Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fields of Fire - Taught

A few entries ago I discussed teaching Fields of Fire to a few friends. Today, I did a tremendous amount of 'splainin' to Mike, Jesse, and our host Chris. Judging by how people reacted to the game and how they did in terms of starting to understand the system, I'm going to call it a success.

Here's what I outlined as my process the other day, with comments on how it went:

1) Generate mission logs - I did in fact do this ahead of time, using a basic assignment of assets to various platoons. This was a good idea and I'd do it again because it saved so much explaining and got people into the game quicker.

2) Lay out the maps and discuss how they work - Another natural progression that worked pretty well. Of course, we had to go back over things as the game progressed, but it was necessary to move to the next step.

3) Discuss the mission and how it would progress - Also important so that people felt they had a sense of what they were trying to do. This worked out particularly well with Chris' board (we had two set up), where he had a very clear line of advance due to cover and favorable terrain toward his attack point and objectives, which immediately ran into a minefield/sniper combo and he had to work around it. Understanding the goals in advance helped considerably here.

4) Set up the units and examine the "good ground" - Really part of 3 above. I set up units with the idea that 1st platoon would be the "main" thrust, 2 the support, and 3 cleaning up any areas that were outside the main thrust area. I can't express how important this is to teaching the game, as gamers like to have clear goals and know how to achieve them. FoF has an incredibly "real" feel, and the more real you can make things the better. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to explain in a rulebook.

5) Play the game, focusing on the sequence of play - What I learned here was that not only is the SoP critical, but especially the third phase, the Command phase where you pretty much have every decision point in the game. I did discuss Chain of Command before we played, but glossed over a lot of elements of play such as fire types, range, LATs. People had looked at the game before, but these are things that get in the way of front-loaded explanations, and are better left for in-game 'splainin'. 

6) Continuation - Part of what made the clinic so successful was that there were *two* games going on at once. Chris' mines/sniper was a nice thing to run into, but nearly useless in terms of understanding how Enemy Actions work, so having Jesse's board run into multiple contacts was *very* useful for not only seeing those actions, but also how PDF/VoF is generated. 

In fact, we made it through exactly two turns. I never got around to vehicles, casualty transport in anything other than a conceptual sense, or post-mission clean up, but frankly those were beyond my goals for the day, which was to get people to a point where not only were they comfortable with the core mechanisms, but also enthusiastic about the game itself. 

We got to cover grenade attacks, snipers, arty, mines, ammo, experience level, breakdown of squads, spotting, concentrated fire, keeping track of various game elements, all the things I wanted to see covered. Part of that was luck of the draw in terms of potential contacts, and in the future I might "roll" the contacts for people just so they get to see how things work. 

Total time was about three hours to get through two full turns. Everyone (even Mike!) liked the game quite a bit, seeing how novel and exciting the system can be. I also discussed some of the other types of missions, including LZ drops in 'Nam where you don't even know what the board will look like until you get there. 

As such, I consider this clinic to be extremely successful, and a model that I'll use in the future if I ever get the chance to teach this game again. As I said before, people had a fairly good idea of the concept going in, it was just a matter of putting the pieces together for them. Once the VASSAL module finally comes out (and it's hard to complain about a volunteer effort like this taking so long) I feel like I have a much better sense of how to put things together, and I'll almost certainly follow this path when I put that video-based training together. 

As everyone in my group knows, I'm happy to answer questions at any time, but I'm also happy to answer questions about this game if any of my readers would like help. I'm also happy to do another clinic like this one in the future locally if there's a need. 

Thanks to Mike, Jesse, and Chris for being guinea pigs on this one, I hope that it was as successful for them as it was for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I picked up FOF a few weeks ago and had a very brief look at the rules. They sure looked intimidating and all the feedback I've read on BBG made me decide to wait on this one. I still have a couple of other games I've just started to play or have coming (Silverton, B-29, RAF, Blackbeard) so I think I'll stick with those until either the new rules are available or your video tutorials are done.