17 April 2015

CASLO returns to the Nation’s Capital

Last autumn, I offered to take the lead in compiling the scenario lists for the Canadian ASL Open (CASLO). I had done this before, for previous CASLO, and I had an appreciation for the task at hand. Now that the work is done, I clearly underestimated the enormity of the task. Or more truthfully, I once again underestimated my penchant for “perfection,” as my longtime ASL buddy opined. 
Rather than explain why it took so long to prepare the scenario lists, I prefer to let the end product speak for itself. Aside from the show-and-tell aspects of this post, I hope to encourage a few more ASL players to attend what is shaping up to be the biggest CASLO on record. 
The where, the why, and the when
Ottawa, Ontario will host the CASLO for the third time in five years.1 Each year, the Canadian ASL Association (CASLA) deliberates on where the event will be held. A syndicate of players in my local ASL group made a successful bid to host the nineteenth CASLO. What makes CASLO XIX extra special is that—for the first time—it occurs in Ottawa during the spring, and on a long weekend. 
The Victoria Day (or May two-four) weekend is a good time to visit the Nation’s Capital. Aside from celebrating the (current) sovereign’s birthday with festivals and fireworks, the weekend marks the (unofficial) beginning of summer. As with past Opens, the CASLO kicks off at noon on Friday, and runs for three days: 15-17 May. However, in a departure from previous tournaments, some players will have an opportunity to roll dice as early as 10:00 on Friday. This is but one of several innovations to the CASLO Program.  
The what
Arguably the biggest change to the CASLO Program is the decision to run two, parallel tournaments. The CASLO, or main tournament, remains a five-round, three-day event. The winner of the CASLO is the player with the most points at the conclusion of Round 5 on Sunday—more on the CASLO in due course. 
The Novice Tourney is a three-round, two-day event. This shorter tourney differs from the “mini” tourneys of the past in a couple of respects, the most important of which is that it is not a single-elimination, or sudden-death competition. Instead, participants play all three rounds, with the winner determined by points in the same manner as the CASLO.2 Let’s look at the Novice Tourney in a bit more detail.
Novel approach
The Novice Tourney is now a tournament in its own right, with its own discrete set of scenarios. It caters not only to novice, or less experienced, players, but also to players who are unable to attend a three-day event. I tailored the scenario choices with these factors in mind. 
Scenarios in the Novice are arranged by theme, with one overarching theme per round. In keeping with the vision of the co-Tournament Directors (TDs) Doug Rimmer and Reg Plummer, each subsequent round requires knowledge of a broader rule set, and tactics. In most cases, players will select a scenario from among the first three listed for each round. The theme of the first round is infantry (Guts). The second round introduces ⅝” ordnance in the form of anti-aircraft artillery (AA), and medium mortars (Guns). The third and final round is a combined-arms test that adds tanks to the mix (Glory).
Novice Tourney Handbook
Along with the main scenarios, I added a pair of “pool” scenarios to each round. These scenarios can only be chosen by mutual agreement. I included them so as to provide more experienced players with an option to play a more complex scenario. Having said that, a closer inspection of the nine, core scenarios in the Novice reveals that each is more nuanced than it may appear initially.
Pool scenarios share the general theme of their respective rounds, but add a secondary theme. For example, the secondary theme for the pool scenarios in Round 1 is the Japanese, whereas offboard artillery (OBA) is a secondary component of Round 2. Below is a break down of each round.
Round 1: GUTS Saturday 09:00 - 15:00
All of the scenarios in the first round involve only Infantry. Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LATW) and Light Mortars are also in play, but no ⅝” ordnance. The table below supplies an overview of the round. Neither of the pool scenarios requires knowledge of PTO Terrain (G.1).
GUTS: Round 1 Scenarios in the Novice Tourney
Round 2: GUNS Saturday 16:30 - 23:00
Each scenario in the second round of the Novice includes ⅝” ordnance. Medium mortars are the most common type of Gun across all five scenarios in Table 2 below. A couple of scenarios have AA Guns, but only FT188 has a large-calibre AA Gun. 
One of the scenarios in this round is set in Tunisia (WCW2). However, no Chapter F rules are in effect. The scenarios in the pool involve fortifications, and OBA. Neither scenario is recommended for inexperienced players.
GUNS: Round 2 Scenarios in the Novice Tourney
Round 3: GLORY Sunday 09:00 - 15:30
Each scenario in the final round of the Novice includes some form of Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV). Although a self-propelled assault gun makes a guest appearance in one of the main scenarios, tanks are the stars of the show. In my view, players will enjoy playing any of the scenarios in the table below. 
GLORY: Round 3 Scenarios in the Novice Tourney
Players who register for the Novice receive a copy of the 25-page Novice Tourney Handbook (NTH). The NTH includes 15 scenario cards. Some cards have been amended. I included statistics from the Remote On-line Automated Record (ROAR) as a guide to aid in scenario selection. It goes without saying that players need to analyze each scenario on its own merits, keeping in mind that some scenarios have small, but important amendments. For example, I gave the Germans in “Scotch on the Rocks” an extra, medium machinegun.
The main event
Preparing the documentation for the CASLO was a huge undertaking. I could not have done it without the help and input of numerous people. The nine-page Tournament Information Package, or TIP, is the central document. Doug Rimmer drafted the original, and along with his co-TD Reg Plummer, proofread my reworked version.
The TIP provides a general overview of the CASLO. In addition to the Tournament Schedule, the TIP includes specific guidance on the scenario-selection process, including examples of how to bid for scenarios and sides, and the tournament rules. The TIP is designed to be consulted in conjunction with the detailed information found in the scenario packages specific to each round of the CASLO.
The "TIP"
Because the scenario packages for the CASLO include annotated maps of the playing areas, I felt it best to create separate documents for each round. Although the packages for most rounds are only eleven pages long, some are much longer. Together, the scenario packages run to 77 pages! 
Each scenario package begins with a preamble that describes the theme of the round. The preamble is accompanied by a table that lists the scenarios, and any associated special notes. Scenario cards appear on later pages, as do maps that illustrate the setup areas. Doug prepared over 90 percent of the maps, saving me heaps of work and headache. Rob MacDonald and Reg proofread each package. Given the length of these documents, we encourage attendees to make full use of the electronic versions provided. 
Before we examine the rounds in more detail, I would like to thank the legion of players who helped me narrow down the scenarios for the CASLO. There are 25 scenarios on the CASLO scenario list. All were played at least once before we chose them. Other scenarios never made the cut, but were played nonetheless. 
Doug hosted monthly “play test” sessions at his place. These tests helped us identify balance issues, as well as areas that might lead to confusion, or disagreement. I think that we have a better list because of this testing. I also feel that the TDs are more prepared for questions that may arise during the tournament. I would like to thank the following gentlemen for their assistance: Adrian Earle, Brian McLeod, Doug Rimmer, Jamie Rimmer, Martin Hicks, Reg Plummer, Rob MacDonald, and Ken Young.
Round 1: Early Action
All of the scenarios in the first round take place before 1941. The round serves two purposes. It acquaints players with lesser known actions, and it presents tactical situations and forces that, for the most part, are intended to push the comfort level of average players, and compel them to think and play in a less conventional manner. 
The scenarios in this round are relatively new. The oldest, “Stairway to Heaven,” was published in 2010. “Death Throes” appears courtesy of Bounding Fire Productions, and the designer Chas Smith. The scenario is one of more than 40 in BFP’s forthcoming Poland in Flames Battlepack.3 As the banner above hints, I also included a scenario from Hakkaa Päälle! in Round 1.
Round 2: Jungle Gym
All of the scenarios in this round occur in the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO). In all cases, PTO Terrain (G.1) is in effect. However, in some cases, there are important exceptions to the terrain transformations that normally take place when rule G.1 is in play. Brush, for instance, is not always transformed into bamboo.
The scenarios in this round are new. None were published before 2014. In fact, one is due to be released in Journal 11 later this year. “Maximum Aggression” appears here courtesy of Multi-Man Publishing, and the designer, Michael Koch.
I selected the scenarios with a view to providing players an approachable introduction to the Pacific Theatre, and the Japanese in particular. Several of the scenarios are straightforward, and none feature any of the more complex rules found in Chapter G. Dense Jungle, for example, is not in effect in any of the scenarios, while esoteric rules dealing with caves, panjis, and so on are also absent. And with one exception, players do not have to concern themselves with the rules for Demo Charge Heroes (G1.424), or Tank-Hunter (T-H) Heroes (G1.421) for that matter. The Jungle Gym is nonetheless designed to give players a mental workout. 
Round 3: Minor League
This round is similar to Round 1. It is designed to test a player’s ability to use the armed forces of lesser powers effectively. Each scenario includes an Allied Minor or Axis Minor component that forms the bulk, if not all, of one side’s order of battle (OB). Players also should be prepared to handle Inexperienced Personnel (A19.3). 
Round 3 is unique in that players are required to bid for sides using one of three, very different methods. Standard bidding is the most common. However, in “The Bet,” players bid for the same side. Each player places a wager, betting on the minimum number of building/rubble hexes that the Germans must control at game end. The classic “Morire in Belleza” uses instead the Australian Bidding System (ABS). In this Paddington Bears scenario, players select one of eight bids. An explanation of how ABS works is found in the TIP. 
Round 4: History Lesson
All the scenarios in this round are played on maps that have terrain unique to the historical situation. Round 4 is designed to test a player’s ability to grasp a number of historical and terrain rules, and adjust play accordingly. 
This round required the most work on my part. In an effort to make the Historical ASL (HASL) round more accessible (and palatable), I created an abridged rule set for each scenario. In spite of much culling, condensing, and copyediting, the rules overhead still may appear daunting to some would-be participants. However, bear in mind that all of the HASL rules are in one place. There is no need to consult the original HASL rule set. Nor is there any need to skim through pages of HASL rules to determine if a particular rule applies. If a HASL rule is present in the scenario package, then it applies to the associated scenario. If a HASL rule is absent, then the rule is not applicable.
HASL rules for CM04
In some cases, I deleted rules that would have little or no impact on play. I also modified, or extensively rewrote certain rule sections. I did this either for clarity, or to bring a particular rule in line with core ASL rules. This is most noticeable in the HASL rules for the scenarios produced by Lone Canuck Publishing. Where possible, I also included colour illustrations, and player aids. 
Rob MacDonald was responsible for prodding me to create the Valor of the Guards Terrain Table, which was based on a similar table supplied by Michael Rodgers—the Treasurer of the CASLA, and an unflagging supporter of the CASLO. Doug Rimmer provided feedback on my edits to the rules, while Reg Plummer and Rob proofread my handiwork. I can say with confidence that we have done our utmost to make the historical scenarios in this round accessible to all participants. Granted not everyone will own the HASL modules from which these scenarios were chosen. Rest assured, however, that the tournament organizers are doing their best to ensure that players have what they need (maps included) to partake of the CASLO history lesson.
Round 5: Oh Canada!
All scenarios in this round feature Canadians. And all have been published within the past five years. I wanted to end the CASLO on a theme that incorporated only the latest scenario designs featuring Canadian troops. This proved more difficult than I expected. There are few scenarios to choose from, and many of these are played on a historical map. But I was okay with this. 
My original intent was to integrate the themes of the CASLO vertically. Put another way, rather than assign all of the HASL or PTO scenarios to one round, I planned to spread them across all five rounds—with no more than two HASL or PTO scenarios per round. I envisioned a competition within a competition. While some players vied for top spot in the CASLO, others could attempt to win a theme. For example, a player might receive one point for playing a HASL scenario, or three points for winning one. The player with the most points in a given theme would win a prize. To make it more interesting, I incorporated scenarios that qualified for more than one theme. 
In the end, I was overruled. We went with the “horizontal” approach in which all scenarios in a round share the same theme. Scenarios with more than one theme are not immediately obvious, however. The last round of the CASLO has obvious vestiges of my intended thematic approach. For example, “The Police Station” is set in Hong Kong. The scenario qualifies for the Canadian theme, but could just as easily qualify for the Pacific Theatre theme (if we ignore the lack of PTO Terrain). “Zoot Suit Boys” is from Bloody Buron, a scenario pack that uses a historical map and rules to portray the to-and-fro fight for the Norman village of Buron, in June 1944. The historical rules required to play the scenario are manageable—little more than a page, including an explanatory illustration that I created.4 So while technically a HASL scenario, some players may enjoy giving the “Baddies” a bloody nose as the Canucks hum Oh Canada!

Scenario list of the CASLO for 15-17 May 2015
I had planned to expand upon some other unique aspects of the tournament. However, until all of these are confirmed in the next week or so, I will refrain from making any promises that the TDs cannot deliver on. If you would like additional information on CASLO XIX, I recommend that you visit the CASLO site that Jamie Rimmer created. Among other things, the site includes a list of sponsors, and the prizes that they have donated. As of today, 29 people have registered for CASLO XIX. You can help us reach 40. Pass it on!
CASLO XIX Prizes donated by BattleSchool KitShop
A final word, if I may. I can confirm that the BattleSchool KitShop will be onsite during CASLO XIX. Helen expects to have the shop open from roughly 09:00 to 15:00 each day. She will have copies of most publications containing scenarios found on the play lists of both tournaments. The main exceptions are the older HASL modules: A Bridge Too Far, and Kampfgruppe Pieper II. Provided we do not sell out of an item before 15 May, almost everything else will be available for purchase on the day. 
If you are joining us from out of town and would like something special—an ASL map bundle, or an out-of-print item, for example—I recommend that you reserve a copy with Helen ahead of time. She will try to have most publications on hand, but she does not intend to bring many copies of larger items. If you prefer to plan your purchases in advance, feel free to request a link to a PDF copy of our catalogue. Email: battleschool at rogers dot com. 
1. The venue for CASLO XIX is located in Bells Corners, a former village in the former city of Nepean. Both municipalities now form part of the western suburbs of Ottawa. The Nation’s Capital has a population just shy of one million. The international airport is about a 25-minute drive east of the hotel. The nearest train station (Fallowfield, which serves the Montreal-Toronto Via Rail corridor) is about 15/30 minutes away by car/connecting bus. 
2. It took me a while to understand why Doug Rimmer did not want to refer to the Novice Tourney as a “mini” tourney. I assumed that it was mere semantics. However, once we agreed to run it as a Swiss-style tournament, dropping the term “mini” made perfect sense. Our hope is that future CASLO TDs will adopt this format. In our view, the smaller tourney offers a meaningful alternative for players who cannot attend on Friday. The smaller tourney also gives TDs the flexibility to create two, thematically different tournaments.
3. Bounding Fire Productions’ Poland in Flames is a new Battlepack stuffed with more than 40 scenarios, new counters, illustrated rules pages, and eight mapboards—including two pairs of double-wide boards. The pack will likely include a magazine that recounts the Polish Campaign of September 1939 too. 
4. To give you an idea of the time required to prepare the HASL rules, I spent a day or so rewriting and condensing the historical rules for “Zoot Suit Boys.” I also created a diagram that explains how the Partial Orchards found on only a small portion of the map work. The rules, diagram included, take up less than a page and a quarter.
On a related note, I forgot to add that a couple of players in Toronto (GTA) are interested in forming an ASL club. If you would like to be part of this, please send me an email and I will put you in touch.