Flames of War

Flames of War

In the past year I’ve heard a lot of buzz about ‘Flames of War’, some of it good, some of it not; in addition, I’ve been told many of the posts on the miniatures page are less than favorable. For me--I like the game. Yes, it makes no excuses about being a game, and perhaps this is one of the reasons I like the game. The ‘Flames of War’ folks make no apologies about their game--what they have done is to try and make their game fun and exciting, and I think they did.

Reflecting on ‘Flames of War’, I believe this game has done more for historical war-gaming than any game I recall. The only game I ever remember having a following near this large was WRG. The number of books and its web support Flames of War has is remarkable--I can only envy this.

My viewpoint, this article, is not a criticism and, in addition, I’ve actually played the game twice and both times had a good time. Some of the criticism of ‘Flames of War’ puzzles me--it’s as if the critic has not played the game or even given this game a fair chance. One of my observations, no, let’s say confessions, is if this game had existed in 1960s, I might have discovered the ladies and their charm much later--not to repeat myself, but if I was still a teenager I would love this game. Since I loved military history, and my Dad was a WWII veteran, this would have been my favorite game. During my adolescence I played most of the board-games of the era. I didn’t become involved with miniature war-games until 1969-70, not sure which--guess I’m getting old? Since I had a considerable number of models and soldiers, this would have filled most of my fantasies--most.

As I recall, not all, well, not many, of the vehicles needed to play anything but West-front existed when I was younger. I would have been stuck with West-front and, perhaps, the Pacific. So what? I would have still used my imagination to somehow create what I needed. Now, you can get almost everything you need, for pretty much all the war and all the fronts. What a dream! Not only can you get almost anything you need, but you have several scales to chose from. I used to game WWII in 20mm-1/76 but about 10 years ago I switched to 15mm.

To repeat myself, ‘Flames of War’ is a great game, and if I were younger I would play it more often. Now that I’m older and heavily involved with Command Decision, I don’t have time to play this game. In my fantasy or whimsy my interest now is more at the operational level, I like being a colonel or brigadier not a lieutenant or captain. Nothing wrong with being a lieutenant or captain, but I feel I need a promotion.

Now back to some of my observations--what distresses me is some of the unfair criticism of ‘Flames of War’. It’s a game and like I’ve said a fun game for me. Why criticize this game? Appreciate it for what it is not for what you think it ought to be.

I go to three or four conventions a year and there is a local game store which has several ‘Flames of War’ games every Friday. My impression of these games is, first of all, the models are well painted. I would say the average quality of painting of a ‘Flames of War’ army is better than any other system I’ve seen. I wonder why? Next, the players seem to have fun and pretty much agree on the rules. Finally, what I haven’t seen are ridiculous armies. I’m not saying they do not exist, but, in general, they seem pretty historically accurate to me. I did spend a little time talking to the organizers of the ‘Flames of War’ tournament at Origin (2006 and 2007). They told me of the 50 or so armies only one was questionable, and this army lost in an early round.

On the plus side, because of ‘Flames of War’, we 15mm players now have a much greater selection. Between, Old Glory and Battlefront most vehicles are covered. With Peter Pigs, Legions East and others most things can be had. For me, the only thing I haven’t been able to get are Legionaries with kepis for the desert. Oh well, one needs dreams after all.

My intentions are not to convince you to play “Flames of War”…what I’m aiming for is to perhaps make some people a little less judgmental. If it’s not your game, that’s OK, but to condemn something because it doesn’t meet your expectations is not fair. I must remind you that being a slave to history was never the intention of the designers. My guess is, they were looking for an exciting rules set for a new audience, thereby increasing the sale of their miniatures. What brilliant marketing—give your customer what they want. My vote is they did exactly that.