23 June 2024

Road Maps - Your Guides to Victory

Sixteen years ago I created a number of scenario aide memoires. The aim was to arrange on a single page all of the salient information needed to play a given scenario. At the time I was acutely aware of my spotty rules knowledge, having only recently returned to the ASL fold. Unsurprisingly the aides were rules centric. But I also wanted to include a modicum of planning guidance, something to assist me when weighing opposing capabilities and vulnerabilities. “National” capabilities were obvious essentials, as were any applicable ordnance and vehicle notes. More useful, I thought, would be something that tied this information together, something that demonstrated just how effective (or ineffective) a particular unit or weapon might be in the scenario. Tables immediately came to mind. Where space allowed, I organized the results of my number crunching into colour-coded rows and columns that could be readily consulted before and during play. While useful, my custom To Kill tables were overkill. But that wasn’t the only shortcoming.

BattleSchool Aide Memoire: AP12 Cream of the Crop

To save space I used abbreviations and acronyms wherever possible. I went so far as to create a few new ones such as NS for “Non-Stopped” (C.8). My rookie colour-coding efforts spared almost no crayon in the box. While colour can be useful in drawing attention to important information, too much colour is, well, too much. The aide to using the aide hinted as much! I had four colour schemes. One set of colours linked rule references to corresponding chapter colours. A second capitalized on counter-set colours to distinguish between sides. French-blue versus German blue-grey. Still another used phase-specific colours, such as red for the Close Combat Phase (CCPh). Finally, most tables used hunter-green, straw and maroon to indicate the chance of success—passing a Task Check, for example—at a glance.

I’ve done away with almost all of this in what I’ve tentatively called a Game Planner (GP). (I desperately want a snappier name. Any ideas?) I still use colour to highlight key values. Have a look at the Sniper Activation (SAN) and Experience Level Rating (ELR) values on the scenario card in my previous post to see what I’m driving at. The text and numerals are in large, heavy font prominently displayed directly below the national roundels in each order of battle (OB). But I’ve also changed the general layout. Where the aide was laid out vertically like a scenario card, the GP takes advantage of the landscape format, allowing me to organize material in three columns. The first of these columns contains what I believe players will want to consult first. 

Objective reasoning

At the top of the left column is the scenario Objective. Otherwise known as the victory conditions, the requirements for achieving the Objective are restated here, expanded upon or broken down into parts for ease of understanding. Where practical, the Objective(s) is marked on the game map below the Battlefield Conditions, with the latter presented as bullet points. The map, along with the Deployments table underneath it, are there to prevent missteps, especially during set up, that can ruin a game before it starts. (I recently played J245 Factory Fodder as the Germans and overlooked the fact that although the Americans set up first, they also move first!)

I’ve done my best to keep the graphics clean and simple. That said, I’m always keen to improve, to pare it down further. (Suggestions always welcome, if not always heeded.) In the process I’ve made some assumptions, always dangerous when dealing with ASL players. For instance, I haven’t bothered to explain whether the reddish “V” on the game map denotes a victory Location, hex, or area. The scenario objective already spells this out. The north symbol and dotted lines delineating set-up areas ought to be self-explanatory. A few grognards will grumble. An occupational hazard I’m willing to accept.

CC06 Game Planner Objective, Battlefield Conditions, etc.

Rules lawyers

The bulk of the GP is awash in snippets of various rule sections. Selection is admittedly arbitrary, based on what questions I think may arise during play. Still, some rules have been added at the request of reviewers and play testers. (Yet another area where your input is valued.) 

The more fastidious among you will note that the text is not verbatim. It’s abridged and edited. Done primarly to safe space, my editing is also an attempt to make rule citation as relevant as possible to the scenario. Anything not applicable (NA) to a given scenario is deleted. At the same time, any changes resulting from a rule being in effect due to an SSR may be set in bold for added emphasis, as in the example below. Note that the relevant SSR also appears in bold reddish type, which allows players to scan the planner quickly for other SSR-invoked rules.

CC06 Game Planner Rules Example - A19.131 Ammo Shortages (SSR 2)

Another chapter

Ordnance and vehicle notes are frequently treasure troves of game-changing tidbits. White Phosphorus! Since when? We’ve all been there. Forgetting to check the notes in Chapter H can you leave you on the back foot, outmanoeuvred by your failure to do your homework. 

Like my reworded rule snippets, the GP includes modified forms of Chapter H notes. Each is comprised of a mix of acronyms, symbols and text that summarizes the capabilites of, and any restrictions on, a given piece. Players will be familiar with some acronyms, less so with others. For the most part, however, acronyms such as RST (Restricted Slow Traverse) are explained in the relevant rule section elsewhere on the GP. (If you don’t know what AP stands for by now, I recommend you take a refresher course. ;)  

CC06 Game Planner Chapter H Notes

Even homemade acronyms such as the trademark symbol (™), which I’ve used to symbolize truck movement (D1.15), are easily understood because the rule appears alphanumerically beforehand. Deciphering the ordnance and vehicles entries should be intuitive.

CC06 Game Planner D1.15 Truck Movement Rule Snippet 

Charting a new course

Tables are second nature to ASL players. Seasoned gamers may have memorized much of the Infantry Fire Table (IFT). Who among you, though, can recite the results of its right-hand-most column? Depending on the nature of a scenario, some tables will need to be consulted more than others. But it’s not the IFT that will take ten minutes to find. More likely you’ll need to locate something obscure like the ART—the Ammo Replenishment Table (E10.3) for those just joining us. 

The table you’re looking for may or may not be on a chapter divider in your voluminous ASL kit bag. The ART isn’t. The Molotov Check Table is. Only the latter isn’t, as you might expect, on the salmon-coloured divider for Chapter A. It is (or was) at the bottom of the National Capabilities Chart.1 

Because I want my scenarios to appeal to average players, I’ve taken pains to provide what I can in the way of resources to make the task of setting up and playing my designs a little less onerous.2 That puts the burden on me to provide tailor-made tables on the GP. The bespoke Molotov Cocktail (MOL) Table below is one such effort.

CC06 Game Planner A22.6 Molotov Cocktails (MOL) Table (SSR 2: vs AFV only)

Charts are technically graphs. They differ from tables in using graphics to represent data. The aforementioned National Capabilities Chart is more table than chart. Granted it contains graphic elements such as national roundels, images of counters, even a couple of symbols, but its data is presented almost exclusively in numerical and textual terms. 

Tables are excellent for communicating heaps of information concisely. Charts tend to be less granular. What they lack in detail, charts usually make up for in immediate impact. In a bar chart that graphs the penetration of High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds, for example, the difference between a Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank (PIAT) and a Panzerfaust (PF) is visually striking. (Hint: a PF is twice as powerful.) The difference is even more striking when graphed against the Armor Factors (AF) of opposing tanks. And this is where charts really shine.

Not all scenarios require charts. Nor do all GP have room for them. But where need and space coincide, I have included a chart that showcases the contrasts between opposing assets. 

CC06 Game Planner C7. AFV To Kill Chart

I like to think of the GP as a value-added item that encourages players to do more than ogle the scenario card. It’s my hope that the GP will make the mechanics of play less burdemsome and the overall game more fun. If this approach appeals to you, grab a screen shot of the scenario card in my last post, along with the GP below, and get gunnin’! 

CC06 Game Planner Day of the Jackals v2.1

To catch up on all of the articles in this series, check out the list of links on my Close Combat page. And look for another post in late July. Better yet, subscribe to Sitrep for updates.

Notes

1. The fouth edition of Doomed Battalions, due out later this year, contains an updated Nationality Capabilites Chart. It expect it to include more than a dozen squad classes that weren’t on the chart released with the second edition rules in 2001. Look for Eritrean, Ethiopian, Finnish, Free/Vichy French, Polish, and Waffen-SS on the updated chart.

2. For the same reason most of the scenarios in my debut pack use only one board. And with the exception of a proposed Deluxe ASL (DASL) scenario, no scenarios have overlays.


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