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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

DIECON V4 Early War Tournamnet AAR

By Tom Burgess

DIECON, June 3rd 2017, at Collinsville, Illinois included an V4 Early War Flames of War tournament which I had the pleasure to attend. This would be my third Version 4 tournament, but first for Early War. The tournament organizer was the very capable Will Yankowski.  The event had 10 players, some of which traveled from as far away as Wyoming and Kansas. 

The forces played in order of their final standing (1st place to 10th) were:

Tom [author of this article] - Czech Panzerkompanie [CV]- HQ 2 x PzKw-36(t)B; 4 x PzKw-36(t)B; 4 x PzKw-36(t)B; 4 x PzKw-II; 3 x Panhard 178(f); 4 x 10.5cm NbW35 Mortar; 1 x 8.8cm FLaK36 w/ Transport; Limited Ju87B Stuka
Charlie  - Czech Panzerkompanie [CV]- Rommel in PzKw-38T; 2 x PzKw-38T; 5 x PzKw-38T; 4 x PzKw-II C (Late); 1 x M/C Cmd MG, 4 x M/C MG. M/C Lt Mortar, M/C ATR; 2 x FLaK36
8.8cm; Priority JU87B Stuka

Jeremey - Compagnia Bersaglieri [Elite] - 2 x Cmd Rifle, Solothurn AT Rifle; Cmd Rifle, 6 x Rifle MG; Cmd Rifle, 6 x Rifle MG; 3 x 81/14 Mortar; M13/40, 3 x M13/40 Tanks w/ AAMG; 4 x M13/40 Tanks; Cmd Pioneer Rifle, 6 x Pioneer Rifle; Brixa 45mm Mortar; 4 x 75/27 Artillery, 4 x 75/27 Artillery; Sporadic FIAT CR 42 Falco
Everett - Belgian Infantry Company [CT] - Cmd Rifle Team; Cmd Rifle/MG Team, 6 x Rifle/MG Teams; Cmd Rifle/MG Team, 6 x Rifle/MG Teams; Cmd Rifle/MG Team, 6 x Rifle/MG Teams; 3 x HMG Teams; 4 x 8cm Mortar Teams; 3 x 47mm Bohler AT Gun Teams; 3 x 47mm Bohler AT Gun Teams; 3 x 40mm Bofors AA Gun Teams;  Cmd Cavalry Rifle/MG Team, 6 x Cavalry Rifle/MG Teams (Recce); Obs Rifle Team, 4 x 12cm Guns;  4 x 7.5cm field Guns w/4 Horse-Drawn Limbers; 3 x Somua Cavalry Tanks
Ben - Strelkovy Batalon (Red Banner) [FT] - Cmd Komissar; Rifle Team, 8 x Pioneer Rifle, 2 x PTRD ATR; Cmd Komissar, 18 x Rifle; Cmd Komissar, 18 x Rifle; 4 x 45mm obr 1937 ATG; 4 x 76mm obr 1927 Regimental Guns; KV-1 obr 1939 [FC] ; 4 x Flamethrowers; 6 x 120-PM-38 Mortar

Ed - Liechte Pionierkompanie [CV] - Cmd SMG w/ M/C, Panzer I; Cmd Pioneer Rifle w/ Kfz 15, 6 x Pioneer Rifle w/ 4 x Kfz 70; 3 x 50mm Pak38; 3 x37mm PaK 36; 2 x FLaK36 8.8cm [CT]; 6 x 10.5cm NbW40 Mortar w/ Observer Rifle; 3 x SdKfz 10/5 (2cm) [CT], Priority JU87B Stuka
Mike - French Fusliers-Voltigeurs (Colonial) [FT] - 2 x Cmd Rifle, 3 x Renault UE; Cmd Rifle, VB, 6 x Rifle/MG; Cmd Rifle, VB, 6 x Rifle/MG; 3 x 25mm SA-34 ATG; H-35/39 (Long Gun), 2 x H-35/39; 3 x Souma S-35, 2 x 47mm SA-37 ATG; 2 x 75mm 1897, Observer Rifle; 2 x 75mm 1987; 3 x 25mm 1938 AAA; Sporadic Moraine Saulnier MS406 Interceptor

Kelly – Stelkovy Batalon [CC] – Cmd Komissar, Rifle team; Komissar, 18 x Rifle Teams, 2 x HMG; Komissar, 18 x Rifle Teams, 2 x HMG; 4 x 45mm obr 1937 ATG, 3 x DSkK AAMG on Truck; 2 x KV-1e; Komissar Pioneer, 18 x Pioneer Rifle
Erin – Tankovy Bn [CC] – Cmd T-34 obr 1940, 2 x T-34 obr 1040; 2 x T-34 obr 1940; 2 x T-34 obr 1940; Sporadic I-153

Mark - Czech Panzerkompanie [CV] - 2 x PzKw-38(t)B, 4 x PzKw-38(t)B, 4 x PzKw-38(t)B, PzKw IIC(Late), 2 x Panzer I; 3 x Captured T-26 [CT], 3 x PzKw IIC(Late); 2 x Flammpanzer II; 2 x SdKfz (8-Rad), 3 x SdKfz 10/2 (2cm) [CT]

The first round was "Hasty Attack."  In this round the attacker won in two games, the defender won one game, and two games were draws (mutual loss).

The second round was "No Retreat." In this round the attacker won one game, the defender won one game, and three games were draws (mutual loss).

The final round was "Encounter." Two games were wins in this round and two were draws (mutual loss). There was one less game this round due to the early departure of two players who drove out to the event together and who ended up matched against each other in the last round. They figured an early start home was better than playing against their normal opponent who they could play any other time.


Negatives - More draws! One major concern about Version four was a higher number of draws (mutual losses).  This event had 7 "draws" out of the 14 games played. This was 50% of the games played and much higher than was experienced in the MW (less than 20%) and LW (less than 25%) Version 4 tournaments that I previously participated in.  One of the more experienced players present, running the Liechte Pionierkompanie, had a draw in all three rounds. Despite the higher number of draws, the TO was still able to sort out player final standings.

A possible contributing factor to the higher number of draws at this event might have relative inexperience with Version 4. There were many of the players present for which these games were their first in Version 4. There were only three players present who I would rate as very experienced in Version 4, of which I was one. I won two games and drew one, as did Charlie who placed second. The other Ed, came in 6th.

The only draw I had was in my 2nd game where I was defending in no retreat.  However, I could have taken actions to greatly reduce the probability of my opponent, Kelly, gaining a foothold on my half of the table and denying me the win. Everything is always clear in hindsight of course, but my problems started with selecting what half to defend.  I did not assign enough importance to a small cluster of buildings just over the center line and on the side I was defending. These building almost formed a wall that I was loath to get in-between that and Kelly's advancing horde.   My concern was that if forced to break off from an assault, my tanks would be trapped by the buildings.  I just did not study the board enough before choosing which side to defend.

The next thing I could have done was place one, if not both of my minefields on that side of the table. I placed the minefields on the opposite side of the table to help defend the objective that Kelly placed. I think my mindset on this game was still very much, "Don't let Kelly win" while not thinking enough of what I needed to do to win myself.  Yes, keeping Kelly from taking an objective was the first step on the path to a win, but I was not thinking enough about the second step, securing the win. Really my mindset was still very much V3 focused, but what I really should have been focused on was not allowing to him to even get across the board's centerline. Or if he did, to have a good plan to destroy or throwback whatever he managed to get across.

You still can win "No Retreat" as a defender in Version 4. You just have to think deeper into the neutral zone for setting up your engagement areas and you have to think of the center line as a "No Penetration Line." I could have done that in my game against Kelly. My 8.8cm FLaK36 in ambush kept his KV-1e's from willing to risk getting involved much in the fight. My Stukas and Nb35W mortars knocked out his 45mm ATGs and his truck mounted AAA easy enough. All Kelly had going for him was waves of confident conscripts who were pinned every time they tried to assault. I only lost a single Panhard 178(f) in the entire game, but I still lost (drew) because Kelly got a foothold on my side of the table which was too hard to eject him from. I could have defended the centerline much better. But I did not. Lack of focus on that requirement for victory earned me a draw result.  It was a great learning experience that I'll not soon forget. I can't speak to what was happening on the other tables in the draws that occurred there. Perhaps like me, the defenders there were focused more on not losing an objective rather than what they needed to do to win.  There is no doubt that "draws (mutual loses)" are more likely in Version 4.  But I'm not so sure that as players gain more experience with Version 4 that the numbers of draws in tournaments might not ease back to something closer what we experienced in earlier versions of Flames of War. Time will tell.

Positives - Well-handled tanks formations are still quite viable!

Outside of my draw in round two against Kelly, my Czech Panzerkompanie managed 8-1 wins against  Ben's Strelkovy Batalon in round one (attacking in Hasty Attack) and Everett's Belgian Infantry Company in round three (attacker in Encounter). In both cases my force's mobility totally allowed me to dictate where the main fight would occur and to make sure it was to my advantage.  I kept the initiative through both games and forced my opponents to react to my moves.

Everett's Belgian force was the closest thing to a "gun line" that I faced.  I was especially concerned about his 47mm Bohler AT units which were apparently were "heavy weapons;" In addition to having a 3+ save had a great degree of mobility and also could conduct Move Orders. They did lack gunshields though which made pushing them into my forces more risky. I was able to keep Everett's forces spread out by a feint on my right while my main attack would ultimately come on my left. At one point he moved a 47mm Bohler AT unit over to my threat on the right, only to move it back to the left two turns later where my Stukas caught it out in the open.

Careful use of Stormtrooper Blitz combined with Shoot and Scoot let the PzKw-38(t)Bs make max use of their 24" range and my NbW35 Mortars with a 3+ Firepower just ended up being devastating.  The mortars and Stukas whittled down gun and infantry units while the Panzers then would work around the flanks with long range fire and then close in for assaults. Everett did attempt an early push with his Souma-35s and Cavalry. He nearly nabbed my mortars with his Cavalry, but my reserves were timely and arrived where needed. Once these two units were dealt with I was able to work on the static portion of his force taking it down unit by unit until I cleared his forces from the left and seized the objective there. I retrospect I think I may have broken his formation, if not I was very close to doing so but I was so focuses on taking the left objective I may have missed it.

In game one where I played Ben, dash moves let me rocket my Panhard 178(f)s forward a road on turn one and nearly seized an objective by cutting off any ambush spots where Ben could deploy his ambushing Strelk company. He had just enough room to get a few stands in to contest but my move left most of his force out of the fight for quite some time. My mortars and Stukas kept hammering and pinning the forces on my left, while my Panhards and Panzers kept working on the right where Ben was forced to keep feeding troops to counter contest the open.

When his KV-1 arrived from reserve Ben had lost focus on where my FLaK36 had repositioned to and so the KV-1's support was shot lived. Though badly caught off guard my initial use of road dash moves, Ben fought hard stabilize the situation. He kept having to sacrifice units to keep the game going and ultimately had just his HQ and one Strelk Company left. I commented that Ben actually lost the game four times and came back each time until the 5th time did him in! Hats off to Ben for a great game where most players would have mentally quit after turn one!

In all three games my losses were light. I never had a unit pushed to Last Stand and usually only lost a single Panhard or a Panzer or two. My 8.8cm FLaK36 was ranged in on once and not KO'd so on my next turn I just called in its transport and moved it at dash speed to an area where it was out of LOS for observers.  My priority targets were AAA, the FA, then ATGs in that order. I think in all three games I played about seven or eight turns.

All in all this was another great Version 4 tournament experience and I think I learned something about how to make sure they stay rewarding for me. Next stop...Historicon 2017 where I will play in the Doubles, Team Yankee Nationals, and MW Nationals. I hope I have the opportunity to collect data and write about my experiences in these!

Tom has been playing wargames since the late 70’s, and Flames of War since 2007. He maintains a gaming website for the BattleVault Gamers of Kentuckiana and posts and moderates WWPD as Iron-Tom.

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