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Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 Flames of War US Mid War Nationals In-Depth Analysis

by Chris Fretts and Tom Burgess

"There's no no Meta!"

2017 US Flames of War MW National Participants

The 2017 Flames of War US Mid War Nationals has come and gone. This year was especially noteworthy as this was the first major US tournament to use the Version 4 rules and the two new Mid War Books; Desert Rats and Afrika Korps. The event had 36 players battling across four rounds and 72 exciting games. There has been much controversy attached to the Version 4 roll out, but the US Mid War Nationals showed that the new rules are completely suitable for a large tournament format.

The first thing we must address was that even with 36 players, this event was much smaller than other US Nationals. One reason of course was players who have decided to stay with Version 3 or move on to other game systems, but perhaps more importantly this was a tournament that utilized only two books limited to forces that fought North Africa. With only desert British and desert German forces being there should be no surprise that the number of participants would be lower. We thought that 36 players, under these circumstances, was not really a bad number. Hopefully the expansion of Mid War force options over the next year will increase participation at the next US Mid War Nationals.

One concern many had about a Nationals tournament that used just two rather small army books was that there would not be much variation in forces.  To the contrary, there were 15 different combinations of forces out of 36 players.  5 combinations were German Forces and 10 combinations were British Forces.  7 were single formation Forces and 8 were two formation Forces.  9 of the Top 10 finishers were single formation Forces.  Within the various combinations there was additional diversity of unit selection.  In looking at the various Forces we did not see any exact duplicates and only a couple of similar forces.

You'll have to flank them mate...but how?

Let’s take a look at the force type break down and how they performed.

At the US Mid-War Flames of War Nationals 36 players participated. 16 German and 20 British. Those 16 German players, with an average 16.13 VPs, did significantly better overall than their 20 British opponents who had an average of only 12.85 VPs. More importantly the top four slots were held by German players with the British not ranking until 5th place.

So what force types performed best? You can see from the below that German single infantry formation force performed the best, followed not far behind by single German single tank formation forces. The best of the British were also single infantry formation forces.

Single Formation Infantry Forces did very well with 39% of wins and only 27% of the total Forces.
There were 15 different combinations of Forces out of 36 players.  5 combinations were German Forces and 10 combinations were British Forces.  7 were single Formation Forces and 8 were two Formation Forces.  8 of the Top 10 Finishers were single Formation Forces.  Within the various combinations there was additional diversity of unit selection.  In looking at the various Forces we did not see any exact duplicates.

Another major concern of Version 4 force composition was that ability to employ multiple formations would unbalance the game. The results of the US Mid-War Nationals show quite the opposite. The 17 players who took a single formation in their force scored an average of 15.47 VPs total in the tournament, while those that took two formations scored only an average of 11.74 VPs total. The three British players who took two tank formations did even worse with an average VP total of 10.67. It’s critical to note that nine of the top ten players at the US Mid-War Nationals played single formation forces.

Follow the rail line lads!
Round by Round Results
36 Players – 16 Germans (44%) & 20 British (56%)

Round 1 - Encounter
8  (44%)Wins out of 18 Games – 6 German Wins & 2 British Wins (1 Blue vs. Blue)
3 Wins for German Infantry
3 Wins for German Armor
1 Win for British Infantry/Armor (Honeys)
1 Win for British Armor (Blue vs. Blue)

Round 2 Breakthrough
13 (72%) Wins out of 18 Games – 5 German Wins & 8 British Wins (2 Blue vs. Blue)
3 Wins - German Infantry
1 Win – German Infantry/Mech
1 Win – German Armor/Mech
2 Wins – British Infantry
2 Wins – British Infantry/Armor (Crusaders)
4 Wins  - British Armor – (2 Blue on Blue Wins)

Round 3 Dust Up
10 (56%) of 18 Games Completed – 5 German Wins & 5 British Wins (1 Blue vs. Blue)
4 Wins – German Infantry
1 Win - German Armor
1 Win – British Infantry/Armor (Crusaders)
1 Win – British Armor (Honeys) – (Blue vs. Blue)
1 Win – British Armor (Crusaders)
2 Wins – British Armor

Round 4 Annihilation
11 (61%) of 18 Games completed – 8 German Wins (1 Red vs. Red) & 3 British Wins (2 Blue vs. Blue)
3 Wins – German Infantry (1 Red vs. Red)
1 Win – German Mech
4 Wins – German Armor
1 Win – British Infantry
1 Win – British Infantry/Armor (Crusaders) -  (Blue vs. Blue)
1 Win – British Armor – (Blue vs. Blue)

TOTAL – 42 Wins (58%) out of 72 Games
German Wins - 24 (57%) – One Red vs. Red
British Wins – 18 (43%) – Six Blue vs. Blue

7 Infantry Formation – (19%) 13 Wins (1 Red vs. Red)(31%)
1 Mech Formation -   (3%)  1 Win (2%)
1 Two Formations -Infantry /Mech (6%)    1 Win  (2%)
1 Two Formations - Mech/Armor  (6%)    1 Win  (2%)
5 Tank Formation (14%)  8 Wins (19%)

3 Infantry Formation -  (8%)     3 Wins (7%)
5 Two Formations - Infantry/Tank(Crusaders) (14%)   4 Wins (1 Blue vs. Blue) (10%)
1 Two Formations -  Infantry/Tank(Honeys) (3%)  1 Win (2%)
1 Two Formations – Infantry/Tank(Grants) (3%)  0 Wins
3 Tank Formation (Crusaders)(8%)    5 Wins (2 Blue vs Blue) (12%)
3 Tank Formation (Honeys)  (8%)     2 Win (2 Blue vs. Blue) (5%)
1 Tank Formation (Grants) (3%)     0 Wins
1 Two Tank Formation (Crusaders/Crusaders) (3%)  2 Wins (5%)
1 Two Tank Formation (Honeys/Crusaders) (3%)  1 Win (Blue vs Blue) (2%)
1 Two Tank Formation (Honeys/Honeys) (3%)   0 Wins

Top 5 Force Combinations - High Performers
German Infantry 19% of Forces     31% of Wins – 1st , 2nd , 4th & 10th  Place Finishers
German Tank – 14% of Forces     19% of Wins – 3rd , 6th & 9th Place Finishers
British Tank (Crusaders) – 8% of Forces    12% of Wins – 5th Place Finish
British Infantry/Tank (Crusaders) – 14% of Forces   10% of Wins – 7th Place Finish
British Infantry – 8% of Forces      7% of Wins -  8th Place Finish
33 of 42 Wins from these Forces - 79% of Wins

There was a high percentage of Draw/Losses.  A significant contributor to this is likely both the 2hr. limit and Players limited experience with Version 4.  The change to Victory Conditions for Breakthrough also added to that situation.  Unfortunately we did not have any data on Attacker wins vs. Defender wins in Breakthrough.

More than half of the Annihilation games finished.  This mission had the second highest number of wins behind Breakthrough.  Encounter has the smallest number of games finished.

The two hour time limit was the most significant impact on draw results we felt.  We heard many comments like "if I just had another 10 minutes I could have won it." As a comparison, Chris and Tom played in another MW tournament about a month later in Indianapolis, IN.  This tournament had  2 1/2 hour Rounds at 100pts. At that event we ended up with 11 of 12 games with a non-draw results. A write up and stats for that Tournament from Facebook:

The PzKw-III Short..."hero" of the 2017 US MW Nationals.

Command Cards

Another great concern about Version 4 that some players have had was that Command Cards would ruin the game. Rate of Fire 3 upgrades for Tigers and the Captured Tank card that would turn the game into “Grand Theft Auto" seemed to have dismayed many. However inclusion of Command Cards at the US Mid War Nationals seemed to work well enough. There was really nothing out of control that occurred and taking or not taking cards was not a significant factor in player performance.

Too bad nobody brought Command Cards to help keep Tom's Hurricanes away!

Command Cards were allowed at this tournament. They were used by almost half the players present, while at least five players opted not to use command cards at all. We were unfortunately not able to get a confirmation of 13 other players who we are not sure if they used command cards or not.
For the German players the most prominently used command cards were the Aufklarungs formation option and the two gun “upgrades” that allowed a swap of German PaK38s for 6prds, and 10.5cm Howitzers for British 25pdrs. These three players ended up in the top 11 spots using what seem like some very reasonable and minor upgrade cards.

The Command Card breakdown by the players/forces that took them and how they ranked were as follows:

For the British players, “Scout Tanks” seemed like an "auto include" going into the event.  These made the Crusaders and Honeys much harder to hit for some minor compensation in speed.  However it’s significant to note the VP average for nine British players who were known to have taken “Scout Tanks” was only 13.3 VPs which would only have been good enough for 21st place at this event. This seems counter intuitive to what we would expect. Perhaps, the “Scout Tanks” card gave players who used it a false sense of security? The three British players who did not take “Scout Tanks” averaged 15.33 VPs for the tournament. It just may be that those who opted not to use “Scout Tanks” might have played a bit more carefully with their small frail tank platoons?

So many of the best British tank at the event brewed up?
Much has been said that Command Cards would be “mandatory” in Version 4 competition. Clearly they are not as many players, including a couple in the top 10 elected not to use them at all. It seems reasonably safe to say that Command Cards add some interesting options and force tweaks, but they do not appear to unbalance the game or really to even be a requirement at all if one wants to participate in a Version 4 Flames of War Tournament.

The Path to the Top Ten

It was very interesting to track the progress of the players who would ultimately end up in the top 10 as this ended up being one of the most wide open tournaments we've ever been in.

Ties were broken by Strength of Schedule – Final Top 10 Players in Red

The "Meta"

There is no "Meta," or at least no "Meta" we can see at this time. This might actually have been one of the most balanced US Nationals ever held!

The Top Finishers had a diverse bunch of forces.  We don’t see a common denominator among them. We are still in the early stages of Version 4’s impact on Mid-War and it’s perhaps premature to talk “Meta” before we see Mid-War expanded by other books. However it is worth noting that many of the earlier predictions on how the lists in these two books would pan out have not borne out to be true. Chief among those was that multiple formations of British Honeys and Crusader would be unbeatable swarms. The "Meta" looks like it is wide open, at least at 75points.


As we discussed with Peter Simunovich from BF on Sunday, the missions and victory conditions need some work to cut down the number of draws.  Talking with other players we heard quite a few saying their games were 15-30minutes away from completion at the end of the 2hr. Rounds so that is worth considering when planning for future events.

75 points  seems to be a good point level to have room to maneuver on the board.  However it is low to include some force choices including Tigers and the Grant Tank formation.  Higher point levels will definitely need more than two hour rounds.

All and all, we thought this was a fantastic event. We had a great time and look forward to future Version 4 Mid War tournaments.  For those who were concerned how Version 4 Mid War play out in a  tournament with high caliber players, we hope the article has alleviated some of your concerns. Surely its not perfect yet, but this event was as good as any Flames of War event we had ever participated in. Between the two of us, that's well over a hundred!

Special thanks to Battlefront for hosting this event and to Dave Griffin for doing an outstanding job administering it. We hope to see you at the next one!

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