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Flames of War allows players to wargame company level battles from the European and North African Theatres of World War Two, using 1/100 scale miniatures (15 mm figure scale) and miniature armor. In the 1st Edition rulebook basic army lists were provided for the mid-war period, while Battlefront published early and late war army lists on their website (subsequently these early and late war lists were removed). The 2nd Edition of the rulebook was published in 2006.
Gameplay takes place over a series of turns, with players alternating movement, shooting and close assault. This simple sequence of play, often called "I-Go, You-go", helps people who are unfamiliar with wargames or who are familiar with other games with a similar structure, such as Warhammer Fantasy Battles or Warhammer 40,000, to quickly learn the rules. The game is optimised for two players, although it can be played by a larger number of players grouped in teams.
Play revolves around company-level tactics, with each stand or element representing an infantry fire team (half-squad/section), an artillery piece and its crew, or a single vehicle (such as a tank, jeep, or armoured car). Air support is also available, in the form of fighters (like the Hawker Hurricane) and light bombers (like the Sturmovik), to players wishing to use it, with aircraft generally being represented by 1:144 scale models.
The main rulebook has numerous scenarios players can use for their games, from a simple all-out battle scenario to objective-taking missions. The army sourcebooks contain further scenarios, usually centered around events relevant to that particular book. Gameplay uses six-sided dice, and movement distances and weapon ranges are provided in both inches and centimeters.
Current army sourcebooks are based on particular campaigns and include lists for the German Wehrmacht (including the Deutsches Afrikakorps, the SS and Luftwaffe ground troops), the U.S. Army (including Rangers and Airborne units), the armies of Great Britain and the Commonwealth (India, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand), the Red Army of the Soviet Union, the Italian army (including elite Bersaglieri and Paracudisti, regular Fucilieri, and fascist Blackshirts paramilitaries), as well as smaller nations such as the Hungarians, Finns, and Romanians. Sourcebooks have so far been restricted to the European Theater and Mediterranean Theater; Battlefront has indicated that future releases may include coverage of the Pacific Theater, but only after army lists and campaign supplements covering the early and late periods of fighting in Europe have been released.
Flames of War provides players who are interested in World War II wargaming but lack an in-depth knowledge of the period with a "one-stop shop". The rulebook and sourcebooks provide not only the rules of the game and scenarios to play but also background material on historical forces and battles and simple guides to organising, assembling, and painting miniature armies.
Rules and Sourcebooks
Battlefront divides WWII into three periods. Early-war (1939–41), mid-war (1942–43) and late-war (1944–45). It is believed that when Battlefront releases rules and models for the Pacific theater, it will separate it from the European theater for game play reasons.
The current rules are found in the Second Edition Rule Book, which was printed in a hard cover and paperback edition. The paperback edition includes all of the rules found in the hard cover addition with the exceptions of the Fortifications and Cityfighting rules. Unlike the first edition, the second edition does not include any army lists, which requires a source book to be purchased to play. Legal army lists for tournament play typically include only second edition source books and selected "Web Briefings" published on Battlefront's web site.
Second Edition Source Books
- Blitzkrieg, covering the Invasion of Poland and the Fall of France. includes Polish, French, British and German Lists.
- Ostfront, covering all the armies that fought on the Eastern or Russian Front, both Axis (including their allies such as the Hungarians, Finns and Romanians) and Allied forces.
- Afrika, this covers the war in North Africa and Italy. Again this sourcebook includes both Axis and Allied forces, including their various allies.
- Mid-War Monsters, this covers various Experimental tanks of World War Two, including the M6 Heavy Tank, the Boarhound Armoured Car, and the KV-5 Heavy Tank.
- North Africa, this updates and replaces the Afrika sourcebook. The specific organizations for Deutsches Afrikakorps and Italian forces in Libya and Egypt have been included. Forces are split into North African, Tunesia, Sicily, and Italy briefings. New forces previously not found in Afrika, such as British Airborne or a Panzerspähwagenkompanie, are included.
- Eastern Front, this updates and replaces the Ostfront sourcebook similarly to the North Africa book. Released January 9, 2010.
- Festung Europa, army lists for German, US, British and Soviet infantry, motorized, reconnaissance, and armored forces.
- D Minus 1, army lists for the Allied paratroop and air-landing units active in the European theater during January 1944-August 1944.
- D-Day, containing rules for the Normandy campaign, including beach landings, fighting in the bocage.
- Bloody Omaha, army lists for German and US infantry divisions engaged in Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944.
- Villers-Bocage, army lists for German and British tank units fighting for control of the Normandy town of Villers-Bocage on 13 June 1944. Includes new heroes, new unit organisations, and new scenarios.
- Monty's Meatgrinder, army lists for German and British/Canadian forces fighting for Caen from June to August 1944. This book is the first to remove the number of support units limitation based on combat platoons.
- Cobra, the Normandy Breakout, army lists for SS and American troops fighting during Operation Cobra, the breakout from Normandy.
- Stalin's Onslaught, army lists for the initial assault in Operation Bagration focusing on the Soviet 8th Independent Penal Battalion, Soviet IS-2 heavy tank battalion and German 78. Sturmdivision. This is the first of three books to focus on Operation Bagration.
- Fortress Europe was released on 15 November 2008 and updates Festung Europa to make it consistent with the new style of army lists and includes options added by PDF.
- Hammer & Sickle, army lists for the drive on Minsk during Operation Bagration focusing on the Soviet Guards Divisions and German Sperrverband "Armoured Blocking Forces" and 505th German Tiger tank battalion. This is the second of three books to focus on Operation Bagration.
- Firestorm - Bagration, a Campaign box focused on Operation Bagration
- River Of Heroes, the last in the Bagration cycle, and focuses on the 3rd and 5th SS Panzer, and the Soviet Sapper battalions.
- Hell's Highway, the first book in the Market-Garden series, covering German Fallshirmjagers and the Guards Armoured Division.
- A Bridge too Far, the second and last book in the Market-Garden series, covering the battles for Oosterbeek and Arnhem.
- Firestorm - Market Garden, a Campaign box focused on Operation Market-Garden. Due to be released April 2010.
- Dogs and Devils, the first of two Italian front books, featuring the US 3rd Infantry Division, the 'Devils Brigade', and the Fallschirmpanzerdivision Herman Goring.
First Edition Source Books
These books have been replaced with the sourcebooks listed above which reflect the current 2nd Edition rules. All of these supplements below are now out of print. Battlefront provides updates on their website that detail the changes between these old sourcebooks (but not the first edition rulebook) and the new mid-war army lists provided in Afrika and Ostfront. With these changes, players may continue to use these (corrected) sourcebooks for tournament play in the mid-war period.
- First Edition Rulebook - German, US, Soviets, British, and Italian basic force lists.
- Diving Eagles - German Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) lists. Battlefront released a second edition of this book in March 2006.
- Old Ironsides - US armor and armored infantry lists.
- Hitler's Fire Brigade - German armor and armored infantry lists for the Eastern Front. Two editions of this sourcebook were printed.
- Desert Rats - British armoured squadrons and motor companies in the Mediterranean and North Africa.
- Desert Fox - German Afrika Korps panzer, motorized/armored infantry and reconnaissance companies.
- Stalingrad - Soviet and German infantry lists on the Eastern Front. Includes rules for street-fighting in an urban environment, as well as snipers.
- Stars & Stripes - US rifle infantry, Rangers, parachute infantry, tank, armored rifle and armored reconnaissance lists. (All army lists from Old Ironsides are included in this sourcebook.)
- For King and Country - British commonwealth forces such as Australian, New Zealand, Indian and Canadian forces.
- Avanti Savoia - Italian infantry, tank and motorized infantry forces to the game.
- Za Stalina - Soviet armor and cavalry forces.
Battlefront publishes additional army lists on their web site. This lists are official Battlefront lists and are eligible to be played in many tournaments. Additionally, Battlefront will host "unofficial" briefings developed by fans, although such lists are generally not eligible for tournament play.
Models And Availability
Battlefront Miniatures also produces a line of highly detailed, multipart metal and resin 15mm scale models for use in playing Flames of War. Battlefront produces models for ground troops, such as infantry, vehicles and field guns, and since mid-2006 has sold 1/144 model aircraft (e.g., Hurricane II, Ju-87 'Stuka', Il-2 'Shturmovik' and P-40 'Warhawk'). These miniatures are available directly from Battlefront, but they can also be purchased in hobby shops and some mainstream toy stores. Battlefront also produces gaming accessories and terrain through their subsidiary Gale Force 9.
Models are sold in blister packs and in small, medium, and large boxed sets. Miniatures are packaged so as to simplify the process of building an army. In most cases, each blister pack or boxed set includes all the figures or models needed to complete a unit (usually a platoon or battery). The largest boxed sets contain all the figures needed to build an entire army. Each blister or box includes bases for the figures in the package and variant pieces to complete any options allowed to the unit. This marketing strategy has added to the game's appeal by making it easy to purchase all the figures one needs for a basic force or for an additional unit at once, instead of having to make multiple purchases or buy more figures than one needs in order to get specific pieces.
Many other manufacturers produce 15mm figures for wargaming World War II, which can be used in addition to or instead of Battlefront's figures. Battlefront has publicly stated that other manufacturers' models are legal for use in FoW tournaments. However, the company has requested that other manufacturers' models not be pictured or discussed on the official Flames of War discussion forums.
Please note: the quality of the moulds used have not been maintained, and hence some quality has been lost in the miniatures. This does not detract from the enjoyment of the game itself, being purely an estetic problem only.
In November 2009, Battlefront announced Flames of War Vietnam - The Battle for la Drang. This rule set was released in Wargames Illustrated Magazine #266, and received a limited release of supporting models.