The AWC’s roving gamer in the UK, Ben Hill, conducted the following ‘e-interview’ with the Field of Glory writing team at the beginning of December (2010), the answers to the questions are from the whole team of writers who are involved with FoG.
1. Has FoG evolved the way or ways you thought it would when writing it?
Yes very much so. We seem to have a broad following of clubs, social gamers, historical re-enactment players, campaign players and competition players. We wanted to create a set of rules that would appeal to different audiences and that seems to have happened. It has been great to see the quality of the entire FoG series that Slitherine has put together and that together with the Osprey art makes the books a great read.
We think it is safe to say that when we started out writing the lists we didn’t appreciate the way that small Battle Groups, of often fairly ordinary troops, could and would be used. As this became clearer we adjusted the availability of these, as can be seen in the later list books.
2. FoG is sometimes accused of favouring:
– Armoured troops.
– Troops that can shoot with little risk.
– A skirmish-style of play involving first and foremost *not losing*
– Armies that have a high number of Battle Groups by, for example, using minimum sized units and filler units (and as a side issue requiring a lot more figures than other systems).
How do you answer these people and their criticisms?
Since its first outing in testing there have been a range of theories as to the most attractive armies, however, no one theory has lasted for long or gotten wide agreement. It started with mounted “shooty” armies; next we had the “skirmish theory”, then Romans, then bow armies, then MF, then lots of BGs etc. We view this as positive evidence that the rules don’t have a dominant army type, and speaking from our combined experience of over 100 years of wargaming, we haven’t seen any rule set that has so many viable armies. To us this is one of our biggest successes. In the entire set of books and in the right hands, we think that almost all armies can be viable. If you look at the stats on armies, the variety used, and the number that are successful, it tends to support this theory. Of course the top players have taken different routes to success, but this we think further supports our view.
We didn’t deliberately favour any type of troop. People will always have their personal favourites that match their own style of play. As we have already indicated we intended that every army should have a reasonable chance of success, although we accept that there will always be some armies that fare better than others. We are confident that we have succeeded in making all of the historically successful armies capable of achieving victory in FoG, at least in period.
3. If you were to change one thing about the game as played now – what would that be?
As you may know we are currently working through the list of suggestions and advice from the forum members at www.slitherine.com, the problem is that opinions vary greatly, but we are reading every single one of these. Overall we are satisfied that the game is being played in a very good spirit, and the rules work well in creating the fine balance of fun, realism, speed and practicality. One area we are looking at closely is to find ways that allow players to ‘finish off games’ that at present can be forced to a draw by talented “evasive action”.
We are also considering the balance of manoeuvre against effective deployment. There is no denying that generally manoeuvre makes for a good game, but we want to ensure that we get this aspect as right as we can so that it enhances player enjoyment.
4. In a competitive analysis how is FoG doing for player numbers in the UK and USA?
It is difficult to know what people are playing in their own homes, but sales and tournament entries suggest that FoG is probably now the single most popular ancient rule set worldwide and we know from the sales data available from Slitherine’s distributors that it has outsold all previous ancient rule sets by a considerable margin. However, we fully accept there is a lot of choice out there and each has its own following, but we are satisfied that we have played a significant part in raising the bar for this sort of publication and the variety can only be good for the hobby.
5. An objective in writing the rules must have been to attract DBX players and this would have shaped many aspects of the rules. Was the exercise worth it in the end or could the rules have evolved better from a blank sheet of paper and *completely* fresh ideas?
At the time that we decided to start work on FoG, DBM appeared to have run its course as a popular set, as was evidenced by waning numbers at events worldwide and the decline in sales of the books. We felt that it was time for a completely new set, to revitalise Ancient/Medieval wargaming. In our initial discussions and briefings from Slitherine we were all clear about our objectives. We considered that there were fundamental problems with the then current approach to rules writing that lay at the root of many of the issues afflicting the game, notably the chess-like geometrical game-play. We therefore decided to abandon an element-based paradigm, and revert to the unit-based structure of traditional wargames rules (and, of course, historical armies). We also wanted to take a step back in abstraction, to bring back more the flavour of historical battles. Hence we re-introduced distance shooting by cavalry and skirmishers, charges and evades etc. These were all familiar features from earlier rules (because they were familiar features of historical battles), but we decided to combine them with completely new and more streamlined mechanisms, to provide a much more pleasant and streamlined gaming experience. We also decided that (in keeping with historical analysis of the period) everything should depend on the maintenance or deterioration of the morale, order and fighting capability of units, this is combined into our Cohesion concept, rather than primarily kills. The final result is very different to other rule sets, so we had no reason to expect that players from DBX or any other rule set would be any more or less attracted to FoG, although we did decide to adopt DBX base sizes so as not to exclude those players. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest many people, who did not buy into the rather abstract paradigm of the then current rule sets, had in fact dropped out of Ancient/Medieval wargaming, or persisted with their old favourites. We hoped to attract many of these players to FoG, and this has proved to be the case.
From a list writing perspective we also had to bear in mind existing ancients/medieval player’s investment in their figure collections. Fortunately it proved easy enough to avoid making changes in most cases, as many existing armies were based on well researched army lists, from some of the same or similar source material as we were using. In the majority of cases where we might have made a change that required rebasing we allowed alternatives for “backwards compatibility”, even where we felt a different interpretation may have been more likely. We sometimes wonder if we should not have been bolder and made the changes.
A significant exception to this was with the eastern armies in Empires of the Dragon. With these the decision was taken that to obtain the most realistic results we would need to classify the majority of the infantry in this book as Medium Foot regardless of how previous rule sets had classified these troops. This decision was not taken lightly, and was well trialed beforehand in the FoG forums to give players advance warning. In the end it appears to have caused minimal issues, although we feel that some players may have delayed fielding their eastern armies for a time whilst they rebased.
6. DBX is portrayed by some as a simulation and FoG as a game, with accompanying value judgements. Is that your perception also and if so how do you suggest the moral high ground might be contested?
We always felt that DBX was a game, and was more suited to the top gamers. We feel that FOG is more of a simulation and is won by the better tacticians. Collectively we have fought many battles with DBX, and whilst we really enjoyed the mental tussle and the incredible minutia, it rarely worked well as simulation. Our sense is that DBX could work as a simulation if the rules were played simplistically and to a certain spirit, but if you played the rules as written and to win it became a ‘game’. Certainly our objective for FoG was to retain the fun of a game but to create a set of rules that worked better for refights and campaigns.
In the end both systems are games and both games are simulations, but at different levels of abstraction. We believe FoG is designed to bring out more of the flavour of historical battles, whilst retaining the fun and excitement of the game without sacrificing the realism of our battles. In the end this will always be a subjective decision and we are very aware that the players will vote with their feet.
7. Is FoG2 planned at some stage? I have heard rumours of changes to Roman Skilled Swordsmen and the movement of Light Horse. Will there be major changes?
Ah rumours … well broadly true as we said earlier and some of the areas we are focusing on are: a) barbarian effectiveness, b) skirmisher “invincibility”, c) columns/marches, d) PBI/terrain, e) improving some underused troop types, f) generals.
We are often told that the rules are pretty well balanced, so we will be very careful not to harm this in any changes and this is the challenge. Our guide lines are: 1) does it make the game better? 2) Does it make it more historical? 3) will it be more fun? Also to date nothing has been said about army list revisions; however, it is entirely possible, that some changes to the rules will require amendments to the army lists. Watch this space for more news in 2011.
8. Will the direction of charges and number of bases thus contacted be clarified? The rulebook says you can change direction provided you will contact with the same number of bases if you had gone directly ahead. The FAQ implies that this is the case but for the original target of the charge.
Questions like this are far better dealt with on the forum and is too specific to deal with directly here, so log on and we will pick it up.
9. Any new books in the pipeline for FOG Ancients? Or is FOG Ancients a “completed” project now?
Completed from a rules and lists perspective. The question is whether time is better spent on v2 or on something else such as campaign supplements, or on other periods for answers to this we would have to refer you to Slitherine.
10. How has FoG Renaissance been received? Can you outline the schedule of army lists for FoG:R?
FoG Renaissance has been received very well indeed, with almost universally favourable comment and initial sales that have greatly exceeded projections. So far, judging by tournament entries, it looks set to revitalise the Pike & Shot era of wargaming. It also addresses some of the issues that have been raised with FoG:AM and some of its solutions may prove applicable to v2 of FoG:AM. Players have commented that it captures the “look and feel” of 16th and 17th century warfare very well, whilst also giving a fun and exciting game. Players are already talking about dusting off old armies long unused, and buying new figures from what our colleagues in the figure manufacturing business tell us.
There will be six army list companion books for Field of Glory: Renaissance, covering the armies of Europe and the rest of the World throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The first book, Wars of Religion, was published at the same time as the rule book, and covers the armies of the first half of the 17th century in Western and Central Europe, in particular those of the Thirty Years War and English Civil War. The second book, Trade and Treachery, published this month (December 2010), covers 16th century warfare in Western and Central Europe, notably the Italian Wars and the various conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in the initial turmoil of the Reformation. The third book, Clash of Empires, due out in January 2011, covers Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the 16th and (in some cases) 17th centuries. The fourth book, Colonies and Conquest, due out in March 2011, covers South and East Asia, also Arabia and the Pacific. The fifth book, Duty and Glory, due out in May 2011, covers the second half of the 17th century in Europe. The sixth book, Cities of Gold, due out in July 2011, covers the Americas and Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa.
11. What is happening with the FoG Napoleonic rules? How do you view the other rule sets that seem to be invigorating this area – Lasalle & Grande Army for example?
There will be an announcement on this from Slitherine this year (2011).
12. Any thoughts about FoG American Civil War?
Again this is a question best directed at Slitherine…