Flames of War – Tactica: Turn 0 (Part 1)

Hello Readers,

Fred here, back for some competitive tricks & treats for you. This article (2 parts) is a little bit special because, even if you are not a fan of competitiveness, it will definitely helps you in ALL your games.
I would like to speak about Turn 0: it’s something every player is doing, but not all of us really apprehend nor give a deep thought about… while we should!
I will explain what it is, give you the keys of it, how to understand the implications of it, and how to master it and use it properly.
Generals, open your strategy books, and here we go!

“-What do you think of this strategy Mr President?
-Well, I hope they have another better plan available…”  

What is Turn 0?

Let’s start with the basics. Turn 0 is not a massive complex concept of competitive wargaming: it’s really something we all do while playing a game of toy soldiers. In essence, Turn 0 is everything before the Turn 1 of a game. It’s a preparing and strategic pre-game phase, that will have tactical impacts in-game.

Turn 0

  • starts when you decide you want to play a game of Flames of War (“hmmm, FoW is good. I should play FoW.”),
  • continues when you plan on organizing it (“hey bro’, let’s play FoW this week-end!”),
  • keeps on when you look at your toy soldiers collection and decide what you want to/can play (“look at the brand new platoon I’ve just finished painting – I must field it!”),
  • carries on when you build your army list (“this seems like a solid Unit – I want to try it!”),
  • gets interesting when you learn about your Match up (“come on bro’, am I really going to fight YOU on Round 1?!”),
  • can get messy when you determine which Mission you are going to play (“No Retreat? Wait, but my Force ain’t fit for this one!”),
  • fully engulfs your How to Win strategy (“I am truly unstoppable… or maybe not…”),
  • ends when you and your opponent finish both of your Deployments (“And so it begins…”).
  • The time and energy spend in Turn 0 really depends on how much you want to invest in it. It can be as straightforward as “hey, let’s just spend a couple of hours throwing toy soldiers at each otheror as complex as studying the overall game, building a well-thought army and mastering it supremely.
Enjoying toy soldiers playing with friends, a good way to spend a couple of hours… if well prepared!

Turn 0 step-by-step

I can’t emphasize it enough in my articles : Flames of War is a game, of toy soldiers, played by players. It’s a recreative activity that aims at giving you pleasure, satisfaction, joy… whatever you want out of Real Life. Using bits of plastic/resin/metal reenacting WW2. Between a group of human beings. It’s a social experience, with nothing more to win but respect, and what you will get out of it only depends on what you bring in it.

Deciding is the first step of Turn 0 for good reasons: there is 99 motives not to play a game of Flames of War. You have to take care of family, work is too demanding, you’re not in the mood, your friends aren’t available, you’ve just learnt about a whole new toy soldiers game… You name it. As per every recreative activity, you need motivation to play FoW. When you have found it, just lit the spark.

is directly linked with the decision process, and involves organization. You know you want to play FoW, you just need to be fixed on the form of it. When your decision is done, just check within your gaming circle what is proposed to you: is there a club day to host your battle? Is there a tournament nearby you can attend, alone or with friends? You don’t plan the same for a very casual game than for a very competitive event. It’s all about the mindset. Granted, you are in for FoW game(s), but how many, with who, and in which environment? Maybe all you want is a cool afterwork game with a long-seen friend, where you would spend more time speaking about kids and drinking beers instead of playing a game. That’s fine and honestly more humanly enriching than a GT final! Maybe you want to challenge yourself into a major event, and you want to spend more time being prepared for the competition. Again, it’s up to you, players, to determine your mindset and plan accordingly to it.

Play wishing is setting the landscape of your game(s). Looking at your model collection and mustering a Force to play is great. Afterall, we are playing with toys, and those tiny human figures do matter for us. It’s not just some random tokens: those are things you buy, collect, assemble, paint (or for what’s matter: bought collected/assembled/painted!) with love, because you like how they look or because they remind you of something or even because you believe they are super strong! Whatever motivation behind your collection, just consider they are what allows you to enter this great social experience we call gaming. Picking your Force is fully part of the experience, and selecting your toys for the party is totally part of the process. It can be as simple as choosing cool minis, or more research focuses in picking historical forces, or as complex as thinking of a great Build with tremendous strategy behind it. Advice from a competitor: you will never be better than playing with what you like. There are tons of possible combos at FoW, and there are as many opinions in the game as there are players. What matters is you: what do you want to play, what makes you comfortable at the tabletop. Don’t skip it, because regardless of the game(s) you will play, if you are not happy with what you bring, then surely the experience is going to be spoiled.

As direct consequence of the above, List building is where you can really feel the interest of Turn 0. Sometimes, it will be driven by the collection you own, and nothing more. We all started as beginners, and we all started with building lists with what we learnt to play or what we understood from the game. While entering the veterans circle (sounds like a cult, right?), you would have a more extensive collection of toys from which to pick your list from. Don’t be afraid to go wrong, every game is an experience. Having an extensive collection can be a budget constraint, but luckily, we live in the XXIst Century, where there are lot of advice about the game, what should you buy first, how to avoid unnecessary expenses… Internet is great, but Private gaming, Clubs and Tournaments are even better. Undecided about your playstyle? Puzzled about what would be your Nation pick? Hesitating on buying a box? Go out and ask! Same, for 15 years, I found the FoW Community genuinely open about lending toy soldiers to players to let them try stuff before buying. We will get more into details in a second about the whole list building process, for now, let’s just say building a Force for your game will have an impact on how it will behave effectively during your planned games. And before we get carried away: unless you play in a very specific highly competitive environment, no, there is no such things as a “bad list”.

Your toys soldiers may not be great, but if they look sweat to you, a good reason to field them! #RuleOfCool

Let’s stop here for a minute as this concludes the first part of Turn 0: those steps are (mostly) you. Mostly because you can’t play FoW alone (well you can do theory craft, but that’s not entirely gaming experience, right?), and you need gaming partners (sometimes opponents…). The steps described above concern how you will prepare for your game, with data you can master (who will you play with, your mindset, your toys collection, your game experience, how you apprehend the current status of FoW, what you are expecting of your game, the stakes of the game you will play…). The second part of Turn 0 involves data you have limitated control over, and most importantly: the other.

Continuing, learning about your match up is when you discover who will be your counterpart. Both the person and what they brings to the party. It can be really straightforward and simple: you plan a casual game with your best buddy, you’ve decided to play an historical battle, he plays Axis and you Allies, there is not much surprise here. But it can be a longer process that involves a little bit of time and thinking: notably in tournament, you may not know your opponent, nor know their list, or what it does. Never hesitate to spend time to socialize with it, go through its Army list, make sure everything is clear (rules, models…). In competition, this phase is the real test of your Turn 0 preparation: if you planned well, whoever you will face and whatever it will bring, you would have the tools to deal with both and you will spend a good time together.

Determining the Mission is simply fixing the rules of engagement for your battle. Let me be clear: you don’t need to follow the rules to enjoy yourself in a casual game. If you and your gaming partner want to state every tank is throwing 10 dice every time it shots, only hits on 6, and everybody got a 2+ save… then so be it. You don’t need BF’s rules to enjoy yourself. Obviously competitive gaming is different, simply because we need a common understanding of the game for it to be fair. So yes, it implies rules as written, points, victory conditions… The Mission will tell the players what it needs to achieve to win the game. Pushing through enemy line, repelling an attack… FoW is all about seizing and keeping Objectives, or crushing opponent’s Force. More details below, for now, let’s just say when the Mission is set, both players have their agenda, and both can develop a strategy to achieve it. Moreover, this step is when you apprehend the battlefield you will play on. There is no FoW game without terrains, and it will play a part in how you can achieve the Mission. If fixing the terrain is happening when you learn about your match up, having a clear view of how it will impact the game is now. Missions in FoW can be very diverse, with a lot of parameters to consider, which you would have planned on, and which you will adapt depending on your match up.

As a consequence, building your How to Win strategy involves planning on how to best use your forces to achieve the conditions you have, with opponent forces in the way! This part of Turn 0 is really adaptative: you may have designed the best plan prior to the battle, it needs to take into consideration the new data (the opponent, its force, the missions, the battlefield). And most probably design a new plan. Entering the field without a clear idea of how you would play the game is a certain road to defeat (not great, unless all you care if having a fun time pushing toy soldiers around). Be certain about what is expected of your tiny toy soldiers, what you can ask of them, and what would be their limits. Soldiers may fail you even if you design the best course of actions for them, but they will certainly fail you if you exploit them badly (they are so sensitive little beings…).

The closing of Turn 0 is deployment. Yours and your opponent’s. Setting both toys on the field so they can fight to achieve their objectives. All Missions have deployment constraints, from who can be on the field to where they start the battle. On a casual game, failing its deployment doesn’t have much consequences. On a competitive game, deployment is key: it’s the instrument of your How to Win strategy. A good set up allows you to be in your plan from the start, and develop it freely. A bad set up let your opponent exploit your mistakes, and forces you to be on the back foot to correct the course of the battle that won’t go your way.

Here you have it all for the second part of Turn 0, a combination of conflict (= the match up), rules of engagement (= the mission), strategy and planning (= how to win), and set up (= deployment).

Ok, we know the rules … can we engage and kick some ass*s now ?!”

Turn 0 1.0.1 – now you have it!

This concludes our first part of our journey into Turn 0 : something everybody does, without necessary knowing they are doing it! Turn 0 investment is equally proportionate to the players’ will to spend time in it: it can be really simple and straightforward, or far more complex. Again, up to the players.

I hope this 1st part of the article helps you understand better Turn 0, or even made you aware about it! Next time, we will see together how you can master it.

Happy to read your views and opinions in the Comments section as always.

Knowledge is power: share it widely!