Sunday, November 27, 2011

AP42 Frontiers & Pioneers (AAR) The End Game

Joe and I finished this beastie off yesterday morning. I'll make most of my comments after the turn by turn breakdown. I had hoped to be playing ASL today but domestic duties and the imperative to get all my ducks in a row regarding future employment options are combining to make playing ASL an unlikely option today.

In other news, I've volunteeered my services to Chas Smith as a playtester if required. I'm pretty sure I've got some playtesting work lined up with the Cleavinator for Journal 10 as I enjoyed doing the Suicide Creek stuff, and have been enjoying working on some other stuff with Adam Lunney on one of his designs. Plus I have something from Ian Percy I think I am meant to be arranging a PT session to play soonish.

So as of my last AAR post it was effectively the end of Game Turn 4, and I was looking at driving home the advantage I had with the KV having no functioning AT capability. And so the game went on:

German Turn 5: At Start
German Turn 5 Situation after Rally Phase: Well my worst fear was realised, as Joe repaired the MA on the KV and now it was imperative I used this opportunity to take it out once and for all. My plan was hopefully to draw the Kv's fire at anything other than the FT squad which would have to do an AF phase shot, but the TK odds would be good. I was also concerned that Joe might go for a Motion Attempt to minimise the chances of the PzIII getting a decent BFF shot into his rear, as that PB modifier would be key and the free VCA change would make life difficult for the PzIII. Joe's 9-2 was less successful in rallying his platoon, only bringing back one squad. I would have to take the odds on getting the KV and let the Pz IV and the two other 38Ts in the West do the real donkey work in wearing down his 9-2's redoubt.
German Turn 5: After Preps

German Turn 5 Preps: The Pz IV did a modicum of damage with its 75mm HE, breaking the freshly rallied 447. But the CMG did the real damage with a nasty 2MC that broke everything in the hex and effectively spelled death for the 9-2 and his platoon. At this point I was confident I had the game in hand but if the KV survived I'd still have to be mindful of the CVP cap as two more killed AFVs would make it very interesting and three would be too close for comfort. But this is where I think my instinve gut-driven play style actually is a strength, as I backed myself to do the job. The rest of the Preps were ineffective.

German Turn 5: Movement and Defensive Fire

German Turn 5 Movement and Defensive fire: The start of the end...

With the 9-2 out of the picture, I had the platoon to his south advance in steps to draw the fire of the 447 in the 37O1 building and if they survived, the 9-2 would die Due to FTR. This would also allow me to bring up the FT in relative safety through baiting the D1F with the sqd and LMG. Meanwhile the flanking motorcyclists squeaked past a NMC and started taking control of the North West Village area, a requirement of the VC if I wanted to really force the issue.

The killer blow I think was the when Pz38T B fired his mgs with a point blank 8 up 2, and rolled snakes for a 2mc which broke and elred the 447 in 57T1. That sealed the fate of an entire platoon and allowed me to minimise further AFV exposure.

I drew the Kv into a first fire shot by driving Pz38T A down from the north and although the BFF shots were not successful, I had at least prepared the way. The Panzer II then skipped around the rear, forcing the KV to change TCA and IF. Result! MA malfed again. The initail BFF shot needed to be a HH, which it was, but I needed a 5 to immobilise, 4 to KO. I rolled and dice bot gave me a 6, damn! Possible shock. I duly rolled the NTC and Bam! Shock!  The FT could now take the safer rioute to get into position for that all important AF TK roll.

Joe's Defensive Fire ATR shot bounced and that was pretty much it.  Now all that mattered was the Advancing Fire and the upcoming CCs to clearout the last of the infantry from the 9-2's redoubt.

German Turn 5: Coup de Grace

German Advancing fire through CC: The FT did it's job but only just, with the bare minimum for a KO. the other FT Xed out but still managed an all important PTC which was failed and so it went into CC, after the death of the rest of the soviet defenders for failure to rout. The CC was inclsuive but I did manage to reduce Joe to a hs before it went into Melee. Joe conceeded in his return mail as I expected so the Germans prevailed. A good game I thought, some hot dice in parts but generally I felt I played well and took the right options when necessary.
Conclusion: A good scenario and a good solid game. I found a lot to like about the scenario although it is fiddly in PBeM because of the vehicle numbers. The initial entry for the Germans is pretty scripted as far as i can see, too much risk associated with entering on the central road as one firelane will stop any thought of the motorcyclists traversing to the west.

I feel I played a solid, patient game, particularly on Turns 3 and 4 which helped me set up for turn 5 nicely. I took some calculated risks in Turn 4 and 5, as opposed to a couple of airy fairy decisons on Turn 1 and 2. My timing and sequencing of actions improved, but I still got it wrong on occasions, leaving Joe some opportunities to cause damage which thankfully were not as severe. I completely misread the MOL usage rules and could have suffered accordingly.

I gather the scenario is seen as somewhat pro-German (which is interesting as ROAR has it as 28 to 39 in favour of the Soviets before this game. I wonder if the German players haven't kept discipline and stayed at 7+ hexes to maximise their TH advantage or used hidnrances as a good way of reducing the TH chances equally. Plus the Germans need to use their mobility as a form of defence.) but i feel it's pretty close  to balanced.

It's a good contrast in armour usage and also a good training tool for armour as it's not about a Hit = Kill type AFV slugfest. Make sure the Soviet player knows how the T35 CAs work though as the T35 needs to be in the mid game and can scare the bejeesus out of the German landsers. The 9-2 and KV are the determinans in a Soviet defence so maximising their potential to do harm in the early and mid game (for the KV) is vital.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

AP42 Frontiers & Pioneers (AAR) The Mid Game Part 2

As I mentioned last time, this game is still very much in the balance at the start of Joe's Soviet turn 4. Throughout the game, our fire attacks have been either boom or bust, with either KIAs, KOs or Malfed weapons. Nothing subtle about either the dice or the IF attempts on either side.

Soviet Turn 4: The Situation post-Preps

Turn 4b Soviet preps: Joe's Prep Fire caused me some major hurt this turn. The half-platoon with the ATR in 57O1 took some vengeance with a 1KIA on my 8-1 and broke the 468/LMG with him. I was now down to 1 leader and the brokies would be out for some time. I was a bit preoccupied on the here and now so I didn't consider the effect that shot would have on Joe's movement choices either.

Soviet Turn 4: After the Movement Phase

Soviet Turn 4b movement: Joe followed up his successful Prep by overrunning the broken 468/LMG, something i hadn't even realised I was somewhat vulnerable to, as I was still focused on the potential threat that 76mm could be if/when it repaired. I had a couple of good shots at the KV, but a mniss and a bounce were all I had to show for it. The Panzer III were starting to wonder if they had dud ammo by this stage. Joe's movement of the KV did leave him in a vulnerable position for my FT toting squad however abnd the Panzer III could still get to him, as long as he didn't repair his gun. At this stage I was hoping to use the FT squad as the KV killer in my turn. The rest of the movement was SOP for Joe, redeploying to maintain a workable force on the VC area and threatening the motorcycle flanking party via the 9-2 for next turn. Very few shots taken by me in Def First fire.

Soviet Turn 4: After all Defensive Fire

Soviet Turn 4b German Defensive Fire: the Panzer IV came to the party with breaking the two units in 57s1. Not a critical Hit but the effects DR was nasty enough. Other than that I managed to wreck the MA on the 38T who'd just got it back, the ready round rack  must have been loaded with older ammo again. i was thinking I was now in a position to go hard at the KV with two tanks and the FT squad while the other three tanks concentrated on bothering the main Soviet defensive group before I let loose the other FT squad.

I was now pretty confident that I had the upper hand by quite a margin as long as I could get the Western VC area sorted during my next two turns. We'll just have to see what develops in the Rally Phase as to whether I can let the tanks run free and shoot in the FT and infantry onto the other VC area.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

AP42 Frontiers & Pioneers (AAR) The Mid Game

Joe and I are munching through the logs on a daily basis, and it's getting tight.

When I last updated , it was the end of German Turn 3 Prep Fire and I was going to try and get that verdammte KW1. Things have gone back and forth since then...

End Of German Turn 3: I'm feeling pretty good here, I have a PzIII behind the KV with a good shot  even if Joe starts up to get out of Dodge, although missing out on APCR hurt and the subsequent PB AP shot hurt. My infantry are now starting to pressure Joe's Main line of infantry and he's had to redeploy the 9-2/MMG sqd. The PzIII is out on a limb though and I probably won't survive past the Prep phase.
End Of Soviet Turn 3: Joe started his turn with a hiss and a roar as the KV snaked his PB pre shot and vapourised the Pz III. Unfortunately for Joe, he went one shot too many and malfed the MA trying to get the Pz IV as well.  The 9-2 trundled down the road into the buildings after drawing some ineffective but threatening fire from the PzIV but other  than that it was force preservation on Joe's part. The threat of the FTs is starting to make itself known I think.
End Of German Turn 4: Advancing Fire Phase: I'm looking a little brittle now, 2 of my AFVs have malfed their MAs, another is under a permanent +1 stun, and the remaining Pz III missed out on APCR, and then scored a PB hit on the freaking superior turret (exacerbated by the subsequent TK roll of 4 being low enough for a Mission Killing Immobilisation on the Hull). Joe's central positionn is proving to be a tough cookie, with 2 sqauds and an ATR holding me up, however there is a FT lurking and the 8-1 does have a beadv on the stack, although without a working LMG. I'm almost temopted to use the prisoners and guards to go fetch the 25LL AA and bring it up for some IFE goodness for sheer style points. Thankfully I've been able to make use of two good rallied hs and get them on their Zundapps to threaten the now somewhat unguarded North western Victory locations.
Start of Soviet Turn 4: Well this is where it may have turned in my favour. I managed to repair both MAs and the LMG with three consecutive drs. If Joe does the same however I'm in a world of hurt again. I have a suspicion actually i'm almost 100% certain the concealed stack is the last of Joe's dummies and his double squad aATR position is now under threat of encirclement attacks. This is going to be a very interesting turn...

 Hope you've enjoyed the game so far, I know I'm hanging out for Joe's next VASL log.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Half-Squad that could

Many thanks and welcome to my fanatic half-squad of blog Followers, one of whom does more promoting of my blog on Gamesquad than I ever do. Much appreciated as I'm actually not great at promotion stuff like that, feel a bit self conscious about pushing my own barrow, but peer recommendations carry a lot of weight.

I think that folowing Ian's example in posting regularly and illustrated even minorly has helped me in sharing my enjoyment of ASl as a game., which in turn has allowed me to rediscover my enthusiasm for actually playing rather than just collecting and reading about ASL.

It's been particularly cathartic of late as I've been able to switch off mentally from real life issues (with the support of SWMBO it must be said) and retrieve some work-life balance.

And silly me is probably going to pick up the major two AK releases just for the large mapsheet (the overlays will need to be colour edited) and the nice counters.

Playing To Do Part II

With my PBeM schedule currently down to one game and given I'm much more up to speed with the mechanics of PBeM now, I've managed to add a couple more games and new opponents just through a quick Opp Wanted ad on Gamesquad.

The best thing is I'll be playing through packs from start to finish so my To Do plan actually survived first contact. Friendly Fire Pack 1 and either BFP's Operation Cobra or High Ground will be the other theme to run through.

I'll be playing Paul from the UK in FrF 01 Jarama Proving Grounds and Whit from the USA in one of the BFP scenarios.

I'm definitely loooking forard to this. The opportunity to be exposed to new play styles and tactical approaches will do my game no end of good. I guess I'm lucky in that I enjoy PBeM a lot and find it a relaxing way to really appreciate the game.


Currently listening to: Glenn Miller -Signatures

AP42 Frontiers & Pioneers (AAR) The story continues...

Tomorrow I should have the remainder of Soviet Turn 3 and the main part of German Turn 4 ready for viewing here...

Monday, November 21, 2011

An appreciation of the French way of ASL part 2

Volume 7 of Le Franc Tireur was the harbinger of the LFT new wave, the first issue to get more than minimal exposure outside the EC. Reaching back into my memory, 2003 was really a lean year for TPP: CH were only just starting to come out of their self induced dormant period; Heat of Battle were not doing much; and of the scenario producers, only Schwerpunkt was being its usual productive annual self, with George Kellnand Paul Kenny just starting or not raising their heads much above the horizon of ASL consciousness at that stage.

But returning to LFT #7; an entire issue devoted to the East Front, with a Borodino theme for 5 scenarios, all 5 of which saw subsequent wider exposure in the opages of Journal 7 and 8. It's these scenarios that I'm going to have a brief look at, purely because I really enjoyed them when I first played them and I reckon it's actually worth looking at the differences between the two iterations.

The scenarios are: 
  • The Yelnya Bridge (FT31, J102)
  •  Lenin's Sons (FT32, J103)
  •  Flanking Flamethrowers (FT33, J104)
  •  Borodino Train Station (FT34, J105)
  •  Last push to Mozhaisk (FT35, J115)

Before we go any further, note that there are three Borodino SSRs that apply to all five FT scenarios :
  1. All Buildings are wooden (except for FT34 Borodino Train Station)
  2. German 838/338, 548/238s and Soviet 628/328 are Assault Engineers
  3. Vehicular crews may not voluntarily abandon their vehicles.
Pretty much standard type SSRs and dutifully included as required by MMP

Let's look at the differences in each scenario:
  •  The Yelnya Bridge: MMP did some minor mods of the SSRs, using non SS illos for the SS OB and therefore needing to specify SS capability in the SSRs. Actual OB changes were made to the Soviet Ob, with MMP dropping 1 447 squad but adding a 426  instead, plus adding an ATR. For the Germans, MMP added a 548 and an lmg. That's pretty much it.

  • Lenin's Sons: As above, MMp just tided up the SSR wording, and added a single lmg to the post errata German OB  (NB LFT 1st ed errata: add 1 lmg and one DC to the German OB so they have two of each). The only real major change is MMP increased the game length to 6.5 turns and raised the German CVP cap from ≤14 to ≤16 or less. [NB: LFT errata: Map : instead of only hexrows D-U are playable, read hexrows D-Z]

  • Flanking FTs: SSRs tidied and clarified as before. German OB changes are fairly major: upgrade 4 x 457 to 468, add a 247 hs, upgrade 1 x 8-0 ldr to 8-1 and the armour enters on Turn 1 as opposed to turn 2. Soviet OB change drops one of the Turn 4 Soviet 628s
  •  Borodino Train Station: (The Compass Rose is incorrect in the FT version, North should be at the bottom). SSRs tidied but no other changes at all.
  • Last Push to Mozhaisk: The only real change si a subtle one, decreasing the German CVP cap from 24 to 23.
Balance: (ROAR stats as of 21/11/2011) 
  • The Yelnya Bridge: [FT31] German 17 vs Russian 19 [J102] German 38 Russian 29
  • Lenin's Sons:   [FT32] German 5 vs Russian 11 [J103] German 57 vs Russian 69
  • Flanking FTs:  [FT33] German 4 vs Russian 10 [J104] German 37 vs Russian 21    
  • Borodino Train Station: [FT34] German 5 vs Russian 0 [J105] German 61 vs Russian 33    
  • Last Push to Mozhaisk: [FT35] German 4 vs Russian 9 [J115] German 23 vs Russian 35
My thoughts, I've played all but Mozhaisk, but I'd play them all again. Brodino needs the most help and I'd disallow Boresighting based on the historical blurb or drop the AFV entry to turn 2 as a default with the balance being to incorporate both. Flanking Fts I think needs the German Armour also to enter on Turn 2 and add back the dropped 628. Yelnya, the Germans should lose 1 lmg and that's about it. Mozhaisk could probably do with increasing the German CVP up to around 26 or 27.

Jorunal 7 was a very good set of scenarios as far as I was concerned, quite a few don't like these five scenarios but as a linked set and theme, I like them. Plus they are really excellent fast play scenarios that only need a little tweaking, don't use a huge amount of outlandish SSRs and still force both sides to think slightly oustide the box and use all the various national characteristics. (okay so I'm biased and still reckon you can use a HW in Borodino successfully on turn 1).

Currently listening to: Betty Blue soundtrack

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An appreciation of the French way of ASL part 1

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a (somewhat pretentious) francophile. I've spent some time living there, including a year in Paris doing the whole dissolute writer thing on the left bank, and until relatively recently I was planning to retire to a small village in the Loire where I have some investment property. Hell, I even support Les Bleus when they aren't in a position to KO the All Blacks froma World Cup.

I first came across ASL à la mode française through working on some of the Tactiques translations for Coastal Fortress and through Vae Victis. I would have liked to have obtained ASL News and Tactiques in their heydays, but unfortunately by the time I was aware of them, they were gone and in the case of ASL News, their legacy has been sadly traduced by Critical Hit.

Thankfully Le Franc Tireur has raised the banner of French ASL proudly once more and it's notable that for many ASLers, LFT is one of the must buy TPPs. Not a bad effort given the expense outside the EC in obtaining LFT products, although for those of us in Australasia and the far East, it's been hugely convenient to have a distribution point located in Cambodia especially as the AUD has been strong vis à vis the Euro.

I'm gradually building up my collection of Le Franc Tireur products (those I am missing are from the earlier days, but as French language editions are just as accessible for me as a francophone, the demand from the wider ASL community is not as fierce), with the two main goals being LFT N° 8 Normandy and From The Cellar N° 3.

In the next piece, brief thoughts on a particular subset of scenarios from LFT.


Currently listening to: Piaf: 30ème anniversaire

WO2 Failure to Communicate AAR (The End)

John and I continued our game this morning and as we expected it was pretty short and brutal. At this stage of the game, given our mutual lack of infantry and the tightrope we were both walking regading the victory conditions, any events like a sniper or a snakes at the right time could make a difference.

And do it one point, I had forestalled a possible CC attack with the 10-2 and a concealed unit by rolling a snakes to strip concealment from the squad, but it was not enough in the CC, as John wiped out my 9-2 and squad (5CVP), retaking a building and I could only wound the 10-2. This was later magnified by the wounded 10-2 HOBing in the last French turn to a 10-3 albeit wounded and retaking one of the 4 buildings I had seized control of.

This all became moot when the French Sniper made his second and game winning intervention in the 42W2 building, breaking my solitary squad and thereby allowing John to hold the building witha single half squad but more importantly taking the German squad prisoner for a matter of 4CVP, and tipping me over the CVP cap of 24. Game over, man. Game over.

The End of the Game: German Casualties hit 25CVP

  • I over deployed at the start. If I had only gone with the usual 2 squads deployed as scouts, i would have mainatined more of a force in being.
  • I lacked a real focus on attack. In retrospect after eliminating John's armour in the North, I should have kept pushing through that axis with my central force and placed real pressure on his defence of the 42W2 building. 
  • In the south, I failed to keep enough Good Order troops together aand the deplyed half squads were too vulnerable to losses and achived very little of note.
  • Board 54 is a puzzle in itself in terms of the best approaches to winkle out defenders from the various hamlets. This scenario is one that almost certainlly demands that both players have played it before to really make the most of it as it really is an ongoing balancing act between force preservation and time.
  • Recommended, and it would work well for the long round in a tourney because of the tight nature of the VC coupled with the numbers of AFVs almost certainly going to be involved within urban areas.

My Win Ratio is 100%!

Okay so it's only because of the one game I played against Rami in the first round of the 2011 VASL Minor League for Europe/Oceania before I had to drop out of ASL for 6 months, but I'll take it. Like my ASLOK Tin Cans & Pop Guns Mini plaque (coutesy of the Dice of Doom), this will be the high point of my ASL tourney career and I'm going to milk it for all it's worth.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Playing To Do Part I

This is probably the easiest one to get out of the blocks. I'm looking at themes in terms of products and subjects. I'm hoping to get one Live VASL + Skype game done per month and have maybe 2-3 PBeM games going simulatneously. My goal is to hit 50 plus games next year - nowhere near the numbers posted by the hard chargers  in the 100+ games club, but unless I get a new job closer to home, the 4 hour commute each day is a limiting factor.

The basic idea is to get a like minded opponent willing to run through a theme list in partnership. Sure it may mean playing a couple of scenarios that both of us have played before, but generally that will mean playing a solid design anyway.

WCW '96 ASL Open -
Interestingly, I thought I'd played more of the scenarios, but I guess the amount of multiple playings has skewed my memory.
  • 01. Will to Fight...Eradicated - Played, but always willing to play again
  • 02. Scotch on the Rocks - ROAR Brit 30 vs Germ 20
  • 03. Tigers at Merefa - ROAR Germ 21 vs Sov 9
  • 04. Cat Becomes the Mouse - ROAR Brit 16 vs Germ 22
  • 05. Abandon Ship - ROAR US 74 vs Germ 69
  • 06. Los Ejercitos Nuevos - ROAR Rep Span 27 vs Nat Span 21
  • 07. Eye of the Tiger - Played, and would play again at the drop of a hat.
  • 08. The Last VC in Europe - ROAR Brit 30 vs Germ 20
  • 09. Sweep Up
  • 10. Stand and Die - played this most recently at ASLOK, I don't think I've grokked this yet, but I like it a lot.
Winter Offensive -
Currently playing through this with John Knowles although we skipped the first for some reason..

  • 01. French Toast and Bacon - ROAR US 21 vs Germ 24
  • 02. Failure to Communicate - Completed
  • 03. Counterattack at Carentan - ROAR US 18 vs Germ 22
  • 04. I Don't Like Retreating - ROAR US 6 vs Germ 9
  • 05. Astride Hell's Highway - ROAR Germ 10 vs US/Brit 7
Action at Carentan -
This is out of left-field a little, as it's not widely known or publicised but it got some pretty good  press in Desperation Morale, the downside is making the VASL map work unless it's already been fixed. And with four scenarios it's certainly something that could be completed pretty quickly.
  • Cole's Charge - ROAR Germ 5 vs US 1
  • The Cabbage Patch - ROAR US 1 vs Germ 1
  • Green Devils - ROAR Germ 3 vs US 2
  • Cooperation Reigns - ROAR Germ 2 vs US 0
After these I'd like to have a crack at Busting the Bocage from CH, another set of scenarios on an HASL style map. Further down the track, Time On Target/KE MM97-99 series and knock off the Friednly Fire back catalog.


Currently listening to: Glenn Miller - A Portrait of

Future Directions

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but kept procrastinating because I wanted to put all kind of fancy graphics and example throughout.In the end I've canned that idea because this is mostly an aide-memoire for later and the bells and whistles can be added later.

Also by putting this out here for public consumption, I get the benefit of feedback and additional input/approaches and ideas I haven't really considered.

To Do Lists:
Pretty simple, but there are a lot. I find I accomplish more if I have a definite plan, with the codicil that the planning never seems to match up with the execution or vice versa.

  • A Playing to Do List - by default I'm playing against a couple of regular opponents in themed runs of scenarios, thereby knocking off their own to do lists, but it'd be nice to set out my own lists of themed playing lists, and after approximately 16 years of online ASL involvement and exposure to TPP, there are certainly a lot.

  • The OCD CDO list - Organisation and acquisition - I really need to set down my targets in organising my ASL stuff, as it's taking over my study all on its own. This includes things like dice towers, a long distance travel set, a home set and local travel set: Plano, Raaco, Hozan and Box Box all get attention here. 12 months ago I spent way too much on a net book tablet in effect just for ASLOK.

  • Designing and playtesting - I've a couple of ideas for scenarios that have been percolating around for years, but never got off my chuff to do anything about it. Time to change that.

  • AARs and playing history - I've got archives of my playing history laying around on various defunct hard drives and media that I really should look at moving to modern VASL for AAR purposes, plus it may be quite instructive looking at how my play has developed since 1995 when I first started playing outside my limited opponent set. And there's the added impetus of knowing that the AARs posted this month have been the most read of anything on this blog.
In these four categories there's a lot more beneath the surface, so I don't really have much excuse for posting gaps on this blog. The downside is that some of these projects are not exactly image rich and I gather most wall of text blogs get rapidly ignored so I'm a tad loathe to go down that road.


Currently Listening to: Siouxsie & the Banshees: Juju (1981)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Being greedy will come back to bite you...

I sent off my latest movement log for AP42 Frontiers and Pioneers, and in my greed to get a point blank rear shot at Joe's KV behemoth, I needed that extra MP to stop , sure enough the ESB roll at +3 (+1 for the extra MP, +2 for pre-Vorsprung Durch Technik German automotive excellence) ended up a 5,6 : Immobilised! Well at leats i'm in the location I wanted to be, sadly the Panzer III will be out of the firing line for the rest of the scenario. Considering I've already ESBed without consequences 4 times in the game, I was due for a fall.

Oh well.

No major updates to report, but the weekend's close so the live VASL game may well finish this time around.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Has it already been a month?

So this blog was effectively started after ASLOK 2011 finished and I started revisting Gamesquad and playing again.

I've completed two games on VASL (including one playtest), and have two currently ongoing games at their mid-points.

I've started posting in progress AARs with actual pics, and contemplated heretical alternatives to the one true faith. All this while 99% of my psyche was entwined in some torunament revolving around a legalised brawl over an inflated pig's bladder.

P.S. I just noticed that I've just  matched the October pageview total this far into November. Content really is King!

As always, I've been rolling more than my fair share of these during my games:

Monday, November 14, 2011

WO2 Failure to Communicate AAR (in progress)

John Knowles and I are working our way through the Winter Offensive scenarios (or rather we were going to, John's changed his mind) and this is where we're up to.

The Start: 
Turn 1: I think I made a cardinal error in this game at the very start by not creating a schwerpunkt and also by overly deploying. Yes it's all about building control, but it's also about massing fire on points of resistance, and later in the game, I find it hard to generate enough firepower against high TEM defenders as well as occupy buildings.

Turn Three:
Turn 3: John's armour has been of little worth, up north the tankettes effectively vapourised in the face of ATR and LMG fire (a common theme when John lets me loose with LATW in early war scenarios). John has taken the Minefield OB option which I was actually okay about as the lack of any other armour or ATG apart from the starting 25mm and Pan Pan frees up my light armour a little bit.

Turn Five:
Turn 5: I've KOed the Panhard, the ATG was decrewed then overrun, thereby allowing me to get in position to attrite his southern stronghold. I still need to clear the board 42 building complex (there's only a concealed leader in there) but i am now seeing the result of death by the half-squad coming back to bite me. Force Preservation in this has fallen by the wayside, and it will be touch and go as to whether I can get the 5 buildings, especially as I'm now at 14 VP so can't afford to lose two AFVs.
It's now John's turn and his reinforcement squad and a very valuale leader will make a difference. I wouldn't mind finishing the WO scenarios via VASL Live if possible, and I do have one slot available on weekends.


AP42 Frontiers & Pioneers (AAR) The story so far...

This is my one current PBeM game at the moment: AP42 from Action Pack 5, East Front. Joe Moro is the Soviet Commander attempting to make do with a polyglot mix of slow but beastly and fast but tinny tanks hampered or aided by the Land Battleship T-35. I on the other hand have some mobile light forces with a mix of up-armoured 38Ts and the early Mark III with 50mm. There's even the ubiquitous Pz IVe who is not much chop against armour but is there to provide support (yeah right).

AP42 is a fiddly scenario to play on VASL initially and especially via PBeM. The German opening move involves so many mounted units on motorcycles and really only a couple of legitimate entry routes.

The Soviet set up area and Victory locations:

Two distinct yet adjacent Victory Location areas, with some real manoeuvring required in the mid to late game to even threaten the North-westernmost victory locations.

The Soviet setup as I saw it:
I was at a bit of a loss to see where my main effort would be on turn 1 and 2, as the paucity of German boots on the ground means that it's imperative I minimised risk in the opening turns to allow me to put pressure on the Soviet infantry. I could see that the central route was just a complete no go zone unless I could guarantee SMOKE, but the PZ IV isn't that good. I decided to have the Pz IIIs go through the forest rod in the centre to station themselves at or on 7 hex range to the east of the central 5/8" concealment stacks. The Pz 38Ts would try and get through the Eastern gap by the marsh in 37DD4 with a view to hooking around the wheatfields area on board 57 East.

Here's how the situation looked at the end of German Turn 1:
The initial turn went okay, I confused myself several times and changed my mind about where I wanted to maintain some Infantry, but that was taken care of early on with the first Zundapp riding half squad not getting very far at all. The Panzer IIIs were in a good position, while the 38Ts had gotten away with only a single stunned tank from IFT fire but they had drawn the AA gun out of hiding with no consequences, and had smoked it nicely.

By the end of Joe's Soviet Turn 1 response, I was feeling a little better:
My sniper had been killed saving a CE tanker, but I'd KIAed the gun crew of the unsuccessful AA gun for failure to rout and both Panzer IIIs were now in position to protect the infantry from the KV and also provide some additional MG firepower to any infantry advances. With the Gun now MIA, I felt I could use my positioning on the flank to properly sweep around and force relocation of 1 or 2 concealed tanks while getting into the optimum 7-12 hex range band.

Turn 2 was where the infantry cleared the flank completely and the Panzer 38s did their backyard blitz to the north:
The 38s scooted around, an opportune snakes and one of my better LOS picks paved the way for a take down of the T35 well ahead of schedule, even with a MA malf on one 38T. The infantry were angling their way to the North West but it was slow going, I needed to develop some kind of threat on the western flank, but the KV was protecting units covering the axis of redeployment  so I couldn't go that route as perhaps I should have earlier.

Joe's Turn 2 response was interesting, I think he felt the KV was unsupported and out on a limb, especially as I hadn't brought the FTs into play at all yet:
Here we see the KV lumbering up to scare the 38T in the north, while the remaining gun armed 38T did me proud and took out a pesky BT, again with a good LOS pick and showing the 7012 hex range band working to my advantage. The Pz IV was doing his damnedest to keep the Soviet infantry honest and forced a minor adjustment, something I hoped to take advantage of in turn 4, if not earlier.

We're now into turn 3, and I'm trying to KO the Soviet armour once and for all:
The situation at the end of the prep fire phase, no success with the DI, but the last BT is toast courtesy of an IF shot, the infantry can redeploy from east to the centre, and the Panzer IIIs are now in a position to go KV hunting with APCR if possible. I'm yet to lose a single unit (except for a Sniper that takes out the concealed 8-0 on the forest road , something that hurts me a lot more than Joe may think, as changing the axis of attack is going to be a real issue now with only two leaders.)
Nowhere close to being in the bag, but I'm hoping to get some real momentum out of this turn's movement and advancing fire phases, particularly if the KV1 fails to take out the 38T before I get my next defensive fire.

One True Church (with maybe a little heresy)

I've been playing ASL for 25 - 26 years now, and SL-GI:AoV before that for 7 years. In that time I've looked at other games set at the same level but passed them all by. ASL is a lifestyle for me rather than a game amongst many.

I am not immune however to eye-candy, in fact that's why I still occasionally throw good money at Critical Hit, because I am indeed a "Map Ho".

I'd seen a squad-level game with very high production values previously but had passed it by because of the cost and because I could not be arsed spending serious amounts of cash on a game system that I was highly unlikely to play...until this popped up:

Now Conflict of Heroes has extremely eye-catching map graphics, high production value and colourful pieces, but based on the comments I've read from people whose opinions on boardgames I trust (anyone who recommends I buy Last Night on Earth instead of Zombies!!! gets my vote), the system is not for me.

But put it on an iPad, have my partner see it and go "Ooh shiny! I want to learn to play that!", well I'm pretty much resigned to spending mucho dinero on a new tactical system (at least, one that features self-contained games sets). Of course the ASLer in me refuses to accept that i can't somehow get the boards to work in ASL with some abstraction and deterministic terrain depiction workarounds.

I mean just look at these maps:

I swear it should be possible to play an ASL scenario on these maps. But having an iPad app likely for CoH? You just sold me all three games in the series because while my partner is a gamer, she doesn't play the same boardgames as me, just a few PC games usually involving death to zombies in various forms.

It really doesn't hurt that one of the modules is all about Poland 1939. Early War is definitely my thing, and unexpectedly being told that SWMBO would like to learn this game makes it a deal clincher.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Choosing scenarios

One of the more difficult things I find in ASL is choosing a scenario to play against a new opponent.

With the Cleavinator, it's all about playing something neither of us have played before, something fresh and probably from Bounding Fire or more commonly from Friendly Fire, due in no small part to the quality of playtesting that has gone into them and their track record.

I call this aspect of scenario choice, the ASLOK syndrome: where it's all about the scenario packs released at or just prior to ASLOK. It's testament to the impact of ASLOK on my playing psyche that what was once anathema to me is now part and parcel of playing the Cleavinator and face to face play. I still have issues grokking a new scenario, but I am improving.

With John Knowles, it's more about completing playthroughs of the official scenarios, this can mean going through the GI's Dozen pack, Turning the Tide or filling the gaps from Journals and Action Packs. As I've been playing John since 1988, we've worked our way together through BV, Para, Yanks, Partisan, West of Alamein, Hollow legions and Streets of Fire of the official modules, with a scattering of scenarios from the rest of the modules, although neither of us are pre-disposed towards the PTO when playing each other. Some habits and prejudices die exceptionally hard.

John and I have gone through most of the Annuals as well, plus a couple of Journals (One and Seven notably) along with Pegasus Bridge and Watchtower/Veritable. We don't play as often as we'd like, real life gets in the way all too often these days, but when we're able to, we crank out about 1 scenario over two or three VASL sessions.

I would dearly love to get into a themed series of scenarios against the one opponent, something like Playing each of the ToT packs, AP 3 or harking back to the old days, the Market Garden linked series from Annual 91. Currently my own personal theme is trying to play scenarios that feature the T35 or T28. there aren't that many  as it is, but as it generally involves early Barbarossa, the scenarios are usually less about Hit and Kill than Hit, hope you kill and try try again.

This whole business of choosing a scenario without a theme or inbuilt selection limitations has become somewhat harder given the breadth of scenarios available. And that's why I've taken the step of listing the ASL I own, on the new pages at the top of the blog. this means that I can easily direct a potential opponent to see what scenarios I have access to, and my preferences/grails so to speak are determinable at a glance. there is nothing worse than spending 3-6 emails just working out which scenario is going to be played. Particularly if you are in a time limited PbeM round such as can occur in the VASL Open league when timezones are out of whack.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ASL Games in Progress update

So here are my current games going strongly, one live VASL for the most part, the other pure PbEM:

WO2 Failure to Communicate : Start of German Turn 3

Here the Germans are about to bring on the armour, although the LATW work has once more been spectacular on my part, one CH with the ATR and another KO with an HMG - can't complain if your are me. John must be sick of the sight of my OB containing ATRs and LMGs. The 10-2 Leader Thierry Dusautoir is going to attract either a whole bunch of attention or will be ignored in favour of the rest of the Les Bleus by the Mighty Men in Black Blue-Grey - yes an obligatory RWC 2011 reference.

AP42 Frontiers and Pioneers - Start of Soviet Turn 2.
Ding Dong the wicked witch T-35 is dead! Snaffled by an Adv Fire Phase side hull hit from the Panzer 38T in centre top left after having stripped concealment with a snakes by the Coax only mg. This left me with a base 9 @ only +3 thanks to the size cancelling the hindrance and one of the case C mod of +4. Somewhat balanced by the second Pz38T who had a good shot at a BT after again unconcealing with the mgs before malfing his MA. On balance though, I've come out ahead. I've turned his flank nicely with my armour and I'm outside his optimum range band. although there's an opening for a counterattack, time to read up on Motion attempts versus potential Gun Duels if I stick around to fire.

Damn ASL is fun, especially when you can see your own game improving with each game.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I got home today from work to be greeted by the 9 year old monkey saying,
"Your parcel with stuff for that game is here."
And sure enough, I spent the next 15-20 minutes unwrapping and checking out Crucible of Steel (CoS). Thankfully only a few counter blemishes but nothing that actually impacts the printing, just extra care needed when clipping.

Immediately I went online, only to see several blogs had broken the news that Festung Budapest (FB) was available for pre-order. Now I'm not one for duplicate orders of HASLs but maybe this time I might just do so, after missing out on A Bridge Too Far and regretting the temporary poverty ever since.

Other blogs have already posted the PR blurbs and review pics of both CoS and FB so I'll not duplicate their industry. Suffice it to say that my BFP stack of items is starting to scare me and I definitely have to get my act together re the Hozan, Raaco and Box Box storage systems.

The down side is that currently I have to pass on the MMP pre-order blitz of releases that look to be coming out/released at Winter Offensive 2012. I have spousal approval to pre-order but as we live on my salary alone, it's an imperative that i mind the dollars and cents right now to make sure I can cover the probable 6 week gap in between my last pay-cheque at the multi-national bank and the first one at the new position (yet to be confirmed).

So a bittersweet ASL day, but I'm still playing, although no PBeM logs today which is also a mixed blessing.

2012 was ment to be my quiet year for ASL expenditure but Journal 10, AP8, WO3 and Festung Budapest in January/February alone are going to kill that pipedream stone dead. Oh well if the new job pans out, I will have regained 4 hours a day of my life due to the lessened commute which means i could get back to generating hobby income through painting again.

There's always an upside.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keeping It Positive

The week didn't start particularly well with a meeting at work to advise that my role, and the entire team I work with was being shuffled offshore for the usual reasons. So I'm looking for a new job at the moment, but I won't be unemployed as I can return to my former role at the end of the month if necessary.

In the meantime, I'm heading off to play some Face to Face ASL this evening, DASL 1 Guryev's HQ. This is something of a skills exercise with a less experienced opponent who has played it before but as the Germans and is now looking to take the part of the Soviets.

Guryev's HQ is a scenario I think teaches far more core infantry skills to a newcomer to ASL than most so-called intro scenarios such as Gavin Take, any of the Para module or Fighting Withdrawal from Beyond Valor. The use of opportunity Fire, scouting by half-squad and smoke grenades by the attacker are critical to playing ASL further, and on the defender's part, fire discipline, concealment and knowledge of the rout paths and withdrawing while in contact are just as vital to learn early on.

After tonight's game it's on to the Bearz, but unless there's a pick up game of ASL, I doubt I'll be there past the morning, Then it'll be back home to do the latest round of PBeM moves which have been affected by the aforementioned external events at the beginning of the week. 

Who knows, I may even get a local regular Face to Face game out of this evening, as the person I'm playing lives approximately 6-7 kms away as the crow flies but transport to and from his place is an issue for me as it's only serviced by one public transport bus route and is too much of a real mission to cycle or walk.

I'm looking forward to it and I'm hoping that it's not the only good news I have, particularly as Crucible of Steel hasn't arrived as yet.