12 February 2013

Forging Friendships

I cannot make this stuff up. Last week I played “Sting ‘em at Zingem,” from the latest Winter Offensive Bonus Pack. A local player had dropped by my place for an ASL fix. Rob and I ended up playing the scenario twice. The Germans bullied the Belgians in the first game. In the second, the Belgians gave the Germans a bloody nose at start. It looked bad for the Jerries. They nevertheless rallied, and by mid game, controlled five of the six objectives. The attackers need four for a win. Incredibly, the Belgians managed to retake, and hold, two objectives on their left flank. One of these objectives was hex 66H4. Although it was not an issue in either game, nearby hex G3 caught our attention. 
Hex G3 is one of those rare hexes where the artwork of the woods abuts a hexside wall. It may be the only example of its kind. I am curious to know if there are others. According to rule section A4.31, Infantry may not Bypass along a hexside in a hex where a woods or building symbol touches the hexside. (There is an exception to this, as I point out in the second box below.) Now, the woods symbol in G3 does not actually touch the hexside. But it does touch the wall. And as the same rule section makes clear, walls and hedges are considered extensions of hexsides, hexagonal encroachments I guess, for the purposes of this rule.
However, only a wee bit of the woods symbol touches the wall. My opponent and I wondered if this was deliberate. Do not get me wrong. I like the fact that Bypass is not allowed along the G3-H3 hexside of G3. If an Infantry unit wants to get to G4 from H2, or vice versa, it is going to cost a minimum of three Movement Factors (MF). Such is the cost of encroachment. But I was curious just the same. So I posed the question on GameSquad ASL forums. 
I have yet to hear back from those involved with the design and production of the board. I did, however, learn that one of the buildings on the new version of board 3 has a similar kind of encroachment. The wooden building in hex 3I1 appears to touch one of the hexsides, thereby prohibiting Bypass along that hexside. This was not the case with the mounted version of this board. In fact, the original board from Squad Leader had enough room along this particular hexside to permit Vehicular Bypass Movement (D2.3). Moreover, as one astute observer noted, this minor alteration may have altered the way at least one scenario is played. 
“Gavin Take” is a gem, originally published in The General magazine. I have played this scenario more than a dozen times. One group of Americans are required to enter on hex 3I1. Players typically used Bypass to skirt the building and woods in this hex. Due to the cumulative effect of the terrain in 3I1, it can cost 4 MF to enter this hex. The Americans are on a tight timetable. Had the new board broken an All American classic? See box below for answer.
So where am I going with this? Not very far, as it turns out. You may recall that the winner of our last monthly raffle is a resident of Waterloo, Ontario. Twenty-five kilometres (about 15 miles) southeast lies the city of Cambridge. I know a couple of ASL players there. One of them contacted me after reading “A Wealth of ASL in Common.” He was interested in meeting the winner, Lee Kennedy, in order to arrange a game. I put them in touch. A few days ago, Lee mentioned to me that he had started a game with the fellow from Cambridge. They had commenced playing “Gavin’s Take.” 
I realize that this is pure coincidence. A lot of people have played this scenario. But here is the wrinkle. If you have been keeping tabs, you will recall that the winners of our April and July raffles last year hailed from Albuquerque (ABQ), New Mexico. Moreover, both gents belonged to the Division West ASL Club in ABQ. At the time, I thought that this was a heck of a coincidence. So imagine my surprise when Helen told me that the winner of this month’s raffle was “that guy from Cambridge who Lee is playing.”
The river that binds them
By Canadian standards the Grand River is not a big river. It is less than 300 kilometres long. The river nonetheless has a certain grandeur. One of my sisters lives within walking distance of the Rockwood Conservation Area along the Eramosa River, part of the Grand River Conservation Authority. The Eramosa is a tributary of the Grand. However, it is indicative of the upstream areas of the Grand River watershed. The waterways of this system wind through limestone gorges, and past countless cliffs, caves and glacial potholes, remnants of the last ice age. While I have yet to canoe the Eramosa, I have enjoyed more than one trek along its precipitous shoreline. Roughly 20 kilometres downstream from Rockwood, the Eramosa empties into the Speed River in Guelph. The Speed flows southwest for another 40 kilometres until it joins the Grand at Cambridge. 
The winner of this month’s raffle lives a few hundred metres from the Speed, and barely a kilometre from the confluence of the Speed and Grand rivers. Among other things, our winner enjoys canoeing. As the crow flies, the Research in Motion Technology Park in Waterloo is roughly 20 kilometres north of his house. By canoe, the distance to the home of the Blackberry doubles. Then there is the matter of the portage. Lee lives near the University of Waterloo, more than seven kilometres from the Grand. How far are you prepared to go for your next ASL game?
ASL will travel - but be mindful of your portage capacity
More than 220 Squad Leaders took part in our latest contest. Helen used five dice. There were no straight sixes, and no “perfect” scores. The lowest roll was six. Only one follower had a roll this low. Here is his ASL story.
ASL and me
I began playing ASL in 2012. I honestly don’t remember why I decided to pick up the game—no doubt I had read something about it online. Regardless, without knowing any players or ever having played the game, I ended up with an ASL Rule Book (ASLRB) and Beyond Valor, followed by a small stack of Starter Kit materials. Since then, I’ve been continuing to learn the game, playing when possible, and expanding my collection.

Why do I like ASL? I have a penchant for complex and detailed games, preferably with at least an air of realism about them. I have a bit of the collector impulse. I have an educational background in history. I enjoy a good war story. For all of that, ASL was an easy sell. The game is a lot of fun—tactically interesting in its own right, while rich in narrative and stimulating to the imagination.
So far, I’ve been focused on the MMP and Avalon Hill core modules and materials like the Journals and Action Packs. Besides a couple of scenario packs, I haven’t looked much at the third party material until recently. I am probably most intrigued by the small campaigns by Lone Canuck, as well as the Bounding Fire ‘terrain’ themed packs - I like maps.
I haven’t played enough to have any strong in-game preferences. Out-of-game, I’ve enjoyed looking at scenarios featuring the Canadians. It has provided me with an excuse to read more Canadian military history.
An interest in military history begets an interest in ASL
My youngest daughter has definitely shown a preference for the Russians. She’s only 22 months old, but three times now she’s infiltrated the gaming closet and gone straight for the storage tray filled with Russian ordnance. I think she has a promising future.
So far, I’ve mostly played with a friend of mine in town. It turns out he picked up the rule book some time ago but never played. We’ve worked our way through a number of scenarios together—a great slaughter of MMCs and the rules, but lots of fun. I don’t know that I’ve ‘played’ much solitaire, but I’ve certainly pulled out the pieces to work my way through a section of rules or mess around with different set ups or game situations. I haven’t tried VASL (Virtual online ASL)—yet. I was recently excited to learn (through BattleSchool!) that there are a number of ASL players in the area, and I made the short drive up to Waterloo to start on “Gavin Take” with Lee Kennedy. It’s been fun to play against someone with some experience, and who has participated in ASL “culture.”
My comment to anyone looking to pick up the game: it’s complex, but it’s not rocket science. The ASLRB is a lot to digest, but it can be done in manageable pieces. You don’t have to read the whole thing in order to play and have a good time. Also, I personally found the Starter Kits were helpful to get a handle on the basic mechanics - order of play, movement, firing, routing, close combat, etc.
Richard Bing may not have played a lot of ASL—yet. But he knows what he likes. For following Sitrep, Richard has won a copy of Best of Friends. Multi-Man Publishing has yet to release the scenario pack for general sale, but it should be available shortly. The pack consists of twelve, previously published scenarios by the Swedish publisher Friendly Fire. Five of the scenarios have been updated. Most occur on the Eastern Front, which is why we have included an Ostfront Sniper! Pack with the scenario pack. 
Best of Friends does contain a scenario involving Canadians. “Sting of the Italian Hornet” takes place in Sicily, in July 1943. Unfortunately, except for a handful of Italian counters in his Starter Kit collection, Richard does not own the Italian order of battle. This is a pity given his interest in Canadian military history. As you can see from the terrific photograph that his wife took of him, he owns a copy of Elite Canadians. This scenario pack contains six revised scenarios that were originally published elsewhere, including in Canada at War—a scenario pack distributed by Lone Canuck Publishing as a tournament prize. We therefore reasoned that he might appreciate owning a copy of Canada at War 2.1 
Congratulations Richard! Congratulations on winning our contest, and congratulations on forging a new ASL friendship!
Be a winner! 
Our next raffle will take place on 1 March. To qualify, you need to be following Sitrep as a Squad Leader as of 28 February. We recommend that you also subscribe to Sitrep. A subscription will ensure that you are notified when we publish a new post. Or sign up to get Sitrep delivered directly to your email inbox.
A Squad Leader receives one ballot for each raffle. In addition, all Squad Leaders who joined before 1 July 2012 receive a bonus ballot—a thank you for joining early. Finally, all Squad Leaders displaying their full names (first and last), and a non-generic avatar receive a bonus ballot. There are still a lot Squad Leaders with generic avatars: grey silhouettes, or exclamation marks. These followers are missing out on a ballot which, in many cases, would double their odds of winning a prize. The same goes for those using an alias.
Good luck in the next raffle!
To claim a prize, add a comment at the bottom of the appropriate post and email your contact details to us at: battleschool @ rogers dot com
1. The five scenarios in this second volume take place in France, the Netherlands, and Germany. “Fire and Brimstone,” a heated firefight in March 1945, seems ideal for a quick game. The Canadians are supported by two Badger flamethrowing vehicles in this tourney-sized scenario. But the Germans—all of whom set up hidden—have fistfuls of Panzerfausts that apparently have made life difficult for the men of the Lake Superior Regiment. The Remote Online Automated Record (ROAR) shows the Germans with a 60 percent success rate. However, with only 13 recorded plays on ROAR, the jury is still out on this one. 
Further reading
If you are interested in learning more about Canadian involvement in the Italian Campaign, check out some of the following titles. Dan Dancock's popular history The D-Day Dodgers provides an entertaining overview. Mark Zuehlke looks at various aspects of the campaign in more depth. He adds local colour through the testimonies of Italian citizens. Begin with Operation Husky, then follow up with Ortona, Liri Valley, and The Gothic Line. His Ortona: Street Fight is better suited to the casual reader, and makes a great gift for a teen. If you are more interested in the fight for Northwest Europe, you can follow the Canadians from Juno Beach until the German surrender through Zuehlke's other works in his Canadian battle series. Donald E. Graves provides snapshots of Canadian military history in his two Fighting for Canada books. Graves is better known for his work on the War of 1812. That said, his regimental history of the South Albertas during WWII is a splendid treatment of the subject. Think St. Lambert-sur-Dives and Major David Vivian Currie, the only member of the Canadian Armoured Corps to be awarded a Victoria Cross during the war.
Currie, with revolver, St. Lambert-sur-Dives, 19 August 1944
Below is a segment of what the cameraman on the left recorded for posterity.


Richard Bing said...

Very cool! Thanks!

The other book is 'Fighting for Canada: Seven Battles, 1758-1945,' edited by Donald Graves.

Chris Doary said...

You had me stumped on that last book Richard. I never would have guessed the title. Recommend that you track down a copy of the South Albertas at your local library. Failing that, a university library should have a copy.