Friday, 10 September 2021

The FFT3 Studies & Observation Group #1 - Chinese Farm

 John & I recently had a go at 'Fistful of TOWs 3'. (Well, John read the rules, and I brought enthusiasm...and pepsi).

This has been an aim for a while, as the system gets widely lauded (especially by the folks at 'Little Wars TV'), and it is complete, pick-up worthy, and offers a wide range across the C20th period. So we formed FFT3SOG, in order to explore this fine set.

To be fair, we weren't disappointed. Now, it's a little different, and subsumes a lot into simple die rolls, but for my money, it works really well.


  • It's fast - we completed 'Chinese Farm', with full Egyptian & Israeli complements in 3 hours - an evening no less.
  • We're used to seeing units disappear when destroyed etc.; then some pushbacks and disruptions and suppression in other games. In FFT3 - you fail your Quality Check, and you're gone - hence massed Egyptian armour can fail QCs and vanish, whilst Israeli stuff tends to be able to hang on; the QC being a method of denoting training/morale/staying power, but this all works, and it will be useful to see how validity is demonstrated in the Fulda Gap say, where Sov units can vary in quality.
  • There's a lot of d6, but it only reached 'bucket' status when an M60 fired at a nasty BMP / Sagger, due to armour differential. Otherwise - no buckets of d6.
  • A lot of online reviews think that it's not a parallel with Spearhead in terms of battle 'scope' / size. I disagree - I would say, speed of play would allow for larger battles quite easily (without those axes of advance arrows...which always seem like a great idea...but...).
  • The turn sequence takes some getting used to - but makes artillery, firing, hold fire and overwatch - all become fairly seamless. In a sense - 'hold fire' and 'overwatch' allow you to interrupt turn sequence, but at a cost - you have to 'know when to hold em'
  • I can see how this is perfect for 1/300 - it all fits nicely with the unit cohesion rules.

Very nice set - and deserves a lot more exploration. 

Battle was 'Chinese Farm 1973'

Israeli M60s and Paras in 1/2 tracks advancing from the south, toward Egyptian infantry lines in Chinese Farm

While to the east, Armoured Battalions in M48s

Though of poor quality, the Egyptian infantry (1) has Saggers and (2) will be hard to dig out as the Israelis have only a single battalion of Paras, reinforced with a lot of armour

Egyptian armour is numerous, but can be stopped with a good warning shot!!!  ...their QCs would be their undoing...

Typically, the Israeli armour units here, would take high ground, engage and disperse at long range, then move in with a covered assault...though as stated, lacked infantry

'Where the hell did the amour go guys?'

Egyptian reinforcements

...a lot of reinforcements

Some M60 action from the ridgeline, and forming a blocking force against the oncoming reinforcing armour, is fairly effective

...although not without some casualties to Saggers

Ultimately, with some covering fire, the Israeli paras go toe to toe with the well ensconced Egyptian infantry, but by the end of the first combat, they're fatigued such that it would be impossible to take all of the positions.

So, all in all, and interesting result, whereby the armour battle became one-sided, while there were too few paras to take the positions on day one.

A great set of rules - we'll do some more. I'll also try to draw some comparisons with the GDW First Battle rulesets when I get time.


  1. Looks interesting, Darren. Always good to see an overview of the mechanisms for rules I have not played. I have played modern spearhead and casualties were brutal. Sounds like having one QC fail and you are gone is even more bloody. Fast though...

    1. Thanks Jon. I think once you get your head around the QC being more than just a 'kill' - i.e. it's a ineffective unit or crew abandon etc. etc. - (1) it does clear the table of units which are threats - enabling concentration on what can still make a difference and (2) it makes you very wary with regard to fragile units. It's probably a different way of thinking about modern rules, but certainly makes for fast play.

  2. Great to see FFT on the table in glorious 6mm, Darren! I think to support your points, FFT actually plays FASTER than modern spearhead due to the combat and quality check mechanisms, and you'll actually want to play bigger battles with it because your units get gobbled up so quickly.

    This was a great looking game. More please!

    Also, I love the FFT "studies and observations group" task force you've created :)

    1. Thanks Steve.
      It's so fast - I was really surprised at how much can get done.
      Love that turn sequence, and the little nuances where it can be 'massaged'.
      We have multiple ww2 in mind, Lebannon 82, ww3, and everything in between.
      Between us, we have buckets of 1/300 stuff (some of which dates from the 80s, and which we had forgotten about - I also bought a boatload of moderns from Jack a few years back).

      I do like what I've seen of Spearhead in the past, though it makes much of the 'axis map', which looks great, feels like a good ideas, but sometimes hampers play I feel. I agree - I can see massive games with FFT3.

      Yes - FFT3SOG is also known as 'TaskForce PotatoChip' depending on the game snacks ;)

  3. Good to get a ‘full battle’ done in a single session, I’m not a big fan of games that leave you running out of playing time and you end up ‘discussing’ the likely ending.

    1. Thanks Norm.
      Yes - things happen very quickly. I think the natural lulls in combat are in there too, to be honest, ...whereby the quality checks allow for units being put out of action or crews thinking twice about going on - it all seems to work fluidly and be a part of modern combat. It's quite a powerful mechanism.

  4. I always say why play with one tank when you can use a bucket full!. Looks great and with so much hard hitting stuff facing off it makes sense stuff gets removed at a quick pace. Do the rules do this to encourage a more cautious play style?.

    1. Cheers. Oh yeah - I think if your troops are a tad more delicate in terms of staying power, you definitely play to your strengths; though if you are outnumbered, but have quality on your side, you can take more chances. It's a nice way for things to work, and a nice contrast between opposing forces.

  5. Interesting, must try to read these. Guess they suit the ‘bang your dead’ modern period armour encounters. Is there any command and control type stuff or is it more a free for all type system ?

    1. I think they're definitely optimised to cut out a lot of needless drudgery, in pursuit of a quicker game - which is a plus.
      At the end of the day, poorer quality units are more likely to (1)abandon vehicles and/or (2) just stay out of the fight - both options are modeled rather well.
      I think it would be a radically different game with Soviet Guards vs US in the Fulda gap for instance, but different in a good way.

      c&c is simply bu virtue of unit cohesion (which actually makes a big difference, as it allows flanking maneuvers), though I'd argue that the higher/lower QC values also lends themselves to C&C in general.
      These would make for a great group game for our 4 or 5 players.

  6. I'm not really familiar with FFT, but it would appear you made the Egyptian armor far too weak. My reading on Chinese Farm is that it was a very hard fought battle for both infantry and armor. The Egyptians did not just cut and run. Indeed, much (most?) of the armor fighting was at night, and there are post battle photos that show knocked out Egyptian and Israeli tanks side by side. If memory serves, I think the Egyptian armor were better equipped for night fighting.

    1. I can only add that the Egyptian player in this instance, was more than keen to echo your sentiments :)

      Yes, this was an experiment, and yes, there was some distinct variation in quality as we tested the system, so future kinks in the scenario can easily be worked out. Both sides did take losses, and the Quality Check is as much a (limited) morale check in addition to being a ready reckoner with regard to platoon/company effectiveness - hence a failed QC does not necessarily mean a loss, rather a disruption of effectiveness, which does echo much of the actual events.

      That said, Israeli quality could probably be shifted up a notch too, based on actual events vs what we found on table, but again, it's just a test of the rules, so no matter.

    2. The quality rules in FFT are very hard on lower quality forces. The "commercial" rules (as opposed to the quick-play free rules) have more troop grades to use but the D6 quality checks are very hard on poorer quality armies. It's a very well designed and slick game, but it gobbles up units very quickly.