I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to write up gaming reports. This is especially true of my ASL games. But the important thing is that I am actually playing – and loving – the game. (This despite my woeful record.) ASL delivers the most intense gaming experience. I can sit at the game table for hours at end, engrossed, totally enthralled. The closest similar experiences have come from my monster gaming sessions at the various ConsimWorld gatherings in Tempe, Arizona. ASL thrills. But you’ll have to exercise your imagination until I figure out how to motivate myself to write some reports!
So, I have this problem with ASL. I keep losing. And yet, there’s another problem. I somehow lose the will to write up the games. They are intense, and at the end of each one I am mentally frazzled – buzzing with the adrenaline of the game, but worn out from such a session of sharp focus. (Not too sharp, as I keep making mistakes, but that is another story.) Anyway, I finally made it to the keyboard after a game, and it’s time to catch up a wee bit.
I have played three of the scenarios of the excellent Hatten in Flames. I lost two and tied one. And one of the losses went down to the wire, so not too bad.
I have just finished Canicatti, scenario J51, featuring my Germans defending a mountainous position against josh’s advancing Americans in Sicily 1943. That one also went down to the wire. On the last turn, to win I needed to pass a morale check: seven or less I win, eight or more I lose. I rolled eight. Cue gnashing of teeth.
That last game featured Josh’s American forces spending three or four turns on the rampage. He completely ran through me. Then, out of nowhere, just as I was about to give up, up popped one of my two hidden anti-tank guns, and it nearly won the game on its own, felling two tanks. A melee killed off another USA tank, and I only needed to kill one more, or to have a surviving unit on the hill at the end. I failed with both, but it was close, and great fun. Six hours of gaming goodness. It does not get better than this. OK, that last bit is a lie. A win would be better…
Earlier this month, I was joined by Daniel, David, Josh, and Ran for a whole day of ASL.
David and Josh played the scenario Death’s Head Debut (SP 267).
As Josh puts it:
“Note that it is only 5.5 turns. It’s also classified as a “long-round” in Denmark, to be played Friday morning, until around 6 p.m. [Denmark hosts an ASL competition next month.]
Five and-a-half turns, no problem, right? David and I started at 10 a.m. and we called it at 8:30 p.m., with me surrendering. After three turns! And although I was badly losing, I still had a chance, but time constraints caused me to surrender. (Basically, I kicked David off the mountain, as required by the victory conditions. But I had to capture a second building and David’s tanks were roaming freely. He destroyed all my tanks and this demoralized me.)
They seemed to be having fun…
Meantime, Daniel, Ran and I played two scenarios, with Ran and I teaming up in both. We won one and lost one. It was so enthralling that I simply forgot to note what we were playing.
Too many games, not enough time!
Recently I continued my ASL adventure (AKA ‘losing streak’) with a game against Josh, playing the scenario Better Fields of Fire. It is set in September 1944, with elements of a US Infantry Regiment trying to take a fortified defense position from some German paratroopers. I was the attacker, and Josh the defender.
I knew the odds were stacked against me when I read the past records available online, suggesting a 2-1 ratio of German to American victories.
I knew that things were only about to get worse when my first shot of the game from my heavy mortar ran me out of WP ammunition. And they did get worse.
Josh set up a forward defense of two stacks of dummies. I dithered about whether they were real forces or not, and in the end made the wrong guess. So, I spent precious time and firepower attacking them.
Until about the halfway point in the game, no American squad passed a morale check. No wonder the advance was going slowly. Worse was that Josh had about four snipers, three of which were effective. I did generate an extra hero, and he actually made it into the fort.
We called the game after the German reinforcements arrived. By then, my force was weaker than the combined defending forces and reinforcements, and there was no way I would have been able to hold on to the victory point area.
Not my finest performance, but still an enthralling gaming experience. However, probably one of the fewest scenarios I would not be keen to play again. It’s a one shot effort.
I’m hoping for a performance improvement in 2019…
I continued my ASL education this week, with a game against Ran of the scenario Bloody Bois Jacques. Set in Bastogne, December 1944, the battlefield is a heavily wooded area which an attacking force of 9 USA squads (plus leaders, two heroes, and some machine guns) must make their way through, against a defending force of 8 German squads (plus leaders, machine guns, and artillery support).
There are a couple of scenario special rules which are a bit quirky, but do mostly work, representing fire lanes for the defenders. Basically, units in foxholes can see through woods hexes that would otherwise block line of sight. But the enemy cannot see the foxholes (or the units in them) until the fire lane is used.
I was the attacker, and Ran was the defender.
I should have known it would not be my lucky night when I failed two out of three deployment rolls in the first Rally Phase. Not a good omen.
Anyway, I split my force across the board, in two rough groups, seeking to drive on and get to the exit area that would give me victory points.
On my left flank, I put about half the squads plus both heroes. I led with a half-squad to scout ahead, and he made good progress, so the rest followed. I bumped into his hidden force and actually did a good job of forcing them back, as the Germans traded space for time.
On the right, the rest of the squads plus the machine gun, had a reasonable first turn. But then the artillery arrived. My troops on the right got clobbered by the artillery, and although many rallied and recovered, they were not able to get to the exit area in enough numbers, in time.
The key, therefore, was the deadly effectiveness of the German artillery which switched back to my other force and then harassed it to death. My two heroes who were the point men on my left flank, were wiped out by the artillery, along with supporting squads.
Although I had a chance of winning in the last turn of the game, Ran’s continued success with his artillery put an end to that, so he was able to claim another victory. (Exasperating.)
Ran did not fail a single battery access roll. He would have needed to roll a 12, but didn’t. Indeed, he did not roll a 12 the whole game. I only rolled one, but it was for a pin task check. Ran always drew a black chit for artillery availability. Although the odds of him drawing a red chit – meaning the artillery would have been unavailable – increase with each black chit draw, it never occurred.
Although I lost, I don’t think my play was bad. (Even more exasperating.) For example, I believe I got the fire/move balance about right which may be an improvement. However, I might have made the wrong call about committing to a couple of close combats. I find that if the right thing is to commit to a close combat, and I do the right thing, I am rarely successful in the close combat. So, maybe I should not have been surprised the close combats did not go well. If they had, I might still have sneaked a win, despite the awesome German artillery. (Double plus exasperating!)
Anyway, despite the loss, the game itself was the usual intense and enjoyable experience with time flying by, and there’s always a chance the next game will turn out better. Thanks to Ran for his patience and hospitality.
I have been remiss in blogging about gaming, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been playing – and losing.
A summary of all my ASL games since the last blog post about it would be: I played, I lost. Pretty demoralizing, even though playing ASL remains the most enthralling, engaging, absorbing, and exciting wargame experience I have ever had. The essential conundrum is that the only way to improve is to play, and yet if every play is a loss, it somewhat saps the enthusiasm. I have tried one session as purely an observer, watching Ran and Josh playing a scenario I had already played with Josh. I did learn a lot. Putting the right lessons into practice at the right time is the main challenge.
Also, I doubt – despite protestations to the contrary – that it’s much fun for my opponents to keep on winning. I haven’t figured out a solution, and maybe I never will. But meantime, I am still playing.
Last time out, Ran, Josh, and I played Second City, a 1944 scenario featuring a Soviet assault force (Josh) trying to steamroller through a mixed infantry and tank group of Hungarian defenders (Ran) with a couple of Panthers and decent German infantry support coming on as third turn reinforcements (me). This allowed me to watch the initial turns, trying to take on board the lessons, occasionally asking questions.
Josh’s assault force almost, but not quite, wiped out the Hungarians. Unfortunately for him, Ran exacted a high price. When my force came on in, it was able to put paid to the bulk of the remaining Soviet armor threat, and take up good defensive positions. (I would have struggled to do this entirely unaided, but Ran’s guidance was excellent and he better deserves the credit.) That set of moves plus a flamethrower led attack that wiped out some forward Russian attackers ended the scenario.
ROAR records 17 German wins against 2 Soviet, so the outcome seems to follow the trend and suggests that the scenario is not well balanced.
Now, a pause for lessons learned.
Setup: as defender, do not setup somewhere that the attacker can use his firepower to too much effect. In this case, the Soviets start with a half-track toting 24 firepower, and that is to be avoided.
Gun crew: don’t forget final protective fire.
Tanks: don’t give the opponent a side (or rear) shot, even if it has a low chance of success.
Broken main armament: think about whether you need to repair the gun. Failure gets the tank recalled. Maybe the machine guns will do the job.
Smoke: think about the different ways this can be used, including placing smoke in an enemy occupied hex. Don’t forget vehicle smoke launchers.
Stacks: avoid, avoid, avoid.
I’m sure there were more lessons, and hopefully I have properly absorbed them. Thanks to Josh and Ran for the continuing education, and their patience.
Recently, Ran and I played the ASL scenario Wintergewitter. It is set in December 1942 with the Russians defending a village, and having at start six squads, two half squads, two leaders, a medium machine gun, two light machine guns, and an anti-tank rifle. On game turn two, three T34-76 tanks arrive. The Germans have three squads, one half squad, two (good) leaders, a medium machine gun, and two light machine guns. But they also have four armored half-tracks and five tanks: two Panzer IV F2s, two Panzer III Js, and one Panzer IIIh.
The Russians win if, at the end of the scenario, within the village limits, they have a good order unit or a tank with its main gun still working. I was the Russians, and Ran was the Germans.
Many ASL games turn on the effectiveness of the setup. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes my setup is OK, and sometimes it is plain wrong. I have not yet mastered the art of analyzing the terrain and the situation the way experienced players can. This time, I got it wrong by trying to defend the whole village. This allowed Ran’s force to apply pressure at each point, and pick off the defenders one at a time. That was crucial. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.
So, the Germans come on and start eliminating the infantry defenders in the village. Ran uses vehicle by-pass sleaze – a very gamey but popular tactic – to freeze the defenders. One tank does this right into the hex with my anti-tank rifle. The anti-tank rifle breaks. Another infantry unit and half squad takes a low firepower shot at a hidden stack of mine. The next thing I know, my medium machine gun is out of action. Oh dear.
Ran sends his two good tanks to either side of the village, to go hull down in the wadi terrain there. That sets them up as tough targets for my tanks when they come on.
Ran slowly grinds down the defenders. My three tanks come on and swarm one German tank on the flank. One Russian tank is killed in the exchange, but I get the German defending tank and the road to the village is open.
Ran continues his grind. My two remaining tanks advance on the village, and Ran tries to bring back his other defending tank. Its main gun malfunctions and breaks and off it goes, home.
Next up, I lose one tank to a well positioned defender. My last tank must now get in to the village. Ran swarms it with his mixed bag of remaining tanks, and manages to immobilize it. Game over.
Thanks to Ran for his patience while I tried to work out – in vain – a solution to the rapidly declining fortunes of the Russian defenders.
On the dice and fate front, Ran’s sole experience was that tank gun breaking. I had the anti-tank rifle break, and also several blown sniper shots. Ran did not get a single sniper shot. I had two squads go berserk. This guaranteed their elimination as they charged into the teeth of the awesome German firepower. Heat of Battle? More like Time of Death.
I understand this is a popular tournament scenario, and can see why. It can be quite fast, and is tricky on both sides. Certainly, with a better Russian setup, it would have been more of a challenge for Ran. I still enjoyed it. ASL remains the stellar wargaming experience.
Ran and I played the ASL scenario First Cristot, a June 1944 encounter between the British and the Germans. I was the German player, and Ran the British.
The British infantry start at one end of the board – eight squads, two leaders, a hero, three LMGs, and a PIAT – and have to break through the German line to climb the hilly terrain at the other end of the board to claim victory. The Germans have two SS squads, three SS half squads, a couple of leaders, a medium machine-gun, a panzerschreck, and a 50mm anti-tank gun.
Both sides have tanks. The British tanks – four Shermans and a Firefly – have advanced too far ahead of their infantry and are sitting close to where the infantry have to reach. The German tanks – two Panthers – enter on the first turn to face up to the British tanks.
The scenario – played in wet weather conditions – has one quirky rule: the British player has to choose in each turn if he will move his tanks or his infantry. Since his infantry need to get across the baord, they should get most of the movement opportunities, leaving the British tanks as sitting ducks. That simply means the British tanks have to set up well, and Ran managed it in his typically skillful way.
The scenario began with a weather roll that worsened the rain. That didn’t really affect the outcome. If it had changed by having the rain stopped, that would have hevaily favored the attacker since they could then use their smoke capability to mask their advances.
Unfortunately for me, Ran’s twin pronged approach breached my thin line on one side of the board. Led by his PIAT toting hero, he had soon cleared enough room so that the victory area was in sight.
Worse, one of my tanks had its gun malfunction. Things went from bad to worse. The Firefly killed the gun capable tank, then the other gun broke completely and it had to be recalled.
By then, the British forces were well on top and I conceded.
The next day, after checking, Ran was a gentleman and told me that his overachieving hero should have died. (It was wounded and wounded again.) That did have a major impact in cracking my defense open, but given the dreadful state of the tanks’ performance, I doubt it would have made a difference.
The posted results of the scenario favor the Germans, but I think we agreed the setup challenge for the Germans is a hard one.
As usual, I learned a lot from the game. If only I could remember it…
I have a couple of ASL games to report on. Continue reading
It has been so long since I tried to post any ASL experiences I have quite forgotten many scenarios I have played. But, the last few I have some recollection of are as follows:
Josh’s Germans attacking my defending Russians.
The victory conditions are simple enough: no unbroken Russians in the fortified building.
The setup conditions forces the Russian player to have some of his forces within easy enough range of the German offensive line, and so the Russian cannot simply hide away in the fortified building and surrounding area, and wait. There has to be some attempt at a delaying force.
Of course, if the Russians lose too many troops in that outer defense, they are doomed. Well, for that part of the game, I couldn’t really complain. I did lose some squads, but also chewed up some Germans and put their timetable under threat.
Eventually, however, it all came down to the last turn, and the last three Russian defenders. Could the Germans win? I said “Yes” and Josh said “No” so you can probably guess quite easily that Josh was wrong. It was a bit sad, because as I looked at the last turn, I could see exactly how his deadly flamethrower survivor (one had broken) and a couple of killer stacks (good leaders and assault engineers) would move and kill. And so it proved to be. The game could have gone either way on the last two close combat die rolls, but Josh got the kills he needed, and so on the last roll of the last turn he had won.
It was infuriating, but great excitement.
Josh had tied up one of my flank guards with a close combat, and that unit spent the last three or four close combats outside the fortified building, doing no good at all. However, in fairness, another Russian squad that had broken early, did manage to rally and get back in to the fortified building. Indeed, if there was a noticeable weakness in the Soviet at start forces, it was leadership. I needed the -1 leader with the HMG in the fortified building, and I swapped the other for a commissar. Where was I going to put him? In the fortified building. That meant all the outer defenders were dead, or pretty much dead, as soon as they broke. The fact I only got one back out of the six I was forced to setup up front says it all. That may hint I where my tactics were wrong: perhaps I should have retreated the outer defenders instead of mixing it up with the attackers? However, they did some damage, so I am unsure.
Throughout the game, Josh gave me several sniper opportunities of which only one (a pinning result) came to anything. He had one sniper and it also got a pin result.
Great stuff, but next time I would like to be on the winning side against Josh!
A Canadian attacker against a German defender with mines and a chunky tank reinforcement. I played as the defender against Ran and diced my way to victory. I played as the attacker against josh and my attack was bloodily, and all too easily, repulsed.
I definitely seem to do better as the defender. So, I clearly need to play more as the attacker…
(There have been others, but they are forgotten.)