30 January 2020

20/20 Vision

Another hectic year is history. On the plus side, ASL premiered in our new entertainment room last September. Two scenarios are already in the bag for 2020.1 And “Dean’s Defiance” is lined up for this Sunday. In what will be my third face-to-face game of the new decade, the Korean War will finally get its due in a big way. Some 300 soldiers of the Korean People’s Army are set to smash headlong into about half as many woefully unprepared GIs. 
Sad, I know, that it has taken this long to get Suicide Heroes (W6.4) on the table. It’s also sad that I need to wear glasses in order to pull the counters and to play the darn game. But then it’s a sad fact of life that even those fortunate to have 20/20 vision may need to wear reading glasses at some point in their ASL careers. 
The first post of a year is frequently given over to reflections and resolutions. I intend to do neither. I will provide a list of scenarios played in 2019. But I will not tie myself down with promises to play x, or design y. As much as I would like to do a lot more of both, my vision for 2020 remains blurred. (Cleaning my spectacles has not helped, in case you were wondering.) Still, I want to start the year on a positive note. And what better way to do that than with a raffle?
Happy 2020!
Ye olde Sitrep raffle
I thought I would spread the love by offering more than $300 worth of prizes to as many Squad Leaders as possible. Unfortunately some potential winners are following under arcane handles such as “Denkz Elf.”2 Your sometime sleuth has done his best to uncover the identities of the winners, but Sherlock he ain’t. 
Using a dice tower, I rolled a white die with a Canadian maple leaf on the one-spot (or ace), and a black die with Rate-of-Fire reminders on three faces. I made 345 initial rolls, one for each Squad Leader on a spreadsheet dating back to 2011.3 Because Sitrep has lost and gained Squad Leaders over time, there were a lot of redundant dice rolls (DR). 
Winners were selected from among those with double-ones and double-sixes, with first and second place overall being decided by a second DR. Some finalists were disqualified because they were found no longer to be following Sitrep.
The results of the DR were revealing. Of the 345 initial DR, there were 62 sevens, accounting for 17.97 percent of these DR. That is remarkably close to the mean. The probability of rolling a seven with two six-sided dice is 16.67 percent.
Probably the best distribution I could have hoped for.
Closer were the results at the extremes, as the table above shows. While hardly conclusive, the numbers do suggest that these 12.5mm precision dice did not favour one result over another. Granted this is less consolation for those gifted with boxcars, which brings me to our first batch of would-be winners.
Boxcar sweepstakes 
Ten boxcars yielded six names. Spanish ASL fan Fernando Gargallo makes an encore appearance, having scored a set of four British BattleDice from our Operation Market-Garden Series in March 2016. Scott Bricker, another fated follower, comes in for special mention due to the oh-so-cool ammo crates he has manufactured for storing dice.
Ammo Crate by Scott Bricker - BattleDice by BattleSchool
Andy McMaster, Mark Fischer, Stewart Nairn, and Whit Richardson round out the list of winners in the boxcar sweepstakes. Each is eligible to receive a Japanese Anti-Tank Magnetic Mine (ATMM) and Tank-Hunter/DC Hero Check die, as shown below. Note that this die may also be used to create (South Korean) Human Bullet Heroes and (North Korean) Suicide Heroes! 
Check for ATMM and T-H/DC Heroes with this!
Snake eye candy 
Fellow Ontarian Val Ruza was one of six current Squad Leaders to roll snake-eyes. So too was Mike Cadieux. Hailing from Oklahoma, Mike won one of our earliest raffles way back in October 2011.4 Chandler Braswell and Robert Sohn are likewise winners. Each of these four gentleman have won a pair of our colourful 16mm Belgian BattleDice, part of our Europa Series.
Lions led by bilingual...
The runner-up in the snake-eyes roll-off is Alan J. Clark. Alan wins pairs of 16mm Hungarian and Romanian BattleDice. The white Hungarian die features the early-war Hungarian cross. The Romanian set pairs the Romanian tricolour with a stylized royal cypher.

Corey Todaro bested his competitors in the roll-off for first place. Instead of precision dice, Corey scores a set of our Offboard Artillery (OBA) tokens. To be more specific, he has won a “Pleva Pack.” This pack contains two extra red tokens for use with Steven Pleva’s optional OBA rule.5 In spite of this, the Pleva Pack is identical to our basic Gunner Pack. Both packs contain enough black and red tokens to build a Draw Pile for any nationality.
The Bombardier Pack expands upon the other packs.
Custom made of casino-grade material, the tokens are durable, laminated discs. Each face features contrasting text large enough to be read from across the table. In keeping with the OBA rules, most tokens are black and have “ACCESS” engraved on a least one side. Some have special text such as “PRE-REG HEX,” or “PLENTIFUL AMMO” on one side. Similarly, “SCARCE AMMO” is engraved on the back of one red “NO ACCESS” token. These special tokens are added to the basic Draw Pile (C1.211) according to Scenario Special Rules (SSR). For instance, if an American battery is assigned a Pre-Registered hex, the American player adds the black “PRE-REG HEX” token to the basic battery allotment of ten black and three red (10B/3R) to create a 11B/3R Draw Pile.6 
Custom-made OBA tokens by BattleSchool
Our tokens ship in a velour bag that may be used to hold a Draw Pile. To check for Battery Access, simply draw a token and show it to your opponent. But the fun doesn’t stop there. 
In order to keep track of whether a battery has access or not, we created a bi-coloured Battery-Status token that remains on the table between OBA actions.7 Intuitively, the “BATTERY ACCESS” side is green, while the “NO ACCESS” side is orange. We requested red, but it wasn’t available. That’s probably just as well because red suggests that a battery is permanently lost. Orange leaves room for hope (and the Pleva OBA rule). 
So what’s with the large purple token, you ask? Well, it’s big and bright for a reason. I often forget to conduct my OBA actions at the beginning of my PFPh or DFPh. The Radio-Contact token is more than mere reminder though. It also lists common Dice-Roll Modifiers (DRM). What’s more, the RC token is large enough that it can be placed under the Battery-Status token thus conserving valuable table real estate for other player aids. The primer below illustrates how these big tokens work in practice.
A graphic how-to guide to our OBA tokens.
Congratulations to Corey and the remainder of the prize winners! Good luck in our next raffle!
How to claim your prize
1. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post by 29 February 2020, and tell us what ASL/ASLSK scenario that you played in 2019 was the most memorable. 
2. Email us to arrange delivery.
2019 in review
January 2019 continued an ASL drought that had begun the previous year. Real-world responsibilities monopolized my days (and occasional sleepless nights). By September 2019 things had stabilized enough for me to wade back into the cardboard fray. Fourteen scenarios in the final months of 2019 was a good run. It was far more than I expected to play, not least because all were played face-to-face. Coincidentally, this was the same number of games that I played at my first ASL Oktoberfest in 2007! 
You will notice some older scenarios on the list. These were either requested by my opponents, or were used as “training” scenarios. For instance, one of our local players wanted to try his hand at using various rule sets, hence the scenario set at night and the desert dustup.8 In truth, all my matches are training scenarios; I never fail to (re)learn something in the course of a game. 
Finally, if you haven’t played “Maczek Fire Brigade,” why not? Admittedly there is a lot to grok on the card. (Be sure to read the Chapter H notes for all of the vehicles and bone up on the rules for motorcycles.) But you won’t be disappointed with a dull game. Both sides have AFV, which usually begets frenzied fire and movement. Moreover, as J.R. Tracey and Bret Hildebrand demonstrate in their Journal 8 article, there is no “school solution” where the defence is concerned. There is likewise no ideal offence. I’ve gamed this one with the likes of John McDiarmid and Tom Repetti. Each time the scenario began and ended quite differently. Whatever you decide for 2020, be sure to...
Play more ASL!
Fourteen stories. What was your fave scenario of 2019?
1. Based on having played each side in “Death Rattle,” I reckon that the Brits really need to hustle to get the job done in time. That said, RPT52 was even on the Remote On-line Automated Record (ROAR) when I last  checked.
2. “Denkz Elf” joined Sitrep in July 2018. With a DR of 12, he or she would have qualified for the consolation prize of a Japanese ATMM and T-H/DC Hero Check die.
3. I re-rolled both dice whenever a die left the tray or came to rest cocked.
4. Among Mike’s prizes was a 14mm Sniper-Effects die. We plan to have a small number of these available again in February 2020. Unlike the original, the ace will be stamped with gold foil so as to distinguish it from the white foil on the deuce. Email to reserve one.
5. Steven Pleva is a top ASL player. Under his OBA rule, a battery is never permanently lost due to drawing two red chits. This is similar to the way that Naval OBA works (G14.63). Instead, every red chit drawn—including the first one—is returned to the Draw Pile, along with a second red chit. Hence the need for extra red tokens. Second-chit-draw mechanics remain the same.
6. Note that a “standard” American Draw Pile of 10B/3R includes a black “PLENTIFUL AMMO” token, as per the National Capabilities Chart. This token is removed if an American battery is specified has having Normal (9B/3R) or Scarce (9B/4R) Ammunition.
7. The Virtual ASL or VASL interface has a counter for this. It also has a counter to show if Radio Contact has been gained/maintained.
8. I also suggested “The Kastelli Thirteen” to Steve. I felt that it would be a good vehicle for learning the basics of an early-war Air Drop. Having played it only once, my gut nevertheless tells me that the Germans need some help. I recommend adding two HS to the German order of battle for a start. Tom Morin, the designer agreed that the extra bodies would help absorb some of the casualties expected during the drop. Whatever he eventually decides, I encourage him to either issue errata or republish the scenario in a future issue of Dispatches from the Bunker. Like his popular “Headhunting for Bloody Huns” (reprinted by MMP in Out of the Bunker), there are too few manageable-in-an-evening Air-Drop scenarios. In retrospect I should have used OB4 as a training scenario. In addition to ticking the Air-Drop box, we could have given the Germans the balance and played with Light Dust (F11.71) in effect. This would have been good practice prior to Steve and I playing “The Taking of Takrouna.”