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Subject: "Mayhem in Manila" Tournament 29-31 July 2016 AAR rss

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Bruce Probst
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A MUDDLE-HEADED WOMBAT IN MANILA

"Mayhem in Manila", Asia-Pacific Tournament (29-Jul-16 to 31-Jul-16)

A long flight from Melbourne to Manila (via a short stop-over in Kuala Lumpur) took me to the action. Greeted by local Vlad See at the airport, I had my first taste of the true "excitement of the Philippines", i.e., the traffic. My first impression was that it was "a bit mad", I soon adjusted that rating to "complete insanity". As far as I can see the rules are that everyone -- EVERYONE -- has right-of-way AT ALL TIMES. There are no "Stop" or "Give Way" signs, and precious few traffic lights. Traffic lanes, indeed direction of travel, are mere suggestions, only loosely followed. I have never been so terrified in my life. Nevertheless, Vlad got me safely to my hotel, which was only a brief (and yet still scary) walk from the tournament venue. I was here, and I was ready to rumble!

The tournament was managed by Alan Smee, an ex-pat Paddington Bear who now lives in Singapore. The entire event (not just the tournament) was organised as smoothly and efficiently as anyone could hope for, with everything from shuttle services to food runs available to cater to our whims. Maps for the various scenarios were prepared in VASL and printed on large sheets of thin card for the convenience of everyone, swag bags with various useful goodies (including appropriate vehicle and ordnance notes applicable to each scenario) were prepared for each attendant, and copious quantities of hot and cold beverages were made available. Truly, this was tournament bliss. Major props to Alan, Mark Humphries, Vlad, George Bates, Jackson Kwan and everyone else involved in the tournament organisation.

After a brief mass introduction and explanation of the tournament rules, Alan paired us up with our opponents and we were off!

Each round consisted of three scenarios. Each player arranged them in his order of preference, so it was always a quick and simple decision to work out which scenario would be played. ABS bidding options were available for each scenario and thus deciding who would take each side was a similarly quick and simple process.

ROUND 1 "Jungles" (29/7/16)

My opponent is Jackson Kwan, aka "Hong Kong Wargamer" and a cheerful guy who I had actually played once before via VASL, and it was great to meet him in person. The scenario selection process yielded our choice of AP89 "To The Pain", which I had not played before. It's Burma in early 1942, and a strong Gurkha force of infantry and various light AFVs is attempting to throw the invading Japanese out of their positions. There is a somewhat ... involved ... set of victory conditions, essentially the Gurkhas are looking to achieve various short-term objectives, if they do they win immediately, otherwise the scenario continues to the next set of objectives. It's ... interesting ... but I can't help but feel that there could have been a simpler way. Regardless, we work with what we have. I wanted to attack, so bid Gurkha 0, while Jackson bid Japanese 1, so we each got our preferences (and Jackson replaced an Elite squad with a 1st Line).

The first Gurkha victory objective is to gain 1 VP at the end of Turn 3, with the easiest method to score that point being to clear a central road position of Japanese MMC. I decided to send my main force directly to that position while simultaneously sending flanking forces around it, looking to get into the Japanese rear and secure victory locations for the next stage of the objectives. I had some trouble getting my troops to stay focused on their tasks, there was an awful lot of crying and running away going on, and I lost an armoured car to a well-placed Japanese gun. At the start of my Turn 3 I felt that I was running behind schedule and needed to push harder to compensate, so I ended up sending the 9-2 and 2 squads up a steep ascent on top of a Japanese foxhole in kunai adjacent to the victory road, hoping that the -2 leadership and Gurkha Stealth would counteract the kunai, CX and Japanese Stealth. Well, there was no ambush, I had a clear numerical advantage so saw no need to invoke HtH, and rolled ... snake-eyes. Oh my. Suddenly everything became easier, as the newly-generated 8-1 withdrew with one squad to a protecting position while the 9-2 and the other squad knuckled down for the inevitable Japanese counter-attack -- inevitable because Jackson now had no MMC in the victory area, so had to throw in everyone within range or he would lose immediately at the end of his turn. Well, his guys on the flanks had been doing a good job of keeping my flanking guys at bay, but it meant they were far from the action, and a fair amount of reckless movement was required to get them where he needed them. Unfortunately for him, they payed the price for that recklessness. After the dust was settled, his only hope was a single MMG crew, adjacent to the victory area. He would only need to advance him in to keep the game going. Various attacks from me had done nothing to him; I was down to one last Final Fire shot. I rolled well and scored a 1MC. He had 8 ML, he could easily pass. He's Japanese, though, even if he failed he'd merely flip and still advance. I needed him to Pin! Well, Jackson took the third option and rolled boxcars. And just like that, I had won.

An invigorating start and a fun opponent, 1-0.

ROUND 2 "Hills" (29/7/16)

My opponent is Jon Cole from Western Australia. I've played him a couple of times before at various Australian tournaments, and I knew him to be a skilled opponent. We select AP52 "Into Vienna Woods" for our scenario, I had played it a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot. Since I had been German then, I bid Russian 0 this time, and since Jon bid German 0 we each got what we wanted and were ready to go.

I tried for a setup that would maximise German casualties as they approached the hill, and in Turn 1 that seemed to work out OK, as quite a few of Jon's SS seemed to lose interest in the fight very quickly. Unfortunately that was my last brief moment of glory, because from Turn 2 onward Jon just smacked me hard and didn't let up. By the end of German Turn 3 there were no Russian forces left on the map. That makes the entry of the Russian reinforcements particularly difficult -- the ideal Russian situation is to have some guys still in defensive positions to give the Russians a safe way to enter the map. Well, I figured I only needed to take back one level 3 hex to win, so it was just a matter of deciding which hex that would be and going for it as best as I could. I tried hard, even had some good results that got me to within one hex of the objective ... but again, the Germans struck back hard and it was all over.

Jon's always a pleasure to play, he made no mistakes of any consequence and I could only beat him with lucky DR that I wasn't getting. 1-1.

ROUND 3 "Philippines" (30/7/16)

A new day and my opponent is Xiaowen "Xavier" Zhang (I hope I spelled that right), one of the several Chinese players who made it to the tournament. The phrase to apply to all of these guys is "keen as mustard", they're all anxious to learn as much about the game as possible and they (rightly) believe that a tournament environment is the way to do it. Well, if my experiences are anything to judge by, these guys have already learned what they need, and now it's just a matter of refinement and experience.

We select AP59 "Taking Heads", again a scenario I had not played. After the previous night's demoralising defence I wanted to attack again, so bid Japanese 0, but Xavier wanted it more and bid Japanese 1 (losing a LMG). I tried for a "clever" defence that would slow the Japanese up some on their initial entry while allowing for a fall-back into the village where I figured better terrain and good supporting weapons would stop the Japanese from achieving their Exit while not giving them too many VP elsewhere. Well, it seemed like a decent plan to me, and for the first couple of turns it even seemed like it might be working. Then Xavier cranked up the Japanese banzai machine and set it to fully automatic, and it ran over me like a lawnmower. Honestly, I would have called it a thing of beauty if it wasn't for the mayhem it was causing. Xavier was relentless and my dice turned very, very cold. His ability to consistently get Smoke exactly where and when he needed it was a continual frustration to me.

This man knows what he is doing. Fear him! 1-2.

ROUND 4 "City" (30/7/16)

My opponent is local Manila player Vlad See, who I have played before via VASL. We select A103 "Mayhem in Manila" as our scenario (was there ever any doubt?), which I've played before, about 13 years ago, and won as the Japanese. Therefore this time I bid American 0, Vlad bids Japanese 1 (losing 4 "?" counters) and we're off. The Japanese have an awful lot of nasty tricks they can play as the defender in this one, considering what he could do and looking at the very limited American entry options left me with many concerns. Ultimately I decided the approach that would combine the greatest safety with the greatest speed would be a push right up the middle of the board with a flanking force pushing hard up the right to try and swing around and get to the rear of the Japanese defence.

Several things favoured me. Firstly, Vlad's defence did not take good advantage of his options; in particular, he had no-one in Level 2 positions, and his sole rooftop position (used for his 50mm MTR) could only see half the board -- which was not the half I was doing most of my movement in. Therefore I was able to get a lot further forward at a much quicker rate than I had expected. He also set up his 25LL AA gun illegally, and after a call for adjudication from Alan, it was moved back to a position where it could see very few targets, essentially removing it from the game altogether (and so a severe blow to Japanese FP). To further help things along, my M7 GMC got into a safe position where it could drop SMOKE repeatedly onto the front VC building, and it proved to be fully stocked with WP rounds. The entire game it just switched targets from one hex to the other, dropping WP every PFPh. The WP never caused any casualties, but obviously it severely hampered the Japanese defence as I approached that building. Even my bazookas were contributing well on the WP score, again allowing me to move very freely. Still, things got gritty when it came to actually launching the assaults on the buildings, with the 12.7 AA gun proving particularly vexing for several turns. I gave Vlad a near-scare when around Turn 3 I had an opportunity to get a squad into the rear VC building while he had abandoned it -- which of course would have given me the instant win. It was a risky move, and I didn't really expect it to work, but I felt I had to go for it -- but a Thrown DC quickly put paid to that effort. Vlad then rapidly adjusted his defence so that he wouldn't be vulnerable to that again. So, it came down to me pummeling the defenders for a turn or so in order to prepare for the last turn effort to actually get into the buildings. My forces were in a position to go for both buildings at once, so I did. Many Americans tried and failed -- including the 10-2 leader, who managed to roll a "12" on the only PTC he had been subjected to in the entire game (I think he shrugged off a NMC a turn or too earlier, and aside from that, had never been in any danger whatsoever). When the dust settled, I had actually (barely) achieved the required Good Order squad-equivalent ratios in both buildings, so won convincingly.

Vlad was very good-natured about it all, but it has to be said he made a few mistakes that gave me options and advantages that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I was ready to take the win regardless, I'm kind of a bastard that way. 2-2.

ROUND 5 "Armor" (31/7/16)

Last game of the tournament. I was feeling pretty relaxed, I had so far managed a 50% score (respectable for me) and was not really concerned if I won or lost this last game (although obviously, it's always nice to win). My opponent is Rafaël Ferry (I think that's his preferred spelling), a Frenchman who lives in Cambodia. Rafaël has only been playing for about a year, but is very enthusiastic and also very good-natured and witty, and just having him at the tournament was an asset. Our scenario choice is FrF60 "A War of Their Own", a last-ditch Japanese armoured assault on a Russian position in 1945. I hadn't played the scenario before. Rafaël was not comfortable with playing the Japanese, and expressed a preference (as opposed to a bid) for playing the Russians, and since my natural inclination was to take the Japanese (as the attacker) any way, I had no problems with that at all.

Well, there's not that much I can say, since I didn't end up doing much; the Russian defence simply deflated like a balloon. I loaded up some Japanese riders and pushed the infantry as far forward as I could. The Russian setup options don't allow for many opportunities to attack the approaching Japanese until they get very close, and it didn't help Rafaël at all that my Japanese 150mm Gun actually found a WP round and successfully placed it onto the Russian 45LL AT gun, on the Russian left flank which was my choice for my attack (I ignored the Russian right flank objective completely). That was only the beginning of his bad luck, which was relentless for the entire game. By the end of Turn 1 both Russian guns were malfunctioned, as was one of the Russian MMGs. Basically I swarmed into the Russian defensive line and everything I tried pretty much worked a treat. It couldn't have been much fun for Rafaël, unfortunately, and I don't think that there was even that much for him to learn, other than don't roll boxcars! Still, he took it very stoically. He did offer to accept my surrender at one or two points, which was very big of him, but I politely declined.

The scenario itself depicts an unusual situation, and is perhaps worth playing for that reason alone, but I'm uncertain about the Russian chances in this one. Even without WP, the Japanese guns are brutal, and while the Japanese tanks are individually not much, collectively they're quite a powerful force, especially if the Japanese can subdue the Russian guns quickly. It seems balanced on ROAR, with an equal number of Japanese and Russian wins, but the total number of playings is < 20 so those statistics are not really meaningful. Time will tell, I suppose.

I finish the tournament with a 3-2 record, and that puts me in 5th place overall, a result I'm very happy with. *So many* prizes were donated to the tournament by various sponsors that I even scored some goodies!

It's been decided that the next Asia-Pacific tournament, in 2017, will be held in Siem Reap, in Cambodia, a place I know virtually nothing about other than it's the location of Angkor Wat and according to Wikipedia is a popular tourist attraction. I don't yet know if my personal circumstances will allow me to attend, but I heartily recommend it to anyone who can manage it -- you will be guaranteed of a unique ASL experience!
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Garth Boucher
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Thanks Bruce, always nice to read a tourney report from a veteran ASL'er.
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Todd Reed
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Nice write up.

I'm wondering how they printed the VASL maps.
 
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Mark Humphries
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mojayhawk wrote:
Nice write up.

I'm wondering how they printed the VASL maps.


IIRC from VASL to PNG, then to PDF, then to a printshop for printing on large format cardstock. The printouts were mostly used as a fallback for those scenarios that used Yanks and DASL maps or OOP overlays, VASL's resolution is quite low (72 dpi).
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Bruce Probst
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While VASL's resolution may be low, the print-outs are more than serviceable. I used them for every game I played. At "normal" sizes I think you'd only be able to spot the limitations using a magnifier. If you blew the maps up so that the hexes were enormous then you'd probably see issues.

I particularly liked the DASL "mini-maxi" hexes, they worked really well.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7gbeRL9VQZ_cUs1LThyNFNIcG...
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Mark Humphries
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BruceP wrote:

I particularly liked the DASL "mini-maxi" hexes, they worked really well.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7gbeRL9VQZ_cUs1LThyNFNIcG...


That's my favorite one as well.
Kudos to Will Fleming for his painstaking work preparing all the files.
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