Now that the dust has settled on the ETC for another year, time for some reflections on Team Scotland’s latest exploits.
I’ve covered in previous articles the issues we had getting a team together for the tournament, so first things first, a huge huge thank you to Jonny Fisher (Northern Ireland / Canada), Ulick O Sullivan (Ireland) and Oraj Bodur (Ireland) for joining the team and helping us out, and fitting seamlessly into Team Scotland, “Go raibh maith agat” guys it was much appreciated
Before I get into a blow by blow account of the games, it’s maybe a good idea to start with a few general observations about the ETC and the city.
Arena Zagreb was a great venue; it was spacious, and thankfully air conditioned.
The Flames of War tables were congregated at one end of the hall and so we had loads of room around the tables, much more so than I think the teams playing fantasy games had; the organisers are really to be commended on this, I think it helps keeps things cool both on and off the table when people aren’t’ playing right on top of each other.
However there was a bit of an issue with the plastic chairs that were in use around the arena; they kept collapsing, with in many cases the back legs snapping clean away. It’s a wonder someone wasn’t more badly injured than the bumps, bruises and wounded dignities that occurred. The organisers were running a count which had got up to 81 I think, and whilst it appears amusing it could have caused a major issue had someone been hurt or brought a table with figures down on themselves.
One other issue at the venue for the Flames of War teams was that the table scenery was pretty sparse, and not really as good as it should have been for a premier competition. Indeed, had not Fred and Sebastien and the other French players gone out on Thursday after the Singles Competition and bought some stand in terrain (doormats, tissues for wood outlines etc) it would have been a lot worse. In fairness to the organisers, there is no Flames of War scene in Croatia at all, and so they didn’t really have a lot of assistance in knowing what was needed, and they worked really hard to produce some lovely 3D printed buildings, but it wasn’t really adequate.
This is an issue that’s been rumbling for a few ETCs now and nobody should underestimate the difficulties in providing terrain for 120 tables, hopefully by next years Tournament in Novi Sad it will be resolved.
Just quickly before I get into describing the games, you may notice that there are a lot of photos of us drinking…..for the last 3 years we’d taken objective markers and dice to give to opponents as a little gift. This year we each took a bottle of single malt scotch whisky to present to our opponents…as they all asked us to share a dram with them it seemed impolite not to.
To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect with the army I was using, [Norwegians as voted by or readers – Lee] and given my lack of practice with it. Whilst it looked, on paper, a solid v3 army I really couldn’t tell how it would work in v4. So I very much had fingers crossed for a nice match up in the first round so I could get a feel for how it handled.
Game 1 v Kristian Lyndgard – Denmark – Japanese Infantry (two formations) – Free For All
Yup, so crossing those fingers didn’t work out very well as I ended up taking one for the team (it’s the Captains duty !!) and facing Kristians beautifully painted Japanese (Kristian would deservedly win the individual painting prize) in Free for all.
Kristian had a primary formation of Infantry with two 13 team Infantry platoons, and three artillery batteries, and a secondary formation of two 4 tank Chi-Ro platoons with a three tank HQ.
Kristian won the roll off and so was technically the attacker; of course he chose to attack at night, which meant I had to be good at rolling 5’s to stop him overrunning my poor Norwegians. Kristian also had a sizeable supporting force of tanks.
I did manage to stop Kristians infantry, and my Foreign legion chaps did take out a couple of tanks with a daring charge, but my gunners had singly failed to do much damage to the paper tigers that are Japanese tanks. Concentrating on an objective defended by Norwegian infantry (and with me failing to unpin my pioneers) Kristian was able to get himself into a winning position. One more turn would have done it, and we were fairly motoring through turns, but time was called with him being just short, phew.
A great game, and one which did actually give me a bit of confidence about the army, up against a list which favoured my opponent, who was also a very good player
Game 2 v Doruk Akyuz – Turkey – Japanese Infantry- Breakthrough
After a team discussion on this one, we decided that we’d go with the Norwegians with an attack stance as a bit of a curve ball for the opposition. Unfortunately, I once again got matched up against a Japanese army. Hey, like I said, Captains duty!
I was once again the defender. This time, as well as holding off the night attacking Japanese hordes, I needed to marshal my army so that I had core units still on table at the end of eight turns.
Breakthrough is now a real challenge for the defender, and fortunately I’d designed the army to be able to deal with Breakthrough (though I’d have preferred to be the attacker). I kept my two MG platoons (which are core) as separate units instead of integrating them into the Gevars platoons, and awaited the assault.
The army was slightly different to Kristians with one formation, built around two 13 team Infantry platoons with banners, two template batteries, an AT battery and a seven tank platoon of mixed Chi-Has and Chi-Ros.
Doruk made use of the Sacred Banner special rule in a way that Kristian hadn’t, because he disagrees with it; leaving a light mortar team from each Infantry Company behind, within 6 inches of the banner deployed at the table rear. It meant the Companies never failed morale, and just kept coming.
My opponent set up to attack all the objectives at once. Dawn broke early and the lack of cover on the table, plus my early move into a centrally located village meant I was able to pummel his repeated assaults, but as each Norwegian unit left the table (often in bad spirits meaning I lost a small victory point) the line got thinner and thinner. My only two infantry units with any real chance against tanks (Pioneers and Foreign Legion) are not core troops so when they were sacrificed I was starting to worry. I was hanging on with two Gevars platoons and the French tanks. The Japanese infantry were effectively down to one stand each so his tanks were the threat.
Then my opponent seemed to get his versions mixed up and in order not to give me shots at his tanks fell back away from the objective so that at the start of his last turn he wouldn’t start with any troops inside 4 inches of the objective, effectively meaning that even if he moved up and assaulted me off the objective he couldn’t win and I would win on my turn, so I hunkered down to make sure he couldn’t break me through fire and assault and survived. Given I would have had 6 shots of defensive fire I would probably have been ok with AT 4 and against armour 1 but it was nice not to have to test the dice.
Game 3 – Dave Madigan – New Zealand – Light Pioneer Company – German – Counterattack
I’ve been gaming against Dave for years, but he’s always had the slight edge on me at competitions; even if after some of our games I went on to lift trophies! However, this was our first ever game at the ETC.
This time I went with a manoeuvre stance to slightly present a curveball, and Dave claims he took one for the team by selecting me as his opponent. As his pioneers were using a defend stance I was nominally the attacker.
Dave’s army was built around two large 10 team pioneer platoons, one armoured in & half tracks and one in trucks. He had two platoons of Panzer II destruction tanks, two Pak 38 50mm Anti-Tank Platoons and a Nebelwerfer battery.
There was again a dearth of terrain, but close to one of the objectives there was a ruined factory complex.
I was able to blitz and normal move my large pioneer platoon into this ruin, protected against Dave’s marauding half tracks by the bullet proof cover and some pretty good saving throws. My plan being to use the large pioneer unit to attack out over the objective once I’d neutralised Dave’s reinforcements with my own and with artillery fire.
I was able to take out Dave’s nebelwerfers quite early and so the plan worked quite well, Dave did finally get an infantry unit and some half tracks into a position to overrun my French 75mm battery, thanks to making 26 consecutive infantry saves(!) but the important action was on the other side of the board and I was able to overrun the infantry platoon and Pak38s guarding the objective after weakening them with mortar and infantry gun fire
Game 4 -Pedro Torradinhas – Portugal – Japanese – Bridgehead
Hurrah, another Japanese army; again taking one for the team.
Pedro’s army was similar to Doruks, one formation based around two 13 team platoons with banners. It had less templates having only one small Battalion Gun platoon, an anti-tank battery, a very small HMG platoon, and this time a tank company of 10 tanks (8 Chi-Ros and 2 tankettes).
Again a mixed Force of Infantry and tanks with Pedro availing himself of the Banners rule with two teams dropped back. This meant to win I basically had to kill every infantryman and every tank that was on my side of the table; the infantry wouldn’t fail morale tests.
This battlefield had slightly more terrain on it, and the Japanese did get the cover of darkness for a lot longer than I found comfortable.
Wave after wave of Japanese infantry came screaming at the thin Franco-Norwegian line. Fortunately, unlike in other games, my 25mm ATGs and tanks were able to deal with the Japanese tanks, but I lost the Foreign Legion and a platoon of Gevars chewed up by the two Japanese assaults I couldn’t stop by shooting; yes I did role a lot of 5’s early in the game fortunately.
As the clock ticked down there was one stand of Japanese infantry standing between me and a win, I surrounded it with tanks, MGs and a platoon of Gevars ready to charge in, 24 shots later Pedro failed the last save he had to make thus avoiding me having to test my dice luck again with an assault
Game 5 – Christian Zaufl – Austria – Soviet Strelkovy – Contact
This game started really slowly as our reinforcements slowly started to come on table, we traded desultory artillery bombardments, but frankly the size of the Soviet infantry units (two 19 team platoons) plus some fairly nifty 45mm ATGs and a Shturmovik meant I wasn’t really going to have much success trying to shift him off the objective.
However the game started to liven up as whilst my reserves arrived evenly across the board, Christians all started to turn up on his right flank, including a unit of three Valentines against which only my 75mm guns and pioneers in assault were any good, sadly both these units were on the opposite edge of the board.
It was a great tactical game, me trying to get my decent units over to cover my left objective whilst the Valentines slowly chewed their way forward, never failing a counterattack test (and never rolling the double one needed for my Gevars to bail them).
I lost 2 75mms traversing the table, my pioneers spent two terms pinned down in the centre of the table, as the pesky lend lease tanks inched closer to the objective. I lost another gun, but destroyed two of the three valentines and now it was all about not rolling a three or less on morale; twice thanks to the new v4 “test until you fail” rules.
Fortunately the dice gods smiled and I was able to brew up the last Valentine in defensive fire as it assaulted to probably win the game.
Absolutely fantastic tactical game with lots of manoeuvre
Game 6 – Oskari Holm – Slovenia – Finnish – Dust Up
So Finns who pass morale on 2+, who recce deployed as close to the objective as possible, and who started assaulting me on turn 2!
This was another hair raising defensive epic by the Norwegians. helped by reserves arriving on the first and every subsequent roll; did I mention I had good dice?
Oskari deployed two 9 team Infantry platoons, a unit of mortars and a unit of 76mm guns plus a platoon of tanks on table.
Oskari launched an assault with infantry on turn 3 under cover of smoke which pushed me off the objective, but reduced his two infantry platoons to single teams.
On the next turn again under cover of smoke a unit of captured T26s got lucky, fortunately his other platoon of tanks was in reserve, and was able to get an assault into my infantry as a result of both my defensive fire hits ending up on one tank; 12 shots needing 4s and this was when my dice failed me.
The T26s chewed up my Foreign legion in a seesaw melee leaving my tanks bypassed; when the Legion finally broke off, the tanks which had been bypassed broke off but they did so back over the objective, in accordance with the shortest possible distance rule, and so the Objective was still contested.
On my turn the dice gods weren’t as cruel and all the T26s ended up in flames.
At that point, my opponent had two artillery pieces and his C-in-C left so conceded; the game was over in less than 90m minutes so ferocious had been the fighting.
My opponent had skilfully used the smoke and terrain to get his assaults in with as little defensive fire as possible, but the Norwegians can put down an awful lot of dice. Fun game, not the most tactical and, as my opponent was actually Finnish, we drank the best part of a bottle of salmiaki (see last years article !!) to toast the dead !
If someone had said that I would go to the ETC having played less than half a dozen games of v4, with an army voted for by readers of this blog that I’d had to finish painting the weekend before and come away with four wins and two draws (and no losses) then I probably would have questioned their sanity. but that’s what happened.
To be fair, against the Japanese armies there was not a lot of tactical finesse beyond making sure I was deployed in mutually supporting positions, which of course is made somewhat easier in v4, and then hoping I rolled at least 4s. Giving the Gevars rifle / mg was, I think, the key. Supported by six HMG teams, who always started on table against the Japanese, this meant there was an awful lot of dice getting thrown down range.
As my Finnish opponent playing for Slovakia basically used his Finns like Japanese that game was not dissimilar. Kristian used his army brilliantly, and in my view had the best most balanced Japanese list I played, keeping me on the ropes and had we had another turn would undoubtedly have beaten me. The other Christian (with a C) played a fantastic tactical game which also went down to the wire.
I enjoyed playing more than I thought I would; as many of you know I’m not a huge v4 fan, but that could also be down to my results. As far as I know, only one other player has ever used Norwegian at a competition (ETC or UK based ); step forward Will Denham :-)). So it was nice to use something very different which stood out in a sea of Japanese, Strelkovy and Legicky Tankovy armies.
A huge shout out to the team, and especially to our Irish contingent, and I should definitely not let Johnny Fishers 5 wins from 6 games (again with next to no v4 practice) go without a special mention
Will we make it to Serbia for this years competition, we’re not sure yet, watch this space