Tiger, Tiger…

So, continuing with the ATS module Panther Line, I moved on to the big scenario, number 4: Tigers on the Balcony. This is the crucial encounter between dug in Soviet forces on the dominant ledge, (the ‘Balcony’) assaulted by a mix of German infantry and pioneers (combat engineers) with three self-propelled guns and four Tiger tanks. The sitting defenders can be outflanked, but turn two sees the arrival of a chunky set of Soviet tank and infantry reinforcements.

To put it mildly, there’s a lot to chew on here and it was probably too much for me to handle on my own. My play will not have been optimum, for sure, but it was equally certainly fun and let me continue to enjoy the system at its best. I called it for the Soviets when it was plain the Germans were not going to overcome the loss of a couple of the Tiger tanks.

I then went on to play the much smaller, but equally fun, scenario 9: Pioneer Spirit. German pioneers and infantry have to take positions held by some top quality Soviet defenders.

As printed, the scenario allows the Soviets to hide a couple of squads. Playing solitaire, I came up with some random tables to inject some of the mystery and fog of war to match the missing hidden troops. These worked OK, but I’d love to give this one a try against a live opponent. I suspect that if the Soviet player doesn’t get the best out of his hidden troops, the defense will not endure.

That’s about it for ATS for now. I’ll be going back to it, but other games are screaming for attention.

Holding the Line

I have moved away from the desert and am now embroiled in deadly combat on the Eastern Front.

I started with scenario 1, Right Hook, featuring an all infantry encounter with hordes of Soviet troops trying to take a fortified high-ground position held by somewhat second-rate Nazi defenders. This environment was a real contrast to the open terrain of the desert and it took me a couple of turns to get used to the changes. I played this scenario twice and thought it was one of the better ones.

Next, I jumped to scenario 10, Hammer and Anvil. This is an armor fight (though the Soviets have a 57mm anti-tank gun, too) between Tiger tanks and a motley selection of Soviet armor. This scenario brilliantly showcases the impulse system that ATS uses and is a real nail biter. (Instead of “I go, you go”, each side takes turns to move or fire one unit or platoon at a time. Deciding what to move or fore and when adds real tension and excitement to the gameplay.) Another good scenario.

Now I am playing scenario 6, A Nasty Surprise. This one has a rag-tag bunch of Nazi infantry, backed up by a couple of Tigers, tussling with a sizeable Soviet infantry force stiffened by half a dozen anti-tank guns.  It’s too early to comment on the quality of the scenario, but it does look challenging.

Overall, ATS is giving me a good solitaire friendly gaming experience. There’s no doubt the game lacks the depth of ASL – what some would call the crippling detail of that system – but the payoff is in speed of play. I hope to keep playing both systems for many years to come.

Desert Fighting

Here’s more proof of my love for tactical combat wargames, especially those set in World War 2. On my table now is the first ATS (Advanced Tobruk System) game, first released around 2002. In scale and looks, it’s very close to ASL, but has enough differences to make it attractive as an alternative gaming experience.

By way of full disclosure, when this first came out I invested a lot of time in trying to improve the rules as that, in my view, was the weakest aspect. A summary of the position is that some of my ideas were taken onboard and some weren’t. I supported the system (translation: I bought other ATS modules) but didn’t play it much after the initial surge of activity.

Over the years I have tried to get back into ATS using various of their Basic Game products, but none worked. What’s changed? Some of the fans of the system have put in a ton of effort and started an independent support operation consisting of a blog with already a couple of outstanding articles, podcasts, and other excellent support material. So, I dusted off my copy of Tobruk and started to immerse myself in ATS again.

So far, I have finished playing two scenarios (solitaire) using the rules in the box.

First up was Clash of Armor which allowed me to get to grips with most of the armor rules. The Germans won rather easily and I need to go back and see how to improve the defense.

Grant tanks on the prowl

The setup calls for the British to start with six dummy counters and six Grant tanks for a total of twelve counters. So, I picked twelve likely locations and drew a counter from the supply each time a possible location had its first chance at a shot. Basic, but it worked.

Then I tried Goschen’s House to tackle the infantry rules. The Germans have a 75mm howitzer and it is a killer if it hits. It took the British too long to deal with the gun and so the Germans won again.

For sure I got rules wrong and could have played better, but these sessions clarified what parts of the rules I need to work on. Besides, it was fun.

The latest rules are on their way to me. (I have the electronic version but prefer to read the physical version. I’ll use the electronic version for reference.) Once the real version is here, I’m hoping to do some more rules learning and playing.