Wednesday, 12 August 2015

That Which Does Not Kill You… - ETC 2015

Today we have a guest post from Bill Wilcox. He was part of Team U.S.A. for last weekends ETC in Prague. Bill brings us very in depth AAR of the tournament.  
Now that I’m back home, and slightly better rested (only just), I thought that I should do write up for the weekend.  For those that aren’t familiar with the event, this year’s ETC (European Team Championships) was held August 5-9 in Prague and is currently comprised of three gaming systems – 40K, WHFB, and, FoW.  For FoW, there are two events over 4 days, attended by players from all over the world.  This is truly a world championship event.  The singles tournament on Thursday was 68 players over 3 rounds.  The team event from Friday through Sunday was the largest FoW event ever held, with 180 players on 30 teams from 4 continents.  We had 28 national teams with two UN teams comprised of multinational players.

First and foremost I want to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone that made this event happen.  Face it guys, we just pulled off 2 amazing events, one of which was the biggest historical miniatures tournament ever.  Everyone should feel justifiably proud of what we all achieved. 

I want to call out
·         Marko, Pavel, and Martin for volunteering to ref not one, but two back-to-back tournaments over 4 days.  These guys did a great job dealing with all of crap that always happens when you get a bunch of us prima donna players together.  They did it all with a smile on their face, and maintained professionalism throughout.
·         The player refs that took time from their own games to help officiate for others.  Fred, Steve, Piotr, Roger, Stephano, and Jorge all made my life easier, and decreased the “Bill, I have a question” requests greatly.
·         Matt Heywood from Team Wales for stepping in with the scoring software.  We departed from the other two systems, using FoW specific software for scoring and pairings, and Matt’s software was up to the task.
·         Honza for all of the support work, data entry, and general great attitude.  You made my life so much easier particularly with your willingness to take on any task necessary.
·         The other ETC Chairmen (Darragh, Vladimir, Pierre, Diego, and Jerzy) for all of the support both prior and during the event.  I was a newbie on the Chairmen team, and being able to draw on their experience was a Godsend.  Many of us were also players, and having this great group of guys as back-up for difficult decisions, to act as a sounding board, or to just listen to me vent was essential to making this event a success, particularly given the conditions.
·         Anders from Battlefront for the awards, and stepping in to play for Team Greece when one of their players had to rush home to his wife in the hospital (and remaining undefeated).
·         All of the players/teams that provided terrain for the event.  As any TO knows, wrangling terrain can be a problem even for small event.  Now imagine trying to do it for 90 tables where you know that most of the top players in the world will be judging how well you did.  You need to make sure that the tables are fair for all sides, are dense enough to make the game challenging, but not too light or too dense to provide advantage, logically set out, and appealing to the eye.  We retained all of the terrain used in Serbia the last two years, and had 32 table’s worth of terrain provided by the community.  40K and WHFB have it easy.  For them terrain is almost a nice to have; for us it is essential and can make or break a tournament experience and tournament placing. 
·         To the guys that came on Wednesday, dedicating their vacation time and a chance to see Prague (particularly my teammate John Brock who was there for the whole thing), that helped set up terrain.  I looked at the pedometer on my phone at the end of the day and I clocked 22,000 steps setting up the tables, about 11 miles (17.7 km).  We did this in 104 degree temperatures (40C) with no AC.  It took us slightly over 7 hours from start to finish.
·         Shawn Morris for an absolutely beautiful table that I hope to one day play on.
·         All of Team USA’s opponents that made us all think way too hard.  Thanks to Teams Italy, UN2, Poland, Slovenia, Belarus, and Australia for some amazing games.
·         All of the players that came to this event and made it great.  For me, I come for the guys, the games are secondary.  These international events have made me friends from all over the world, something that I never would have believed 10 years ago.  Now I just need to try and come to events in all of your countries so we can hang out more, BS, and drink the local beverage (although I think that I’ve had enough slivovice for the year).  J
·         My team.  This was one great group of guys.  Everyone did everything and more that they could do to both excel on the table and represent their country at a world class event.  Their support and understanding as I was pulled in 50 directions was amazing.  My performance suffered, and these guys jumped right in to make our team great and the event even better.
·         My wife for putting up with me and all of the BS toy soldier talk for so many years.  Of particular note was her “With your shield or…” text during a low point for me during my game with Slovenia.  I was just wiped out, bone tired, and no longer really cared.  It made everyone at the table laugh from both teams particularly when I told them that her family is Spartan.  Now you all understand why I am the way I am.  J

This year’s event was a success despite the horrible conditions at the venue.  Prague was suffering a heat wave while we were there, having the hottest summer in 210 years.  Wednesday was the hottest day on record, and each of the successive days through Saturday was even hotter.  We stared at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and by Saturday it was 113.  Sunday was back down to 104.  We were in a metal building with skylights and no AC.  All attendees were basically baked for 3-5 days.  I heard that we had a couple of instances of heat exhaustion in the other two systems, but had no serious issues with the FoW crowd.  Everyone kept hydrated and luckily safe.  We were also the only system that didn’t have half-naked gamers walking around, and for that I’m grateful.  We kept it classy in horrid conditions.  There are some things that my eyes were just not meant to see.  We were told on Thursday that they planned on turning the AC on for Friday when the big crowd came in only to find out later that the venue had no AC at all.  Criminal and very dangerous.  Despite the heat, everyone mostly kept cool heads during the games, and we had few eruptions and shouting matches.  I won’t even start on the food; well maybe a little, nuked liver anyone?

Lessons Learned for the Tournament (I’m leaving alone venue and overall event organization)
·         Have a TO that has the authority to make a call, whatever that call is.  This needs to be someone that the entire community trusts, that really knows the game, and that is not playing so they can dedicate themselves to the very difficult job.
·         Judging/Refereeing – We need to do a better job identifying the refs to all players.  The guys were wearing bright yellow shirts, but our failure to call them out early led to some confusion.  We also need to come up with ways for the ref to deal with difficult situations like slow play and unsportsmanlike conduct, and we need to agree to it prior to the event.  We did very well this year, but there is always room where we can improve.
·         Cloud Pairings – I’m not a fan.  I’d change and do random pairings for next year.  I don’t see any advantage to the system as is.
·         Scoring system – I liked Helge’s suggestion for adding a Big Point (win) for a certain number of Small Points (FoW points) gained.  I would make it at 18 to 1.  This means that three 6-1 victories would gain a team one additional Big Point.  I think that this will force people to reevaluate list selection and maybe make folks move away from some of the more extreme lists.
·         Provide ETC dice to each player.  I don’t think that we had cooked dice at the event, but there are always rumors.  Let’s just avoid the issue entirely and provide each player with a set of ETC dice.  The players get a nice take away, and any negative talk disappears.  You don’t take your own dice to Vegas, so….
·         Bring more whisky.  You guys are fish!

The Set-Up and Tournaments

Wednesday was spent traveling to Prague and setting up terrain.  Thankfully the Serbs were able to provide terrain from the previous years, and the FoW community brought even more.  I’d like to think that we did a better job this year given the extra terrain that we had, making the tables both fair and challenging.  They may not have been the most beautiful to look at (excepting Shawn’s, man that is a sick board), but we did try to cut down lines of sight and eliminate big empty tracks of table.  I look forward to the feedback from the community to see how we can improve even more for next year.  Face it, 90 tables…I mean really?!  That’s just frigging crazy!!

The ESC (the small event)
Thursday’s ESC (European Singles Championship) had 68 attendees for a three round event using the same 1550 Early War point value that was used in the bigger team event the next day.  Most players were on teams for the ETC and used this tournament as practice for the main team event.  The interesting thing to me was the number of lists that did amazingly well in the team event but that failed in singles.  Many lists were designed specifically for teams where match-ups can be managed and FoW VPs are not as important.  You almost need a perfect score in a 3-round event to win, and taking armies that bleed platoons doesn’t help your chances.  We had three members from Team USA join the event, Bryan Koches, John Brock, and Chris Jackson.  Bryan took the best US honors finishing tied for 5th with about six other guys.  The winner, Jan Rugelj from Slovenia, finished up with 17 points playing his beloved Finnish infantry.  Jan and I played against each other in last year’s ETC, and the boy knows how to push those Finns.  The competition throughout the event was VERY close, with 3 people at 16 points tying for second, and bunches of others just below them.  Many people had 3 victories, but you had to be damn near perfect to win this event, and Jan was the guy that achieved that near perfection.  Kudos all around for all of those that played and braved the heat.  You guys are all crazy playing nine games over the four days; six was too many for me.

The main event, the European Team Championships, ran from Friday to Sunday.  This event was two games a day with 3 ½ hour rounds, 1550 points Early War.  Teams are comprised of six players, and we had representation from all over the world.  Prior to gaming, teams go through a pairing procedure to determine who plays who on the respective teams.  The rules for the event are as follows:

Team Restrictions: Each team must consist of the following company types:
2 Infantry Companies
2 Mechanized Companies
2 Tank Companies

In each company type, the two armies may not be from the same nation; likewise a fortified company and an infantry company may not be from the same nation. Note - An army must have its own arsenal to be considered a separate nation.  Only one army in the team may be an Always Defends army (Note - a fortified company counts as an always defends army).  Special Characters may be used, but each character may only appear once in a team.  If you take a mechanized or tank army and make it a fortified company, you may not also use a non fortified version of the same company.

This is different than any other tournament that anyone plays in.  It is really almost 3 competitions in one.  The first is figuring out what lists to take.  Sure, you do this in a normal event, but for the ETC, you have to take 6 armies that all have different rolls.  You can take a great singles list that will suck in the team event.  That doesn’t mean that all around lists can’t be good, but teams do need to make sure that you get the right mix.  We did pretty well here.  In hindsight we’d adjust Bryan’s list a little and completely replace mine with Japanese tanks.  My list was the wrong one for the event, and made pairings difficult.  Luckily it didn’t hurt the team as much as it could have, but I think that we could have done better with the different tank list.

The second chess match is the paring process.  It’s convoluted, but here it is.

The players will be matched up using the following system:
1. Team A puts up one if its 6 armies facedown, Team B does the same.
2. Team A puts up two armies against the one put up by Team B, Team B does the same.
3. Team A chooses one of the two armies put up by Team B to be played against the army first put up by team A and determines one pair, Team B does the same.
4. The armies that did not get chosen return to the team pool.
5. Team A puts up one if its 4 remaining armies, Team B does the same.
6. Team A puts up two armies against the one put up by Team B, Team B does the same.
7. Team A chooses one of the two armies put up by Team B to be played against the army first put up by team A and determines one pair, Team B does the same.
8. The army of Team A that did not get chosen by team B plays against the last army remaining in the pool of Team B. The army of Team B that did not get chosen by team B plays against the last army remaining in the pool of Team A.
9. The table for each pairing will be randomly drawn.

Teams try to gain the most favorable matchups for each scenario, maybe trying to defend more in certain scenarios, making sure that infantry doesn’t face a fortified list, or matching your best player against the other team’s best player hoping that your guy can pull it out.

Tony handled match-ups for Team USA and was brilliant at it.  Who knew from his writings on the various forums that the boy had it in him?  J  He succeeded in getting us favorable match-ups in every round, even against teams where our lists could have fared poorly.  In some games our players were deliberately sacrificed to better the chances of the team as a whole.  Occasionally, the guys pulled one out of a hat and won anyway.  The goal is to maximize team wins and not your own individual performance.  Granted, the better each player does, the better the team does, but there are situations where almost guaranteeing one loss might get you two victories somewhere else.  This is where lots of pregame prep work and the ability to get into the other guy’s head pays off.

The third competition is the games themselves.  For this you need guys that really know the ins-and-outs of their list, the game, and every other list out there.  Team USA was fortunate to have 6 great players, all with different specialties, that could adapt and overcome what was thrown at us.  Bryan, Chris, and Tony were our defensive line that could take pretty much everything that was thrown at them.  Tony was able to ensure that these guys either defended or had favorable opponents in Fair Fights as much as possible.  John, Phil, and I were the offensive punch.  All three of us are fanatical tank players at heart and caffeinated squirrels that could try to take the fight to the enemy.  Mostly it worked.

Team USA and my games
Team USA’s lists were the following:
Bryan Koches – French infantry from Blitzkrieg
Chris Jackson – Soviet infantry from Barbarossa
John Brock – French recon from Blitzkrieg
Tony Davis – English divisional cavalry from Blitzkrieg
Phil Messier – Italian Tanks from Hellfire and Back
Bill Wilcox – Czech panzers from Barbarossa

My List
2 38ts in HQ
4 38ts
4 38ts
3 captured BT7s
2 Char flame tanks
2 nebelwerfers
2 recon cars

Round 1 versus Team Italy in Dust-Up – 3/3 draw
Dust-Up Is probably my worst mission.  Sitting back on my objective waiting for the other guy’s reserves to show up just sucks, and I suck at it.  I was playing Stefano Salvaderi ‘s Italian Fortified Company, and frankly he out played me.  I had his objective on turn 3 with just a little mopping up to do, and then his tanks came on the board, wiped out my tank platoon over by my objectives, and I had to abandon my attack to hold on.  By the end of the game, we were both one platoon short of company checks, but mine was the more fragile position.  Another few more rounds (we played something like 12) and he easily would have had me.  As a team we won 3 and drew 3 for 3 VPs coming out of the round.  Italy had hard luck given how well that they played.

Round 2 versus Team UN2 in Fighting Withdraw – 6/1 win
Unlike the last mission, FW is my favorite.  I love massing my army on one side of the board and trying to overwhelm the other guy, so what happens, I defend against Pedro Perez’ Soviet Tank list.  Believe it or not, this was a good match-up for me.  Perdro’s list was designed to take on infantry, and not another tank list.  FA1 on his conscript tanks melted quickly to my shots.  The ambush wiped one of his platoons on turn 1.  We had a great time, but I felt sorry for him that he didn’t get to attack versus infantry.  This was one of those situations where Tony’s match-up worked out just right.  We had favorable opponents in each of the 6 games.  Team USA 6 VPs.

Round 3 versus the 3 time defending champs Team Poland in No Retreat – 2/5 loss
These boys know how to do team events better than anyone.  They prepare and practice year round, have a large local player pool to choose from, and are all great players.  We lost our round to them last year 2-4, and were eager for a rematch.  This is where Tony threw me under the bus to get better match-ups elsewhere.  I had to face Piotr Miakoto’s Japanese tanks, again defending.  He of course night attacked and proceeded to swamp me with too many tanks and an infantry platoon.  I somehow survived his first round of shooting with 1 dead, 3 bailed and a re-roll for the platoon check, but failed to remount 2 tanks even with rerolls and my dice forgot how to roll 4+.  Piotr had the better list for the scenario and played it perfectly.  It was fitting revenge for his loss to my US 7AD in last year’s event.  Luckily for Team USA, we also had fitting revenge, this year winning our match-up 4-2.

Round 4 versus Team Slovenia in Breakthrough – 5/2
Slovenia is always a fun match-up.  I played Jan (winner of this year’s ESC) in last year’s event, and I got their captain, Tevz Delak, this year with his Italian tank list.  For a country with such a small population, these guys have a crazy strong FoW community and team.  Again I’m tossed under the bus.  Tevz has more tanks than me, and better ones.  I was lucky this time and got to attack, and much of his army had to start in reserve.  I don’t know how I won this one.  I was able to take the objective and somehow survive.  I think that I passed about 57 platoon morale checks, and Tevz could not buy a firepower roll.  I was the walking dead at this point and was just grateful that I didn’t pay for my many mistakes.  Team USA 4-2

Round 5 versus Team Belarus in Counter Attack – 5/2
Belarus’ team has improved each year, and this year was their best team yet.  I played Artem Verschaka’s Finnish infantry in one of my favorite missions.  I actually slept well the night before and was in a far better place than the day before.  I was able to get two platoons of tanks in between his infantry and the objective while menacing his deployment zone with the BT7s and Chars.  The werfers were also instrumental dropping smoke and pining his artillery.  My thanks to Vika (spelling?) for her help in translating and doing her best to distract me during the game.  Her boyfriend Valery was on the table next to us (he played for Team USA as a mercenary two years ago).  Valery, don’t be stupid and lose her, she’s a keeper.  J  Team USA 5-1

Round 6 versus Australia in Free-for-All – 5/2
The Aussies are always tough, and this year was no exception.  We played them the final round last year as well, so we have a great rivalry forming.  They are also a great group of guys to hang out with, we all did dinner Wednesday night.  I played Dave Rea’s Australian Recon list and his failure to equip most of his army with shovels paid off big time for me.  Both of us pushed, wanting the win, but Dave’s failure to dig in his infantry and Bofors on one objective for 4 turns was the eventual deciding factor.  I was able to mass on his smaller tank platoons, and the flame tanks worked over what was left of the infantry.  A well fought and fun game.  Team USA 2/2/2.

Our team ended with 24 wins and 161 FoW points after the 6 rounds.  We tied with Poland on victories, but had them, just, on the FoW points tiebreaker.
The final results were
Team USA 1st place
Team Poland 2nd
Team Australia 3rd
Team Romania Most Favored Opponent
Team Wales best Painted Forces.

This was a very weird event for me, though the games were great and I loved seeing old friends and making new ones, the venue, the food (or lack of it), the heat, and the responsibility of both running and playing in the event took a serious toll on me.  I was wiped out most of the time and had little energy for much else.  It also shortened my temper a bit, and I apologize now to everyone if I came out as cross at any point.  I really tried not to be.  My favorite part of these events is hanging with other teams each night, and I was basically too tired to do so on several of the nights.  I saw really nothing of Prague, and that is a shame given that what I did see was beautiful.  I really need to go back with my wife at some point to take in the sights.
The first 4 ½ days were hell in some ways (with lots of good bits sprinkled in there), but the last bit at the end was one of the best things that I’ve ever experienced.  The congratulations for the win and the for running the event from such a great community made my year.  Thanks guys!!



  1. Wow! Very comprehensive report. Congratulations on the win. The games sound very hard fought.

  2. Congratulations Bill. I couldn´t agree more with your suggestions for future improvement.

  3. Great report Bill.
    It was a pleasure to play with your team in round 2 and I am glad you liked my Slivovice.

    Thank you for all the work you did during the event for us!