Friday, July 24, 2009

Vacation in the Pacific...

What the heck has the scrub been up to?

Well, thanks to the little ones having some sort of crazy sleep issues I no longer get any! Yay!

Gaming has gone on the back shelf -- yesterday, the missus and I got Fire in the Sky on the table, an MMP title that's not ASL-related (got it in a nice package deal from Chas Argent -- thanks Chas!). Relevance to ASL?

Mr. Argent made a recent post/progress report on Gamesquad and CSW about the upcoming PTO repackaging of ASL-stuff: the long out-of-print Code of Bushido and Gung Ho! will be bundled together and hopefully come out next year. I sense a nice dovetailing of PTO interest between this and the Band of Brothers "sequel" in the Pacific...

In other news, The 2 Half-Squads have episode 21 up:

On my plate?

I'll finish up the AAR on my third round VASLeague game (my round 4 opponent is in Europe and just had a baby so things are still getting sorted out) and post it soon and perhaps a primer on VASL itself, or making homemade counters -- why the last two? Ken Dunn has accepted my offer to playtest the new ASLSK HASL and I'll need to get more British counters on the table if I want to do ftf play!

Roll LOw!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pawndering METT-T

A wargamer whose blog I follow had an interesting post today about how to approach scenario-based wargames a la ASL(SK). Some cogent thoughts here:

Once the ASLer has stepped away from plain rules "mastery" you have to start trying to win right? METT-T!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

TacticalWargamer Link

Michael Dorosh, of the, has posted a list of Third Party Publishers of ASL products here:

I've added it to the links bar on the right too. Check it out!

Monday, July 6, 2009

2 Half-Squads LIVE!

Just saw this on the 2HS site. For episode 23 they are planning a live show with call-ins!

The show is planned for the 27th of July. Now I just need to fix my stupid mix + soundcard combo...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

D1 AAR - The Other Side...

Andy has posted a response AAR to D1 on the 'geek here:

Check it out!

And yes, thanks to the kids, I never sleep...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

D1 AAR Part Two - ... things always turn crappy in Stalingrad!

Hopefully I haven't been missing much as I recall what happened at TABSCon... Andy, please add/correct as you see fit. I broke one of my cardinal learning rules in forgetting to bring a notebook and pen.

As it stands, Andy has already sent me some notes about the AAR. I share his attitude that ASL is more a journey than a destination -- in other words, we're going to make mistakes, sometimes a lot of them.

One mistake was that in taking my men prisoners he didn't realize that would slightly impair the effectiveness of his own troops (makes sense though right? Man, ASL is detailed!) so he probably wouldn't have taken prisoners and invoked what is known as "No Quarter" -- the fun state of game where troops realize someone has violated the Geneva Conventions and all bets are off -- no one is surrendering for the rest of the game.

Andy says it best here:

But every bit of knowledge puts you closer to the perfect game...

When last we met, the board was looking pretty stinking good for the goosesteppers. Hell, look at that blue mass! (SK fans, you can overstack in full ASL but it starts costing you in DRMs to rolls for and against you -- nice overstuffed hexes do that!) Not only that but we were starting to collect brown counters...

Now, I'm not sure if it was just around turn 3 or after but I generated my first Hero ever in one of these turns. I think it was a snake roll in a rally attempt or something. Heroes are even more extra special SMC dudes that essentially replicate the Hollywood stereotype of war movies. This guy can do anything like lug big SWs around, add -1 DRMs to shooting, don't break, just wound, etc. etc. I'd actually generate two of the guys in the course of the game. Things were looking better and better.

Below is the situation into the third turn. Now some interesting things started to happen. First, I was starting to activate a LOT of sniper activity. Apparently someone dialed up Jude Law and Ron Perlman and my troops started to keep their heads down even while peeing. Note the wounded leader on the right, and the broken half-squad holding the Cursed MMG of Doom.

Things were obviously going to be a tougher slog as I approached the headquarters itself -- where, of course, there was everyone's favourite toy, the HMG... Better yet for Andy, it was on the second floor (buildings aren't all bungalows in full ASL kids!) and had a nice vantage point for anyone approaching. My only real hope was to do the German equivalent of a human wave and try to overwhelm the defenders with sheer numbers. This plan was helped along by Andy's bad luck rolling on getting his reinforcements (six more elite SMG squads and the friendly neighbourhood commissar). One slight hiccup? The tenacious Russians on the right and the total ignorance of yours truly about what the gashy-looking terrain feature was... Gullies slow down troops kids!

You can start seeing some of the seeds of my undoing here in a shot after the fourth turn. Notice the unattended Soviet MMG? Yeah, they died or ran away, and so did everyone else except the hero (who's wounded too!). The sniper was wrecking havoc and Andy's disparate defenders were basically concentrated in the headquarters now.

I could do it though right?

Well first one in is a rotten egg! I lobbed in a squad and Andy started unleashing HMG fire and ambushing me with a LMG toting squad in the attic of the building I was in! The jerk! Is he trying to make me fail here?! The nerve of the man.

Sneaky Russians aside, that was a cool thing to pull. I hadn't even realized it was possible. But, multilevel buildings can hide nasty HIP troops. In this case they put most of the frontal approach hexes in crossfire -- and another new rule was introduced: "encirclement". If your troops are taking fire from opposite hexsides or from three or more hexsides then they start to feel really unconfortable.

Things were bogging down, with time getting tight I tried and failed to get close from the front and the right side approach had my half-squads trying desperately to climb out of gullies.

In addition, what was funny was, during this whole time I was ELRing down madly. My dice were running cold and I was rolling a LOT of eleven's. That's good at Vegas, not good in ASL. Andy kept having to dig deeper and deeper into his German counters for worse and worse troopers (and half-squads). Look at it this way, I started with 17 elite MMCs, and ended up with a bunch of Conscript level, and 2nd-liners by the end. Stalingrad does that I guess, turn men into quivering pieces of jelly... or is that the HMG's doing?

Above is the late game pic. By now, about turn 6, Andy had the majority of his reinforcements in the headquarters and I was not going to get in without a lot of luck. I even berserked another half-squad but their glorious charge ended in bloody smears on the front steps of Guryev HQ.

Amusing tale from the endgame?

The squad that I had taken prisoner from me earlier was rescued after a CC -- they even armed up with Russian stuff from their jailors. Two turns later as the attempted to take the headquarters? The were encircled and taken prisoner again!

Russian sergeant: "Put your hands up! You are surrounded!"

Hans: "Not again!" [Drops weapons.]

Russian trooper: "Hey, why are you all using our weapons?!"


So, in the end, Guryev's Headquarters was just fine thanks. Andy's troops stiffened their resistance just in time and reinforced with a bunch of commissar-led elites easily held the building. (And yes, the commissar did his old "shoot your own to make an example" trick he does so well...)

What can I say about my first game of full ASL? To be honest, it played a LOT like ASLSK with just a few additional rules and chrome. Yeah, we didn't have tanks and guns but who cares? It was definitely a confidence builder and having an experienced mentor like Andy makes it much easier. Rather than consult the rulebook every five seconds, I'd just ask him something like, "What's bypass?" or "What is the stacking limit?" or "Why are you hurting me?"

Here's a list of the stuff I have to study up on for the next full ASL game I get to:

1. New terrain like gullies -- probably something you have to do on every new board you play on. Just quickly review the terrain you haven't seen in a while. On top of that, (pun intended) I have to check out multi-level stuff.

2. ? markers -- I think some of the subtleties of deploying that stuff will come with time but it was all lost on me at first.

3. Bypass -- didn't really come up, but at the end I asked Andy about a host of this stuff that I've read about from other sources but never understood. Bypass, Dash, Firelanes etc.

4. Prisoners & Encirclement -- I don't know if I'll ever top this ridiculous double prisoner story.

5. Heat of Battle, Leader Creation -- chromey but fun.

6. Snipers! -- extra chromey fun. I can finally understand the SAN reminder cards I've seen at Desperation Morale! Heck, Andy's head was spinning with all the sixes I rolled. In contrast, I think he rolled two or three three's total -- heck I don't know. Stupid Ed Harris was bumbling around or something...

7. Concealment -- What many have told me is the biggest addition to SK in full ASL concealment. However, it never came up enough in our game, probably due to Andy not wanting to be too picky about it and secondly, because it probably doesn't come up enough in this scenario -- we were pitched into each other almost immediately and no one was really sneaking around.

There has been a LOT of discussion about ASLSK4 or the like. Having played "full ASL" now I think that you probably don't need it if you have an experienced player to show you the ropes (heck, people made do without SKs for years right?). It comes down to your comfort level with making mistakes.

If you're afraid of making mistakes and need deterministic outcomes play a Euro or a game with 2 pages of rules. You're already "slave" to the dice. What's a little fudging around if you're having fun? Granted if this was a tournament or competitive endeavour then by all means, hone your ASL-Fu to a fine edge. I think that I've been lucky so far in that my opponents and I are in it for the sheer joy of playing one of the most fun and intense games around -- and frankly, we're comfortable making mistakes. We don't get too caught up in it.

Other than rules, what could I have done better, tactically? Well Andy suggested that I not take my sweet ass time. Really I should have gone full bore to the HQ, instead of lollygagging around. Ideally you'd have at least a toe in the door before the reinforcements showed up. And another thing I realized is that reading the scenario card carefully would help figure this stuff out. Next time, next time...

My thanks for this first full ASL experience to Andy and TABS. The former for winning graciously and teaching me stuff, the latter for giving us a venue and opportunity to even get together. It was a gentle introduction to the big enchilada -- well, as gentle as Stalingrad can get!

I hope this has been an enjoyable read (I'll probably post an abridged version to BGG in the next few days.) My VASLeague Round 3 game is already being prepped for posting and Round 4 begins soon! Roll low!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

D1 AAR Part One - Things always start rosy in Stalingrad...

MY WHAT A LONG BARREL YOU HAVE... Well, I finally took the plunge into full ASL this past weekend at TABSCon since I had access to Andy B, an ASLer in the Toronto area who has been dying to kill me.

And he has.

We played on some super juicy Deluxe ASL boards and D1 - Guryev's Headquarters from Streets of Fire. (Click here to get it!) I've heard rumours that MMP wants to reprint these puppies on SK-style cardboard and the only thing I can say is DO IT!!!!!! The luxury of the double (triple?)-sized hexes is ridiculous. Given that you have less geographic area to work with on the maps themselves, the scenarios are shorter, tenser affairs with little manoeuvre and mucho blood. Blood everywhere. Awesome.

Here's a look at the two boards on which D1 takes place...

The boards are DASL boards b and d. The left edge in the picture is North and the building by the roundabout in the upper left is Guryev's Headquarters itself. The goal of the scenario is for my Germans (we determined this by random die roll) to have more full squad equivalents in the building than the Russians by the end of game (turn 7).

Above is our set-up. Those neat little piles of counters are so small and well organized... that would soon change as all hell would break loose on the opening turn.

Seeing as it was my first game ever I'm going to note certain rules and such that are different from the SK-level -- I should say in addition to actually, there aren't many different rules at all. Andy was ever the gentlemen in explaining new things but to be perfectly honest, an experienced ASLSK player shouldn't have much new stuff to learn. The scenario choice was also very appropriate given that there were no AFVs or Guns.

The first rule we encountered was Environment Conditions. We just chucked it. Andy felt that neither of us were going to be setting fire to things so it wasn't likely wind direction was going to be a factor. One rule down!

The second immediate new rule was basically the ? question mark counters on the Russian defenders. I had no easy way to figure out who was what and more importantly, where the hell the MGs were (more on that later). Also confounding things were two squads which were HIP -- something I think isn't in SK-level (just HIP Guns).

My initial plan was to press up against the Russian defense and probe for weakness while trying to slide 5-6 squads down the right flank and dash, hopefully, towards the Headquarters while the others were engaged. It wasn't really a bad plan but it just lacked aggression. Seven turns is NOT a long time.

Here's what the first movement phase looked like. Seems pretty good right?

Other than a half-squad (very very useful that deployment rule -- you can start the game with full MMCs deployed to half-squads) scouting the left that was HIPPed and the right flank running into a bit of delay, the advance seemed good.

I've become a lot more use to doing CXing and things of that nature to really plan out my moves optimally. I think this comes with more experience in the game. At first you're just happy to figure out that MMCs move 4 MPs worth... later you're squeezing them with leaders (with no neg bonus) and CXing for double that.

I must also say that I had the hot hand in the first couple of turns. The dice were rolling pretty much in my favour no matter who rolled them:

Subsequent Defensive Fire at point blank range... whatever! The prawn and I have chatted about this recently too. We almost HATE hot dice in the beginning of a contest or game... the law of averages means some tough slogging later in the game... this holy truth was evident in Stalingrad this day.....

So at the close of the first half turn I felt that I had made excellent progress. Most of my squads were across after advancing and though both Close Combats were inconclusive, the sheer weight of seventeen full elite German squads seemed likely to push forward next turn...

New rules so far? Ambushing in CC is already in SK but not the special edge cases like boxcars and snakes on the CC roll -- these allow the affected units to slink away or invoke the chromey "Heat of Battle" rules. This turn I had a half-squad go BERSERK! What does that mean? I asked Andy. His answer was that that squad was going to charge the closest KEU...

Essentially, my little berserk half-squad spent the next movement phase charging forward through the wide-open streets towards an SMG-toting Russian full squad. Thanks to a ridiculous morale of 10, the little dudes actually charged into the enemy hex and had it out in CC. I think you know where this is going...

[See teaser photo in last post.] The neatest part of tearing the Russians a new one was the triple-point-blank-fire that occurred. The namesake of this blog is that special case when units are in the same hex and firing on each other (in SK-level this is basically only when an AFV drives into a hex with enemy units in it since there is no berserk/HOB in SK). Needless to say, the little fellas went bonkers on the Russians in AMBUSH no less...


If there's one hallmark that makes a good wargame it's the narrative generated from the game. This is something you're just not going to get out of a Euro like Agricola or Puerto Rico or whatever. For example, take the case of the Cursed MMG.

Early in the game, around turn 2, the Russians who would have been manning a MMG in hex bD2 ran off after taking fire. They left a perfectly good support weapon lying around and in the next rally phase I rolled a SIX -- what the HELL?! Pick the damn thing up you scrubs!

I should have known then that the MMG was cursed. Slick with the blood of the Russian who last held it, the MMG was to be an albatross on the neck of every German squad who managed to pick it up... By game's end, its bad mojo extended into the full hex and even squads who didn't pick it up were gunned down...

It was a pretty eventful first couple of turns. Above is the board disposition after two complete. I don't know, it looks pretty good from here...

The only hiccup was a squad of Germans who were taken prisoner in a CC in the outlying building on the right. They had their own adventures in this scenario... but more on that later.

Now, a chat about snipers. So far in the early two turns I hadn't been rolling a lot of Sniper Activation Numbers -- mostly 2's hahahahaha.... For the SK-newbs, the "SAN" is the number that your opponent rolls that triggers YOUR sniper. The sniper counter is that one you see on the left edge of the above photo. When your SAN gets rolled you have a possibility of activating the sniper on a dr and then the sniper moves about the board (after making a direction and distance dr). The closest eligible target is either wounded, pinned, broken or outright killed depending on whether it's an MMC or SMC.

It's a rule that a lot of ASLers wondered why it wasn't included in SK. Granted it's a bit chromey and leads, occasionally to some break in the action (as you scream SAN!!!! at your opponent), but man does it level the playing field at times. If you look at the SAN numbers on the scenario sheet you'll notice that the German SAN is 3 and the Russian SAN is 6. That means, if you check the handy probability chart I made up here in this post, that about 13% of the time I shoot my squads, the Russian sniper will activate. On the flipside, I guess because it's Stalingrad, the German sniper only activates 5% of the time. (Without going in depth into it, it's a little more complicated than that too...)

Why is this important for an SKer moving up to full ASL?

Remember all those times you took silly 2fp +3 shots just for shits and giggles hoping for a snake eyes? With SANs you are now more likely to trigger a sniper who will take heads off. Your heads. So, snipers are cool and all but now, popping your squad up to take low percentage shots is now not a great idea -- there are consequences to blasting away with no thought!

The sniper activations I was triggering in the early part of the game were generally harmless. Andy would roll too high on the check and nothing would happen, or a squad would pin only to get up again. So Vasily Zaitsev, as we joked, wasn't about in this part of Stalingrad this day... alas, he was coming though...

I'll leave the first part of this AAR with these shots:
The innocuous looking MMG has been recovered by this hapless half-squad (they weren't going to make it). Everything was coming up roses for the Germans (famous last words!). Stalingrad didn't seem so bad really (what the hell was I thinking?!). What was this grumbling from the veterans? So far, the vaunted Guardsmen were running away and being ambushed by screaming teenagers... Better yet, Andy was rolling crap, including on bringing in his reinforcements. Guryev was going to lose his headquarters...

The German high tide of Guryev's Headquarters. Things would not be this good again...

Howzzat for a one hundredth blog post?! Wakka wakka!