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INTRODUCTION

The following is an abbreviated version of the AAR of my first ASLSK VASLeague Match against "gwaedin". The full write-up is on my blog Triple Point Blank Fire starting here.

The VASLeague is a yearlong tournament that pits ASL and ASLSK players against opponents of their level. The tournament draws participants from around the globe who play ASL(SK) using VASL. My first opponent was "gwaedin", an Italian six timezones ahead so we needed every week of the two months allocated to the round to finish our game.

We chose S4 - Welcome Back. I was the US and gwaedin was the German side.


ANIMATION OF THE MATCH

Since VASL takes screenshots of the action it was easy to create a simple .gif animation for the match. The animation starts at the set-up and continues through all turns. The animation repeats. The final screenshot is posted below.


AFTER-ACTION REPORT

We've finished our first match in the VASLeague. It was intense -- I repeat, edge-o'-the-seat intense. It was two 3.5 hour sessions total and it ended on the last half-turn in the Axis MPh.

Though it looked a bit tough for me some lucky ROF rolls with my .50 cal HMG stacked with my 10-2 leader managed to mince enough Krauts to prevent gwaedin from being able to exit the 10 VP worth of squads and leaders off the board. The Germans would not be taking Hosingen from the Americans in this match! [I'm reading the Aftermath part of the scenario card now and noticing that matches up pretty well with what happened in the game!]

If ASLSK1 follows any sort of hidden programmed instruction then this fourth scenario is all about being ultra careful in set-up. The Americans are pretty well outnumbered 2 to 1 in S4 and need to be very quick to react to what the Germans are doing.

It seemed clear to me that in order for me to have a chance I'd have to take advantage of the set-up areas well forward and funnel the German advance one way or the other. Then I'd have to hoof my out of position troops into a good rear position. In the centre I put my very tough HMG and 10-2 leader, the right has the FT and more MGs and an elite squad but the left had the third leader with a single MMG and squad to keep the Germans honest. My intent was to try to funnel gwaedin's Germans to the woods on the left as this was the most difficult terrain to traverse to get across the width of the map.

As it turns out, of course, I really didn't think about just how much was coming at me. Gwaedin really really went left hard and 15 squads and 5 leaders with 5 SWs (add one of mine he captured too -- doh!) looked early on like a massive blue tide coming at me. You'll notice that all the squads on the right are CXing like mad to get to the buildings in the centre or at the rear asap. Note too the 8-0 with MMG squad in the left building getting pasted in CC.


We paused for a couple of weeks just at the start of turn 3.

Three squads on the top were the FT with a 2nd line squad (bad set-up I think but still has to be respected by the Germans), another 8-0 with Elite squad, and the 10-2 with Elite 6-6-7 and the dreaded HMG (more on the HMG later). At this point there was an Elite 7-4-7 running in on the right and two broken squads in the middle. The rear broken squad routed there with the final MMG and was lucky to self-rally in a later turn, holding that side of the map closed for exiting Germans. The bulk of gwaedin's Germans were still on the left with one big stack in the bottom who had taken some unlucky shots and routed.

The match restarted inauspiciously for gwaedin. His Rally attempt with his leader resulted in casualty reduction and he wounded. To balance things out, my crappy 2nd line squad with the FT broke it immediately and they faced a mass of fire and died in short order out in the open on the left.

The key development at this point in the game was the standoff between gwaedin's mega stack in yI4 and the only guys they could see in yJ1 (the aforementioned 8-0 and squad). Gwaedin's stack could muster up a 20-FP attack at will. In what he believes was a critical point in the match, his first prep fire with the stack was a DR of 11 (+3 or 4) and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I think, in hindsight this was super important because, if you know the flow of the game, this put him back one turn in terms of initiative. I would get a subsequent shot in the DFPh and be basically "one-up" on him. The other important thing was that gwaedin, by his own admission, thinks he fell in love with the power of the mega-stack. He made the cardinal error of forgetting the Victory Conditions and, in my opinion, spent too many turns just Prepping with that mega stack to break my guys rather than sally forth and exiting for the win.

We could both see that the left was turning into a big logjam that wasn't going to be pretty. However, in the middle, gwaedin attempted to start exiting squads (he had all the way to the Y column to do it and seemingly only my MMG in yP1 to worry about. He dashed two half squads all the way to yV4 and placed a MMG and squad in yO5 to cover for the main stack's run for the border. This is where the HMG I had made it's long awaited debut.

To be perfectly honest, I knew the .50 cal HMG in yK2 was a beast but man, it was absolutely vicious in this game. First, I DFed with the squad in yP1 to no result. This forced my hand and I used the HMG, leader-led on yO5. I not only KIAed them I retained ROF and then KIAed the guys in yV4 -- no cheap exits for gwaedin unfortunately.

Another half-turn and it was the final Axis turn (Allies do not get a sixth turn). Critical points: The 7-4-7 in yJ0 was holding the door shut on the extreme left exit hex (yI1). The 6-6-7 with 10-2 and HMG in yK2 were itching to turn the streets red with German blood. I did some quick math and it seemed clear that the big German stack in yI4 was going to have to be broken up and CX for it...

The Rally Phase did not help -- the broken units in Q6 did not want to move so gwaedin was left with trying a lone squad leader to attempt exit. The funny thing was I ignored the squad and jumped all over the wounded leader who had to make a beeline to the board edge. Of course my idiot squad in yP1 rolls boxcars, cowers and basically Final Fires and we laughed about how they peed their pants seeing a lone sergeant with a limp and covered in blood approach them.

Regardless, the right side was done and we got to the true business of the left.

The yI4 stack started breaking up and rounding the corner on yK2. I let one pass and then had to lay down some residual in yJ3 to keep him honest. I was able to keep ROF (all fingers crossed here) and really laid into subsequent squads that tried to run. An HMG here is 8FP. For the running squads it was usually a -1 FFNAM and -1FFMO AND a leader-led -2. Not only is this very very scary, I kept rate, I think, 4 times. For those of you without an IFT handy, that's an average roll of 3 on the 8FP column for a K/2 result. Of course I kept rolling less than that and squads were vapourizing all over. The residuals on the screenshot were from the squad (2), and the HMG (4) when it finally lost ROF.

By this time gwaedin was forced to try his squads in the G column and one group made it to yI1 where the 7-4-7 who had rallied a turn earlier laid down a 6 residual and broke them. It was basically over at that point. In order to exit, the Germans had to have units move off in the MPh (impossible now) or get to the last row and Advance off -- but these were either covered in residual or I could Final Protective Fire to make difficult.


Here's the final state of the gameboard when gwaedin conceded with not enough German squads left to make the VP total.

The final gameboard screenshot.



DE-BRIEFING

[Gwaedin has posted his thoughts in his native Italian tongue though he was gracious enough to give me a condensed English version posted on my blog here: http://triplepbf.blogspot.com/2009/02/aar-vasleague-game-1-s...]

1. GWAEDIN.
Gwaedin was a gracious opponent in defeat. We both clearly were having fun and for me, personally, I was a bit regretful to win over such a great opponent. Gwaedin was clearly more knowledgeable on the rules and better with the VASL interface. I learned a lot. There is no question that playing him in my first exposure to the VASLeague was lucky. I had an awesome time.

2. SET-UP.
Did I set-up well? Was my plan a good one? If anyone has played this more than once I'd like to hear what you think. I firmly believe I was more lucky than good!

3. COMPETITION.
If you're new to the whole ASL hobby and are not adverse to it, nothing beats competitive stress to help you learn and learn FAST. It really magnifies even very small play sequences into titanic struggles. For example, the S4 SSRs have a simple DR at the start of every turn to determine environmental conditions (I think I've got the real ASL term for it) as to whether it's snowing or not. This die roll was crucial in the middle turns as firefights erupted over longer distances and the +1 hindrance involved became a factor.

Another example I can give is when I first started playing Magic: The Gathering competitively in tournaments for "real". It was a far cry from casual play with buddies. I remember my hands shaking in nervousness as I laid my first land down as if it was the end of times... I wasn't that good but darn if I wasn't a much tighter (better) player afterwards, quickly outstripping my local play group and friends.

What is more, I've read countless posts by players of ASL who became, for lack of a better term, "inbred" in their rules knowledge and gameplay. That is, when you play with only a small circle of friends, or with only a single f2f opponent or solo exclusively, you're bound to be getting something wrong and/or are getting into a rut with your tactics and strategy. It's hard to surprise yourself in solitaire play or if your only opponent always preps and never skulks or whatever. Mixing it up in something like a VASLeague seems a great way to beat this "inbreeding" problem.

4. NEVER GIVE UP.
I was positive I was going to lose on the first half player turn when gwaedin went waaaay left. To be honest, I joined the league to learn first, win second. But you can't help but be a bit crestfallen when it appears your opponent is going to smoke you on the first turn. Amongst ASL players this is known as failing the "Personal Morale Check": PMC. Failing the PMC basically gives your opponent the game. Luckily I did pass -- mainly because I remembered I was there to have fun and learn and making the best of a seemingly bad situation was the best learning to be had. Stay positive and have fun. You'd be surprised what happens sometimes.

5. SKULKING.
Long before I started playing ASL I had heard about "skulking" -- the act of Assault Moving your stacks in defense back out of sight in the MPh then Advancing them later back to where they started. If you try and justify this in real-life terms you'll just go crazy. It's definitely a "gamey" tactic -- something that implies unsporting behaviour. I have news for you. If you want realism in a game you're asking for something that will never exist. By its very nature games are an abstraction of "reality" and blah blah blah. It's a stupid argument. I've now embraced skulking as part of my ASL toolkit. So should you.

6. HMGs.
Holy crap. Wow. Here's the counter that really helped me win my game:



Let's do a little in-depth counter talk shall we? I think it represents the M2 Browning or something very similar. 8FP all by it's lonesome. On a simple DR of 7 it's already resulting in a 1MC. On snakes it's a KIA/1. It's (unseen) B# is 12 so it's normal, no more brittle than the typical MG. The range is 16 (underscored here is not used in SK-level but I think it means it can spray fire, ie. area fire on two adjacent hexes in one burst) which is pretty well any LOS on the SK maps, especially the "urban" settings. Crossing a field in front of it must be absolute murder. (DR of 7 -1 FFNAM, -1 FFMO = 2MC).

But of course, the most "fun" thing about the .50 HMG in the American arsenal is the 3 ROF. Fully HALF the time you fire, you'll be firing AGAIN, hit or miss. Given that the coloured die at 3 results in a DR of 9 at worst, that's still a PTC on the IFT! So if you do hit and keep ROF it's terribly effective. No wonder I was vapourizing Germans in that last MPh. (Remember, the HMG was stacked with a 10-2 leader so... 8FP, -2 leader, -1 FFNAM, -1 FFMO = average DRs of 7 are now 3s and K/2 results on the IFT. That's "average".)

Drawbacks? It's 5PP to haul around so make sure you put it somewhere you want to keep in place. And as gwaedin mentions, the covered arc of the thing when it's in a building in full-ASL is limited. No crazy Star Wars laser turret shenanigans.

The HMG definitely made me look smart!


7. FTs AND SET-UP.
Did I make a mistake putting my FT on a non-elite unit? I know it goes against convention but I knew that out of all my SWs, the FT would have drawn the most attention to start (HMG too). I certainly didn't think they would last long but I don't think I truly appreciated just how bad it is in the hands of the 2nd liners who wielded one. They had a very good chance of breaking it but to be fair, I intended them solely as major threats to try and funnel gwaedin's advance. Or maybe I'm just stupid. It bears a bit more study.

S4, as I mentioned previously, is really the first time you have to get very very careful with set-up in SK1 (provided you play them in order). Not only do you have to put the right pieces in the right places with the obvious consideration of the Victory Conditions but you have to put the right squads with the right SWs and leaders. I have no doubt that I could have easily blown this scenario even before the first turn with a more sub-optimal set-up. There's a lot of replay value in this scenario alone.


WRAP-UP

This has been a long post but much of it was written weeks ago and I've tried not to modify too much, just streamline it. Though the VASLeague is closed right now (unless I'm mistaken) there's always players ready to teach and play ASL/ASLSK on the VASL servers.

Feel free to check out my blog about ASLSK, VASL or gwaedin's view of things from the links below.

LINKS

Triple Point Blank Fire
VASL
VASLeague
Gwaedin's Italian AAR

Thanks for reading!

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Jay Richardson
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Great session report! After I read it on your blog, I was hoping that you'd post it over here as well.

I think I'd prefer individual pictures that can be studied at leisure, rather than a single animated image (or, at least, in addition to an animated image). One suggestion to improve the animation would be to clearly label each frame: Turn 1, Turn 2, etc.
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the scrub
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richfam wrote:
Great session report! After I read it on your blog, I was hoping that you'd post it over here as well.

I think I'd prefer individual pictures that can be studied at leisure, rather than a single animated image (or, at least, in addition to an animated image). One suggestion to improve the animation would be to clearly label each frame: Turn 1, Turn 2, etc.


Thanks for the comments Jay. I'm experimenting here with the animation (and to be honest I wanted to drive readers to the blog anyways where you can see them seperately). I was also going to label but figuring out my stupid animation program took longer than I hoped and I just said, wth, go with it.

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Andrew C
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Great session report! I agree I'd prefer the static pics, but your ploy to get me to your blog worked - and it looks great. I look forward to reading through it in detail.
 
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Nathaniel GOUSSET
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Good report.

But you are very unfair about skulking wich isn't such a gamey and unrealistic move that it got the r├ęputation to be.

ASL is a "design for effect" game where rules are set so their results more than their mechanism should depict the reality of a fight. Given the "I Go - U Go" of the system what the skulking move depict are the troups that are using well set position and discipline of fire to cover themself against ennemy fire, limiting their exposure to fire and concentrating on the defense.

By opposition the troups that doesn't sulk are concentrating on providing a higher volume of fire resulting in more efficiency (twice more fire phase) but greater exposure to ennemy fire.

Skulking is the perfect example of a rule that seems unrealistic and unhistorical in his mechanism but that actually produc a very realistic and historical effect in game.
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