For those unfamiliar with the European Team Championship, it's a yearly tournament with Flames of War, Warhammer Fantasy and 40k being played by roughly 600 people. Despite the name there are teams from around the world with the furthest ones being from Australia and New Zealand. Pretty much every continent is represented except for South America.
All in all a very nice experience meeting loads of international players who shared the same interests. The atmosphere was generally very nice as players were cheering each other on and games being played very sportingly. Prague was hit with a massive heat wave over the week with temperatures outside reaching 39 degrees Celsius. You can imagine the feeling being indoors in a hall with no air conditioning with 600 other people with those kinds of conditions. Still luckily only a couple of heatstroke cases so could definately have been worse.
There was a grill party before the start of the games hosted by the czechs, which was very nice. In addition to that we also had dinner with some other players and Battlefront representative Anders the first two nights after the games. It really was great to chat with others about the game and try to get some hints from Anders about what's next in line from Battlefront. Funny enough with him nominally being a spectator there first he even ended up substituting a few games for Team Greece when one of their players fell ill during the tournament. Czech food and beers proved excellent refresheners, though I must say I wasn't always feeling exactly fresh the next morning.
The tournament system at ETC differs a bit from normal tournaments as Flames of War is scored with both Big Points that are gained by winning the game and equal BP scores are then put in order according to Small Points that are assigned with the standard Battlefront system. With wins being the deciding factor scavenging extra small points isn't that worthwhile. Sacrificing some points to get a win is always a better idea than going for an iffy 6-1 possibility when a 4-3 could easily be secured.
Each team has 6 players who are paired against each other by the captains. Both teams put forward 1 list which is countered with 2 lists that you get to choose your opponent from. This goes on until both teams have their last lists left and these are paired against each other. Building a well rounded list isn't always that good of an idea as much can be done with pairing and it's generally a good plan to tailor lists to specific missions or types of opponent.
Game 1 against Team Denmark: Dust-up vs. Strelkovy 1-6 loss
The tournament kicked of with one of my least favorite scenarios, Dust-up, against an opponent that I wasn't really prepared to deal with as I was quite low on anything capable of digging up infantry except for my Stuka and then assaults. My opponent had two large infantry battalions, a horde of unarmed pioneers, 8 Katjushkas and some support weapons in the form of AT guns and some armored cars.
I figured I only had a small window of opportunity in the beginning to do enough damage before he dug-in so I started of with a rush towards his troops firing pretty much everything I had. In the two turns of shooting I managed to get before he was completely dug-in I did manage to put two platoons close to testing. Trying to finish the job I went in for an assault only to be beaten back and decimated by the Pioneers. At this point he already had much of his reserves coming in while mine were still missing so I had to call of the attack and get back to base. After a few rounds of fighting for the objectives I forgot to ensure that I was contesting both my objectives and with my 2iC being about 5" away from the other I lost to a slightly embarrassing mistake.
If the start had gone slightly better for me the game could have gone either way. My opponents tiny biplane interceptor definately did it's job by driving my Stuka away for the first 4 turns and then I gloriously failed 2+ rolls for ranging in with him. 175 points of flying did me no good and didn't help with the digging out at all.
(c) Battlefront - Used without permission
Game 2 against Team Australia: Fighting Withdrawal vs. Australian Divisional Cavalry 1-6 loss
This game was going to be tricky. My opponent had enough AT to blast me away with impunity if I had to attack so naturally I rolled a 6 to become the attacker. It was more or less over at this point already as I tried to attack his tanks were able to stay concealed and I was shot from all sides and I couldn't really get my observer with a good line of sight to call smoke. This didn't last long which was also good as the heat was really killing me at this point. At least I learned to drink a lot more water for the next days.
Game 3 against Team New Zealand: No Retreat vs. New Zealand Divisional Cavalry 2-5 loss
Nearly an identical list compared to the day before except more tanks, albeit with only 50 cal's. Luckily this time I got to defend so things were looking a bit better. As a game it was quite uneventful with me digging in with infantry teams in concealment and him trying to blast me away as quickly as he could. My PaK38 ambush failed miserably by only bailing one Light Tank VI and getting annihilated in return by their 50cal's. He played smartly and moved most of his stuff close to me to shield himself from the Stuka.
A slightly frustrating end to the game as I failed my company morale 2 minutes before the time ran out and I would have won the game. I should have just slowed my play down a little as we played closer to 20 turns and 6 is the minimum amount of turns you have to play for the defender to win. But Dave was a nice opponent and I consider playing deliberately slow to be bit of a dick move anyway so I tried to play quickly at his request.
Game 4 against Team Russia: Breakthrough vs. Leichte Pionierkompanie 1-6 loss
I started off feeling quite comfortable with attacking in this mission as my opponent was mostly just on foot and his AT was of limited range. I decided to go all in and Move at the double on one flank to quickly beat up his small units there and the attack his reserves that he would inevitable have to bring in from there. All went to down the drain when my PaK's that had stayed in my deployment to fire on his troops were shot up on the first turn and then promptly failed their platoon morale. His reserves also came up on the first turn just behind my 8 rads with predictable results. Still things weren't looking too bad as I had numerical superiority on the flank and could now get my Panzers in concealment to shoot at his T26's and 8 rads coming from reserves.
To complement my attack I promptly bogged all my half tracks on his barbed wire and it would take 2 turns for them to do anything useful again. Meanwhile I only really managed bailing shots with my tanks. With the infantry bogged down behind them I didn't really have any support available either to assault them away.
On the other flank my Stukas had attacked his only platoon advancing to defend the objectives, his Pioneers, and put them down to a fairly low health. When he got them to the objective he had his flamethrowers to the front easy to assault away so I went for it. 6 pinned down rifle shots were too much for my not so brave Panzerschützen who were promptly pushed back to be fried up on the next turn. What seemed to be an easy victory with the grab of a lone objective turned into a fight for some small points.
I couldn't really scavenge any small points in the end either as my opponent passed all his platoon morale checks and I just couldn't get his tanks down at all. Another frustrating victory. And another one that could really have gone my way with a tiny bit more luck. At least next time I'll now to use smoke even if without it I should have about a 90% chance to go in and probably win the assault...
Not the nicest game as the referee was called in multiple times by my opponents to check on simple rules and there was always a lot of other Russians lounging around chatting to their player which isn't exactly allowed in ETC. Pretty frustrating stuff, but still that's a bit what we were prepared for in this match-up anyway.
Game 5 against Team South Africa: Counter-attack vs. Leichte Pionierkompanie 4-3 win
The last day started off with me being pretty pissed off after the previous days gaming. My match-up for the first game was not going to be easy with 3 large Pioneer platoons with 8 flame throwers, supported by Panzer IV's, an 88 with a warrior who re-rolls all misses and then 2 Pak36 platoons. I would actually have preferred to attack in this one with my speed being my biggest advantage over him. Naturally I had to defend, which is a pain in the butt with the Mobile Reserves rule. I opted to leave one Panzerschützen platoon and the PaK38's without transport so that I would have one extra platoon on the table.
My opponent deployed everything he had as close as he could to my deployment and just went all in with his infantry. I opened up with everything I had and decided to sacrifice my Panzer II's to get more MG shots at him. I made one massive mistake by throwing the air power dice before placing my ambush which meant that I couldn't put my PaK's down on the first turn. My strike did it's trick with all 3 platoons crippled and one failing a platoon morale. His attack came in with the flame throwers roasting my first units. I had figured that would happen and deployed most out of reach and out of assault range so he was just forced to attack into the empty positions later.
Some more shooting and another platoon down and only 4 pioneer stands left. The rest of the game was just pretty much me mopping up his army for a failed company morale on turn 4. I did lose the PaK's though as to get rid of the Panzer IV's I had to drop them in an exposed position after I couldn't do it properly in the first turn. An assault from behind by 2 lone pioneers did the trick as I had to abandon guns and failed the platoon morale.
Game 6 against Team Wales: Free for All vs. British Armoured Regiment 4-3 win
I hadn't really had any easy opponents from the pairing until now so I was hoping for a nice match-up for the last game. That was not to be as I faced a nightmare match-up against a British Armoured Regiment with far too much to shoot. 9 captured Italian tanks, 12 British light tanks, 2pdr Portees and some armored cars was going to be a pain in the ass to deal with, especially in Free for All. Another scenario might have been easy, but the table is just too wide with the Early War ranges to have a good presence with my force. I was prepared for a massive ass kicking, but I wasn't going to go down easily.
I decided to go for a split deployment with one Panzerschützen platoon and the PaK's on one side protected by walls and a railroad embankment and the rest on the other flank with Panzer IIs pushed forward into a concealed position that forced him to either just attack them or close in and leave them to his sides. For once my luck with the Stuka turned as he came in nearly every turn and did a stellar job in blasting away enemies. Meanwhile my Panzers proved impervious to fire as they were hard to hit and all hits only causing bails at the most only to mount up next turn with the help of protected ammo. I slowly whittled away his units to the point that he had lost both his CO and 2iC and was one platoon away from his Company Breaking and I had only lost one 8 rad.
At this point getting the final platoon started to become a major pain in the arse. He had a few platoons of Light Tank VI's that had already lost 1 tank, but killing them proved to be near impossible. I lost my 8 rad platoon and my Panzer IIs in quick succession. After withstanding massive fire for around 10 turns then Panzer IIs finally succumbed when a round went through destroying a tank and forcing me to take a platoon morale check. I promptly rolled a 1 and they left the table. At this point I was shooting with everything I had in all directions to just get one of the 3 platoons of small tanks to take a test. Finally the Stuka came in again to save the day destroying one and he failed his platoon morale. A hard fought win for the Germans!
This game could really have gone way worse. I figured my best way to have any chance of winning this was just to be cocky enough to force him to react to my movements. The Panzer IIs in a forward position proved perfect for that and coupled with stellar work from my Stuka and my mortars I quickly managed to get rid of the largest threats to the Panzers, the Portee 2pdr guns and italian tanks. If my opponent had been even a bit more aggressive I wouldn't have had a chance, but now he stayed most of the time in maximum range which allowed my Stuka to come in freely. But I guess it should have been a sure victory for him and he started trying to secure a 6-1 win. Losing 2 platoons and crippling one more in the first two turns certainly didn't help his cause.
Anyway a great game and Roger, who was also their team captain, was definitely the best opponent I had in the tournament. So thanks to Roger for a very enjoyable end to the tournament!
We ended up finishing 23rd which is by far the worst result ever for us. But not that unexpected as we had two late cancellations that had to be replaced with guys drafted from Warhammer players who were already there. Still they got 1 win so a pretty decent result considering they had only played a couple of games of Flames of War before the tournament.
The tournament ended with a price ceremony. In addition to the podium there was also an award for the Best Painted Armies which went to Wales and the most favorite enemy which went to Romania. Australia finished third, Poland second and Team USA first.
Team Wales receiving their painting award
Team Romania receiving the Favorite Enemy award
Third place Australia
Second place Poland
First place USA
Finally some photos of the amazing table brought in by Shawn Morris of Team Canada. Too bad I didn't get to play on it, but it definitely looked amazing.