11th March 2017 saw the official launch of Flames of War 4th. At Element games in Stockport they had the new rules which were given out free to anyone with the 3rd edition rules, including the small softback printing. They also had the full harback rules at £15. The hardbackbook includes new rules and list building for mid war desert armies. I do not have any forces to match that so left it alone for the time being. The new free main rules are a full A4 size book. Also given out is an A5 booklet of changes to the most recent incarnations of the late and early war army books. This modifies many of the warrior profiles and the special unit rules from those books. Several special rules both from the 3rd Edition main rules and the army books have been removed and not replaced. In short 4th has less rules than 3rd but holds to the same basic play concepts.
The new starter set was on display. This is like the older starter sets only including 5 tanks so is designed for introductory games.
There are cards for the new models, printed terrain features and a game mat. The mat is not as durable as the mouse material gaming mats but is not thin paper either. It is like a very thin floor covering vinyl and is about 2′ square, not too bad a piece of kit.
We had turned up with 1200 point armies hoping to get a game in with the new rules. The organisers had also provided 4 armies ready for playing. Luckily quite a few gamers were in the same mood and at least 4 games were up using the new rules. No one worried too much about reading the rules first. There were some players on hand who had already used the new 4th edition. We relied on them and looking up rules as required. I had brought early war Germans and got a game against late war American rangers or paras, fearless veteran anyway. In my haste to get a game underway before anyone changed their mind we had both deployed before I discovered that Germans can no longer kampfgruppe. We would have got no where if we reset after every rules mistake so we carried on regardless.
In this scenario the players set upon opposite table corners. No one can set up within 12″ of the table centre. 60% of game points can be on table, at least 40% must be held as delayed reserves (start rolling to come on from turn 3). Air units are included in these points so can be availble at start or part of the delayed reserves. Here is the German set up in the bottom left. Objectives are the card marker for the USA and Sdfkz 7 for the Germans.
The USA deployment at top right. One objective is off-camera at the far right corner. The Americans also have 3 snipers set up in no mans land with views of the German squads. I generally ignored these losing 2 stands to sniper fire during the game and picking up the odd pin. As confident veteran I hoped to be able to shake these off. I did drive off 1 sniper stand (on a 4+ they come back when killed) having little else to shoot at and not needing to worry too much about exposing my position (losing gone to ground status). It is now possible to hit on a 7 (6 followed by 5,6) or 8 (6 followed by a 6) so long odds with high rate of fire units could be worth going for.
The Americans grab the 1st turn and move 1 platoon down field. The other stays put but lobs off some mortar shells as direct fire from a mortar team.
On the German first turn 1 platoon stays put and the other rushes forward.
I forgot to roll for air on turn 1. It should come in on a 4+ and usually did. It then acts like an artillery barrage needing to range in and getting 3 attempts. With each failed ranging in the chance of hitting units under the template is 1/6 less. Artillery barrages abort if a friendly unit is within 4″, air templates abort at 8″. I did have superior air allowing in theory 3 aircraft. The only advantage of this is that air will only stop rolling to come in when all 3 air units are shot down. As the USA had no anti-air this gave me no advantage. They could no more shoot down 1 aircraft as 3. If I had fielded machine gun armed air I would have been able to shoot with all available aircraft.
A general view showing the German mortars at the bottom of the image. They did stirling work pounding various American units. We missed the new barrage rules that allow any ranged in unit to range in again automatically on subsequent turns. Also each battery can place 1 ranged in marker before the game begins, after objective set up but before deployment. Staff team bases are no longer used and only 1 observer is allowed per formation. It can spot for several batteries but uses up 1 of its 3 range in attempts each time. Other units that are phased out are HQ units for guns and HMGs, a gun model is chosen as the command unit.
Turn 3 and the first American delayed reserves show up. Right in front of my forward infantry. Luckily that unit had been pinned by sniper fire the previous turn so was harder for the advancing Americans to hit. The round German base is a pin marker. USA pins are green circles.
Next turn the Germans unpin and pour some lead into the American troops, pinning them in turn.
More Americans arrive causing heavy casualties to the German unit. Luckily the original American reinforcement failed its rally so was shooting pinned with a lower rate of fire.
At last some German reinforcements arrive. The panzerjaeger plan on moving to just within 16″ (close range) of the dug in Americans on the objective and then shelling them. The other American unit has been pinned by Stuka attack.
On the left flank the exposed Germans pass a skill test and do a special move to go back then use a regular move to dig in, they still shoot but count as moved. Any nation’s unit can attempt one of a selection of special moves once per move by passing a skill test. The German special power is to be allowed to attempt 2 of these moves as long as they do not use the same one twice with the same unit and move. These special moves are digging in, shifting up to 4″ before movement, the old 4″ stormtrooper move, trying for another 4″ move after a regular move and moving through gaps.
On the other flank another German unit shows up and rushes to get nearer to the objective.
The Americans pass a skill test to shift 4″ before moving, then move their regular 8″ then are within 4″ of the Germans so are allowed to assault. That’s a 16″ threat range for infantry assaults. To get into an assault a unit must be able to touch an enemy base or touch a unit which in turn has touched a base. This effect only goes 1 deep, you cannot chain an attack all the way back. The Germans shoot defensively at 4″ but not enough to pin the Americans, the attack goes in. There is also an American team assaulting the German command base in the house.
The Americans have 4 attacks and kill 1 stand. The Germans pass their morale, move 4″ to attack back and kill 2 stands. The Americans then fail their morale and pull back. The Germans consolidate. There are not many teams left but an infantry unit only checks morale to be withrawn when it is down to 2 stands. The American assault on this flank has stalled.
Meanwhile the last German reinforcement turns up. One unit is now contesting the objective. The panzerjaegers sit and shoot.
The Americans behind the house unpin and try to assault the forward German unit. They take withering defensive fire and are driven back. Game over; the Germans will begin their turn in control of an objective in the enemy deployment zone. Note that the other American unit nearby is pinned so could not help out.
Some other rules that we either missed or did not crop up include unit cohesion. This no longer depends on skill but on the unit size and is measured 8″ for a unit of 8 or more teams otherwise 6″. That may cause issues for the truely huge Strelkovy units. Armies can now be built from more than 1 formation list. The compulsory units must be included from each. If 1 formation breaks the army has not necessarily lost the game.
The above is not a complete listing off all the new rules nor have the implications of those rules been considered in great depth. Gameplay is however much the same but possibly a little bit simpler than in 3rd.