Friday, October 5, 2012

Forgotten Hero Part 1: Finns

At many large FoW tournaments there will often be an award for the best performing "Forgotten Hero", i.e. one of the minor powers in FoW. This rewards the players who take on the challenge of playing and supporting one of the less illustrious nations that took part in WW2. My "Forgotten Hero Series" will focus on each one of these powers one at a time, and will give me a justification for paying for the campaign/nation books that I don't currently have (I'm looking at you, Burning Empires, with your sexy cover...)

Anyway, we will open with my favorite Forgotten Hero and my first FoW Army ever: the brave men of Finland! (by the way, this article series will cover these nations as they relate to the game, not their histories; that is beyond the scope of this article)

Let's start with the special rules:

1. Self-Sufficient: gives Finnish platoons the German Mission Tactics special rule. This is awesome, since Finns excel in the assault and now will never have to worry about losing their platoon command. This also keeps those panzerfaust upgrades around for as long as possible.

2. Hunters: allows infantry and man-packed gun teams to move at the double through snow and woods. In my FLGS we basically translate this as allowing teams to move through difficult going at the double, in whatever form. Either way, this rule is awesome, and somewhat compensates for the lack of transports.

3. Intercepted Communications: Allows any artillery unit with a staff team to re-roll a failed third attempt to range-in. This rocks, and plays into another strength of the Finns: artillery. The next rule adds to the artillery goodies.

4. Automated Fire Control: Finnish observers assigned to a unit with a staff team can act as the spotting team for any other artillery unit, whether they have a staff team or not! In addition, this rule allows batteries with staff teams to combine bombardments. If you have enough points then it can be well-worth it to invest in two artillery batteries. You will more than likely range in with the re-roll, and your veteran troops will rarely miss, especially if you're getting bonuses from combined bombardments.

5. Bitter Enemies: gives British Bulldog against Soviets. Frankly, I've never even had a chance to sue this rule since nobody at my FLGS plays Soviets. I don't like it when Battlefront makes rules like this. They have to understand that not every game will be Red vs. Blue.

Go on. Enter the forest. We dare you.

Now for the PROS of this army:

Motivation/Training: This is the true strength of the Finnish Army - each and every soldier is Fearless Veteran. This is awesome especially in V3 where 2iC teams can take company morale checks.  This army will simply not run away. The enemy is going to have to blast each and every platoon off the board. My crowning moment with my Finnish force came in a LW tournament not long ago.  I was defending in Cauldron against British infantry. His artillery pounded on my platoons repeatedly. Again and again my brave Finns passed their morale tests (I must have taken 4 tests on each of my two large infantry platoons), but they held and I won the tournament!

Large Platoons: While you don't have a lot of equipment, you get a lot of troops. Finnish platoons can be huge, especially with the new combat attachment rules. An 11-stand platoon of FV infantry with attached HMGs? Sign me up.

Special Characters: We have good special characters. Lauri Torni is rightly feared as a great unit upgrade, but he is pretty expensive.  The best character is an upgrade to a Pak40 gun. For a mere ten points you get to re-roll misses, never count as being pinned down, and can jump to another gun in the event his gun team is destroyed!

Mobility: As already mentioned the infantry has above-average mobility, but this isn't as astounding as it once was thanks to the US lists from Devil's Charge.

Unique equipment: T-28's, BT-42's, Fokker biplanes...the Finnish army has the best gear that 1935 can provide! This leads to cool, interesting vehicles on the tabletop, and a scrappy feel to the army as a whole.

Assault: Large platoons + excellent training = good assaulting units. Assault is where the Finns truly reign supreme. Get those large platoons stuck-in with the enemy and then dig them in onto the objectives. Attack in waves if possible. Once your opponent thinks he's survived the attack, you follow it up with another large platoon assault. It's like Soviet tactics except for elite troops.

Artillery: Yes, the equipment is expensive. But even taking the cheaper and not-quite-as-effective guns can still be put to good use with their special rules.

Lauri Torni. Badass, commie-killing son-of-a-gun.

But for all the PROS, there will be CONS:

Lousy equipment: Good Lord their equipment sucks. Rifle teams are the standard, so you really need to take those HMGs if you're concerned about anti-infantry firepower. Their tanks are mostly antiquated, and their modern equipment is very expensive. Those FV StuGs from the Sturmi platoons are going to set you back a lot of points. And that scrappy underdog feeling you're getting from this force? You can't spell "scrappy" without "crappy". A FV T-26 is still a T-26.

Your Easy-8's are no match for the might of the BT-42!

A Finnish T-26 in action...from 1944!

One-dimensional: Infantry and artillery will always be the backbone of the Finnish armies, which can lead to a lot of repetition in gameplay and army composition. Typically I max-out two infantry platoons, then take another under-strength infantry platoon. Then HMGs. Then mortars. Then artillery. Then I've basically spent most of my points. Also, the Finns don't exactly have a lot of options for different types of companies. You have a tank company, standard infantry, uber-expensive recon infantry, and pioneers. In LW you can also play a Sturmi company.

Lack of speed: Sure, the infantry and man-packed guns are very mobile, but this army can be outmaneuvered by any of the major four powers. The Finns simply don't have the vehicles necessary to keep-up with the rapid advance of any standard tank force, which leads to a lot of games of sitting on the objectives and just trying to hold out.

Lack of AT: There are not many options for AT, especially given the high points costs of those AT assets. They can get a few panzerfausts here and there, but nothing that is going to scare a determined opponent. Pak40's are a must, but you won't get enough to cover everything. In LW they get an option to have a small platoon where every team is armed with panzerfausts; I have found them to be essential!

Don't worry guys, those logs will totally block shells from IS-2's. 

Overall, I think the Finns are one of the stronger Forgotten Hero nations, especially in MW. Despite their shortcomings the Finns are top-of-the-line infantry, able to absorb a lot of punishment before dealing it back in return. Although their equipment leaves a lot to be desired, proper unit selection and deployment can go a long way toward mitigating this (although this proper selection leads to little variation between lists). At the end of the day you will have to be a master of both infantry attack and infantry defense to survive with the Finns.

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