taschenschieber hat ein Flickr-Foto mit dir geteilt

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2015-04-03_05-54-26 von taschenschieber auf Flickr.

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Moving

Hello guys,

I’m moving this blog because I am sick and tired of having a dozen unconnected blogs and accounts for each my various hobbies. From now on, my ASL-related posts can be followed at Hit To Key. Please point your feed readers over there. Of course, there’s also an RSS feed for only the wargaming-related posts in case you do not care about the other topics. 🙂

Good news is, updates will be a bit more frequent from now on – had a long stay at hospital, which brought my ASL-related activities to a complete halt, but I’m better now.

See ya,

Stephan

You know what’s annoying?

This is.

viele-kaputte-mgs

My regular opponent and me sat down to play S13 Priority Target, and then we played it again with reversed sides. I lost twice, which confirms the ASL Scenario Archive’s claim of perfect balance. My opponent wrote AARs for both games, which are pretty good and are really detailed in their analysis of how I managed to screw up so much.

After that, we decided to finally do the switch to Full ASL, with our first scenario being T1 Gavin Take. A group of paratroopers enters the board on the north, has to cross or move around a village full of Germans and leave the board on the south without the Germans following them.

setup

My initial strategy for the German side was to rush some units on the eastern hill, overlooking the village and thus denying the US movement both in the village and on the eastern flank. My hope to get the western hill as well crumbled in the very first player turn, because my opponent was just too fast.

So, I instead focused on the eastern hill. Alas…

viele-DMs2

…without any success. Control of the hill was unclear for most of the game, and when it finally was decided, a lone US squad was the last man… um, squad… standing.

And you know what’s annoying? The German side gets five MGs. In my fifth turn (of six), two of these were malf’d (including the one my strategy for denying the US their exit hex Q10), one was unpossessed on the Hill of Things That Are No Fun At All, one was all the way over in Y6 and, worst of all, the last one was in the hands of the enemy.

viele-kaputte-mgs

Surprisingly, I still managed to get a win out of this (my first one in quite a long time)! The US player has to exit one leader over Q10. One of his leaders had died on the Hill of I Hate PBF, Seriously, and the other two both got pinned in my opponent’s very last player turn by a 1FP residual in Q10. I had real good luck in that last turn, but after malfing three MGs over the course of the game and only repairing one, I think it evens out pretty well.

What I have learned from this is to not lose hope when things look really bleak. My play usually gets even worse once I am on the way to defeat, but this time I managed to keep my hopes up and try my best until the very end, and I think it really made a difference.

All in all, the game was really relaxed for being my second and my opponent’s first Full ASL game. The rules never got overwhelming and, at least for me, it felt like a real smooth transition from the Starter Kit to the real deal. I can definitely see why so many people recommend Gavin Take as a beginners scenario.

Our next game will be A The Guards Counterattack. I have played that one before, but this time I’ll play the Soviets and hope I’ll get to try out a nice human wave.

S28 Out of Ideas!

I just finished playing S28 Out of Luck, which you can get for free at MMP’s wobsite. I lost so badly that not even blaming it on the dice makes it any better. Was it the scenario’s fault? Probably not.

As most of the times, I completely screwed up my setup, leaving a large blind spot on the hard-to-defend hills in the northwest corner and concentrating on the open ground in the northeast and the city in the southwest, near the exits. My opponent, of course, used this weak spot to utterly destroy me. I didn’t even need bad luck to lose.

Of course, I still had a metric ton of that. First turn, the crew of my 122mm ART gets a NMC during Advancing Fire and, of course, rolls boxcarts. They were the keystone of the way too weak defense in the hills, too. Then, one of my three IS-2s rolls boxcarts for an attack. A bit later, it gets shocked and UK’d, but recovers, fortunately. While trying to outflank a Hetzer in the city with its MA still malf’d, it gets shocked and UK’d again. This time, it has no luck. Meanwhile, my MG crews try to take out some of the Hetzers in the city – with their 3 points of side armor, that’s actually a viable strategy. Of course, my first two TH MG attacks ever both malf the respective MGs, and one of these gets taken out of the equation by a 6 on the repair roll. The other one recovers and even gets to destroy a Hetzer!

Meanwhile, my second IS gets stuck on the meadow by a SSR requiring a DR < 11 to be taken on every vehicular movement in Open Ground to avoid getting immobilized. My third one was dug in by SSR in the most inconvenient of all places.

My opponent tries to rush his tanks through the city to quickly achieve his victory conditions, but my experienced tank-punchers move into Close Combat against a Hetzer and a Panther. The Panther survives, the Hetzer does not.

At this point, my opponent had two thirds of the necessary victory points after just half the game and I resigned because the result of the game was becoming so obvious it wasn’t worth sacrificing another session of playtime for.

Lessons learned: Vehicular Close Combat is a viable strategy, even more so against tank destroyers. I need to think more about my setups (well, Captain Obvious is obvious). And the IS-2 only gets 2 out of 5 stars in my personal rating, because when it hits it’s devastating, but most of the time it does not.

The game was still fun, because it was the first time I saw the Nahverteidigungswaffe, ATRs and MGs in an AT role in action. I’d say I like the scenario.

Next up is S13 Priority Target.

Where to start?

This question gets asked a lot on the various ASL-related fora: “I want to get into ASL, where do I start?”. Let me offer my personal viewpoint, speaking as a guy who is just starting to play real ASL.

So you think this ASL thing could be interesting for you. But there are so many ASL products out there, where is the right place to start? Well, with the Starter Kits, obviously! But by now, even the product range of these things can be a bit confusing.

There are, as of now, five games in the Starter Kit series, and every one of them is a standalone product you can simply buy and play without worrying about dependencies. These five products are the Starter Kit 1 (Infantry only), Starter Kit 2 (Infantry + Guns), Starter Kit 3 (Infantry + Guns + Tanks), the Starter Kit Expansion Pack (scenarios of all three levels), and Decision at Elst, a campaign game which I can’t tell you anything about as of now, unfortunately 😦

So, which of these things should an aspiring newbie buy? It doesn’t matter too much, actually. I would recommend the Starter Kit Expansion Pack, because it has some really neat scenarios and covers all levels of play, but every Starter Kit product has at least one infantry-only scenario that allows to get into the rules step by step. Note that some of the aforementioned products are pretty hard to find because they’re temporarily out of print, but if you can get your hand on any of these, you’re covered.

An opponent with some experience is invaluable to actually learn the rules, because the Starter Kit rulebook (about 30 pages in its latest incarnation) can be really confusing at times. If you haven’t got one, Jay Richardson created some excellent tutorials.

Keep in mind you’re not buying a very expensive tutorial, but a full game that will give you months to years of fun. Maybe you’ll just continue to play Starter Kit instead of switching to Full ASL because Starter Kit has everything you want but is cheaper and simpler – and that’s fine.

If you decide to switch to Full ASL eventually, you’ll find it’s a lot simpler than without the Starter Kit preparation. You probably can play Full ASL from the very beginning, but I personally think that is not a good idea and will likely be very frustrating. YMMV of course.

Some other things to mention:

* You can play ASL (full or Starter Kit) online, via a platform called VASL. You’ll still need the game and an opponent, but it’s a viable option if you haven’t got an experienced player who could mentor you in your local area.

* A small but interesting forum for ASL exists at BoardGameGeek, where you can also find lots of play aids, et cetera. There’s also a Facebook group.

You are not convinced ASL is the right game for you and just want to get some impressions? Then best have a look at some After Action Reports in one of the aforementioned forum.

I hope this helps some people to get into the game, roll low and have fun!

S48 Confusing Renaults (or something like that)

So my regular Starter Kit opponent and me sat down to play our first match of 2014, “Converging Assaults” (Starter Kit Expansion Pack #1, S48), which was probably the weirdest match I’ve ever played.

What’s it about? US troops advance into a city in Sicily from the West and meet Italian troops advancing from the West. A firefight ensues. For added fun, some Italian tanks are added into the mix and fall into the back of the US infantry.

And I use the words “fun” and “tanks” quite wrongly. We are talking about the Renault 35, this tin can:

(Image courtesy of Bukvoed on Wikipedia, CC-by 2.5)

(Image courtesy of Bukvoed on Wikipedia, CC-by 2.5)

In game terms, they have a 37* main gun in a one-man turret, a 2FP sort-of-coax-but-sort-of-AAMG thing and [4][4] armor. We’re talking late-war here, with the US fielding a 57mm gun (normally useless against anything, able to kill the Renault 35 with anything but boxcarts) and bazookas! But at least there are many of them – eight, to be precise, in a single-board scenario.

So, what happened when we played is this: My opponent (playing the Italian side because tanks) parked four of his tanks and most of his infantry around a stone building in the north, while the other four tanks tried to encircle my units. That plan was quickly prevented by my HIP 57 AT gun, which took out two tanks in short order, moved a bit and took out a third one, and some infantry which decided to go punch some metal in Close Combat. A fifth tank got recalled because the MA broke down, but the commander of that one had already taken a bullet. Tank Number 6 tried to move in a more offensive position, came into the line of sight of the AT gun, which fired with a TH of 4, penetrated the hull, retained RoF and proceeded to harass some Infantry just for shit and giggles. The two remaining tanks remained undamaged, partly because they were parked in a stone building and partly because I had stopped giving a damn about them.

Meanwhile, my Infantry tried their hand at this “fulfilling victory conditions” business. The scenario demands that no Italian Good Order squad (or two Good Order Half-Squads) are in any single building hex. Well, turns out this isn’t half as unfair as it sounded at first. The Italian squads break really fast, and once they’re broken, they stay broken thanks to their reduced broken side morale. In my last turn, there were two unbroken Italian squads left on-board, one of which broke during Prep Fire. I put down as much firepower as I could on the last stack, but only got a 8+2 attack, unfortunately, because of some quite effective Defensive Fire. On the last roll of the match, I rolled… boxkarts, and lost.

All in all, I would say this scenario is pretty balanced despite looking really unfair on first glance, but it is also really really frustrating to play for both sides. The US player is confronted with a victory condition that’ demands of him to be everywhere at once, and that can be prevented by a single bad die roll on the last turn. On the other hand, the Italian player can’t do much except hoping for some good morale rolls buying him time, because of his low firepower and lack of leadership on the infantry side and the completely useless tanks that broke one squad and pinned another one in the course of our game. I’d say the whole thing lacks lot of structure, and, say, N-463 or Cooks Clerks And Bazookas are all more interesting AFV scenarios, with more interesting things happening and more options for both sides. But YMMV, of course.

Next up: Out of Luck (S28, available on the MMP website). IS-2s and 122mm artillery against Panthers and Hetzers – looks like loads and loads of fun.

Favourite Scenarios – 2013

Stating their favourite scenarios of the year is a thing people are doing, which is why I do it now as well.

As mentioned before, I only played Starter Kit so far, so the list will obviously only contain Starter Kit scenarios.

  • S1 “Retaking Vierville”: My first scenario played ever, with Patrick Ireland, who showed me the ropes when I started. I have since played it once or twice with other players, and even though it is as simple as ASL will ever get, it still manages to be just a bit different every time you play it. Also, nostalgia. YMMV, of course.
  • S49 “Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas”: Played that one two times on different sides. I’m not really sure why I like it, but… well, I like it. It covers everything there is in the Starter Kits, is neither too big nor too claustrophobic and can be played really quickly. By the way, you can read an AAR I wrote over at BoardGameGeek.
Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas, with exploding stuff.

Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas, with exploding stuff.

  • S50 “N-463”: Actually, we did not finish that one for time reasons. But I’d love to have another go at it, due to the interesting Victory Conditions (basically, the German player has to set up a roadblock to win), the Jagdpanthers and the 105mm Sherman (a vehicle I love in World of Tanks, though my experience in ASL so far suggests it is worse than useless here). Again, it’s a single-board scenario. I like single-board scenarios!

On the opposite side, the worst scenario I played was S51 “Enter the Young”. Its premise is interesting, I’ll give you that. But unfortunately, some printing errors make it pretty much unplayable (as a friend and I found out the hard way in the middle of a match) and as far as I know, there are no errata…

Why?

Now I’ve created this blog, I might as well talk a bit about why I did it and why you should care. Short version: I like ASL, and if you stumbled upon my blog, you probably do so as well.

Long version: About a year ago, probably a bit longer, I searched for a replacement of BattleTech because I got kind of bored of our weekly gatherings here at Dresden, Germany. At that point, I had been playing BT for about two years, and I liked the feeling of having a game that’s so complex you can play it for such a long time and still be interesting and at times surprising. But the way we played it, it slowly started to get monotonous for me, as we always played Tech-Level One, and always with ‘Mechs only. In ASL terms, think playing “The Guards Counterattack” over and over again.

Parallel to that, I played a lot of World of Tanks, a great tank-based MMO video game set in an alternative universe where WWII makes even less sense than it did in real life. By a mixture of casual research and in-game osmosis, I assembled a bit of geek knowledge about armored vehicles of WWII. I’m studying to be an engineer, so the technology of these vehicles is really fascinating to me.

So, when I finally thought I might as well search a replacement for BattleTech – a game with more different facets, I instantly knew I wanted a game set in WWII and with tanks in it, and I also knew I did not want to argue with anybody if I can use my T-34/76 miniatures to represent a T-34/85. Besides, I looked for a game that’s not too obscure inside the already quite narrow field of Wargaming in Germany (for obvious reasons, everything war-related is frowned upon over here).

Also, I wanted a game that’s rather lightweight. I got ASL instead. How did that happen? Well, at first it was because ASL was the only game that somehow fit all my criteria above.  My first impression of ASL was so bad I temporarily just gave up my search. But then I decided to at least give the Starter Kit a try, and it completely changed my opinion.

In contrast to most other complex games I played so far (mostly in the role-playing game genre), the ASL rules don’t just make stuff complicated, but they actually offer depth and immersion in a way I did not expect. I am still stuck with the Starter Kit, though I hope I’ll finally make the jump to Full ASL in the next couple of weeks. And I think my journey down the rabbit hole will continue.

I love the asymmetrical, scenario-based game play. I love the plethora of ways both my opponent and bad luck can foil my best-laid plans and I love how scenarios always turn out in a way that you wouldn’t have thought was possible beforehand. I also love the amount of different topics a scenario can cover, from simple infantry grinds in a small block of houses to pure tank combat to great three-board combined operations where four things and a lizard are always happening simultaneously, to cavalry surprise attacks to guerilla combat, a frontal assault on a fortified roadblock  and so on. I don’t think this game will let me get bored, ever. Surprisingly, I even like the long playtime where even smaller scenarios tend to take six or more hours, because the game actually manages to stay interesting for all that time.

So, what will I be writing about? Mostly AARs of what I’ll be playing, but maybe also some tangential topics like me ranting about how the PzKpfw IV looks better than the M4 Sherman (and yes, I know, it’s not supposed to look good, but I don’t care) or some game design-related stuff or interesting tidbits of information related to WWII I happen to come across.

By the way, I have another blog (in German) about role-playing games which you can find at http://rpgbash.wordpress.com/ in case you are interested.