Fred here with a quick unscheduled update today as yesterday March 30th 2023, Battlefront published a new Lessons From The Front (LFTF) and a new Missions Pack. Let’s focus on the new LFTF, what it brings, what it means, and even what it missed.
You can download this from the Battlefront website
1. The purpose of LFTF
First of all, let it be reminded that LFTF is a document used by BF to do two things :
– clarify the game
– modify the game
We should all be very happy with BF explaining how FoW should be played. It’s common knowledge several rules are poorly written and/or are hard to understand, even for native English speakers. Rules As Written is the safest way to play a game, especially in competition and with non native Enligh speakers, and it’s quite impossible to play Rules As Intended without being in the heads of the designers. Moreover, to avoid any conflict, anything making the game clearer is good. This LFTF has some clarifications in it, and thanks to BF for keeping on doing it.
Most of this LFTF are rules modifications. To be frank, it is quite OK for a game to have modifications : it enables dynamic changes providing new ways to think about the game, and allows players to evolve new tactics and strategies. What can be challenged is how BF makes rules modifications without seemingly addressing them first (notably through the use of its playtesters community). This LFTF is no exception, and there is quite a big one in it, and in my opinion it hasn’t been thought through properly.
On a side note, the last LFTF, which was a very significant one in term of game modifications, was June 2022.
2 comments here :
this one is coming 9 months after, which in a way is good because it shows BF having interest in keeping the game alive, not stalling for years or more before providing updates
this one is short in terms of the number of clarifications and modifications. Either it is because there is not much to say about the game at present or, it is because there is not enough feedback on games worldwide to provide designers food for thought to clarify or modify it. Draw your own conclusions here.
2. LFTF : novelties & impacts
Let’s get in details of the changes of LFTF – March 2023.
Measurement : you can’t be “within” and “at least at” a certain distance. This make sense from a logical point of view … actually very few rules part could cause confusion about within/at least, so it’s good just to make sure there is no confusion.
Ranging In and Moving : a Unit that has an Artillery Team in it can move all its non-Artillery teams without losing a Ranged In marker it may have gained earlier. This is a good boost to US Armored Rifle Platoon and US Reconnaissance. The same goes for British CS Tanks and mixed Panzer IV (early) units. On a side note : you can’t bend this to have a relocation of your Artillery battery (with some Teams shooting with the Ranged In and other moving) ; as long as an Artillery team of the Unit moves, its loses its Ranged In marker (because they are ALL Artillery Teams).
Defensive Fire : you can’t use the Into Contact rule specifics of the Infantry (assaulting across another one in contact) to Sneak up on Tanks. More clearly : you either Sneak up on Tanks fully or you don’t. There was effectively a small window of opportunity where your Contacting Infantry would draw Defensive Fire on limited angles, while your Sneaking up Infantry, behind it, didn’t. Now, the window is closed.
Never blocking Breaking Off : you can only block Breaking Off teams with Assaulting teams. This is a quite a significant change to the game, making several teams close to invincible. Before this, when you were engaged by a target you can’t kill (e.g : a KV in MW assaulting your infantry), your solution was to fall back, then expect your guys to Rally, surrounding it with your troops, assault it, and hope for it to fail ts counter attack test while you don’t fail yours; while surrounded, the target had no room to break off but forward through your Assaulting teams (which you would have positioned in a way it can’t stop without being captured of course), and thus the target was captured & destroyed. Problem solved, with a bit of brain power and skill to deliver.
This is actually quite a valid tactic of warfare (e.g : in 1940, light German Panzers surrounded massive French B-2 they had no ability to penetrate and made them surrender), and it takes actual talent and cold-blood from the player who had no tools to beat the target to trap it properly in FoW.
Now, you can’t do this anymore. A Breaking Off Team can only be blocked by Teams engaged in the same Assault (which is, as you can imagine is quite rare). So there is no point in maneuvering behind the target to block its path with your own troops. At best, you Assault it, it fails its test, but it break off safely, and you will only delay the inevitable as it will come back the turn after. Factually, Tanks (notably Heavies) will roll into enemy lines, unhindered and unconcerned about being blocked.
Take a moment to think about it, and apply all the rules of the game with this change in mind (notably added modifications by previous LFTF) :
Repelling an Attack means having no Attacking Team within 8’/20cm of it. Sure, pushing the opponent will grant you time, but you can’t push it the sufficient distance to Win that turn, and trapping it is no longer an option for the Defender as it won’t work.
You don’t need to be within Command Distance of your Assaulting teams to grant them the benefit of your HQ re-roll, and you don’t need to be In Command to be in Assault : take 1 of your Heavy Tank from your Unit, with its Command Team safely near your HQ, drive it straight forward, don’t care about what could happen, because it can only be beneficial to you. Do you see this Fearless KV steamrolling your Infantry without any risk ? I do see it quite clearly.
You don’t need to be within 4’/10cm to actually be In Contact : so there is no point protecting your Infantry that can’t hurt the target with sacrificed troops or terrain to prevent it from being Assaulted. The opponent will make Contact regardless, and now doesn’t care anymore about something blocking its path from the back in the following turn. Holding objective while you can’t mob up to protect your asset will samely be a non-viable tactic.
If there is something behind the “blocked” Team, you will have to move it by the minimal distance : not only are you prevented from trapping, but your own models are going to be moved. This can create quite conflictual situations where your own Unit will be moved out of the way, having to shift its position, being pushed away from Concealment, being now out of range from Assaulting… I’m not even thinking about what “pushed away” means in term of Dug In and Cross Checks. (Lets all assume there aren’t any changes to status or checks needed – Martin)
To me, it’s a clear regression of the game, strategy and gameplay are pushed aside by raw firepower and very straight forward tactics, in the same line of thought as the “Castle House” from previous LFTF 2022 (where an Infantry safely fall back into a Building even if it’s still within 6’/15cm of an assaulting tank). It’s also another very worying sign BF may not be not taking time to observe how its game is played, and what tactics players around the globe are deploying to adapt to any given situation. I’m very worried this ruling will make Early War and Mid War fairly hard to play : it is a little bit mitigated in Late War (with higher standard AT, Infantry with portable weapons), but is still a problem. I’m also quite concerned by the capacity for the Defender to actually win games in V4 : this is another hurdle to overcome, and this will do nothing good to improve its poor 25% win rate (vs the 50% win rate of the Attacker).
Patton not available to 3rd A.D (the Bulge Reluctant ones) anymore. 2nd nerf to Georgy (a sign it was not quite balanced in the beginning right ?), so it can’t compensate any more the Reluctant rating (and thus points saving) of the best Card the US had for LW. I actually like this one, it’s a good and simple balancing tool, still making both playable.
Devil’s Own Matador : this clarification allows the Inns of Court to effectively and without debate field the Matador (because it’s in their Organization Chart but the Matador Card prevent them from taking it as limited to Armoured Car Squadron only). Clear.
Single Matador only : this is just to clarify you can’t have 2 Matador Units in your Force, as it is a Limited Card. It can be seen as a nerf to the Bulge UK Book if you believed you can take two of them, but that’s not that dramatic. Just go with a single Recce Formation and another non-Recce one, and you are fine.
Flam-hetzer got MG : this is a boost to the Hetzer, gaining a Forward Firing MG that can be used notably in Defensive Fire. I’m not so sure you will use it while you are approaching the target you want to burn (you would probably Dash and hide), but it can see some uses, in Defense/Offense (shoot MG because you’re not in range of flames if nothing or not few can harm you back) or while coming from Reserves and being too far away to Move and flame.
Bulge German can take Hungarian Allies : well, they were already able to take them, so why this clarification ? More below on this.
Partisans moving full speed in Terrain : that’s a small boost, that can allow the Unit to be more mobile. The Card honestly didn’t need it, as you would normally take it because of its “Always on Table” ability. It can see use if you want to try to rush your Partisan in contact, which can be tricky with their Aggressive 3+ / Save 4+. Nonetheless, anything helping the struggling Soviets in LW is a good thing!
USSR Stuart being now Battle Tanks : the overwhelming competitive USSR in LW (see how wrong this sentence came out ?) are very happy to have one of their few remaining tools removed. That’s the point of the LFTF where you understand you would pay for the bonus of the Partisan Band. Joke aside, it’s a significant nerf, making the interest of Stuart in USSR army fairly less interesting now they can’t be used properly in the Defend stance. Another blow for the Defender … does BF actually want all of us to play Attack only ?
Toldi II 20mm gaining ROF3/2 : a boost to this tiny Unit, which was quite interesting already. It puts it in line with their MW version. Well, if it can helps Hungarians be more present on FoW tabletops, why not !
Guards Rifle, Hero or not : it amends the points for this card which lets you takes Guards for Hero and normal Rifle. Does anybody takes normal Rifle in MW Soviets anyway?
3. LFTF : missing in action
Once again, this LFTF address some situations, change things, but it’s not complete. To be fair with BF, it’s super hard to be complete on a FAQ, so let’s draw some ideas for the next one.
Bagration : Axis & Allies : the “clarification” about Bulge – German having access to Hungarian Allies is quite confusing. It feels like : 1. They didn’t get access before & 2. They can only get Hungarians as Allies.
Well, that’s not what Bagration : Axis & Allies Command Cards states. As a reminder of our previous Soviet article :
If the intent of BF is to state Bulge – GER can ONLY have HUN Allies, then I guess this needs clarification. And the opposite is also true. As stated before, those Cards are quite liberal on what you can and can’t do, so it would have been good for BF to have a look, especially as they have been called to provide answers on this before.
Killing Commanders : the rule for Killing Commanders is only in the Shooting section. Commanders can be killed in the Shooting Step, and in the Assault Step. Some would say you can’t switch your Leader if slained in Assault (Defensive Fire, Contact, Captured…). BF answered in the past it applies the same, but as it is not written down, I guess there will be players who will doubt it.
Patton/Von Saucken : not a clarification, but the new pattern with Patton not allowing a downgraded Unit to be boosted afterward may nead for the same to be applied to Von Saucken on reduced Tactics troops. But that’s certain this is not as major as Patton + 3rd A.D combo (now gone).
Caring for the LW Soviets : this LFTF does again nothing to help the struggling nation. On the contrary, it takes the Stuart Defense Build away from them! At one point, it would be good to know if BF actually wants to do efforts to care for them or not … hopping they will seek experience from the Community prior to publishing modifications.
Dynamic Points Late War : we could have expected BF to release Dymamics points for LW, the same as they have for MW. Honestly, LW is not in the same state of disarray MW was prior to Dynamics. But a couple of small tweaks could be applied to improve the game experience (UK Recce being 1 point higher, D-Day Achille costing 20 points for 4, Berlin StuH costing 9 points for 3…). I guess we need to wait for end of 2023 to get something.
While Rules clarifications are always welcomed, this version of the LFTF 2023, coming 9 months after the previous one, is quite strange. Not much in clarifications (is it because the game is clear, or because less players are reporting?), several important changes (including one very unnecessary and unbalancing one).
It would be great for BF to actually have their staff more involved in the Community of Players to better the gaming experience. Maybe it is also up to us gamers, we need to bring the topics and be specific on what we see?
Knowledge is power : share it widely !