The Waving Flag: Well It Had To Happen

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Well It Had To Happen

On Sunday, I played my first ever game of Field of Glory (FOG).

After over two years being befuddled by DBMM I felt the time was right to try something different.  James Hamilton, also a member of MAWS and a well known FOG player, was a kind enough to talk us through a game and explain both the major mechanisms and options during a trial game.

I fielded a Mongol Conquest army against Graham Hutchinson’s Early Russians at 800 points.  We felt this would be a good test for FOG as we have had many enjoyable and balanced games with these armies under DBM and DBMM.

I don’t intend to give a blow by blow account of the battle as this can be boring but I thought I’d describe my reaction to FOG as a first time player, draw some comparisons with DBMM and explain my reasons for trying FOG.

Reaction to FOG:
  • These rules are popular and after Sunday I can see why.  I had a great time. There is a strong core mechanism which is easy to remember.  With James’ help we both felt that we were getting the hang of it by the end of the game.
  • The turn sequence takes some getting used to especially as the Impact phase tended to get longer as the game progressed.  The true test will come when we have to do things, in the right sequence, without James’ help.
  • The use of Commanders, who are markers not battle group elements, kept tripping me up as did their ability to go nearly anywhere on the table.  However, it’s not a serious issue.
  • Before the game I wondered if the need to use markers for Cohesion Levels would spoil the look of the game but they didn’t.
  • I felt that I was using Steppe tactics with a Mongol army; possibly for the first time.  It also looked like I was on the table;  I rode up to my opponents, shot them and attempted to evade if charged.  If the shooting succeeded I charged home.
  • The game saw a lot of movement with a “see saw” action on the Mongol left as the majority of the Russians tried to overwhelm the numerically inferior Elite and Superior Mongol heavy cavalry.  This took most of the game to resolve; as it should.
Comparison with DBMM:
  • Under DBMM and FOG the battle is between quality regulars and numerically superior irregulars. The FOG game was as close fought and interesting as any of our DBMM games with a narrow Mongol victory after both camps were taken.
  • The longer turn sequence in FOG increases the complexity compared to DBMM but the absence of bound specific combat factors and complex gradings means that FOG seems simpler overall; even after one game!
  • The Mongol army comprised of bow armed swordsmen; with more varied armies I suspect remembering which troops have which feature will be harder.
  • Unlike DBMM, FOG doesn’t have a PIP system and nearly everything moved every turn.  Under DBMM I would wait for a set of poor PIP dice to hamper the Russian advance.  With FOG this wasn’t going to happen; some Russian charges failed but they still moved forward.
  • Using cavalry and light horse the Mongols broke a battle line - of Spear with supporting skirmishers and secure flanks - by a combination of shooting and a well timed charge or two.  This felt right.  Under DBMM this would have been a very hard and potentially costly thing to do.
  • Writing an army list was very quick. James sent us a spreadsheet that did the hard work. The lists look complex but are straightforward in use. 
  • The absence of weather, time of day, and stratagems, together with the simple terrain placement rules in FOG, lead to a very rapid start to the game. 
  • The alternate deployment of battle groups also speeded things up.  My 10 battle groups deployed in four lots of 3,3,2 and 2 battle groups.   Unlike DBMM there’s no maps, command rectangles or baggage placement to deal with.
So why FOG and why now? 
  • I started playing DBMM at the beginning of September 2007.  Prior to that I’d been playing DBM for years.  My first Befuddled post was dated 15 September 2007. 
  • In the last two and a half years I have unlearnt DBM, written a total of 22 “DBMM for the Befuddled” posts, learnt DBMM, and played in both friendly and open competitions.
  • However, once I got past my early befuddlement I began to experience what the French call “espirt d’escalier”.  Win or lose, nearly every game gave rise to at least one pivotal play or circumstance that I later discovered was not legal.  I suspect I provided as many for my opponents as they did for me. 
  • At first I thought it was my inexperience so I tried harder but it wouldn’t go away.  Looking back I can see that the enjoyment I got from playing gradually declined despite the assistance and camaraderie of the DBMM players at MAWS and in the DBMM Northern League.
  • In January 2010 I played DBR. My first game in two years. Within half an hour the rules had come back to me and all I needed was a two page quick reference sheet.  This was more like it.  This was fun.  More importantly in the pub afterwards Graham commented on how much more relaxed I was. 
  • Graham’s observation was both astute and pivotal.  I now realise I enjoy DBMM less than I enjoyed DBM.  To make matters worse I have had to put a lot of effort in to improve the quality of my play.  As far as I’m concerned the rules are too complex, as well as broken in places, to really enjoy the experience. 
  • I’ve also come to realise that there’s nothing I can do about this.  For most of this year I’ve watched the Yahoo! DBMMlist slowly disappear up its own fundament whilst the prospects for DBMM v1.1 and v2.0 declined significantly.  It’s time to take a break, try something new and hopefully have some fun.
Having tried one game of FOG with an experienced player effectively umpiring for us the next step is to read the rules a bit more and see if the above observations hold up when there’s just Graham and I playing.  This we will do in ten days or so. 


PatG said...

As a true believer I should of course shun you for time eternal but:

"It’s time to take a break, try something new and hopefully have some fun."

If it's not making you money, it better be fun or there's no point in doing it.

Thanks for the Befuddled Series.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Thanks for your observations

I've tried to play both DBM and DBMM and just as it seemed to start to work they both end up breaking. Sometimes what being is battle winning "clever" on tabletop turns out as you say to be a mal-rule interpretation. I'm pinning my hopes on FoG for a simple fresh game

James said...

Hi Vex

have not looked in for many moons. But HAD to read this significant post!! Very interesting. Have not played either ruleset so can't comment except to say that wargaming should always be fun. You gave DBMM a damn good try and did a lot to help others along the way.
If FOG gives you back your mojo then that's great.

PeterAtJET said...

If Slitherine could include a digitised version of Hammy in the rulebook for interactive support and encouragement they would be onto a winner :-)

Personally, I have found that getting into FoG leads to ordering lead from Venexia. Spooky.

peter.f.model said...

Very interesting comments and I suspect rather correct. I feel the basic mechanics behind DBMM/DBM is more advanced that FoG, but something about DBM/DBMM makes it hard work playing. I am currently attempting to re-write the rules in a boardgame case system format with extensive charts, tables and cross references in an attempt to reduce the accidental errors which creep into almost every game, but as you can imagine this is not a simple task.

Vexillia said...

Good luck with the re-write. Let me know when they are ready and I'll give them a "plug" for you.

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