Flames of War V3 hardback review

(another review courtesy of Lee Parnell from http://www.safetymarkings.blogspot.com thanks mate!)

Seeming as I’m killing time whilst I wait for the Aussi GP qualifying to start, lets do a quick review of the Flames of War Version 3 Hardback! I haven’t got any photos to go with this but there are plenty on the Flames of War website.

Firstly, your £35 isn’t just getting you one book. Within the rather flimsy sleeve (which is more packaging than traditional hard board slip case) you get:
A full size (A4), hardbound rulebook
A soft back “Forces” book
A magazine-like Hobby booklet.

Let’s talk about the rulebook first. It’s basically a page for page upscale of the A5 Softback ruleset. The only new content added is a ten page intro section which, rather handily, exists outside of the page count (i.e. I, ii, iii, then switches to numbers) so that you can still say, “look at the shooting rules on page x” and be equally applicable to both forms of the rulebook. Unlike the version 2 rulebook, the hardback does not introduce any specialist rules and missions or campaign rules.

With the exception of the cover, the presentation is up to the normally high standards of Battlefront’s modern books. The book is split into the typical sections, “movement”, “shooting”, etc, each of them proceeded by appropriate re-use of book and box art; I think they only new content is the early war Sdkfz 222 preceding the “specialist section.. Barbarossa cover?” My favourite is the re-use of the “Cobra” army book cover for the “morale” section. If a Sherman crushing your anti-tank gun whilst the tank commander shoots you with his M1911 doesn’t necessitate a morale check, I don’t know what does!

My only gripe with presentation is the cover which is a little… underwhelming. It’s basically the name in red on a grey background. It’s not going to draw much attention off anyone coming to the game entirely blind and hopefully the upcoming “Achtung” intro boxset will have a more eye catching cover.

The rules are presented much the same as previous editions with actual rules being denoted by italic text, box summaries and an end of section summary checklist. The new introduction is a series of full-colour comics that explain how the rules work visually. This helps a lot with some of the trickier concepts in the rules, but I did find that one more in the counterattack section of the assaults may have helped avoid some of the discussion going on on the forums about how the 8” bubble works.

Overall, the game’s basics are still much the same as previous but with a few details tweaks. Both Aircraft and Assaults have had the largest changes with Assaults being simpler for new guys to understand how much return fire they are going to trigger (no more daisy chains or off putting interleaved platoons) and Aircraft now requiring only one aircraft model along with revision to AA guns and lines of sight.
In my opinion, about 95% of the changes are for the better. I really like the new assault rules, new smoke rules and how transports are handled (softskins are not the place to be in a battlezone!). The 5% I don’t like really extends to how the line of sight works with aircraft. It’s now WYSIWYG so you draw range and line of sight to the actual aircraft. This assumes a standard 1:144 model on a standard flying base which, after the free for all of V2, seems a dangerous assumption. It also allows aircraft to get cover from trees and buildings which seems ahistorical (tree top level attacks is fine but below tree top level?).

Final assessment of the rules? Largely positive. There are some grey areas in places that will need explaining for the tournament crowd but we have managed to get by in day to day club gaming. I’ll say its the best edition to date.

Now, lets look at the other two books. If you recall that the rulebook in V2 days was £30 then this is £5 of extra material!

The Forces book (100 pages) is somewhat underwhelming. This is better off thought of as a set of “get you by” lists for the new player to tide them over until they purchase a proper army book as there are only three lists per nation (Germans get an extra one for GepanzertePanzergrenadiers) with limited support options (no nebs for the Germans? No AOP for allies?)
Within that limitation, the actual lists provided are certainly viable for club gaming and provide the veteran gamer with some interesting insights into what we can expect for the newer v3 lists (Ask Mike E about the 6 gun Sherman 105mm assault gun troop). Sadly the 17pdr seems to be stuck at an underwhelming AT13!
The presentation keeps to the high standards of the rulebook and reinforces the impression that this is for the new player. Each tank gets a visual readout of its armour and weapon characteristics (first seen in Hellfire and Back) and the Infantry forces get a comparison of their relative firepower. The flowchart organizations that appeared in V2 appear to have been slightly tweaked to incorporate the HQ costs and options but that may be a space saving feature.
Overall, not a replacement for Fortress Europe. But if viewed as a introduction for new players (or something for us old hands top lend out to get them into it wink.gif) then its a serviceable set of lists.

The final book is the 40 page Hobby book. This deals with painting example infantry and tanks for all four major powers and some thoughts on terrain and table set-up. Like the forces book, this is very much geared up for the new players although the section on setting up good tables is interesting reading for the veteran player. I was hoping for some campaign ideas and random terrain charts like the old V2 book but that seems to be out the scope of the book.
Overall, its not bad and worth a read. But probably the least use for anyone coming over for V2.

As a package, this is very much geared for the new player, BF probably assuming that most older players will have stuck with the softback V2 trade-in. I think its still worth the veteran players time, if only for having a book that can live near the home based games table or computer. At the very least its probably an investment for a V4 rulebook!

Any of the new guys with a V3 book, I’d be intersted in hearing your insight!
Lee Parnell

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Filed under Reviews, Wargaming Rules

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