Sunday, August 21, 2005

2005 Tourney Report

Rick Reinesch

It's been over a month now since we crowned the overall champions of the 2005 ASL Team Tournament. I have finally recovered from the sleep deprivation enough to start the tournament write-up. This year we had a good turnout of 41 grognards who converged on Austin from June 23rd through June 26th to battle it out for the honor and glory available for the taking in our 13th annual ASL Team Tournament. As has been the case over the last few years, the doors opened on Thursday morning to the play of 32 participants in their quest for one of the honors of the tournament – the Major Johnson Award, for the most ASL played over the course of the weekend.

We had a strong contingent of players join us from as far away as Ohio, New York, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. We love to have such diversity at our tournament. Foreigners, as we Texans call 'em, add a lot of character and spice, while we reciprocate with a ton of Texas hospitality and some (hopefully) challenging ASL! To make sure that everyone gets a chance to get in on a piece of the available prize action, we incorporated some additional mini-tournaments, as players kicked off Thursday battling in two playtest mini-tournaments using scenarios supplied by Pete Shelling and Mike Seningen. These minis gave us a chance to play some new scenarios, and get a feel for some of the new products that should hopefully hit the streets by next year's event. As always, we had our Saturday Texas Heat Mini Tournament -- and as in every year of late, it was sponsored by our good friends and BBQ caterers, Pok-e-Jo's on 5th Street. Our local group meets there for lunch every other Friday, and they've been catering our event for the last 5 years. Nothing like coming to a Texas tournament and getting fed some great Texas BBQ! Sure hits the spot after 60 some hours of ASL, and you still have 24 more hours left. Other sponsors this year included Boulder Games, MMP, and Austin-based Dragon’s Lair. We really appreciate the prize contributions provided by these fine retailers. We encourage you to direct business their way and please let them know that their support was recognized and appreciated.

So enough about the boring details – who won?

The Team Tournament was won by Zeb Doyle (Austin) & Bryan Register (Austin). Zeb and Bryan were riding a close second to Wes Vaugn (Arkansas) and Brett Smith (Houston) going into Sunday afternoon. As always, the final tense confrontations on Sunday were needed to sort things out. Wes and Zeb were both undefeated going into Sunday morning, and went head-to-head to determine the winner of the coveted 10-3 award for the best individual performance at the tournament. Even with Wes’s loss to Zeb in that encounter, a win by Wes’s partner, Bret Smith, against Matt Shostak (Austin) would still seal the team victory for them. But Bret’s hard fought playing of The Chernichivo Shuffle [SP110] against Matt came up short and they slipped into second place, with Matt Shostak and Glenn Schools (Fort Worth) pulling up into third. (Now Bryan has a dice cup large enough to handle those huge dice he was flinging to that little cup all weekend.)

Wes Vaughn’s loss on Sunday also made him the bridesmaid for the 10-3 award. Wes was gunning to take the 10-3 out of the state of Texas and back to Arkansas with him, but he ran headlong into the 2005 Central Texas ladder champion, Zeb Doyle. Zeb blew through the competition compiling a perfect 5-0 record and capped off a stellar year by making it a clean sweep taking home both the overall individual and team championship trophies as well. Congrats, Zeb! Gary Trezza (New York) rounded out the top tier of 10-3 finishers coming in third.

Our 8-1 XO award, which is given to the best performance by an up and coming ASLer, was also decided on Sunday. Chris Buehler (Houston) was duking it out with first timer Mike Cadieux (Oklahoma) in Radio Wars [HP13] for this prize, with Chris coming out the victor. We hope to see both of them back next year vying for the 10-3.

The Major Johnson Award goes to the player who plays the most ASL, calculated by scenario size and complexity. The premise of the award is to recognize the enjoyment of ASL by playing ASL. And this year, the award went to the person who made it his singular mission to make sure that prize was his. John Hyler (Fort Worth) epitomized the essence of the Major Johnson recipient with his determination, spirit, and enthusiasm for the game throughout the weekend. John started out play first thing Thursday with Beast at Bay [KGP11] and never looked back. He eventually compiled a record breaking 4841.25 Major Johnson points on his way to claiming the prize, bettering second place Bryan Register by almost 2300 points!

The ASL Team Tournament also offers a Saturday only, one-day mini-tournament, punctuated by a full BBQ dinner provided by Pok-e-Jo's on 5th Street. We call it the Texas Heat. It is a unique format where players are pitted against each other not only across the playing board, but whose combined results are compared with their fellow Axis or Allied commanders. A field of 16 played two Mike Seningen playtest scenarios: Last Gasp of the Wacht on Rhein and Breaking Out Of The Cauldron. Bob Chandler (Sugarland) wound up as the top Allied Commander and Clint Howell (Carthage) garnered the top Axis Commander accolades. Several other mini-tournaments were also played during the weekend; Jesse Boomer (Kansas) won the Mike Seningen playtest Mini, and Mike Rose (Kansas) won the Pete Shelling playtest Mini.

The final prizes of the tournament went to the players with the best and worst luck for the weekend as measured by the number of 2’s and 12’s, respectively, rolled over the course of the tournament. The Audie Murphy award goes to the player with the hottest dice and went to Bryan Register with a total of 17 snakes. Brian Roundhill (Austin) came up the winner (loser (?)) of the Col Klink award by rolling 24 boxcars. I think it is time to ceremoniously crush those dice, Brian. Though he did not win the Audie Murphy, my hat goes off to Greg Schmittgen’s (Kansas) luck in our playing of Slaughter in Heaven [TAC43]. It was a slaughter alright. Greg kept a record of the number snakes and SANs (a 4) he rolled against me, not to mention the threes. By the end of that game we were both laughing our a**es off at his ability to constantly roll really low.

As we closed the books on the 13th Annual ASL Team Tournament, the last of the gear was packed, and most folks had already headed back to the real world, I am realizing how enjoyable and exhausting an event like the Team Tournament is to pull together. I have been coming to this event for a few years now, but this is my first year to help behind the scenes. It is really incredible to have all these great players get together for several days of competition, camaraderie and just plain ol’ fun. Without your support and presence the ASL Team Tournament wouldn’t exist. We hope that you can join us next year as we look to see who will be the champions for our 14th ASL Team Tournament. Before we even finished cleaning the game room, we secured the booking of next year’s event returning to the La Quinta Inn, Round Rock. For you foreigners, we would love to have you join us for some great ASL fun. To all, please mark your calendars for June 22nd through June 25th, 2006 for the 14th Annual ASL Team Tournament!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

AAR: SP109 Olboeter's Escape

Matt Shostak

Ever since a distastrous game against Carl, I wanted to give this scenario another try to see if I could do better as the Germans. Ever the good sport, Rick agreed to take the Free Polish defenders.

The scenario depicts a Falaise Pocket engagement between 12th SS elements supported by Fallschirmjaegers and the 1st Polish Armored Division. Understanding the terrain is critical to playing this scenario well, so let me set the stage. I'll try to give all my descriptions from the German perspective. Six half boards are abutted to create a rural landscape with a small village, dominated by a tall hill. The level 4 hill of board 50 is to the upper left. The familiar board 42 village is in the upper center, and the fields of board 17 are upper right. The lower half of the playing area features board 37 to the left, rife with woods, brush, grain, orchards, marsh, and small ponds, the wide open spaces of board 44 in the middle, and board 38 to the right consisting mostly of orchards, grain, woods, and open ground. The Germans can win immediately by scoring 95 points, which they can accumulate three ways: by causing Polish casualties, seizing buildings on board 42 at 3 points each (for a total possible of 36), and exiting their own units through 50P8-42P4, which is roughly left of center on the Polish side of the board. They have 6.5 turns to do so. The German force is powerful. They have a dozen SS squads, two Panthers, two Tigers, four Mark IVs, a Wirblewind, three light FlakPanzers, and a group of halftracks, including one with an 81mm mortar and another with a 37L gun. In addition, a flanking force of 5-4-8 paratroopers, 7 squads strong, can enter on either the German right or left, somewhat beyond the halfway point of the playing area. But the defensive force is strong too. The Poles get two Fireflies and five other Shermans with 75mm guns, 80mm OBA with plentiful ammunition, two 57L antitank guns, a few carriers, and a group of 14 elite 4-5-8 squads featuring a 9-2 leader, a .50cal machinegun, and a few PIATs. The Poles have a little more than half of the playing area to set up in, including hidden setup for two MMCs and one of the Shermans (plus the antitank guns of course). Their setup area includes the upper three boards, plus a few hexrows of the lower three. The SS group enters from the lower board edge.

In my first playing against Carl, I didn't fully appreciate how dominant the big hill could be. I thought I could hide in the many blind hexes created by all the terrain, and eventually get the upper hand. Therefore I attacked mainly up the German right side, trying to avoid getting tanks picked off at long range by the excellent guns of the Fireflies, while trying to attack the rest of the Polish troops. I eventually realized, however, that this approach was slow and mentally taxing. And there are fewer blind hexes than you might think at first glance from the level 4 hill. Morever, I eventually had to confront the Fireflies but was unable to do so with a large enough number of tanks, and they got picked off piecemeal. I got discouraged and threw in the towel (perhaps too early). I decided to try a different approach this time against Rick. I decided to confront the Fireflies at long range with as many tanks as possible, hoping by sheer numbers to kill them off while preserving a few tanks of my own. It would be better if I could duel just one Firefly at a time if possible.

Rick set up both Fireflies on the hill, one towards the front of the hill and one towards the rear. I couldn't be sure of it at the beginning of the game, but it's the obvious place to be. Fortunately for my plans, it looked like I could engage the front one with several tanks and avoid the rear one for the time being. I decided to have my flanking paratroopers attack on my left so they could help clear the big hill, while the bulk of my force would blitz its way down board 37 because this way had more cover, and was a more direct approach to the victory area. Meanwhile, both Panthers, a Tiger, and two Mark IVs would park at long range and try to eliminate the lead Firefly. I figured I had to have a supporting force work its way up the right side, so I had a Tiger, two Mark IVs, a FlakPanzer, and a platoon of infantry over there. Their job was to hide from the other Firefly while maintaining some sort of pressure in that area.

In the first move, most of the German infantry pushed as far forward on my left as they dared. The many blind hexes helped a lot, but I was still concerned that a hidden gun might reveal itself and brew up a bunch of halftracks. My flanking troops didn't go wide, but instead made a more conservative move to avoid fire in the open. They worked their way under cover into the first few hexes of board 50 and the big woods of board 37, to help clear it of any potential traps. Naturally Rick's Firefly was hull down on the hill, but it was facing to my right, so in defensive fire it had to change its turret to shoot. His first shot was a turret hit on one of my Panthers, naturally the one with the 9-2 armor leader, which he promptly destroyed while maintaining rate of fire. Egads. He now had four other tanks lined up as targets, and there was a good chance he could nail three of them before I could knock him out. You never know when you'll be able to hit a hull down target. However, his first shot was a three, my SAN. Luckily the sniper was active and the Firefly was crew exposed. The result was a stun/recall, which really saved my bacon. In the ensuing advancing fire phase, one of the Mark IVs rolled snakes for a critical hit to burn the Firefly. My attack was back on track! I was feeling pretty good about this exchange, but there was a spotting round nearby, and I had to bunch my tanks up pretty close together to get that volume of fire against the target. In the next Polish prep fire, the artillery came down accurately, with 3 tanks in its blast zone: a PzIV, a Tiger, and a Panther. Now, if you had to pick only one to damage, which would it be? Why, the Panther of course. It was immobilized, the crew bailed out, and promptly were killed. Ouch. Now the exchange wasn't looking so great again, but two Panthers for a Firefly might be okay. Meanwhile the German infantry cleared most of the big woods clump on board 37 close to board 50, dispatching a hidden half squad with PIAT in the process. My tanks moved out of the artillery blast zone with no further damage.

Rick countered by adjusting the artillery to the area where board 50 and board 37 meet. This area was target rich for him, and a key choke point. It slowed down the attack considerably. His 9-2 directed the .50cal from the hill also, although they weren't at level 4 so sometimes they could be avoided. Still, it was very tense here, and meanwhile Polish troops were redeploying to meet the main thrust. There's a small, orchard-covered, walled hill at the lower left of board 42 (the upper middle board, remember), and there was a Sherman up there, hull down behind the wall, with some infantry support. I drove the Tiger out to confront him but could only do so from close range (4 hexes), and he deliberately immobilized the Tiger. Fortunately for me the crew did not abandon it, but hung tough. The Tiger was behind an orchard and hence blind from the big hill. There was infantry support close by, but they were a bit reluctant to cross the open ground in front of the Sherman, because it too had infantry support. Most of the remaining German armor had worked its way into the beginning of board 50, but was boxed in there. The terrain clogged things up, and this was made worse by the Polish units on the big hill, including the other dreaded Firefly and the .50cal, and also by the harassing fire of the Polish 80mm artillery, which covered a wide area and made movement difficult for the German infantry. Facing off against the hull down Sherman on the orchard hill, I had the Tiger, a half squad nearby with a panzerschreck, and a PzIV in the OBA on board 50. But they kept hitting the wall, unable to score a turret hit, so the Sherman remained, blocking that route into the village. Sometime during this early part of the game, the German sniper struck again, achieving another stun/recall on the remaining Firefly. This was big. I promptly drove some tanks into position to fire on it, to score the victory points before it could get away, and it was killed by this tank fire.

This was a huge coup, as it allowed much greater freedom of movement for my remaining tanks, especially the three tanks on my right. There were still two antitank guns hidden, and a hidden Sherman, all of which could destroy my remaining tanks, but I was still glad to have no more Fireflies to worry about.

As the Germans tried to wedge their way into the Polish positions between the hill and the village, a couple of halftracks saw an opportunity and sped down the road toward the exit. They couldn't quite get there in one move, and were pursued by a carrier. One made it off before Rick revealed his 57L ATG adjacent to the road exit hex, destroying the second one. A light FlakPanzer 38t rumbled down the road hoping to kill the carrier and generally cause a stir. It did, and was soon swarmed by Polish troops toting PIATs, and didn't live long. In the meanwhile I had finally figured out where his artillery observer was high atop the big hill in some crags, and had moved a few units into position to take him on. The 81mm mortar halftrack was far away in my backfield, and was starting to walk shots in on him. One of my PzIVs on my right was drawing a bead from long distance. A missed contact roll gave a brief respite, as the artillery lifted for a short time. The immobilized Tiger finally drilled his Sherman target, and then the way into the village was opened up a lot more by a rampaging FlakPanzer 38t. It moved up onto the walled hill to try to tie up the Polish squad that was holding fast by the wrecked Sherman. It stopped adjacent, and gave it a bounding fire shot of 6+1. One snake eyes later, there was only a broken Polish half squad there. It then moved over a little bit to get behind the broken half squad to eliminate it for failure to rout, as German infantry rushed the small hill. Meanwhile a short distance away to the right, the small German force pressuring there made its way into the first victory building in the village. Advancing fire broke another Polish squad, and the position of the aforementioned 38t forced it too to die for failure to rout. So that one 38t accounted for two Polish squads that turn. German pressure on the village began to mount. Another Sherman that was hull down behind the wall near but not on the little hill, managed to escape, as the Tiger missed him, and so did a PzIV and a half squad with a PSK. The mortar halftrack, however, failed to nail the artillery observer, insteading malfunctioning its weapon. So the Germans were subjected to more harassing fire as they tried to force their way into the village from the lower left side. When the other 57L antitank gun revealed itself as the crew started pushing it from its position on the upper right side of the playing area, there was even more freedom of movement for the German armor. The Sherman that had escaped earlier was now right at the crossroads in the middle of the village, with infantry backing him up. The Tiger moved out to duke it out with him, and lined up a pretty good bounding fire shot, but jammed its gun! Three other Mark IV tanks moved out to swarm him, but all missed their shots as well! A couple of half squads with PSKs managed to move up to three hex range, with -1 leaders, as insurance, and sure enough, the last shot got him. As the endgame wound down, the points were piling up. Germans took several buildings, and basically bum rushed the exit. This forced the last hidden Sherman to reveal itself to kill a tank, but he used up all his shots. A FlakPanzer was toasted by a PIAT, but that cleared the way for other exit. A total of two halftracks, a FlakPanzer 38t, and a Mark IV got off for 21 exit points. Six buildings for 18 points, and 59 points of Polish casualties gave the Germans the victory.

This was a hard-fought game. I think it was especially tough for me, because I tend to be a more cautious player, but this scenario calls for some bold action on the German side. Even having played it before, I still made many mistakes. I should have tried to get the mortar halftrack firing at the observer from the beginning of the game, but wasted a couple of turns with it, for instance. I probably should have been bolder with the flanking group, pushing deeper down board 50 to try to more aggressively clear the big hill rather than get caught up in the clogged mess at the foot of the hill near board 37. I should have found a better way to use the Wirblewind. It doesn't feature in the highlights because it spent nearly the entire game trying not to get killed, and eventually was done in by the harassing fire anyway when it did sally forth near the end of the game. With 20-20 hindsight, I think Rick might say that he wouldn't keep his Fireflies crew exposed. Without my two lucky sniper hits, I don't know how I would have gotten past these guys. Perhaps the other 57L was out of position. Aside from those minor quibbles, Rick played an outstanding game, particularly with his artillery.

AAR: SP109 Olboeter's Escape

Polish Perspective

Rick Reinesch

Matt has very eloquently detailed the course of the scenario, so I won’t rehash that part. But what I would like to lay out is the Polish perspective in preparing for the German attack.

I had several advantages in setting up my defense: the level 4 hill, the chokepoints near the front of the village and the road hexes out of the tree masses on either side of the village, the open ground in front of good defensive positions, and a restricted set of exit hexes that I could cover with crossing lines of fire. One of the keys to the scenario is to keep the Germans out of the village as long as possible. If the Germans can get past any of the chokepoints in strength, it expands their ability to come up with the combination of CVP, exit points, and control hexes that get them the 95 victory points they need. You certainly need all of the advantages you can get. Because though my merry band of Poles were no slouches (all Elite), the German force attacking them was truly powerful. My aim was to attrite enough of the German armor (specifically the Panthers and Tigers) before they could make contact with my infantry and Shermans. Shermans and PIATs just aren’t going to cut it if Tigers and Panthers get up close and personal in a combined arms attack on you.

The Germans would be crazy to push up the open ground in the center of their entry area, so that left me to cover the entry hexes on either end. That made placement of the Fireflies and observer on top of the Level 4 hill a no-brainer. I placed the Fireflies hull down near the front and center of the level 4 hill hexes . I placed the observer in the crags at the back of the Level 4 hill hexes. While it was not concealment terrain, which resulted in me having to set up concealed instead of HIP, it gave my observer good lines of sight across most of the German entry hexes or to areas the Germans would need to cross without appearing to be an obvious observer location, as Matt discovered. He spent the better part of the first 3 turns looking for him, much to his frustration.

The other big decision was where to set up the two HIP MMCs, 57L AT guns, and the Sherman. I had contemplated a forward defense with them, but that is really more of an all or nothing gamble. So I decided that defending the exit ‘funnel’ and playing for the end game situation where the Germans may need to rush the exit hexes for VP as a better option. I placed one 57L in the Level 2 hex adjacent to the road exit hex with its CA facing the exit hex. I should have placed the CA toward down the hex row, but as far as hex placement goes, this was a great location for this gun. It covers the road exit hex with the chance for multiple side shots due to the MPs any vehicle would need to expend to go up the hill on the road; and since it is at level 2, I could also get side shots on any vehicle attempting to leave through the exit hex row on board 42. I messed up in placing the other 57L on board 17 near the leftmost chokepoint. I was trying to cover this area hoping for a side shot on any tank that attempted to move through that location. This gun would have been much better placed on the other side of the trees on board 42 in concealment terrain in the village. I placed the Sherman in brush along the road leading out of the back of the village facing toward the exit hexes, again to try for any tempting side/rear shots. This Sherman was covered by a HIP 458 with an LMG in an adjacent building. I set up the other HIP MMC (a 248 with a PIAT) adjacent to the road hex exiting the tree mass to the right of the village in the hopes that Matt would not have the opportunity to spend much time searching that area and I could get off a cheap shot at a halftrack or two.

The majority of the remaining Polish forces were arrayed around the village on board 42, covering the chokepoints mentioned earlier and set to shift to wherever the main German thrust should present itself. I did place the HMG and 9-2 in Level 3 terrain at the front of the hill mass using the long range capability of the HMG to keep the German infantry hugging the trees and about a third of the Polish infantry with SWs along the Level 2 trees at the front of the hill. This was to provide good fire grouping and cover the open ground going up the hill of the expected German reinforcements entering board 50. While the Germans have the option of entering on board 17, it would take these German reinforcements a long time to get engaged in the battle if they entered that way. Keeping the Germans from sweeping the top of the hill was critical to maintaining the advantage the high ground provided.

One area that turned out to be a very good defensible position was the Level 1 orchard-covered hill and walls located in the center of the playing area and in front of the village. The height advantage and hull down position afforded by the wall proved very effective at slowing down the German advance and I think came very close to stopping the Germans cold if I’d succeeded in taking out the Tiger that parked at the edge of board 37.

And yeah, in hindsight, keeping the Fireflies buttoned up would have certainly been the smart thing to do. I most likely would have lost the forward Firefly anyway, but the one further back was set back far enough that it could have bottled up the entire opposite half of the board for most of the game.

I am eventually going to win one against Matt. The more I play him, the harder I seem to be pushing him to elevate his game to compensate (at least if the clock is any indicator). At some point I hope to be able to surpass him. Matt is a great student of the game and I have greatly enjoyed our matches, and have learned a tremendous amount every time we play.

Player Profile: Bill Dorre

Banzai: Tell us a little bit about your gaming background. How long have you been gaming? What was your first game? Are there any particular games that stood out over the years?

Bill Dorre: Well way back in the day my Dad got me Panzer Leader for Christmas, I think it was 1975. Which in retrospect it was a tall order for an 11 year old, but I plowed through with some help from an older friend. It seemed like it took months to finally get through the rules. We played together for a few weeks when I was just about to give up I finally won a game. I guess I really kicked his butt, because he never came back over to play again. The guy was like 15, I was 11, so I think it got to him. But it did start me on looking for other opponents who were... let's say "a whole lot less than enthusiastic"... I gotta read how much? So I played solo for a while. Then I met a friend who was interested in the WWII vintage model building I was into at the time. I showed him this really cool game, we learned the rules together (again for me) played many, many games as well as building the models of all the vehicles that we could find from the game. Then later that year he went to a (I think he said) Toys 'R' Us and found SL. We opened the box together and began to play which was great 'cus you didn't have to read the whole book before you could play you first game -I WAS HOOKED!

We also played 'War at Sea' a lot and a very early electronic board game called 'Sub Search'. After a few years he had moved away and once again I had no opponent. So I did the solo gig for quite awhile, bought all the expansion modules. I played them solo as well. Some time had gone by when I didn't play at all. In High School thru College I guess I found myself in the “Geek” world so I put it away.

Banzai: When and how did you discover ASL?

BD: I was living & working in Austin and met a chap who I thought had the “Right Stuff” for such a game. I got him to read through the rules (for the most part), played a few scenarios and things were lookin' good I had found an opponent. Then one day I was in Kings Hobbies and saw My Boy Krieger on the cover of a box that said ASL - Advanced Squad Leader. Holy S*** I said gave the guy at the store $10 if he would hold it for me. Picked it up 2 days later. Boy what a shocker! Man this is serious sh** I said to myself. But my friend had finally had enough so it was back to the solo gig!

Banzai: What nationality do you enjoy playing the most?

BD: You know, I've been asked this question at least a dozen times and each time I've given a different answer. So without going through the list I'll just say that right now it's the USMC's. Their ability to “take it” as well as “dish it out” is truly amazing

Banzai: Describe your favorite kind of scenario.

BD: Well I like the meat & taters type scenarios. A lot combined arms stuff, Tanks, other vehicles and OBA. But by far my most favorite are a company level usually facing off against a similar sized unit which really pits your skill level against your opponents

Banzai: What would you say are your ASL strengths and weaknesses?

BD: I would say one of my best strengths is in the infantry movement & combat. I also feel like I have a solid base of tactics for the ground pounders.

Banzai: What is the best part of ASL? The worst?

BD: Oh man! Whew! Gotta be AFV combat. I think my aggressive style tends to lead me into trouble, but I'm improving. As a convert from the SL days this has been difficult transition but not insurmountable, and I believe I'm getting better each game! And that's all I can wish for.

Banzai: What are you most looking forward to with regard to ASL?

BD: I love meeting and playing new guys with different ideas/tactics. I hope that both our games improve by the time were done, and that I have made a new friend & ally. Ask 10 ASLer's what they would do in any situation and you'll get 10 different answers. That's great!

Banzai: You're attacking in 1944. Would you rather have four Greyhounds or three Stuarts?

BD: I'll take the Stuarts. These are solid AFV's. Yeah, they may seem small, but they have just enough firepower and speed to make anybody nervous, except for maybe some of the Behemoths.

Banzai: What was your most enjoyable ASL moment? Your worst? Funniest?

BD: Most enjoyable moment had to be taking the Mojo at last years tourney. The worst had to be loosing Merzenhausen Zoo. I in trouble but still in it and as I roll on my first King Tiger. Roy (My Nemesis) takes a frontal shot- snakes - boom boom, out go the lights! Not sure I would have won with them, but I would have enjoyed blowing the crap out of some of those FT tanks!

Banzai: What area of your play would you like to improve on most over the next year?

BD: Well I will want to improve in my AFV combat for one! I think this year I would like to do more night scenarios. And Airdrops. Not much experience in either of those areas.

Banzai: Do you plan to defend your Major Johnson title at the tournament this year? If so, how?

BD: Oh, Absolutely. I know a lot of guys will be gunning for me there! Beware guys, I bring an awful lot of enthusiasm, and more importantly energy. And I'm really into doing beach landings right now, which tend to be rather large. Do a few of those and couple of other large scenarios I have in mind, and I should be in the running!

Banzai: What advice would you give to players who are just starting out, and what advice would you give to ASL clubs in trying to attract and retain new players?

BD: Well for the newbies you really have to learn patience, this is an extremely complicated game as far as mechanics. Along with that you have to learn tactics to match rules of play so in essence there are really two learning curves - How to play within the framework of the game rules AND how to learn and apply tactics to that framework.

Banzai: What's your favorite AFV (or other game piece) in ASL and why?

BD: Tough Question - I would have to go with some of the later versions of the Sherman like the M4A32(W) with a gyro. It has so many kewl things to play with like WP Sm. Also I like the IJA Type II for the jungle. This is a solid tank, with the 57mm gun, 4fp MG, and small target. Makes for enough trouble not to be taken lightly.

Banzai: We'll get to your favorite ASL scenarios in another issue, so how about telling us what your other favorite games are?

BD: I've always been an avid chess and backgammon player, and I've been known to throw down on Axis & Allies as well. I also have and old SPI game of War of The Ring played on a geomorphic map of hexes - hexes of all things! It's very cool! And of course the old favorites: Panzer Leader (which I still own)... Ever hear of the Buck Rodgers Game? That was always fun. I even have an OLD copy of Dark Tower which I understand is going for about $600 on eBay... but of course I'm keepin' mine.

Banzai: What are your other interests outside of gaming?

BD: I like to play golf as much as I can. Basketball, and not to brag, but I'm a damn good bowler. So, anybody up for a challenge - Bueller - Bueller ... Anyone seen Ferris!??

Banzai: Any final comments to wrap up?

BD: Sure! I am very pleased to have run across your website for my gaming had almost come to an end. Go long enough without an FtF and you begin to think 'Why am I still holding on to this stuff?'. So I think all of the ASL community really needs to try to recruit more personnel, and not just for easy pickens. We really need to try and assist the new guys and get them up to speed.

One more quick note. I must say you guys without knowing it have set the bar extremely high, mostly from the wealth of games played. It can be rather daunting to enter your name on the ladder not because of the points of the guys at the top of OUR HUMBLE LADDER but because of the sheer number of games played by those guys. I realize there has been some discussion on this very subject. I don't suggest changing the format of the ladder. But perhaps we could set up something along the lines of a tier system based on the number of games played. Ex: 1-50= Novice 51-100= intermediate 101 or more = grognards.

This would help some of the newer and younger player to not be so intimidated as to shy away from a great experience that will carry through a lifetime.

Monday, August 08, 2005


This is sort of an experiment with a new format for writing about ASL. Sam and I talked about it, and everything we used to do in the traditional newsletter which we put together as a pdf, can be done online. Moreover, online it will be faster. The gaps between issues of the newsletter have gotten larger and larger of late. Often we've had a lot of content, but would be waiting for that one extra article to come in. Please give us feedback on this. If it doesn't work for us, we can look for other approaches, or go back to the old way of doing things.

These Guys Kick Ass....

This Happened to Me

Jeff Toreki

Once when I was playing Aaron Schwoebel, I got a CH with a faust on a Sherman. 62 TK, dud. Rolled for another one, got it. Critical hit, 62 TK. Dud. We both laughed our asses off.

Designing Outside the Box

A Case for Battalion Level Scenario Design

Allen King

I have not been an ASL player for very long. As a long time war game grognard, I knew the game was there, but had decided to forego its complexity and super tactical scope for other games. About a year and a half ago, a good friend convinced me to try it out. More out of respect for him, I gave it a whirl. Soon enough, I became an acolyte of “ASL world”. I still play a lot of other games, but ASL and the new friends I found in the process, have become my core gaming group.

Nonetheless, before very long something about ASL began to nibble at me at a subliminal level. As my experience grew, the “nibbling” began to take the form of a conscious thought. It rolled around for a while, emerging from time to time when I thought about the game, but wasn’t involved in the intensity of playing it. Having now played roughly seventy scenarios, the thought has crystallized into something of a gripe. That is what I want to discuss with “ASL world” in this article.

The thought is a question. Why do scenario designers limit themselves to designing, developing and testing scenarios that more or less represent cookie cutter imprints of every other scenario? Almost every new scenario is yet another company or reinforced company engagement. This trait is now so prevalent that various designers have simulated many company size, historical engagements three or more times. This, of course, doesn’t mean those efforts are boring or bad. It is just that there is a certain pattern displayed that makes ASL scenario play more and more an exercise akin to chess. The number of pieces is fixed, the boards are relatively predictable, the scope of the battlefield is similarly limited and the action then conforms to these parameters. This is all just too comfortable. Chess has been around a long time and its popularity is undiminished, so I may be voicing a losing argument here, but this is my call for designers to step outside the comfort box and do something that could really invigorate scenario play. The game is ready for the next step.

Having been an active board gamer since 1962, I have watched the hobby morph a number of times. The resulting variety has been a big part of why I have stayed involved for over forty years. Looking back, the trend from the early sixties is very clear. From relatively simple operational games like Tactics 2, games became more complex and larger over time. This trend culminated in the “monster” genre in the mid to late seventies. As this occurred, board war gaming grew in popularity. Good old SPI, with all its many warts, was the main catalyst for this trend. Avalon Hill followed reluctantly, always seemingly intent on the business side of the hobby, rather than innovating really new game designs. Some of SPI’s efforts collapsed because of its “rush to print” mentality and resulting poor development, but one thing they did do right was to introduce us to the MONSTER. It was a quantum leap for the hobby. More importantly, despite the obvious difficulty of finding space and time to play these beasts, the games sold like hotcakes. Today, one would be challenged to find an item “hotter” than an unplayed, unpunched copy of War in the Pacific. Bids on E-Bay often reach $250-300+ for that game. There are many others such as Wacht am Rhine, Highway to the Reich, Atlantic Wall and, at the very top of the MONSTER food chain, the “practically unplayable” HIMS monster, Campaign for North Africa. These grand operational designs marked what I believe to be, the high water mark of board war gaming. And, oh, my brothers, these monsters consistently rated among the most popular games on the market, despite their high costs and alleged lack of playability.

Even today, the spirit of those classics lives on in large game efforts by a number of other companies. Avalon Hill and SPI have long faded from the scene, but the legacy of those designs manifests itself in the design and production of huge games that just sell and sell. Amazingly, if my experience is even remotely typical, they are also actually played. The fact is, bigger can be better and that is the preference of the gamers I know.

So, why hasn’t this evolutionary process ever caught on with ASL? The game has been around in the advanced version for twenty years. Now, before continuing, I want to assure the reader that I am aware that there are some exceptions to my general lament. Clearly the campaign games and some of the historical studies do feature “scenarios” with more than a reinforced company involved. Even more interesting is that, if you ask an ASL player what his most fulfilling ASL experience has been, many will unhesitantly point to, Red Barricades, or one of its mini-campaign games. Of course, those games generally feature much more than a single company. It amazes me that designers have not seen the connection between the popularity of RB and other large scale games and the market for larger scenarios that feature a battalion or reinforced battalion. I am convinced that part of the appeal of RB is its sheer scope. However, in current scenario design, the obvious interest in large scale games has not led designers to develop battalion level scenarios. Of the thousand or so scenarios I own, somewhere between 5% - 10% rest outside the “company sized” comfort zone. That’s more than a little sad to me.

Of course, I have heard the “excuses”. Generally, it starts something like this. The counter limits in the game modules impose a design limit. Well, okay, but most of the gamers I know have ASL counter sets that far exceed the limits of any single module. I have three sets of most nationalities and that is not uncommon to find among my many ASL friends. Also, one’s opponent usually has at least a set of modules too. Additional counters always fetch pretty good bids on E-Bay, demonstrating the popularity of obtaining larger counter pools by players. This also indicates a market niche for MMP for printing and selling counter sheets only. My bet is that they would sell like hotcakes, especially if designers were putting out scenarios that required extra units for play. I just don’t buy this argument against designing larger scenarios at all.

The next “excuse” is that it already takes so much time to design, develop and test scenarios, that it would be unprofitable to develop large scale scenarios. The argument continues that it is already hard to sell them for enough to turn a reasonable return when dealing with a small pool of buyers. Thinking back, I bet the same thing was said when the first monster game was considered by SPI. Yes, they will take more effort to create. Finding good play testers isn’t a walk in the park. Never mind that a friend and I are testing a scenario right now in which the defender has 25 squads, the attacker over 50 and both sides have more than ten vehicles. But, again, a battalion level ASL scenario isn’t all that great a leap. From a play testing point of view, jumping to battalion level scenarios would be a leap across a ditch compared to the leap across a river that SPI and others took to design and develop the monsters. There just isn’t a real risk comparison there at all. So, humbug to that argument.

In fact, from a development point of view, history tells us that despite its vast scope, the monster developed rather easily and that, at least SPI, found some willing and enthusiastic bodies to test them. The monster sold very well (and still does). It sold at a premium price and it drew even more people into the hobby. It may be a stretch to argue that it actually saved the hobby, but it did rejuvenate it in the late seventies. One cannot help but see the same potential for ASL. Of course, it’s a risk. But, if the scenarios are well done, and introduce current and new players to the whole new view of a battalion commander, I believe the results could be remarkable. As a bonus, scenario designers would be delving into a new genre of battles that have seldom before been represented in ASL scenario play. The whole thought excites me and I know I am not alone.

The final “excuse” is almost amusing. It goes like this. Where, oh brother, am I to find the time, space and opponents to play these marvels? Oh please. Yes, its true that finding an opponent to play board war games face to face has always been a problem for some. It is now and it will be whether battalion scenarios come to fruition or not. But, that argument is even more relevant to say, Highway to the Reich, which features a map more than seven feet long. Yet, I’ve played it face to face three different times, with three different teams of gamers in two different cities. It is one of my all time favorite games. Battalion level scenarios might add two or three ASL boards to a typical three board setup. Almost everyone in our club currently has a space big enough to accommodate that map configuration. As to finding time to play, how does finding time to play a big game vary much from finding time to play an eight or nine turn, company size scenario? True, these games won’t be something to play in an evening. However, it isn’t rare for us to store games for later completion as things now stand. So, the arguments associated with lack of time, space and opponents are not something that is made better or worse by larger scenarios. The simple fact is that if one wants to do something bad enough, one will find a way to do it.

So, what’s stopping us? I believe the problem is one of inertia. The hobby is small and its participants are aging. Maybe we just don’t have the energy to delve into something new. Maybe it’s a matter of being comfortable where we are, the small number of participants and the presence of an almost inexhaustible supply of company level scenarios to play. However, my imagination yearns for the wider scope of battalion level engagements on battlefields not traveled in current ASL scenario play. I want to see action from the Lt. Colonel’s perspective. Where and when do I commit the battalion OBA, the reserves or the heavy weapons company? Which company commander do I reinforce? Handling three or four companies with battalion level assets to reinforce one or more portions of the battlefield presents a different set of problems as compared to bossing a company here and there. I’d like to see those challenges presented by designers. Short of Campaign Games, I am not seeing that. Personally, I’d run, not walk, to buy the first set of battalion level scenarios that came out. However, I think I’d have to run very fast to be the first in that line.

Here’s hoping that someone with an interest in designing will make the leap. In fact, here’s hoping they do it soon as time grows short for me and many other old time board war gamers.

Favorite Scenarios - Jay Harms

I like the big, meaty, corn fed brawls where there are multiple options and paths to victory. In particular are the scenarios where the Victory Conditions give players different options such as building control or casualties / exit points. To me this adds a degree of higher-level strategy into the game. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress, as Tom Gillis would say, so I usually try and go for a larger scenario where one or two lucky rolls don’t automatically put one side out of the game. That being said, and without further ado, here are my top 5 scenarios.

Jungle Citadel – ASL71

This scenario has everything but AFV’s, but just because it isn’t a combined arms battle, don’t let it fool you. This scenario gets an 8 on the Corn Fed Beef O-Meter (CFBOM), but should get a bonus because of all the toys each side gets. The scenario is a brawl between first line defending Japanese with support weapons out the ying-yang and who are holed up behind some nice fortifications. They even get some OBA support. Despite all these positives, the Japanese can be hard pressed as the attacking Chinese are loaded for bear. The Chinese get TWO good OBA’s, plus automatic 3 FB’s with bombs (can you say nalpam?). If that isn’t enough, they outnunber the Japs by 50%, are well lead and are packing 3 FT’s. The extra push that gets this scenario onto my top five is the victory conditions. The Japanese are forced to defend up front as there is a VC option that allows the Chinese to win early if they take a specific hex, otherwise the Chinese have to take a lot of buildings by game end. This VC really opens up possibilities for both sides and enhances the replayability for this scenario.

Blood & Guts – RB2

If you want to experience the feel of Red Barricades without investing time in a CG, this is the scenario for you. I have never won this scenario thanks to MR. Walter Eardley, but I am still itch’en to play this one again. On one side you have a German assault force that is unstoppable with FT’s, DC’s, tanks, 838’s, Mr. 10-3 and a side kick 9-2, not to mention 34 squads!. Plus, the VC’s allow the Germans to pick a secret objective that they have to meet. With all that you would think it would be a walkover…. But…the Russians are made to order for defense with mines, every exterior factory fortified, tunnels, multiple heavy MG’s, and their very own 10-2. Not to be outdone by the German pioneers, they also have an engineer company in reserve. Once again, the high point of the Scenario is the VC’s. The Germans have a choice of secret objectives, while the Russians can win instantly by counterattacking and controlling one of two buildings at the end of any game turn. This forces the Germans to not only attack, but defend enough to keep the Russian player honest. This bad boy scenario rates a 9 on the CFBOM.

Rikusentai – BRT4

I think one of the draws for this scenario is that it is a historical scenario that really gives that close in, no holds barred WWF feel for the Tarawa campaign. I would rate it a 9 on the CFBOM. It has the Marines surrounding a well led elite Jap force, with the requirements of basically crushing the Japs over 6 turns. Replayability for this scenario is high since the Japs are allotted purchase points to purchase whatever support weapons and fortification they want. This forces them to make choices on getting good AFV protection or load up on MG’s etc. Do they want fortified buildings or minefields? Ah, options, choices, strategy, I love it! On the other hand the Marines set up surrounding the Japs and have multiple options on assaulting this little custom made pocket of death. And hey, the Marines are purpose built for the task. 8 morale, well led, OBA, AFV’s, lots of toys, etc… If you are looking for a meaty Jap-Marine scenario that doesn’t involve caves or knowing the PTO rules, this is the one.

With Flame and Shell –DASL 7

Deluxe Scenarios are a blast to play and I can always be talked into playing one. I highly suggest trying them. With Flame and Shell is one of the best of the group. A 9 on the CFBOM only because the Russians have no tanks. I’ve played it twice and am still wanting to play it again. It has some dug in Russians trying to stop an elite force of Germans from amassing 50 victory points by casualties and exiting. What makes it tough on the Germans is that they are penalized by their own casualties. This looks to be a tall order, but the Germans have 3 FT tanks, and 3 assault guns to crack open and crush any point that the Russians try and hold. What makes this scenario so interesting is that the victory conditions allow for a very fluid game where the Russians have to balance losses with giving up territory while the Germans have to constantly re-evaluate either continuing to push forward to exit, or to focus on killing Russians. All in all, it gives both sides toys, options, and many tough choices throughout the scenario. What more can you want from a game.

Hill 621 – ASL E

No self respecting list of favorite scenarios can be complete without Hill 621! This is a solid 10 on the CFBOM. I would call this the Granddaddy of scenarios. This one has stood the test of time, and still shines. Playing this as the Germans gives you a feel of how it must have been during their retreat through Russia. As the Russians you have that feel of constantly pushing the attack yet not quite ever being able to put that last nail the German coffin. A horde of Russians start by attacking a scared group of Germans on the run. With the SSR, chances are some will be broken starting the game out. But just when things look bleak, the Germans get reinforcements dribbled in to make it interesting, and interesting it gets! By halfway through this slugfest, there can be multiple battles and desperate Alamo style holding actions all across the map. The Germans are constantly in fear of being overwhelmed and by the endgame try and cling to the hilltop praying the OBA comes in on target and that Mr. 10-3 stands tall and doesn’t break. With reinforcements entering anywhere along board edges throughout the scenario, it make for each game being played out differently. This one is on my must play card for the Austin get together this year!

This Happened to Me

Sam Tyson

I was playing Jeff Toreki recently in a RB playtest scenario. I repaired a Russian 45LL gun in rally phase, and told the crew to shoot well because they would die soon. There were two PzIIIs 4 or 5 hexes away, sitting behind some dispersed smoke. I targeted the farthest tank, and rolled for APCR (4 in 1942), but did not have any. I then hit the tank with a regular AP round, but bounced my 11 TK off of his 6 AF. I contemplated the dire straights ahead for this crew, mulling over options of trying for DI on one of those tanks, or pivoting in the rubble to fire at a motion-hull down-OT-133 FT tank 2 hexes away, with circled-8 turret armor. Both of those options were dismal (DI final TH 3, needing hull loc) or (pivoting net TH 2), so I proceeded to resume firing AP on the original PzIII.

I drop the dice in the cup, and soon see a pair of snake-eyes staring back at me. I sheepishly grin, and look over at Jeff, whose eyes are rolling back in his head. The CH TK is low enough to burn. With ROF, I fire on the other PzIII, needing an 8 to hit and a 3 or 5 to kill. Once again, I drop the dice into the cup. This time the snake-eyes are burning a hole into Jeff's skull, as the CH TK DR burns the second PzIII as well.

The story ends with a gun pivot to get off a shot at the FT behemoth, but this time I don't get the CH, and bounce a shot off the wall. The IF shot danced by, and snake-eyes appeared at the end, but one die made a final clink in the cup as it rolled from a 1 to a 2. That was enough to make us both laugh, me hysterically, and Jeff with huge relief. The TK shot bounced off the turret, and soon Jeff avenged his panzer crews.

Bypassing the Rules

Matt Shostak

“Okay, I’m going to move this tank. Start for 1, pivot 2, 3, into this hex for 4, bypass that woods for 5, 6.”

“Wait, do you have sufficient clearance to do that?”

“Oh…probably not. Okay, where was I before the bypass? I was here for 4, pivot 5, move over here for 6, down the road here 7, 8, 9, pivot 10, fire sD for 11 (dice roll succeeds), 12 to here, stop.”

How many times has something like the above happened in a game you’ve played? Can anyone spot the rules error? I think it’s all too common in our gaming circle. Naturally, we all want to be good sports and have a good time with our friends as we play. So there’s a tendency not to hold someone’s feet to the fire on certain rules. But the rulebook is clear on this point. D2.3 says, in part, “The hexside clearance measurement cannot be made until the VBM and all applicable MP costs are announced (and thus expended in the previously occupied hex/hexside if the move is subsequently not allowed). If the hexside clearance is insufficient, the vehicle must expend one extra MP to stop in its present position – even if it then proceeds to start movement again in another direction.”

Many players don’t like how powerful vehicles are in the game, particularly with regard to “freezing” enemy infantry from firing out of their location, by simply moving into bypass of that location and invoking A7.212. How many players even ask for a measurement?

I think we should strive to play this correctly. For one thing, it’s the rules. For another, it’s one small weapon in your defensive arsenal if your opponent has a lot of rampaging AFVs. Hold him to the rules on this one.

Also, note that A4.2 says “The player is not allowed to take the unit back to a previously occupied hex and begin again…” This is another rule that we are pretty lax about enforcing in our gaming circle. I think it’s a judgment call. I often allow it, and I’ve often been allowed to break this rule, but I think we would all be better players, and faster players, if we remembered this rule and simply did not ask for any take-backs.

Rules Tip

Jeff Toreki

Keep that halftrack on board! If a vehicle has Passenger/Towing capacity, it does not suffer Recall due to main armament disablement. See D3.71, last sentence.

Commissar's Corner: Complacency

Matt Shostak

We really have a pretty good thing going here in Texas ASL. After many years our group has grown to a pretty large size, and has branched out to friends in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Even places like Carthage and the valley are represented. We meet pretty regularly to play the game, get together for lunch every once in a while, and have a well established tournament every June. It’s easy to get complacent when things are good. It’s easy to think that someone else will write that article for the newsletter; someone else will help teach that newbie; someone else will help with the tournament, etc. Don’t let success go to our heads.

Let’s keep the momentum we’ve worked hard to achieve.

AAR: SP98 - Pesky Pachyderms

Matt Shostak


At the August 6th 2005 game day, Brian Roundhill and I duked it out in this nifty scenario from Schwerpunkt. Brian wanted to attack, so he took the Germans, and I had my Russian setup waiting for him when he arrived. First let me describe the terrain layout. Boards 44 and 43 are put together along with a few overlays to create a battlefield with a lot of open space. It is a mostly flat landscape, with the exceptions being a small level-2 hill in the lower right corner (from the Russian defenders' perspective), and in the lower left quadrant, a larger level-1 hill with a sunken railroad cutting through it. A ground level railroad cuts straight down the playing area one quarter of the way in from the left. On the Russian side, board 43 has a large grain field just left of center, then a small walled compound of buildings just to the right of center, and close to the join with board 44, then another large grain field to the right of that, a long hedge, and a large brushy area. Just a few hexes in front of the compound, on board 44, is a pair of buildings and a wall (I'll call them the outbuildings). Far on the Russian right flank, near the board seam on board 44, is another pair of buildings behind a wall (I'll call it the annex), with a hedge and a couple of small grain fields in front of it. The rest of 44 is pretty open. To win, the Germans have to control 13 building/rubble hexes at the end of any player turn. By my count, there are 18 such hexes in total at start, 7 of which are in the board 43 compound. Therefore at least a couple of the building hexes in the compound must be taken for the Germans to win. Others are widely scattered. A couple are very close to the German entry edge and essentially uncontested. One small building is just a stone's throw in front of the tall hill in the lower right corner. Two other small buildings are right near the Russian board edge.

This scenario takes place during the battle of Kursk, and both sides get formidable orders of battle to engage in a slug-fest. To defend the terrain, the Russians get several trenches, some mines, a little bit of wire, a couple of T-34s, a pair of antitank guns (57LL and 45LL), and a couple of mortars, one 82mm, the other 120mm. They also get 14 squads of assorted quality, whose best leader is a 9-2. Their best support weapons are a heavy machine-gun and a flamethrower. The Germans attack with 18 squads, 3 of which are 8-3-8 assault engineers. The others are nearly evenly split between first line and elite rifle squads. Their best leader is also a 9-2, and they have several machine guns too. For armor, the Germans bring 4 Elephants, 2 Brummbaers, and three PzIIINs.

For my defense I decided to use several of the trenches near the annex on my right flank, to try to make it more difficult for vehicles to move through there quickly without risking bog. I put two conscript squads, and an elite squad with an LMG, in those buildings, with an 8-0 nearby to rally them. I was hoping that this group could delay the Germans because I knew they couldn't stop them, and also provide a bit of support for a nearby antitank gun. In the other group of outbuildings near the center of board 44 I had a lone conscript squad just to keep the Germans honest and act as a speed bump. The rest of the Russian infantry was packed into the last stand position in the walled village. Due to its long minimum range, the 120mm mortar went in the logical spot, atop the tall hill in the lower right corner. The other mortar went in the woods on the left side hill near the railroad tracks, sited across the grain field and the large open stretch in front of the victory building group of board 43. The 57LL antitank gun went to the left front in the brush, hoping to get a flank shot at some German armor as they closed in on the outbuildings in the center. The 45LL went on the right flank, in the grain field in front of the annex out there, right next to the hedge, but facing back toward the center. Each antitank gun had some mines next to them to try to protect them from discovery by probing German infantry.

Brian's attack was sort of a /student body left./ He entered the bulk of his force on the Russian right flank, aimed at the annex. A smaller force moved up the center to take those outbuildings and pressure the main village from there. Far to the German right, a couple of half-squads probed aggressively. His vehicles didn't move far at first, fearing a flank shot from an undiscovered gun. Instead most of them either drew a bead on the big mortar, or acquired other targets such as the buildings of the annex. But much of his infantry moved forward boldly. In the first turn defensive fire, the big mortar managed to break a squad trying to tote the HMG toward the center outbuildings, then it changed targets to some infantry in woods to the Russian right flank, and eliminated a full squad in the ensuing prep. Soon this mortar was enshrouded in smoke, and Brian kept it smoked in for nearly the entire game. In the center, I saw an opportunity to try something bold/clever/stupid, and I couldn't resist. I had been thinking that if I got any chances to take on his PzIIINs with my T-34s without exposing my tanks to fire from his bigger tanks, I would do so. I figured it was better than sitting around waiting for the Germans to execute their game plan and box my tanks in. Since it was the only tank match up in my favor, I decided to go for it. So in the center area, he had one Elephant and two PzIIINs. I saw that I could drive a T-34 up behind the wall of the outbuildings and try to get into a duel with one of his PzIIINs. The other two tanks would be out of line of sight, and his armor on my right flank was in no position to contest this move. I thought I might get lucky and nab one of his lighter tanks, but I also had another motive: I was hoping that I could bait his Elephant forward far enough to bring him into the sights of the nearby 57LL for a side shot. Since his PzIIIN was hull down behind a wall, I didn't expect much with advancing fire, but when you roll low, good things happen. The hit resulted in a shocked German tank (it never recovered). This must have gotten the Elephant's dander up, because in the next turn he lumbered forward to engage the T-34, walking right into my desired side shot. The antitank gun revealed itself but didn't have any APCR. It did, however, have a critical hit round loaded. Scratch one Elephant. A few German squads pushed forward in the area as well, hoping to get at the Russian tank. The antitank gun managed to break a squad with some other fire, but the T-34 malfunctioned its gun on its next shot! It was a good exchange for the Russians ... so far. Both the tank and the gun were in danger now.

Meanwhile, back at the annex, the Germans had managed to break and casualty reduce the elite defending squad, leaving only a couple of conscript squads and the leader to try to hold the position. Brian decided to push his Brummbaers forward aggressively. The first one moved up and went into bypass of the larger building of the annex, to freeze fire from the defending squad, which pinned on a failed PAATC. His other Brummbaer moved up in support, but turned to face the big mortar on the tall hill. His other 3 Elephants and a PzIIIN either held their places, or moved up only slightly. His infantry pushed forward hard, and was now close to the annex, and in the woods just to the right of it, backed up by larger fire groups. I decided that I had to reveal the other antitank gun to try to do what damage it could before it was stampeded. However, it was facing completely the wrong way. It had to turn all the way around, to get both Brummbaers in its covered arc, but it was only 2 hexes from the bypassing behemoth. Naturally the first shot missed. I think the 45LL had to use intensive fire to destroy the closer Brummbaer with a side shot. Brian couldn't bring enough fire to bear on the gun crew, so it survived into the following prep fire phase, where it lined up another side shot against the remaining Brummbaer. I think it needed another intensive fire shot to get it, but it did the job. Shortly thereafter the Germans broke the gun crew and quickly eliminated them for failure to rout, but that exchange was in the Russians' favor I think.

Things got wild and woolly in the mid game. I can't remember the exact turn numbers, but the T-34 with the malfunctioned gun went on quite an escapade. Seeing some enemy infantry in the open nearby in front of the 57LL, I thought the best use of the T-34 would be to run them down while it had the chance, and thereby protect the gun for a while. And overrun a German elite squad it did, but it failed to harm them. I decided to keep the tank right on top of them so they couldn't fire at the gun. The tank survived the close combat, but so did the German infantry. One of the flanking half-squads managed to get up close and personal on the gun crew (just missing the mined location) and break them, and subsequently invoked no quarter on them. It advanced in and captured the gun. In the following turn, the T-34 overran a couple other German squads in the open, and broke a line squad with the HMG. But by now an Elephant from the right side was in position to shoot at the T-34, so I chanced excessive speed breakdown to get an extra point of movement to hide behind some trees. The Germans had taken a couple of shots at the T-34 rear with the captured antitank gun, but missed and eventually broke the gun. In the meantime, my reinforcing pair of SU-152s braced the defense, one moving to the back/right of the walled village, the other moving out to the left of it, to line up a shot on a stack of Germans with two MMGs that, led by the 9-2, had begun breaking Russians and causing some casualties in the big cluster of buildings. The ill-advised advancing fire shot to acquire them, however, only resulted in a low ammo counter on the Russian tank. By now the Germans had pretty much crushed organized resistance at the annex, and were working some guys forward into the central outbuildings (where my conscript squad hadn't stayed in good order very long, and spent the rest of the game broken – however, it did manage to escape back to the main village, via a succession of low crawls).

In the next rally phase, with one of my tanks roving behind his lines (the other T-34 had bogged on a trench in the center of the village), I decided to gamble on fixing its gun. It succeeded! Now I had a very dangerous tank behind his lines. Brian decided to push a PzIIIN across the SU-152's sights, perhaps to draw its fire to allow the Elephant to move on the T-34 without being hit. The SU-152 took the shot and brewed up the PzIIIN. Brian then moved an Elephant out to chase down the rampaging T-34. This Elephant had another PzIIIN nearby to cover him, while the other two Elephants had pushed through the annex area and were now threatening the right flank of the walled village, where they engaged the other SU-152 and quickly turned it into a burning wreck.

I decided I liked how the counterattack was going, so I sent my remaining SU-152 to try to rescue the joyriding T-34. The SU-152 had to survive a shot from the covering PzIIIN, which turned its turret, and fired a HEAT round. Brian rolled a 9, which was high enough to miss, and just high enough to have HEAT but deplete it. Perfect. He declined to turn his Elephant around, and took his chances with my bounding fire, hoping instead to drill my T-34, but the SU-152's aim was true, and the Elephant went up in flames. Now free, the T-34 counterattacked the remaining PzIIIN and eventually got it in my next defensive fire phase. This little sideshow induced Brian to turn his other two Elephants around and drive back to the hedge near the annex to deal with my roving armor. One Elephant malfunctioned its gun, while the other missed both of his shots on the T-34. The T-34 also caused some other damage, when a German squad went berserk and charged it shortly after it had killed the PzIIIN. Finally a triple point blank 6 down 1 shot from the BMG (the only shot the tank had left) and a high morale check roll by Brian casualty reduced the squad. The half-squad proceeded to eliminate themselves in close combat with a timely boxcars.

By the end of the game, the smoke on the big mortar finally cleared. It had jammed earlier, but the crew managed to repair it, and it had been firing for most of the battle, but was largely ineffective due to the smoke. Now with an elite German squad closing in, it rained down a lot of shots on Germans in the woods as they attacked the Russian bastion. In combination with the wire, and flamethrower and rifle fire from that position, the Germans were thrown back and Brian resigned. He had taken 9 of the required 13 building hexes, but the last turn or two were quite ugly for him, with the dice swinging my way significantly. Brian played a really good, fun game as usual.

I played this once before against Zeb, and the two games were definitely different. In my previous game, the big mortar was eliminated quickly due to long range volley fire from the Elephants, but the 82mm mortar was the MVP, pounding the Germans in the outbuildings. In this playing, the big mortar was in play the whole time, doing some damage early and some damage late. Moreover, the armor battle was more freewheeling than I remember from my match with Zeb. This is why I enjoy playing a good scenario more than once, to see the different permutations of results.