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"Force on Force" from Osprey Publishing

By James Jester
Published: July 1, 2011
Ospry Force on Force miniatures wargaming rules
Product: Force on Force is a combination of two previous wargaming rule sets by Ambush Alley Games: their namesake Ambush Alley, used to simulate asymmetric battles like many fought during the Iraqi insurgency; and Force on Force, used for more traditional military engagements between professional forces. This edition of the rules has been published by Osprey Publishing in a high-quality hardcover format.

The majority of the 224-page rulebook is dedicated to rules explanation, with several example scenarios scattered throughout. The book’s design is very much like a history book, with a two-column page layout. The full-color soldier snapshots and images from games in progress do well to break up the flow and provide some meaningful emphasis in places, but even more visual examples of the rules would be helpful.

As the game is scenario-driven, scenario books are planned to be released to cover many different theaters and campaigns from the past several decades. The perfect-bound scenario book we received, Force on Force Companion 1: Road to Baghdad Iraq 2003 (ISBN: 978-1-84908-517-5, $24.95), covered the initial push of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It had almost 20 additional scenarios, along with a historical recounting of the operation, leaving me excited to see what additional material Osprey will provide in the future.

There are several mechanics used in the game that really distinguish it from other miniature games. The action-reaction system for initiative allows one to react immediately to the actions of an opponent, giving the game a more fluid and dynamic feel similar to modern combat, and eliminating the downtime inherent in the I-move-you-move structure of many wargames. Adding to the fluidity are the abstractions of terrain and unit position and movement, cutting down on measuring and arguing about line-of-sight issues.

Additionally, the seemingly minor feature of using a range of polyhedral dice (6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, etc.) has a big impact on gameplay. When combined with the game’s emphasis on training over equipment, differences in forces on the battlefield are more readily apparent, making an elite special forces unit (which would use 12-sided dice for any rolls based on troop quality) just feel far superior to untrained insurgents (which would roll 6-sided dice). It also makes remembering rules much easier, as the only things you really need to remember are how many dice to roll and the near-universal rule of roll higher than a 3. The simplicity breaks down when dealing with vehicles and other special attacks, though, and will require reference materials for at least several plays due to the myriad of keywords associated with vehicular combat.

The final mechanic that certainly helps with the theme of the game is the Fog of War deck. Whenever either side in a scenario rolls a 1 on a reaction test, a card is drawn from this deck and usually applied immediately. Card effects range from supplies being cut for a unit or miscommunication of orders to friendly mortar fire or IEDs going off. This doesn’t mean all effects are bad, though: some are quite handy, such as reinforcements or gaining access to UAV reconnaissance. This mechanic simulates the chaos of the battlefield quite nicely, and guarantees that no two runs through the same scenario will be alike, increasing replayability.

The main problem with selling a product like this, unlike Warhammer or Warmachine, is that it’s only a book series. This can make drawing attention difficult. Having an area to demonstrate a wargame is a huge help. Force on Force usually requires only a 2 x 2-foot playing surface, so it is manageable even in a small store. And while there is not a model line associated with this rule set, there are several sources for miniatures to cover most conflicts to the present day (e.g. Italeri, Zvezda, and Crusader), or it’s flexible enough to use practically whatever scale you have handy. When running a demo game, be sure to emphasize the advantages of the initiative system as well as the simplicity of the core rules.

In order to ensure a complete beginner to miniature gaming is able to play right away, make sure to have plenty of dice available in addition to miniatures either used in the demo or otherwise. It may also be a good idea to get a few copies of the Fog of War deck. While one is provided in the rulebook, players will probably prefer to have a separate one so they don’t have to cut it out or make copies of their new book.


Product: Force on Force: Modern Wargaming Rules
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-84908-516-8
MSRP: $34.95
Availability: Osprey Publishing

Flexible with accurate modern feel
Simple core rules with more complexity possible
Requires other miniatures to play 

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