Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kursk? Since when?

 Hell's Bridgehead: Clash along the Psel River. July 1943 

It had to happen, after years of avoiding Kursk as a subject to bother with (overrun as it is with the SS fanboys), I've finally bitten the bullet and grabbed Critical Hit's Hell's Bridgehead module and volume 6/4 that focuses on it. I think I may well have just put the game on the shelf as a conversation piece and not even thought about playing it until I actually read the designer's notes and most importantly Kurt Martin's irreverent and amusing piece on the playtest. Sure it was written back in 2002 but it's the type of off the wall commentary style that works for me, and I love the reference to the "Kursk Blues Cafe". 

I can see why HB has garnered so much praise and positive feedback and I'm glad I made the decision to buy it and the relevant issue. The best thing is that what map and rules errata has been corrected in the 2nd Edition and the new map style is ver' pretty indeed:

Hell's Bridgehead by CH
The scenarios are a good mix, not too small, not too big with at least three proper CGs.  Plus there are the scenarios in the magazine that use the K2 map which is almost as pretty (no pic of K2 sorry). There's so much material here for great ASL games (especially once I look at playing some of the Schelling mini-CGs from the ASL journal on different aspects of Kursk. Thankfully I doubt I'll be spending gratuitous amounts on supplementary reading (mostly the KOSAVE , Glantz and Zetterling books)

Lots of reading in 6/4 to take note of and some interesting additional scenarios outside the focus on Kursk - including a look at the Japanese airborne assault on Palembang airfield. Now to sort through all the existing errata and check 7/3 for additional material using the Kursk maps or even Tigers to the Front. The K2 mapsheet could well be used as the basis for some more non-HASL designs.

I'm glad in a way I took such a long time to look at CH stuff again - I'd lost the most severe of the negative pre-conceptions and so I've been very pleased with the advances in presentation and general feel.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I blame Balkoski!

The bocage rules in ASL never held as much fear for me as they have for others. It's notable how my interest in the American actions behind the beaches on D-Day and afterwards has gradually increased. I can point to the series replay of an old SL-COI tourney scenario in the General magazine that first made me look at the airborne ops behind Utah and gradually I've developped more of an interest in the US sector of D-Day, although I still struggle to throw off the negativity of the Longest Day and SPR in terms of association with the worst kind of jingoistic pap.

Thankfully Balkoski and admittedly BoB have helped a lot, but rather than focus on the beaches (particularly Omaha) it's the actions on D+1 to about D+8 that really hold my eye. Hence the easy decision to acquire the latest issue of Critical Hit magazine as it includes Busting the Bocage, a look at the fighting inland from Pointe du Hoc post the cliff assault. Now while the smaller ASL scenarios don't really appeal, there's a lot to be said for BtB as an accessible series of games particularly as the mapsheet is so much better in terms of rendering the Normandy countryside than any geomorphic collection of generic boards.

Here's a pic of the map (sorry it's not the best picture):

Busting the Bocage by CH

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sometimes they get it right! (includes pics for once)

Between the return to work and real life issues, I've just not had the chance to do anything other than play a little PBeM ASL and look at the pretty modules that have all arrived. Oh my, there's some really nice stuff out there from Critical Hit and I'm still only catching up with stuff from 2002-2006!

The first lot to arrive was Tigers To the Front - a look at Soviet attacks on the "Panther" Line in Army Group North just as Bagration destroyed Army Group Centre (June 44) to the south. Talk about serious eye candy and potential for some excellent Face to Face play once I get to the Paddington Bears meetings. The cool thing is that there are enough scenarios that I can play via PBeM on small suibset maps while I get my head around the new map which is very very nice.

I'm not usually a real fan of Late War Eastern Front Heavy Metal but this has sold me on the idea - and it's rural terrain - so much more a fan of that than urban terrain (after a diet of urban/ruined city terrain I definitely needed a change).

So here's the Tigers to the Front map:

Tigers to the Front