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!


Andy said...

Just a couple of things I'd like to point out- 1) your boys surrendered to me the second time because they were Disrupted after failing ELR when they were already downgraded to conscripts. They were just sick of the war by that time.
2) While I tried to get encirclement on you from my upstairs ambush spot, I didn't quite manage it - the angles were just not right.
3) You didn't give enough credit to my awesome coloured die, and the amazing set of low rolls with ROF I managed to get out of my HMG; that really broke apart the attack from the big stone building.
4) It's true - the Commissar's first rally attempt failed, but after an example had been made of one of the men, never again did he fail to rally his troops. Just like the movies!

I'll write up some of my thoughts and impressions as well, and post them for the edification of those who are interested.

scrub said...

Thanks Andy!

scrub said... for the Berserk pic

Anonymous said...

As a witness to this conflict, I can confirm the mass destruction of the battle. Scrub got some massive breaks early on, however it kind of fell apart later in the game.