Much Ado about Match-ups

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better – Georg C Litchenburg

Pull up a sandbag…

I first attended a FOW event about five years ago. 

It wasn’t the biggest of events but it had about twelve players and we played five games over the weekend.  Back then we were playing version 3 of Flames of War. 
Just like the vast majority of events it followed the same pattern. We played two defensive battles, and three mobile/fair fights.  A popular mix was Hold the Line, Counter Attack, Dust Up, No Retreat and Encounter.  In these days working out attacker and defender was never really anything but the standard ‘Armour > Mech > Infantry’ along with the usual auto defend and auto attack nuisances.  For the most part this worked. 

How the rest of the game may go is another matter

Of course version three was widely regarded as a defenders advantage (ie its easier for the defender due to the defender winning if there is a time out).  Also towards the end of the late war meta, auto attack for tanks had almost become a must have if you were competitive minded.  However the key point to my rambling and reminiscing is that there was a standard and with very few exceptions (campaign events mainly) all events ran this way perhaps with a different mission mix (or rolled for at some). 
As Version 4 makes its 18 month point I do not feel there is yet a standard for events, certainly in the UK.  I am going to look at why and also explain how Breakthrough Assault will be doing it and hope that as time goes on, as different event organizers, we can find a common approach.

Version 4 match ups

The current Flames of War rulebook offers a variety of ways to choose attacker and defender, based on either agreeing with your opponent your preferred roles or rolling off. 
However Battlefront released an add-on to the rulebook in the ‘More Missions‘ pack soon after launch of Version 4.  Not only did this do as it says and add more missions, it also added a table allowing battleplans to be used to determine mission and who the attacker and defender is.

The late-war Romanian player has an advantage here by being able to choose to be either allied or axis…

The key thing here is that before the battle you can think as a commander of your force and choose how best to approach your enemy. 
For example, an armoured force would rarely want to attack head on into a infantry gun line so might choose maneuver, equally an infantry force with lots of guns would not want to go rushing around so chooses to defend.   Of course war rarely works out how you want so you end up with chance of a defensive nature game favoring the gun line or a mobile battle like Counter-Attack just as the tank commander wanted. 
The key thing about this system is that it stops what I call ‘silly’ situations.  For instance, if you are going to play Hold the Line and both your armies are tanks then someone has to be the defender and therefore have deep reserves.  That can cripple an armoured focused force and some expensive armies like Germans (especially below 100pts) would massively struggle to field guns and infantry to hold the line when rushed by a tankovy.   The great thing about battleplans is that unless a tank army chooses a defense stance it wont have to face this odd situation.

These guys chose the attack stance!

So whats the issue?

At first glance you would be forgiven for asking ‘why hasn’t this just been adopted as standard?’ After all, I have yet to see an event in recent months that doesn’t use the actual missions and victory conditions (which were updated to prevent draws) from the more missions booklet.  Well two reasons are put forward

  1.  Some TOs like to have everyone playing the same mission.  Some would say it makes things easier and also ensures everyone has the same experience. 
    Now, the former argument I do not agree with; after a match-up it’s down to players to sort the battleplans so the TO doesn’t need to be involved. However, the second one has some solid basis, being rooted in fairness from a competitive point of view.  Now if you are playing in the Masters and everyone is taking things very seriously this ensures the playing field is level however I just don’t feel its that big a deal for 99% of events.  At the end of the day you are picking what type of mission your force wants to play and that is being balanced against the opponents stance.  You will not get exactly what you want all the time, just like everything in the game luck and the roll of the dice plays its part.  Equally I would suggest not penalizing armoured players by forcing them into the wrong side of defensive battle is also fairer for everyone involved.
  2. The second and perhaps stronger reason is repetition of missions.  Under battleplans there is the risk that you will play the same mission more than once. 
    Now, to be fair, this was hugely reduced by the new version of battleplans which added more variety to the dice off to decide the mission after stance selection.   Also, if you take a one dimensional army. say a defensive British rifle formation with loads of 6pdrs and 17pdrs. and always choose defend. you are far more likely to play the same missions, even if facing a maneuver or attack stance.  So in that case can you really be surprised that you have to be prepared to play the same mission more than once? 
    For me its just expectation management, even if you do have different dimensions to your army and change stance, you could still play the same mission.  Fundamentally every battle is different, its against a different army, and normally on a different table.  The fact that it might still be counterattack for the second time, doesn’t really concern me as the whole game will feel and play differently. 
    That being said, this is a real and legitimate concern and when I speak to other TOs its one of the key reasons they choose to not use the battleplan system.
Greg’s IL-2 didn’t make much of an appearance on the day. 290pts of not much action.

So can we have our cake and eat it?

I think as a TO I can use battleplans and, whilst not eliminating the repetition of missions, certainly reduce them and, most importantly, keep the event fun.

Basically players should be left to carry out the process of arranging mission/attacker as normal using the table above and apply the following:

  1. If BOTH players have played the mission then if BOTH players agree then the mission can be re-rolled until a mission is rolled which ONE player hasnt played.  The reason I say both is so that one player isn’t disadvantaged, perhaps they have been choosing this stance all weekend and waiting for this mission to come up.
  2. If ONE play has played the selected mission more than once already and doesn’t not wish to play it again then the TO/Umpire may select a similar mission to be played.  As an example, say player 1 has played Hold the Line twice and the stances were maneuver and defend.  If the player doesn’t want to play this again then he/she can ask the TO/umpire to re-select (unless both players can agree between them).  In this case Hold the Line is a defensive mission style mission and therefore looking at the table a similar mission would be Rearguard or Bridgehead.  

Basically I see this as a pragmatic way to mitigate some repetition of missions while staying true to the principle of V4 mission selection using more missions.  

Come and join us on 21 Oct at the Crawley Games Club

Breakthrough Assault Events

We view battleplans as a fundamental part of the current version of Flames of War.  Embracing it and the changes it will bring to the format of an event is just a step into something different, and that to hang onto older styles designed for a different version will not allow the game to grow to its full potential.  The game was designed and tested around battleplans and we feel it therefore provides the most balanced and fair experience allowing you to field the army you want rather than the army that satisfies what a TO has chosen as that events attack/defend decider.  Therefore with the exception of campaign driven events like Ben’s upcoming Stalingrad campaign next year we will use battleplans at our events and also encourage opponents to discuss if they are having a duplication of missions and use the 2 points above if needed.

I hope that as MW is has now gained a lot more variety of forces and therefore tactics and choices we will see a greater variety of stances and playing styles, thus naturally reducing repetition.  

17 thoughts on “Much Ado about Match-ups

  1. Nice article guys!
    In our local tournaments we use Battleplans and have the TO roll one die for all of the tables to use. This seems to help minimize the number of repeat missions.


    1. I go one further, have the TO roll one die for all of the tables to use each round, striking that result. This eliminates the result from future rounds eliminating repeats.
      Another alternative is to only allow the players in a 3-round tournament to use one stance per round. i.e. use Attack in Round 1, Defend in Round 2 and Maneuver in Round 3.

      1. Hmm cannot edit my comment. So to further clarify, it is early 🙂

        In a given 3-round tournament each player can use each stance only once without a repeat. So they know this ahead of time and build their list accordingly. You allow them to see the table, opponents list and then to make their selection, revealed at the same time for that round; to either Attack, Maneuver or Defend. I kind of dig the rock, paper, scissor aspect. Just so long as no one has Lizard-Spock you are golden.

        1. That doesn’t really work because you could end up with very very unfair match ups especially in the last round with infantry attacking armour or armour in deep reserve.

          If you have to build you list around being all three stances then it just limits choice as you have to be a Swiss Army knife, that really affects armies like the Germans who are very expansive and will just encourage infantry and armoured car spam leading to less tanks.

          1. So it makes you plan what card to play =) A game in a game, what card to choose. Anyway a list that tends to be universal is better than a one-sided list that always selects “attack” or “defend” an plays only 4-5 missions instead of all.

      2. I recently played in a tournament with 5 rounds, and we could only use a stance once per day. Worked out very well.

  2. I use Battleplans for the events that I run, but with one modification to cut down on repeat missions.

    After matchups have been announced, I give the players 5 minutes to find their tables, review the terrain and their opponents list then choose a stance.

    Then as TO, I roll a dice and that result is applied to all games. If a repeat number from a previous round is rolled, it is re-rolled.

    While this does not completely eliminate repeat missions, it reduces the number of them to a more acceptable level.

    The other bonus to this method is that there are only 3-4 missions that will be played. As a TO, this helps me because I am only answering questions about those missions for that round.

  3. You Will with 12+ players play just about all mission in each game turn.
    This Will Also mean rearguard Will be played every round
    The defender Can only win by Surviving all 9 turns
    So either the TO has to accept very long games or the defenders Will be in even worse disadvantage than V.4 already put Them in

  4. Nice article!

    But just one comment. wouldn’t it be easier to allow battleplans, but the TO who states what is the dice roll in the chart?

    i.e.: first round, result will be one. If it is an attack/ attack, the game is breakthrough. Attack defend is a bridgehead. And so on.

    That would allow the players to avoid undesired missions with some flexibility, and the TO won’t drive crazy trying to control so many different games.

  5. I have run 5 events in NZ this year, none being in the same geographic location. I started with FoW back in 2000. I have 5 events already planned for 2019, None of them use Battleplans. I was badly burned at Panzershreck under the old Battleplans. Three Breakthroughs in five rounds. I have a competition based viewpoint. But have run narrative and scenario based things over the years. Battleplans accentuate the differences in experience levels of the players. And changes the list build methodology. Next year will be the first time I will be going up to the 100 point value. I think I understand what you are attempting to do. Will you be data gathering over the next year and revealing that data to the wider community?

  6. Hopefully will meet a number of you at Novi Sad in August. I played at the WelshOpen three years ago.

  7. “For example, an armoured force would rarely want to attack head on into a infantry gun line so might choose maneuver, equally an infantry force with lots of guns would not want to go rushing around so chooses to defend. ”

    To my way of thinking, the armoured force would be better choosing Defend! You get a far better set of scenarios, as most of them will make an infantry force cross the table – not ideal vs armour.

    1. Not really as the infantry would prob choose defend and it would be a meeting engagement.

      Also if they choose manoeuvre you could end up in deep reserves and that’s something you can’t afford.

  8. I frankly don’t care about repeating a mission in a tourney, so long as I don’t have to repeat the table!

    Some forces will WANT to repeat a mission, others won’t. Why should anybody care what missions are playing on matches they aren’t involved in?

    The new Battleplans matrix is way better than the previous iterations and allows for a large amount of variability. If we had additional missions of each type to choose from I would welcome their inclusion in the matrix. All in all over the last 18 months I definitely enjoy using the matrix, and don’t want the TO to force me to choose any particular stance …

  9. As TO in our group I like having the same mission for all players. Opponents pick Attack/Defend, then the mission is revealed. I use one Defensive battle , one maneuver battle, one encounter battle..

  10. This TO has been using battleplans since they first came out, even providing a copy for each table at last year’s Warfare event (no copies this year).

    I leave it to the players to roll for their mission, but I’m fine with TOs rolling, provided the players get to pick their stance.

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