I finally figured this out enough to play half a mission. On top of being hard as fuck to learn, it can also be really tough to play well. I'd be interested in hearing what rules people were missing at first... I've been reading AARs and F:AT stalking Gary Sax and I think I have it pretty well but i bet i'm missing some things.
1) One thing you really, really need to know strategywise is that you can split up your squads and send forth an assault team to scout out a card. In fact, I would recommend doing this most of the time if you have the time.
2) Also, use artillery all the time. It's stupidly hard to extract enemy units from hard terrain without it. Also remember that when Incoming! markers get set it blocks LOS out of the card as the guys put their heads down, so it protects your own guys too.
3) It is worth it strategically to put men in close combat in order to get to "Heavily Engaged." So it can be worth heading into the fray with assault teams and full teams relatively early and recklessly so that all your other potential contact draws are much easier.
Stick with it. I know it's stupidly poorly written ruleswise but it is great.
They just straight up omitted things from the rules. The playtesters must have all been taught by someone who already knew how to play or someone would have piped up and said WTF! The rules that are there aren't that bad, they just need a lot more explanation.... It reads like they omitted every other section or something. The terminology is awful too. Why the hell do you include a glossary of abbreviations and only put half the game's abbreviations in it? I remember a thread here on F:AT where I was saying "it can't be that bad" Geez, was I wrong!
Anyway, thanks for the tips. I learned #1 from an example of play that was in Barnes' box. I didn't realize until after I sent the guy up that I wouldn't be able to talk to him because he didn't have a radio! I guess that is where the free actions at the end come in.
I need to reread the artillery rules... The "heavily engaged" thing seems gamey as hell- is there any thematic explanation for that? Sorry soldiers, I gotta sacrifice you to the hill on the right so there will be less of a chance of seeing enemy in the town two miles away?
There's so much missing from the rules...it's kind of obnoxious. Even little things like "how to fill out the sheet" material just isn't there, processes are not clearly outlined, an incomplete glossary, incessant use of military acronyms that are _not_ clear to the layman, and the core concepts of the game are not laid out- like you said, Tom, it took an example of play to figure out that _communication_ is really the key mechanic of the game.
It's a brilliant design, it's just waylaid by really, really poor explanation. It creates an unreasonable demand on the player to sort it all out on their own. That's why I sort of gave up on it, I just don't have the patience to sort out their mess.
Also. DON'T FUCKING BUNCH UP. And no platoon leaders onto cards under fire or w/PC contacts unless it absolutely is I-will-lose-the-mission-otherwise necessary.
The enemy hates you and will annihilate your troops on a whim. There are missions where you will probably just lose and your job is really to make as much progress as possible and prepare for the next try at the mission.
I'm still waiting on the rewrite. Even with the new examples of play and the VASSAL modules out there, I'm not going to bother trying to slog my way through the system. I had hoped to learn this this summer, but that's looking increasingly unlikely.
I don't think waiting the rewrite is necessary, but getting the play examples is. They describe how to do a lot of the stuff that was omitted from the rules, like filling out the mission sheet, assigning the assets to different leaders, etc.
That said, I will be very happy if they release a living rules document like GMT has done for so many other games...