Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Second, you have about 5 hours to sign up for the VASLeague: VASLeague@gmail.com.
Third, MMP has a new ASL pre-order up today! It's Turning the Tide, a scenario pack of oldies but goodies, remastered for a new generation (or something like that).
Monday, December 29, 2008
Well I think I faced Big Hurdle #2 in learning ASL(SK) today by facing down the beast known as VEHICLES!
In wanting to kill two birds with one stone I joined up with Talloaf who I met on the 'Geek when we started posting AARs. Mr. Talloaf was about the same level and we had both had to get our first exposure to vehicles and VASL out of the way for the upcoming VASLeague tourney (you did sign up right? You have 2 days left!).
Well, rather than pussyfooting around we went directly to S21 Clash At Borisovka, one of the vehicle-only scenarios in SK3. Rather than slowly learning we just went whole hog. Here's a pic of the board position at the end of our session today (3.5 hours!):
Talloaf rolled up the German side with two Tiger tanks and some Panzer IVF2s to try to eliminate or prevent my ten or so T-34 M41s and M43s from running off the map to the right (south).
I have to say a couple of things:
- Talloaf has been a fantastic opponent. I daresay we have been pretty gentlemanly and forgiving of mistakes as we hash out how to move and shoot tanks around. He's been awesome!
- Count Zero graced us with his presence and led us through an early part of the the first turn so THANKS!
- We played for almost four hours and only got through 1.5 turns. Insanity? I can recall being on the edge of my seat for the whole time. If nothing else, ASL is a TENSE game. i use to scoff at tourney reports of players taking six hours for a six-turn scenario. No more. It's not like we sat around chatting about things -- we were on and learning the whole time. Terrific! My wife, who saw me only as she came downstairs a couple of times, said I had a look of intense concentration on my face. I actually was not dressed for the cold basement and have a chill now.
- The Vehicle rules, so far, are like the Infantry rules, a great attempt at making a simultaneous movement system work in I-GO, U-GO. Again, a lot of intricate but very very logical details in the mechanics. More on this in an AAR or something.
That's it for now; now the Prawn can start learning the vehicle rules... where the inevitable smashing will commence!
p.s. GO SIGN UP FOR THE VASLEAGUE! VASLeague@gmail.com!
p.p.s. Thanks again to richfam for making this less of a heroic endeavour than it had to be!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Steve Swann asked for volunteers to help playtest some SK-level scenarios. I took on the Prawn in "When Patrols Clash", an engagement between the American line troops and German Fallschimjagers. See above actual photo of the game for details!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It's what you've all been waiting for -- the rematch of S2 War of the Rats between myself and ASL Life Partner(TM) Prawn. If you missed the first War of the Rats check it out here.
Since I'm feeling a little poetic in the midst of the snow and Christmas holiday I think I'll mix things up a bit in this AAR...
Private Demidov nervously clutched his rifle and fingered the safety. His superior officer had already "briefed" him with a hearty slap on his back and a hoarsely whispered, "Shoot them when they come, Demidov!" Demidov wondered if this Christmas would be his last... here in the rubbled buildings on the southern flank of the city named after the master of the state...
Demidov was spread out in the ruined building north of the old church with his fellow squadmates. They were to be the blunt front end of the defense of this small sector of Stalingrad. He'd already seen many of his comrades fall against the German war machine. With their backs to the Volga, Demidov's company knew that action would be imminent. Word was that there was only a small chance of a reserve being made available to them... The young private wondered if it was more propaganda from his commissar or wishful thinking.
In the shot above was the initial set-up. The Prawn was keen to try a modified defensive set-up and I'll try to detail it here. In (X), (Y) and (Z) he placed a conscript squad forward in a building to try to both draw fire and blunt any initial pushes. The German side would obviously be loath to take the bait and pour too much fire into these simple conscripts but moving up next to them we would still have to respect the doubled point-blank fire they could muster. I suspect that (X) and (Y) were primarily squads meant to slow me down as much as possible (the former having their sole MMG and each having a leader for rally purposes). Group (Z) seemed to be the more respectable defense -- I think that the Prawn was hoping to hold out longest here and apply his reinforcements there when they showed up. What the Prawn was most afraid of was my Flamethrower -- with good reason, that thing is a roving barbeque machine. Ignoring the +3 TEM of buildings in an urban map is pure comedy gold.
As for my set-up, the Germans in (A) and (B) were the elites with first-line back-up and toting LMGs. The FT was in stack (C) where there was least resistance crossing that deadly street. Stack (D) was an elite squad who would smoke hexes for stacks (E) and (F) to end run around and take that flank.
They all looked at each other. They had all heard it. The German command had been barked out across that bloody street and quick and deliberate movement was seen through the sudden rain of smoke grenades. Demidov's breath grew shallow as he pressed his rifle to his shoulder and flicked the safety. The distinct sound of a German MG42 accompanied by the whizzing of bullets across the face of the house he was hiding in made him duck his head. They were coming...The action in the scenario can basically be divided into the battles on the northeast and southwest flanks. On the northeast side the FT detachment was slowly encrouching from the west while the main thrust by MG and DC supported squads advanced across the very very bare street. Two rolls for smoke in the NE zone came up nada and the Germans made a desperate push. Both (A) and (B) stacks were repulsed with broken squads but not before breaking the conscripts in (X). The conscripts in (Y) were vaporized by the FT.
In the SW zone a variation of the action occurred. The smoke here did work but an end run by (F) resulted in a shot up broken squad who ran back to the building they came from. The nice leader-led stack was able to break up the Russian leader stack (again from Prawn's Final Protective Fire barrage breaking his own men) but the super-conscripts in the front building broke them in turn. An 8/-2 roll on the IFT is very scary when you're on the receiving end.
Demidov couldn't believe it. He was still alive. The smoke made it easy to tell where the Germans were coming from but it was not a trivial task to still hold his bladder and pull the trigger when the ominous shapes of men grew from the shadows. His lonely squad was once again on its own -- the scouts on the broken rooftops had yelled down that the insipid lieutenant in the adjacent building had already run back to the church with his men and the machine gun. And now, it had started to snow... A beautiful sight juxtaposed with the crimson in the street and groans of the fallen.
For the first part of the scenario, the Prawn and I rolled a lot of eleven's and boxcars. It was actually pretty comical for a bit. I've photographed the offending dice to document to the Dice Gods that yes, it was funny the first three times in a row, not so funny the next few times. Time to buy a dice tower!
Above: The view around the mid-game from the Prawn's perch. Note the incredibly bad job of defense by the farmboys of the Ukraine.
To be honest, the Russian defense was a lot harder to crack than the first game. It was clear that the Prawn had done quite a bit of thinking for this rematch. At the end of turn three in the NE zone the Germans had suffered some losses taking the easternmost Victory building when a CXed stack huffed around the back and cut off the retreat of stack (X) containing a leader, MMG and a few broken squads.
Funny ASL Moment: The Russian MMG broke (one of those boxcar rolls) and so did their squad who subsequently were eliminated by failure to rout. The funny part was the German squad that got into the hex was able to recover the MMG and then repair it. We spent a good couple of minutes joking about the Russian conscripts:
"Sir! We've broken the machine gun again! It won't fire!"
[Germans enter the broken building.]
"Herr Lieutenant, I'm not sure why those Russians didn't shoot us in the face point blank!"
"Well Corporal, it appears they didn't undo the safety..."
Funny ASL Moment: The Prawn and I think Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever. I think though that he might have found it less funny than I when I kept channeling Hans Gruber as he read the letter from John McClane, "Ho, ho, ho, now I have a machine gun..."
The situation was getting a bit dire for the Russians in the NE. The eastern building was basically goners and the FT stack was only slowed temporarily for a turn by a broken squad. I should also mention that the arrangement of the German offense in this area made skulking unsafe -- there was literally no where safe to skulk to.
On the SW side the Russians were doing a much better job, probably aided by the amazing conscript squad which repeatedly resisted massed firepower and kept breaking my squads in Defensive Fire. I think they broke once and rallied immediately in the next RPh and came right back to laugh at me. (They inspired the Demidov story.) Below you can see that the German Wehrmarct was being stopped cold.
Demidov brushed away the dust and caked on blood from his face. It was yet another Christmas miracle, he was still alive. The German squad had advanced into his building and in the heat of battle Demidov's little band was able to hold them off in a deadly melee. Demidov's squad looked at him in amazement -- he himself had killed a half dozen of the invaders. Even the commissar was wide-eyed, "Demidov, you are true hero of the Soviet Union!" It was Demidov's turn to be surprised. What a Christmas present!
The Prawn finally triggered the Leader Creation rules in this game. A 8-0 leader was created out of a CC.
If things were going badly for Germany in the SW then the opposite was true on the other flank. As you can see below, one squad with the fixed Russian MMG was sitting on the building awaiting the Russian reinforcements while the other stacks were also anticipating their arrival. There was no way the elite Russian squads were going to come through on this side of the board (and the Prawn objected on the moral grounds that he wouldn't have his men killed by their own machine gun).
At the end of turn four the Russian reinforcements still hadn't arrived (nice rolling Prawn!) but all wasn't lost yet. The SW zone was still being tenaciously defended by Demidov's super-conscript buddies. (Everyone else were broken and ELRed multiple times.)
He actually started to believe he might survive this firefight. Demidov allowed himself the hope that this Christmas would see him live to fight another day -- better yet, live to enjoy the simple comforts of a warm fire and the company of his family. That's when he heard the sound of another German officer extorting his troops forward. Would it ever end? Demidov took one last look around the hunkered down troops around him. Who would live? Who would die? Here, in the bombed out, burned out remains of an apartment buildling in Stalingrad? And then the fear began to constrict him again...
Alas, the Russian defense of the SW flank ended all too abruptly when the super-conscripts finally failed their morale check in the face of the German superstack. In fact, another German leader and supporting squad with LMG had infiltrated the victory building from the other side of the map (where they fell in CC but not before breaking a few more squads and scaring the Prawn). By the way, do you see the Russian reinforcements? Me neither!
I think this above picture says it all.
Here's the board position at the very end of the game on turn 6. The Russian elites finally showed up and were mercilessly gunned down in the SW area as they crossed the open fields. The other Russian squads had all evaporated from failure to rout or routing off the board. Here's the magnificent defense that awaited the reinforcements: (A) first-liners with a Russian MMG; (B) Elites with a LMG; (C) Leader with two squads, a LMG and FT; (D) Leader with squad and MMG; and (E) squad with LMG.
We hashed out the scenario again and here were some preliminary thoughts:
- Die rolling was atrocious but even.
- Did I say die rolling was even? The Russian reinforcements were late again!
- Super-conscripts were amazing, though even in the end they faced the music.
- Stalingrad, with all deference to the reality of war, is a fun place to play ASL.
Demidov woke on a hard cot. He remembered firing and firing and running out of bullets. He remembered running. He remembered getting shot in the calf as he reached the trees. He half-remembered someone pulling him over their shoulders. And then he remembered nothing.
He thought he heard the soft singing of a Christmas carol but doubted himself. There would be no overt shows of religion here in the very battleground where Soviet Communism strove mightily against the fascists. And yet, as he looked up through the open rafters of the triage centre he couldn't help but hum a little Christmas tune, glad to be alive and glad, perhaps, to be able to fight again...
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
First, once again I've updated the Web Links on the sidebar with a really cool site I've recently registered on. It's the ASL Scenario Archive. At first I thought it was just some overwrought site where you could buy a few digitally available scenarios but it's actually something like a database for ASL scenarios in the vein of BGG -- except of course focused entirely on sorting and cataloguing the fifty hojillion ASL scenarios out there. It's intended to complement ROAR.
I've already started to log my plays and upload some photos of my games on the site. I think it's a terrific resource and congrats to Dave Ramsey (?) who is running the show. Awesome work! Check it out guys!
Secondly, I've added http://www.levalet.com/ to the Buying ASL links. It's a Quebec games store that had copies of the Beyond Valor (3rd Edition) for $95 Canadian and I couldn't resist. They were super fast and the shipping was ridiculously low. Canadian ASLers, check it out and Americans, be aware that your dollar is equivalent to gold up here. And Europeans, well, the Euro is pretty nice too.
Thirdly, SIX days left to sign up for the ASLSK VASLeague!
Fourthly, I've been working on the second AAR to S2 War of the Rats. My apologies, the holidays = family time first!
Fifthly, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to you and yours! Enjoy your time with loved ones and push some cardboard around!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I just signed up having doubled checked my social calender in the new year (nada - loserville!). If you have no idea what you're doing, no opponents for face-to-face, play only by yourself, hate others, are a serial killer or girl, what are you waiting for? VASL is free!
If you're interested check out the post on GameSquad here. You only have to email ecz, the VASLeague Tournament Director: VASLeague@gmail.com. It should be an excellent time. And if you draw me in the opening round I promise not to "Prawn" you, too hard.
[Edit, Enrico just got back to me and the draw has 21 people in it. Let's go ASLSKers! By the way, if you're a VASL virgin like me drop me a line and we'll get a game or two under our belts by New Year's Eve when the draw is done for round 1.]
Friday, December 19, 2008
Just spotted a great thread on the 'Geek featuring ASLSK1 and specifically the fun OCD symptom known as "Counter Clipping"! Check it:
(I have a C4 Corner Cutter coming in the mail for Christmas!)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Okay, the first thing I want to go over was the situation at the end of the game. The Prawn conceded at the end of turn 4. The reinforcements he was to receive sometime starting on turn 2 had still not shown up and there was every reason to believe that even if they had, it would have been too late.
Here's the pic of the final board at the conclusion of turn 4:
According to my pathetic memory, here's what stood in Prawn's way: (A) a first-line squad with LMG; (B) two squads with MMG; (C) two squads with leader and DC; (D) a squad, a leader, a LMG and FT; (E) two squads, one leader and a LMG; (F) a first-line squad mopping up some conscripts who routed north. Versus (G) a Russian squad with MMG and leader. [There was another squad and a half of Germans too.]
The Russian reinforcements would have entered from the south (right side of photo). They would have been two first (elite?) squads, a 9-2 leader and a LMG. I don't believe for a second that they would have advanced far enough in a turn or two under murderous fire to challenge one of the three victory buildings.
Part of our post-game discussion last week was whether the Prawn was right to concede. I think, more and more, that he did the right thing and saved Russian (cardboard) lives. Perhaps a few more games under our collective belts would confirm our suspicions.
1. Well we corrected some of our laziness and actually laid down residual fire counters this time (though we slacked off at the end again). We were pretty meticulous on the DRMs for all IFT rolls -- FFMO, FFNAM, Hindrance, Smoke, Leadership Mods, TEMs etc. I think on the whole we may have missed only a couple of mods which is a good improvement on last time.
2. So what did we miss? Prawn's Russians were mostly "Inexperienced". That means that they had less MF, cowered twice as bad and their B#s were all one less as well [5.4]. To be honest, there was very little cowering for some reason in our IFT rolls so I don't think it was decisive. This probably was balanced by the forgetting that German squads with the FT provided opponents' fire with a -1 DRM -- again though, this wasn't decisive in my memory [4.2]. Even stevens then and we'll get this right for sure in the rematch.
3. Final Protective Fire. I had to check this multiple times because it got nuts. On at least two occasions, Russian squads fired at least half a dozen times versus adjacent German units who had shown up on their doorsteps in MPh. The original DR counts as a NMC every time they fire and they can fire indefinitely until they break [3.3.3]. As I said, on two occasions Prawn's Russian creeps blasted adjacent Germans 5-6 times with FPF to no effect until they themselves broke. In hindsight this breaking of low morale troops probably hastened his demise. The sheer number of shots though was breathtaking.
4. ELR. [5.1] I think we may have ELR'ed a unit or two in Rally Phase. Rallying does NOT equal Morale Checks. ELRing occurs only on UNBROKEN units failing a MC bigtime. I think we may have ELRed a broken unit or even one in RPh -- I'm not sure but this is something to keep in mind for the rematch (and let's face it, not like the Russian Conscripts were ELRing down to "Moron" status).
And that might be it.... As I said in part one, the new rules added from S1 to S2 were basically SWs and ELR. We easily captured those rules into our game. [As an aside, my creation of the eASLSK3 has really helped my proficiency with the rules.]
5. Smoke is good. I don't care what the Prawn says, smoke was good in leaving up +2 hindrances so my Germans could cross the big empty streets with a lot less casualties. Having a Russian have to roll a 9 instead of a 7 to force a NMC is a big difference.
6. Skulking. Okay, I finally get what this is about. ASLers are always talking about "skulking". Basically it's a "gamey" technique of Assault moving your squads out of LOS of your opponent when you're the ATTACKER and defending the scenario objectives and subsequently Advancing them in APh back to their original hexes. Why? To avoid the incoming Defensive Fire Phase which is sandwiched between them. "So what?" you say. I think I broke at least a few squads of the Prawn's who sat around in their original hexes who Prep Fired to little effect earlier. The argument against this is that it's "gamey" -- that is, a tactic that is allowed by the rules but is ahistorical or not something the squads in "Real Life" would have attempted. Until this scenario I always thought it was a stupid and "gamey" thing to do but I think Prawn's final results have a bit to say about its effectiveness. Besides, nobody should be arguing about realism when they're pushing cardboard around a paper map.
7. Defensive Options. Okay, Prawn and I discussed this a lot at the end of the game. I felt that his defense across the board was probably sub-optimal. I really felt that his placement of the MMG in the rear was really not good. All it did was dissuade me from going to the back of the map which was, uh, empty of victory buildings. Was this a poor reverse-slope defense? I think so. Would it be better to anchor his flanks with the MGs in front? Prawn's counter to this was that I had the first shot and second set-up so I would naturally put my MMG across the street with the best leader and squads I had and blast away in turn one (and yes I would have). My rebuttal was basically that the MMG in the back was not the solution to this problem. I don't know if there's a proper solution to this puzzle and maybe that's what is so great about ASL -- the fun just in thinking about tactics.
8. Conscripts. They suck. Prawn's current thinking is they are best used to soak and absorb and speedbump the Germans en masse on a specific part of the map and should not have been so spread out. Their primary task is to keep the Germans occupied and distracted until the "elite" Russian reinforcements show up. I think there's no question that the tougher row to hoe is the Russian side in this scenario -- a lot of close sheparding of crappy squads is necessary and a solid set-up and plan is critical. Then again, isn't this what makes games like ASL fun?
So I hope this wrap up of the first War of the Rats was educational. War of the Rats II: The Reckoning lands soon!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The best game of all time, and my fav by far is Aliens. And why this is relevant is because I learned a lot for that game. Most importantly, it is fun to lose. The only thing more fun in Aliens than winning is seeing Hudson and Drake get ripped apart just squares before they make it out of the Reactor Room. Or seeing the Queen chomp on Hicks as Ripley watches helplessly.
So, with this valuable lesson in mind, my fur coat and an extra large glass of vodka, I went to play my second ever ASL game. This time as you might of guessed as the Russians. I am a personal fan of Russia and the Russians, but with that said, I am going to play them the same way Stalin and Kustchev would. Bloody and without remorse. Body count on both sides baby!
My second game turned out pretty much like the first ones. Lots of smiling Germans. So, why did it turn out so?
1) Rules. Not a factor. I get the game. Easy enough to understand [scrub- I am teacher of the year!]. It was not missed opportunities (or dice rolling), or not understanding rules that led to my defeat. I am surprised how easy the rules are [scrub- maybe I chatted up the complexity too much]. And our second game was still less than 2.5 hours.
2) Tactics. Scrub might have me here to some extent. He uses a more concentrated tactic of focusing his fire to defeat a small group. I tend to hit more, and pin/break many of his units, but am never able to finish many of them off. I do try to concentrate fire and part of it is because he is attacking, so he tends to get to pick his battles more than I do. I can really only react.
3) Complexity. Yes, a bit of an issue. I am not used to looking so far ahead and having to keep so many things in the back of my mind. I have to spend slightly more time on my moves. ASL is definitely more like chess and less like Hungry Hungry Hippos.
4) And this leads me directly to scrub's rule - Know the Goal - In both games I wanted to out blast scrub’s Hans Grubbers like John McClane. Most games that is kind of the goal. However ASL is much more complex. Both missions can probably be won without ever defeating any German units.
5) Finally, this leads me to where my improvement must come. I think in both missions the battles were lost before the first die was rolled. My overall strategy must improve. Know the goal, have a plan and be able to avoid temptation. With this in mind I have some thinking to do before I next cross hammer and sickle with one comrade scrub!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
For those of you who have been following the action, I've basically progressed in ASLSK play to having competency in SK#1 level rules. My current opponent of choice (a.k.a "ASL-life-partner" -- a term I've shamelessly lifted from the hosts of 2 Half-Squads) is the "Prawn". What his pseudonym choice has to do with his unholy love of Sea Monkeys is up to your imagination.
The Prawn wanted a Stalingrad-type of scenario and as luck would have it, S2 War of the Rats is set in Stalingrad during September 1942. The Prawn, when he isn't making sick love to brine shrimp, is fond of the Russian way of life so he naturally wanted that side. He's a VASL screenshot of the map and the Germans and commies involved:
The Germans must control ALL three buildings by scenario end. Control being defined by being the last player to have Good Order troops in them at any time. The Russians are seeking to prevent this.
Set-up is divided along the long diagonal (northeast-southwest) road basically. Additionally the Russians will enter along the bottom map edge (south) sometime after turn 1 based on a die roll. If you play the SK scenarios in order, you get a good progression -- S1 has basic elite squads with no Support Weapons (SW) and ELR is not an issue. S2 starts to differentiate itself with ELR (both sides have ELR 3 and can and will degrade over the course of the scenario) and SW (yay toys!). The Russians get 2 LMG and a MMG with a host of Conscript-level cowards-- sorry, comrades to start with. The reinforcements they get are first-line troops with a good leader and LMG. The Germans get Elite and first-liners with lots of LMG, a MMG, Demolition Charges and a fun Flamethrower -- but no reinforcements, they make do with what they have.
Russians set-up first and the Germans move first. Why is this critical? The Germans get the first shot (their Prep Fire) and this weighed heavily into the Prawn's intial set-up. Here's how we set up for the War of the Rats:
Key things to note here (analysis and handwringing to come later): the Russian MMG was installed in the rear building and not on a flank or Victory building. Leaders were placed with the squads holding the SWs. I additionally put the DCs and FT in the hands of leaders as well. I spread out the 5-4-8s with the increased smoke exponents of 4 (due to SSR) across the line of advance to cover everyone.
The first shot of the game had my MMG open up on the Russian leader with squad and LMG on the east flank. I anticipated massive havoc and promptly rolled crap. Very well then, the squads would have to advance on their own. Here's a shot of the first turn (the label should say north-east):The black acquistion counter is flipped to white to show German control (this wasn't to last more than a turn). Under heavy fire all the squads on the left flank have gone DM and routed leaving a leader pinned in the middle of the street with his DC (he wouldn't make it). The large-ish stack in the middle has a leader and two squads with a LMG and a FT. This Death Star stack would cause the Russkies a lot of difficulty in the middle.
On the whole, the FT was an MVP. It liquidated more than a few squads. The fact that it ignores TEM makes it the ideal SW in urban firefights.
On the south-west flank the approach of the other German squads was held up a little less as we were able to wrap around the buildings with smoke cover. Of note were the two conscript squads here that survived a 30FP DC attack by just breaking. They may have crapped their pants but they were still alive...
That being said, the Russians were taking an awful lot of casualties. I think we were both being schooled on the very very distinct differences between 8-, 7-, and 6-morale troops. The Germans were DMed quite a bit but the Prawn was never able to totally finish them off. The Russian conscripts, on the other hand, seemed to do a lot of running and melting. Here's the "pile o' dead".
Fun ASL Story #1: The Prawn's MMG stacked with a 4-4-7 and 8-1 leader broke very early on and was a non-factor for a couple of turns as the hapless Russians desparately tried to unjam it. When they finally got it back on track it broke down again on the very next firing. This was a source of much loud guffawing on both sides. This will forever be known as the malfunctioning machine gun story.
Fun ASL Story #2: The Prawn's reinforcements never showed up. His die rolls were never under the turn number. As the vast number of his conscripts started to disintegrate under the German advance, the failure of the die roll at the beginning of his turns became a grotesque reminder of the failure of the Soviet system and all it stood for. The fall of the Iron Curtain could be directly traced to this tactical travesty.
Above is a shot from about turn 3 from the Prawn's perspective. Things had started to really go sour for the Russians. The defense was basically in tatters and the conscripts were all dead or running. The Prawn really had only one functioning and defensible stack at his rear (the MMG stack) but they couldn't really do more than plink away at the southern victory building (and with my troops pulled back they couldn't even do that later).
Below is a shot of the map table as a whole. I included it to show our table set-up and how we play. On the left, we've stacked the info counters for easy access (this really speeds up play). The top of the map not involved in the scenario was our die rolling space (I have got to get me a dice tower or something). For kicks, we stacked the dead in the lower right. Just off the bottom we put the scenario card with the reinforcements and turn counter.
The piles of the dead continue to flow brown:
If it wasn't already clear the game was a slaughter. The Prawn conceded after about 150 minutes at the end of turn 4. He had only one stack (the losers in the rear with the very crappy MMG) and the reinforcements still hadn't shown up.
I just want you guys to note that my squads have already set-up massive defense stacks to murder the reinforcements had they even shown up the next turn!
Above: the losers cower in their broken, rubbled, dormatory for little girls.
Seriously though, I went to check out ROAR (the ASL scenario results database) after this game and I was a little surprised to see it only 63-57 for the Germans. The Prawn and I spent a good chunk of time just debriefing the firefight. He's even written up a little AAR of his own and I'll add that to mine.
The questions that arose were basically about the set-up and its effectiveness, conscript (read: crappy) morale, and the relative evenness of the die rolling and our generally good grasp of the rules (we did very little consultation of the rulebook). Should the Prawn had conceded? Was Stalin's purges having their unintended consequences? When did we have time for a rematch?
But that's for part two...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The boys have put up Episode 13!
I'm currently listening to this episode while I type up some of my new eASLSK3... Gentlemen, I love the recurring ASL box joke. The intro is a hoot.
And oh yeah, finished up a game of S2 today with the Prawn -- get ready for more crazy action soon!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and re-type and key in the entirety of the ASLSK #3 rulebook. This "electronic" version of the ASLSK rules is for my own personal use (so you cheap bastards out there go buy your own copy and type it up yourself!) so I can truck it around on a laptop or USB key and put the hardcopy away somewhere safe. Besides the convenience though, creating my own eASLSK3 is just another way of learning and retaining the rules.
However, I haven't just chosen a word processor and have at it. I've done a bit of research and decided that rather than plain text or even plain HTML, I'll go with the Windows Help File format (.chm) which let's me do some fancy indexing and internal hyperlinking. A quick look through sourceforge.net (open source software -- i.e. FREE software) and I found HelpMaker by VizAcc.
Here's how the program looks in action/editing mode:
It's basically a WYSIWYG text/HTML editor that compiles your work into a Windows Help file format when you're done. Here's how it looks in a compiled page (Windows Help file format) opened on my desktop:
Note: I haven't scanned any images in yet but this is also integrated into the software so inserting diagrams and illustrations from the rulebook is very simple. (So now my ASL hobby has combined with my ultra-computer-nerdness and I am complete.)
Seriously though I only just started today and am done a good chunk of 1.0 and all 2.0 Definitions "a" through "d". Did I learn anything? Yep! I was reminded while typing in the CX entry that units not only declare CX to add 2 MF during movement but become CX if they advance and use all their available MF -- no more willy-nilly advancement without checking PPs and MFs.
Thanks to the folks at Gamesquad in this thread (check out page 20-ish and onwards) who chatted up the .chm format and other possibilities with me.
p.s. SCANNING IS CHEATING!!!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Well, if you've been following the comments on previous posts I've been called out by Prawnski in what passes for his broken English. His request has been for adopting his natural form of pinko-Commie in the next scenario we play. It just so happens that S2 War of the Rats pits Germans versus Russians in a Stalingradesque urban battle. Stay tuned loyal readers for the next thrashing of the Prawn.
So I've been thinking that I'll start posting good learning tips that apply to ASL and basically any higher complexity wargame. In addition I'll post them in a handy marquee thingy at the bottom of the page -- check it out!
Here's tip #2 which is an excellent one for ASL(SK) learners:
I'm paraphrasing a great introductory section from The Gamers' Standard Combat Series v1.7 rulebook which is, in its entirety, here:
"Games are meant to be enjoyable pastimes, not tedious tests. In order to learn this game, begin by lightly reading the rules and thumbing through the game’s component parts. Don’t memorize anything. Punch out a few units from both sides and set them up on the map in any desired fashion. Now, with the rules in hand, follow the “sequence of play” below, re-reading as needed. ... Once you are moving along with your random game and rarely have to look things up, set up the real game and give it a try. By this time the terminology should be well under control and you will be able to play any SCS game with little additional effort." (Essig)Now just substitute ASL for SCS and "scenario" for "real game" you'll get the wisdom of this.
Skim the rules the first time through, maybe even take a few point-form notes or write out the sequence of play. Don't try to super-absorb everything the first time. Skim a second time and start pushing some cardboard pieces around as soon as you can. Set up S1 or some other scenario that catches your eye. Set up the situations in richfam's tutorials. Use VASL if you don't have the boards. I personally found that DOING the stuff in the rulebook made a lot more sense than just trying to picture it in my mind. It's a great tip.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Which brings me to ASL Learning Tip #1:
It should go without saying but frequently I see people stuck in "analysis paralysis" because they are overcome with the notion of being "perfect" in the game. The problem is bad enough in Eurogames and such but I can see some of this in people's reluctance to even crack open their ASL Rulebooks. Get over it. The sooner you accept that you're going to make mistakes the sooner you can get on with having fun! Save the optimizing for tourney play!
So, without further proselytizing here's what I think of S1 with the Prawn...
Mistakes with the Rules
1. Residual Fire [3.3.5 - all rule references apply to SK #3] - It's not like I didn't talk about this but basically we forgot to apply the rules for residual fire. That's because for the most part Prawn and I moved in big stacks. ASL experts are shaking their heads here but I discussed the disadvantages of having stacks of three squads and leaders versus the advantages with the Prawn. However, for each particular instance in the game when this debate came up, the massive firepower required for the mission or the necessity of getting a stack somewhere quickly outweighed the need to split defensive fire up. I'm pretty sure that this omission of putting residual fire chits on the board made no difference to any outcome of the game we played -- I don't recall a single instance of piecemeal squads following in the footsteps of others who had taken defensive fire earlier in a turn.
2. Self-Rally Penalty [3.1.f] - This we realized about halfway through the scenario when I was checking something else in the Rally Phase rules. Any unit, MMC or SMC attempting a self-rally (even the additional one granted to attackers) gets a +1 penalty. We just continued to play it wrong to be "fair" for the rest of the game. Otherwise we got the Rally Phase perfect I think. S1 makes it easy in that there's no Support Weapon repair or transfer or any of that nonsense to worry about.
3. TEM vs. Hindrance [1.1.1, 3.2.1 and 2.0 definitions] - I think we goofed this one up too. Since the Prawn was enraptured with avoiding my forward defenders in the north he made a lot of runs through the wheat fields. Now that I've read through the rules again I realize that we included the target hexes as +1's to the IFT attack rolls in addition to hindrance +1's from intervening hexes. By definition TEM is the modifier for the target hex and the hindrance is NOT included in this. Also, wheat fields are NOT open ground so FFMO is not applicable. I think I've got a better handle on this. (Oh darn, I wonder if the scenario's time period made the wheat fields open...)
Lessons and Rules to Learn
4. Know the Goal - This comes from post-game discussion with the Prawn. Part of the difficulty that the Americans had in this scenario was not defending the victory hexes sufficiently. Perhaps enamoured with the idea of shooting and killing stacks and squads I left around the village, the Prawn left the two hexes in the main clump of buildings in the middle of Vierville wide open. This basically passed initiative to me as the Germans -- I could sit on the hexes and wait for him to approach and soak up tons of point blank fire. Newbies who want to be successful should never forget the scenario's victory conditions -- something I hear is difficult even for veterans to remember. (Maybe I'll make this a Learning Tip!)
5. Time Limits - Part and parcel of the lesson above, know the time limits in the scenario. We played for about 2.5 hours but other than the very slow first turn spent explaining the basics of ASLSK, time really really flew. More importantly, the fun we were having really resulted in a surprised Prawn when the turn counter crossed into 4 and 5 territory (the scenario turn limit). Know the turn limit and make sure that you have enough game time to complete the mission!
6. Can an unbroken Leader modify a broken leader's rally DR? Here is a great example of something I like in ASL. Every rule makes logical sense if you apply a real-world combat analogy to it. While we were playing we came upon the situation of an unbroken leader stacked in a hex with a broken leader who was attempting to self-rally. We knew that they couldn't apply their own modifier because a) that's the rule and b) it makes total logical sense -- if you're crapping your pants it's hard to start believing in yourself. So we spent a little time looking up the rule but couldn't locate it quickly without dragging down the game so we applied the "common sense rule of ASL" -- we asked, would it be logical for another leader to be able to kick the other leader's butt and get him back on his feet? Yes was the answer and so we allowed the modifier. As it turns out when I later checked the rule it was correct (check 3.1.f - "A Good Order leader may attempt to rally all the units he is stacked with").
7. Routing [3.6 and richfam's Routing Tutorial] - Okay, the very first time I perused the ASLSK rules routing was NOT one of the rules I was perplexed by. Now it's become this nagging thing in the back of my head when I play. I constantly ask myself "Am I doing this right?". To be honest, I just need to re-read the rules and write down the instances that are causing me questions but in the middle of the game with the Prawn it didn't seem appropriate to stop the action for 10 minutes so I could figure out where to run his little half-squad of cowardly lions. I think there are just going to be instances where you'll have to learn via repetition and application, i.e. play more. One thing I'm going to also check is the ASL Rulebook itself which I recall, while flipping through it, a comprehensive example or two on routing. This is also why I have Jay Richardson's tutorials printed up and in a binder. Constant study can't hurt -- and yes I find this very fun.
8. Looking Through Stacks - I've checked the ASLSK rulebook and can't seem to find mention of this; it may have been something I read on a messageboard or something somewhere else. I think that looking through stacks is something verboten to the opposing player. You're permitted to see the top of the stack but no further. This was NOT a big deal in our game as we were both learning. I could see this being a sticky issue later if I were to play a little more competitively though.
9. Smoke is your friend - No really, it's big.
As a real-life teacher I'm not a big fan of HUGE after action to-do lists. I think it's best to focus on fewer areas to improve on and be successful with rather than attempting the mountain before me. So, this list has gotten a bit big but I think it's still super useful to start here and trace my learning of the ASL system. I hope it's been useful to those reading along.
Super big thanks to the Prawn who will hopefully play me again soon as time permits and this time I'll explain the "Balance" part of the scenario card to him! 8)
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The game was a face-to-face one as part of Newbie November -- my mini-effort to evangelize the ASL hobby.
The opponent was "Prawnski", one of my fellow co-workers who is an avid gamer in the fields of Euros and console and PC games. Prawnski enjoys violent action and my description of ASL got him curious to try after work yesterday. This would be one of his first hardcore wargame experiences.
The choice of scenario was an easy one -- S1 Retaking Vierville from Starter Kit #1. It involves very few squads in the beginnings of the scenario but quickly over the course of five turns ramps up with multiple reinforcements showing up from both the American and German sides. There are no support weapons and no AFVs.
Here's a shot of the empty board (notice that it does not use the whole of map y):
And here's the entire OOB of both sides splayed out on the map:
The objective of the scenario was for the American paratroops to hold four key buildings in the centre of board "y" -- ostensibly the French town of Vierville (this is during the early days following D-Day). Here's a shot of the board using VASL (the comment is wrong, it's not ANY building but ALL of them):
I chose to take the Germans as they would do most of the early lifting early on and from my solo plays of this scenario, I felt that they had the hardest time of it. Going into the game I knew that the Americans could not be allowed to reinforce his initial squads in the village so I tasked the second line Germans coming in from the west with harrassment duties toward the north end of the map (it's the right side here):
We set-up the scenario with my trusty map condom and Plano-ed counters and I began the introduction to ASL with a brief overview of the counters and the geomorphic nature of the maps. I briefly outlined the sequence of play (use this!) and the scenario and the objectives and Prawnski set his squads up and we started! Here is the initial set-up in real life (sorry about the flash!):
Here's another view of the action from a lower perspective with victory hexes circled:
Here's the action at approximately turn 2 during the American's phase:
The first two turns went fairly slowly as I explained and ran through the Sequence of Play. Luckily I'm pretty good at explaining things and Prawnski is a quick study with his prior gaming experience. You'll note from the photo that I have a fairly strong stack in yK6 shooting at the half-squad across the street and a squad in yP6 probing into the centre victory hexes. Prawnski has split his initial squads to protect both sets of victory hexes thanks to the diversionary second-line German squad in yI2. Finally, check out the fun on the north (right) side of the board. The first set of reinforcements has taken the German squads with 7-0 leader in the farmhouse in yU3 a bit too seriously and run through the wheat fields trying to reinforce the village.
Prawnski's relative inexperience was pretty balanced by some of my atrocious rolling. On multiple occasions I had massive firepower arrayed against him and rolled eleven's. Nice. And no I'm not complaining -- I have long since made peace with the dice gods in all my games. Besides, if ASL is good for one thing, it's the fantastic stories that come out of these desparate and nutty situations. [As an aside: Prawnski liked to make the ominous Terminator music when he advanced squads... spooky!]
By the start of turn three we can see things starting to develop even more in Vierville. Here is a close-up of the action in the centre of the map (notice that in trying to run his half-squad away they were shot up):
As turn three commenced the action looked like this:
Again to explain what has happened, a German squad already controls a victory hex (yN6)with at least two other stacks waiting outside the village in stone farmhouses waiting to shoot up and delay reinforcements. Note the one eliminated squad off the board -- they ran into an ambush in CC and were bayonetted. Nasty!
By the late game, around turn 3-4, the situation had become even more grim for the Americans.
Here's the situation at the start of the last turn:
I have advanced my German squads into a massive three stack defense of the centre victory hexes. I offered Prawnski a cessation to the hostilities but he respectfully declined and threw his men into a final, last-ditch effort. Not shown are some of the nasty point blank fires that occurred and the equally destructive close combats in the victory hexes -- if you're wondering where all his guys are... If Prawnski made one mistake, the typical newbie one, is that as an attacker he used way too much prep fire trying to dislodge my units. Having given up the initiative by losing the centre of Vierville I could wait for him to come to me.
And basically the game ended with a dominating German victory after about 2.5 hours. Did the Prawn enjoy himself? Immensely if he is to be believed. Another of the joys I find in gaming and ASL is the debriefing and end of game discussion about memorable moments and lost opportunities and head slapping as you find out the rules you messed up big time. Alas that is for part 2 when I'll reveal some lessons learned about ASL after S1 Retaking Vierville.