Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ferocity Fest Recap

Zeb Doyle

Here's a quick rundown of my Owlcon action, during which I had a great time and many dice were rolled:

I headed down to Houston early on Friday to get in on the Ferocity Fest mini, which took place at Ken's house. The place was easy to find, very close to Rice, and I even beat the rush hour traffic getting there. To make things even better, Ken was a great host, giving us a tour of his fantastic place and breaking out some Chinese rice wine for us that had been given to him by the Chinese Minister of Energy. Even without the ASL action, it would have been lots of fun hanging out with everyone, admiring the house, and drinking wine.

Alas, the peaceful tranquility of the morning was soon shattered as Ferocity Fest begun. The format was was a single round of play, with everyone playing TAC30 Yae Dake and both Marine and Japanese players scoring 'style points' for various actions during the game to determine the overall winner. I got the defending Japanese and had to try and hold a hill from Rob's attacking Marines. The Marines have a ton of firepower in this one, but not a lot of time, and their attack is tricky to coordinate with lots of groups of scattered reinforcements trickling in from all directions. I decided to try and use a wall of halfsquads to block these various Marine assault columns, prevent their linking up, and just try to run the clock out on Rob. I caught some big breaks early, with both Marine FTs X'ing on the first shot and my sniper killing Rob's radio man and then his 9-2. That took the attack from 'difficult to coordinate' to 'impossible,' and my blocking halfsquads were able to slow the Marines to a crawl. In the end, Rob got two of the required eleven hill hexes, leaving my Japanese with a solid win. However, Walter was also playing the Japanese and denied his Marines any hill hexes at all, caused more casualties than I did and was anointed Ferocity Fest champ. Ironically, Yae Dake wasn't really ferocious at all. There's no PTO in play, which takes away a lot of the Japanese tricks, and it ended up playing out as a solid but not exciting scenario. I wouldn't warn people away from it, but there's noting to recommend it either.

We then moved venues over to Rice and started some full fledged Owlcon action. The gaming space was exactly the same as last year, which was both good and bad. It's by far the most noisy and cramped space I've ever played in and there are tons of other gamers basically on top of you, but then again, all those other gamers are being exposed to ASL. With the starter kit making it so much easier for people to try dipping their toe into ASL, I think it's really worth the sacrifice to show the flag at these events and try to get new people involved. The other key to this happening is Walter, who does a great job spotting interested-looking people and roping them into trial games. I think the Texas ASL clubs do a great job of sustaining players but fall short in the recruiting department. Walter is really going above and beyond here and deserves a lot of praise for it. The combination of playing with other gamers to elicit interest and then having the starter kit as an easy entry really does seem to be working. Thank a lot, Walter.

At any rate, by the time I'd checked into my motel and registered at Owlcon, it was getting late. Luckily, Bill "the fastest ASLer in the West" was free and we decided to quickly knock out a scenario. The selection was TEF1-2 The Last Waltz, which features a desperate band of 5-4-8 SS troops trying to hold Vienna against a very tough group of Russian Guards. The Germans are pretty standard, with the usual MMGs, PSKs, and a PzIV, while the Russians are mostly 4-5-8s with some 6-2-8 assault engineers, some DCs and a FT, plus a 9-2. They also get three Shermans but only have a slim numerical edge and no real long-range punch. All in all, it's an interesting match-up with the Russians trying to capture two big multi-hex buildings and score a combination of 24 EVP and CVP.

The game started great for me as my first Sherman drove onto the map, survived a dud PSK round from a perfectly placed HIP 2-3-8, killed the offending HS with his CMG, and then swung his turret two hexspines to score an APCR CH on the PzIV. Good times. The attack bogged down a little after that, with my 9-2/4-5-8/FT combo breaking every single time they were shot at, but I got tons of ordinance and sM smoke from the Shermans and that really let me maneuver freely. The key moment in the game came when a 6-2-8 assault engineer survived some fire to get into one of the big victory buildings while it was guarded only by a broken SS squad. The SS squad routed out, giving me control and letting the remaining Russians focus their attack on a single building. Bill wouldn't give an inch though and so the battle was bloody and fierce. I finally got the FT into action on the last player turn and managed to get the win, but only had two good order squads and a tank left when it was all done. Fun scenario against a great opponent, The Last Waltz is good tourney fodder as it's small but both sides have enough tools that one bad roll won't doom you. I'm not sure there's a ton of replay value, and knowing the building control rules is key, but I enjoyed it a lot.

That was all the ASL I could handle for one day, so I headed back to the motel and tried to calm my mind down to get some sleep. It didn't work real well, and I tossed and turned all night while visions of FFMO and FFNAM raced though my head, but I was back at Owlcon early the next day for some more dicing. My morning opponent was Johnny, a really nice guy who had actually been recruited by Walter the year before. Johnny wanted to learn how to use vehicles, and Rob had been doing some trash talking about having the Tank Ace award all wrapped up, so in an effort to make things interesting I pulled out the all-armor CH58 Death Ride. This scenario features some 24 Russian tanks trying to halt 14 German AFVs at Kursk. I love Kursk scenarios since there are so many types of tanks in play, which makes for some fun TH and TK combinations. Death Ride looked to fit the bill, with PzIII, PzIV, Tigers, several types of T-34s, T-70s, and Churchills all putting in an appearance. The dice gave me the Germans and the super-cool Tiger/9-2 AL combo, although they have their hands full trying to advance against a numerically superior force while killing lots of Soviet tanks and/or exiting.

It was a brutal battle from the start, with Johnny exhibiting some excellent ASL instincts. He used the slower Churchills to guard the exit area, while the T-34s and T-70s maneuvered out of my LOS on my flanks to pick off targets of opportunity. As I pushed forward, my flanks became increasingly vulnerable and the Russians executed numerous well-planned attacks on my PzIVs. Unfortunately, almost every time this happened, I managed to roll a TH that included a one on the cdr, giving me a turret hit and ROF. The turret hit is bad enough, since it changed the net TK on the T-34 M41 from a 6 to a 9, but the Russians can afford a lot of losses in this one. It was the ROF that was the real game saver for the Germans because each PzIV that went down seemed to take four or five tanks with it. Meanwhile, the Tigers were shredding up the T-34 M43s, although Johnny was making it tough on me here too, as I could only get at him at point-blank range and had to risk lots of APCR and DI attacks. The Russians never got the rolls they needed, though, and although I finally malfed an MA on the last turn, I skated past a lot of decent Russian shots, red MP start-ups and so on with nary a scratch to the Tigers. My other tanks didn't fare so well, as Johnny managed to kill about half of mine and didn't let me exit a single vehicle, but I managed to destroy enough of his armor to win. Overall, it was a fun scenario as all-vehicle scenarios go although nothing makes it really stand out. If you're looking for a big Kursk tank battle, but don't want to deal with the Steppe terrain in Clash Along The Psel, then this is a good one. Meanwhile, watch out for Johnny...I think he went 2 and 1 for the weekend in his 3rd, 4th, and 5th ASL games ever. Very impressive.

Next up was Tom "Commissar" Gillisov, who was nice enough to play SP140 Red Valentines with me. This scenario was high on my wanna-play list due to the meaty combined-arms clash and the interesting AT ditch SSR. It looked like a lot of fun, plus there were plenty more tanks for me to kill in pursuit of the Tank Ace award. Tom took the Russians, which put him in the unpleasant position of trying to defend the board 48 'village of death' with a weak infantry force and a 120mm OBA module, with a bunch of Valentines (as you may have guessed from the scenario title), T-60s, and T-34s reinforcements arriving over the course of the game. The Soviet force totaled 13 squads and 14 tanks, which made for an interesting match-up with my 11 squads and 10 tanks, although of course my squads were elite SS and the tanks were split evenly between the very nice PzIIILs and the PzIVF2s with the long barrel. My mission was to take almost all of the board 48 village and have at least two mobile tanks at game end.

Tom set his troops up quite far forward in an attempt to cover the AT ditch, forcing me to enter quite cautiously. I was very worried about losing any infantry early, given that I was outnumbered to start, and so used a lot of sD from the PzIIIs to cover the advance. This worked very well and the SS made it into the ditch with minimal losses. Here, I think Tom made a small error by deciding to stand and fight. The LOS from the off-board 120mm OBA observer is very poor, the reinforcing Soviet tanks have to come a long way to get into the fight, and once the SS infantry makes it to the ditch, it's very tough to hurt them. The situation was only made worse by my good rolls and the fact that Tom didn't pass an MC until turn three, but between the SS 9-2 kill-stack and the BFF Panzers that would then cut rout paths, there were only three Soviet squads left alive after the first few turns. I had taken some infantry losses as well, and was actually in the process of massacring my numerous prisoners to free up troops for another push forward, when the Soviet armor hit me like a tidal wave.

As Tom rolled his tanks up to try and save the day, I was already a little worried. I'd lost a PzIII to an ATR CH through the front and malfunctioned two of my precious PzIV 75L guns, and was having some bad flash-backs to my game of Huns Of Steel where Eric had trashed my PzIV2s with Valentines and then rolled his (effectively invincible) T-34s on for the win. It was exactly the same situation here, and I didn't care for it one bit, especially when I malfunctioned another two MAs firing at the oncoming Soviet armor. Tom handled his units very well, coming in on my flanks with superior numbers, and his good tactics were rewarded with good dice, as his first four attacks (needing a 5TH and a 5TK) were all successful. That and the malfunctions pretty much shattered my Panzer force and the remaining SS tanks were forced to scatter to the four winds and hide. At this point, my chances of victory looked very slim indeed. I was down to three tanks with working MAs and had only killed two Soviet tanks, which meant I was effectively outnumbered 4:1. In addition, while my infantry had eradicated their Russian counterparts, I still had a lot of buildings to run through and capture. In short, it was Tom's game to lose.

That's where I ended up getting very very lucky. I think Tom got caught up in the thrill of trashing my Panzers, and spent the rest of the game hunting my reamining armor with his OBA and tanks. I was able to use lots of tricks like motion attempts and sDs and moving to where I could get out of LOS while expending just a single MP and so forth, and thanks to some good rolls, was just able to keep the required two tanks mobile at game end. Meanwhile, the village was essentially unguarded and although it took every single MPh I had I was able to take the required amount of buildings. In hindsight, my margin of error with my infantry was so slim, the Russian tanks and OBA could have sealed off the village and given themselves an easy win. This isn't meant as a knock on Tom at all, as the decision wasn't so clear-cut in the heat of the moment and he was handling his tanks masterfully against mine. Instead, it's more a testament to how exciting the scenario was; we were both completely caught up in the action and having a really great time.

Overall, I think our playing was fairly atypical. I doubt the SS will generally erase the Soviet infantry so easily, and likewise, the armor battle seems like it should be much more even than it was. So, although I can't pass a definitive judgment, I think Red Valentines is pretty balanced and a ton of fun. If I could do it again (and this is a scenario I'd replay in a heartbeat), I'd try having the Soviets contest the AT ditch, then fall back into the town to allow the OBA and armor to fully support them. Meanwhile, the SS have to realize that they have to push hard every turn but not take crazy risks. I didn't realize just how many buildings I had to tag and almost lost because of it. The game is chock-full of interesting decisions for both sides and I'd really recommend it. Very cool swirling East Front action, but not of overwhelming size. Congrats to Tom as well for sucking up his terrible luck with his infantry, completely manhandling my Panzers, and putting himself in great position to win.

My narrow escape against Tom put me into the finals Sunday morning against Roy. He wanted the Marines in HP18 Flame Tree Hill and I tried to put together a Japanese defense that could hold off his overwhelming firepower. I don't want to write a ton about what happened because the game is worthy of a full-fledged AAR, but Roy went with a hyper-aggressive attack that almost gave me a heart attack, led to several massive swings in initiative, and ended the game on turn two with roughly 50% casualties on both sides. I walked away feeling very lucky to have won, and I think Roy walked away realizing that he'd had about a 60% chance to win, but if he'd done things just slightly differently, he'd have had an 80% chance of victory. It was a great way to end the tourney for me because it packed about four scenarios worth of action into two hours of play and I was able to head back to Austin early. The scenario was interesting and both sides have a lot of fun toys. I want to think over the balance a bit more before making any comments on that. Finally, I want to thank Walter for the prizes. The trophy mugs were very nice and the gift certificate to Barnes and Nobles was very very generous. Thanks a ton. Most importantly though, I would have had a great time even without the prizes. Owlcon's a great event and I can't wait to come back and defend my championship next year!


Monday, February 12, 2007

OwlCon 2007 Wrapup

Walter Eardley

Howdy Folks,

First, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend Owlcon this year. I really do appreciate you coming. Like I have said in the past, if it wasn't for those of you attending, it would just be me and a bunch of Warhammer folks hanging out.

For the Saturday morning Starter Kit session, we had two players signed up. I had the privilege of walking a very nice guy named Edmund (I think he lurks on this list) through his first ASL game. He was a SL player from way back so after a little instruction and clarification we were able to work our way through Retaking Vierville. I have high hopes we will see Edmund at future game days! The other guy no showed. I must thank Ken for being on stand by to teach a second player. I really appreciate the help and support.

I also passed out flyers to several people interested in learning the game or knew people interested in learning the game. The Starter Kit session and visibility to the convention attendees in general is the most important part of the event and the main reason I hold this tournament. Getting to see everyone is great but finding new players for our hobby is of great importance.

We had a nice turnout this year for the main tournament with several new faces added to the mix. Zeb was once again the Top Dog in this event by capturing two of the three top awards. Zeb defeated Roy in the championship match to finish the weekend 5-0. He earned a nice trophy and a $40 gift certificate plus the praise and adoration from the rest of the attendees. He also killed 28 tanks over the weekend (topping Rob's 18) to take home the Tank Ace trophy and another $10 gift certificate. Congratulations to Zeb on his accomplishments!

Friday's action was Ferocity Fest where 6 of us squared off in Yae Dake. Two of the games were Japanese victories me defeating Doyle and Zeb defeating Rob. The third game was a Marine victory by Roy over Ken. I took home a copy of Battling Buckeyes while Roy took home another scenario pack (I can't remember the name). To cap off a great day, we toasted with what we originally thought was sake but turned out to be something else. The point was it had oriental writing on the side and was a very fitting end to a great day. Thanks to everyone who attended Ferocity Fest and thanks to Ken for opening his house to us despite a daughter and wife who had pneumonia!

Here are the final numbers. Let me know if you see anything fishy. I will post the results to ROAR.

  • Zeb Doyle 5-0 (28 AFVs killed)
  • Roy Casagranda 4-1 (3 AFVs killed)
  • Rob Burton 3-1 (18 AFVs killed)
  • Stephen Miller 2-1 (0 AFVs killed)
  • Stephen Graciet 2-1 (4 AFVs killed)
  • Johnny Johnson 2-1 (8 AFVs killed)
  • Walter Eardley 2-2 (12 AFVs killed)
  • Robert Delwood 1-0 (0 AFVs killed)
  • Doyle Motes 1-2 (0 AFVs killed)
  • Kevin Riley 0-2 (2 AFVs killed)
  • Victor Behar 0-1 (1 AFVs killed)
  • Tom Gillis 0-2 (7 AFVs killed)
  • Ken Havlinek 0-2 0 (AFVs killed)
  • Bill Dorre 0-3 (7 AFVs killed)
  • Rick Reinesch 0-3 (3 AFVs killed)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

AAR: Stonne 4 - Trial by Strength

Nick Drinkwater

German, [ELR3, SAN 2]: Nick Drinkwater

French, [ELR3, SAN 4]: Tom ("I roll 4s") Gillis

A full free day for gaming, so we wanted to try a monster game to play. This one is eight action-packed turns of early war mayhem on the excellent Stonne map, which is fabulous - one of Critical Hit's earlier efforts that probably is a bit underplayed. There are some gems among their early modules and I think this one looks particularly good - probably one of the best, alongside "Ruweisat Ridge" and "Those Rugged Bloody Heroes" and produced before CH got lost in the game-playing dead-ends of serious counter variantism (such as Pointe de Hoc) or really ugly maps (Carnage at Cassino). The whole map area is in play but the main focus of the scenario is centered on the plateau and village of Stonne itself. Stonne village is a mix of small ground-level stone cottages with some narrow- street terrain and rowhouses, but the village nestles snugly above a very steep wooded escarpment with numerous double-crest hexes to really put a crimp in all attempts by the Germans to swiftly reinforce the melee.

Access to the village from the south is by a long straight road, parallel to the base of the escarpment that, through a nasty hairpin, enters the main plateau playing area by the notorious sunken road "bottle neck". This is the only way the German armour can get in to the village at all as we could find no errata that would allow me to create vehicular trailbreaks through the rear escarpment-hugging woods anywhere. I understand that in the Campaign Game the French can boresight, block, mine and generally make this outlet hex impossible for the Germans to move through which seriously hampers them and makes it much more difficult / close to impossible for the Germans to win - I'm not sure if CH have amended this or not, but allowing Trail Breaks would certainly provide a much bigger degree of tactical flexibility for the Germans.

Of the 27 buildings onboard, the winner has to control the majority at Game End - three of these stone huts are isolated to the north and are effectively "gimmes" for the French who can set up in / adjacent to them. Four more buildings are just connected to the main Stonne village, but are on a small Level 7 plateau with the 1-hex water tower, which acts like a factory - the village itself is just to the southwest on Level 6, and has a small church with steeple, but this struggles to see over the many in-season orchards. Despite the apparent plethora of open ground on the approaches to the village, ground assaults will actually be more covered than is first discernable. One good thing to assist the defense are the numerous barbed wire fences that cross everywhere - these are difficult to traverse with infantry and require all tanks to make a simple non- modified bog check (bog on a 12). These should impact the assault.

Overall, the scenario represents the first big French counter-attack after the Germans have just taken the town for the first time (it is probably equivalent to the classic old SL scenario, "Counterstroke at Stonne"!). Though attacking, the French setup first with 6 x 457, 9-1, HMG and MMG plus foxholes adjacent to the three 'gimme' houses and also separately next to the water tower - they are starting to ready themselves for the impending MASSIVE assault by a mixed French armour and infantry force from the east: the attacking force consists of 15 (FIFTEEN!!) tanks - six of the behemoth Char B1-bis, six H39(L)s and three FCM 36s. These all have good to awesome armour for this time of the war, and though they are all 1MT and need to operate with (french) modified platoon movement, they are good gun platforms, and the B1-bis are really nasty with 3 potential attacks per fire phase. In addition, to represent early war tank fright, any infantry that moves or is moved adjacent to a tank has to take a PTC - more pain for the outnumber germans! To escort this tank company is a massive Turn 2 infantry attack force of 23 x 457s, 9-2, 9-1, 2 x 8-1, 7-0, and a plethora of machine guns. Ouch. Count em folks - thats 29 squads in total - not often we get to play with that many troops.

The Germans are going to have a tough job holding on until their reinforcements arrive. On board they start with 6 x 468 and a 9-1 in the water tower hamlet and 12 x 467s, 1 x HMG, 1 x MMG and 4 x LMG in the village proper together with a 9-2, 8-1, 8-0 and 3 x ATR. This is all stiffened by three 37L AT Guns in the water tower hamlet, and three more in the main village, together with two 75mm Inf Gun and two recently captured French pop guns (25LL). An apparently powerful blocking force, but against the B1-bis, it is going to be Deliberate Immobilizations only for all of these guns, and only moderate to low chances to kill the other French arnmour (TK numbers of 9 versus Armour of 4 / 6). Also important is that MGs are only going to DI the FCM 36s, and the ATRs are only going to DI the H39s and FMR35 - the Char B1s were effectively imvulnerable to all these LATW. Not good for the Germans, not good at all.

To respond to this massive thrust, the Germans get to dash on a MG company with 8 x 468 squads, four MMG and a 9-1 leader which enters on the south side on Turn 1. To try and counter all that French armour,the Germans also need to rush on six early war Stugs via the sunken road bottle neck, starting on Turn 3. Note that the earliest that any impact will be felt by these Stugs is Turn 5 as it will be at least two turns to get the Stugs up that long slow climb and into the fighting proper. Finally, on Turn 4, the Germans get a 7-0, a Kubelwagen and a Radio for 150mm OBA with scarce ammo. Again, getting it into any position to be able to affect the outcome of the game is unlikely to happen until Turn 6 at the earliest as driving in to the village will take 2 Turns (assuming no interference from the French). The alternative of dismounting and then hiking in will probably take longer as those are steep wooded slopes which that leader has to climb - as my MG platoon was about to find out the hard way.

Early blows were traded with Tom's initial assault on the water tower hamlet being rebuffed and me even managing to Immobilize a Char 1 in a position where it was unable to fire on any of the village. I shrugged off a couple of early MCs and sent the first few French squads packing, but attrition started to bite as four of my 468s and two of the three Gun crews got waxed in CC for a net return of one and a half squads - as was remarked at the time, my CC luck (or lack thereof) is legendary amongst our local crew and I continued my usual trend by missing a bunch of ambushes or attacks vs withdrawing broken units by 1 or more. Recognizing the threat from the Chars, I jumped into CC with one with a 468 and a 9-1 instead of reinforcing a melee - this leviathan was stopped and should have been toast, but I then rolled a 12 to CR myself from Crew small arms!! A long-odds in-hex shot from Tom then broke the survivors and that one hurt a lot too. To follow the loss of both these strong points, Tom, with an Improbable Critical Hit from a 47mm Char Turret Gun, took out the third of my outlying 37L AT Guns - the three outlying AT Guns scored a total of 1 Immobilized Char B1- bis from six or seven hit attempts - not a viable exchange rate.

Tom sent a big right hook HMG platoon around to the west to reinforce two of the at-start HIP squads in the outlier hamlet - my only quality sniper attack of the day took the 9-1 through the heart and this discouraged the others from doing a lot. Despite this setback, Tom sent a platoon of surprisingly nippy tank platoon to test the western defenses - I of course missed all the shots including several CCs vs bypassing tanks, and got hurt by tank MG CC attacks in return - it was ugly.

In Turn 3, I did manage to DI two of the FCMs by HMG and ATR fire, and in my only good anti-attack of the day I gained a crit on an H39 which knocked it out. I also managed to snag another bypassing H39 on the third CC attempt and I also DIed a second Char from a 75 Inf gun which had failed to find its HEAT on the first try (of course). By this point it was too little, too late, as my central town defenders went down in a never ending whirlwhind of Char B1 and H39 shots and they just melted away under relentless acquisition and an eternal run of 4s by Tom (if my SAN had been four, Tom would have lost this game). By this time, I was losing 1-2 squads a fire phase and despite continuing to attrite his troops, including a great long sharp LOS kill of a hero with a squad and a half from my HMG, it was never enough.

While Tom continued to envelop the eastern side of the defense in masses of troops and very large tanks, he also sent a flanking platoon to the south and east to try and interdict the entry areas of all my reinforcements. To get my Observer on to a viable vantage point in his small van as fast as possible, I had to nullify this threat quickly which meant leaving a Stug to deal with the problem...this he did, but this meant he was going to be at least one if not two turns late getting into the battle area behind his comrades. My MG company legged it on as fast as possible but with barbed wire fences and wooded double-crest slopes, they still weren't all even at the southern village edge by the end of Turn 4. Similarly, my first Stug was yet to appear out of the road by the end of Turn 4 due to the slow rate of climb - it is a tough row that the Germans have to hoe in this one.

The end came surprisingly fast - a two-squad detachment went down to a 8+1 shot from Tom's 9-2 and then forced to surrender and that was the last real resistance - I fired back with my 9-2 and HMG stack, but Tom passed the subsequent three 2 MC and the subsequent three (rate) NMCs with a single pin only. In the next turn, his 9-2 guys scored a 1MC on my killer stack in return and I rolled 10, 10 and 10. No point in going on from there and I conceded. When the 9-2 stack collapsed at the end, I had only 1.5 unbroken squads of my original 18 squads left, the majority being prisoner, and four of the six 37L AT Guns were crewless or destroyed. The two captured 25LL Guns were still hidden as was one of the two 75* Inf Guns, but these were not going to materially change anything. Tom still had four now invulnerable Char1s left as well as one FCM and four of the H39s...my now broken 9-2 was about to do surrender from FTR, and all my other at-start leaders were dead.

Even though the MG company and Stugs were close, they were still at least one more turn from being in the village in any force as they continued to struggle up the steep wooded slopes. Even once up, I was only then going to be holding five of the twenty seven buildings at that point - these eight squads were never going to be enough to recapture another nine buildings in only three turns, from a French force that still had nineteen of its original twenty-nine squads left. Also, it was difficult to see how my Observer was going to find a safe place to sit and observe, let alone have enough time to actual bring in a Fire Mission, espcially with scarce ammo, as he was still struggling to even get on to the board. It was going to be Turn 6 or later until at least three of the Stugs were going to get to the village as they still had to negotiate a double crest as well as the hairpin and that was just going to eat up movement points.

Despite the mauling and the dicing Tom admitted he gave me, this was actually fun - in such a huge scenario, the odd dice normally even out, but I did take the worst of it. We had two French heroes, Crew Small Arms, Berserk, a German heroic leader(and then quick death) and one Improbable Critical and one Normal Hit (both French). I had my MMG and a Lt Mtr malfunction whilst Tom had only two CMG malfunction and he did not bog a single tank at all (and there was a LOT of barbed wire fences for him to cross) - his ability to roll 4s was amazing. I really shouldn't bother with Ambush or CC in any game of ASL - it just hands VP to my opponent in nicely wrapped-up parcels labelled "To X, Free VP courtesy of my CC dice, Best regards, Nick". In this one, I killed precisely one tank in Bypass and killed 1.5 squads over at least ten CC attempts - pathetic. My AT Guns could barely dent the French Armour and I just couldn't stop the French horde in any way shape or form. To counter his numerous 4s, Tom also rolled a lot of 11s - sadly, he wasn't playing the Italians or Allied Minors so this didn't really impact him! Despite my whining, Tom played this one really well and relentlessly everything in his path, and when the opportunities came as my infantry melted away, he poured through the breach. Well played Tom!

We both thought this one favoured the French just too much - they can rapidly and easily overwhelm the initial German forces which are partially spread out and can't quickly disengage and retreat due to the at-start HIP force. The French have numerous tubes, especially the Char B1s which are essentially almost invulnerable to everything the German's have. The worst issue for the Germans though is the timing of the reinforcements - with the current schedule, it is an absolute bugger for them to get anything forceful up into the village before Turn 5 and by then the French will most likely have overrun most of the at-start village force and from then they will be very difficult to eject. To remedy this, I would suggest that the German armour come on one turn earlier and the Observer be allowed on in Turn 1 and not Turn 4 - with the scarce ammo, he's going to struggle to get more than one or two FFEs down during the game anyway, so why handicap him further with the unobtainable schedule he currently has?

Good luck to all of you at Owlcon next week - to paraphrase English soccer striker Gary Linker, "ASL is a game where a bunch of blokes roll lots of dice for three days, and then Zeb wins?!!!"

Texas ASL - February 3rd, 2007 AAR

Zeb Doyle

So, the February 2007 game day has come and gone and much ASL action was had by all. The turnout was decent with nine of us there, and we even had John Hyler and Manabu Matsuura. Manubu is new to Texas and ASL, but in just his third ASL game ever, he gave Mike Seningen quite a battle. John meanwhile played Rick in a game of Pocket Panzers, which, from the way they were shouting, sounded like it was lots of fun. The most noise came from my immediate right, however, where Mike Denson and Shostak were playing The Bozsoki Relay and engaged in what, verbally at least, must have been one of the most intense ASL games ever played.

I had the privilege of rolling dice with Brian Roundhill, who deserves a vote of thanks for hosting. We played Taking A Stand At Rosario, a really cool-looking scenario that's been on my play list forever. It's an early war fight between the Japanese and Americans in Luzon, and has all kinds of fun goodies like bicycle riding Nipponese warriors facing off against 6-6-7s on horseback. I was the defending Americans and spent a fair amount of time arranging my defense. Brian didn't have the time to look at the scenario nearly as much but still put together an excellent attack. The set-up gave me a bit of an edge, but the key to the game was the six Japanese mortars producing a grand total of two smoke rounds. That gave my 9-2/.50 cal combo the opportunity for a ton of 8-1 and 8+0 shots, and I rolled well enough that Brian's SAN of 4 was activated early and often. The Japanese infantry melted away under that punishment with a lot of K/ and KIA carnage, and by the end of the game Brian had his troops in great position but there weren't enough of them left. The funniest part of this scenario for us was an SSR stating that the first American 6-6-7 to pass a non-HOB Morale Check automatically Battle Hardens and creates a Hero. The first MC I rolled was snakes, and I got my BH and hero the standard way. After that one occurrence, Brian focused virtually all his fire on my 9-2/.50 cal/3-4-7. That combo passed tons of MCs and actually never broke but wasn't a squad, and so didn't qualify for the SSR. Amazingly, the entire game passed without the SSR ever being activated! I'd highly recommend the scenario, but thanks to the dice, our playing wasn't too incredible.

After that, Brian and I decided to try Transylvania 6-5000, featuring Hungarians trying to kick the Russians out of a village and/or off a hill. It's a pretty small scenario, but both sides get some interesting choices. I wanted to attack after defending in the prior scenario, and Brian was nice enough to take the Russians. He set up a nice little defense centered on the hill and left the village empty. One nice touch was using his dummy counters to simulate an extra tank. That's a tactic that is often overlooked, but makes it much harder on the attacker. I then brought my Hungarians on and over the first few turns showed Brian how to use smoke. The secret here is to roll low, and unlike the Japanese in the prior scenario, my StuGs went 4 for 4 on sD attempts and 3 of 4 on smoke shots. All that cover make it easy for my Hungarian infantry to push forward and by the time the Russian reinforcements were ready to enter, I was in great shape. This is one of the interesting parts of the scenario, as the reinforcements can try to bolster the hill defense or make a dash for the village to draw off some attackers with them.

Brian decided to reinforce the hill, which I was happy to see. I figured I was in such good position there that the extra Russians would make little difference and I wouldn't have to make the difficult decision of splitting my force. I got even happier when a lucky PF shot torched the Russian T-34/85 as it drove on. Feeling like victory was at hand, my Hungarians prepared to storm the hill. Brian wouldn't go down so easily though, and did a great job with his remaining T-34 M43 to really tear up my troops. My dice cooled down a little as well and my 4-4-7s, suddenly unable to pass 2MCs at will, fell back in disarray. The T-34 kept my StuGs from getting into a good position and suddenly disaster was staring me in the face. At this point, near the end of a very intense game and after hours of ASL and the consequent mental exertion, Brian made a major mistake in driving his T-34 into a more defensive position that happened to be outside the VC area. The tank was still a threat to shoot at me, but I no longer needed to destroy it to win. That was huge, because I was in really bad shape going into the last turn. I ended up having to get a lucky IF hit and survive a 24-1 CH to pull out a very very lucky win. If Brian hadn't moved his tank one hex or if my 8-1 hadn't survived that 24-1, I would have lost.

Overall, it was a great day, although I did feel guilty for dicing the host in one game and then stealing his well-deserved win in the second. It was also really good to see everyone and to meet Manubu. For everyone that wasn't there, I'll borrow a line from Australia and ask "It's ASL--where the bloody hell are you?" (disclaimer: bikini-clad Aussie babes not included)

Thanks for reading,