Thursday, October 04, 2007

ESG3 First Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


No comments: