Advanced Squad Squad scenario AP139 Emergency Surgery After Action Report (AAR)

Advanced Squad Squad scenario AP139 Emergency Surgery After Action Report (AAR)

Background of the Scenario

This scenario from Action Pack 14 takes us to Chateau-Neuf, France, 4 August 1944.  Patton’s Task Force A, supported by the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur Bretagne, ran into a retreating element of XXV Armeekorps.  The American cavalry units and the FFI were tasked with clearing this German blocking position.  

Victory Conditions & Tactical Challenges

The Americans could win by one of two ways : 

– at the end of any Game Turn: if there are more Good Order, non overstacked American infantry VP in buildings north of the river than there are Good Order German VP on the south side.  Or

– at Game End: by having >= 20VP American north of the river

The Americans had 2 tank destroyers (M10), 2 armoured cars , 2 half tracks, 2 scout cars and 2 trucks.  There were 3 bridges they can use: 1 Foot Bridge and 2 two-lane Stone Bridges.  I decided that blocking the 2 Stone Bridges is a priority over the Foot Bridge.  The Americans could still win by getting infantry over the Footbridge but there were only 6 US squads vs 10 German squads.  They would have to whittle down the Germany Infantry first.  

The challenging setup restraint of the day: Germans couldn’t setup on the top board, so they were all “up front”, with the Americans having the mobility advantage. 

After Action Report

The fun bit about this scenario is that the Germans get to spend 15 points on Fortifications, picking from a table.  I got myself 3 Road Blocks, 2 x 6 A-P mine, some Wire and a number of Trenches.  The lovely bit about Trenches is that they are roadblocks to non tracked vehicles, meaning 8 out of 10 of their vehicles.  

In terms of setup I located places to put the Road Blocks and situated everything else to defend the Road Blocks.  Unfortunately the Americans didn’t spent much time trying to clear the Road Blocks but used their mobility to seek ways around them.  

IMG 4286

My right side was too thin and failed to muster at the buildings immediately behind them by the river.  In fact, they couldn’t get out of there at all before the French maquis overwhelmed them.  I made a careless move when retrograding my 9-1 MMG team and was CH’d by the M10 and vaporised.  Another M10 went through the gap in the Bocage near the middle Bridge.  The 7.5cm IeIG 18 (leichtes Infanterie Geschuetz: light infantry gun) appeared and killed it in a blinding flash of light but everyone then knew where it was (where the “DM” counter is amidst the red arrows).  My left wasn’t touched at all and the troops started to run over towards the middle.  Meanwhile my Germans on the right couldn’t make it off in time and was tied down by the maquis in melee.  

IMG 4285

The American armor broke through even though in one last act of defiance, a retreating German squad stunned an OT vehicle.  The Americans in the middle started to rout the defenders and the second M10 made leaving problematic.  We couldn’t make it close enough to the bridge to lay down any meaningful fire on it.  (That blurb in the center meant to say “One squad here who COULDN’T find the LMG on the ground to save his life.”

The Germans conceded.  

I knew backing off to the river bank is key but I couldn’t find the balance between holding the Attackers off versus withdrawing intact.  That infantry gun didn’t last long either in  spite of the +2 emplacement.  Perhaps it’s too far forward but I couldn’t find a place (on the bottom map) where it could shoot across both stone bridges.  I would have to pick one bridge and defend the other with panzerfausts and MGs.  I should also have  heeded the “natural” cavalry bias for open country and put more resources towards the right side of the map.  

How is this Scenario Interesting?

This scenario is interesting because of the multi-faceted victory conditions that forced choices out of both the Attacker and the Defender.  The Defender being given flexilibity in his fortifications made for an interesting puzzle as well.  There are a range of possibilities you can try with this scenario.  So folks, this is AP139 Emergency Surgery by Pete Shelling from MMP Action Pack 14 Oktoberfest XXXIV.  

Katz: Designer’s Response to the Desperation Morale Review of Forgotten War

Kenneth Katz is a member of the designer team for MMP’s groundbreaking Korean module – Forgotten War.  This is Ken’s response to Mark Pitcavage’s extensive critique of MMP’s Korean module – Forgotten War.  I find it so interesting by its own right that I asked Ken’s for his permission for HKWG to carry it.  While you can certainly read Mark’s critique first, I am sure you will get a lot out of this even if you read it as a “standalone”.  I certainly did.  These two learned gentlemen certainly make our ASL lives richer with their exchange.

ThumbnailOn behalf of the Forgotten War design team, I want to respond to Mark Pitcavage’s recent review of that module on his highly regarded ASL website Desperation Morale. Obviously, we have a protective attitude towards Forgotten War. Its development dominated much of our free time over the years (for some over 18 years!) and Mark’s critical review is less than pleasing to us as a team. However much we disagree with elements of the review, we want to commend Mark for his thorough critique.

The Forgotten War core design team consisted of Mike Reed, Ken Katz, Paul Works, Andy Hershey, and Pete Dahlin. Each brought a very strong skill set to the team and our differing styles and capabilities meshed well. The Forgotten War extended team included approximately thirty additional participants from across the globe; all such participants were included in the Korean War ASL Yahoo Group and had access to all development material, to include the rules. Any intimation (or direct statement) that development was done in isolation is false.

Mark’s discussion of the history of the product is generally correct up to a point but does not accurately describe the relationship between Forgotten War and the Kinetic Energy ASL module which was never published. It is true that one of the co-designers, Mike Reed, worked with Mark Neukom on the Kinetic Energy design and we are certain that earlier work influenced Mike’s contributions to Forgotten War. Personally, my only connection with the Kinetic Energy design was a 5-minute glance at it. The major design elements of Forgotten War, including Steep Hills and the CPVA rules that we created, did not come from Kinetic Energy. This is true for all the other core Forgotten War team members as well. Furthermore, the Kinetic Energy style did not mesh well with MMP’s vision for ASL, so a new design was necessary since a primary of objective of this project was to design a product that would become “official.” MMP put the product under contract in 2011. It then waited in MMP’s development queue for several years, with intensive work resuming around 2015 and publication in late 2017.

Steep Hills and Semi-Geomorphic Mapboards 80-83:

Korean terrain had a tremendous influence on the conduct of the Korean War. Through research, it became apparent that the existing variety of ASL terrain types did not represent the tactical effects of much militarily significant Korean terrain. The result was the Steep Hills rules (W1.3), which could be described in a nutshell as doing to Hills what the Dense Jungle terrain does to Woods. The essential requirements of Steep Hills were to deny off-road movement for vehicles, burden infantry movement particularly by heavily laden troops, and provide some protection because the terrain is broken. Note that such terrain is not unique to Korea. Terrain with such characteristics can be found in places as diverse as Afghanistan, Italy and Israel. The use of Steep Hills terrain puts a premium on infantry and greatly restricts the use of heavier support weapons and vehicles, which is accurate for many Korean War battles. The mapboards not only represent the hills and valleys which were the sites of many Korea War valleys, but the topography of those mapboards combined with the Steep Hills rules mean that there are ample opportunities for an attacker to infiltrate and withdraw while being protected from enemy fire. Using Forgotten War boards and Steep Hills terrain, a defender cannot just sit on peaks with a MG and sweep the hill clean of attackers, and that was very much the intent. Taken as a whole, the rules and mapboards provide the “design for effect” that was intended and reflected the team’s research.

Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (CPVA):

Probably Mark’s most serious objection to the Forgotten War design is the CPVA. Before addressing the finer points of the CPVA rules (W7), we should preface our responses with several “big picture” points. The CPVA was a major combatant that fought in distinctive ways that deserves distinctive nationality characteristics. All nationality characteristics are exaggerated stereotypes, but that does not mean that they don’t have a significant element of truth. The best way to appreciate the CPVA in Forgotten War is not to focus on each rule but to see how the totality of the CPVA rules, the scenario orders of battle, and the scenario victory conditions combine to incentivize the CPVA player to fight the CPVA in accordance with its distinctive doctrine and tactics. The portrayal of the CPVA in Forgotten War was based on extensive research that utilized a wide range of sources. These included numerous historical books/narratives by Western (U.S., British, Canadian, French, Belgian, etc.) authors using multiple original sources; U.S. Army historical documents, to include multiple, previously-classified documents; U.S. Army operations research books/documents that included analyses of operations and interviews with CPVA personnel; South Korean historical documentation; and multiple books by Chinese authors. The CPVA’s representation was available to the entire, extended Forgotten War team. Scenarios and Chapter H content were informed by a Chinese-speaking team member that had access to additional Chinese-language source material.

The intent of the portrayal of the CPVA in Forgotten War was to represent several characteristics of that force: its mass, its willingness to tolerate very high casualties, the primitive nature of its communications and logistics, and its tactical doctrine which emphasise closing with the enemy. The latter both leveraged the strengths of the force and reduced the ability of its enemy to use its superior artillery and airpower. In the interests of brevity, we won’t take a deep dive into every rule, but we believe that to those who understand the CPVA and the CPVA rules in Forgotten War, the logic behind the rules makes sense. Needless to say, far from denigrating the CPVA, the Forgotten War rules and scenarios in combination show the CPVA to be a formidable foe.

CPVA Step Reduction:

The following represent the primary reasoning elements we used to select Step Reduction (W7.21) to represent the CPVA. Taken individually they are evidential and indicatory. Taken as a whole, and leveraging existing ASL rules constructs, Step Reduction was the answer.

  1. Prisoner ratio. Using estimated casualty numbers, we have the following historical percent-of-casualties data (i.e., these percentages show the percent of total casualties that prisoners represented): Allies WW2 (Pacific Theater) 24%; Japanese WW2 2.2%; CPVA KW 2.8%. Although more than moderately suggestive, these estimates do not address a number of related considerations (such as the huge number of Chinese troops freezing to death vice being combat casualties).
  2. Numerous personal narratives from KW participants about CPVA troops weathering huge amounts of firepower and still coming. Sort of like being berserk in ASL, except they were not berserk and could change what they were doing when commanded to do so (i.e., they did not just always charge right toward the nearest enemy).
  3. Accounts of many CPVA soldiers, who would begin a charge/human wave (HW) unarmed, picking up the weapons of their dead/wounded comrades and continuing forward. Some similar accounts appear in descriptions of Russian HWs (in Stalingrad, for example); in the CPVA case, however, the descriptions do not describe large numbers of Chinese troops breaking. Going to ground and melting away, yes. Large groups of them breaking and running away (like what can result in a standard ASL HW), no.
  4. The political indoctrination and presence of POs in even the smallest units had a major impact on how the CPVA troops behaved. They were more motivated by such indoctrination than typical Russian troops and were motivated as such to continue on in the face of significant casualties.
  5. Step Reduction is an existing ASL rule that will be familiar to most intermediate- and advanced-level ASL players.

Initial Intervention:

CPVA Initial Intervention squads represent troops armed with weapons obtained from the Nationalists (GMD) and the Imperial Japanese Army. The Soviet-Armed squads represent troops armed with Soviet weapons, primarily “burp guns,” which is what Americans called the Soviet-supplied PPSh submachine gun and its Chinese-manufactured version Type-50. The dates given in W7.12 and W7.13 are a simplification; the Soviet-Armed squads will not be available before April 1951, but the Initial Intervention squads obviously do not all instantly disappear or rearm after that date.

The CPVA that intervened in late 1950 in Korea lacked any significant amount of radios and motor transport. In general, CPVA troops on the front line during that period suffered terribly from cold, hunger, and lack of ammunition, the latter being exacerbated by the wide range of ammunition types used by the variety of weapons in the CPVA arsenal. That primitive and deficient CPVA communications and logistics generally caused the effects portrayed in W7.11 is no surprise. Nor is the absence of OBA during that time period surprising, given that artillery is particularly dependent on good communications and ammunition supplies. Of course, a scenario designer can add an SSR when these generalisations did not apply.

Leadership:

The CPVA leadership model in Forgotten War (W7.3) is not a slight against the quality of CPVA leadership any more than similar leadership models are intended to denigrate Finnish and Japanese leadership. Again, look at the big picture rather than each element of the module in isolation. The leadership model that was chosen by the designers works well with the rest of the rules for the CPVA.

CPVA AFVs:

Later in the war, the CPVA did have a significant armored force in Korea. However, the only evidence of which we aware that claims this force (as opposed to the odd captured UN AFV being used) was actually engaged in combat with UN forces is traceable to one Chinese claim. We discovered no American after-action reports that describe losses to American armor caused by Chinese AFVs (one suggestive original source claims that Chinese tank guns were firing at U.S. troops; but after care examination of related sources, it is appears these “high-velocity rounds” were from direct-fire artillery). It’s axiomatic in military history that measures of one’s own losses are usually more reliable than claims of losses inflicted on the enemy. We disagree with Mark that including counters for vehicles that were present in theater but never saw combat is a good use of a finite number of countersheet spaces. If a scenario designer chooses to portray CPVA armor in a scenario, he can use Russian T-34/85, JS-2 and SU-76M counters. In addition, MMP informed us that if a counter did not see action it does not go in the box.

CPVA AA Guns:

As the war progressed, the CPVA became well equipped with AA guns. Such AA guns rarely were present in the front line within the scope of a typical ASL scenario. If a scenario designer chooses to portray CPVA AA guns in a scenario, he can use Russian 37mm and 85mm AA guns. Again, finite countersheets forced choices.

Night Rules:

It is true that Forgotten War has a lot of night scenarios for the simple fact that the Korean War had a lot of night actions. The US Army today likes to say that “We Own the Night” because of its excellent technology and proficient use of that technology. But during the Korean War, that technology did not exist and the Communist enemy preferred to fight at night because it tended to negate American advantages in artillery and airpower. Mark does not like the current night rules in E1 and laments that the Night rules were not revised in Forgotten War. But there is an unwritten but very real policy in “official” ASL that new additions to the ASL system must be backwards compatible with the existing system, including counters, rules, and scenarios. Making general ASL changes was simply outside the scope of Forgotten War.

Searchlight Combat:

Searchlight operations played a major part in the later stages of the Korean War. As mentioned previously, the CPVA used massed night attacks to mitigate American firepower and were very effective. The longest retreat in U.S. military history (U.S. Eighth Army in late 1950) was a direct result of effective CPVA manoeuvre and envelopment…at night. Searchlights took that advantage away from the Chinese.

Our research uncovered that searchlight tactics used against the Chinese were so effective that searchlight-equipped M46 and Centurion tanks became primary artillery targets, especially during the Battles for the Hook. Hide and seek tactics were developed. Tanks operating in pairs or groups. Shutters that could be opened and closed very quickly to minimize highlighting/silhouetting. We worked very hard to replicate these tactics in the rules. Searchlights are certainly chrome. That said, leaving them out or oversimplifying them would have been neglected a tactically significant aspect of the Korean War.

Two-Tone Counters:

Mark doesn’t like two-tone counters. De gustibus non est disputandum (“In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”), but we have been around the ASL community for 25 years and have never been aware of a significant group of players who don’t like two-tone counters (as opposed to the vocal opponents of overlays and terrain altering SSRs). The problem is that the sorts of colors that suit ASL counters (various shades of brown, tan, green, blue, and gray) are already taken, unless you want to either use minor and nearly indistinguishable variations of shade (which some find difficult to see) or use colors which just don’t seem to fit the game. Lavender counters, anybody? Furthermore, the use of two-tone counters has other advantages. ROK and Other United Nations Command forces were equipped by the US. Since their counters have a green border like American counters, they easily can use American SW, Guns, and Vehicles. The CPVA counters have a brown border like Russian and GMD counters, and they can easily use both Russian and GMD SW, Guns and Vehicles. In fact, MMP requires designers to fit their numbers of counters within a finite number of countersheets, and two-tone counters for some nationalities reduces the requirements for counters.

Small Forces: Rangers, American Paratroopers, Royal Marine Commandos, and Korean Marines:

Rangers, American Paratroopers, Royal Marine Commandos, and Korean Marines are unabashed chrome. These all were interesting forces that can be represented with very little rules overhead. Mark doesn’t seem to like this kind of chrome. The Forgotten Wars designers disagree. Judging by the plethora of obscure yet fascinating things in the system, so do most ASL players. Rangers and Royal Marine Commandos were true elite special operations troops, and their capability in Forgotten War are indicative of their training. The 7-4-7 American paratroop squads in World War II imply that those troops had a high percentage of submachine gun-armed soldiers. American paratroopers in the Korean War were armed with the M1 Garand rifle and not many submachine guns, hence the 6-6-7 value.

Rules Pertaining to Bayonet Charges and VT Fuzes:

Bayonet Charges were in fact occasionally used by UN forces in the Korean War. The inclusion of the rule in Forgotten War is simple and appropriate. Variable Time (VT) Fuzes for field artillery were first used by the U.S. Army in the Battle of the Bulge. They had an important effect on that battle and were very valuable in Korea when defending fortified positions against massed infantry attacks. Again, the rule in Forgotten War is simple and appropriate.

Rules Pertaining to HEAT and Bazookas:

The ASL armor penetration rules (C7) are fundamentally flawed and unrealistic in that they significantly misrepresent the actual interaction between ammunition and vehicle targets. Unfortunately, it is wildly impractical to do a wholesale overhaul of those rules, given the imperative of “backwards compatibility” and to maintain relative simplicity (if anyone has ever played the fun but very-detailed Tractics they know the issue). But the Forgotten War designers had a problem. The BAZ45, which equipped US Army and ROK troops in 1950, is somewhat effective against the T-34/85 in ASL. However, in 1950 Korea, the M9A1 launcher and M6A3 rocket which are represented by the BAZ45 counter were notoriously ineffective against that target. This is not an issue of chrome. The difference between ASL and historical performance greatly affected certain scenarios and had a real-life tactical impact. As a result, the Forgotten War designers chose to use rules W.8 and W.8A to model this important effect while avoiding an undesirable revision to C7.

Errata:

Players will observe that the astonishingly small amount of errata for Forgotten War is a testament to the combined efforts of the designers, the playtesters, and MMP.

In Conclusion:

The designers of Forgotten War remain confident that they have created an accurate, playable, and high-quality portrayal of ground tactical combat in the Korean War that fits well in the ASL system.

Kenneth Katz

Listen to Kenneth Katz’s interview on the 2HalfSquads: Episode 187 Kool Katz in Korea

4 The Commissar’s House

November 9 1942, Germans at the Barricady noticed a nice red house.   They pulled up some fresh pioneers and told them to go mess with it.

What follows is one of most beautifully crafted, and an oft played ASL scenario (150:147 G:R).

(Typo Russian Turn 3)

img_3900

“Big Data Analysis” on ASL Scenarios

This is nothing that is as sophisticated as the title might suggest.  It’s just that I got a free trial to a data visualisation software called “Tableau”, so what better data to play on it with than ASL data?

First, I took Tom Kearney’s excellent “Master ASL Scenario Listing III” from the Texas ASL website.

Years vs TO

1944 wins out.  We got a couple of ETO scenarios at around 1919!

Years vs TO 2

We clearly have a lot more Western post-Normandy scenarios.  “MTO” is the Mediterranean, in case you are wondering, this theater comes in 3rd in front of PTO.

Years vs Publishers

The tall blue line is of course Avalon Hill / MMP.  What caught my also is the very long (light blue) lead that Le Franc Tireur (LFT) has early in time.  We are probably talking about their Russian Revolution scenarios here.  The red line running along LFT is Dispatches from the Bunker (DB) and the orange Bounding Fire Productions (BFP).

Locations

No surprises here for the most part, but I didn’t know we have that many scenarios on events that took place in the Philippines!

The following are the Nationalities featured by different Publishers, ie get BFP if you want to play more Chinese OB, BFP & SP for more IJA (assuming that we all get core modules by default).

AlliesAxis

 

Finally I took the 100.000+ records we accumulated on ROAR and worked out the Percentage of Wins minus Losses per Nationality.  (Get the IJA, don’t take the Canadians .. )

ROAR

 

Again, I am a novice when it comes to the science of Data Analysis, so please take everything with a grain of salt.  It certainly interests me though!  I hope this is entertaining for you as well.

Why can’t MMP use Kickstarter? Why can’t MMP keep everything in print? And other everyday questions.

MMPA lot of us has been frustrated with chasing after out of print ASL modules at some point in our ASL’ing lives:

Why can’t MMP use Kickstarter?  

Why can’t MMP keep everything in print?

Some of us asked publicly and have gotten our answers at some point.  At one such occasion, I asked MMP’s Brian Youse for his permission to post his answers on my blog for reference.  Here’s what he said ..

I don’t believe we have any intention of kickstarting every, or even many, OOP game we have any time soon. 🙂

Why don’t we use Kickstarter – they take 8-10% the day your met campaign ends and everyone is billed.

A big game like Yanks/FKAC/Rising Sun/BV/etc. guesstimated costs us about 60-80k for the print runs we do, say 60k. Now we need a goal of 66k. Most Kickstarters have stretch goals (someone mentioned dice), add another few thousand. So I’m up to 70k easily as a funding point. How many games hit that dollar figure, when its a well established game (and most KS that are super successful have new minis – seems to us anyways and we’ve been watching for quite some time).

The problem is printers want to be paid in 30 days. A game like BV won’t sell -nearly- 60k in 30 days until some demand is generated. So RS, for example, has to be out of stock for a bit to build up demand.

The third real problem is we’ve had about six die-cutters in our existence. Each time requires the job be re-laid out to a die and that means proofing, because if you grab a layer badly, or something imports wrong, or any one of another issues then you’re missing the front AF or white turret ring. Our goal, of course, is to have things in a pick up the phone and say “print x thousand more” mode. Right now, I think only a few of our modules are like that. The French and the Italians need to be redone from scratch. So its not always -quite- so easy to just say “reprint AOO” – there’s some work involved and that work is just as easily spent on a new game which will sell more copies than a reprint of AOO – thus generating more income to keep doing things like paying employees, paying rent, keeping the shrink-wrapping machines repaired and well maintained, etc.

As someone said above, its a real balancing act on our end (in our opinion) to juggle new product, reprinting old product, determining what people may want next, won’t want next, etc.

It keeps Chas and Perry very busy, and me nagging them for “what’s next to keep enough rent in the bank.”

Kickstarter is very cool. It isn’t the cure-all a lot of people seem to believe it is, however. Again, in our opinion.

BTW – re: die cutting – getting an existing product ready for a new die-cutter is much, much easier than a new project (like Italians/French). We love our guy now, hope he’s in business forever, and doesn’t go nuts on price or product delay – I like our counters as much as any in the hobby, the die-cutting has been dead on balls accurate. Its an industry term. 🙂

BTW2 – while being OOP may seem like a constant state, its really a weird time-warp thing (IMO) because Rising Sun (for example) was in stock for like 3+ to 4 years. Took me by surprise, it -felt- like it was available for about 9 months. Chas had to pick me up off the floor when he said it was 4 years. Its not like some games i’ve seen / heard (Nintendo classic) which sold out in a month and is OOP for a decade.

We get occasional letters to reprint BRT (for example). That game was in stock for maybe 10 years, and we had to GIVE away the last 200 copies for what, maybe 10 or 15 bucks each? Pegasus Bridge was available for probably 15+ years and I know the last handful were sold for maybe 5 bucks at a show.

Its really tough to justify printing something that we had in stock for what seemed like forever and we couldn’t give away.

One more quick example – DAK. Reprint reprint reprint, so we did. Not a very large print run. Sold 500 of them fast. I think we sold most of the rest at a Black Friday sale over a few years for what was probably 20 cents on the dollar. 😦

We intend to reprint core modules. We will reprint starter kit “core” modules. We may reprint choice OCS and GTS. And the rest are way down the priority list…

Hong Kong Wargamer : Thank you Brian!