11 September 2011

CASLO Toolkit

If this is your first tournament, you may be wondering what to bring with you. A pleasant manner and a sense of humour is always appreciated. In fact, you can get a fair bit of mileage out of just being good company. However, most players appreciate it when their opponents make a reasonable attempt to bring their own ASL kit, or gear. 
Your personal kit falls into three broad categories: game components, player aids, and personal items. How much kit you bring is usually a function of distance and means of travel. For instance, if you are travelling less than a couple of hours by car, most people would expect you to bring enough ASL kit to be self sufficient. Naturally, if you do not own certain components, you can only bring what you do have. In contrast, if you are flying to a tournament, you will have to decide what ASL kit is the most important, and leave the bulk of your gear at home. Because counters are usually the heaviest part of your kit, they are often the first to be culled. However, if you must cut back on counters, do try to bring your system counters with you, as sharing system counters is not very practical. 
System counters are not the only essentials. Let’s have a look at what many players would like to see you bring to the table. 
The big bad book
With regard to the rule book, the most important bits are chapters A-E, and chapter H (vehicle and ordnance notes). Among other things, chapter E is required for the scenarios that take place in the winter and at night, as well as for Air Drop [E9]. Therefore, if you only plan to play the scenarios in the Purple Heart Mini Tournament, the basic rule book (A-D) will suffice. If, however, you intend to play one or more scenarios in the CASLO (main) tournament, you will also need chapters G, J and O. 
Chapter G, which deals with the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO), is required for almost a third of the scenarios in the CASLO. But I should point out that we structured each round so that there is never any requirement for a player to select a PTO scenario, or a scenario starring Japanese, for that matter. This is due to the fact that each player can ignore two scenarios in each round of the CASLO when selecting his or her three choices—more on this a little later.
A couple scenarios in the CASLO also permit Chapter J Hand-to-Hand combat [J2.31] by SSR, so make sure that you have page J1 in your rule book. In AP54 800 Heroes, all brush is Debris (O1). This rule can be found in Red Barricades. Pages O1-O6 were also reprinted and included with Valor of the Guards. If you need a copy of the Debris rules, please email me at: battleschool@rogers.com
Finally, for those itching to play “Mexico and Morocco,” from the Swedish Volunteers pack, there are no complicated rules to read beforehand. Swedish units have no nationality modifier for the purposes of Leader Creation, or Heat of Battle. Should a First Line Swedish MMC Battle Harden, it becomes Fanatic. If you do not own the pack, I recommend substituting German units for the Swedish Infantry (EXC: the 5-4-8 squads have no Smoke exponent and are considered First Line). The French LMG (in German-blue ) that came with Pegasus Bridge work well for the LMG in the Swedish order of battle (OB).
Dice and other small bits
Always bring dice. Dice are a personal item. In a pinch, some one will lend you some. But do not expect everyone to share their dice mojo with you. At the very least, you should bring a pair, but four is better, and the more the merrier. For the most part, you will only need a couple of six-sided dice: one white, and one in any other colour that strikes your fancy. 
The CASLO tournament rules require that the dice rolled during the game must be no smaller than the dice that come with Beyond Valor (11 mm), and no larger than 16 mm (⅝”). You are not required to use precision dice. However, if your dice appear to be misshapen, chipped, or weighted unevenly, you may be asked to use a different set. Use your common sense when choosing which dice to bring to the table. Fair play and a good time go hand in hand.
When rolling dice, please use a tower or a cup. The banks inside a tower, and the ribs inside leather backgammon dice cups are designed to randomize each roll. If you decide to use a glass, please ensure that your opponent can easily view your rolls. A clear, non-frosted tumbler is best. Unless you have a lot of space on the table, a tray, especially a box cover, is not very practical. In any case, the tournament rules specify the use of a cup or tower.
When rolling, take care that your dice do not strike the playing area. Toppling your opponents concealed stacks with your dice is bad form. This type of “intelligence gathering” is not covered under E2 Interrogation. If I use a glass, I tend to cover it with my hand after I drop the dice inside. Aside from preventing a “jump out,” this method also helps soften the noise.

It is also good practice to ensure that the dice get a lot of “action” by rolling and tumbling inside the tower or cup. Releasing your dice an inch from the bottom of the glass with your finger tips, even if giving them a slight twist, may be frowned upon by some players. At the same time, throwing your dice into a cup and then slamming your palm on the rim may be fine in the comfort of your own home. But in a tournament environment, the noise may disturb your neighbours, not to mention the counters on your not-so-sturdy folding table.
ASL is a dice-driven game. So please try to refrain from doing anything that would bring into question the randomness of your rolls. In truth, dice and the way that they are rolled, are seldom an issue at tournaments. Let’s keep it that way. 
Another die that I find useful is a 30-sided, or 20-sided die. I use these to keep track of vehicle Movement Points (MP). I prefer my large d20 because it is sequentially numbered. The die works well for tracked vehicles. I use a two d20 dice to track the MP of wheeled vehicles.
A string for checking Line of Sight (LOS) is another essential piece of kit. The small retractable lanyards used with ID badges work well. A bit of fine sewing thread is more precise. However, you are free to use whatever type of string you like. But if you have raided granny’s knitting basket, it would probably be a good idea to seek agreement from your opponent in advance. 
One of the things that people frequently forget to bring is a pencil, pen and paper. Bring an extra pen. You will need to record your details on your tournament play sheet. You will also need to record the location of your hidden units, and so forth. A small pad is good for recording this information, as well as taking notes during play.
Speaking of hidden units, I used to hide these in a small container. However, I have found a Hidden Initial Placement (HIP) cupboard much more useful. Like a Scrabble rack, the HIP cupboard allows you to see all of your hidden pieces at a glance. I also have a similar cupboard that I use instead of a cloaking box. In my view, these cupboards are superior to any other method I have encountered. One can even write small notes (EX: the covered arc of a Gun), and place the notes under the appropriate unit.
My set of cloaking cupboards crafted by Steva Pleva
If you are keen on “Halfhearted Hiwis,” be sure to bring some playing cards for the Off-board Artillery (OBA) draw pile. Chits are okay, but most players prefer playing cards. And of course, a cloaking box and night system counters are essential if you plan to play “A Midnight Clear.” For what it is worth, I enjoyed playing these scenarios.
There are three other essential game components: mapboards, overlays, and counters. Fortunately, you do not need to bring your entire ASL collection with you. Let’s look at the boards first.
Mapboards and overlays
There is no need to cart all of your boards with you to the CASLO. If you intend only to play the scenarios in the Purple Heart Mini, you will need just 14 boards. If you plan to “open game,” then you can bring whatever you need to play the scenarios that you are interested in. The same goes for the CASLO tourney. If you have no intention of playing in the Mini, the maximum number of boards you could possibly need is 29, less if you eliminate the boards required for scenarios that are not among your top-three picks for each round. You can also reduce the number of boards that you need to bring if you have no intention of playing in the Mini. I have hightlighted these "extraneous" boards in green on the table below.

Those participating in the Mini will be happy to learn that none of the scenarios require overlays. Even in the main CASLO tourney, there are only nine overlays. I have summarized which boards and overlays that you will need in the tables above and below.
It never hurts to bring something to protect your map boards. Some players use Plexiglas, the brand name of the first transparent thermoplastic. (It is also marketed as Lucite and Perspex). I like to use a large transparent desk pad instead, partly because it can be rolled up for ease of transport. The pad is perfect for marking perimeters, start lines, or roadblocks. I use a marker for writing on over-head projector slides. This method reduces counter clutter, and cleans up easily afterwards. Staples, a large office-supply store, carries different sizes and thicknesses of pads. I have two mats. The larger one is 20” x 36,” and costs about $30.00. The pad will protect two standard geomorphic boards, or two of the newer boards found in Action Pack 6.

To help prevent boards from sliding about under the mat, I use a rubberized material used for lining kitchen drawers and cupboards. It can be found at stores such as Canadian Tire and Walmart. A roll large enough for most applications will run you less than $10.00.
Nationality counters
The Mini tournament makes use of six “nationality” sets. To play all of the scenarios in the Mini, you will need your German, Russian, American, Commonwealth (British, Canadian, and Indian), Allied Minor (Belgian, Dutch, and Polish), and Axis Minor (Bulgarian and Iranian) counter sets. With the exception of the Bulgarians, the Axis Minor counters in Partisan! will meet the requirements of the Iranian order of battle (OB). Likewise, the Allied Minor counters in The Last Hurrah are all you need for the Belgian, Dutch, and Polish OB. In other words, if you do not own Armies of Oblivion or Doomed Battalions, you can get by just fine in the first two rounds of the Mini. There should be no shortage of components should you be fortunate enough to make it to the Sergeant Round.
The CASLO requires four additional counter sets: Chinese, French, Italian, and Japanese. In case you do not store your partisans with your Russians, you may want to bring them because two scenarios feature these irregulars. Lastly, as I pointed out above, Swedish counters are optional. German counters will do just fine in scenario SV9, which takes place in Russia during the spring of 1942. The table below summarizes the components required for each tournament.
If you have any questions, or would like a pdf copy of the above lists, please email: battleschool@rogers.com
Optional items
Seeing is believing
If you have difficulty reading the fine print on a counter or scenario card, a magnifying glass can help. The Map Store in Westboro (Ottawa) carries a very good selection of magnifying devices. I have several, but my favourite is an acrylic magnifying dome sold under the brand name Magnabrite. Admittedly, it is pricey. The advantage is that the design helps intensify ambient light. Batteries are not required, and there are no moving parts. Moreover, the magnification is ideal for ASL. I find the dome handy for checking LOS when light is low and the string close to the obstacle. After connecting the dots, I simply place the dome on top of the LOS string.
Lighting and other player aids
Generally speaking, our venue is well lit. One entire wall has windows. However, during the evening you may find that a desk lamp will reduce eye strain. Rechargeable, cordless lamps are best because they can be positioned anywhere in the room. 
I prefer an Ottlite lamp. The lamp uses a special bulb that provides light in the same spectrum as natural light. The lamp at the start of this post is an Ottlite. But to be frank, our venue is better lit than most venues. More significantly, I do not recall anyone using a lamp last year.
Not everyone agrees, but I find tweezers handy for adjusting stacks and removing counters, especially from trays. Some players also stick a bit of putty-like, reusable adhesive on the end of their tweezers. The adhesive is produced by Bostick, and is sold under the brand name Blu Tack. The adhesive is used to lift the top counter off of a stack. I am not a fan of this method, as the adhesive tends to become soiled quickly. A better option for this task is a suction pen. I have seen a few people using these at tournaments. I recently ordered some for KitShop.
While I am on the subject of adhesives, I suggest using a removable tape, such as the Scotch brand manufactured by 3M to secure your overlays to your mapboards. Years ago, I used a putty similar to Blu Tack. Unlike the putty, which occasionally tore the overlay or board, I have yet to have any problems with this particular type of tape. The tape is designed for use by graphic artists. It is not supposed to leave any residue when removed. Nor is it supposed to tear the surface of anything that it is applied to. I am pleased with the ease and speed with which one can apply, adjust, or remove an overlay using this tape. As an added bonus, the tape can be used more than once.
Packing list
To summarize then, there are a number of items that you should endeavour to bring, provided that you own them. There are also several standard items that everyone would prefer you to bring to the table. And finally, there are those items that are deemed optional. Here they are in list form:
The basics
  • rule book
  • system counters
  • dice
  • dicetower or cup
  • LOS string
  • paper and pencil

  • nationality counters
  • mapboards
  • overlays

  • speciality dice
  • tweezers/suction pen
  • tape/putty
  • board covering/mats
  • desk lamp
  • water bottle

Food and drink
There is nothing prohibiting you from taking a (short) break during your game in order to have a snack or a drink. I tend to have a bottle of water at my table. If you do the same, please remember to recap the bottle in order to prevent an embarrassing spill. Eating while playing is another matter altogether. Much depends on what you are eating, but it is best to avoid greasy or messy foods while playing. Leaving the table and eating elsewhere is an option too. If you are not sure, ask your opponent beforehand. Provided you are both okay with it, you are welcome to eat a box of Timbits while you play, just not at my table. :) 
Because eating and drinking while playing is part of tournament etiquette, a few words on the subject may help players attending a tournament for the first time.
I suppose that the over arching principle is fairly obvious. At bottom, a tournament is a social gathering. Everyone has come with the intention of having fun. So like any other social gathering, it makes sense to treat everyone with respect and courtesy. If you are not sure about something, ask. No one will pillory you for asking permission to do something. On the contrary, folks will appreciate your courteous approach. 
Granted some players will know each other and interact casually from the moment they meet. However, you should never assume that what is occurring at one table is necessarily acceptable at your table. The following gems of advice were drawn from a post on the GameSquad ASL forums:
1. to chat; to gossip; to make small talk or idle chatter
2. to give unsolicited or unwanted advice; make unhelpful or idle comments, especially to someone playing a game.
Refrain from kibitzing! This includes offering advice to a player during a game that you are not involved in. Unless someone directly asks for your opinion—on a rule interpretation—for example, do not offer unsolicited advice. It is also not kosher to assist a person with set-up. You may offer advice with regard to rules, and answer general questions, but you should not otherwise interfere with another game.
Board 62
Help each other. Discuss the scenario victory conditions, orders of battle, scenario special rules, and so on before you begin set up. Help to pull counters, and later, to put them away. If you are using your opponent’s counters, try to keep them organized and away from the table edges. You do not necessarily have to place them back into the appropriate trays, but you should attempt to keep them grouped by type, as this will help make short work at clean up time. Avoid mixing counters from different owners. (It was almost two years before I finally returned a troop of Shermans to an opponent of mine, all because I neglected to sort his tanks from the rest of my counters when we tidied up our game.) Furthermore, if you are not sure where to put a counter, or take one from, ask. Everyone organizes their counters differently. Please respect this.
One advantage of staying to help tidy up after a game is that you will have a chance to conduct a post-mortem of the scenario. This is a golden opportunity for players to learn from each other by reviewing the tactics and methods employed by each side. If you absolutely must “cut and run” on your opponent, politely ask to leave, and apologize for not being able to help. 
Be considerate. There are a great many ways to accomplish this. Here are a few. Be punctual. If you are late, apologize and offer to make amends. In the CASLO tournaments, players are penalized for showing up late for their rounds. Penalties range from loss of scenario choice to forfeit. Due to especially slow service at breakfast last year, I arrived late for my first round of the day. My opponent got the scenario and side of his choosing. And no, I did not get the balance. So please take care to arrive on time.
Players who are not present in the gaming area at the start of the current Round will forfeit their choice of scenario 10 minutes after the Round has begun. The late player will forfeit choice of side as well after 20 minutes and will forfeit the game itself after 30 minutes. CASLA Charter Appendix I
Unless the scenario requires otherwise, leave the table when your opponent is setting up. It is perfectly acceptable to observe another game while your opponent is setting up, or on a break. However, take your cue from the people playing. If they are staring intently at the game, and appear to be ignoring you, do not take offence. If they appear agitated by your presence, quietly leave them to their game. In most cases, people will acknowledge you with a nod or a hello. Do not interpret this as an invitation to start a conversation, however. Speak when spoken to is usually a good rule of thumb.
X25 overlay
Wash your hands, especially after eating, and do not use equipment that may damage counters or boards. Also take care not to “nibble” on your opponent’s counters. In other words, treat your opponent’s property with the same respect that you would expect in return. For instance, do not presume that it is okay to place your things on top of your opponent’s gear. Nor should you presume that is okay to remove your opponent’s kit, or place it on the floor. Ask first. Most people will appreciate the consideration.
Roll your dice where your opponent can see them easily. If you have to strain to see each roll, it will make for a long game. Resist the urge to pick your dice up immediately, especially after rolling a To Hit roll. Let your opponent confirm the roll. It may have triggered a Sniper Activation, or perhaps you maintained rate of fire. Try hard not to complain about dice rolls, yours and your opponent’s. By the same token, do not make a big deal out of every good roll that you have, particularly if you do not know your opponent very well. Enjoy your game, but let your opponent do the same. Ultimately, come with the intention of having fun and meeting some new people.
Board 3a
During play, avoid contentious debates over rules. If you cannot resolve how to play a particular rule either ignore it, roll a die, or consult the tournament staff. But before you spend too much time debating a rule, consider how important it is to the outcome of the game. Unless it will have a major impact on the game, or you have plenty of time to spare, resolve the impasse with a roll of a die. You came to play, not to article for law. Incidents such as these may leave you feeling a bit uptight. If so, take a short “bathroom” break. The better players take these type of breaks whenever they suffer a major setback, or are at risk of becoming too emotionally involved with the game. I do not do this enough.
Try to keep a steady pace. If you are taking more than 30 minutes to play your turn during a tournament, you are going to run out of time. You also run the risk of boring your opponent. At the same time, if your opponent is moving units too quickly during the Movement Phase, politely ask him or her to slow down a tad. 
Aim to give your opponent your best game. Play to win, but not to the detriment of good sportsmanship and fair play. If your opponent misses a Sniper Activation or “rate” shot, point it out. A win will be that much sweeter when you best your opponent in a chivalrous manner. But whatever the outcome, be as gracious in defeat as you would be in victory.
ASL players are an extremely good bunch and will usually go out of their way to see that kit is returned to its proper owner. Labelling speeds up the process. I label most of my kit. Not because I am worried about theft, but because it is the easiest way to tell who to return a component to. If you have the time, label your kit and avoid mix ups.
Pre-tourney planning
There are a number of things that I like to do before I attend a tournament. One of the most important is to select which scenarios I am most interested in playing. The importance of deciding upon these scenarios ahead of time is two-fold. 
J129 Mountain Hunters from ASL Journal 9
First, your prep work will shorten the bidding process, and leave more time for play. In each round of the tournament, you are required to rank and record your three preferences. These preferences are used to determine which scenario that you and your opponent will play. Upon revealing your preferences, scenario matches are determined, based on what you and your opponent picked. In the case of the CASLO tournament, ignore any scenarios that are not a match. Of the scenarios that are matches, the one with the lower Rank Average (RA)—closest to the first choice of each player—is the scenario to be played. In case of a tie, both players will make a dice roll (DR). The player with the lowest DR has the choice of the scenarios that tied.
EX: Player A picks scenarios X1, X2 and X3 as his 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices respectively. Player B picks X3, X4 and X2 as his choices respectively. X4 and X1 are not considered since they are not a match. X3 has a lower RA of 2 [ (1+3/2=2] as opposed to X2 which has a RA of 2.5 [ (2+3)/2=2.5]. X3 is the scenario that these players will play in this round.
Once you decide upon a scenario, both players secretly choose sides. You may (secretly) decline to pick a side and thereby negate any Play Balance provisions. If you and your opponent pick the same side, you each make a DR. If you have the lowest DR, you may choose sides. In return, your opponent receives the Player Balance, as noted on the scenario card. Should neither you nor your opponent choose a side, you will each make a DR. The player with the lower DR will get to choose sides, but in this case no Player Balance is surrendered. 
The second rationale for choosing scenarios in advance is that it allows you an opportunity to prepare a defence for each scenario, or at the very least, a rough idea of how you would defend. Once you have a defence in mind, you can come up with a general plan of attack. Having a defence prepared in advance will save a lot of time and anguish on the day. This is especially important for the more complex scenarios in the main tourney. During each round of the CASLO and the Mini, you will have 15 minutes to set up your attack or defence. Reading the applicable chapter H notes beforehand will also save time (and minimize surprises). Be a good Boy Scout, be prepared.
Sum up, already!
Hopefully the foregoing has answered many lingering questions about CASLO XV, and how to prepare for it. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
At last count, there were 21 people confirmed to attend. Let’s make it an enjoyable and memorable event for everyone.

See you next weekend!


Mike Rodgers said...

Another great article, Chris!

Unknown said...

Thanks Chris. This was exactly what I wanted.

Liam Whalen said...

Excellent advice! Thanks Chris.

Chris D. said...

Haven't made it to a tournament yet but when I do, I'll be sure to re-read this article. Great info!

Chris Doary said...

Funny you should mention the iPad, I have been debating doing what you have done. There is nothing wrong with this approach at all. In fact, I have seen several people using these at tournaments recently. My only reservation is printing. All of the compatible (and good quality) air printers cost over $200.00. I was hoping to find a compact printer to bring with me, and print my scenario cards from the iPad. This would save me carting around scenario cards and rules, while giving me access to more files.

Yep, the desk mat is handy. I broke my (expensive) rigid desk mat last year on the way back from Cleveland. I had the roll-up ones as back up. In retrospect they travel much better, and cost less. The only good things about having the rigid style for home use is that is larger (24" x 36"), and is made from a higher quality material, allowing improved viewing of the maps below.

dude163 said...

SO who won? did my mentor Brad Knoll recoup after his early loss?


Chris Doary said...

Brad played well. He faced some tough opponents. His last game was against Mark Evans. When Brad conceded, he gave Mark enough points to place third. Had Brad won, he still would have been shy the points needed to oust Jeff Wasserman, who was in third up until Mark's win.

A solid effort on Brad's part. More importantly, he had a great time.

More to follow in the AAR this week. We had a good turn out, btw.

dude163 said...

Next year!
Now that everything is stablised out here ( a week too late unfortunately!)

Keep up the good work


Mark Morrison said...

Great idea's. Good read.