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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Flames of War, V4 Rules, Reviewed and Spoiled

This is the third and final preview for Battlefront’s Version 4 Mid-War book releases. In the Why We Fight Podcast, we devoted 3 long episodes on the changes found in the Early and Late war rules for V4. After reading through the advanced copy of the MW rules, they are somewhat different than what we have previously covered for the EW/LW rules. The core mechanics seem to be the same as the EW/LW versions, however I noticed a few things that are not in the MW rules. Warriors seem to have been taken out of the game, the card system plays a bigger role than I expected in MW, and the new rules seem to have simplified the game in a way it didn’t in EW and LW. What we have here is a set of rules that really only address the forces from Desert Rats and Afrika Korps and is not a rule book that covers the other forces that are planned to come out later for Mid-War; such as the US, Soviets, Italians, and East Front Germans. So before you flip out, let me detail what this book has and some of the differences I found with the EW/LW draft we reviewed. I will also high light what is now missing from the game.

You can look at the tables of contents for both books, but that really does not get to the differences in the two sets of rules.
You will notice that Aircraft has its own section the EW/LW, while in MW the rules for airplanes is woven into the rules which is something many players will like. Special units like Snipers, Flame teams/tanks, Pioneers/Engineers and Armored Trains (did they have any in MW?) are not in the core rules. I started to wonder if these rules only pertained to the first two books, Afrika Korps and Desert Rats since the book only has the national special rules for those nations. However I do not think this is case. Maybe the special units will appear in the upcoming books when they add new forces, we will have to wait and see.

The first major part of the book is called “Quick Start” and gives the player an overview of how the game is played. At 7 pages, this condensed version of the rules is something a veteran player can print out use to teach new players. It also has a lot of info for the veteran player coming over from V3 since it talks about Dash Speed, role of the cards, etc.

The Cards
I know that the role of the cards came up in our interviews with Battlefront and was talked about on the forums. In TY, all the info that is on the cards is also in the books and you do not need them to play. The same is not 100% true in MW V4. With so many special rules pre-baked into the stats on the cards you may find you will have to refer to them more often. It would be your option to thumb through the book instead of using the cards. When it comes to the cards, a lot of players commented on the forum as to how Battlefront could handle different units using the same weapons. The PzIII’s and PZIV’s coming out will have cards that are made for the Afrika Korps and I would have expected that the stats would be different for the SS, an untrained unit, etc. Well I found this quote from Phil Yates on the FoW Forums;

If taken at face value, without reading into things very much, this comment worries me a bit and may (I said “MAY”) indicate that every PZIII unit is MW is basically the same.
The Steps
The bulk of the book takes you through each of the steps in a turn and uses a lot of examples of play. BE ADVISED often a rule is just mentioned on a picture - so be sure you read the captions in order to not miss anything. Make sure to read the section on Assaults and study the pictures, the tweaks made in this section are subtle and veteran players may not catch them all. One tweak that threw us off when playtesting EW/LW is a failed “Cross” roll. In the past it was called a “Bog” check and the unit stopped and received a status marker indicating it was “Bogged Down”. In V4 (EW/MW/LW) a failed cross check just causes the unit to stop before it gets into terrain, it can still shoot and assault. The only time a unit is in trouble from a failed cross check is when it attempts to break off after an assault and fails its cross check. In this case if the unit cannot get more than 6” from an enemy team, it is considered destroyed. Another change from V3 that will trip folks is that in V4, a vehicle can shoot its main gun or MGs, not both. In fact on the cards for MW, vehicle MGs are listed as one stat line, so it makes no difference if its co-ax, hull, etc they call can fire 360 degrees around the tank. In fact the Honey gets 5 MG shots per turn moving or stationary.
Special Rules
Here is where you see how much has been taken out of the game. As I said before, many of the special rules have been added to the unit stats and you will notice the increase of die roll modifiers and a huge reduction of re-rolls. Oh, speaking of re-rolls, in the EW/LW rules you can roll to get a 7 or 8, this only applies to shooting for MW.

Just looking at the German special rules, I noticed that Mounted Assault is gone for mid-war. Before folks start jumping out of windows, please remember that the first two books do not have half-tracks, so there is no need to have the rule in the book at this time. However why then include the Schurzen rule in the book since it is also not in the game? We will have to see if that changes when the game adds other forces.

In the MW book some units have “Special Training” which is called “abilities” in EW/MW. Yes it’s a subtle change, but it is different.

Yet another change are minefields.  EW/LW will keep using the ones from V3 and MW will use a token. Wasn’t the Battle of El Alamein known for its vast minefields?

Force Building
Based on the slim amount of forces available in MW, force selection is very straight forward and a necessary evil because it will be tough to make a force from just one formation at the high game point totals.
One item I noticed in Desert Rats and the V4 MW rule book are how Allied forces are handled. Both books have this listed in them.

So what are we to make of that? Only US forces? I guess the French forces are out of luck. So you do not have to check out the Afrika Korps post, they can only take Italians.

The remainder of the book goes over the missions - and they match what we previewed in WWF. I will give you a rundown on what changed from V3 anyway.
No more Always Attacks or Always Defends, players pick one, or roll off.
You can lose 1 platoon and it will not count against you in the scoring.
Top score 8-1, lowest winning score is a 6-3.
Reserves based on 60% of your forces cost in points not on platoons, so a 100 point game with reserves means you can only deploy 60% of your forces total points. No split platoons.
Units can be left out of battle and not come on the table at all.
Six basic missions and 4 advanced. No more defensive battles in the 6 basic missions.

My Impressions
Folks, I am at a real loss for words here. Despite our many talks with the devs at Battlefront I did not expect so many changes for Mid-War. I have said and will still claim that for EW/LW the V4 rules are a welcome change and add to the flavor and enjoyment of the game. This is not the case for MW, at least from what we have seen so far. I know that the rationale was to make some needed changes in the oldest books in the collection (North Afrika and Eastern Front) with the hope to attract new players.

However so far these 3 books indicate a bigger shift than we were lead to believe. As I stated in my Desert Rats preview, a lot of signs point to these 3 books being a standalone game, they can add the Americans and Italians and then say April Fools, here is your deep and colorful East Front books with the flavor you liked about the game. While I am speculating here, the bottom line is that we do not know what the plans are for the rest of MW and for EW/LW.

I want to list some of the thoughts I have right now about V4 Mid-War.
This is a different game that the EW/LW version, the rules are different, the forces are different and the nomenclature changes between the MW and EW/LW. A lot of players feel they know the V3 rules very well, however they do not. Now they have to remember what is in MW as opposed to EW/LW. Yes I know the rules differences were slight, however the devs should have made sure they were addressed.

The difference in forces is huge between V3 and now between EW/LW and MW. They have created a learning curve within their own game, and one that did not exist before. This may turn new players, who are picking up the game at the V4 MW point, to shy away from EW/LW. The only way this can be fixed is by changing EW/LW to the new MW standards.

What is now gone for good in mid-war? We know that the recce and pioneer lists from MW may be gone, and in the case of the Pioneers, the capabilities they brought to the game may be gone as well. Something I saw on the FoW website may have gone unnoticed by many however it new causes me to ask one big question.

Based on above; "What percentage of my collection, which only appears in Mid-War are now useless?"

I also wonder what pushed these changes; and if what folks like about the game is different in other parts of the world? I liked how the game had historical accuracy, unique units with colorful backgrounds, warriors who changed the course of history, and pitting a historically weak force against a stronger opponent and winning. Based on the two books we have seen all, of this is pretty much gone and replaced with cookie cutter forces that are nearly identical. I recall Pete telling us in our interview with him that we will use the toys we like to play with instead of the ones we do not; but hey I liked taking that 2 gun German 15cm IG33 team, did folks think we did not like those teams?

A standard and broad set of rules is a key to the success of any game. Do these rules meet that standard? A lot of speculation I mention above is based on a future which is uncertain. So let’s say I am a new player and I spend a couple of hundred bucks on a collection of British models from Desert Rats and sometime in 2018 I head to an open tournament that has forces from an Eastern Front book. Since I didn’t care to collect a force from that period I never got the new book. However the new book introduces a rule like “Mounted Assault”, wouldn’t that make my rule book (and maybe the force I have) garbage?

Even with all of the above said, I plan to do as was recommended to us; I will try the game out before I pass judgment. The game still may be fun, however it will have to win me over on its own merit, not as a comparison to what came before it. I could say the same about the reluctance many (I did too) had in trying Team Yankee; they compared it to Flames of War and did not realize it was its own standalone game. So I plan to look at V4 MW as its own game, and not compare it to its EW/LW counterparts, however I’m struck wondering if that is the logic the developers had in mind. I guess only time will tell.

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