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I've been practically rabid to get Fighting Formations on the table for since my pre-order box *finally* arrived shortly after release day. However one thing or other in real life prevented me up until last Friday night when one of my wargaming partners and I were able to put in a few hours with the learning scenario to put the game though it's paces.

Let's start with the good.

1) I've been eagerly following the order matrix / command radius system of this game for a long time so I was very familiar with the concepts and we were able to start using them in no time. It was just as quick and easy as I would have expected and it did a very streamlined job of translating what should be simultaneous actions into something playable on a game board. The decaying command markers, while less glamorous than the big and showy initiative track, seem to me to be the unsung heroes of this system, and that's a good thing.

Sorry that statement didn't really capture how I felt.

HOLY COW THE INITIATIVE ORDER SYSTEM IS AWESOME!

Not having a complex sequence of play of regulating movement, fire, op fire etc. This is priceless. Systems like this and CoH really shine in that regard.

2) I was actually a little skeptical of the multiple sided dice method of controlling the range of the result set. My instinct was that surely a modifier is less fiddly than constantly switching dice. Here I was happy to be proved wrong. It was dead easy to switch dice and once you had done so you'd skipped the arithmetic step of adding in the modifier. I appreciated this small optimization.

3) The Scenario Setup cards were a joy! These are hands down the clearest scenario setup instructions I've seen in any wargame. A small point to be sure, but wow I really appreciate GMT investing that many pages in the playbook to making sure we get up and running quickly and unambiguously.

Now, let's move onto the surprising:
4) The initiative track oscillated much less dramatically than I would have expected. Oh I appreciate the potential for much more dramatic swings occasionally, however regardless of the order distribution it seems likely that players will usually pick off the lowest cost orders first. If both usually follow this pattern, then while the initiative pawn will change it's position much more dramatically as the turn progresses, the players will still tend to alternate because the next order will be similarly large in cost. I'm not sure how I feel about this (brilliant self-regulating feature that still captures the other possibility, or overwrought mechanic that is more complex than it needs to be) and I doubt I will have an strong opinion for a while, but it was certainly surprising.

5) Unit reduction from platoon to squad surprised me by making everything much more 'survivable' than my instincts expected. Oh I knew the rules, but it was one thing to know the mechanics, quite another to see myself pouring fire order after fire order into a platoon of riflemen and have them degrade yet stubbornly stick around in the form of hit squads. Time will tell how this additional realism plays out in large engagements. I fear that "counter creep" may slow things down too much, but perhaps the command/initiative system will mitigate that.

With that let me switch to the bad. Yes, bad. I know, sacrilege right?! One is usually only allowed to gush about the greatest most innovative wargame since the Spartans put pebbles onto the sand, however there were enough things I disliked about my initial experience I thought I would capture them.

Actually in all seriousness these dislikes are mostly going to be a matter of personal preference. None of them were surprises, but I was surprised how much I minded them while playing the game. Now my annoyance may fade if the rest of the system sucks me in, but for anyone else who is in my shoes - knowing about these things and worrying about them - don't be surprised if they still bug you!

6) Paper maps - I'd forgotten how much I hated these suckers. Same goes for the initiative track. Sorry that's how I feel and I'm a long time wargamer. I loved my mounted Panzer Blitz maps and I somehow didn't seems to mind by the time I was playing Bitter Woods even without the plexiglass. Now however I think I've been ruined by too many lavishly produced euros and wargames with deluxe linen pressed map boards. If I get serious into this game I will buy two copies and have the maps mounted (or GMT if you're listening I'd gladly pay for mounted maps directly from you folks). I think it's just that I'm old enough and have little enough time to play that I feel a bit put out when some part of the game feels like I have to put in extra personal effort to get it up to snuff. I paid for a full game not DIY PnP project. Irrational right? Especially given the economics of these games. Still, I hate the maps.

7) Counters - Top flipping: no prob. Corner clipping: comes with the territory, though CoH seriously spoiled me there. Smaller markers than units: two thumbs up! Thin cardstock: yeah I'm starting to hate this too. It surprises me how my tolerance for this standard is changing over time. In the past I would have gushed over these counters, but today I look at them with irritation. I judge them with the secondary, please forgive them they are wargame counters, standard. Again, all my other gaming as spoiled me and I've just grown to expect a thicker body of counter to span of counter ratio.

8) Opposed rolls - I've gravitated towards wargames that avoid opposed rolls and whenever I find them I'm always reminded of why I dislike them. They're twice as slow to resolve - twice the dice, twice the adding. I have a hard time believing that even with the fate card mechanic the statistical model would be meaningfully altered if it was just a straight roll in direct fire combat.

9) Tables and charts oh my! - Table lookups were always my least favorite part of wargames and time has not changed that. What's changed is the many wargames that eschew them entirely in favor of cramming in more symbols onto counters or baking in effects in other ways. Over the years I've gravitated towards those systems. However there's no avoiding the Barrage and Melee tables. I wish some of this stuff had been baked in / abstracted. When I retire I will devote my free time to building mathematical models of various game systems in order to quantify statistical deviation from history versus time spent doing mechanical game tasks instead of making choices. Until then I will grit my teeth.

All in all I enjoyed our little match - his Soviets quickly took the town, but my Germans mounted a deliberate careful assault and pried him off of it - and I personally am looking forward to playing more.

My opponent was much cooler on it than I. He comes to wargaming from a general gaming background which diverged into miniature gaming. I think he feels points 6,7, and 9 even more keenly than I do. Just for comparison's sake Conflict of Heroes and World at War didn't elicit that reaction, so be aware. Components matter. Complexity has a cost. I hope I'll be able to entice him to play again - maybe I should let him win...

*edit*

I should also add that while it may sound like I dislike FF:GD compared to other systems, that's not the case. I've practically given up on gaming at platoon scale and below because of my general dissatisfaction with action regulation systems. WaW's chit activation systems is fine for it's level of abstraction, but after over a year of regular play I've grown convinced that CoH's activation system is fundamentally flawed. But man... great bits.

If you don't mind paper maps, thin small counters, opposed rolls, and big tables, then I don't have any gotcha's to warn you about. If you do mind them, then I doubt someone can convince you not to mind them. You'll have to be aware that FF:GD has them and come to your own conclusion if the positives are worth it. Personally I'm still forming my conclusions.
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I like your summary of pluses, surprises, and minuses.

adorablerocket wrote:
6) Paper maps - I'd forgotten how much I hated these suckers. Same goes for the initiative track. Sorry that's how I feel and I'm a long time wargamer.

Same here, but I played SPI games more than AH games back in the day, so paper maps don't bug me.
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Quote:
The Scenario Setup cards were a joy! These are hands down the clearest scenario setup instructions I've seen in any wargame. A small point to be sure, but wow I really appreciate GMT investing that many pages in the playbook to making sure we get up and running quickly and unambiguously.


If you've played Combat Commander, you can say the same thing, especially the second iteration that came starting with Mediterranean. Of course, they are by the same designer!
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Good review! Still thinking about this one. And I'm with you...paper maps are okay, but mounted maps would be a great addition!
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Mounted maps would have been ridiculous. With the map setup in this game it would have been 9 mounted boards, making the game weigh a ton and driving the cost into the stratosphere.

And GMT counter thickness is not "cardstock". It is plenty thick, durable and has a good tactile feel.

The production of the game is excellent and also practical.
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Joelist wrote:
The production of the game is excellent and also practical.


I agree given the game. No doubt mounted maps would be amazing, but it would likely double the weight, cost, and shipping of the game [along with an enormous box].

Maybe GMT should consider a P500 order for mounted maps. If enough people are willing to pay for them, then they could make them available. I'm guessing there would be little additional up front costs to simply make them a P500 option.
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Joelist wrote:
Mounted maps would have been ridiculous. With the map setup in this game it would have been 9 mounted boards, making the game weigh a ton and driving the cost into the stratosphere.


I disagree. CoH shows that you can have multiple linen pressed mounted maps in a tactical wargame. All the new World at War releases have also come with multiple. Double sided mounted maps would have worked for me too.

Personally, I would have been happy to trade a few scenarios and maps into the "expansion" market for a higher quality base game.

However, as I stated in my review, this is a personal preference and I state it to both provide demographic feedback to the publisher and designer and to provide perspective for those who share the same preference as they consider buying the game. I'm not trying to change anybody's preferences.

Quote:

And GMT counter thickness is not "cardstock". It is plenty thick, durable and has a good tactile feel.


As I said in my review I would have raved positively about the counters just a few years ago. However after playing many euros (and many newer GMT offerings like Washington's War and Maonuever) I find I just don't *like* these lighter counters anymore. The state of the art has moved on. Again I feel like I would personally have rather seen fewer units in the core game at higher quality and paid up for more units in an expansion.
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ldsdbomber wrote:
adorablerocket wrote:
. If I get serious into this game I will buy two copies and have the maps mounted .


can you elaborate on how you would do this?


Well I haven't done it yet but I was imagining simply spraymounting the maps onto tiles of chipboard. I'd use library tape to make the chip board hinge into a quad fold (if I was feeling ambitious) or most probably a bi-fold. If this game is going get a lot of play then a custom storage solution is a no-brainer for me.
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I do share some of your initial reactions on the game and how it plays in general, but i also can't help thinking that the spot of bother you're having with it doesn't seem to root in the design mechanics per se. Opposed rolls and the usage of tables are not exactly exclusives of this specific designer, and the production values of GMT are what they are. Leaving matters of personal taste aside, it really is amazing how this game reinvigorated my wargaming itch after ASL nearly ruined it for good. It's easy enough to be taught to new players quickly, though still tactically demanding enough for the Grognards (at least for those with a job, wife and/or kids). It's that new spark of the joy of pushing paper armies around that makes me a happy customer.
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adorablerocket wrote:
Joelist wrote:
Mounted maps would have been ridiculous. With the map setup in this game it would have been 9 mounted boards, making the game weigh a ton and driving the cost into the stratosphere.


I disagree. CoH shows that you can have multiple linen pressed mounted maps in a tactical wargame. All the new World at War releases have also come with multiple. Double sided mounted maps would have worked for me too.

Personally, I would have been happy to trade a few scenarios and maps into the "expansion" market for a higher quality base game.

However, as I stated in my review, this is a personal preference and I state it to both provide demographic feedback to the publisher and designer and to provide perspective for those who share the same preference as they consider buying the game. I'm not trying to change anybody's preferences.

Quote:

And GMT counter thickness is not "cardstock". It is plenty thick, durable and has a good tactile feel.


As I said in my review I would have raved positively about the counters just a few years ago. However after playing many euros (and many newer GMT offerings like Washington's War and Maonuever) I find I just don't *like* these lighter counters anymore. The state of the art has moved on. Again I feel like I would personally have rather seen fewer units in the core game at higher quality and paid up for more units in an expansion.


The game ships with 11 scenarios right now, giving it outstanding play value. And remember the maps are real terrain, not "generic" terrain as in some other tactical games. So it requires the scenario specific maps. To hard mount them all is 9 Washington's War boards in one box. To leave scenarios out is to reduce play value.

Play value is more important than hard mounted boards. So is being well designed, and FF has both.

As to Lock and Load (I think you meant this as WaW doesn't have multiple boards in one box), those boards have been infamous for warping and other production issues, and are so thin they are only barely "mounted".

Sometimes unmounted works better, as it does here. It is a game by game thing.
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I'm glad everyone has time to critique things like components and mechanics.

I'm just trying to figure out how to win once as the Russians! soblue
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Malacandra wrote:
I'm just trying to figure out how to win once as the Russians! soblue

Play versus that guy's 7-year-old from that other recent thread?
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russ wrote:
Malacandra wrote:
I'm just trying to figure out how to win once as the Russians! soblue

Play versus that guy's 7-year-old from that other recent thread?


He'd probably beat me too. laugh
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Winning as the Russians is definitely doable. I just did it in Scenario 0.
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The Russians won Scenario 0 when I played on Friday.
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adorablerocket wrote:
3) The Scenario Setup cards were a joy! These are hands down the clearest scenario setup instructions I've seen in any wargame. A small point to be sure, but wow I really appreciate GMT investing that many pages in the playbook to making sure we get up and running quickly and unambiguously.


The scenario set-up instructions, like the examples of play, are necessarily detailed but have to be written to be clearly read by anyone. That's a tall order, so I'm glad you like them.

The extra pages in the books for FF were requested by the designer and his development team (twice actually). It's not a decision made by GMT to add stuff, they just tell us whether we can have the extra pages without affecting the P500 price. We (the design/development team) felt it was very important to be able to provide a large number of graphic examples (as well as the military history of the unit and the OOB). It took more pages than we had originally anticipated, but GMT graciously allowed us the extra space.

I mention this only because I don't think the average wargamer knows how the extra material for a game comes about. It's up to the designer and his developer(s) to research and write the material and to request the pages to display it all properly. GMT doesn't dictate what does or doesn't get into a playbook or rulebook.
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Joelist wrote:
Winning as the Russians is definitely doable. I just did it in Scenario 0.


LOL! Now try the REAL scenarios!
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I am sorry, but to say that this game should have mounted boards is a bit silly. We aren't talking 14x19 boards like CoH, these are full 24x34 map sheets. That would be four double sided 24x34" mounted maps in one box. I don't know of any game that has something like that. The only thing that comes even close would be War of the Ring and it only has 2 boards and is single sided.

Don't get me wrong, I like mounted maps as much as the next guy.
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Production standards in this game are good. I appreciate the large hexes and the counters having large easily readable numbers.

The systems are clever, one poster on another thread has compared with ASL - to my mind, it reminds me more of basic Squad Leader from the point of view that there is something new and exciting here.

Also like SL, there is a very satisfactory level of abstraction going on that delivers the 'right feel', John Hill (designer of SL) called this designing for effect and there is a strong sense of that in Fighting Formations.

I love the simplicity of the hit markers that give a random fire / move penalty and then take care of the rally process in a very elegant fashion. So many things are streamlined, such as having mines dealt with under melee procedures.

The play book is superb, well written and packed with information that gives an impression that the design team just went that extra mile to deliver.

The only downside that I can see in my game world is that scenarios may take longer to play than I would normally care for. However, I think that familiarisation with the system will bring some of the gaming time down a bit.
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I enjoyed reading this review. Nicely done.
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normsmith wrote:


The only downside that I can see in my game world is that scenarios may take longer to play than I would normally care for. However, I think that familiarisation with the system will bring some of the gaming time down a bit.


Maybe a bit but I think you should plan 2-3 hours for the half mappers, and around 5 for the full map battles. The two-mappers, as has been said, are a weekend project!

These are big battles, and they take a good while to play out. One thing I've noticed though is that the passage of real time is hardly noticeable. The game is that engaging.
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I don't think this game should have or be anything. It's the game designer and publisher's problem to figure out what it is and I don't envy them.

I personally don't like paper maps. I understand what pros and cons are. I understand (and own a grognard's grade piece of) acrylic. I still don't like them. It is my opinion that fewer scenarios (on fewer maps) would provide me more play value. I feel that way because it worked that way for me with CoH and with WaW (the later expansions do have mounted maps BTW, and while they are lower quality than CoH I still prefer them to paper). In both cases I happily snatched up all the expansions resulting in total game sizes and costs that "weigh a ton and driving the cost into the stratosphere."

Your mileage may vary, but this is my opinion.
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pitferret wrote:


The scenario set-up instructions, like the examples of play, are necessarily detailed but have to be written to be clearly read by anyone. That's a tall order, so I'm glad you like them.

The extra pages in the books for FF were requested by the designer and his development team (twice actually). It's not a decision made by GMT to add stuff, they just tell us whether we can have the extra pages without affecting the P500 price. We (the design/development team) felt it was very important to be able to provide a large number of graphic examples (as well as the military history of the unit and the OOB). It took more pages than we had originally anticipated, but GMT graciously allowed us the extra space.


Kudos then to the design and development team. I've played a lot of wargames and seen a lot of scenario set up descriptions. These are hands down the best. Usually this is one of the worst designed, least thought through parts of any design.

I enjoyed the graphical play examples as well - They were so detailed that I almost feel like they should have come before the rules. I appreciated them as well. In this post YouTube day and age however I think the video play examples are even more valuable than the printed ones.
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To some people, paper versus mounted means a great deal. I think those people are crazy.

To me, paper versus mounted makes absolutely no difference. Those in the category above probably think I'm crazy.

The only obvious way to settle the issue is in the manner to which I often resort which is to categorize the former as members of that rare group of people who have wrong opinions.
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I actually prefer paper maps. Somehow it just feels more 'grog' to me.

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