Before starting this article I feel it is necessary to make two public service announcements:
- Warning: the content of this post may cause blood pressure to rise, tables to be flipped and armies to be sold on ebay. DO NOT DO ANY OF THESE (unless you are Robin Spence, in which case keep selling everything on EBay)
- My position on V4: I like V4 in general, I think Mid-War needs more stuff to become a proper game and EW and LW have some pretty significant teething problems but the core rules are good and fun.
Anyway, enough procrastination. Since V4 dropped there has been wailing and there has been gnashing of teeth. Some of this has been over things which were not that important, some of this was well justified. In particular the way V4 changes made Early and Late-war into a mess in terms of competitive play as the V3 points are quite clearly wrong for V4. Paying points for units that don’t exist and special abilities which don’t exist or have gone from being a positive to a negative (Tally Ho, I’m looking at you) is bloody annoying and enough to render a lovingly crafted, competitive army un-competitive which is frankly soul destroying.
The bit which is actually more problematic for me is also the bit I enjoy looking for most – units which are now horrendously undercosted for their new abilities/lack of drawbacks and which are now so points efficient you should build your army around them for maximum efficacy. This is what I refer to as the law of unintended consequences – making grand sweeping changes, which work in general, cause some weird stuff to happen at the specific unit or list level which causes problems. This then incentivises ridiculous armies which in turn ruins the fun of the game (as well as making a delightfully horrible army to play against).
Now before going on to more V4 stuff, let’s remember that V3 had its own unintended consequences. My Ghurkas who were supported by 16 Kiwi time on target artillery pieces is probably one of those. There were others, however they were not as egregious as the ones which have sprung up as part of the V4 conversion of EW/LW such as Sturmovik Tips: a previously pointless upgrade for a solid but overpriced plane suddenly turned into 3 flying, nigh on unkillable, T34/85s, and even better, the third one came at a significant discount compared to the first two. Suddenly if I’m not putting 3 Sturmovik Tips into a list, I’m wasting points I should be spending on flying T34/85s.
Anyway enough rambling, the point of this is that Battlefront have listened to the feedback and actually done something about it, twice. The first time was changing victory conditions, The second is the proposed changes for EW/LW armies which are now available on the Battlefront site.
Battlefront helpfully gave us a preview copy at Breakthrough Assault, and after I immediately put together as many lists as I could which to my mind broke the changes, I ‘volunteered’ to do this review. So I’m going to go objectively through what I think of the changes and start the discussions going.
In brief, most of the changes are great, however if you are a soviet player, you may want to sit down before you read this and pour yourself a generous glass of your preferred brand of Vodka.
Apparently the plan from Battlefront is to put these out for people to test and feedback on, then to finalise them in September. That means they really need good feedback, particularly on the more controversial stuff. As I said at the beginning, don’t sell you armies on eBay, get onto the Battlefront Forums and give them constructive feedback and results from games; that is what will get changes if you think they are necessary.
So onto the changes:
Aircraft get the second highest number of changes, which generally seem very sensible and a return toward the armaments we know and love from V3. Cannons have been rationalised, AT ratings have reduced which is good and RoF is now based on the V3 to hit roll, rather than 2 across the board. Though I now own 3 Sturmoviks, I think this is a very welcome change. I want a situation where I can’t buy undercosted invulnerable flying death machines, because if I can buy them then anything else I can buy is a waste of points. There are other games systems which really have suffered from this sort of thing, particularly when trying to use rules to sell overpriced models. I don’t want that for FoW and sorting out cannons on aircraft helps with this.
Flying tank? Flying crutch more like…
Another change for aircraft is the return of AT4/5 templates. Bombs and rockets can kill tanks again, like they did in WWII in real life. This again is a good change and balances pretty much all of the aircraft back to their current point values, except Rudel, who is still a broken git.
Tiffies – the cannons have been de-tuned but the rockets can now kill big cats again
Overall the changes to aircraft are the correct ones.
Paying points for models that don’t exist
There has been a change to unit points where a model doesn’t actually exist any more. This again is good and helps balance back down and make more viable some units which became completely inefficient in V4. There is now a table indicating the discount you get for a model which no longer exists, ranging from 25 points for a fearless veteran cavalry team to 5 for something rubbish. This is definitely a good move and hopefully the points reductions will get incorporated into Forces of War, otherwise listing is going to be a pain.
It still doesn’t bring back the time (literal minutes) spent on staff team dioramas
I’m not completely happy with this though, basically because it addresses some units problems but doesn’t solve the wider issue of the points being wrong in V4 for EW/LW. I hope that this is but the first step on this journey and the travesty that is recce team’s points get addressed in the future as, without that, pretty much all my lovely recce models are going to be sitting on the shelf wishing they could fly Sturmoviks. Other units need their points balancing too; the BAR is one I am not entirely sure about, Tally Ho has become a disadvantage, but HE is less of a problem. Regardless there are other units which have dreadfully wrong points for their abilities and they really need fixing to avoid the competitive aspect of the game being finding the most egregious undercosted unit and buy loads.
This one is great. Transports can no longer go boldly where no man (from their infantry unit) has gone before. The transport unit leader must be within 6″ of the infantry unit leader now. This is very good and avoids some of the jarring experience of having some empty half-tracks charge your lines.
This one is also good and probably the best defence in the rules against ridiculous army building. Deep reserves is no longer the same as MW, as that made no sense in either EW or LW. Now the EW deep reserves consigns anymore than one unit with top armour 1 or higher to reserves; rather than basically doing nothing which is what it did before. LW banishes units with a front armour of 4 or more to deep reserves (other than one unit which is allowed on table). This no longer catches all the armoured cars and transports that the FA3 rule did for MW. This is a very good change and common sense taking charge – what would be counted as a heavy armoured unit in EW is probably at best an AA tractor in late war.
and sometimes the EW tank *is* the late war gun tractor…
Rocket launchers have basically gone back to their V3 firepower. This is again a good change. Katys are no longer are unbelievably cheap, unbelievably good, artillery unit for an unbelievably small amount of points. Reloading heavy rockets is back and Stuka Zu Fuß are now one shot weapons. This is correcting the unintended consequences of the artillery changes from V3 to V4.
So this is where if you own a soviet army you need to sit down, take a deep breath, drink some vodka and then take another deep breath. If you have done that then you can read on.
Soviets have had their army fundamentals changed, significantly, in the name of sorting out the issues presented by 30 stand platoons and the new morale rules. My initial impression of this involved swear words and example lists which highlighted the problems with these changes, with a few hours to calm down I’ve mellowed a bit and am open to trying out some of them.
Soviet infantry other than some intentional expections (hero units) and presumably unintentional units (like the Pulyemyetno-artillyeriyskiy Polk, an army I think I am the only person in the world to have bothered building), now are hit on a 2+ unless there is only one platoon in the company at the start of the game.
This is the bit which still has me swearing, though now it is quietly and to myself. This is a sweeping change which is huge. The logic is easy to follow – soviet infantry units are huge, getting them down to breaking point is now really hard, if you make them easier to kill they will break sooner. This seductively simple logical deduction however causes monsterous changes. Gone are the days of only two types of soviet infantry (regular and hero) we now have a third – bullet magnets. The problem is that the liability bullet magnet infantry cost the same in points as regular soviet infantry, the only difference is the starting unit size. Take the same number of stands in smaller companies and you get good troops, take them as a big blob and they suddenly start standing up and asking to be shot. This is the sort of thing that gameyness is made of.
The first gamey thing to start looking for is the ability to take strelk in single platoons. This is a big problem in EW. In late war however it’s relatively easy.
So in Red Bear you can take your 28 stands as either 2 companies who will die in a stiff breeze for 510 points:
Or you can split them up into platoons who can actually stand a chance of surviving with an additional two command stands for 550 points:
One of these options is utter rubbish, the other has problems but is at least useable.
This becomes more bizarre when combined with the multiple formation options, along with the massive boost Zis-3s have taken by becoming firepower 4+ on bombardment. One can now take two of these formations for 1510 points (though you actually pay slightly less as some of the teams no longer exist for the artillery):
I’m not exactly a historian, but I’m not sure this is how the Soviet Navy actually fought.
Things get more challenging where the list of unit types doesn’t cover a particular company option. This is something for the really bizarre lists, like my Pulyemyetno-artillyeriyskiy Polk. The platoon types in the base companies aren’t in the list of things that mean you get hit on a 2+, so suddenly you can still field massive hard to shoot and hard to break platoons. This list is unaffected by the infantry rule changes and takes advantage of a tank rule change (see below):
Now I actually have this army, because I’m weird. This change however incentivises everyone else to go and make it, which could mean that we will suddenly end up with a fairly accurate WWI game. Now if only there was a Great War version of flames of war available…
The worst result of these changes however is for the poor udarny shock troopers.
The Udarny are not heros, primarily because they predate them as a concept in the history of FoW. They do however act as heros by having small units and paying a premium to have veteran skill rolls. The problem they have is that their minimum platoon number in a company is two, so you now pay a premium to hit like veterans and get shot like conscripts, you also get 9 stand platoons as a minimum and 16 stands as a maximum. It costs 190 points for effectively 9 stands of conscripts. Compare that to volksturm who cost 105 points for 9 stands of actual conscripts. Anyone who owns Udarny may as well retire them unless this gets changed.
Oh and this rule change applies to Cavalry too, because Cossacks were a real nightmare in V4. Sadface.
Hen and Chicks is dead, long live Hen and Chicks!
Hen and Chicks now means that affected tanks get hit on a 2+, unless there is only one platoon in the company at the start of the game in which case it doesn’t do anything. There is no longer an effect on soviet tanks shooting. This turns most soviet tanks into glass hammers, they will wipe out anything while rolling forward but will die when shot by effective antitank guns. T34’s in late war cannot avoid this because their minimum company size is 2 platoons. This is however abusable by other tanks like the SU85. These are available in single platoons, so don’t get hit by hen and chicks at all. So you can end up with a basically unbreakable double formation army of 24 SU85s and 2 T34/85s without hen and chicks, which is likely to give historical wargamers apoplexy.
Though this is abusable in late war, it’s really abusable in early war, where everything gets shot on a 2+ anyway; suddenly soviet early war tanks don’t have hen and chicks. T34s, KVs and most excitingly the small fast tanks like BT-5’s can shoot like normal tanks on the move.
So I can get 28 AT7 tanks which shoot normally on the move in one army:
This would be game breaking except Battlefront have made an important change to soviets in early war:
Early War Soviets:
Soviets in early war are generally conscripts, so hitting them on a 2+ makes no difference. Because of this soviets now get less points than other armies. The reason the BT list above is 1250 is because that fits into the new soviet equivalent to 1500 points – 1275. This is very sensible, though clunky, and basically sorts out the potential problems with these changes in early way. It does however completely change the way Soviet tanks work. You can now do things you would never have dreamed of, like move and shoot at stuff…
I personally think all the changes except the soviet infantry/cavalry ones are sensible and solve a lot of problems. Yes ‘hen and chicks’ is now completely different, but I’d need to see whether the points break for the old ‘hen and chicks’ is similar to the points break for going to conscripts from trained, which it probably is. Soviet tanks will however die in swaythes to anti-tank fire.
Well done Battlefront, you have listened and made changes, which should address some of the problems with the V4 change, which is amazing for the game I love playing.
What to do instead of setting fire to you model tanks:
These are not final changes, Battlefront want people to test them and give feedback on the forum. So do this, try out the rules, see how they go and then give calm feedback on the forums. I know someone from Battlefront will read this (they have spies everywhere) so I know they will have taken on board my thoughts, but I haven’t actually done more than play with these on forces and in my head. Try it out, get hard data, prove yourself wrong or right and give helpful feedback. Battlefront are listening, which in the history of gaming companies is bloody amazing.
Well done Battlefront