24 August 2011

The Canadian ASL Open Prize Table

CASLO XV is only a few weeks away. The prize table is not big enough to do justice to all of the ASL candy on hand. The tournament runs 16-18 September in the Nation’s Capital (Ottawa). This post provides 30 compelling reasons to attend.
We are still waiting on a number of prizes from our sponsors, but I did not want to delay publishing a photograph of the prize table any longer. At last count there were four plaques (not shown), 26 prizes and a number of certificates (not shown) up for grabs.
Nine door prizes give everyone a chance to take something home. In addition, there are four sponsored raffles, and two special raffles. The prizes are also quite varied. We have everything from counter sheets and precision dice to a cool new historical module from Le Franc Tireur (LFT). In between these extremes are a host of scenario packs from five publishers. Multi-Man Publishing (MMP) has provided three prizes, including Action Pack 7. In addition to KGS: the Shield of Cholm, LFT has donated a fine selection of scenario packs, and their latest 80-page magazine.

The top-three finishers in the CASLO, or main event, will receive some terrific prize packages. 
The CASLO: First Place Prize Package
The winner of the CASLO will be a happy fellow. The grand prize is a copy of Kampgruppe Scherer: the Shield of Cholm, donated by the publisher, Le Franc Tireur. You can read more about this awesome module—designed by Andrew Hershey—in my earlier posts: KGS, and DHL. Were this not enough, the first-place finisher will also walk away with a plaque, a $25.00 gift certificate from Gamer’s Armory, and a set of precision ASL Anniversary BattleDice.

The CASLO: Second Place Prize Package

The second-place finisher also takes home some “wood.” In addition to a plaque, the CASLO runner-up will receive a copy of MMP’s Out of the Attic 2, a scenario pack from Bounding Fire Productions (BFP), a $15.00 gift certificate from Gamer’s Armory, and a set of precision ASL Anniversary BattleDice. I cannot say which pack BFP is donating, but all of their scenario packs contain cool map boards.

The CASLO: Third Place Prize Package
The third-place finisher will receive a plaque, and three prizes. The main prize is issue 12 of LFT magazine. The magazine comes with a semi-geomorphic mapboard, and ten scenarios, the latter on A4 cardstock. Complimenting the magazine is a set of two counter sheets from Countersmith Workshop, and precision BattleDice from BattleSchool. The sheets contain turret counters for every turreted vehicle in the American and Commonwealth orders of battle (as found in chapter H of the ASL Rule Book). The BattleDice will differ from those shown in the photograph because I intend to supply some cool, new dice that I designed in June. If received in time, one of these will be the new sniper die.
Sponsored Rounds
New for this year are sponsored rounds. Four sponsors have kindly provided prizes for rounds two through five. The idea is simple. If you play one of the sponsor’s scenarios in the appropriate round, you are eligible to win the sponsor’s prize. The winner of each prize is determined by raffle. It does not matter if you win or lose the scenario. Of the five scenarios in a sponsored round, three are published by the sponsor. Although the tournament staff encouraged the sponsors to recommend scenarios, we ultimately selected the scenarios based on merit, interest, perceived balance, and “fun-factor.”

Round I Free-for-all
The photograph above is of a gift certificate provided by Key’s Games and Hobbies. Alex Key has once again provided an attractive keepsake. If you win this certificate, you may keep it. We will contact Alex on your behalf and advise him that you have a $25.00 credit. Unlike the remainder of the rounds in the CASLO, everyone who participates in the first round is eligible to win the raffle for this gift certificate.
Round II Le Franc Tireur
From the Cellar 6 is the latest scenario pack from LFT. It contains ten scenarios, all of which play fast and furious. In addition to this round, one of the scenarios in this pack—"The Price of Persia"—is featured in the second round of the Mini tournament. I have played several of the scenarios already. They are perfect for playing in the evening, especially during the work-week, when time is limited.
Round III Lone Canuck
George Kelln of Lone Canuck Publishing does not sell Panzer Aces. You can only win the pack at a tournament. Here is your chance. Panzers, as the title suggests, are to be found in each of the six scenarios in the pack. There is also no shortage of armor leaders. To be fair, two of the scenarios in this pack were published recently in MMP’s Out of the Attic 2. I have played both of these more than once. So all is not lost if you come up short in the raffle.
Round IV Friendly Fire
We are hoping to receive the latest pack from Friendly Fire in time for the tournament. If not, we will substitute a copy of Friendly Fire Pack 6. This explains the lack of a picture for the Friendly Fire Round. However, Pack 6 is hardly a consolation prize. The pack contains eight scenarios and a geomorphic mapboard. Board FrFA is used in several scenarios in the pack. “One Last Mighty Hew” in this round, and “Totensonntag” in the Mini use this board. I have played every scenario in this pack at least once since its release last October. I highly recommend the pack. Friendly Fire is a popular Swedish producer of scenario packs with an international cast of designers.
Round V Multi-Man Publishing
The latest Action Pack from MMP includes ten new scenarios and three new boards to play them on. I am particularly fond of board 60. I have only had time to play three of the scenarios in this pack. I even managed to win a couple. The boards alone make this pack a priority purchase.

The Purple Heart Mini
Lone Canuck Publishing has sponsored the Mini this year. The single-elimination format has only enough spots for eight players. We selected the scenarios with newer or less experienced players in mind. Two of the scenarios in the first and second rounds do not involve vehicles. None of the scenarios require knowledge outside of the first four chapters of the ASL Rule Book (exception: chapter H notes for the scenarios with ordnance and vehicles). The Mini starts Saturday morning and runs until Sunday afternoon. 
The winner of the Mini will receive a customized plaque, a copy of George Kelln’s Battle of the Hedgerows:  Purple Heart Draw, and a set of precision BattleDice (the actual dice will differ from the ones shown in the photograph). Purple Heart Draw consists of a well-rendered historical colour mapsheet, five scenarios, and a campaign game with all the necessary rules pages.
Mini raffle prize
Lone Canuck has also provided a scenario pack entitled The Battle for the Abbaye des Ardennes. With one exception, all of the scenarios feature Canadian troops battling 12. SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. Any one who plays at least one round of the Mini is eligible to win the raffle for this unique scenario pack. And before you ask, no, George does not sell this pack. Good luck in the draw!

Door prizes
Everyone who registers and attends the Canadian ASL Open is eligible to win a door prize. To date, five producers have supplied prizes.

Le Franc Tireur
Xavier Vitry, the editor of Le Franc Tireur, has been very generous in providing prizes for our event. Along with providing three desirable prizes for the CASLO, Xavier has donated two scenario packs as door prizes. From the Cellar 4 is a themed pack that focuses on the Russian Civil War. The pack is bursting with 20 scenarios, a historical booklet, and a small counter sheet with commissars for various factions, hasty roadblocks, ice sangars, Taczanka, and more. The scenarios feature American Marines, Bolshevik Partisans, British, Czech Legion, Japanese, Magyar (Communist Hungarians), Manchu Chinese, Mongolians, Red Russians, Social-Revolutionary Party, and White Russians. There are even nationality characteristics for Red Koreans. From the Cellar 5 is only slightly less grand. It has a couple of articles on the Battle of La Horgne (France, 1940), 14 scenarios, and a reprint of mapboard LFT2. One of the scenarios, “Avanti!,” is featured in the LFT round of the CASLO. The author of one of the articles, and designer of the scenario, “La Horgne,” is the late Ian Daglish.

Countersmith Workshop
Countersmith Workshop is a new start-up based in Hong Kong. Not surprisingly, Countersmith specializes in counter sheets. They have kindly donated several sets of counter sheets. Four sets are door prizes. Two consist of German and Russian turrets, and two consist of American and British (Commonwealth) turrets. The German and Russian sets include three sheets, enough to provide a minimum of six turrets for each turreted vehicle in the German and Russian sections of the chapter H notes. The sheets in the second set are identical. There are enough turrets in these sets to provide a minimum of four turrets per vehicle type.1
Multi-Man Publishing
MMP has provided a great little scenario pack called Out of the Bunker. The “bunker” of the title refers to the long-running newsletter Dispatches from the Bunker. Vic Provost and the rest of the “Bunker Crew” have been delivering quality ASL scenarios and articles since 1997. The pack has 14 scenarios that originally appeared in Dispatches. All of the scenario cards have been updated/amended and laid out in accordance with MMP standards. I cannot recall how many of these scenarios that I have played. I do know that I have played at least two within the past year. What I like most about this pack is the variety, including a couple of rare “desert” scenarios. “First Clash in Tunisia” is a must play.
Lone Canuck Publishing
Included with one of the scenario packs from George was a small set of scenarios originally published in the Maple Leaf Route (MLR). Canada at War is a collection of six scenarios designed by the late Jim McLeod, the editor of the MLR. For those who are not aware, Jim was largely responsible for creating the Canadian ASL Association (CASLA) and the Canadian ASL Open (CASLO). I thought that someone would appreciate owning this piece of Canadian ASL history.
One lucky attendee will go home with some nifty, new BattleDice. I will post pictures of these new dice when they arrive (hopefully) later this month.

Play options
I have had a few questions regarding how the CASLO will work this year, specifically what events and activities are available to attendees. There are four.
1. Open play
2. Mini + Open play
3. CASLO + Mini
Here is how it works. The first option is to play whatever you like, including scenarios from the tournament lists. However, you do not actually participate in a tournament. This is referred to as “open play.” You remain eligible for all door prizes. Because you are not scored on your performance, you are ineligible for the prizes specific to each tournament. This includes the raffles for the sponsored rounds of the CASLO, and the Purple Heart Mini raffle.
The second option is to participate in the Purple Heart Mini tournament and engage in open play. What this means in practice is that you would engage in open play on Friday. On Saturday, you would enter the first round of the Mini. If eliminated in either the first or second round, you would return to the open play format thereafter. In this case, you are eligible for all door prizes, as well the two prizes associated with the Mini.
The third option is to participate in both of the tournaments. If you opt to do so, however, you are requested not to engage in open play for the duration of the weekend. Instead, you would play two rounds of the CASLO on Friday before entering the Mini on Saturday. If you are eliminated from the Mini, you would return to the CASLO for the following round. If you chose this option, you will have an opportunity to win prizes associated with each tournament, in addition to the door prizes. Note, however, that a handicap may apply to higher-seeded players while playing in the Mini.
The fourth option is to play in only the CASLO, or main tournament. In this case, the only prizes that you will not be eligible for will be those associated with the Mini. Players registered for the CASLO are requested to commit to playing all five rounds. That said, players posting two losses on Friday, retain the option to enter the Mini on Saturday. One advantage of this option is that you will likely accrue more points toward winning the CASLO, as you (usually) will be facing tougher opponents in the later rounds.
Who is coming?
The treasurer of the Canadian ASL Association is currently away on vacation, but the last I heard, about 15 players had paid their registration fees. About a half dozen local players, who are expected to attend, have yet to register. I also have received word that a number of players from Montreal, and possibly New Brunswick, are planning to attend. There is a western contingent flying in for the weekend, including the current President of the CASLA, Steffen Knippel. The usual suspects from south of the 49th parallel have already registered, but we hope to see a few more. When all is said and done, we could have as many as 24 players this year. 
The Rideau Canal in September
Our downtown venue is about 100 metres from the Rideau Canal and a short stroll from the Parliament Buildings and many other Ottawa landmarks. Come help us set a new attendance record.
1. I took the liberty of removing one sheet from each pack and creating a third pack. The third pack forms part of the third-place prize package for the CASLO. In my experience, players will rarely require six turrets during a scenario employing American or Commonwealth vehicles. So I thought this was a good way to spread the wealth. In any case, individual sheets of these counters are available from KitShop, as are modest of the prizes discussed in this post.

21 August 2011

For King and Country Once More

It has been eight years since Multi-Man Publishing (MMP) first released For King and Country (FKaC). On 19 August, MMP began shipping the long awaited reprint of this module. For those of you who have yet to add the “British” order of battle (OB) to your ASL collection, this is welcome news. For those of you who have stood by your copy of West of Alamein (WoA),1 the time may have come for you to consider replacing your dusty Commonwealth counters. But before you set your expectations too high, you may want to know what you are getting for your money.
So exactly what can you expect for four score dollars and a seven-year-plus wait? Quite a lot, in my view, but there are some important qualifiers to consider when making your purchase. 
Oh deir, oh deir, no dunes
A reader from Florida was ecstatic to hear that his copy of FKaC was being processed at MMP. But he was disappointed to learn that it did not include the counters needed to play the desert scenarios that were at the core of the WoA module. He was aware that the module would not contain chapter F, which provides rules for playing scenarios that take place (primarily) in North Africa. He also understood that he would have to purchase the desert boards (25-29), and the desert-specific overlays separately.2 However, he had assumed that MMP was reprinting the counter sheets as they appeared WoA. This is not the case. Considering that FKaC does not include the scenario cards that came with WoA either, a would-be ASL “Monty” will have to postpone plans for a desert dust up.
Out of the box and on to the game table
Enough of what FKaC lacks. Time to look at what is tucked inside that big box. 
For starters, the module includes the equivalent of five full counter sheets. Given its size, it is not surprising that the Commonwealth fielded a hodgepodge—dare I say a veritable dog’s breakfast—of vehicles. In game terms, the only “nationality” with a larger ASL OB is the Germans. Three counter sheets are therefore devoted to vehicles.3
The counters are a vast improvement over those that came with WoA. The colours of the new counters are also much closer to that of the counters found in the ASL Starter Kits, making the counters suitable for use with either rule set.4 The counters are also punched to industry-standard. Unlike the old Avalon Hill (AH) counters in WoA, there is no need to trim the sides of the counters. Each FKaC counter is attached only at its corners. The font sizes on the FKaC counters are also larger than those found on the WoA counters—a boon for those of us who can no longer read the fine print on a soup tin. 
Da King is in da house
In deference to the distinguished crowd who have been playing ASL for decades, the chapter H pages likewise use a larger typeface.5 This helps explain why this section of chapter H is four pages longer than the original section included with WoA. In order to avoid pagination problems, the last five pages are numbered 76A-76E. Some players will also appreciate the design-your-own (DYO) scenario tables following the vehicle and ordnance notes.
As with the first printing of FKaC, the second printing includes 20 scenarios. All of these scenarios take place in Europe. Nine occur in France. Three of these deal with the Fall of France in 1940. A six-pack of scenarios are concerned with the invasion of Crete in 1941. Another scenario takes place in Italy, and the final four depict actions in the Netherlands during Operation Market-Garden (September 1944). 
All of the scenarios were published prior to the release of FKaC in 2003.6 Many have been updated to include errata. A handful were tweaked in an effort to improve balance. I will discuss the scenarios further in a moment. But for now, bear in mind that the updates on the table below represent changes that have been incorporated into the scenario cards that come with FKaC. There is no need to annotate or modify these cards. Rather, the list of updates is provided for general interest. The list also may prove useful for those who wish to update their original versions of these cards, that is, as these appeared in previous publications.

Click to enlarge
The biggest and most important change in this printing of FKaC is that it contains eight cardstock mapboards instead of four classic, mounted boards. The first printing of the module came with boards 1, 7, 8, and 12.7 Because the third edition of Beyond Valor (BV3) includes boards 1 and 8, these boards are no longer included with FKaC
Instead, you now get the following boards: 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 32. Boards 6 and 7 are old Squad Leader (SL) era boards that originally came with Crescendo of Doom. Boards 10, 12, 13, 14, and 15 also predate ASL. The latter four debuted in GI Anvil of Victory, the last “gamette” of the SL series.
Board 10
Board 10 was one of the so-called rogue SL boards. Until the release of the ASL module Partisan! in 1987, this wayward board had no gamette or module to call home. Partisan! also included board 32, along with a limited set of Axis Minor Infantry and Support Weapon (SW) counters. With the release of the Axis Minor module Armies of Oblivion (AoO) in 2006, Partisan! became redundant. However, the boards from Partisan! were not included in AoO. MMP has thoughtfully made them available again, albeit as part of FKaC. Only one scenario, “Point of the Sword,” uses board 10. No scenario in FKaC requires board 32. 

Missing in Action
Due to the interdependence of the ASL system, it is not surprising that many of the scenarios in FKaC require components from other modules. This fact of ASL life is exacerbated, however, by the fact that none of the  scenarios in FKaC were designed specifically to accompany the module. For example, with one exception, all of the scenarios in WoA used only the boards that came with the module. Similarly, the 24 scenarios in BV3 were selected so that everything (boards and counters) that a player needed to play them was included in the module. FKaC is a mishmash, a useful mishmash, but a mishmash nonetheless.
This becomes readily apparent when one analyses the scenario list. All of the scenarios were published when AH still held the reins of ASL. Only one scenario does not require at least one board from another module. Fully half require some component of the out-of-print American module Yanks. Admittedly, the boards that came with Yanks are readily available for purchase in cardstock form. Moreover, MMP thoughtfully included chapter E—which originally came inside Yanks—with the second edition of the ASL rule book (ASLRB2). So provided you are willing to shell out an extra $20.00 for boards 16, 17, 18, and 19, ownership of Yanks is not a requirement. Good news, given that we will likely have to wait a few years before the second edition of Yanks is available. But if the boards from the American module were the extent of the interdependence issue, I would not have bothered to create the table below.

Click to enlarge
It goes without saying that you will need to own BV3. Even if you ignore the scenarios that require boards from this core of core modules, you will need to have access to the system counters, not to mention the “Jerries” who co-star in every FKaC scenario. That said, eight scenarios require ownership of the latest edition of Doomed Battalions (DB3). Or rather, these scenarios require three of the boards that are included with DB3. Boards 9 and 11 are two more rogue boards from the days of SL, while board 33 was originally included in the now redundant The Last Hurrah (Allied Minors). Budget considerations aside, frankly I cannot imagine why one would not purchase, or already own DB3.8 However, if funds are limited, one can purchase boards 9, 11 and 33 separately from MMP for $15.00. 

The last point is a minor one. The scenario “Probing Layforce” provides the Australians and British with five sangars. FKaC does not include sangar counters. According to Wikipedia:
A sangar is a small temporary fortified position with a breastwork of stone. The term was originally used by the British Indian Army to describe small temporary fortified positions on the North West Frontier and in Afghanistan, during the 19th century. The word was adopted from Hindi and Pashto and probably derives originally from the Persian word “sang,” which means “stone.”
In a pinch, a 1S Foxhole counter will suffice, at least until such time as the Allies are able to entrench. Due to a special scenario rule (SSR), this is unlikely to occur often. But it is something to keep in mind.
All this is to say that you should not expect too much from FKaC as a stand-alone product. The Commonwealth OB is too important to leave out of print for an extended period. MMP sensibly decided to focus on the most important parts of WoA, leaving the North African portion for a latter module. FKaC therefore contains what the average ASL player needs most: Commonwealth counters, vehicle and ordnance notes, and to a lesser extent, more map boards. Consequently, the module remains an essential component of the ASL system. Anyone serious about ASL, ought to own FKaC
Balance sheet
In some respects, I am a bit envious. Having purchased the first printing of FKaC at a premium four years ago, I could get a lot more for less money today. In my biased opinion, FKaC represents good value for the price, especially if you had the foresight to pre-order it for $63.00. The mapboards, if purchased separately, cost $40.00. At one time, MMP charged $15.00 or $20.00 for a set of the British chapter H notes, and the FKaC scenario cards. The boards, chapter H notes, and scenario cards alone are valued at about $55.00. If I add the cost of the counter sheets, I am looking at a module with a value of at least $80.00. To put this in perspective, consider that the cost of a typical third-party counter sheet is roughly $10.00. Inexpensive FKaC is not. But the module does offer some great value, particularly for those just getting into, or back into, the hobby.
1. The original Commonwealth OB was included in WoA, published by Avalon Hill (AH) in 1988. MMP first published FKaC 15 years later, in 2003.
2. The desert boards remain widely available in the WoA mounted format. (See, for example, Key’s Game and Hobbies, and Gamer’s Armory.) However, players can purchase the these boards as part of the ASL Map Bundle, or separately. MMP is selling individual boards for $5.00 each. Note that these boards are in the new card-stock format. (The BattleSchool KitShop also carries a selection of mounted and card-stock boards, including the Map Bundle.) The overlays will likely be available as part of the ASL Overlay Bundle that MMP is currently working on. The desert-specific counters are supposed to be included in the (expanded) reprint of Hollow Legions. Apart from the Italian OB, this module will include the rule pages for chapter F—presumably with all known errata incorporated, and in a larger font size.
3. There are six counter sheets in all. Three 8½” x 11” sheets contain ⅝” counters. One 8½” x 11” sheet, contain ½” counters. There are also two approximately 8½” x 5½” sheets. One contains ⅝” counters; the other contains ½” counters. The fascine counters originally included with WoA [were] supposed to reappear in the second edition of Yanks. (UPDATE: It now appears that the fascine counters will be rolled into the next edition of Hollow Legions.)
4. In fact, the colours will be identical to those in the soon to be reprinted ASL Starter Kit 3, as the counter sheets for these games were printed at the same time.
5. For a stark contrast, place a vehicle note page from another module such as Yanks or Croix de Guerre alongside a page from FKaC.
6. A few scenarios were previously published by MMP in their magazine Backblast. See my post “The State of the Game: ASL at 25,” for some background on Backblast.
7. I have always been partial to board 12. Unfortunately, none of the scenarios in the module utilize the board. Not to worry, as there are plenty of recent, and not so recent scenarios that do. See for example, scenarios OA25 “Side by Side,” OA31 “With Friends Like These,” and OA32 “The Riley Shuffle,” from Out of the Attic 2. I have played all of these scenarios at least once, and enjoyed them. If you have not picked up this magazine yet, I recommend that you do so.
8. In North America, there [were] a number of retailers offering DB3 for 15-25 percent less than the MMP retail price. (UPDATE: But that was before the module went out of print in 2015, followed soon after by FKaC.)
6th Guards Tank Brigade

For King and Country artwork
The box cover artwork is part of a painting by David Pentland. The painting depicts a Churchill Mk IV tank of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade (comprised of the 3rd Battalion [Bn] Scots Guards, the 4th Bn Grenadier Guards, and the 4th Bn Coldstream Guards), dusting the infantry of the 2nd Bn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders near Caumont-sur-Orne, France.

15 August 2011

Cracking Fortress Holland

Regular readers will be aware that I recently announced the scenarios lists for the Canadian ASL Open (CASLO) in September. One of the fellows who registered for the “Purple Heart” Mini tournament was astonished to learn that he did not own a single scenario on the list.1 I was not surprised. 
Most—but not all—of scenarios on the scenario lists have been published within the past 18 months. Indeed, to my knowledge, none of the scenarios on these lists have been featured at a previous CASLO. 
The primary rationale behind the scenario selection was to create lists that would offer players an opportunity to play something strikingly new, unusual, and most of all fun. The downside of selecting recently published material is that some attendees will be unfamiliar with the scenarios, which brings me to the subject of this post.
The point
I think that it is fair to say that many of those who have registered for the Mini tourney are unlikely to own even a handful of the publications on the scenario list. More to the point, those who are attending the CASLO for the first time may be uncomfortable with “unofficial” or third-party scenarios. I understand completely.2
It occurred to me that the more familiar folks are with a scenario, the more likely they are to consider playing it. To this end I have decided to trial a series of posts describing some of the scenarios in the Mini tourney. My hope is that these descriptions will alleviate any trepidation, and generate anticipation instead. 
$10 in KitShop
To battle by air
I decided to kick the series off with “Cracking Fortress Holland” from the first round. This early-war scenario recreates an infantry skirmish in the heart of Rotterdam. Despite its small size, the scenario presents players with an interesting tactical situation wherein neither side can simply sit tight. To win, each side must jockey for position. Manoeuvring is compounded by the nature of the terrain. All in all a good puzzle for each player to solve.
The scenario was designed and published by George Kelln of Lone Canuck Publishing, the sponsor of the Mini.3 “Cracking Fortress Holland” is one of six scenarios in To Battle by Air 2, a scenario pack published in 2008. The common thread in the pack is that the troops of one side initially entered the battle from the air. Four of the scenarios have paratroopers, although none enter play via Air Drop [E9.1]. Gliders are, however, used in one late-war scenario. The Germans in “Cracking Fortress Holland” used neither method. Before I spill the beans, let me set the stage. 

Vesting Holland
With Denmark occupied and Norway all but defeated, the Germans turned their attention to France, and the Low Countries. By May 1940, German plans called for the defeat and occupation of neutral Netherlands.4 
The Dutch army was relatively weak, and ill-equipped to withstand a concerted attack by Germany. In fact, the defence of the Netherlands was predicated less on the effectiveness of the Dutch military than on the effectiveness of certain natural defensive measures. There were a number of defensive lines, of which the Grebbe Line is likely the most familiar to ASL players.5 However, the Dutch government had pinned much of its hope on what is known in English as the Dutch Waterline (Hollandsche Waterlinie). In the event of an enemy invasion, the Dutch would open the sluices of this centuries old defensive line. Water from nearby lakes and rivers would flood a vast area of land stretching from the IJssel lake in the north to the river Maas in the south. The Line was defended along its length by forts and fortified towns. The area west of the Waterline was referred to as Vesting Holland, or Fortress Holland.
Fortified town on Water Line
The Dutch government had been confident that its armed forces could hold Fortress Holland for some time, or at least until another power could come to its aid. But the invasions of Denmark and Norway in April had highlighted vulnerabilities of the Dutch heartland to a widespread strike by German airborne forces. In response, the Dutch deployed infantry battalions to the major seaports and aerodromes of the Fortress. The third battalion of 39e Regiment Infanterie (III/39RI) was tasked with providing local security in Rotterdam. Approximately 450 Royal Dutch Marines were also in the city, although almost half were still in basic training during the spring of 1940. Apart from a sprinkling of anti-aircraft units, the remainder of soldiers, sailors and airmen in the port were support troops with no combat function.
To battle by air
The Germans were indeed planning to seize a number of key bridges and airfields by an airborne coup de main. But given that the attack on the Netherlands represented only a small part of a more general invasion of France and Belgium, the resources allocated to reducing Fortress Holland were modest. Of approximately 3500 Fallschirmjäger, or paratroops, of the 7. Flieger Division available for operations in the Netherlands, only 700 could be committed to an attack on Rotterdam, the country’s second largest city. Granted the paratroopers were to be reinforced by Infanterie Regiment 16 (IR 16) of 22. Luftlande-Division (Air Landing Division). However, before reinforcements could arrive, the paratroops first would have to secure the military airfield at Waalhaven. The airfield lay some distance south of the city centre, on the island of IJssel. The infantry companies of III/39RI stationed on IJssel were bound to interfere with German plans. Together, the men of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 (FJ1) and IR 16 were to secure the bridges at Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Moerdijk. In the event that the Dutch continued to resist, the airborne forces could be relieved by 9. Panzer Division advancing from the south.
The Rotterdam Drop and Landing Zones

Compounding matters was the need to secure a bridgehead over the main channel of the Maas River before the Dutch could react, seal off the gateway into the city centre, and counterattack the airfield. Unfortunately for the Germans, the nearest practical, albeit tiny, drop zone was the Feyenoord soccer stadium, some two kilometres south of the Willemsbrug traffic bridge, and the nearby railway span. If the Germans wanted to exploit the element of surprise they would need to find a way to insert troops closer to the Willemsbrug. The attack was set for 10 May 1940.
The railway bridge and Willemsbrug circa 1935
Maas Panic
During the wee hours of Friday morning, bewildered early-risers of Rotterdam witnessed a curious spectacle unfold on the Maas River. Some thought it was a military exercise. Others, pointing to the smoke rising over Waalhaven, concluded that the war had begun. Floatplanes, a dozen in all, alighted on the Maas. Soldiers emerged, and cast off for the shore in rubber dinghies. 
The Heinkel HE59 floatplane had a crew of three
The strangers in the morning gloom were specially trained volunteers of 22. Pionier Battaillon and 11. Kompanie III/IR 16.6 They were tasked with seizing the four spans of the Willemsbrug and the railway bridge to the east. The “airborne amphibians” quickly secured the bridges. A detachment of Royal Dutch Marines in the nearby Maas Hotel resisted, but were soon overwhelmed. Finding no explosives on the bridges, the Germans began to press into the heart of the city. It was not long, however, before elements of III/39RI began to close on the enemy bridgehead from the north.
The scenario
“Cracking Fortress Holland” commences with the Dutch marines hunkered down near the waterfront, the Germans deployed around the northern end of the Willemsbrug, and elements of III/39RI moving south to counterattack.7 In an interesting twist, the Dutch set up and move first. The German player needs to keep this in mind during set up. And both players need to plan for the entry of the German reinforcements on Turn 3. Victory Conditions are straightforward. The Germans win if there are no unbroken Dutch MMC less than or equal to two hexes of, and with Line of Sight (LOS) to, hex 8I4 at game end. Essentially, this means that the Germans have to keep the area bounded by the red perimeter on the map below clear of unbroken Dutch squads and half-squads. Locking Dutchmen down in Melee will not work; they need to be broken. Let’s take a look at what each side brings to the table.
A Virtual ASL (VASL) map of the scenario
Home town advantage
The Dutch have a number of things going for them in this scenario. To begin with, they outnumber the Germans both in terms of sheer numbers, and firepower (FP). Admittedly four Dutch squads are Green, but the Dutch Experience Level Rating (ELR) is a respectable three. The prospect of a host of Disrupted “greenies” is therefore diminished. Moreover, the Dutch conceivably can bring 48 FP to bear on the hapless Germans. This does not take into account the possibility of the medium machine gun (MMG) maintaining rate of fire. 
Speaking of the MMG, the Dutch will be tempted to pair the 8-1 leader with the best support weapon (SW) on the battlefield. The Dutch are on the attack, however, and should anticipate a fair number of “brokies.” More often than not Dutch leaders will have their hands full of desperate Dutchmen. 
The Dutch Sniper Activation Number, while low, remains a serious threat. Considering the low counter density, an attack on the German 9-1 leader is quite probable over the course of six turns, especially if the German player does not take sensible countermeasures. 
More worrisome from the German perspective are the marines. They have superior morale and may set up concealed on the German flank. The four concealment counters provided in the Dutch order of battle (OB) are more than adequate to conceal these elite troops. Indeed there is room for the Dutch player to employ enough subterfuge to keep the German player off balance. 
But perhaps the greatest advantage enjoyed by the Dutch is time. With six turns at their disposal, the Dutch can methodically tighten the noose around the shallow German bridgehead, and perhaps split the German position in half. The Dutch will undoubtedly take casualties while pressing forward. However, they have plenty of “blind” areas where their leaders can establish effective rally points. Employed prudently, Dutch infantry can be “recycled” time and again during the course of the scenario. Coupled with the fact that the Dutch have the initiative, there is plenty to give the Germans pause for concern.
Battlefield landmarks noted in the text

The away team
At first blush, the Germans do not appear to have much in their favour. German squads do have a slight edge in range, more so over Inexperienced Dutch squads. But given the restricted LOS, opportunities to capitalize on this advantage will be limited. That said, if German reinforcements are denied unfettered use of the bridge, they can provide some useful support from the south bank. In another respect, the short ranges involved make the prospect of ELR failure less of an issue for the Germans. The short distances inside the German perimeter also help make the Germans positions on either side of the I-row more mutually supportive. 
The tight perimeter is another factor in the Germans’ favour. Anchored as it is on the river, the German perimeter is difficult to outflank, and doubly difficult to encircle. The small perimeter also allows the Germans to shift and concentrate their forces quickly, and where the threat is greatest. 
A more important German advantage is that unlike the Dutch, the Germans do not need to risk as much, or move as far, during the game. The Dutch, in contrast, must brave Open Ground in order to reach their objectives. Only the marine squads are capable of placing Smoke. The rest of the Dutch are at the mercy of negative dice-roll modifiers (DRM). Their predicament is compounded by the fact that they must pass through one or more choke points during the first couple of turns.
The Germans have a couple of other advantages. Because the majority of the Dutch OB enters from off-board, there are certain to be opportunities for the Germans to gain concealment before play commences. But arguably the most important factor in the Axis favour is that the Germans have the last turn. This gives the German player one final chance to break or eliminate enemy MMC within the victory area. The Dutch cannot “skulk” their way out this; they must stand and take it on their chins.
A Landser of IR 16 with Fallschirmjäger of FJR 1
The riflemen of 11. Kompanie slowly gave ground until they were bottled up in the National Life Insurance Company building opposite the north end of the Willemsbrug. The Fallschirmjäger platoon8 that had parachuted into the soccer stadium eventually reached the bridge by hopping a tram for the last part of the journey. In spite of these reinforcements, the Germans were unable to expand their bridgehead on the north bank. As the day wore on, more and more Dutch soldiers closed on the bridge, including marines who retook the Maas Hotel, and signalmen fighting as infantry. 
The fighting was fierce. The Dutch hauled machine guns onto the upper floors of The White House (Het Witte Huis) a few hundred metres north of the Maas bridges. This ten-storey building positively dominated its environs.9 Fire from this vantage point made it exceedingly difficult for reinforcements to reach the forward German line, let alone improve the German positions. Although the balance of the air-landing battalion of IR 16 and numerous paratroopers were pushed forward into the bridgehead, the German attack stalled. But the Dutch were likewise unable to make any progress and the situation essentially remained unchanged until the Dutch government surrendered four days latter.
The airborne assault on Rotterdam was one of the more successful operations conducted by 7. Flieger Division and 22. Luftlande-Division in the Netherlands. The operation nevertheless fell short of German expectations. Despite the great determination and bravery exhibited by both sides, neither could break the deadlock at Willemsbrug.

Soldaat N.W. Boontjes (above) of 1/III-39 R.I was killed in the battle. He died while manning a Schwarzlose machine gun (above). He later received the Bronze Lion decoration for bravery in combat. The award was created in 1944. It is the second highest award for bravery in the Netherlands. He was but one of many who distinguished themselves on that fateful day in May 1940.
If you have any questions about this scenario, feel free to email me at: battleschool@rogers.com
1. Having paid his pre-registration fees, the gentleman in question was granted immediate access to a special CASLO URL. At this site, pre-registered attendees (only) can view an electronic version of any scenario card that they may be missing. In addition, we will make photocopies of scenario cards available to participants during the tournament, on an as required basis. All this is to say that prospective attendees need not worry. The tournament staff will ensure that everyone has equal access to the scenario cards on either tournament list.
2. Until 2006, I had only played scenarios published by Avalon Hill and MMP. When I attended a tournament in 2007, I initially was reluctant to play scenarios from other publishers. The differences in layout, terminology, graphics, and so forth was not only a bit confusing, but also a bit intimidating. However, I quickly learned that many entertaining “official” scenarios have been the work of talented and industrious third-party publishers. One only needs to look at the majority of the scenarios published in ASL Journal 8 and 9, as well as in Out of the Attic 2, to realize what I was missing all these years. 
3. If you own Out of the Attic 2, you already may have played a George Kelln design. “Panzers Forward!” (OA17), and “Parry and Strike” (OA18) were originally published in Lone Canuck’s Panzer Aces. This special scenario pack contains six scenarios featuring—you guessed it—panzer aces. More specifically, each scenario stars a German 9-2 armor leader. George does not sell this scenario pack. The only way to get your hands on a pack is to win one at a tournament. And as it happens, one lucky attendee at this year’s CASLO will go home with a copy. 
4. In fact, the Germans briefly considered ignoring the Netherlands, or at the very most arranging free passage of German military forces through the southern portion of the country. Even partial occupation was entertained. Fears that the Allies might use the Netherlands as a base for bombing the Ruhr, however, were raised, as were the advantages of having Dutch air bases in German hands. Geo-political reasons also played a role. For instance, it was felt by some German strategists that the defeat of the Netherlands might encourage Britain and France to reconsider Germany’s offer of a peace agreement. Truth be told, the Germans were not certain that they would be able to defeat France in short order. If France did not fall quickly, then the Netherlands would take on increasing importance. See for example the Dutch work Mei 1940: De Strijd op Nederlands grondgebied, published in 2005.
5. See, for example, J42 “Grebbe End” from ASL Journal 3. The first lines of defence coincided with natural barriers such as the IJssel and Maas rivers. These lines were manned by border battalions and only expected to delay an attacker. The main defensive lines, constructed in 1939, were the Grebbe Line, and to a lesser extent the Peel-Raam Position farther south. Although reinforced by pillboxes and other defensive works, the Grebbe Line was no where near as formidable as the hardened defensive works found along the Belgian and French borders. 
6. The assault force also included two heavy machine gun crews. These crews took up positions on the elevated tracks of the railway bridge mentioned in note 7 below.
7. For simplicity, the railway bridge is omitted from the scenario. Today, neither bridge remains. A fitness centre marks the northern pier of the old Willemsbrug. The new traffic bridge is located a few hundred metres upstream of the old bridge.
8. Coincidently, this platoon (dritte Zug) was part of 11. Kompanie, III/FJR1.
9. Completed in 1898, the White House was the first "skyscraper" in Europe.
One of many CASLO door prizes to be had
Further reading
One can find a good deal of information about this battle on the Internet, but it does take some digging. For instance, I found the operational map above online. I later noticed the original map in my copy of Bruce Quarrie’s German Airborne Divisions below. 
The Dutch work Mei 1940: De Strijd op Nederlands grondgebied (Den Haag: Sdu Uitgevers, 2005) became available in English last year. It is extremely expensive. I would try a university library first.
Amersfoort, Herman, and Kamphuis, Piet, Eds. May 1940: The Battle for the Netherlands (2010). 
Quarrie, Bruce. German Airborne Divisions: Blitzkrieg 1940-41, (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004).