FT139 Ride of the 200th

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Who’s Flying Number Seven? (Player Interview)

DD1Dare-Death is the world’s first Chinese ASL magazine created by Richard “Ferguson” Wang and Grandiose Pz.Kpfw.V Ausf G Driver (or “G Driver”. The term “Driver” in Chinese is the equivalence of “Grognard”.) 

Player Interview – “Flying No. 7”

Our interviewee for our Premier Issue is 飞翔的七号 “Flying No. 7”. He started ASL only 6 months ago and had already finished reading Chapter D. Displaying a remarkable grasp of the rules, he took the championship at our recent ASLSK tournament. Today we invite him to share his insights about learning ASL.

It was love at first sight.

Ferguson : First of all, we’d like to thank you for doing our interview.
No. 7 : You are welcome.
Ferguson : If memory serves not only did you stopped playing wargames for 2 years, you have never played ASL before. Is that correct No. 7?
No. 7 : Right, almost 2 years, that’s when I stopped playing “panzer”. No, I have never played ASL before.
Ferguson : Right. I miss you at DAK2 (laughs).
No. 7 : (laughs)
Ferguson : Well, I stopped playing OCS myself. How did you get into ASL? You decided to play again and you got right into a ASL, I can’t think of a better call.
No. 7 : Life got busy before. When life freed up a little, I missed playing again. I guess having played other wargames I have a better feel for what I like. I decided ASL is a good fit for me.
Ferguson: That’s great! I am always curious as to how people hear about ASL. For me, I learned about ASL from the “Science Fiction World” magazine.
No. 7 (“7” going forward): I don’t remember how I heard about ASL. It was probably from BGC(note: a China board game site). Then I went to an ASL coaching session in Beijing and I was hooked ever since.
Ferguson (“F” going forward): That’s ASL for you! What about you, “G driver”, how did you hear about ASL?
Grandiose (“G” going forward): It was BGC for me too.
F: Which one’s your first scenario?
7: S1
F: Hahaha .. it’s S1 for most people, including me.

Play Lots!

F: 7 do you know why we want to interview you?
7: Because I am new?
F: That’s part of it. The other part is because you are the fastest developing newbie that I have ever seen.
7: Thankyou.
G: Absolutely!
F: Any advice for folks learning ASL rules? I think you are well on your way to become a “human rule machine” (laughs). You have a better handle on the rules than I do.
7: You need to read the rules at least once. Those rules flowcharts we find on the internet help a lot as well.
F: Oh yes, those rules flowcharts are a huge help! I really appreciate the grognards who took the time to prepare them.
7: The most important thing is to play. Don’t worry about getting the rules wrong. You learn the most from playing seasoned players.
F: Right. We make rule mistakes all the time especially when we first started playing but if you don’t play you won’t know which rule you got wrong.
7: Agreed. We didn’t even know we were making rules mistakes when we were going through ASLSK until we played more experienced people.
F: I am still discovering points in the rules that I wasn’t entirely clear about and am often reminded of details that I should know with every new game I play. ASL is a game of fine details.
7: My biggest motivation for reading the rules is so that I don’t lose games because of (the lack of) rule knowledge.
F: Hahaha, this is a great motivator!
G: Avoid getting killed by the rules huh?  This is a big one.
F: Well, reality is grognards aren’t always stumbled by the rules because even they don’t always know they made rule mistakes!
7: Yup, that’s why I like studying the rules.
F: True, you do have a deep grasp of the details inherent in a wide section of the rules.
G: How do you remember all that?
7: Well, at the moment, I am really just keeping the ASL rules in my short term memory, that’s why I remember with such clarity.  I think over time I will lose details. I really don’t have a method to it, I just play as much as I can!
G: I prefer to match up the rules I read to actual game situations. The more sense the rules make, the easier they are to remember.
F: G’s right. Understanding the context of ASL and actual situations being modelled helps one learn the rules better.

I Like to Attack!

G: How many games have you played, 7? Which ones do you like better?
7: About 15. I like scenarios featuring complex terrain like in urban battles, and preferably those with a more balanced OB.
F: Out of these 15, which one do you remember best?
7: I’d say S18 Baking Bread. I was really just starting then (although I am still starting..).
F: I see! What is it about this scenario that gives you such a deep impression?
7: That game went all the way to the wire! The fight was a swirling brawl. It’s also my first win against an experienced player.
F: Oh yes, I love those games that teeters on the balance until the end!
7: S18 is also one of those rare scenarios where both players have to attack relentlessly to win.
F: That’s true, most ASL scenarios draw clear delineations between attack and defense.
G: 7 must feel that’s his tactical style.
7: Attack all & fear none! I am not well suited to ASL scenarios that make clear differentiations between attackers and defenders.
F: I actually think ASL’s designed for the attacker. We have an article in this coming issue around that view.
7: Oh I look forward to reading that!
G: Whether warfare favors the defense or the offense is determined by tactical parameters of the prevailing times. “On War” for example, written in the 19th century, describes a tactical world when battles favored the defense.
7: I actually think ASL rules favor the defense as well.
F: Okay, I agree the rules favors the defense when it comes to the IJA, their troops don’t even need to rally.
7: I agree with that.
G: What do you think of F’s and my fighting styles? (Laughs)
F: Hahaha
7: Well, the two of you are of course well experienced.
F: 7 must really like being the attacker right? “Attack all & fear none!”
7: I don’t like playing defense, no.
F: Why’s that?
7: I haven’t been playing too many ASL scenarios yet. Most of the ASLSK scenarios where I played defence pit Germans defenders against US attackers. I win some and lose some but whenever I win as the defender, those battles were never glamorous. They were really just me dragging things out until time ran out on the attackers.
F: Hahaah .. you are saying defense wasn’t as bold and as sweeping as the attack.
G: I think the mental stress is higher for defense.
7: Especially in S3, I have never been able to win that one as the defense. I don’t even know where to start!
F: True. I am more nervous when I play defense.
G: Well, it’s the same with ASL scenarios as with ASLSK scenarios.
7: When there’s too big of a numerical difference between the attacker OB and the defense OB, I feel especially helpless as the defense. Oh man, when I get all 447 and 436 defending against a mass of 666 and 747, the pressure is horrible!
G: Then again if the defense OB has absolutely no issues holding the line, the game will be hard to balance. The ASL rules though do give better mobility vs the ASLSK rules.
7: I haven’t played ASL that much, but I think “concealment” rules give a big boost to the defense.
F: I just think defense is harder with ASL rules. 7 you have played a lot of nationalities, which one do you like the most?
7: I have used about 5 or 6 and I like playing Germans the best. Then again, when I get a better handle on the IJA, that might be a fun choice too.
F: The IJA sure are special.
7: I really like the Step Reduction capabilities of the IJA.
F: Looks like your next port of call is Chapter G then?
7: Actually no, I’d like to learn AFVs first.
F: Oh yes, makes sense!
7: I have never played AFVs under ASL rules.
F: Yes, take it step by step. One last question : what expectations do you have for yourself in the upcoming ASLSK tournament? Have you set yourself any targets? You can be frank about this one!  (laughs)
7: Most opponents there are experienced players. I will just do my best. If I win even half the games I will be happy.
F: I think you are being modest. That wraps up our interview nicely though. 7, I would like to thank you again for doing this interview and I wish you the best of luck in the ASLSK tournament!
G: Thanks 7
7: You are welcome.

(Translated from Dare-Death magazine Issue 01)

ESG6 Clean Up Crew AAR – Deathwish 777 Round 1

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

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

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

ESG6 GT1 - After MPh-proc

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

ESG6 RT2 - Adv Ph-proc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then a horrible thing happened.

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

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

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

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

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

A number of thoughts after the game :

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

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

Farewell Fearless Leader John Hill

Art by Rodger MacGowan, Photo by Jackson Kwan

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

Farewell fearless leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick LeBeau

January 13, 2015