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||One Fan’s Visit to the Battlefront Studio
Justin was nice enough to come over and visit us about a month ago and asked some questions he and his friends had been storing up about rules and the philosophy behind some of the decisions made in Flames Of War.
After reading through Justin’s questions and answers Chris and I thought this would be a perfect time to answer some of the other frequently asked questions that we have sent in from the various Flames of War players from around the world.
The initial Questions are Justin’s and we have added the other questions onto the end.
|A Visit to Battlefront – 5th August 2009
by Justin Yap
During my recent holiday in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit Battlefront’s head office in Auckland, and converse with Phil.
My initial entrance into the office was amusing. The stairway and reception area was decked out with pictures of fishing boats and ‘Simunovich Fisheries Limited’ was written in large letters on the wall. At first, I thought I had the wrong address, and asked if there was a company called Battlefront in the building, but then felt very sheepish when I got told that I was already in their office.
I soon got to meet Phil and the Battlefront design team. During my conversation with Phil, he answered a number of questions that I had, and shared some rare insights into some aspects of Flames of War, as well as a few upcoming developments.
I had intended to ask Evan some modelling questions too, but I was informed that he actually works from home about nine hours away from Auckland! However, Phil managed to answer my queries in Evan’s absence.
|Justin: What is the history of Battlefront?
Phil: Battlefront Miniatures was an evolution from another company, Crusader Miniatures, which was run by Peter and a group of like minded enthusiasts who loved toy soldiers enough to have a small business. As time went on Peter wanted to explore his favorite period, WWII, and started to see that if he could create the game that held it all together it would be something well worth all the effort. Over the next two years he pulled together a group of like-minded people including Phil, Evan and Wayne who along with the NZ gaming scene helped play and refine a set of rules that became FOW.
With rules in hand and a range of miniatures to go with it, the real work began and it was then that John-Paul joined the business to turn a small hobby company into what they have today. Battlefront has always been driven by Peter and John-Paul’s wish to see the historical hobby become available to a wider audience whilst retaining the integrity for accuracy and quality that you must have when you are creating products based on real events. Having fun was their other driver and from their HQ in NZ it seems that the pleasure they have for what they do will keep Battlefront going for many years to come.
|Justin: How Many Employees does Battlefront have now?
Phil: Battlefront now has over 100 employees across the world, including the design team in Auckland, the factory in Malaysia, the customer service teams in the UK and USA, the staff at Wargames Illustrated in the UK, and the staff at Gale Force Nine in the US.
Justin: What happened to the rumoured all-new time period to be covered by Battlefront some time in the future?
Phil: Work is still in progress, but everything is obviously still a secret.
Justin: Will there be late war lists for the Hungarians and Romanians?
Phil: Yes, and they are currently undergoing play testing. However, the lists are likely to be released sooner rather than later.
|"Wayne’s interest in the Hungarian army is somewhat known, but Phil is
actually very fond of the Romanians and would like to see them have
their own late war list.
The situation for the Romanians during 1944-45 was quite interesting.
Before Romania defected to the Soviet cause, the Romanians had access
to some German armoured support, but after the defection, that was
lost, and the army became solely infantry-based, with some oddities
like the TACAM R-2 tank hunter and Renault R35 tanks rearmed with a
Soviet 45mm gun.
It is likely that there will be two separate lists to represent the
Romanian army fighting for the Germans, and then for the Soviets.
Despite sustaining heavy casualties under Soviet command, the Romanians
fought hard, hoping that their combat performance would be viewed
favourably in negotiations with the Soviet Union at the end of the war.
As it came to pass, Romania got a relatively better deal than most
nations defeated by the Soviets. While the Romanian government became
pro-communist, the country still retained its independence, as opposed
to being absorbed into the Soviet Union."
|Justin: Does that mean that Wayne’s Hungarian Hetzer Company will make a showing?
Justin: Will there be any rules for APDS (Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot) rounds in Flames of War?
Phil: Not any time soon.
"While their inclusion has been previously considered, Phil finally thought that APDS rounds added ‘unnecessary complexity’ to the game. However, this may be reviewed in the next edition of Flames of War."
Justin: Some of us have noticed that in the North Africa book, some Italian lists have been raised from company to battalion level. What is the reason for this change?
"Although I had hoped that this was entirely due to new historical research, the answer I got from Phil was much more involved."
Phil: Over time, the design team realised that many Italian units were ‘cheap as chips’ in terms of points, (especially the Fucilieri), but players were limited by the number of available platoon choices in the list. This often meant that in larger games, an Italian player could exhaust all their allowable core and support platoon choices, yet still have too many points left over.
The fix was to raise some of the lists to battalion level, so that you now purchase entire companies rather than individual platoons as core troops choices. Each company will still have the entire range of company-level support weapons available, but you will now be able to get even more units on the table! Historically the Italians fought and defended as these larger units using all elements to support each other and Phil feels that these newer organisations better represent this in the game.
|Justin: Will any late war German tanks currently sculpted with zimmerit have versions without it?
Phil: Production and application of zimmerit ceased around September-October 1944. When this period of time is covered in later material, there will be tanks modelled without zimmerit.
Justin: Will Seth’s sculpts be replaced?
Seth’s work will eventually be replaced, just as Evan’s sculpts too, will also be replaced when the moulds start wearing out.
"There were mixed opinions from fans about the quality and appearance of Seth’s sculpting, but the guys at Battlefront concluded that the proportion of people who loved or hated his work was close to 50/50, which was not nearly enough to warrant any particular action. That being said, they are not overly concerned about who does the sculpting, and for those that are particular about the models they use for their forces, there is always the option of mixing and matching model ranges to suit individual tastes.
As an aside, Battlefront now has another new sculptor in their ranks. I already approve of his work after seeing a few of his models, but I shall leave a formal introduction to Battlefront."
Justin: Will there be any late war British infantry models with the Mk II ‘battle bowler’ helmets rather than the Mk III ‘Turtle’ helmets?
Phil: Yes, and very soon! See Wargames Illustrated 262 for a sneak preview!
|There were a few other things that Battlefront staff shared with me during my visit:
Contrary to what his name might suggest Jeremy Painter actually does a little sculpting too. However, he claims to like painting much more, and quipped that he didn’t want to have to change his name to Jeremy Sculptor!
The design team writes lists for balance above all! Lists are subjected to extensive research, internal discussion and play-testing both internally and externally, and the team does everything to avoid creating opportunities for unbalanced ‘one trick pony’ lists. However, it is natural that if you are up against a force that is inherently good against your type of company, that you may face difficulties.
If you have submitted material for PDF lists, a lack of response from Battlefront does not mean that the design team has completely ignored your efforts. It could be that:
- The team is already going to cover the submitted unit in a future publication,
- They will publish the PDF in line with a particular campaign release at a later date, or
- It may still be in line to be reviewed. The pile is quite big, you know!
When Customer Service requests that you provide product codes and other details for getting replacement parts, they are not trying to be funny or difficult! It becomes difficult to help you if you do not provide sufficient information. Many a time, someone has emailed stating that they have a problem with their product and want replacements, without actually describing the problem. Be specific!
Finally a rules one that has been concerning us...
Does Fritz Biermeyer’s ‘Towards the Enemy’ rule allow him to make a Stormtrooper move towards a friendly objective if it is closer than an enemy team or enemy objective?
Ken helped to answer this one. Based on the wording of the rule, yes, you can move towards the nearest enemy team or any friendly or enemy objective, whichever is closest. However, two things should be noted:
You must still pass the Skill test before you make the Stormtrooper move.
If you are currently next to your own objective, you can only make a Stormtrooper move towards the nearest enemy team or another objective if you wish to leave your own objective. This applies regardless of the actual distance between Biermeyer and that nearest enemy or alternate objective. Think of it as Biermeyer spotting the enemy through his field glasses and ordering his platoon to advance towards their location.
So there you have it!
Many thanks to Phil Yates for taking time out from his busy schedule for an interview, and Kyran Henry for making a meeting possible!
|Frequently Asked Questions About Flames Of War and Battlefront
So now onto some of the other frequently asked questions:
How long does it take to produce an Intelligence handbook?
From inception to completion about 4-5 months with about a 60/40 split of writing to graphics depending on the size of the book. Larger works such as the new North Afrika can take even longer. Smaller projects such as Mid War Monsters are usually fit in between projects as a break when we are doing the opening research for the next project.
How do the designers decide what lists to put in the Intelligence Handbooks?
To begin with the writers research all the forces that fought in that period/combat zone. From there we look for interesting forces and forces that deviate or have special units that sit outside the generic all round lists portrayed in FE2. Once they get the list of potential forces together the editors review the lists and determine which ones best suit the book and which ones we should do as Web PDF lists. When selecting the lists we always try to find ones that are both interesting and historical. All the lists are strenuously play-tested for balance and to make sure they are fun to play. Occasionally when doing a project we have the opportunity to do a list for historical completeness and as long as space allows we will include it in the project. Its worth noting that none of our lists are designed with tournament play as the primary focus, it is actually the strength of the game system and the rigorous play-testing that has kept our forces balanced and fun throughout the handbooks.
Absolutely, this is a huge project and will take up considerable R&D time. We are constantly thinking about it but I feel it is safe to say no major production work will occur until we are well into Early War.
Early War, what’s the plan?
As JP has previously mentioned work is underway, and we are aiming to release the three primary sourcebooks over the next 4 years. The first book will focus on the German invasion of Poland and France. The second book will cover the Africa campaign. The third book will cover the war in the east.
Mid War, What else can we look forward to?
We have quite a large list of Mid War things we’d still like to visit including some more Intelligence briefings and hopefully a Firestorm encompassing the desert conflict.
What is still to come in Late War?
Lots ;). Market Garden will be hitting the shelves in the form of Hells Highway at the beginning of October with quite possibly the best British armour lists of the War. This will be followed by A Bridge too Far and Firestorm Market Garden after Christmas. After that we have heaps of ideas and potential battles to consider on the way to the assault of Berlin. Quite a few years of Late War lists still to go.
Is there a Normandy Compilation planned?
This has been discussed and at some point we definitely would like to update the Normandy lists to match the new format. No fixed plans on getting this done at this time.
Is there a 3rd Edition planned?
One of the best things about having such a passionate Flames community around the world is that different gaming groups are constantly coming up with great ideas and fun house rules. Eventually the shear mass of ideas presented will force us to sit down and review them to pull the gem ideas out and do something with them. Currently we have no plans for Version 3 but that idea folder gets fuller every month so at some point we will have to look at it.
What are the future plans for WI?
More of the same really, each Month will have a theme which will have about 30 pages of content focused on the theme. The other 90 pages are made up of different articles from different periods covering modelling, painting, wargaming, scenarios and historical information. The best thing about the magazine is the Global nature of the content we have contributors from all over the world and we are always looking for new wargaming articles and scenarios.
Will WI just become a Flames of War Magazine in the future?
Nope. Pete and John-Paul have been pretty up front about this from day One. The magazine will continue to focus on all aspects of historical wargaming.
If I want to write an article for WI how do I go about it?
Start with reading the Q&A on the contributor page on the WI website.
How do I get a job at Battlefront?
Each of our offices has different personnel requirements for its workload and at such times as we have a position available we will post it on the Flames of War website. Our Studio team is based in Auckland so any potential job with them would require a move to Auckland in New Zealand. Our customer service teams in the USA and UK are always on the lookout for good people to join their teams.
How do I become a play-tester?
First of you need to have a solid understanding of the rules. You also need to be part of a gaming group of ideally 6-10 reliable people who can meet and play regularly, as well as being organised enough to record your results and provide useful feedback. Flexibility is the other key as we often need a particular aspect of a list or rule tested. Remember these games are to playtest rules, not to practice for your next club tourney.
After you have all the basics ready a good place to start would be getting involved with open play-testing in the Website Intelligence Briefings Under Review section of the forum. After being involved with a few of these you will quickly see if it is something you want to commit to on a regular basis. If so you can get in touch with us via the Editor email address:
When will I get the models that are not currently available in the range?
We approach each range of figures in conjunction with a project. So as we work on a book a lot of obvious model choices present themselves and quite a few stranger pieces of equipment show up as well. Any figures not currently available are just awaiting an Intelligence Handbook to correspond to their release.
Why do some models become unavailable at times?
New projects quite often present us with the opportunity to revisit some of our older models and update or improve them. This is particularly evident with or tank box range. The idea of having individually sculpted tanks within the box was too good to pass up so we have been slowly working our way through the range and replacing the older resins with the new magnet cavity variant resins.
We always aim to maintain the pure sculpted tank or vehicle available in a blister so that you can still collect your army while the primary box is unavailable. Eventually all moulds need replacing and this often presents us with an opportunity to revisit and improve some of our older sculpts to create a more detailed figure for the range. This may involve a small period of unavailability but we will soon have the new and improved version ready for you.
Hopefully this sheds some light on some of the questions we have had sent into us.
Last Updated On Thursday, September 24, 2009 by Blake at Battlefront