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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Flames of War List Building 101

 by Chris Fretts

I find list building to be one of the fun challenges of playing Flames of War.  Finding a list that suits your playing style will increase your enjoyment of the game.   It can be frustrating for a player to fight both his list and his opponent on the table.  Hopefully a well-designed list will help you be competitive in a Tournament.  I don’t feel like there are any lists that will win always –it always comes down to who is playing the list, your Opponent and his list, the mission and the table.  Here are some of my thoughts on list building.

A Combined Arms list is a must for me.  I like lists that can be aggressive on the attack but  I must be prepared for missions where I need to defend.  Several missions, especially the Fair Fights, require lists that can do both to be successful.  While a list with all heavy Tanks  and little else or a static Fortified list can do well in some missions, they can fall apart in others.  Static lists always have trouble with Fair Fights when they need to get up and attack.  Heavy Tank lists with little else make for easy pickings for Bazooka, Panzerfaust, Gammon bomb-laden infantry lists.  While a combined arms list may not immediately dominate in any mission, it will almost always have a good chance of doing well in every kind of mission.

In a Tournament setting, you need to have a list that can have a chance in all the missions.  Especially in a 3-round tournament you don’t want to go into that event having a mission where your force has no chance of playing a competitive game, much less winning.  My objective in any game is to have fun and a well-built list will help to make that happen.

In regards to being ready to play any mission, I think the idea of “front loading” or “Max/Min-ing” can also be a poor choice.  This is when you try to put together a Company with a few expensive platoons filled out with weaker platoons to keep your platoon count high enough to have all those expensive platoons on the table in Missions with Reserves.  Defending in Cauldron or other missions that have reserves coming in amongst your opponent’s Force can have disastrous results and possibly cost you the game.

As an example of list building here is how I came up with my EW French list that has done quite well for me in the last three EW Nationals.  The points and the lists have varied a little but the core list and the ideas behind the list have stayed the same.   I finished 2nd in the Texas EW Nationals and won Historicon EW Nationals last summer and also won Adepticon EW Nationals this spring.  Looking at the three lists below you will see how they are changed based on the different points levels for each event.  The core units remain the same throughout.

I’ve been playing French in EW since the Blitzkreig book came out.  They have lots of good choices and I have played many types of French lists over the years.  However, my favorite is the French Colonial Infantry Company.  The Fearless Trained Infantry who hit in assault as veterans are great in both offense and defense.  Adding the 25mm guns from the HQ to the infantry gives them a decent AT punch defending in assaults. And the Supply Carriers are a must. 

Here are the things I thought about when putting together these lists:
• Must be able to attack and defend
• Must have at least two mobile units
• Must have Recon to push back Ambush and do Eyes and Ears
• Must have an answer to Tanks – especially those with 6+ Armor
• Must have an answer to Japanese Night Attack
• Must work in Missions with Reserves and Mobile Reserves
• Needs at least one Smoke Bombardment Unit
• Needs at least one Bombardment Unit to Pin Infantry
Looking at the components of the Company from the Adepticon Tournament, this is how they work to address the above list.

HQ – Fearless Trained– This huge HQ is a large part of what makes this force work.  First it allows the force to get to nine platoons so that your first loss doesn’t count for victory points.  This list will lose at least one platoon in many games – there are just too many situations where that can’t be avoided, especially with the Lafflys as I will explain below. 
As mentioned above, the 25mm AT guns both increase the number of stands in the infantry platoons for morale as well as giving them some AT punch since they have no other integral AT in the platoons.  The 81mm mortars typically are that 9th platoon and are great for smoke bombardments – vital for the trained infantry to get in for an assault. 
And then there are the Supply Carriers.  Attaching one out to the infantry, 25mm AT or 20mm AA platoons give units in those platoons an additional 1 to their ROF for one shooting or assault phase during the game.  This can make a huge difference in pushing back an assault. I have gotten quite good at pushing back both infantry, especially Japanese, and tank forces needing those two hits with those Carriers attached to either my infantry or gun platoons.  I have also used the Carriers in attack in those situations where I need to pin that platoon before going in for assault – upping the ROF to two shots per stand is a big help in getting more hits.

Infantry Platoons – Fearless Trained - Hitting on a 3+ in Assault make them good in both attack and defense.  The VB team can be helpful in dealing with guns. 

20mm AA Platoon – Fearless Trained  - HE and the ability to have a Supply Carrier attached makes them a decent anti-infantry or AT defense backing up an infantry platoon.  As many Axis players take Stukas or other Air Support, this is also a good answer to that threat.

25mm AT Platoon – Fearless Trained - No HE but with ROF 3 and a 6 AT means they can be a good AT defense against lighter armored vehicles.  Attaching a Supply Carrier means a minimum of 2 shots per gun.  Don’t forget it also makes them ROF 2 when firing as a rifle team at infantry.

Light Combat Platoon – Confident Trained  -This list needs some tanks for mobility and for assault.  In an open tournament I feel like Chars or Somuas are not worth their points.  The Armor on the Char can be helpful but both tanks have the AT6 FP4 gun.  The gun is too weak against so many other tanks, especially Germans with protected Ammo.   Lots of hits from these guns bounce off or result in bails instead of kills and the return fire can be deadly.  I tend to think of my tank platoon as more of an anti-infantry or anti-gun asset.  The Lafflys are my primary anti tank force in this list.  The 3-3-1 armor is good enough and a five tank platoon for 250 points is a better choice than the costlier, heavier French armor choices.  Their MG fire and the Tank Terror roll needed to assault them is also a big help in defense.

Deep Reconnaissance Platoon – Confident Trained – Recon is a must in any force.  Generally I prefer two recon units to push back ambushes and use eyes and ears on enemy platoons.  That’s not possible with this list.  This is also a good mobile unit in the force in both attack and defense.  I try not to regard this unit as an AT asset.  The AT6 FP5 gun is a disappointment most of the time though can be used in conjunction with the Lafflys to force some double bails.  Otherwise their machine gun support fire and their ability to force a Tank Terror roll when backing up the infantry platoons is another important role in addition to their Recon duties.

Self Propelled 47mm Anti-tank Platoon – Confident Trained – I lose this platoon in many games but it is vital to this list.  The AT9 can punch through many of the EW Tanks or at least stands a good chance of a penetration.  Unfortunately the 4+ firepower can mean lots of bailed out tanks at the end of shooting. This can mean a level of return fire, especially from German tanks with Protected Ammo, that can destroy these lightly armored (0-0-0) units after one round of shooting.  Coming out of ambush with ROF 3 per gun is great.  Moving into shooting at ROF 1 means that taking five of them is a must.

Horse Drawn 75mm Artillery Battery (2 guns)  - Fearless Trained - This unit is for direct fire and for smoke.  I have run the full 4 gun 105mm battery in the past for about the same points.  The 75mm have better range and AT in direct fire.   Also the French “Quick Fire” rule means they don’t have to re-roll hits as a two gun battery.  They are not as good in bombardment but I don’t find Trained Artillery with AT4 FP4 to be that effective anyway.

Air Support – the 25pt Air Intercept is a no-brainer.  It stands a good chance of stopping your opponent’s first successful Air Support roll. Anything beyond that is a bonus for the 25 points.
So, now open up Forces of War, Easy Army, Army Builder or your book and a paper & pencil and start playing with Army lists.  Figure out what you want your list to be able to do.  Once you have a list you like, play it several times to learn its strengths and weaknesses.  Make adjustments as you try it out against different forces and in different missions.  Learn how to get the most out of it and above all enjoy the game.

Chris is an avid Flames of War player.  He is instrumental in organizing tournaments and events, notably three individual tournaments at Gen Con, in Indianapolis.  Chris has been the number one ranked player in the WWPD National Rankings for the past year.  Although a fierce competitor, Chris is an incredible sportsman and always treats his opponents with the utmost respect on and off the gaming table.   His enthusiasm and  passion for the game continues to strengthen and grow our community and we are proud to have him as a contributor to WWPD
- Luke

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