Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick first impressions of two new CH products

Zeb Doyle

The Christmas elves at CH have been busy this holiday season and have brought us Kursk-Devil's Domain and Peleliu: White Beach One just in time for Christmas! My copies showed up yesterday, and I've spent all of 40 minutes looking at the new products, so this is in no way a review. Instead, I'd like to share my first few preliminary impressions.

First off, let me say that I understand ASL is a niche hobby. Anyone producing stuff for it is participating in a labor of love and not a business that's going to bring them wealth and fame. So, I try to give all those people the benefit of the doubt. If a few words are misspelled, if the grammar isn't perfect, if a tank is identified as a Panzer IVH instead of the correct PzIVJ because you couldn't justify the cost of a $300 reference book, that's completely understandable to me. Every time I comment on an ASL product, that's in the back of my mind and I hate to be overly critical.

That said, ASL is a game of details, and when those details get neglected, it can lead to a lot of questions and clarifications. Unfortunately, I think both these new CH products fall into this category: they look like real labors of love, with attractive maps and interesting situations. However, even a quick examination of both Devil's Domain and White Beach One seem to show a lack of development and polish such that I can only recommend them to people with a deep interest in that specific historical action. Again, I hate to be critical, but a) it's somewhat frustrating to see so much time and effort short-circuited and b) it's really frustrating that, based on CH's track record of doing this, I volunteered to help proof-read for both these, but never heard back from anyone.

Let me move from abstract rant to two specific examples. Peleliu, for instance, is an attractive product with eight scenarios that all look interesting, a large HASL-style map, and a 12 page booklet with new terrain, rules, and historical commentary. Great stuff, until you actually start reading the commentary. Due to the multiple repeated sentences and slight incoherence, I assume it's a cut and paste job that was never edited. For example, in the section 'The Imperial Japanese Navy,' you read "While the IJA fought for the beaches the IJN units having built the airfield and assigned to the island much longer than the IJA controlled the airfield area." Later in the same paragraph, we learn that "While the IJA fought for the beaches the IJN units having built the airfield and assigned to the island much longer that the IJA controlled the airfield area."Other sentences don't repeat but still require repeated reading to puzzle them out: "Although they did have improvised explosive devices, which are more reflective of a set demolition device, as they were command, detonated."

Now, it's true that this is just the historical commentary. In a sense, it's just a bonus, and certainly any problems here won't affect game play of the scenarios. Unfortunately, some of the new rules and scenarios have similar puzzling issues that would appear to require emails to the designers to sort out. Again going with Peleliu, rule 5.3.1 states that Marine 7-6-8 squads may deploy in their RPh by passing an NTC even if no leader is present. 3-4-8 half-squads can freely recombine, and the Deployment limits of A2.9 are increased from 10% to 25% for this squad type. There's even a historical footnote to justify the SSR, explaining that these Marine squads were highly motivated and trained to split into fire teams. Great stuff!

However, let's take a quick look at G17, the standard ASL rules for the Marines. The stuff covering Marine squads is exactly a half page long, so it's not as though there's a ton to look over. A17.11 already allows 7-6-8s to Deploy in its RPh by passing an NTC or during set-up with no limits at all. So, 100% of the Marine 7-6-8s could Deploy pre-game if they wanted, not just 25%. A17.15 mentions that these 7-6-8s are the standard Marine squad for all actions 4/44 and later, and since Peleliu takes place in 9/44, it would certainly seem as if the CH 7-6-8s and the standard ASL 7-6-8s are the same squad. The CH SSR seems to be trying to give the Marines a bit of historical flavor but is blissfully ignorant that this is already covered in the core rulebook.

The problem here is that the mere presence of an SSR like rule 5.3.1 with the deploying Marines, greatly strengthens the case of those critics who argue that CH designs mainly for their ATS line and then converts the scenarios into ASL without a great deal of playtesting and via someone who may or may not be conversant with ASL. I'm agnostic on that debate myself, but rule 5.3.1 does really make me wonder if the skeptics are right. If CH does have a good explanation for this apparent lack of knowledge about a fairly basic Marine nationality trait, I'd love to hear it.

At any rate, I mentioned above that I didn't want to get overly critical, so I'll attach a list of questions/clarifications I have so far below, and end here. Again, I'm sad to say that there are enough little flaws here that I can't recommend these products to most people, but if you like playing on attractive historical maps or have a strong interesting in either Kursk or Pelileu, these look worth checking out.

Thanks for reading,

Kursk Questions:

Rule 3.2 reads that "trenches are equivalent to woods for both rout and rally purposes (e.g., units in a trench receive a -1 DRM to Rally attempts)" The -1 DRM is already a standard rule (A10.61). Is it your intent that trenches be treated as woods per A10.51 Direction, and that units can therefore use them as rout targets?

Per rule 9.1 Civilian Interrogation is NA. Does that mean that standard Interrogation does apply?

Rule 9.12 discusses A-T Ditches. By SSR they may set up HIP and any AFV entering a hidden A-T Ditch is automatically eliminated. However, per A12.33, all fortifications always set up HIP. Is that part of the SSR redundant? Also, per A12.33 any fortification is revealed once an enemy unit is within 16 hexes and has LOS. Given that none of the scenarios appear to take place at night, I don't see how an AFV could ever move into a location with an HIP A-T Ditch. What am I missing?

Rule 9.13.1 says that Fougasse FTs have an X10 number. The example in 9.16 says that Fougasse FTs malfunction on a roll of 11 or higher. Which is correct?

Peleliu Questions:

Rule 3.12 says that all ponds are treated as Deep. Generally in ASL, only Rivers have a Depth. Is there any affect on game-play to having Deep ponds?

Rule 3.24, same question as Kursk rule 3.2: it reads that "trenches are equivalent to woods for both rout and rally purposes (e.g., units in a trench receive a -1 DRM to Rally attempts)" This is already a standard rule (A10.61). Is it your intent that trenches be treated as woods per A10.51 Direction, and that units can therefore use them as rout targets?

Rule 5.8.1: should read drm and not DRM

Rule 6.7: same question as Kursk rule 9.1: Civilian Interrogation is NA. Does that mean that standard Interrogation does apply?

Section 8 of the rulebook says that "The Japanese force on Peleliu did not have access to standard mines; therefore minefields are not available in Peleliu scenarios." In scenario 1 Spitfire Three, the Japanese OB is listed as having 24 AP mine factors and 12 AT mine factors. Is this correct?

Scenario 6 Valley of the Dead. SSR 7 read "The Japanese player may secretly choose to receive an Offboard High Caliber Mortar. If the Japanese player chooses this option the Marine player may make a secret pre-game purchase" of various fortifications. If the Japanese choice is secret, how does the Marine player know whether to purchase fortifications? If the Marine player gets to buy the forts, are the Set DCs they can buy in addition to the DCs in the Marine OB or are they subtracted from that total?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

AAR: BFP42 Bukit Full of Trouble

Zeb Doyle

Australians: Matt Schwoebel
Japanese: Zeb Doyle

Anyway, moving onto actual ASL content, work and the flu have kept me away from doing much lately, but I was fortunate enough to get in a game with the redoubtable Matt Schwoebel a few days ago. We went with BFP-42 Bukit Full of Trouble, one of the many good-looking offerings from Bounding Fire’s Blood and Jungle pack. The scenario is set in 1942, one of the darkest periods of the British Empire, and pits some desperate Australians trying to hold a vital Singapore crossroads against a Japanese onslaught.

The Australians have a simple enough task; to hold a single building on the village boards of 42 and 43 for the 7.5 turns of the scenario, and they have a very solid force to do it as well: a company of mostly elite troops, a -2 with several HMGs, some DCs, a 40L AT gun, lots of dummies, and some roadblocks, wire, foxholes, and mines. It’s the makings of a very solid defense, but it pales in comparison to what the Japanese bring to the table: 18 squads, half of whom are elite, a 10-2, two HMGs, two FTs, lots of DCs, Ha-Go tanks, 70mm OBA
with a PR hex and lots of ammo, and even a Ki-48 Lily bomber.

With all that combined arms goodness, I volunteered to take the defense, but Matt wouldn’t hear of it. He’s had more success defending against me than I care to admit, and perhaps he was trying to keep his streak alive. We did end up giving the Australians the balance, however, which downgrades the Japanese 10-2 to an 8-0…just eyeballing the scenario, it appeared that the Japanese had plenty of tools even with that change.

Matt proceeded to add to his reputation as defensive wizard, putting together a very interesting set-up that would never have occurred to me. There were a few units placed in the forward compound on board 43, a fair number of troops in the main village on board 42, and a lone building far in the rear of board 43 was protected by an entire platoon. That last building was protected by a huge thicket of bamboo, leaving me to approach it directly through a ton of kunai or via a long and indirect route of open ground. Not fun.

Looking it all over, Matt had certainly make things tricky for me, but one downside to his gambit was that no single area was especially well-defended, and the Japanese are the best nationality in the game at taking advantage of that situation. I decided to swarm over the defense in the forward compound and the village as quickly as possible, and only then turn my attention to that last building.

The game started with my pre-registered OBA trying to dump WP on the forward compound. Matt had a bunch of concealed units there, but I figured the risk of the extra chit draw was worth it with a 7/2 draw pile. This worked well, with the WP revealing a single Australian squad and a bunch of dummies, and was the start of a game-long trend of aggressive Japanese play being rewarded with good luck.

That single Aussie squad was swiftly overwhelmed, and I then started to push into the main village. My dice weren’t great, and Matt’s weren’t terrible, but there was a definite pattern where everything I tried typically worked and most of Matt’s tricks came up empty. For example, my OBA pulled four straight black cards (one of which was replaced) and always scattered to a decent spot. Meanwhile, when some of my Japanese hit a wire/mine hex, Matt rolled 10’s on both mine attacks and I rolled a 2 on my wire MF dr, allowing me to avoid the trap painlessly.

As it turned out, Matt had other issues as well. He’s a die-hard Michigan graduate, and his alma mater happened to be playing The Ohio State football team that day. We had the game on…background noise for me, life and death for Matt. This led to a few surreal moments: “OK, my Aussie 4-5-8 and HMG will fire at your DC guy, 8 flat shot…snake-eyes, goddammit, FML!” “Huh? You killed my squad and kept ROF.” “Yeah, but Michigan fumbled AGAIN!”

Between my dice and Matt’s distracting Wolverines, I was easily able to envelop the village. Here, the full Japanese toolkit was put to use, and OBA, DCs, and FTs tore apart the defense. Since the scenario is early in the war, No Quarter is not automatic, and I was able to capture everyone pretty much as soon as they broke. After the entire Australian village force had been bagged, I tidied things up with a quick Massacre and turned my attention to that final building over on board 43.

At this point, I was in a good position to get the win. One reason the village had fallen so fast was that Matt had protected his final bolt-hole with mines, the 40L gun, his 9-2, an HMG, and several squads. That meant I had my work cut out for me, trying to come through kunai and open ground, but also meant I still had three turns and a largely intact force to do it. If the village had held out for even one more turn, the end-game would have been much more interesting.

As I brought up my tanks, called in the OBA, and rushed my troops through the kunai, Matt’s remaining troops suddenly started fighting as well as his Wolverines were playing. A 12+1 attack from the OBA took out the 40L, a sniper broke an LMG squad, an Aussie squad whiffed on a 2:1 HtH CC roll, and a Ha-Go hit the 9-2/HMG stack and rolled snake-eyes on the resulting 4+0 attack to break everyone. Suddenly, there weren’t any good order Australians left, and the game ended with a whimper.

Despite the anti-climactic finish, Bukit Full of Trouble is a solid and enjoyable scenario. It’s hard to comment on the balance, given my good dice and Matt’s distractions, and the 4-0 Japanese W/L record on ROAR is too premature to offer much insight. If playing it, I’d try giving the Australians the balance and make sure the more experience player takes the defense. Regardless of whether you tweak it or not, it offers up the full Japanese combined-arms experience, which is always a lot of fun. The Australians get the challenge of trying to stop it, and as Matt demonstrated, they have more than one way of going about doing it. I think his unorthodox defense is certainly a viable way to win, and a more conventional ‘pack the village’ approach could certainly succeed as well. Good times for both sides.

Thanks to Matt for the game and the hospitality, and thanks to you for reading.


Monday, September 27, 2010

AAR: OA22 After the Disaster

Jay Harms

Germans: Jay Harms
Russians: Randy Garlington

I had a great time at the gameday this weekend over at Matt Zajac’s place up on the north side. Randy and I sat down to a game of “After the Disaster” from one of the Out of the Attic journals. We diced for sides and I got the Germans who were attacking a Russian trench line. The setting was Oct 44, with the Germans counterattacking a Russian position. The Germans enter on board 17 and have to clear the farmhouse on Board 4 as well as take out two 122L Art guns also on Board 4. Both sides get some fun toys.

Turn 1 started with me bringing my 2 King Tigers up the left flank along with the 2 Stug IIIG’s. Infantry tried to keep pace along with the tanks. Right off the bat I run into his 9-2 and friends. Randy had set up the 9-2 to cover the flank and a few def fire shots later I sensed a failure to rout chance if I could get around his 9-2. Moving my last Stug IIIG around the 9-2, I had to go CE to get behind him. Randy announces a FPF shot on the stug crew (4 even shot). Morale check, which I promptly boxcar! Drat, one recalled tank for nothing! This just started the epic battle on the left flank with this Russian 9-2! Over the coarse of the game I think I broke him 3 times, and Randy rallied him the next turn each time. This leader would not go down! Most of the rallies were under DM. Turn 2 and 3 saw the Germans push up the left flank and Randy shifting to cover my attack. By German Turn 3 I had one of my King Tigers in LOS of the farmhouse and had for the most part avoided his 122Ls. At this point the game could go either way as we both had big reinforcement groups coming.

In the Russian 3, Randy brought on his 4 JS2’s on my left flank (the low armor ones, but still much to be feared). One parked in LOS of my King Tiger and eventually succumbed after trading shots for a turn. The other three stayed out of LOS and in motion. In my turn 4, the worm turned for Randy and I brought on my reinforcements which was 3 Panthers and 5 halftracks. I blitzed through Randy’s left flank after he had spun one of the 122Ls to cover the King Tigers approach. This was the key to the game as I was able to get into his backfield and threaten the farmhouse with 3 panthers and five 468’s that were loaded on the HT's

By my Turn 5 I was able to encircle and cut off rout paths on the remaining Russians and close with the farmhouse and his 122Ls. The JS2’s didn’t go quietly as we traded a King Tiger for another JS2. Unfortunately by then it was all over but the mopping up by turn 6 and Randy conceded.

All in all a fun scenario, but I would say a bit tough on the Russians. A lot of thought has to go into the Russian setup and I was able to exploit an opening with my reinforcements that was able to pull it out for the Germans.

Finally, a big thanks to Matt for hosting the gameday on Saturday! The homemade chili, homebrew oatmeal stout, and the hospitality was all excellent! Good times!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AAR: TAP20 The Buda Probe

Zeb Doyle

Russians: Zeb Doyle
Hungarians: Eric Gerstenberg

My next fun August ASL experience was with Eric Gerstenberg in TAP20 The Buda Probe. This is a mini-monster East Front action somewhat reminiscent of G34 The Liberators. A huge Russian force of 32 squads and 15 tanks gets to slap around a dug-in company of Hungarians, who are reinforced on turn three by a bunch of Germans who arrive in style with King Tiger, Jagdpanzers, and all kinds of fun half-tracks in support. All in all, it looked like some fairly standard meat and potatoes east front action, standing out for its size more than any unusual SSRs or VC. Sometimes meat and potatoes makes the best meal, though, and Eric and I ended up having an incredible game with more wild swings and shifts in momentum than you’d get out of a season pass to Six Flags.

For all the excitement that lay ahead, the game started off surprisingly slowly. Even in their improved new era of production, CH scenarios often have some rough edges. In this case, we needed a pre-game email to the designer to clarify the pre-game rocket strikes, there was also a typo (the JgPz IV/70 is listed with a 75L instead of the proper 75LL…no big deal, I thought), and the German Field Phone is directing OBA meaninglessly designated as ‘Battalion MTR.’

Finally underway, things went great for my attacking Russians. Eric broke and X’d out his Hungarian MMG and HMG and drew a red card for his OBA, allowing me to make great progress. The attack slowed a lot when the reinforcing Germans arrived, but I was happy to see that Eric parked one of his JgPz IV/70s in clear LOS of an ISU-122. I opened up, and several fire phases of annoying high dice later, still hadn’t hit. I finally got curious and asked why the JgPz wasn’t returning fire. Eric pointed out my 14 AF and said he didn’t think his 75L 17TK had a good chance. Yup, he was so busy looking at the scenario card, he hadn’t realized he was actually working with a 75LL. Making up for lost time, the tank destroyer swung its VCA and launched a shell at the ISU-122. CH and burning wreck! Well, I guess the typo didn’t make a difference after all…

Fortune swung back towards me after that though. My 120mm OBA strayed perfectly, hitting an entire platoon of 5-4-8s that Eric had carelessly left stacked. The resulting 1MC broke them all and opened a real hole in the middle of the Axis lines. Elsewhere, his 9-2/5-4-8 advanced into CC with a CX, pinned 6-2-8. Ambushed attained, Eric went for the (SSR-allowed) HtH attack, only to roll a 12. In the next CCPh, everyone there died in a maelstrom of bayonets and rifle butts, robbing the Axis of their best leader.

This was no small thing, as one of the more subtle but interesting aspects of this scenario is the miserly leader allotment for both sides. The Axis, after deducting one SMC to man the field phone, have four leaders for 23 squad equivalents. Not terrible, but not great considering the wide front they have to cover. The Soviets are in the same position, with five leaders for 32 squads, and so both sides are often forced to either play very conservatively in a leaderless sector or risk having broken squads out of play for long periods of time. Very neat!

At any rate, I was well positioned to really bring the hammer down on Eric in the middle. I started off placing a DC on an unfortunate Hungarian 4-4-7 and bringing up every single body I could muster to exploit the hole. Sound tactics, except when the building rubbles and falls over, wiping out a platoon of 6-2-8s with DCs. Turns out this particular ASL story is a lot more fun to hear than to experience.

The Soviets have plenty of bodies in this one, and so despite that loss, I kept pushing into the center. Then, Eric rolled a sniper. The Axis SAN of 5 is a real threat, and so I’d protected my kill-stack (10-2, 3x 4-5-8, .50 cal, 2x HMG) with some of those numerous Soviet bodies and surrounded it on two sides with 4-4-7s. That didn’t stop the 1 in 36 sniper hit on my 10-2’s location, and there was no way I could guard against the yahtzee that killed him and broke a squad. The ensuing 2LLMC broke everyone there and snuffed out my kill stack. Another ASL story that’s not too fun to experience, especially when you’ve already had it happen to you.

That left me with very little to throw at Eric’s weak spot, but I still had one trick up my sleeve. The only infantry he had in this sector was a stack of 2x 4-6-7, HMG, MMG…very nasty, but vulnerable to my OT-34. I’d bring that up, burn them out, and still break through with the few good order squads I had left. The Germans were in a key VC building, and it put Eric in a tough spot as the OT-34 rolled up. He decided to risk going for a PF and got one on his first roll. Needing a 4 TH (base 6 at two hex range, +2 for motion), he took the backblast, turned the OT-34 into scrap, and had both squads pass the 1MC. For the next few player turns, I was, as the song has it, “speaking a language the clergy do not know.”

That sequence really turned the game around and put me in a bad position. The rest of the game was a great exercise in improvisation, as I tried to regroup and throw my shattered force again and again against the stout German resistance. Bringing my armor forward, I managed to take out Eric’s weaker AFVs. Knocked out JgPz IV/70s and Hetzers choked the streets, but his PaK 43 88LL AT guns took a heavy toll on my armor as well. Then, both guns broke firing at infantry, leaving the King Tigers as vulnerable as King Tigers ever get. In one of my proudest moments, I successfully managed to Overrun one with a T-34 M43. Finally, a cool ASL story that actually is good for me! Now we were both dealing with the pressure of forces crumbling away. The game started to feel increasingly like a scene out of a Paul Carell book, with flames, smoke, and desperation everywhere. It is terrible history, but it’s fun reading and great ASL.

As time ticked away, freed from the menace of the PaK 43s, I managed to maneuver my two IS-2ms into a great spot. Peering through a miasma of drifting smoke and flame, they spotted one of Eric’s two King Tigers with a very tight LOS. We were within six hexes, there were four hindrances, he was double large, I was CE with armor leaders, it couldn’t get any better. DFPh: hull hit, bounce. Hull hit, bounce. PFPh: Hull hit, bounce. Hull hit, bounce. Eric’s DFPh: His BU King Tiger swings his slow-traversing turret around and fires at my normal sized target. Hull hit, but when it’s a CH, it still penetrates and burns the IS-2m. Arrrgh! At least the newly-placed smoke from the wreck blocks LOS and prevents Eric from using the ROF to kill my last IS-2m…

My infantry has not been idle during all this, swinging around to challenge Eric’s right flank. He has a Hungarian 4-4-7 there with one of those ungainly 20L, 2 ROF ATRs. He’s in a line of anti-tank ditches, and I send a platoon of 6-2-8s down it to take him out. The first 6-2-8 goes down to the 8+2 shot. Annoying, but it happens. The second breaks on the 4+2 residual shot, and so does the third. Getting desperate now, I send a 4-4-7 into an adjacent patch of woods, only to fall victim to the ATR…and it keeps ROF! That stupid ATR (and I admit to laughing at it pre-game when I saw it on the card) goes on to break another 4-4-7 and a 4-5-8. Ugh, and there goes any threat to Eric’s right.

Racking my brains to their utmost, I see one last slim chance on my left where a 5-4-8 in a fortified building location is protecting another VC area. I throw everything I can towards him, but most of my troops have to come from pretty far away and it tips my hand. Eric has a chance to respond, and drives a King Tiger right into the building to guard against the threat. He shifts his OBA over to the area, and it drifts right onto his 5-4-8. A little risky, but the OBA does make a good shield around him. With one turn to go, I still have a chance, but it’s a slim one.

With no margin for error, I bring a T-34 around for a BFF shot on the King Tiger. He has APCR, and the King Tiger (with 10-2 AL) is destroyed. Tasty, and it frees a second T-34 to go and park on the 5-4-8 and lock him down. That 5-4-8 is feeling pretty lonely right now. My few remaining Soviets get sequenced forward to draw off as much fire as they can and get into the VC building. There’s nothing I can do about the OBA though, and it’s cursedly effective as my troops run into the stone VC building and get hit by it. A series of 16+4s break and pin several of my units. Now it’s time to bring up my ace in the hole, a 6-2-8 and FT. I cross my fingers and he plunges into the OBA. Eric gets a good roll, and it’s a 2MC. The 8-1 with the FT squad pins. The squad passes! There’s still hope! It’s AFPh now, and with the game on the line, the FT goes to fire. A 24+1 through the OBA at the 5-4-8. The dice roll and spin and….boxcars. Germans win!

But wait! We’re fourteen hours in right now, and my brain is fried. I’m more confused than a baby at a topless bar. For some reason, I decide that the tank parked on the 5-4-8 makes him non-good order, and so I can advance in across non-breached hexsides. This is, of course, totally wrong, but thankfully Eric wins the ambush roll and withdraws for a slightly delayed victory. Germans win! My apologies to Eric for wrongly delaying his celebration there.

Well, I hope I managed to convey at least a faint impression of all the excitement we enjoyed playing this one. I think this is a very good scenario, and the dice and action gave both Eric and me a truly epic experience. We’ve both been playing ASL for years now, and we still had multiple events occur that we’d never seen before. Great times! I didn’t even get to mention my crazy OBA or the fact that our combined four FT units got off a single successful shot or that…

Thanks for reading!


AAR: BFP32 Slaughter At Nanyaun

Zeb Doyle

Chinese: Matt Schwoebel
Japanese: Zeb Doyle

For most of this summer, I was in an ASL drought, but fortunately things picked up in August and I got in some really fun gaming. One of my more entertaining battles was against Matt Schwoebel in BFP-32 Slaughter At Nanyaun. This is a nifty 1938 Japanese-Chinese battle across the relatively open boards 43 and 17, with the Japanese trying to get 80 points of CVP and EVP.

It’s a bit of an unusual scenario, since the attacking Japanese infantry are numerically outnumbered by a 3:2 ratio, and in FP roughly 1.3:1. That’s not even counting the four heavy-hitting 150mm and 75mm ART guns that the Chinese also get. To make up for this, the Japanese do receive some 70mm OBA (made very powerful by an offboard observer at level three, which can see vast expanses of the map) and three flame-throwing engineer vehicles, which operate much like the German SPW 251/16, in that they have two side-mounted flamethrowers and can thus get two shots per turn if maneuvered correctly.

This all makes for great fun if you like brain-teasers. The Japanese need to very cautiously work their way forward, identify the Chinese positions, and then work over any exposed Chinese strong-points with the flame-throwing vehicles. They have 2 AF, enough to ward off most MG fire, but not enough to stand up to the Chinese guns. This ends up being very tense but lots of fun. Every Japanese piece is precious, so there are no throw-away moves, and deciding how bold to be with the flame-throwers and what targets are worth risking the X11 20FP shots on is especially tricky.

In my playing with Matt, I sent my first wave of Japanese all down the left flank. He’d set up his Chinese scattered about in foxholes, and completely ignored the compound of stone buildings on board 43. Initially, I thought that he’d made a mistake, but it turns out the LOS from there isn’t especially good and any Chinese units placed there are probably thrown away. Instead, by concentrating his infantry further back in the foxholes, he maintained his numerical and FP edge, and had better TEM as well when my force finally contacted him. So, nice job, Matt...this is the second time your 'in-depth foxhole defense' has caused me all kinds of grief!

I sent some Type 94 tankettes rushing forward as scouts, and managed to find a 75mm and a 150mm gun at the cost of a single AFV….a very acceptable loss ratio to me. I then felt bold enough to send forward a single flame-throwing tank, and it managed to burn out several pockets of Chinese, before finding the last 150mm ART piece at the cost of its own destruction. Unfortunately, that left the bulk of Matt’s force positioned on my left flank, well covered by his big guns, and with no easy way of rooting them out. Things only got tougher in that sector when the Chinese reinforcements arrived with most of them also moving under the protective cover of those nasty 150mm monsters.

With my own reinforcements arriving, I decided not to reinforce failure, and would instead send my second wave of infantry up the middle. I would also redeploy my flame-throwing tanks to that area and see if I could force my way through an area that would have, at most, a single 75mm gun covering it. The downside to this was that the tanks would have to spend two turns moving into position, and since it was already turn four of a 7.5 turn game, I didn’t have any time to waste.

The push up the middle turned out to be a good move. As Matt’s Chinese scrambled to reposition, they had to move through a large patch of woods on board 17, and my offboard observer was able to rain airburst OBA pain on a huge number of them. Several missions, shifting between harassing fire and WP did an amazing amount of damage, with almost every 4-1 attack or 1MC breaking everyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast. That really cleared a path for my second wave of infantry to exit, and more importantly, I think it rattled Matt’s morale some. He reacted by bringing the Chinese armor aggressively over to block me. This is one reason I enjoy scenarios that have dual VC, like EVP and CVP-it makes a lot of otherwise easy decisions into painful trade-offs. Here, Matt threatened my infantry EVP with a bunch of 6FP CMGs, but also put a bunch of his 0 AF, 5 CVP vehicles in harm’s way.

As it turned out, my 37mm crewed infantry SW had a field day with the Chinese armor, going on several big ROF tears and killing most of it. That 3 ROF and 7TK has the potential to be deadly to everything in the Chinese armored force. The PSW 222 survived, but I managed to toast that threat with one of my flame-throwing tanks. When a scouting CX’d 9-0 Japanese leader managed to find the last 75mm gun, survive a 24-2 CH and a 24+0 CH, and then advance in and kill the crew in HtH CC, the floodgates really opened up for me, and the game ended on the last turn with the Japanese scoring 100 VP. Had Matt been a bit more judicious with his armor, or had my OBA not been so smashingly effective, it would have been a very tense and close finish.

So, BFP-32 Slaughter At Nanyaun is highly recommended. Since every move feels so vital, we both felt extra-drained and tired at the end, so be ready for that. The balance felt even to me, although I’d say the Japanese might be slightly more fragile. If they lose the OBA and several of the flame-throwers on fluke events, they aren’t going to win this. If the Chinese boxcar out those 150mm guns right off the bat, they are in trouble, but it’s not an auto-loss. I’d still take either side though for some fun Asian early-war action.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Houston August Gameday

Tom Gillis

Thanks for coming by dudes...! It was an awesome game day1

Rupert and I had a hell of a firefight in "Tanks, but no tanks" from schwerpunkt. We both rated it an 8 for ROAR. His early war poles held a tough defensive line with aplomb despite the intense pressure from my Red Army soviets...His two swedish 37L bofers atgs eventually got all 5 of my tanks...I captured his cool ATR but never had a chance to use it. I did a human wave/armoured assault on turn one led by my 9-0 commissar to capture the first VC building. But then I ran into a nest of angry poles who quickly massacred a surrendering 527. I took his men prisoners myself all game long so only he had declared no quarter. I ended up capturing about 5 squads of poles, (out of an OB of about 16 or so, which i mostly used to deploy my red army men.) His SAN of 4 was deadly!! He kia'd my 9-2 and an 8-0 on '1' sniper hits and double broke at least one of my 458 mmcs...! I also lost an 8-1 in CC. All this added up to rally probs for my soviets. His poles could declare H tH CC by SSR and they took out prob 4+ squads doing this. Ugly. I still was able to make quite a game of it despite the unrelenting polish defence, capturing two out of three VC buildings and being in the last one on the last two turns but unable to kick him out of it. well deserved win Rupert! Your men held out to the very end despite being out firepower'd on the last couple of turns...The issue was in doubt nearly the whole gamw which always makes for some extra excitement! A hell of a match! Good game Rupert! I look fwd to our nexrt one!

Jonnie and Matt also seemed to have a heck of a match going. They played some Ger/Rus scenario where Rupert and I could hear from time to time Jonnie's inability to manifest any soviet molotov cocktails apparantly...Matts Germans won it also on the last turn. Good game guys: what was the name of the scenario?

Jay and John had some apocalyptic last days battle also; between the war criminals, (the SS,) vs the avenging Red tide...They still had three turns to go when the meeting began to break up so they called it a draw. Jay and John were at a seperate table so
I wasn't able to catch many highlights of the match. Tell us the juicy bits guys...

Lastly thanks to Mark Carter showing up mid afternoon-ish to hang out AND bringing a case of beer to drink!1 Woo hoo Mark, very timely! Next match is at Colonel Matts place on sept the 25th..(Is that correct Matt?)

see you all soon and keep on rolling those ASL bones!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

AAR: PHD4 Counterattack

Ed Beekman

Germans: Jerry Simmons
Americans: Ed Beekman

We had a small gathering for some cardboard clashes at Jerry's ASL bunker this past weekend. We had one new face, Steve; Patrick Ireland, Jerry and I rounded out the group.

Patrick convinced Steve to try a little bit of Starter Kit, he'd played original Squad Leader years ago but nothing for a long time. They got a couple of turns of SK1 Taking Vierville (?) under their belts before Patrick
had to leave. Steve then watched the clash of titans.

Jerry and I played PHD4 Counterattack from Lone Canuck's Purple Heart Draw. The scenario takes place in the southwest corner of the beautiful Purple Heart Draw historical map with its dense bocage and orchard hexes. We diced for sides and Jerry got the Attacking Germans while I got the Defending Americans. I got a handful of first line squads a couple of second lines squads and elite HS. My leadership was normal along with a couple MMGs, Baz44's and a module of Bn MTRs. The Germans get a bevy of 2nd line troops along with some 8-3-8 engineers with DCs and a FT, a couple of StuGs, lots of leaders including a 9-2 and an AL but only a few of LMGs. The Americans are threatening to cut the St.Lo-Bayeaux road, the Germans are counter attacking to clear an intersecting road the Americans will use to move their main force to that road.

I set up a couple squads and a MMG on a wooded hill covering my right flank and threw a HS, 2nd Line squad, a dummy stack and my artillery observer along the hedgerows of my left flank. A MMG and Baz team covered the turn in the road and my last Baz squad and best leader I put HIP in the rear for my final Alamo.

Jerry pushed in from the middle through a large apple orchard, only drawing a little ineffective fire against his 9-2 leader/LMG kill stack. The German troops, who were still bunched up along a narrow front, breathed a little easier when my first OBA access draw was a red card. My first turn saw me gain battery access and place a spotting round only 1 hex away from the requested location, followed by skulking - but leaving enough dummies to keep Jerry guessing which non-moving stack had the Observer.

The second turn had Jerry's Jerries storming my left flank. One of his StuGs bogged coming over the hedgerow but my 2nd Liner's took cover rather than react to the beast while the observer remained hidden and successfully called in a spotting round on his own location. The turn ended with one of my squads running for their lives, a HS dead and the StuG immobilized by the Observer and his squad.

My second turn had me skulking and realigning my positions. My observer, stuck in melee with the immobilized StuG were nearly encircled and taking fire from all the hedgerows to their south. This included the only burst from the FT as it ran out of juice with a DR of 11. That's when we realized my troops must have been recent Russian emigres to the States. The OBA observer went Berserk from the first shots, and although the squad ELRd from the same shots they also went berserk. While my knot of defenders knocked out the StuG and regained their Good Order status, the Germans all around concealed themselves and took up positions to attack toward the turn in the road.

My MG crew took one shot and then was eliminated by the 9-2's return fire. I was able to frustrate attempts to place a DC at the point of the hill on my right but that American 6 morale isn't enough to stand a determined and numerically superior opponent. On my left, my observer was able to survive the prep fire and call in harassing fire on his own position. It was mainly a nuisance but did break a squad and stop the Germans from amassing along the road for a major push.

On my right flank, I had ANOTHER squad go berserk when he rallied. His charge denied the Germans the opportunity to keep another broken squad DM, but was finally eliminated by my own fire into the melee. After several rounds of melee, my observer, his field promoted successor and guards finally fell.

In the meantime, Jerry had worked some units through the dense hedgerows to my left to start a pincer back down the road while a leader ran about and found my HIP unit. My last dummy stack got blasted to the moon by a near critical hit (Rolled snakes but subsequent dr not low enough for ITT shot) from the other StuG. With a turn to go I had 4 Good Order MMCs in position to deny the German Victory. The last squad on the southern hill broke and I couldn't rally him and so he was out of the fight. A key self rally had a squad who broke early in the game return to action in my Alamo. On the last turn Jerry had three hexes to put out of Good Order. He encircled the bazooka team who missed their shot against the last StuG as it moved against another of my positions. This HS ended the game locked in melee.

The StuG came over the hedgerow where my former HIPsters were but died from an underbelly hit from my bazooka. I missed the burning wreck by one but Jerry made his crew survival and while I was preoccupied with this pesky crew he moved his 9-2 led stack Adjacent to my location. Jerry's job became a little harder when my leader became a 9-2 Hero during DF but the game ended with this stack also locked in Melee.

Finally I had a concealed squad and my 2nd line miracle self rally squad in a stone building. My unconcaled squad was able to pin an attacking squad and wound the leader with them but still had a HS and concealed German unit in position to jump them in melee. There was no ambush so I couldn't sneak away for the victory. Jerry elected to use everything to attack my concealed unit while my concealed unit refused combat and the unconcealed unit attacked. Jerry failed to get a result on my concealed unit and so the game ended on the last roll of the last CC phase of the last turn. Great game Jerry.

Steve, who had been watching since mid game seemed entranced and appreciated our explanations of the terrain and some of our tactics. Welcome to the world of ASL Steve, I know you'll love it as much as the rest of us!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Houston July Gameday

Mark Carter

Thanks for coming over, Chris and John.

Here is a little note on the other games going on that day across the room from Chris and John.

We ended up odd numbered on Saturday, so I drafted my 12 year old son Race, who has played quite a bit of ASL, both SK and some full rules. He usually wins against me. But this time I wanted to ratchet up the fun for the kid. So out came Zombie Pack 1! Mwahahaha.

Points of interest, the Zombies are portrayed by IJA counters and are always Berserk (so yes, they are morale 10). They only have 3 MP however, and always use hazardous, staggering movement, making -4 shots possible. They have no weapons except HtH melee, but once a human is in melee with a zombie, they can become infected even if they survive the melee, and as the human player you can contemplate suicide or euthanasia, because if the infection otherwise overtakes the human unit, it becomes another zombie.

Since the zombies do no shooting and never break, and since in these two scenarios, always IJA half-squads, they just vaporize, the turns are very fast.
The first scenario we took on was Zombie #5 “Matchstick Men of the Fighting O”. In this scenario, the National Guard has loaded up and is trying to reach the remaining uninfected humans in a little town in southeast Ohio. Hitting the arsenal before hitting the road they had their choice of weapons: “Oh yeah man, flamethowers! Four of ‘em. Hey look, a couple of Wasps, too!”. Roll a 10 on the FT? No problem, just refill it at a Wasp and its good to go again!

These fellows would have to fight their way through dense woods via a single small road, and they had been suffering through a bad drought (EC dry with breeze) and the forest is teaming with the undead, some HIP, with FTs and Wasps lighting fires everywhere.

I know of someone who would just love all those blazes intermixed with panicking humans and staggering zombies waving their remaining arms all around.

In this scenario I was the Humans and about to squeak by with a win when we noticed we had missed Race’s reinforcements. Had we remembered those, I would have changed by movements and would have run out of turns. Game to the “Zombie Race”.

In the second scenario, Zombie #4 Killing Fields, I was the Zombies this time trying to eat some brains by staggering across a field to humans in the trees, and some hiding behind a minefield. By using humans as bait, the human player can attract the berserk Zombies to stagger right in to the mines… The rest of the humans manned LMGs, MMGs, a FT and a MTR. We ignored the mist in the scenario (simply missed it, ha) and so my poor lifeless green forms were cut to pieces. The boy had an absolute blast mowing them down! Zombie-Rate! Race’s humans by a mile.

Ok, by now he was having a lot of fun, so I pulled out HP 15 Moldavian Massacre from Hero Pax 2 and I took the Russian defenders. Even though my cleverly set up MMG was ready to lay down that fire lane down the road, it rolled a 12 on the first shot. A 6 on the next RPh, you know how it goes…

My mortar on a hill by one of the victory buildings however was very effective keeping the marauding Moldavians off the other hill and so they were funneled into a very tight gap. The Romanians were able to capture 3 of the 4 VC buildings, but the Russians were able to hold out, finally giving me a win. A fun little scenario.

We got in three games, one regularASL and two Zombie pack treats for my son. It was a lot of fun. Those fast, fun zombie games were a great lead in to ASL so it all worked out well.


Monday, July 26, 2010

AAR: J100 A Few Rounds More

Chris Buehler

Germans: John Hyler
Americans: Chris Buehler

The 7/24 Houston game day took place at Mark Carter’s home so first I would like to thank Mark for hosting, providing beverages, and tasty brisket!

I had the opportunity to face John Hyler in “A Few Rounds More” (J100) from Journal 6 set in Germany in March of 1945. This scenario features a 6.5 turn match-up that features an attacking force of 14 American squads (elite and 1st line) and four Shermans against a defending force of 12 German squads (2nd line and conscripts) and four AFVs (two Sturmtigers). The Americans had a 9-2 leader, 9-2 armor leader, and two of the Shermans were gyro-stabilized while Germans had some dummies and could HIP one squad and any SW/SMC stacked with them.

The battle took place on board 3 with the Americans entering along the A-hex row with the objective of taking three multi-hex buildings (the three hex building – M2 – was worth two) while sustaining less than 40 CVP in losses. We rolled for sides and John ended up with the Germans. Deep down, I think he really wanted those Sturmtigers and their massive 380 mm guns. These were great but could only fire once per game turn. As such, I considered the other two 20L (12 IFE), ROF 3 AFVs (I don’t recall the exact model) to be more dangerous to my squads.

I roughly split my force with one group going around/over hill 547 while the other going around/over hill 534 to assault the M2 and L4 buildings. The scenario started with my rolling a 12 on the weather roll – gusts! There went my plan of rolling on with the Shermans and using their smoke mortars to provide some cover. So I went with a slightly slower approach. John took aim at one of my Shermans with his first Sturmtiger shot, scored a CH only to roll a dud. Later John scored a direct hit only to roll a dud. While lady-luck smiled on me during those two rolls, John had some nice rolls during the scenario including a rate tear with his HMG and MMG that stopped my assault on building M2 dead in its tracks. At this point I nearly failed my personal MC.

I rallied and was able to destroy John’s AFVs and bottle up his remaining good order units in and adjacent to the M2 building. At this point, John had amassed 38 CVPs so I could not afford more losses. I captured the L4 building and on my final turn sent two squads to capture the R6 and T6 buildings while dodging small arms fire and PFs! It was a tough battle that went to the end but I managed to pull out a win. Thank you for a great game John!

Earlier today I checked ROAR and it shows this scenario with 36 American wins to 32 German wins. I wasn’t surprised at those numbers as it felt like a “balanced” scenario to me.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

AAR: AK22 Fruehlingswind

Zeb Doyle

Americans: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Matt Schwoebel

Well, yesterday was my opportunity to finally play a game out of CH's latest offering, their Afrika Korps desert series. This is a set of six related scenario packs that (in total) come with 50 or so scenarios covering the fighting in North Africa. The heart of the pack is a huge map with nothing on it but scrub, and a ton of overlays that are then used to customize the terrain for each specific battle. This means you are looking at putting down five to ten overlays for each scenario, which may be a turn off for some people, and probably does necessitate the use of Plexiglas, but allows each battle to have a unique feel and does a good job of simulating those wide-open desert spaces. The pack also includes some new Italian counters (used in a few scenarios), a bunch of other counters most veteran ASLers will probably already have, and some basic SSRs to cover some of the overlays (including a fun-looking Beau Geste style fort). The scenarios are a good mix of nationalities, size, and situations. Overall, I'd say that the physical components (50 scenarios, a big map, a bunch of overlays, a small booklet, and some new counters) seem worth the $100 or so CH is charging. The quality of the scenarios (having just read them over and not played them) looks to be on par with CH's other recent offerings: somewhat more typos and clarifications required than the top-level producers like MMP, Friendly Fire, and Schwerpunkt, but much better than their dark days when many CH scenarios were simply unplayable (I think 12 or so of the scenarios so far have questions/clarifications required). So, if you like desert and don't mind a little more errata/clarifications than normal, I'd definitely pick this up. Anyone who doesn't like desert, obviously, should avoid this at all costs. If you're somewhere in the middle, you could always just dip your toe in with the purchase of the core pack, which gives you the map, counters, overlays, etc, and some scenarios for $40.

At any rate, Matt Schwoebel bravely volunteered to play one of these with me, and we settled on AK22 Fruehlingswind. This is a February 1943 seven turn scenario set in Tunisia, and has a small American force trying to hold a village against some marauding Germans. The Americans are a pretty solid force, with five squads, an 81mm MTR, two Grant tanks, two 37LL AT guns, 75mm OBA, and reinforcements in the form of an armored halftrack platoon and some M10 GMCs. The Germans look a bit sexier on paper though, with a 10-2, a 9-2 armor leader, a Tiger, lots of elite squads and halftracks, three Pz IVF2s, three Pz IIILs, and some OBA of their own. That was enough to seduce Matt, and he opted to take the attacking panzers. I put together a defense, with most everyone hunkered down in the village, and awaited the attack.

At that point, Matt confessed he'd never actually played Desert before, so we paused for a brief rules review. Ten minutes later, Matt might not have been a expert on hillocks, wadis, and vehicle dust, but he was at least ready to go. The German attack entered on a wide front, with panzers, halftracks, and infantry all pushing forward as fast as they could. In the wide-open expanse of the desert, that didn't mean too much. Our forces were still separated by twenty or more hexes, so the infantry couldn't do much, but I was able to open up with artillery, mortars, and fire from the Grants. On my right flank, a German 8-0/radio/halftrack looked like a good target for my 60mm MTR. This was a small moving target at 16 hex range, but when you're good at this game like I am, things like that don't matter. One Critical Hit later, the half-track had been blown to scrap, killing the leader and removing the threat of Matt's OBA.

Over on the left flank, three Pz IVF2s faced off at 24 hexes against my two Grants. Here, Matt had the advantage of numbers, black TH numbers, L length guns, and a 16 TK against my 8 AF. I had red TH numbers, large target size, and a 12 TK vs 6 AF. So, over the course of the next two turns, Matt quickly lost one panzer, malfunctioned the guns on the other two, had one recalled, and then saw his last one destroyed. I took zero losses myself, and was left to I THAT good or do Matt's desert tactics really suck? Pretty much by default, that shifted the Schwerpunkt of Matt's attack to the center, where his 10-2 and accompanying kill stack were moving rapidly forward, assisted by the Pz IIILs. I brought my 75mm OBA in here as harassing fire, hoping to slow the German infantry down just a bit. The artillery didn't scatter perfectly for me, but I did manage to catch the 10-2/kill stack/Pz IIIL with a 4+1 attack. That ended up being an NMC, which sent the 10-2 and all the squads with him Berserk and confirmed that Matt's desert tactics are truly terrible They immediately dropped all their pesky machine guns, and charged off towards the nearest American unit. Patience would be required there, as 22 hexes of open desert separated the Berserkers from their target...

That was pretty much that. All kidding aside, I can't think of a much rougher introduction to the desert than what Matt had to endure, but sometimes the dice do crazy things (his main takeaway from his first desert scenario: "it's still important to roll low"). At least I had fun picturing my Americans scratching their heads wondering why the British think these Germans are so tough. A few questions (quite minor) did come up during play. Related to the scenario itself: The V17 overlay coordinates are wrong: it's impossible to set it up using the listed O11-R11, and it should be Q11-R11. Thankfully, this is easily apparent and easy to figure out. On the VC, "the side with the most Victory Points at game end wins." Is it intended that a tie is a possibility? Finally, the scenario takes place in Feb 1943, but the Germans get a PzVIE(L) with an sN. At that point in the war, the first iteration of the Tiger had only been around for a few months, and so it seems strange to have the (L) version in play. Chapter H notes (and I know those are only a guide) don't have the PzVIE(L) showing up until 1944. Likewise, I thought the sN didn't come into use as early as Feb 1943. Again, this is a minor issue either way, but it does make me curious about whether the PzVIE(L) is actually the correct tank to use, and if so, why?

Finally, one rules question that we couldn't quickly answer: a MTR hits a HT and immobilizes it. The collateral attack on the crew results in an NMC. Does the crew take the NMC or the Immobilization TC first? If you do take the NMC first and break, do you then still take the TC? Thanks to anyone that can help with the rules question, and thanks to everyone for reading.


Friday, May 21, 2010

AAR: PA1 Battering Ram

Ed Beekman

Germans: Ed Beekman
Russians: John Farris

I paid a visit to the Oklahoma City Club this past weekend with the idea of getting some face time to talk about the November Thunderbird ASL Tournament (hint, hint, put it on you calendar for Nov 12-14) and play some ASL. When I arrived Mike Cadieux and Greg Parker were setting up AP42 Frontiers and Pioneers while John Farris and I selected Lone Canuck's Panzer Aces #1 Battering Rams. I got the Germans with a handful of brittle 5-4-8 squads and two HIP JagdPanthers with a third reinforcing later. John got the Russians with mix of elite squads with the emphasis on the SMG type and five JS-2m's. The Russians have to exit 55 VP but this is reduced by 8 for every JagdPanther destroyed. The Russians enter from a woods into a cratered and rubbled no mans land then have to get through a low hilly area to exit. I set my HIPs on the left and center thinking it may lure John to cross my frontage to get to that "weak" flank. John attacked heavy on the left while I skulked. Acquisition by the Stalin's 122Ls had me backing away to a reverse slope defense on the first hill. I traded a squad for a squad in a melee with two 6-2-8s during the withdrawal. Meanwhile my HMG got only 1 shot on its boresighted hex, which broke a squad before malfunctioning and being X'd out within a turn.

I didn't reveal either JagdPanther until about halfway throught the game. The first I revealed when threatened to be overrun by the advancing Russian forces. I got a couple ineffective shots off then John got to retaliate. His to hit roll was snakes but that was what he needed to hit. The following roll wasn't a 1 and, being hull down behind a wall, I dodge a real big bullet. John charged in for the kill but I went into motion and was again saved by my hull down position. Since the Stalin tanks weren't getting the job done, the infantry took their shot. The first squad missed its attack and then broke when the know, the Snoogie Woogie, attacked. The second squad survived the Snoogie Woogie but also failed its CC attack. When I moved away the next turn, a turret hit was finally achieved against my TD (+5 TH mod, had to hit turret) just proving luck does not play favorites.

During this time one Stalin was lost to a gun malfunction, another was burning from a Panzerfaust shot and two of the remaining three were under low ammo status. My reinforcing hunting Panther took up an overwatch postion and started pounding away on the Stalins. Six consecutive hits on a Stalin with my 88LL just bounced, even a turret hit. My last vehicle broke cover to sortie into the Russian rear area but ended up stunned from an artillery shot but survived the coup de grace attempt by a Russian tank. At this point it was getting late and we looked over what it would take for John to exit what he needed. Most of his units had to move to their fullest the remaining turns with a few unable to make it. His tanks could exit but would have trouble knocking out my vehicles leaving them as threats for rear attacks. Although my infantry had been whittled down to some half squads and a couple of squads, they were well situated to place fire lines, faust vehicles and just plain get in the way. John conceded although if we had time he might have still been able to pull it off. All in all a fun late war heavy metal slugfest. C'mon, my 88LLs only bounced off the Russian armor! Good Times.

On a humorous note, during our breaks we stopped by to watch the Cadieux-Parker early war slugfest. We got the impression they were playing a WWI air battle. The tanks were circling each other for the rear shots. At lunch time Mike had his Czech tanks on the T35 and KV tanks' 6's. The T35 took a rear hit only to see the shot bounce when Mike rolled way too high. It was the KV's turn. Mike decided APCR (A4 in 41) was needed to have a chance against that monster. The result was a critical hit, turning a roll that would have only immobilized into a burning kill shot. Good times.

A final note, we discussed future cross Red River cultural exchanges. If anyone is interested in going up to OKC later this year, let me know. The guys offered to put us up for the night to reduce the wear and tear of driving up and back in the same day (-2 DRM on the PMC). I offered the same hospitality option to my hosts if they would ever like to visit us here in north Texas. It was an enjoyable excursion. Got to see players I normally only see at tournaments (e.g. Mike Laney stopped by for a while to chat) and play ASL with them. Good Times!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AAR: AP62 Shouting Into The Storm

Zeb Doyle

Russians: Zeb Doyle
Germans: Sam Tyson

So, I had a pretty fun weekend of ASL--Friday night, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Sam Tyson, eating some tasty pizza at Conan's (and getting to check out all the Frank Frazetta artwork there the same week he died), and playing Shouting Into The Storm from the latest Action Pack.

Shouting Into The Storm is a late-war 1945 East Front scenario that covers the same action as SP11 Pomeranian Tigers, but plays out very differently and has some added fun with the variable OB. I'm not going to do a detailed AAR here, but for those who don't have the card handy, it's roughly 15 German squads with King Tiger and StuG support trying to take a village away from some Soviet Guards, who get some 57LLs and tank support of their own.

After dicing for sides, I got the Soviets and put together a defense I was pretty happy least at the start. I'd describe the terrain as 'dense village,' and so went with the assault engineer group, giving me both more bodies and extra FP. The 100L AT gun in the other group would have been fun, but with plentiful stone buildings and limited LOS, I just didn't see the King Tigers being a major threat. The choice of AFV groups was a bit tougher, but here as well I decided not to worry too much about the German big cats and so went with the T-34 and SU-100 group, passing on the IS-2ms. Meanwhile Sam decided to blatantly copy me and went for the German assault engineer group, giving him a platoon of 8-3-8s with a FT and some DCs instead of a bunch of 5-4-8s with a PSK and a hero.

The scenario started and I soon realized I'd already made my first mistake. Since the Germans have to come across a bridge, I placed one 4-5-8/LMG on board 2a to try for a FL. He ended up cowering and not doing anything, but even great dice for me wouldn't have made the move a good one. The Germans have tons of smoke and tools to get across the bridge, and that forward position is a total death trap. I think the vast majority of the time, the single Soviet squad set up forward will just uselessly die in place, and that's exactly what happened here. After turn one, I was down 10% of my force with nothing to show for it. So much for being happy about my set up!

After that, things started to look up for me and went about as well as I could hope. I ended up being fairly lucky against Sam's armor and ended up knocking out seven of his eight AFVs without losing a single AFV myself. Highlights included a StuG exploding on a 1 factor known AT mine that Sam gambled with, the SU-100 smacking down two King Tigers with frontal turret hits, and taking out a StuH with some streetfighting. Good times!

Unfortunately, that was about it for the highlights. Sam didn't just throw all that armor away, he used it to lever his infantry into the town. I managed to pick off two squads on their way in, but that still left ten 5-4-8s and three 8-3-8s with good leadership against four 6-2-8s and five 4-5-8s with adequate leadership with both sides in +2 and +3 TEM. Sam did a great job using his numbers to seize the initiative, keep the pressure on, and just grind me down. Even with my good luck against his armor, I knew I was in real trouble by turn four because of the pounding my infantry was taking.

Sadly for me, no deus ex machina appeared, and by the time turn six rolled around, my only remaining 'plan' was to drive my armor into the non-building victory hexes and survive two fire phases and one CC phase with a bunch of point-blank Wehrmacht infantry. Germans don't get many PFs in 1945, right? I can't recall the last time my entire force was wiped out with a turn still to go, but it happened to me here. Well played, Sam!

I enjoyed the game and matching wits with Sam, even if I did end up getting crushed. That aspect of it was a bit frustrating; aside from throwing away that 4-5-8 playing Horatio at the bridge, I thought my set-up was pretty solid. I was happy with the variable OB groups I'd picked, my guns were in good spots, and I couldn't have hoped to have the armor battle go any better. So, I'm left scratching my head, wondering just where I went wrong. In that sense, the scenario reminds me a bit of Nishne, Nyet, the only other one I've played from the new Action pack. Both seem to have a German attacker with a powerful force and straightforward goals, while the defense is in a position where they have to really really think about what they are doing. Obviously, I didn't put enough thought into it.

Anyway, thanks again to Sam for a fun time. The one good thing about getting smashed so quickly was that we didn't end up playing late into the night. I was pretty tired and had to be at Eric's the next day for a game there. And we all know how peeved Eric gets if you are even five minutes late........Hopefully I can find the time to write up that scenario too.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, May 08, 2010

AAR: AP62 Shouting Into The Storm

Ed Beekman

Russians: Glenn Schools
Germans: Cory Sosebee

Glenn and Cory played AP62 Shouting into the Storm from the new Action Pack. It is the 1945 scenario featuring a local German counterattack using StuGs and King Tigers. Aside from the late war heavy metal, the scenario features a variable OB. The Germans are allowed to supplement their force with either a platoon of Assault Engineers with DCs and a FT or extra Fallschirmjagers with a hero and PSK. The Russians can reinforce their on board defenders with a platoon of Guards riflemen, 9-2 leader and 100L AT or a strong platoon of Assault Engineers with DCs and a FT. The Russians also get to select between three IS-2m tanks or 3 T34/85 and an SU100 with an 8-1 AL.

Cory chose the Engineers for his attacking Germans while Glenn opted for numbers both times, taking the Engineers and the T34/85 armor group. Initially a squad held up the German advance at the bridge choke point. Cory seemingly couldn't pass a MC and there developed a huge overstack of broken units at the bridge exit. Finally a StuG and a squad cleared the defender and the attack resumed. The attack split in two directions, the Germans have to control a building and a cross road on each flank to win.

As the game progressed, Cory's luck changed from rarely passing a MC to rarely NOT passing a MC. On an early turn the German sniper broke two key Russian squads opening the middle of the battlefield to the Germans. Although a AT gun destroyed a StuG as the opening was exploited, Glenn's luck saw a swing soon thereafter when that AT gun malf'ed on its next shot and the crew was broken by a self rallying DM squad. Another AT gun immobilized a King Tiger when it got caught in bypass in the Gun's hex. Again Cory surprised Glenn by breaking the gun crew thereby freeing the King Tiger to kill one of his T34's skulking in the distance. The final rush was on and now Glenn couldn't buy a break. His numerous -1 and -2 shots were either ineffective (and malfing a couple LMGs) or Cory passed the 1 or 2 MCs. The SU 100 helped by burning a King Tiger and destroying a StuG but was looking at probable destruction in CC when Cory's infantry took all but one hex in the last VC building in multiple CC wins. Glenn gracefully conceded his Chairmanship to Cory for the next meeting at my place in July.

Monday, May 03, 2010

AAR: AP60 Nishne, Nyet!

Jeff Toreki, Zeb Doyle

I managed to squeak out a win on the German CVP cap VC, but I felt like I was pretty much getting my ass kicked the whole time. Zeb was crushing me from two sides in a vice grip, and then I got a bit lucky when he parked a few vehicles in LOS of a 57LL, and killed 23 CVP in one turn. There are also instant VC of the Germans winning at the end of turn 4 if no GO Russian vehicles or infantry are within a village area – to keep the game from ending there, I had to sprint a Stuart back into the village through a hail of German fire and survive. I also had to survive my own major ‘duh’ moment of the game (one of several) when I moved a T-34 into the LOS of a halftrack that was a sitting duck for the 57LL (and represented the last 5 CVP I needed), allowing him an automatic motion attempt to escape. Luckily for me, the t-34 managed to kill a PzIIIN with a malfed MA for the win. By the way, the PzIII needed a 5 or less to go into motion, and rolled a 6.

The best analogy I can think of is fighting Mike Tyson and taking a beating, then taking one lucky swing and cutting his eye, so the ref calls it on a TKO. It doesn’t really feel like a ‘win’, so much as being saved by the ref stopping the fight. Thanks again for the game Zeb.



Yep, Jeff did a great job to get the win in a scenario that seems tough on the Russians. The scenario has a very powerful German force smashing into a decent Russian force, and the Russian defense is further complicated by the instant win provisions. Jeff really had to try and master a steep learning curve of deciding how to design a very precise fall-back defense, while I just had to drive on and try to avoid a CVP cap...easy, right?

Things went well for me for most of the game with pretty average luck on both sides IMO, with Jeff only avoiding the instant win VC on turn four by having a Stuart survive three TH attempts needing a 5, a 6, and another 6.

On turn five, things swung back the other way: I lost a Tiger/9-2 AL to a HIP MOL-P unit that needed a 6TK and got it. Jeff then malfed a 57LL which really opened things up, giving me the opportunity to take out a motion T-34 from the rear with a PzIII, and eliminate three broken squads and the malfed 57LL with just two half-tracks and two squads. Unfortunately, I got stupid and greedy and parked all those units, along with a Tiger, where another 57LL could see it all. I just didn't think Jeff would put both 57LLs in such close proximity...very well played.

Anyway, the 57LL killed everything but one HT, put me 5 CVP away from the cap, and left me in a position where I couldn't do much to stop the final HT from getting nuked for the win. Then...Jeff got a little greedy himself and drove a T-34 past the HT and into position to challenge another PzIII. That let me get the HT into motion and gave it a path to safety and gave me a 5/6 chance to motion the PzIII. I failed the roll. Next turn I did everything I could go save the PzIII, but Jeff ended up with a 7TH, 7TK, and got them both. I failed the 5CS number and that was the game. Really stupid play on my part to try and bring the hammer down in the way I did. Obviously, the risk I ran if the second 57LL WAS in the area was just too high.

Final thoughts: The Russian set-up could have been better, which you would expect given the Russians have the steeper learning curve and I have the benefit of a full game under my belt unlike Jeff. I think the Russians can make the turn 4 instant win VC a very remote possibility without compromising the overall defense, and so any turn 4 frantic deathride like we had should be uncommon. Having said all that, I still like the Germans in this one even against a Russian defense that has the benefit of a prior playing. Even after all my stupid play, as we were picking up the pieces at the end, both Jeff and I thought the German force was still strong enough to win the game if the CVP cap were disregarded. Overall, it just felt like the Russians need a really good set-up and either a really dumb move like mine or some luck to be in it at the end...or perhaps a bit of both. If Jeff rolls a 7+ on his MOL TK, I'd be writing right now about what a tactical genius I am instead of whining. Anyway, I don't recall the ABS balance provisions off the top of my head, but I would certainly use them if I played it again.

Enough about the balance. Wrapping up, I'll just quickly mention the fun factor: it was neat to use the new boards, and I thought the railroad and AT ditch SSRs were fun and changed the feel of the game in a good way. The multiple VC were interesting and add to the complexity of the defense, but didn't work as well as I was hoping. If the Russians put a few more troops around the first VC area, the Germans won't be able to completely drive them out in the three turns they have to do it. After that, both the other VC require capturing a big Factory in the heart of the Russian defense, something that realistically will never happen by turn six. So, if the Russians can survive the turn four hurdle, the feel of the game really switches to that of a standard 8 turn game. Finally, the scenario was fun to play, but has a little too much of the 'big force smashing little force. Little force can't do anything but hang on and hope that time and terrain save the day' feel for a repeat playing. So, fun, good scenario aside from potential balance issues, but not a classic IMO.

Hope there aren't too many sour grapes in there, and congrats to Jeff again on the win!


Sunday, April 04, 2010

AAR: WO1 French Toast and Bacon

Steven Miller

Germans: Steven Miller
Americans: Tom Gillis

What happens when you lose 75% of your infantry and 83% of your armor? Why, of course, you win! Tom and I played one of the scenarios in the new Winter Offensive pack. It is early in the Ardennes Offensive and the Germans have to control a bridge. There are not a lot of turns but the Germans do get three panthers, three MK-IV's and four squads to only one of the worst armor TD the Americans have in their armory, two AT guns and six half squads with three bazookas. The scenario has some special rules I have not seen before. The American TD has to pass an ever-worsening TC to stay on the board, the Americans get an off-board 105 ART that shoots as direct fire and it has an ability to fire a special charge that allows a CH on a roll of 2 or a 3.

I will not attempt to be as detailed as Nick in his legendary AAR's but I will provide a brief summary. After turn one I was in serious trouble. I was the Germans and realizing there were only a few turns to get to and hold the bridge I made an armor charge. I lost one panther to sheer arrogance. (never, never underestimate a bazooka's effectivness on the side of a panther) I lost two MK-IV's to the accursed TD and APCR. The infantry, what little I had, was now conducting an armored assault without much armor. Pausing only long enough for a panther to vaporize his TD, I continued my dash to the bridge. With some poorly timed bad luck on Tom's part (hidden AT gun malfunctioning at the worst time) and some well timed luck on my part (safely racing two tanks right next to and past an AT gun) I managed to double-time a half squad, which at this time represented 50% of my remaining infantry and my last surviving tank to the bridge. The victory conditions state that the Ger mans win immediately if they control the bridge. So, at the end of the half-squads movement the scenario instantly ended and I won. Tom actually outnumbered me at that point. I'm sure many of you have had those scenarios where you satisfied the victory conditions but you don't feel quite right saying you won.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

AAR: J118 Elephants Unleashed

Jay Harms

Russians: Jay Harms
Germans: Doyle Motes

Played J118 Elephants unleashed from the latest annual. Played this one against Doyle at Marks get together last Saturday. I had the Russians and Doyle had the Germans. It is a fun little scenario that has toys for both sides. VCs are the Germans need to exit either 22 points off the board or take 6 of 7 building hexes. I set up with my speed bump force centered around the buildings and Doyle elected to go for the exit VC option early. This put my forces a bit out of place, but with 5 T34s and 2 SU152s entering on turn 1 and 2 respectively, I felt I could contain an end run. That was my first mistake……

Turn 1 I move my T34s into position, and tried for an ESB on one T34 that could just reach where I wanted in its first movement phase…. Rolled an 11 and so without a shot fired, I have one T34 immobilized in the village, not a bad spot, but still not good. (This was mistake #2) Another T34 tried for going HD in LOS of one of Doyles supporting PZIII tanks… no dice. The other 3 tanks are spread out to keep my options open as the German tanks continue to move slowly towards the exit. With a red MF of 8 for the 3 elephants, it was slow going…and I thought I had a decent initial defense...

German turn 2 and Doyle takes a shot at my T34 with a 75* gun after spinning the turret… it goes something like this…”I may as well take this shot to accuire you, I can’t hurt you unless I get a critical since my TK is 10 and your armor is 11…..(dice roll around in the dice cup…) … Critical hit! Scratch one T34…. This kill set the tone for the next 2 turns…. And at this point my defense started unraveling. Over the next 2 turns I lost two more tanks to critical hits, and only managed to deliberate immobilize one of the elephants. Doyle played an excellent game and protected his smaller tanks with the all but invulnerable elephants, while whittling away my tanks. Each turn he moved a bit closer to the exit, with the elephants covering the other tanks, and his infantry covering the Elephants. In the end I conceded as I had nothing left to stop his slow march to the exit. Good game Doyle! Looking back, with a good German opponent, I think the scenario is hard on the Russians given the Elephants have little to fear. Doyle played the attack masterfully and I botched several key decisions (split my tanks, ESB mistake, bad initial setup) which took a close game and made it into a “Jay gets slapped around” game….


Saturday, March 27, 2010

AAR: RPT28 - The Polozkov Push

Nick Drinkwater

German: Nick Drinkwater [ELR 4, SAN 2]
Russian: Tom Gillis [ELR 4 SAN 2]

In what turned out to be my final ASL game in Houston, Tom and myself faced off in this nice little meeting encounter from the Rally Point pack of scenarios. I was officially in transit between the USA and Angola, living in a hotel room in South Houston with one wife and two black cats, as our house was now empty and all our belongings had been packed away ready for shipping and storage. In this strange netherworld existence with a ton of cowboys, rednecks, pig pokers, mutton busters and other rodeo participants, I thought my chances of any more ASL were effectively nil. But then, to my surprise and at very short notice, Mrs D announces she has arranged lunch followed by a spa visit for something female and alien called a "mani-pedi" and that I was hence free to entertain myself and not get in the way of important girl-stuff.

So then, I have 8 hours of 'Nick-time' to kill in Houston - I know, let's call Mr G and see if he's up for some ASL...and bingo, yes he is! As I am sans all ASL gear, I leave it to Tom to make the scenario choice and he came up trumps as always with this excellent 5.5 turn job from the Rally Point packs. What was nice and different about this scenario was that it was a meeting engagement on Boards 44 and 17 and that no set-up defense was required. Instead the Russian strike force (7 x T34M43 and 2 x SU-85 with 10 very lightly armed squads) entered first to which the German response force (3 Panthers, 2 x MkIVs, 2 half-tracks and 7 landser squads) would manoeuvre to counter them. To win the Russians needed to exit 30VP off the German entry board edge, but interestingly this would drop by 3CVP for each Panther that was destroyed.

The game was played across the width of the two boards so the Russians have a very broad front to manoeuvre in but their exit corridor is restricted to within the D and DD hexrows of the board edge to keep the Russian assault centered and stop board edge creeps. On the German half of the play area, two small hill overlays provide opportunities for the Germans to get hulldown with their Panthers and also to funnel the Russian attacks into three corridors - down the middle between the two hills, or left or right of the two hills, or some combination therein. As the Germans come on second, they get the luxury of being able to see which way the Russians are aiming for and respond and apportion their forces accordingly. The problem for both sides is that to simulate poor road conditions, all AFV must use an extra 1/2 MP for each open ground or road hex they enter - the impact of this is to stop the Russian tanks from moving across a whole of board 17 in Turn 1 and hence deny the Germans the two hills. However, this also makes German AFV entry setup critical as you really need to plan those turn 1 moves carefully to make sure you achieve the optimum positions. Interesting conundrums here.

Other issues we both needed to be aware of were the TK numbers of our tanks - my being outnumbered almost 2:1 was equalled by the fact that any hit by a Panther guaranteed instant death (TK of 23 vs 11 AF), but Tom's weaker guns (13 and 17TK) were going to need a lot of help or APCR (14 and 19TK respectively) to dent my Panthers in return. Clearly, the MkIV vs T34 matchup was marginally more favorable for Tom (17 TK vs 11 AF as opposed to 13TK vs 6 AF), but ideally he was going to need to be in flank or side shot positions for kills - something that might be harder for Tom to achieve than normal due to the movement point restrictions. In terms of morale, Tom's infantry were either the par of (4-4-7) or better than mine (4-5-8) and more numerous (10 squads vs. 7) and he had one more leader than I did, but of course, I have lots of that lovely late war German tank-killing goodness (and a Shrek) so the Russians better beware. In return, I was more MG-rich than him, and with the two half-tracks, I had some mobile firemen too to rush in and plug any gaps that may appear in the defense. All in all, this is very much a really equal match of more numerous Russians against technically superior but outnumbered Germans - something that was apparently quite common in Eastern Europe in the middle of 1944 or so I understand.

Tom opted for a "he can't defend everything, everywhere" approach which ended up consisting of a schwerpunkt of rider-bearing T34s down each flank while the assault guns pushed up the middle - in an early sign of the way this was going to go, two of Tom's 4-5-8 riders failed orchard-enforced bailouts which also saw the demise of their sole ATR. Other riders merely pinned but Tom was still pushing on nicely, despite the restrictions of the poor ground quality - being aware of CE status to improve MP benefits on roads is critical in this scenario.

Faced with this broad punch attack, I opted to utilise the two hills to match Tom's attacks as best I can, but plan carefully for position and use the hills to my advantage. Each small hill received a Panther and MkIV wingman plus infantry support, after attempting but failing to get hull-down advantage with the Panthers. The spare Panther plus the two half-tracks went into the middle to be a reserve force that could be used where needed. On the right flank, the MkIV sat in the brush between two woods to keep any Russian tanks that felt like being a bit frisky in a deadly cross-fire.

My turn 1 manoeuvring meant that I had one T-34 on the left flank stuck in a hole with nowhere to go - scratch one T-34 from long-range Panther gunnery. The position of the Panther on the right hand hill meant that Tom's T-34s over there had to manoeuvre away from the deadly 75LL Gun, but this put him in the cross-hairs of my MkIV. Feeling confident that I would get one of the T34s in defensive fire, Tom responded with one of those classic Gillisian throwaway shots, rolling a bounding fire improbable critical and that was the end of my MkIV. So at the end of Russian Turn 2, it was 1 vs 1 on tank knockouts - killer. This one was a jaw dropper I can tell you.

On the left flank, on the appearance of the Panther, the T34 gaggle over there swerved right (like a school of minnows fearing the approach of a barricuda) and tried to manoeuvre through woods and along the side of the left hand hill. However, again the MP restrictions came out to bite Tom again as he could get past my behemoths far enough to get rear shots and enforce more turret spin penalties on me. At the same time, Tom tried to repeatedly run some infantry up to my forward Panther and fix his attention with some CC threats, but they ended up riddled by landser, CMG and BMG bullets. In my return shots on Turn 2, my MkIV spun and knocked out one of his T-34s with a tasty side shot and the Panther then addled insult to injury by spinning and then destroying the second T34 on a flukey intensive fire shot. A bit lucky but it was definitely needed as I was about to be swamped.

I thought that this effectively stopped Tom's attack on the left side for a while, him being reduced to infantry probes which my scant defenders could easily delay for the time being. But of course, it wouldn't be Tom unless he had some death and glory moments, and so he pushed on with yet another T-34 and out of nowhere pulled out another bounding fire shot (one where I chose not to DFF as I thought he'd never get me with bounding fire) and whacked my MkIV from behind. A bit of poor play by me and another real choker. 3 vs 2 on tank kills, but still no Panthers dead yet.

However, things shortly afterwards got even uglier when, having failed to find 85L APCR, Tom found another snakes from a bounding fire AP shot on my left hand Panther - we thought this was a miss, but just at the last moment, he remembered this was his 8-1 AL which made the shot a hit instead of a miss...the second of Tom's throwaway miracle hits in the game and I was down my third tank - and critically he only needed to get 27CVP off for the win. 3 vs 3 on tank deaths and I'm now even more horribly outnumbered. This was definitely the ugly point of the game for me. Unreal - all my left hand side armour was dead, two T-34s were over there to take advantage of this and they only really needed to worry about low odds, long-range faust shots now.

On the right flank, the early loss of the MkIV had upset my plan and Tom was now locally 4:1 up in tanks on me - this was not good and unless I reinforced, Tom might easily sacrifice a T34 to take on my Panther and then run 2 or 3 of his other tanks off, and at 8CVP a piece, he could be over half-way or better to his VC by the end of Turn 3. So, my reserve Panther had rumbled over there to help out and keep the Russians in an ugly cross-fire position. This meant the middle part of the board was effectively open to a run by Tom's SU-85s but they might still be taking some shots at long range from the Panthers if they dared to.

Tom, ever the optimist, tried to do just this and switched the direction of his attack. A couple of infantry squads made a mad open ground and drew fire from my few right-hand defenders and this opened a gap for a T-34 to make a dash, free of fausts. He almost pulled it off as well as my Panther missed with his first shot, but with a very brave intensive fire attempt, I toasted him from behind on his last hex before exit. It was a huge moment in the game and I had to think long and hard as a broken Panther gun would have been catastrophic, and Tom had played this one really well putting all the really hard decisions back on to me - the best thing you can do as the attacker. But I got lucky, Tom didn't, and it paid off handsomely for me for once.

Still, I wasn't out of the fire yet. My ground level Panther was all shot out, and only my eastern hill Panther was still alive and un-fired - using another T-34, he manoeuvred onto the hill to force me to spin, and afraid of a BFF shot from the side by the Russian, I fired off and missed. However, in another critical moment, I kept rate and managed to roast him on extra MP to scratch my second T-34 of the turn - another huge moment and it was now 5 vs 3 on tank casualties. Then, in probably the biggest move of the entire game, I risked all and intensive fired the Panther yet again and mashed the motion SU-85 that had swung into my sights in the central play area, armour leader and all. A very risky shot, but my gunnery was good, my luck was in and I was riding it bareback!! This was all pretty gruesome for Tom - he had tried every manoeuvring trick in the book and pushed me really hard on all the tough decisions, but at the end of it all, I still had both Panthers left at the cost of three smokin' Russian wrecks. Three intensive fire choices and three kills...huge risks but huge payoffs!

This left a lot for Tom to do, but he wasn't out of the game yet - he still had three tanks left and if he got all three off, all he needed to run off from his infantry was a squad and a half, a task that probably wouldn't be too hard as there was a big exit area and not many defenders to cover it. Tom managed to get one T-34 off past some flailing impotent faust attempts, but his other SU-85 went down to more long range Panther gunnery. Finally his last T-34 was surrounded by landsers and disappeared in a puff of faust smoke. Game over and a convincing win for the men from Munich.

I really liked this scenario, obviously helped by the fact that my dice were hot and shooting sure, but it is a rare example of a meeting scenario where tank manoeuvring is the king. Apart from the Panther shots, there are no sure kills for the all the other tanks and we both suffered several dull 'thonks' from bouncing AP rounds, all of which is part of the beauty of this design, and quite rare for a 1944 eastern front setting. The Germans need to work hard for their positions and to make their tank superiority count, but you do really feel the pressure when one of your precious panzers goes down. The Russians have options here, but the fact that the German's move second, means that much chess-like move and counter move will be happening here. Even if the Russians go with a super big punch, the Germans can easily plan to defend against this and the soft ground conditions mean that re-positioning to try a different approach or defense route gets a bit trickier. Very much recommended and one for armour aficionados everywhere.

That's it from a warm and balmy Luanda. Hope all of you have good gaming while I'm gone! I'm off to the beach for a beer...!

Monday, March 15, 2010

AAR: SP153 The Wrong Side of Victory (Response)

Chris Buehler

I’ll add a few comments to what Tom wrote about our playing of “The Wrong Side of Victory” (SP153 from Schwerpunkt 13). ROAR currently lists this scenario as fairly even 13 to 11 in favor of the Japanese. I don’t have the scenario card handy but IIRC, this 6.5 turn scenario features a reinforced company of Japanese (2 elite, 7 1st line, and 8 2nd line squads) attacking a company of the King’s African Rifles (12 2nd line squads) who had 2 Humbar armored car, 2 squad, LMG, and 9-2 reinforcement group arrive on turn 3. The scenario is set in 1945 Burma but PTO terrain is not in effect with the exception of kunai replacing the grain. Tom and I had been discussing playing a scenario over the last week. We recently finished the 17D scenario of our VotG CG2 where Tom has Germans and had been attacking my Russians. Anyway, Tom wanted to defend and I wanted to play some PTO since I haven’t played much PTO and it’s been years since I last played a PTO scenario (2 or 3 years ago I had the US Marines in “Sea of Tranquility” against Walter’s Japanese cavemen). On a side note, Tom will have plenty of opportunities to defend in the VotG CG2 17N Russian night counterattack.

Back to SP153, the VC were the side with more infantry VP within a given area which was roughly 20 hexes from the Japanese set-up area. The terrain (half boards 5, 32, 36, and 47) was a mix of woods, kunai, and open ground with some small hills. So while I had some cover to work with it comes at a cost of an expenditure of additional MF. Tom’s set up was more concentrated on the northern half of the map, clearly intending to deny the shortest route (in hexes) with the most cover. My assault was up the middle and along the Southern flank. Turn 1 featured my squads running through woods to forward positions where they would LOS to the enemy. During turns 2 and 3, Tom did a nice job of delaying my advance – some nice rolling helped. However, the tide slowly turned and I was able to close on, break, and eliminate some Africans for failure to route. Each of our last turns was a mad dash for the victory area with Tom able to win 14 VPs to 12. I’ll note that Tom was wise to keep his 9-2 near the victory area but he also KIA’d a Japanese 447 trying to scramble across the sunken road on my last turn that ended up being the difference. I was counting on those sons of Nippon to perhaps take a few casualties (red stripe) but move past Tom’s squad into the victory area. Another Japanese half squad came up one hex short.

I did have a few highlights. I was pretty effective with delivering smoke from my 3 knee mortars until all 3 ran out of both smoke and WP rounds. I had a successful bonzai charge through smoke to close and kill a half-squad in CC. I had a tank-hunter-hero that 6ed the ATMM roll but then snaked the CC roll for style points to turn one of Tom’s Humbars into a burning wreck. I dropped a DC on Tom’s broken 9-1 (Lt. Snow), MMG, and broken 447 before they could route away, killing the 447 and wounding Lt. Snow. While he was routing away and trying to block my path, I executed an infantry overrun on Lt. Snow to put him out of his misery.

Overall, it was a great scenario and one that I recommend. Tom played a great game and earned a hard fought win.


AAR: SP153 The Wrong Side of Victory

Tom Gillis

British: Tom Gillis
Japanese: Chris Buehler

My East Africans pulled a very close one out against Chris's Japanese in 'wrong side of victory'...winner had to have more infantry VPs within a certain distance of a (supposed) water hole on bd 32...I had 14, Chris had 12! Chris had a tank hunter hero blow one of my two Humbar IV ACs to kingdom come, (flamed.) And my other malf'd his MA and 6'd the repair role. For not playing the Japanese very much Chris did great. Even with me having ALL the rolls go my way for the first two turns Chris was in it to the end. The difference being I never sent my reinforcing 9-2 into the battle but had him hunker near the VC area...It turned out to be the correct strategy as he was the difference in VPs...My 9-1 Lt Snow held out on a left flank hill with a 447/mmg for just long enough to delay Chris the vital movement phases to get more troops into the VC area. Lt Snow and all his men perished of course but the time delay may have been the clinch...I deployed the max, (two 447s) at game star t and then deployed by rally phase one more so I had lots of troops to defend my line. Even so Chris killed at least 2 1/2 squads worth of Kenyans for FTR...Those sons of nippon are fast! Actually, mostly by pure luck, I won most of the CCs tho...

I rated it an 8 on ROAR...a must play...


Monday, March 08, 2010

AAR: FT124 Deadly Sleigh Ride

Zeb Doyle

White Russians: Zeb Doyle
Red Russians: Sam Tyson

The Austin Game day went off well, thanks to Rick stepping up after Mike S. had to back out. Thanks, Rick! We didn't have a huge turnout, but those that could make it really enjoyed the hospitality. Highlights included Eric's paradropping Germans being slaughtered before they could pick up their weapons canisters by David Hailey's British in ASL97 A Desperate Affair, Brian Roundhill's Japanese coming up just short against David Longstreet's Gurkhas in J9 A Stiff Fight, and best of all, Rick working to get some new blood into the hobby by playing a neighborhood kid in an ASLSK scenario (although knowing Rick, he probably diced him AND sleezed him and sent him home in tears).

As for myself, I had the pleasure of crossing blades with Sam Tyson in FT124 Deadly Sleigh Ride. This scenario is from the Franc Tireur Out of the Cellar pack 4, and covers the Russian Civil War. Based on the whole two scenarios from the pack I've played, I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in ASL off the beaten path. The pack has lots of interesting situations and (IMO) really hits the sweet spot of having just enough SSRs to make it unique and give it a good feel without bogging down in tons of chrome and extraneous detail. If you had the vanilla but good for tournament Schwerpunkt scenarios at one end of the spectrum, and the Operation Chariot chrome-fest at the other, this would be somewhere in the middle.

Speaking of interesting situations, FT124 Deadly Sleigh Ride has a historical introduction and aftermath that sounds like it's right out of a movie. The Supreme Regent of the White Russians has been betrayed by the Czech Legion, which has handed him over to the Red Army in exchange for safe passage out of Russia. A faction of the White Army, led by their best general, rushes to attack the town where the Regent is held, but attracts the attention of another Red Army group, which immediately commences a pursuit. In ASL terms, this works out to a small Red Army garrison on board 12, a big White Army force attacking across a steppe board, and then a big Red Army force entering behind the White Army and also attacking across the steppes. At game end, the Whites win if they control most of the board 12 town, and since there are all kinds of cavalry and sleighs and wagons and wagons with mounted guns and such, it ends up being a very entertaining swirling fight with a flavor I can only describe as "pre-internal combustion engine Mad Max."

Sam ended with the Reds and put together a very nice defense. He got a lot of HIP stuff and a choice of which units to take on the defense, so it was pretty hard for me to figure out what I was facing and where it was. However, the Whites have a big numerical advantage to start the game and so I pretty much ran straight at the town, hoping not to get hurt too badly. This didn't work very well...Sam had all his HIP guys in good spots (I like finding HIP stuff, but not when it comes at the cost of turning my DC-carrying 4-4-7 cavalry unit into a broken 1-3-7 with no DC) and he also rolled a ton of threes. For a while, it seemed like every single 1-2 or 2-2 he fired turned into a KIA or K/ that ELRed my unit. I was getting pretty frustrated, especially when he killed some sleighs with really low-odd shots but my SAN was also three and that started to work over Sam's backfield, breaking some key units and wounding one of his three leaders.

As I pushed forward, leaving a trail of bloody and broken conscripts behind me, Sam unveiled his guns and (importantly) started rolling 11s. Pretty soon, he'd lost two of his three guns and two of his three MMGs (all B11) to his bad dice, and it was now his turn to feel frustrated. That really took the pressure off me, and allowed my White Russians to push into the outskirts of town and capture Sam's last MMG and gun just as the wave of pursuing Red Army units arrived in my rear. That really put me back in a tricky position. I had a CVP cap that I was uncomfortably close to after the first few bloody turns, and had a bunch of wagons, sleighs, and guns that were threatened by Sam's reinforcements and that I couldn't allow to be captured. At the same time, the clock was ticking, and my battered forces still had a lot of buildings to take and weren't making much headway in the town.

Thankfully, I'd left my White Russian general in the rear, along with some MMGs and machine-gun carts. The general was historically suffering from frostbite, but apparently was a pretty formidable leader. This is represented by an SSR that has him as a 10-3 leader that must be in a sleigh or machine-gun cart he cannot voluntarily abandon, which is annoying, but he can direct fire and use his leadership DRM as if a hero out to any range, which is pretty cool. That combination of fragility and immense power makes him difficult to use in attacking the town, since he's extremely vulnerable to MMG and gunfire, but perfect for slaughtering Red Army guys coming across the steppes. A series of 16-2 and -3 attacks, along with a ton of very timely ROF, pretty much made hash of Sam's reinforcements and should have cheered me right up.

Back in the town, though, things weren't going so well. Sam had gone back to rolling threes, and so every attempted Dash further into the town was bloodily rejected. Even worse, on the one flank where things were going well, I ran into the halfsquad from hell. This thorn in my side started life as a full squad, got encircled, shrugged off several decent IFT attacks (6+1, 8+0, etc), was Meleed by a squad, killed it and was only CR'd in return, grabbed an LMG and mowed down two squads with it, was Meleed by a HS, while in the Melee was encircled again, survived an 8+1 and a 12+0 attack, rolled snakes in the Melee to kill my HS and generate a leader and Withdraw to a spot where he could kill yet another squad of mine for FTR. I could hardly believe it when finally a 3-4-7/hero combo were able to kill him off in CC.

With only a few turns remaining, and the HS from hell finally gone, my sniper woke back up and broke a few more of Sam's troops. That was tough luck on him, since the garrison had been pretty whittled down, and every remaining unit was pretty important. When the sniper got really lucky and took out Sam's 8-1 (by far his best leader) and the squad with it on the LLMC, I was suddenly in good shape. Rallying those guys was almost impossible too, since they were all conscripts at this point, and Sam only had a wounded 6+1 and an 8+1 commissar remaining for leaders. It was pretty funny, albeit in a pathetic way, watching the 6+1 try to rally a 5ML conscript squad. Sam would roll a 5 and get all excited, before realizing that wasn't actually good enough. Even better was when he actually rolled snake-eyes on the rally; the resulting HOB roll was Disruption. This little performance naturally got Sam even more frustrated than I'd been earlier, and with my MMGs and war wagons redeploying from the slaughter on the steppes and into the town, he decided to concede on turn six of eight.

I can't fault him for the decision, since I was in pretty good shape, but I was sad to see the game end. It was a very fun scenario for both of us, even with a much higher than normal frustration factor. That mixture of fun and frustration seemed to fit the situation pretty well. After all, it's a brutal civil war, and what you're fighting over is just some frosty chunk of steppe way out in the wastelands of far east Russia. It's like getting into a knock-down, drag-out brawl with your brother over a half-bottle of vodka. Win or lose, you're not going to end up feeling good. Getting back to the scenario, along with the high fun factor, I think the balance is pretty good too. It felt to me like our wild dice mostly canceled out, as did our mistakes.

Quickly going over those: the Red Army has the option to Battle Harden units during set up, although at a cost in VC. Since two of the three Red Army leaders are a 6+1 and a 8+1, I think it's important to BH at least those two to try and avoid Sam's late-game rally problems. Sam also set up his pillboxes with a great field of fire covering the steppes. Since the White Army has such a superiority at the start, I was able to capture them and really channel the Red Army reinforcements coming in on the same board. This isn't nearly as much of a no-brainer as battle-hardening the leaders, since the MMGs there really did chop me up, but I'd at least throw some wire on the pillboxes to make them more defensible if you do want them there.. For myself, I attacked on too broad a front. It worked well at the start in finding everything, but then my offensive stalled out pretty much everywhere, and I had to get lucky with Sam breaking both guns on my left flank to get things going again. I also did a pretty poor job preparing for the Red Army reinforcements, leaving a lot of equipment in spots where it could potentially get captured for lots of CVP. It was lucky the pillboxes were positioned to channel Sam's poor boys onto my 10-3 Darth Vader. That's a good example of our mistakes canceling the end, my force proved slightly more resilient and that was the difference. One other point: obviously all these comments are made with the benefit of hindsight, and are in no way a knock on Sam.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a quick game day report, so I'll stop here with one lastl recommendation for FT124 Deadly Sleigh Ride. It's a fun Mad Max romp that also requires a good amount of thought and offers a unique ASL situation. Thanks again to Sam and Rick for making game day happen for me, and thanks to you for reading!