Being a real sucker for a bargain, I recently picked up the new Force on Force: Modern Wargaming Rules from Ambush Alley Games. This isn't the kind of game I'd normally look into, but two factors really pushed me to purchase it; firstly Chris M's excellent coverage of the game over at Small Scale Operations and, secondly, the fact that Amazon are offering it at more than 40% off the RRP!
This rulebook, Ambush Alley's first collaboration with Osprey Publishing, is an amalgam of two separate rulesets; the original Force on Force and the Ambush Alley rules, each originally dealing with regular and irregular warfare respectively. The two have been refined to a single ruleset, allowing you to fight with fully "modern" armed forces or with militia or insurgent forces, each with armour and air support.
In terms of production, the book is the same size and quality as Osprey's other rulebooks, Field of Glory and Field of Glory: Renaissance. This means you get a fully bound, full cover hardback book, filled with illustrations from Ospreys military publications. There are also plenty or real life photographs scattered throughout.
The rules are divided into manageable sections; the basics first (turn order, profiles, movement, combat etc) before moving onto more advanced rules (air support, armoured warfare, artillery.) Appendixes cover various unit attributes (essentially special rules,) some sample forces and an elegant campaign system. Finally, six sample scenarios round out the book.
Sample forces? Sample scenarios? Yup, this is a scenario driven game, not a points driven system. The authors are quite explicit that the game is designed to feature opposing players with different objectives and balanced forces. There are three training scenarios and, again, the six full scenarios. All of these feature varied forces and range from Vietnam, 1980s Europe, Israel and Iraq. Osprey have announced the release schedule for four separate campaign books (the first of these, Road to Bagdad is already available) and the Ambush Alley forum has plenty of user generated scenarios available.
So what does all this mean in practise? Well, Force on Force is not a "lets have a 500 point fight, kill everyone" game. You'll need to plan ahead with your opponent as to what forces and terrain to use. If you're not using a predesigned scenario (or if you are, but with different forces) a bit of give and take will be required for balancing the two forces. This will take a good bit of getting used to for a lot of players, but a bit of extra preparation can result in a more enjoyable game for both players.
So how do the rules themselves play out? Firstly, you should pay attention to the fact that this is not a micromanagement game. You won't be rolling a skill check every time you want someone to vault an obstacle or take cover. You also won't have to track lots of different weapon profiles or an individual's statistics. Your troops are assumed, for instance, to know how to safely move across a battlefield and to understand the principles of occupying a defensive position.
Instead, Force on Force revolves around your individual squads, their orders and their ability to react to the enemy. Your troops roll a type of die to reflect their "quality" and compare how successful their rolls are against their opponent's dice. The core mechanic is your troops have to roll a 4+ on their dice to score a success at their chosen action (shooting, assault etc.) For instance: a US army infantry squad may have an eight sided dice (D8) as their quality. To score a hit in shooting, they would have to roll a 4+ on their dice at a 62% chance of success. On the other hand, a poorly trained militia may have a D6 quality. Scoring a hit is still a 4+, the same number, but a much lower 50% chance of success.
Movement and actions are resolved by the initiative player picking a unit and announcing to the opponent what that unit's orders are. If the opposing player has any of their units nearby, that unit may react to the first unit and attempt to fire first or move away. Quality dice rolls are made and the winner gets to act first.
Troops also have a dice type for morale and forces have also modifiers for body armour, supply levels and their overall confidence. Optional rules cover many other factors including combat stress, civilians and biological and chemical warfare!
I've greatly simplified the above examples, but they are fairly indicative of the style of play in Force on Force. Both players will be involved equally, both moving and shooting. You won't spend a lot of time (barely any outside armour units) looking up tables and reference materials and once you understand the core mechanics, games flow very smoothly.
I do have a couple issues with both the book and the rules. Firstly, there are some appaling typos in the rules (Campagin?) and a couple issues with the rules referring to terms they don't actually use or define (cautious movement?) Secondly, using the rulebook as a reference guide to the game is a bit of a chore. For instance, the index is almost too comprehensive (Fog of War has 22 entries, Supply Level 16) However, as I mentioned earlier, once you've played a couple games this becomes less of a problem.
Overall though, this is an excellent book, with some original and inspired rules covering an uncommon wargaming subject.
I'd strongly recommend a look through the preview material at Ambush Alley games website and a trawl through Chris's Small Scale Operations blog.
I'd also be happy to answer any questions you guys have.