that I started to have a great deal of fun figuring out themes and ways to make an otherwise visually drab era of conflict pop on the table.

Thus my obsession with weathering grew.

Flames of War is lucky, it has competition in the form of folks like Plastic Soldier Company to ensure that it keeps innovating. Because you can't patent a Sherman, everyone gets a bite at the historical apple and this is good for Flames and even better for the community at large.

As we move away from the era of fragile, chip prone resin and poorly casted metals into more and more plastics I look forward to the awesome bits Flames is going to send our way.

The Community

I've saved the best for last here. You guys are awesome. The rules, the models and all that are great. But the
reason I keep coming back, slogging through more models and driving hours to tournaments up and down the East Coast is because the people that play the game are some of the most gentlemanly I've had the opportunity to game with.

I've played CCG's, Warhammer and Warmachine competitively and frankly, they're some of the darkest hives of human scum and villainy when it comes to a tournament play. Never in one of those scenes would you hear someone at a national tournament say "Hey you forgot your storm trooper" or "Don't forget to unbail that tank"

There's an acceptance that we're there to play the game and have fun, not blindly beat the bejesus out of each other for profit.

So in the end, I really just want to say thanks for an awesome two years. Hopefully, we've got many more to come.

Throck enjoys writing, skiing and long walks on the beach....

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