Friday, December 6, 2013

Phase Craze: Movement

Holy Hell, this is going to be a mammoth topic to cover so I apologize in advance for whatever shortcomings you feel this article contains. I'm going to do my level best to explain some of the ins-and-outs of the Movement Phase and why I think it's the most important phase in any game of FoW.

The precursor to hex-based board games, as well as the Allied Victory, whichever is more important...

Essentially, the importance of the movement phase stems from two factors: 1. the lack of probability hindering your actions, and 2. the way in which your movement dictates the rest of your turn as well as the entirety of your opponent's turn.

In my first Phase Craze article I explained how my general philosophy of the game boils down to a rough analysis of probability, and how each phase of the game increases the amount of chance involved in the game. Aside from the Deployment step, the phase of the game with the least amount of probability is the movement step.

Think about it, when do you need to roll dice in the movement phase? The distances traveled across slow/difficult going isn't rolled randomly like in other games; it's already set in the rules. Infantry can go anywhere, at the same movement rate, regardless of terrain (obviously barring "impassable" terrain).

The Ardenne Forest

The most frequent occasions where you'll have to roll dice are for bog checks and unpinning/unbailing/unbogging (and technically these are in the starting step, not the movement step). For all of these checks the odds are determined in advance. Going through difficult terrain? Don't roll a 1. Going through rivers or buildings? It's a skill check. There is not a lot of randomness in the movement phase. Like the deployment phase, this is both a blessing and a curse. It's blessing because most movement plans can be enacted unhindered by the dice; it's a curse because the onus is on your skill as a player to move properly. Make no mistake, one turn of bad movement can cost you the game.

You need your movement step to set up your plans for shooting and assaulting not just in your own turn, but in your opponent's turn as well. You need your movement to maximize the effectiveness of your army's weapons and mitigate the probability involved in each of the "deadly" phases. Likewise, your movement will have to account for the enemy's retaliation.

Talk about anticipating the target's movement!

Cover: Proper use of covering terrain is an essential component to any game of FoW. Yes, there will be some games that, for whatever reason, are played on what will amount to pool tables. Even then you will need to adapt and make the best of the available terrain.

Remember that infantry can find cover no matter where they end up. Whether by digging-in or going to ground, infantry can find cover even in open terrain. Any terrain can be turned into a strongpoint if enough infantry and light-medium guns are holding it down.

Likewise, vehicles on the attack need to find the routes that offer the most concealment to enemy fire. In my experience, especially when I have a recovery vehicle available, I have never been afraid to move straight through Difficult Going, simply accepting any 1's that come along.

As an aside: if you're playing a tank company then get the recovery vehicle! It's a must!

Just ask this Sturmtiger crew

With that out of the way: again, I usually just take my chances and risk the roll of a 1. Generally this has two advantages - first, my opponents aren't expecting it and this can throw them off balance. Second, at the termination point of this movement (say, through woods) my vehicles are now in cover, which will make return fire that much more difficult for my opponent. Of course, you must be careful if your opponent has infantry in the area, since if you bog while falling back from an assault your day will be ruined very quickly.

Setting Up Shooting: how will your movement impact your shooting phase, and where will it leave your troops in the enemy's shooting step? We will delve into this topic more in my Shooting Phase article, but for now just consider the basics.

If you already have Line of Sight and the range to hit enemy troops, then generally it is preferable to stay still and fire at full RoF. Obviously your opponent will rarely be so obliging, so you need to consider how your movement can best threaten his troops. Likewise, you need to think about whether your movement will play into an enemy's plans. A good example:

I have a Panzer platoon hull-down behind a hill, further than 16" from enemy British tanks. Against any other nation I am probably in a great position. Those tanks will need 6's to return fire against me, while I will most likely need only 4's or 5's. However, against the British I am destined to lose that scenario because of the Semi-Indirect Fire rule (same goes for the Cat Killers rule).

I'd love to know what Soviet tankers honestly thought about their ridiculous-looking vehicles

Having become well-doctrined with tanks and other vehicles, I know that infantry can be forced to stay in place by the careful movement of even a few vehicles. WWPD's Dirty Jon loves to bring up the classic example of how even 2 8-rads can keep a small infantry platoon in place because of the threat of being MG-ed as soon as they try to move. This can obviously frustrate an opponent's attempts to counter your moves and cover objectives.

My general gameplan is to get my tanks into great positions and keep them there for a couple of turns of full RoF shooting. Of course sometimes an assault will be necessary, which leads me to...

Setting Up Assaults: The most important game rule to remember for the way that movement and assault interact is that if you are going to assault then you must shoot as if you moved (again, this is why Flames of War rocks: there is so must integration between the rules and so must strategy involved in every step). I consider this the most important rule (aside from actually getting within 4" for the charge) because you will need to decide in the movement step whether your moving-RoF will be enough to soften up and pin the target platoon.

This qualifies as being pinned down

You will also need to have an avenue of escape. It is not a good idea to assault if the only route by which your vehicles can fall back is blocked by difficult terrain, because I assure you that your tanks will decide to bog at that exact moment.

Covering/Capturing Objectives: the rules for controlling/contesting objectives are simple. If you have an active (unbogged/unbailed) team within 4" of an objective then you are contesting. If there are no active enemy teams within 4" of that objective then you are controlling it.

Pay careful attention as to when the objectives go hot. In a recent game I forced an opponent to spring his ambushing Panthers far away from my main battle force because I sent a 70-point recce unit to contest a far-flung objective. Sure, I lost the recce unit, but now his Panthers were far away from the real battle. The movement of my recce troops toward the objective forced him to commit his most powerful unit in a poor location. This is a prime example of how the movement of even your smallest units can have an enormous impact on the game.

Recon: winning games since Version 3

No matter how you look at it, the movement phase is of prime importance in FoW. Every other action that you take in your turn will be the direct result of the choices you made regarding the movement of your troops. Likewise your opponent's turn will also be a general reaction to your movement.

Much like deployment, you are master of your own fate in the movement phase. Obviously I can't delve into the details of every eventuality for infantry, transports, and armored vehicles, but I hope that reading through this article has at least given you a new appreciation of the movement phase. I truly believe that expert movement is one of the keys to winning games of FoW, which is why my armies tend to be highly mobile.

As always please remember to follow me on Twitter @piflamesofwar


  1. Thanks for the "Phase Craze" articles, I have really enjoyed them and they are very informative!

  2. Very much appriciated. I hope you'll continue the series and expand the tactics articles!