Assuming you already appreciate the pleasures of miniature wargaming, and further assuming an appreciation of the Second World War as an excellent period to game in, why play Flames of War? The wargaming world is never short of rule sets, but what makes these the rules we study, debate and occasionally curse? In my humble opinion (and no particular order):
The rules themselves. FoW may not be the most realistic tabletop simulation of warfare, nor the simplest. It has abstractions to make the game more playable, and parts that can cause confusion. But on the whole, FoW strikes a great balance between playability and complexity. The rules are now in their third edition and have been extensively worked on by Battlefront and a large play-testing community. This has resulted in a rule set that is fairly easy to learn, games that flow and give a result, and is detailed enough to provide tactical challenges and interest over a long period of time.
Scope of forces. FoW allows you to field a mind boggling array of forces. Tank, mechanised and infantry companies are available for virtually every nation that fought in the European & North African theatres. Fancy playing Estonian infantry, French armour or the Spanish Blue Division? How about Finnish long-range recce troops, marauding Goums, or an armoured train? Would you like a plane with that, or maybe a battleship blasting away from the coast? FoW is much more than just the Tom(my) and Jerry show.
Scope of game play. Using the same core rules, there are 12 standard missions covering a range of historical actions. Add to this special missions covering airborne and amphibious assaults, rules for using bunkers and fortifications, fighting in snow, deserts, bocage, and darkness. If you want to get beyond the company level actions of a standard game, the Tank, Infantry and Raiding Aces packs put a whole new spin on things, as do the massive battles of a Total War game, or the sweeping strategies of a Firestorm campaign. The possibilities are endless.
Support. Over the last decade Battlefront have built up a huge range of figures, books and accessories. Their website is an excellent resource, with years worth of articles on all aspects of FoW, and an active forum. If you’re the competitive sort, a ranking system is in place. A wider search of cyber space shows an alarming trend that many gamers are also bloggers (who would have picked it?) and love sharing their knowledge and experiences. You can even buy actual models in real shops, just like the old days!
People play it! FoW has placed itself at the head of the pack for Second World War miniature gaming. It is played worldwide by a lot of people. The official website forum has something like 53,000 registered users. Nearly every major tournament in the world offers a FoW competition. Even made up tournaments out in the sticks offer it (go Te Horo!). So, no more searching for an opponent to play the Fourth Albanian Tin War in 31.4mm. Where there are dice and little tape measures, there will be FoW.
So now you’re convinced FoW is essential to your continuing enjoyment of life, what next? Look out for my next post on how to get started in FoW.