Can we discuss this more? My experience was more along the lines of this one.
I hadn’t seen Tom’s review, so I’m very glad you linked it. I agree with much of what Tom said, but I still enjoyed the experience. I liked the “UI” more than Tom did; I thought it was fun to move the chits around on my submarine. I suppose I’m strange, but I like a game with lots of charts to consult, lol. I recall tense moments, and I recall genuine relief when I made it out of a sticky situation alive. I liked promoting crew members and such. The game also prompted me to read more about U-Boats, and any game that induces me to learn something is a Good Thing.
That said, I do remember thinking I wish there were more interesting decisions, and eventually I suppose that’s why I moved on to other things. I probably won’t get the Pacific version, but I don’t regret purchasing “The Hunters.”
Wasn’t the rule book for this a disaster? I recall the example of play was from the first edition so there were all sorts of undefined terms, and the rulebook itself was full of errors.
Absolutely, the first edition rulebook for “Fields of Fire” was a train wreck! It was vague, confusing, and poorly-organized. But there’s a second edition rulebook now, and an “upgrade kit” to convert your FoF v1 game to the new edition. The new rulebook is hardly perfect, but it’s a significant improvement. It has a glossary of terms, and the sequence of play is easier to follow and imposes more interesting decisions on the player. (You now have to expend all of an HQ’s commands before moving on to another one, which means you’ve got to think harder about the order in which you do things.) I was able to get up and running much quicker this time.
So the rules have improved – but they still need work. It would benefit from more enumeration of rules and exceptions. The rules on command are much improved, but even these aren’t perfect. The command-track goes up to 9; does that mean I can’t earn more than 9 commands? (Answer: you can earn more than 9, but you can’t save more than 9, so you keep track in your head if you go above 9, and then mark the number of saved commands when you’re done. Why not give me a track with more than 9 spaces, then?) I finally do grok radios and phones, but I had to read and re-read, and play, to “get” it. For me, the most confusing bit is how units behave when they are firing at each other. (Can I concentrate fire if I’m on the same card as an enemy? I think the answer is no.) I end up spending precious time searching for answers on BGG. Sometimes I post, and I usually get a helpful response after a day or two, but that always leaves me debating whether to play on or wait. So the rules used to be an F; now they’re about a C+.
But the gameplay, for me, is really great. I feel like I’ve learned how a WW2 company works. I get the relationship among the CO (typically a captain), the 1st Sgt, the CO XO, and the 3 platoon commanders (lieutenants). I see the importance of establishing attachments before entering battle. I see how command and control degrades the moment you send a squad off alone into the woods to scout. (The US army could not afford radios for everyone in WW2 or Korea, and the “handie talkie” radio they often used had limited range – what we’d call a walkie-talkie today.)
The game also has emotional impact. When I take casualties, I get genuinely bummed out. I got mad at myself the other day when I ordered a small LMG team to cover the retreat of a squad in front of it – and the LMG team became casualties while the squad retreated safely. I felt downright guilty about it! Or then there was the CO HQ who got lost in the dark and wandered alone into a swamp – and then my arty barrage went astray and wounded him. But it’s not all tragedy. I like tracking my company over time. I take green replacements for casualties, and I promote survivors. The new edition doesn’t insist you restart the entire freaking campaign if you fail a mission twice; now you can just plunge ahead, “roleplaying” a commander who wins some and loses some.
I guess a few people think there aren’t enough interesting decisions in FoF. My reaction is that they haven’t fully grasped the vast array of decisions at every juncture. When your scout arrives and finds itself under fire, should it use its precious General Initiative (assuming it drew one) to seek cover (not guaranteed), pop smoke, concentrate fire, toss illumination, deploy a pyrotechnic, fire a rifle grenade? Or should I use that precious initiative on some other unit, perhaps a forward observer to try to call down fire on the enemy? Or on another unit to try to flank it? Or to enter its card? The more you you play, the more decisions you realize you have to make. I think that’s good stuff.
So yep, FoF still has problematic rules, but they’re better now, and the gameplay is great. :)