Flames of War Competitive – The best burger in town

Hello Readers,

Fred here, back for some Competitive goodness.

After a previous (scary) dive in the fish tank, today, let’s chill out and grab a bite into one of wargamers’ favourite meal; the Big Burgers Men. I give you, the American in Late War !
This article aims at addressing why the US have such high potential in the current meta, and to provide hints to their opponents to give them a proper diet.

So, put your napkin on and try to get your fingers clean !

We all know the tomato and the lettuce is a French addition to make the Americans believe this food is healthy…

1. America at (Late) War

The same as the British (UK), the American (US) in FoW LW currently have access to three books :
– Fortress Europe
– D-Day
– Bulge

Luckily for them, in competition right now, you can play all of them, especially in a mix (albeit with some restrictions from LFTF 2022 to avoid some goodness seen notably in ETC 2022).
Fortress Europe give US players a fair number of builds/formations/units relying on old but still useful equipment.
D-Day is trailing a little bit, but still covers some holes in the exceptional Bulge book, which is US faction defining and metagame changer. Interestingly enough, US players can use quite well those three Books to field very dependable builds. Perhaps even more in the future; let’s face it, Fortress Europe screams Italy 1944!

Summarizing what those three books provide the US, we can pin-point :

  • good to very good all-rounders units
  • excellent artillery
  • high mobility
  • inherent flaws to units, allowing a lower cost
  • capacity to play super numerous hoards, or high elites task forces, or a mix.

This trio of books is quite interesting to mix & match to tailor the US builds; the US have a great capacity to field the good tools for every mission. Sure they won’t be as specialized as the UK or as lethal as the GER, but there is a number of sectors were they do excel and few where they can be back-footed.

Perhaps the best Starter Set produced by Battle Front – new US players, you can’t go wrong picking this one !

2. Royal Cheese … with fries and coke

US Forces are known to be the best starting force of Flames of War. This is not only true because they are the poster boys of WW2 (hey, they did win the war … and Hollywood knows it !), but also because they are a nation that allows to play the widest variety of game-styles, and be super adaptive. Some hardcore players will state being jack of all trades means being master of none, but that’s a little bit reductive, I believe.
From a competitive standpoint, any force that can be very responsive to any battlefield situations is great. Even with some tradeoffs.

From a practical perspective, US Forces can rely heavily on all-rounders units : meaning being good or at least decent at almost everything, trading specialization for a capacity to respond to most battlefield situations.
Now, this is not case for every US unit, but all of their core units in formation have at least two layers of gameplay available. This aspect of US is fairly useful in defence : either in effective Defence (= you defending an objective) or gaming defence stance (= your force guarding an area of the battlefield). In offense, this capacity is used as projection, meaning planning several turns in advance where your unit can be and how it will behave. Being dependable, US Units rely less on inter-arms cooperation, being able, on their own, to do the job without the support of their friends.
But be careful not to get too carried away by this, as much as you can count on your units, they will fail you if opponent concentrates more assets on them than what they can swallow.
e.g. the Sherman Unit (especially the one of Bulge) with mobility, MG, decent guns (including AT13) and OK armour for decent price, the Armored Rifle Platoon with AP/AT and mobility.

US do excel in the area of indirect firepower; they are truly the masters of artillery.
True, other factions can now bring as much artillery as them (UK and USSR, and even GER). However, none can bring their combination of core and support artillery with high rate of efficiency and pricing.
The US do have a very solid gameplay based on shelling the opposition to submission; the Priest (AT3/FP3+, ToT) is really great in providing heavy artillery with Veteran ranging in on a decently armoured vehicle, complimented by the armoured or unarmoured mortars and similar (AT2/FP4+). Mortars are less efficient than the Priest, but they are cheaper. The same applies for the Scott and T-30 (which can also direct fire quite well, just for good measure).
More importanly : but for the M12 155mm SP (which is, to be honest, a very specific tool) and some 60mm Mortar (the early version of the Infantry and the solo version of the Infantry and Recce), all US artillery has a Smoke Bombardment, and this is massively huge to have dual-purpose artillery, with the capacity to cripple infantry-gun line and protect US troops.

Last but not least, US have numerous troops with Observer, a very useful tool allowing the artillery batteries to stay hidden while better positioned troops call for bringing the rain from them.
Two dual-purpose artillery units is quite the norm of any US competitive list and 3-4 is very easily achievable. All in all, you can bring a very good and efficient artillery park for a really good price, as a corner stone of any competitive US list.

As per direct firepower, the US may not reach the sky high performance of UK or lethality of GER can get, but they can reach superior damaging capacity when using their 3rd strength, mobility. They do have a lot of mobile options, complemented by their equipment (with LOT of MGs) or their special rules (Stabilisers, Seek, Strike & Destroy). Standing still and blasting away with your Bazooka, 57mm, 75mm, or non-upgraded 76mm can achieve good results, but will scrap several targets, from medium to heavy tanks. But moving and shooting from the flank will open up a wide world of opportunity. That applies as well in defensive fire or assault. Five bazookas may not threaten a bunch of Panthers from the front, but Panthers assaulting those guys will leave wrecks behind. Maths-of-war example: Bazooka may hit on 5+, but when you have five in a unit, it’s quite usual to get three hits (between defensive fire and the subsequent assault). With AT10, even the biggest tanks with side armor 7/8 need to really consider the opportunity of charging or be charged by this guys.
Also, related to AP, US Tanks teams (from the humble half track to the heavy Pershing) do bring a lot of MG to bear. The specificity of the US MG is the M2 0.5 cal : less shot moving, but same not moving, and a lot better AT (4 vs 2) and FP (5+ vs 6).

It’s the actual combination of both that make US good contender in any LW game.
Mobile troops, able to easily navigate the battlefield, softening up targets with artillery, or negating with smoke areas that they can’t handle at the moment, preying on weak spots of the opponent line and taking care of each target individually.

The Joe’s doing what G.I do best : hiding and hitting sides !

Most US units do have inherent flaws, which may not seem that critical, yet can become quite annoying in games:

  • US can play with a significant number of Aggressive troops, quite vulnerable in the lethal LW
  • Most artillery ranging on 4+ base will make any attempt near Terrain significantly harder,
  • Infantry Bazookas hitting mostly on 5+ in Assault,
  • Non-Veteran Tank Destroyers will have trouble playing with tactics notably their signature SS&D … and that’s not even counting the downgraded ones,
  • Battle-Weary, Reluctant can hurt very bad.

Yet, most competitors will be happy to go with lower priced troops with flaws, which mostly translates to more toys on the board to compensate failure of their comrades. Again, FoW is a player’s game.

The US have access to numerous options allowing them to go with either a hoard, a compact elite, or a mix.

For Hoarding, they can use cost-aggressive units to field up a wall of angry bullets and shells or bodies, namely light & medium tanks or infantry, backed up by artillery (fun fact for the meta-chasers : you can field a magical square of four artillery assets, all armoured, all with Smoke, for 10 points).
For Elite, they can go to the car seller and take all the options; for Tanks that will park themselves, auto-load your favourite song, and even clean the windshield on their own (fine-tune your Bulge Sherman, or don’t even bother and just grab the Pershing or the Jackson for an already kitted tank). Supported by Infantry that have absolutely everything in their caravan-half tracks.
For Mixing, well, take a little bit of both because you can and it works.

All in all, a US Force can potentially have :
–  more direct & indirect firepower than your army (but contrary to UK, it needs players to be smart to achieve good results),
– more mobility than yours (watch out for Terrain !),
– better troops or more numerous troops than yours (Elite vs Hoard Concepts).

A US Force is superb a ticking the Rule of 4 for Artillery, and can do well ticking the Rule of 4 for AT.
https://www.breakthroughassault.co.uk/flames-of-war-competition-in-late-war-part-3/
E.G : Fortress Europe/D-Day Formations easily brings you 2+ artilleries with Smoke, all US have access to very decent Artillery with Smoke in Support. Bazooka/57mm/75mm Sherman are expandable and very affordable, it’s quite easy to get 4 Units that can bring a fair number of AT10 shots, and Tank Destroyers / Bulge HVAP guns take you in the magical world of AT13+.

From personal opinion, unless in a specific concept, I would build any competitive US Force with :

  • a two formation package,
  • at least one Formation mobile to highly mobile (Medium Tanks / Tank Destroyers / Light Tanks),
  • a solid core of mobile AT & AP,
  • at least 4 decent AT unit (on top or including at least 1 strong Infantry Units with Bazookas),
  • max-up the Rule of 4 for Artillery.

3. The Revenge of the Vegetables

Remember, eating and drinking sane is better for your health. So, how to tackle US in LW ?

The fact us have good to very good all-rounders units means they are struggling in the specialists areas.
Being excellent nowhere does show on the battlefield. Be a smarter player and :
– place your specialists against their non-specialists
– place the US non-specialists where their average stats / all-rounders capacities make them struggle.

For example, UK Tank Destroyers may not SS&D as the US, but they do have higher AT for less (namely : AT14 for 18pts/4 vs AT13 for 19pts/4, or AT15 for 22pts vs AT14 for 24pts/4). German big cats (King Tiger, Elefant, JadgTiger…) are immune to almost everything US can throw at them from Front and Top; just go duelling !
At a comparable budget, USSR Lee have more Tanks than the Sherman (5 vs 4), for a very similar firepower and resistance.

Countering US excellent artillery is not simple at first glance. Levelling the objective area with artillery is a very viable technic in FoW, and US do it best. Knowing that, you have several tactics not to be like the rabbit in the lights of the truck.
Evade: there is nothing more glorious for an Artillery Battery than to have a full game repeating its shelling. See the maths-of-war in the Competition in LW Series (episode 3), a couple of batteries shelling for 6 turns will reduce to pulps all but Medium and Heavy Tanks. You can avoid that by screening your position with your own Smoke. Sure, the Artillery will still be able to Repeat, but not seeing the aiming point, it will get +1 to Hit. Repeat for 2/3 turns, and increase your survivability. Another good tactic is not to deploy your troops on the ranged in area or move them out of this area.  You may not able to do it all games or all turns, but just consider the actual impact on your troops if they don’t spend their time under Repeated Artillery. Also, forcing re-ranging in can be quite problematic for many US batteries, which have Skill 4+ only (thus 5+ with Terrain) : even if they do re-range, you don’t get to re-roll your infantry and gun save (but for Time on Target battery re-ranging in 1st attempt … that happens).
Counter punch: on top of protecting your troops, you should consider annoying the US Batteries by getting to them. There is no better defense than offense, so consider sneaking Recce, Light Tanks, Airplanes… threatening the US Batteries will have their owner do difficult choices in either sustaining fire or dealing with your troops. Consider diverting part of your Force to deal with the Artillery may be well countered by the rest of the US Force, but may as well make them lose precious time. Also, your own guns can cripple the US ones : it’s useful to deploy your own Artillery and long range guns within Range of the opponent’s ones, to duel with them. Blasting the US Batteries, especially the numerous Aggressive ones (looking at you Priest !) which can’t be GTG while shooting (meaning a 5+ to hit at worst) worth it : US Batteries do tend to be 3 per Unit, meaning a single loss may not force a Last Stand check but at least achieve negative re-roll when hitting you, a very valuable bonus for your troops to survive.

Be smarter than the bunny : evade and counter punch !

The US high mobility can seem tricky to deal with at first, and you should consider several factors.
1st : predict where they can effectively go. for example, if you go within 16’/40cm of US Veteran Hellcats and you get yourself flanked, surely you have misread their capacities. Just consider US troops can move very fast, and position your troops so they can cover areas where you just don’t want them to be. Remember enemy troops can’t cross your own in movement, so having road-blocks of Tanks or Infantries work fine, as well as field of fire to prevent them zooming around.
2nd: use Terrain. US troops are average in managing cross-tests Terrain, meaning they will mostly cross on 3+ (2+ if they Cross Here and thus don’t Shoot nor Assault – which is fine for you). Similarly, tanks can’t cross buildings. Use the terrain to anchor your defensive line or to protect your offensive line so US troops don’t get on your side or rear. Pinning the US in place is usually a spot they don’t like much, and will give you the upper hand.
3rd : if you didn’t manage the 2 above steps (or on top of them), just maths-of-war the US. For example, Stuart units may be mini-gun gattlling tanks of doom, but their 25 shots of MG won’t hurt your Careful Concealed/GTG Infantry/Guns in Foxholes (0,23% to get 1 kill). Stabilisers is marvellous to rip through tanks in the open, but their efficiency drop massively when they have to target Concealed and/or Long Range and/or Gone To Ground troops (2 shots needing 6 is the same as 1 shot needing 5, but 2 shots needing 7 is lower than 1 shot needing 6).

Dealing with US inherent flaws to Units is perhaps the easyiest thing to do against them on a FoW Battlefield because they do shine more than other Factions. This is also on-par with the strategies described above.
US can have pretty decent Careful troops, but they are not standard Veteran (only for Tactics), thus being less efficient in many areas, such as crossing Minefiels or Assaults. Also, choosing the Veteran side, US lose a nice Last Stand 3+ from the Aggressive ones … which are MUCH softer targets. It can even be worse when using Discount troops (like Bulge Battle Weary or D-Day Tough Ombres), who are Reluctant (which hurts a lot). So US can’t get both good Morale and good Resilience.
US have to compensate the lack of quality of their AT by quantity : this can work pretty good, but has limits. AT10/12/13 will struggle tackling heavies, especially when they stay long range. Same, if they lose their heavier AT assets too soon, they will be on a hard spot shifting even humbling Medium Tanks from Objectives.
US aren’t great in Assault : they usually Counter Attack on 4+, seldom on a 3+ and more than often than not on 5+ or even 6. When they hit, it’s usually on 4+ or 5+ (the latest notably with their deadliest AT weapons). Even with an HQ or number, they are fairly less reliable than other specialists in hand to hand combat.
US specialists can be tackled with appropriate tactics. E.G : Jumbo may have a big armor, it won’t sustained the heaviest AT guns around. If you don’t have them in stock, just consider moving your troops to screen the Jumbo and have all the shots hitting the non-Jumbo Sherman of the platoon.

Hitting the US players in their weak spots…

Last but not least : numbers do add up fast with the US.
It’s quite easy for the US to play Hoard or Mix, but those Builds have flaws useable by opponents, like Aggressive or Morale.
Elite US are rare because they do cost a lot, having some difficulties to justify their points in battle. E.G : Pershing are nice tanks, but they bring less than the humbles kitted Sherman. Paratroopers may correct several flaws of the US (Morale and Assault) but are twice as much expensive as regular GI.

Let’s remind the ‘Mericans Europe is not their home : push them back to the sea

As a conclusion, US is a very pleasant army to play with and against. US players can get high reward applying both a well-rounded game strategy for the first rounds of battle, then exploiting the weaknesses in enemy lines. US opponents will need to applicate smarter tactics to avoid being leveled up by their rain of fire or overwhelmed by their mobility.

Happy to read your views and opinions in the Comments section.

Knowledge is power : share it widely !

Fred

2 thoughts on “Flames of War Competitive – The best burger in town

  1. Interesting piece and thank you for writing it. Tank Destroyers are your main go to for AT, it’s just a question of if you pay the tax for the M36 Wolverines. They are at risk from any artillery though and are no good in assault. Sherman’s are a huge trap, the German’s will always have some AFV that makes your armour irrelevant and you then have the issue of what to do with your Sherman’s. Do you risk a Jumbo, Shermans get very expensive when you start adding in 76mm turrets, HVAP, and Easy 8’s, you start downgrading from a late Sherman to an early Sherman to save a few points and potentially be the first casualty. The ARP you mention are your best infantry option but not actually in assault. US forces also include lots of jeeps so you can’t do armoured car spam as they don’t have armour plus there is a lot more AT in late war so it’s less relevant.

    1. Thanks Roy. I believe Sherman are actually really nice in the current meta. Armor 6 may not save them from heavy AT, but they do the job against AT9-. Late Sherman (Armor 7 and Protected Ammo and AT13) are quite better, but I agree, you pay for them, thus decision in list building for US players. I’m a huge fan of the 4 Sherman of 3rd A.D (2 M4 + 2 M4 76 AT13 for 20 points). Infantry have several layers of use, in Utility or Core. ARP can be really annoying, including in Assault (shooting/DF with 5 bazookas + possible counter attack with 5 bazookas, even if it’s still 5+ to hit, means 3+ hits on average, with AT10, more than enough to annoy any Tank Unit).

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