“Polar Bear IV” Tournament Report

Today, Jökull “Comrade Red Alert” brings us news from the fourth Polar Bear tournament, held in Reykjavík, Iceland in late January of this year.  This year’s event was the first held where Team Yankee was the main event, rather than the normal WWII, late war.

Happy Gamers at Polar Bear 4

A quick history of Polar Bears

The idea of hosting the Tournament came in 2013 when a group of Icelandic players went for the European Grand Tournament in Hockley. It was clear to us that meeting people from other countries that share in the hobby is good fun so we wanted to invite others to come to Iceland. It was also clear to us that we would not become the largest tournament, but we could be one of the most fun ones! Our motto even became: “He who has the most fun wins!”

There is a small fun story about the name. I am enthusiastic about history and thought to use something that connected to Iceland in World War II. My first idea was to name it after the British invasion. Yes the British invaded and occupied Iceland on the 10 May 1940 – same day as Germany invaded France and Churchill became prime minister so it may have been clouded by those events. Also no shots were fired as Iceland didn’t have armed forces and trusted others to respect their neutrality, which never works for anyone who is not Swiss. So I looked up what the British had called the operation and was dismayed to see it was Operation Fork.

Home 8. Dined and worked. Planning conquest of Iceland for next week. Shall probably be too late! Saw several broods of ducklings.

Alexander Cadogan, British Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, diary entry for May 4 1940.

Operation Fork is not a name you can work with. The Germans even had a better name for their planned invasion of Iceland – Plan Icarus – appropriately “Fall Ikarus” in German.
Luckily the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division was the first occupying force, and they changed their divisional insignia while stationed in Iceland to the Polar Bear and that is a name that you can work with. (There is also an Polar Beer which is most appropriate!).

The format of Polar Bear is a standard weekend tournament; three games of Saturday and two games on Sunday.
What we added was to have a huge battle on Saturday evening. This would keep the group together and give everyone a chance to know each other better. It seems such a waste to have everyone come all this way and not spend more time together!

Polar Bear IV – to the eighties!

This year we went for Team Yankee since the ruleset was well established and the transition in Flames of War was not complete when we planned this.
We missed the Main Battle Tanks (MBT) in Team Yankee. There are so many cheap counters to the MBT that they have become rare in most battles. So we made a compromise, each army had 65 points and 32 had to be spent on MBT.
This turned out well with several advantages. It was a challenge to the players in making the list and allowed them to bring their MBT to play. It also made the games faster, both in play and in playing time. I think everyone enjoyed this set up.

Fast and brutally deadly – the MBTs make a reappearance!

A running joke during the tournament had to do with Montgomery. You could say his spirit was present during the weekend.
Firstly since the big battle was set in the 2nd Battle of El Alamein and secondly due to this quote from Monty’s memoirs: 

“There were many reasons why we did not gain complete success at Arnhem.”

Bernard Montgomery – ever the self critic

This phrase “Not a complete success” was used frequently.
A good example was when Jerry moved four Flakpanzer Gepards to shoot down three Hinds. He scored 11 hits from 16 dice.
The Soviet player managed four saves and Jerry went on to fail seven firepower tests. So it was “Not a complete success”.
There were many more examples of such “Not a complete success” during the tournament – but they were all made better by this observation.

The winning army of Polar Bear 4.

Games use the Swiss draw, red on blue (as far as possible) all except the last fight, which is then the two highest players.

The two top players battling it out in the final round, from the left, Søren – British force and Łukasz – W.German force.

The following missions were played:

DUST UP
NO RETREAT
COUNTERATTACK
REARGUARD
FREE-FOR-ALL

We will not use Counterattack again, with spearhead units it flips the mission and allows the attacker to seriously redeploy and the defender become the attacker with only half his force.

At the end of the party (tournament) the standing was:

1.Lukasz – W.Germ – 24 (5 wins – 5-5-6-4-4)
2. Soren – British – 23 (4 wins – 5-6-4-5-3)
3. Frímann – W.Germ – 21 (4 wins 6-4-4-4-3)
4. Jerry Lane – W.Germ – 20 (2 wins 6-3-5-3-3)
5. Júlíus Karl – Soviet – 19 (3 wins 3-2-6-4-4)
5. Jökull – Soviet – 19 (2 wins 6-3-3-3-4)
7. Kristleifur – Soviet – 18 (3 wins 2-6-2-4-4)
7. Tim Bos – Dutch – 18 (3 wins 3-1-4-6-4)
9. Grzegorz – W.Germ – 17 (3 wins 2-4-5-2-4)
10. Gunnar Andri – Czechoslovakia – 16 (2 wins 3-1-1-4-4)
10. Andri Geir – USA – 16 (2 wins 5-1-3-3-4)
10. Freek Jon – Soviet – 16 (1 win 2-6-3-2-3)
13. Adam – USA – 15 (1 win 1-3-2-3-6)
14. Hákon – British – 13 (0 wins 1-3-3-3-3)
15. Mateusz – Soviet – 12 (1 win 3-1-4-3-1)
16. Kristján – British – 10 (1 win 1-4-1-1-3)

Total War – the Saturday Evening “big game”

Then there was the large battle, Total War. The battle has no effect on the outcome of the tournament, but is a fun event.
We divided the players into two teams, with the current highest scoring players as team captains. We used a sizable table (the table that was 360x180cm or 12×6’ this year) and forces for 200 points.
We have so far used the 2nd Battle of El Alamein for these battles. Jökull has all the required models fully painted. For this kind of battle only tanks and guns are used, since infantry slows things down. We recommend that the forces be around 200 – 250 points so that the table still has a lot of free space to maneuver making the game very memorable.

The team leader assigns the platoons to his team members.
There are two important rules,
1) NO MICROMANAGING – the team leader can formulate a plan and give orders, but it is the player who moves and measures.
2) THINK BIG, in a battle like this you must look at platoons as teams and everything has to move fast.

In general we follow the Total War rules (see below) except with the introduction of the Einherjar Handicap! The handicap means that at the start of each turn the team must take as many shots as the objectives they are holding. Each team volunteers the brave drinkers and if you don’t drink it is not a problem, but it means that your teammates must do more. The game lasts 7-8 rounds so it can be hectic. By the end of Saturday night, spirits are high and everyone has become great friends.

Silent and brave should be the son of a leader,
and brave in battle,
Glad and merry should each man be,
Until the day of his death.

translation from Hávamál, an ancient and long poem on the virtues of a good Viking life
Glad and merry should each man be!

In fact the end outcome is usually secondary to the fun that has been had. We also pick out the most daring player, the luckiest player, the unluckiest and the most useless (he gets a mule team as a prize and must paint it for next time as it will be his team).

We do have special prizes for the Total War Battle.
The best commanding General, the next best commanding General, the most successful daring adjutant (this year it went to the commander of a platoon of L6 tankettes who the British ignored to their peril and the brave L6 ended up destroying three Crusader troops!
The least contributing adjutant – who this year commanded three Crusader troops… and then to the luckiest and unluckiest players.
This all goes well with our motto: “He who has the most fun wins!”

Who wins is secondary to everyone having fun. During the weekend all refreshments, drinks and meals are included in the admission as well as a T-shirt with this years logo. So winning a prize is just a nice bonus.

The first Polar Bear was in 2014, again in 2015 and then 2017 and 2019. We plan to do the next the last weekend in January 2020 as it is too good a year to miss. Next time will be Flames of War Mid War and of course there will be a big battle, although we might change the setting next time.

If you are interested to learn more, here are some useful links:
Hockley 2013 – https://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=4145
First Polar Bear – https://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=4352
Second Polar Bear – https://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=4806
Total War Mission – https://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=4053
Polar Bear Tournament Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Polar-Bear-Tournament-279745112231741

Category: Flames of War

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.