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It is hard to give concrete examples for the best tactics in the game as FoW is very situation specific; so much relies on table, terrain, match-up, and the ability of the two opposing players. What I’m going to try to do is write down some general playing principals and tactical concepts that I use while playing the game. This is not to say that everything that I write is set in stone, because in-game situations may change what I do and what needs to be done. I’m sure that I’ll miss a dozen things here, but at least the article can be used as a spring board for further discussion. Some of this advice is general to the game, some is tournament specific. I hope that it is useful.
1. Stay focused on victory conditions. There are two ways to win games in FoW, breaking your opponent’s army by forcing company morale checks, or by achieving the scenario victory conditions (either taking or preventing the capture of objectives) . I know that this sounds overly simplistic, but I see people forget this simple concept during games all of the time. Staying focused on the victory conditions is important not just during the game, but also during planning for the event and building your list.
2. Learn how to attack. The best way to learn this game is to attack, with both tanks and infantry. You set the pace of the game and are forced to expose your force to enemy fire. You very quickly learn what to do and what not to do, the pluses and minuses of the units that you take, and how all of these units interact with each other (do they support your goal or not). The nice bit about learning how to attack, is it teaches you how to defend. As you learn how to pick apart your opponent, you should also be learning how to stop that very same thing that you’re doing to him.
3. As the attacker, read the recon rules, read them again, and then maybe a third time; then go use that recon unit(s)to screw up your opponent’s ambush. Ambushes can be a two-edged sword as the defending player has a platoon off of the board. Judicious use of recon can make them place it someplace where they really don’t want to, if they can place it at all. The ambushing platoon can hurt you on the first shot, but may be rendered useless after that if recon is used properly. The US AOP rocks at this as you can place it pretty much anywhere on the board.
4. Practice, practice, practice, and do it with as many different opponents and with as many different armies as you can. I have been very fortunate to have a job that lets me play all over the country, in many different tournaments, and for many years. More than anything else, this has made me a better player. Seek out the better players in your area and play them. Beating the same guy every time doesn’t teach you how to play better, in fact, it probably makes you sloppy. Go find McMann, Riha, Bede Bailey, Jon, Roger, Ed, etc. (this list is not complete; I left a few off because they owe me beer (I’m looking at you Merrick)), and have them whoop your butt. Analyze what they did, then go do it to someone else.
5. Learn how to set up and play fast. If you are playing someone slow, you’ll need all of the time that you can get. If you are a slow player, hit the gas. You should never win a tournament game because you slowed things down and timed the game out. That’s dickish and being a bad sport. If it is breakout, plan on 6-7 rounds, if Fighting Withdrawal, you need to get to round 8. Conversely for fast players, cut the guy some slack (and yes, I’m the target of this comment).
6. It isn’t your responsibility to tell your opponent how to beat you, but remind the guy if he forgets to move/shoot a unit or Stormtrooper. Win the game because you beat your opponent, not because it is game 5, the guy has a headache, and spaced it for a turn. One of my best games ever was against McMann when we were both thoroughly toasted and pretty much reminded each other to do stuff the entire game.
7. Don’t blame the dice. The idea behind the game is to mitigate “bad luck.” You do this by taking armies and units that don’t hurt you: a British Motor company is not you friend, nor is the 2 stand TD platoon. You do this by not taking low probability actions or shots and expecting stellar results: if you have 3 shots needing 6s to hit a FA10 panther with a AT12 Sherman 76 and fail to kill something, it’s not the dice it’s the action taken. You do this through overkill; making sure that the enemy platoon is dead and gone before moving to the next target: so you killed one and bailed 4 Hetzers, don’t rely on them running away (I did at masters against Phil and it cost me the game as they made morale and got back in their tanks and killed 3 of my platoons. There are time when you will roll 4 ones for 4 tanks making bog checks, it happens. There are also times when you will roll 5 fives for consecutive company morale checks and go on to win the game (ask Riha). If dice mattered as much as some people think that they do, the same people wouldn’t win time after time. There is luck in the game. Deal with it and move on, or you’ll never get any better.
8. Read a few articles on probability theory (crazy boring I know), but it will give you a better understanding of how you actions might work (or won’t) during a game. Riha and Leland do this in their sleep. It scares me sometimes.
9. As you move your units, try to give platoons shots at multiple targets. When shooting, fire the platoons with only a single target first (you never know, they might kill it). Your other platoons are now freed to shoot at something else.
10. In armies that can get smoke like US forces, learn how to use it. Isolate platoons, or portions or platoons to neutralize them and kill them. Don’t forget that some guns/tanks also fire smoke rounds.
11. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each of your units (and that of your opponents), and use them to their fullest, or learn how to exploit them. Some units suck by themselves, so make sure that you have support. For examples, 3 panthers can have problems in assaults, they die just as easily to infantry as Stuarts, so back them up with some infantry.
12. Identify the biggest threat to your army and kill it/neutralize it. The biggest threat is not necessarily the 2 KTs that your opponent brought. They can be easily neutralized with smoke, and they can’t be everywhere. As a defender, your initial biggest threat might be a lowly recon platoon that keeps preventing you from ambushing when and where you need to.
13. Stay GtG unless you have really good, high probability shots. Don’t make it easier for your opponent to kill you just to take a few pop shots that likely won’t do anything.
14. Really think about placement of your 1IC, 2IC, and other independent teams like observers, particularly as the defender. Using the command teams to draw other platoons into assaults for defensive fire (particularly armored teams with lots of MGs) is the best way save your bacon against that strelk mob. Sometimes the best use of an observer is not to call down arty hell, but to deny lanes of movement to enemy vehicles and to protect your vehicle’s flanks from pesky 16 inch movers like Cromwells. Tank independent teams like OP tanks are great as ablative armor for some platoon that you care more about (like my said Cromwell platoon). I remember a game that I watched of McMann’s where he used a string of independent teams to have a tank platoon on the other side of the board (but with LOS), conduct defensive fire against assaulting tanks. The assault didn’t work.
15. Static guns like artillery and AT guns are static. Don’t expect to move them around a bunch during games. Moving guns are not shooting guns, and losing GtG and dug in on those PaK40s is not a good thing. That being said, if they are useless, move them to get into position. I’m not a fan of AT guns because they can’t attack well, and they can’t react well to a good offense.
16. Don’t rely on 50 tubes of artillery to win you the game. They are a low probability kill, it takes way too long, and they are normally easy to kill. Arty can be great in the game, but use it judiciously.
17. Practice and play on as dense of boards as you can. If you are a tank player, make the boards crazy difficult with lots of obstacles and bogging area terrain. It will make you a far better player when you show up at a tournament and see “light” terrain.
18. See terrain as your friend. Sure, lots of area terrain helps infantry, but it also helps tanks as it enables you to maneuver to get the first and best shots possible. Don’t be afraid of bog checks, but don’t be stupid about them either. Hetzers in wood = bad in most situations if they have to move.
19. Think seriously about objective deployment. Look at blocks of terrain that they can go in as a defender. As an attacker, spread the guy out as much as you can. As the defender, don’t sweat an objective in the open if it makes it easier for you to cover multiple objectives with fewer platoons.
20. Look at every game, win or lose, as a learning experience. Analyze what went right, and more importantly what went wrong. Do the right things again and don’t do the wrong things.
21. Win or lose, have a bunch of fun. I had a blast at Masters in my game against Phil. He beat me 2-5, but I made him work for it (he shot me off of the objective on turn 10+ to break my company). A damn fine game.