Monday, 27 April 2015

Avoiding That Wooden Spoon! (FOW Survival Guide)

Follow Matt aka Papa Bear as he covers all things FOW for the beginner in his fun, light hearted survival guide. So if you are new to the game, or simply enjoy the idea of learning by someone else's mistakes instead of your own, then this is the place for you!

Hey guys!

Today, in the FOW Survival Guide I would like to talk about the tournament wooden spoon - or more to the point, how we can avoid getting it! This breakdown guide is aimed at beginner players, attending perhaps their first event - however to be honest I still use most of these points even now... My first objective at any given tournament is to avoid last position, (2nd task is not to lose 6-1 and 3rd is two wins overall). 
I know the idea of focusing on NOT finishing bottom might be a little negative to some and may not be everybody's cup of tea, but let's face it, we need to be realistic here - there a lot of great players out there & the odd trouncing is probably inevitable. I've certainly had my share! My view is that losing is for learning (mostly) and winning is for fun! A certain balance between the two is required, at least for me to come out of an event feeling 'successful'.

    Oh yeeeah... A picture really can say a 1000 words!
So as with any game and/or tournament event scene to evolve and thrive we need new players coming in constantly. A few people I have spoken to say that they completely avoid the event scene purely because they don't want to get annihilated throughout the weekend - fair enough! However, I hope that this article can encourage some of those players to come and join in the fun & provide some hope that you won't necessarily be picking up that wooden spoon!

So here is my breakdown on how you can best prepare yourself for an event:

Pick A Sensible Army
So what I am looking at here is motivation, skill and balancing a decent sized army that can be forgiving. Long story short, I highly recommend you choose an army that is CONFIDENT-VETERAN rating. It doesn't matter if you go for infantry, tanks or mech, just ensure that the core of your army is rated as confident vet.
You may want to consider infantry lists as they are certainly more forgiving than tanks or mech. They will commonly have a decent amount of platoons and can afford to take losses. However like I say I am not to worried about list type for what we are trying to achieve here, providing that we can maintain a decently balanced force, which I'll move onto...

Take A Balanced Force
So in previous Survival Guide posts we have touched on this. I still come across players who have been playing for some time neglecting the importance of smoke, or building a mechanised army that has no means of attack! The first thing in your army - ANY army (except Soviets) should be something that can fire smoke bombardments. Be that a platoon of mortars, or a 25 per battery - get them in there! Spend as little points as possible here, no need for anything fancy - their primary purpose is putting white fluffy wool all over the tabletop, anything else they end up doing is a bonus!

The phrase, "It's better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it" springs to mind next... No, I'm not talking about Durex condoms! I'm talking about recon! We definitely want a list with recce options in it and although a lot of newer players won't know how to maximise the effects of having recon, it's certainly more beneficial having it in the list than not. So make this option a must. Safety first! ;)

Generally speaking your army should have:
- 2 compulsory core platoons
- Recce
- Smoke bombardment capability
- Something that destroys tanks well ie A/T guns
- Something that can assault/remove infantry

Keep It Simple
There are so many lists with all sorts of clever little gimmicks and special rules coming out of their backsides! We covered this to a degree in part one of this series and so I won't go into major detail here. Basically keep away from the funky armies and their special characters for now (yes that does also include fortified companies). We don't need to complicate things here - just learning and mastering the basic rules will always be more beneficial than gimmicks/special rules.

Learn The Rules
This of course will happen with time. But it is very important that you at least have the basics down and understand them reasonably well. When I was a nooby I had barely read the rules before I played at my first event. I remember on numerous occasions I would get beaten by an opponent and later find that they were doing things completely wrong (Ie being able to shoot with a tank that's bogged down for example). Now I find myself correcting top players on certain rules, which I obviously wouldn't be able to do effectively if I didn't know them well enough myself. There is no substitute to knowing the rules better than your opponent!

Recipe For 'Success'
Below I have drawn up a very simple little formula that can help you in dissecting the details of your game. I have used this idea up until now and it has certainly helped me overcome the thought that everyone is better than me (which indeed was most likely the case!) In my opinion, being a more skilled player is only a part of the 'recipe for success' in any game. I shall explain..

So above we can see a pretty little pie chart containing 3 slices (labelled Skill, Knowledge and List). Now, my thought is that you need to beat your opponent in two of these factors in order to win any game. So therefore skill alone is not enough to be successful.

Of course, we play a game of dice and therefore probability, which actually ties into every point in some degree or another, hence why it is circled around the diagram. A skilled player for instance will put their units into cover and make them hard to hit (skill), or the AT guns in your list can be expected to arrive from reserves on turn 3 (list) etc. Probabilty factors into all three slices and indeed can add randomness to certain results at times - Let's face it, theres no point in maths and clever little diagrams if the dice gods have forsaken you!

Definition Of Each Factor:
List - As we covered earlier in this article... You need to build a well balanced list that can cater to your needs. People say that FOW is 'a game of lists' and yes that's true! At least to the degree that if my list is more balanced than yours/hard counters what you have, then I am 50% of the way to winning the game as I only need 2/3 segments to win.

Knowledge - Again we covered this earlier. Knowing the rules and missions is key. Knowing your army list, as well as understanding your opponents forces is just as important! So many people play weird new armies and have barely played them prior to an event. Equally not everybody knows the rules at all well. Take advantage!

Skill - So being a newcomer to the game this is going to be where we fall short. 'Skill' is moving into the right positions, assaulting at the right time. Utilising smoke effectively, it can be mesmerising watching the top guys play. Luckily we can still win the game with a well balanced army and better understanding of the rules than our opponent. All is not lost!

Phew well that's it for this post! Hopefully some of you are still awake, despite reading this?! If so well done you made it!! :-) 
I'm going to stop typing now!

Until next time!
Matt (Papa Bear)


  1. You know that guy that turns up to a tournament with an army he just finished painting and hasn't even has a practice game with, let alone devised a basic plan for its use, that's me. And it shows in my results.

  2. Aww Matt, you wrote an entire article just for me? Great article, though I feel I have sufficient experience to add one thing. Enjoy yourself regardless. I've been to 3 tournaments now with 2 different armies and got 2 wooden spoons, but I've had a great time at all three events, got to know some great new people and had some very close and interesting games!

  3. Excellent post Matt. I like the pie chart of your recipe for success. All three of those pieces are linked, as skill is applied knowledge, you need knowledge to build a good list, and all the skill and knowledge in the world won't help you if your list is total rubbish! Most importantly, you've highlighted that luck can turn the whole thing upside down!

  4. Thanks for reading guys. Glad you enjoyed it :-) Definitely a good point Andy, no point if its not fun right?!
    Going to be focusing on tanks in the next post I reckon!