By Ty Beard and Paul Minson
4.5 out of 5 stars
While Fistful of TOWs 3 (FFT3) is the latest iteration of a system that’s been out for a while now, I feel it doesn’t always get its due as compared to other wargames in its genre. FFT 3 is a game that allows you to do operational level wargaming with miniatures, and it plays fast. It says on the back of the rules that a turn “…should average no more than 15 minutes.” As someone who plays it often enough, I can attest that that is no exaggeration. Simply put, this game delivers where Command Decision and Spearhead fail.
The game scale is one vehicle model, or stands of 4-6 infantry represents a platoon, and 1” = 100 yards. However, the designer recommends for infantry-heavy games that you reduce this scale for 1” = 50 yards, and we have often used that scale when playing conflicts pre-1967 as it works for WWII-era gun ranges and movement rates. While the book is 458 pages, the rules themselves are 158 pages, with the rest of the book being designers notes, a primer on miniature wargaming, army lists, scenario design advice and scenarios themselves, vehicle and infantry stand information, as well as a chapter on how to add vehicles to the game yourself. In short, it’s not just a set of bog-standard set of wargame rules, but an entire wargame set served on a silver platter.
The game is fast playing and revolves around troop quality as the almighty arbiter. I rather like that, as often in the game, lousy troops with good gear will lose to good troops with lousy gear. (A historical example of this is Israel in the 1948 and 1956 conflicts, and India in the 1947 and 1965). The game also has a particularly good example of what a quality artillery resolution system looks like. I will admit it’s a bit daunting at first, but once you use it a few times, it’s old hat. It also displays just how destructive modern artillery is.
The rules themselves revolve around the humble D6, which makes the game accessible to a wide variety of gamers (Name a gamer of any level who doesn’t have at least a few D6s lying around?) The combat is simple, roll to hit, with one die per shot (modified by chosen fire modes), and then for each hit, compare the target’s armor level to the penetration of the shot. Then, roll the difference. On a 4 or 5, the unit takes a quality check and rolls against its troop quality to stay. If it fails, then it’s out for the game. On a 6, the unit is destroyed. What’s the difference, you ask? If a unit fails a quality check, then it might come back after for campaigns!
The game has some great rules to add weapons systems to it, but to be honest, you’re rarely going to need to add anything as this game truly does have everything. That said, yours truly wrote a design spreadsheet to cover the complexity of the design rules. It is the hardest aspect of the game. Considering it is not required for game play. I will say that’s a plus.
The army lists are concise and solid for a gamer to understand what is needed, and the stand inventory at the end of each army list is a nice touch. That said, I will admit to some confusion by myself when dealing with some of the larger units (Soviet formations especially). I do wish there had been more formations included, but that’s certainly not the fault of the game, or the designer in question (Every gamer wants more for their money!)
The game can handle everything from 2mm to 15mm (The writer mostly plays the game in 6mm, which was the intended scale, but has played WWII in 15mm in the system, and has found with the 1” = 50 yards, that the 15mm figures work well with the system. In short, It’s not a problem at all.) The game is very flexible and does live up to the promise of its packaging, which I can’t say every game does that.
The flaws in the game are few. One of the biggest flaws is that the game, in my opinion, tries to do too much in terms of the historical periods that it tries to cover. But, that’s a minor complaint, and considering that there is a comparatively easy solution to the issue of WWII ranges and movement factors, one shouldn’t find it too much of an issue.
I also like the commonsense style the rules are written in, and it strikes a blow against the dreaded “Panzerbush” syndrome! This is a big pet-peeve of mine, and no rules set worth their salt should fall victim to it.
The other issue is the price, which can give some folks sticker shock, but I can tell you this? It’s worth it. The game comes in PDF, coil bound and hardbound variants. My humble advice? Get the hardbound. It’s more durable, and if you get the PDF later for the searchable text, you’ll have all the rules resources you need to play!
Support for the rules online is solid, with a Facebook group and a website, and Mr. Beard is quite responsive to requests and questions. The game is still available on Lulu and Wargames Vault. There’s also an introductory version available to try before you buy! I recommend this product heartily and if you play micro armor or 15mm large scale games, give these rules set a try. You’ll be glad you did.
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(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)