As long as people have been in competition they have looked for ways to gain an advantage over their opponent while still following the rules. Let’s use American Football as an example. The game was created from a modified form or rugby (the sport I love) and it looked almost the same as its predecessor until 1906, when Saint Louis University first used the forward pass in game. The forward pass took advantage of a rule change to prevent players from getting killed on the field, and soon many teams were using it to dominate their opponents. Teams that were not ready to defend against this new play suffered on the field until they learned how to defend against it. The question you need to ask is; did this rule change “break” the game or did it help it evolve and change? It still took many years for football to perfect the passing game into what we see now on the fields across North America. So much like the football analogy, each new book that Battlefront publishes helps evolve or mature Flames of War.
Big Cat with Company From Remagen
Another example we can use to de-bunk this myth is that as things evolve, a new “threat” emerges which creates learning curve that people must learn in order to defeat it. Think about how the submarine changed warfare in the first part of the 20th Century. When used in mass many people thought that this silent hunter was an unstoppable weapon. However technologies and tactics emerged to help defeat or lessen the effectiveness of this new weapon. It took two wars until developments like ASDIC, better Sonar, depth charges, and the convoy system turned the advantage away from the submarine. The lesson here is that while a new rule, list weapon, may seem unbeatable in a game, the supremacy it enjoys is short lived.
When Bridge at Remagen came out a few years ago many folks thought it created a new “Meta”; and while my Wesfallen list did enjoy some success, good players found ways to kill my Jagdtigers, and nullify my Panzer Trap teams. So much for the “Big Cats” meta.
So with these facts in hand, let us now look at the unseen hand in all of this, the developers at Battlefront. Flames of War is a popular game in a field that has seen more flops than smash hits and a great part of this is how balanced and tight the ruleset is. Having worked on some projects with the developers I can attest that they heavily playtest each list, tank, platoon to ensure it does not affect the balance of the game. Which brings up another question; why would a company create something that breaks its very popular game? The answer is that they wouldn’t; however they do try to grow the game which translates into the players having to learn ways to counteract the latest evolution. If quality control fails; we do get things like Naval Gunfire which Battlefront addressed to balance the game.
NGS was fun while it lasted... ThankfullyAnother way Battlefront keeps things balanced is via the points system, where game changing weapons cost a lot of points and at times makes them uneconomical to use. While the Panther is a great tank, at its points cost (3 LW CV 560 points), it makes it impossible to field a balanced list at 1425 points in Late War. Taking the Panther further as an example, while its front armor and gun are excellent, getting around to the side of these beasts exposes a vulnerability that a player can exploit in order to defeat this threat.
The expensive Panther
So why do we as players claim that the game has a meta? My opinion is that we are not embracing the learning curve with each new addition to the game. We like playing certain lists or types of lists repeatedly and are slow to change things up. Yes; some of this has to do with disposable income and time to paint a new force, however we do like to stay within our comfort zones as things change. Each list comes with a built in learning curve and can play differently than every other list in the game; the onus is on us to learn new tricks and evolve with the game. Sometimes it is not a new list we need it is teaching an old dog new tricks. We seldom look at the different capabilities a list offers us and learn to apply them differently in new situations.
Another thing we as players do is to buy into the myths we hear about certain lists or weapons. When I came to the table with my Westfallen list last year my opponent would usually say “crap, not this again”. That showed me that some players buy into these myths we create and have not yet adapted their style of play or have tweaked their lists to meet a new threat.
How much did the Berlin book change the game?
So I feel I have de-bunked the myth of the meta well enough; the question is how do they get created? The answer is simple as we like playing with the newest and coolest toys which leads to them becoming very popular until a new kid on the block changes everything up. Much like fashionistas, gamers also love the latest trends and styles. I played Remagen lists for many months because I liked how my Jagdtigers and Panzer Trap teams looked, I liked to defend, and most importantly I knew that few of my opponents were taking the time to develop ways to beat this list. I would not say my foray into the perceived “Big Cat” meta was very successful and soon I moved onto Comets from Nachtjager. Another way these myths get created is from speculation when we read about a list in a new book; before we ever get a chance to play with or against it.
My Time with Comets did not last longI have heard the claim from many players that they enjoy mid-war because it is the most balanced and lacks a game breaking meta. While this fact may be true we should also realize that right now the Mid-War period is the oldest in Flames of War and the folks at Battlefront have yet to grow and evolve this period. The fact that mid war is so balanced also de-bunks the myth that certain national rules create an unfair balance since they are the same as in the late war period where the myth of the meta seems to always be buzzing around.
So I hoped to have cured you from any fear you have of the latest meta and I hope to be asked to host Myth Busters when they reboot the show.