Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walter and the Unwashed Newbie

Walter Eardley

(... or this is what I get for throwing a newbie a bone.)

The only way to grow our game is to bring in new players. New blood! The future of our hobby! With these new players come new “ideas”. That is the problem with newbies … They think … therefore they are …

Case in point, over the last several weeks, I have been looking forward to the May HHS gathering at Nick’s Super Groovy ITL Pub and Gentleman’s Club. I am scheduled to play Mark “The Newbie” Carter in The Fugitives. The Newbie sends me some email about ROAR and some statistics about the number of Russian wins when played during the month of May in an odd number year when the German player brings three tables to the game day. He seemed to be begging to play the Russians so he would “Have a chance” against my greatness so I figured what the hell, throw him a bone. Sure … You can have the Russians.

The night before the game day, I have some dim recollection that I have to do something before the start of play as the Germans. I scan the scenario card looking for what I remember about the German setup. What strikes me is what I don’t remember about this scenario. Crap … ELR 2 … Conscripts! … Low Ammo? Geez …Whose idea was it to pull this Alsatian Wolf Hound out from under the years of dust. Oh well … If it makes the newbie happy we will continue.

Since he is a “SK Newbie”, I sent him a few notes covering some of the “Newbie Traps” I knew he would fall into. I had hoped this would help eliminate the “Explain to the Newbie Why His Setup Was Not Valid Phase”. A few minutes later, I receive back a dissertation about how the setup he had worked on for the last three weeks needed to be completely changed and a four page write up about the effectiveness of the Russian 57LL shell against late war German steel and something about studying Thermodynamics. I told him he should kick back and drink a beer or twelve. I like my opponents hung over and jet lagged if at all possible even if they are newbies.

The morning of the game day, I pack up my 3 tables and 6 chairs and head to Nick’s Place. In the back of my mind, there is something about 3 tables which I just can’t seem to shake. Oh well … It must just be my brain acting funny. I shake of the thought and hop in my car. About half way to Nick’s a sudden horror washes over me. While thinking about those stupid three tables I have forgotten my backpack! My backpack! My rules … My charts … My dice … My dice cup … My super cool SAN cards from the Austin tournament! Everything left sitting in my study because I could not stop thinking about the significance of three tables! Not a good start …

Taking a few deep breaths, I steady my heart rate and slowly calm down. How bad could it be? Certainly Nick has a glass I can barrow. Certainly someone has dice they will share … Certainly …

Arriving at Nick’s, The Newbie is waiting for me. He has all the eagerness of an 18 year old boy taking “The Friendliest Girl in School” to the Prom. He is hopping from one foot to the other babbling on about studying for the last month and something about Thermodynamics this and statistical equivalencies that and the German player bringing three tables to games days in May … Before I can even shake hands with the Austin guys and welcome them to our fair city even if it is ITL he is dragging me to the table and handing me a tray with my counters already pull. Trying not to get flustered, I take another deep breath and note with thankfulness the Newbie actually seems to have remember to shower before going out into public. Knowing Newbies are … well … Newbies, I start to check the counters. Hmm … “Hey Newbie … You shorted me an LMG and a half tack … WTF?” Knowing newbies are too na├»ve to try to win a game by “Slight of Counter”, I pass if off as … well … just being a newbie.

With an innocent look on his face he hands me his counter storage boxes. I pull the half track and am actually impressed with the nice grid printed out on the box top making it easy to find the piece I am missing. Then I open the “German Infantry Box” …

My eyes go crossed. My hands start to shake. My left eye began to twitch … There are Grey counters mixed in with the German Blue counters. Not just Grey counters in their own compartment but actually sharing the compartment with the blue counters. Of all the counter storage faux pas a person can make, mixing counters of different colors is one of the greatest! Completely frazzled, all I can think is … Newbies … “Good God Newbie … Have you mixed your Italians with your Germans? WTF?”

With much delight The Newbie exclaimed, “Those are Finns! I was reading this article on the internet …”

Obviously, The Newbie had fallen for one of the oldest pranks in the book … “The Counter Storage Hoax of 1994”. Back in the day when Finns were their rightful color of blue, it almost seemed logical to store them at least in the same tray as the Germans but never … ever should they mix. You might end up with Swedes or Danes or something if you don’t watch out! I carefully flick the counters around and pull my missing LMG while taking deep breaths into a paper sack.

Befuddled, I excuse my self. I need to wash my hands and search of a suitable dice cup. Nick offers me three choices. The first makes … well … a fruity sound very fitting of the Montrose area every time I drop the dice. The second is too flat and the dice do not roll. The third is too textured to read the pips on the dice. I guess I was too hard on Nick in the recent ITL v OTL debate and he is paying me back. I decide to go old school and roll in a box top.

Did I mention where I go the dice? Another fatal mistake … I had to ask The Newbie to barrow a pair. I ignored the speech about precision ratios and degrees of randomness and just grabbed a white and a black die.

After three to five hours of trying to decide where to put 6 rubble counters, The Newbie was ready to roll.

During the game, despite being a complete Neanderthal when it comes to Counter Storage, The Newbie plays fairly well. I point to a hex and comment, “That would be a good HIP spot” and where does his stack show up? Right where I pointed … Thinking he would not HIP two stacks close together, I make a move and only some hot dice on my part lets me survive the 8 down 2 shot. I begin to think this newbie is a little salty. With his reinforcing armor, he puts the tank in an excellent spot to interdict both bridges I am trying to cross. He does leave it vulnerable to a Fuast shot and I make him pay. He even giggled at me when I called my sN9 a Shnuggiewoofer. I ignored the three different dialects he pronounced THAT word in.

In the end, I came up about 11 points short which gave The Newbie the victory. Newbies are so cute when they win. You see hope glint in their eyes. They risk a smile. On the inside they are jumping for joy while on the outside they are trying to keep from giggling like a little girl.

Leaning back from the table, I can only think for all his newbieness, this newbie really knows what he is doing. He fooled me several times with dummy counters and making things look like something they were not. He put his HIP units in very nice positions. His AT gun placement was flawless. Even his tank was in a place where I needed a 4 to hit it with a faust. I bet he puts it one hex further away next time. He even bought my slice of pizza for lunch. So much for some easy victories in the future. Next time we play, I guess I will have to take him to that kegger and make sure he spends some quality time with the beer bong if I want a chance to win.


AAR: ASL8 The Fugitives

... or A Very Long AAR for a Quite Long Game, complete with Pink Floyd allusion

Mark Carter

Russians: Mark Carter
Germans: Walter Eardley

At the beginning let me thank Nick for hosting a great day of gaming. The turn out from Austin was welcome as well so thanks for coming to town Eric, Matt and Zeb. It was a great time.

My opponent and mentor once again was Walter. Walter is a blast to play with and has been a terrific teacher in the games he has played with me. It takes a great deal of patience and I certainly thank him for it. In spite of the time this game took, we had a good time playing it and hope some of that fun comes through in the text of this AAR.

We played The Fugitives (ASL 8 from BV) and at nine turns it was indeed a long time.

The gist of the scenario is that it's the last few days of the war in Europe and the Russians are surrounding Berlin. Some of the German army is trying to breakout to the west to reach the Americans and British so that they don't fall into the arms of Ivan.

Their breakout is made difficult by more than the Russian fighters: they have to cross a canal by bridges that are on the roads to the west, and to make matters more dire, the streets are choked with building debris and humanity fleeing the war. According to the scenario, in the end, their armor rode up and over the bridges, running over the civilians cramming the roads. In terms of the game, this is reflected in reduced road movement rate which made for slow going. To make matters worse for the Germans, they are suffering from ammo shortage. The conditions are the Germans need to exit 33 VP off the west end of the game board by the end of their ninth turn. ROAR shows the game favored the Russians so Walter kindly gave them to me.

The length of time it took to play this is probably due to several reasons besides the number of turns. One of them, and not the least, was Walter teaching me about my options and DRMs and assisting me with some of my tactical options, however I did make my own calls. Other reasons for the time were the scenario is basically a fighting withdrawal delaying action for the Russians, followed by a stand off at the bridges on the canal. Coupled with the reduced road movement and the Germans dealing with concealed Russians with dummies in the eastern edge of the board added up to a game in this case of ten hours. (ROAR estimated time is 9.2 hours so we did ok)

The Russian 2nd Guards Tank Army set up on both sides of the canal with the eastern group consisting of five first line squads, one 8-1 leader, a medium and a light and six ? counters. Two groups can be HIP. On the western side of the canal, the Russians set up with three box-E squads, and four first line squads, a 8-0, a 7-0, a heavy and a light. To be set also is a 57LL with squad which of course can be emplaced and HIPed. Reinforcements with elites, a 9-1 leader a LMG, and happily a T-34 arrive on the west edge on turn five.

The German remnants of the Muencheberg Panzer Division come in during the first three turns along a choice of three road locations coming from the east. There are a total of 18 squads of first line, second line and conscript squads. They also have two halftracks, a StuGIII, a Pz IVJ, an armored car and three trucks. They also get three light MGs, two medium MGs and a lot of leaders. There were a 9-2, a 9-1, 2x 8-1, 3x 8-0 and 7-0.

At set up, the Russian player rubbles at the ground level six non-adjacent, buildings with second levels. Then at the beginning of play get to add two more rubble counters at ground level adjacent to those first six by die roll. This gives an amount of variety to the board and allows the Russian to try to block key road hexes with rubble.

In the first four turns it is pre-twilight and no FFMO is in effect with 1 TEM. Also for the first two turns, the Russian troops west of the bridge cannot move unless it is to rout.

Trying to climb all the way into the ASL full rules boat I must admit that I studied for this game over many days. I wanted to use this scenario as an opportunity understand the terrain I would see and how to deal with rubble, street fighting, firelanes, LOS with hedges and bridges and tank movement, and review of how to use concealment. I also worked hard to remember the lessons had by playing with Rick and John over the last few games to remember how to fight a withdrawal and maximize my use of concealment and then to set up a last line of defense at the bridges.

After all that time I felt that I knew were the Germans might go, and working on my defensive strategy, had worked out where to put the rubble to channel the Germans into my set up. A lot of work went into that. Guess what: I didn't know what I was doing; surprised?

Walter was kind enough to send me a note the night before the game asking if I had used my time wisely preparing and to remind me that rubble in a building location with a second level meant one with a stairwell and, oh, by the way, don't forget the orchard hexes have roads so the Gun can't be emplaced there.

DOH!! Ok, so all that work went down the drain at about 9pm the night before the game. `Second level building' equals three story building newbie! My rubble plans had to be totally changed. My selected Gun location was down the tubes as well. I told Walter I hadn't studied so much for anything since my college thermodynamics II class final and he suggested I go find a kegger instead. At the time, I totally agreed with him. I decided to just take one look at it in the morning, make the call and just go with it.

Ok, so finally we get to game day, Nick's, and the set up. I worked on shutting down the northern-most road as I felt the best approach for the Germans was the southern road anyway due to covering terrain and buildings with two bridges relatively close to each other. With a little encouragement I hoped he would stick with that plan and not venture to my poorly defended northern flank. I set up the LMG HIP in 20K2 wooden building, and the medium with 8-1 in 20G1 stone house. I spread out some dummies and my squads around while favoring real squads on the southern approach.

West of the canal I used what I hoped would be a bit more misdirection. On the second level of a church under concealment I had three counters which I hoped would look like a MG nest for my heavy due to the commanding LOS it had from that location. What I actually had there was a weak leader, a first line squad and the light. Just to be sure I put an elite in a house across the street next to the northern bridge exit hex figuring that once I could see the Germans commit to the southern route I could hustle him back to the fight.

Meanwhile I put my heavy with an 8-0 leader in 23 N9 to both watch out for a rush to the middle bridge and also to be able to lay down a firelane to one of the southern bridge exit hexes. The 57LL and its squad I emplaced and HIPed in the stone building in M8 pointing O8, which had a commanding LOS to the entrance hex of that same bridge which was directly lined up with the southern road.

The most effective strategy I did was totally unintended. Following the Plano storage label file on the Texas ASL site, my box of Germans was co-habitating with the gray Finns from BV3. "GAH! What are these, Italians??" Also one of my `Russian' leaders was a Partisan graphic (what do _I_ know?). This neophyte sloppiness turned out to be something Walter just could not bear to behold. To be fair, he was nice about it, but he was actually quite disgusted.

Fine teachers can be so long suffering and are worthy of our deepest respect.

The Germans entered with the first group first and so on through the first three turns. They came in the middle road and the southernmost road. The going was slow as they felt their way along, suspicious of the HIP units as my ? markers moved around in a spectral way skulking and shifting. (Thanks for the skulking lessons Johnny) My objective was to delay the Germans as long as possible. No need to fire until it was necessary.

A careless maneuver and a Russian squad was sighted and lost ? momentarily only to duck into the gloom of the trees behind another building in the twilight and regain ? at the end of the turn. The Germans saw a real Russian! – or was it? The cardboard squares actually looked and moved what looked like scared, furtively looking left, then right, then inching across the street as the ? just faded back into a new position like a mirage. This was a lot of fun I have to admit.

The AFVs hung back entering into these streets filled with panicked civilians and lined with dark stone houses – I had dropped the suggestion that I had been reading up on street fighting `accidentally' in an email the night before. Heh. The German crew in the StuG dug around for smoke and found none. A handmade counter with `no smoke' handwritten on a blank gray Finn counter was handed over as Walter set his jaw, but said nothing as he placed the abomination on the StuG. The turn counter moved on.

The Germans rightly surmised where a HIP unit `should' be and moved in closer. Fire waited until it was bumped by a HS. The LMG nest was discovered along with PBF. Resid on the road. Another group came across the road, SFF, and resid on the road. Stacks built adjacent preparing for the rush. FPF and resid on the road, and again. The piled up resid on all the road hexes at the bottleneck of the roads stopped all the trucks and a road jam formed. In the AFPh the squad was broken by a massive FG which placed encirclement on our brave comrades who routed through a small escape path to a last hideout in the trees. They were chased by a half track or two and some capturing squads bent upon harsh interrogation techniques. Defensives were compromised, but the brave men told no tales (due to distance and lack of LOS).

In the meantime, perhaps thinking the best fortifications were now on the northern road, a big juicy stack complete with squads, leaders, MGs jaunted down the southern road trying to make up some time. Too much to resist.

The MMG HIP hideout with the 8-1 opened up on the group FFNAM two hexes away on their side. One squad pinned. The rest escaped! "Nyet!" These poor Russian soldiers ran for the southern most bridge between the houses but a miraculous, snakey LOS nailed them in the back as they ran for their friends across the canal. They found their way into a building and were forced to rout upstairs as the enemy filled the ground floor. During this interchange a HOB leader came forward but was not able to prevent these brave men from going berserk and charging the fiends downstairs to a pitiful end.

Another marooned Russian squad had been expertly chased down to the woods in 23FF2 and was being surrounded by German conscripts.

Ok, now the sun is up so FFMO is back on, it's turn five and the men in gray, oops I mean blue, are intent in getting across the canal as they holed up behind the hedge in 20X1 eyeing the stone building directly across the bridge.

By now the Germans were fairly committed to the southern pair of bridges and the Russian troops manning the northern bridge were being hustled south to join the impeding fight carrying their LMG with them.

Also the T-34 entered the game and swung up the Russian right side and parked on the road at 23FF6 looking at 23EE5. This gave it LOS to the bridge entry hex BB4 as well as the enemy squads surrounding his comrades in the woods across the canal.

A massive mistake was made by the Russians then. A skulk maneuver was forgotten about for the defenders of the bridge in the stone building and wow did the Germans open up with a massive firepower shot on their DFPh. BOX CARS! Ammo shortage! Ouch. That was the most devastating blow to the Germans all game to that point. Random MG breakage and squad replacements. I seem to remember a yatzee in there somewhere, too.

German dice were exchanged for new ones as potential candidates were put through an elaborate and well thought through interview and audition process. The dice rolling box top from SK1 (another jinx) was moved to the other side of the board to change the luck for the Germans.

Turn Six: things get exciting.

On the southernmost bridge the armored car made a dash for it, crossing the BB5 bridge and racing for the west. A squad with a LMG in CC9 opened up with AP rounds and destroyed the car with a couple of well-timed low rolls. Scratch one AFV.

In preparation for an assault, the PzIVJ, which still had the potential for smoke was in 23W2 eyeing the potential for LOS from a Gun emplaced somewhere. Maybe the road along the canal was a risk? He looked around for smoke, and he found none either. Another handwritten `no smoke' on a gray counter was handed over for the PzIV.

The StuGIII with its own shameful Finn counter for `no smoke' had enough by this time and charged across the X3 bridge ignoring the LOS potential from the north and moved forward to the stone building and its defenders.

He was moving to X6: the famous sleaze freeze! "Walter, your not going to freeze my guys are you?" Reply: "You think??". The StuG did a bypass in the hex and stopped.

I revealed two Russian elite squads with a 9-1 "Partisan" (grrr) leader who helped one pass his PAATC. Reaction fire!

(Cue Pink Floyd:)

"Bleating and babbling we fell on his neck with a scream: Yeeah..hahahaha!!" More even better-timed low rolls. Scratch one StuG.

The PzIVJ said "that's about enough of that" and popped over the hedge onto W3 and turned and moved to enter the bridge moving to X2 and turned to X3 preparing to move to the bridge. Just then, out of building straight down the road in M8, a 57LL opened up into the side of the Panzer, blowing its turret 30 feet into the air as flames burst forth on the entrance to the X3 bridge, scattering soldiers and civilians alike into pandemonium.

Scratch the third AFV in the turn. Wow.

Having mowed down the brave Russian squad in FF2, a German conscript made some faust attempts and couldn't get them. Rather than focusing on him, my tank which had focused in turn five on a tasty stack in BB3 now turned to gain acquisition on the bridge entry hex BB4 and laying down resid.

In turn seven the German found the faust he needed and nailed my T-34 returning the favor to the Russians for their maltreatment of his vehicles the turn before. By this time however the LMG squad which had been up in the church at set up had made its way all the way down to a building in AA10 guarding the exit off the board.

Emboldened by the flaming T-34, drum beats were heard across the canal from the stone buildings where the well known Eardley/German rallying cry of "WOO-HOO!" was heard over and over as guns were reloaded and uniforms straightened.

German squads tried moving across the bridges now, desperate to get moving with few turns left. The 57LL continued to lay down resid on the X2 entry hex, the elites in the stone building X6 laid down firepower on the bridge itself and then, for some German guys who made it across all that to X4, finally the HIP HMG nest opened up a firelane on them from N9. One of the squads was driven berserk. He charged the nest the next turn and fell where he was as the firelane reopened in turn 9.

After the tank on the southern bridge had been flamed by the faust, a truck and two halftracks with some battle worn troops made a dash across the BB5 bridge and the halftracks ran a hooking end-around some buildings and eventually off the board for 22 points. The truck simply ran straight down the road trying to draw fire but it only represented one point, so firepower was withheld for the squads on foot.

The German squads at X3 were mostly broken and back in the woods by X0 and mathematically out of game.

The squads on the BB5 bridge charged and ran into 24 down 2 firepower from PBP in CC7 on the exit hex on BB6 laying down 12 resid. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Russian roll on the 24 down 2 shot was not good enough to KIA enough squads leaving a bunch of broken guys laying around. Therefore the remaining Germans squads dashing across with leaders would have to pay an extra point due to overstacking in BB6 and did not have enough movement points to get off the board. 22, still less than the 33 needed.

Game over. WHEW! 10 Hours.

The scenario in ROAR favors the Russians and no balance was used so Walter had a tough task. At the end of the day, the most difficult thing for the Germans was probably the ammo shortage. It almost didn't pay for the Germans to fire.

Walter advised me all through this thing especially on how to best utilize firepower from the Gun and using smart Acquisition strategy he showed me. He also helped through all the AFV burn ups. The armored car was dispatched because he said, `you know the LMG can take that thing out if you roll right'. He also helped me through the Reaction Fire sequence on the StuG and of course which ammo type to use to blow up his PzIV, etc. He's the one who counted up the 22 points he had and pointed out the unlikelihood of getting 33 off (meaning let the halftracks go, prevent the other squads from moving). I'm under no illusion who the real player is. Gloves off, I'm toast.

He certainly succeeded in giving a new guy a more in depth run through an interesting scenario and I thank him for it.

Concerning a scenario analysis, I think I'll just leave that to Walter. He has some interesting comments to make about this BV game related to newer releases but it would sound silly for me to repeat them since he's the one who understands it.

At the time, and for 24 hours afterwards, I felt drained and a bit exhausted but it was a great time. Thanks Walter.


Monday, May 25, 2009

AAR: SP17 Cross of Lorraine

John Hyler

Americans: Chris Buehler
Germans: John Hyler

Last Saturday, at Nick's Super-Cool ASL Pub Party, I had the pleasure of playing against the always affable Chris Buehler. We played SP17 - Cross Of Lorraine, a rather violent firefight set in Alsace, France, in January 1945. The Americans are on defense with a well-armed but armor weak force against a brittle (ELR2) German infantry force that is bulked out with a very strong armor force consisting of two Panthers, two PzIVJs, two PzIII(FL), and two SPW251/1 HTs. Both sides receive a module of 150mm OBA. In spite of the armor superiority, ROAR has the Americans with a 2-1 edge. Therefore, Chris received the German balance. The VC stipulate that the side that controls a majority of building rubble hexes (25+) in a segment of board 20 wins.

Not knowing where Chris would focus his attack, I had to set up a perimeter defense yet attempt to channel his attack. With no ? counters in the force pool mix, I would only be able to gain concealment by setting up out of his LOS. My kill stack went to L2 of hex 20T3 with the 9-2, two squads, 50cal, and MMG. Below it on L1 was the 8-0 and radio, with another squad protecting the ground floor. A second kill stack with the 9-1, two squads and HMG went to U8. The 81 and 60 mtrs went to rear areas with HS spotters in adjacent L2 hexes. The 57L was placed in 20Z10 (CA Y10-21Y1). I placed 6F AP mines in 20R8 and 20Q9 to hamper an assault in the center. The rest of the units were spread around the perimeter, two BAZ units in woods hexes covering the northern road approaches and another BAZ covering one of the middle roads, and the two M10s were placed in 20AA9 and 20W6, out of range of the Panthers, but able to move to reinforce threatened areas.

The last question centered around where to place the fortifications. After reading Zeb's AAR on the same scenario, I decided for my own reasons to place most of my fortifications visible to hopefully channel his AFVs. Therefore, Wire plus a 1ATM were placed in 20Q1 and Q3, and Wire in 20T1 with a 1ATM in 20U1. The roadblocks went in 20T9 and 20S5, both facing the east. The only fortifications that were not placed on board were Wire in 21Y1 with a 1ATM in 21Z1. After Chris set-up, the wire followed soon after by the ATM were revealed.

Having to set-up within four hexes of 21N5, Chris set-up his forces along the 4-hex perimeter, prepared to rush forward. After concealment counters were placed for qualifying units, we were ready to go.

Chris's turn 1 started off well, with his PzIVs remembering to bring smoke with them and succeeding in firing smoke in hexes that severely hampered my 9-2 kill stack from seeing anything. However after that success, things started to unravel for him. During his MPh, Chris lead off with his PzIII(FL)s, moving them within range of BAZ fire. Two BAZ shots and two Ks later, he was minus his two most potent AFVs. Undaunted, Chris started moving his Panthers west on board 21 to threaten my left flank. The German infantry started to advance in covered avenues of approach. The only combat effect was when one of his HSs advanced into the 20Q9 minefield and broke. My MTR fire was ineffective all through the game, as spotted fire is a difficult TH unless the target stays in one place, which was not the case. My radio established radio contact and received battery access with the spotting round drifting from 21U2 to 20U9.

My turn 1 started with harassing OBA falling, after accuracy drift, to 21U3. The overall effect was negligable. I moved one of my M10s to S5, behind one of the roadblocks, since Chris had placed his Leader with Radio in one of his HTs and had positioned them at 20L9. Hopefully, I would be able to gain Acq and dispose of them in my next DF. However, Chris gained radio contact, battery access and an accurate SR in S5 (ruh-roh!). I moved my other M10 to 20FF10, hoping to lure one of his marauding Panthers into the sights of my 57L. My infantry moved a little, but not much. An attempt to assault move a concealed 6-6-7 with the FT and DC adjacent to one of his Panthers met with abject failure after CRing in a MC. The squad in T3 assault moved into S4, and given the German SR in S5, advanced into the cellar in S4.

In German 2, Chris dropped the hammer with his OBA (150mm)on S5. The unfortunate, open-topped M10 was reduced to a pile of burning slag. Five of the six surrounding hexes escaped harm. However, Chris got a CH on building hex S4! The subsequent doubling on the IFT placed the results well into the heavy payload zone, resulting in a 36 down 7 attack on the building. (Chris, we made a slight error in resolving everything on the 30FP column. It made no difference in the final results, though.) The result was an auto-rubble creation that rubbled L1 and above. The building did not collapse nor was falling rubble created. The poor squad huddling in the cellar did not know what hit them after receiving the 36 down 9 attack.

Chris then took the bait I had laid, moving a Panther to 20DD10 (CA 20EE10 - 21EE1). The M10 shot and missed. A reinforcing HT with a leader and squad drove up to 21GG1. I bided my time until he moved his second Panther into 21Y1, bogging down in the wire. In my DF, I revealed my 57L in 20Z10. They found an APDS round and scored a CH on the adjacent Panther, turning it into a burning wreck. They then swung the gun around and took a ROF shot at the second Panther, missed, but hit with an IF shot in the rear, killing it too. Chris's infantry was having a similarly difficult time, gradually getting frittered away due more to ELR reduction than actual casualties.

In my turn 2, the M10 in FF10 shot and killed the HT in 21GG1, killing all of the passengers. With Chris's attack weakening, I made adjustments to my infantry positions to both protect them and prevent easy advances. With another German FFE centered on 20T2 looming, I moved the 9-2 kill stack down to street level in T3 and kept them their to weather the explosive storm. My radio stayed in contact with a new access, with the SR ending up in Y9

German 3 saw more attempts to pierce the infantry cordon. These were largely rebuffed. His remaining PzIVs started up to try to assist the assault. The leader with radio declined to keep radio contact, letting the FFE in 20T2 die a natural death. His HT moved to a different location to prepare for the next OBA request.

American 3 saw the reinforcing M4s arrive, with one of them stopping two hexes away from Chris's HT with Leader and radio, and the other moving in the direction of the PzIVs to lend support. The infantry stayed put in their defensive positions.

By this time, we were out of time, as both of us needed to take off. With most of his AFVs either destroyed, or in "clear and present danger", and his infantry reduced to largely a conscript rabble, Chris resigned.

In spite of the fact that this scenario is decidedly pro-American, I would not mind trying it again with the Germans, with the balance. Although brittle due to their low ELR, they have some very potent toys at their disposal. Chris started fine with his smoke-generators doing their job. However, I think that the PzIII(FL)s needed to be held back until the American BAZ squads were levered out of their initial defensive positions. Their destruction in G1 was a huge relief. I liked the mobile radio that Chris used. That is something that I might try in this or a different scenario.

Chris, I hope to have the pleasure of gaming against you again soon. It was a decided pleasure, win or lose.


Friday, May 22, 2009

AAR: DB066 WN63

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Bryan Register

Wednesday was a good day for me. I got in a super-rare Bryan Register sighting and played some fun ASL with him too. The scenario was from the Dispatches from the Bunker boys, DB066 WN63, and features a company of GIs just off Omaha Beach storming a German strongpoint nestled down in a small French village. Given the years of time and conscripted labor available it's not much of an fortress, with only a few mines, trenches, and wire to work with, but there might be just enough there to keep the Americans out. Bryan wanted the challenge and swiftly put together a solid-looking set-up with no obvious weak spots. It was now up to my 90-day wonders to storm the village and render Europe once again safe for democracy.

The battle takes place on the SK board Y, which I feel offers quite a challenge for any attacker, as there aren't many high-speed approaches to the village that also offer any cover. Since I was also working with 6ML, ELR 3 Americans, the first phase of the game consisted of me throwing lots of smoke grenades, pushing forward a bit, having a lot of my troops break, and then trying to punish Bryan's landsers with Assault Fire. This didn't go as well as I would have liked, with two 4-6-7s shrugging off a 30+4 attack and then returning fire at a 6-6-7/MMG and getting a KIA. Still, I had the advantage of numbers, firepower, and lots of good smoke grenade rolls, and ended up slowly pushing back the first line of defense.

That gave me access to the tree-line next to the village, but Bryan was ready for that too, with a 50mm MTR and a 50L ATG both in great spots. A CH from the MTR and a great boresighted hex for the gun cost me some more time and troops in the middle, and I was forced to try and work around the flanks instead. I made some progress there, but then disaster struck: I rolled snakes for the WC and created a Mild Breeze. Not so bad, but in Bryan's RPh he also rolled snakes and shifted the wind so it was blowing directly into the face of my GIs. Since you can't throw smoke grenades upwind, that neutralized about 95% of my smoke capability and left me baffled on how to cross the bit of open ground between my men and the village.

At this point, I decided to reinforce my success on the flanks since nothing else was working. I'd captured a few German squads and killed a few more in CC, but Bryan's stubborn defense (especially that nasty MTR!) had caused me more losses than I'd inflicted and the clock was ticking. You can imagine my joy and excitement when both of my lead flanking squads ran into minefields and broke. Hmmm...apparently that Atlantic Wall actually was a bit more than a propaganda exercise. To make things even more interesting and annoying, Bryan had suckered me on the right flank by leaving a real squad in the minefield. When my 6-6-6 advanced in for CC, he ended up as a broken unit in Melee and now I was faced with losing yet another unit with nothing to show for it.

I caught a break in the CC phase when Bryan's 4-4-7 only managed to CR my squad. That saved some adjacent Americans from eating 8+0 shots and allowed Mother Green and her killing machine to get to work. A 30+3 was fired into the Melee and my broken HS rolled snakes to rally and become a 3-4-7. What a big break! At least until Bryan also rolled snakes and created a hero. What was it with these linked snake-eyes that kept hosing me? Bryan, ever the sportsman, stopped his celebration just long enough to remind me that I got a sniper out of his snakes. Well, in one of those 'only in ASL' twists of fate, the sniper drilled a bullet right between the eyes of Bryan's best leader. The 9-1 died instantly, and the 4-6-7/HMG he was stacked with broke on the LLMC. That left one of the two VC areas devoid of good order Germans, took Bryan's best weapon out of the game, and instantly swung things completely around in my favor.

There was still the 50L covering that right flank and keeping me out of the village VC area, but when my first 6-6-6 made a run for it and survived a 1MC, Bryan was suddenly in real trouble. He managed to get another leader back to try and rally the HMG squad, but I was able to keep the brokie constantly under DM and move even more GIs into the area. With the defense now unhinged, Bryan needed a good roll or two to get back in it and it just didn't happen. We packed it in on turn six with a solid American win, but also with the realization that if the sniper didn't get the 9-1 like he did and the 6-6-6 didn't pass the 1MC, the Americans probably lose. That seemed reasonable enough, given how badly Bryan had punished me in the first few turns and how helpless those 6-6-6s are without smoke.

Overall, I liked the scenario quite a bit for what it was: a small, all-infantry fight with a gun and a few fortifications thrown in for spice. As we found out, it's small enough that a few bad rolls can make it very hard for a given side, but that's the nature of the beast. I'd certainly play it again in a tournament setting and not worry too much about it. Other things I liked about it: it's a great training venue for learning how to use Americans. The terrain really lets you use smoke grenades and assault fire to good effect, and the 6ML and 3 ELR will punish mistakes. It also did a nice job of simulating a bunch of Americans just off the boat and fresh to fighting. There were enough fortifications there to play a role in the fighting, and Bryan did a great job with those, but not so many that you'd feel like it was an assault on the Maginot line.

The only other comment I'll make is regarding the VC, which read that the Germans must keep a good order MMC within two hexes of Y-J4 and Y-N6. It seems quite clear that the Germans have to have two good order MMC out there at game end, but I've read at least one other AAR saying "the Germans can win it at game end with a single HS!" My gut feeling is that forcing the Americans to clear both VC areas makes it pretty tough on them, so play it right and don't misinterpret the quite clear VC!

Thanks for reading, thanks to Bryan for a very fun game (I'm glad the statutes of limitations finally expired and you're allowed back within the Texas state borders), and thanks to the Bunker guys for all their work,


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Initial Review: Part 2 - BFP2 Operation Cobra

Nick Drinkwater

Instant Out of the Wrapper Review: Part 2 - BFP2 Operation Cobra

Making up the second half of the last week's ASL party pack was Bounding Fire Productions 2: Operation Cobra, another excellent contribution by Chas and the BFP team. Unlike BtB2, with the two loose leaf covers, this is full-on magazine style format, with unsurprisingly, a full on focus on aspects of Operation Cobra, the main US breakout operation in western Normandy in late July 1944. The pack has four principal components: the magazine itself with four main subsections, a collection of 12 scenarios on separate cards, a single overlay designed to specifically reinvigorate Board 6, and 88 new 5/8th" counters.

First up for me was the magazine, and this is black with a touched-up cartoon-cum-photo look of a Stuart passing a burning German half-track, about to drive straight into the path of a faust-wielding panzergrenadier - poor old tank crew! The magazine is 56 pages long and starts with a quick editorial from Chas Smith on the genesis of this pack and how some other scenario designers (including George Kelln and Steve Swann) have also contributed. Interestingly, whilst the inside cover is and advert for Into the Rubble, the inside back cover gives tantalising details of BFP 3 "Blood & Jungle" - a PTO-focused mega-scenario pack including 40 scenarios, a new board, a custom map and counters and rules for rare and new vehicles. Looks AWESOME!

Bocage Article
The main highlight for me in the entire pack is the outstanding full colour, lavishly illustrated 23 page long article on bocage. This starts with the basis of all bocage rules: gaining, losing, using and abusing wall advantage and then walks you through the whole bocage-thang hand in hand. Due to space restrictions in some other magazines, the reader is often asked to imagine or assume that "unit X isn't there", or that the "terrain feature in hex Y2 doesn't exist", or that the "three units that were in the road in Figure 3 have now moved to hexes X, Y and Z". In a refreshing change, in this article, each new example or new movement phase typically has its own small colour illustration dedicated to it, and even better, it is almost invariably on the same page and adjacent to the piece of text being referred to. This sounds like a small thing but I really liked the lavish illustrations as it meant I could focus on what the text is trying to say rather than doing that AND trying to do the mental tricks of remembering which unit has changed status, or which has moved, or which building isn't in play, all the while flipping the pages to find the correct picture. As I said, it might only look like a small thing, but it makes the learning and reading process so much smoother and that is to be commended strongly.

In the article itself, all aspects of bocage are covered, including the one or two issues still open to debate about how to treat hidden guns in bocage with boresighting or aspects of the recent Perry Sez on bocage and SCW. Sensible recommendations are given on both of these issues. The article shows in numerous examples, small tactical illustrations of the advantages and rare disadvantages of defending and attacking in bocage country, and finishes with two great fully worked tactical examples where many of these lessons are applied. Also, included are rules for BFP's light bocage terrain, together with fully illustrated examples of how Light Bocage LOS effects impact elevation and other aspects. A good read of this article allied to a quick review of the recent new examples and rules clarifications that came with Action Pack 4 and you are well placed to play all of the 30 or more bocage-related scenarios that have been produced in the last 12 months! Normandy fans have never had it so good...an excellent overall contribution to the hobby with the near definitive article on the subject.

New Weapon - the Pueppchen
Next up in the magazine is a short overview of the history and ASL genesis of the Pueppchen, a wheeled Panzerschreck-like Gun (its a 5/8" counter, not a 1/2") one. The design philosophy of this is explained in detail and in response to this, a very powerful beast indeed has been created. The Pueppchen acts like a PF except that every three hexes of range for the Pueppchen acts as one-hex of Panzerfaust range so that a moving Sherman in the open 6 hexes away would be hit on a 6: well, that's OK you may say, but its the scary ROF 3 that concerns me more as a beleaguered US armour leader.

The fact that in real life it could fire 10 rounds a minute (and so warrant the 3 ROF) doesn't necessarily mean that it did. That's a huge thing and I wonder if its been a little overcooked here. Note that the Pueppchen was operated all over the European fighting theatres, so whereas I may only expect to lose a single tank in bocage country to this ROF of 3 and then be able to bypass it or get infantry to cope with it, elsewhere in places like Italy or Russia, I may well scrag a couple more.

There is no backblast with this weapon and it has a manhandle of 12. Again, (indeed as one of the examples makes clear), moving this beast up hills in bocage is really hard work - moving it around in grain-fields however, probably much less so. I know its listed as super-maneuverable, but I was wondering if trying to lug the ammo around for this thing may be tougher than an M12 would imply too - maybe the ROF could have been dropped by one if you'd manhandled the gun out of its original defensive position. The TK number of the Pueppchen is a healthy 26 and it breaks down normally but it has no gunshield - even so, with a ROF of 3, I may start treating it like a 12IFT FP plasma machine gun on people in stone buildings! As noted by the rules, I may indeed not get the acquisition, but then with the ROF and an B of 12, I may not care. As the authors themselves list, "this is a PsK on steroids". Indeed.

There are examples of its use included in the scenarios of the pack - I'd really be interested to see how this works for people! I haven't played with this yet so all these comments should be viewed in that light, but the basic details above are essentially correct and I was just musing on how they would apply in game terms - in practise, maybe the beast is not as deadly as it sounds. However, as Zeb Doyle remarked to me, if they were really this good, why didn't the Germans have them everywhere?!!! Just wondering...

Scenario Notes Article
The third big piece of the Magazine are design notes for all of the new scenarios plus all of the scenarios included in BtB2 (this magazine really should be considered as an extension piece for the BtB2 pack as many of the new scenarios use boards and overlays from the BtB2 pack). These are really quite interesting and briefly try to put each scenario back into its historical context as well as the reasoning behind the use of a particular weapons system in that scenario, but they are mainly short advice notes on how the scenario may play out. These feel like very truncated mini-versions of the Schwerpunkt notes for those who are familiar. I like this stuff so this was all great for me, but again other's mileage may vary.

Historical Article: Operation Cobra
The final big article of the magazine addresses Operation Cobra at a strategic and divisional level in 15 pages. Regiment and combat unit listings are provided for all the US forces involved. There is a brief summary of the battle readiness of the various German divisional level units provided, with several interesting historical nuggets thrown in, removing one or two misconceptions that are held about the battle in other literature. As well as these detailed unit listings, there are short historical notes on the US use of tactical airpower, use of NW Europe camo uniforms, the carpet bombing which started the op and a full genesis of the Culin hedge-cutter and equivalent equipment that assisted in the breakout.

The article ends with a very high-level historical review of the operation at the corps and divisional level ending at the point where 3rd Army was activated. These kinds of articles tend to split the ASL-playing crowd and I see this will be no different: for those who love this stuff, this may keep them amused for a while trying to pick holes in it for points where they disagree. For those who know little of the battle, this is a good place to start to get involved, especially with the selected bibliography that Chas has thoughtfully provided. For many however, including myself, this is all a little bit "so-what"? If I want to read a good general review of Cobra and some of the subsequent exploitation, I'll probably go read the relevant copy from Osprey and be happy in life, even if they are incorrect on one or two details about e.g. the 9th Infantry Division's tank support. Overall, these articles are not really my personal cup of tea, but again your mileage may vary...

The pack also comes with only a single overlay, but what a hugely valuable contribution it is - this one is a good little wood-building-hedge hamlet to cover up the monster stone chateau on Board 6. It is designed solely to work on Board 6 as the road net only matches that board, but this will make a huge change to this old familiar, with or without bocage being in play. A couple of the new BFP2 scenarios already use this overlay in bocage format - great idea and great job on this one!

88 counters are provided in this - excellent quality, very slightly glossy with a very good match in terms of color to your existing ASL sets - they are differentiated by having BFP printed in small yellow type but otherwise look and match your existing counters well. These counters show various iterations of US tanks with Culin or other hedge-cutter devices attached, the Pueppchens, some more versions of US armour with bow mounted Flame-Throwers included, and various Firepower combinations of P36 Thunderbolt or equivalent rocket-mounted fighter-bombers included. These are just variants from the base air support rules and just extend the burgeoning collection of variant allied air support systems I have in my counter collection, which includes Typhoons from King of the Hill and Sturmoviks from Onslaught to Orsha. Just looking forward to seeing the Me 262 in its ground support role one day too! A single page of rules is included to cover the details of this, and some simple application to the hedge-cutting rules are added too.

BFP14: Opening Phase
6.5 Turns on 3/4 of BFP D and 17. An all-infantry fight with largely German 5-4-8 para conducting a small retreat to from the BFP D bocage-lined roads back to the Board 17 hamlet. A CVP cap on the fourteen 6-6-6s allied to some OBA for both sides will keep the US honest.

BFP15: Cobra's Venom
Big scenario, big scenario! 7.5 turns of mayhem on three boards (BFP D, E and 42) as the US drive south immediately after a carpet bomb attack on the Lehr. There is big replay value on this one as random dr dictate the status of guns and tanks (and yes they can be destroyed) and random DR dictate the quality of the 14 possible German infantry units (and yes they too can be destoyed too). The Lehr could receive a Pueppchen, four Panthers and four quality AT Guns, but the American force is strong men armed indeed, with ten AFV (including Culin tanks and FT M4), assault engineers and 21 squads overall, plus some OBA. However, the German VC of building control looks like the US have a lot of work to do here, even if they are very unsettled at start. Wow!

BFP16: Snake Charmed
Over 7.5 turns, a very strong US battle group (8 tanks with a dozer and Culins) and 21 1st and 2nd line squads) have to blast 37 VP off the south edge of the road-bocage board BFP D. The immovable object they need to overcome is a tough SS battlegroup of 11 full SS squads, two tough AT Guns, another Pueppchen (and black SS versions are provided as counters for those who care) and two MkIVs as reinforcements. This is a great looking 5-6 hours of bocage fun.

BFP17: Seize that Crossroad
7.5 turns for another typical US battlegroup to wrest a crossroads on Board 18 from an infantry force of the Lehr. The 10 5-4-8s and 4-6-8s and 4-6-7s are stiffened with a couple of dug-in Panthers but they need to hold off 15 Elite, 1st and 2nd line squads with Culins, and M10s driving across the light bocage of BFP D. This looks to be another very solid 5-6 hour long scenario. The US task is stiffened by the presence of a CVP cap.

BFP18: Necklace of Pearls
The US has a tough job here with enforcement of keep the N-S road free of German units and stay under a generous looking CVP cap. They have 7.5 turns to achieve this over boards BFP E and 24, and rarest of rare, the Board 24 valley is still in play! The Germans are 14 mixed elites, 1st and 2nd lines with mines, wire, roadblock and three Panthers. After setup the Germans are subject to the results of shellholes and rubble creation and also a morale breaking TC. The US entering from the north and in Turn 4 the west, consists of 21 mixed quality squads and 12 Shermans including 4 Culins. A very solid combined arms attack, another mid-sized 5-6 hour long scenario.

BFP19: Russian Style
7 turns on BFP D and C. The US must take all multi-hex buildings on BFP C and send 30 VP of US units off the south edge after entering 12 tanks with 12 squads (elite and 1st liners) as riders - the 'Russian style' of the title. These two boards have a lot of choking bocage terrain to hack through, much of which is oriented perpendicular to the US axis of advance, but the US can secretly designate eight Culins, 4 Gyros and a bow FT to attain some leverage. Two turns of rocket armed FBs will assist this as seven 2nd line, four MkIVs and a Stug try to stop them. Yet another mid-sized scenario but this one has a couple more funky toys in it too.

BFP20: Bypassed Lehr
6 turns, all-infantry tournament special set on BFP E and 6 with the special new overlay applied. The Germans are numerous but brittle (5 x 5-4-8 and 10 x 4-4-7) and well stuffed with MG, but they are facing twenty elites and 1st lines with a 9-2 and MMG in light bocage - they need to hold onto four or more Board 6 buildings at game end. Simple, quick and fun.

BFP21: Ripe for the Picking
Another big scenario set on three boards (BFP E and C and 17) over 9 turns. A mixed Wehrmacht and Das Reich Turn 4 reinforcement battlegroup must stop the 3rd Armored Division from accumulating 100VP from either CVP or exit VP. The initial Werhmacht force of 5.5 1st line squads, roadblocks and a couple of 50L AT guns is merely a speedbump to a mighty US task force: 13 half-track mounted elites will burn a hole in this light bocage protected bandaid, especially when the two bomb AND rocket FB and the 6 Shermans and 3 honeys get working. The bad guy cavalry consists of six 6-5-8s in half-tracks added to four MkIVs. No Panthers or Tigers here - just average late-war tanks duelling in the hedges. The softp-skin nature to bith forces will make this a really interesting combined arms challenge. Great-looking scenario!

BFP22: Speed Over Caution
5.5 Turns, Light Bocage is in effect on board 6 with the sweet little chateau covering overlay in place. Six US Shermans of differing flavours (including Gyros and two with Culins) and 11 6-6-6s, have to fight their way down board 6 lengthwise and take all the buildings within 5 hexes of a central crossroads or exit 20VP from a rear road exit after before game end. Timing means that its only realistic to get the armour off (unless you load up with riders and leaders) as the Germans have an HMG, seven second line squads, a couple of (probably hidden) Panzershreks to stop you. Oh, yes. And two Panthers. Rally points and recycling with your smoke are the order of the day here.

BFP23: Prelim to Death Night
A rarity in these packs - a genuine German attack! Tourney quickie as 13 SS mixed units try to desperately grab a vital crossroads in light bocage on BFP C and 46 from a company of elite US (and H2H combat is in effect). The US are well equipped with MGs but the Germans get a rarely seen PzA III/IV assault gun. Though small, I really like the look of this one - it smacks of the desperation of the SS as they try to force a way out of the tightening trap.

BFP24: Death Ride of Das Reich
This is different to everything else in the pack and another with much replay value. The action is set on three separate boards and three SS Battlegroups must each force their way across their respective boards - to win the SS can get 44VP off any one board or 110 VP collectively from the three boards together. The US has to divide its infantry forces into four parts with one group acting as a reinforcement to any one board of the US' choice on Turn 4. Lots of choice then for both players over these three separate 7.5 turn scenarios. Careful decisions will need to be made but both sides force pools are tasty: the US gets 10 squads, a 57L AT Gun and 5 M4s to play with, whilst the SS receive 12 mixed quality SS squads and a huge (30) number of odd vehicles ranging from Armoured Cars, Flak HTs, Marders and Mark IVs. A great number of iterations available in this one and this looks a real chess like struggle in many ways. A cerebral scenario - excellent job.

BFP25: From Villebaudon to Valhalla
And finally, another German attack in another big scenario, this time nine turns long and set on BFP C and E. The German wins by accumulating VP for hex control and for multiples of 10CVP inflicted on the US. The US are tough in this - 11 1st lines, lots of MGs, and 100mm OBA stiffened by two rocket and bomb FB, and six M4 versions, a Stuart, a Meat Chopper (!!) and three M10s and two Priests. Awesome. The Greyhound Division has its own punch too though - 5 x 5-4-8s and 15 x 4-6-7s with 100mm OBA and 6 Panthers and Flak Trucks, reinforced by five more 5-4-8s and four more Panthers and another Flakpanzer. Another monster combined arms scenarios.

So there you have it - 12 excellent scenarios but like the BtB pack, no real oddities in the rules. Again, most of the scenarios are on moderate, no wind days and there is no night or odd stuff in here. The majority of the scenarios are US attacks but the last three all give some German attack variety. These scenarios are mainly on the medium to large size but all should be completed in a long day's play at most. Players will definitely need to exploit all their combined arms skills in these scenarios to the fullest, but the random factor to BFP-24 and BFP-15 definitely take these scenarios to new heights in terms of replayability. Quality is just what you'd expect from BFP now, being glossy card with lots of colour printing on the cards and a clear and simple layout which is easy to understand. Awesome job on these guys - brilliant stuff.

So overall, another excellent production from BFP - where will it end? Hopefully it won't. The magazine is generally really good and the article on bocage elevates it above many other of this type of publication. My small questions about the representation of the Pueppchen aside, there is plenty here for everyone, and even if the historical articles aren't your thing, the rest of the production is stuffed to the gills with great stuff. And rejuvenating Board 6 is brilliant! A-- overall - another great piece of work guys! Many thanks for reading to the end of this...


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Initial Review: Part 1 - Beyond the Beachhead 2

Nick Drinkwater

Instant Out of the Wrapper Review: Part 1 - Beyond the Beachhead 2; Part 2 - BPF2 Operation Cobra

Its here at last - the next instalment from Bounding Fire Productions after the outstanding Into the Rubble pack is now winging its way across the country to the waiting masses and another excellent product it is too. BtB 2 and BFP 2 can be bought from Bounding Fire in a combined package of $75 or individually at $50 and $44 each respectively. Note this is a first impressions review and I have not tried any of the scenarios or nit-picked them for obvious errors - at first glance, can't seem to find any.

First up is Beyond the Beachhead 2 which is composed of all of the original BtB components plus extra boards and extra scenarios. Chas Smith apparently retained the rights to use the components of that pack when he went from HOB (back) to BFP. The main difference this time is that the original BtB boards (which were mounted hardboard works of art) have been re-issued as ASLSK-style cardboard boards to make them compliant with all the new board issued from MMP. Something has been lost in the translation as the old versions were some of the best quality components in the entire hobby, but this is the price of progress I guess, and at least lugging the whole kit to tournaments has got that much easier.

The super shiny, super glossy 2/3 board overlays have also been replaced with a matt version now. The pack itself has two loose leaf fly covers with a coloured cartoon-style picture of Stug rumbling between two high hedges somewhere in France on the front - the back cover is a summary of the components included, some summary notes from some of the scenarios and a list of the extra items needed to play the pack. The whole pack is stiffened by a cardboard sheet to help it survive the rigours of the US postal service - sadly mine didn't and the corners of the pack took a crunch, but no lasting damage done.

Components (those marked with a * were in the original HOB version of BtB1).

Note that all these boards have bocage marked on them as hedges with a brown perimeter rim and this is a different feature from a regular hedge (which is also marked on some of these boards). Also, these boards and overlays often include many examples of slopes so even the apparently flattest looking terrain has some subtle LOS changes going on - cool!

BFP C*: one third grainfield bocage, one third scattered stone village including a small church and a two hex graveyard and a two hex, level one hill; final third of the board is more bocage.

BFP D*: The road-bocage one. One bocage-lined road running the long-axis of the board, orchard-lined. Small level one hill and small sunken road.

BFP E: One half is bocage-lined grain fields and medium sized level-one hills with sunken lanes, the other half consists of a small stone building hamlet and hill / grain gulley. A 'split' board - think Normandy version of Board 10.

BFP F: A transition board for bocage. Mainly open ground with two bocage-lined grainfields at each end, each with an associated level one hill. (Like Board 49, but designed to transition to denser bocage). Get out the smoke / SMOKE!

BFP V-1*: A great addition to either the BFP boards - an orchard-rich, linear style French stone building village with bocage-lined fields and woods - narrow roads are in effect. This board is designed to be placed on the BFP boards and would cover approximately two thirds of them - the Q hexrow road is the linking feature between the overlay and the board beneath.

BFP V-2: A small 14 hex stone village overlay with single hex buildings. One oddity are depictions of small buildings that straddle hexlines to prevent snap shots and bypass - rules for this are included (see below).

BFP V-3: Another 2/3 board overlay linked by the Q hexrow road. This is the antithesis of BFB V-1 being a dispersed stone building village sited around a small one-hex chapel. A couple of large bocage fields are added to the overlay edges, but this is all in pretty open terrain.

BFP H-1*: A 2/3 board overlay dominated by a level 2 hill covered by an intricate network of choking bocage and orchards and a snaky orchard and bocage-lined road. Slow progress going over this particular hill.

BFP H-2: A 22 hex two-level hill overlay with a couple of small bocage hedges included. Fairly simple in its design.

Rules addition: One page of the BtB 1 rules is reproduced here including rules for light bocage and hexside buildings. On the reverse of this page are the known errata and Q&A for the ITR packs and the old Hell on Wheels pack.

Scenarios 1-8 are from the BFP 1 (HOB) version. These are described elsewhere on the web, so I'll breeze over them.

Btb 1: Taking Tailleville
Btb 2: Merely Hanging On
Btb 3: Kraut Corner
Btb 4: Firestorm in St.Manvieu
Btb 5: Martinville Ridge
Btb 6: Men Against Tanks
Btb 7: Blood on Hill 192
Btb 8: Steel Inferno

New Scenarios:
Btb 9: Norman "D".
6.5 turns. 5.5 SS squads on BFP Board E (bocage, grain and hills) defending against 11 Elite and 1st line US squads. A very simple, all infantry building control scenario, probably good for tourneys.

BtB 10: Unplanned Attack.
5.5 turns. Played on overlay BFP V3 only (the dispersed village in open terrain one). 6 squad equivalents of all HIP German paras have to deny 13 1st and 2nd line US squads from controlling the majority of the village buildings. Another all-infantry tournament sized special.

Btb 11: Bosq Barbecue.
6.5 turns. A bit meatier this one. Two good and four bad (447) SS squads with copious AA Gun support and 4 self-propelled guns have to deny 15 British first line units from taken a chunk of the BFP-D village. They have a tough approach over the wide-open spaces of BFP F, but they are given a ton of British smoke generators to do it - 5 basic flavours of Churchills and two Crocodiles!! This one looks super-cool.

BtB 12: Going against the Grain.
6.5 turns of BIG scenario. The Brits are on the defense and they have to prevent the Germans from exiting units and taking stone buildings in the BFP F village - the SS can also try and sneak units off by using the lomg snakey bocage-lined lane of BFB D that just screams 'ambush'! The SS receive 15 of their main guys plus a couple of engineer squads and receive a couple of Flak panzers, a couple of Bisons and 5 (yep, that was five) Panthers. The Brits have to split their 15 1st line squads, but they also receive two 17 pounders, two 6 pounders a Mortar and three bog-standard Churchills. This one looks challenging but a lot of fun.

BtB 13: By Chance.
6.5 turns. A very weak German force of 6 conscript and second line squads lock horns with an American recce force on trucks with half-tracks. An immediate CVP cap will keep the US honest as they try to control buildings on Board 17 attacking across the BFB F board. The biggest thing in this is the US 100mm OBA.

BtB 14: Swatting a Hornet.
6 turns set on one-half of BFP E with some stone rubble thrown in for good measure. This is BFP's version of the SP scenario "The Hornet of Cloville" where nine 1st and 2nd line US squads with three shermans have to remove all good order German MMC and AFV's from a critical hex. As well as the eponymous Hornet, the Germans get a MkIV and 6.5 para and second line squads.

BtB 15: Becker's Battery.
6 turns for an all armour British force to accumulate 66 VP from either exiting vehicles off the south edge of Board 33 and half of BFB D, attacking across Boards 44 and BFP F. The Germans can also exit units after Turn 4 and in this case, the twist is that the Germans recieve 10 of the funky 75L and 105 SP guns that came with Pegasus Bridge I think). This is a mighty force of British steel including 15 Sherman V, three Fireflies, and a couple of Crusader AA tanks. The Germans get the option to utilise HIP if behind Bocage hedges, but a lot of this fight will take place on open terrain and grain fields. Looks a bit different this.

BtB 16: Battlegroup Nor-Mons.
6.5 turns and another chunky scenario. Brits vs SS in this set on BFP E, F and D. The SS need to control a central level two hill and have more VP than the Brits for building rubble control - Brits receive VP for any units on any hills at Game end. To carry this task out, nineteen 1st and 2nd line squads with 80mm AND 120mm OBA, 5 Shermans and a Firefly need to hold off 21 mixed quality SS squads with Mortar OBA plus two Tigers, 5 Mk IVs and a couple of Stugs. The balance is interesting in the form of FB, but maybe is a mistake as only the US are listed with their details (unless I have misunderstood something here).

A great set of scenarios, and apart from the issue of conquering the problems posed by Bocage defense and attack, are all very straightforward. Almost all are moderate with no wind (a couple have mild breezes for spreading smoke) but there is no night, rain etc and no scenario is larger than 6.5 turns, though some are quite sizeable in terms of numbers of units. Once people are happy with the Bocage (both normal and light) and slopes and narrow streets, then there should be something for everyone in here. The scenario cards are of excellent quality being printed on a nice quality paper with the counters and boards represented in colour - great effort.

A really good effort overall - those who own BtB 1 may have an issue with the price of $50 for something they have about 40% of already, but if you're new to it, that's fairly good value for 4 boards, 5 overlays and 16 scenarios. It would have been brilliant if BFP had issued an upgrade pack for those who already had BtB1, but I understand the problems of small company economics and the re-issue of the boards in the new format is definitely a useful thing so I am really happy with these. A- for those new to the BtB packs and a B++ for those who already have them.

Operation Cobra review to follow.