Version 4 – 18 month on

A not so long time ago in a gaming shop not so far away…

It seems longer than 18 months ago that Version 4 of Flames of War made its debut.  We had known it was coming for sometime, there had been rumours, pictures, even discussion of the end of the world.  However, Version 4 dropped and perhaps wasn’t what a lot of us expected.  Now, eighteen months on, this article will look at how its come along and where it is heading.

The reason I felt like writing this was something that occurred to me when building some list ideas for next year’s Mid War ETC.  I was playing around with some lists and posting them to my team mates and fellow Breakthrough Assault writers.  It then occurred to me that this felt really normal.  Perhaps an odd thing to say, but this time last year I think Flames of War was in a tough place.  Now I have a wide range of forces and get to debate what infantry force my team should take.  Should the Russians go on mass, or would a more experienced and (expensive) hero force with a Storm Group achieve more?  Is three Churchill’s effective or just bait to the 88s and Lancias?  All these debates show how much variety I now have, whereas last year I could pretty much field everything due to the much more limited Mid War product line.

Hard to believe it was 6 years!

New for Old

Battlefront have always supported players changing versions.  This case was no different with various books given out to existing players.  The Late War and Early War conversion books were given out on mass honoring the idea that your armies wouldn’t suddenly become redundant.  While the books weren’t re-pointed and arguably balanced for Version 4 (eg the cheap mortars in EW or the cheap guns in LW) they are certainly playable and no easy feat to achieve considering the number of lists and units.

The V4 EW/LW rulebook was given away free.

Along with the conversion books came the news that Mid War was becoming aligned to ‘full V4’.  I say full V4 because they have had a new rulebook and new army books all geared towards the new formation design and have been re-pointed for balance in version 4.  Originally released as a hard back the new Midwar rule book was released as a small booklet (now covering all periods) that now comes free in the army starter sets.

The hard back MW book.

Some players were upset that their Mid War books had been invalidated and that is understandable.  However it should be pointed out that before V4 hit there was a lot of noise being made by players for them to be updated (Both books had been out since mid-way though V2) so its hard to argue that a lot of use hadn’t been had from them.

The main missing aspect was the MW Eastern front.  It hadn’t been converted to V4 and wasn’t in the initial release.  Only now in Q3 of 2018 to we now have it coming online.  

Late War and Early War

Lets look at these two areas separately to Mid War.
In someways they sit in a bit of a limbo at the moment.  While Version 4 compliant, they have not been re-pointed and, due to the large differences in V4 compared to the V2-V3 switch, are arguably playable but not optimal at the moment.  In fact Battlefront have been quite up-front about this.

Firstly Late War was further repacked last year with an ‘Armies of Late War’ book which produced some generic lists for all major nations using the formation V4 layout however still with the same points.  This was an easy side project that helped to get new players into late war while Battlefront thought about what to do next. 

At the Open Day it was announced that Late War would be upgraded to ‘Full V4’ in 2019. In fact, 6th June 2019 will see the new version of Armies of Late War released fully re-pointed and ready for V4.  This may upset some players who shelled out for the book last year but i’m willing to bet Battlefront will do something to alleviate the issue.

Early War has not had a new book and again Battlefront have been quite open about its future.  Peter (Owner of Battlefront) confirmed that Early War would not be fully re-done for Version 4.  It is not a major seller and the company wants to focus on other lines.  However a Osprey style release (Look at Fate of a Nation or Vietnam for examples) seems highly likely.  Thus the rules will get updated, a few plastics might come along for the most popular vehicles but then Early War will be left alone.  This was perhaps the most controversial announcement at the Open Day.  Many existing players were upset that their Early War forces would be left unloved, perhaps fueled by some players viewing Early War as the most balanced of the periods in Version 3.   
In some ways I understand this.  I have some lovely Early War armies, and I certainly want to field them.  However I am not a fan of the V3-V4 conversion books.  They are certainly workable however for me the balance has gone.  An Osprey rewrite, along with new points in one or two large books, could be just what’s needed. 
I don’t need new armies released or new theaters; Early War is pretty complete. I just want the forces updated and for it work fully in the Version 4 construct.  This can be perfectly achieved by an Osprey-style release, so I cross my fingers and wait while my EW Germans sit on their shelf awaiting a return.

The Fate of a Nation book is really well done and shows what EW could be like.

Dark times

The main focus of Version 4 thus far, now switching to the Eastern Front, has been Mid War in the Desert. 
The initial release covered the British and German Forces at El Alamein.  This was perhaps a low point of the roll out of Version 4 and one that Battlefront via Peter at the Open Day has apologised for.   Fundamentally the release of the Desert Forces was too limited initially.  The British book lacked a lot of core units such as Valentines, Churchill’s and Rifle Companies while the other nations were still a way off.  This mean that existing players were stuck with a lot of units that couldn’t be played and the game initially lacked variety. 
While I am now a fan of Mid War and Version 4 (I’d even say i prefer it!) I was quite worried early on.  An event was held at Battlefield Hobbies, billed as the first roll out Mid War in the UK for the normal event crowd.  Arguably it didn’t go down very well.  Players felt it was a bit rock paper scissors, with German tanks facing powerful gun lines, a lot of draws due to the way objectives were taken (more on that later) and even some horror as a couple of players bought along massive spam units such as fifty Crusaders which didn’t produce a fun experience.  Now a lot of these issues were caused by the limited lists , the fact that it takes time to realize that you can’t just play Version 4 like Version 3, and also some initial issues with the missions.

A game of MW right after release.

I think this initial outing had large implications for the UK community.  Many fairly die hard  players threw in the towel at this point and a great wave of negativity hit our community, and there were similar experiences in some other countries.  This lead to a period of negative feeling towards the game and Battlefront online.
Due to some of the more personal language and the fact that this could be off putting to new players it also, along with some other reasons, led to the shutting of the forums. 
It was a bit of a dark time and I will admit I was very close to also quitting Flames of War.  A lot of my friends and my gaming community had left and discussions around Version 4 seemed like a constant argument.  However I and the rest of the Breakthrough Assault team stuck on to see where things went.

The Climb Back

It has taken time but for me Version 4 Mid War feels like it has overcome its initial teething problems and has cleared its choppy waters.  The following things have made a big difference.

  • The forces have expanded
    Now with US, Italian, German DAK, British (greatly expanded in Armoured Fist), Soviet as well as Eastern Front German, there is a lot more to choose from.  This doesn’t just satisfy the modelling itch, its vital to balance.  That horrible gun line or crusader spam from that first event will now be a lot less frightening when it faces, say, Valentines or has to assault an Armoured Rifle Platoon.
The new plastics for my beloved US army were most welcome.
  • The missions have been improved 
    Battlefront listened to player feed back regarding the number of draws in games and changed the way you take an hold objectives making it easier to attack, rewarding forces who push forward rather than lurk or feed and objective.  Additionally the updated attacker and defender table for the Battleplans system produced greater variety of games. 
  • A new army builder was released
    A new development only being about a month old but something we really needed.  Not only does it cover the forces in the books but it also allows you to add the command cards.
  • People moved on
    By this I mean the individuals who were angry with the direction of the game in Version 4.  Despite not liking it and often stating they would not play it a small but loud number of players kept starting arguments on the Flames of War sites which fueled negativity.  For some I had to compare it to stalking a girl friend you dumped a year ago.  But with time, just like any break up they have moved on and I think the feeling on the Facebook pages is more positive and welcoming as a result. 

The UK community is still rebuilding though.  Certainly a lot of tournament/long term players left but its interesting that we are now seeing a few return.  In fact our own Ben Davis returned to the fold earlier in the year and he had massive initial issues with V4.  We are beginning to see numbers climb back up, with Warfare sold out out with 24 players and the UK GT back on after being cancelled in 2017.  We at Breakthrough Assault are also starting a calendar of events and our first one is in October in Crawley, which has already had 12 of the 16 places filled.  Whats needed now is to encourage the new players to come along.

The future

Eastern Front is now in full swing and, while details can’t be given out yet, the next set of books will be adding some cool new lists that people have been asking for and will expand the front to 1943 and the Battle of Kursk.  We also know that airborne forces are confirmed and the German and US books will cover both Mid War and also the re-pointed Late War using the 100pt system. 

Late War will then be expanded on with an updated Armies of Late War and campaign books for Normandy.  Battlefront want to focus on a new Campaign/Theatre each year, such as Bagration, Market Garden or Battle of the Bulge.

I’ve already mentioned that EW looks like it will get the Osprey treatment and Battlefront have also said that they would like to return to the Far East, although its a long way off.  As the focus on Mid War drops off in favour of Late War, towards the mid part next year I hope we will see continued MW support with the release of the long speculated about ‘Wild Card’ units. 
I am still crossing my fingers that we will see things like SAS Jeep Patrols, ie rare units that will add a cool new unit and modelling opportunity to an existing army.

Conclusion

I think Flames of War has been through a tough eighteen months, however it has come out of it into calmer waters.  Mid War is now running on full steam with the rules having bedded in and some brilliant new plastics and scenery released.  I’ll be interested to see how they tackle Late War, which is arguably the most popular period and one they need to get right as soon as its released.  However Battlefront seem to have learnt  some tough lessons from the roll out of MW and come out stronger as a result. These lessons can now be applied to Late War.

Exciting times beckon…

Category: BattlefrontFlames of WarLate WarV4

19 comments

  1. I really like the V4 rules, and I like how BF is moving to regularize the rules across the various offshoots, such as TY, FOAN, and Nam, as well as the soon to be rebooted Great War. I’ve enjoyed playing all the variations.

    That said, I think I’m just burned out playing the core FOW WWII game. The new, more generic, lists just don’t stoke the desire to get forces to the table. There doesn’t seem to be a place for all the quirky forces from the PDFs that I used to have fun collecting–EW Dutch, LRDG, Luftlandesturm in gliders, and all the rest. And, for forces that did make the V4 cut, many have fewer options for creative list-building. Opening up the closet, I look at piles of troops–representing a huge investment in time and money–that don’t have a place in V4, and it makes me a little sad.

    Still keeping them all, though. V5 perhaps??

    1. Thanks for posting Mark!
      Interesting times.
      One thing that could help would be some detailed after action reports, please?
      There used to be more about in V3 days I think?
      Cheers
      Paul

  2. I loved Flames of War V3. It was an historical tabletop game. V4 changed this to a tabletop game with historical miniatures.
    Well I ceased FoW with V4. As my players in Germany did as well. You could say FoW-Community in Germany desintegrated. We had two tournaments in Germany in the last year. Grand tournament in Köln has 50 starters only 10 are coming from Germany.
    Here Bolt Action and Battlegroup are the big winners of the change of edition. Sorry to say, but V4 sucks.

    1. Its not the game that sucks. Its the community. I guess there are enough negative influencers in Germany to leave a dent in the game. I am coming to germany and would like to advise germans to do the same. Tournaments only got better since V4.

      And maybe its not too bad to be rid of some die hard V3 Players…

      But I guess change can be hard for some players.

      “improvise, adapt, overcome!” :p

      1. Well try. But be prepaired to build up the community from close to zero.
        Alot of regional communities tried the new rules for some time, but nearly all rejected them. We tried too for serveral games, but it didn’t worked out.
        We were very active tournament players, and I loved to meet new people at tournaments. But well as most FoW-Gamers not with V4 rules.
        But I wish you best of luck, it will be a real challenge!!!

  3. I have been playing FOW since V1 in Canada and the US.

    In my opinion, the game has never been better than it is now with v4, despite the flaws that still exist concerning the breadth of list and model representation.

    Phil has admitted that he got the balance wrong between infantry / armour / artillery in its previous versions, but the current game plays much closer to what I had imagined these types of company level engagements would be like. I agree with the author’s points that the revisions to victory conditions and mission selection has helped a lot.

    Games, actual games, are fun now. All kinds of different forces can be fielded successfully, and I don’t believe any particular force or play style “breaks” the game. That is borne out by the wide variety of forces which been successful during our area’s last 18 months of playing v4. FOW is not just about setting up pieces and blasting away at each other, now I feel there is scope to apply nuance to all aspects.

    AFAIC, if BF had started with more variety and eschewed the temptation to rationalize their product line by dropping what were seen as “unnecessary” models there would have been far less dis-satisfaction with v4. As it has turned out, we have loads of terrific new models to incorporate into our forces and a distinct lack of product line rationalization (eg 2 or 3 separate varieties of plastic tanks for many nations). Older models are making a comeback through their sites PDF offerings, and I can only hope for more (eg SdKfz 233 7.5cm, 2 pdr ATG, etc).

    In my local area (currently Pasadena, California) there certainly have been vocal critics of the new game, but by and large our community has stuck together and expanded, to the point that FOW (and TY) are healthier here than they have ever been.

  4. Two key points I guess
    If your business model is based on selling models and rules, and you can’t simply “create” new tanks, guns etc then it’s imperative that you refresh the player base, after all BF can’t sell me another 70 T34s, I already have them (and unlike Mark once mine are painted I’m not selling and rebuying, I really don’t like painting), so from BF’s perspective it’s refresh or die economically.

    This brings me to my second point, could they have done it differently, yes they probably could, and undoubtedly should have. It’s a good game, and for people for whom gaming comes first and history comes second (or not at all) that’s all that really matters, however it’s not good history, and for people who like history first and and gaming second (and i’ll admit that’s me) then v4 will struggle, I think the phrase that Krister used, that it’s changed from an historical tabletop game to a tabletop game with WW2 models is hugely apt , and for me that’s the crux of the schism in players. End of the day it’s Battlefronts property and they get to do with it what they want

    1. From an economical point of view Richard is 100% right. And I also believe that this was the only way Battlefront can survive as a firm.
      But from the point of view of a historically facinated gamer, it was a bad rules development. There are too many rules that make sense from a game changing point of view. And I also think that the new game is interesting to play. But from the historical point of view there are too many thinks that doesn’t feel right (mortar effectiveness,..) that just ruins the game for me.

      1. Hi,

        My issue here is that the complete over the top broken list I faced in v3 where just that: broken lists, built to take advantage of any loophole in the rules, imbalanced pointcosts,…
        No history here, just pure gaming, maybe history as an excuse coming from tournamentplayers 😉 ?

        1. Ahistorical rules were non-existent in v3? I believe many players just got used to those and focus on ahistorical rules in v4 ignoring the sillyness that existed in v3. If v3 was such a great game then why did that community also die and switch to other gamesystems? Just waiting for the excuse, reason to stop what they allready were getting bored with ? Honest question, no accusational intent. When GW dropped fantasy and started Age of Sigmar a large group made 9th age and in some countries it is a pretty healthy community that is larger then AoS or Kings of war

  5. The game did suffer a hit in my region of Canada but has rebounded nicely with some young fellows taking an interest and starting to build armies of their own. One of the major issues had been the lack of variety and that has largely been resolved. However, if BF wants to maintain what momentum they have painfully rebuilt with V4 Mid-War they may wish to look at expanding the Mid-War army selection.

    Some well balanced Mid-War Japanese and USMC books would, in my opinion, provide some much needed diversity and keep the creative juices flowing for people who love the gaming and the modelling aspect of the game. Additionally the smaller armies such as Canadians and Finns could be addressed in a ensemble book not unlike the Team Yankee Free Nations book which covered the Canadian, Dutch and Aussies in one publication.

  6. After taking an initial hit in my area of Canada with the bungled release of V4, Flames of War has started to gain some ground. Of particular interest, there are quite a few young fellows taking up the game. Mid-War has slowly been gaining momentum and the Eastern Front releases are most welcome; however, I believe BF should keep their foot on the gas and release Mid-War Japanese and USMC books. Unlike the ill-conceived Pacific timeline these book should fit seamlessly into Mid-War to be played against any other mid war book. I certainly hope BF completes the job on Mid-War before they get too far gone in Late-War.

    A small armies book akin to the Free Nations book in Team Yankee would also be well received. They could even do one allied version with Canadian, Polish, and French and an axis with Finns, Hungarians and Romanians. They are close to rounding out Mid-War. I hope they don’t stall now.

  7. V4 isn´t as bad as it´s reputation but it lost a lot of it´s features that made it stand out for a lot of players with V1-V3 compared to other games. Yes V3 wasn´t beginners friendly and could need a haul over. But instead making evolution like V1 to V3 have been it is now more a revoultion.
    The game is still fun to play if you allow yourself to see it as jut a game and get rid of your prior FoW experiences. I saw a lot of players here in Germany throw the towel ceasing playing FoW . An I visited 70+ tournaments and participated in all FoW ETCs over last years so I know what I´m talking about 😉 !
    Now V4 and the list´s are a more generic game like Kritser already mentioned. That is okay if you play as a casual gamer playing 1-2 times max a month. But what is lacking is a lot of depth the game had before. A lot of list that I saw since the release of V4 look more and more the same. Get max Templates vs guns, massed light tanks vs Infantry and some heavies as bunkers… That is now all possible under the new ruelset. Wow British Stuarts fighting along side to side with Churchills supported by some Yankees M10. That is the new reality in FoW. So besides the now lighter ruleset with less depth (sorry streamlined is marketing bullshit) and unhistoric list compositions you don´t need to study rocket since that this isn´t something for a lot of players who played FoW before.

    My local gaming group also enjoyed TY as it was released but here the limited list variation and light ruleset were okay for the first year but after a while it was always the same. Why invest in artillery, when the only task of it is to pin infantry, why take a T-72 when a T-64 is much better, why not fielding 30+ T-55 combined with BMP-2….
    Now we play it maybe 1-2 a year 🙁

    If you play FoW and TY with out maxed out list the whole thing seem to work quiet oky but as soon as you leave that thin area you are also leaving the experience FoW was before V4. You can stick to it and say okay I play it or you just leave and invest your hobby cash in other stuff.

    But I still play FoW and it is still fun to play. The mission winning conditions also helped a bit. But in the end that isn´t the ruleset and list that are the main reason. For me this are the people I play with, which are now less the before 🙁

    1. Amen Frank!

      Mister_Pink nails it!
      I am a player from germany and really enjoyed Fow V3. I got into the game because it was different drom all the other game systems. It had an incedible depth and two games were never the same. While creating an army you had to make though choices,chose one briefing and don’t be able to take unit A or chose another briefing and don’t be able to take C and Y. Even after 5 years of intense playing you could learn lots of stuff and the games were intense.

      V4 is a “beer and bretzel” game like the 100 other game systems that are on the market. I want to play a game system that is also good at tournament level and V4 can’t offer that. Since the release of V4 I have not invested a single cent into BF. I don’t know how BF products sell in germany or the rest of the world. Personally I hope they sell bad to force BF back to old roots.

      When Great War, Early War and Late War get “proper” V4 rules I will try them out. I am even willing to go to a tournament in Hannover to see the people I was used to play with. But I can’t see me investing into new models as long as they keep going with the type of ruleset, the cards and the poorly army builder (just compare a print out for a V3 army to a V4 army and you know what I mean…).

  8. I agree that from V2 to 3 was all an evolution, V4 was a revolution and in many ways a devolution and retrograde (not to say that V3 was perfect and could have been improved).

    The Lists:
    The list making in V4 is the worst retrograde. Previously I could spend hours digging through hard cover books with a wealth of information, possibilities and trade offs. There must have been hundreds of lists. It was great finding an interesting one and never knowing what your opponent would bring. Something quirky with captured tanks, gliders or a fortified list, theater specific and perhaps with a special character all with historic flare. Now it is like the same vanilla, so boring I think I have made 3 and barely touched the game.

    The Cards:
    Unit cards maybe that makes sense for ease of play. But why put the list builds on a card and not in the books? Also the upgrades for units, why not in the book? It is currently a mess to make a list. It can only make sense from a business point of view where the intent is to sell both new books and a pack of cards to all players, new and old alike and then bill them again to use the list creator when they may have already paid for the books and the cards.

    The Launch:
    Mauling the V4 launch, disregarding play testing, having no official channel for feedback outside of the forum and then closing the forum due to negative feedback was a massive own goal that left many veteran players rather bitter. The forum was a great feature that for years was a great place for list feedback, photos and inspirations. One that set it apart from other systems. The release schedule seems very slow also. I get the impression that the amount of resources that are being used one FoW WW2 is less than it used to be.
    Now one is left to comment on this and other forums, like some kind of outcast.

    (Veteran of V2 & 3, multiple tournaments and 3 ETCs and fellow countryman of NZ the home of FoW. Resident of Germany hand having seen the devastating effect this ruleset has had on the player base. Wishing FoW all the best, hoping it makes it through this Dark Age and hoping to come back but until then I will wait for V5).

  9. Agree that from V1 to 2 to 3 was all an evolution, V4 was a revolution and in many ways a devolution and retrograde (not to say that V3 was perfect and could have been improved).

    The Lists:
    The list making in V4 is the worst retrograde. Previously I could spend hours digging through hard cover books with a wealth of information, possibilities and trade offs. There must have been hundreds of lists. It was great finding an interesting one and never knowing what your opponent would bring. Something quirky with captured tanks, gliders or a fortified list, theater specific and perhaps with a special character all with historic flare. Now it is like the same vanilla, so boring I think I have made 3 and barely touched the game.

    The Cards:
    Unit cards maybe that makes sense for ease of play. But why put the list builds on a card and not in the books? Also the upgrades for units, why not in the book? It is currently a mess to make a list. It can only make sense from a business point of view where the intent is to sell both new books and a pack of cards to all players, new and old alike and then bill them again to use the list creator when they may have already paid for the books and the cards.

    The Launch:
    Mauling the V4 launch, disregarding play testing, having no official channel for feedback outside of the forum and then closing the forum due to negative feedback was a massive own goal that left many veteran players rather bitter. The forum was a great feature that for years was a great place for list feedback, photos and inspirations. One that set it apart from other systems. The release schedule seems very slow also. I get the impression that the amount of resources that are being used one FoW WW2 is less than it used to be.
    Now one is left to comment on this and other forums, like some kind of outcast.

    (Veteran of V2 & 3, multiple tournaments and 3 ETCs and fellow countryman of NZ the home of FoW. Resident of Germany hand having seen the devastating effect this ruleset has had on the player base. Wishing FoW all the best, hoping it makes it through this Dark Age and hoping to come back but until then I will wait for V5).

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Article by: Mark Goddard