Well, Field of Glory II for computers is now out, and in an amazing coincidence (sure), so is the third edition of the tabletop miniature wargaming rules which shipped yesterday. This time Field of Glory 3rd Edition (or FOG3) has been licensed by Slitherine to Dave Ryan and the gang at Caliver Books/Partizan Press, where author Terry Shaw has taken up the mantle from earlier co-authors Richard Bodley Scott and Simon Hall. Weighing In with a price of £29.95 ($ 39.50 US), the book is hard bound and 176 pages long to include an index.
Well, not my copy. I snagged an advance PDF copy and given I have both played and reviewed previous editions, fused with the fact that I have four 15 mm armies of my own (Nikophorian Byzantine, Trajanic Roman, Early Samurai and Successor Macedonian), this allowed me to spend the weekend pushing around some pewter to discover any changes and their impact on the game. Here is my Oracle of Delphi validated report.
What has not changed
About 75% of this new edition is the same as the old. Here I mean we have the same layout, same page coloring, same chapter organization and charts and tables. Surprisingly, the four page set of master charts, suitable for photocopying, at the end of the tome were missing, but as they are listed in the Table of Contents they are likely included with the print version. Graphics supporting the rules have changed just a bit, however, though not the superb photos of toy soldiers by Wargames Illustrated founder Duncan MacFarlane. Instead FOG3 has dropped the original artwork by Osprey’s Angus MacBride, kept the illustrations by Peter Dennis and added a few by Chris Collingswood and Bruno Mugnai.
The book remains a one stop shopping effort in that FOG3 not only includes rules for play of the game, but also everything needed get started with ancients’ wargaming in general. The book includes lavishly charted and precisely written chapters on troop types, combining stands into Battle Groups (units) as well as several appendices covering scales, base sizes, terrain, an army points system and so on.
Then FOG3 presents the rules for play by first outlining the Sequence of Play, then offering up a chapter for each to for specifics. The sequence in order is Impact Phase (units charge), Maneuver Phase (non- charging units move), Shooting Phase (bows go zzzing!), Melee Phase (heads cleaved, gladius hacking) and Joint Action Phase (both players move their commanders to insure adequate command and control, etc). It seems simple, but FOG3 carries on the tradition of parsing its historical realism through a lot of detailed and complex procedures. Movement is a good example of this and while one expects paragraphs on marching degradation through different types of terrain or wheeling/inclining, this game divides moves into Simple, Complex and Impossible. A Simple move is automatic, Impossible can’t be done while a Complex move needs a modified die roll on two die to execute. For example, expanding the frontage of a unit two stands while advancing proves Simple for Skirmishers, but Impossible for Pikemen and Complex for other drilled troops. Yes that detailed. Yes that complex.
Combat is ultimately based on the old WRG (Wargames Research Group, I played the 6th Edition) process, whether shooting or crossing spathas, though there are some significant differences. In short each stand in Impact or Melee gets a certain number of six sided dice to throw. In Impact, Scythed Chariots get four dice per stand; everyone else gets three but only two if facing elephants (prepare to mortgage your house for the number of dice needed). Then depending on the quality and equipment of the troops in combat, plus the tactical situation, one can gain or lose Points of Advantage (POAs) over his enemy. Again, in Impact, so-called Impact Foot gets +2 POAs over everyone except cavalry, but for Pikemen the advantage is only +1. In Melee, however, fighting in two directions gets you a – 1 POA unless your unit is Skilled Swordsman. When all is tallied, folks retaining an aggregate max +2 POA modifier score a hit against the enemy on a die roll of 3 + , with a + 1 or 0 POA modifier a hit on a die roll of 4 + and on a -1 or -2 POA, a 5 + die roll is needed. Then Cohesion tests and Retreats follow for the side inflicting the least hits.
Ground and time scales remain undefined, although 250 soldiers is said to be an average per stand. The troop stands themselves are 40 mm wide with varying depths and figures per stand to replicate troop types. The game also includes the same four starter army lists as before – Rome/Carthage at Trebbia & English/French at Crecy.
What has changed
First, here is my only issue with this game and a whole lot of other redo’s from other companies as well. This game is detailed and complex, and its changes seem substantial yet subtle, but hidden. That’s the problem. You have to really go through this game with a fine tooth comb while comparing it with its predecessors to find the changes. Most are simply changes to existing text, charts and die roll modifiers, outside one new Appendix called Ready Reckoner. FOG3 could really do with a couple of pages that summarize all the changes and reference page numbers. Or as I have done with updates to my own Napoleonic rules (and shamelessly ripping off the US Army regulation system), underline the changes so they pop out. Again, I’m not picking on FOG3 here specifically, because a LOT of companies owns this sin.
Fortunately I was able to draw on a couple of outside sources to guide my play last weekend, and overall FOG3 seems a bit faster than before, and somewhat less complex. Notice I said less complex, not simple. This is not necessarily a problem. The game is still targeted at the tournament crowd and not towards simulating large historical ancient battles which saw 60,000 warriors per side. A traditional per stand point system is included, basing cost on unit formation, quality, armor and weapons type. Because the ancients tournament crowd tends to play this period and its supporting rules almost exclusively (and yes, I know there are exceptions so don’t go all Ides of March on me), repetition breeds familiarity and thus complexity is not an issue.
And speaking of points, that was where I saw the first big change. At the Elite and Superior level, it seems almost every type of foot and horse has had an increase, making the really heavy guys a lot more expensive to field. For example, while a stand of Heavily Armored Knights used to cost 24 points per stand, the cost is now 27 points. This means more common, lighter and less skilled troop types become more attractive and will become a larger portion of most players’ armies, the way it should be historically. Similarly, there are now three dice per stand (four for Scythed Chariots) in the Impact phase where it used to be two, and that will certainly drive hits upward. For me, however, the real sparkler was found on page 21. In FOG3 all units have a quality rating and of those, Elite, Superior and Poor have a D&D like saving die roll under certain circumstances. In the latter case, a reroll is mandatory if a six is initially rolled for Poor troops. This is not good, reflecting the lousy troops in question. Conversely, rerolls can occur for Elites if they roll a dismal one or two and for Superior units on a one. However, a unit such as Average, Undrilled Impact Foot can get a onetime bump up to Superior for Impact combat due the ferocity of their initial charge. That’s a significant game changer in my book, and I did notice that when compared to my own 2008 edition, there are also places where the text has been modified to clarify exceptions and procedures. You’ll really have to dig to find all this stuff, but they are there, and some can have an unexpected yet critical impact in battle.
Comparison and Conclusion
Invariably this new tabletop offering will be compared with the recent computer game release, and obviously the big difference is that the PC will calculate all the modifiers and process the complexities for the player automatically. This is not necessarily a good thing I think. The PC game is a direct port of a very detailed miniatures game, and if you don’t know the data your CPU is calculating, you could be in a proverbial “world of hurt.” Read the manual. Otherwise just remember that while other venues are possible, FOG3 is built to support miniature tournament play with small armies, while the new software offering leans more towards campaigns and historical battles, in many cases very big ones.
Otherwise I don’t think players of other systems like Art de la Guerre are going to notice enough difference to want to change. However, if you are now using Field of Glory for your ancient and medieval tournament play, I would strongly, VERY strongly, recommend you take the plunge and grab this newest edition. The rules retain not only all the detailed realism as in the past, but also the very precise verbiage that allows for a complete understanding of what is going on. Add to this clarifying language and a host of small changes that when taken together are far more dramatic than each individually. This seems to produce a game that not only plays differently than in the past, but produces end games potentially more decisive and unfamiliar even to veteran players.
Tl;dr – For current Field of Glory players this strongly recommended, but for everyone else it’s optional.