Flames of War – Competition in Late War (Part 3)

Hi All,

Fred here.
Today we continue our journey in LW Competition, with a focus on the last driver : the “Rule of 4”.
Keep your seat belt fasten, this one will keep on being technical !

Wait … a new rule ?

It’s not a rule as in “Rules Book”. But it’s a worthy guide line to have in mind when diving fully into competitive Late War. This is strategic and tactic, a data to integrate while building your list and determine how it will behave on table top. But also how opponent will play against, and same for you.

Again, it’s a game of people, and several winning lists don’t consider it. Just, in a game of risks management, whatever helps you mitigate your risks is always a good support.
Trust the humble broker in insurance I am.

Sure, sprinklers are not compulsory. But MAYBE they could have been useful here…

The AP Guns That Shoot Straight Forward

First, let’s start with Anti-Tank (AT).
AT is key in LW where you have high numbers of armored troops rolling around the battlefield. Let’s be clear here : FoW V4 (rules, missions, victory conditions…) heavily favors mobility over standing still. For those of you who have known previous editions, that’s a fair relief. V4 LW more, due to availability and pricing of this type of troops. Even if you don’t buy into a full-recce or light vehicles heavy Build, it’s fairly easy to get a 20+ vehicles very decent and balanced Force. To deal with armored troops in this game, you need AT : you may not need to kill them all, but you need to be able to at least threaten them so they don’t prevent you from winning.

We can categorize AT in 3, as answers to the current 3 armor categories of Late War :
– Light AT : 8 and below. Aimed to deal with Armor below 6.
– Medium AT : 9 to 12. Aimed to deal with Armor 8 and below.
– Heavy AT : 13 and above. Aimed to deal with Armor 9 and above.

Before we get carried away, let’s consider those categories from a practical perspective.
No, an AT 2 MG or Rifle shoot has very little chances or no chances to unpair an armored team (even with Armor 0) : that’s not its task. No, an AT 15 17pdr won’t armed a Frontal Armor 15 King Tiger : again, that’s not its task. Yes, the more you go up in the AT category, the easier it is to damage lower Armor, so Heavy AT will deal easily with Armor 8 and below, even if the target may not be the intended one. If you face a hoard of UK Daimler or ROM R-2, you are better off having a load of AT7 then a single AT18 (yes, looking at you Super Pershing !). Same, if you want to have a chance to deal with King Tiger, you should definitely got some AT12 in your pocket, as your humble Stuart won’t do it.

So, how much is too low ? The Rule of 4 basically means you should look at having at least 4 Units with at least Medium AT in your list.

Why Medium AT ? Fun fact : currently, no Tank in LW has side armor above 8 … so even in the most desperate situation (e.g : you going into full no play mode), you can deal with any Armored team of Late War, at least from the side (Defensive Fire, Manoeuvre + Shooting…). Of course, you know FoW, the better your AT is, the better chance it has to penetrate. But budget is the other edge of the sword, so the most effective your toys are, the less you will have. Again : balance of assets.

Why 4 ? Because whatever Mission you will play, you will have 0 to 2 Objectives to Defend, and 0 to 2 Objectives to Attack (but for Annihilation but hey, we are talking real competition here). So having 4 allows you to have at least 1 decent AT Unit on each Objective (deployed there or able to move and defend/attack it), and 2 assets able to either reinforce your Attack or boost your Defense. The minimum requirement should be 2 (1 for each Objective), but in a lethal Late War, a single AT-Unit attacking or defending an Objective is fairly too low : if the opponent takes it away, you will have no other gaming choice but to suffer and let your opponent dictate how the game will end. So you do need back up.
Also… do you own maths-of-war : more often than not, a single AT-Unit doesn’t threaten the opponent (that is massively true when you are Defending) : you might have the best AT Unit of the game, if it takes out 1 opponent Unit (good job, you are happy) but is shot to pieces the following Turn, then you’ve only delayed the inevitable (and lost your most valuable asset for your plan, you are not happy). Now consider this great AT-Unit is supported by 1, or even better, 2 decent AT-Units : your opponent will struggle handling all of them at once, numbers just don’t add up. You are significantly increasing your chances to win the duel, or cripple enough your opponent so as for his attacking/defending force is not strong any more to resist you. Or scare them enough so they just don’t even commit.

Of course, this comes after Assets balance : it’s pointless to reach the 4-AT Units standards with weak ones. Look at the effectivity and survivability of your assets to see how they fit and what do expect from them. E.G : a 6-Guns Unit of Volks Artillery upgraded to Pak will give a good AT-asset, but a vulnerable one to opponent (notably Artillery and Morale) so is unlikely to last for the full game. A pair of King Tiger will have less shots than a full Gun battery but far higher survivability, but there high price tag may also mean being in Reserves (so fewer impact in the game).

4 decent AT-assets gives you the flexibility to play the Mission, and the lethality to compete in Late War.
2 to cover both Objectives, 2 to act as either Pushers (= following the main direction of the attack) or Fire Fighters (= reinforcing the area where the opponent is attacking). If even truer in Defense, it works the same in Offense : not having any Objective to Defend leaves you more resources to Attack. If the Defender is firmly holding the Objective with Armored troops, the more guns (and per extension : shots) you can bring to the party, the more chances you have to win the duel, and create a path to victory. If you are not pushing while you are Attacking because you are too scared of Defender firepower, then you can pack your toys soldiers and have your opponent buy you a drink, because you won’t win this one…

“Knocking out tanks ? Best job I ever had !”

The HE Guns That Shoot From Above

Second, let’s talk Artillery.
Artillery is very important in LW. Both because this period is lethal : you should definitely look at protecting your troops from a sudden and most brutal death waiting around any Late War battlefield corner… And because every Force can bring Infantry with integrated AT (Bazooka, PIAT, RPG, PanzerFaust, PanzerShrek… you named them) but also AP (MG, HMG…) and/or decent small-points AT Guns, or even tons of small tanks (Top 0 and some Top 1), assets that can hold firm on an Objective, and needing to be dealt with. And by dealing, I mean classic shooting duel and/or assault may not work, or work too slowly.
E.G : a single FP3+ gun shot has 3,7% chances to kill a Careful Concealed Gone To Ground infantry/gun team at short range. So you need 27 FP3+ shot to expect a single kill. That’s … a lot.

Artillery most valuable utility is Smoke Bombardment (sorry Soviets players … but you actually do have a Card and a Unit allowing you do it). The Smoke B. allows player to place a line (which lengths depends on how many guns are shooting) to cover advance/position, preventing anybody outside 6’/15cm to shoot at the troops. Magical disappearance.
Classic uses ?
Offense : drive full speed (Dash is very good in FoW) within 16’/40cm of your opponent, drop the Smoke B., hide behind it. Following turn, your Force will be in full position to open fire, short range (so, at worse, 6 to hit), full RoF, on the opponent.
Defense : protect the movement of your reinforcing troops, counter-Smoke the opponent advance (to negate his own capacity to do the above very simple tactic), prepare your counter-push in the latest turns of the game.

Artillery secondary use is to bring the rain. No infantry / gun line can sustained several turns of shelling of V4 artillery, and that’s good considering how hard it is to shift a defensive line (see above example).
Hitting on opponent To Hit (thus ignoring Careful and Gone To Ground and Long Range), with at least FP4+, and Brutal when repeating on Infantry and Gun … sooner or later the line will break. Even Armored Tank Teams can be blown away if you have the right tools and right tactic.

Enter the question : when and how ?
Again, let’s do maths-of-war.
A Team under one template is Hit, at worse, on 5+ (Careful + Spotter not being able to see the aiming point). Overall, let’s look at a quite common 4+ (Careful) per principle (although the targeted player has means to protect his troops by making the roll worse for the artillery player). That’s a 50% chance to simply miss hitting (and do nothing). Now, the target has a save : 3+ for Infantry and regular Gun, 4+ for Large Gun. Without Brutal (repeating), that’s an additional 66% / 50% miss. Now with Brutal (repeating), that’s only a 45% / 25% miss. Hitting but not succeeding in passing save still leaves the opponent Pinned, which may not be what you are looking for, but still a manageable result. On Armored Teams, Top 2 is an almost auto guarantee to suffer nothing but for AT 4+ (really limited). Top 1 is quite safe against the most common AT2/AT3 artillery. Top 0 will not like AT3+ artillery en-masse. Then comes the Firepower. A 4+ FP is a 50% miss, 3+ is 33,33% miss, and 2+ is still 16,67% miss.

Confused by the numbers ?
Let’s take an example : a classic Careful 4 Gun units is under the template (with Command Distance 15cm and Artillery template being 15cm, that’s more than usual… hey, that’s V4 trade off bro’ !) of a repeating artillery.
2 Guns will be hit, we got 2 x 55% missed saves, 110% (sorry statistics). If you have a 1+ FP (so auto success), you will kill 1 gun, 2 if you are VERY lucky. If you have a less important and more common FP (4+ / 3+ / 2+), you will kill 0,55 Gun / 0,73 Gun / 0,92 Gun.

What does this tell ?
That it’s fairly better than the direct shooting mentioned above (like … resources commitment wise ? by far).
And, given time and/or number, Artillery will break the opposition.

Now, let’s work on these two leverages.

Time, you have, but not indefinitely.
As we see previously, a competitive game shall usually over before Turn 6, or on Turn 6 / 7. It can be longer, but clearly, apart from Fighting Withdrawal Mission, something went wrong for either or both Players here (or one has a time-consuming army pattern – watch for those armies that has nothing to do but blast you full force, they will play in 2 minutes (easy to go way over Turn 6) if you don’t break their mechanics).
Counting the turns available, if you have a fair number of turns of Artillery shooting, you can achieve pretty good results on the opponent line, providing you managed to Range On Target and Repeat with regularity. So you need to ensure you can shoot as much as you can over a long period.

Here come numbers.
If an Artillery battery kills stuff with more or less guaranty, then surely you can mitigate the dice rolls by adding more batteries to the festival. It’s not a regular curve because as soon as you got more Teams under the templates, the probabilities will increase, and the opposite is true (after all, you are aiming at killing stuff, so the more you kill, the less there is under the template).
Factually, what you are looking for here is to deal maximum damages. So you just need more Batteries.
Also, having several Batteries mean you can afford to lose some in the course of battle (although Artillery is one of the easiest asset to protect on a LW FoW board, there are LOT of threats, beginning by guns that can shoot as far as your artillery targeting, or wandering Aircrafts or Vehicles hunting it), or have several of your Batteries swapping targets or delivering Smoke instead of shelling. Just be careful here : the maths works well if you are Ranged In, both to Hit on “natural” and to benefit from Repeating. If you are chasing targets as fast as they move, you still have to pass the Ranging test, with possible fail, and without Brutal, reducing efficiency. Sometimes, it’s just better to leave a Range In marker / Template in place, not hitting nothing, but preventing the enemy from moving under it. Pre-Ranging In is, here, a super highly valuable rule for Artillery.

So why 4 is the magic number ?
Because 4 is the exact number you need to fully zero in an Objective. By having your 4 templates, each with one single corner on the center of the Objective, there is NO area where the enemy can contest the Objective and be safe from at least one of your artillery. Especially in Missions where you have the mighty pre-ranged in Markers, with effects of not having to range (so dice rolls saved) and having the opponent already under repeating Bombardment from the start (politely “invite” your opponent to deploy under your templates). Have less than 4 templates, and there will always be at least one spot (unless Impassable Terrain) where your opponent can contest the objective and you are not threating his troops. Sure you can live with it, but you will admit that, in a game where the purpose is to seize Objectives by pushing the opponent away from them, the bonus is worth taking.

Important note here : we talking about real artillery batteries. Meaning batteries that don’t have to re-roll hits. A 1-Gun or 2-Guns battery (apart from the ones that don’t have to reroll, such as UK AVRE) deal less damages. The re-roll to Hit is hurting them. On Careful for example, the 50% chances to hit because only 25%. This is huge. So if you are constraint in your budget, it’s better to have less batteries but more effective ones. Some Builds (such as the US with Armored Rifle Platoon or Cavalry Scouts) can deal with having Batteries with re-roll, but they do have to spam a lot to compensate the loss of efficiency (roughly : 50%).

As an alternative to the 4 Batteries, you can also look at 2 Salvo ones. 2 Salvo templates still allow a full zero in on a Objective. Bear in mind that Salvo templates delivery system do have defaults, and none can currently threaten much Armored Tank Teams. See Duncan article here : https://www.breakthroughassault.co.uk/musings-of-a-hobby-hipster-sos-save-our-salvos/

Finally, some lists are swapping the massive artillery option for flame throwers : in effect, they can achieve the same on infantry and gun, but :
A. They do need to move in range to shoot, taking risks to be taken out in the process (while Artillery can sit away with limited risks)
B. They range is limited (so they need to actually move in a spot where they can fire, and opponent can limit their effectiveness by its own movements)
C. They drop more dice, with lower numbers, so make sure you count your probabilities right to avoid disappointment
D. They are not artillery, so don’t have the dual purpose with the Smoke B.
E. They don’t zero in an objective.
Not that is isn’t a viable road (6 Churchill and 6 WAPS ARE scary, even in the current LW meta), just that it plays fairly differently.

Bring the rain …

Pick the one you need most

Both rules of 4 may come or not into effect into a single list.

Pretty much all Nations have the capacity to do both, or one or the other in Late War, but some do it better than others. Also, you should look at the pattern of your Build to determine what’s more necessary to it, having 4 AT-assets or 4 Artilleries if you can’t have both.

For instance, lists built with Defense in mind should prioritize the 4 AT-assets.
While lists built with Attack in mind should prioritize the 4 Artilleries.

Having both is really cherry on the cake, but as always, prioritize what you need most before being too greedy !

That concludes our 3rd article on Competition in Late.
Next we will wrap up this serie with a focus on the (in)famous metagame. Stay tuned !

Knowledge is power : share it widely !