Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Flames of War - first intro game

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Played my first intro game of Flames of War last night and was delighted!  After years at the 40k grindstone the play style, movement and interactions of FoW are a real boon.  Our list were as follows, I thought Dustino had given me a overpowered force, until I looked at the armylists!

No pictures I'm afraid, as I was concentrating too hard!

USSR (Late War period) - all troops are confident, trained (ie run of the mill).

5 x T34/76 tanks (with 2xMachine guns, fast tank, wide tracks, limited vision @ 265pts.
3 x Emcha (M4 Shermans with 2 x Machine guns) @ 180pts.
Rifle/Machinegun Infantry platoon @ 120 pts

German (Late War period) - all troops are fearless, veteran (ie hardcore!).

2 x 2 STuG III Assault Guns (with single machine gun) @ 380pts
Rifle/Machinegun Infantry platoon @ 195pts

Battle Report

Turn 1: We start out of range of each other, and he moves his troops forward into a series of hedges and shelters his guns behind some bunkers, I move my American Emcha tanks forward on the left flank in line with the troops that storm up the hill.  My T34's move back out of range of the STuG's and shoot at the German infantry - proving that Russians can't hit the side of a barn door at range, killing no one.

NB: Shooting in Fow: Unlike 40k, your roll to hit is predicated on the competence of the unit you are shooting at rather than your own abilities.  This strikes me as more realistic, as conscripts can be hit on a 2+ by trained or veteran troops (they are equally inept at using cover).  This is further modified by range (+1 over 16"), and cover (+1 for any cover for infantry, 50% for tanks).  As such, by T-34's needed 6's to hit the german infantry. 4+, +1, +1.  Russians at range suck!  In addition, a unit that stays still gets it's full Rate of Fire (RoF), whereas a vehicle or unit that moves is RoF 1.  Some weapons avoid this reduction, like vehicle mounted machine guns, Sub machineguns (always RoF 3) and Flamethrowers ... for obvious reasons.

Turn 2: The German infantry shoot up my Russian infantry and kill a single base (all infantry gains a 3+ cover save, even when in the open), The STuG's on the left flank shoot forward behind the objective bunker and shoot up my Emcha's, one Emcha is destroyed, another is bailed out - from 2 shots between the STuGs ... not good.  The bailed out crew hid behind the tank and then I passed the 'motivation test' (5+ for conscripts, 4+ for trained, 3+ for veterans) at the start of my turn and my boys piled back into the tanks.  The Emcha's returned fire, the undamaged tank firing twice, the bailed one just the once (see below), they manage a couple of hits but the german armour proves too much for them, although one StuG crew bailed out.  The T34's decide to use their machine guns on the German infantry.  Advancing to 16", they unlease hell on the Germans, managing 12 hits!  The Germans are reduced from 8 stands to just two.  The Infantry follow suit and manage to kill the closest stand - the officer!  The final german unit (despite only needing a 3+) passes his pinning test, but loses his nerve as last man and retreats.

NB: Bailing out.  Unlike 40k, shaken or stunned rolls don't exist.  A tank which is borderline penetrated (ie you have armour 7, they have antitank 10, you roll a 3 on D6) or is penetrated and fails to explode (Firepower test, usually 4+ or 3+ depending on gun) result in the crew panicking and bugging out of the tank.  The tank isn't dead, but cannot do anything without the crew.  The crew then take a motivation test to reboard their vehicle, they can then shoot - but they count as moving - meaning they are Rate of Fire (RoF) 1.

Turn 3:  The STuG's on the left stay where they are and shoot up the Emcha's, using their 4 shots to kill and bail the remaining two tanks.  The StuG's on the right flank advance from the rear and shoot down a single T-34 with their two shots.  The Emcha on the left flank fails his bailout roll, but passes his last-man check - the Infantry Platoon - seizing their chance race down the hill to the objective bunker (with the STuG on the other side).

Talking Tactics: The T-34's have a tricky choice, due to 'hen and chicks' rule for soviet tanks, they can only shoot if they move a maximum of 6".  With only antitank 9 against the Stug's forward armour of 7, they have a very slim chance of challenging them.  The alternative (classic russian tactics), is to use their 'fast tank' move to race 32" behind the German lines and behind the germans deployment bunkers - forcing the German Tanks to engage them at close range - where their 6" move and fire can get into those tanks side/rear armour of 3.

This is what they do, forcing the STuG's to come to them.

Turn 4: The STuG's are now forced to split their fire.  The "anti-Emcha (M4)" unit leave one STuG behind as the other STuG supports the two STuG's from the other unit to shoot up the T-34's at point blank range (Most tanks, unlike Russians, can move 12" and fire once, it's all about the training and radios).  The remaining STuG shoots the disembarked Emcha, forcing another motivation test - which the crew wisely fail and leg it.  Meanwhile the 3 assault tanks have an awful time - only 1 of the 3 shots hits and despite penetration side armour fails to destory the vehicle and I pass my bail out test.

The Infantry meanwhile assault to lone STuG with molitovs and hand grenade and Boris' headbutt of doom.  By flanking the hull mounted machine gun around the bunker, the STuG has no chance of surpressing them with machinegun fire.  All 6 remaining stand get an attack each, hitting on a 4+, garnering a statistically acceptable 3 hits.  The Stug want to avoid rolling a 1, which it fails.  The crew bails out - not the smartest idea in the face of Boris' mighty forehead (and some USSR stamped bayonets).  The crew die badly.

Ignoring the remaining STuG on the left flank, the T-34's bum rush the Stug teams on the right, surrounding them at point blank range and punching shots through their weaker side and rear armour.  While I fail spectacularly to kill either tank, both tank crews bail out (at this point we realise we don't know the rules for bailing at point blank range and that the crew should really be machine gunned to death as they evacuate - but that's the learning curve ... answers on a postcard please!).

Answer: The crew counts as 'bailed', even though they are cowering in the bottom of the tank.  However, if only destroyed, bogged down or bailed out units  are within 4" of the assault at the end of the turn ... the vehicle and it's crew is captured automatically - win!

NB: Assault and Machineguns.  Unlike 40k, charging into the enemy guns in a dangerous thing (as it is in real life!)  A machine gun platoon will roll 21 dice with 3+ to hit against a charging unit, and any unit recieving 5 or more hits is automatically pinned and fails the assault.  The preferred tactics are either to pin the defenders (this is where SMGs with their ROF 3 become essential), or split squads to pin and charge separately, or ideally flank their firepower altogether.  The co-axial mount of a Sherman or T34 has 360 degrees of fire, as does standard infantry and man-packed guns.  Heavy guns and hull mounted weapons (like the hull mounted machine gun) only have a 180 degree field of fire drawn across the front of the unit.  As such, they can be circumvented.

Assaults are risky and need coordination, but are well worth it against dug in troops (see later) as any hits that are successful result in immediate removal of a stand of troops, with no cover or bullet-proof cover saves.

Turn 5

The last STuG fails his morale check (last man standing) as the russian troops storm the objective bunker AND the T-34's blow up one STuG and bail out the other.

A decisive Russian victory.

NB: Bulletproof cover and digging in.  Something infantry can do to great effect is to use bullet-proof cover and dig in.  Not only do they gain a standard 3+ cover save, but in addition they gain a further save based upon the 'firepower rating' of the weapon fired.  This means that after rolling to hit AND failing a save, most man packed weapons require a 6 to kill an infantry base.  This makes bunkers especially effective.

To add insult to injury (well actually this is pretty realistic), any infantry unit that hasn't moved in it's turn can use it 'movement' to 'dig in', this requires a successful motivation test (4+ for trained, 3+ to vet germans), they then gain bulletproof cover, as they have dug in, in foxholes.  Obviously their shooting is effected, going to ROF 1 for that turn, but even so!

A word of warning though, just alike to tanks, the firepower rating determine the 'destructability' of said cover.  So a Stug firing on that cover will kill on a 3+ (he still has to get through the 3+ to hit and 3+ cover save) and a mortar team will be particularly effective.

As soon as a unit moves, it loses its foxhole.

Conclusions and thoughts on Flames of War

This game is very exciting and a joy to play.  There's very few parts of this game that doesn't make sense to me, and the designers have worked hard to try for realism across the board and the early stage synergy between infantry and tanks is much more mature than 40k.  The use of manpacked or light guns (which cannot be singled out by enemy fire) compared to antitank medium and heavy guns (which can) is cleverly postulated to make you build interesting regiments.

The 'all-army' rules give a useful flavour to the Russians or Germans, while certain countries use technology to compensate for play styles.

As a tank and WW2 buff, I'm totally sold on this game.  The only thing I'm slightly weary of its the toughness of the Sherman tank in this game.  The panzer 4 is paltry in comparison, and from my knowledge - I think the 'tommy boiler' is over-spec'd in armour penetration and frontal armour.

But this is a small criticism for a very enjoyable game.  Considering everything that's going on, we completed this small game in just over an hour.  An equivilent 40k game would have been double that time.

Great fun!
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