ASL day – Revenge at Kastelli

Revenge at Kastelli is an excellent learning scenario because it has very little out of ordinary, but both sides have rather difficult task. German paratroopers try to survive, and Greeks try to kill or capture vast majority of the opposing forces. Area is large, and battles are fought in two fronts and it requires a lot of movement. This is the second time I play the scenario, and this time I had the opportunity to try out the Germans.

My plan was somewhat ill conceived as I took the Hill 621 on board 2 as my strongpoint, and on board 11, low hill with house in the road crossing. Intent was to buy more time. Afterthought it would have been much better to build defense in the other hill on board 11 and have realistic option to a) link up with forces destined to evacuate Hill 621, and b) have better evacuation options.

As expected, (because the paratroopers have to deploy to hexes numbered 6 or greater), it was difficult to build strong defensive presence on the Hill 621 at start. When Germans were in position, the Greeks were already long way up the hill. With some delay tactics, and somewhat ordered retreat, the forces managed to fight slowly out of the hill and half of the forces dug in to the shell holes on board 3. other half, including rear guard was cut off and overwhelmed. I had a firm intention to pull Greeks into a city fight where they would have to expend every movement point under fire to clear the buildings and where the numbers would not count.

Meanwhile, the forces on board 11 were fighting for their very survival, and put up very stiff resistance. Some Greek squads became berserk under fire and cleared few of the foxholes Germans managed to dig at the beginning. Others attacked the German positions head on with terrible, terrible casualties. It was a slaughter with Greeks moving in open under -3 DRM infantry fire. And at the end German defenders were still standing when remaining Greeks withdrew to regroup.

Being late in the game, the morale of my opponent started to crumble somewhat and after Greeks lost three squads in melee against one German paratrooper, he conceded the game. Technically he could have had time to recover (with a dose of luck) and make yet another attack but it was not likely.

The Greek attack went in very well considering the scarce cover available. Hill 621 was extraordinary deal but it was not enough to push the defenders out. To win, he would have needed to either kill, or capture German paratroopers. To achieve that, Greeks needed to engage in close combat, or break and force surrender.

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ASLSK Day – Scenario S3

Time to play another SK1 scenario, Simple Equation. Like in previous game, this time it was Germans who did not remember to set up their fortified buildings. Something that would almost definitely make difference. Regardless of that little mishap, it was very close game and at the opening moves of turn 6, it was all but clear who was about to win.

So, I had the Americans. have I ever told that I really do not like 6-6-6 troops? They have splendid firepower – if they stay alive long enough to use it. Not knowing better, I decided to concentrate on the middle and on the right, but give also impression that my attack would come along the whole front.

Defenders were not set in depth (how unusual), but most of the firepower was at the front facing the advancing Americans. Middle and left were pretty strong, including MG that stared down the forested road. And heavy MG that kept the edge of the forrest unwelcoming. Right flank had large building but it was relatively weakly defended, with single MG post at the stone building at the edge of the open.

So, in my attack went with heavy cover of smoke, first clearing the MG station at the right, then progressing through the large building while the Germans put up a fierce resistance with the conscripts in the middle. Attack stalled momentarily due to critical smoke grenade failures, but then the flamethrower got into action – with first shot minor damage and on second time around from perfect point blank position, pin check  – and that was it for the FT. I hate when that happens.

Anyway, progress on the right was good and got hold of the row of buildings in the right. German now scattered opposition that build up around the orchard was mowed down by substantial enemy fire and after a bit of pushback the American troopers overrun the last defenders in close combat in the middle.

At the same time some of the remaining German troops attempted to recover already gained buildings from the rear, but did not succeed very well. Idea was good because they also interfered with established rally point but it was too little too late.

Americans won but just barely. If Germans would have remembered to put their fortifications in place, it would have been extremely tough. Along with it better positioning of Heavy MG would have made huge difference – now the best German weapon only got in few shots – albeit almost all of them with good effect.

Lessons learned, German troops have little chance in direct firefight with Americans if they swarm the opposition. Smoke and movement are the best friend of Americans, just keep pressing as fast as possible and swarm the enemy.

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Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games XIII – Squad Leader

squad-leaderWhat started it all for squad level infantry combat was not ASL, but Squad Leader instead. Squad Leader was later expanded by several supplements such as Cross of Iron, GI Anvil of Victory and Crescendo of Doom. Each expansion took the system further away from the basic principles and pushed the system towards ASL in complexity. When ASL expanded towards Starter Kits, it was reverse development to what Squad Leader experienced.

The reason for acquiring Squad Leader was two-fold. Friend had ASL, which I did play before SL, and some of the basic maps are essential for ASL. I was so new to the whole ASL thing that I actually liked Squad Leader, and very soon played through every scenario in the game. Cost of ASL was then just beyond me.

However, it did not last. I did soon (about the time I got Cross of Iron and Crescendo of Doom) found that the system was about to outlive it’s own principles for fluency and simplicity. Every expansion added layer upon layer to the base system. Additionally to new revised counters that reminded me more and more about ASL, there were many, many rules exceptions that created hydra which was becoming more of a monster than ASL would ever be.

Cross of Iron.pngSad, but SL design principle failed miserably. It moved ceaselessly towards unmanageable complications. Only realistic way out was to rewrite the whole and incorporate the brilliant ideas in unified system. That would then be ASL – system where everything was in order, and standard. For SL it was a huge leap in two ways. First it pushed the idea of SL into oblivion (manageable, easy to learn and fluent squad level system), and added barrier of seemingly overwhelming complexity (illusion really, if thinking the extensions of SL at this point). However, it is not fair to say that ASL is the root of all evil, because SL was the start of the transformation leading to the only logical conclusion.

Dresendo of Doom.pngSo, I have strong opinion about SL. It was excellent game as long as it was kept without the expansions. SL was playable, almost like the ASL starter kit. Fun and fluent. After first expansion was published ,the downhill started. By the second it was already so steep that it pulled the good parts of the base game with it. I ended up keeping the maps but sold out everything else in favor of ASL and have never regretted.

That said, extensions were not ill conceived. Cross of Iron was probably the only one that was acceptable as far as rules changes were concerned. It introduced many new aspects to the game, but at least there was attempt to keep the whole together. Later ones started to rewrite the very basics of the system, such as the counters. All the expansions had solid footing if considering the modularity aspect. It is just the execution that did not live up to the standard. SL scenarios are worth converting to ASL because it is the best way to experience the SL content.

GI.pngStill, after all the years, SL alone is excellent game, even today. It can compete quite fair and square against other squad level games and provide hours of entertainment. Some of the ideas that SL introduced at the time were revolutionary, and some of the best concepts are still alive and well today. That stands a witness to the quality of thinking around the base system.

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Pax Romana PBEM – Turn 1 (and the last)

So, starting the game up. In first activation, perhaps not surprisingly Greece decided to hold his interests in Roman territory and send SoF army there. Fueled by destructive rage he went off to punish innocent Capuans and burned the town to ground, and then lurked behind the walls of Tarantine. Meanwhile in home, Pella was build to a City. After interior affairs and manpower addition, invaded northern barbarian territories and failed to secure foothold.  Stability check hurt Greece and became unstable. Pyrrhus activated and did something that lifted a bit of eyebrows (picture below).


Roman territory marker should not be present. Part of the infamous adventures of Pyrrhus.

Debacle followed. When turn was done and ready for validity check, it was pointed out that according to the log Pyrrhus could not perform all the activities he was involved in. Greece player then claimed that move was straight from Tarentum to Barium to give one more MP.

Later on, other errors were discovered, including SoF using total of 11 movement points out of 6 he had. When checking logs backwards out of curiosity, other similar errors were discovered. Extra moves, forgotten payments, wrongly counted casualties (and in one occasion entirely ignored army attack/defense DR in grounds of it being “automatic vicotry for Greece”), ignored leader loss checks, unfounded stability adjustments and so on.

East decided to leave the eastern army off map, and instead departed with all available forces from Alexander along the coast of Africa towards Carthaginian heartlands with firm intention to get footing there. Doomed attempt that may slow down the Carthage a bit, but not a whole lot. East decided then to invade Cilicia and Lycia with the main Eastern army. This may, or may not put pressure on Greece but in any case as history tells, war in two fronts is always good idea.

Carthage countered aggressive East by rising more troops in the capital followed by startup occupation of Spain and consolidation of forces in Africa. Not very surprisingly, Carthage failed in their attack against Eastern city on their home territory, and East held Leptis Magna with army and fleets.

In Rome, besides of being invaded by Pyrrhus, slaves were revolting in Rhegium as well. A quite typical – but also ill Roman start. Rome attempted to attack the stack from the sea to avoid interception risk by Pyrrhus but failed continuity due to Paestum garrison. When  garrison was destroyed, it denied control of Bruttium from Greece but stopped short of goal.

Rome attempted again to subdue the revolt (event nearly killed Roman leader), but customarily failed with both attacks and the army was left in extremely vulnerable position in Neapolis. Slave army was reduced to half it’s size but Romans lost one legion in the process. To recover the losses, Romans rised more manpower to attack the now really big barbarian army in the south. Before that happened though, the army was practically destroyed by Pyrrhus during the turn that was a bit weird.

Because of the rather messy and controversial Greek turn (or turns as it later turned out), I received mail with profound tone before I had time to check the logs for all errors. He had been wronged and the perfectly legal turn was misinterpreted, inspected and lawyered with foul intentions.

Instead of settling the errors in the logs that could have been done with some effort and modest effect in the gameplay, Greece player decided to play victim and agreed only to correct one move for his own benefit and leave other errors unchanged.  In hindsight, perhaps I should not wonder why his other games of Pax were aborted prematurely.

So ended the PBEM of Pax and I started to wonder once again if multiplayer games such as Pax can ever be played without game master that oversees the bureaucratic necessities and integrity of the logs. I also start to appreciate more and more the PBEM games which have more draconian rulings for errors.


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Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games XII – Flight Leader

flight-leaderStarting from WWI, and moving through to WWII there was also an period I was interested in modern air combat but that period was short lived and did not really take my fancy. Only system I really ever dove into was Avalon Hill’s Flight Leader from 1980’s. It was a hefty package of a game, with one of the nicest mounted game boards I’ve seen in a long while. But then – there was something oddly weird in the the game which I could never really put my finger on.

Set of planes were interesting, that was certainly not the reason, the flight model and combat mechanic was solid enough but somehow the whole lot felt sterile, and at the end uninteresting. I already knew at the time that Air Superiority would have been much better game of the topic but it was already long gone when I got my hands on the Flight Leader.

But back to the game.

Flight Leader assumes that you are a pilot, and there are choice of flying modern era jet planes from Korean war to 1980’s cold war. Each player has a generic display that shows the details of the plane in question – distinction between the planes are indicated by separate counters that set the limits to what each plane can do.

On the bare essentials, the flight model offers only limited options and without electronic warfare. Missile combat is very much abstracted and very decisive. That said, the system is not flawed as such, but it lacks the details that would keep game interesting in a long run. Multiple players – on per plane certainly makes things better – and multiple planes per side improve things further.

However, if and when all optional rules are included, game changes mode, and it becomes much more interesting and a bit more realistic. Probably the biggest change that comes with additional rules, is the tactics that come into play – because flying and dying is no longer straight forward business, opportunities open up to exploit opponents strengths and weaknesses. Electronic warfare, albeit heavily abstracted provides way to escape, at least temporarily and suddenly game becomes much more tense. There are fluently clever mechanics to handle the fight without bogging the basic game too much down, but the cost is that you really need to use all of the optional rules – which unfortunately may bog the game a bit.

Then, there was of course the most interesting bit in the whole game. Tactical nuclear missiles. Who’s brainchild was that? Seriously.

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ASL Sunday

Two scenarios of ASLSK were played during Sunday. First one was 88’s at Zon (S14). Very short scenario where American paratroopers run over German occupied town of Zon, and then exit from the map edge. Attackers outnumber the defenders by factor of two and arrive in two patches.

Germans placed one of the 88’s close to the exit to cover as much ground as possible, and another was further in the front to block the attempt from the right. Troopers were to slow the Americans down in the town – pretty much all they could hope for. It was over quick for the Germans, American first element moved quickly close to the second element entry point and then the whole lot pushed forcefully through the defenders. There was nothing that could be thrown in to suppress American superior firepower or prevent the Germans from failing their ELR.

Only one 88 AA had opportunity to fire few times but in avail before the exit condition was filled. Germans lost badly. I still have no idea how to block the American advance if they choose to concentrate forces and not come over in piecemeal. Felt that the scenario fell a little flat.

Second one was at least in my opinion more interesting (if not balanced, at least not so overwhelmingly desperate – not to say that I don’t like desperate situations). Monty’s Gamble (S23) from SK3 includes three assault guns, two AT guns and some covering infantry on both sides. I was playing the British and deployed the AT guns in only viable positions that covered the entry roads (and apparently missed the fact that I could have deployed everyone using HIP). German infantry advanced quickly to the outskirts of the town but then lost momentum and did what one should not do in ASL. They stopped. Because one AT gun managed to kill one assault gun before breaking down, the other two became very cautious in their advance and waited for the infantry to remove the threat. When they finally got going, another one was killed by ridiculously accurate critical hit. Third assault gun then just sit in the middle of the map firing smoke to single key hex before at the very end dashed into safety. British Piat missed the advancing assault gun at the last moment.

Unfortunately most of the infantry were not so lucky and were stuck in street fighting that were not advancing their goal. Concentrating forces to kill AT guns instead of heading to the board edge it became evident that Germans were at loss. At the end, Germans got through 10VP’s out of 17 needed for victory.

So, it was the ridiculously lucky shot that changed the outcome there – yet, with more vigorous push, victory could have still been recovered.

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Reviews of Obscure but Interesting Games XI – Nato, Nukes and Nazis

nato-nukes-nazisNato, Nukes & Nazis was one of the weirdest game in the interesting games list I have ever seen. It was one of the several games that saw a daylight during 1990’s XTR alternate history boom. I admit it was not my first choice for alternate history game though. NNN premise was that WWII ended a bit differently, and 3rd Reich survived only to wage war later against Nato.

My first choice would have been Red Sky Morning (which I regret that I did not get a copy) – who could possible reject an idea of Japanese Stealth Carriers and primarily technological war.

So, what makes the Nato, Nukes and Nazis special? First and foremost the mechanics are entertainingly different. Game includes (of course) Nukes, political control, and something very, very wicked. Certain politically oriented commemorations provide wide array of bonuses for the Nazi player. These include things like Hermann Göring Forest which can be deployed in certain place to hinder movement etc.

Game flow was actually quite good for rather low budget magazine game. Units had no Zone of Control (a big thing of the games of that era), so movements were not bogged down. Unit types were interesting and had rather wide scale of applications. Air, airlift and land units dominated the field and proper use of them dictated the outcomes of the battle. Powers were asymmetric, and the challenges on both sides were distinctly different.

NNN was much more political, and much more strategic than many other games I ever played at the time. In fact, the whole idea of the sliding (or land sliding) political ramifications which followed the successes or failures in warfare were entirely new. Deployment of nuclear arsenal against opponent had interestingly correct feel to them. Besides of the destructive power, their utilization cost a lot in public opinion.

If one ever has opportunity to try the game, it will not be wasted effort. For it’s fabricated alternate history with beefy details is something that one seldom comes by. On that note, there is apparently second edition in the works, but I doubt it is half as good as the first one.

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