Saturday, February 28, 2009

ASR - Advanced Squad Reader

Concurrent with most wargamers' interests in waging paper wars is their interest in history. I think that's a safe bet -- without the interest in theme we might as well all be playing Euros.

So, I think I'll start chatting up some war history books I've been getting into that have some relevance to ASL players.

First, I want to point out that I've got a little "Currently Reading" link list in the sidebar. Usually I have at least one history book on the go. If you're looking to find something to peruse check that out as I rarely post something I don't like.

Here's a short list of stuff I really really like and have on the nightstand right now:

  1. Stalingrad by Antony Beevor. This is a beauty. It's a nice thick trade paperback that covers not only the most famous battle in WWII's eastern front but how the Germans got there and its impact and aftermath. Gritty as all hell. I finished it and am reading it again. There are some great chapters and passages about the tactical aspects of the battle that would be of particular interest to ASL players -- especially Red Barricades and Valor of the Guards players.

  2. An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson. I first got wind of this book through, of all things, a person's avatar on ConSimWorld. I checked it out at the local bookstore and the book is actually the first in the "Liberation Trilogy". Atkinson won the Pulitzer for this volume and it's well deserved. His primary thesis is that final victory for the Allies was laid from early experiences and blooding from North Africa onwards. I've not been the most interested of people in the North African campaign in WWII but An Army at Dawn really got the juices going. So far, there aren't any ASLSK scenarios for this theatre but of course full ASL players have a lot of choices here. Guess what!? Desert warfare wasn't always in the desert! Volume Two is already out and I'll be picking that up asap.

  3. Panzer Commander by Hans von Luck. This is a terrific little paperback written by Rommel's reconnaisance commander. The length and breadth of his experiences from the "other side" is very interesting. Now, as most ASL players know, scenarios are drawn mostly from existing historical sources and it appears that von Luck's memoirs are a key source. There's at least one SK and one full ASL scenario based on his "adventures" in WWII (and his pun-tastic name) so there's a direct corelation between this book and ASL. It's a great read overall. (See J60 Bad Luck, S28 Out of Luck)

  4. Stalingrad 1942 by Osprey Publishing. (Written by Peter Antill) Osprey should be a fairly well known imprint for those with an interest in military history. I find them good for being short, concise, colourful and excellent as an overview of their particular topics. Stalingrad 1942 is no exception and is recommended for those who are still plugging away at S2 War of the Rats.

Feel free to recommend some stuff in the comments.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

ASLSK3 Review

Thinking about picking up ASLSK3? Here's Jay Richardson's review of the game from the 'Geek:

A nice, thorough review from the man that got me into ASL.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting your wifey to play wargames

Check out my geeklist on BGG right here:

Thumb me!!!! (And not the way Prawn thumbs me...)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A reason to love ASL...

I AM COOL!!! So I'm sitting around marking assignments and waiting to watch the Oscars with Mrs. Scrub and come across a post on the ConsimWorld ASL folders that just makes me chuckle.

Because I totally get it.

With apologies to Mr. Buck Karpowitz who posted the original question on CSW here, read this:

Will wagons galloping while towing take a wreck check EVERY hex because of the +1 for towing. That the way I played it, but I think I might see an argument that the +1 for towing wouldn't be considered 2MF for entering a hex and would not by itself cause a wreck check.

But if there was ground snow, then galloping on the road would definitely cause a wreck check each hex, whether towing or not, correct?

I know a year ago that would have had me running in terror. To quote the NBA's motto, "I love this game".

Saturday, February 21, 2009

AAR - VASLeague Game 1 - S4 Welcome Back! Part 3

I'm going to make this post short and just some small thoughts about my first VASLeague -- read that: first competitive game. No offense intended to Prawn but a game between friends, no matter how competitive, for me, is a slightly different beast.

1. COMPETITION. If you're new to the whole ASL hobby and are not adverse to it, nothing beats competitive stress to help you learn and learn FAST. It really magnifies even very small play sequences into titanic struggles. For example, the S4 SSRs have a simple DR at the start of every turn to determine environmental conditions (I think I've got the real ASL term for it) as to whether it's snowing or not. This die roll was crucial in the middle turns as firefights erupted over longer distances and the +1 hindrance involved became a factor.

Another example I can give is when I first started playing Magic: The Gathering competitively in tournaments for "real". It was a far cry from casual play with buddies. I remember my hands shaking in nervousness as I laid my first land down as if it was the end of times... I wasn't that good but darn if I wasn't a much tighter (better) player afterwards, quickly outstripping my local play group and friends.

What is more, I've read countless posts by players of ASL who became, for lack of a better term, "inbred" in their rules knowledge and gameplay. That is, when you play with only a small circle of friends, or with only a single f2f opponent or solo exclusively, you're bound to be getting something wrong and/or are getting into a rut with your tactics and strategy. It's hard to surprise yourself in solitaire play or if your only opponent always preps and never skulks or whatever. Mixing it up in something like a VASLeague seems a great way to beat this "inbreeding" problem.

2. COUNTER DISCIPLINE. This is sort of linked to the first point. Playing with the Prawn, we get very very lazy about counter placement, especially the Residual Fire counters and occasionally the Defensive Fire ones. Play amongst friends leads to this lack of discipline which is clearly not OK in a competitive situation. Reminder/informational counters in VASL are a click away and seeing as some games could take extended breaks in the middle of a scenario you have to clearly mark everything. Does this make you a better player? You bet.

3. NEVER GIVE UP. I was positive I was going to lose on the first half player turn when gwaedin went waaaay left. To be honest, I joined the league to learn first, win second. But you can't help but be a bit crestfallen when it appears your opponent is going to smoke you on the first turn. I've been reading some stuff on the GameSquad forums recently about the "Personal Morale Check" PMC. Failing the PMC basically gives your opponent the game. Luckily I passed -- mainly because I remembered I was there to have fun and learn and making the best of a seemingly bad situation was the best learning to be had. Stay positive and have fun. You'd be surprised what happens sometimes.

4. THE DICE. I'm not really going to complain about the dice because, as I have said before on this blog, I long ago made peace with the Gods of Dice in boardgames and the Random Number Generator in electronic games. Never complain about the dice. You'll lose sleep over something that you cannot control. If it bothers you that much play a diceless wargame like Napoleon's Triumph (amazing btw) or *gasp* Euros! Part of the fun of ASL is in the extremes of dice results anyways. Nothing makes for a better story than those times only two boxcars would save your opponent -- and you roll 12 then... 11! Whew!

5. SKULKING. Long before I started playing ASL I had heard about "skulking" -- the act of Assault Moving your stacks in defense back out of sight in the MPh then Advancing them later back to where they started. If you try and justify this in real-life terms you'll just go crazy. It's definitely a "gamey" tactic -- something that implies unsporting behaviour. I have news for you. If you want realism in a game you're asking for something that will never exist. By its very nature games are an abstraction of "reality" and blah blah blah. It's a stupid argument. I've now embraced skulking as part of my ASL toolkit. So should you.

6. HMGs. Holy crap. Wow. Here's the counter that really helped me win my game:

Let's do a little in-depth counter talk shall we? I think it represents the M2 Browning or something very similar. 8FP all by it's lonesome. On a simple DR of 7 it's already resulting in a 1MC. On snakes it's a KIA/1. It's (unseen) B# is 12 so it's normal, no more brittle than the typical MG. The range is 16 (underscored here is not used in SK-level but I think it means it can spray fire, ie. area fire on two adjacent hexes in one burst) which is pretty well any LOS on the SK maps, especially the "urban" settings. Crossing a field in front of it must be absolute murder. (DR of 7 -1 FFNAM, -1 FFMO = 2MC).

But of course, the most "fun" thing about the .50 HMG in the American arsenal is the 3 ROF. Fully HALF the time you fire, you'll be firing AGAIN, hit or miss. Given that the coloured die at 3 results in a DR of 9 at worst, that's still a PTC on the IFT! So if you do hit and keep ROF it's terribly effective. No wonder I was vapourizing Germans in that last MPh. (Remember, the HMG was stacked with a 10-2 leader so... 8FP, -2 leader, -1 FFNAM, -1 FFMO = average DRs of 7 are now 3s and K/2 results on the IFT. That's "average".)

Drawbacks? It's 5PP to haul around so make sure you put it somewhere you want to keep in place. And as gwaedin mentions, the covered arc of the thing when it's in a building in full-ASL is limited. No crazy Star Wars laser turret shenanigans.

The HMG definitely made me look smart!

7. FTs AND SET-UP. Did I make a mistake putting my FT on a non-elite unit? I know it goes against convention but I knew that out of all my SWs, the FT would have drawn the most attention to start (HMG too). I certainly didn't think they would last long but I don't think I truly appreciated just how bad it is in the hands of the 2nd liners who wielded one. They had a very good chance of breaking it but to be fair, I intended them solely as major threats to try and funnel gwaedin's advance. Or maybe I'm just stupid. It bears a bit more study.

S4, as I mentioned previously, is really the first time you have to get very very careful with set-up in SK1 (provided you play them in order). Not only do you have to put the right pieces in the right places with the obvious consideration of the Victory Conditions but you have to put the right squads with the right SWs and leaders. I have no doubt that I could have easily blown this scenario even before the first turn with a more sub-optimal set-up. There's a lot of replay value in this scenario alone.

Did I say this was "short"? Man, I'm chatty. Anyways, hope this series of AARs on my first VASLeague was informative. I'm adding another couple of LEARNING TIPS:




Thanks for reading!

Heck, one more:


Friday, February 20, 2009

AAR - VASLeague Game 1 - S4 Welcome Back! Part 2

Everybody, please welcome guest poster gwaedin (a.k.a. Luca Andena) who I played in my first VASLeague game. I've just copied and reformatted his post from the last update so it was easier to access and read here. My reactions, which I promised earlier, will be up shortly -- I hope!

Very well, I wanted to first make an AAR myself on the Italian ASL forum but it seems that the arms of the mighty gods pounding the RL hammer on me do not get CX.

My AAR will have to wait but this wonderful opponent and his blog deserve a comment on my part. I'm just putting things in as they come.

Intensity. Absolutely true. I don't have that much experience with ASL (and wargames in general) and for me playing live and pbem is VERY different. While with pbem you have all the time you need to think every possible move, that's not the case while you play "live" on VASL or FtF... even if your opponent is kind enough to allow you a lot of time to think your moves without complaining. That pushes you towards making errors and some of them I made.

I decided to concentrate my troops on the left side because I knew that a single squad had only a very limited number of fire options. Scrub actually managed DF quite well by retaining it and denying me the possibility of bypassing his defenders very early. That could have made a huge difference and it was worth trying to lure him into such a (very naive) trap. On the other hand his Defensive Fire was quite uneffective and that was good news for the krauts.

I think at that point I made my biggest tactical mistake, related to the presence of the FT-toting 546 squad. I should have moved my two killer stacks right: this way scrub would have been faced with the choice of closing the door on my other units OR slowing down the stacks. Instead I went left and had a good chance of putting the squad off his legs.

A couple of good reasons for me to do that: using a FT with a non-elite squad gives you a B#8, meaning that a DR of 8 or more will end up fuel; the squad also had only 6 morale, no leaders around, and the FT gives a -1DRM bonus on anybody who attacks them.

Nevertheless, I couldn't take them off my way and the costed me a LOT of time. If I had moved both my stacks right at the beginning (instead of moving first left, then right) that would have given me a chance to stop his upcoming units in any case. I still tried to do it but a casual shot from his 10-2/667/HMG, firing and something moving in the snow, behind the trees, in a building, actually completely broke one of the two stacks. Scrub was already finishing his defensive fire phase when he saw that shot and wrote "let's try"... good choice!

Another error has been during a seemingly harmless advancing phase, when I was moving my units by only one hex in the woods. I should have kept a squad controlling the road, denying the 546 a chance to fall back further. I immediately realized that and told scrub "I made a mistake"... too late. That's something I wouldn't have done in a pbem game!These seem minor mistakes but they are the reason for which I can't complain about the outcome of the scenario. After that I still had a chance to win, especially when I finally broke his 747 squad near the exit (after 2 turns!). I could have allowed for the '11' shot mentioned by scrub before, you can't think every attack goes well even when you got a lot of firepower. However, i wasn't expecting that his troops would immediately rally even if desperate!

At that time I didn't have any more time to work on softening the defenders and I had to run. Some big-time luck needed to get away with that and you don't deserve to win games by luck when you make mistakes... that's why the obscene carnage set down by ROF of his HMG seems only fair to me.

A note on that: this is a scenario in which application of full ASL rules would have changed things quite a bit (surely making it unbalanced). Two rules worth being pointed out, one obvious and one less obvious:

1) bypass, which allow infantry to skirt the edges of buildings or woods without "entering" them, thus speeding up movement

2) fixed CA for heavy MGs positioned in buildings. Heavy weapons such as guns have a Covered Arc in which they can fire. MMGs and HMGs do not but if they are in a building (or similar hampering terrain) they receive it for any phase in which they shoot - i.e. and HMG cannot fire at a target north and then at another west or south in the same phase. In our case, the HMGs mowed down the poor Germans in every direction...These are just thoughts coming to me without going through the details of the scenario... when I complete my turn-by-turn AAR I will let you know if there's anything else!

In the meanwhile, thanks a lot for a very nice and relaxed game. The six-hours time difference doesn't make it easy for scrub and me to get playing together but I hope pbem will help us finding more gaming opportunities!

Again, thanks very much to gwaedin for posting his thoughts about our game. It was a very enjoyable experience and I very much appreciate his sportsmanship. I hope readers get a good sense about what happened in the game and it's always interesting to hear about things from the other side of the table.

[EDIT: Luca has sent me a link to his complete AAR posted here:
Of course, the hitch is it's in Italian so you might need this if you're really keen but the pictures are excellent!]

Sunday, February 15, 2009

AAR - VASLeague Game 1 - S4 Welcome Back! Part 1

Gwaedin and I have just finished our first match in the VASLeague. It was intense -- I repeat, edge-o'-the-seat intense. I think it was about 3.5 hours and it ended on the last half-turn in the Axis MPh.

Though it looked a bit tough for me some lucky ROF rolls with my .50 cal HMG stacked with my 10-2 leader managed to mince enough Krauts to prevent gwaedin from being able to exit the 10 VP worth of squads and leaders off the board. The Germans would not be taking Hosingen from the Americans in this match! [I'm reading the Aftermath part of the scenario card now and noticing that matches up pretty well with what happened in the game!]

I know I already chatted about the first two turns but I'm going to rehash it all here for completeness. Once again, the scenario is S4 Welcome Back from ASLSK1. If SK1 follows any sort of hidden programmed instruction then this fourth scenario is all about being ultra careful in set-up. The Americans are pretty well outnumbered 2 to 1 in S4 and need to be very quick to react to what the Germans are doing.

Again, it seemed clear to me that in order for me to have a chance I'd have to take advantage of the set-up areas well forward and funnel the German advance one way or the other. Then I'd have to hoof my out of position troops into a good rear position. In the above map, the centre has the very tough HMG and 10-2 leader, the right has the FT and more MGs and an elite squad but the left had the third leader with a single MMG and squad to keep the Germans honest. My intent was to try to funnel gwaedin's Germans to the woods on the left as this was the most difficult terrain to traverse to get across the width of the map.

As it turns out, of course, I really didn't think about just how much was coming at me. Gwaedin really really went left hard and 15 squads and 5 leaders with 5 SWs (add one of mine he captured too -- doh!) looked early on like a massive blue tide coming at me. You'll notice that all the squads on the right are CXing like mad to get to the buildings in the centre or at the rear asap. Note too the 8-0 with MMG squad in the left building getting pasted in CC.

Here's a shot of the action later in turn one (Allied side I think). Notice that the Germans don't believe in a fair fight and are piling on in the CC. Boooo!!!

Now, this was where we left the action after our first session. The three squads on the top were the FT with a 2nd line squad (bad set-up I think but still has to be respected by the Germans), another 8-0 with Elite squad, and the 10-2 with Elite 6-6-7 and the dreaded HMG (more on the HMG later). At this point there was an Elite 7-4-7 running in on the right and two broken squads in the middle. The rear broken squad routed there with the final MMG and was lucky to self-rally in a later turn, holding that side of the map closed for exiting Germans. The bulk of gwaedin's Germans were still on the left with one big stack in the bottom who had taken some unlucky shots and routed.

The session tonight started inauspiciously for gwaedin. His Rally attempt with his leader resulted in casualty reduction and he wounded. To balance things out, my crappy 2nd line squad with the FT broke it immediately and they faced a mass of fire and died in short order out in the open on the left.

Here is the map a half turn later (I think) and I've had to retreat my squad and leader in yI2 to yJ1. The squads I've thrown into the middle were all routed in short order and would basically be non-factors in the game. They were target dummies I threw out to keep the rear German units occupied.

The key development at this point in the game was the standoff between gwaedin's mega stack in yI4 and the only guys they could see in yJ1 (the aforementioned 8-0 and squad). Gwaedin's stack could muster up a 20-FP attack at will. In what he believes was a critical point in the match, his first prep fire with the stack was a DR of 11 (+3 or 4) and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I think, in hindsight this was super important because, if you know the flow of the game, this put him back one turn in terms of initiative. I would get a subsequent shot in the DFPh and be basically "one-up" on him. The other important thing was that gwaedin, by his own admission, thinks he fell in love with the power of the mega-stack. He made the cardinal error of forgetting the Victory Conditions and, in my opinion, spent too many turns just Prepping with that mega stack to break my guys rather than sally forth and exiting for the win.

This is a subsequent turn. The Germans are bringing in their routed units from earlier and testing the middle of the map. My sacrificial squads in the middle were little more than small speedbumps to these two other stacks. But it was getting late...

We could both see that the left was turning into a big logjam that wasn't going to be pretty. However, in the middle, gwaedin attempted to start exiting squads (he had all the way to the Y column to do it and seemingly only my MMG in yP1 to worry about. He dashed two half squads all the way to yV4 and placed a MMG and squad in yO5 to cover for the main stack's run for the border. This is where the HMG I had made it's long awaited debut.

To be perfectly honest, I knew the .50 cal HMG in yK2 was a beast but man, it was absolutely vicious in this game. First, I DFed with the squad in yP1 to no result. This forced my hand and I used the HMG, leader-led on yO5. I not only KIAed them I retained ROF and then KIAed the guys in yV4 -- no cheap exits for gwaedin unfortunately.

Another half-turn and it was the final Axis turn (Allies do not get a sixth turn). Critical points: The 7-4-7 in yJ0 was holding the door shut on the extreme left exit hex (yI1). The 6-6-7 with 10-2 and HMG in yK2 were itching to turn the streets red with German blood. I did some quick math and it seemed clear that the big German stack in yI4 was going to have to be broken up and CX for it...

The Rally Phase did not help -- the broken units in Q6 did not want to move so gwaedin was left with trying a lone squad leader to attempt exit. The funny thing was I ignored the squad and jumped all over the wounded leader who had to make a beeline to the board edge. Of course my idiot squad in yP1 rolls boxcars, cowers and basically Final Fires and we laughed about how they peed their pants seeing a lone sergeant with a limp and covered in blood approach them.

Regardless, the right side was done and we got to the true business of the left.

The yI4 stack started breaking up and rounding the corner on yK2. I let one pass and then had to lay down some residual in yJ3 to keep him honest. I was able to keep ROF (all fingers crossed here) and really laid into subsequent squads that tried to run. An HMG here is 8FP. For the running squads it was usually a -1 FFNAM and -1FFMO AND a leader-led -2. Not only is this very very scary, I kept rate, I think, 4 times. For those of you without an IFT handy, that's an average roll of 3 on the 8FP column for a K/2 result. Of course I kept rolling less than that and squads were vapourizing all over. The residuals on the screenshot were from the squad (2), and the HMG (4) when it finally lost ROF.

By this time gwaedin was forced to try his squads in the G column and one group made it to yI1 where the 7-4-7 who had rallied a turn earlier laid down a 6 residual and broke them. It was basically over at that point. In order to exit, the Germans had to have units move off in the MPh (impossible now) or get to the last row and Advance off -- but these were either covered in residual or I could Final Protective Fire to make difficult.

Here's the final state of the gameboard when gwaedin conceded with not enough German squads left to make the VP total.

Some quick thoughts at the end of the game?

1. Gwaedin was a gracious opponent in defeat. We both clearly were having fun and for me, personally, I was a bit regretful to win over such a great opponent. I've asked him to write up some thoughts and I will include them in a subsequent post. Gwaedin was clearly more knowledgeable on the rules and better with the VASL interface. I learned a lot. There is no question that playing him in my first exposure to the VASLeague was lucky. I had an awesome time.

2. Did I set-up well? Was my plan a good one? If anyone has played this more than once I'd like to hear what you think. I firmly believe I was more lucky than good, but then that's always a given!

3. I have some BAD counter discipline. I frequently forgot to place Prep Fire or DF counters and the like -- granted that's not such a big issue in this relatively small scenario but if I intend to go on to full ASL I have to do better.

Hope this was an entertaining read and not that dry. Part Two soon with reflections and learning, hopefully with some input by gwaedin!

Go play ASL!

[EDIT: Sorry about the size of the maps being so small, I have no idea when and how decides when to link to an expanded image. I'll try to upload again tomorrow if I have time.]

Saturday, February 14, 2009

VASLeague - S4 game in progress...

Happy Valentine's Day all!

In the spirit of the day I will play wargames and kill kill kill. I just wanted to post up the first few turns of my VASLeague game in progress before my opponent and I start turn 3 tomorrow afternoon (or 9pm in Italy!).

In case you missed it earlier, I'm playing in the Starter Kit level ASL VASLeague. The opponents are from all over the world and our common touchpoint is the game of ASL, over the VASL interface. Games in the league last two months -- a seemingly long time but not when the Hammer of Real Life(tm) intrudes and your opponent is six hours ahead of you. Synchronizing your life to play ASL is more than trivial.

My opponent is gwaedin. Some of you who play VASL may know him. He's a pretty good opponent and probably due in part to his more extensive experience in VASL, a much tighter player. [Aside: those of you who have played Magic: The Gathering, a CCG, may also have dabbled in the online version which enforces the rules -- my point being that playing the virtual version really helped me tighten my play of that game. So too in VASL; I find that leaving the heaving about of counters to the computer and thinking really focuses you.]

Anyways, we decided to play an SK1 game as gwaedin was reluctant to include AFVs and I wasn't going to push considering my experience in them was limited. Our choice of scenario was narrowed by gwaedin's request that the ROAR standings be relatively even. In the end we settled on S4 - Welcome Back.

Above is the set-up of my American troops in Welcome Back (North is right). The scenario has the Germans who arrive onboard (from the bottom of the map) in turn one try to exit 10VPs off the top middle of the map (essentially between the two roads on the west side). The have just 5.5 turns, going first, and I have to stop them. Exit VPs are basically 2 per squad, 1 per half-squad and 1 per SMC (+1 per neg rating).

The problem of course, other than my inexperience, is that I have only 8 squads with some SWs and three above average leaders who have to prevent 15 and a half German squads with 5 leaders and 5 support weapons from rampaging past me. Set-up is pretty critical here. I basically thought about the most annoying area to transit through (I think it's the southern woods mass) and set-up trying to encourage that path. [Another aside: if you use the default publically available VASL set-up file be aware that it has an error in it -- moral of the story? Always double-check your set-ups with the scenario card.]

Now, as I said, I'm not super experienced in this scenario -- it's my first play -- so I was a bit overwhelmed when gwaedin took the hint and went WAAAAAY left. Notice in the screenshot above that I'm CX-ing my squads on the right big time to plug the exits up. I think I also should have given more thought to who held the FTs. Regardless, I made another error in this first turn by forgetting that CXing a squad with a CXing leader adds even more MFs. I could have squeezed out a few more hexes. Next time, I should think about this and deliberately put my squads in hexes they can CX to defend from their initial hexes.

Here's the situation after turn 1 I think. Notice the MG squad and leader I put in front of the woods is enveloped in a nasty CC already (they wouldn't make it - they took one for the team so we could all get into position, haha!). German stacks are already penetrating the woods but have to be very very wary of the FT-toting squad I have lurking in the forest.

Again, here's the situation late in the second turn. The Germans are slowed by the CC and one diversionary squad in the middle (DMed here), but mostly they have a very healthy respect for the FT squad. The movement phase and sequence of play order here is super crucial. We are both dancing around each other trying to get free, and/or full FP shots so moving, whether it be assault movement, and which hex, during what phase is very considered. I only have to kill a handful of squads to win really so the scenario is actually well balanced.

This last shot is the mapboard at the start of turn 3 where we'll pick up the play tomorrow hopefully. The door is seemingly slammed shut with two leader-led squads with MGs and a FT squad. The far right side has a few Americans DMed and hiding in buildings -- but the mass of the Germans are in the woods and getting to the north exit hexes under the overwatch of the MGs will take some doing. It's a very interesting tactical situation. Should be fun -- I have NO IDEA who's going to win but damn it I'm having fun.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: ASL is INTENSE. The game session lasted about 3+ hours and we only played TWO turns; I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I rarely think that hard in anything. And it was enjoyable thinking, not stressful in any negative way. I think that's why I love ASL so much; the mental gymnastics of playing and concentrating and trying to win (chalk that up to the VASLeague -- I don't think I go this crazy in f2f with the Prawn) is incredible.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

West Coast Melee!

Well gentle readers, I've received an announcement about the West Coast Melee happening in southern California at the end of this month. Here's the announcement itself (as posted to comments in the last post) fron Jon Nishikawa:

Scrub, there's an ASL con called West Coast Melee in southern California at the end of February. There will be several events for new players. Just thought your readers might be interested especially if they live the SoCal area. They can get info at

Price: $25 for one day
Where: Crowne Plaza, Irvine at John Wayne Airport
When: Feb 26 to Mar 1

Do you have an email addy to send info like this to so it doesn't get buried in a comment?
Not sure if I ever mentioned it but my email is (it's now on the sidebar with my profile). is also set up to email me whenever there's a comment posted so nothing is ever "buried". If you want me to spread the word about your ASL event feel free to email me.

I just want to add that if the people at WCM are as great as the ones I met at NBW then you're bound to have a good time. If you're reticent to leave your house and assume everyone else is a raving axe-murderer don't worry, wargamers are just like you -- they want to share the fun and enjoyment of their hobby. Face-to-face gaming is a great dimension to ASL that some never get a chance to experience. Get out there if you can and have a super time. Network and find out that there are tons of gamers out there who may just become good friends. So sayeth the scrub!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

AAR RPT11 - Butchers and Bakers

Well it was a LONG weekend of gaming for yours truly. The Niagara Boardgaming Weekend was a smash hit. The organizers say it was the biggest yet. I personally played about 16 sessions of various games in just over 36 hours. I will be back next year and I'd recommend anyone who has a passing interest in wargaming or Euros or both to show up.

Seeing as the Prawn was left out of the fun we set up a game of ASLSK using a scenario from Schwerpunkt's Rally Point 2 collection. The first scenario in the pack is RPT11 Butchers and Bakers -- the one infantry-only scenario of the bunch. Schwerpunkt is known for producing very focused scenarios that are well play-tested. Butchers and Bakers was no exception.

The game was quick with very few squads overall. Essentially the British enter from one corner of the map and have 6 turns to exit 6 VP of squads and leaders off the opposite corner while clearing out two buildings in the middle of the map. The Germans' only goal is to prevent this.

Here's how the evil-- sorry, Prawn set himself up in the small half-map area (sorry for the glare!). The primary defense was the (A) group where the Germans only leader was. The (B) group was a single conscript squad with a medium MG. The Mines are actually set up hidden by the German player -- in this case, any unit entering or exiting the hexes are hit with a no-DRM 6FP attack on the IFT. (The other option for the Germans is to put one mine in one hex with a 12FP attack -- nasty!) Grain is in season and a hindrance.

Here's the board after about 3 turns (of 5.5). The Germans are woefully poor in the squad quality department. Basically, forcing them to MC at anytime is going to result in a break or casualty reduction. [Note the British 6+1 leader -- he's actually a 10-2 leader but the SKs do not include such a counter or my counter got lost!] The British has a superior elite squad edge and two leaders, an 8-0 and a super 10-2. You have basically two approaches on either of the extreme edges. I lucked out and chose the less mined one.

Our impressions of the scenario were not that positive to start. To be honest, I thought it was turning out to be a rout. The German side was just so brittle. On the start of turn 4 I had already cleared the middle buildings and my squads were starting to run for the exit hexes. But here is where I made a fatal mistake. Instead of just going for it and escaping I decided to add insult to injury and engaged the final German squad in the building at the edge of the map. Guess what? Yep...

The CC lasted precious turns so that while my 10-2 and elite squad was dueling his conscripts and later his 8-0, I could only exit off 5VPs! ONE SHORT!!! Oh the humanity!

Let that be a lesson to you kids. My wife likes to tell me: "Don't get fancy." It may not be pretty or honourable but losing when your stupid 10-2 led squad can't roll a 7 three times hurts! Just exit the damn squads! Congrats to the Prawn for hanging in there. I'd post an aftermath photo but I can't find a suitable toy that matches the dumb.

Reflections, Comments and Learning:

1. Prawn and I have to start putting the residual fire counters on the board. We're just so damn lazy! But again, in this scenario it barely mattered.

2. Butchers and Bakers is not the most intense scenario. It's really a good learning scenario with a nice twist (hidden mines) and a bit of deceptive depth. You have to hoard your British squads like gold. The dual VP conditions of clearing out two buildings and exiting 6VP of squads in just 5.5 turns is a pressure packed situation.

3. The Prawn and I are looking forward to trying this scenario pack again possibly next week in a mixed infantry/AFV scenario. It'll be our first.

4. Rally Point 2's big sell, of course, is that it's SK-level and full ASL tested and compliant. A neat feature that I'm sure we'll make use of when we transition to full ASL. Should be good. So far I'd say that Rally Point 2 is looking to be worth the price of admission.

Go play some ASL!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NBW Continues...

The Niagara Boardgaming Weekend continues apace.  Rolled out more games of Combat Commander: Pacific, Manoeuvre and something else that escapes my puny brain.  Just want to say that the experience has been great.  Everyone I've had the chance to play or chat with has been great.  Gaming is certainly full of wonderful people.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I'm sitting in my hotel room finishing up some supper before heading back into the Belmont room here at the Niagara Boardgaming Weekend.  I've already played some great games (Hive, Steel Driver, Combat Commander: Pacific, and a 10 turn game of Twilight Struggle), alas, no ASL unfortunately.

If you're anywhere in the neighbourhood the con' lasts until Sunday.  I've met lots of people from Toronto (TABS yo!), Halifax, and the state of New York.  The organizer is Art Lupinacci, well known in wargaming circles as head honcho at L2 Designs.

Now, if only my wallet had more money... I could buy the Streets of Stalingrad...

p.s. Prawn, get down here!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Just some musings about full ASL...

HOT DAMN I'M BIG!!!Things are kind of in a lull right now with my ASLSK games. The Prawn and I are stuck starting up a new semester at school (we are the teachers though...) and my VASLeague game is still stalled at the start of turn 3 (I see now why it takes 2 months to play a game!).

So, what am I thinking about?

Full ASL.

There's a bit of chatter on the ASL forum on ConsimWorld about the utility of ASLSK and the possibilities of an ASLSK 4-type product that takes the final leap between full and SK-level. There are some old timers who can't make the cognitive leap back to SK-level and to be honest, why should they? If they are good with full ASL they should teach it. If you have to go about it on your own, you grab ASLSKs.

Regardless, my own thinking is that I've always had full ASL as my eventual goal. ASLSK is awesome, edge-of-the-seat excitment levels of awesome. But part of the interest I have in ASL is in grokking the whole shebang. Is this ego? Is this just the need to say, "Hey you there, playing Agricola! Play a real game -- Advanced Squad Leader!"? Do I just feel the urge to wear an imaginary badge of smugness on my chest that says I play the world's most complicated game?

The funny thing is, once you get a few games under your belt, ASL doesn't seem that hard. Granted I could plop the ASLRB in front of my Eurobuddies and they'd cringe in horror, crossing themselves but I personally don't see it as an obstacle -- it's just an interesting challenge.

A question I sometimes see posted on BGG or CSW or GS is whether a newb could ever comprehend the full rules or should they buy the full rulebook or where's the next step after ASLSK3? My opinion is simply this: if you are satisfied with ASLSK as a full and complete wargame unto itself and don't want to climb the ladder, don't. However, having personally bought the full rulebook and starting to read parts of it I can see that the "gap" between ASLSK and full ASL really isn't that big. At least the divide is no bigger than that between "real" ASL players and us SK newbs.

Let me give you an example. There are holes in ASLSK-level rules. Sorry, I said it. The Tiger tank counter in ASLSK3 has a red movement allowance number. In the ASLSK rules and vehicle notes I found nothing that elaborated on this except that Russian T-34s with the red number required a start-up check and on a DR of 11-12 had to stall for DR MPs before restarting again. [Aside: if you can understand what I just wrote you're ready for full ASL.] Well the Tiger had no notes on this, or at least I couldn't easily locate them. Nor were they in the full ASL Chapter H notes. Instead I had to consult the ASLRB2's section in chapter D (I think NRBH) on mechanical reliability and lo and behold there it was in plain language - mechanical reliability was the same as the T-34s but the DR check was 12 (not 11-12).

This is not an exclusive example. If you have a problem or gray area in the rules in ASLSK, the ASLRB2 pretty much answers it -- fast! The rules are clear, organized and the glossary is terrific. I read a great comment on the rulebook on BGG (I'll try to find the author but BGG is down right now); the writer made the analogy of learning English as compared to learning ASL. You'd use the dictionary as a reference, not a course of study. Just so with the ASLRB2. Learning ASL by reading the rulebook starting with Chapter A, section 1.0 onwards to Chapter D/H's last section is ridiculous. The ASLRB2 is your reference when it comes to learning the language known as Advanced Squad Leader.

So, read the ASLSK rules, richfam's tutorials, get the cardboard down on the maps and just shoot a couple of squads against each other in some terrain following the great SOP playaids out there. Play a scenario. Take it slow, do it solo. Teach it to a good friend. Re-read the rules. Pick up the ASLRB2 if you want to upgrade to full ASL and use it as a reference, not a bloody novel. Enjoy. Challenge yourself.

Off the top of my head, here are some other reasons to get the ASLRB2 if you're just a SK newb:

1. Chapter K. The original training notes that came with the original starter kit (module 2: Paratrooper) is included now with the ASLRB2. It's great. I'd argue that it's a great companion to the SKs.

2. If you have the ASLRB2 this programmed instruction method to get to "full" ASL becomes applicable. Some people taught themselves ASL with this programmed instruction set before the luxury of SKs.

3. Chapter H notes are cool. I find this chapter as fascinating as everyone else. The level of detail boggles the mind here. As a wargamer who loves historical and designer notes Chapter H is like pure gold.

4. The ASLRB2 is basically the result of almost 2 decades of refinement in Squad Leader. It is the "Bible" and its word is law. And you can pretty well depend on it where in certain situations in SK you'd be kind of on your own.

5. This is ironic but it should be obvious that having the ASLRB2 should make you fully aware that you don't always need every part of the rulebook for every scenario. You don't need the majority of edge cases when you play any given scenario. No one, not even the mighty gods of ASL (whoever they may be), memorize the whole book, but use it as the reference it was supposed to be. Dictionary::English - ASLRB2::ASL. It's super well organized with some great illustrations and examples, well worth the $80 or so.

I'll shut up now. Let me know what you think if you're out there.

[EDIT: some interesting posts already. It's nice to hear from readers about their thoughts. Though I don't want to splinter the discussion I also posted a request for comments here on Gamesquad and feel free to post there too if you want. I think it's an interesting question as to whether there needs to be any more SK-level support.]

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Things to think about...

Just wanted to point out a good thread for ASLSK newbs on Boardgamegeek here:

Check it out!

[EDIT: Figures that as soon as I post this BGG goes on a 48+ hour downtime. Anyways, it's still a good thread when the site gets back up.]