Flames of War – Competition in Late War (Part 1)

This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Steve “The Lord” Charlton – one of the greatest FoW competitor of all times. R.I.P friend.

Hi All,
Fred here.
Today I would like to share my thoughts on Competition, mainly in Late War (LW). Many of my comments can be used in Flames of War in general, but the LW period is the one I view as most suited for competitive gameplay.
I hope players will find useful tips to keep on playing or jump into competitive FoW, which can be a most joyful and rewarding experience. As a foreword, none of what follows are preacher’s words: FoW is a game, so whatever Players feel comfortable playing with is good. Just build up whatever combination you are satisfied with, go out there, play and see if it works for you.

This will be a 4 part articles, with 1st general introduction, then 2nd and 3rd focus on drivers, with a final 4th on metagame.

Want more on your shelves ? It’s about time you start deserving them !

Late War, a competitive environment ?

OK, that’s a catchy title. So let’s expand a bit; to rate a game as “competitive”, I personnally expect it to have:

  • A good core set of rules and playing options,
  • Be strategically and tactically interactive,
  • Let a good portion of players’ skills and choices (pre and in game) be the decisions makers,
  • Be wide enough to include mutiple variances and combos, for players to challenge each others on a fair basis.

Competitors are (or at least should be) people trying to better themselves in the hobby (of toy soldiers – so let’s not be too serious, right ?). Always learning from their games and playing partners, playing the game as best as they can, in full sportsmanship, with the goals to spend good time on a social experience, and with nothing to win but respect.

Since inception of V4 (2018), Late War has grown massively. Starting with Fortress Europe (a “transition” book between Mid War and Late War), it now includes the full covering of the summer 1944 period (D-Day + Bagration), as well as partially autumn 1944 and winter/spring 1944-1945 (Bulge, the Western Front). We currently have 11 Books & 13 Command Cards Decks for Late War:
– Fortress Europe (American, British, German, Soviets)
– D-Day (American, British, German/SS)
– Bagration (German, Soviet, Finish/Romanian/Hungarian)
– Bulge (American, German, British).
Battlefront announced 2 more Books & Decks to come in the next months: Berlin (German and Soviets).
13 Books & 15 Command Cards Decks overall, perhaps more if we get surprises (expanded winter/spring 1944 ? Italy ? Pacific ?).

It is fair to state that, with so many options, all Players (competitive or not) may find pleasure in this period. But, are those numerous options enough to make a game fit for competition ?
I reckon yes.

1. Honesty

If you want to play Flames of War, and you want a fair, well-designed Period, suited for balanced opposition, with opportunities on both sides … that’s Late War you are looking for.
Well, pretty much what any game should be to be classified as good, and more over a suitable environment for Competition.

Mid War has currently significant unbalancing : a pattern difficult to see, debatable pricing, units in tough spots, difficult combinations to build, secured gameplay relying on an handful of units…
All and more making the period not really fit for competition IMHO.

Early War is unfortunately a souvenir stuck in V3 so far (although there are good fan made adaptations for V4 around, and perhaps BF’s love in the future, who knows ?).

2. Diversity

Late War provides 4 “Big” Nations : German, American, British, Soviets, and 3 “Minor” Nations : Finish, Romanian, Hungarian. Each with their own gaming identity (equipment, profiles, building options, play-styles…).

E.G : American rely on powerful artillery and fast and versatile tanks, while Finish have outdated equipment but used by super soldiers (Fearless / Veteran / Careful).

3. Versatility

In each Nation, there are numerous Builds (= combination of troops within the same Force) possible, some even changing the Nation identity depending on the Book/Cards used.

E.G : by Summer 1944, German has reliable troops (with the average Confident / Veteran / Careful trio) with good equipment (MG, half tracks, faust, decent tanks…). By Autumn 1944, troops reliability decrease (more and more Trained / Aggressive, even Reluctant one) while their equipment becoming still better (Tiger II, JadgTiger, twin Faust… they just lack the men to man them).

4. Availability

Even if we may have long discussions on how regular some builds are recurring and some aren’t showing, fact is still there are thousands of viable combinations granted by the books and cards. Combinations that can be exploited by players to have armies offering new challenges or being able to answer the new challenges brought by the newer stuff available and meta-game evolution.

E.G : building a Soviet Force using support & command cards from Bagration, adding a Formation from Fortress Europe, and adding Romanian Allies.  

5. Balance

There are no auto-win Builds in LW. Some Builds are more powerful than others, or have higher scoring probabilities, but currently no Builds has “no answer” with what’s available for players.

E.G : a much as Recce Formations are good in V4 LW, they have counters in the form of Light Tanks fitted to hunt them, heavy artillery that can wreak them from above, infantry gaining more personal AT to keep them at bay…

6. Evolution

Albeit balance may not always be on the menu (notably with pricing/availability of certain units, efficiency from certain Formations/Units over others), the metagame of LW evolved positively since V4 inception, with Units/Formations/Forces going up and down (or down and up), a proof that the game is living and competitors have to adapt constantly. More importantly, no issue is left unanswered.

E.G : British Italy Churchill were kings in 2018/2019, now in 2022 with all Infantries having access to portable AT (some in great number, such as the new German twin Panzerfaust/Shrek infantries) and all factions sporting AT13+ units, they are not as powerful as they were.

Clearly, Flames of War is not as a competitive game as others, even in its most developed period (Late War). Comparing for instance with Games Workshop – 40K, which have more factions, monthly new toys/FAQ/points reviews, and a much larger players base, FoW is not boxing in the same category. But it is safe to state FoW LW is sufficiently well constructed, wide and supported enough, to provide a viable environment for players to enjoy.

And ticks the characteristics of a suitable for competition game.

ETC, the most challenging tournament of the season : 120 players from 20 countries, worldwide – yes, it’s a great social experience ! (note for the future : get a better photographer…)

Drivers of competitive lists

Currently, if we were to dress the portrait of a current performing competitive Late War list, we can say it is mainly driven by:

  • Inter-arms cooperation,
  • Core and Utilities,
  • Assets balance,
  • On top of these, something quite specific to LW showing as a recurring pattern: I call the “Rule of 4”.

Of course, not all performing Late War lists fit all those criteria, some take liberties with them, because of some universal factors than can’t be ignored.

A Game of People

Flames of War is a game of players above all else. However good a build may be, it only represents a fraction of what’s needed to win at the game. The actual player is a key component: they will make the decisions that drive a force towards success or defeat and how they react to any given event cannot always be predictable… with another human person doing the same on the opposite side of the board!


How a player designed their list to fit specifics and their ability to adapt it. Concepts are often driven by environments or factors away from the actual playing of the game e.g. if they play in a Club where everybody is bringing heavies or tons of artillery batteries, or tournaments requirements (e.g : team events don’t obey the same rules as individual events), or game time available (e.g : you don’t design your force the same if you have 2 hours or 3 hours to play your games), or even an idea that a player is following (e.g : building a list with X artillery or Y tanks) or simply historical interest.

What about Luck ?

You will have noticed I don’t reckon on luck as a driving factor. With FoW being a wargame, luck is an inherent part of it. You may play as best as you can, if you don’t roll as needed or if your opponent rolls better than what can be expected, battle will always be complicated.
Regardless of how you and your opponent rolls, this type of luck can be mitigated against. Especially at FoW, which is essentially a game of risks management. You can’t blame it on the dice if you set out with  plan to use a single die for a critical shot and miss, or if you expect to win a shooting duel hitting on 7+ or 8+.

There are tons of articles on the topic of luck in wargames, here is how I run my lists designs and games to mitigate luck.

Reach for Certainty

Always try to reach “100% certainty” in your actions. This is a bit of probabilities and statistics heresy (sorry to my mathematicians friends), but not making rocket science, you can “count” probabilities quite simply at FoW. For instance, if you have to hit something on 4+ (50% chances of success), then you need at least 2 shots to “get your 100%”. Same, if you are to dislodge a Confident platoon (without HQ) in assault, which has a 50% chance to break (4+), then play so as to expect at least 2 rounds of combat to achieve it.

Play for Failure

A lesson from one of the greatest player I faced years ago (Steve Charlton) “Always play considering what you do will fail“. Instead of challenging the odds, consider you will roll below average and your opponent will roll above average. When you are prepared for the worse, success is actually easier to achieve. And Late War is a super great area were luck can be fairly managed.

Dice : don’t blame them, just deal with it !

So there you have a background of why Late War Flames of War is suitable for competitive play and the drivers that influence it. My next  article will cover the player controlled drivers. Stay tuned !

Knowledge is power : share it widely !