Monday, March 24, 2008

Review: Dispatches From The Bunker #26

Walter Eardley

The ASL Fairy left a prize in my mail box this afternoon. Dispatches #26 was waiting for me. This publication is rapidly becoming one of my most anticipated deliveries each year. This issue only confirmed my belief that they are one of the better TPP out there. My typical way of looking at a new ASL offering of this type is to go straight to the scenarios. When I pulled it out of the envelope, I happened to be looking at the back page. I spy an article titled “Welcome to the (Concrete) Jungle: City Fighting in Stalingrad”. Being a Stalingrad nut, I stopped and read. Nice little article talking about how nasty debris is. When I finished, I turned it over and took a look at the cover. Typical stuff on the front for this publication so I start turning pages. While working my way to the scenarios, I ran into a tasty article on The First Bid by Jim Torkelson. I stopped and read the entire article. There is some good stuff in this article without giving away too much. I was intrigued by The First Bid but now I want to play it. So before I ever even looked at the scenarios, I am two articles deep. Usually I do good to read the Historical information on the scenarios much less two articles before I even look at the scenarios.

All three scenarios have made my Wanna Play list. In order of my own personal interest:

1) Shock at Kamenewo – 7 T-34s (mixed M40 and M41s) and 3 KV-1s manned by a 9-2, 9-1 and 8-1 AL and supported by 18 squads with decent leaders and some motorcycles get to have some fun on boards 44, 11 and 4 with 5 PZIIIs and 2 PzIVs (with 10-2 AL) supported by a mix of 468s, 88L Flak guns and 105 artillery pieces. The Russians have to kill a bunch of Germans and cross a bridge. This looks like a Walter and Rob special (with have this bridge theme going). The Russians look pretty tough in this one. Better settle in for an all day match if you pick this one.

2) Commandos Hold Fast – A small force of 648 Brit Commandos is trying to hold of two waves of 9 467 Germans. The second wave is supported by two PzIVHs. At 6.5 turns, it looks a nice smaller scenario for a game day or an afternoon among fast players.

3) Murphy, Go Help the British – This one features 20 666 American squads with some supporting halftrack assault guns T30s attacking along the widths of boards 15 and 9 placed end to end. The Germans get a mix of 9 468 and 467 supported by an SPW 250/10. The objective for the Americans is to clear Level 4 hill hexes. With only 4.5 turns, they will need to move along. Again this looks like a good game day offering which some toys on each side.

If you do not receive Dispatches, I would highly recommend subscribing.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

AAR: OM3 - Hill 107

German Fallschirmjaeger:
Nick Drinkwater [ELR4, SAN 2]

British & Commonwealth:
Victor Behar [ELR4, SAN 3]

A moment of history - Houston's highest rollers face off against each other for the first (and probably only) time! As many of you know, I can roll really bad in very grim sequences but by reputation, Victor is famous for being worse! Can't wait for this one to see how long these bad streaks continue.... As its a Saturday, we both want to try something a little bigger and the new ASL crack-product Kreta: Operation Mercur is just begging to be played. Of course, if you're going to do a HASL, you gotta try out the historical map rather than the geomorphic scenarios, right? There are seven scenarios set on the main map, two of them on the smaller side and the monster OM7, but there are 3-4 good sized ones somewhat in the middle which should be good for a day's play.

Victor was then being murdered as the German's in an ongoing CG of Cemetery Hill so he's not so keen on doing a paradrop, (evokes bad memories) but he's happy to try a Glider drop. The big "Get the Bridge & Get the Bofors" OM2 scenario looks like a perfect one for another day with three people, so we opt for the more manageable "Get the Hill" OM3 alternative instead. In this the Fallschirmjaeger have 7.5 turns to take a minimum of 18 hexes of level three terrain on Hill 107, and take the named summit hex itself. If they knock the clunking great 3" AA Guns emplaced openly on the hill, they need to take 2 hexes less of Level 3 real estate for each gun they capture or eliminate. In addition, for every squad actively ordered to move at the beginning of Turn 3 by the Brits from two dedicated "numbered" platoons, the Germans need to take three less Level three hexes from their required total.

All Allied units are unable to move and advance in the first two turns, and the two Allied dedicated platoons, start on "No Move" counters until their moment of decision comes along in Turn 3 (they are released from this restriction if any German unit or glider comes within 2 hexes). This is what makes ASL so cool - interesting decisions with no simple and obvious answers.

The Kreta module is full of fun stuff and some interesting Terrain issues. Most of this doesn't impact this game but there is an abundance of olive groves, vineyards, shell-holes, walls, hedges and small stone huts which make glider landings precarious. Victor is set hard to dominate both ends of the long Level 3 ridge and any gliders coming down in the slightly open area between these strong-points will be encircled and murdered in very short order, and will also be confronted by really tough approach routes for the gliders with big chances that the crashes will be unfavourable. The SW and NE flanks of the hill are more appealing and hill topography means that at least one of the AA Guns is likely to be nullified, as will a good chunk of the defending infantry.

I decide to put everything down on the SW Level 1 and Level 2 plateaus that offer good approach routes to the NW headland of the hill. I will be aided in this approach as the scenario designers have decided to give the attacking Germans a leg-up by making Moderate Dust in effect for Turn 1 and Light Dust for Turns 2-4. This is massive as it will really assist the Germans to get up-close and personal to the British foxholes and keep the damage limited...clearly scenarios aren't much fun for anyone if 1/3 or more of the attackers and their SW all get blasted out of the sky on Turn 1, so moderate dust it is. The other reason to try and take on the NW headland is that partially through set-up restrictions and partially through choice, Victor has split his force into two big groups with the line of the Level 3 hill relatively sparsely covered in between. The two dedicated 'numbered' platoons are separated by SSR, one on Level 2 immediately below the NW headland who will be needed to be reduced by the Paras, and one to the far SE corner - these guys may never even come into the game unless Victor chooses to activate them in Turn 3. His more mobile groups on the main part of the hill include five squads with LMG and a viscous 9-2 leader, and these guys could be damaging. By SSR, the AA Guns have to stay in AA mode until Turn 4, so the key on all this for the Germans is to move, move, move when all these defender restrictions are still in place: this will be where the game is lost or won, as if I'm not firmly entrenched on the far end of the headland when the Brits wake up, I'm going to be in real trouble trying to dig them out.

The Germans have 8 squads, 4 crews, 4 leaders (including a -2), an HMG, MMG, a batch of LMG, and interestingly, a 50mm and an 81mm Mortar and a 75mm RCL, all coming in by glider. If the German can get all that lot running and into position, then he packs a hell of a punch. Of course, it would be good to get all this lot dropped onto the victory objective directly so they can be running hard from Turn 2 onwards, but discretion is the better part of valour so I opt to reduce risk and land a short distance away and then walk in. This means my bigass SW are probably not going to be doing much until Turn 4 at the earliest as all this 5PP iron is difficult to lug around, but they could easily be the game-swinging punch I'm going to need after the casualties of the initial uphill assault.

The landing goes pretty well and I had no complaints at all as almost everything touched down untroubled. The hillside-flank landing meant that the bulk of Victor's Brits were out of position and I took only one AA shot from one of Victor's big guns...this caused an evasion and a crash and I lost a half squad from the get go, but I would have taken that at the start of the game. The rest of 'Team Hill' landed in one piece on the Level two plateau where Victor's long shots with dust modifiers pinned a lot of things but just couldn't really damage me too badly. We both had several 8+1(+dust) or 16+1(+dust) shots but for a couple of turns we couldn't scratch each other - pillow fight! I managed to get a squad adjacent to a hilltop foxhole but they broke on a FPF from Victor and then promptly surrendered, no-quartered to leave me down to 6.5 of my initial 8 squads.

In turn 3 we continued to trade blows but with a killer DC charge, with a mere NMC, I broke a squad and leader and then chased them off the hill a long, long way, Victor rolling a 10 on a self-rally when he needed a 9. Despite a nasty sniper whacking one of my squads in an exposed position, I managed to save them by breaking the advancing British 9-2 on a measly 2+0 Subsequent First Fire when Victor rolled a 10 - my guys quickly routed away to safety. By end of Turn 5, I had taken all the headland part of the hill, was gobbling up hexes in the main saddle area and all my principal support weapons were now firing (accompanied by much scrabbling through the rule book to check the rules on Recoiless Rifles) - one of the Big Guns was now destroyed and Victor kept rolling high on his better attacks (particularly a 6-2 shot against my 9-2 leader / HMG which I brushed off). When Victor's entrenched squad on the summit broke with nowhere to go but into the cage, Victor resigned. He was now going to start having to recover territory with only 2-3 squads left and the -2 leader against dug-in 8 morale troops with multiple heavy support weapons and strong leadership, and
that wasn't going to happen in a hurry.

This is not a bad scenario, in fact its quite fun, though a little dull for the defenders at the beginning. Any damage done to the gliders is going to help the Brits, and they probably need to concentrate together as much as possible in the set-up or they will be defeated in detail. This is very hard to do, especially under the various restrictions the Brits are under for the first two turns, but it does help to roll low on some of those big shots! The question of whether to activate the other platoon is a tough one: certainly the Germans will almost certainly activate one of your platoons as they roll on towards their objective but its a tough decision for you to give the Germans back 6 Victory hexes for a measly two squad addition to your attack force. Like Victor, I too would probably not have activated them either considering the tactical position of the game at that time.

So thank-you, farewell and good luck Victor in your move to SoCal...we wish you bon voyage, and hope the dice gods take a change for the better for you in the Sunshine State! But wait, that makes me officially the worst die-roller in Houston????

Oh crap.


Friday, March 21, 2008

2008 Texas ASL Team Tournament
(16th Annual!)

We're just three months out! Begin making those plans to attend, the pre-registrations are already coming in. We're lining up some great sponsors, from Bunker Hill Games to Osprey Publishing.

Texas ASL is proud to present:

The 16th Annual ASL Team Tournament
Austin, TX June 19-22, 2008

Thursday 9am - Sunday 8pm

The ASL Team Tournament returns to the La Quinta Round Rock located in north Austin.

2004 North I-35
Round Rock, TX 78681
Phone: (512)255-6666
Fax: (512)388-3635
AAA 3 Diamond Rating

4-Day Registration $36
3-Day (Fri-Sun) Registration $31
Saturday Only Registration $21
Room Rates (tax not incl): $62

Make sure to mention the "Central Texas ASL Club" to get the reduced room rate.

Texas' Largest and Longest running ASL Tournament brings you four full days of ASL nirvana kicking off with a Thursday start.

Thursday will be an open gaming day and will not count towards the tournament standings. As always, Thursday games count towards the coveted Major Johnson award. Games related to the official tournament standings start Friday morning at 9AM.

For those looking for a little different head-on-head action, The ASL Team Tournament is pleased to announce two mini-tournaments this year:

  • Opening Assault : A One Day Thursday Mini-Tournament
  • TEXAS HEAT : A One Day Saturday Mini-Tournament

Remember to Pre-Register -- Besides you never know what goodies you might find in your pre-registration packet. In the past there has been sneak preview scenarios, local CTASL scenarios in color on card stock, personal leader counters, and usually a handful of other goodies from our sponsors.

All these details and more can be found at our Texas ASL website - Just follow the tournament links found here


Thursday, March 06, 2008

New Product Review: Kreta: Operation Merkur

Nick Drinkwater
Thought I'd try my hand at a brief product review for the newly released Kreta: Operation Merkur.

As some of you are aware, there has been a major stirring of angst on the Gamesquad Forums about this product, principally about the perceived thinness of the map and also a lack of very final, final, final editing on some of the text. I'll address those below. The short summary is that is another very strong output from the HOB boys again, which, though not their best, is certainly right up there in terms of overall quality and fairly high in terms of bang per buck. Personally I think the High Ground pack was their best to date, shading Onslaught to Orsha and the first two SS packs by a nose, but overall this is definitely a very good product. At $65, its not necessarily the absolute best value for money of all the recent splurge of ASL products we're received in the last three months, but it is still pretty good value all the same, and I don't think anyone will be disappointed if they add this to their collection.

So what do you get? The pack comes in a simple loose-leaf folder with a representation of Paratroopers falling out of Junkers 52 over Crete and a knocked out Matilda - direct and to the point. The inside of the loose leaf folder has a black and white representation of the map together with the disposition of the Anzac troops, and a simple table for tracking scenario CVP and CG victory point. All straightforward stuff.

The Map:
This is a map of fragile beauty and is a beautiful work of art - massive congratulations to all those involved in this. The map is large (56" x 40") and will need a big table to layout if you don't wish to cut yours up. However apart from scenario OM7, all the other six Operation Merkur scenarios all look like they will play out on sections of the map that are actually away from the main central fold, so the map could be folded (or sliced) to reduce the playable area needed. The hexes are a little on the small size but they will probably be OK as there won't be many super stacks developing in this. The scenarios set on the map (see below) focus on Maleme airfield and Tavronitis Bridge, Hill 107 or the small villages (Maleme and Pyrgos) dotted around the map. The map is dominated by four principal topographic features...Hill 107, rendered in the shades of brown we are all used to from standard boards, the airfield (a dirt field rendered in a tan shade),
the dried up Tavronitis river bed which is portrayed as sand-coloured hammada, (much like the stuff we are used to on Boards 25-31) and the northeast corner which is a mix of grain, vineyards, olive groves and villages split by a gully - there is even a small strip of beach in the very north (but no ocean). "Normal" level one ground away from all the hills is in the normal green colour we are used to from geomorphic boards - this is mainly covered by vineyards and olive groves and a few small Cretan hamlets of stone buildings. It is wonderful and I can't wait to play on it...under Plexiglass!

Yes, it is 'thin', but with all the hype from the online doom and gloom community, I was expecting something like finest tissue paper, and it is definitely thicker than that. Handled with care and it should be fine, though I could see concerns about colour permanency along the creases with repeated use (but then this is true of some of the older maps from MMP as well). I think personally that this issue is a bit of a storm in a teacup...with all the money we have invested in ASL over the years, getting this map laminated will not be too big a bugbear to carry, and I think it is a crying shame that this has deflected praise from an overall very good product. I see that from the Forum conversations, some of the principals of HOB have either decided to chuck in ASL for good (Klaus Fischer) or are pulling their hair out in frustration about these issues (Steve D), and there is a big part of me who think that it would be a massive loss to the hobby if they
did fold...please say it ain't so! If you want more on this debate, you can easily find it on the Forum archive and check it out yourself.

Terrain types:
Overall, a deft touch has been exercised here...just enough flavour to be juicy without being swamped in a sea of chrome. As remarked earlier, the Tavronitis river bed is treated as Hammada so you will need access to a simplified Chapter F ruleset for this, as you will also for many of the scenarios where light and moderate dust is in effect for the early turns. Due to the nature of the fighting, there are few scenarios with vehicles, so hammada immobilisation checks will be limited, though some seriously degraded British armour (matildas and mark VIs with lowered B numbers and red MP) are present, still suffering from a lack of spare parts after the "advance to the rear" from mainland Greece. In this map, the bridge is a two hex structure, and the hexes below the bridge are rally terrain to the Germans only. Irrigation ditches appear on the map, as do slopes, steeples and narrow streets (you'll need Pegasus Bridge rules at least, though some of this is
in ASLRBv2), and the Perimeter Fence at Maleme is treated as a barbed wire fence (KGP rules). During the brief stay in Crete, the RAF were busy and built aircraft revetments (walls) and gunpits (treated as small, 2-unit trenches) for their AA Guns and the runway will be difficult for all infantry to cross (runway rules). Vineyards have been printed directly onto the map, and their is also a Reedbed terrain type which acts as a lighter form of marsh. As this is Crete, olives play their part in this region and the Olive groves come in two flavours - normal (as per Chapter F rules) and olive groves lite, which are less difficult to move around and through.

The other thing that may come into play is the creation of Cretan flat roofs on single buildings in a single hex. This is interesting as this creates a separate location from the house itself and the opposition can move onto these exposed positions (+1 TEM) from an outside stairwell, even if the inside of the building is occupied by the enemy - though they face TPBF if they do so...ouch. At least one of the OM scenarios involves a fight for one of the villages so this may come into some use at some point.

Unit Variantism & Counters:
This has all been kept to a merciful absence. Your standard counters are all going to work fine in this pack. HOB have provided a small half-sheet of counters (all marked unobtrusively with HOB) which mainly consists of more gliders, Junkers 52 planes, some German leaders and unarmed German para counters together with some dm recoiless rifles etc...not quite HOB's best efforts (Fortress Cassino counters are fabulous) as the gloss on them is fairly heavy, but still very useable. There are also a few Brit leaders and some captured German guns. Overall though, in this whole module your Anzacs stay as standard Anzacs, your German paras stay as standard German paras and your Cretan irregulars are portrayed as partisans (but poorly armed and with few tricks apart from ability to declare H2H CC and No Straying bonus). If you do receive the Maori battalion in your OOB, you get some tough H2H -1 CC dudes who can kick some serious ass, but this is all very
straightforward and handled well. The Allies also get to salvage some crappy RAF weapons from the burnt out planes on the airfield which is a nice touch - these come as new counters. Note also that it is not only the Commonwealth who get punished with crap-ish weapons - the Germans get no elite bonus for their SW in this due to their entering by air assault, representing limited access to fresh ammo.

For those who like Glider and Para assaults, this module is heaven for you. If you don't...well, there are still some options and several of the scenarios are set at post-airdrop phase, so they may be smoother for some of you. In the big monster scenario OM 7, "Too little, Too light", the Germans get to reinforce by Junkers 52 landing on the airfield...the rules for this are basically glider landing rules, but if the Junkers miss the airfield, they will be in trouble as the crash drms are nasty. These rules all look very straight forward to apply, being a variation of the already existing rule-set and should pose no problems. Note that in some of the scenarios and in the main additional rules, the Allies get the option to have more of their weapons in AA mode and for longer...this could hurt the attacking Germans somewhat, but it probably is mitigated by the dust modifiers that are usually in place for the first couple of turns in some of the scenarios.

Editing and Proofing:
A shame and a little frustrating, and for me this was more of a detraction from the whole product than the map thinness issue, but it is still not that bad. It would seem that the transfer of proofing files from Germany to the USA and back meant that the final product went out with some small but annoying typos due to configuration setup differences. As a result, parentheses (inverted commas) around certain words were transformed into weird zingbats symbols and occasional overprinting in the text blocks of the scenario cards in particular, which makes it a little harder to read. This seems to have applied throughout the layout process and so even Scenario Titles have this issue - so "Stentzler's Wary Reconnoitre" reads as "Stentzler~s Wary Reconnoiter", "Morning's Peril" reads as "Morning~s Peril" and the trusty British 3" AA Gun comes across as the 3$ AA Gun in the VC of OM-3, Hill 107.

Really frustrating for the guys at HOB and I can see why they are pulling hair out on these gremlins - it is this tiny miss in the final editing and the map thinness issue that has raised so much scorn and criticism online. Yes, it is very annoying, yes people will feel (rightly) aggrieved at something that could and should have been picked up, but I hope this does not cause the demise of HOB... I am sympathetic to some of the stronger criticism that has been raised on this issue as people are fronting up $65 for this product, but I hope patience and forbearance can rule the day. But note, HOB do need to get this right in the future. Teething troubles with paper stocks and intransigent printers is one thing (the map here, the back to front counters in RbF4)- a final edit of the printed product using US-based software is quite another and could have been caught.

Similar to Onslaught to Orsha, the pack is divided into two parts - seven scenarios that are set exclusively on the new map, (identified by the OM terminology), and ten more that are played on geomorphic mapboards, labelled AoC (Assault on Crete) scenarios. This is very cool value for me and I think this contributes a lot of value to this pack. None of these scenarios are micro (smallest is 5.5 turns), a few are on the small size, several are on the medium tournament size (6-7 turns), and there are a couple of real biggies, including the pack monster OM-7 at 13 turns. As noted earlier, some, but not all, involve glider, airlanding and paratroop drops and due to the inherent uncertainty of these and the ability to shoot and kill the Germans before they even get started, some people understandably will shy away from these. Like the glider attack in Pegasus Bridge however, if the worse does happen and the Anzacs get lucky and shoot down a third of the
attacking force, then maybe just pull the counters and start again! Personally, I love all the esoterica of ASL so the more the merrier! Night scenarios are limited to one-quarter of OM-7 only and there is not much other oddness going on here, apart from limited SSRs adding flavour, not Chrome. Note also that if big combined arms assaults using King Tigers is what floats your boat, then this too is probably not for you either as only 5 of the scenarios feature vehicles (mainly bad British, tanks, carriers and one motorbike scenario...low level elite infantry fighting for their lives is what this pack is all about and I am really looking forward to trying these scenarios out.

OM-1: Morning's Peril.
Daylight glider assault with early dust.
This is a recreation of the old Annual 89 scenario "Bofors Bashing", but played on the historical map and set on the NW corner of the airfield. 13 glider's worth of paras need to capture all 3 AA Guns in 6.5 turns, with 4.5 squads of Kiwis in defense. A no-move on Turn 1 SSR means that the defense starts confused. Looks small and bloody!

OM-2: Glide Path to Hell.
Daylight glider assault with early dust.
Another reincarnation from the 89 Annual, this time its the old "Descent into Hell", where as well as destroying the AA Guns, the Paras need to capture Tavronitis Bridge, again in 6.5 turns. Set in both the river bed and the airfield, as well as achieving the VC of OM-1, they now also need to control the bridge and approaches. The paras receive another 9 gliders for the bridge assault while the Brits get boosted by 6 more squads. Again, lots of grenade and knife action.

OM-3: Hill 107
Daylight glider assault with early dust.
Eight para glider squads with tough leaders and good SW (including a dm RCL) need to take the level three heights of Hill 107, the number of hexes they need to take being reduced for each AA Gun they knock out. Nine squads of entrenched Kiwis and Royal Marines plus two big AA guns stand in their way. Seven and a half turns to do this, though the glider landings here look quite rough.

OM-4: The Umbrella Men.
Daylight parachute assault with early dust.
Eighteen para half-squads look like they are going to have a very tough landing on the olive groves, vineyards and stone hovels of Maleme and Pyrgos - to win in 8.5 turns, they need to control the majority of the buildings and eliminate the lone Bofors gun. The Kiwis are weak in this one (second line), but they have help from Cretan partisans and four (yep, count em, 4) MMGs and a captured Pak 37. If the paras don't get too knocked up in the air drop, they should have the quality to see this one through.

OM-5: Stentzler's Wary Reconnoitre.
Ground assault only.
Eight turns for a very strong force of paras (17 squads) to take a chunk of Hill 107 real estate from 17 Kiwi squads with light SW help. Movement restrictions on some of the Kiwi platoons give the Germans the early freedom of movement they will need to fulfil this one. Straight-up infantry fight with little complications.

OM-6: Waltzing the Matildas.
Combined arms ground assault only.
The clue's in the title I guess. Six and a alf turns for two Matildas with moderate infantry support to either go for a CVP win or take the bridge back from 8 para squads with mortar and AT Gun help. The tanks are critical here as the runways will be hard to cross. Their is a 22 CVP cap on the commonwealth (though the tanks don't count).

OM-7: Too Little, Too Light.
Combined arms ground assault, with OBA, air support and a brief night rules section.
The monster in the pack. Thirteen turns in total, the first four using night rules, where the advantage is with the Kiwis. They receive Maoris and some real bad tin can tanks (Mk VIs) in Turn 5, but the Germans can use the Bofors guns with no penalties. The Kiwis have to clear a batch of Level 3 hexes from Hill 107, and capture at least 3 Gun pits, and a batch of building hexes. The Kiwis start strongly with ~33 squads in the first two turns against 16.5 para squads, but the paras get to reinforce 9 more squads direct to the action through Ju 52 airlandings in the later turns. This has it all and looks like a must play...a swirling chaotic melee that is not for the feint-hearted!

AoC1: Rushing Hill A
Ground assault with air support against entrenched infantry with late arriving armour.
The first of the non-historical map scenarios, this has 15 very well supported paras trying to capture the heights of the Board 39 hill, with help from a RCL and the 105 mm MTR - tasty! This time its the Aussies in the fight and these guys are extremely tough and they get some 100 mm ART guns and good MG and Matilda support. Set on half boards 39, 38, 17 and 6. To make it even more interesting, some scattered survivors of earlier decimated airdrops are scattered amongst the Aussie positions on Hill 39. Seven turns. Another one of the more interesting scenarios in the group with some interesting setup questions.

AoC2: The Venetian Fort.
Ground assault in urban terrain.
Dual entry on to half boards 21 and 23, the six British squads and fifteen green Greek squads need to evict 11 para squads from a medieval castle with very thick, high battlements. The quirk in this one is the SSR representing height advantage and CC across the venerable castle walls. Seven turns and bloody looking, especially with a bunch of Greeks bent on revenge.

AoC3: The Olive Oil Factory
Ground assault in rural terrain.
One of the shorter scenarios in the pack at six turns. A mixed group of Aussies and Greeks need to evict a bunch of mixed quality and walking wounded paras, suffering from ammo shortage in a factory on Board 49 - half boards on 44 and 49 are in play. One of the simpler scenarios in the pack.

AoC4: Town and Country
Ground assault in rural terrain on Deluxe Boards.
The sole deluxe scenario in the pack set on Boards d, h and f. The Brits need to get 14 VP onto Board f by the game end (Turn 5.5) offset by the number of surviving para units. No H2H CC is allowed by SSR and this is really a very straightforward all-infantry assault, with two carriers to assist.

AoC5: At the Apex
Dash for victory ground assault - straight up infantry.
A desperate escape from encirclement back to a friendly perimeter held by the Black Watch is what the Australians need to achieve here and they need only 8VP back in safety to win over 5.5 turns. In their way is a motley group of 11 para squads, but the Australian's friends in the Black Watch have limited movement options at the beginning, so its not completely straightforward. Has the feel of a Schwerpunckt scenario in that the tactical challenge is going to be interesting to resolve here. Set on boards 46, 4, 44 and 12 and Cretan rooftops and light olive groves are in effect.

AoC6: 42nd Street
Infantry ground assault with a ton of hand-to-hand melees!
Wild swirling H2H CC melees inspired by the Maoris, amongst the olive groves surrounding the dusty road of "42nd street" is the name of the game here. Sixteen para squads face off against 27 Kiwi squads and the Kiwis need to inflict 20 CVP at game end (modified by the number of surviving para squads on boards 35 and 38) - you can just see these guys lining up to do the Rugby Haka war dance before they kick this one off! Carnage across boards 43, 35 and 38 in 5.5 turns - looks awesome!

AoC7: Their first and last.
Infantry ground assault.
Probably the smallest scenario in the pack, 8 welsh squads need to have suffered less than 14 CVP versus 10 para squads with SW support. A fairly straightforward scenario with few real surprises in this one. Seven turns long, set on boards 44 and my favourite, the drumlin board, 18!

AoC8: The Game's up Aussies.
Combined arms assault versus a tricky fighting withdrawal
This looks like a fun version of ASL 1 "Fighting withdrawal" with a twist, as the Australians conduct a last-stand defense with a small group of the rearguard, while some of the rest of the force try and hold on to key Board 38 buildings for as long as possible. At the same time they also have to try to get some of their force off the south edge for extra CVP. This one looks like a good tactical challenge with many choices on both sides on what to commit, where to commit it and when it gets a' movin'. The Aussies probably have the harder task here as they will need to be played with finesse to get their withdrawals just right. The Germans however get the fun toys - kettenfreds, motorcycles, light tanks and trucks. This could be my favourite in the pack due to the tough questions being asked and the fun toys involved. Oh yes...the Aussies get fun Italian guns to play with too! Eight turns on Boards 15, 50 and 38.

AoC9: Unsung Heroes
Infantry Ground Assault.
Straightforward infantry attack by sixteen para squads (including engineers) versus sixteen very lightly armed Greek 1st line squads. The Germans win by controlling all buildings on Board 17 and most on Board 43 and this is all very normal, apart from the fact that these are some desperate Greeks. VERY desperate Greeks as they can all declare Dare-Death status! Love it! Ten turns for the paras to cross Boards 44, 17 and most of 43.

AoC10: Glide Path to Invasion
Daylight Glider Assault.
Set on Board 30 with the escarpment overlay in play - groan, I hear you all say, but give this one a chance. The Gliders, with eight squads need to land on top of the escarpment and destroy three big nasty AA Guns, but the desperate gun crews receive infantry and carrier support in Turn 2. Interesting pin rules on the defenders govern the initial landing of the gliders - if a gun goes unpinned, it has a chance to shoot down one of the offending gliders - special SSR govern this process and this could leave a nasty hole in the attackers. This actually looks like a quite fun scenario and I like the Escarpment overlay and desert terrain. Set on Board 30, seven turns long, but clearly dominated by the escarpment. Carriers are fun too!

Campaign Game:
This is very different from your usual CG, being more similar to the linked theme Market Garden scenario set of the 91 Annual. No perimeters, RG teams, battle-hardening or anything like it. Instead, the CG consists of six OM scenarios played in order (OM2-7: OM1 is not played as that is already incorporated into OM2). Each scenario card has certain VP awarded to it and these are marked next to the title - the winner gets full VP, the loser gets half. In addition, an extra point can be won or lost depending upon the CVP inflicted in the scenario, according to the chart on the scenario pack inside cover. And that's it!!! All very simple, and perhaps not what everyone was expecting, but the designers explain this as being a result of the Allied lack of reinforcements. Basically, everyone was in place already when the air assault began and there was little opportunity to get reinforcements in during the time-frame of the battle.

For me, that works pretty well. I just rarely struggle to get time to play a full CG these days, but I can easily see me being able to play these six scenarios in order against someone over a few months. Again, this may not be for those who really want a RB style CG, but it is different and I applaud the designers for trying this.

Overall Summary:

B++ for me...if the final editing had been that little bit more tidy, would have definitely moved up into my A- or A category. Still, a really good, infantry-dominated slug-fest between the elites of the nations involved, set on a beautiful, outstanding map. What's not to like?