Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After Action Report #1 - S1 - Retaking Vierville - Part 2

It's been a few days since my face-to-face with the Prawn over S1 Retaking Vierville and I've been thinking about the game in an effort to sort through mistakes, rules and other reactions. It's basically inevitable in a game of ASL and ASLSK-level of complexity to have these sorts of debriefs in order ot improve. At least at the ASLSK-level, the quick run through the rules makes finding your mistakes a lot easier!

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)


Jay Richardson said...

"Looking Through Stacks": A12.16 in the full ASL rules.

You may inspect any of your opponent's stacks that you have a LOS to.

For more discussion, see the very good article by Roy Connelly in issue 32 of the View From The Trenches newsletter: "Right of Inspection".

scrub said...

Thanks Jay!

I think I was getting confused with OCS rules on limited FOW for stacks.

Anonymous said...

Smoke is for wimps.

If Triple Point Blank wants to have a better chance at victory by swinging the balance in his favour - who am I to argue - it is his game after all.

Next time I am going to be their Russian!

scrub said...

That dear readers was the Prawn. I think he was challenging me to a rematch...

Anonymous said...

On a more serious note. Having never played much more complicated than Risk, scrub explained everything pretty well. I was expecting to only get a couple turns in the books before time became a factor, but 2.5 hours was brisk.

I would be pretty lost without an experienced teacher, but the game is so intuitive that it really went by quickly. I didn't even often get confused about what stage came next. Very enjoyable.

As for my pathetic defeat, I believe it came from by basic strategy. My plan was to use the first couple of turns to punish outlaying German units - allowing some of the Germans to enter the heart of the town. It was my hope that I would wear them down in the early stages, and be able to overwhelm them in the later parts of the game.

It is a strat I might use again, even though it did not work the first time. I was able to damage many Germans, and killed several others. I was often at the verge of a 'knock out blow' to several important German stacks but could not deliver.

Overall, I hope to put up a better showing next time.