Ah, Prague, a beautiful city rich with history and culture, one time capital of the Holy Roman Empire. This isn’t where we were. Our event was a little further out.
The actual location of the ETC was a metal shed, full of sweat, heat and… sweat. In Ireland, this is the kind of place you go to auction livestock.
Preparation was paramount this year, months of planning, list analysis and pairing under tournament conditions (read: drunk and sleep deprived).
On the way, we noted that Team USA had gotten there before us and were doing a little freelance work for the local CIA front.
After a night of drinking and sweet, sweet dance moves, we square off against Brian’s favourite nation, Team Belarus. I take their Finnish infantry list in Dust-up. The decision to harass his force before falling back to eliminate his reserves was a little too greedy. His reserves arrive quickly, fight well and I make heavy going of finishing them off. After a close fight, we prevail. With his reserves gone, an additional platoon kill was required. With all key platoons close to testing and the enemy deployed in good positions, it took almost an hour to unpick the defence and force company morale checks.
Looking around, we took two wins from the round, lost a game outright and the rest were mutual losses. Having expected an easier run-out, I feared the worst as we pop into the table in 18th place. The only consolation was getting paired with England in the next round.
Between rounds, we met with Adam from the Breakthrough Assault podcast who had said unkind things about our lists previously. We forgave him his abusive comments as his crippling height disadvantage meant that there was little honour in picking a fight about such things.
Facing off against Team England, I reminded my team of their many crimes against our people (especially on the part of Steve Charlton) and strongly implied that a loss would see the Union Jack fluttering over Dublin by morning. I then squared off against their German infantry list. Pete dug in across the board. I chose a flank and rolled forward, hoping to weather the ambush. The planned smoke bombardment failed to form and the ambush was brutal. The surviving tanks fought it out for a few turns, killing a few guns, suffering heavy losses. The game ended with a futile last attack killing off the company commander.
Luckily, the team performed well, beating the English 4-2 overall. Freedom is secured for another year and we climb to 12th place. That paired us against a team who might harbour a historical grudge against us, Greece.
In honour of the occasion, special actions were called for. We located his monument and fired off quick prayers to the patron saint of rules lawyering, St. Beardius.
Best possible start to the day.
The next morning saw me defend against French tanks. Arkon, the Greek player, played a very cagey game. A careful push along a tree line tried to force my ambush but I held it for the right moment. Losses were even when I pounced but the ambush did no damage. Thankfully, the counter-attack stumbled in turn and the fight degraded back into a knife fight again. At a key moment his three bailed Laffleys fled, taking the company commander with them and the lack of covering fire saw the attack unravel. Although dangerous to the end, the surviving platoons were hunted down and the company broken.
My glum and hardened veterans feast on the hearts of their enemies. Well, the hearts and assorted innards of something, anyway.
We resist the urge to accuse the South African team of murdering Cecil the Lion. We do not resist the urge to spread rumours amongst the other teams that the South African team murdered Cecil the Lion.
As another nation that ducked WW2, we have a deep affinity with the Swiss. Deploying my pidgin English during the pairings, I quickly realise Arnaud’s grasp of the language is better than mine. Playing German Mech, he is “delighted” to “win” the roll to attack and gamely advances to make a fight of it. His mobile elements make it through but his guns are bogged down. He viciously targets the mortars, to my confusion, as I filter tanks from reserve to cover the objective. The plan was revealed as eight Paks arrived wheel to wheel as my forces began to filter in. Without mortars, they will be difficult to remove. But his volleys do not have the desired effect and, with frankly ludicrous rolling, the shootout goes entirely my way.
The battle of the neutral powers goes our way this year. Another 4-2 win pushed us slightly further up into 6th place. Our reward was a game against Slovenia who had beaten us 6-0 in 2012, right as we were starting to getting cocky. I fear that history might repeat itself.
Riding high on the glory that evening, I refuse to allow my team to eat in such a common establishment and insist we move on to somewhere that would be, at the very least, above-average.
Next morning, fresh-faced and happy after an entire two hours of sleep, we sit down to pair against the Slovenians. Frankly, we were delighted to be playing a team with a reputation for good-spirited play.
Truly, they are a happy and friendly people, free of burning, lingering hate. 🙂
Fighting a tank list in a mobile reserves mission, I fear the worst. Primoz enacts a set-piece offensive, rolling on my home objective. The stalling forces fought well with reluctant trained troops driving off two separate assaults. Their heroics are in vain as the reserves arrive too late to retrieve the situation and the enemy plan locks me out for a turn six defeat.
Overall, we manage a 3-3 result which drops us to 8th place but keeps us within striking distance of the top five. Our last game is against the International Brigade, Team UN #1.
My last game was against a fellow Irishman, Darragh and his Czech tanks. Having suffered their fire in the last game I move quickly to engage them and push the fight into open ground. The Somuas and Laffleys were caught out of position but arrived in time to continue the fight once the Hotchkisses had lost three of four platoons. He is unlucky not to company morale me before I do the same to him to claim a final victory.
The team as a whole went 3-2 and with wins scarcer in the final Fair Fight mission, it was enough to jump us into 4th place. USA, Poland and Australia scamper off with the trophies as we watch resentfully.
Having come within touching distance of the podium, we were proud but also a little disappointed. That disappointment was brutally compounded the next day when Brian drops the celebratory ice-cream Floody bought him. His sobs ring through the Old Castle for hours.
P.S. I’m missing some names from our match-ups, if you know them, let us know.