Started from the bottom

Today, Mark Nisbet looks at how the humble British Motor Company has changed from V1 to today’s V4 version.

Fear and loathing in 4th Edition

It’s been a few weeks since Battlefront made the announcements, and some spoilers were leaked about the anticipated 4th Edition for Flames of War.

A lot has been said, a lot has been shouted, and a lot has been dismissed about what’s coming in the future for a game many of us call our main game.
But where did it all start out? Well, read on as we go back in time, fifteen years into the past, a time when some of you might still have been in school, nappies or even not even thought of yet.

I’ll be contrasting and comparing the British Motor company for each edition, and see how the points, rules and other factors have changed since the start.

V1 Flames of War with “King & Country” through to V3 Flames of War with “North Africa” shows how far the game has come.

1st Edition; What a mess (2002)

I, personally, started playing Flames of War in 2005. Back then Battlefront was just a fledgling miniatures company looking to make a name for itself with a ruleset. They started well with a decent catalogue and a professional looking ruleset. In the beginning the main rule book came with army lists for British, American, Soviet, German and Italian forces. These initial army lists were awkward to use, and the arsenal was split, meaning you had to rely on reading the equipment entry for each unit to find out what it was armed with and refer to the arsenal on the opposite page.

The good old days of the army list and split arsenal.

Now, let’s have a look at the British Motor Company in the 1st Edition rulebook.

A nice little unit layout, but the support option limitations? What?

Each Motor platoon checks in at 190pts for a full strength company consisting of Command, 3 MG squads, 3 Boys AT Rifles and a 2″ Mortar team, all mounted in 15cwt trucks.
As mentioned in the caption above, the rules for taking support options were a little loose, there was no Commonwealth rules at this point, but there were national rules.

  • 190pts for a Confident Veteran platoon
  • Mediocre force organisation rules
  • Lack of Commonwealth choices hinders ‘flavour’
  • Replace a Boys AT rifle with a PIAT in each platoon for +5pts

Desert Rats, the first (2005)

In 2005 came a proper source book for the British Mechanised forces in North Africa: ‘Desert Rats’

Echoes of the future in this one

The book tidied up the scrappy force lists of the main rulebook and compiled them into a very handy and easier to use book. This also allowed for a deeper look into some of the options that one could take for the British Motor Company. For example, the Motor company could either be truck or lorry (British word for big truck) mounted. Their compositions were vastly different too, with the Lorried Motor Platoons looking like their later ‘Lorried Rifle Platoon’ counterparts from 3rd Edition.

Two options now, what type of fragile transport do you want?

To keep the comparisons fair, I’m only going to examine the ‘Trucked Motor Platoon’.

  • A drop in points to 125pts for Confident Veteran troops
  • Light Mortar and Boys AT Rifle teams are now optional
  • +30pts for a PIAT (upgrading a Boys AT Rifle), but only one per company

Overall, 1st edition was a good start for the game, with decent enough rules, but just a little too much ‘clunk’ for the casual player.

2nd Edition; Things get better (2006)

2nd Edition for Flames of War was a marked improvement and showed the potential the game had with a new shiny, full-colour rulebook. 2nd Edition also heralded the arrival of ‘Theatre’ books, the useful compilations of lists for the various forces facing off in a certain part of the world at a certain time. There were two to begin with: ‘Ostfront’; which dealt with Soviet and Axis forces on the Eastern Front, and ‘Afrika’; for British, Commonwealth, US, Italian and German forces in North Africa and the Mediterranean.

A more gathered force organisation chart, but still a little flaky

Looking in ‘Afrika’, we find the Motor company looking as it did in the ‘Desert Rats’ source book, with no changes:

  • The full strength Confident Veteran platoon still costs 125pts
  • No change in adding optional Boys AT Rifles
  • PIAT remains the same to upgrade
A copy+paste job from Desert Rats?

With the reduction in points coming in the 1st Edition sourcebook, there was almost no change for Afrika.
It was in Afrika that we see the first Commonwealth options slipped into the end of the army lists, with the very odd ‘alternative points’ way of calculating your force.

V2 isn’t done yet, but Afrika gets an upgrade (2008)

Skip forward two years and Afrika and Ostfront get some much needed upgrading to make them sleek, streamlined and easier to understand. In comes ‘Eastern Front’ and ‘North Africa’.

The much loved force organisation chart makes its debut

The new force organisation charts feature for the first time, and alternative forces for each company are also included in the lists in separate boxes, no more having to calculate ‘alternative points’ for your 1st Army in Tunisia.
So, how does the Motor Company change from Afrika to North Africa? Well firstly, we need to work out which part of the Theatre the list from Afrika came from, as the other new addition to the North Africa book was to split the British Army section into Africa (Gazala-Southern Tunisia), Tunisia (Operation Torch-Northern Tunisia) and Italy (Sicily landings-1943 Italy). Going by the equipment options,the closest is the 8th Army ‘Africa’ option, though they naturally lose the ability to take the PIAT.

Less clunk, more understanding
  • The platoon now costs 105pts for a Confident Veterans
  • Light Mortar and Boys AT Rifles remain optional
  • No option to take a PIAT
  • The option to take a ‘Lorried Motor Company’ has been removed

Also at this point we get an Indian and Guard options alongside the 8th Army and the Motor Company organisations goes from a HQ and 2 Motor Platoons to a somewhat more eccentric arrangement of a Motor Platoon, a MMG platoon, a scout platoon and an optional second Motor Platoon or an AT gun platoon!

Another points reduction, but one that was much needed as the British Army in 2nd Edition was the whipping boy.

3rd Edition Arrives, as does another upgrade for North Africa (2011)

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Battlefront released Flames of War V3. The book was well received by veteran gamers and newcomers alike as being more accessible without losing the core of what made Flames of War enjoyable. (And by the sounds of things will still be played by a great many players once V4 drops).
With North Africa being released three years prior, it was decided an entirely new release for the era was out of the question. Instead, Battlefront released for free a companion .pdf that would bring the British forces in those books up to the standard necessary for gaming in V3.

Every gamer likes free things

In terms of the forces we’re looking at, this pdf didn’t bring anything new to the table, the points remained the same, and the optional upgrades stayed the same cost too.

And now, the end is near: V4 drops soon (2017)

And so we arrive at the end of our rambling incoherent journey into the past editions of Flames of War to find V4 on the horizon. There’s panic in the streets, people are burning their model collections and performing voodoo in an attempt to keep V3 as the standard. (I hope you all know I’m joking, don’t voodoo me)

V4 is highly controversial.

Taking some inspiration from one of their newer games, Team Yankee, and bringing those forward into the future of Flames of War, let’s see how our Motor Company has changed, from being a 190pts unit fully armed with Boys AT rifles and light mortars, to what it is now.

Well then… firstly we need to talk about the change from the classical points totalling system to the new one. In the past games would be between 1500-1750pts on average. The new points are vaunted as 100, so with that in mind lets have a look at the changes. Bear in mind the removal and changing of some national rules such as ‘British Bulldog’, and ‘Carry on Sergeant’

  • 8pts for a full strength platoon
  • 1 Boys AT rifle and Light Mortar included with no option to add more
  • No mention of ‘Sticky Bombs’ which have existed since V1.
  • No trucks… at all… to be seen anywhere*
  • Now Confident Trained, not Confident Veteran, except in assaults

So, let’s do a little calculation to work out how many points this new platoon would be under the old system:

100/1500 = 0.06 | therefore 8/0.06 = 120pts (Trust me, I’m a scientist)
Or another way:
125/1500 = 0.083%
8/100 = 0.080%

So, have Battlefront been sneaky and given the British Motor company another points drop? The short answer is no. The long answer is harder to say as the trucks have been removed, but so have the additional support weapons. We’ll have to see what the upcoming ‘Command Cards’ add to the game, apparently an option to include *’Softskin Transports’.

I hope you enjoyed this brief ramble through the history of Flames of War. And whether you’re embracing V4 with open arms, or sticking with the old reliable V3, we can all agree that the game is a good one.