Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Field of Glory is not the next Flames of War

I've been participating in a discussion on BoardGameGeek concerning Field of Glory. It started as a comment on the quality of the rule book itself, which is superb, but someone asked whether it was going to do for Ancient & Medieval miniatures gaming what Flames of War did for WWII gaming, and I've been arguing that no, it won't.

In order to understand why this is, you first have to understand just what Flames of War did for WWII miniatures gaming. It took a genre of gaming that had been restricted mainly to the same group of gamers for two to three decades, and opened it up to an influx of new gamers. Many coming from science fiction and fantasy miniatures games like Warhammer. It also led to a standardized set of rules with which it's possible to find pick-up games in many parts of the US, and even around the world, but that's a secondary achievement compared to bringing in new players.

There are several reasons why Field of Glory won't accomplish the same thing for Ancients & Medieval miniatures gaming, none of which have anything to do with the quality of the rules themselves. The first, and most important, is that the publishers aren't looking for the same sort of success that Flames of War achieved. Battlefront created Flames of War in order to sell their miniatures. Osprey/Slitherine created Field of Glory in order to sell Field of Glory books, and perhaps promote sales of other Osprey titles as well.

The fact that Osprey/Slitherine doesn't sell miniatures leads directly to the factors that will keep Field of Glory from achieving the success of Flames of War. The first was the decision to allow for variable scales of miniatures. This makes perfect sense when trying to appeal to the broadest section of existing gamers, but it makes it harder for new players to get into the game because they have to choose a scale to collect, and if they choose wrong they may have trouble finding opponents. This also makes it harder to find pick-up games because what might be the most common scale in one area won't necessarily be the most common in another.

The second factor is in regards to availability. While they've made a few stumbles, Battlefront's success with Flames of War has come in part because they provide a one-stop shop for their game. You don't have to search all over for the miniatures you need to play the game. You simply check Battlefront's catalog.

Since Osprey/Slitherine doesn't make miniatures you need to deal with at least two companies to play their game, and quite possibly more than two. In addition, many of the manufacturers of miniatures are located in the UK, which makes it an even bigger hassle for US customers (something I already touched on here).

For retailers this is a bigger deal. It's simply not worth it for most of them to try to stock a miniatures game when that game requires miniatures from multiple manufacturers and that are available in multiple scales.

The success of Flames of War came from a combination of good rules, easily available miniatures, and retailer support. Field of Glory has only one of those things, and that's why it won't achieve the same level of success.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Field of Glory will be a success. It will sell lots of books to existing Ancients & Medieval gamers, and bring some older players back that had gotten tired of the older rules sets. It will boost sales of other Osprey titles. It will even bring in a few new gamers to the genre. What it won't do is bring in anywhere near the number of new gamers that Flames of War did.

I do have a few ideas as to what could be done to change all of this, and turn Field of Glory into the next Flames of War, but they'll have to wait for a later post.


Anonymous said...

Nothing I have seen from Osprey or Slitherine suggest to me that they intended for Field of Glory was ever intended to be like Flames of War, or anything other than a very strong, detailed set of ancients rules that would appeal both to tournament competitors and players of historically-based scenarios.

From what I can tell, the hype about FoG being "the next FoW" has come entirely from folks who made some assumptions based on FoG's very high production values, before having read or researched the rules themselves.

Fulminata said...

I agree that Osprey/Sliterine aren't looking to be the next FoW, and that's one of the points I tried to make.

I'm also not trying to knock either game by making the comparison.

There's nothing wrong with being the next FoW. In many ways I wish they were trying to be the next FoW. If they were it would likely make it much easier to find miniatures for the game.

However, the fact that they're choosing not to follow the FoW model doesn't take away from the quality of the rules themselves.

Post a Comment