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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It Takes Two to Tango - Building Doubles Lists for Flames of War

By Maurice Kent

(Note, this is a bit of a long one, so hang on for the ride - Maurice)

Tournaments are one of the main ways in which many players enjoy Flames of War. There are all manner of tournaments, which cater to all sorts of tastes: theater specific, open format, pairs, Red vs. Blue-only, and so forth. One format which the I-95 Gamers here on the East Coast in the States are well known for hosting is the Doubles format which pits teams of two players, each fielding a smaller company, against one another.

I've found this format to be quite fun. It lets you and a friend plan, play and try to win as a team. It gives you a second point of view in games, hopefully reducing tactical errors and opening up new perspectives on a given situation. Finally, it also brings a range of new list-building options and quirks which freshen up the standard tournament scene.

With Cold Wars coming in March, and I-95 hosting a 2,000 Point Late War doubles event, I figured I'd pull together some thoughts on building lists for the format. I'm definitely not an expert, but hopefully this gives you some new ideas as you prepare!

Drift compatibility definitely helps in selecting a tournament partner (Photo credit to Pacific Rim)

What makes doubles different?
Three main things set Doubles apart from a normal tournament:
  1. Two Lists and two sets of Compulsory Units - Both you and your teammate must create companies of the same nation, typically at a smaller point value than normal. At Cold Wars, for example, you each get 1,000 pts., and can swing up to 200 points between companies, producing two lists worth 800-1,200 points, totaling no more than 2,000. Each list has to fill its compulsory slots, so you end up with 4+ Combat Platoons in most cases.
  2. Company Break - Per the standard multi-company Flames of War rules, a team loses if either of their companies break. Because you have such small-value companies, you have to take extra care to protect against company breaks.  
  3. Odd Combinations & Redundancies - Doubles allows for a number of crazy company combinations you normally wouldn't see. You can build something like the double Kampfgruppe Swoboda (from Bridge by Bridge), and have nearly as many 8.8s on the table as Germany had in the entire war (~21,000 were produced). You can take your Croc-backed 29th Infantry that auto-attacks and support them with more tanks or paratroopers. You can take a night-attacking Kampfgruppe Kaestner with some Spearheading Panzers to the Meuse. The options are endless, and this creativity is my favorite part about Doubles.    
The Panzergrenadier/Dinosaur team is always popular (photo credit to Dino D-Day)

So now that you're ready to map out some lists, what should you take into account?
  • Points Spread - Because you can swing 200 points, you can front-load one company over the other.  This can be quite helpful to ensure you get the kit you're looking for.  Stick one list with some trained infantry and maybe 1-2 cheap support platoons and let the other list take a bunch of panzers.  You can certainly create two balanced, 1,000 point lists, but be sure to take maximum advantage of your flexibility.
  • Platoon Count - With only 800-1200 points available to each company, you're looking at 3-5 platoons per company in most cases. This shortage is further compounded in half-on/half-off scenarios, where you only have half of the total number of platoons across the two companies. Units like Recce patrols, AA guns, Kampfruppes and mortars, already useful in normal games, are even more critical to up your platoon count. I wouldn't leave home with fewer than four platoons in a company, even if one is a Kampfgruppe and another a R/T 8.8. With so few points on the board, you should seek to maximize your on-board strength.
  • Training Level - Another contributing factor to platoon count is your combination of training levels. Companies with Veteran Combat platoons can drain your points quickly. Fearless companies and companies with re-rolls on company morale are invaluable, as doubles games are often determined by company breaks. One Trained list and one Veteran list, giving the Veteran list the majority of the swing points, strikes a nice balance in numbers and survivability (the easy-button is, of course, the late-LW U.S. lists that can take tons of trained/vet support as desired).
  • Force Type and Auto-Attack/Defend - The mixing of company types (Tank/Mech/Infantry) gives some interesting opportunities to defend with a tank company or attack with infantry. Planning your list around an auto-attack or auto-defend list (or two Tank lists or two Infantry lists that will more than likely attack/defend) can give you an advantage going into a game. The doubles format lets you take some unlikely tools, which you normally don't have access to, and which make attacking/defending easier .
  • Balance or Gimmick - Finally, you can consider whether you want to build a balanced, more standard tournament force across your two lists, or go for a gimmick. A more traditional list would be something like Armored Rifles and 7th AD Shermans, built to take on all-comers. Gimmicks, like the T-26 mid-war horde, or the double-Swoboda, can also be quite competitive, and bring that extra shock and awe factor. Other gimmicks might include 2x full Panzerwerfer or Katyusha batteries, or 2 full platoons of Desperate Measures Pak-40 Halftracks.  Even if you're building a more traditional list, try to throw in one thing or combination that you wouldn't normally use (or be able to use).  
Well everyone, that's all for tod-...wait, what's that?!?  It's a plot twist!

  • Cold Wars: the 600 pt twist - The devious tournament organizers at I-95 have thrown in a new twist for Cold Wars.  In the third round, each player will have to take a viable 600 point list (only 1 combat platoon required) from their full list and play solo against one of their opponents (on a short table, no less).  This should be interesting.  Now you have to find a combination of units that not only works at 600 points, but also works at 800-1,200.  The easiest way to do this is likely to build your 600 point lists and then add on the extra points for the big games via your second combat platoon. 
For example, say I'm taking the R/T 90th U.S. ID from Citizen Soldiers.  These 600 points give me a decently balanced Infantry list for my solo game and some units that will also be useful in the two larger games.

At full-size, I'd probably expand it with the 2nd required rifle platoon and some chemical mortars, leaving 365 points for my ally.

Keep in mind, I'm getting this much stuff only because it's Reluctant/Trained. At the Veteran level, you're looking at 2, maybe 3 platoons in the 600 pt game.

Just remember, everything in the 600 point list has to be in the full list.

I hope you found this article useful.  Hopefully we'll see each other in a future I-95 event! If that's a geographic impossibility, hopefully this has inspired you to host a Doubles tournament in your own region of the world.

So long!

"Maurice Kent is a part-time space cowboy (ED: Wewt Wewww) and acknowledged addict when it comes to toy soldiers.  Based in the Maryland suburbs of DC, he has edited and translated for a variety of games and comics."

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