Saint Louis 2018 ASL tournament

I just completed my 2nd ASL tournament. I started playing ASL around 13 months ago, and I played in the ASL tournament last July and again this past weekend. The tournament is three days at the end of July and offers a total of five official games – two Friday, two Saturday, and one Sunday. i say official games, because many people get a chance to play additional games in between if time permits. I played six games this weekend, winning one for an official record of 1-4. It was only my second win in full ASL, so I am more than happy to get the one. I had fun, I learned, and I got better. I call it a success.

The tournament itself is held in a hotel conference room. Most of the players stay at the hotel, but since I am lucky enough to live 10 minutes away, I return home each night. There is theoretically room for 18-20 games simultaneously, but in reality the room gets pretty crowded as the players’ “kits” – 30 years worth of maps, counters, rulebooks, and accessories – take up a lot of space. We had 28 players this year, so some of the tables were double-booked and it was a little crowded.

The first official games on Friday are open to whoever is there. There are no matchups – just find another player, pick a scenario, and start playing. A super nice guy named Wes Vaughn invited me over to play a Schwerpunkt scenario called Baloons, Cakes, and Ponies (SP274). What a name. I have never played with cavalry before, and there was even a German Stuka that had plans for a flyover so it looked fun to me. I played the German defenders, and he played the Russian attackers. Having never played with Cavalry before, I was not expecting their speed at all and they quickly got behind my defenses. There were some great moments, like when my hidden artillery blasted his unsuspecting riders into oblivion, and when his cavalry tried to throw a demolition charge at my machine gun nest, only to blow himself up. On the other hand, a low percentage shot from long range completely destroyed my reinforcements as they tried to shore up the rear defenses. Halfway through the game, it was obvious how it was going to end, but with a Stuka that was incoming, I wanted to at least wait to drop a bomb on someone. I did and it was great, but afterwards I conceded. It was a great learning experience. Afterwards, more than one person came up to tell me that Wes is one of the best players around, and sure enough, his name is on the back of the shirt several times as a past champion.

With Wes handling me so efficiently, Mark DeVries flagged me down to play a practice game. Mark was looking to play as many games as possible, so we played a small scenario designed by the Kansas City group called The Brickworks (MM47). It is a small Stalingrad scenario on one board, with the defenders responsible for taking three buildings. I played the attacking Germans this time. It was a very straightforward scenario, and I would highly recommend it as a quick one or for anyone that wants to play mostly infantry. In the end, I got two of the three buildings, and Mark’s Russians claimed the victory.

My Friday evening opponent was an unexpected treat. I got to play against Grumble Jones, an ASL blogger that I have been reading for quite some time. Grumble Jones, or Scott Mullins if you prefer, sat down to play Silesian Interlude (ASL J63). I played the defending Russians, and Scott played the attacking Germans. His job was to take four buildings for me and then exit a number of units off the map. I had a nice hill with a good field of fire on which to put an antitank gun, I had two more tanks hidden and all three had boresighted strategic locations. My troops were hidden in the buildings with some in foxholes as well, and the foxholes were positioned to provide fallback points and good counterattacks into the victory buildings. I think I had a good strategy. Unfortunately, sometimes you do need a little luck. On Scott’s first turn of the game, on my first shot of the game, the AT gun opened up on a bore-sighted location and I rolled a 12 (two dice). For you non-ASLers rolling a 12 not only misses but breaks your gun as well. On my  first turn, I had a chance to fix that gun. For my second roll of the game, I rolled a 6 (one die). For you non-ASLers, that means that my gun is now permanently destroyed. Oof. After that, things got better and there was some amazing foxhole fighting and I had a couple of heroes emerge that gave Scott the hardest of times. In the end, he prevailed, but it was a good, hard-fought match. I was 0-2 officially, but I got to sit down with a guy I respect and have a great match.

Saturday morning’s opponent was to be John Schneider. John had just arrived, so he was 0-0 to my 0-2. We decided on a Winter Offensive scenario called Checking Out (WO27). This was a strange scenario. We both enjoyed playing, but I think we both agreed that the scenario itself was lacking. I played the German attackers, all elite SS units. He played the American defenders, all elite paratroopers. Every building on the board was stone, and the scenario specific rules added a +1 hinderance due to low light conditions. This meant that almost all of the shots in the game were +4, making it very hard to get any sort of effect. I had to get across some streets, and that led to him being able to take adjacent shots and double strength. Basically, everyone in the buildings was safe and everyone in the street was getting killed. As the attacker, I had to get across those streets, and I never really did with enough force to threaten victory. I enjoyed playing with him but this was my most lopsided loss. I was 0-3.

Saturday evening paired me up with Cary Tyler. We decided to play Koniev’s Finest (FT219), an open ground huge tank battle. In reality, his goal was just to rush the other side, and my goal was to blow him up before he could. It looked like a blast to play (pun completely intended) and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Cary was not really that interested in shooting me for the most part – he just wanted to get off the board. He did take a few shots and succeeded in creating a few pillars of fire, but mostly it was me shooting at him. After I realized that three of his Tiger tanks had armor that I had no chance of penetrating, I started picking off the smaller ones, I was having a decent level of success. I had one tank that refused to start, so that slowed me down, and I had to send a second tank to kill a truck due to the fact that the truck counted the same as the tanks for exiting the board. Other than that, it came down to the last shot of the game. I had one of his tanks facing away from me and I had 2 shots from 2 hexes away – one with a Panzerschreck and one with a 75L gun. Either would have been almost certain kills, and I missed both shots. The Russians escaped and I was 0-4.

Sunday morning was my last chance for a win. I expected to be playing my friend Maurizio, who was also 0-3 and headed toward 0-4 when I went home Saturday night. Maurizio pulled out the victory, though, and I was paired with Rich Burton. Rich and I decided to play Varosmajor Grange (RPT3). I have a soft spot for minor powers, especially the Hungarians, so I jumped at the chance to play the attacking Hungarians against Rich’s Russians. I have a full AAR on this one that I would encourage you to read, but the short version is that his flamethrower tank ran out of fuel, my wounded leader played the action hero role, and I won my first tournament game.

The Saint Louis ASL tournament is one of the best weekends of the year for me, and since it is 10 minutes away from my house, I expect to go every year. I am going to try to make it to Kansas City’s March Madness tournament next year as well, and maybe go to the Texas ASL tournament or ASLOK sometime, too. It’s my favorite game, and getting to play it all weekend makes for a great time.

AAR – ASL RPT3 – Varosmajor Grange

On the last morning of the 2018 ASL tournament, I sat down with Rich Burton to play an ASL scenario published in Rally Point 3. I really like playing as the minor powers, and I jumped at the chance to play as the Hungarians. My family came here from Hungary three generations ago, so I will almost always take them if given a chance. I find the low firepower, low(er) morale minor powers to be more enjoyable than playing the heavyweight SS vs American paratroopers that is commonly seen in ASL.

The scenario for the day was a late war Russian vs Hungarian engagement in Budapest. The Russians were the defenders, and my job as the Hungarians was to completely clear the Russians out of four listed stone buildings. One was a large, multihex building, and the other 3 were small buildings all in a row.

I gave my opponent time to set up his defenses, and was greeted with this when I returned:

The red squares marked victory buildings. You cannot see the middle red square under the (?) counter, but that is the fourth building. I knew that I would have to deal with the Russian tanks, so my attack strategy was to come up multiple streets, force him to commit, and then get behind him for a kill shot. I was not particularly concerned with his infantry. I felt confident that I could move in and kill them as long as the tanks were dealt with. His reinforcement tank was a flamethrower tank, and it had the potential to be devastating.

There were no major engagements in the first turn. Some shots were traded to no effect and most of his defenders were satisfied to lay low and let me come to them.

The tanks started to engage as the infantry continued to move into position. His western defenders broke under my flanking force. My tank did not hit his, but started to acquire. Unfortunately, his tank had better aim than mine. His guns leveled on me and sent APCR my way…

Fortunately for me, the peasant that loaded that particular shell was having a bad day…

And the shell failed to explode. I will always take luck when the dice are willing to give it to me.

By the next turn, it didn’t matter because the next shell actually contained explosives. Nevertheless, his delay gave my second tank time to try to race around and get behind him. You can see him in motion at the top of the screen. My southern forces moved into the first victory building and began to clear it out. You can see my Panzerschreck in the street there. That will come into play later. For now, I am mostly concerned because I can hear the rumble of his flamethrower tank approaching the battle.

On his next turn, his priority was to kill or at least slow down my forces attacking the large victory building. He prep fired from the adjacent hex, to no effect. All through the game, both of us were continually frustrated by the dice, particularly during prep fire. There were long series of play where prep fire was completely ineffectual. I think that there was one turn of his later in the game where he prep fired every unit on the board without a single broken or pinned Hungarian. As you can see though, the dice do roll sometimes, and I have a conscript half squad that went berserk. One firepower charging toward you – are you scared? The best thing that happened was that when his flamethrower tank made its appearance, I was able to shock him for a possible kill. Worst case scenario, he would lose a turn with that horrendous weapon. Best case, he would lose a major piece of his defense.

The berserk charge went exactly as expected, but for the most part my plan was still going well. I started breaking support weapons, which slowed down my assault from the south. In addition, my flamethrower crew broke and ran just as they were about to start putting pressure to the next layer of defense. Unfortunately for me, his tank crew was fine after they cleared the cobwebs, and they were ready to start the BBQ. I had to get that PSK into play. His flamethrower was in order, my was out of play. For now.

I started closing in and had a great round of shooting. His southern defense collapsed, and I was moving in on the trio of buildings that would determine the victor. He was running out of good order defenders, but he still had tanks. My tank that was attempting the end around was caught in the process and suffered a possible kill of his own.

At this point, I felt good about my chances, but I knew that I had to be aggressive. He was going to get a lot of close range shots, but I had lots of grist for the mill. At the same time, I had to leave at least some defenders behind to make sure he did not rally and move into the southern building. I took a hit as I moved into one of the victory buildings and had to rout back to H6. That’s OK. I might be able to rally them and get them back across that street…

And for at least one turn, the Russian dice got hot. His T-34 rubbled the building, killing everyone inside. I was now officially nervous.

At this point, his infantry was withering under my assault, but he still held E7, and as long as you are in a stone building, you have a chance. My possibly dead tank crew never woke back up and all of my AFVs were now dead. His flamethrower tank was already being used to great effect. I think it had something like a 34 FP attack. It was likely that one OT-34 was going to be able to deny me this victory. But I had a plan.

 

NOTE: WE MADE SOME RULES MISTAKES, AND A BIG ONE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. I KNOW NOW, BUT AT THE TIME, WE BOTH THOUGHT THIS WAS LEGAL. A WOUNDED LEADER CANNOT FIRE A PSK ALONE. SINCE IT IS A SUPPORT WEAPON, WE BOTH ASSUMED THAT HE COULD. THAT SAID, ONE OF THE FIRST RULES IN ASL IS THAT IF YOU MAKE A RULES MISTAKE, YOU JUST GO ON FROM THERE. 

That wounded leader was going to pick up that PSK and walk up the street and kill that damn tank.

Now I am going to tell you the story of the greatest Hungarian hero. I am going to call him Kovats. He was wounded, but he picked up the Panzerschreck from a broken half squad. He saw the Russian flamethrower tank killing and destroying all that he had worked for, and he knew what he had to do. He limped into the middle of the street, facing machine gun fire and desperate Russian soldiers. The flamethrower tank swung around to turn him to ash and RAN OUT OF FLAMETHROWER FUEL. Kovats levelled that PSK and blew the OT-34 sky high. As the tank burned, he lit a cigarette from the flames and collapsed to the ground with a smile on his face.

At this point, I held all of the victory buildings, and my opponent was forced to the point of desperation. He tried to soften a building up with machine gun prep fire. He tried to blast the building with his last tank. He tried to get across the street. My boys held.

And that is the story of how I went 1-4 at the 2018 St. Louis ASL tournament.

Thanks to my opponent, Rich Burton, for a great game, and to Jim Burris for organizing a great tournament.

Star Wars Legion

Star Wars Legion is finally here.

It has actually been here for a while, but I have not gotten around to writing about it. My Star Wars RPG group plays on alternate Tuesdays, and open Legion games at Miniature Market are also on Tuesday. That limits my availability, and when you combine that with a busy work schedule, I have not had as much time to play as I like.

I have played a few games by now – a 400 point, a 500 point, and 800 point games, and all have been fun. My Rebels have not yet figured out a good way to counter Lord Vader, but I have been experimenting with different lists to see what works for me. Additionally, I just got my second commander, Princess Leia, although I have not played a game with her yet. I look forward to putting her on the table with her brother to see how they work together.

My favorite unit by far is the AT-RT, specifically with the rotary cannon. It is fun to throw a lot of black dice at your opponent.

I enjoyed playing the T-47 but it went down a little too fast for my taste. Granted, I should not have flown that close to Vader, but I think it should be a little beefier for the cost.

I plan on writing up a full AAR soon enough, but please comment and let me know how you are liking the game.

After Action Report – Hold the Line: Frederick’s War

Chad and I got together to play a small, quick tactical game set in the 19th century. Hold the Line: Frederick’s War looks very much like Commands & Colors: Ancients at first glance. There is a small hex board that can be overlayed with various types of terrain, and the units have a number of morale points (MPs) that function as health points, or number of hits that they can take before being eliminated.

Hold the Line: Frederick’s War

I like the quick action gameplay and the tactical movement. The game is quick to set up and quick to learn. It has a small footprint, which is nice, too. We played the first two scenarios. Chad won one and I won one. In both cases the “attacker” lost, but there were so many turns left over that the attacker has plenty of time to move slowly and methodically if he chooses to do so.

The only thing that we did not like was the swingy-ness of the dice. Chad was rolling nothing but ones for a few turns and could not buy a five or six to save his life. He was frustrated, but took it well. We have all been there with any game that uses dice resolution. I would like to play C&C:A with him sometime to see how the two games compare. He also wants to learn Advanced Squad Leader. Let’s see if the dice still come up snake eyes then!

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/136890/hold-line-fredericks-war

Gaming with an 8 year old

One of my biggest hurdles is finding people to play with. Life is busy and the types of games that I really love have an intimidating learning curve. So when my 8 year old daughter told me that she wanted to play a wargame with me, I could hardly contain myself. She and I have been playing games for a while now. The first game that she bought with her own money was Tsuro and she played that for quite a while before losing interest. She likes Clank! and we have some other smaller quicker games that we like to play together as well.

On the day that she told me she wanted to play a wargame with me, I was playing Advanced Squad Leader solitaire. I thought to myself, “Why not? Lets give this a shot.” and I got out the starter kit. How many times can we retake Vierville? She was quite the trooper. She followed along and nodded attentively and really enjoyed spending the time with me. Unfortunately, she did not understand what she was doing at all.

This was probably a mistake.

She never said it to me, but she told my wife the next day that she had no idea what was going on and did not want to play ASL again. She did not want to disappoint me. I talked to her and told her that she never had to play a game with me that she didn’t want to play, and that we would try something else.

We decided to try out Commands & Colors: Ancients. It is much simpler than ASL and even more importantly, plays much more quickly. She picked up on the card play and movement and was able to actually play the game. When we finished the battle, I told her that this was an actual battle that really happened in history and we talked about it for a few minutes. That was when it clicked for her. She understood the connection between the game and real life, and it meant something. That is the reason that I love historical gaming.

We still play together quite a bit, but it is mostly Imperial Assault or X Wing Miniatures. She is the world’s biggest Ahsoka fan, and she puts her favorite Togruta on the table any chance she gets. Combining Star Wars and wargames – what a concept! I can’t wait for Legion to come out next month.

She plays rebels. I play Scum.