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.


Chris D. said...

Fantastic review of FKaC. I'd already pre-ordered it even though I do have WoA. I'm more convinced now that my decision to do so was a good one, based on your review.

Chris D. said...

Forgot to ask. I had purchased the separately available Chap H and the FKaC scenarios from FKaC 1st printing, a couple years back. Have you noticed any changes in those between the 1st printing and this 2nd printing?

Chris D. said...

The original Avalon Hill Yanks only just sold out this past year. MMP said they plan on combining Yanks and Paratrooper in their reprint. Unfortunately, they will have to recreate all the counter artwork from scratch as the old pre-computer work from Avalon Hill is unusable. I'd say best figure at least a year or two before we see it released. You can find copies of Yanks on ebay for reasonable prices, though.

Chris Doary said...

Good question re the rule pages. I do not think that they have any significant amendments.

I believe that the only change to the contents of FKaC is the removal of boards 1 and 8, and the addition of boards 6, 10, 13, 14, and 15 and 32.

That said, MMP may have corrected the minor error in the vehicle listing for the Humber IV AC. The superscript t, for truck movement, should not be adjacent to the MP allotment for this vehicle, as it uses AC movement. I must confess that I have not cracked open a new copy yet. When I do, I will check the notes and report back to you.

Chris Doary said...

Regarding Yanks, I hope that MMP will prove me wrong, but I do not expect to see a second edition of this module before 2014. Part of the wait will be due to the technical problems that Mr. Dawson referred to in his reply.

The other issue, is fitting Yanks 2 into the printing queue. There are a lot of other ASL publications in the queue already, including Festung Budapest, Hakka Palle, Rising Sun, more Journals, and Action Packs, etc. This does not include the other non-ASL game titles. Available capital will be another factor.

I will be buying a couple copies, and am probably an anxious as anyone to have Yanks 2. However, I would rather wait a little longer than receive a rushed product.

I passed my old counters from Yanks and Gung Ho onto my brother-in-law. I have raided my ASLSK counter sets, as well as some other ASL publications, and am making do with this minimal Ami counter set. Playing on VASL helps too.

Binko Barnes said...

Chas Argent of MMP on his blog just announced that the new Hollow Legions with all the DTO gear will be the next core module after Rising Sun.

This is great for those of us who love the DTO. But it means that a Yanks reprint is a real long way off.

When Rising Sun does come out a lot of players are going to be really really unhappy when they discover that they have the Marines but can't play with them because they lack all the core American counters that come only in Yanks.

dude163 said...

Great review!

Chris Doary said...

As I predicted, Yanks was not released before 2014. Indeed, it was not released until 2016.

In the meantime, MMP sold out of the second printing of FKaC.

We have a few copies of FKaC left in stock, albeit at out-of-print prices. On the plus side, the module comes with seven Commonwealth BattleDice (or free shipping to Canada and the lower 48).