My ASL buddy in Chengdu (China) showed an old artisan a drawing of a dice tower design. This is what happened …
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 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.
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!”
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
One day in February 2013, I chanced upon a copy of Squad Leader on eBay. I was a Squad Leader player back when I was in high school. Unfortunately when I went to university, I found a few other things more interesting and I forgot about wargames all together. So, decades later, while I stared at the screen, memories of great times came back and I bought myself that copy. The internet connected me with some very active Squad Leader groups. I planned to learn the game again and get back into it.
I then came across the tiniest military bookstore one day. It’s the size of a small walk-in closet, except that it’s wall to wall military books. There it was, up on a shelf near the ceiling, a shrink wrapped copy of the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook v2. I asked to have a look at it, and I never put it back down.
The ASLRB is not an easy book to read, so I asked to see a live game one Sunday afternoon. The local ASL’rs would have none of it. Erwin Lau & Lorricount Hall shoved a Pz IV my direction and said “Here, you are in charge of this one.” They then proceed to tell me what to do with my Pz IV every step of the way. I couldn’t fathom why people who I have just met would let me break into their Sunday game and spend that much time teaching me the mechanics, but they did.
It was a fun afternoon but it’s not an event I can attend on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the rulebook became a lot easier to understand now that I have context.
One day I got an email from Don Lazov. He said if I want to learn ASL, he could teach. I know then it’s choice between continuing to read the rulebook and solo’ing scenarios or having a mentor and actively playing. It was a choice between being a tinkerer and an active player.
I said “Yes but give me a few weeks to finish up Chapter A and Chapter B.” I wasn’t sure why I wanted to push it off. He asked again “Do you want to do this or not?”
I jumped in with both feet. Our first scenario was “RPT1 Ferenc Jozef Barracks”.
After that I ran into Witchbottles, who helped me get permission from Rodney Kinney (who created VASL) for permission to use VASL graphics in my blog. To me, Witchbottles is the embodiment of the modern day Renaissance man. We play ASL and we spent countless hours chatting about history and about life.
I don’t remember how I heard about “Malaya Madness” the 2014 ASL tournament in Singapore. I didn’t give it any thought at first but both Don Lazov and Witchbottles thought I absolutely must go. I struggled with it for a while. I mean, paying for flight and hotel to play a boardgame is crazy! I brought up the topic to my wife, expecting her to kill it (for good reasons). She thought about it for a minute and said “Yes”.
I rented a bunk bed in a hostel to save money but I went to Singapore for the tournament. There’s something truly magical about ASL that ties people together. Playing 1 on 1 on a weekend is one thing. Being in a room with other ASL’rs and playing games after games is definitely something else!
I got a bigger group of opponents after the Malaya Madness. I went on to help organise and to promote the 2014 Hong Kong ASL tournament, “The Gin Drinkers’ Revenge”. I was in New York City on Dec 2014 and I jumped on the train and stopped by Albany. It is THE Albany, the New York State ASL Championship. Joe Loece and Gary Trezza are simply some of the best hosts I have ever met. I met so many people at Albany. I met a lot of the best known names in ASL. I decided to shoot a video for these guys and leveraged on that to chat with as many people as I could.
That of course open me up to more venues and to more people. I picked up a chat from Carl Nogueira when I was walking down the street at lunch one day and he wanted to know if I want to play and to learn. I was getting so used to jumping in at that point I said “yes” immediately.
So you see, ASL is about people. ASL is about the guy on the other side of the table. ASL is one of the few good reasons in life that pulls guys together periodically, to share identical experiences and to chat about other thing as well. If you do solo play most of the time, you are truly missing the best thing ASL has to offer.
ASL is about playing. That rulebook is not for reading. It’s for referencing and as such, the INDEX is the command central for the ASL rulebook The value of an ASL kit is much higher when used and played than it will ever get on eBay.
ASL is about self discovery. As we compete with others, we learn more about our fears and shortcomings. We learn about our risk management and our decision making processes. The man to overcome game after game is yourself. This not something you will realize from ASL not played or ASL played solo.
Dare Death is an effort to arouse and to maintain that interest. Dare Death is the embodiment of a group of ASL’rs who play on a regular basis and discuss rules and tactics on live chats when not playing. If enthusiasm sells then Dare Death is a powerful force in ASL.
And enthusiasm sells.