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Author Topic: A Review for Forge of Freedom  (Read 2152 times)
Mad Russian
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« on: 15 November 2008, 02:06:39 »
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 A Review for Forge of Freedom

Forge of Freedom (FoF) is an American Civil War game sold by Matrix.

The rules book describes FoF as a turn based strategic wargame of the American Civil War. That's technically correct but there is far more to this game than that simple statement.

The game is a turn based strategic wargame of the American Civil War, after a fashion. While the high end of the game is definitely strategic the rest of the game is more than that. There is a very detailed combat model where you can fight each battle that happens at the strategic level down on the tactical level. What is referred to as detailed combat in the rules.

Let's look at what FoF does before we look at what it doesn't do. From what I've read on all the forums about the detailed combat model it does a very good job of rendering the tactical ACW time period. Everything you could want in a tactical ACW game seem to be there. Including with the strategic part of FoF a random battle generator.

FoF, IMO, does a poor job in it's present state of rendering the strategic level of actions and choices in the ACW. There are issues with how each side scores points to win the war. The game is an area style map for the strategic part of the game, hexes for the tactical part, with different terrain being depicted as appropriate. Basically you have city and non-city areas, with the other major terrain feature being rivers.

The crux of FoF seems to be the combat system. There are two kinds of combat maneuver combat and siege combat.

Maneuver combat in FoF is handled in 3 ways.

1) Detailed combat where you are God and tell everyone where to go and what to do.

2) Quick Combat where you load up a battlefield matrix of areas of attack/defend with one area added to show which of your units are routed out of the fight.

3) Instant Combat which is the same as Quick Combat but where the computer does everything.

I have played this game four times. All four time it was by PBEM with a good friend and long time wargaming associate. We used Instant Combat for all four games.

Siege combat is handled with a bit more complexity. You have to be in the area of the city or fort with no enemy units in the area. The next turn you can give your units orders to attack the fort. There are several options from outright assault to trickery. Some of these options don't work in PBEM and will cause the system to crash. I would expect them to fix this but at last report they were just going to disable that option for PBEM. The option that I'm sure of, that causes a crash, is to select attack the fort or city.

The game is setup on an economic/political basis for the strategic part of FoF. You determine what to buy, where to buy it, what and how to produce both your economic support and your war materials. Factories, Colleges, Horse Farms..it's all there. So are the Governors. They are petty, supportive, demanding and thankful. They are controlled by the National Will.

The National Will is of course the nations will to keep fighting the war. This is determined by your armies abilities to win battles and capture enemy cities.

Wrap all that up and you have Forge of Freedom. That's what it is.

Good Hunting.

MR
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Mad Russian
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« Reply #1 on: 15 November 2008, 02:08:27 »
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The rules book describes FoF as a turn based strategic wargame of the American Civil War. That's technically correct but there is far more to this game than that simple statement.

What is missing from that statement is that, IMO, this is an ACW tactical random map generator with a strategic system stuck on the side. If that's not true why is roughly half the rule book about the detailed combat part of a strategic game?

There are multiple things wrong with the strategic part of the game.

You only get National Will points for winning battles or taking areas with cities in them. You can take half the state of Virginia and as long as you have all the cities the governor is fine with that. No governor is going to sit and watch 2/3 of his state be occupied and not become very affected by that.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, one of the most strategically important parts of the United States in the ACW has no value other than for forage to an army out of supply in FoF.

When you capture a southern city the newly liberated inhabitants are much more willing to let their men join the Union Army than Union cities are. That doesn't seem historically accurate to me.

When areas of a nation are isolated their resources continue to go into the national resource pool as though they were still all one big happy family. So, isolate Memphis if you want, everything they make still goes into the CSA production and resource pools.

Occupying the Mississippi River gets the Union big points but it doesn't stop the states on the western side from giving all they get to the cause.

The naval operations are extremely abstracted. There wasn't even enough research done on the game to recognize Pensacola, Florida, as a Confederate port. Which, in point of fact, it was their second largest ship yard.

Ships come in three versions. Ships of the line, Frigates and Ironclads. The CSA has blockade runners it can build as well. These ships have no value to the land operations except for supply purposes. While a single ship can only carry 3 brigades worth of troops a single ship can support the entire nations army if it is just adjacent. Supply is not greater if there is more than a single ship adjacent to the land area.

There are lots of instances where ships fought with forts in the ACW, and had a very large impact in the outcome of the battle, especially siege operations in coastal areas. Not in FoF. Ships have no value except as blockade points and in naval combat. There is no reason to every build anything other than a frigate as the Union. IF the Confederates ever get enough resources they could try to build an iron clad to do battle but they have to build a navy to put it in as well or they won't fight.

In more than 7 months of playing the game not a single person, which includes the Matrix guys or the designer, ever answered the question of how the supply system works or doesn't work. How can that be in a strategic game where supply is one of the cornerstones of your strategy?

Lastly, the rules are the worst I've seen since I started playing wargames in 1970. Not just the worst, by far the worst. They are so bad that they tell you to open the PDF file while you are playing so you can do a search for what you want to find. That's a good idea too, because, your chances of actually finding what you need, when you need it, by going through the rules, is about the same as winning the lottery on any given day.

Good Hunting.

MR
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Mad Russian
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« Reply #2 on: 15 November 2008, 02:10:10 »
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So what do I really think about FoF?

If you are looking for a low level of historical accuracy, for the strategic part of the game, and a very detailed ACW random battle generator this game is for you.

If you want a grand strategy ACW game that reflects the economic, political, and military atmosphere of the times this isn't the game you're looking for. This isn't Victory Games rendition of the ACW. Not by a long shot.

Every game is not for everybody, they all have strengths and weaknesses. FoF is no different. If you like the strengths of FoF, and can put up with the weaknesses, this game will give you many hours of great game play. If not you need to keep looking.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Good Hunting.

MR
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