Sunday, September 9, 2012

NOVA Late War Tourney: Capstone 3

The only reason this is here is because
I saw it today and it looked cool. Enjoy.
(YEAH I KNOW, I'm a little late on this one, I was travelling for work then we lost power last night. I'm sure those of you in MD share my hatred for Pepco.)

Welcome to the third in my capstone series of posts. The purpose of these is to explore, six months in, how I'm finding Flames of War in terms of hobbying, list building, game playing, and rules mongering. Part 1 dealt with the list building. Part two (amongst multiple other hobby posts) dealt with the building and painting and now, in part three we get to throw down for real!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go and get trounced at NOVA open at a 1750 late war tournament. And I have to say, to start, that all of the people I played against were pure gentlemen. This is the first time, and I've played and lost in many tournaments in my time, that I've been in a tournie where I actually wanted to keep playing the game when we were done.

There's something about the other systems I've played in the past (mainly Warhammer/40k and Warmahordes) that are so fiddly and "gotcha" that I just get annoyed. And while I'll get more into system comparisons in the last capstone post, I think it needs to be mentioned, that the Flames of War rules really strike a solid balance for tournament play with just a few exceptions.

There are a couple of reasons why I like the concept of tournaments: You get to play other people than your normal group, you really get a solid handle on the rules, you get to (occasionally) win cool stuff. Now, in previous systems tournaments it's been the people who have turned me away as much as it's been the rules, the meta and tricksy nature of the games. This isn't to say that there are great and fun people playing other games, it just seems I always ran into that minority that would rather win at the cost of personal acrimony rather than play the stinking game with the guy across the table from them.

In the last two weeks I've played in three Flames of War tournaments (I'll cover the third one, from yesterday, in another post), one where I was supposed to lose all my games *SORRY KEVIN!*, and two where I was actually trying to win, and I can say, unconditionally, that every game I played (save portions of one) was more about having fun, figuring out the best moves with the opponent, and enjoying the hobby than winning at all costs.

And that is awesome.

Like this font.
Now, there are some things that make me grumpy. First, at NOVA, the fine fellows from I-95 gamers, all brought 2 ID from Devils Charge and except for one game, that's all I saw. They are very good players, and they're all enjoyable to play against, but there is something less than fun about playing the same game 4 times in a row.  There's actually been a fascinating conversation on this over at the WWPD forums. 

Second, while I do think there is codex creep, I don't think it's as bad as others I've read on the intarwebz do. However, I think that limiting lists to a theater or a series of linked books (Turning Tide vs. Earth and Steel or only Market Garden lists) would lead to more tournament balance. I don't know if there is an cross theater book balance plan but I do think, if it exists, it could be more well executed.

Third, I think mission choice is really critical, especially when coupled with how you set up a table. Really open and really dense tables tend to favor certain armies over other and I think we'd all like a balanced play field. Certain missions, in a time condensed format where you've only got two or two and a half hours to set up and play truly I believe do favor one side or the other. 

And um... I think that's it. That's really all my problems with the games I've played.

Most important are the lessons I learned playing in a tournament:

1) Watch the clock! You may be used to lazy games with friends over beers, but at a tournament you've got limited time to get to your objective to win. This costs me in at least two games at NOVA.
    1a) This means, in a tournament context, I've changed my mind on recce. While in a friendly game I can sit back and plink for as long as I like, I need more killing efficiency to win or break through a unit quickly in a tournie.
2) Communication is Key! Declarative movement and agreements are critical. Communicate with your opponent, let him know you're trying to get out of line of sight, or move in such a way  as to bubble wrap an objective. It let's you both know where you stand and have a common agreement on critical situations.
He know's how to roll the hard 6.
3) Play for points! Tournaments are about scoring points, you win well you get 6 points you lose big you get 1 point. When you're winning, it's all about mitigating the opponents opportunity to kill outright that decminated platoon. When all is lost, focus on a unit and end it. Don't give up all the points just because you're getting rolled.
4) Sometimes you have to roll the hard 6. I was in a very close game against the excellent Mr. John Desch, and it was coming down to the wire. I was either going to pull it off or go 1 - 6 in a fighting withdrawal battle. It came down to one roll, and I failed. But sometimes you just gotta suck it up and go for it. Even if you lose, a tense fun game where you get blown out is, to me, worth the risk.

All in all, I have to say, for the first time I want to keep going to tournaments, I want to keep playing new people and I want to keep up painting fighting in Flames. Thanks to everyone over the last 10 days who have played and put up with my newbishness!

And now, the late war pic dump. Enjoy!


  1. What a great post. It makes me feel good knowing that most players of Flames of War are great people to play against or with. I hope it continues to attract these types. Despite your score you had a good time which is the most important enjoy our hobby.

    1. Wow. I don't live anywhere near you (Indianapolis), but my experience at my 2 FoW tourneys has been exactly the same. Compared to 40K, it's like graduating from high school to college.