A guest article by Garry Wait
Summing up our coverage for the WWIII: Soviet release, guest writer Garry Wait discusses the finer points of game balance and how NATO players can strategise how to defeat the new Soviet toys. ~Eddie
My boss loves to point out that when working in business or with your hands, always use the “right tool for the job”. So no using a wrench as a hammer or a screwdriver as a chisel.
This translates very well onto the games table. I have heard players reading sneak previews of the new WW3 Soviet book and becoming concerned that their favourite army is obsolete or that there is somehow this mythical “Codex Creep” sneaking in.
I am an independent gamer who has never drawn a salary from a gaming company and has played both Flames of War AND Team Yankee since version 1.
From my own experience and gaming in three countries (Australia, China and Singapore as well as against gamers from the UK, New Zealand, USA and other nations) I can state categorically that there isn’t codex creep or any sort of buffing going on.
As in reality – and as a former soldier – I can tell you that no weapons system is perfect and no army assumes that their weapons are always ideal. There is a constant state of improvement through replacement or upgrading of existing weapons. This is true of World War II and very much so in the Cold War as well as even today.
Gamers who played Fate of a Nation or Nam and continued on with Team Yankee will note sagely that Soviet missiles went from the original Sagger to improved Sagger (NATO Sagger C) to Spigot to Spandrel to Spiral and even an improved Spiral, with some overlap of systems. Soviets being who they are, threw nothing away and almost all these missiles are still around on the modern battlefield today.
Similarly as an example, the US arsenal saw us go from original TOW to Improved TOW to TOW2 to Hellfire, again with overlap and many of these systems still in service today.
It seems commonsense to improve weapons and that’s what happens with the new book – much like with older books.
But it would be a mistake to assume that now that Soviets get the TOS-1, all manpacked AT missile teams are obsolete. Or now that the Soviets get RPG7VR with tandem warhead and better AT, all MBT’s are out of date.
For as long as I’ve been around, people have been saying the MBT is dead and obsolete. And as long as the tank has been around, it’s been proving the naysayers wrong.
With the important caveat that – in Team Yankee or Flames of War much as in the real world – it’s the general and the correct use of the weapon that makes the difference, not the raw technology.
There are numerous examples of older tanks with poorer “paper” statistics outperforming much newer vehicles with less capable crews however that’s not the point of this article.
Rather, I am seeking to show that no matter what army you build, you have the tools to win in Team Yankee – provided you prepare your mind as well as you prepare your miniatures in advance of playing.
What do I mean by this ?
Look at a real life battle and you won’t see success from tanks charging off on their own (see The Battle of Chinese Farm in 1973 for disastrous outcomes here) or unsupported infantry trying to ward off tank forces alone (see various Commonwealth infantry brigades running tankless in the desert in WW2).
A balanced force combines the strengths and weaknesses and maximises the chances of it’s player through pitting scissors to paper and rock to scissors where possible.
How do I do this on table ?
As a key, look to have a well rounded force that can make the most of any army. My personal experience is that ANY army can be successful in Team Yankee. There is no Meta that a good player can’t overcome.
I’ve seen excellent forces do poorly in the hands of an inexperienced player and I’ve seen what I thought were sub par lists do well when operated by a skilful player. I know it’s an old cliché, but “player not list”.
It always saddens me when I see a player saying “If only my list could have weapon X, then I’d be competitive”. Not so. Rethink your strategies and work on the principle “If only I had thought of how to deal with my opponent’s weapon X”.
Be honest with yourself, it’s rare that either player’s dice are the main culprit when things don’t go your way. Either you or your opponent may have made a mistake in deployments or movements or targeting or reserves considerations or many other things that magnify any tiny discrepancies in chance.
So how can any list be competitive ?
Here’s some checklists that I have found work for me. I’m not saying that the operator isn’t to blame but as suggestions I think these could help to stir debate and improve discussion :
- Have a plan. Yes I know, this is obvious but you’d be surprised how often players try to wing it. Look at where you could put objectives, read the mission – REALLY read the mission – and discuss terrain in advance. Be prepared for the table you’re playing on. Consider your mission status – Attack or Manouver or Defend. This can be critical to your success with the list you’ve developed. Never try to Defend with a tank company/Battalion.
- Consider carefully what your opponent will do. Take a moment to walk around the table to see how it looks from their side. You might be surprised.
- Use smoke. Seriously, even the worst skilled army can plan a pregame smoke mission to put down a template to totally blind their opponent. Do this.
- Work out your reserves BEFORE you step up to the table. Being prepared isn’t just for boy scouts. Help yourself by planning in advance. This is where those awesome mobile MBT’s can come in handy – they are your heavy cavalry who will rescue your soft yet resilient infantry just when you need them. Don’t tie up too many units in reserves.
- Play the odds and don’t tie up too many points in limited dice rolls. Those expensive MBT’s are great but this is where you need to support them with quality cheaper teams to improve your dice output.
- As Heinz Guderian said before WW2, a tank’s greatest weapon is its engine. Don’t be afraid of working to flank an enemy. Even the puniest 1pt T55 can make a mess of an M1A1(HC) if it can get that magic side shot. You, as the Abrams player, need to consider how to prevent this. If you’re the T55 player, think about what your opponent will do to stop you getting the shot. Work to maximise your luck !
- Do not overextend yourself. Tanks work better with infantry support and both work better with an umbrella of air defence or supporting AT assets. Use artillery cleverly to increase your survivability. Similarly use highly mobile forces to interdict artillery units and reduce the pressure on your combat forces.
- When you build a list, consider what you’re facing. As a general rule, I find the following helpful at 100pts or more :
- Two or more infantry units. Nothing stops AT attacks on side armour than infantry. Armies throughout the world and throughout history have found that unsupported armour loses. Protect yourself with dismounts that have the magic 5cm/2” bubble around each unit and prevent enemy from creeping up on your expensive MBT’s.
- One or more tank units. No matter how light the armour, the sheer speed and ability to shrug off an artillery template (most of the time) gives you a great weapon for threatening enemy objectives. Don’t be afraid of dashing to threaten an objective. I have seen players who ran tankless infantry being helpless to a mere THREE main battle tanks. Game over before it began !
- Supporting AT assets are invaluable. Even if you’re not able to target enemy tanks with your AT weapons (such as Spigot unable to penetrate an Abrams), you can still destroy enemy AA or light vehicles with ease at range. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, think about what you CAN do. Work on flanks through dash moves. Set your teams up to succeed and don’t expect to win in one or two turns ! Don’t leave home without some sort of option.
- Artillery is the great leveller. Don’t skimp on templates. Even skill 5+ artillery can be useful for denying a hill or planning a smoke screen before a game begins. Every army has the ability to put down a smoke screen yet so many players don’t bother. It baffles me. At least one template.
- Recon. Even if you’re not spearheading – and why wouldn’t you if you can in a mission ? – the ability for light armour to threaten an objective or blindside an opponent is priceless and worth it to mess with your opponent’s plans. I always pack at least one unit. CONSIDER using your recon to go hunting enemy artillery or air defences. Classic example of this was SAS and similar light forces during the First Gulf War in 1991.
- Air Defence. Don’t skimp on this either. Two units at 100 pts is vital. Consider carefully where you will deploy them and remember – they are not intended to fight their way on the battlefield. Don’t waste AA on ground targets or in the line of fire if there is hostile air around.
- Rethink your tactics or your deployment or your game play before you blame your dice. A good player wins despite their dice rolls. Don’t assume a player is naturally “lucky” or gifted with the right dice at the right times. Rommel or Patton or IsraelTal didn’t always have the advantage with the best tanks nor did they have luck always their way – they made their own.
- Right Tool for The Job. If you’re relying entirely on your tank commander’s 0.50” to stop those incoming strike aircraft, you’ve let yourself and your team down. If you’ve been swarmed by enemy infantry toting RPG’s, ask yourself where your infantry support is. If your dismounts have been overrun by enemy MBT’s, don’t be annoyed with your opponent’s unstoppable tanks, ask yourself where YOUR tank support went.
About the Author
Garry wait is a longtime Team Yankee and Flames of War gamer dating back to First Editions of each, as well as an Eternal Optimist residing down under. Garry has written many articles for Battlefront, particularly on topics relating to events in Asia-pacific regions as well as tactics for competitive play.