Friday, February 26, 2010

Armies of Oerth, Part 0: Field of Glory

Admittedly, I put the cart before the horse by presenting army lists adapted for a system that I hadn't taken the time to explain. Let me make ammends for this...

Field of Glory is a set of historical miniatures rules for ancient and medieval tabletop battles. The rules cover the ancient and medieval period (3000 BC – 1500 AD) from the rise of the earliest known armies through to the introduction of effective gunpowder weapons. The game scale is flexible and the movement and range distances are the same regardless of scale.

FoG is designed to play a battle with 10 – 15 battle groups in a 3 to 4 hour game. Each battle group is made up of variable number of bases, usually between 2 – 12 each, and are maneuvered by commanders as independent units which remain as a single cohesive block for the game. These battle groups move as a unit but the combat system allows the shooting and melee combats to be fought by those bases exposed or in contact. Battle groups are rated by type (cavalry, heavy foot etc) training, protection level, weapons and morale.

A standard turn consists of a set sequence of phases; an Impact Phase (charging and combat) a Movement Phase, Shooting, Combat Phase (in addition to the charge combat) and a final Administrative Phase which deals with a range of command and morale issues. The sequence is logical and straightforward to follow.

The command and control system rates commanders by levels of competence and applies the simple mechanic of distance from the commander to model the efficiency of the army command and control. Commanders can assist battle groups to maneuver, fight and rally. Under some circumstances a commander can provide benefit to a “group” of battle groups which is called a battle line. This simple technique seems to model the efficiencies of a traditional ancient battle-line quite well.

The move system is reasonably simple and intuitive. Move distances, formations and maneuvers (such as wheels and formation changes) are logical and well explained. One clever touch is the Complex Maneuver Test (CMT) which forces battle groups in close proximity to the enemy and who are performing a complex move to roll dice to complete the move. This makes you think twice about performing formation changes within charge range of the enemy! There is some complexity in the move sequence, fighting in two directions and the ability to feed parts of a battle group into an existing melee but the rules do cover these circumstances in sufficient detail to allow an understanding by the second or third game.

The combat system appears complicated but is actually quite straight forward and is well supported by a set of good charts and tables. There are more units able to shoot and skirmishers now take on the important function of forcing the heavy units to take Cohesion Tests from a trickle of shooting casualties inflicted over a long period of time. Melees now take many turns and the disintegration of battle groups is gradual and the effects are more subtle than one would normally observe in a game where each unit fights to the last man. For example the initial clash between an elite Roman Legion and a Gallic warrior band might see the legionaries “disrupted” and even lose some elements but often their better armour, better morale and close quarter training will allow them to (over 4 or 5 turns) whittle down the Gauls and cause them to break and run.

Morale rules are also important in determining the outcome of a battle. Supporting units, location of Generals, routing units, rallying units, “bolstering” (improving a unit’s morale) and the “Cohesion Test” are some of the techniques the game applies to model the impact of morale on an ancient battle.

The game is supported by a detailed set of annexes and a comprehensive glossary which is very useful for new players to this system. There is a range of 13 supplemental books containing specific Army Lists, such as Republican & Imperial Rome, Ancient Greeks, Late Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Far East. These books are not necessary for using the main rulebook, but they are well presented and illustrated and provide detailed lists of a broad range of historical armies.

In summary, Field of Glory is a well written and well explained system with lots of clear and colourful diagrams which will ease the pain of learning a new set of rules. The rules have a formed-unit approach that represents many of the aspects of ancient warfare with simple ease. The morale rules add a significant element to the game and are simple to understand and straightforward to apply. The combat rules are not complex, but they do require a methodical and measured approach. New players who rush will either make fundamental errors or become confused about who did what to whom. The rules have been assembled by a group of long-standing wargamers and several of the contributors are classical or history scholars in their own right.

From the designers:
In Field of Glory our most important objective is to make the game fun to play whilst retaining a strong historical feel. So whether you fancy being Alexander the Great or Ghengis Khan, it's up to you, happy gaming and may your dice roll high!



Cimmerian said...

Well covered and explained! Though "Wolves of the Sea" missed some graphical representation here, I won't hold it against you ;)

How many games did you play before you felt comfortable with the rules?

Will you borrow a magic system from another ruleset or just go with out?

Great review!

Matthew James Stanham said...

Yes, indeed. Good stuff. I recently wrote a review for this game over at Dragonsfoot: Field of Glory. Definitely one of my favourite games of the moment.

Joseph said...

I would also point out that the rules are published by Osprey, the company that makes those awesomely illustrated army books. The rulebooks thus have a wealth of those beautiful illustrations (both as eye candy and painting guides for figures) as well as photos of beautifully painted minis.

Cimmerian: what was missing from Wolves of the Sea? It's possible it showed up in another book such as Oath of Fealty, Lost Scrolls, or Storm of Arrows.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I appreciate that. ;)

I have played only two real lengthy games (4-5 hours) with other opponents. It was new to them as well, and they may not have entirely shared my enthusiasm. Some of my gamer-grognards are VERY resistant to change.

"New game?! What does this...NEW...mean? It is HERESY! There can be only one game!"

Okay, I exaggerate abit. I have mostly been guiding myself through different rules and scenarios, testing things out. Kind of like playing chess with oneself I guess.

Right now, I wasn't planning on adding anything. Of course, maybe if I did my RPG players may enjoy it more. I was going to check out Chowgiz's suggestion of HOTT & Joseph's link to the FoG fantasy list. If there is something that seems to fit smoothly, I may give it a try.


Anonymous said...

Joseph: Yes, those beautiful books are what grabbed my attention first. Especially the rulebook, very well made, compact, and with a feel of the ol' AD&D hardbacks.

Plus, I appreciate the fact that as the supplement books came out, Osprey stated up front there were going to be 13 of them. And they stuck to it. It's nice knowing I have a complete set for Ancient & Medieval wargaming.

Of course, Osprey has announced its plans for two more follow-ups (but its okay, as they are time period upgrades, not changes to the existing A&M wargame system):

FoG Renaissance Wars is being designed to allow players to concentrate on realistic deployments and battlefield tactics of the early modern era capturing the atmosphere of battles ranging from the Italian Wars of the early sixteenth century through to the conflicts of the standing armies at the end of the seventeenth century, not only in Europe but around the world.

FoG Napoleonic Wars enters the ever-popular Napoleonic era as a game designed to cover a broad period from the beginning of the 1st Coalition against the French revolutionary armies in 1792, and ending with the 7th coalition and the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815.


Keith Sloan said...

A great series of posts - wish I'd read them back in the day when I ran a Greyhawk campaign!

For my current campaign world, I actually developed a series of hex and chit wargames to simulate some of the historical battles. I absed the rules very loosely on some of GMT's Revolutionary and Civil War rules, modified for a more appropriate era and for fantasy elements, of course. It was quite abi undertaking but oh so much fun - and I loved making the counters!

Rob Kuntz said...

Welleran touches upon some good points. Great thread! I will also recommend John Bobek's work (the former editor of the International Wargamer, BITD) who is a member of this blog: "The Games of War" which also has a fantasy section to it. Reviews at Amazon:

Joseph said...

Thanks, Rob; another one to add to the ol' Amazon basket. Have you ever read any of the old Don Featherstone books? I was fortunate enough to pick up a bunch of them back in my college days. Fantastic stuff.

Rob Kuntz said...

Hi Joe: Only EGG's copy of War Games, and that was many moon ago. Featherstone wrote so many, and at the time I was expanding my own library of primary texts on WW2, Napoleonic Warfare and the Medieval Ages, as well as getting Osprey editions, as mentioned in this post, and limited edition books on Custer. I do own and have read Dunnigan's The Complete Wargames Handbook. You'll not go wrong with Bobek's work; I've read parts and watched it played twice at LGGC. One of the reviews of it on Amazon is by the former VP of the IFW, Bill Hoyer, also a member of this blog.

Anonymous said...

LotGD: Thanks for the link; it's on order now. I am going to have to address magic, I know. I figured I'll keep the army lists coming for now while I check out HOTT, FoG Fantasy, Bobek's book, and even another one someone tossed my way, "Fantasy Rules!"

I should be able to come back with something over the next 20ish lists. ;)


Wargamer204 said...

Thanks for the kind words Rob!!! There's also way more info, pictures, and reviews, even play descriptions at both under The Games of War and under my name, Wargamer204 in my gallery. There's also a file giving more info on fantasy gaming with my rules. Rob, if you want, you can post that file here for free downloads!