Thursday, 29 October 2009

Flames Of War Opponents - Part 1: The problem with the Finnish…..

A start of a new segment looking at the different armies I get to face in Flames Of War and their strengths and weakness.

On Tuesday night I played a regular opponent at the RGMB at Flames of War. While the rest of chose to be mainstream he picked an unusual army; the minnows of the war in the East - the Finns. Now, technically my Wehrmacht army should be better, it has better weapons (Panzers, transports, artillery), superior tactics (storm trooper moves, more variation in troop choice) and overall the player/muppet using it is more experienced at FOW, having played it most weeks since the turn of the year. That said my Win/Loss/Draw ration is a pitiful 1/5/1.

How has this travesty transpired? How has the mighty German nation turned into the whipping boys of the RGMB Flames of War community? The only other nation I have a worse record against is the Italians, but having only played one game against them it is not such a good yardstick to measure against, and their turn to be analysed will come.

To start with what are the Finns strengths:
Their main strength can be summed up in two words - Fearless. Veteran. Their entire army is of a equal skill level to the Germans, and matches the Soviets fanaticism. From the point of view of their infantry this makes them very difficult to drive off because not only are they tricky to hit with defensive fire on the way in, but they rarely, if ever, fail a motivation test to counterattack. Add to this the fact that the average Finnish infantry (or Jalkavaki) platoon is 9 bases strong, certainly bigger than the infantry platoons the rest are fielding - except for the Soviets of course.

Another bonus for the Finns is that they can take a platoon of KV1’s - they may be limited to a maximum of 2 per company, but when the armour matches that of the Germans Tiger 1E’s, and it costs only 35pts more than a Tiger to get two of them they are a steal.

Mortars - everyone has them so this shouldn’t be a specific strong point, except that the mortars in the particular Finnish company I fight do not know how to miss. Ever. If a six is required, its guaranteed to be the next number rolled. Fortunately the oppositions artillery makes up for this with regular displays of ineptitude.

Moving onto weaknesses:
Limited options - each Finnish company, both the armoured and the infantry, are only able to take one support platoon per combat platoon, and this severely limit’s the size and flexibility of the force the Finnish commander can field. This, of course, should change come the release later in the year of ‘Eastern Front’, the revised version of ‘Ostfront’. It does mean at this time that the enemy cannot surprise you with their army selection, or vary it for their own entertainment.
Vehicles - two reasons, firstly the Finns have no transportation options, armoured or otherwise, so no racing up and down roads for them. Secondly the average Finnish tank is stolen from the early war Russkies, this means that apart from the formidable (but limited in numbers) KV1’s they make the Italians look almost advanced. Paper-thin armour and pop-guns are the order of the day, and few enemies have much to fear from their direct fire capabilities.

Specific reasons for my defeats:
As I lose regularly to this supposed ‘tiny’ nation I thought I’d put in a bit about what I view as the reasons for my defeats. In the last game I would simply sum it up as being because of the KV1’s. They dominated a quite open battlefield, and I just didn’t have anything that could take them on - even the StuG’s found themselves outgunned because of the enemies heavy front armour, and now I know what it feels like for the opposition when I put down my Tiger 1E!

Previously my defeats have been mostly down to the enemy infantry. It is near impossible to stop them advancing as long as they don’t make silly mistakes like doubling in front of machineguns (which, sadly, they don’t!). Then the size of their platoons has always meant my smaller ones have struggled. The evolution of my army into a panzer grenadier kompanie brought Panzer III’s which I hoped would swing the balance back my way, but the KV1’s had other ideas. Its back to the drawing board to find the formula that gave me my one win, if only I could remember what it was…..

In summery:
Despite being a fringe nation of the war on the eastern front the Finns infantry capabilities make them a force to reckoned with, especially when they are dug in and have to be levered out by your own infantry. Their failings in the armour department can be partially compensated for by the KV1’s, the rest has to be made up for by skilful tactics. They are limited in the game size they can play without having multiple companies on the battlefield, although again this may be altered by the arrival of ‘Eastern Front’.

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