Haakka Päälle! The Unboxing

Notes from fellow gamers ..

  • Robin Reeve : There are actually 17 scenarios
  • “Srynerson” on GS : The Hungarian counters you noticed are errata counters for AoO apparently: http://forums.gamesquad.com/showthre…ight=hungarian
  • Chas Argent : Yes, the box says 4 (ASLRB chapter dividers) as well, but we added one more divider after the box went into production (and a 17th scenario). ‘Cuz we love you.Well, most of you.

ESG6 Clean Up Crew AAR – Deathwish 777 Round 1

ESG6 GT1 - start-procESG6 Clean Up Crew is the first round scenario of the Asia Pacific VASL tourney, Deathwish 777.  This is the first Eastside Gamers scenario I have ever played.  This is also the first time I played Will Fleming.

This is an interesting situation.  The 2 hex building on the top right is considered ground level only stone while all other buildings are wooden.  The German wins at Game End if they control this building.  If you look at the map in quarters, Germans setup on the top left and bottom right.  A Russian patrol comes in on Turn 1 from either the left edge or the bottom edge of the bottom left quadrant.  Both sides get to attack and to defend, the 6 turn limit on this scenario promised rapid and violent action!

The Germans have a mix of elite and first liners.  The Russians have a mix of first liners and conscripts (one elite squad too) but unfortunately an ELR of 2.  They get 2 leaders on board, an 8-1 and a 7-0.  A 9-1 comes in with the patrol later on from the lower left board.  There was a bit of a debate as to whether to switch the 8-1 out for a 10-0 Commissar or not.  Bruce Probst cautioned against the idea on GameSquad, stating that there really is no where for the Russians to properly rout to and that they should take the -1 Leadership from a fighting 8-1 instead.  In hindsight, he’s right (no surprise).  At the time, I swapped the 8-1 for a 10-0 in the hopes of cycling whimpering conscripts back into the fight again.

ESG6 GT1 - After MPh-proc

German Turn 1 : The Germans were on the move.  The Russians looked to reveal as little information as possible until the Germans came within their (largely) 2 hex range, less when negative modifiers were in play.  There wasn’t much action apart from the outer ring of “speed bump” conscripts.  They didn’t expect to survive the slightest German fire and so their first shot needed to count.

ESG6 RT2 - Adv Ph-proc

Russian Turn 2 : The Germans built a deathstar with a 9-2 in the left sunken road.  Our HMG team had to relocate.  Will Fleming also pointed out that mortars cannot fire from CREST positions so the mortar team had to figure out a plan B.  One of the “speed bump” conscripts broke another German unit instead of running but got disrupted and was captured in the return fire.  The rescuing Russian patrol had entered the map but not the fray at this point from the left edge.

ESG6 GT3 - DFPh - Hell Rate - KIA 2 broke others .. Prisoners Rearm-proc

German Turn 3 : The Russian HMG went on a hellish rate tear in Defensive Fire, they KIA’d 2 German squads and broke the rest in the open!!  The Russian prisoners found their guards killed and started eyeing the German DC laying in the grass…

ESG6 RT3 - MPh - Conscript rush in w: DC-proc

Russian Turn 3 : The rearmed prisoners (Conscript HS) grabbed the German DC.  There was a German DC HS on the left end of the sunken road to the right.  A Russian squad assault moved away to draw fire in the safest way possible but was disrupted anyway.  The rearmed Russian HS then rushed down the sunken road with their captured DC!!  They survived the Final Fire from the “targeted” German DC HS, threw their DC and broke that HS.  Unfortunately it was pinned itself and couldn’t advance to rout the broken Germans out of the foxhole.  The Russian commissar decided to vol break and head towards THE house as Russian troops around him were either disrupted as conscripts or ELR’d into being conscripts.

ESG6 GT4 - Adv F - HMG got taken out snakeyes KIA-proc

German Turn 4 : The Germans moved towards the house and the Russians didn’t have too many live units left around the target building.  A German MMC on the left put a fire lane down through the grain fields and made it tough for the rescuing patrol getting into the fight on time.

Then a horrible thing happened.

A German stack Adv Fired into the Russian HMG team through the brush – and rolled snakeeyes.  The random selection that followed slated the full Russian squad for destruction, leaving a broken 7-0 with the gun.  There was pretty much no one, save the routing commissar and a solitary conscript squad, in the target building.

ESG6 GT5 - Adv F - Snakeyes finally got the conscripts-proc

German Turn 5 : The Commissar finally pulled himself together and joined the conscripts in the stone building.  Between stacking up for better mutual support or spreading out to keep the Germans out of the building, they chose the former.  The conscripts dutiful fired at the incoming Germans and did brilliantly well for the most part but things came apart at the end when the Germans rolled another snakeyes in the Adv Fire and broke the squad.

ESG6 GT5 - CC - 6 to 1 Wound-Killed Commissar-proc

German Turn 5 (contd) : The commissar found himself the sole defender of the house when the German broke through the windows and doors.  The ensuring close combat was 6-1.  For a moment I had hope that the commissar would roll snakeeyes as well to kill off the entire German stack but it was not to be!  The hardy commissar got wounded and finally succumbed to his wounds into the long quiet night.

A number of thoughts after the game :

  • Will Fleming is a terrific person to get to know and to play ASL with.
  • The 10-0 (if indeed a decision’s made to swap the 8-1 out) should be in the fight and helping to raise conscripts morale.  The ELR of 2 had a material impact on this game.
  • Seeing that most of the Russians ELR’d and/or Disrupted – routing, rallying and fighting was not the right strategy.  Taking a fighting 8-1, fighting and dying in place might be a better decision.
  • As a rout path, my foxholes were not properly lined up especially when there were Germans coming in from 2 angles.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Alternate strategies?  Additional thoughts on 10-0 commissar vs 8-1?

Farewell Fearless Leader John Hill

Art by Rodger MacGowan, Photo by Jackson Kwan

Mr. Patrick LeBeau sent a beautiful message to the “Squad Leader PreASL” YahooGroup to remember John Hill.  I asked and he kindly gave his permission to republish it here, for all of us whose memories Lt. Hill will forever be a part of.  

Farewell fearless leader

The original John Hill Squad Leader counter: Lt. Hill, a modest 9-1 leader.

When I purchased the famous purple edition of John Hill’s 1977 Avalon Hill game, Squad Leader, at the Origins held in Ann Arbor, Michigan that same year, I and many others were immediately hooked on the game system and ease-of-play. We attended all of John’s lectures and in a day or so mastered the game. By the end of the convention many of us were combining our game boards and units to play monster self-designed scenarios after having played all 12 scenarios in one long weekend.

Squad Leader would also win the title of Best Tactical/Operational Game of 1977

This was not my first encounter with John or his many excellent board and miniature games. Most notably in the mid 1970s was Johnny Reb, now known as Johnny Reb One. I still have the original mimeographed legal size cheat sheet printed on both sides, which was all you needed to play the first iteration of the Johnny Reb system. In that playtest addition, resolution used a single 12-sided die.

I mention these two games and I call them systems because they have an incredible longevity through continuous reprints, revisions and new editions, including new games derivative of earlier manifestations. Although the 1977 edition of Squad Leader is my all time favorite, the game would generate many supplements, which would lead to the development of Advanced Squad Leader. The whole Squad Leader family of games has sparked a gamer following that keeps the game alive (SL or ASL) to this day after almost all of the SL and ASL games are long out of print. ASL is directly responsible, I believe, to the development of the online VASSAL game engine for playing board/miniature games virtually.

Johnny Reb would lead to JRII and JRIII. From my perspective, I see Across the Deadly Field as John’s Opus Majus and final version of the Johnny Reb system. From my point of view, I believe ADF is his finest version and I hope it will emerge as his most popular American Civil War gaming system. I spent the entirety of 2014, from Fall In 2013 to Historicon 2014, and all those conventions in between, promoting ADF.

This brings me back to Lt. Hill, the U.S. 9-1 leader counter of the original Squad Leader. Many of us literally wore out our original counters due to continuous game play and finger handling. We of course replaced them by purchasing new games. This is not true with 99% of the board games I own. Further, in 1977, we understood the game as cardboard version of a miniatures game. Today I play the game using 15mm figures and terrain. My point is that as long as gamers continue to play John’s games he lives on.

In untold thousands of games, his old Lt. Hill counter has often suffered a KIA result or has broken under fire. At times it has conducted heroic acts, or has rallied squads at critical times. Whatever the outcome, Lt. Hill reemerges game after game to fight on and on to the enjoyment of the table top gamer whose only purpose is to have fun, learn history, study tactics, engage in competitive play and build friendships.

John was a good friend and his games build many life-long friendships.

I will miss him. We will miss him. However, as Lt. Hill, he will always be in our games, not only as a counter, a figure, a GM, a moderator, a game designer, a human, a man, and as one of the greatest game designers of all time.

Patrick LeBeau

January 13, 2015

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

ITR1 Debacle at Sung Kiang AAR – Not my brightest moment!

John Knowles and I recently purchased the few “Into the Rubble” packs (Bounding Fire Productions) that Sam Tyson found laying around.  So we decided to play the pack out one by one over the next year or however long it takes.  The first one in the pack is Scott Holst’s “Debacle at Sung Kiang“.  There are a few places called 松江, but since Scott mentioned “the city of Sung Kiang”, I take this as the area to the southwest of present day Shanghai.  This scenario takes from a battle on November 8th 1937 when the Chinese GMT still had their German trained & equipped elite troops.  As with all the scenarios in the “Into the Rubble” pack, it’s all about city fights.  What I didn’t realise until the first Prep Fire was how unversed I am with city fights – I have definitely been running around jungles too long!

So here’s an account of my miserable loss (not an infrequent experience for me of course, but I don’t blog about my losses often enough) :

There are 16 multi hex buildings on the map.  The IJA’s task is to capture 11 or more of them with 16 first liners, 2 elites, 4 leaders and 3 armoured cars in 6.5 turns.   The Chinese fielded 9 elites, 7 first liners, 3 leaders, 2 76 guns and 2 of their funky Type 22 dual MG armoured trucks.

Chi Turn 1 01 End - Pulled 2 LMG & crew out-proc

Chinese Turn 1 : This is what it looked like at the end of the first Chinese turn.  The Chinese decided to use their “armoured” trucks a different way.  Instead of running the trucks around with “0” armour, they decided to rip the 2 LMGs and the crews off them.  That’s 4 new LMGs with 2 elite units that self rallies.  The Chinese now have 8 LMGs, fantastic news to the IJA I am sure.

IJA Turn 3 04 End of MPh w: FL-proc

IJA Turn 3: The action exploded.  First the IJA Banzai’d down the left edge of the board.  Several fire lanes sprang up but the IJA made it across the open ground at acceptable losses.  I then figured this was going to take too long : I should have an armoured car behind the Chinese lines to interdict routs and to limit Chinese movement.  Therefore I ran an armoured car down the streets (just follow the blue dotted arrow that emanated from the concealed counter on the top left quadrant of the map).  It survived one shot from the Chinese MMG that laid down a fire lane.  Then the AC sped due south and made a right turn, surviving another LMG shot at close quarters.  It then arrived at the center of the map.  Another AC decided to do the same but via another route.  This is the blue dotted arrow that encircled the top part of the map from right to left.  Unfortunately it discovered one of the Chinese 75’s the wrong way.  It was still hoping that its speed was going to save it.  Boom – no hit, it laughed.  The gun then went for Intensive Fire as the car came closer. Boom – Critical Hit!!  The AC bursted into flames as car parts careened down the middle of the street!!

Chi Turn 3 04 End-proc

Chinese Turn 3: The Chinese moved folks over from the left, one of which CC’d my AC.  The IJA uncovered a fortified position and strangely, a 75 gun popped up in the middle of the building complex on the right.  That, together with the interior wall in the stone factory (see the hex side on the hex in “direction 2″ of the gun) made it a little difficult to clear it out.  The Chinese sped a unit to the far right to close the flanks.

IJA Turn 4 01 End of MPh-proc

IJA Turn 4: Check out the middle of the board – here’s one of my extreme moments of stupidity: with a Chinese squad in the hex, I decided that it would be good idea to back the AC up to the Embankment Railroad.  So I stopped the car meaning to go in reverse.  The Chinese folks promptly declared CC Reaction Fire and disabled the car.  A subsequent LMG shot killed it.  *Brilliant*

All the action on the right were the IJA trying to pile more troops into the factory.  The Chinese started shooting a lot better than they did a turn before unfortunately.  The good bit was that the IJA finally broke the folks in the Fortified hex.  The IJA folks in the top part of the map were starting to appreciate how exposed their positions were.  Having said that, the Chinese MMG malfunctioned the turn before and so they were having a go at crossing the street.

The IJA then ran the last of their armoured cars down the middle of the street to help take the building complex on the right.

Meanwhile on the quiet left side, a couple of Chinese troopers pulled out a bag of marshmallow and strolled over to the bonfire ..

IJA Turn 4 02 End-proc

IJA Turn 4 : This is end of IJA Turn 4.  IJA managed to capture the big factory on the right.  In retrospect I should then have “spilled” more forces down the right edge to turn the Chinese flank.  That would perhaps take me to the buildings to the lower half of the board.  The folk in the center had to rout back.  The MMG that malfunctioned was fixed prompted in the next Rally Phase.  Meanwhile, the AC got into a threatening position but it had to get on an embankment to interdict any Chinese movements.

Chi Turn 4 02 End-proc

Chinese Turn 4 : Two Chinese squads went berserk and both targeted the striped IJA squad sitting in the Fortified hex on the right.  One of the berserkers was underneath the Pinned squad next to the green Fortified hex so you can it imagine it doing the zombie dance against the wall.  The other Chinese berserker rushed up (blue dotted arrow), spotted the IJA elite through the smoke to the right and switched directions.  The IJA elite squad threw their DC at the crazies but only managed to CR the berserkers while ELR’ing itself to a first liner.  The berserkers rushed in and got wasted by gunfire but it caused enough damage by taking the one squad the IJA had with a decent smoke component plus used up their DC!

The Chinese shifted their forces to the right as other sectors were not under threat (a street party was in progress around the bonfire by now).  Notice also the 2 LMG squads closing in on the lone AC sitting in the middle of the board.

IJA Turn 5 01 End-proc

IJA Turn 5 : With all 3 mortars out of smoke and the one elite squad ELR’d to a first liner, the IJAs were not able to put more troops into the factory on the right as the Chinese had an MMG under an 8-1 in the middle of the map.  Tried as they might, the IJA group in the middle couldn’t put much pressure on that MG, apart from discouraging it from putting up a fire lane.  This is the end of IJA’s Turn 5.  The troops inside the IJA’s hard won Fortified hex was steadily reduced.  The fact that it should have advanced into the HMG squad (with the 9-1) long time ago to take them out by CC only occurred to me now.  (Urgh..)  Meanwhile, the 10-1 came forward to rally the troops.  The 1st liners grabbed the flamethrower they recovered, vol broke and routed it back to the 10-1 in the hopes that the 10-1 would know how to use it.

I was definitely not at my best!

Chi Turn 5 02 Dare Death-proc

Chinese Turn 5 : It’s increasingly evident that the IJA were getting bogged down at the first factory.  The Chinese reoccupied the Fortified hex and a Dare Death squad successful took back another building.  While the retaking of the occupied hex didn’t mean immediate reversion of control, it did pretty much put the IJA at where they started with a lot less troops and only 2 Movement Phases to go.

This was where I conceded.

Review :

  • In retrospect I should probably have approached from the left side of the board where there were more cover.  The center group should be anywhere BUT center in that wide open space.
  • I didn’t fully appreciate the threat that the MMG with the 8-1 poised on my operations either.  We should have at least wrecked an AC in front of that building if nothing else.
  • Running the Armoured Cars around to the enemy’s back field was the right idea but they should not be left on their own for too long.
  • I should also have focused more efforts on sliding my troops down the right side to turn the Chinese flanks.  Had I done that earlier, the dynamics would have been different.  Instead, all the IJAs where bogged down in front of the big gun (of all places) and in the Fortified hex next to the highest ranking enemy officer and their HMG.  The first thing IJA should have done was to advanced out of the Fortified hex and CC that HMG stack like there’s no tomorrow.

These are some of the major points I should have done better.  In real life the IJA prevailed (and the ROAR was 15:11 Japanese:Chinese).  As with real life, this is how much damage a bad leader (yours truly) can do!

What else could I have done better?  What are your thoughts?  Please comment.