Flames of War – The Revenge of Tyranny – Italian GT debrief

Hello there, boys and girls,

Fred here, back from Italian GT, concluding my 3rd quarter of the 2023-2024 FoW Season. While I was aiming at taking my UK Army I worked on during the last weeks … I was summoned to play either US or GER again! Yummy Yankees or Big Bad Wolves back on track, let’s see if they perform the same or better than in previous GTs…

Changes of plans

A wise wargamer-jedi master once said to me: “A player is good not because he designed a perfect plan and he executed it perfectly; it is when it has to adapt to everything that shouldn’t have happened, but happened nonetheless.

Adaptability is a master word when you swap from individual to team gaming. A 5-years long running project finally came true this year with me playing for my good friend Etienne “Duf” Dufour in ETC 2024 Team Switzerland. The beauty of wargaming is you can match with people from all over the globe just because you share a common passion; being slightly of the same age, with different life courses but similar personal interests, Etienne and me have a Fantasy background (Warhammer Battle) and enjoy FoW primarily for what it is: a game with people. Toast in the spices of competition, the enjoyment of bettering ourselves through gaming, and minds full of ideas (like the SSF 2021 tournament to replace Covid-19 cancelled ETC), we are a good match! While I tried to lure Etienne in my team for years, he finally managed to do it first in his.
With life swinging strong, I really didn’t have the time to lead a squad of French men this year. Especially as I am a huge supporter of generations renewal; meaning leaving aside the “best” veterans to bring in less experienced – yet eager to learn – players and help them improve. They are the future. After taking a step back from Team France end of 2023 with arrival of baby Alexander, I was convinced by both the ambitious project of Etienne’s team, his cheerful members (Stefano, Jeje, Raf, Ben and course Etienne), and their dedicated work and organization. “All you have to do is play” announcement is not entirely correct, but for sure this year was a far lighter burden on my ETC-fitted shoulders. Deal done, I would play for the white cross over red flag team in Poland 2024.

One thing I’ve noticed heavily in all these years of ETC is how close it is with sport competition. Alright, sport made by mostly middle-aged men overweighted, but still… All jokes aside, being part of a team means :
– communicate a lot on how you see things and listen to others’ points of view
– be part of a whole and a portion of a bigger machine
– accept you are not playing for yourself
– be constant in your gaming to be reliable for the crew
– make efforts and sacrifices for the greater good.

This last part may hurts a bit: wargamers tend to be more individuals than collective, and are notoriously known for having significant egos (even more when dived deep in competition). Bruising little hearts is actually OK if considering that it is, indeed, for the prospect of a higher benefit.
That is exactly what happened right before Milan.
While I was happy to conclude my 3rd Quarter exploring another Reluctant Careful concept (the British, with the Desert Rats), the Team asked me to use this major event to try and test another road!
Sad not to have the opportunity to play FoW easy mode for once, I still managed to save a choice between either the US 3rd AD or the GER Clausewitz, just to keep on the Reluctant theme of my season… and enter a major event with concepts I’ve already practiced! Not THAT bad…

A choice of reason

With Captain Steffano taking over the command of the UK Rats, it was hard for me to choose between US or GER. On one hand, I like what US can do in single games, with this great capacity to be balanced and all comers, stellar for individual events. On the other hand, GER were quite tempting because I plaid them on so few games in Q2 and they did miss their golden wings from coming only 2nd in German GT; they were eager for 2nd chance.

Final decision actually once again came from the team, with Etienne taking over a Build that worked for him early June in Monges, something I’ve theorycrafted and plaid a bit early season, a GER StuH/Sturm combo. As a counterpart to its Build, I used a dearly to my heart Double Stummels Concept, which seems under-performing compared to his, thus a good exercise to put them in the same environment, and most probably against each other, during the weekend. Also, as Etienne is finishing painting the whole German army, it was funny to split the toy soldiers between us!

Not being allowed to play double Clausewitz Sturm as per the tournament rules (so no reenacting of German GT), I brought a single Sturm formation paired up with regular Confident “PanzerGrenadiers” which spoiled a bit the “Reluctant” modjo but ended up similar with the 3rd AD/Stuart FE Build which helped me in French GT on Q1.

The whole concept was far from the stability and security the UK Rats would have brought me, but I was eager to push the mecha pattern a bit further than in Q2. Also, we did bring clocks to the tournaments, something we quite recommend using in the current meta. Spoiler alert: there was no problem with them the whole tournament.

Milan – welcoming city

Before all else, I would like to thank here the organizer of the tournament, Paolo Paglianti. We’ve known each other for quite a couple of years, but never managed to play together nor come to the same tournaments (but for ETC). In my chaotic season, the GTs were solid thresholds, forcing my head out of the bag to breath a little enjoying toy soldiers. 3 quarters, 3 major events, and Milan was not exception, concluding Q3.
Paolo did everything to accommodate the visitors, especially the ones from afar, securing Etienne and Steffano from Switzerland, Graham from England, and me from France.
We were brilliantly welcomed all week-end, especially on Friday night were Graham and me enjoyed a nice dinner with Paolo, his wife Raphaella, and their two daughters Sarah and Emma (important information learnt here : in case of doubt, it’s ALWAYS Paolo’s fault).

As a side note, the venue we were was quite good for wargaming conventions : it’s close a major and lively city (Milano is really cool for a weekend, with friends and/or family), 30 minutes from an international airport, has large halls to play (basketball fields), a nice café with good foods and drinks, plus of course the support of the Italian FoW Community. Maybe an idea for a future big international event?

Game 1 – Stopping the Red Hoard

Time to unpack the twin armies we shared with Etienne, I was paired up first game against Stefano, an italian ETC-veteran, and his “non-meta-anymore” Soviets Churchill Hoard. A classic 17 Churchill wall, backed up by Valentine, Stuart, T-70, Twin Recce and SU-76 artillery. Roughly 50 motivated tanks and foot soldiers muster to crush the German lines. It may not be the “new black”, it still a scary wall to face!
I Defended on CounterStrike, and deployed so I can protect the central objective, and go contest the far flung one rapidly. All in all, it lead to the objective protected by a handful of Infantry and the 8.8 (my 2nd line of Defense) while I used my Tracks to build a 1st line of Defense.
Stefano pushed lightly on the far flung objective with its Recce and Stuart, while the rest of its army pushed hard to the central objective, around a fist of mighty Churchill.
The battle started to be really asymmetric when I crushed his attempt to seize the far flung objective but was only able to slow the advance on the central one.
With my 1st line collapsing, I hang back to my 2nd line, where the might of Panzerfaust Infantry (helped by surviving 8.8) proved too much for the Churchill (hence the “non-meta-anymore” of this Concept), repelling them and keeping them far from my Objective.
Time for my 3rd line of Defense to gather around, Stefano push was halted and the German won the day.
Victory – 6-3

A good start for the Wolf guys, it’s always tough to defend against ChurcHoard. Stefano may have dropped a bit harder on me earlier on, but given the ineffectiveness of my shooting, I plaid carefully to grind his force down so the fate of battle resumed on his Churchill assaulting my Faust-Infantry. Nicely fought game!

Game 2 – Hit the Road, Hans

After a street-foodlicious copious meal, the 2nd game of the day was a resting Dust Up against Matteo’s UK Sherman Armored. The army was unusual as backed up by 3 Crocodiles, some DR Rifle, and 2 Typhoon! Matteo did won his first game, so let’s be careful about this…
He decided to let the Crocodiles and a couple of Sherman/Stuart out, while deploying its Recce, Infantry, Sherman, and the Typhoon. I put a greeting committee on my far flung Objective with 8.8, HJ, and mobile firefighters HQ + Stummels, while deploying everything else on the right objective.
My intents were clear: delay the British advance toward my Objectives and rush theirs. Something quite similar to what I did in German GT to Kai, also on Game 2.
By Round 1, all my army (but for the defensive block and firefighters) was at arms length of his Objective.
Matteo brought back its troops, using the DR Rifle hiding in Buildings as deterrent to my pushers. Airplane arrived, and with the support of the Tanks, managed to break some careless Tracks.
However, by Turn 2, my troops were in good position to rout of the British from the French village they were hiding in. Despite the willingness of the German soldiers, the Rats managed to repel, with heavy casualties, the push. Striking additional blows during their Turn 2, the British were, however, not able to push the German away from the dreaded 4’/10cm.
By Turn 3 the German come back again hard, and despite having the feeling the British will break, they were pushed back. They did, however, gain grip on both Objectives, leading to an almost impossible task for Matteo, repelling everything on both.
Indeed, Turn 4 sealed the doom of the British Force.
Victory – 8-1

A hard match up for Matteo, my army was literally crawling his and he had to defend the whole game while he was looking forward to Attack. My mad tracks circus of crap was too much to swallow the way it apprehended them, and, exactly like it was for Kai a couple of months ago, the choice of troops on Objectives or Reserves, and speed of execution, were keys.

Game 3 – A Game of Tracks

Last game of Saturday was a fratricide battle against Team Italia’s member Flaviano and his Brigade Panther / Schnell KG. I am a follower of Flaviano’s deeds and I know he likes GER Mad Tracks. For this battle, he did get out a bit from the Mecha path, and went with a full 11 block of Panther, backed up by artilleries, infantries and fighting half tracks. An interesting choice as his cats were quite impervious to my arsenal but for when the battle goes in gruesome combat.
I ended up defending in Outflanked, with Flaviano’s force surrounding mine. The board was dangerous, with limited spots for me to hold a defense, and significant portion of the battlefield where attacking would be difficult… unless you have great armor. Flaviano had the high ground (quite literally), forcing me into kill boxes while having the opportunity to walk the field unarmed. The Panther were thus unarmed or out of reach for my 8.8 who immediately suffered from bombardments, the cats advancing toward the center objectives, while the Super Soap Scouts and Infantry made a pincer maneuver to it. The fire duel quickly turn into the advantage of Flaviano’s Germans, and I end up taking blows for 3 turns, retreating and dodging what I can while not being in a position to retaliate properly. By turn 4, I then decided it was time for me to stop suffering and inflict pain: my Force went into full rampage and jumped at Flaviano’s force, taking back the field I lost on the right flank, counter-pushing hard in the middle, and sneaking in with my reserves on the left flank. My own tracks jumped at his, wreaking havoc, and my infantry chased the Panther with support of my KleinPanzer (which I incidentally learnt their nickname translated as “bedbug”). By then, the advance was stopped and Flaviano’s forces had to fight for their life instead of chasing my Objectives. We ended up with the Brigade formation being destroyed, and the Schnell KG hanging by a single half-track.
Victory – 6-3

A hard fought battle where I had to soak up damages for painful turns, but managed to pull a massive counterpunch to break the pressure and repel the attacker. It was a great game, very tactical and gentlemanly plaid by Flaviano. I’m definitely looking forward the rematch.
With Etienne and Paolo drawing in their game (well, they play Bypass so, you know…), I ended up winning Day 1, being the only player with 3 wins.

Game 4 – Contest of Champions

After a solid Italian dinner and nice social, sports and political talks with friends on Saturday night, we entered Sunday for high stakes games.
Obviously I faced Etienne as 1st contender. Funnily enough, we only plaid each other twice in many years of friendship, and I surely measure the progression my friend reached since 2019 and our first game, with him raking up well-deserved titles on the European competitive scene.
I had to Defend in Breakthrough. Etienne plaid a list I knew well, having designed it for this Reluctant season, a mix StuH/Sturm from Berlin. The guy being super hot those past months, that was assumingly one of the (if not THE) most challenging game of the season will happen.
We ended up playing on a very nice Ardennes’ board, with important strategic decisions from the start. Etienne had the opportunity to smash my left or right flank, or go full speed in the middle, or combined all. On the other hand, I had to choose which flank will need to withdraw while the other hold the ground, and I had to find a way to take control of midfield. Oh, and both of us had to commit resources to claim the backfield Objective. It was truly a 4D battle, super intense from start to end.
Etienne decided to push my left flank while controlling the center. I decided to withdraw my right flank to the center and commit hard on the left flank from the start to avoid collapsing. I managed to stop the push yet abandoning the right wing and not being certain to have enough firepower and manpower to hold the mid field. Etienne slowly grind the center and left, while exploiting with its speed the space made in the right. I was unable to repel properly the pushes, and we then play a huge cat&mouse chase, where none of our several committing actions were decisive enough to make a difference. I managed to reach the back field objective and set up a greeting committee for Etienne force right before they arrive, which allow me, at the expense of many precious resources, to keep this backfield objective protected from enemies. The left and right flanks were eventually secured by my troops, despite great losses and efforts. The focus was then on the center, where Etienne remaining Tanks, Tracks, and Infantry, managed to anchor themselves at arm’s length of the center Objective. It would take massive efforts to repel them, and with my forces diminished by several turns of pounding, it was an almost impossible task. I did however manage to push back all the Tanks and Tracks, and, as per every epic battle, it all came down to a last turn Assault. My HQ went on assaulting Etienne’s one, and despite making contact, my HQ teams were pushed back by a 55-45 odds counterattack. Sounds familiar, right?
Draw – 3-3

What a game! My Force was put in a corner from the start, and I had to use every maneuvers and tactics I can not to be crushed by Etienne’s pushes. Very few of our committing/decisive actions pay off, which means every new Round was an opportunity for both of us to punish daring actions aimed at seizing the win. We fought so many micro-battles within the battle, and had to commit many resources, every time, to shift the game economy. A lot of Germans won’t come home after this blood bath. We both plaid to win (of course with all respect and sportsmanship), which made the game super interesting and engaging. A fair result in the end and we both massively enjoyed our (clocked) time. No offence to the others, Etienne is definitely the most talented player I met this season. I’m very happy to be in the same team this year…

Game 5 – Taking on Italia’s King

After matching the Switzerland (and maybe: European ?) champion of the season, what best match could have I expected next but against Italia’s champion himself?
I never plaid against Paolo, but I sure follow his successes. He is a veteran player from many wargames, a winner of all, his trophies collection at home is one of the largest I ever watched. Paolo had been hot this season, even claiming 2nd at Morges on last-minute call coming; he safely crushed all his opponents (including highly talented England’s Captain Graham) but for Etienne this weekend, I knew it would be a challenging game. Besides, a game in his hometown, at his tournament, playing for the title… can’t wish for better conditions. This is why we play competition, right ? To match ourselves against the best and see who emerges victorious.
I ended up Defending in Killing Ground. Paolo had a solid army of DR Rifle with all package and Stan, a good force of Recce, the always great Achille, and a double trio of Churchill Crocodiles. His Build and the game configuration quite reminded me of the Saturday game with Flaviano, where his main force could walk the field almost unarmed, and I would take blows in the process, until I was in a position to retaliate fiercely. Flamming Crocodiles are, however, different beasts to handle than Panther. As a paradox, I was confident my 1st line of defense would be harder to pierce than my 2nd line, and I expected the fate of battle would be decided with my 3rd line commitment, while Paolo will need to be all-in from Turn 1 and onward.
I gave Paolo a difficult choice from the start, with a more lightly defended Objective with Minefields, and a better defended Objective without. None was better or worse, they simply had a different timing and resources commitment. Paolo choose the later, and carefully moved his Infantry, AFV and Crocodiles, backed up by Mortars and sniping Achille. Contrary to the game against Flaviano, I decided to use his carefulness of approach to commit strong from the start by picking up his lighter Recce and WASP, and creaming lightly his Infantry. This made the British advance slow down, and while I was obviously losing troops in my 1st line, their firepower blown the light British vehicles apart, cutting the main pushing force (Infantry and Churchill) from their supports. This allowed me to have the Crocodiles not only having to focus on paving the road to Infantry, but also watch their flanks as my German start to encircle them slowly and purposefully, putting them in a corner where they had to actually play much faster to rack up turns of shooting to make the difference. In the meantime, my 3rd line calmy came into position, ready to jump in the cauldron if need be. It wasn’t necessary as even the mighty Churchill fell to the determination, firepower and maneuvers of the German troops, who secured their Objectives.
Victory – 6-3

A good finale against a good opponent. Paolo definitely knows his FoW, playing a well-balanced force. The keys of our game were both the handling of his main strength, the Crocodiles spearheading assaulting infantry, a combo that can’t be ignored, and the handling of the supporting elements. By cutting quickly the later from the former, it was too much tasks to do for the British main force, threaten in all directions by all-but-passive defending Germans.

Tournament wrap up

I managed to score 4 Wins and 1 Draw, for 29 points, the same score as in German GT (and with the same last turn not successful Assault in the 4th game making it a Draw… #Pattern). However, this time it was enough to reach 1st Place due to the other big fishes neutralizing each-others.
Etienne and Paolo, with 3 Wins and 2 Draws, came on 2nd and 3rd, with Steffano claiming Best Paint and Graham Best Sport. Quite an handsome picture of dedicated to the hobby people.
Congratulations to all and many thanks for my gallant opponents, a tournament well plaid. I hope the prizes I gave away will bring success to the players I offered them!

The full results are here:

I had a great time in Milan, for gaming and extra-gaming.
I was sad not to be able to give the UK Rats their test of valor. Of course it’s hard to project on how things would have happened if I had took them instead of the GER. Nonetheless, trying to project on the 5 games I plaid, I’m confident they would have earn their cheese and perform as well if not better in at least 3 games, probably would have been a very interesting mirror-non-mirror game with Paolo, and reckon it would have been hard to do better than a Draw against Etienne.
That’s what I like about FoW : the lists are a thing, but the players are everything.

Incidentally, the same issue that blocked me at German GT gave me the shot to victory in Italian GT, with Etienne and Paolo neutralizing themselves on Bypass. Honestly BF, please consider removing this scenario…
Same, given the level of opponents and the game themselves, I’m very pleased by the outcome. Once again, it’s a game, and how hard we may want to win it in the end, they are so many variables we don’t master that we should accept it for what it is: a recreative activity away from Real Life.

Speaking of which, I was absolutely thrilled to receive the congratulations of my family back home. This season hadn’t been easy at all, and gaming was in no way the priority. Real Life was hard, and I surely didn’t play as much as I wanted to, as I had much more important things to do. However, with my loved ones’ support, I managed to attend 3 major events, bringing home 3 precious prizes (1st French GT, 2nd German GT, 1st Italian GT), and making them proud. Love you Marine, Gabriel and Alexandre, best reward ever.

And the season is yet to be completed…

With 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters gone, I’m now looking forward the 4th and final quarter.
The most prestigious event of the season, ETC, is just around the corner.
It will be tough to decide which list I will pick: I’ve not plaid much this season, but I was pleased how the 3 Nations I used came up, each with their personality, strengths and weaknesses. Will the Reluctant experience be concluded? Or will the safer waters of Confident be swam? Or maybe something totally different?
Ultimately, it will be the Team’s decision before mine.

But before submitting my list, I need to complete my relocation by end of June!

Knowledge is power: share it widely!


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