Flames Of War As Old School Gaming Part 1

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I describe myself as an Old School Wargamer on my Twitter profile. On the one hand that refers to the fact that I have been Wargaming since 1973, when being a young and impressionable modeller obsessed with military history, I first read about it in the pages of Military Modelling. I was lucky we had an active local Wargames club and the library was well stocked with books by Asquith, Featherstone, Grant and Quarrie et al.
Second World War Wargaming then was quite simple: easy move rates, armour points, penetration points and the emphasis was on historical re-fights which is I suppose is where the second part of being an Old School Wargamer come in. The history is important: it’s not on the periphery, it is the core.

And now more than 40 years later I play Flames of War. ‘Heretic!’ I hear some cry. Well FoW for me has some advantages. Being time poor for the hobby, it’s an easy franchise to buy into with some nicely produced books and a steady stream of good models, especially since Battlefront’s move into plastics. They cost a little more but there are good deals on eBay and the cost side isn’t really an issue for me. There are also a lot of good blogs and Facebook groups which means you can feel attached to the hobby even if you mainly game on your own.

Having said all that, there are sides to FoW that I don’t like. I would never play in a tournament as they have little to do with the history side of the game: platoons of T34s facing Sherman Fireflys just because one list is ‘better’ than another. Nope, go to 40K if you want that. And linked in with the tournament side of it is the dreaded Points System FoW uses. This is is one of its weakest angles: points are irrelevant to any real battle situation and a rule set needs to be able to reflect that. I think FoW does if you let it but players have to be persuaded that it’s a good idea. And as they are often so invested in the points system, they can’t be persuaded! So that’s one of the directions I’m looking at in trying to apply some Old School to FoW.

Incidentally there was an interesting article in a recent edition of the superb Minature Wargames about Point Systems in Wargaming and while it is true several of the ‘old guard’ of gaming were in favour of such a system, making it Old School in a sense, I’m still not sure it can ever apply to a WW2 game.

And that leads into the FoW organisational ORBAT charts… and a subject for another blog post!

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