Not only is ETC the biggest Flames of war event every year, it is also one of events that gathers the most data on the games played. This year Scott Palmer, one of the judges, was in charge of collecting scores from each game. This was done with a scoresheet that every captain filled out. In this article I will have a look at that information and see if there is anything we can learn from that.
First up, I would like to say that I am not a master in statistics or a wizard in excel or google sheets and any mistakes are fully my responsibility.
With 20 teams each consisting of 6 players playing 6 rounds, the ETC saw 360 games of flames of war. Out of those games, only 270 had all the information filled out so that will be the basis of all the calculations below in the Mission section. When looking a Nations and average points all 120 players are included.
Nations and points scored
At the ETC there are some rules when it comes to team composition. Only two players in a team are allowed to use the same nation. This, in its core, twists the numbers to a more equal split than we otherwise might see.
As can be seen in the graph above, the Germans were the most numerous with 35 players, followed by Americans 31, British 29, Soviets 14, Romanians 6, Finnish 3, Hungarians 2. The most obvious thing here is that out of the four big nations the Soviets are remarkably under-represented and that falls well in line with the widely accepted view that the Soviets are not as good in a competitive environment as the other three major nations. But what happens if we look at the average point score of each nation divided by the number of players? Remember that at the ETC you get 1 point for a win and 0 for a draw or loss.
Looking at this, it all seems pretty equal spread out, with the British and Romanian players scoring slightly higher average points and the Hungarians well below the overall average. Now, if we focus on the four major nations as they have the most players and therefore are less affected by a single player scoring high or low, we see that the British have the highest score with 1.83pt per player, American and German players score 1.66pt and the Soviet players score 1.64pt, meaning that the best nation (British) only scored 10% better than the worst (Soviet). With 10% variation, it must be said that this is well within statistical uncertainty with this amount of data.
But what happens if we look at the top 5 players from each nation?
Now all of a sudden this jump between the best nation and the worst nation gets bigger. The British players are still scoring the highest average with 4.8pt per player, followed by Americans and Germans with 4.4pt and, at the bottom, we again find the Soviet players with 3.8pt per player. Now this means that the top 5 soviet players score 20% fewer points than the best top 5 British players. Which in a tournament makes quite a big difference.
Now, as with all statistics, it is important to be sceptical. Even though the charts above seem to imply that British lists are more competitive than Soviets, it might also be because the best players feel like the Soviets are not good and therefore do not bring them, which only tends to cement this perceived truth. Paul Stovell from Team England still managed 5 wins with the soviets.
Just to show that statistics is a tricky dance partner, below is a chart of all players that scored 5pt or more at the ETC as a % of that group of 5+ points players compared to % of overall players.
Looking at this we can see that both British, American and Soviet lists are represented less in the top category than they should be, if compared to the total number of players, with Germans and Romanians performing better than expected.
Attack, Manoeuvre or Defend.
Another commonly accepted view is that in V4 FOW it is easier to win as the attacker than it is as the defender, so let’s take a look at that. With each team having to field 2 Attack stances, 2 Manoeuvre and 2 Defend we know we have an equal split among the stances. Now if we look at all the games that resulted in a win for either side we get the diagram below.
Of the 270 games recorded, 202 games ended in a win. 42% of those wins were won by a player using the Attack stance and only 28-29% wins by the players using Defend and Manoeuvre respectively. Here we see a clear advantage in attacking. So why is that? If we now look at matchups where the players use different stances, let’s see if that can tell us something.
Just like in the overall diagram, we see that in Attack vs Defend there is a clear advantage in attacking, where the attacker wins almost 50% of the games, the Defender wins 35% and 16% end in a draw.
Even worse is for Attack vs Manoeuvre, with the Attacker winning a staggering 58% of the time, Manoeuvre winning just 31% and draws happening 10% of the games.
Lastly, Manoeuvre vs Defend sees an equal split with Defend winning 39%, Manoeuvre winning 33% and 27% ending in a draw.
This seems to indicate that it’s not only enough to be the attacker in a mission, because if that was true, then the Manoeuvre stance would also win more against the Defend stance as Manoeuver will always be attacking against Defend. This sends me to look at missions as the Extended Battle Plans matrix has different missions depending on the Stance matchups.
For looking at the missions, I have only looked at games where there was a difference in stances as the scoresheet didn’t have a note telling who was the attacker in games where the players had the same stances, for example, Defend vs Defend.
Now, this is pretty interesting. There are a couple of missions where there is a significant difference in win rates (2:1 or higher) by the mission attacker compared to the mission defender. Most clearly, this is seen in Encirclement, which is a mission only available if its Attack stance vs Defend stance, Fighting Withdrawal which is available in Attack vs Manoeuvre and Attack vs Defend and finally Spearpoint, which shows up in Attack vs Manoeuvre and Manoeuvre vs Defend. Of note is also Counter Attack, Outflanked and Killing Ground, with only Killing Ground being in favour of the mission defender.
This points in the direction of it not being a stance problem, but a specific mission problem. That being said we should remember that not all missions were played at the ETC and with the lack of data on certain missions, this is not a conclusive list.
How to win.
The last thing I will have a look at in this piece is how games were won or ended. Of the 360 games, 220 had notes telling us how the game ended. In the diagram below we see that the most common way a game ended was by one side Holding an objective.
One thing to bear in mind when looking at the diagram is that not all missions can be won by defending an objective. All missions in the Extended Battle Plan Matrix can be won by breaking the opponent’s force and by taking an enemy objective, but only in 13 missions out of 18 can you win by defending if you pick the Defend stance and only 8 out of 18 if you pick Manoeuvre.
So what can we learn from all this stuff?
The obvious answer is that if you play to win you should make an Attack list, made with British or Germans. But another thing is that if you make a defence list, it is hugely important that you make a list that can attack in fair fight missions because in 1/3 of the missions you will have to take an objective to win as breaking formations is hard and only happens 1/10 times.
Thank you to the few survivors that made it so far in a long wall of text about something as nerdy as FOW ETC statistics.
Happy hobbying to all of you and please leave a comment if you have something on your mind.