Sunday, August 12, 2012

FoW Mission Design. If You Want Something Done Right...

Hey folks, SinSynn here.

For the longest time, I've been aching to try my hand at mission design for Flames of War. I honestly believe that every mission in the rulebook, with the exception of Free-for-All, is awful.
Here's why:

- Forced reserves.
Oh dear Lord what an awful idea. Ten of the eleven 'standard' missions force one or both players to put 'more than half' of their armies in reserve. A roll of 5up is required to get units in reserves onto the table, and some missions don't allow even that to occur until turn three.
Ugh. Just....ugh.
The most pronounced effect this has on the game is known as Front-Loading, where the 'more than half' of one's army will consist of cheap, virtually useless units, simply because that half will see little to no action. Maybe they won't even arrive at all, since Defenders can be overwhelmed prior to receiving them. Whoops- I couldn't roll a 5up. I lose. Sure...that seems fair. Boy, that was fun!

*Opponent wins on turn four? NOT IMPRESSED*

It is a common practice when designing a FoW list to ensure that the half of your army starting on the table be able to hold off an assault. This prevents any kind of army-wide synergy whatsoever, thereby sucking a lot of fun right out of the game.
Oh, and by the way- I built and painted my stuffs. I'd like to use it in a meaningful way, thanks.

- They're a mess.
Seriously, look at this:

*What is this I don't even...oh, it's Cauldron. The Mission no one wants to play*

Reserves. Random deployment for the attacker. A bunch of confusing measuring to do during setup.
A mini game should be fast and easy to get rolling. I shouldn't spend fifteen minutes or so meticulously measuring and placing dice to mark off imaginary lines and boxes.

- The missions encourage boring, unfun games.
Playing an infantry vs. infantry game in Flames of War can be the saddest experience one can have in gaming. Since the FoW Tournament system punishes players for losing platoons, infantry players never want to leave their foxholes. This, in turn, encourages army builds based upon lots of cheap troops that will dig in around large artillery batteries. Both players then attempt to clear off one of the enemy objectives via bombardments.
Worse yet, FoW punishes Infantry lists that have more than a single platoon of armor with something called 'Mobile Reserves.' Anyone playing Infantry can only put one armor platoon on the table, period. The rest go into reserves.
Yay! That sounds like...absolutely no fun whatsoever.
What that results in is zero movement, zero maneuver, and not a lot of 'action' until late game, when the player with the hotter dice wins the arty fight and makes a play for an objective.

By far the biggest reason Flames of War needs better missions is this:
- It's an awesome game.
FoW players hem and haw when discussing the missions in the rulebook.
'They're Ok. They're not that bad. Some of them are alright.' That's not good enough for this game. Flames of War deserves better. The ruleset is just that good, in my opinion. Fer realz.

*Not good enough is...not good enough. Mckayla knows*

But, hey- this is my hobby. We're a creative bunch, amirite?
My buddy (and mortal enemy) the Ultimate Rival and I have played the rulebook missions for what seems like forever. He maintained the attitude that the missions were 'good enough,' despite the fact that when we rolled up a disaster like 'Cauldron' we'd look at each other and go, 'oh, hell no.'
Then my friend Nascar joined in. The Ultimate Rival and I were happy to corrupt him, happy to recruit some new blood.
After a couple games of Free-for-All, he played a game of Pincer.

*Needs moar measuring -_-*

Nascar, bless his heart, quickly declared that it was stupid.
'Are all the missions except Free-for-All like this?' he asked.
Pretty much, was our reply.
'The reserve thing is wacked.'
Yes. Yes it is.

For whatever reason, the Ultimate Rival agreed. I've chosen not to analyze his turnabout too deeply (I just make a Mckayla face), because I'm finally going to get a chance to engage in a grand mini-game tradition.
The Home-Brew Mission.
(sing it with me....)
*SinSynn bops his head an' dances a lil'*

And so, our little group played the first game of our as-yet untitled mission in the gaming garage. The concept is simple- 3 objectives strung out across the middle of the table, both forces advancing to fight for them. No reserves. An eight inch deployment zone to prevent first turn alpha strikes. We kept it simple for our first attempt.
Fine tuning will absolutely be required, but the game went well, was a bunch of fun and believe it or not, Nascar dominated the Ultimate Rival; I was there in an observer capacity.
We took pics, and Part Two of this series will showcase them, along with details and whatnot.

Until next time, folks- Exit with catchphrase!



  1. 3 objectives strung across the middle of the table, advancing forces, no reserves... that sounds dangerously close to a games that shall not be named type of set up...nah, one system wouldn't influence the other. It's not like you could take the best from several systems and build some kind of super mission generator for all the- I have now...private, secret, scheming stuff.........

    1. Heh. Ya got me.
      I have a great deal of admiration for Mike Brandt and the NOVA system, and what that system did for Tournament-level 40k. If I could shamelessly rip MVB and the workings of NOVA off, I totally would.
      FoW works differently than 40k, in that each mission must be balanced for Armored, Mech and Infantry forces.
      The Ultimate Rival and I have been discussing this, and in our next test game we're going to try some stuffs and see how it goes.
      Stay tuned, and if you hatch any interesting schemes, please share!

  2. Interesting...

    *Gives back the money for the corner cleanup last week...*

    You overpaid!

    I'll be in the blood bowl corner making a pitch...