31 December 2013

Rising Sun - Come Earn Your Stripes!

More than four months have passed since Multi-Man Publishing (MMP) resurrected the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO). The Japanese generated a great deal of excitement with their 1990 debut in Code of Bushido. A year later, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) received top billing in Gung Ho! More important, the ninth module in the ASL franchise added the Chinese, and the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) to the system. Gung Ho! also added the counterpart to the Nationalist Chinese Army (Kuomintang),1 the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army, the predecessor of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The ASL Rule Book refers to these insurgents as Communist, or simply “Red” (G18.3), Chinese. The addition of the Nationalist and Communist Chinese forces to ASL provides players with an opportunity to game countless battles of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950). And I would be remiss if I did not mention the inclusion of infantry units representing the Philippine Army (PA)—more on these later.
Code of Bushido - Gung Ho! - Rising Sun
The PTO offers players a unique environment in which to test their squad-leading abilities. The tropical climate, exotic terrain, and stone-age fortifications add new challenges, as well as new opportunities. Jungle (light and dense), bamboo, palm trees, huts, kunai—a type of tall grass, swamp, and rice paddies hamper and/or channel movement, restrict Lines of Sight (LOS), and generally make the Detection (A12.15; G.2; and G.4) of enemy troops and fortifications more difficult. More often than not you will discover a panji2 hexside the hard way, when one of your men impales himself on a two-foot long bamboo stake of this primitive, yet effective fortification. Bamboo deserves respect for similar reasons. This dense terrain not only has a special -1 Terrain Effects Modifier (TEM) under certain conditions (G3.3), but also places a moving or advancing unit at a marked disadvantage. When combined with panjis, bamboo can be a deadly force multiplier. You will not soon forget the first time a Japanese half-squad hidden in bamboo ambushes your USMC 7-6-8, and dispatches your hapless “gyrenes” to a man in hand-to-hand combat. 
G9. Panjis
The threat of Dare-Death squads and Tank-Hunter Heroes (T-H Heroes) also keep you on your toes. At the same time, Banzai Charges and Gurkhas are a recipe for mutual destruction. In fact, high rates of attrition are the norm in this theatre, even when PTO terrain is not in effect. 
G1.421 Tank-Hunter Heroes
The special attributes of the Japanese, in particular, demand a reevaluation of tried-and-true tactics in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). But while the Japanese tend to steal the show (and the box cover), they are but one of many departures from the norms of the ETO. I have already touched on the unique terrain, and a fortification specific to the PTO. However, where Rising Sun truly excels is in the module’s ability to game the most complex of military operations. Although clearing a cave complex may well be one of the more complex of ASL operations, it pales in comparison with joint operations. The effective coordination of the air, sea, and land elements in a joint operation requires meticulous planning, and timely execution. No where is this more evident than in the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific. 
G14. Seaborne Assaults
Amphibious warfare is by no means absent from the ETO. However, few ASL scenarios explore this aspect of the war in Europe. In contrast, a large number of scenarios and campaign games set in the Pacific Theatre involve some combination of airforce, navy, and army (or marine infantry) cooperation. Naval Offboard Artillery (NOBA), for instance, routinely plays a role in littoral (or coastal) operations in the Pacific. Rising Sun is therefore unique among ASL modules in providing players access not only to a period of warfare spanning more than two decades, but also to a much wider spectrum of military operations. 
If you are new to ASL, or returning after a long absence, you may be interested in what Rising Sun has to offer. And given its hefty price tag, it is only natural to question whether or not the Pacific Theatre is for you. I would be surprised if hitting the beach, or spelunking topped the agenda of most prospective purchasers. But I am not trying to sell you on the merits of a Seaborne Assault, or caves. In my view, Rising Sun offers heaps of value without the need to bone up on tetrahedrons, or decipher the symbols on a Cave-Complex Setup Sheet (CCSS). What I hope to demonstrate—especially to those who have already dipped their toes in the Pacific—is the myriad ways in which this “new-and-improved” module will enrich your ASL experience.
Did you get a pink slip in the mail?
Typo? ;)
I did. It greeted me when I opened my copy of Rising Sun. Before excitement gets the best of you, I urge you to inventory the contents of your module against the list on this small, but important, slip of paper. Several sheets of ocean overlays were AWOL when I checked my copy. Not a big deal for me because I have no immediate plans to storm a beach.3 However, a missing counter sheet could be a disappointment after waiting years for your personalized leader to arrive on your doorstep.
Below is a list of what you can expect to find among the two kilos of paper and cardboard that comprise Rising Sun:
one Gavutu-Tanambogo historical map sheet (16.25” x 22”) 
two (2) Chapter G dividers
six (6) Chapter Z pages
seven (7) geomorphic (8” x 22”) map boards
eight (8) counter sheets
sixteen (16) sheets of overlays
twenty-seven (27) Chapter H pages
thirty-two (32) scenarios
fifty (50) Chapter G pages
Given that Rising Sun is two modules in one, I would expect it to be stuffed with ASL goodness. It is. Upon closer inspection, however, ASL Module 13 is much more than the sum of its predecessors. For the most part, I believe that players will be pleased with their purchases. There are, however, some shortcomings that you should be aware of before you “proceed to check out.” 
What follows is not a review. Consider it an illustrated guide to the contents, if you like. But I make no claims to comprehensiveness.
PTO Terrain (G.1) is in effect!
Rotten at its core
At the core of this core module are 50 pages of rules that aim to reproduce an ASL environment representative of the tropical areas of the western Pacific. The hot and humid climate is replicated by a set of climatic conditions typical of tropical rain forests found in the mid latitudes of Asia, the Americas, and Africa. ASL stops short of reproducing the stench of rotting jungle vegetation. But Chapter G does a good job of recreating natural and man-made features characteristic of the tropics. These characteristics are known collectively as PTO Terrain (G.1). The term is a bit of a misnomer for a couple of reasons. First, these types of terrain are not confined to the Pacific. And second, many scenarios take place in areas of the Pacific Theatre where jungle, the common denominator of most PTO Terrain, is absent. Swamp (G7.), for example, is usually dependent on the existence of jungle. 
Chapter G also contains rules for terrain found in other theatres. I will expand on some of this terrain when I take a look at the overlays included with Rising Sun. For the moment, suffice it to say that many of these terrain features only come into play during scenarios involving a Seaborne Assault. Nevertheless, the rules for seawalls (13.6) and piers (13.7) are not terribly complicated, based as they are on the rules for walls (and cliffs), and non-pontoon bridges, respectively. Coral Soil (13.82) is perhaps the easiest of the new terrain types to grasp. The main impact of Coral Soil on play is that it negates the effects of Mud (E3.6), and adds a +2 Dice-Roll Modifier (DRM) to all Entrenching attempts. This soil is as tough to excavate as the hard-baked ground of the desert (F.1B), which brings me to my next point. 
T10. Betio Seawall
Sandbars (13.31) and Reefs (13.43) rely on rules for “Desert Terrain.” While neither type of terrain is difficult to get your head around, both require knowledge of rules found in Chapter F. The rules covering desert warfare in ASL were published 25 years ago in West of Alamein. MMP has indicated that an updated Chapter F will accompany the next iteration of Hollow Legions4 —small comfort for squads of budding marines eager to hit the beach running. In fairness, only seven scenarios in Rising Sun require access to some portion of  Chapter F. The problem is that all four scenarios involving a Seaborne Assault are on this shortlist. Of the other three scenarios, one is even more dependent on having access to the “desert” module. I will explain why when I discuss the maps and overlays included with Rising Sun.
Dusty chrome
Chapter G contains a great deal of material applicable to theatres beyond the Pacific. I mentioned NOBA (14.6), and a few others in my introduction. Fully a third of the chapter is devoted to the intricacies of amphibious operations. The level of detail is astounding. For instance, the rules make allowances for underwater demolition teams (14.22) that can eliminate Beach Obstacles (14.5) before an amphibious assault. In addition to wire and mines, UDT may attempt to eliminate panjis and tetrahedrons (14.51). Panjis are restricted to beach hexes (14.55), while Czech hedgehogs, as tetrahedrons were more commonly known, may set up in beach, reef, or shallow-ocean hexes. Tetrahedrons and similar beach defences were used to impede an amphibious landing. Landing Craft (LC) were the main target. However, the author of Chapter G has been considerate enough to provide guidance in the event that a parachutist or glider lands in a tetrahedron’s Location. I must confess that as fascinating as some of these rules may be, most have collected more dust than my Chapter F pages have. If chrome accessories appeal to you, read on. Otherwise skip ahead to the section entitled Semper Fi (not yet published).
G14.51 Tetrahedrons
The Animal-Pack rules are an interesting addition to the ASL rule set. The rules allow weapons, including certain Guns, to be carried on mules (represented by horse counters). Packing and Unpacking (10.3) a mule is a lengthy (and rare) process, however. I doubt that most players will need to read this section anytime soon. 
G10. Animal-Pack
For those desperate to strike Animal-Pack from their ASL bucket lists there is a ten-turn scenario included with Rising Sun that fits the bill.5 But there is no guarantee that scenario 63 “The Eastern Gate” will run its course. An aggressive Japanese player may well defeat the Gurkhas before the Japanese crews have time to unpack their pair of Infantry Guns. 
Japanese Ordnance Note 10. Type 92 Infantry Gun
Another rare sight in an ASL scenario is a bulldozer, armored (15.12), or otherwise. I have been made aware of a couple of scenarios published by third parties that include a dozer in the order of battle (OB). A scenario in the out-of-print historical ASL (HASL) module Blood Reef Tarawa (1999) has an armored bulldozer in the Marine OB. Scenario BRT7 “Didn’t Have To Be There” may well have been the first “official” scenario to make use of the bulldozer counters included with Gung Ho! some seven years earlier.6 By my reckoning, a dozen years would pass before MMP released another scenario that made use of dozers. If you were deprived of a Tonka dozer as a child, you may be able to regain part of your lost childhood by playing something from what MMP describes as a mini-HASL.
SC2.1 Jungle Debris, and SC4. Corduroy Roads
Published in 2011, Suicide Creek is a series of scenarios and a campaign game (CG) that explore the fighting on Cape Gloucester, New Britain in January 1944. Scenario J134 “Kerry’s Crossing” guest stars an armored bulldozer. The scenario is one of several released in ASL Journal 9 that are played on the historical map included with the magazine. Although dozers are absent in the other scenarios, they usually make an appearance during the CG. Suicide Creek marks the second time that MMP has published a HASL that includes dozers among the reinforcement groups (RG) of a CG. 
G15.12 Armored bulldozer
Caving in to G11.
Caves are far more common than bulldozers. Indeed, these fortifications figure prominently in a number of PTO scenarios and CG. The rules for caves are also more complicated than those for bulldozers. The minutia of this formidable fortification consumes some ten pages of text in Chapter G. I will not go into any great detail here. However, I would like to highlight a few features of caves, and where you may expect to encounter them.
Cave counters look similar to pillbox counters, but there is a simple way to tell them apart. The large arrow used to designate the covered arc (CA) of a pillbox is red. The same arrow on a (standard) cave counter is black.7 The different colours help reinforce the fact that the CA of a cave is narrower than that of a pillbox. Unlike pillboxes, caves generally come in one flavour. A cave has a stacking limit of one squad-equivalent, which may be exceeded (11.4). Because the counters are similar, it is tempting to think of caves as  “mid-strength” pillboxes. I would discourage any such comparisons. 
The Defense Modifications of a pillbox and the TEM of a cave are different beasts. A cave lacks a non-covered arc (NCA) Defense Modification (B30.113). Only fire traced through its CA can effect the cave and its occupants. Nor does a cave have a CA Defense Modification. The second numeral in the Strength Factor of a cave is its TEM. This +4 TEM applies to most fire. A +6 TEM, signified by the third numeral in the Strength Factor, applies to (N)OBA and Area-Target-Type attacks (11.8). In some respects, cave TEM is similar to that of a foxhole, or a trench. Depending on the type of attack, the fortification affords a different level of protection.  
G11. Caves versus B30. Pillboxes
I am not saying that pillboxes and caves have nothing in common. They do. I am even prepared to concede that ASL caves “evolved” from ASL pillboxes. For instance, despite the fact that a cave is a subterranean Location, units inside a cave are eligible sniper targets, just as those inside a pillbox are.8 Cave and pillbox Locations also qualify for the same -1 DRM Rally-Bonus (A10.61), and treat their contents as being in Concealment Terrain (A12.12). However, these fortifications differ in so many other respects that inviting comparisons will invariably lead you to confuse the characteristics of one with the other. 
Take for example Concealment. A cave counter and its contents are always considered to be in Concealment Terrain regardless of other terrain in the hex (11.3). During a daytime scenario, this special trait allows a cave to remain hidden in Open Ground provided no enemy units within 16 hexes have LOS to the Location.9 Speaking of LOS, a hidden cave is generally more difficult to spot than a hidden pillbox.10 This has less to do with terrain than with restricted LOS. 
Have another look at the cave versus pillbox illustration above. Both fortifications are in Open Ground. Let’s assume that both fortifications are also hidden when a (non-dummy) enemy unit advances from hex AA5 to BB5. At this point the pillbox is revealed, because it is in Open Ground, and within LOS and 16 hexes of a Good Order enemy unit (A12.121). Despite being in Open Ground, the cave remains hidden. It remains hidden because no LOS exists between hex BB5 and the cave Location. Only hex DD4, the Entrance Hex (11.1) of the cave, is considered ADJACENT—meaning that LOS exists and that a unit could hypothetically advance into the cave from DD4 (A.8). In this case, hypothetically is the order of the day. Barring an SSR to the contrary, only Japanese Infantry may enter a cave (11.7).11 Before we get sidetracked, let me elaborate on LOS to and from a cave.
Lines of Sight traced to and from a cave are traced to and from the centre dot of the hex in which a cave is located. So far, so good. Lines of Sight are also drawn to and from the level at which the cave is located.12 The really important bit that I want to stress is that LOS exists only if drawn entirely within the CA of the cave (11.5).13 This restrictive LOS has a number of important implications that I will not go into here. However, it should be clear by this point that a cave is quite different from a pillbox. But why on earth does any of this matter?
It doesn’t. You can play ASL for the rest of your life and never concern yourself with caves. There are literally thousands of cave-free scenarios to choose from. But if you are one of those intrepid adventurers eager to explore new territory, caves may matter to you. 
KR5. Japanese Spigot Mortar Caves
Kakazu Ridge is a modest “historical study” depicting part of the assault on the Shuri Line on Okinawa, in April 1945. Originally released as part of ASL Journal 2 in 2000, the study consists of a historical map sheet, two pages of rules, and six scenarios. (MMP thoughtfully included the study with the 2010 reprint of Journal 2.) Dan Dolan designed five of the scenarios, and teamed up with two other designers for the sixth scenario.14 I mention this study because, in 1945, Kakuzu Ridge was literally riddled with caves and tombs. Moreover, Kakazu Ridge was not the first design by Dan Dolan to highlight the importance of caves in Japanese defensive plans. Feeling adventurous?
To be continued...

1. Guomindang (GMD)
An extensive belt of punji
2. This type of fortification is also known as “punji” [1870-75, earlier punjee, panja] stakes, or sticks. Sharpened bamboo stakes were often concealed in tall grass, or placed at the bottom of camouflaged holes or pits. Belts of these stakes, driven into the ground and angled toward the enemy, were also a common field expedient where wire was unavailable. Although visible, the line of stakes tended to channel enemy movement. The tips of the stakes were often covered in excrement, which made even a minor wound cause for concern. The term is attributed to the Tibeto-Burman language of the Kachins of northeast Burma.
3. Interestingly, the Ocean 3 overlay is required for scenario HS17 Water Foul, from the Operation Veritable Historical Study. The overlay is used to depict land flooded by the Rhine River. Other overlays are then placed on top of “ocean,” to represent “islands” above the floodwaters.
4. Although not gospel, Chas Argent (responsible for MMP’s ASL line) has stated publicly that the desert-related counters, overlays, and the Chapter F rules from West of Alamein, along with desert boards 25-31 will appear in the third edition of the Italian module.
5. Scenario 63 has been updated. ASL Journal 10 (page 39) lists the amendments, but I will summarize them here. Scenario Special Rule (SSR) 2, which explained the placement of overlays, has been incorporated into SSR 1. The last SSR dealing with Battlefield Integrity (A16.) has been deleted. Instead of six SSR, we now have four. The third SSR (now SSR 2) had the following inserted before the last sentence: “Both the onboard Column and the Turn 2 Column have already expended 2 MF.” The fifth SSR (now SSR 4) has been simplified by deleting the last two sentences and adding “(A25.43)” to the end of the first sentence. 
Unlike the Reverse Motion counters provided in West of Alamein, those for Animal-Pack were not reissued in later editions of Beyond Valor. The rules for Reverse Motion (F.11), and Vehicular Smoke Grenades (F.10), debuted in Chapter F, but were incorporated subsequently into Chapter D (D 2.24, and D13.35, respectively). I suspect that the rules for Animal-Pack were intended originally for Chapter F. Instead, they were tacked onto the “end” of the Chapter G rules released in Code of Bushido. The good news, for aspiring mule drivers and counter organizers, is that Rising Sun has you covered with three Animal-Pack counters (En Portee au verso).
6. In September 1993, Issue 6 of the ASL Union of Gamers (ASLUG) newsletter contained a scenario by Dan Dolan entitled “Raiders on Butaritari.” ASLUG11 pits Marine raiders (landed by submarine) against Japanese garrison troops. An abandoned dozer is up for grabs because, historically, the Marines used it in the course of carrying out their mission. Another dozer fan named Dan (Owsen) gave us Z28 “Soldiers of Construction” in 1995. Published in the last issue of Rout Report, the scenario is a Seabee’s dream. Two dozers and an M4 Tankdozer (American Vehicle Note 18) headline in this unusual battle between low-morale troops. Seabee is derived from the first two letters of (United States Navy) Construction Battalion.
The Blood Reef Tarawa CG includes three Seabee platoons in the American RG, each with the potential for three armored bulldozers to be lead ashore by Pathfinders (T1.).
7. Japanese Mortar Caves (KR5.) are an exception to the rule, and use a red arrow. Spigot Mortar Caves are found in the Kakazu Ridge HASL. These special caves housed a 320mm mortar. Consequently, the normal stacking limit is a HS.
8. Non-hidden, non-prisoner Infantry in caves are eligible sniper targets (G11.8).
9. I have JR VanMechelen to thank for bringing this subtle advantage to my attention. See also Dade Cariaga’s “Spelunking 101: Tips on Cave and Cave Complex Setups” in ASL Annual 96: 42-44; and, if you can find it, Brian Youse’s “Cave Busting 101: A Look at the ‘Invincible’ Jungle Fortress,” and the accompanying training scenario “Taming Tulagi,” in Backblast 1.
10. Japanese pillboxes are a different beast too. Due to excellent camouflage, a Japanese pillbox set up in Concealment Terrain always sets up hidden, and is revealed as if in jungle (G.2). The use of HIP includes the occupant(s) of the fortification, and does not count against the percentage of Japanese units otherwise allowed to set up hidden. Were this not enough, each Japanese pillbox comes with its own tunnel, provided that one of the tunnel entrances is in the pillbox (G1.632).
11. This also includes their SW, Manhandled-Guns, Guarded-prisoner(s), and as clarified in ASL Journal 10, Japanese Dummy units.
12. It is possible for the level of the cave to differ from that of the hex. Caves situated in the side of a cliff, and/or in a Depression, may exist at more than one level. See, for example, an Upper-Cliff cave (G11.113).
13. For example, no LOS exists between caves in the same hex. Moreover, LOS is exclusive of a cave’s CA Hexside vertices, if the cave is IN a Depression (see also B19.51).
14. MMP noted in Journal 2 that “several more ‘Dolan gems’ on Kakazu Ridge” were still in the play-test phase, including one with a working title of “Hara’s Horror.” It remains unclear whether or not these unfinished designs will eventually see print.

11 December 2013

Lucky Dragon's Breath

He swears by it. Before each roll of the dice, he blows on them.1 Perhaps his ritual dispels any accumulated bad mojo. Or maybe he picked up the habit in Vegas. But I am beginning to wonder if there is something to the superstition. I have yet to best this ASL magician in a game. Lady luck must be at his side. For as Ol’ Blue Eyes cautioned:
A lady doesn't leave her escort
It isn’t fair, and it's not nice
A lady doesn’t wander all over the room
And then blow on another guy's dice

So it must have been for the winner of our latest contest. Although in his case, it may have been dragon’s breath that brought him good fortune. 
Santa’s workshop
In a novel departure from earlier contests, we asked participants to enter on behalf of someone else. The idea was to encourage ASL players to nominate fellow players for a prize. Call it a twist on the Secret Santa concept. Only is this case, the gift would come from Santa’s workshop. One elf, let’s call him Jack, has been busy crafting attractive dice towers from an array of fine hardwood timber. Provided a player had not been too naughty, we would go with the recommendations of his or her backers. A chic dice tower, and a pair of precision dice, will arguably do more to change a person’s luck than blowing on a battle-worn pair of cubes from Beyond Valor
The towers-that-Jack-built have proven quite popular. At present, they can be found gracing gaming tables in Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Rumour has it that some may yet find their way to Ireland and as far away as the Philippines. It helps that the towers will handle our 16mm BattleDice with room to spare. But the fact remains that the beautiful hardwoods used in their construction make them hard to resist.
Sold to a good home
Helen was saddened to see her favourite—a tower built of marbled black walnut—head to Germany, never to be seen again. I am more optimistic about seeing this particular tower again. Helen and I agree that a trip to Europe is long overdue. Meeting new (and old) friends at a European ASL tournament could well prove to be a good introduction to the continent, before heading off to explore the history and culture of the Old World.

No way to treat a lady
Ominously, and to our surprise, only 13 people entered our contest. In spite of the small number of entries, Helen and I were touched by many of the stories behind them. To tell the truth, Helen was  also relieved to learn that she would not have to spend an hour or more rolling dice. Her first roll was nevertheless a disappointment, of sorts. Martin Hicks, an Ottawa resident, opened the contest with a pair of sixes. No matter, we will ensure that his rotten roll has a happy ending for his nominee Timothy Snider of Kanata, Ontarios. 
Tim lives about 25 minutes drive from me. Until a couple of weeks ago, I did not know his name, and I certainly had no idea that there was yet another player lurking in the “ASL wilderness” north of Kanata.2 It turns out that Martin has been schooling Tim in the finer points of ASL Starter Kit for a year or so. Tim has two young daughters who keep daddy busy most of the time. About once a month, however, Tim sneaks away for some cardboard combat. Tim will receive a Big Baby Sniper! die. It may tempt him to venture further into the world of Advanced Squad Leader.
Welcome to ASL Tim!
East meets West Sussex 
A parcel left Ottawa on 2 December. It was headed overseas to a nondescript house in a town of modest size. The recipient is a regular ASL player. One might be tempted to call him an average ASL player. But unlike the majority of ASL players worldwide, he does attend ASL tournaments on a fairly regular basis. In fact, I have it on good authority that he has attended Britain’s longest-running ASL tournament no less than five times.3 I will not reveal his name just yet. I would prefer that he receives his prize first. However, for the sleuths among you, there are plenty of clues in this post to point the would-be Sherlocks in the right direction. Suffice it to say that Lee Hyde, a relatively new convert to ASL, brought this gentleman to our attention. 
"Jesus in jeans"
In my previous  post, I proposed that players share their good luck with those who were down on theirs. Lee did this with style. With only 13 contestants, we did not expect many ties, and Helen therefore used only two dice for the raffle. There were no double ones. However, two participants tied with low rolls of three. In the tiebreaker, Lee managed a second red dragon, finishing with a dice roll of three. Not bad for a new guy.

The prize
Lee lives in Sompting, West Sussex, almost due south of London and close to Brighton on the south coast of England. His nominee lives roughly 40 kilometres away in East Sussex. I gather that Lee’s mentor has been passing on pearls of ASL wisdom gleaned in Bournemouth, at the annual Intensive Fire tournament. I also suspect that he is directly responsible for maintaining Lee’s interest in the hobby. Moreover, I am absolutely certain that our mystery man had a hand in convincing Lee to attend his first ASL tourney this past October. A certain amount of self interest is tied to any effort to teach ASL to another gamer. But for the most part teaching ASL is akin to a calling. It takes a great deal of time and patience to not only coach an ASL neophyte, but also to encourage and motivate. As they say, one good turn deserves another.
Our international man of mystery has won an attractive black walnut dice tower and a pair of our Kuomintang (Nationalist) Chinese dice. Congratulations!

UPDATE: New Years Day - I got word from our winner today. He has been out of town. Nick Carter lives in Uckfield. He told me that he has not had a chance to use his new dice tower yet, but plans to do so soon. Nick did take time to Christen the tower with his new Chinese dice. The sun and dragon were kind to him. His first roll was double ones! Damn! I may have sent him my set in error. ;) What an awesome start to his ASL year. He promised to send a photo of the tower in action later this month.
It's not the end of the line; it's the beginning.
The next free lunch 
We cannot say when we will hold another contest. I guess it pays to be patient, and most of all observant, not unlike a hawk poised for its next meal. Seriously, thanks for reading and following Sitrep in 2013. We would like to wish everyone a Merry and safe Christmas. Fingers crossed, we will have at least one toasty post to usher in a chilly New Year.4
No birds were harmed during the filming of this picture
1. One plausible explanation for this ritual is that, in the past, some unscrupulous gamblers coated one side of a die with a transparent, sticky substance. The moisture in their breaths activated the coating just before they threw the dice. Another, more prosaic, explanation is that players blew on the cubes in order to remove dust that accumulated while playing dice in back alleys.
No. Kanata is that way!
2. Kanata is a Huron-Iroquois word for settlement, or village. As the story goes, explorer Jacques Cartier thought that the natives who used it in his presence were referring to their homeland in general. The Frenchman thereafter began calling the area around the St. Lawrence River “Canada.” During the deliberations that led to Confederation in 1867, delegates heard arguments for a bewildering number of names for the young dominion. The list is said to have included: Acadia, Albertland or Albertoria (after Queen Victoria’s German first cousin and husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), Albionora (Albion is an archaic name for Great Britain), Borealia (Latin for northern, or of the north), Britannia, British North America, Cabotia (after the English explorer John Cabot), Canadensia, Colonia, Efisga (a clumsy acronym supposedly based on the major founding peoples: English, French, Irish, Scottish, German and Aboriginal), Hochelaga (from the Iroquois village where present-day Montreal was founded), Laurentia (after the St. Lawrence River, so named by Jacques Cartier in 1535, when he arrived in the estuary on St. Lawrence’s feast day), Mesopelagia (Greek for land between the seas), New Albion, Niagarentia, Norland, Superior, Transatlantica, Transylvania, Tuponia or Tupona (another nauseating acronym, this one for The United Provinces of North America), Ursulia (Latin for place of bears, after the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, better known as the Big and Little Dippers), Vesperia (Latin for land of the evening star), Victorialand, or Victorialia (after the half-German monarch of England). 
I am a skeptical of some of these purported names. Conspicuous by its absence is The Great White North. To everyone’s immense relief, the Dominion of Canada received unanimous support, sparing future generations from endless spelling fits.
The former city of Kanata, especially its high-tech business park, was dubbed Silicon Valley North during the late 90s. It is now part of Ottawa, the nation’s capital. 
3. My source tells me that our mystery man attended Intensive Fire in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, and as recently as this past October.

14 November 2013

Game for a dicey proposition?

Advanced Squad Leader is game of chance. It is also a game of choice. We take our chances with each roll of the dice. Sound choices may limit the impact of chance. Occasionally, a good decision may remove chance altogether, at least temporarily. However, try as we might, we can never rid ourselves of chance entirely. At some point, we must let slip the dice of war. 
Dice can trigger a series of random events that irrevocably change the course of a game. In an instant, fate can undo all the “right” moves. Life is like that too. For example, we can prepare for a road trip by checking the fluid levels, tire pressures, lights, and so forth of our vehicles. But despite our best efforts, there is always the possibility that fate will intervene. A hapless motorist, returning from the ASL Oktoberfest in Cleveland last month, is apt to agree. Part way through Pennsylvania his truck failed its Mechanical Reliability dice roll (D2.51), and became Immobilized (D8.1) on the Interstate.1
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the driver took his misfortune in stride. He refused to let a chance occurrence ruin an otherwise enjoyable time at ASLOk. Too often we let a roll of the dice ruin our game, and with it, part of our day. Too often we lose sight of what is important. Too often we forget just how fortunate we are. 
Found dead on I-90
We play a game the outcome of which has little, if any, impact on our daily lives. We play for fun, not for kidneys. We play a game while others struggle to put food on their tables. We have a lot to be grateful for, regardless of how many boxcars we roll in a life time of ASL. Having said that, there are those among us who have lived, or continue to live, on the luckless side of the probability bell curve. Life has thrown these people more double-sixes than double-ones.  
With a little help from my friends 
It is probably fair to say that some people in our hobby are currently down on their luck. That should not be taken to mean that they are out of luck. On the contrary, with your help someone will be in luck shortly. 
I am not suggesting that a bit of good fortune will be a game changer for someone fallen on tough times, or worse: cursed to roll greater than seven on average. But we can try. :)
It has been almost six months since our last raffle on Canada Day. On 1 December, we will hold our final contest of the year. This contest differs from past contests. If you decide to enter, you will be entering on behalf of someone else. The contest nevertheless remains a dicey proposition.
Here is how it works. When you enter the contest, you will need to nominate someone for the prize. The nomination is done secretly, via email. Should you “win” the contest, the person you nominated will receive the prize. More than one person can nominate the same person, thereby increasing the odds that the nominee will win—with a little help from his/her friends.
Up for grabs is a handsome dice tower crafted of black walnut, as shown at the top of this post. The dice tower has been designed to work with all of our dice, regardless of size. Also included is a pair of our newest 16mm BattleDice representing the Nationalist Chinese, or Kuomintang (KMT). The prizes will add some randomness to the winner’s ASL game. Whether or not they will improve his or her luck is in the hands of fate. No fear!
Dare Death (gan si dui) and White Sun - Blue Sky
Here is your chance to use your good fortune to improve the fortune of someone else, and without costing you a fortune. Make a sound choice. Nominate a friend today!
How to enter 
Entry is a two-step process.2 
1. Leave a comment at the end of this post containing the following information:
a) your first and last name
b) how long you have been playing ASL
c) how long your nominee has been playing ASL
2. Email the following information to us:
a) name of nominee (person you want to win)
b) town and country where your nominee lives
Our email address is: battleschool at rogers dot com
The deadline for entry is midnight, 30 November 2013.
Good luck to your nominees!
1. The driver was nonplussed, passing his Personal Morale Check with ease. He waited patiently, as tow-truck driver, and then mechanic, walked him through a lengthy and convoluted Refit Phase. Several hours later a die was rolled (FB17.6131), and our stoic driver was on the road again.
The owner of the vehicle was ribbed for driving a Ford. Interestingly, almost half of the jeeps (American Vehicle Note 54) produced during World War II were built by the Ford Motor Company. The lack of red Movement Points (MP) on the vehicle counter suggests that Ford vehicles were not always Found On Road Dead. ;) 
2. You need to be following Sitrep as a Squad Leader. To join Sitrep as a Squad Leader (follower), click on the blue “Join this site” button in the “Squad Leader” panel (to left of this post), and follow the instructions. 

11 July 2013

Rats in the Kitchen!

A player aid just released by Le Franc Tireur (LFT) has sparked controversy among the ASL faithful. The 28-page flip chart contains a handsome collection of ASL tables and flowcharts. The controversy stems from the inclusion of original Avalon Hill artwork, and portions of MMP flowcharts. 
The fellow who ignited the controversy contends that there are two issues. One centres on intellectual property, and copyright. The other is a question of ethics. I will let readers decide where they stand on Mark Pitcavage’s criticism’s.1 My purpose here is to describe what can be found between the laminated covers of the LFT Rat Pocket Charts.
May I present the LFT Rat Pocket Charts
Pet project
Bertrand Guillou-Keredan is a game nut. His home in Nantes, France is positively brimming with games of all kinds. Like many hard-core gamers, he enjoys reading rule books at bedtime.2 Years of study notwithstanding, he cannot possibly keep everything in his head, especially when it comes to ASL. Perhaps it came to Bertrand when he donned his aviator “thinking cap.” Perhaps not. But Bertrand was definitely on to something. The editor of LFT agreed. Fast forward to 2013, and the Pocket Charts are born. 
Où sont les hexagones?
One size fits all
The Rat Pocket Charts (RPC) are formatted to fit effortlessly between player and playing area. When closed, the RPC measure roughly 5” x 12” (13cm x 31cm). The pages are spiral bound. This keeps the table footprint small, while still allowing one to view two pages concurrently, as required. Players will find this latter feature useful when consulting the Off-Board Artillery (OBA) Flowchart shown below. 
Check out the Nationality Chits Table below the playing card
All of the charts are printed on coated cardstock. They are about the same thickness as the chapter dividers found in the ASL Rule Book (ASLRB2). As with their larger brethren in the orange tome, the pages inside the RPC are unlaminated. Each RPC weighs in at almost 5.5 ounces, or 155 grams. The RPC is definitely slim and light-weight. Pocket-sized it is not. 
Is that a desert rat?
Le menu
You will not find every ASL table in the RPC. That is not its purpose. But you will find almost every commonly-consulted table from chapters A through G. You will also find the odd new table—the range table for Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LATW), for instance. A selective summary of several key rules pertaining to the desert is another welcome addition. In most cases, the tables are laid out on one page. There are two general exceptions. The first is the chapter B terrain table, which is spread across two pages, and the To Hit Table, which straddles the left side of two pages. The second exception is the flow charts. The OBA Flowchart runs to four pages, while the Overrun Flowchart occupies two pages.  
Helen's ASL tweezers are NOT for sale!
Below is a rough guide to the contents:
  • (Incremental) Infantry Fire Tables
  • Ambush, Close Combat Table
  • Leader Creation, Heat of Battle
  • Concealment Loss/Gain Table
  • Sniper Attack, Concealment drm, Searching
  • National Capabilities Chart
  • OBA Firepower Chart, Control (A26.1)
  • Chapter B Terrain Chart
  • OBA Flowchart
  • To Hit and TK Tables, AFV Destruction Table
  • LATW Range Table, and most chapter C Tables
  • Overrun Flowchart
  • selection of the chapter D tables
  • Beach Terrain
  • select chapter E charts, including page devoted to night
  • Desert Terrain, and a few chapter F tables
  • PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations) Terrain
  • Tank Hunter Hero tables, and PTO Date-Dependent Rules
No fear at Alligator Creek
There is a lot crammed into 27 pages. (There are no tables on the back cover.) If you are like me, and are having difficulty reading the fine print on a menu, you will want to keep your reading glasses at the ready. Reading the notes of the redesigned National Capabilities Chart, or the reduced Concealment Table can be a challenge in low light.4 Another downside of the RPC format is that it can take time to find a particular table. Although the pages of the booklet are colour-coded, there are no tabs. The oft-consulted To Hit Table, for example, is seven “flips” below the IFT. Therefore, I plan to add some colour-coded tabs to my copy.
These shortcomings aside, the layout and design of the RPC shows some forethought. The flip chart is small enough to fit between the player and the playing area, without ever intruding upon the map layout of most scenarios. Unlike its bigger cousins—the chapter dividers of the ASLRB2—the RPC can be kept directly (and comfortably) in front of you during the course of a game. Moreover, most ASL tables are now at your fingertips, no longer spread across a dozen or more chapter dividers. 
The liberal use of cartoons is also a nice touch. More practical are the laminated covers. Granted the flip chart is not beer-proof. It is nevertheless modestly beer-resistant. I also draw some comfort from the fact that the charts and tables have been proofed by ASL players whose first language is English. Any errors, including absentee vowels, must invariably be the fault of these intrepid Americans. Seriously, three fine gentlemen5 have helped to insure that typos and grammatical missteps have not crept into these new player aids. For all these various reasons, I think that LFT’s Rat Pocket Charts will make a fine addition to your ASL kit.6   
1. Refer post 76.
2. I maybe exaggerating, but Bertrand has admitted to being a “rules addict” on BoardGameGeek. Whether or not he actually reads rules before he puts head to pillow, I cannot say.
3. The circumference of the spiral binding makes the flip chart a bit awkward to ship as letter mail, which generally has a maximum shipping thickness of ¾” (20mm). If you are concerned about damage during shipment, I would recommend that you have the RPC shipped as a parcel rather than a letter.
4. Another problem is that some tables have printed lighter than usual. For instance, the type on the Canister FP and the Anti-Tank Magnetic Mine Tables is lighter than that of the other tables on the same (chapter D) page.
5. Spencer Armstrong, Jim Bishop, and Jim Brackin were instrumental in proofing the RPC. Norwegian Ole Bøe is also credited. He gave LFT permission to use the Infantry charts that he created some years ago.
6. Available from LFT, Gamer's Armory, and in our KitShop. Email battleschool at rogers dot com to order.

01 July 2013

Sitrep Turns Two!

Happy Canada Day! It is the 146th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Today also marks the second anniversary of Sitrep. Helen celebrated Canada Day by setting off fireworks last night. BattleSchool celebrated another year of Sitrep by holding a raffle this morning for a copy of Armies of Oblivion. The results are in. We have several winners to announce. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we have some catching up to do. 
I would like to begin with our 1 March raffle. With one exception, I will announce only the names of the winners at this time. Once I receive photographs and ASL biographies from each of our winners, I will begin posting them under the appropriate headings below. Once this process is complete, a winner may claim a prize by leaving a comment at the end of this thread.
March Madness
On the first of March we had a tie. The tiebreaker results were so close that we decided to award two prizes. I have already posted an ASL biography of our runner up, Davide Bendazzi. Davide lives in Lodi, Italy.
The winner of 1 March raffle is Fernando Javier Garcia Maniega, of Villalobon, Spain. I have been working on his ASL biography for some time. Once complete, I will add it to this post

April Fool
Martin Hubley is no fool. He joined Sitrep in May 2012. You should too. Martin currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He bested everyone in our April Fools' Day draw. Martin has been in touch with us already. A full report on this Hotspur F.C. fan is forthcoming. 
May Day
It is never too late to join Sitrep. Mark Watson became a Squad Leader in December 2012. Five months later, he won a Sitrep raffle. In late May, Mark travelled from Toronto to Montreal in order to attend the Canadian ASL Open. It was his first ASL tournament. 
June Bug
We had another tie on the first of June. Reg Plummer, an Ottawa, Ontario native, lost out to Timothy Burke of Oakland, California by a wide margin. Tim has been following Sitrep since November 2012. We are looking forward to posting a photograph (and biography) of Tim for our readers.
Fireworks over Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day
I would like to thank those who took the time to participate in our latest raffle. About 50 people entered the draw. One fellow won the contest outright with a roll of seven with five dice. The runner up rolled ten. But I will start with a consolation prize that we added in honour of Canada Day. 
Roman Reznichenko lives in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is still learning ASL. However, that has not prevented him from playing international opponents online. He also publishes a gaming blog with ASL content called Line of Sight

Roman will receive a copy of Elite Canadians. This scenario pack includes nine scenarios designed by the late Jim McLeod. Jim founded the Canadian ASL Association in Winnipeg, Winterpeg, or simply The Peg. I think that the friendly Manitoban would get a kick out of someone in Russia playing his scenarios. 

The runner-up of our Canada Day contest is Brian Sullivan. Brian lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, a short drive from Boston. I hope to see Brian at the Tussle in the Tundra tourney later this month. It will save me shipping his prize to him.

Onward to oblivion!
Drum roll please. The winner hails from Marietta, Georgia, the largest of Atlanta's suburbs. Richard Kindel is no stranger to ASL. We hope to publish a full feature detailing his involvement with the hobby. Richard has won a ziploc copy of Armies of Oblivion, and a set of our Axes to Grind BattleDice.
Congratulations to all of our winners! 
I will provide additional details about specific prizes when I post biographies and photographs of the winners. We encourage winners to contact us by email at: battleschool at rogers dot com. We will provide instructions on how to claim your prize.
Thank you for reading and following Sitrep.