Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review: Friendly Fire Pack 3

Zeb Doyle

Of all the ASL releases in October (and thanks to ASLOK, there are a lot), I've been looking forward most of all to the Dispatches From the Bunker and the Friendly Fire stuff. Walter did a very nice job summarizing the Bunker scenarios, so I figured I'd quickly comment on the Friendly Fire creations. These guys are based out of Sweden and do great work. I've played a lot of the scenarios from their first two packs and really enjoyed them all. The designers have a knack for creating tourney-sized actions with simple SSRs that still provide lots of replay value and require lots of thought. Their stuff is much less cookie-cutter than Schwerpunkt and overall I'd currently rate them as my favorite design group. The Friendly Fire scenarios are also a great value for the money at $15 for 8 scenarios, especially considering that out of each pack six or seven of the scenarios look like fun to me. Obviously tastes will vary, but I'm generally pretty picky and usually buy packs expecting to be only interested in about half the enclosed scenarios. In short, if you're looking to expand your ASL collection, I highly recommend all the Friendly Fire stuff. You can get it at various retailers in the US or directly from them at I've ordered from them in the past and shipping is actually very quick, about six days from order to arrival. With the praise phase concluded, and the disclaimer that this is largely based on a 30 second scan of the scenarios, let me run down the details of the latest pack:

FrF17 The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: Japanese attacking Chinese, 5 turns, 35 total squads, two tanks.

As you can guess, this scenario revolves around the famous clash just outside Beijing that led to the Sino-Japanese war and involves a tough force of Japanese being attacked by a ton of not-so-tough Chinese. It's also a cool example of how the Friendly Fire guys make their scenarios simple but interesting. The Japanese win at game end by hanging on to some buildings, but each squad of prisoners they capture counts as a building too. Given the large number of Chinese conscripts running around, that VC provision sounds like it'll really complicate the attack. Cool!

FrF18 Through Fire And Ice: Russians attacking Finns, 6.5 turns, 23 total squads, 11 vehicles.

This is a Winter War scenario with Deep Snow and has the Russians attempting to break through a Finnish defense and exit some trucks. Interesting situation, but doesn't excite me as much as some of the other scenarios.

FrF19 About His Shadowy Sides: Russians attacking Germans, 7.5 turns, 23 total squads, six tanks.

Barbarossa action here, with some monster KV-2s crashing into a German battalion HQ and fighting off some late-arriving PzIVDs. I got to play this one at the San Antonio game day and it's definitely a lot of fun. I'll try to write up a full AAR later, but let me just say that after commanding the 75mm howitzer armed Panzers, I can really see the KV as Kraken comparison.

FrF20 Adolf's Amateurs: German SS attacking Russians, 6.5 turns, 19 total squads, four tanks

This is more Barbarossa, and the SS are 4-4-7s and Green by SSR. I've always thought the SS (especially early war) are overrated in ASL so I like that aspect. Both sides also get some armor and the BT-7s vs PzIIID and PzIIA looks challenging for both sides.

FrF21 Cavalry Brigade Model: Germans attacking Russians, 5.5 turns, 23 total squads, three tanks.

Another East Front scenario, but this time in 1942. On the dense terrain of boards 32 and 37, German cavalry gets to clear out some hapless Russians. Cavalry is always fun, especially when it can enter from any board edge and this is another I'm looking forward to trying.

FrF22 Wunderwaffe: Russians attacking Germans, 6 turns, 26 total squads, nine tanks.

Still 1942 East Front, and the Russians are on the attack against those 75LL squeeze-bore guns I was asking about the other day. They're cool weapons with the 24TK and 2 ROF, but the VC are even cooler: the Russians win by capturing buildings or a working squeeze-bore, so the German has to be very careful about where he places them. Really want to give this one a try.

FrF23 Elephants Unleashed: Germans attacking Russians, 5.5 turns, 17 total squads, 13 tanks.

Kursk action now, with 6-2-8 and 8-3-8 assault engineers battling it out as SU-152s and Elephants trade shots. Russians get a few fortifications, Germans can win by capturing buildings or exiting. Another scenario I am anxious to try.

FrF24 Forging Spetsnaz: Russians attacking Japanese, 6 turns, 33 total squads, three vehicles.

Late war scenario with a bunch of very tough Russians (6-2-8s with the 4 smoke exponent) tearing into a rather feeble Japanese force. Both sides are pretty intermingled, which is always interesting and makes things tricky for both sides. I need to actually set up the boards for this one but it looks very intriguing.

That's it for the overview. I think I spotted a few inconsequential typos and one minor one (In FrF24, Elements of 140th Reconnaissance Detachment set up two hexes from 23GG5. Should that be two or less hexes? Again, I haven't pulled the boards, so this may make more sense when looking at the map). Regardless, all the Friendly Fire packs are very high quality and my only real grip with them is the funny-sized paper those Swedes insist on using :) If you're looking for ASL products that are high quality and offer great bang for the buck, you can't go wrong with these.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Sam for doing the data input on these so we can play them!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review: Dispatches From The Bunker #25

Walter Eardley
Much to my delight, I found the latest Dispatches From the Bunker in my mail box yesterday. It looks like another solid issue from the guys back East. Of the 3 scenarios, two of them have moved to my Wanna Play List and the third looks like a quick tournament sized scenario.

DB061 – Housing Crash – With all of the subprime news lately this scenario title made me laugh. The main “Oh yeah baby!” factor here for me is the scenario is played on Deluxe boards. I am a sucker for Deluxe and look forward to anything new produced for those boards. It is Kharkov 1943 and the Germans attack with 10 838 sporting 6 DCs and 3 FTs lead by a 9-2, 9-1, 8-1 and 8-0. The Russians defend with 15 447s a HMG, MMG and a couple of 50* MTRs. Many of the Red Barricades rules are in effect including roof tops, factories, Booby Traps level C and a stealthy designation for the Russian elite and 1st line squads. With only 5 and a half turns to take >= 17 buildings, those 838 will need to be the Supermen they are touted to be. Instant wanna play for me.

DB062 – Heroic Defense of Wake – This looks like a great Thursday selection for the Austin Tournament. This is the Japanese second invasion of Wake. It starts at night and moves into daylight. There is a LOT going on in this scenario. It is very heavy on overlays and terrain changes. I saw on the ASL Forums someone had created a PRN file from VASL. I think printing this out ahead of time would really help. There really is too much going on to do a detailed write up but to me it looks like a blast. I will tell you the Japanese landing craft start beached Fast Aground at start so no driving landing craft (those rules are brutal).

DB060 – Acorns in the Fire – This is kinda your basic 6.5 turn combined arms low squad density scenario. It looks like good tournament fodder but does not make me want to jump up and down and pull the boards out. 8 666 and 4 347s lead by a 9-1 and supported by 3 75 Shermans and a M4 105 attacking 2 467s and 5 447s supported by a couple of Mark IVJs on boards 19 and 43. It is probably a solid scenario but again it looks kinda vanilla to me. I will add it to my tournament collection.

There is an analysis of Bloody Bobruisk and some other articles which I will have to spend a little time reading. Over all it looks good at first glance.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AAR: 117 With Tigers On Their Tail

Roy Casagranda

Hungarians: Roy Casagranda
Russians: Walter Eardley

Well after my lament about MMP's absurd delays and how that caused me to lose interest in AoO, Commissar Walter ordered me to open my copy and play him in "With Tigers on Their Tail." I have been trying to play the Russians more lately so I asked for that side. Upon arriving in Houston, however, Zeb talked Walter and me into switching sides for reasons that can only be described as diabolical.

I had looked at the map and the situation before leaving for Houston, but decided that until I saw Walter's set up and first turn that there was no way to really make much of a plan, but with the sides switched I was at a loss about what to do. The Hungarians have a very tricky situation. They are supposed to exit 30 EVP or more and more EVP than the Russians. Their EVP come in the form of 2 tigers, 8 inferior tanks, 6 trucks, 18 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers. To counter this the Russians have 19 tanks, two scout cars, two GAZ 67-B, 6 trucks, 22 squads, an armor leader, and 5 officers.

The Russian tanks include 12 T-34s including 3 x 85mm versions. Their squads are 447s and 527s as compared to Hungarian 447s and 347s. In every way the Russian force is superior except for the two tigers. The tigers get to set up on map, but everything else must enter from the north edge. Since the Hungarians move first the first turn is a sort of Hungarian setup turn. All of this also means that the Hungarians cannot simply delay the Russians. Since the Russians move last the Hungarians must either stop the Russians or else leave enough on the map to stop the Russians from exited too much of their force on the last turn. Having said that I began to doubt that would be much of an issue by the end of turn two. I doubted their would be any Hungarians left to exit by then.

The Russians do come in piecemeal on turns 1, 2, 3, and 5. They have considerably more EVP available, so the Hungarians cannot simply exit. They must stop the Russians and then exit.

I just had no idea what to do, so I decided that I would enter in anticipation of how I planned to attack as the Russians. The turn 1 reinforcements are 3 T-70s, 4 SU-76s, and 2 scout cars. Turn 2 Russians are 16 squads and 6 trucks. Turn 3 included 7 T-34s and 6 squads. The reinforcements conclude on Turn 5 with 5 more T-34s. As the Russians I had decided to cancel some of the piecemealedness of the attack by entering the turn 1 and 2 forces in a relatively safe area and just wait the turn 3 forces. On turn 3 I would then attack the in combined arms on the Hungarian's weakest flank. My goal was to get behind the Hungarians and take out one tiger. By assuming that Walter would attack this way I entered my boys on turn 1 with at least one more MPh in mind. I split my forces up pretty evenly between both flanks figuring that a Russian run up the open middle would be suicidal. I planned to get into position so that on turn two I could get to my final destination. I put one Tiger on board 11 overlay Hi8 and the other one with the 8-1 AL on the forward most level 4 hex on board 9. Two lucky hull down dr of 2 gave me 3 hexsides for each Tiger (I needed a 2 or less and a 3 or less to get this result).

Walter came on full attack. His T-70s and SU-85s drove right up to my tanks. By the end of turn 1 I had only managed to trade tank losses with him. Things were off to a grim start. In this scenario trading kills meant a sure fire defeat for the Hungarians. In fact I don't even recall having one of the Turan IIs I lost it so fast.

On turn 2 his infantry joined the fray and began pushing my infantry in the middle back. But some lucky shots kicked in and I started to see his tanks thin a bit. The board 11 tiger was definitely doing his job, but the StuG and one of the Turan Is were doing more than their share. Then the tiger with 8-1 Malfed. My heart sank. In a scenario like this losing a Tiger was probably a death blow, especially so early. EVP at that point was not really a concern.

To repair or not to repair was not as much of a choice as it felt at the time. I had to make the roll and I did: 1. I am now firmly convinced that repair rolls ought to be leader modified! Anyway without missing a beat my Tiger was back and just in time. Walter split his T-34s up between both flanks 5 and 2, and came straight at me. The hero of the day proved to be the StuG. As the T-34s swarmed the board 9 hills he fired. Critical hit one T-34 setting it ablaze. With rate the StuG fired again destroying another T-34. Facing CC with three possible squads I decided to spin around and take an intensive fire shot on the flank of a third T-34. After spinning I needed a 4 to hit. I hit and took out a third T-34. The StuG went down in CC. By the end of turn 4 I was down to a Turan I, a Turan II, and two Tigers. Walter had lost all the T-34s on the right flank, but on board 50 he had two T-34s, a scout car, and a SU-76 still in action. One of the T-34s was immobilized due to a DI attempt by the Turan I in a woods road hex. He was the last tank I had on that flank other than the Tiger that is.

Walter decided to bring on all the Turn 5 reinforcements board 9. After having taken so many losses and having inflicted so many losses I was a bit shook up seeing five more T-34s. It did not matter that I knew that they were coming. Walter finally got the Turan I on the right, but unfortunately for him the tank blazed up. This meant that if I got lucky the woods road hex too might go. It had to happen in the first two possible AFPhs or else Walter could just drive through. Sure enough in the next AFPh the fire spread to the woods. In the subsequent AFPh it turned into a blaze forcing Walter to try to bypass the wooded hill and face bog checks as well as slow progress. I got lucky again. But then Walter realized that his immobilize T-34 had a sneaky LOS to the Tiger on board 9. The side shot resulted in a shock. Walter wanted that bad boy dead so he intensive fired and malfed the immobilized tank's MA.

Facing 6.5 T-34s with one Tiger and a Turan II almost certainly meant that I was out of the game. Zeb, Tom, and Rob were ready to leave so I told them just one more Game turn was needed since I was likely to lose. However, I got another lucky break. On the first RPh I recovered from the shock and went to work on Walter's T-34s. With three remaining he swarmed my hill forcing the Tiger on my right flank to spin around. With the enemy out of LOS of my left Tiger I swung around and fired at the immobilized T-34. Several attempts to fix the MA had failed and I managed to prevent more attempts by setting the tank a blazed. With the woods now burning and all the carnage on board 9 and 50 there was quite a bit of smoke on the map.

In the meantime in the center of the map my enter infantry force was broken. I had managed to MALF and then X out all my support weapons except for one LMG. Things seemed grim, but several lucky shots from my boys on the board 9 hill and from Tanks, succeeded in breaking the Russians running through OG, giving me time to rally the center.

My 8-1 manned Tiger on the right flank faced a T-34/85 and two T-34/M43s. I had to spin my VCA towards the and focus my attention on the T-34/85. I destroyed it without setting it ablaze luckily. Then one of the M43s managed a successful DI against the Tiger. The 8-1 and company managed to stay in the tank and took down another T-34. With one left on that flank Walter decided to hunt down my Turan II, but he failed to get him. My tiger finished off the pursuing T-34. He was down to one T-34 on left and a SU-76 mired in the woods. Walter threw in the towel. The scenario was always close. Had I lost the Tiger on the right Walter would have most certainly have won. In fact had I not repaired the MA and recovered from the shock immediately, as I had done in both cases, I probably would have lost the scenario. It was that close the whole time. Walter was a great opponent and took constant advantage of my weaknesses. He forced me to take some scary intensive fire shots and on occasion to ignore some scary T-34 M43 flank shots on my Tigers. For almost the entire scenario (except maybe the last turn that we played) I was pretty certain that Walter would pull it off.

It was a bloody battle. We quit playing on turn 8 and at that point 43 EVPs in GO and a couple of broken squads that would likely have been able to rally.

In the scenario that I played with Tom later I took out 4 more T-34s giving me 15 T-34s, 3 T-70s, and 3 SU-76s for the weekend. It was a tough weekend, but someone had to do it!

All in all both of my opponents gave me great games. Fun nerve racking tension, good sportsmanship, gracious hosting, and lively comradery was the rule of the weekend.

AAR: FO1 Come Seven Come Eleven

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Bill Dorre
Japanese: Zeb Doyle

Today finds me recovering from a fantastic weekend of ASL in Houston. It's always cool to go down for OwlCon, and this was almost as fun. I carpooled it with Rob and Roy and we got in a good discussion of the merits of the King Tiger vs the IS-2m before we arrived at Walter's new digs. He's got a very nice place for game days, and although no sun-bathing beauties appeared, the hospitality was still awesome with lots of barbecue and Kaiser Wilhelm Oktoberfest beer.

I faced off against Bill Dorre in Come Seven, Come Eleven, which is a pretty fun-looking scenario freely available on the web for download:

As you can see, both sides have a nice force but the Americans are pretty pressed for time. In our playing, Bill's boys had their 150mm rockets drift harmlessly astray, every SMOKE shot from the WP9 tanks failed, the OBA man was killed by a sniper after pulling a red card, while I was killing him with .50 cal fire and blowing up his AFVs with Berserkers that ran through more lead than you'll find in a Chinese toy factory. Fun scenario, great opponent, but the dice were very one-sided and the Americans have no margin for error.

Lots of other ASL action went down around me, but I think the game of the day was Walter squaring off against Roy in With Tigers On Their Tails. This is a monster from the Armies of Oblivion that's very fun but flawed in that the two Hungarian Tigers are so vital that it's basically over if anything happens to either of them. I goaded Roy into taking the big cats, and Walter pushed him to the very brink of defeat several times. Every time Roy was almost dead though, he'd roll a one to repair the Tiger MA or a two to bring it back from being Shocked. If the Russians can't KO the Tigers, it turns into a mental test of endurance, with 43 vehicles and 41 squads battling over some crazy LOS terrain for 11 turns. Here, Roy, being the wily veteran of countless untold mental battles of academia, had a substantial edge and began to quote long passages of his dissertation at poor Walter. This was an effective weapon but it had the side affect of driving the rest of us off. As we left for Tom's to continue playing, I noticed Walter was displaying more emotion than I'd ever seen before from him: a slightly disappointed hangdog look of mild frustration. Giving that he was contemplating being along in a room with Roy for seven more turns of a monster scenario, I think Walter is likely the most stoic person I've ever met.

Once at Tom's house, Rob and I squared off in Streets Afire, a deluxe city fight between Hungarians and SS on one side and Russians on the other. This is one of the scenarios from the CH Total Axis Pack I mentioned the other day, and I was pretty excited about playing it. The Axis have some troops trapped in the upper levels of a multi-story building while the Soviets dominate the ground floor and surrounding terrain. At game end, whoever controls the building wins, but some reinforcing SS, Zyrinis,and FT halftracks really complicate the assault on the upper levels. Just to make things even more interesting, the Soviets also get some reinforcing T-34s which have a very small entry area. Given the tight confines of the deluxe boards, it's pretty easy for the Axis to get some PSK teams in the area, so an interesting little side-fight can occur over there, distracting both forces from the main event in the big building. To sum up, you have the Axis defending the top of the big building while attacking the bottom and the Soviets doing the reverse, with the potential for another battle around the T-34 entry area. Very cool situation!

As it worked out, Rob came down with a bad head-ache and set up before the aspirin kicked in. He also rarely plays deluxe scenarios, which have a much more chess-like feel than standard ASL due to the tight quarters the action takes place in. Those two things gave me a big edge right off the bat, and I then started the game with a huge ROF tear from my 9-2/HMG/MMG kill stack and a very lucky ATR shot to bag a FT halftrack. I then managed to storm the upper levels of the victory building without taking any real losses and so we packed it in pretty early. I think the funniest moment from our game was a Hungarian squad doing a Search in the VC building to strip the concealment off of twelve squads and three leaders. We didn't even bother to roll for the Search Casualties...

That was enough ASL for one day, and we switched to watching Curt Schilling get knocked around by the Indians, but the next morning we were back to rolling dice. Roy had wandered in at some point, although I had missed exactly when since he's so small, and he and Tom sat down to play the Streets Afire scenario since Rob and I had left the pieces out. Their game looked like it had a lot of action, with far more force being committed to the battle around the T-34 entry area. It ended up with lots of T-34s being bogged in a burning building, and I think it left Tom with a bit of a bad taste in his mouth. I can understand that, and the entry area is extremely constrained, but I still think it's a pretty cool situation overall.

Meanwhile, Rob and I did battle once again, this time in a SP scenario The Five Pound Prize. It features some SS and Panzer IVs attacking some Brits with 57L AT guns backed by some Shermans. I took the Brits and managed to come away with the win. Early, I couldn't scratch any of Rob's tanks despite having some pretty good shots. My infantry though was basically invincible, taking 2MC and 3MC checks over and over without breaking. Eventually, my defenses started to crumble but I got some sneaky LOS to finally bag three of the SS tanks and Rob just ran out of time. Fun scenario, and a really good one to play at a tournament, but nothing amazing.

Still, ASL is fun ASL, and I really enjoyed all of my three games and hanging out with the Houston crowd. Thanks to Walter and Tom for their hospitality, and I can't wait to do this all again at the San Antonio game day coming up!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 04, 2007

TAP1 First Impression

by Zeb Doyle

The Total Axis Pack is classic Critical Hit: a really cool concept that needs a lot of thought and skill to get it right. In this case, CH has come up with a pack of 12 scenarios and includes 6 new maps to play on. I love the idea, because bigger non-geomorphic maps are much more fun to play on (IMO), but it obviously is asking a lot of CH to do something so ambitious in a well-executed and cost-effective fashion. Well, in this case, I'm happy to say that CH seems to have done a pretty good job although they are far short of perfect.

I got TAP off Ebay for 29.99, which I feel is pretty reasonable for 12 scenarios and six maps. It must be admitted that only one of the maps is the 24"x36" size mentioned in the product description, and one of them is really tiny, but the other four are a decent size and look like fun to play on. So far, well done CH. On the negative side of the ledger, I got it on sale. The CH website indicates they plan to sell it eventually at $49.95, which seems quite steep for what you get. Additionally, the print quality is rather low, with a few paragraphs running so close to the margin that a letter or two of each line is cut off. There are also some unsightly ink stains on several of the scenario cards. None of these are vital issues and won't stop me from playing the game, but they are annoying...hopefully I was just unlucky and caught part of a bad print run.

Another annoyance, and something that has nothing to do with luck, is that the maps don't come precut and are printed with rather tight tolerances, so I've got some pretty tricky work ahead of me with a straight-edge and an x-acto knife before I can play. Again, this isn't a huge deal, and the maps themselves look excellent (no bad printing there), but if I paid $50 for this, I'd be feeling like I really overpaid. One last minor gripe: several of the scenarios use counters from a previous CH product, Finland At War, so if you don't have that, you'll either miss out on some of the contents or have to substitute other counters for the required Finnish tanks and 5-5-8 squads. All in all, TAP looks like one of the better CH releases: cool-looking scenarios, very nice maps, production quality not up to MMP but not horrible, and a bit of work and some hassle required before playing. The other historic bane of CH, rules issues, hasn't made an appearance...a
quick skim of the scenarios and maps raised no questions, which is great. Now, on to the scenarios:

TAP1 Balkan Suicide: Partisians and Bulgarians and Russians attacking SS Police. This one looks really cool, with 4-6-8 SS backed by Tigers defending against an onslaught of motley east front allies including some IS-2s and M3A1 scout cars. It should be a very nice combined-arms fight and has jumped up near the top of my play-list.

TAP2: White Death: Finns attacking Russians. This is some Winter War action, with a bunch of 8-3-8s butchering a herd of 4-2-6s and tanks. Takes place on the teeny tiny map, which is (from memory) something like 5 hexes by 20 hexes. I guess that works for simulating a long-strung out convoy like the Russians have, but I wonder how tough routing is going to be in that space. Seems a little strange.

TAP3 Die A Bitter Death! Russians attacking Germans and Romanians. This one looks rather amusing, with the Germans trying to use the hapless Romanians as a speed-bump while they escape from the attacking Russians. As I look at this one a bit more, I now have a minor rules question on several of these scenarios. Bummer.

TAP4 Streets Afire: Germans and Hungarians attacking Russians. This one is on deluxe maps, and has the always fun situation of a trapped garrison of Axis troops surrounded by Russians. Can reinforcements break through and save the day? Add some Zrinyis and FT halftracks, and this one is also on my play list.

TAP5 Cross-Check: Romanians attacking Hungarians. Looks like a fun combined-arms battle. T-34s against Zrinyis.

TAP6 Viku Baptism: Finns attacking Russians. Another Winter War scenario, and it actually has armor on both sides. The Russian crews start outside their tanks though, and the Finnish AFVs have Red MP and Stall on any start-up roll of 9 or higher, so the infantry will be involved too.

TAP7 A Vicious Melee: SS Germans attacking Bulgarians. Another interesting situation, with the SS using captured French tanks against Bulgarian PzIVs. Some variable OB adds to the fun.

TAP8 Ghastly Sojourn: Hungarians attacking Russians. Turans and Nimrods do battle against towed AT guns.

TAP9 Edelweiss In Decline: Finns attacking Germans. Obviously late-war, this scenario may have the latest appearance of a PzIB in ASL. I can only imagine what the German crew did to be banished to Finland and drive a PzI at this stage of the war...

TAP10 Bertalan's Bridge: Hungarians attacking Yugoslavian. A simple all-infantry scenario involving a struggle over a bridge.

TAP11 Pescara On The Bug: Hungarians attacking Russians. A Barbarossa brawl and another chance to use those Toldis.

TAP12 Petrescu's Cadets: Hungarians attacking Romanians. Another armored force taking on some dug-in Romanians backed by a 47L AT gun.

All in all, it's not a perfect product but given the price I got it at and the fact that I'm a sucker for new maps, I'm quite happy. I think I'll be planning to play several of these scenarios as soon as possible...any takers?


Why are the old Banzai!! PDFs no longer functioning?

The files were lost in the shuffle for a few days, but are now back online.

Here is the link for the entire catalog of goodness.

ESG3 First Impression

by Zeb Doyle
Well, it's October, which means that those of us not fortunate enough to attend ASLOK can at least take solace in the flood of ASL material released there. Yesterday, I managed to get copies of Eastside Gamer's Dezign Pak 3 and Critical Hit's Total Axis Pack 1, and I thought I'd share my initial impressions of them. Obviously, this isn't a review since I haven't done anything other than open the products and look at them, but if nothing else, this'll give our under-appreciated and overworked data-meister Sam a chance to put the scenario info into our club records.

The first two Eastside Gamer packs have had scenarios that vary greatly in size and with a fair amount of typos and misprints but minimal errata. Due to the variation in scenario size, the ESG packs has lesser interest for me because I'll likely never play the tiny and monster games included. Of the scenarios I do play, I've also noticed that replay value seems to be very low. That's because most of the ESG stuff has units setting up in a specific location or exiting off a single hex. Because of that, the action ends up being a bit scripted at times and it feels as though the scenario would play out in very similar fashion time and time again. Due to the scenario size and scripting, something like MMP's Few Returned offers a better bang for the buck (IMO), with 12 scenarios and 3 maps for $24 compared to ESG2's 12 scenarios for $25. Those caveats aside, I have enjoyed the ESG stuff I've played enough that I had no hesitation ordering ESG3 and it looks
very much the same as the first two packs. This isn't a bad thing at all, and I'd recommend ESG to jaded ASLers like myself or (especially) people who do like monster and/or tiny stuff. The scenarios included in ESG3 are:

ESG23 Gak Gak The Ack Ack: Americans attacking Germans. This is a Normandy battle, with 7-4-7 paratroopers trying to knock out some AA guns on three deluxe bocage boards. There are 18 total squad equivalents doing battle for 5.5 turns, so I'd call this small but not tiny, and it's an interesting situation.

ESG24 Mayhem: Germans attacking Russians. This is some Barbarossa action, with a powerful German force (including some sIG IBs) trying to push the Russians off of hills on board 40 and 50. The Russians get amphib tanks that enter via a river which is fun. It's eight turns of action, and I'd call it tourney sized (disclaimer: I helped play-test this one).

ESG25 Road Out Of Rangoon: British/Gurkhas attacking Japanese. This is an early war Burma scenario, and has some retreating British trying to clear some roadblocks assembled by pesky infiltrating Japanese. 6.5 turns, 28 or so total squads, tanks for both sides, this one is making it onto my play-list.

ESG26 Diabolical Shrapnel: Italians attacking Americans. This action takes place in Sicily, using boards 12 and 15, and has some Italians with a deadly 150mm ART piece trying to push around some more 7-4-7 paras. To spice things up a bit, both sides have a 6 SAN and any successful sniper attack can trigger a NOBA attack instead of the normal resolution. Could be interesting.

ESG27 Typhhon's Vortex: Germans attacking Russians. More Barbarossa action, with some elite Germans trying to push through some not-so-good Russians and exit. It's an all-infantry fight lasting 8 turns, and it seems like the German will need all of that time to wear the Russians down. The Soviets get some reinforcements during the game, but it ends up with roughly 15 German squads attacking against 25. Not sure I've ever seen such a disparity for the attacker there, and I wouldn't mind playing it just for that challenge.

ESG28 Dangerous Reliance: Hungarians and Romanians attacking Russians. This is another Barbarossa action, with traditional enemies Hungary and Romania trying to cooperate to beat up on the Russian bear and not doing a very good job of it. I can't tell just from looking at the card, but it appears that scenario will have the Russians trying to hold in some areas and counterattack in others, which is always fun. Looks interesting enough to set up and figure it all out, especially since driving Toldis and Csabas around is so much fun.

ESG29 Blood In The Mud: Canadians attacking Germans. This is a 1945 struggle for the Reichswald scenario, with Kangaroos and Sextons going up against a 120mm MTR. Also has an interesting board configuration with half a map flooded and impassible, which makes the initial assault occur on a very narrow front indeed. Could be fun.

ESG30 Mindanao Mop Up: Japanese attacking Philippine Army. Looks like a fun early war mix-up, with a small force of 4-4-7s and 3-3-6s and a pair of 75* mountain guns trying to hold a bridge against some 4-4-7s and Chi-Ro tanks. I'm guessing a lot rides on the smoke rolls from the two knee-mortars, but it seems like some fun action.

ESG31 Hell From Hill 441: Russians attacking Germans. This has a big Russian force trying to clear a roadblock on board 42 while a bunch of German ordinance fires at them from the heights of board 9. The Russians suffer from ammo shortage and get a bunch of tanks, but the armor has to enter in Convoy and cannot leave road hexes. At first sight, this doesn't appeal to me, although actually pulling out the boards may change my mind.

ESG32 Steel, Steel, Steel: Russians attacking Germans. This is a Kursk action with some SS using captured tanks to ambush a Soviet tank column. It uses the HoB High Ground maps, which I don't have so I'm unlikely to play it. Interesting nonetheless because this is the third or fourth scenario to cover this action, and it's amusing how different the SSRs are for the ambush, the terrain, the troops, and even the captured tanks.

ESG33 Mutilation Station: Russians attacking Poles: This is a small 1939 scenario, with 22 total squads and 4.5 turns of action, and is a fight over a train station on board 48. The attackers get a FT and some DCs, the defenders have a 40L Bofors AA gun and a bunch of green troops.

ESG34 Ripped To Shreds: North Koreans attacking Americans. This is an interesting scenario set in 1950 that takes place in two parts. The first part has some Korean T-34s trying to break through an American defense, and the second part is a more conventional attack on the same positions, with all the wrecks and carnage, etc, from the first part still in place. My experience with multi-part scenarios is that they are often a cool idea, but generally end up being not worth the extra effort. It'll be interesting to see if this one can break that mold.

ESG35 Destroy All Monsters: Germans attacking Americans. This is one of the alluded-to monster scenarios that is something of an ESG hallmark. It's Operation Nordwind, and something like 115 squads and 90 tanks do battle for 13 turns. This is certainly big ASL in size, but also with the troops and equipment, as 8-3-8s, 7-4-7s, 90Ls, 128L are all in abundance. Highly unlikely to ever make my play list as I'd rather do a campaign, but I know opinions vary in this area.

ESG36 Havoc In Shanghai: Chinese attacking Japanese.
ESG37 Tsunami Of Maniacs: Chinese attacking Japanese. These two scenarios are modeled after Guards Counterattack and The Tractor Works, as they take place on city maps and can be combined into one larger scenario. Japanese vs Chinese city fights are always fun so I may well give these a try.

Looking it over, this got a little long, so I'll go over CH's Total Axis Pack in another mailing. I'll end up here by saying that ESG3 appears to build on the success of their first two packs, and has only one or two scenarios I'd discard out of hand for size issues. That's a much better ratio than prior packs, and so it'll come as no surprise that ESG3 has more scenarios that interest me than either of the other two. I'm sure I'll be playing some of these soon and I'll let you know how they go.