Monday, August 1, 2011

Force on Force and Enduring Freedom: First Impressions

A couple of weeks ago I received Ambush Alley’s Force on Force modern wargaming rules published by Osprey. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to go through them, I thought I’d post my first impressions. First and foremost, in terms of production values, the rulebook is of the highest quality! It is a beautiful full-color hardback book. The book is filled throughout with images and drawings. The Osprey illustrations are magnificent, as always, as are the excellent pictures of real troops in action as well as of miniatures and terrain. The close-up shots of figures “in action” are clear and crisp, and make me envious of the painter's skill. (There's a post on the Ambush Alley forums here that links to WIP pictures of the Elheim USMC figures - they are gorgeous!)

My one big complaint is the copy editing. I am used to better from Osprey. The book contains several typos throughout, including two glaring ones. There is a typo on the back cover, and the Campaign Guide section is listed as "Campagin" at the top of every page from 144 to 159. I am used to better editing from the Osprey folks. I am not sure of the cause, but it feels as if the volume was rushed to print. This is admittedly a very nit-picky complaint of an otherwise beautiful book.

As far as the game rules themselves, I’ll have to play a few games to make better sense of them. I am a “learn by doing” type, so I want to play through some turns and mechanics before reaching a conclusion. However, at first glance, the rules look comprehensive, yet not to the point where you will get bogged down in detail. The abstractions make sense without over-simplifying.

As a follow-up to my FoF purchase, I got the Enduring Freedom scenario book. I have to say, this is a great book! The historical summary alone is worth the price of admission in my opinion. One issue, which is also present in FoF, is the use of too many military acronyms, not all of which are included in the glossary. I get that modern military lingo is chock full of acronyms, but I am a gamer that does not have that background, and had to turn to the Internet to decipher some of them.

But that is a minor point - overall the book is great. The scenarios are interesting, not just as exercises in tactics, but as historical records. The fact that each scenario is accompanied by a small blurb detailing the historical outcome is very helpful and educational. Not only do I want to be able to re-create the engagements detailed in the book, but I want to know “what really happened,” and this book takes care of that.

Also, the book solidified my decision to go with 20mm figures. The USMC Elhiem figures look great, and I will definitely be placing an order as soon as the finance committee approves the expenditure! In addition, I will be picking up some vehicles from S&S Models as well as looking into picking up some Dragon models of various Humvees.

And, I joined Ambush Alley’s SOG program. The list of benefits (a discount at several figure and terrain manufacturers, getting several exclusive scenario packs, etc.) was impressive, but mostly I want to continue to support this fantastic gaming company. The Ambush Alley team have done a terrific job with the development of these rules, and they deserve our support in order to keep them hard at work churning out more fabulous supplements! Based on Force on Force and Enduring Freedom, I will be picking up all the supplements including the first one, Road to Baghdad: Iraq 2003. Even if I never play those specific scenarios, the books are worthy of being a part of every wargamer or military enthusiast's collection.

There was one interesting development regarding the Enduring Freedom scenarios. I asked my 10-year-old son what he thought about playing through some of the missions. He said he did not want to play a game based on a conflict that is currently taking place. He said it would not feel right to him to play a game simulating the deaths of U.S. troops while those troops were really dying every day. To me, from a purely intellectual point of view, wargaming helps me to more deeply appreciate the job the Coalition forces are doing, the risks they are taking, and the constraints under which they are operating. It makes me more grateful for their willingness to serve and sacrifice, and helps me understand, albeit in a very small way, their current situation. Having said that, I understand and respect my son’s position, and did not press him on it. There are plenty of other wargaming opportunities with past or fictional conflicts for us to take advantage of.

My daughter, who is 13, said she'd give the game a try, as along as she can play the U.S. forces. So I may still have one partner in crime...

I have not seen FoF being played in the local game shops (and I must say that I am a bit disappointed to only have a couple to choose from - it’s the one big disadvantage to living so far from civilization!), so initially my games will be strictly home-grown affairs. Once I get at least two decent opposing forces ready and feel confident with the mechanics of the game, I may head out to see if I can find opponents...

'Til next time.
Post a Comment