Flames of War – Winning for Tyranny – German GT debrief

Hello there, boys and girls,

Fred here, back from German GT, concluding my 2nd quarter of the 2023-2024 FoW Season. I took my GER Army into battle in a major event, where top players from Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, but also guess stars from afar, clashed. Quite a serious level of contenders, especially in my “after 2nd son birth” context…
Let’s see how the Big Bad Wolves did against some of Europe’s finest while under my poor leadership…

Bid Bad Wolf… because I totally forgot to take a picture of my army!

Coming (un)prepared

I expressed in my previous article on the topic how poorly I had prepared for this event (https://www.breakthroughassault.co.uk/flames-of-war-q2-return-of-the-wolf-season-2023-2024/). Theorycraft, online gaming, a couple of other wargames matches… but ZERO FoW actual games since French GT! Yep, that’s 4 long months without making an actual deployment or pushing Panzers or Grenadiers on the field… I mean, we all came once in our gaming career to a joust with a Build we didn’t try or trust… but 80% of the Force I would field hadn’t even seen combat since well… ever? Same, I couldn’t even find a single spot to play a true game, even a reduced one. My 2nd quarter’s preparation is a shame for any decent wargamer, and a disgrace to a competitor. Long story short: I believed I was nowhere close to fit for this event.

Looking at the panels of the contenders, there was quite a number of hot shots in it, with known perpetrators of podium wrecking, and players whose season I’ve been following (with quite serious positive results under their belt). Plus this tournament offers a great opportunity to meet friends I hadn’t seen since 2022. Which means socializing. Which means drinking ambushes on Friday and Saturday nights…

Also, to add a challenge to the challenge, I’ve decided to quit “painting on the walls” (yep, that’s what I tell my elder kid to avoid answering him about “smoke B.” signs… #NotProud). After failing to succeed with soft therapies, I’ve decided to go the hard way for a couple of weeks (and HARD tells it all). To prove it worths, what’s better than a major FoW tournament, a stressful event, where players have many toys and less time to play, with me coming unprepared? I can’t recall the last tournament I did without lighting a pair, and I seriously anticipated how I would miss those during the event, especially with my poor preparation and the stressing goals I put pressure on me with (Top 10 = 3 Wins).

No painting on the walls… best way to quit? Don’t start

Believing in your strengths

With so many reasons not to come, and fairly good motives to stay home to avoid the shaming that awaited me, I needed to get a competitive mindset back. Well, to (re)build it. Here is the mantra I applied in preparation of the event, with a good dose of punchy loud music in my ears :
– this game didn’t change in 4 months – nor in 4 years
– balanced Build can’t fail you – only you can fail it
– you know your stuff – and your stuff knows you
– when in doubt – go back to basics
– time is a killer – don’t overthink

As per every motivation coaching, what matters is not if it’s truth or false, it’s believing.
Let me know in the Comments what’s your mantra prior to a competition to get your warrior face on!

Funnily enough, I had more mojo for this competition than for the French GT. Call it the international event, the reunion with old friends, the prospect of playing something I have a good feeling with (both the GER and the double Stummels heart crush), the challenge(s)… while still having all reasons to expect a disaster, I entered the competition determined to play decently and be a tough nut to crack during the week-end, with the feeling I actually can do it!

Motivational Speech – Build your head for your body to follow

The Night Before Christmas … and Christmas itself

My army being on the painting bench of Ben Seeling, I was a little nervous to come to the tournament with only my gaming tools, but no model. Fortunately, Ben is the kindest person in the world, and delivered perfectly the toys I needed for the event. Thanks Ben! On the Friday night, we ended up in a small committee, tchit-tchating like teenagers, redoing the world and politics around drinks in a pub until late night. Gosh I missed the socializing of tournaments – felt good! Thanks Joergen, Wasillisios, and Ben!

After a short sleep (children timing!) we moved to the venue on Saturday morning, as early as possible for me to reconnect with my model… and mark them properly with colored stickers (yep, my GER did look like M&Ms all week-end…). Being away from the field for a couple of months (well, and to be honest, out of any event outside France since Summer 2022) I was excited to discover the 29 others rosters. I was a little bit surprised to see the Mad Tracks were so popular in that part of the world, especially as the event was 2h30 gaming time. Many Brigade, Ardennes or Super Soap PanzerGrenadiers, Clausewitz Sturm… big Tanks, small Tanks, but only one chess clock. A good contingent of British and Americans were there (feels logical as they can be balanced and play fast), only 1 Soviets (this Nation is so under-rated…), and no Axis&Allies minor Nations. Some very solid Builds, other quite “experimental”. I was quite satisfied with my twin Clausewitz Sturm, it didn’t feel helpless against anything. #BalanceBuild

Frank “F*** U” Rönspieß’s german force, winner of the painting contest

Round 1 – The Wolf & The Huntsman – Covering Force

For the 1st round, I was paired up with Woeter, coming from Netherlands. He plaid UK Bulge Comets and Kangaroo Rifle, a fairly balanced list, albeit being “pure” and lacking any dirty tricks (things my GER do have a lot). We rolled for Covering Force, Woeter attacking and me defending. Awkwardly enough, this scenario is the best and worst for my Force. All my toys are on the table so quite a scary prospect for anyone, I have many platoons I can withdraw without problem, but I also need a lot of stuff available to create my traps and networks and withdrawing them is bad. Moreover, being a clear target for 8 turns really hurt. I was anxious for this “get back in the game – game” and, on top of my opponent being sportsmanship, what really helped me was the clock. I brought a large army (some said too small compared to my known standards…), all on table from the start, and I needed to play 8 turns… so little time to thing and thus great to play basic instincts (like Sharon Stone would say). I rushed my deployment in less than 10 minutes, and actually managed to fit my 7 turns in 50 minutes!
I choose to leave a big opening in my right flank so the British can take the bait (which they did), but mismeasured a specific spot for my Ambush (1cm makes all the difference – put every implicit you want here), so I had to be cunning a bit in the 2nd Round (where I spent most of my gaming time), stopping cold both Kangoo’s Assault forces with their supporting WASP and Stuart. Woeter had stellar Comets sniper which basically turned my defensive line into a wrecking car park, the British tanks raking hits after hits, even when I went full silence with my force to protect it (hit on 7+). It really felt like the huntsman shooting at the wolf! Even with the sniper shots destroying 6 platoons and the 1 Unit per turn evacuation since Round 3, I still had a solid core (twin Stummels + twin Infantry/HQ + a handful of HT and StuH) to repel the attack.
Victory 6-3 to the GER

Comets’ target practicing and Mad Tracks taking the blows – yet holding Objectives

Round 2 – Elite vs 2nd Grade – Encounter

For the 2nd Round, I met Kai from Germany (my sole native opponent of the whole tournament!). We clashed his Elite Ardennes PanzerGrenadiers (with King Tigers) with my 2nd Grade Berlin ones. We rolled for Encounter, and I was expecting a solid defensive line from Kai, with KT acting as fire fighters from Reserves. However, Kai decided to play with the KT on table… which basically cost him the game Turn 0. The big tanks are solid, but can’t cover both objectives. I thus waited for Kai to place the KT on one objective, to pack my Force in front of the other one, leaving a couple of Units guarding the objective in front of his KT. To nail the coffin, the dice designated me as first player… By Turn 1, my Force rushed massively the thin line of Kai, ready to take blow but in return crush everything under their tracks and bayonets. Kai’s force had so many targets they can’t missed, but obviously can’t stop them all. By Turn 2, my assault force has cleaned all opposition on the objective, while the rest of my force kept Kai’s troops busy (notably the Kleinpanzer gallantly dueling with KT). By Turn 3, nothing prevented my guys to seize both objectives, with all opponent force wiped out from field.
Victory 8-1 to the GER (the poor ones)

With the game being over fast, we spent over an hour drinking and discussing with Kai about the game, what he should have done, how he can improve its list and tactics… a good debrief then, and I hope he was able pass some knowledge to him! Looking forward the rematch man!

“Rush Hour Turn 1” or “Thanks Kai – I needed another example to illustrate my Turn 0 article”

Round 3 – Counter punching the Cobra – Counter Strike

For the 3rd Round, I met Sjon, another player from Netherlands. He was using a D-Day 3rd Armored Division, mixing Sherman/Stuart and ARC Formations plus M10, reminding me of the old days of Version 2 – I actually started the game in 2009 when Cobra was released! We rolled for Counter Strike and I was the Attacker. Back in the days (talking like a true old man…) Cobra’s 3rd Armored was all about Attack … but here it was my turn to counter punch it! Sjon deployed his ARC Formation on board, including its arti park, with HQ Sherman in support, and M10 in Ambush. 2 units of Sherman and the Stuart were in Reserves. I choose the long way for my Force, exposing it badly on Round 1 (Defender has the first turn, so I knew it wasn’t risk free) but taking key battlefield positions for the reminder of the game, and setting up a welcoming committee for US’s reserves. Turn 1 saw both Forces taking spots on the field, Sjon rushing to defend the far flung Objective, his Reserves’ Sherman coming in by back, and me counter pushing with a very large group of tanks, only threatening Sjon’s home Objective with a handful of Units. My welcoming committee greats the Sherman by returning them home. Turn 2 saw the arrival of more US Reserves (Stuart), battering my greeting committee as expected, the M10 bagging one Flak Unit, but the US force launched at the far flung objective were quite scared by my assault force and moved carefully. Seizing the initiative, I went on aggression, pushing the M10 back, bagging the Stuart (while exposing my committee), and anchoring my assault force on the Objective. Turn 3 saw the last Sherman (the big S.76) wrecking my committee as it deserved, but US force were in no shape to repel the large GER push – my Turn 3 saw the final break of the Sherman Formation, the US artillery park and the M10 support. With only its ARPs remaining, Sjon just hunted down a last platoon to grab small points. All in all, the GER daring push proved its worth.
Victory 6-3 to the GER

With 3 Wins and 20 points, I was quite happy with my 1st day start. The target of 3 Wins has been achieved! I needed to keep on performing to maintain in the top 10 as per objective set before the event. As per my other challenge, despite a full day of wargame and a cool diner night, not a single stick was lit…

Normandy – August 1944 – Germany on the offensive – Operation Counter-Bra (ok – bad play on words…)

Round 4 – Revenge of the Cobra – Bypass

After another short sleep (damned kids!), I was quite motivated to keep on the good work started on Saturday, with unexpected results! For the 4th Round, I was waiting for playing against one of a Berlin/Bulge Mad Tracks numerous combos of the event. However, many of those actually made Draws on Saturday, meaning they were in the hunt, but not leading the pack. Interesting.
As such, I met Gerben, again from Netherlands! Never met him, but understood later on he was the reigning champion here. Interesting².
He plaid a US Bulge 3rd Armored Division Sherman, which was a nice wink to my 1st quarter – something like your ex-girlfriend stating “oh yeah? You choose her over me?”. Plus the fact I beat his pal Sjon the game before, all elements were here for the revenge of the cobra.
I made a mistake in selecting my Battle Plan (in my head it was like: “yeah, 1 chance out of 6 it can go wrong… it won’t happen right?”), and got rightfully punished by being the Defender in Bypass. Just to be clear: I believe this is the stupidest scenario of the current Missions pack. It literally screams Draw, and is near unwinnable for the Defender (Attacker stands a chance by being bold and very aggressive with limited resources, but the outcome remain dice dependent which is … too much randomness to be fair).
Knowing it would be very complex to win the match, I was still decided to use all my 1h15 to give hell to Gerben. He obviously secured his objectives with its (all armored) infantry, artillery and recon, and, with S.76 Sherman in Reserves, any daring attempt from my GER to try seizing the Objectives will be heavily hazardous. In the meantime, his fast Chaffee started zooming the field for the far flung objective, soon joined by a 2nd wave S.76 Sherman (1 unit + HQ). I reckoned I needed to rapidly shift the tempo of the battle to my advantage; I thus focused on removing the Chaffee from the board, committing resources (including moving Ambush) to it, and started a long counter pushing line toward the US line. By turn 2, US’s possibilities to actually seize my Objective were obliterated: Gerben could have try to rush my Objectives, but it would have left his Objectives not guarded enough, with my own Force jumping at its throat. Not at all a good idea. Hence began on Turn 3 a game of cat and mouse, with Defending GER chasing Attacking US, pushing them all the way to their table edge. Obviously Delayed Reserves didn’t help, only showing turn 5 as result of automatic showing (this rule sucks so much…). Gerben ends its last turn right on the clock (the last die literally falling when the clock rang! #Talent), and I had one last chance to bag the game, having to remove 1 LMG overlooking the Objective, and destroying or bailing 2 Calliope hiding being a house and controlling the Objective (and also keeping the whole US army actually alive…). Maneuvering as best as I could, I managed to remove the LMG and 1 Calliope, but the last one needed an Assault. On a very classical epic ending of a FoW game, I assaulted with my Inf 1iC, suffered 4 shots 5+, 1 hit connected, and the die gave me … 2. Meaning the US still held and no winner was designated.
Draw 3-3

As epic as this game finish was, it reminded me how frustrating FoW (especially in Competition) can be. The fate of the game was primarily determined by a poorly designed Mission, which also use a very poor mechanic of double dicey Delayed and Scattered Reserves (well, actually, this still let the Attacker have a chance, otherwise it would be pure Draw mission for both… I guess at least one side can actually have fun). Regardless of the armies brought by both players and their respective talent, a single die changed fair to unfair.
To add salt to the sour, the game ended with the US army :
– Attacking but 1 table away from the Objectives they are supposed to take
– Being 1 team away from breaking (with actually 75% models removed vs 10% for the GER side)
– Having let the GER take almost all the risks.
And yet sharing 100% of the points with the GER.
The will not to comply with my “no painting on the wall” challenge at that time was high…

Contradictory to what the picture would suggest, the GER are the Defender (sorry for blurry picture – war reporter was rightfully flogged for incompetence)

Round 5 – Angry wolf bits hard – Breakthrough

Entering the 5th and final Round, I was still shacked by previous round frustrating result. I was expecting to evacuate the frustration in a “mirror match” against the long awaited Mad Tracks… but they do not perform that good (how surprising, right? Irony intended). So I went on facing another US Force, with another Dutchman: Rob P. itself. Rob is a veteran from the game, having plaid it for more than 17 years. He is also the current Chairman of ETC. And yet we never plaid together! Rob aligned a somehow US Task Force A, Fresh Hellcats with Careful Stuart/Sherman, with Artillery. I know this type of Build as Jean Michel used it a lot in previous seasons. It’s a super speedy Concept, that can infiltrate a point of the enemy line and wreak havoc. The main weakness of Rob’s Build is the lack of Infantry, reason why I knew exactly what Battle Plan I needed to use and in what spot I needed to put him on. We ended up playing Breakthrough, with me Defending.

While I prepared for building my strength around the far-flung objectives, leaving a handful of troops to slow down the Yanks, Rob decided to go for a big push, American-style. All his Security Section, Stuart, and M18 rushed my large side, lightly protected by the StuH, and marauding Tracks nearby. That was a bait I could have ignored, but the opportunity was too great. Using a Hill up to their advantage, my Stummels proved they are still a match when facing light armor. Although the StuH were destroyed and my Stummels far from the Objectives I need to defend, I managed to bag the whole Tank Destroyer formation and crippled the Stuart and the Arti Park. While Rob troops were moving on the Objectives, defended by the GER infantry and small tracks, the remnants of my dueling force come back for the party, gun blazing in the process.
By Turn 4, Rob’s Stuart Formation was reduced to 1 hiding HQ and 1 single Last Stand Stuart, with only the Supporting Priest (faced by angry Stummels) and S.76 Sherman (faced by a lot of angry infantry and their long and short barrel friends) remaining. Having bagged my 3rd Unit to grab small points, Rob called it a day.
Victory 6-3 to the GER

A game of big pushes. GER just wanted to win the war more than the US that day

Tournament wrap up

The tournament was well organized by Thomas Rickal, and I believe everybody spent a good time in Germany. Congratulations also to Ben for Best Sports (the most important trophy of all!).

Best sport – best trophy of a FoW competition! GG Ben!

Incidentally, I managed to score 4 Wins and 1 Draw, for 29 points, which puts me in decent 2nd Place. Gerben managed to win its last game, and thus came on top, 4 W / 1 D, but more small points. Congratulations to him! Joost (another Dutchman… was it Netherlands Nationals?) completed the podium with 3 W / 2 D.

The full results are here: https://www.tabletoptournaments.net/eu/t3_tournament_results.php?tid=34369

I may feel carried away by how the event went, and disappointed to miss the top spot for a stupid Mission but hey, it’s FoW, so I know how frustrating this game is… being like that for years! Besides, it’s competition: you sometimes came with little hopes, but the more you pass the hurdles, the more you want to succeed!
To be honest, it’s a solid result. With little to no preparation, I didn’t expect to finish on the podium in the end. So, truth to be told, I’m quite happy overall.
Plus I succeed in my “no painting on the wall” challenge: not a single one!

From gaming perspective, it felt really good to use the Big Bad Wolf again – it’s different from 1st Quarter US, yet, being similar Reluctant Veteran Careful, share some key concepts, advantages and flaws. Same feeling as with the US 3rd AD Sherman, it’s definitely not as solid as the Confident Careful regular package, but does have some very interesting options to explore. It has a significant glass ceiling thou. I still need time to explore this aspect of the GER in LW, pretty sure it can be bettered.

As a side note, I would say the chess clock was great.
I set it at 1h15 per player, starting it only at Deployment. This let time for my opponent and me to discuss the armies, the board, the rules of engagement, set up the Mission. First, I believe it’s an absolute fair tool, to insure both players have the same chances to actually play the game. Both spending the same time playing, and having equal odds to complete their respective mission.
Second, I think it’s a compulsory gesture of good faith for anyone: you don’t want to eat on your opponent’s time. It’s even more important while bringing a large army (which is well the norm now in LW); if you are not capable to play your list in the given time, just use another Build.
Last, if thinking is part of the wargame experience, overthinking is not: the more time you have, the more perfect your actions will be. But taking risks is part of the game.
I can only recommend players to use chess clocks in their game, I know I will definitely bring mine for the remainder for the season.

Squeezing a French Flag in a tournament won by a Dutchman and organized by a German… That’s the French flair!

And the season is not over yet…

With 1st and 2nd quarter gone, I’m looking forward to 3rd quarter. Finding time to play with Real Life kicking (both kids, work, relocation…) is not easy, but let’s try to find spot to play on. Besides, GT are great to actually get a whole week-end of game, in what’s probably the most challenging tournament of a country’s gaming season!
Looking forward the Italian GT in June to conclude 3rd part of the season.

For 3rd Quarter, I believe I will focus on the King’s Men, a.k.a the British (UK); it’s the last Nation with a clear RVC identity, and the Desert Rats in Normandy are long-time friends. Let’s see if we both remember each other…

Knowledge is power: share it widely!