Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yet Another Rant on Battlefront

As you've probably already figured out if you read this blog, I'm thinking about getting back into Flames of War. There are a few customers at the FLGS that have shown some interest, and I'm thinking about either finishing some of the half-done projects I packed up when my wife-to-be first moved in with me, or working on some late war armies.

Since I've been painting LotR miniatures lately, I decide that instead of breaking out the Model Colors and going straight to work, that I'll start by going through some of the Flames of War books I've bought over the past few months, including the Firestorm: Bagration campaign system. The Firestorm system was advertised as having several things in one: It's a campaign framework, a set of special scenarios, a set of skirmish rules, and a stand-alone "General's Game" that uses the board and unit markers on their own without needing to play games of FoW to determine the battle results.

It's this last bit that I decide to take a look at first. I skim the rules, set up the board, and start my first turn. I immediately run into a question, and I can't find the answer to it by skimming back over the sections I think might help.

So, I clench my teeth and head over to the official forums, log in, and do a search. Nothing. Not nothing as in no answer to my question, but nothing as in no search returns at all. The search engine is completely broken. I start doing a bit of browsing in the rules questions forum, and one of the first posts I stumble across is saying something like "hey, it's a miracle, I got the search engine to return something." So, apparently I'm not just running into a rare problem with the search engine. That same thread is about an issue that was a hot topic two years ago, when I was last playing the game: whether or not tanks with a turret can choose to rotate their hulls when they fire. Without going into a lot of detail, basically the rules as written made having a hull mounted gun better than having a turret mounted gun 9 times out of 10 (something that's the complete opposite of historical reality). It's classic Battlefront that this rather basic issue has yet to be resolved so many years after the release of the rules... or has it?

A couple pages into the thread Phil (the designer of the game) says that the 2nd printing resolved the issue and states that tanks can indeed choose to turn their entire hull instead of just their turret if they want to, it's entirely up to what the player thinks is best in the current situation. Cool. Issue resolved... or is it?

Someone immediately digs up the list of changes between the 1st and 2nd printing and this ruling isn't among them. Someone else goes through a copy of the 2nd printing rules they have access to, and they can't find it there either!

Apparently, the only place this ruling was ever made was in Phil's head! Of course, it's also possible that it's been made in the forums before. Remember those forums that don't have a functional search feature? Yeah, those forums.

I give the above as a case study of why I love Flames of War, but hate Battlefront.

I'm seriously starting to wonder whether or not it would be worth it for someone to just do a fork of the Flames of War rules. It's not like there's any IP in the game that's proprietary. All the fluff is historical, and the mechanics aren't copyrightable. Heck, they're all just evolutions from other game systems anyway (remember, it started as a mod for 40K). Even the army lists are based on actual historical TO&Es. The only possible area of infringible territory is with the point costs. That would be the trickiest area to work with anyway since BF has never released their system for determining point costs, so it would probably be easier to just do them from scratch.

The problem is that I'm not the man for the job. I'd want to change too many things that make Flames of War what it is, like nationality traits. Of course, now that I think about it, those are the one part of the system that might need tweaking due to possible IP issues. Of course a name change would probably suffice, and could even lead to more accurate descriptions. For example, we could change the name of "Hen & Chicks" to "Stupid tank rules that should only apply during a limited portion of the Early War period." See why I'd be the wrong man for the job?

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