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TOPIC: Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series

Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 26 Feb 2016 21:57 #223402

I've been thinking a lot about this wargame series, for some reason. You know how sometimes there's a game or system that isn't highly acclaimed by others but for some reason it strikes you just right? That's this one for me; I'm like a fast action battles evangelist. I preordered Golan because I forgot how good the series is and that one is coming closer. I checked in on it on consimworld and it looks like the developer is kind of done with the series, which will be a tremendous shame because he is the best in the business IMHO.

Anyway, I pulled out Sicily this evening and started the invasion off. I think it's easily my favorite operational wargame system. I like almost everything about it. Sicily is a bit of slugfest/drag but the game provides enough decisions to the german/italians about how long to hold on and when to deploy their assets I think it works. That's a strength of the system, giving you big picture operational decisions without making you micromanage a bunch of shit you would not have micromanaged as the high echelon commander. The asset chits and special actions make it like a cool procedural wargame overlain with a simple resource allocation system, which I love. It also lets you probe and pull back when you hit resistance and encourages retreats, which works quite nicely.

Oh man, and the rules (to me) are SO good. So cleanly laid out, and the examples are out of this world in the playbook. Outstanding. If it were me, I'd probably start out with The Bulge because it has that nice both sides get to attack quality to it, not so one sided. It looks like that's out of print, though, which is a bummer. If you see it for a reasonable price I'd definitely pick it up. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 27 Feb 2016 02:50 #223417

I own both.

I own both. Bulge I have never gotten anyone to play with. Sicily I played once when it was new. I liked the system but Sicily isn't my favorite campaign to play regardless of system so I was a bit luke warm on it.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 27 Feb 2016 22:34 #223456

I finished up the tournament game today, 4VP, which is a German/Italian win.

If I could praise the system for a minute, I think what I'm most impressed with is its ability to create incredibly frustrating situations that mirror real life. I read the Liberation Trilogy by Atkinson last year (amazing series, amongst the best history I've ever read) and this captures a lot of the parts of WWII that games typically don't get very well. It also means that at times you run up against situations (especially as the attacker) that are Not Fun but are extremely realistic. I'll give a couple examples---

First, the game creates stalemates extremely well. If you are in a difficult terrain (-2 or -3) and two sides of high quality (2 blocks each, veteran or elite units perhaps with armor), you can fight each other to a standstill for turn after turn after turn unless one side applies an EXTREME level of assets---artillery, air support, lots of battle assets. Even then it's hardly assured. One thing that especially lighter wargames do not do well is give you a sense that if two reasonably equal sides meet each other with any defensible terrain, what often happened in World War II is that no one won and each side absent anything else could fight for weeks. Even MONTHS. Though it isn't obvious, FAB is one of the only lighter systems I've played that create this kind of friction. It's super frustrating but creates surprising verisimilitude. Often the only way to get someone out of, say, a -2 city space is to keep trying to flank and cut off supply. To try this out, try sending the 2 best British units into Catania and having them opposed by, say, a 3 step elite Panzer unit and a strong italian veteran unit. Without a lot of luck or resources that fight could go on for the whole game.

Second, the game captures the frustration of frontage---and lack thereof. When you land as the allies in Sicily, or try to punch through with the Germans in Bulge, the traffic jam type rules make it incredibly difficult and frustrating to make the most of your units. Units are stuck behind front lines, waiting for units ahead of them to finish off stubborn weak enemy units. You may find yourself making elaborate trips down side roads just to get around a bogged down front line. The game does provide you with a timing mechanism to get around this, the reserve chit, which lets you move after the initial round of combat for a few select units. When this works, you feel like a genius as you jet through the hole in the line with armor and blow the mfer open.

Finally, the game definitely gives you the sense that some asshole back home who planned this fucking campaign had no idea what he was doing. He's sending you the wrong assets at all the wrong times. Here, have a bunch of artillery, what do you mean you need replacements instead? He's sending reinforcements in places you don't need them and no reinforcements where you do need them. Finally, Ike or whatever planned the fucking army zones and you can't cross them or else you would get into your allies way and potentially have friendly fire catastrophes at the operational level. If only you could just cross that river into the British zone from the American zone with your paratroopers! You would be in behind the enemy! But commanders on the ground don't have that kind of decisionmaking power, which is just like real life (though you can use your special action to do this---an incredibly expensive price to pay). The Atkinson books are full of local commanders screaming forever about the one move they could make or the one thing they need and never get. It is a frustration baked deeply into the FAB design. You'll often find, say, the British have tons of air support assets but it can't be spent on battles involving only Americans.

That said, I also have one out and out huge gripe with the system. The way you can feed battle assets into battles (max 8 and 5 attack/defend respectively) just sucks. It's not fun, it doesn't feel realistic. It just feels gamey. Basically battle assets are one hit battle formations that high command can dispatch to battles that your regular units are involved in (the blocks). The intention of the system is good---send units into the fray at points that high command deems critical that bolster the attack power of the army. In practice, however, since especially the attacking side is often drowning in them they can send in 4-5 assets as cannon fodder and prevent almost all of the damage to their regular units---the damage allocation rule is "Each friendly unit and battle asset present must receive one step-loss before any unit receives a second step-loss." So that means big battles feature both sides throwing tons of shitty fodder and no real damage to the actual fighting units, because it can be very hard inflict a lot of hits.

Anyway, it's a niche system, some posts on consimworld suggest the developer may be pulling out, but it's worth your time. In some ways I think part of its lack of appeal is that it makes operational command frustrating in exactly the way that operational command was incredibly frustrating. But gamers do not typically enjoy gaming frustrations, especially in (relatively) lighter systems.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 00:18 #223460

Those kinds of frustrations sound really interesting in the setting. Is it a forced frustration though? Would repeated plays produce significantly different situations or are those engagements baked into the scenarios and design?

Britannia is a frustrating but interesting game for me, but the reason I don't play it much any more is that the things I find frustrating about the game turn up in sort of a regular scripted way, which sucks the interesting out of it.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 07:01 #223462

Gary, you should make this an article for the front page.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 08:22 #223464

ha, I actually altered it a bit and submitted it to BGG before I read your post. I was hoping to get some heat for the FAB system and maybe some orders for Golan.

You're right, I should have submitted it here instead.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 08:40 #223467

Look, Chief, you want tenure? Huh? Well then you gotta publish!
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 11:40 #223472

Cross-posted from BGG:

There are a few rules-dense wargames that I suspect I would really like if (a) I could get someone to teach me face-to-face and (b) I could pay that same person an annual salary to observe my game sessions (every single one) to answer rules questions and ensure that I was playing correctly. For the first three years or so, anyway.

For me, the FAB games fall into this category. Two others are Asia Engulfed and Guns of Gettysburg. Possibly EastFront/WestFront as well.

I don't have the spare cash to cover the consultant's salary, unfortunately, so I've since sold off FAB Sicily and Asia Engulfed. And GoG and FAB Bulge are now on my trade pile.

(If I did VASSAL and other forms of online gaming I'd be in a different situation, but I'm just not a fan of online gaming. I spend enough time on the computer at work; I don't want to do the same thing in my spare time.)

I've got tons of other wargames that don't give me the same rules headaches as FAB, and I don't play those games nearly enough. So selling/trading off the FAB games wasn't a tough decision. Plus the guys I'm selling them to are still in the local area, so if they really want to play - and somehow learn the rules - they know where to find me.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 28 Feb 2016 12:27 #223476

FWIW, Asia Engulfed fell into your category for me too. I didn't like some other things about it but the biggest thing is that the procedure was incredibly convoluted and hard to follow. Moreso than FAB, to me.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 02 Mar 2016 22:00 #223676

Play some more this evening solo, did the first turn of the alternate landing scenario... it is a much taller task to defend the alternate landing site. It's a quite different game for the Axis shuffling between two fronts that are quite far from one another.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 04 Mar 2016 13:45 #223791

haha, man, played up to the last turn of the tourney scenario in the above game. It is a rout. It is really easy for the Axis to get units trapped in the western side of the island in the hopes of defending their airfield for one more turn. I think that in the alternate landing situation it's much more imperative for the Axis to be aggressive against at least one beachhead and grab some serious VP.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 26 Jul 2016 15:46 #230892

www.gmtgames.com/fabgolan/FAB-G_Rules_FINAL.pdf

Final rules up for Golan, should be coming out soon. I am like the only person in the world who is incredibly hyped about getting the next game in this series. It is one of my absolute favorites!
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 11 Aug 2016 08:36 #231793

Got my copy, looks good. Stickered it and set it up but haven't played it.

On one hand, it's smaller than Sicily or Bulge, so it might have some more introductory qualities. On the other hand, there's some terrain chrome and asset use stuff that makes me think no... and almost all the units are armor which introduce more of the decisions and rules about breakthrough, reserves, and reaction.
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 18 Aug 2016 12:23 #232337

Played solo through turn 5. Big fan of the new Golan entry so far. Makes me think it would be a great series for post WWII combat. In Golan they make a bigger deal of the air war with a slightly more complicated asset subgame SAM/aircraft and then make a lot more of the units armor to capture a decent amount of mechanized warfare mechanics. Also, this one was designed by someone else and that person clearly disliked the same thing I disliked about Sicily, which is the endless cannon fodder asset usage with very little changing on the board because of it. Not too many battle assets in this one, you'll be taking step losses.

Also Golan is a smaller game, which is good and bad. Might be slightly more scripted than the other two, but definitely not to the extent it's

Couple of things for people playing this one: first, the scenario cards are messed up a bit, check on BGG for a thread about it by Spartax and make the necessary setup changes. They aren't too bad but it can be confusing unless you mark a couple errors down in the setup materials and on one of the chits (an S instead of a 3, the type of dyslexic mistake I would make). Only other issue I've run into is that the wadi terrain type is difficult to see, so don't miss that on the map. Because there are several long wadis on the map it's actually more terrain than you think there is but it's easy to miss.

Ambivalent about the next entry being WWII Kharkov. I'll buy it and I think the system would work for it but it doesn't excite me and, moreover,
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Fast Action Battles (FAB) wargame series 27 Aug 2016 00:55 #232898

I'm with you--FAB is easily my favorite operational system. I'll happily play Bulge or Sicily anytime, and I am thrilled to see Golan finally see the light of day. I've got a solo game set up now and the Syrians have just punched through in the center, creating a decent sized hole with some aggressive broad front attacks during the night turn. While the terrain is tricky--I'm finding myself flipping through the exclusive rules a lot more than I expected--the gameplay continues to be sublime.

I think Kharkov is a terrific battle for the system, so I'm all in for that. I continue to think it would handle a 1980's NATO/Warsaw Pact confrontation incredibly well, but I don't know what the market for such a design would be like. It's hard to think of another good post-WW2 setting. Might be interesting to do something like Ia Drang, maybe.
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