I am relocating! Came across something interesting as I clear things out …
In this scenario, the US Paras win if they exited 1 or more squad equivalent and more Leader out hex Q10, which is where the road exits in the middle of the map. Any German exits increase the exit requirements for the US.
Benji at McDonalds
I got up rather early on the last day and so I checked out, took my luggage to the venue and went down to McD for a nice breakfast. I met Benji there. Benji travelled in from nearby via Uber. He told me how he’s been playing Mark Humphries every Friday evening. As a matter of fact John Knowles told me about Benji earlier and said he’s one of those guys who’s been picking ASL up really quickly. Apparently this is his first tournament and he’s enjoying it. He knows there’s a learning curve to be surmounted and he is focusing on getting through the first 100 games. I, on the other hand, is on my 123rd game and I am no where close to NOT feeling like a beginner. I didn’t tell him that.
The China crew
The China crew showed up with 5 players this year (6 including myself). They have already been playing in regional tournaments so they are no strangers to most in attendance. These guys definitely held their own : after all Kyle, Johnny & Xavier are experienced players. Xavier, aka the X teacher, holds monthly ASL classes in a Shanghai game store. However, since he was never before ranked internationally, he is awarded “The Outstanding Newbie” award. Kyle & Zhen “Richard” Wang, are the two chief editors of the Chinese ASL magazine “Dare Death”. We even came in personalised team t-shirts, designed by Xavier.
Jamie Westlake’s Four Dice
One thing a lot of us noticed was Westlake throwing 4 dice at a time. He came in second in the tourney and so whatever he’s doing must have worked. Either that or it’s his superhero t-shirts. We asked him to explain this “Four Dice System”:
“Hi guys…..Aussie convention…..red and white first. Blue and yellow second. If multiple morale checks, top unit red and white, next blue and yellow. Then roll again for third and fourth etc. exception: if you roll HOB, blue and white become HOB resolution. If leader creation, yellow is next. When first introduced to this twenty years ago I hated it. Now I love it…..on a to hit roll, red and white is the hit, blue and yellow the kill. Instant gratification….whack!”
All the “other” folks I’d like to thank
With so many players coming in from overseas and with a good number of new players, we knew there’s going to be an issue with maps and overlays. Will Fleming worked meticulously to put together good solid printouts of scenario maps on thick paper.
George Bates couldn’t make the tournament because of real life issues. However, he’s instrumental to the success of Mayhem in Manila. He pushed through a lot of decisions and set the tone we want to bring forth in these tournaments. He was the one who went to Perry at Multi-Man Publishing and asked for sponsorship. That man showed me how it’s done.
Vlad See did the fantastic Mayhem t-shirts, amongst other things like driving players to airports. The graphics on the t-shirt is actually done by a professional design artist, not that it’s not noticeable.
The sponsors! Oh my god, the sponsors!! They go such a very long way to make this a proper tournament. I can’t be more thankful of their support.
The Blog of Five Rounds
AP89 To the Pain, Bruce Probst
This is a Gary Fortenberry scenario from Action Pack 9 “To the Bridge”. The victory condition is a little out of the ordinary, there are multiple ways you can win. If you fulfil certain number of VC conditions at a certain point in time, the game ends. Otherwise it goes on to the next checkpoint until the 6.5 turn scenario is over.
Bruce Probst was my opponent on this first round. I played him in a Dare Death VASL tourney round before and he’s really one of the nicest chaps you can get matched up with.
If you look the picture above, the locations marked with a “V” are the places that allows the British to score. The arrows show where Probst’s Gurkha Rifles roamed. Probst was probing the left, centre as well as the right. My attention was draw more to the right because my asset allocation was more towards the middle. I don’t worry about the left as much since it’s a much harder terrain to traverse.
Probst took advantage of his mobility and shifted his weight from the left to the centre, where he started focusing on around Turn 3, our first “checkpoint” so to speak. I wasn’t setup very well and so I had no multi-man counters around the middle VC. However, I was confident that I could advance a MMG crew into the area and extend the game to the next checkpoint (from Turn 3 to Turn 5).
As luck would have it, the crew had to roll for an NMC on the Defensive Fire and produced boxcars. It’s easy for me to blame the dice for this but I shouldn’t be in this situation to start with. I should have focused much better on the Victory Conditions.
Focus on the VC!
J150 The Sangshak Redemption, John Knowles
This 5 turn scenario is from ASL Journal 10. Both the Japan side and the Indian / Gurkha’s side get to attack as well as to defend. All the buildings are huts apart from the building in the middle of the VC circle which is a stone church. The IJA wins by winning ownership of the church (even just briefly) and keep two building within the VC circle at game’s end. My opponent was John Knowles, John and I play every Thursday evening, from “Into the Rubble” scenarios to Campaign Game playtests.
Initially, the IJA faced off a weak India setup. I needed to capture the church as soon as possible and to kill those 2 guns, to get into the right positions and to preserve my forces for the Gurkha onslaught. I didn’t move fast enough, I don’t think. I also saw an opportunity to banzai through cover and take out his ordnance. Those ordnance weren’t even pointed towards the banzai’er. Well, that didn’t turn out so well. I was able to pile into one of the Indian squads but neither of the guns.
My guys were off position and then John got a CH on the church from his 76mm mortar.
The expert that he is, he took maximum advantage of the opportunity to push into the church. My IJA couldn’t shoot at all that day, the Gurkhas were stacked and unloading barrages after barrages into the huts that the IJA were holding onto for dear life. In the diagram above, the bottom two arrows were how the IJA made their initial push. The arrows on the top and on the right were the Gurkha reinforcements.
I could have conceded after Turn 3, which was 2 Gurkha Movement Phases after his reinforcement arrived but I fought on. I surprised myself when the battle lasted through to Turn 5 until the necessary IJA forces were KIA’d off the map. To me this is a terrific reason as to why one should never concede. You never know how things will go.
AP59 Taking Heads, Zhen Wang
This is a 6.5 Turn scenario by another Fortenberry pack, Action Pack 6 A Decade of War. My opponent was Zhen Wang. Zhen’s one of the chief editors of Dare Death, the Chinese ASL magazine. The IJA attack down from the top of the map pushing against some ELR2 Philippines Army (“PA”) personnel. They could either win by exiting CVPs off the board, or by a combination of killing US units / capturing buildings (largely to the left of the “Fake HT”.
My issue started before the game even began and is perhaps the key weakness to date in my game. The “weak” Americans also get a 37LL AT Gun and two M3 GMC’s which are halftracks with 75mm guns. If you look at the diagram above, the 2 “bright” red dots are where they were located. The 37LL gun was at the back and never got used. They never really got into the right and is a big reason why I failed to get as many IJA kills as I should when they advance down over the top part of the map. To prevent CVP losses by losing those halftracks, I took them out of play myself. It absolutely obvious but it never hit me until now.
Zhen was able to demolish my PA troops piecemeal all the way back into the village buildings.
Put all your assets into the fight!
ITR1 Debacle at Sungkiang, Akira Lu
I was the defending Chinese in this 6.5 Turn Scott Holst scenario from “Into the Rubble”. My opponent was Akira Lu who is a relative newcomer into the hobby. He came to the tournament with nothing, not even Beyond Valor, but he left the tournament with Mark Humphries’ old Raaco boxes & bag set. I guess he’s finally convinced!
Alan Smee had a quick chat with me about what he saw in my play. He said I need to get as many assets as possible into the fight. I can even fall back into Fortifications but don’t put my assets out of play by putting them the backfields. He told me how he’d do a A103 Mayhem in Manila defence and that point came through loud and clear.
The red points on the map are where I placed my two 76mm artillery.
I put most of my assets forward and engaged the attackers for half the game around the top part of the map. The IJA had to capture 11 of those multihex buildings I won this one by adjudication as we ran out of time. My opponent is a newbie but I could feel the difference from my change in approach.
Push your assets forward, you can always back into fortified positions
AP90 Smashing the Hook, Benji Dayco
This is my other favourite scenario out of Action Pack 9 “To the Bridge”. This is a fast 5.5 turn scenario. The British needed to either destroy both roadblocks or clear IJA units from around the roadblock area.
My opponent was Benji Dayco whom I met that very morning at McD!
I figured we will fight this one in front. I put my 75mm infantry gun on the hill overlooking the first ridge. I had a MMG there in case the gun needed support. I also had HIP units on both sides of the road in front just in case some of these British breaks or if a leader wandered to the wrong place.
This worked out every well. The British seemed torn between running for the first roadblock or fighting it out. I won this one by concession as I had to make for the airport.
Defenders can still choose to fight the attackers in the ground of their choice.
Siem Reap, Cambodia?
We did a quick vote towards the end of Mayhem regarding the location of the next tournament. Siem Reap came out to be the winner and Raphael Ferry can’t be more enthusiastic in taking that on.
Siem Reap, home of Le Franc Tireur, does seem to be a top notched idea.
Snake eyes in the shadows of Ankor Wat.
I was chatting with Witchbottles the other day. Given all the issues and problems we have in life, whether personal or professional, to be able to see each other once a year means the both of you probably didn’t have too bad a year. It’s a blessing really.
See you there, Summer 2017. Have a good year!
The way in which the game is layered: The rules are complex, master that, the tactics are complex, master that, the psychology of the game can be challenging too. Even then, there is no one way to win at this game. I know many top players with very different styles, who all have had enjoyed a good deal of success with the game. There are many ways to skin a cat. Everyone can succeed by refining their own approach to the game.
Obviously, because it is fun: If it wasn’t for this, there isn’t a thing I could list that would make it worthwhile. Of course what is fun for one person may not be for others, but there is room for many at the table. I am a competitive cuss, so I love the challenge of competing against my fellow gamers. Others approach it from a beer and pretzels perspective, but everyone who comes to embrace the hobby, ends up having fun with it.
The people: The camaraderie in ASL is unparalleled in wargaming. It is a niche hobby within a niche hobby and you can strike up a conversation with any player from here to Hong Kong, and immediately be speaking the same language. Because the bond between players forms quickly, many of my closest friends over the years are fellow gamers. I do not hesitate if I can extend a helping hand and have not encountered many who won’t the other way around either. There really is a bond. Certainly not on a level of military compatriots or police officers or others who have dangerous occupations, but certainly more than most with merely a common interest linking them. Such has been my experience.
The game itself is varied and handles moving from theatre to theatre VERY well: If you play many operational games, the difference between playing in the desert or the hills of Italy is pretty superficial. Here, moving from the Winter War, to the desert to the jungle to the steppes is absolutely worlds apart and FEELS like it is worlds apart. Put simply, ASL is the ultimate triumph of design for effect and there are literally thousands of scenarios and well north of one hundred CG’s. If you can’t find something to play, then you would quite rightly be likened to a little kid sitting in his room surrounded by toys screaming “I’m Bored!!!”
Finally, to succeed at this game you have to be very detail oriented and know how to plan on the fly when the best laid plans go up in smoke. Very challenging indeed!
The accessibility of the hobby in terms of helping new guys: With everything from questions, advice on everything from purchases to game tactics.
What I don’t like:
Some of the rules can be gamey, but then, it IS a game. Also, there is always the magic of the SSR to fix that which truly galls you.
– Carl Nogueira, May 6 2015
British Turn 3: The British were in general retreat .. erm .. retrograde. The idea here was to stay ahead of the Germans and get to the next building before the Germans get their guns on and to keep the inside lines open. On the right, a rallied British green squad switched a second liner out as the rear guard. These guys would see a few medals before the day is over.
German Turn 4: The action heated up on German Turn 4. On the British left, a German tank tried to get to the back field. The British ATR team held their shot until the tank went to the other side of the building. However they bounced a second round off the German tanks even when they had a side shot. The 18 pounder (typo in the picture) on the British right “appeared” and wrecked the German tank in the Defensive Fire Phase.
British Turn 4: The British green squad on the right dispatched the German first liners who held them in melee!! The rest of the British squads got to the last line of buildings. They cut it quite close, as the Germans shot some of them between the gaps. The British continued to get to positions that were a little out-of-the-way but cover grounds the Germans would move into.
British Turn 5: The Germans started building a death star on the British left and the left British gun appeared!! It promptly put a round of white phosphorous into the building. The British ATR teams repositioned towards buildings where they could prevent the German tanks from exiting. On the right, the malfunctioned British gun couldn’t be fixed and was eliminated from the game. The Germans sent another squad in on the right flank and killed the pesky British green squad that was holding up traffic but these heroes had already saved their brothers.
German Turn 6: The Germans were almost of top of the British now. A German tank got inside the British lines but one ATR team was broken and the other one couldn’t get close enough. Good thing the white phosphorous forced the German death star to move.
German Turn 7: The Germans got up to the right ATR team and was wrecked at pointblank range! The Germans rushed up on the British left as well. They advanced up and captured the gun hex in the CC phase!!
British Turn 7: The British couldn’t let the Germans have a fire phase to spike the left gun. The British squad fired pointblank and KIA’d the squad! This led to an interesting revelation after a few rounds of discussions on the forums. There’s no way to kill the gun by small arms fire without a crew / possessing infantry (A9.74) present! So the only chance of the Germans getting a tie is to kill it with the tank ordnance.
We never got to that so here we go. It’s a three hex range with an infantry target. The base TH is 8. The gun was emplaced, so there’s a +2 DRM.
SNAKES!! The Modified TH# is 8 .. rolled a 2+2 which is not less than half but it’s an original 1,1 nonetheless.. so we need a subsequent roll .. That’s equal to half the Modified TH# of 8!! CRITICAL HIT!!!
As AZslim pointed out to me on GameSquad, guns (and crew) are automatically destroyed on Critlcal Hits. So both British guns were gone. This game went all the way to the last roll – and it’s a DRAW!!
Gotta admit, this is some finish!! Witness the narrative power of an ASL game – and that’s why we love it.
This scenario reflects the seaborne assault by the IJA on a relatively lightly held beach in the Philippines. The landing took place on Dec 22 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Conditions were not ideal on this beach – the wind’s heavy and so’s the surf. The Japanese launched their attack on these “shohatsu’s” (or “LCs” for landing crafts) which were really big steel boats.
As such, neither the crew nor the passengers get to button up. They were therefore subjected to a +2 CE DRM (Crew Exposed DR modifier) at all times. The Filipino defenders had problems of their own as well : they were using MGs that were stored since the 1920’s. The defenders’ machine guns were therefore a lot less reliable than usual (X11 instead of B12).
The IJA wins immediately if they manage to exit 25 or more VPs (“victory points”) off the right edge of the map and/or gain that number in CVPs (“casualty victory points). The entire IJA force had 22 squads, 3 crews and 5 leaders – a total of 58 VPs which meant they needed to exit half. The entire Philippines force was 29 CVPs should the IJA decides to focus on CVPs instead.
IJA Turn 1 : This was a humid day at a peaceful beach. I could almost see people frolicking in the shallow waters (almost).
The terrain on the top of the map was very restrictive, especially compared to the bottom of the map. It would be difficult for the IJA to exit the map via there. The terrain was more ideal on the bottom half of the map. The orchards provided a degree of hindrance whilst requiring only 1 MF per hex to move through. Defence looks pretty sparse on the bottom of the map and I suspect that’s because the Filipinos stationed their 4 squad equivalents there. The way this was setup, the bottom of the map looked too inviting for me. I therefore aim the IJA landing forces towards the top part of the map. My opponent had gracefully given me the balance, so there were 2 MMGs and 1 HMG instead of 3 MMGs and 1 HMG, but those MGs still encouraged me to head for the jungle. Jungles are ideal banzai terrain after all.
Philippines Turn 2 : The 9 IJA boats were still coming in okay. None of the boats were lost in the heavy surf yet. The Filipinos started shooting at the incoming LCs. Stunning the LC crew would cause the boats to flounder and throw the IJA off their landing schedule. Unfortunately both MMG clogged up and random selection designated both for the junk heap (and there was much cursing).
IJA Turn 3 : It was difficult to beach the LCs properly in the heavy surf. One LC was swamped and ran aground. One LC’s crew struggled hard with the waves and wasn’t able to do much. One LC broached against the swells and was destroyed, no survivors. One LC got shot up bad and was floundering in the shadow seas. The 5 that beached okay, started to unload its passengers. Infantry on the beach are fanatic. However, if they fail morale checks they casualty reduce.
The 5 LCs that beached, started to unload. However being a first time seaborne assaulter I was concerned about pushing entire stacks out on the beach risking -2 shots on everyone. So I decided to offload the heavy weapons first, those chaps would need to assemble their toys on the beach away. This decision would cost the IJA a few more platoons as more LCs got broached in the heavy surf.
I asked my mentor Witchbottles about it afterwards, and he said to get off the boat absolutely as fast as we can!
Philippines Turn 4 : The IJA got inland on the left flank. It’s great news apart from the fact that they could get boxed in with a few Filipino squads against the board edge especially with this terrain. The remaining Filipino MG, the heavy machine gun expired as well. The defenders were caught with a beach full of fanatic IJAs and no high rate of fire weapon to do anything about it. However, they had moved inland methodically to key locations. The IJA got a bad feeling about what was to come as they couldn’t stop the Filipinos from slipping away.
IJA Turn 5 : The IJA got another LCs broached!! The IJA had lost a total of 11 squads and the best 3 of the 5 leaders. Considering that the IJA started with 22 squads 5 leaders ad 3 crews, that was almost half of the force!
IJA Turn 6 : This is Turn 6 and the IJA just got off the beach. Witchbottles’ advice to always read the scenario victory conditions at the start of every turn definitely helped here. The IJAs couldn’t move fast enough to get 25 VPs off the board, especially not with the Filipinos shooting at their backs. The IJAs decided to change tack and to round them up in the jungle instead.
This was the second banzai attack of the game. The first one was almost exploratory. The aim ws to catch and kill the blocking force in front.
IJA Turn 6 (contd.) : This is the third banzai to catch the bulk of the Filipinos in the woods. The jungle was just perfect banzai country!
IJA Turn 6 : This was the aftermath of Turn 6. The IJA lost a total of 13 squads and 4 leaders but have scored 16 CVPs in total. They needed 9 more to win the game. The Filipinos were wiped off the top of the map. However, there were still enough Filipino troops retreating into blocking positions.
Philippines Turn 6 : The IJAs used fire lanes to delay the Filipino retreat. Meanwhile, the left flank looked to be clear all the way to the goal line!
IJA Turn 7 : The IJA sprung their 4th banzai. It was a big decision considering they had only 1 leader (8+1) left. However the way he was positioned he definitely didn’t need to get too intimately involved. You can see by the red arrow, how the IJA looked to catch the rest of the defenders. The IJA now had 18 CVPs.
Philippines Turn 7 : The Filipinos got themselves a hero! The hero, when coupled with the remaining 8-1 produced a fairly respectable stack with a HS and an IJA LMG. Either way, the IJA moved into positions where they could lay down fire lanes to delay the Filipino retreat. My opponent had already seen the bottleneck on the top right of the map where there was a lake. To get to the board edge, the IJAs on the left flank had to run through the one hex that was 4 hexes from the top and 2 hexes from the right.
IJA Turn 9 : The Filipino leader / hero / HS / LMG stack got into a position to lay a fire lane down on the IJA exit. The first fire striped the lead IJA squad. The IJA had about 7 VPs worth of squads who could exit off in this very turn and we needed only 5. We had to get rid of that fire lane and one good way was to force the enemy squad into Final Protective Fire. The Filipino leader-hero stack’s collective hearts must had skipped a beat when they looked away from their gleefully laid fire lane and saw the bunch of IJAs looking menacingly at them from their left.
The fifth banzai attack had no problems crashing through the open and into the fire lane stack. There was nothing the Filipinos could do. The fire lane stopped after a quick struggle and the 7 VPs worth of IJA squads exited at their leisure.
IJA Turn 9 : This was the end of the game as the IJA killed and exited more than 25 VPs.
As my opponent warned me, seaborne assaults are not for the faint of heart. The attackers should expect to lose more than half the force to the elements and to casualty reduction until his troops hit the hinterland. For the IJAs, only 4 LCs managed to head back to the ships. 4 others were wrecked and 1 went aground. Half the force was dead at turn 6, mostly to broaching LCs.
I got to remember to get EVERYONE off the LCs immediately next time.
It was December 20 1942. The Italian Bersaglieri Regiment approached the Russian town of Meshkov in their retreat. The Russians got there ahead of them and used its “fairy tale castle” ie. catello fatato cathedral as a strongpoint. It was dark, it was extremely cold and yet the cathedral was illuminated by a portion of the building that was on fire.
The scenario opened with 20 squads of Italians doing a human wav across the snow towards 2 squads of Russian SMG units plus 6 rifle squads of the Russian 1st Guards Army. The above is my defensive layout and where my machine guns were positioned. Typically in a night scenario, support weapons and leaders are HIP’d (“hidden initial placement”) as are 25% of the defenders. The Italians win when they control the cathedral (the hex with the “Blaze” counter and the hex to the upper right of it. )
Italian Turn 1 After the Movement Phase : The NVR (“Night Vision Range”) was 5, so the screaming Italians were spotted. The Russians tried to break as many Italian squads as they could. Italian squads have a moral level of 7 and a broken side morale of 6. At night, units don’t get to remove their “DM” status until they roll less than its current printed morale. Running with 4 leaders (2 of them 6+1), these Italian should be very hard to rally once they break. Turns out it was the Russians who couldn’t rally for most of the game. The Italian 6+1’s were rather successful in convincing their troops to get back into the fight.
Russian Turn 1 After Advance Fire Phase : The Russian should perhaps have skulked at least part of their forces but I was determined to break a few more Italian squads. The Italians fired their Austrian made Cannone da 47/32 (ROF3), broke a squad on the ground level of the church and the heavy machine gun (“HMG”) team in the trench next to it. The HMG was later lost to the Italians and never served under Russian use again.
Katya, our Russian sniper did miracles though! She identified an 8-1 leader from a stack of brokies and put a hole through his head. He was the highest ranking leader the Italians had and the only one with a negative modifier!
Italian Turn 3 : The Russian couldn’t find any star shells!! Since illuminated units cannot see into the darkness outside the zone of illumination, it was safe for the Italians to move around the rim of blaze illumination and sneak an Italian squad into the cathedral. The Italians had also jumped both of my flanks and tied them down in mêlée. Given the huge disparity inmanpower, the Russians should have done a fighting retreat and leverage on their advantage in troop quality. Once the Italians closed, the difference in morale level was gone and they could keep reinforcing any mêlée.
Case in point : the Russian’s right flank got a little agitated and turned fanatic along with the production of a hero (I promptly named him after my esteemed opponent .. heh heh), the Italians jumped on them immediately in the Close Combat phase, nullifying their qualities.
Russian Turn 3 Close Combat Phase : There wasn’t a lot to do in this Russian turn. The fellas steadfastly refused to be rallied. Since one of the Italian guns malfunctioned and the Russian SMG squads hid in fortified cellars, there wasn’t much damage. One of those Russian SMG squad decided to come out of hiding however, advanced up to see if it can ambush the Italian squad up top. It didn’t, but it took out the Italian squad anyway in close combat. In face of all the firepower and the important job it had to do, advancing up was a risk. However the act might burn more time from the Italians.
The sparky Katya (sniper) continued to work hard, she found a 7-0 in another big stack of brokies and wounded him. The Italians had 2 healthy 6+1’s left. Both of the Russian flanks continued to be tied down in mêlée.
Italian Turn 4 After the Movement Phase : There were only 3 functional Russian squads left : 1 rifle squad and 2 SMG squads in the cellars. The rifle squad spit out a fire lane with the Italian Breda M30 LMG, just to deter the Italians from rounding the building on the right. As luck would have it, the Italian squad on the lower right in the dark would be hit and broken by Katya, who was obviously making it a late night tonight.
Italian Turn 4 later in Close Combat : Two Italian squads made it into the left side of the cathedral. There’s still a concealed SMG squad in the left cellar. Since the cellars were fortified, they would need to pin or to break the Russian SMG squads before they could go in for close combat!
Russian Turn 4 : The Italians continued to rally quite well, although they had some casualties from the cold (Extreme Winter E.3.742). The Russians on the hand were still hanging on with a few squads. To make matters worse, the German sniper showed up an pinned the fanatic Russian squad in the midst of their mêlée on the right. Fortunately they survived and the fight continued, tying down that flank still for the Russians.
Italian Turn 5: Again, the Russians had no luck with star shells, and the Italians moved in. The Italians managed to pin the Russian SMG squad in the cellar on the right and so two Italian squads advanced downstairs to say hello. The mêlée on the far right was hit by German snipers again! The Russian fanatic squad was broken and they were all killed when the hero found himself fighting the Russians alone. The Russians outside were beginning to rally but listening to the sounds around them, SMG squad in the cellar on the left felt the darkness rolling rapidly in.
Russian Turn 5 : The Italians got star shells in some choice positions! Nonetheless the rallied Russian troops started to move back. Fortunately, the other Italian gun broke as well, adding to the Russians’ fighting chance.
Italian Turn 6 : GUSTS!! The burning first floor of the cathedral collapsed! Good thing it didn’t crash into the cellar.
The Italians had to think defence now. The Russians were getting back into the fight from the lower left of the map. The Italians had to get into blocking positions while continuing to reinforce the mêlée. The Russians couldn’t do much about stopping the Italians from reinforcing the cathedral. You might also notice that the remaining Italian gun was operational now and again tried pounding the cellars.
Russian Turn 6 : The Russians plodded towards the sounds of gunfire inside the cathedral. First up was the 7-0 who looked to pop into the church hex on the left. The choice for the Italians was either to spend firepower on him or to let him get into the ground floor and make the Italians do a +3 task check for “Infantry Overrides” in next turn to get in. They shot him. Next up is a Guards rifle squad that broke against the fire lane on the far left.
It looked even tougher on the right.
One squad got pinned and finally the last squad moved in with the 8-1. Russians elites are stealthy and Italians are lax. If the Russians could get an ambush they could infiltrate into the cathedral. Unfortunately, it was the Russians who got ambushed, and the Italian squad withdrew into the cathedral.
At this moment, the cathedral cellar on the left was held by a good order Russian SMG squad and in the right, there was a mêlée raging on between a Russian squad and two Italian squads. The Russian counterattack could only watch from outside the cathedral.
Italian Final Turn : It all went down to one question (read : dice roll) – whether the Italians could break or pin the Russian SMG squad holding out in the left cellar so that the Italians have a chance in close combat.
The Italians moved, trying to focus more fire power into the cellar during advancing fire. The Russians outside managed to pin one of the 3 squads that got into the cathedral, directly above the stubborn Russian SMG squad. The Italians mustered up a firepower of 6, so that was a FP6+4 shot.
The Italians rolled an 11.
The Russians won.
This scenario took place on Dec 15th 1927, a full 12 years before World War Two. It’s based on some of the earlier conflicts between the Red Chinese and the Nationalists (Guomintang, GMT or Kuomintang, KMT). The conflict took place in Canton 廣東, not too far away from Hong Kong. The Canton Red Chinese overestimated their strategic position, started a general uprising on Dec 12th and the Nationalist Chinese came for a brutal visit.
Carl Nogueira and I played this scenario twice. I was the attacker – KMT Chinese and Carl the Red Chinese. We then switched sides and played it again, you will read about the second one from a later AAR.
The victory conditions of this scenario is structured around the multi-hex buildings on the map. The ones north of the canal are worth 2 points. The ones south of the canal are worth 1 point except for the two building designated as factories. The game ends on Turn 4 if the KMT Chinese get 8 points, Turn 5 for 9 points, Turn 6 for 10 points and Turn 7 for 12 points. The KMT has to accomplish that while losing no more than 24 CVPs.
I planned to focus the main body of my troops to the right. They are to capture the building on the right. From there they can attack the factory immediately to the south of the canal, meeting up with a smaller force on the left flank. Capturing the right building also allows for the possibility of forces wading across the canal for the higher value buildings on the north bank. The small force on the far left is to protect the buildings from possible Red Chinese reinforcement on Turn 3. You see, the Red Chinese can choose to introduce their reinforcements from the north (top) side of the map, or the west (left) side of the map. However if they come in from the south side of the canal, the VP requirements for the KMT drops by 1.
Anyway, that’s the plan .. until bullets start flying.
KMT Turn 1 : The KMT rushed across the street. A fearful death star appeared on the left flank in the single hex two storey building I never paid attention to before. On the 2nd level, there was an MMG, a HMG and an 8-1. On the ground level, there’s the 37mm gun sporting an ROF of 3. These guys shot up a few of the squads on the left, rendered my HMG team useless for the duration of the scenario and made the rest of the folks very nervous. The fortunate bit was that the elite Chinese squads were well placed to offer smoke grenades in support.
I was perhaps too careful with the armoured cars. They are 5 CVPs and 7 CVPs (with a 9-1 armour leader) each, points that I hope won’t contribute to the Red Chinese 25 CVP goal. Fearing a gun on the right side of the board, I planned to sneak around the side of the roadblock. However when we ran into the death star, we froze. In retrospect, the 37mm infantry gun has little more than 6% chance (HE only) of killing the KMT Type 22 armour truck (Chris Edwards’ Kill Calculator). Granted, MGs can kill these vehicles but freezing in place is not the proper tactic either.
Red Chinese Turn 1 : Folks in the Red Chinese death star probably didn’t get their ancestors properly lined up. First, a sniper killed the 8-1 .. and then both the MMG and the HMG malfunctioned on the same shot! The concealed squads in the factory advanced out to the walls, which was brilliant. I am not entirely sure why I never made use of the upper levels of the buildings I had to negate the walls.
KMT Chinese Turn 2 : KMT attacks! The turn opened with squads advancing into the smoke that the élite squads laid down. A 8-0 leader on the right went across the street and kicked the door in with the squad behind him ready to fire. Other squads moved up and found the second gun at the rear of the building to the right of the map, as expected. You can see the laid and the Red Chinese squads putting down residual fire very efficiently. The deathstar saw the HMG fixed but the sniper returned and broke the crew!
End of KMT Chinese Turn 2 : This showed how ineffective the KMT attack was. Losses was light fortunately, the Red Chinese accrued 4 CVP so far.
Red Chinese Turn 2 : On the right of the map, the KMT squads in front of their target building hope to survived enemy fire and return a massive Defensive Fire back. The KMT got a MMG team together with a 9-2 and kept the MGs in the death star suppressed. The KMT Chinese were getting ready to attack again.
KMT Chinese Turn 3 : KMT troops advanced forward on the right into the building. LMG fire from across the canal came straight down the street. On the left flank the KMT Chinese figured they should take advantage of the crippled death star and tried to rush the building, only to find the bottom floor fortified. Worse – it’s fortified with a building full of self rallying crew!
End of KMT Chinese Turn 3 : We got into the building on the right. The rush on the left failed as the squad got shot up and bounced off the side of the fortified building. The centre was pretty decimated. The leaders were working hard to convince a few to get back into the fight.
Red Chinese Turn 3 : The reinforcement came in from the north. Things were not looking up for the KMT Chinese. We only had a foothold on the right. The troops on the left and in the middle were broken in huddled masses. KMT didn’t seem to have enough people to make a third try.
KMT Chinese Turn 4 : The KMT made an all out attack for the factory and the rightmost buildings. Whilst they would get the right most building, the KMT Chinese got shot up everywhere else.
End of KMT Chinese Turn 4 : The KMT Chinese captured the gun on the right although they haven’t quite secured that building. The force in the middle were almost entirely reduced into broken stacks. Folks on the right who were there to guard against the Red Chinese reinforcement decided to move north to have a go at the death star. I really like Carl’s demonstration of high level tactics. Here we have a position where, if I attack, makes no contribution to the CVP. However if I don’t, it will always interfere with my attack elsewhere.
Red Chinese Turn 4 : The Red Chinese counter attacked! Can you see the stack with the “DM” counter on top and a grey dotted line that extended to the left? There’s an MMG in the stack and I should have laid a fire lane down that path to stop the Red Chinese from counter attacking. However instead I was distracted by the first squad that rushed up. Now I got 2 big stacks of broken troops threatened by marauding Red Chinese troops. Since the Red Chinese already racked up 25 CVP, the scenario ended and Carl Nogueira won as the defender.
Notice the 2 fortified locations Carl revealed after the game. He had the commissar situated in a fortified location in the middle of the factory. He also had the other fortified hex immediately behind. That last hex would be his “Alamo” before the Red Chinese bow out of the building. Capturing a building like so was going to take a few turns more.
I would have the opportunity to improve my play by being the Red Chinese defenders against Carl’s KMT Chinese.
That will be in the next AAR!
Iacta Alea Est!
Wargaming is a method for historians, professionals and hobbyists alike, to get inside the minds of the actors of past conflicts. The games, or simulations, can take place at the grand strategic level, as described in a previous post about the game Dai Senso. They can also offer a more intimate look at combat, putting the player in charge of just a handful of soldiers and facing him or her with difficult tactical decisions. The Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) system is an example of the latter. It has thousands of fans around the world who use its flexibility to play scenarios from a range of theaters during World War Two and the years just before and after – including the Second Sino-Japanese War. We asked Jackson Kwan, a veteran Hong Kong-based ASL player, to introduce the system and especially describe how its versatility facilitates scenarios from the war in China. (The Q & A was performed by email, with special thanks to Jon Halfin for editing.)
Very briefly, what is the Advanced Squad Leader system?
Advanced Squad Leader is a detailed tactical gaming system that models company to battalion level combat in the Second World War period. It simulates an amazing range of combat parameters: from weather to terrain, national characteristics, leadership and morale, different weapon systems and artillery support. This allows the examination of engagements from the Pacific theatre to desert terrain, to European theatre and even tundra conditions. It’s detailed enough to have rules for night battles and for vision effects under differing moon phases.
A short synopsis can be found here:
How do you generate new scenarios?
Scenario designers from all over work with Multi-Man Publishing and other third party publishers to produce scenario packs and/or entire new modules (settings) that includes map boards and new counters that represents new nationalities, troop types or weapon systems that did not already exist in the system. Scenario designers combine detailed research of certain engagements and various elements including weather, terrain, troop types, conditions and morale, weapons available and ammunition supply into an abstraction that may or may not completely parallel historical outcomes. The best scenarios often have a creative feeling of the historical events, yet balance out asymmetric conditions, allowing both sides equal chances of winning the engagement.
How good is the system at simulating the Second Sino-Japanese War? Are the results realistic, i.e. are they similar to what really happened during the war?
This is a game system that reflects the feel of the position the opposing commanders faced. It seeks to address asymmetric conditions that battles often are while giving both sides a balanced opportunity to prevail through specific winning conditions and other parameters.
For example : if you look at the battle at Shanghai’s Sihang warehouse*) alone, you will find at least four scenarios from different designers that put their own interpretation to the events. My favorite of the four is a scenario named “Shanghai in Flames” where the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) battles top quality Chinese troops (who were still around at the time) across a generically represented map reflecting the terrain styles, into the warehouse. Some of the buildings start already on fire and may spread according to wind conditions as the battle progress. As the Chinese fight a desperate withdrawal through the streets against the IJA pushing aggressively in, as the spreading fire almost becomes a third player, routing friends and foes alike.
Producing realistic results is not the primary objective of Advanced Squad Leader designs. Putting players under similar decision making parameters and operating constraints to reflect the feel of combat command is the bigger goal.
But making these battles competitive and fun is the biggest objective!
What are the main differences between scenarios based on the war in China and, say, scenarios from Europe 1939-1945?
Obvious differences are weapon systems that the IJA uses (vs various European combatant). Differences in national characteristics, leadership styles, training and morale level – of the Japanese, Chinese, Gurkhas etc vs the Germans, Soviets, partisans plus the myriad of Allied and Axis minors. Differences in weather and terrain – jungles, kunai, caves, beaches, marshes, palm trees and huts in the Pacific Theatre of Operations vs woods, brush, buildings, rubble etc in the European Theatre of Operations.
If people want to get into the ASL system, what should they do?
The heart of the Advanced Squad Leader system is the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook (version 2). There are various modules for different nationalities and theatres. The more modules you have therefore, the more variation you will have in the scenarios you can play. The best thing to do however for new players is: Get in touch with Advanced Squad Leader players in various cities (and there are tournaments held almost every month around the world http://aslladder.com/asltournaments.html) and/or on online forums. Advanced Squad Leader is primarily about the chap across the table and definitely not meant for solo play. (Although a well-developed Solitaire ASL system does exist, it has been out of print for some time. It does indeed make solitaire play possible.) Most people in the ASL community are willing to teach new players and proficiency in the basic rules usually requires 3 to 6 games before you are ready to move into the various spectra the system can provide.
The Advanced Squad Leader Starter Pack 1 is designed as an initial step to see if this game’s for them. The Starter Pack is a small, self-contained system that will help any new player make the decision as to whether to dive into the full system headfirst, at a minimal cost – and was designed to replace the long out of print original “introductory” module for Advanced Squad Leader “Paratrooper”.
*) An incident during the 1937 battle of Shanghai when during a general retreat about 400 Chinese soldiers stayed behind, defending the Sihang Warehouse next to Suzhou Creek. The decision to make the stand at the warehouse was mainly motivated by a wish to demonstrate to local and foreign opinion China’s willingness to continue the fight.
(Original of this interview can be found : China in WW2)