Your First Army! (The FOW Survival Guide)

Follow Matt (aka Papa Bear) as he covers all things FOW for the beginner in his fun, light hearted survival guide. So if you are new to the game, or simply enjoy the idea of learning by someone else’s mistakes instead of your own, then this is the place for you!

Hello all and welcome to a new set of posts I am writing to discuss my learnings after a year of playing the game (& several tournaments) under my belt. I hope to share some of my experiences with players relatively new to the game/event scene in order to assist getting you on that fast track to ‘success’ – well… not picking up the wooden spoon on a routinely basis at least!

This article covers my first army, lessons learnt, whether they were any good or not and of course, some suggestions on building your own first Flames of War company!
My first army was the heroic Finnish Jaakari nutjobs (from Grey Wolf)! I really enjoyed learning about the Finns in the desperate yet stubborn defence of their country against the Soviets, and this certainly influenced my decision to collect a Finnish army. Torni was a legend and equally so in the game! However… (here comes the “but”) Torni and his platoon almost summarise the Jaakari list perfectly… Pretty darn lethal – if you know what you are doing, and sadly – I did not!

This was quite a tricky army to start out learning the game with. Everything is fearless veteran, so yes – you have the highest quality troops, but the obvious trade off to that is limited numbers (especially in the supporting platoons) and FOW is a game where numbers count for a lot! Having the special character limited my learning somewhat too as I became overly focused on getting him into action in order to utilise his ninja special moves, rather than using my force sensibly or coherently. In short everything died – miserably! Sad times.
Certainly one good lesson I learned playing the Jaakari company was the importance of smoke! The only way I could get my infantry stuck into the enemy successfully was by smoke bombardments from the mortar platoon. This quickly became the most important feature in my list and is a fine art that all good players have to master.
Don’t get me wrong, the Jaakari company is a great list and largely I had fun with it. It was also nice having an army with a unique look and feel. However I definetely would not recommend having this as a first army. Too many little gimmicks and rules that will distract you. I made the mistake of selling my Finns on eBay following a massive losing streak. In typical Wargamer fashion I blamed all of the tools at my disposal for the downfall. It wasn’t down to my nooby mistakes or bad decision making at all, no sir! I had a ‘bad army list’ and oh yes the dice gods had forsaken me too of course! (Sigh) Totally regret selling the army on eBay. Would love to give them a little game now that I actually know the rules!
                              Ben’s US infantry. Count the bazookas I dare you!
Let’s ask some of the guys for their thoughts and what their first late war armies were back in the day…

Coxer – (British Paras from ‘A Bridge Too Far’)
“This is a great starter army as vet infantry always work well dug in on objectives. So learning how defensive fire worked was key. Also quite good learning how to attack with it because of night fighting and the ever awesome ‘medium support’. Downsides was the awful infantry painting to begin with! And also the feeling I was missing out on tanks!”

“If I was starting now I’d go for Panzer Kompanie from Grey Wolf.”

Winner Dave – (Tigers and Pumas?)

“I would not recommend this army, especially if the person you play against most is uses dug in British paras!! Although it could perform well against t34 hordes…”
“I’d recommend Tankovy as a starter army, as when you lose you can blame hen and chicks!”
Ben – (U.S. Paras From Overlord)
“I got the army as I loved Band of Brothers. Veteran infantry is a great place to start as you can make a mistake and potentially get away with it. Bar good artillery the army had a bit of everything; Solid A/T guns, a good amount of smoke and bazookas bazookas and more bazookas. The game normally came down to the assault phase one way or another. The downside was that the army wasn’t too mobile and lacked mobile punch.”
“I would recommend starting with US infantry. The models work in mid and late war and can form the best combined arms lists out there with the silly amounts of options available to them.” 
Ben added that US tanks were also definetely worth checking out.
                        Dr Cox recommends a dose of Panzers to brighten up your day..
In Summary…
Some great suggestions there from the guys, I hope you find them useful and in the coming weeks I shall be looking at these recommendations in more detail. Personally I would definetely recommend looking at the German Grenadier Company from Open Fire as the beginnings of a first army… Veteran infantry with some hard hitting, efficient support! Which brings me to the theme of the next blog in this series. – Given the upcoming release of the new boxset we will be looking at, “Building On Your ‘Open Fire’ Army”!
Until next time!