Hello there, boys and girls,
Fred here, proposing to share with you my thoughts for the upcoming 2023-2024 Flames of War season! (Fred is measuring this as ETC to ETC)
Challenges, challenges ahead !
All right, let’s start with me talking about myself (don’t worry, it’s not a YouTube video). Having been deeply involved in the Flames of War Community, both locally here in France and globally (through Community sharing, competitive scene monitoring, ETC, playtesting…), I’ve step it down a little bit last season due to Real Life demanding time (family and work being obviously priority over toy soldiers).
Not that I’ve stopped following FoW, far from it, but it felt good to reduce the involvement. For sure, it was beneficial for my Real Life (which is basically the key to be authorized to play toy soldiers, which is a hard hobby if your stomach is empty or if you loved ones demand you take care of themselves first). It allows to have deeper thought about the game per se, how it is played, and where it is going (and I hope the various articles BTA has allowed me to publish had been beneficial to players). It also allowed to test other gaming systems, see what they are providing to the overall wargaming / toy soldiers experience. Last but not least, it also allow to consider how much I love FoW and the Community.
Coming back for the 2023-2024 season, I know I have many personal challenges ahead of me, as Real Life is even more demanding than before, both from the family’s perspective (what matters the most), and from the work career. Anyhow, I will try to squeeze in the agenda as much FoW as I can, and I hope to meet new faces and old faces again before the season is over.
Playing with an handicap
When it comes to preparing a new gaming season, I believe time and dedication are key elements to account for. With Real Life kicking in, clearly I don’t have the liberty for it I had years ago, nor that I believe I would want to dedicate such resources for it. I’ve been lucky enough to play this game for almost 15 years now, being involved in thousands of hours of gaming, brainstorming, strategy and tactics, with a huge diversity of players, women and men, from all across the globe, learning a lot from them. I think being a veteran of a game, and wargames in general, makes you think differently from before, both for what you are looking for while playing it, and for how you will play it.
Clearly, I don’t want nor can spend the season playing 100+ games like I did in the past, nor attend a tournament everywhere in Europe every month, nor spend nights at the Club (and let’s be honest, there are Clubs far more entertaining than wargaming Clubs …), nor even brainstorm on every gaming combination.
For this 2023-2024 season, I would like to concentrate on what I like, and dedicate hours granted by Real Life to do it wisely. Asserting a SMART objective, to that extent, I really would like to concentrate on Late War, which is clearly, to me, the most balanced and enjoyable period for FoW (and the one with easier access for newcomers – #NewBabiesFoWWanted). I want to set a goal of being able to go again to ETC next summer, meaning casting a bit of competition in the season.
The shade that I would cast here I believe other global players have higher resources to dedicate to the quest of being “the best of them all” (individually or as a team), and I fully respect that and them, wishing all best of luck.
So let’s play more easily and freely, and see how it goes ; that doesn’t mean I have a mind of a casual player, and I bet you I will still be an opponent to be reckoned with in a tournament, simply, let’s play chill, and if results follow, that’s good. If not, let’s see if the season needs adjustment, or accept it will just be a good one regardless.
Choosing your golf club
Settling the mindset of playing with an handicap transcripts into exploring Builds I don’t necessarily reckon as the best around. Putting it differently : instead of focusing on the best possible Build available, let’s look at something that I like better, and concentrate on Builds with flaws. That’s a challenge I believe will suit me well this season.
To that extent, I am considering running a little bit away from the very secure “Confident – Careful” or “Confident Aggressive” duo that are working tremendously well in Late War V4, and go to uncharted territories. Well, at least roads that I may have abandoned in the past due to the difficulties they mainly present for achieving “best overall”, but still having potential.
I think I will try to run Builds with majority (if not exclusively) of troops that are Reluctant Careful. While former FoW versions made them shine in the game, I believe BF made quite a good job in V4 LW by balancing them.
Having good morale is quite a boost in the current version of the rules, and trading it for possible more troops but far less reliable offers a good challenge to overcome. Also, the latest iteration of material produced by BF, namely late 1944 with Bulge and early 1945 with Berlin, make for quite unreliable Reluctant Careful Builds, emphasizing those veteran troops who only wants the war to be over. The downgrade morale hurts a lot in a world where Follow Me ! and highly lethal/critical Assaults exist. And let’s not even talk about Remount/Rally…
I will try to test as much as possible fully “downgraded” Builds and see if they work or if the need for more reliability is compulsory in competition.
Increasing difficulty : hard core mode !
Having set the background, I believe I will also try to increase the challenge by running lists that are capable of being tagged Defense as Battle Plan.
Make no mistake, I firmly believe the current set of rules and missions conditions, backed up by BF’s designers interpretations, make winning in Defense close to impossible. Having to keep 2 Objectives, for at least 6 turns, most of the time with only a portion of your Force available, with no more capacity to lay traps, against an opponent that knows where you are, doesn’t have most of the time to protect its own base, having total freedom to blast or roll over you, and eventually, to avoid losing, just having to end up within (the huge area !) 8’/20cm of one of your Objective … well, good luck winning the battle Defenders !
Knowing that, I think Defense is still part of the game, so I would be sad to miss 1/3 of it. Also, I’m a believer and optimistic, so I trust good ideas can sometimes fall within the ears of our far away NZ friends, so maybe if Tournament Organizers are creative and produce more manageable conditions for the Defender, with a little bit of hope, we may see the 50% win Attacker / 25% win Defender improves in favor of the Defender.
One thing I have to focus on thou, is apart from Teams tournaments where Battle Plans may be fixed or imposed, individual tournaments have a strong incentive to be the Attacker. So that would mean creating lists that can pretty much play every gaming position, so not simple (hey, I though this season was cool !) …
Same, if necessity commands, we will check if I can stick to this posture or if I need to play all positional in competition.
Big bad wolf …
GER had been my ever army since I started FoW almost 15 years ago. There had been lot of ups and downs, and I’ve recently wrote an article about the bad guys and how they fare in competition (https://www.breakthroughassault.co.uk/flames-of-war-flower-power-late-war-competitive-germans-part-1/ & https://www.breakthroughassault.co.uk/flames-of-war-flower-power-late-war-competitive-germans-part-2/). The past 18 months have seen the release of Bulge and Berlin, two books that quite bring a lot to the meta of LW, providing more options to the GER to any other Nation elsewhere (#BFspoiledChild). The choice is wide, and GER can pretty much play any position in the game provided a little bit of time is spent in list building and of course you set your battlefield tactics right, FoW is a game of players. I think I will try several Builds from Bugle and Berlin.
I look at Bulge as an option on focusing on Aggressive troops, with lenience over the Volks/Brigade Reluctant instead of Super Soap Fearless, so lot of troops but a tremendous amount of casualty to be expected (#KickTheWolfHard). I really like the idea of legion of bad troopers & vehicles running up the field, making lot of noise and smoke, very few damages, and being blown up by steady opponents. I might be tempted to cast a couple of Builds with the mighty King Tigers, although they are not really my cup of tea and big pieces don’t like me (perhaps they fell I don’t like them much either ?). All in all, I think they are a couple of Builds with lot of “dead-in-waiting” toys on the field, not so sure you can play them without throwing in reliable troops, which negate a bit the challenge, but we will see.
Berlin is the best surprise I had in FoW for years. The first part of the book depicts the German army as I envision it in 1945 : those guys know how to fight (Veteran), know how to stay alive (Careful) but they just want to go home so are absolutely unreliable if things go awry (Reluctant). This is exactly how I imagine a losing but not defeated fighting force. I had the same thrill many years ago with the first Normandy book and the Desert Rats who shared the same pattern (which I used extensively). Gamewise, I also think this section set the points and options right for the GER in LW (having in mind you are definitely paying for the Reluctant downgrade), also showing they were a tiny bit over-pointed under the original 2018 – Fortress Europe pattern. I’m not that much interested in the second part with the Training Panzer, I understand where this comes from and how powerful they can be, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m intrigued by the last part with the defense of Berlin (which continues in the Support section) as per the motley collection of stuff available, with various ratings that seems … well, at least to be tested ! So I expect to cast quite a couple of Builds from this Berlin book !
… or Arsenal of Democracy ?
Albeit my core Nation is GER, I’ve recently acquired a painted lot of Americans, including a Rifle Company and a Tank Company, with the Support, for a decent price (sorry @Soren). It was absolutely not necessary buy, but hey, we are wargamers, so we are weak, right ? Providing I’m not throwing it out on the Bay or the Z’book should I change home, I may get myself a shot into the Defenders of Freedom !
I’ve always been a great fan of the Tank Destroyers (although they don’t like me much). Especially the Hellcats (what a name…). The idea of those GMC zooming around the field, paired up with Stuart, and artillery is thrilling. But I believe I would reconsider that, the Confident Veteran Careful TD with the HVAP munitions introduced by Bulge US are fairly too reliable as per my target of handicap. Those are quite strong and most certainly super agreeable to play, but pretty sure they don’t fit the goal set.
On the other hand, Bulge US does grant a lot of Reluctant Careful troops, Infantry and Tanks. In my last ETC (2022) I saw quite a couple of Builds around those which I found really interesting, and even had a shot against one, with the Reluctant being a significant handicap to overcome when the Assaults came (and oh boy did I get to them fast…). I’m a little bit sad that there is not more Reluctant troops in the book, I think that would have been great to have the option to downgrade stuff like Stuart and Chaffee in their own Formation as well. The number of options may be a tiny bit limited, thus possible limit to play full Reluctant (which the Berlin GER book basically gives), and potential obligation to go with some troops that are confidently reliable. We will see. For now, I like the idea of the GIs stuck in the snow of the Ardennes desperately waiting for the Armor Divisions to arrive to save the day. That sounds like Hollywood, with the Cavalry saving the day (did omebody told you we currently had a thing @BTA for cavalry ?) ! I still have to figure out how to mix & match all this together as I think it is right on the spot I want to land in my challenge, so I will definitely give it a go.
You know the best thing about writing articles ? It makes you think and sometimes far away from your original idea. Writing those lines I mentioned Reluctant troops, Normandy, British … and like Proust with its madeleine, it made me remembered about the good old days of my Desert Rats … Maybe the season will not be all GER / US after all. Maybe I will fall again for those ugly UK. Who knows ? Time will tells !
Here we are, a fresh 12 months season of Flames of War ahead, can’t wait for it to begin ! I hope to see many of you around a game and a drink after it, the FoW social experience is what I missed the most.
Let me know in the comments what are you planning yourself for this 2023-2024 FoW season !
Knowledge is power : share it widely !