Recommend
62 
 Thumb up
 Hide
29 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Fields of Fire» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Great Grimpen Mire: A review of an excellent game wrecked by its rulebook. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Howard Posner
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
TO THE READER
36 pages of new threads on Fields of Fire and only 3 reviews.
The last two reviews were so well written and comprehensive that I suspect everyone read them and thought 'I can't top that, mine will seem shallow in comparison'. It is also possible that the Great Grimpen Mire that is the rulebook has defeated most would be reviewers.
FoF deserves more, because different perspectives matter, especially when a game is truly innovative, obviously a labour of love, and has a rulebook that rivals corporate taxation statutes in opacity.

SUMMARY
I think Fields of Fire is a wonderful game.
I play board games with my friends for competition and social interaction. I play solitaire games as historical simulation and to immerse myself in their theme, and Fields of Fire has the best narrative of any solitaire wargame I have played. I recommend it as a 'must play', but only to a tiny minority of gamers, as unfortunately what you get in the box when you buy it is not a playable game,
Everything that follows reads as if I am describing a real stinker rather than a gem but it needs to be said.

EXTENDED RANT
I am not going to describe the game mechanics in detail. The two reviews prior to this do that brilliantly. In broad terms the game revolves around giving orders (there are never enough) to units in command (they never are) so they can move onto terrain cards and trigger enemy forces appearing. the system is innovative and gives a very different feel to the game. Your Officers really do command, rather than simply move into range and magically activate all their troops. It is advertised as diceless, but it uses a deck of cards to achieve the same bell curve randomness as dice rolling, so it's randomisation mechanic is similar.
Fields of Fire is a complex game. It requires that you are already familiar with lots of wargame and boardgame concepts. It needs a concise and clear rulebook. It has a rulebook that is almost unusable. I will go a stage further and say that in its current form, the rulebook is unusable.

The real problem is that there is no way of working out how to actually do all this with the current rulebook. Take the units on the board, a major basic game system that underpins most of the more complex subsystems. One page talks about LATs, another about Fire teams, another about Steps, another about Squads, another about Staff, another about Platoons, another about Replacements. Some of these are alternate descriptions of the same piece. Some can transform into others, and then transform back. Some can break up into two or three of the others. All interact with each other and the enemy slightly differently. Nowhere is this coherently spelt out. You have to find all the rules and exceptions by obscure references that can be anywhere in the rulebook, the Mission book (sometimes called the Briefing Booklet), or the myriad charts.
I play lots of boardgames including loads of GMT P500 offerings, and I am used to reading rules. I also play many wargames, including reasonably complex ones like ASL, CoM, HiS etc. It has taken me 2 weeks and perhaps 20 hours of dedicated time with a downloaded copy of the FoF rules and all 36 pages of BGG threads on them to get to the stage where I feel I can attempt the first turn of mission 1.
When I actually got my copy of the game a few days ago, and tried to set up mission 1 I had to go back to the Geek and spend a load more hours looking up a heap of stuff I had missed in my first run through.
I have my own rewritten and re-organised shorthand rulebook. I suspect most other players of this game that actually persevere to the playing stage do too.
Everyone reading this is on BoardGameGeek and reading the threads here.
Imagine if you are not. The GMT gamebox for FoF says complexity 5. Give me a break! GMT gives Clash of Monarchs complexity 7. The CoM rulebook took me 45 minutes to get on top of, and another half an hour for the fiddly bits like Kleiner Krieg. This one is at 30 hours and still counting.
Imagine you haven't played anything more complex than Puerto Rico or Catan. Buy this game because it is advertised as the next step up in complexity and you will never venture out into the deeper waters again.
The rules stink. Sorry, they just do.


APOLOGIA
It isn't the game I am criticising, it is the rulebook. I agree with the posters who say that P500 enables innovation, and lack of polish and underdevelopment in the rulebook is a price worth paying. This isn't underdeveloped. Eventually most things are in there somewhere, you just have to find them.
When I finally started playing the game it flowed smoothly. The system is elegant, innovative and dripping with theme once you have worked out how to use it. My brave assault team that cleared out the LMG nest in the church are already slated for the Congressional Medal of Honour and the game breathes life into those cardboard heroes. This is a really good game.

I don't mind complexity. In fact in a solitaire game I want it. The rosters, the asset allocations, the myriad potential orders and squad types are all fine. The ammo bookkeeping makes sense, and for once I am actually playing a game where I think about stopping my troops firing madly in all directions on the off chance they'll roll a 12 and hit something.

I am still playing, and I haven't stopped trying to fathom the rulebook. By comparison after an hour or two with the riverine rules in 'For the People' I gave up as it was a lousy game subsystem. These rules aren't like that. When you finally suss out what to do, you realise there is a glorious steel frame to the system.

FINAL ANALYSIS.
The Game:
A 9. Deserves a better rulebook. I would love to see it extended into other theatres of war, or other nations in this war (Desert Rats in Libya, Aussies in PNG etc). I think it has as much potential for solitaire games as Mark Hermans original Card Driven game We the People had for wargames.

The rulebook:
A 2. GMT should have proof read them, or at least issued the game as a highly complex experimental innovation rather than a complexity 5 standard game. The game as currently sold will do their reputation net harm not good, which is a great shame.
This rulebook just does not work.

Recommendations:
Grognards should buy it. There is a seriously clever and exciting game hidden in there.
Experienced gamers might feel brave enough to try it, but it's not easy to read those rules. It is worth the effort.
Casual gamers must stay away at all costs because they won't get past 1st base and it will put them off complex wargames for life.

Final Suggestion to GMT:
Please publish a series of 'how to do it' pages, walking you through the various subsystems (call for fire, set up between missions, placing enemy units, switching VOFs and PDFs as the situation alters etc). You can add them to the living rules section.

Thanks for persevering through this rant,

Howard Posner.









I




I don't think the game would be playable, or if it was i can guarantee that the from in which you would be playing it would be full of errors, fudges, guesses, and with large chunks just left out because they were unfindable.


The game should come with a warning that unless you are a grognard and have played many wargames before you shouldn't waste your money on it.


3

AN OVERVIEW.
Fields of Fire is a solitaire recreation of the adventures of a U.S. Rifle Company through 3 conflicts.


34 
 Thumb up
1.07
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
D Summers
United States
Potomac Falls
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I agree completely on the rules and also that the game is great if you can get beyond it.

It drives me nuts for example that you can read about how to use grenades in one section, but you learn something new about grenades in the VOF, PDF, and visibility sections. So if you need to reference a grenade action while playing, you'll either inevitably miss some key rule, or you'll spend your time flipping back and forth through the rule book.

They also need more examples as you alluded to. I was reading through Conflict of Heroes at the same time and it was so refreshing by comparison how COH provided an example after nearly every paragraph (Granted the FOF rulebook would probably end up 80 pages if they tried that).

It probably should be mentioned though that people associated with the game are working on extended walkthroughs and a eventual rules rewrite. Based on their support here and on Consim, I have high hopes that there will be some good reference materials available in the near future.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jorge Arroyo
Spain
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree the rules could have been better, but to say the game is unplayable because of the rulebook is just too much. Reading through the rules a couple of times and starting Mission 1 with them at hand is perfectly doable with some patience. Yes, you'll probably make mistakes (like in any other complex game) but nothing that would prevent you from actually playing through a whole mission.

Anyway, I'd say the biggest problem with the rules is not organization (they're short enough that you soon remember their layout and where things are) but the omissions or vague parts.

Yes, I agree that in a perfect world a game's rules should cover every possible occurrence and leave no room for interpretation, but with complex games this is usually very hard (if not impossible). But that's where common sense comes in: just do what seems more logical and play on... You'll have time later to check/ask and get an answer if/when the rule is clarified.

Granted, I've only played one mission, and did made some mistakes, but I only had a couple of "big" questions and the answers where what I expected... Most of the times, what questions I had were answered right there in the rulebook...

BTW, has anyone actually said this is the next step from Settlers of Catan?? I don't think so...

Anyway, a new rulebook is coming so hopefully that will solve this issue once and for all. I agree with you, this is a great game with a great system. I hope it gets the attention it deserves...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Howard Posner
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Oops. The last few lines of apparently random comments after my signature should have been deleted. They were from earlier drafts. Sorry. (and I complained that GMT didn't proof read their rules!)
I also have high hopes GMT will clean things up with the rules and post what needs to be posted. They generally support their published games pretty well and this is a very good game once you sort it out.

Thanks,
Howard Posner
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robert Ramirez
United States
San Antonio
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
You can edit your post. Good thoughts.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gene Baker
United States
Ocean Springs
Mississippi
flag msg tools
badge
Games with dragons, spaceships, and bears aren’t wargames. Call them conquest games or strategy games or crap but they aren’t wargames.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
hposner wrote:


Final Suggestion to GMT:
Please publish a series of 'how to do it' pages, walking you through the various subsystems (call for fire, set up between missions, placing enemy units, switching VOFs and PDFs as the situation alters etc). You can add them to the living rules section.

Thanks for persevering through this rant,

Howard Posner.


Good review! To me the game is unplayable out of the box. It’s not impossible to play out of the box, but currently requires an unreasonable amount of rules study and is hence unplayable. Monster games are to me impractical to play and therefore unplayable. Sure a few folks have actually finished a monster game but the percentages have to be low. Fields of Fire fits in the monster category of unplayable although for different reasons. Hopefully GMT will issue a rules rewrite. If so I’ll take another look.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin Gallo
United States
O'Fallon
Missouri
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
The problem I had with FoF is that I am not sure I am playing the same game as everybody else. I read the rules a couple of times and then started the game a couple of times and then played at a friend's house (he claimed he knew how to play) and I still do not think I know how to play. It is not helping that mission one keeps ending with all my units dead or rendered useless by artillery or snipers or machinegun nests by the end of turn one. I am waiting for the next set of rules, or some sort of walkthrough that gets me through turn 1.

I agree that it sure looks like it ought to be a lot of fun! Until this gets 'fixed' there is always Ambush, or Tokyo Express or Ranger...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Burdett

Honeoye Falls
New York
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I set this up and tried to play a couple of months ago, and have boxed it back up, waiting for the dust to settle. I need comprehensive examples of play, with pictures and explanations. Until then, I'll wait to play this gem of a game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Does GMT or the desginer plan to expand the system to cover German or Soviet infantry in the future?

I think there more upsetting thing about this game is the GMT's complexity rating given to it as "5" only, whereas obviously this shouldn't be for any solitaire tactical level system. Believe it or not, yes, GMT says this on the game's webpage:

"A mission can be played in about 1 to 2 hours."

I don't own the game and I didn't believe this kind of statement only had I have the game. Nothing should be assumed for a potential buyer that you need or don't need to go back to the rules, flipping them to find an answer to your questions or out of slight curiosity, while you are playing the game. The time to clarify things with the rules should be included in the playing time, not assuming player's high proficiency about the rules in order to play a mission.

This would be a misleading statement. It would only hurt those who just happen to enter the wargaming world right out of the "Catan" world.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Taylor
United States
Aurora
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
They allude to future expansions in the rules. One line in particular refers to "Vietnam-era US troops (and later)" or something to that effect, so they may be looking at expanding it to more modern eras as well.

I've just about gotten through my first reading of the rulebook, and some parts are starting to come together. The first 15 to 20 pages leave you very confused, but towards the end, it all starts to mesh. I"m going to try setting it up today, but I know there'll be a lot of rulebook checking.

Mike
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jorge Arroyo
Spain
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
martimer wrote:
The problem I had with FoF is that I am not sure I am playing the same game as everybody else. I read the rules a couple of times and then started the game a couple of times and then played at a friend's house (he claimed he knew how to play) and I still do not think I know how to play. It is not helping that mission one keeps ending with all my units dead or rendered useless by artillery or snipers or machinegun nests by the end of turn one. I am waiting for the next set of rules, or some sort of walkthrough that gets me through turn 1.

I agree that it sure looks like it ought to be a lot of fun! Until this gets 'fixed' there is always Ambush, or Tokyo Express or Ranger...


There's a walkthrough for the beginning of a mission: http://www.gmtgames.com/fof/FoFExampleFinal.pdf

A for not being sure if you're playing the same game, I'm not that concerned. As long as I'm having fun, a few different rule interpretations won't bother me. Just play the game, use common sense and you can always search the forums afterward and correct whatever mistakes you made...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You are very correct on your review. I have played wargames over forty years, Fields of Fire has been the toughest game I have ever learned to play. I spent my Christmas break reading and rereading the rulebook. I am still asking questions, as you see by my last post A Mine Whine. Do I like the game and is it good Oh Yeah!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Taylor
United States
Aurora
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
maka wrote:


There's a walkthrough for the beginning of a mission: http://www.gmtgames.com/fof/FoFExampleFinal.pdf


This is a very good initial walkthrough.

Mike
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Stephan
United States
Millersville
Maryland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I had a harder time with the ASL rules than these. Some different concepts to be sure but even if I get something wrong, the system holds up and I still have fun.

Just my two cents, your mileage may vary.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ian Borrows
United Kingdom
Leeds
West Yorkshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
I totally agree with Howard, this game is not playable out of the box at all. The game looks like a real innovation and highly inventive whilst giving a real sense of it being a simulation as well as a game. However, I say it 'look like' because i can only gleam this from looking over the game components and from reading many threads on BGG. I have not been able to get into the game. The rule book is shockingly bad. On finishing my first reading of it I was confused. Never have i read a rulebook that is so bad at informing the gamer of how the game proceeds and painting a clear picture of the mechanics.

I started playing wargames in the 1970s and play ATS so I feel I have a lot of experience to help me get to grips with a game. Not so with this one. It sits on my self collecting dust. Some players who've posted on BGG about the game have clearly learned the game and really enjoy it but only it seems to be after a huge amount of effort. I expect more from a game, like the rule book should teach me the rules and let me get on with playing, and enjoying, the game. I don't have the spare time to study and work at a game to such an extent as is the case with this one just to get a basic game of it going. I waited a long time for this game, bought it the minute it was on the shelves and have not been so disappointed with a game for such a long time.

I am waiting, hopefully not in vain, for GMT to substantially sort out the rulebook by rewriting it.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam D.
United States
Suquamish
Washington
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I was excited to see this game arrive. Cracked it open, read the rules and put it on the shelf. It is now in my games-to-get-to-when-I'm-retired-pile. They should hire Dean Essig to rewrite it so the concepts shine through. I find it a little odd that the 500 system should held up as something of an excuse. I'm in the opposite camp: I expect more when pledging to fund a game. it's not a disaster or the end of the world, just my opinion.

I am glad to hear that there is a solid game under there, so when some kind geek rewrites it into a more clear format I can attempt to enjoy it. meeple
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Brock
United States
California
flag msg tools
mb
At first I had a hard time with the rules too. But, the best advice I’ve read about learning this game is this:

Set the game up and PLAY IT!

Even if you make a million mistakes and spend quite a bit of time referring to the rules. I know it may feel uncomfortable, but once you’re done, you’ll have a MUCH better idea of how the game flows and how the rules interact with each other.

I did this and a light bulb went on in my head and I realized how the various LATs, steps, weapon teams, etc. worked and operated. I then went back and gave the rules another complete read through. Having played the game, I was now able to understand the rulebook MUCH, MUCH better. For example, the rules seem to have quite a bit of forward referencing, but having played the game, I knew what the rules were referring to without being confused.

So, my advice to anyone having a hard time with the rules is: Please, set up the game and give it a go. Make mistakes, look up rules, and have a good time. Then, once you’re done, read the rules again from cover to cover. Then you’ll really get how things work, I know I did.

Joe
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sven A
Sweden
Uppsala
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I totally agree with the reviewer. I have hard times rating this game, I desperately want to give it a 9 but my feelings about the rulebook makes me hesitate. And the game is (almost) unplayable out of the box.

But...

It makes me want to rate BGG a 10!

Thanks everybody for tips, walkthroughs and rules discussion! BGG and it's users have saved this game for me! It's (always) worth it to read pages and pages of BGG comments...

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Earp
Austria
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
I'm with Jeff on this one.. I really tried hard to play this when first received, after all I'd spent a fair amount of dosh to get it, but eventually gave in and boxed it back up. I'm frustrated knowing there is a great game here but can't get at it. GMT PLEASE HELP..
Cheers Davey.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Taylor
United States
Aurora
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've got to agree with Joe Brock up there. I made one read through the rulebook. Was it fun? No. Did I take three days to get there? Yes. But it started making sense. So I set up to play the game, and I've done almost four turns (and I've gotten really lucky). Sure, I'm making mistakes, but I'm learning from them, and the checks to the rulebook are getting fewer.

Mike
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Langdon
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
The rulebook would have killed most other games, it shows what a gem there is underneath that FOF can survive it. It was a heck of a time in development so maybe it just got to a point of get it out there or the game won't exist in any form.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Kimmings
United Kingdom
Bathgate
West Lothian
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
maka wrote:
I agree the rules could have been better, but to say the game is unplayable because of the rulebook is just too much. Reading through the rules a couple of times and starting Mission 1 with them at hand is perfectly doable with some patience. Yes, you'll probably make mistakes (like in any other complex game) but nothing that would prevent you from actually playing through a whole mission.


I have to completely disagree there. I read through the entire rules and could not have set up to start the first mission without the aid of the GMT example play. Even now there are some things that are not clear in my mind and like Howard it's taken me a week of reading threads to get through two turns.

I also agree that it is worth it though as it is a wonderful game.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Grant
United States
Washington
DC
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Love the game, as I said my own review, but it's a leap of faith to get started.

Maybe the first scenario or two should have a fixed set-up? You could go back and re-play it, tinkering with some of the set-up decisions (orders assigned to smoke or flares, assignment of assets, etc.), once you've seen the logic behind the fixed set-up.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin Gallo
United States
O'Fallon
Missouri
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
I truly think that all this game really needs is a simple training scenario and complete walkthrough. Most of the problem seems to be that it is so unusual and uses unfamiliar terms. I know I found myself translating a lot of things into "WWII gamer parlance" and so I assume most of the terminology comes from the modern army training and doctrine manuals.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Hendricks
United States
New Mexico
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I am so glad you wrote this review and I agree with you 100%. I have been planning on writing a similar review but have not got around to it yet. Now I don't need to because your review is spot-on from my point of view. This is a great game, very enjoyable and a real challenge. However, the rules are the worst I have ever seen from GMT. I have dozens of GMT games and have been buying their products since their founding but I have never come across such a difficult rule-set as this.
Now, it is not that there is a steep learning curve with the game like, shall we say, ASL. It is just something seems to be lost in translation from explanation to actual playing the game. It took me about three attempts at the first scenario to figure out how to play, let alone, grasping the concepts on how to plan a winning strategy.
BUT, once you get it, FOF is a spectacular game and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in WWII tactical wargaming. It is exciting and intense. If anyone is planning to try out the game, please keep at it because you will ultimately have a great solo experience. In the meantime, I would love to see GMT give the rule book a new draft.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.