Any wargame can be made or broken or broken by the missions players have to undertake. Flames of War shines in this particular aspect with 12 standard missions (plus one extra for two fortified companies facing each other). All of them are quite well balanced in terms of odds of success, baring a few rare circumstances (for instance a tank/fully mechanized company forced to defend in Breakthrough or Counterattack, while the enemy spearheads with too many troops). The good folks at Battlefront have made the missions freely available as a downloadable pdf, as well as giving a quick rundown in this short and sweet web page where you can see all the deployment diagrams (it might be a good idea to take a really quick look at that page before proceeding with this article).
So before we can discuss the different type of companies a player can field, and the options they can/should take, we need to take a quick look at some of the more common special circumstances these missions bring to the table, so to speak. For this, we’ve made a helpful little table.
|Mission||Reserves||Time limit||Ambush||Other Special Rules|
|1. Free-for-all||–||–||–||Meeting engagement|
|2. Encounter||delayed, scattered||–||–||Meeting engagement|
|3. Dust up||delayed||–||–||Meeting engagement|
|4. No Retreat||yes(D)||partial(A)||yes(1)||Prepared Positions|
|5. Hold the Line||delayed(D)||partial(A)||yes(2)||Prepared Positions|
|6. Pincer||delayed(D)||partial(A)||yes(1)||Prepared Positions|
|7. Surrounded||–||partial(A)||immediate(1)||Prepared Positions|
|8. Fighting Withdrawal||–||8 turns(A)||yes(1)||Prepared Positions, Strategic Withdrawal|
|9. Hasty Attack||yes(A)
|11. Breakthrough||1+ delayed(A)
|12. Counterattack||mobile(D)||partial(A)||yes(1)||Prepared Positions|
|13. No Man’s Land||delayed||–||–||Prepared Positions, No Man’s Land Patrol, Darkness, Over the Wire|
One basic fact we have to restate here is that there is always a distinction in Flames of War between Attacker and Defender. Only the defender ever gets to place platoons in ambush, and as you may have figured out from the table above, the reserve rules are different for attacker and defender in most missions. The attacker is also quite often under a bit of a time limit or under a condition to prevent the game from ending and the defender winning automatically (while the attacker pretty much always has to secure an objective or destroy the enemy force to win). Only the first three missions have completely ‘equal’ play conditions.
First thing to note is that Flames of War makes heavy use of the concept of reserves – platoons held off table to be brought when and where they are most needed. Most of the time this means that the player must choose half their number of platoons (rounding -UP-) and leaving them off table (so if they have 7 platoons, only 3 will be on the table). Each mission’s deployment diagram also shows players where they’ll be able to bring their reserves. Sometimes these reserves will be delayed (meaning you can start rolling for them only on turn 3), scattered (you roll a d6 to see where they come in), or mobile (all but one mechanised platoon starts off table, you only deploy units on foot).
As you may notice from the table above, the defender almost always has to leave half of his platoons in reserve, while the attacker only has to do so in two particular missions. This means that when attacking, a player will want to use his superior force to quickly overwhelm the defender before his own reserves arrive and turn the tide, which makes ‘sit on your bum and shoot’ type games extremely rare. This is also something that must be taken into account when building an army list, as the player must have a plan both for defense and offence, which leads to interesting army lists making use of combined arms (a phrase that will be encountered quite a lot in FoW discussions).
Most missions end when one of the players (usually the attacker) starts a turn with an objective captured and uncontested. For the attacker, however, there are usually added conditions, meaning that from a certain turn onwards, he has to have at least one team in the defender’s half or within 16″ of an objective – otherwise, the victory goes to the defender.
Of course, if the attacker has managed to wipe out or scare off the enemy company, victory is ensured regardless of other conditions.
One of the best thing about being a defender in Flames of War is getting to place platoons in ambush. This means those platoons are not deployed at the start of the game, but rather at the start of any of your turns, in certain conditions (like being concealed and at a certain distance from enemy forces). This is a great way to blunt an enemy advance, for instance, by surprising the leading platoon of tanks and wiping most of them out with a bunch of anti-tank guns in their vulnerable side armour.
As a note, when the ambush has to be Immediate, those platoons have to be placed right before the game begins. Not as great as regular ambushes, but still useful as they are placed after the opponent makes his pre-game spearhead movements.
Other Special Rules
Meeting Engagement – this rule essentially means the two forces just ‘meet’ on the battlefield, and either of them can count as ‘attacker’ (based on a fateful d6 roll), disregarding special rules like ‘Always Attacks’ or ‘Always Defends’. This rule also means whoever has first turn has all his platoons counting as moving, so they can’t make artillery bombardments or call in air support on the first turn.
Prepared Positions – this means that your troops can start the game dug in and gone to ground, i.e. they’ve been there a while before the hostilities enacted in your game begin.
Strategic Withdrawal – this one’s a doozy. It’s only used in Fighting Withdrawal, and essentially says that after a couple of turns, the defenders starts pulling his units out of the fight. On certain turns he even gets to remove objectives off the table (often right from under the attacker’s nose). By turn 8 everything should be off the table, at which point the attacker has failed. IT makes the mission extremely frantic and fun.
No Man’s Land Patrol, Darkness, Over the Wire – these only become truly relevant when you have two fortified companies (themselves relatively rare, think of Omaha beach defenders or Tobruk garrison forces) face each other, in the No Man’s Land mission that is essentially trench warfare fought at night.
And, if this dozen of missions isn’t enough and you get bored playing them over and over, there are plenty of other missions on the battlefront website, including campaigns and historical re-fights of certain famous battles from throughout the whole war.
That’d be the short of it. We’ll next put up an article describing the various types of companies you can field in Flames of War and the necessary/recommended elements of each.