Friday, February 22, 2013

Some Thoughts on List Construction - Part 1: Beginners

Hi everyone. In a recent tournament a few players had armies whose deficiencies in list construction became woefully apparent, as either their match-ups or the missions themselves conspired against them. I want to use this space to give a few of my thoughts on list construction as it relates to the tournament scene and as it relates to new players. At the end I'll list example armies that I faced and how they could have been improved. This is Part 1 of this series, where we'll focus on list construction for beginners.

I want to start with list construction for beginners since it is the easiest to explain. Basically, if you are just starting the Flames of War hobby, my advice is to pick a nation/era/theater that truly interests you and collect an infantry company for that nation/era/theater. Why an infantry company? A few reasons:

1. Compatibility - While there are collectors/gamers who buy and paint different infantry for different theaters and areas, most gamers and tournament organizers are happy to accept basic-looking infantry across EW, MW, and LW. For example, the British infantry models from the Rifle Company box wouldn't look out of place in France (EW), Sicily (MW), or Belgium (LW). You may not be able to use the PIAT in EW (I actually am not familiar with EW Brits) but the rest of that box gives you a solid core around which to build an army for any period. Artillery pieces are also compatible across the time periods, as are anti-tank guns, HMG's, mortars, etc. Unfortunately the rapid technological advancements with vehicles often make the differences between time periods too stark.

This can't "count as"'s a Jagdtiger, that's it

2. Ease of Use - I feel that, on the whole, the game is easier to learn with a core of infantry as opposed to a core of tanks. And, as an addendum to the compatibility reasoning above: say you try Confident Trained US Rifles and you don't like them. You want something more elite. Then just use your infantry models as Rangers (Fearless Trained) or Paratroopers (Fearless Veteran). Seriously, nobody actually cares, especially if you're just starting out.

3. Tactical Flexibility - Tank companies usually rely on speed and overwhelming power at specific points to achieve success. For experienced players and tournament players this is fine. But these types of lists can lead to one dimensional armies that don't offer the full, combined-arms experience Flames of War can deliver. Infantry companies leave more points to fill out support options, and can offer a better opportunity for players to use artillery, recce, tanks, assault guns, planes, etc. all in one list. Not only does this allow them to be tactically flexible, but it also exposes players to all of the rules that they have to know for the game. Play styles can be customized with an infantry list more easily than with a tank list.

Infantry backed-up by armor, a good combination

4. Hobby-related Reasons - Frankly, if you start playing Flames of War and realize you don't like the game (can't imagine that happening, but still...) or that you absolutely can't stand painting 15mm scale models (more understandable), you will have sunk less money into the hobby if you buy a couple of infantry platoon blister packs than if you bought platoons of tanks. Also, painting infantry exposes you to the full range of building, painting, and basing a Flames of War army.

So you've got a couple of platoons of infantry glued to the bases. You've got one of Battlefront's very high production value books in your hands. You turn to an infantry list whose story excites you and then see this:

Gah!! Pretty daunting for someone just starting out. But fear not! A chart like that is a good thing, because it allows you to customize your force the way you want it.

What you should be looking for as a beginner is a way to cover the basic needs of a standard Flames of War army. Don't worry about getting to 1500-1780 points just yet. Aim for 1000. Say you start with two infantry platoons; from there you will probably want a couple Anti-tank guns, template weapons of some sort (mortars, heavy mortars, artillery), recon, and maybe a tank unit. This will give you a force that is well-suited toward learning the game, learning to paint and build different types of models, and will give you a fighting chance at winning a game.

Some sample lists (all Mid War, with equipment that can be used in Late War):

British Rifles (Italy) from the North Africa Book - Confident Veteran

Rifle Platoon with PIAT
Rifle Platoon with PIAT
3 Universal Carriers (Recon)
4 Mortars
4 25-pounder artillery guns
4 6-pounder Anti-tank guns

Total: 985 points, probably around $140 depending on where you order from.

American Rifles from North Africa Book - Confident Trained

Rifle Platoon with Bazooka
Rifle Platoon with Bazooka
HMG Platoon
4 Stuarts
Mortar Platoon
Intel and Recon Platoon
Limited P-38 Lightning Air Support

Total: 965 points, probably around $155, but I factored in the Rifle Company box which comes with extra goodies.

Soviet Guards Strelkovy from Eastern Front - Fearless Trained

Company of 18 Infantry Stands
Company of 18 Infantry Stands
2 SU-85's
4 Katyushas

Total: 1035 points, I estimate this would be about $140 if you get the Katyushas made by Zvezda. If you really want to play Soviets don't be intimidated by the painting you have to do. Just take it slow and you'll be fine. Paint a company of infantry, then do some vehicles; alternate your painting to keep your sanity.

German Pioneers from Eastern Front - Confident Veteran

Pioneer Platoon with 6 Infantry Stands and panzerknacker upgrade, supply truck
Pioneer Platoon with 6 Infantry Stands and panzerknacker upgrade
2 Marder II's
3 Panzer III's
3 Nebelwerfers

Total: 990 points, and using Plastic Soldier Company for the Panzer III's this would probably set you back about $120. Nebelwerfers are a must in Kraut armies, and the supply truck will allow you to learn the barbed wire rules.

None of the financial costs for these lists account for the rulebook and army books. You can possibly try to pick up a mini rulebook from the Open Fire set, and if you can't borrow a friend's army book you can always try Battlefront's free PDF army briefings.

When in doubt, buy cool models.

I think that's enough of my thoughts on beginner army list construction for now. Get a few games under your belt, learn the rules, and keep an eye out for my article on building more competitive lists.

Please follow me on Twitter @piflamesofwar


  1. A very interesting article - will be definitely looking forward for next part.
    As a beginning player myself I have to admit that I decided for as little infantry as possible. The main reason being the sheer number of bases of infantry companies - with a tank company I have a relatively small number of vehicles to control so I can concentrate and (to a varying level of efficiency) control them.

  2. Fair point, there are many different paths to take when starting out. The biggest drawback that I faced when starting out was that tank companies simply aren't compatible across the different eras. That said, when I was first starting out there wasn't Plastic Soldier Company. Still though I would recommend starting small infantry companies for beginners, adding vehicles as you go along if that's what you're interested in

    thanks for commenting!