Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Houston July Gameday

Mark Carter

Thanks for coming over, Chris and John.

Here is a little note on the other games going on that day across the room from Chris and John.

We ended up odd numbered on Saturday, so I drafted my 12 year old son Race, who has played quite a bit of ASL, both SK and some full rules. He usually wins against me. But this time I wanted to ratchet up the fun for the kid. So out came Zombie Pack 1! Mwahahaha.

Points of interest, the Zombies are portrayed by IJA counters and are always Berserk (so yes, they are morale 10). They only have 3 MP however, and always use hazardous, staggering movement, making -4 shots possible. They have no weapons except HtH melee, but once a human is in melee with a zombie, they can become infected even if they survive the melee, and as the human player you can contemplate suicide or euthanasia, because if the infection otherwise overtakes the human unit, it becomes another zombie.

Since the zombies do no shooting and never break, and since in these two scenarios, always IJA half-squads, they just vaporize, the turns are very fast.
The first scenario we took on was Zombie #5 “Matchstick Men of the Fighting O”. In this scenario, the National Guard has loaded up and is trying to reach the remaining uninfected humans in a little town in southeast Ohio. Hitting the arsenal before hitting the road they had their choice of weapons: “Oh yeah man, flamethowers! Four of ‘em. Hey look, a couple of Wasps, too!”. Roll a 10 on the FT? No problem, just refill it at a Wasp and its good to go again!

These fellows would have to fight their way through dense woods via a single small road, and they had been suffering through a bad drought (EC dry with breeze) and the forest is teaming with the undead, some HIP, with FTs and Wasps lighting fires everywhere.

I know of someone who would just love all those blazes intermixed with panicking humans and staggering zombies waving their remaining arms all around.

In this scenario I was the Humans and about to squeak by with a win when we noticed we had missed Race’s reinforcements. Had we remembered those, I would have changed by movements and would have run out of turns. Game to the “Zombie Race”.

In the second scenario, Zombie #4 Killing Fields, I was the Zombies this time trying to eat some brains by staggering across a field to humans in the trees, and some hiding behind a minefield. By using humans as bait, the human player can attract the berserk Zombies to stagger right in to the mines… The rest of the humans manned LMGs, MMGs, a FT and a MTR. We ignored the mist in the scenario (simply missed it, ha) and so my poor lifeless green forms were cut to pieces. The boy had an absolute blast mowing them down! Zombie-Rate! Race’s humans by a mile.

Ok, by now he was having a lot of fun, so I pulled out HP 15 Moldavian Massacre from Hero Pax 2 and I took the Russian defenders. Even though my cleverly set up MMG was ready to lay down that fire lane down the road, it rolled a 12 on the first shot. A 6 on the next RPh, you know how it goes…

My mortar on a hill by one of the victory buildings however was very effective keeping the marauding Moldavians off the other hill and so they were funneled into a very tight gap. The Romanians were able to capture 3 of the 4 VC buildings, but the Russians were able to hold out, finally giving me a win. A fun little scenario.

We got in three games, one regularASL and two Zombie pack treats for my son. It was a lot of fun. Those fast, fun zombie games were a great lead in to ASL so it all worked out well.


Monday, July 26, 2010

AAR: J100 A Few Rounds More

Chris Buehler

Germans: John Hyler
Americans: Chris Buehler

The 7/24 Houston game day took place at Mark Carter’s home so first I would like to thank Mark for hosting, providing beverages, and tasty brisket!

I had the opportunity to face John Hyler in “A Few Rounds More” (J100) from Journal 6 set in Germany in March of 1945. This scenario features a 6.5 turn match-up that features an attacking force of 14 American squads (elite and 1st line) and four Shermans against a defending force of 12 German squads (2nd line and conscripts) and four AFVs (two Sturmtigers). The Americans had a 9-2 leader, 9-2 armor leader, and two of the Shermans were gyro-stabilized while Germans had some dummies and could HIP one squad and any SW/SMC stacked with them.

The battle took place on board 3 with the Americans entering along the A-hex row with the objective of taking three multi-hex buildings (the three hex building – M2 – was worth two) while sustaining less than 40 CVP in losses. We rolled for sides and John ended up with the Germans. Deep down, I think he really wanted those Sturmtigers and their massive 380 mm guns. These were great but could only fire once per game turn. As such, I considered the other two 20L (12 IFE), ROF 3 AFVs (I don’t recall the exact model) to be more dangerous to my squads.

I roughly split my force with one group going around/over hill 547 while the other going around/over hill 534 to assault the M2 and L4 buildings. The scenario started with my rolling a 12 on the weather roll – gusts! There went my plan of rolling on with the Shermans and using their smoke mortars to provide some cover. So I went with a slightly slower approach. John took aim at one of my Shermans with his first Sturmtiger shot, scored a CH only to roll a dud. Later John scored a direct hit only to roll a dud. While lady-luck smiled on me during those two rolls, John had some nice rolls during the scenario including a rate tear with his HMG and MMG that stopped my assault on building M2 dead in its tracks. At this point I nearly failed my personal MC.

I rallied and was able to destroy John’s AFVs and bottle up his remaining good order units in and adjacent to the M2 building. At this point, John had amassed 38 CVPs so I could not afford more losses. I captured the L4 building and on my final turn sent two squads to capture the R6 and T6 buildings while dodging small arms fire and PFs! It was a tough battle that went to the end but I managed to pull out a win. Thank you for a great game John!

Earlier today I checked ROAR and it shows this scenario with 36 American wins to 32 German wins. I wasn’t surprised at those numbers as it felt like a “balanced” scenario to me.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

AAR: AK22 Fruehlingswind

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Matt Schwoebel

Well, yesterday was my opportunity to finally play a game out of CH's latest offering, their Afrika Korps desert series. This is a set of six related scenario packs that (in total) come with 50 or so scenarios covering the fighting in North Africa. The heart of the pack is a huge map with nothing on it but scrub, and a ton of overlays that are then used to customize the terrain for each specific battle. This means you are looking at putting down five to ten overlays for each scenario, which may be a turn off for some people, and probably does necessitate the use of Plexiglas, but allows each battle to have a unique feel and does a good job of simulating those wide-open desert spaces. The pack also includes some new Italian counters (used in a few scenarios), a bunch of other counters most veteran ASLers will probably already have, and some basic SSRs to cover some of the overlays (including a fun-looking Beau Geste style fort). The scenarios are a good mix of nationalities, size, and situations. Overall, I'd say that the physical components (50 scenarios, a big map, a bunch of overlays, a small booklet, and some new counters) seem worth the $100 or so CH is charging. The quality of the scenarios (having just read them over and not played them) looks to be on par with CH's other recent offerings: somewhat more typos and clarifications required than the top-level producers like MMP, Friendly Fire, and Schwerpunkt, but much better than their dark days when many CH scenarios were simply unplayable (I think 12 or so of the scenarios so far have questions/clarifications required). So, if you like desert and don't mind a little more errata/clarifications than normal, I'd definitely pick this up. Anyone who doesn't like desert, obviously, should avoid this at all costs. If you're somewhere in the middle, you could always just dip your toe in with the purchase of the core pack, which gives you the map, counters, overlays, etc, and some scenarios for $40.

At any rate, Matt Schwoebel bravely volunteered to play one of these with me, and we settled on AK22 Fruehlingswind. This is a February 1943 seven turn scenario set in Tunisia, and has a small American force trying to hold a village against some marauding Germans. The Americans are a pretty solid force, with five squads, an 81mm MTR, two Grant tanks, two 37LL AT guns, 75mm OBA, and reinforcements in the form of an armored halftrack platoon and some M10 GMCs. The Germans look a bit sexier on paper though, with a 10-2, a 9-2 armor leader, a Tiger, lots of elite squads and halftracks, three Pz IVF2s, three Pz IIILs, and some OBA of their own. That was enough to seduce Matt, and he opted to take the attacking panzers. I put together a defense, with most everyone hunkered down in the village, and awaited the attack.

At that point, Matt confessed he'd never actually played Desert before, so we paused for a brief rules review. Ten minutes later, Matt might not have been a expert on hillocks, wadis, and vehicle dust, but he was at least ready to go. The German attack entered on a wide front, with panzers, halftracks, and infantry all pushing forward as fast as they could. In the wide-open expanse of the desert, that didn't mean too much. Our forces were still separated by twenty or more hexes, so the infantry couldn't do much, but I was able to open up with artillery, mortars, and fire from the Grants. On my right flank, a German 8-0/radio/halftrack looked like a good target for my 60mm MTR. This was a small moving target at 16 hex range, but when you're good at this game like I am, things like that don't matter. One Critical Hit later, the half-track had been blown to scrap, killing the leader and removing the threat of Matt's OBA.

Over on the left flank, three Pz IVF2s faced off at 24 hexes against my two Grants. Here, Matt had the advantage of numbers, black TH numbers, L length guns, and a 16 TK against my 8 AF. I had red TH numbers, large target size, and a 12 TK vs 6 AF. So, over the course of the next two turns, Matt quickly lost one panzer, malfunctioned the guns on the other two, had one recalled, and then saw his last one destroyed. I took zero losses myself, and was left to I THAT good or do Matt's desert tactics really suck? Pretty much by default, that shifted the Schwerpunkt of Matt's attack to the center, where his 10-2 and accompanying kill stack were moving rapidly forward, assisted by the Pz IIILs. I brought my 75mm OBA in here as harassing fire, hoping to slow the German infantry down just a bit. The artillery didn't scatter perfectly for me, but I did manage to catch the 10-2/kill stack/Pz IIIL with a 4+1 attack. That ended up being an NMC, which sent the 10-2 and all the squads with him Berserk and confirmed that Matt's desert tactics are truly terrible They immediately dropped all their pesky machine guns, and charged off towards the nearest American unit. Patience would be required there, as 22 hexes of open desert separated the Berserkers from their target...

That was pretty much that. All kidding aside, I can't think of a much rougher introduction to the desert than what Matt had to endure, but sometimes the dice do crazy things (his main takeaway from his first desert scenario: "it's still important to roll low"). At least I had fun picturing my Americans scratching their heads wondering why the British think these Germans are so tough. A few questions (quite minor) did come up during play. Related to the scenario itself: The V17 overlay coordinates are wrong: it's impossible to set it up using the listed O11-R11, and it should be Q11-R11. Thankfully, this is easily apparent and easy to figure out. On the VC, "the side with the most Victory Points at game end wins." Is it intended that a tie is a possibility? Finally, the scenario takes place in Feb 1943, but the Germans get a PzVIE(L) with an sN. At that point in the war, the first iteration of the Tiger had only been around for a few months, and so it seems strange to have the (L) version in play. Chapter H notes (and I know those are only a guide) don't have the PzVIE(L) showing up until 1944. Likewise, I thought the sN didn't come into use as early as Feb 1943. Again, this is a minor issue either way, but it does make me curious about whether the PzVIE(L) is actually the correct tank to use, and if so, why?

Finally, one rules question that we couldn't quickly answer: a MTR hits a HT and immobilizes it. The collateral attack on the crew results in an NMC. Does the crew take the NMC or the Immobilization TC first? If you do take the NMC first and break, do you then still take the TC? Thanks to anyone that can help with the rules question, and thanks to everyone for reading.