Today we propose an introduction to ETC Flames of War 2023, which will be held in Belgium, Mid War, from August 4th to August 6th.
What is the ETC?
ETC stands for European Team Championship. It’s an annual competition initiated in the early 2000s, and Flames of War joined in 2012. The tournament gather players from all around the world, with 1 team of 6 players per country, battling for 3 days, 6 rounds, for the title of World Champion. Game are 1vs1, with a specific pairing procedure allowing a little bit of control on what is facing what, and limitations to insure diversity. Results are team based, with a scoring enforcing victory (1 BP for Win, 0 BP for Tie or Loss, 8-1 scoring system in goal average). Between 120 and 180 players gather every year, making ETC the largest Flames of War event of the year. From season to season, the period rotates depending on Battle Front actuality and players’ wishes (all decisions are taken under a very democratic process). 2023 is Mid War (following 2022 Late War), 101 points, using Battle Plans and New Missions. All Teams must bring different armies, from at least 4 Nations, with a couple of additional constraints (such as limitation on Scouts, access to MW Monsters which actually saw combat and not the prototypes that weren’t battle tested in 1942-1943…).
You can follow the event on social networks as well as on its own dedicated website
Albeit the event is competitive, the tournament is very open and inclusive, enforcing the good spirit of Flames of War game across the globe. Almost all the best players in the world are gathered, ETC spearheading the competitive scene, and making the game progresses. All that in a friendship mood, meeting old friends and making new ones. Lists of all Teams were due by July 1st, players and teams still have some time to adjust their strategy but not their list anymore.
A foreword on Team Building and Pairing up
Before diving in the analysis, just a foreword : this is a team event, meaning that what matters is the team. Sure, games are player vs player, but you can’t ignore the group aspect of it. You win altogether or fail as individuals.
First reminder is teams can’t exactly bring what they want : both to promote diversity and for the sake of balance, each team will have to make choices. E.G : you can bring 2 GER lists, but you can’t bring 3. You can’t use the same Formation or Command Card across your team. Believe me when we say there are lot of bargaining in the teams to determine who is taking what to the party !
Secondly, they have to share Battle Plans. Before the round begin, when you know your opponent, you have to attribute 2 Attack, 2 Maneuvre, 2 Defense stances on your 6 Forces. So not, it’s not all Attack like we are use to see in many places recently… Albeit stances can change from round to round, it is fair to state players will consider possible stances when building their Force, with a good team strategy in mind. E.G : hoarding of Medium tanks are very unlikely to risk being the Defender in Deep Reserves missions.
Then, players are not matched together randomly. Using a “we-go” system, Teams will propose to their opponents Force to choose from to determine match ups. Namely : 1 Force is “dropped”, and 2 opponents Forces are “clicked” against it, with the “dropped” Force selecting which one it will face. Going on until all the 6 games are determined. There is a lot of strategy here, where you try to avoid bad match ups for your team, and try to secure better games to try to maximize your scoring or at least have your boys and gales enjoy better games (yes, there is 3 times try in this sentence … this process is not guaranteed success, even with a whole decade of practice !).
The Attacker is superbly favored in V4, so if you want to maximize your Attacking chances and lower your Defense expectancies, you have to do the pair up right. And obviously the other Team is doing the same!
Although the games per se remain FoW 1on1 games, the whole pre-game strategy, both in Team building and in the pair up process (both being very much linked) makes this event quite a special one, fairly different from a pure open competition anybody can attend every week-end.
What is the 2023 Meta likely to be?
A big change was initiated recently by Battle Front with the inclusion of Dynamics Points, just in time to be used at ETC. This most welcomed change brings a little bit of balance in a period that was lacking much to be enjoyable. It’s fair to state it’s not quite yet “bringing the balance in the Force”, but that’s a good step forward.
This, combined with the relatively quietness of the competitive scene this 2022-2023 season, makes it a bit difficult to establish a clear meta for this edition. However, we will try to guess a little bit with you what to expect, loking through Nation by Nation.
Once the great bogey men of MW, due to access to numerous and cheap Scout and cost efficient AT, the German took quite a punch in Dynamics on both their favorite toys. Also, the limitation of Scout force the GER players to look at other options. On the plus side, GER got a boost in the Medium Tanks area : even if they are still expensive, and may feel frustrating (= you will pay highly for a Veteran Careful Tank, with an okayish armor and lack-of-punch gun, unless you pay a very high premium), they do bring options for their gameplay. GER still have the stopgap Tiger 1, a very expensive toy, yet that can be key in certain builds and results expected outcomes.
GER will also need to rely more on combined arms (while previously their Recce were jack-of-all-trades), having to use the significant advantage of their well-equipped and skilled infantry with their panel of anti-tank guns, which provides answer to pretty much every threat. GER is also the Nation that can complete their pallet of tools with the more Allies.
The challenges GER will need to overcome @ETC 2023 are, pre-game, the equilibrium of their budget (quite complex considering their pricing and changes in Dynamics), and in-game, the capacity to have the right tools at the right place at the right moment (which is fairly more difficult than other Nations).
Overall, we believe the GER are still a good force to be reckoned for. GER used to be the most represented Nation @ETC. It may not be the case this year, yet we believe they will still keep on be close to at least 1 in each Team, and representing a good 20% to 25% of all lists attending given their popularity and possibilities of game.
A very iconic faction of MW, ITA are quite an interesting mix of fairly decent troopers using mostly outdated equipment. Which is a great combination in FoW. ITA Infantry based lists can quite be a twisted mirror of the GER, or can even go the road of the Legion of Rome for dirty cheap costs (yet less reliable troops). From the Tanks perspective, their most powerful tool (most would say shenanigan), the L6/40, took a much deserved blow, making the M14/41 a better horse, even if both can play together fine. The Semovente are quite a good middle ground, with a mobility, armor and gun that is below their other Nations counterparts, but with the access to Artillery and aggressive pricing. Last but not least, ITA got access to the Semovente 90mm SP (which actually saw fights in Sicily and Italy in 1943), complementing nicely their AT capacities with an armored and mobile tool, and a massive AT threat that needs to be considered while building lists for this event.
ITA represent fairly great opportunities for the ETC Teams, either as a complement of GER lists (Unit or Formation), or on their owned (with or without GER Allies).
ITA are quite a nice reflect of MW : they have all the instruments to fulfill the Missions, but they will need to be piloted right, and they could end up sadly of the mark if the match up / scenario isn’t quite adequate. We reckon they can be the X Factor of this edition, pretty much dependent on Teams overall strategies and available players. Let’s bet on a fair 10 to 15% of lists, perhaps more or perhaps less, hard to tell.
Minor Axis Allies – Finland/Romania/Hungary
We’ve bagged those “Axis – Minor allies” in one category for several reasons. First, they are the hardest to collect toys of MW. While every-one else share easy access plastics kits, those are mainly stuck with resin-metal models, pricier and harder to find (even if manufacturers (such as PSC) and 3D print facilitate some of the collection). Making these quite hard to read Nations, with an identity not as well defined as the 5 major nations of MW : most of their equipment are derrived from GER and/or USSR, their “special rules” are not as striking as the ones of the major nations, and their options are more limited. Still, these can constitute niche Builds that can be quite efficient: ROM or FIN with light tanks, HUN or FIN with infantry… they may not be as straightforward as the ones of the major nations, but ETC is actually quite a place where they can shine, thanks to the pair ups process which can allow them to dodge certain difficult match up, or bet heavy on some. Additionally, it may be be better to consider the inclusion of Allies (both Formations and Units), notably to the GER, where those minor nations cover nice holes in their gameplay (2 KV for the price of 1 Tiger 1 and being far more efficient in Assault, notably with Light Tanks which the GER doesn’t really have…).
FIN/ROM/HUN are interesting tools, that can both benefit from the diversity required at ETC (no duplication of Formation, need for 4 different nations, pairs ups…) and suffer from the competitiveness of the ETC’s environment (where Teams also tend to secure their most comfortable builds instead of trickier ones). In a nutshell, we may not see many FIN/ROM/HUN lists, but the ones that will be will be solid builds, generally well piloted by experienced players. So we bet on them being 5% to 10% of lists.
The MW USSR are the polar opposite of the LW USSR : they are top of the food-chain. They were already good pre-Dynamics, they are sky high now. They do benefit from the stars aligning that we haven’t seen in the game since V3s reign of dual purpose artillery regiments : MW makes handling medium and heavies tanks quite a challenge, more so with Dynamics slapping the GER AT scarecrow, even more so with LFTF deleting the “trap” tactics. Guess who can brings literally tons of medium and heavies? Also, USSR still benefit from their cheap support units (infantry, AT, artillery, recce) in order for the tanks to keep on doing their work. And they still have access to not-great yet super-cheap light tanks. Soviets may be easy to target, with lot of Reckless and Aggressive all over the board, but at one point the game comes to maths-of-war. To delete something, you do need your opponent to fail its save, and you do need to succeed with your firepower. Considering the numbers of hulls, and how fast they can get at you, with an umbrella of protection over their head, would you have enough firepower to stop them from reaching your line (where they are quite safe)? Not so sure.
USSR are really kings of the MW hill right now, with highly competitive Builds, doubled with this great capacity to limit the possible losses (= they may not win every time, but they will hardly lose), excellent for this ETC. Teams must have good plans to stop them from stomping everything in their path. We believe all Teams will include at least 1 USSR list, and many will lead on having 2. A good 25% to 30% list representation here.
The USA are an interesting nation for MW. They do embrace this period (and version) spirit of bringing quite a fair number of models on the board, mobility, and decent firepower (including artillery), which are far from being bad, but absolutely not close to excellence either. USA are really a “mid-ground” Nation, being able to play any role. This is actually really nice from a Team perspective, where you can have a dependable Force to play as a firefighter. A little bit less from a player’s experience, as USA are bested pretty much everywhere, so it’s up to the commander to be skilled enough. USA do benefit from Dynamic Points, with their Medium Tanks and SP AT being downed in points, allowing for builds that can play well in mobile fighting, backed up by cheap artillery, in line with what they do in LW yet, less efficiently. USA is also the sole Faction with the self-dependent Infantry in MW, the Armored Rifle Platoon (and sub part Units with 2 Bazookas) : in a world where you need tanks and guns to deal with tanks, having numerous integrated portable AT is quite an interesting option. They also benefit from being a quite easy to collect nation, and easy to master for less experienced players, making them a solid argument to have them more present on ETC tables than, let’s say, ITA.
USA have a high challenge overcoming their poor skill (Trained on certain units, Green on most … and Green hurts a lot while ranging in Artillery and Assault). They also have a difficult positioning being behind pretty much everybody, while being able to compensate for the flaws of some. All-in-all, USA are quite a not bad Nation to include in an ETC metagame, but need a little bit more thinking about than GER or USSR. It’s hard to tell how many will be here, so let’s be conservative and forecast a quite large scope of 10% to 20% of lists.
The children of Churchill sits right in the middle of USSR, USA, and GER. There are indeed a mix of both. They can play hoarding tanks (light / medium / heavies), as well as solid Confident+ Careful gun lines, with another option to throw Recce in the mix. UK have interesting builds to toy with, able to emphasize one or another element of gameplay : Offense with Tanks, Defense with Infantry/Gun/Recce. From an Offense perspective, UK does it on the same pattern yet differently from the USSR, with either tons of Crusader/Stuart closing the gap fast or cumbersome Churchill, with less armor and motivation than the Soviets yet harder “to hit” ratings. From a Defense perspective, UK have more specialized troops than GER, relying more in an inter-arms cooperation, but more capabilities to multiply denial areas, with Recce acting as mobile firefighters/delayers. UK also do have a possibility to play “USAish” with their medium tanks and artillery : it’s different, yet under the same pattern. The USA option also bring the mobile heavy AT in the form of the M10, which compensate one of the key weakness of MW UK, their capacity to deal with Armor 8+. 17pdr can do the job, but being Immobile and Large Guns seriously impairs their effectiveness.
UK bring solid options to an ETC team, with straightforward positioning and game plans. To perform, they do need to find a way around their heavy AT issue, or rely on the pair ups process to avoid big threats. As well as find a solution for their Reserves system : with so many small and not expensive Units available, filling 41 points of Reserves can be complex, especially considering what you effectively need on board to do the job (e.g : M10 are great reserves fillers, but can the UK line hold if they are not here and the opponent has KV or Churchill ?). Overall, we believe the UK are good, less straightforward than the USSR, and harder to balance than GER. That’s why we believe they will represent 15% to 20% of all lists.
Wrapping Up !
Our general feeling is MW can provide both interesting and engaging games, and some very frustrating ones. The balance is not quite there yet, and even the most rounded lists can still end up being helpless in certain match ups and scenarios, regardless of players’ skills. The pre-game strategy (both lists and team building, and pair ups) will take an important role this year, perhaps more than any previous year. We believe the “power ranking” puts Soviets on top, with German and British under it, with the others following in no particuliar order American, Italian, Finnish, Hungarian and Romanian. Concerning attendance, let’s summerise that as a bet on the major presence of Soviet lists (25% to 30%), a significant presence of German list (20% to 25%), closely followed by British (15% to 20%), with a degree of uncertainty on American lists (10% to 20%) as well as the Italians (10% to 15%), with the minor powers Finland/Hungary and Romanaia filling the gap (5% to 10%).
All in all, it will be an interesting edition to watch, so stay tuned this summer !