Journey to a Tourney, Part 3 : The Aftermath

M36 JacksonI never expected this, but there IS an “aftermath” to having done a tourney for the first time :

  • Having prepared for all 25 tourney scenarios, I read a lot more of the rulebook and the scope of scenarios I can play expanded.
  • I met some great folks around the region as well.  I have a few more regular “Live” games now on VASL apart from my usual stable of PBeM (“Play By eMail”).
  • I play a little faster.
  • I play differently too, having seen different styles of play.  For example :
    • I know I should be more aggressive with my movements.  Moving and encircling is way more effective (and time efficient “turn wise”) than sitting and shooting.
    • I know what establishing a tempo as an attacker feels like.
    • I don’t care about the die rolls anymore.  “Reversion to Mean” dictates that it will all even out at the end.  Good decisions win the game not die rolls.
    • I overheard Ian Percy and George Bates said (and this is far from an exact quote) : “it’s not so much about what you do, it’s more about presenting your opponent with a serious of tough decisions and one way or the other, he’s going to mess a few up.  Make him do all the work.”
    • It’s important to plan out where you should be on the map and also when you should be where on the map especially as the attacker so you don’t run out of time.
    • There was an earlier poll on GameSquad asking whether folks are more comfortable attacking or defending in a scenario.  I can’t find it now but someone said “Is there a defence?”.  This thought rang in my head during my last round as the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army) defender in J116 Brigade Hill.  The IJA were infiltrating and cutting the attacker’s rout paths.  My understanding of Book VI (“Defence”) in Clausewitz’s “On War” echoes the thought : defence is just a different form of offensive action – counterattack!
  • Now I am getting ready to support the Hong Kong Society of WargamersAdvanced Squad Leader Tournament this year!!

Lastly I want to share something from the tourney with everyone.  John Charles Knowles, who’s teaching me jungle warfare through Operation Watchtower at the moment, wrote a cheat sheet for the PTO for our benefit.  Here we are :

Malaya Madness Chapter G Cheat Sheet

Cpl Kwan 7-0

Journey to a Tourney, Part 1: Decisions

I did it.

I registered for my first Advanced Squad Leader tournament, the Malaya Madness (Feb 21 to 23 2014) in Singapore. I bought my plane ticket. I booked my hotel.

Two months ago I never would have even thought about it. (Flying to Singapore for a weekend to do what?!!) A year and a half ago, Advanced Squad Leader (“ASL”) wasn’t even a blip on my radar.

Before I go on, I want to make one thing crystal clear:

  1. If you are a relatively new player,
  2. If you are a “dormant” ASL player who’s quietly learning and playing ASL by yourself,

I am writing to you.

I know there are a lot of you out there and I care to guess that doing ASL by yourself is not the easiest hobby to do. I am writing to you. I would like to share my rationale for some of the decisions I made along the way.

I hope this helps you with your choices.

So there I was, working through the Infantry rules in my room, flipping through the massive 2nd edition Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook. I was highlighting important texts and I was noting important ideas in the margin. I was studying hard. When I got tired, I played a few rounds of ASL solo, planning to play through each scenario in turn.

Even playing was slow going, I found myself re-reading the rulebook more than I was playing.

Question 1: Do I keep on studying the rulebook or do I dive straight into a game?

I looked for live games. I found the folks at the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers who have face-to-face (“FtF”) games very weekend. Getting experienced players to take you through ASL games shows you the rules in action. It gives you context. The rulebook becomes much easier to read.

Oh yes , in case no one told you :

  1. Don’t wait to read and study the rulebook and “be ready” before you play your first game. Just go look for live games and attend. I have never met an ASL’r who’s not willing to teach.
  2. No, you don’t have the read the whole rulebook. You can start playing infantry only scenarios after Chapter A.

Question 2: Do I keep on dabbling solo or do I get on a regular play schedule?

I attended live games with the Hong Kong ASL’rs, but I couldn’t have joined them every weekend. ASL was still a solo affair for me. Had it continued in this fashion ASL might have become another of my passing fancies.

It never did.

Out of the blue Don Lazov wrote and asked me if I want to learn ASL from him. I was going to keep my “ASL hobby” on a personal level. but here I was, there’s an experienced player offering to teach. Do I keep it a private & low pressure affair or do I get serious about this?

Anything worth doing is worth doing seriously.

I stopped thinking and said “yes”. That decision changed my ASL life. ASL went from a private study to a social affair. Playing intelligent and thoughtful human beings makes ASL come alive from that moment on. ASL becomes the complex and rich experience that it’s designed to be.  Having a regular play schedule helps me internalize the rules.

Question 3: Do I stick with PBeM or do I play live?

I play ASL via PBeM using VASL. What I mean is that I play ASL via exchanging logs generated from Rodney Kinney’s “Virtual ASL” platform. I was up to 9 concurrent games at one stage. PBeM saves me from having to be at appointed places at appointed times. With my work travel schedule that was simply beyond the realm of possibilities. I step through my opponent’s moves from the logs they send me.  I interject my responses and I send my logs back.

What I lost was the social interaction. What I have was perhaps too much time to consider and to reconsider my moves. PBeM games allow for methodical and well thought out games, perhaps too well thought out.

So I started having more live VASL games where I see my opponent’s moves real time and we interact via Skype. Often times another friend(s) drop by and it becomes a virtual club night! I still travel as much but I keep a regular live VASL schedule now.

My other mentor, Witchbottles, a man who’s a lot busier than I am said it’s a matter of time management.

I am learning to play faster. I also learn to give up the notion of playing a “perfect game”. I am learning to square up a situation, structure a solution on the fly and execute!

Play, laugh and have a great time.

Question 4: Do I stay “in the shadows” or do I go signed up for a tournament?

I heard there will be an ASL tournament in Singapore for a little while before it was announced. I have to admit I didn’t give it any thought. The idea of paying for flight and hotel to Singapore by myself just to play boardgames was crazy. I didn’t even join the one in Hong Kong last year (I haven’t turn Fanatic then)!

Both of my mentors said I MUST go. One of them had even said in the past that he doesn’t go to tourneys anymore. He said I should go and decide for myself.

I gingerly broached the topic with my family. I have to admit, it feels like telling them that I am joining a motorcycle gang. My beautiful family was incredulous at first but quickly came around and gave me the support I need.

I signed up for my first ASL tournament.

Do I have a chance in hell of winning anything? No, but that’s not the point, although they do have a prize for the one who lose the most games.

To me the points are :

  • This is my gesture to myself that I want to do ASL well. Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well. I might not become a world class player but I want to be wicked good and a lot of fun to play.
  • This is me reaching out and be part of the Asia Pacific ASL community. These are the core group of guys I’ll be playing countless hours of ASL with for years to come.
  • This is me supporting efforts to foster and to grow the Asia Pacific ASL community. Today I already count among my regular opponents, a player from Singapore and a player from Japan. I look forward to a lot more!
“Journey to a Tourney” is a multipart series that details my personal journey to what’s hopefully the first in a long line of regular ASL Tournaments in Asia Pac. I hope this will encourage any new or experienced players to come join us as well!

References :

AP54 800 Heroes AAR

AP54 800 Heroes is the second scenario I played that is designed around the Battle for the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai.  The first one I played was A110/ASL13 Shanghai in Flames.  I believe there’s at least one more : BFP31 Chinese Alamo that covers the same battle.  The subject matter’s the same but the scenario designer’s treatment is very different.

The date was 29 October 1937.  The Imperial Japanese Army (“IJA”) had made successful incursions into Shanghai.  Most Chinese units had retreated and the western powers were uninvolved at this stage.  Chiang Kei Shek (the Generalissimo) was determined to keep the battle in world’s view and hence decided to keep the fighting in Shanghai which was already an international city at that time.  Sihang Warehouse had the distinction of being right across a stretch of water from Shanghai’s International Concessions.

It was  the place where Chiang wanted to bring China’s struggle to the world’s attention.  A battalion from the 88th Division, a German trained élite unit was hence given the task and so the name “the lost battalion” as they were the last to leave.

AP 54 Setup

Witchbottles played the Chinese defenders and I the IJA.  This was a training game and the great tactics on both sides were his and the bad ones mine.

This was the setup.  The IJA were free to setup certain units to the right of the map or enter via the North (top) or the East(right).  IJA tankettes didn’t have radios and were therefore setup in platoon formations.  The building to the lower left of the map was the warehouse (factory) and was fortified.  The red ring denotes the area where Chinese units were fanatic.

This is a 5.5 turn game.  The victory conditions for the IJA were either to control the warehouse or to control 3 or more hexes of the warehouse plus all other buildings in the Chinese setup area.

AP54-JT1a

IJA Turn 1, the first thing the IJA needed to deal with was the heavy machine gun (“HMG“) sitting on the top of the warehouse.  After laying down white phosphorus and smoke, two tankettes started coming in from the north.  After bypassing some buildings, the world exploded around one of the tankettes.  It was a set demolition charge!  What both sides didn’t realize at the time was that set DCs don’t affect AFVs (armored fighting vehicle).

Suddenly, an IJA soldier in the woods to the right yelled :

BANZAAAAAAI!!!

The IJA worked out an Armour Assault together with a Banzai charge out of the woods.  The IJA thought if they could cut off the line of trenches from the base they might get a chance to stop the Chinese squads from retreating back into the warehouse.  An 8-0 IJA leader and his squad wandered out of the smoke cover and were the first to be met with a hail of bullets from HMG on the roof.  The group disintegrated on open ground.  The rest of the charge hug closer to the tankettes and kept on.

AP54-JT1b

A tankette overran a Chinese trench, and a IJA squad piled in.  The tankette bogged but the Chinese squad was pinned from the shock.  Pinned as they were, they survived the overrun attack and shot at the rear of the attacking tankette.  The LMG broke and so did the men, the Chinese squad broke and ran towards the warehouse.

AP54-CT2a

This was the end of the Chinese Turn 2.  The defenders took advantage of the IJA smoke.  A Chinese squad ran across the warehouse floor and threw out a demolition charge.  “CANDYGRAM!!” they yelled.  The explosion striped the approaching IJA squad who caught a DC on their laps a moment ago.

AP54-JT3a tanks went in on both sides-proc

Turn 3 IJA saw a half squad going berserk on the top left of the warehouse perimeter.  It drew fire well but got blown promptly out of existence.  An IJA tankette then smashed into the fortified warehouse on the left flank.  It was greeted by a squad on the warehouse floor.  An 8-1 leader stood a little way off.  He waved at the IJA tank and smiled, pointed at the squad and said …

“Meet my Dare Death squad.”

The Dare Death squad went berserk (PAATC free), slammed a DC charge onto the IJA tankette and set it off with maniacal grins.  BOOOMMM!!  The Dare Death squad survived but so did the tank.  The dust settled and the 8-1 leader was still there.  He said

“I am happy you survived, because I also prepared this for you entertainment pleasure.”

A little way behind him was a medium machine gun squad, and they blazed away.  On the third shot the IJA tankette exploded.  Another IJA tankette slammed into the right of the warehouse as well, one tankette in the face of 3 machine guns.  Please do not for a second mistook my blissful ignorance of tank rules for bravery though.

Nonetheless, two breaches were made in the fortified warehouse and close combat ensured on the right of the warehouse after the defenders immobilised the tankette.

The Chinese piled a hero and a berserker into the melee.  Another squad tried to creep up on the IJA tankette sitting outside so that they can blow it up before it too slams into the building.  Unfortunately the squad was shot in the rubble outside.

AP54-JT4a

IJA Turn 4 got even more intense.  The tankette on the right make another breach in the warehouse.  The tankette to the north was shot and killed by an MMG before it could hit the warehouse walls.

IJA troops from the north finally made it to the perimeter.  At Witchbottles’ suggestion, they decided that a Banzai charge was in order!!

AP54-JT4b

This was the situation after the Close Combat phase.  The IJA killed all defenders in 2 out of 3 hand to hand combats inside the warehouse.

AP54-CT4a

Chinese Turn 4!  The reserve unit that slipped outside earlier tried to make its way back into the warehouse.  Unfortunately it broke under a hail of IJA gun fire and was pinned outside.

This is where the story ends as the Chinese didn’t have enough bodies to take the warehouse back.

In reality, the 423 Chinese defenders held out for another two days.  They succeeded in winning international attention to the Sino Japanese war.  The British allowed them to retreat across the New Lese Bridge into the International Concessions.

The Sihang Warehouse still stands today.

What thoughts do you have?  What would you have done?  What are your experiences playing this scenario?

Please comment!

Sihang Warehouse looking from the other side o...

Sihang Warehouse looking from the other side of the Suzhou River. October 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

S1 (Part 1) Retaking Vierville

On June 7 1944, one day after the Normandy landings. the 101st Airborne (“Screaming Eagles”) was sorting themselves out from all over the Cotentin Peninsula and was tasked with securing the eastern approach to the American landing at Utah beach. Vierville-sur-Mer was a major traffic thoroughfare. Although the Americans secured it earlier they had to moved westwards towards the German strongpoint of St. Come du Mont (see Mission Albany).

There are three groups of symbols in this map of Normandy.  The one on the top left is Utah Beach, the one on the bottom left is St. Come du Mont which was a German stronghold.  The group to the right is Omaha beach and a bit inland from Omaha Beach is Vierville-Sur-Mer.

An assortment of German units took the opportunity to deliver a counterattack and among them, the elite 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment. This day would see an all out brawl at Vierville-sur-Mer, paratroopers to paratroopers.

Erwin plays the Germans and I the Americans. We decided to play this Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit Scenario with full Advanced Squad Leader rules. The Americans win if there are no “good order” German units in the four buildings marked with “V”s on the map. By the same token, the Germans need to keep a “good order” unit in at least one of the four buildings at game end (notice the Americans have the last move).

Turn 1 German - MPh

Turn 1 German Movement Phase

Some elements of the 1st Battalion, 506th Regiment of the Screaming Eagles were making their way through the center of town when German units (1058th & 919th Grenadier Regiments) appeared from different directions.   (Right edge of the map is North.)

The Americans went straight to work.  Two full squads and the  8-1 leader went to the key buildings in the southwest, the other elements went to the northeast to meet up immediately with the 1058th Grenadiers.  The southwest element could potentially be isolated and might find itself fighting a much tougher battle until  reinforcements arrive.  Their mission was to play for time.  The northeast element was to clear the way for the reinforcements and were free to play to their strength in the attack.

Turn 1 American - Close Combat Phase

Turn 1 American Close Combat Phase

Other American elements started to arrive.  They used the grain field (which is in season) to make it across the open ground, using a building for cover.  A potential danger was that new German elements might appear behind them and cut them off from their rout paths.  So one squad stayed behind in the woods as the rear guard (circled in orange on the map above).

Sketch 2013-06-22 18_27_32

Turn 2 American Movement Phase

A broken American squad on the south west decided to step it up, rallied and went fanatic (battle hardened, marked by the asterick). In their desperation, a hero arose in their midst!  The reinforcing Screaming Eagles lost no time in closing with the 1058th Grenadiers on the northeast.  Hellbent on blasting their way through, they also drew fire away from their brothers who followed.  The German paratroopers arrived from the south east as well.  They carefully made their way through the woods towards the sounds of battle.  (Right edge of the map is North.)

Sketch 2013-06-22 18_40_09

Turn 3 German Advance Fire Phase

The 919th Grenadiers crossed the street in the south-west and pressured the squads on that corner of the intersection.  At the same time the 6th Fallshirmjäger moved to slice the battlefield in half, isolating the 8-1 and his little group.  To the north (right edge of the map), the Screaming Eagles couldn’t break through the 1058th Grenadiers.  They needed to clear a way to town fast ‘cause the key buildings are falling to the Fallshirmjäger soon, which also means they and their arriving brothers would all be standing outside the grain field with no protection if they couldn’t get into town.

Sketch 2013-06-22 18_45_21-1

Turn 4 German Rally Phase

The Screaming Eagles managed to get into close combat in the north.  A half squad was killed when they went in for hand to hand with a German squad and their 8-1 leader.  On the other side of the block an American half squad ambushed their German counterpart when they broke into their building.  The Americans slipped through to the other side and met up with the American paratroopers that were holding the Fallshirmjägers at bay.  However the American’s hold on the key junction was strained as they endured volleys after volleys of German fire.

So here we are at the start of Turn 4 in a 5 turn scenario.  Will the Germans succeed in capture at least one of the buildings at the intersection and hold off American attacks?

am747Sge548S

How about coming home everyday to 30 mins of PBeM game over VASL?

Whether you are a fellow newbie who would like to learn together or an experienced ASLer who don’t mind helping me up the curve. I play to enjoy and to learn. Please message me at jackson-dot-kwan-at-gmail-dot-com!!

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Protecting Your New Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook

IMG_6108The Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook 2nd edition (“ASLRB”) is finally in print again!

I got mine from a tiny store in Mongkok two months ago.  The Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook is massive: it’s a big box-file full of instructions to the best simulation in the history of board wargaming.

I have been working hard at learning it.  The punch holes in some of the pages are already showing tear.

To protect my ASL bible, I have two options:

  • Plastic punch hole ring reinforcement stickers
  • Plastic page protectors

Plastic punch hole ring reinforcement stickers

Unfortunately, the punch holes on the pages are too big.  I can’t find ring stickers that are the proper size.

Plastic page protectors

This is the pricier option but this is what I ended up doing.  Not only are the holes protected from frequent reference, entire pages are now protected from food stains and beer spills!

Since each page is thicker with the plastic page protectors, I split the rulebook into two box-files.  (I found a problem: I couldn’t get the holes in the plastic page protectors to work with the 3 rings in the original Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook binder.)

There are less than 250 pages in the rulebook – the standard set of rulebook sections plus sections F, G, Solitaire and a couple of Zs from ASL Journals.  I bought 5 packs of A4-s size Kokuyo”Clear Book” refills that has 50 plastic page protectors each and I got two double ring box files.  I put sections A to E in one box file and the rest in the second one.

Now I feel a lot more comfortable flipping through the protected pages in the less congested box-files!

To make the box-files look more authoritative,  I scanned the Rulebook cover and spine.  I want to get the images printed on A4 size stickers and put them on the front and spine of my box-files.  They will look pretty nice when I’m done.

What do you do to protect your Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook?

Recommended Links:

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The Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits Are A Great Way To Start!

ASL SK

ASL SK (Photo credit: daecon)

If you have seen the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook, it looks pretty daunting.  It is housed in a box file – yes, it is big and it is heavy (Shipping weight : 6 lb according to Amazon).  However, a lot of wargamers also think it’s the best simulation/game of all time!  Knowing, learning and seeing the rules manifesting themselves during gameplay is part of what the grognards enjoy as well.

Personally I don’t know of another game system whose rulebook is sold separately from the rest of the game.  So if you are looking for some assurance before plunging in, I can understand.  I had the same thoughts not too long ago.

Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits offer a rulebook that is much more palatable and a self-contained game set that is much more economical so you can make an informed decision.  Unlike the full Advanced Squad Leader modules, the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits (ASLSK) stand alone, even from each other.

You do not need to buy all three.  

The rulebook for each builds on each other.  For example: the rulebook for ASLSK#3 is the rulebook for ASLSK#2 with more rules for tanks and armoured cars, with the additions highlighted in a different color.  So even though you probably won’t find ASLSK#1 and realise ASLSK#2 in short supply (although I just saw a copy selling at a bookstore in Kuala Lumpur last week), all you need is to get ASLSK#3.

Let me know if you are in Hong Kong and need help locating a copy.

Aids That Helped Me Get Started with ASLSK

There are of course a lot of tutorials on the internet as well, I rather enjoyed Eddy M. del Rio‘s (aka edelrio) ASLSK Tutorial Examples of Play which be found here.  There’s also Daniel F. Savarese’s ASL Starter Kit Explained.

There are actually a lot more top quality resources on the internet prepared by top notched wargamers.  I will tell you about more of them in my other posts.  The one thing you will find out about ASL wargamers is that they are a very sociable and helpful lot!

If you are an experienced ASL wargamer, please comment and let us know: what helped YOU?  Thanks!

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