Do not be fooled by the cover. There is nothing wintry about the latest Winter Offensive Bonus Pack (WOBP) from Multi-Man Publishing. Granted one scenario in the pack does qualify as a winter-break destination, replete with palm trees and a raucous night life. Were this not bonus enough, the date of WO14 “For Pride’s Sake” happened to coincide with the start of the second largest ASL tourney anywhere.
From 16 to 19 January 2014, over 135 gamers converged on Bowie, Maryland for MMP’s annual tournament. Winter Offensive (WO) is not entirely devoted to ASL. A few heretics play other wargames from the company’s growing catalogue.1 But most come to play The Game. They also come to buy. The MMP obliges.
The folks at MMP also know a thing or two about captive markets captivated by anything with ASL on the cover. Last year three ASL publications debuted at WO 2013.2 This year MMP dangled three more before the undiscriminating crowd in Bowie.3 What was arguably the most anticipated January release came in its own box. Decision at Elst is a self-contained, historical module for fans of ASL Starter Kit. Kenn Dunn’s module is the first of its kind. It focuses on one of the battles for “The Island” during Operation Market Garden, in September 1944. More modest, but no less impressive, was To the Bridge! Gary Fortenberry’s newest Action Pack takes us to Burma. It follows the early progress of the Japanese invasion, from December 1941 until February 1942. The most affordable ASL publication to appear at WO this year was the scenario pack that I mentioned at the beginning of my post.4
|MC P and the WO T|
Over the years, MMP has donated thousands of dollars to charity. Proceeds from entrance fees and sales of T-shirts have been a big part of this. Since 2010, however, donations have been supplemented by the profits garnered from the sale of a small scenario pack. Sales of the fifth installment of the WOBP go toward supporting the World War Two Foundation. The pack contains three scenarios, and a new map board. The scenarios are the work of one veteran designer.
For Pete’s sake
Peter Shelling has been designing scenarios since the mid 90s. He entered the hobby, like many of us, by way of Squad Leader in 1977. Fourteen years later, he was recast as an ASL player. Pete has close to a hundred designs to his credit, more than half of which have been published by MMP.5 His early designs tended toward larger and longer encounters. At 8.5 turns long, his first three publications for Avalon Hill were typical for the period. Those in WOBP5 are two turns shorter.
|Pete Shelling - ASL's reigning hemp king|
The 2014 release is the second WO pack to spotlight Pete’s work. The first, WOBP3 (2012), also featured three of his designs. An MMP Bonus Pack usually comprises a map board, and two or three scenarios. This format gave Pete the freedom to tailor new boards to his specific needs. In WOBP3, for example, he recreated the town of Marvie, Belgium by means of two adjoining map boards (64 and 65), a first for MMP.6 Pete’s second kick at the swamp cat is less ambitious.7 While the map boards in WOBP3 broke new ground at MMP, they are less flexible than standard, geomorphic boards. The map board included in WOBP5 not only has wider applicability, it also may prove to have wider appeal.
Alan Findlay has had a fascination with atlases since childhood. Growing up, his bedroom was “wallpapered” with maps taken from National Geographic magazine.8 A high-school friend introduced him to wargaming. He claims that he was never any good at it, but enjoyed the history and the maps of PanzerBlitz, and Panzer Leader. Christmas brought him Squad Leader, and the rest, as they say, is history and maps, lots of maps. The advent of Advanced Squad Leader brought still more maps to his game table. However, Alan could not resist the urge to create his own cardboard battlegrounds.
Alan has come a long way from the rudimentary map art that once adorned the walls of his man cave. Advancements in computer technology—Virtual ASL (VASL) and HexDraw9 in particular—have allowed him to share his topographical visions with the wider ASL community. Alan began with board-specific overlays (BSO) that transformed boards 2, 15, and 50 into a homogeneous area of high ground. Eager to break new ground, he created larger overlays, and then tried his hand at terra forming entire boards. Some of his work has appeared in products released by Critical Hit!, a third-party publisher of ASL material.10
|Board-specific overlays were the genesis of board 67|
Board 67 was Alan’s first made-to-order design. It was spawned from a BSO. (Hint: compare villages.) Alan posts many of his prospective designs on GameSquad ASL Forums. One project got Pete Shelling’s attention. Alan was toying with creating a double-wide board based on boards 61 and 62 from Action Pack 7. Pete contacted Alan. Would Alan be interested in crafting an “east-front wilderness” board? Silly question.
Alan attacked the project with the fervour of a fanatic. His enthusiasm waned momentarily after MMP became involved with the layout of the final product. Chas Argent is MMP’s go-to-guy for ASL development. The map was all but done, when Chas asked Alan to shift the village from the geomorphic fault line to one side of the Q-Row. The struggling artist was a bit taken aback by the request to alter his “place de résistance.” On reflection, it occurred to Alan that designing boards was not about him. His job was to provide ASL players with a new map board, not bend players to his own designs. And a fine job he has made of it.
I am grateful for Chas’s intervention. The division of board 67 into distinct sides not only makes the map more flexible, but it also increases the amount of “untamed” real estate available to scenario designers. Ignoring the desert boards (26-31), only boards 36, 52, and 61 are devoid of buildings. Of the remaining maps in the MMP catalogue, only six, including board 67, have a “wild side.”
|Alan Findlay's wild side - a close up of board 67|
Overall, I am pleased with the wilder half of board 67. If pressed, I would have made a case for the inclusion of a few brush-road hexes, conspicuous by their absence. Alan admitted to me that he had not given much thought to how the board would look when transformed into a tropical rain-forest environment. I think that hexes R7, V3, and AA4 would have been good candidates for brush-roads. When PTO Terrain (G.1) is in effect, the brush-roads would become paths, or disappear altogether in the presence of Deep Snow (E3.73), which would also transform the brush into Open Ground (B12.6). Having said that, the board lends itself well to transformations. Our budding, landscape architect appears to have spared no expense in planting ground cover with wild abandon. Therefore, I was disappointed to find that no saplings (orchard), or weeds (grain) had crept into the gullies. Perhaps Alan is saving these untidy bits for a truly wild design.
The hamlet half of board 67 is a wonder all its own. The compact settlement is nestled amid a convincing mix of greenery. No one element dominates, and there are no formidable strongpoints. I also like the distribution of the buildings. With PTO Terrain in effect, many will become huts (G5.) around a core of more permanent structures. This is in keeping with the implied remoteness of the hamlet. While Dense Jungle (G2.2) will amplify the claustrophobic character of the “human” side of board 67, winter will have an opposite effect. Light Woods and Prepared Fire Zones (PFZ) will open up the playing area further.11 Expect to see this board in heaps of new scenarios this year, and next.
Alan is not one to rest on his shrubbery. He is collaborating with MMP on new board, and remains open to other “commissions.”12 No doubt, Pete Shelling will call upon his services again. Time to look at the first scenarios to be fought on board 67.
WO12 Heart of Wilderness
The Siniavino Offensive opened on 27 August 1942. The aim was to break the year-long siege of Leningrad. East of the city, the Soviet attack made good progress. Penetrations as deep as seven kilometres were recorded. However, German strongpoints bypassed in the process refused to yield despite being isolated far behind enemy lines. One of these forward positions lay roughly 20 kilometres southeast of Schlisselburg (on Lake Ladoga), at a place that the Soviets would remember as the round (Круглая) grove. Located at the foot of the Sinyavino heights—an elevated area some 150 metres above the surrounding wetlands and forest—the circular defensive position lay astride the only track leading to the village of Siniavino. The blocking position had remained impervious to Soviet assaults since the previous autumn. On 28 August, two battalions of Lieutenant-Colonel Maximilian Wengler’s Grenadier-Regiment 366 found themselves cut off and encircled inside a pocket approximately six kilometres square. “Heart of Wilderness” revisits a thrust by the 19th Guards Rifle Division against the southeast corner of this pocket.
Elements of Battalion I, Grenadier-Regiment 366 are represented by a reinforced rifle company, a quarter of which are elite. The Germans are equipped with weapons common to a Wehrmacht infantry division at this time of the war, including an anti-tank rifle. Attached to the rifle company is a 75mm mountain gun, and a 37mm “door knocker.” Do not laugh. The anti-tank gun is the most powerful AT asset available. It is more than capable of dealing with the Soviet light tanks able to traverse the soft ground of the Volkhov Front.
|37mm Pak 35/36 Stielgranate 41|
The Grenadier’s are very well led at Wenglernase—Wengler’s nose being the defender’s affectionate nickname for the strongpoint. Five leaders may seem generous, but the Germans have a lot of ground to cover. The leader of the pack is a 10-2. Again, this is not as generous as it might seem. There is no heavy machine gun (HMG) in the German order of battle (OB). And there are no long lines of sight (LOS) over which to reign death and disruption.13 Granted the Germans are well dug in, and benefit from a pair of pillboxes.14 But given the terrain, the influence of the 10-2 on the battle will be quite localized. Hidden pillboxes and Dummy units will help keep his whereabouts a mystery. However, once he pokes his nose out, the Russians are unlikely to lose track of “Wengler.”
|Kruglaya (Round) Grove aka Wengler's nose Monument|
The entire Soviet force enters from off board, in three, successively smaller waves. Befitting their status as a Guards formation, roughly 45 per cent of the infantrymen are Elite (A1.25). The first wave is composed of two rifle companies headed by a 10-0 Commissar. Although this wave has three other leaders, none may be exchanged for an additional Commissar. The largest group also has the heaviest support weapons (SW): a pair each of Maxims and light mortars. On the second turn, the Soviets receive another rifle company led this time by a 9-0 Commissar and a 9-1 leader. With the exception of a satchel charge, these reinforcements are lightly armed. The last group, built around four, fast tanks of the 124th Tank Brigade, enters on Turn 4. Four submachine-gun squads and a 7-0 leader are along for the ride. All told, the Russian player has 30 squads, and four radioless (D14.) tanks, at his (or her) disposal. That is a two-to-one force ratio in favour of the attacker. The ratio of Russian 4-5-8 squads to German 4-6-8 squads is better than three to one. So what gives? Why so many Guardsmen?
|BT-7 M1937 Cavalry Tank|
The Soviets have seven turns to secure the bridge over the “Chernaya River,” and establish a foothold in the heart of the wilderness strongpoint. Controlling the bridge Location in Hex 67T6 appears to be a straightforward, if bloody, proposition. With regard to the second condition, the Russian player needs to gain control of building 67J4 and/or 67L6. These are not the strongest defensive positions on the map; the pillboxes are. Perhaps the “church” and the second “stone” building represent regimental or battalion headquarters. Es macht nichts. All buildings are wooden, and neither building objective provides any added protection for its occupants. More important, these objectives are difficult to defend, which brings me back to the bridge.
|WO12 Heart of Wilderness - updated German setup area|
The bridge is key. The Russians have to take it to win. The best protective terrain with LOS to this objective is woods. However, German light mortars can make the treeline uninviting. In contrast, the defenders can dig in around the bridge. Entrenchments also reduce the effectiveness of Russian light mortars. The pillboxes are harder to crack.15 Forget about trying to penetrate the Non-Covered Arc (NCA) of a pillbox with the Main Armament of a BT-7 tank. The Basic To Kill number is too low (B30.35). And the Russians have no means of smoking off enemy positions without sacrificing tanks in the process. Suffice it to say that taking the bridge will be a costly affair. A well-timed Human Wave (A25.23) may help. But there is no avoiding the fact that the Russians are going to take casualties, lots of casualties.16
The clock is ticking. A wily defender will make the Soviets pay dearly as they approach from the east. Meanwhile, a skilful fallback defence on board 32 will delay a link up between Soviet groups. The built-up area is the weak point in the German defence. But I doubt that the reds on treads will catch the Germans garrisoned there napping.17 I also have my doubts that this small, albeit fast-moving, force can take and hold a building objective without the support of another Soviet group. In the race against the clock, the Russian player may need to trade troops for time.
This is no tourney scenario that you can finish in an evening. Book a day to set up and play WO12. Bone up on the rules for Human Wave (HW) while you are at it. And take notes. There are bound to be some wild tales to tell when it is over.
WO13 All the Stops
The second scenario in the pack is more manageable for evening or tournament play. It is a compact design that captures the essence of a deliberate, combined-arms attack. “All the Stops” also captures the unpredictability and tension of a “creeping barrage” in a novel manner. The Red Army is on the offensive again. The date is 14 October 1944; the scene, a wooded area north of Warsaw known as the Nieporęt Forest.
They had been at it for months. The Soviet summer offensive, Operation Bagration, proved catastrophic for Army Group Centre.18 Before autumn, General Konstantin K. Rokossovskiy’s 1st Byelorussian Front had secured bridgeheads over the Vistula River at Magnuszew (30 kilometres south of Warsaw), and at Serock, the confluence of the Narew and Bug rivers (40 kilometres north of Warsaw). German counterattacks contained, but failed to dislodge these footholds. Fighting was especially fierce in the so-called Wet Triangle, an area bounded by the Narew-Bug and the Vistula. At the end of July, armoured spearheads of the Soviet 2nd Tank Army had been poised to severe the main road leading from the Narew bridge at Zegrze (a few kilometres south of Serock) to Warsaw. A violent clash with elements of five panzer divisions put paid to this Soviet venture.
|SU-76 [JgdPz 76(r)] in German service, Poland 1944|
One of the German formations involved was 5. SS Panzer-Division “Wiking.” The Battle of Radzymin was the first of several battles that left the division’s infantry regiments in tatters. Attrition was less of an issue for the Red Army, which was able to pump fresh reserves into the Triangle. The four divisions of the 70th Army, for instance, had been kept out of Operation Bagration proper, held back as a tactical reserve. In October, the 165th Rifle Division, supported by the 42nd Tank Regiment took another stab at the Warsaw-Zegrze road.
The 165th Rifle Division was an unremarkable formation. In WO13, it is portrayed by a company of 4-4-7 squads, a platoon of submachine-gun troops, and a trio of leaders. All have an Experience Level Rating (ELR) of three. The light mortar and two LMG that they are supplied with are to be expected. The .50 calibre (12.7mm) MG is not. The Firepower (FP) of this weapon is impressive. But it is the ability to dismantle the gun that makes the “Dushka” so sweet on the attack. Indeed, it begins play dismantled (A9.8).
|12.7mm DShK "Dushka" heavy machine gun|
Notwithstanding the hard-hitting HMG, the red stars of the scenario are the machines of the 42nd Tank Regiment. Two months earlier, the 2nd Tank Army had lost almost 250 armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) in a two-week period, including 80 percent of its American M4A2 medium tanks.19 In spite of such losses, the 1st Byelorussian Front as a whole still fielded a respectable armoured force at the beginning of September. Russian Players will be happy to learn that there were a few M4A2, or “Emchas” in Russian parlance, left in Rokossovskiy’s cupboard come October. The Reds have three in WO13.
|M4A2(76)W "Emcha" medium tank|
I like the M4A2 in Soviet service. I like it a lot. I like the version with the 76mm Main Armament (MA) the best.20 In my unqualified opinion, the M4A2(76)W, referred to as the M4/76(a) in ASL, is superior to any M4A2 in American or British service.21 In several respects, the M4A2(76)W is also superior to the legendary T-34. The long-barrelled “76” of a M4A2 can defeat enemy armour as well as the MA of a T-34/85 can. True, the Sherman lacks the stronger armour of the T-34. However, the American tank has something that no Soviet tank has, an inexhaustible supply of smoke in the form of a Smoke Mortar (sM).22 The M4/76 is also stocked with a good supply of smoke rounds for its main gun. These smoke munitions help offset the weaker armour of the Sherman. The ability to operate effectively when Crew Exposed (CE) is another factor in the Emcha’s favour.23 American Sherman crews are understandably timid, and their AAMG often remain idle during ASL scenarios.24 But Soviet tank crewmen, with their higher morale in ASL, are apparently bred for this sort of exposure.
What of enemy snipers you might ask? The German Sniper Activation Number (SAN) is three. I am comfortable with that level of risk. Frankly, the Emcha crews have more dire threats to worry about—heaps of shaped-charged weapons for starters. Indeed, Panzerfäuste and Hafthohlladungen (adhesive hollow charges) are about the only thing keeping Soviet tankers in check at start.
On defence is a depleted company of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 10 “Westland.” It is a scratch force that includes rear-echelon support staff fighting as infantry. The battles within the Wet Triangle (east of Mödlin, Poland) had reduced Westland’s infantry battalions to little more than rifle companies. These losses were compounded by the fact that few veteran Dutchmen or Flemings remained in what had once been a model contingent of volunteers from the Low Countries. Its ranks largely replaced by ethnic German conscripts and former Luftwaffe ground crew, the regiment also had to press administrative, supply, and maintenance personnel into frontline service.25
The Panzergrenadiere are represented by a reinforced platoon of 6-5-8s. Three ersatz infantry squads translate as 4-4-7s.26 All are SS, and all may use Assault Fire (A25.11). The latter is normally signified by an underscored Firepower Strength Factor (A1.21). I suggest that you make a note if, like me, you are prone to forget. Three MG help make up for the lower FP of the “second-line” SS units. But do not be too quick to dismiss these “draftees.” They have the same odds of pulling a Panzerfaust (PF), or an Anti-Tank Magnetic Mine (ATMM), out of their Stahlhelme, as 6-5-8 squads do. Just the threat of a Panzerknacker—that’s Landser for ATMM—can be an effective vehicle-bypass-movement-freeze deterrent (A 7.212). Leadership, however, leaves something to be desired. The best of the weak-kneed triumvirate is an 8-1; the worst is a 6+1 “I-never-signed-up-for-this-rotzooi” Klooijf.
|SS Westland Regiment|
The German player will be relieved to learn that there is more to the German OB than seven squads and three, mediocre leaders. A medium mortar and a Schützenpanzerwagen (SPW) 251/10 round out the assets available at start. Finding a good place to hide the Granatwerfer 34 is only half the fun. Lines of sight are restricted. The minimum range of the mortar is an added complication. Still, this 81mm tube demands respect. A high rate of fire, the potential for Air Burst (B13.3), and the ability to destroy, shock, or immobilize an Emcha (C1.55) cannot be ignored.27 So what does the half-track offer the defence?
Let’s face it, the thin-skinned armoured personnel carrier is a burning wreck waiting to happen. It is Open Topped (OT), and therefore an inviting, albeit small, target for the enemy 50mm mortar.28 The half-track is nevertheless the quickest bunny in the Nieporęt Forest. More worrying from the Russian perspective is that the outdated Pak 36 still packs enough punch to stop an Emcha in its tracks. Admittedly, the 37mm round has the same odds of penetrating the tank’s front armour, as the 81mm mortar has of destroying the M4A2. The not-quite obsolete weapon remains quite capable of defeating the side and rear armour of a Sherman, and is ideal for Deliberate Immobilization attempts (C5.7).29 The rapid-fire gun can also keep opposing infantry occupied.
|Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Sd.Kfz.) 251/10 "Hanomag"|
Players who do their homework will be aware that a SPW 251/10 has a Raketenpanzerbüchse, a Panzerschreck (PSK) if you will, stowed inside. It says so in the Chapter H notes.30 But trust me when I tell you that there is no “Ofenrohr” (stovepipe) in this Hanomag. Pete exercised his designer’s prerogative and “removed” the PSK. I agree with his decision. The crew of the commander’s vehicle excepted, the grenadiers are dismounted, prepared to repel an attack. Most, if not all, are concealed. The Location of the PSK, moreover, remains unknown until the concealed unit possessing it is revealed per E1.2. Like I said earlier, Soviet tankers have bigger headaches than Scharfschützen to fret over.
Much bigger, it turns out. Two Teutonic knights in dunkelgelb armour arrive on Turn 3, with a few grenadiers as escort. An experienced veteran commands one of the Sturmgeschützen. The assault guns enter either flank of the village.
|Sturmgeschützen IIIG and StuG IV comparison|
Wieliszew is nestled in the Nieporęt Forest, about 20 kilometres north of Warsaw. The village church is 720 metres from the Soviet start line, as the ASL crow flies. Autumn has arrived in Poland. Trees have yet to shed their leaves, and still mask what I imagine to be a splendid view from the steeple. The parishioners cannot see the Russians coming. But the din of the Soviet artillery signals their imminent arrival.
“All the Stops” is six-and-half turns long. It can be over sooner, if the Russians pull out all the stops.31 The scenario can be won in one of two ways. The attacker wins immediately upon exiting 12 or more Victory Points (VP) off the south edge. Each Emcha is worth two VP, which includes the AFV crew. Therefore, exiting three tanks is literally only half the battle.
The Russians can also secure a victory with a combination of VP earned from exiting, and gaining Control of stone buildings (A26.11). Pete has placed some added pressure on the attacker by tying the VP value of these territorial objectives to the turn in which they are seized. Secure an objective on Turn 5 and receive a one-time score of 3 VP. Capture the same objective on the last turn and earn just 1 VP. The upside is that once the Soviets earn these VP, they are deposited securely in the people’s state bank. A Wiking counterattack cannot undo these gains. Obviously, the earlier the Russians take these objectives, the less units they need to exit. Soviet artillery fire can either help or hinder the drive to Wieliszew.
|Soviet 76.2cm obr. 39 and obr. divisional guns|
Pete created a nifty Scenario Special Rule (SSR) that simulates the indirect fire support laid on for the attack. This miss-and-occasionally-hit support is modelled using Harassing Fire (C1.72). The four FP attack that this fire mission delivers is based upon a battery of 76mm field guns.32 Artillery fire will not flatten the village, but it will make the forest inhospitable for defenders caught outside. Mind the Air Burst. The Germans may set up concealed, if in concealment terrain, and have eight OB-given concealment counters with which to create Dummy stacks. However, concealment offers no added protection from the supersonic, Shelling SSR (A12.13). Indeed, one of the primary effects of this shelling will be to reveal enemy dispositions—almost a 60 percent success rate versus units outside a building. The difficulty, from the attacker’s point of view, is coordinating each forward bound with the anticipated Blast Area of each Fire-For-Effect (FFE) cycle.
I hesitate to compare Pete’s SSR with a Creeping Barrage (E12.7). The SSR nevertheless shares certain traits with its convoluted cousin in Chapter E. My fear in making the comparison is that I may discourage play of WO13. Let me reassure you that there is nothing complicated about this crash-boom “barrage.” It is one, continuous Fire Mission33 that operates independent of an Observer (C1.6). Radio Contact is not applicable (C1.2). Pete dispensed with Accuracy (C1.3), and Battery Access (C1.21) too.34
The Pre-Registered hex normally associated with a Barrage (E12.1) has been replaced by a Spotting Round (SR) counter (C1.31). The counter is placed onboard during the Prep Fire Phase (PFPh) of the Russian Player’s first turn. The SR is one of only two variables that the Russian Player may influence. The second is the distance between one area of impact and the next. I say influence, because in neither case does the Russian Player have control over where a FFE actually impacts. This is decided by a Direction and Extent-of-Error Dice Roll (C1.31), with a maximum Extent of Error of two hexes. A FFE is resolved twice: once in the Russian PFPh, and once in the Russian Defensive Fire Phase (DFPh). In each subsequent Russian PFPh, the SR is moved southward along the same axis, and the remainder of the procedure described above is repeated. The Russian Player may not voluntarily Cancel (C1.337) the “barrage.” The Fire Mission must run its course, ceasing only if the FFE counter lands offboard.
The illustration below demonstrates how the “barrage” works. The map also highlights the breadth of the Blast Area in relation to the narrow frontage.
|Shelling's shelling SSR WO13 "All the Stops"|
To paraphrase an old adage, few plans survive contact with the dice. The “barrage” is an unreliable ally, an enemy-in-waiting. It can destroy a Hanomag, or turn and rain death on the poor, bloody frontoviki.35 Worse, the shelling can throw the attack completely off schedule. The streltsi cannot afford to fall behind. Should Soviet rifle troops fail to keep pace with their supporting armour, the Russian exit requirements will become increasingly unattainable.36 The Emchas cannot afford to be brave either. A Russian victory relies heavily on the VP-value of these tanks.
Provided they do not to set up too far forward, the defenders should be able to withdraw in good order. Keep in mind, however, that grain is out of season, and that harassing fire does not create a hindrance per C1.57. I doubt that the streltsi will pass on an opportunity to shoot Waffen-SS in the back. The meadows of the Nieporęt Forest were killing grounds in October 1944. I leave it to you to decide who does most of the shooting in “All the Stops.”
Yet another work in progress...
Rather than make you wait any longer, I thought I would post what I have ready for this pack. Check back later for a look at the last scenario.
Rather than make you wait any longer, I thought I would post what I have ready for this pack. Check back later for a look at the last scenario.
|The scenarios of Winter Offensive Pack 5 (2014)|
1. Bill Cirillo, designer of Festung Budapest, momentarily spurned ASL. He opted to play Great Campaigns of the American Civil War instead. Fans of FB are sure to agree that his time would have been better spent play testing the new, monster campaign game covering all four FB map sheets. But I will forgive Bill his trespasses. He won the GCACW Mini Tournament.
2. Of these, only one was truly new. Read my impressions, and decide for yourself.
3. Also released at WO was a Gamers’s title. Last Chance for Victory takes a fresh look at the Battle of Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863), a turning point of the American Civil War.
4. In addition to placing second overall at WO, Gary also won one of the ASL Mini Tournaments. In a surprise upset, the first-place cup was taken by David Lamb, a prolific scenario designer in his own right. Dave recently joined the Bounding Fire Productions team.
5. Pete’s scenarios have appeared in The General magazine, ASL Annual 96, ASL Action Packs 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7, ASL Journals 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10, Armies of Oblivion, Rising Sun, Out of the Attic 2, Special Ops 2 and 4, and WO Bonus Pack 3. More of his designs can be found in the ASL Starter Kits, and in scenario packs produced by third-party publishers such as Schwerpunkt (about 20 titles), and most recently Friendly Fire.
Among these, a personal favourite of his is J21 “Scobie Preserves,” published in ASL Journal 2. The action unfolds over three Deluxe ASL boards. Communist revolutionaries—Pete is partial to Partisans (A 25.24)—face off against Indian troops sent to Greece to quell a festering insurrection. I never played this scenario, primarily because it called for two deluxe overlays (dx3 and dx4) included with ASL Annual 95. The overlays were misprinted. Although corrected overlays were included with The General magazine (Vol. 30, No. 3) later that year, I never obtained a copy.
The Two Half-Squads interviewed him on one their early podcasts. See episode 40.
6. Boards 64 and 65 adjoin along one length. The other sides are geomorphic, and may be matched normally with other ASL boards. Pete used boards 64 and 65 for his WO7 “Hell for the Holidays,” which takes place under conditions of Ground Snow (E3.72) on 20 December 1944. Last October, Friendly Fire, a popular publisher based in Sweden, released FrF66 “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” Mattias Rönnblom’s scenario also uses boards 64 and 65 without resorting to any terrain transformations. Ground Snow is likewise in effect during this east-front engagement set in East Prussia on 27 January 1945.
7. If big cats spur you to break out the cardboard, check out Pete’s AP11 “Swamp Cats” from ASL Action Pack 2. A Panther, a pair of Tigers, and elite Landsers must hold a tiny bridge on board 13. Facing them is a powerful combined-arms force from the 3rd Guards Tank Corps.
8. To this day, Alan is annoyed with Delaware. The political borders contradict geographic sensibilities. In his view, the entire Delmarva Peninsula should be ceded to Delaware. Evidently, no one has thought to consult him on the matter. I have no such geographic hang ups. Geographic boundaries are temporary, political ones even more so. But I must confess to an interest in maps. I have collected hundreds of them over the years, and refuse to part with them, despite my wife’s semi-annual protestations.
9. HexDraw is a graphic editor that enables users to design board game maps based on a hexagon grid. Vienna-based Joachim Bader developed the software.
10. Examples of Alan’s half-board overlays can be found in several scenario packs including the Upham Pack, and the Ostfront Pack 1. Critical Hit! also published his restyled versions of Squad Leader boards 1-6, and 9-15. Alan was disappointed with the results of the latter project, partly due to low-quality imagery used for the final proofs.
11. Light Woods and PFZ will debut in the forthcoming Finnish module. Light Woods do not block same-level LOS. Instead, they are a +2 Hindrance. A PFZ represents an area cleared, or partially cleared, of vegetation in order to create a kill zone. Woods, for instance, may be converted to brush, or Open Ground, by expending PFZ points allocated at the beginning of the scenario.
|Broken Ground 2a|
12. Alan plans to launch a Kickstarter project shortly. He wants to channel his energies toward the creation of map boards (and counters) for ASL under his Broken Ground label. His short-term goal is to bring a dozen of his map designs to market. The boards will be same format as those found in Gary Fortenberry’s Action Pack 9. My current favourite is board BG-2a. At the moment, Alan is in the process of obtaining the support of veteran designers. Several have signed on already. Each designer has pledged to provide one or more scenarios to the project. The only requirement is that a scenario includes at least one of Alan’s new boards. Otherwise, designers are free to choose their own subject matter. Scenario designers interested in learning more about the project may contact Alan on GameSquad, or email battleschool at rogers dot com.
13. Admittedly, the Steeple Location in 67J4 has LOS to the 67Z6 hill. However, the range is 15-17 hexes.
14. I would have liked to have seen some wire and mines in the German OB. The historical record suggests that they were abundant. However, the dense nature of the terrain partly makes up for the absence of these fortifications.
15. Bunkers are tougher still. Trenches may be used to create bunkers (B30.8) that will allow the Germans to reinforce or withdraw from a pillbox. Keep in mind too that all fortifications begin play Hidden, including the contents of pillboxes (B30.7).
16. The Russian Sniper Activation Number (SAN) is two. The combination of poor protective terrain, and a low SAN is bound to embolden the German player. Expect the Germans to take low-odd shots as a matter of routine.
17. Do not be caught napping as the Germans. The Russians may use Riders (D6.2).
18. Between 23 June and 19 August, the Red Army drove the Germans back hundreds of kilometres, out of the Soviet Union, and into Poland. Three German armies were shattered. The scale of the disaster eclipsed that of Stalingrad.
18. Between 23 June and 19 August, the Red Army drove the Germans back hundreds of kilometres, out of the Soviet Union, and into Poland. Three German armies were shattered. The scale of the disaster eclipsed that of Stalingrad.
19. The 8th Tank Corps, the only formation within the 2nd Tank Army equipped with the M4A2, had lost 48 of its 57 Shermans by 8 August.
20. The 75mm gun of the earlier M4A2 (Russian and British Vehicle Notes 50 and 13, respectively) is not without merit. Despite its calibre, the MA of the Sherman III—the designation of the M4A2 in British service—qualifies for Multiple Hits (C3.8). The short-barrelled 75 also has an edge in a Gun Duel (C2.2401). These special capabilities are denoted by the white background of the Rate of Fire number on the counter. For a full explanation refer British Multi-Applicable Vehicle Note R. Unlike the M4/76(a), the Sherman III is equipped with a Smoke Discharger (sD) rather than a sM, and has a tendency to “brew up” when destroyed. The Sherman III also uses Red To Hit Numbers prior to 1944. However, both models of M4A2 are eligible to have a functioning gyrostabilizer (D11.1).
21. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) was the only branch of the US military to employ the M4A2 in the field, and then only the 75mm version (US Vehicle Notes 10 and 11). The quick-firing 75 was more than adequate when faced with origami-like Japanese tanks. But the gun was outclassed in the European theatre, where, incidentally, it was never intended to fight in the anti-tank role.
22. A Smoke Mortar allows a tank crew to place dispersed smoke at the Base Level of any hex one to three hexes distant, provided the target hex is within the line of sight (LOS) and the turret-covered arc (TCA) of the vehicle (D13.32).
23. While CE, the crew avoids the penalties associated with being Buttoned Up (BU) when using the MA, or the sM. At the same time, and without degrading the performance of the AFV, the tank commander is free to fire the anti-aircraft machinegun (AAMG).
This is a marked advantage for the Russian Player given that many Soviet tanks are largely combat ineffective unless BU. Until the introduction of the larger three-man turret in the T34/85, the commander in a two-man turret doubled as the gunner. When topside, the commander could not fire the main gun or the “coax.” I have been caught out by this in the past. And I occasionally witness even seasoned players making this error during play. The no-fire-while-crew-exposed rule (D1.321) is one of the better arguments in favour of the turret counters produced by Countersmith Workshop several years ago.
24. USMC AFV crews are the exception. They have the same Morale Level as British and Russian vehicle crews.
I came to appreciate the versatility of the M4/76 while play testing a scenario for Friendly Fire Pack 7, published in 2011. The Soviet OB in Michael Koch’s FrF58 “Order 831” contains a pair of these workhorses. The scenario unfolds in Königsberg an der Oder, in February 1945. SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 600 is on the defence, with a recoilless rifle in support. If you have access to Deluxe ASL boards a-c, and overlays dx1 and dx8, I recommend that you also give the M4A2 in J65 a test drive. Pete Shelling’s “Brave Little Emchas” is set in Vienna, Austria. You can find the scenario in ASL Journal 3. The corrected DASL overlays were included with The General Vol. 30, No. 3, but for a time were available for download on the MMP website. Elements of SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment “Der Fuhrer,” 2. SS Panzer-Division “Das Reich” hold the town.
25. During the same period, a sister regiment, also built around foreign volunteers, counted less than 100 Danes and Norwegians still serving within its ranks. The numbers are telling considering that the SS-Nordland had tended to attract more volunteers over the course of the war than SS-Westland.
26. Waffen-SS 4-4-7 counters are usually found only in historical modules such as Kampfgruppe Peiper, or A Bridge Too Far. However, Special Ops No. 3 (summer 2012) has a counter sheet containing three SS 4-4-7 and three SS 2-3-7, enough to play WO13. The counters were provided for the Starter Kit scenario S52 “Extraordinary Bravery.” Tom Morin and Carl Nogueira’s scenario is set in Danzig in September 1939, and also features a Czech armoured car (OA vz 30—Axis Minor Vehicle Note 43), and German border guards represented by Axis Minor units.
27. You will need double ones to destroy an Emcha. But depending on where the AFV is hit (the Original Infantry Fire Table DR determines this), a Final DR less than five will either automatically Shock (C7.4), or Immobilize the vehicle. Moreover, if Immobilized, the tank crew must undergo an immediate Immobilization Task Check (D5.5).
28. The Russian 50mm mortar has roughly a 25 percent chance of effecting the SPW 215/10. These odds jump to 40 percent if Airburst is a factor.
29. In 1944, APCR is available on a DR of three or less. But even this round will have difficulty penetrating the front armour of an Emcha turret at close range.
30. German Vehicle Note 65. Prior to September 1943, the SPW 251/10 is equipped with an anti-tank rifle.
31. There are no Stalin’s organs (Katyusha multiple rocket launchers) in WO13. It would have been quite clever if there had been though. It turns out that the phrase “pull out all the stops” alludes to the practice of removing stops that control the volume and tone of a pipe organ. Pulling out all the stops allows an organ to play at full volume, using its full range of tones.
32. A blue FFE counter is used to indicate Harassing Fire, which is always HE. The 19-hex Blast Area models a less concentrated fire mission that reduces the FP of a battery to a third of its normal strength.
33. This is not explicit on the scenario card. SSR5 states that “An FFE:1 counter that lands offboard immediately Cancels this mission.” Despite the fact that the scenario card does not reference E12.7, the process described in the SSR is quite similar to that of a Creeping Barrage. “A Creeping Barrage is one Fire Mission from the time its special Battery Access draw is made until that Barrage ends [emphasis added]. A Creeping Barrage ends (i.e., Lifts)” when certain conditions are met. “When a Creeping Barrage Lifts, its FFE counter is simply removed from the board, and that Creeping Barrage is no longer usable in that scenario” (E12.76). I am certain that the intent of the SSR is the same, namely that, once Cancelled, the “barrage” is no longer available to the Russian Player.
34. This, and the lack of an Observer, obviates the need for any second chit draw per C1.21.
35. Literally the “front fighters.” This title was generally reserved for Soviet combat troops fighting in the front lines.
36. Early feedback suggests that the scenario may favour the Germans. If so, try it with the Russian balance, which increases the Emcha’s Depletion Numbers for Special Ammunition (C8.2). This bumps the APCR number up to four. While hardly plentiful, if available, an APCR round will destroy a Sturmgeschütz on anything but a dud (C 7.35). More important is the increased Smoke number of nine.
At Chris' suggestion, I'm adding my addendum/clarification to his comment about my "enthusiasm waning" when MMP (ie Chas) got involved:
I'm not sure how I gave you the impression that my 'enthusiasm waned' when MMP got involved. In fact I was energized! I had but a moment of pique when Chas asked for the village to move. More of a 'mock grumble', really.
When Chas asked me to change the moniker from AF1 to 69, my response was 'are you serious?!!?' I was pumped that it was considered good enough for publication. I was told that a pair of boards were ahead of mine, but that obviously changed.
I like that you got my Delaware comment into the footnotes. :-)
Nice write-up. Nice to be "famous", even if it's for less than 15 minutes!
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