ETC – Business or Pleasure?

So what is this all about, this European Team Championship(ETC)? Is it a cutthroat tournament, where there is no place for fun and only winning counts? In this article I will take a look at the experiences I got first hand when Team Iceland went to the ETC for the very first time.

The scene.

ETC is a 3-day yearly event where players from all around the world come to play wargames. In previous years it have been an association of multiple game systems, notably Warhammer 40.000, Age of Sigma and Flames of War, but in 2022 the systems have split up and each held their own version of the ETC. 

In 2022 FOW ETC was held in Belgium about an hour’s drive from Brussels. Because many ETC’s have been held in countries with quite small Flames of War communities it has often been the case that  the tables for Flames of War have been a little sparse on terrain, but this year all the ETC veterans agreed that this was the best they ever seen and I can see why; 62 tables full of terrain. From the desert in North Africa to the ruins of Stalingrad and all in between. Tables made with sand from the beaches of Normandy, what more can a wargamer wish for.

20 National teams, each consisting of 6 players, had set sail and arrived in Belgium to find out who would be crowned the World Champions in Flames of War for 2022. Although it’s formal name is the “European” Team Championship this historically refers to a decision not to hold the competition outside Europe, and pretty much everyone treats it as the team World Championship.

Does only winning count?

All this talk about National Teams and World Champions in Flames of War makes it sound like everyone has come only to crush their enemies and conquer the world, but nothing could be further from the truth. Out of the 20 teams at the event I would guess only five teams come with the hope to win, with the rest of the teams coming just to have fun, meet old friends and get new ones. This can also be seen in the lists, where some lists are super builds, with every point spent on the best possible solution, while a lot of the other list are just as normal as the ones you would run into at any given game-night around the globe.
But just because a Team comes to win, doesn’t mean they can’t have fun and be great opponents as well.

Igor from Team USA

In the first round, Team Iceland was randomly matched with Team USA, who, on the final day, were crowned Champions. This might make you think that the games was hard and joyless, but not at all. All the players on Team Iceland had fun and enjoyable games against very good and very friendly players.

Finding your level.

Like in most tournaments being played, ETC uses the Swiss draw pairing system. For those unfamiliar with this, it just means you get paired up with a player/team that have acquired roughly the same amount of points as you. This have the big advantages that most often the less skilled teams/player only have to face overwhelming superiority one time during the tournament and that the good teams only get one round on easy mode. 

The Final Standings. (our friends from Austria are the team you can’t quite see)

For Team Iceland, that meant that after playing team USA(1) and losing 4-0, we played The Netherlands(17) 3-3 draw, Germany(11) 2-3 loss, New Zealand(12), 1-2 loss Belgium(16) 2-3 and Austria(20) 4-1 win.

I can’t stress enough how incredibly fun and friendly all the players I played were; I returned home, not only richer in experience but also in friends.

After hours

Like with all wargaming events, the European Team Championship is more about the people than the games.
Every night during the event, the town was full of players in the bars and restaurants. We enjoyed the company of Team Finland every night and also got to have dinner with Team Ireland.
On Saturday evening the Belgium organisers had planned a big buffet where most of the Teams attended, giving everyone the opportunity to mingle and meet old friends and future and past foes. An added bonus this year was that a lot of the Teams stayed at the same hotel, meaning the hotel bar was the best place in town to get a deep discussion about Flames of War and the pros and cons of the current game.

Do or Die

As you might already have figured out, going to the ETC was a ton of fun and all the people I talked to seemed to think it  had been a great event.
As for team Iceland we, didn’t encounter a single incident of power gaming or unfriendliness in the 36 games we played as a team and we must also have been nice opponents as we ended up winning Most Sporting Team of the tournament. My advice to everyone that gets the chance to go to the ETC, would be grab the chance and join the fun at the biggest Flames of War event of the year.

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