Hello everyone, in another article by Sexy Sixes I thought I would jump back to the list building 101. I already shared some of my thoughts on how I understand the general process of building a tournament list but today, I would describe it in some more detail, how do I select a proper briefing.
So without further ado, I will just get on with it :)
I start off just like everybody else does: by looking at my collection and thinking "oh, I have not used these for quite a long time now" :) Once I get an overall idea what I want to play and figure out what my risk apetite is (i.e. do I want to play a "brick" or a "toolbox") I start searching for a suitable briefing.
Now the thing with Flames of War is that the resources for list building are scattered all over the place. There are paper books, unofficial/official army builders and Digital Briefings. With no single point of reference, it takes quite a while to compile a list of possible companies that I might use (this is somehow alleviated by the fact that on Forces and Easy Army you can search for briefings containing a given arsenal item - e.g. list those that include StuH42).
But assuming that I managed this somehow - what are the key features I would be looking for in a briefing to consider it somewhat suitable for tournament play? I would say that it depends on a mix of 2 factors: company type mixed with the "brick"/"toolbox" attribute.
For "bricks" it is a general rule that there needs to be a focus on a spam of dual-purpose (anti-tank & anti-infantry) units that are either very tough to kill or quite the opposite - glass cannon type - able to dish out tons of damage but easy to hurt. So what I normally look for is: artillery parks, Always Attack medium/light tanks, Always Defend heavy tanks from B@R or BbB (KG Swoboda), night attacking parachute infantry, etc.
An example of a "brick" list built to survive is a B@R heavy tank company whereas a Task Force A is a fast moving and hard hitting, but also very vulnerable list based around lightly armored Tank Destroyers.
"Toolboxes" are more demanding, at least for me. And here is what I normally look for:
Infantry (including any fortified)
Has to have good anti-tank support first of all. I want at least one big AT 10+ gun unit (4+ guns), one top armour 0 tank destroyer unit or tanks if there is no option for tank destroyers and a platoon of low end infantry/anti-tank guns (perfect example is a platoon of 9 Schneider 47mm guns for my Romanians). You probably ask - why the low end guns? For me, it is the perfect answer to harassment from any pesky recon that tries to target my vital assets or go around the flanks as well as a counter to enemy guns. When attacking, they help tremendously to dig out any entrenched infantry.
Moving on, I try to look for briefings that have the option of at least C/T infantry with some AT capability. In the perfect world, these would be units that can dish out 2+ anti-tank shots while being charged and can cause AT4+ hits in close combat.
The next thing I would want my list to have is a template for harassment. It does not have to be high AT but I like at least 4+ firepower to avoid frustration when I get plenty of penetrations but only bailed out results. Overall, heavy mortars are the perfect tool for this. They make the enemy think twice before bunching up but only cost so little.
The last option I am interested in is a recon unit for those times when I have to attack. My personal preference is in order of appearance: cavalry recce, armored cars, foot units. I also try to find cheap options as most of the time I would be defending and there would be no need for any recce rules.
First thing that needs to be mentioned is that Mechanized forces for me, are divided into 2 main types and several subtypes:
- Always Attack/Always Defend Mechanized which in most cases fall under the "brick" type of list - e.g. Peredovoye Otryad or Task Force A
- Regular Mechanized with subtypes: True Armored Cars (all wheeled/tracked), Mechanized Infantry, Semi-tank.
Now for Regular Mechanized, the thing is that True Armored Cars are not a selection I would make for a tournament list. The sole reason for this is: Mobile Reserves rule. With this rule affecting my force while also defending, I normally get to deploy only two platoons on the table which pretty much means I am dead. The way around it is to build one of the two remaining sub-types.
For Mechanized Infantry, I do exactly the same selections as I would do for an Infantry company but also keep in mind that I will be attacking more often and this is why recon and templates go up the priority ladder. The perfect example of such a list is US Armored Rifles.
For Semi-tank, since there are so many different lists to choose from, there is no single recipe. If I would have to use a 1420 example, say for a Soviet Light Assault Gun Battalion, I would mini-max the SU76 units (take 2x3), get some heavy Guards tanks as the backbone (4x IS85), Zis-2 platoon, 122mm and 152mm howitzers to deal with heavy tanks, 6x 37mm AA and 5x foot recon. This way, if I am defending in a mission with Mobile Reserves, I can put everything but the SU76s down on the table and be quite confident I can hold on. I think the general rule is: in each case I would be aiming for as many platoons on the table as possible while defending. Otherwise, it would be almost a standard tank list of its type.
I think it is the most difficult one to build. If I want a toolbox type with tanks then I am most probably aiming for some heavies or briefings with big tank platoons.
When it comes to heavies, here is how I do it: I look for lists in which the basic platoons can fulfill an anti-infantry role and are able to fend off a medium tank horde. After that, I add some heavy artillery preferably (to deal with other heavies) and finally buy a recon unit. Sometimes, if I only select one artillery battery, I have the option to go for anti-tank guns. This way, while defending, I would normally have 2 gun batteries and one heavy tank unit on the table + any HQ tanks. Such setup should give me enough time for the reinforcements to arrive and save the day.
With medium tanks it is different. I look for briefings including big tank platoons and preferably a double HQ unit. German Panzers are a perfect example where you can get 2 HQ guys and 2 platoons of 5 panzers/StuGs in case you need to defend with just two platoons on the table. I aim to spend as many points as I can fit into these units to upgrade them to full strength and only go for another 2 as support. Now I have two options - go double recon or recon + artillery (preferably mobile). Such composition is a counter to what seems to be a valid tactic while in combat against a 6 platoon "toolbox" tank list: ignore the main body and wipe out reserves. What I end up with is a list like my Digital Briefing HG Stug Battery that can attack easily and also defend with two strong units on the table.
Phew, that was a long one. Hope you enjoyed it anyway. I would like to read your comments on your recipies regarding briefing selections and how do you identify the ones that are worth using. Over the few upcoming weeks I will share with you some AARs of a tournament I am attending on Sat-Sun where I will play the HG Stug Battery I built using one of the recipies listed above. Hopefully, It will not be just a big bunch of lost games in the end :)