05 March 2016

Daft ducks and salted licorice

The results are in. Yay! Yawn. 
I know, I know. It has been ages since I rolled up the rim... er, wrong contest. We have a winner, five winners to be precise. 
Three hundred Squad Leaders competed in our year-end raffle. I used four dice per roll, yet five followers nonetheless tied for second. There were no Yahtzees1 whatsoever. The lowest roll was five. No one had six. Five had sevens, but only four of these followers were included in the final results. Let me explain.
Several of those following Sitrep have generic names and avatars. It can be difficult at the best of times to identify who is who. This was the case with a Squad Leader who would have placed third, if only we could have confirmed his or her identity. Our apologies to the person following Sitrep as “Poet.”
If you would like to ensure that you are not left out of our next raffle, we recommend that you follow under your own name, and preferably with a custom avatar. A mug shot works well.
With that out of the way, let’s have a look at the winners, beginning with the roughneck who placed fifth.
Home on the range
The Front Range is the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains located in the US states of Colorado, and Wyoming. The Front Range Urban Corridor is a populous stretch of land bordering the eastern foothills of this range. It extends south from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Pueblo, Colorado. Front Range ASL (FRASL—pronounced “frazzle”?) has nothing to do with American Sign Language, and everything to do with a wargame that turned 30 last year. A longtime member of this ASL fraternity placed fifth in our contest. Below is a snapshot from a FRASL get-together. They are entangled in a scenario from Gary Fortenberry’s To the Bridge!  
Fortenberry fracas fails to frazzle FRASL fraternity.
Some of you may know Tom Jazbutis, or simply “Jazz” from the ASL GameSquad forums, where he hangs his moderator hat from time to time. But few may be familiar with his early years in the hobby. Tom Repetti—the only inductee of ASL’s Hall of Greatest Wits (it’s a small hall, more of a vestibule really)—has never tired of poking fun at his good friend. Here, for instance, is Tom’s birthday tribute from 2007:
For Jazz, the only Lithuanian on the registered ASL players lists, largely because the rest of the group couldn’t stand another? For Jazz, whose checkered past includes sordid tales of wildcatting, lurid trips down uncharted rivers with nubile college girls, and seemingly impossible treks up the craggy peaks of nine of the ten world’s highest mountains? 
He failed to mention Tom’s strange encounters with bell nipples, but I digress. The first takeaway from Tom’s truncated ode is that the latter Tom is of Lithuanian ancestry—more on this in a moment. The second is that Jazz has some ASL history. With that potted preamble, I would like to offer an indifferently edited, and randomly redacted insight into Jazz’s dark, ASL past, as recounted to me by a person who shall remain nameless.   
Once upon a time there was a boy named Tom...
For following Sitrep, for putting up with that other Tom on the ASLML (and the rest of us on GameSquad), and not least for enduring my unspuddy humour, Tom, I mean Jazz, wins a set of our US Airborne BattleDice.
Airborne! The US Marine Corps has nothing on these guys.
Spanish Blues
But enough of slaying cougars (Puma concolor) in hand-to-hand combat, and Water Fowl Checks. It is time that I introduced our next prize winner. 
Until recently, I could count the number of ASL players in Lithuania on the toes of my phantom limb. Not so anymore. I confess that I have no clue how many ASL players actually live in Lithuania. I do, however, know of one who does. He lives and works in Vilnius, the capital. 
BT-7 fast tanks could be driven on their road wheels.
Fernando is an unusual name for a Lithuanian—the descendant, perhaps, of a Spaniard who passed through the area on his way to the Russian front in September 1941. I am kidding. But it could have happened. Biographies of former members of La División Azul are replete with romantic liaisons. They claim to have left a trail of broken hearts from Madrid to Novgorod, 200 kilometres south of Leningrad. As each contingent travelled north to fight its personal, anti-Bolshevist crusade, it paused to gather provisions, and rest. Some Spaniards got more rest than others. 
The Germans were appalled at the poor Spanish military discipline and decorum. However, ordinary soldiers and senior commanders alike soon came to respect the fighting prowess of their newfound allies. As German forces became encircled at Demyansk and Kholm during that first, almost disastrous, winter campaign, the Spaniards steadfastly held a 50-kilometre stretch along the Volkhov River north of Lake Ilmen.  
The Spanish Blue Division 1941-1943
Advanced Squad Leader is the most exciting wargame that Fernando Gargallo knows, and consequently heaps of fun to play. It is even reasonably historical, Fernando allowed. Whether or not he was hinting at the special capabilities of Spanish units in LFT’s División Azul series of scenarios, I cannot say.2 ;)
Fernando began playing the game in 1988, but left it behind for work in 2001. Two years ago, the Virtual ASL interface rekindled his interest in the hobby. Fernando has (re)learned much since 2014, and follows the ASL blog of his fellow countryman Ramón Real Bernal closely. Our ASL representative in Vilnius is determined to improve his level of play. Winning, while thrilling, is seldom as memorable as the circumstances that led to the win (or loss), however. Fernando appreciates a good story, and ASL has no shortage of those. Like everyone, he reflected, he has had moments when the outcome of a scenario was all but certain. Winning or losing unexpectedly on the last turn is what sets ASL apart from many other wargames. Anything can happen.
Fernando finds Vilnius “a little cold.” He promised to send me a photo of him in the summer, when he has a copy of the ASL Rulebook handy for a picture of him holding the orange bible in historic Vilnius. With any luck, it will be a little warmer then, and he will be a little less blue. Until winter breaks, he can play ASL online, and comment on ASL blogs. He can even win some ASL-themed dice, because with ASL, anything can happen.
43rd Wessex, British Airborne, and Guards Armoured
Although almost 500 kilometres from the nearest (known) ASL players in Warsaw, Fernando is not alone. He is part of a worldwide community of players eager to meet new people, and to share its love of the game. A Spaniard expatriate in Lithuania took the time to join an ASL blog in Canada. He won a set of British BattleDice, including a die representing the 43rd Wessex Division. Wessex is an historical area of southern England that shares its eastern boundary with West Sussex, which is a convenient segue to our next winner. 
Something about Sompting
Nick Carter will be chuffed to learn that the man responsible for his good fortune in 2013, now has some of his own. In a previous contest, we asked readers to nominate a fellow ASL player for a prize. Lee Hyde, a resident of Sompting, in West Sussex, put forward Nick’s name. Nick won a handsome, wooden dicetower, and a pair of BattleDice. 
When Lee submitted his nomination, Nick had lived about 25 miles away in East Sussex. I was disappointed to learn that Nick has since moved away. Lee is once again without an ASL mentor, and game partner. At Nick’s insistence, Lee had attended his first tournament, the long running Intensive Fire in Bournemouth, roughly 90 miles west of Sompting. I would like to see Lee make this trek again, if nothing else than to be able to share a few pints with the tourney regulars. With a bit of luck, he might find a new ASL mate, someone close at hand, and willing to take a newer player under his wing. 
Sea lions and Saxons in Sompting
Should Lee decide to head to Bournemouth this November, he can give his new BattleDice a spin. After all, black goes with everything, right?
Only "Hitler Youth and old men on bicycles." Not!
Soft spoken in Spokane 
The runner up in our raffle—the man who won the tie breaker for second place—returned to the ASL fold a few years ago. He had played regularly from 1990 until 1992. After a 20-year hiatus, he took another run at it. He has been running every since. In 2012, he began by playing ASL Starter Kit scenarios with “neophyte friends.” He has spent the last three years learning the ropes with a bevy of “really cool, experienced, and veteran players.” 
James Lamphere works as a Systems Administrator for Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. Cheney is maybe 20 miles southwest of Spokane (spō-kăn′). There James befriended several accomplished ASL players. One, a grognard by the name of Rob Wolkey, observed that “James is the perfect opponent.” He is willing to try anything when it comes to scenarios, and he never complains about his luck. (James and “boxcars” have a special relationship that could be related to his earlier neglect of ASL, rather than shoddy dice. But just to be sure, I think that we can help him out in the latter department.)
ASL is alive and kicking in Spokane, WA.
Rob’s endorsement does not end there. James is also a valued member of his local band of ASL brothers because he often hosts game days. His spacious basement has room for ten or more players, with tables large enough to accommodate campaign games (CG). It has been 25 years since James threw his first dice in “Gavin Take,” but 30 years since ASL made its debut in 1985. As we celebrate the second milestone, James can reflect upon his own anniversary with a set of our ASL at 30 anniversary BattleDice. And if James is truly game for anything, his next visit to Stalingrad may as well be at night.  
ASL at 30 - Head east young man!
Before we head overseas to meet the winner of our raffle, I need to fess up. There is probably another reason why James has acquired so many new ASL friends. His man cave boasts that quintessential North-American appliance, an amply-stocked beer fridge. As Mr. Wolkey summed up, you “can’t get more perfect than that!”
Capetown capers
Chris van Wyk lost the tie-breaker in one of our earliest raffles back in 2011. His luck improved somewhat when he scored a pair of Crown Jewels in the 2014 year-end raffle. His was a clean heist this year, however, as Chris made off with six gems, one, a personal favourite of Tom Morin. But I am getting ahead of myself. 
Chris lives in Cape Town, far from the main concentrations of ASL players in North America, and Europe. South Africa is nonetheless home to a number of ASL fans. If the pins on Nadir Elfarra’s ASL Player’s Map are current, Lance Raftesath also resides in Cape Town, while Neil Amoore lives in the outskirts of Johannesburg. In this respect, Chris is better off than the lone Frenchman on Réunion, an isolated island more than 100 miles off the east coast of Madagascar! 
It has been ages since I noticed Chris post on the GameSquad ASL forums, although I may have seen a more recent post on BoardGameGeek. I am not suggesting that he has lost interest in ASL—far from it. However, a pair of young children are at least as interesting. Before the youngsters were old enough to walk, and demand their father’s full attention, Chris was quite active in the hobby. For instance, a few days ago I noticed that he was credited with proofing the rules for Suicide Creek, a smallish Campaign Game (CG) set on New Britain, New Guinea, and released in ASL Journal 9.3
Dutch treats - Zoute Drop and ASL in "the Netherlands."
Things are looking up ASL-wise, though. Chris has persuaded a fellow Afrikaner to take up the hobby. Below is a recent photograph of a game they played from that most sought after of HASL modules, A Bridge Too Far
Coincidently, Chris has won a set of our newest HASL BattleDice, only not for the Battle of Arnhem. The first dice in our Stalingrad series are designed to complement Tom Morin’s Valor of the Guards module, which reminds me. The latest ASL Journal contains two more scenarios for VotG.4 However, should Chris (and Stefan) not wish to be banished to the Russian front for the next couple of years, we will entertain requests for something more Arnhemish
Tour Stalingrad with the 13th Guards Rifle Division
Congratulations to Chris and the rest of the prize winners! And good luck to everyone else in our next contest!
How to claim your prize
1. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post accepting the prize.* 
2. Email us to arrange delivery.
3. Make sure that you are still following Sitrep. (We have inexplicably lost more than 50 Squad Leaders in the past 60 days. It may be a Google thing, but best to check.)
*Substitutions are at our discretion.
How to win a prize
1. Join Sitrep as a Squad Leader (i.e. a follower).
2. Please use a custom avatar, preferably a photograph of yourself, and your full name.
3. Watch for contest announcements, and ensure that you meet any special requirements.
Canada Day Contest
On the fifth anniversary of Sitrep—1 July 2016, for those not counting—we would like to raffle off sets of our newest BattleDice: the D-Day Series, and “the Baddies.” In November 2013, we ran a different sort of raffle. Instead of putting names into a hat, we asked our readers to do it for us. 
If the last contest was indicative of what we may expect, this type of raffle means a lot less dice rolling. In other words, it is up to you, the reader, to do the work, or at least part of it. 
We will make a formal announcement in a later post. For now, we would like you to think about who you might like to nominate as your ASL mentor, and why. On 30 June, we will roll to see which of mentors from the list of those submitted win a prize. Until next time, thanks for reading, and following along.
Cool beans!
1. Speaking of Yahtzee, we had a custom order for some interesting BattleDice a few months ago. A charming young woman commissioned a special set of dice for her husband. He is an artillery officer with the US 82nd Airborne Division, and is returning from yet another overseas tour later this month. Somehow, she had stumbled upon a photograph of the US Airborne BattleDice that we released last October. While she liked what she saw, she wanted a more personal memento. The result was a monogrammed set of 82nd Airborne and US Field Artillery dice. But here is the kicker. She wanted them for playing Yahtzee! I failed to mention to her that “Yahtzee” usually signals bad luck (in ASL), not good fortune. 
She emailed us a delightful photograph when the dice arrived, and plans to send another once she has completed the custom wooden box that will house them. Cool beans! 
2. In nine of the ten scenarios included with Le Franc Tireur Issue 10 La División Azul, Spanish units have a -2 drm on the Leader Creation Table, and a -1 DRM on the Heat of Battle Table. 
3. The landings at Cape Gloucester, New Britain were largely unopposed, and within three days US Marines had advanced ten kilometres through dense jungle, and captured the airfield. Japanese resistance stiffened thereafter. On New Year’s Day, for example, as the 5th and 7th Marine Regiments readjusted their lines, they ran headlong into an artfully concealed system of enemy strongpoints lining the far side of a stream “already known as Suicide Creek.” The defenders rebuffed American attacks for two days. Eventually, tanks were brought forward to reduce each Japanese position in turn, but not before American engineers had laid a corduroy road over the soft ground of the rainforest floor. (As of today, we still have a few copies of Journal 9 in stock.) 
4. The new Tom Morin scenarios are VotG26 “Bad Day for the Luftwaffe,” and VotG 27 “Drama, the Park, and Deadly Things.” Talk about getting your money's worth out of a historical module. Twenty-seven scenarios for this gutted patch of Stalingrad. Way to go Tom! How is that die of the 13th Guards Rifle Division working out for you, by the way?