Flames of War – Tactica : Move & Shoot (Part 2)

Hello Readers,
Fred here, back for the second part of our Tactica – Move & Shoot.
After a first general overview of the basics of Movement and Shooting, let’s talk about effective use of both in your FoW games. This is also where we will talk about outcome and expectations of movement and shooting. Let’s close the hatch and deep dive into the depth of FoW technicalities…

Navigating the field to make the most out of your resources – Flames Of War 101(bis)

Why are you moving?

Same as for Assault  answering this fundamental question determines what you can and should do with your toy soldiers. First and foremost reason to move is to contest Objectives. Unless you play the super uninteresting Annihilation mission, all FoW missions revolve around you and your opponent having to capture or protect Objectives, or even both!

Capturing objective meaning moving out of your deployment area to end up 4’/10cm from an Objective the mission assigned you to grab, and making sure no opponent is near it. Subtlety of the rules here: you have to start your turn with at least 1 model within 4’/10cm, and end your turn without opponent within 4’/10cm. It doesn’t have to be the same model(s) contesting it at the beginning and capturing it in the end.

Protecting objective meaning making sure the opponent doesn’t move in the 4’/10cm contesting range or remove the opponent from this range. Sometimes, a Player or both will start the game holding their own Objectives. Do they then need to move to protect the objectives? At first glance no, but that would be false to assume they won’t. Unfortunately for them, the life of toy soldiers is a hard one: all sort of mayhem awaits them, from shelling to flaming to bayoneting (is it even a word? Excuse my French!). Troops in wargames do tend to get hurt, and no Unit is unbreakable. The situation is even worse for troops protecting objectives. Their battlefield role is to stand guard. Regardless of if they passively or actively do it, those troops are here, on a small battlefield portion which they can’t leave, and have to face waves of assailants who have mobility, firepower, and numbers. Odds are very likely some or all of these troops will be destroyed, pushed backed, broken … and suffer all sort of atrocities (luckily they are toys). To mitigate this, moving is a key element: defend your Objective high, and you can move back should your first line fall. Put under pressure of heavy shelling (notably artillery that is devastating while repeating on the same spot) and move out to limit the hits. Have holes in your line created by enemy fire and assault and move in to fill the gaps. More often than not, moving is the only way not to lose if not to win.

Capturing and protecting Objectives, Alpha & Omega of Flames of War

Second motivator for moving is gaining an advantage. Advantage is a concept roughly translated as anything that gives you more chances than your opponent to win. As such, in a fair game, gaining advantage seldom comes without risks or trades off. FoW is a game of risks management: you don’t want to get hurt, you do nothing. Don’t get me wrong: they are some situations where your troops doing nothing is perfectly admissible. Doing something means taking a risk and expecting a benefit out of it.

In FoW, they are many advantages you can gain thanks to moving. Battlefield positioning is the most standard one, where you move your troops in a spot where they have higher chances to survive or closer road to the objective they need to grab or protect. Dueling upside is another very common one, combining both the number of troops exchanging blows with the enemy but also increasing their chances to hit and damage (negating Concealment, short range instead of long range…). Area denial is very effective, positioning your troops in a way they will slow down (or purely stop) the enemy or preventing it to reach battlefield positions that are advantageous to it and disadvantageous to you. Area denial is the single most powerful trick you can pull out of FoW rules: even a very humble pair of riflemen, hidden in two houses 4’/10cm apart, will stop cold any armored formation advance in this area. Never hesitate to deny opponent its movement, it wins time, it wins battles.

Tactical hint here: gaining an advantage by moving is a risk forecasted over several turns. You are effectively trading a safe position for a riskier one, the benefit may be immediate or not. E.G : rushing your medium tanks to flank a heavy tank may end up with your tanks killed but if it allows the heavy tank to be removed or simply occupied in exchange, and the rest of your troops to be safe for the rest of the battle, the risk pays off. Moving your infantry teams out of their foxholes put them a risk, and they can be damaged by enemies marauding around, yet, if you assessed your risk well, the danger they will face is acceptable, and even they take hits, have teams destroyed, end up Pinned Down… next turn(s) they will be in a better battlefield spot, more protected (gaining Concealed + Gone To Ground) and possibly well anchored (Dug In attempt).

As a side note, deployment may grant advantages to several Units. We spoke about troops standing guards around an objective in their own deployment area, we can also add terrain advantage (a river slowing the opponent, heavy AT guns overlooking the battlefield on a hill, Tank unit covering a flank hidden in a wood…) or scenario advantage (attacking/defending near a good spot where Reserves can reinforce right when they arrive, helping conditions such as Minefields for the Defender and Withdrawal for the Attacker…). There are very few FoW games that are won without taking risks. How well you’ve assessed these risks is what makes you the best player out of you and your opponent.

The third and last reason to move is creating a reaction. This is partially in line with gaining an advantage, yet subtlety different. Here is a picture pretty much every FoW player have in mind: Free For All, full armies on each side, fully anchored in their Deployment zones, around Objectives. Can you smell it? Yep, that’s the flavor of a Draw … Unless somebody does something, you’re in for a long 3 hours waste of time (which you should surely have spent better with your loved ones).

By moving your troops around, you aim at forcing the opponent to react. It doesn’t necessarily mean taking a risk: simply shifting your original position to another one modifies the battlefield configuration. Does it have an immediate impact on the game? Maybe not. But it can snowball (chain reaction) or butterfly effect (small action = big consequences). Both ways, you aim a shifting something in the battle economy. How would your opponent react to your move? Will it redirect resources? Or does it just leave you do what you want and let you take advantages? Some FoW troops are quite good at this, using feinting tactics to confuse their opponent, moving from a position to another to drag enemy troops after them, creating holes in the battle line they (or their friends) can exploit next by zooming in.

More risky, baiting consists in putting your troops in a situation where they can (and most probably, will) be hurt to provoke a reaction from your opponent (such as Shooting to remove its Gone to Ground status) that gives it an immediate advantage (crippling your baiting troops) but which your will exploit later for long term advantages (removing its). Sometimes, creating a reaction is close to the only way to actually get a game going or break stalemate situations: maths-of-waring this, an Aggressive team concealed is twice more vulnerable if it losses its gone to ground status at long range and three times if it losses it and your troops reach short range ; a Careful team concealed is three times more vulnerable if it losses its gone to ground status at long range and six times if it losses it and your troops reach short range.

Whatever reason you have to move, never forget it’s a trade between safe position and danger.
Moving is surely the strongest action of this game, and seldom comes without a price: ask yourself the good questions of why you are doing it, determine your intent, how it fits with your plan and forecast the risks.

Guagamela – 331 BC – the ultimate feinting in action!

Why are you shooting?

The straightforward answer is: to damage the opponent. It’s the primary way to do so in FoW. Assault can do it as well, so is Morale, but:
– Assault is seldom done without Shooting (before or after)
– Morale is consequence of Shooting, or Assault, or both.
In a nutshell: Shooting may not be your best way to damage the opponent (Assault does it better), but is surely your most common way to do it. Now, the two ways to Shoot are safely or unsafely.

Safely happens when your troops can fire at the enemy, and it can’t hurt you back in return. 3 situations: either because of range (you are in, opponent is not), or because line of sight (you can shoot at the opponent with Indirect or isolate one target to pick apart, and enemy can’t fire back at you), or because of profile (you are protected (such as Tanks with armor that opponent can’t pierce), it is not). Safely shooting is a great in-game opportunity, that arises Turn Minus 1 (list Building), Turn 0 (Deployment), or during Battle (Turn 1 and onward). This is hardly an ever given advantage, so be aware it may not last. Also, more importantly, Safely Shooting often has the drawback of keeping your troops in a certain configuration, that they will need to reconsider in the course of the battle depending on the part they have to play. E.G : protecting your super King Tigers by never exposing their weaker flanks will often mean Long Range shots (less effective) and no movement toward Objectives to be captured (so limited contribution to this game winning task).

Unsafely is all the rest … which represent the majority. If you are in range, odds are most of the time the enemy is as well (or can be by moving). If it is not, then surely your own shooting will have reduced efficiency (due to negating factors to Hit On – see Part 1). If you can Indirect fire on your opponent, doesn’t it have tools to prevent your shooting (such as Smoke B. negating visibility, or marauding light tanks hunting Artilleries, Aircrafts able to strike any point of the battlefield…) you need to consider? If your models can’t currently be harmed, can the opponent bring resources around to threaten them (now or in several turns)? A FoW battlefield is indeed unsafe in principle.

Damaging the opponent is pure maths-of-warring: how many shots do you get, with what efficiency (both to Hit and AT/FP). The more shots you get, and the more lethal they are, the more damages you will deal. Simple. How to muster those shots is both question of how to select your toys that will shoot, and how to get your toys in position for it. That’s bread & butter of Flames of War, top to bottom, both what tools you select and how you play them on the field.

Before opening fire, ask yourself what will happen when you do it. Remember: the safest way not to get hurt at this game is to do nothing. The stacking of penalties to Hit in FoW is huge, and the more you stay Concealed, Long Range, Gone To Ground, the less likely you are to actually be damaged. By Shooting, you are effectively increasing the chances your troops will take a blow in return. Moreover, if you are both Moving and Shooting, you are massively increasing the risks.

We talked previously about odds (rather than luck), that’s the perfect example: shooting is frustrating. Lot of shots do nothing, rather because of Hit On (and penalties => connecting), or because of efficiency (armor and/or Firepower => damaging). To mitigate this:
how many of your Teams are Shooting ?
– what can they collectively reasonably achieve (fathoming both connecting and damaging) ?
Calculate, and see if you have the correct numbers lined up. If not, then surely you are in a situation where you can only blame yourself if it doesn’t work…

To summarize, ask yourself 3 questions:
– what is the benefit of shooting?
– what are you giving up for it?
– what could happen (positively or negatively)?

That moment when you have to insure your kill… “Hello Lloyd’s, can I get an insurance policy for that ?”

Combining Moving and Shooting for maximum effect

Let’s cast something on the table first: in a game where you need to grab Objectives, the opportunity of moving is always better than the opportunity of shooting. To paraphrase the Jay : “there is 99 reasons to move and shooting ain’t one”. If you need to move, go ahead and move. Shooting may be accessory to it, but never the primary reason. From gaming perspective, if you have to choose between one or the other, always go for movement. Shooting involves:
– limiting your movement capacities to line up shots (speed + position)
– putting your models in jeopardy (if you are shooting at the enemy, most of the time it can and will find the way to shoot back)
– throwing dices with risks of failures and lack of achievement (or with odds not high enough to you).
Yes, the upside is you can damage your opponent toys. But more often than not, the downsides exceed the benefit.

That being said, you will need to get messy with the opponent’s toys to win the game. And that’s mostly involve shooting (assault as well, which is even riskier). Now, let’s focus on how to shift the odds in your favor.
Moving influences shooting, and vice versa. As a basis of understanding:
– either moving has little to no influence to your shooting efficiency
– or the more you move, the less efficient your shooting will be … until you’ve reached the turning point.

First case, several weapons don’t degrade while moving. RoF is the obvious characteristic. E.G : machine guns on Tank teams have the same RoF (except 0.5cal, but hey, they do hit harder!). Going further, even if your RoF declines, this may have limited effect on efficiency. E.G : machine guns and infantry shots will still struggle a lot to deal any damage to protected targets (armor or bulletproof cover). Here, unless moving creates a risk on your Teams (such as leaving a perfectly safe position, rolling Cross checks…), by all means, move, the benefit exceeds the loss!

Second case, moving may downgrade significantly your shooting. That’s especially true for most anti-tank weapons, where you have a classical RoF2 not moving changed to RoF1 moving, or RoF1 not moving changed to RoF1 Slow Firing moving. That’s 50% loss of efficiency (+/- on Slow Fire depending on target). Apart from what we said earlier about all the benefits of moving, you have to determine the turning point:  the moment where moving & shooting become better than standing still & shooting. E.G : 2 StuG vs 3 Sherman (sounds familiar – right ?). 9 times out of 10 the StuG will win the duel. They are Careful (Hit on 4+) while Sherman are Aggressive (Hit on 3+), they have Armor 7 / AT11 while Sherman have Armor 6 / AT10. All the StuG have to do is stand still and blast, the odds are supremely in their favor. Now, if the Sherman want to bring victory home, they need to find a way to tackle the higher resilience of the StuG. How? By moving. 6 Sherman shots hitting on 6+ (Long Range + Conceal) is 1 hit, which the StuG has 4 chances out of 6 to totally dodge (FA7+1 long range = 8 vs AT10). The turning point for the Sherman is when they will reach Short range by moving to it: they have the same odds of hitting (3 Shots at 5+ = 1 hit), but they have more expectancy to damage (FA7 vs AT10 = StuG only has 3 chances out of 6 to totally dodge).
There are tons of variables in reaching the turning point, so don’t get confused with numbers: Conceal is the single most important factor, because it grants a +1 penalty, but also because you can’t be Gone To Ground (another +1) if you are not Concealed. So if you have a mean to cancel Concealment to a target (like moving your Tanks on a hill overlooking this field where the enemy Tanks lie…), you will boost your shots dramatically. Second is Long Range, because it grants another +1 penalty but also a +1 to the save of Armored teams: many teams in FoW are much more resilient while they keep their distance with their damages dealers. All in all, it’s not that complex to determine what you will need to break through the opposition, and when committing to a more aggressive strategy (= moving) is better than simply immobile dueling.

The Fury Starter, or how to learn this very simple game in 2 minutes

One of the key concept of maximizing your moving & shooting is forecasting. It’s playing a couple of turns ahead, anticipating what will happen. A move may not bring reward the turn it is done, but can unlock the situation the following turn or the next, by putting your Unit in a better spot to optimize its damaging capacity instead of being dragged into a complex firing duel. That is especially true when you can hardly beat the weight of your opponent (same firepower/resilience as you, or heavier firepower/resilience than you). You would most certainly sacrifice a whole turn of shooting, then most probably would have to move again to shoot at lower efficiency, but adding up the numbers, it may be far better than trying to submit opposition by pounding without moving. Some tools do help in the process, such Smoke. to protect your troops when they are the most vulnerable. V4 is really rewarding this concept, using the important mobility granted by this version (Dash Moves, Movement Orders, limited effects of Cross).

It works the same in Defense: it’s harder because you have to stand guard on your Objectives, and you most of the time have limited resources for it, positioned and hardly able to move. But think aggressive: “best defense is offence”. If you don’t deny your opponent its ground, it will rocket launch in your lines with very little you can do. Deny it the field, create kill boxes, use both static AP/AT and mobile AP/AT to react to its moves and pushes, and don’t be afraid to duel with it, especially if it’s done after a cunning move&shoot maneuver. Not only will the game be a better experience for both of you, but I guarantee it works.

Some players draw a map of the battle to help them in this process, showing their strategy and roads of approach/dangers. That’s super cool and a good way to increase your skill until you are able to do it mentally when you had enough practice! As a side note, if you are constrained by the time but still want to improve your gameplay, you can play the FoW battle in fast forward, sharing with your opponent what both forecast will happen, dropping very little dice, simply using average dicing or no dicing at all, allowing to try and test concepts and theories. Good to get FoW gaming on the spot !

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to commit heavily to bring the trophy home. Standing still and blasting is the easy mode of FoW. Taking risks is the step ahead. If you want to win the duel, sometimes you have to accept the loss of troops (don’t worry, they are toy soldiers, they don’t die for real). Moving allows that, both by bringing more guns to the party, increasing the efficiency of your shooting, and presenting more targets than the enemy can handle. E.G : I recently watched 2 games with an identical situation, handled radically differently by players. In both case, the Attacker launched a full Formation of Medium Tanks ahead in the jaw of a strong Unit of Tanks Hunters, using its superiority and mobility while Defender has limited resources to hold on and troops in Reserves. In one case, the Tanks Hunters took the bait, open fire and destroy one platoon of the Attacker, as expected ; next turn the Tank Hunters are punished by the overwhelming firepower of the Attacker, who then drive safely to take the Objective, as expected. In the other case, the Tanks Hunters wisely withdrew from their position, defending the Objective from another angle, leaving the Medium Tanks without target. Time for them to reach a new spot to blast the Tank Hunters, the Reserves were here, and stopped the push.

Don’t get me wrong: they are many situations where you can decide to stand still and blast instead of risking moving. Picking the moment is what makes you best player of the two around the table.

A poetic view of Move&Shoot in Flames of War – elegant movement to hit on target

And now you’re in for a smooth ride …

As a conclusion, I really encourage you to challenge your own approach of those two Steps of FoW : see Moving and Shooting as one common Step, and see how it goes. Just consider what can happen if you don’t move and just shoot, and what opportunities you will get, now or later, if you accept to limit your shooting by moving. Try to forecast the risks by wondering what you need to push through opposition, with what resources, and at what cost. And how could you do it differently. Remember, FoW is a social experience above all else, and you are winning simply playing with somebody else. So if you can add a learning experience on top, that’s jackpot Readers!

Happy to read your views and opinions in the Comments section as always.
Knowledge is power: share it widely!