Sunday, February 21, 2021

Our Games - ESG# 22 Ears for Souvenirs, S52 Extraordinary Bravery, and ASL 168 Forest Bastion

Another week...another round of three excellent ASL games! This week was at once great and terrible at varying times. On Monday evening, I had the thrill of the year for me personally. I got to sit down and talk with Dave and Jeff of the 2 Half-Squads. Really wonderful experience. I have been a fan of their outstanding Podcast for over a decade and to be on their program was a bucket list item for me!

If you have never listened to the 2 Half-Squads Podcast you are missing out on some of the best ASL banter, rules, wha'ts in the box, and interviews out there.

I always look forward to their new episodes and they always made a long day of spreadsheet work go quickly. 

So give them a listen and support this podcast.

The Grumble Jones Blog also hit a milestone this week as well. I finally hit 100 followers, which was pretty cool. The blog turned 10 years old last month and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the next 10.

My terrible part of the week came on Tuesday, when a potential employer sent me a rejection. I had spent considerable time speaking with them and had even done a lengthy (2-1/2 hour) presentation that represented three days of work by me. It was a serious kick to the head and my personal ELR went to disrupted on Tuesday. Being qualified for a job and proving it are not guarantees of employment. So....I'll leave that there.

ASL was a welcome respite from employment and other personal (family woes) father is in the hospital and other things are also going awry. Been a great February so far...when I see that groundhog...well we are going have words!!

But in the midst of drowning in my self-pity...I had calls out of the blue from two of my co-workers from Tulsa. need to talk to someone and both of these gentlemen are battling the same corporate lay-off culture and ageism that I am. Being in your mid-fifties and laid-off from good, high paying jobs is not the ideal situation. Three experienced aviation supply chain professionals needing work at a time when airplane manufacturing is at an all-time low...gonna have to pick a better industry in my next game of life. 

I never owned this game, but my friends down the street in Tennessee did. I used to hope that if I played this game would translate into future real life success. Yeah...Life is not this game as I'm sure we all understand. Sometimes, I think life is like that scenario that you gak the first time you play it...but if you get a second chance to play'd do much better. Here's to second chances for all of us!!!

My first game of the week, would be on Wednesday and I would select a scenario from the East Side Gamers Dezign Pak 2. ESG 22 - Ears for Souvenirs would be my choice. This scenario had me at hello!!! I loved the title.

Designed by Glenn Houseman, this is a DASL Scenario using a half of Board b. It covers the often bloody fighting in September 1937 as the Japanese conquered Shanghai.

At 4-1/2 turns, it's a very fast play. Dan and I knocked it out easily in two hours. It's an all infantry affair with a small squad count.

The Japanese Player wins at game end by controlling all the stone building locations. ROAR has this scenario with 6 Chinese and 0 Japanese wins while the ASL Archive has it with 1 Japanese and 4 Chinese wins. If you are thinking this scenario is Pro-Chinese...well you're is and solidly in my opinion.

The battle for Shanghai was a horrific one and resulted in casualties on the scale of a Stalingrad. The scenario derives its name from the an anecdote about the Japanese cutting off the ears of their fallen foes out of frustration at the high losses they suffered in defeating the Chinese. This battle is not a feel good story for anyone.

A look at the battle space. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating that DASL scenarios really do compress the battlefield. Even those this is a short 4-1/2 turn game, both players can easily move around the battlefield. 

After rolling for sides, Dan would command the men of the Chinese 66th Corps, 159th Division. This force would consist of 5 x 3-3-7's and 4 x 3-3-6's led by a 9-1 and 8-1 with 2 x MMG's, and 2 x LMG's. Dan would get to make two squads fanatic and HIP two squads. He would also get to fortify one building hex. This fortification would be the game winning asset for the Chinese.

As the attacking Japanese, I would command the men of the 3rd Division, 29th Infantry Regiment and 3rd Engineer Regiment. My force would consist of 2 x 4-4-8's, 3 x 4-4-7's, a 2-2-8, and 3 x 3-4-7's led by a 10-1, 10-0, and 9-0 with an HMG, 2 x LMG's and 2 x DC's. 

And now for Dan's Pre-Game Comments:

"The Chinese must maintain control of one building.  The Japanese in ASL can attack well but tend to melt away.  This is helped by the Hand-to-Hand CC where often there is an exchange of units in the mutual elimination phase of H-t-H CC.  My plan is to fortify building K3 where the 9-1 and two fanatic 3-3-7 squads will be with a MMG and LMG.  They can lay a fire lane down the L2, M3, N2, O3 road and the J2, I2, H1, G1 road.  The 8-1 with two 3-3-7 squads and the other MMG will be in I3 to put a fire lane in J2 and K2.  The last 3-3-7 with a LMG will be in G5 and HIP.  With the other HIP in the cellar of I4 as a 3-3-6 squad.  G3 will have a 3-3-6 squad as will M4 and N4.  The N4 squad will move into the cellar.  Dummy counters will set up in H2, L3 and N3.  Hopefully the Japanese will take high casualties crossing the roads and cannot take the last building."

Turn 1 - Japanese. I moved on cautiously. My goal was to get my boys in position to make dashes across the road and bump check question marks. I guessed correctly that Dan's dummy stacks were in the wooden buildings. Both of his MMG's were covering the center cross road. Having looked at the ROAR stats, I had really given up any hope of winning this scenario. I knew Dan had two hipsters and he could easily leave one in a cellar location or level one of the two multi-hex buildings. So I knew the odds were stacked against me.

My boys got into position unmolested. Dan kept his concealments and did not fire.

Heading into Chinese Turn 1 - I had positioned myself with a potentially large fire group.

Turn 1 - Chinese - Dan's boys open up on me. I wouldn't roll well on my morale checks throughout the game and Dan would often get casualty reduction results against me, which would eliminate some of the value of being Japanese.

In the Defensive fire phase, I had managed to break Dan's 9-1 and a squad. They would rout out of the fortified building leaving a squad with an MMG. The 9-1 and squad would not rally for the entire game. I would make my first banzai charge after losing some other boys trying to cross the street. Dan's two MMG fire lanes would stall my attack.

I would get into two close combats that went Hand to Hand with devastating results. I would eliminate the Chinese, but my 10-0 and a squad would be killed and their DC would be eliminated. UGH...I would need both DC's breach a cellar as well as the fortified I only had one.

Dan's boys would get the better of me in the close combats.

I would succeed in clearing the first multi-hex stone building and breaching the cellar with my remaining DC. One building down. But then 10-1 would go berserk and take his entire stack with him. I barely had any squads this was a catastrophic development, because they would have to charge the fortified building location and of course they couldn't enter it...just mill around outside like mindless zombies and get shot down...this was really a game over moment for me.

Breaching the cellar would be awesome...but I had no way to breach the fortified building location...

As my berserkers went after the fortified building...there was no way Dan and I incorrectly allowed my berserk crew to carry on into the other multi-hex building. This was incorrect. My boys were supposed to keep going after the fortified location until they finally eliminated. My berserk 10-0 had been wounded by the Sniper and therefore had correctly remained in front of the fortified building location, because he only had the 3 movement points.

My incorrect move would lead to Dan losing a squad in CC, but otherwise it didn't affect the outcome of the game. I had already lost, because I couldn't take the fortified building location. We discovered our error during our post-game discussion when we decided to check the rule book. 

Dan and I would have one final close combat before the game ended.

We would eliminate each other in the close combat and with that the game was over. Dan had held three of the building locations and had reduced me to a single squad. I  had eliminated 6 of Dan's 9 squads. It had been a bloodbath on both sides. My congrats to Dan on a successful defense. His successes in Close Combat sealed the victory for him!

Dan's Chinese would enjoy the victory. While this scenario is pro-Chinese, I do think the Japanese can win this one. I just haven't figured out how yet...

And now for Dan's Post-Game Comments:

"The plan worked.  The Japanese took heavy casualties on a banzai charge and did not have the strength remaining to clear all the buildings.  The scenario is small and fast to play but each casualty makes it hard for that side to recover.  Fun game to play with Grumble Jones!  Nice to get a little deluxe ASL in.  My thanks to Grumble Jones for a fun banzai attack."

This would be Dan's 300th ASL Victory!!! Congrats my friend on a tremendous accomplishment!

Ok bonus our last week's post, this post will also cover my regular Friday game with my St. Louis buddy, Scott. We would play ASL Scenario S52 - Extraordinary Bravery. Scott would be the attacking Axis and I would be the defending Poles.  This scenario is designed by Tom Morin and Carl Nogueira. It covers Day 1 of World War II as the Germans attempt to seize control of Danzig.

This is a 4-1/2 turn Starter Kit Scenario from the Special Ops Journal put out by MMP. Scott and I would finish this scenario in less than 2  hours. Scott rolls as bad as I do, so much of  the game was just spent rolling dice to no affect. This would benefit me as the attacker and hurt Scott's chances of taking control of the I5 building location for the win.

The Special Ops Journal is a nice magazine that MMP puts out. It reminds me of the Avalon Hill General magazine with better overall printing, etc. Each issue contains two ASL scenarios and 2 Starter Kit scenarios. I'll leave up to you the reader to decide if the cost justifies the four scenarios, if you are  not also interested in the other non-ASL content. I believe these can also be downloaded for a lower cost.

ASL Scenario S52 Extraordinary Bravery is a good fast-play scenario. ROAR has it with 5 German and 2 Polish Wins. The ASL Archive has it with 6 German and 2 Polish wins.

My defensive zone. Scott's Police force would work together with SS Heimwehr Danzig to take the I5 building.

This picture shows Turn 3. (Turns 1 and 2 were just the trading of fire). Scott's reinforcements would move on to the board and be his first troops to cross the road in three turns. This is a 4-1/2 turn game. So you can already see that Scott has next to no chance of winning this game. There is nothing wrong about cautious play that minimizes your losses...but it also rarely allows you to achieve the scenario objectives.

Every player has their own ASL style. My buddy Scott tries to suffer as few casualties as possible in every game we play. He also like to maximize the casualties he inflicts. Scott typically fires nearly all of his units in every Prep-Fire Phase. He will move normally, only when he has pinned or broken the units in front of him. Playing against Scott is vastly different from playing Dan. Dan breathes therefore he attacks. 

Turn 4 - Scott finally armor assaults with his armored car.

At the end of Turn 4 - Scott still has not moved the bulk of his forces and has only broken my stack in M7.

Turn 5 - German and Scott's last chance to take the building. He manages to take two hexes in the building, but that is all and therefore the game ends with a Polish victory. 

The battle would end with a victory for me. Ultimately, Scott was just too cautious in his attack. Had I been playing against Dan, he would have hit me hard right from the beginning and probably have won the scenario. But as I indicated earlier, Scott wasn't too upset with the loss as his casualties had been very low. So, there are two take-aways here: #1 - the Axis Player needs to be aggressive and #2 we all enjoy the game in different ways...there are no right or wrong ways of enjoying ASL. My thanks to Scott for another great game in our decades long history of playing ASL together.

Well are you!?! Are you ready for another Scenario AAR on this single Post!!! I know you are!!!

So my third and final ASL game of the week, would be my regular Saturday game with Dan Best. Dan would select ASL Scenario 168  Forest Bastion for the days ASL action. 

Forest Bastion is designed by Tuomo Lukkari and covers a September 1941 fight between Finns and  Russians as the Continuation War rages between the two countries. 

This  scenario covers the assault of a fortified Soviet position in the wooded hills near Praaza. The Finns win at game end by controlling or eliminating the three Russian Pill Boxes.

ROAR shows this scenario with 19 Russian and 9 Finnish wins. The ASL Archive shows it with 7 Russian and 5 Finnish wins. 

This would lead one to believe it is a bit Pro-Russian, but after playing it, I would suggest it's a bit more balanced than that.

A look at the battleground. The Finns have plentiful 80mm OBA with an off-board observer and get to secretly choose the turn and location of a smoke barrage.

As the attacking Finns, I would command the men of the 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment. This force would consist of 12 x 5-4-8's led by a 9-1 and 8-0 with an MMG, 2 x LMG's and a DC. On Turn 3, I would get reinforcement of 2 x 5-4-8's and 2 x 2-3-8's led by an 8-0 with an LMG and DC.

As the defending Russians, Dan would command the men of the 1063rd Infantry Regiment. This force would consist of 2 x 4-5-8's, and 8 x 4-4-7's led by an 8-1, 8-0 and 7-0 with an HMG, MMG and 2 x LMG's. Dan's fortifications would consist of 3 x Pill Boxes, 4 x Wire, 6 x Trenches and 10 x PFZ's. Dan would also have a HIP group on Board 37 consisting of 3 x 4-4-7's led by a 7-0 with an LMG.

And now for Dan's Pre-Game comments:

"The Russians must defend one of the three pillboxes to win.  By SSR they cannot be mutually supporting.  So the plan will be to set up each pillbox as a positions supported by two trenches and a wire.  Using the PFZ to get the required LOS to board 37.  Hopefully the Finns exhaust themselves attacking the first two and do not have enough to take the last one.  The trenches will defend the rear of the pillboxes to protect from the flanking platoon.  The HIP squads will set up to attack the approaching Finns.  They will also move on to board 39 to defend against the flanking squads."

You can see the pre-selected hex for my smoke barrage near the pond. My attack was going to go behind the smoke and then sweep from left to right. My Turn 3 reinforcements would come in behind the pill box on the far right. At least that was my plan...

My plan of attack was positioned very well (accidentally of course). Dan's pill boxes were looking the other direction. His HMG was in the center pill box and would never fire a shot at me.

I landed the smoke barrage accurately and had it hit on Turn 1. It effectively blocked any fire from the hills...but I wasn't safe...

Turn 1 - Finnish...I move and don't move cautiously. I sent 4 x 2-3-8's moving up the road. And yet, Dan's HIP guys (a 7-0 with 4-4-7 and LMG) opened up and get a KIA result. 2-3-8 dead, & the other 3 broken. I quickly surround the Russians, but Dan puts up a great wall of residual fire and shoots me twice with Final Protective Fire. My 3 x 2-3-8's that were broken, would have to surrender and Dan would kill them. Just like that I had lost 2 full squads...because I was stupid...


I jump into Melee with 2-1 odds and my 9-1 officer...and I can't roll less than a 10...MELEE.

Turn 2 - Finnish - I move forward except for my boys locked in melee. My OBA also begins landing.

Turn 3 - I'm making slow progress on the left while my reinforcements race on from the rear of Dan's positions.

Dan had a single 4-4-7 in the rear that slowed down my attack and would eliminate one of my half-squads there. 

Dan would get good service from the two 4-4-7's that fought me in the open areas.

My push on the left started to gain traction. Dan's boys were breaking and ELR'ing. A 2 ELR is not a good thing.

"Why are we only 2 ELR!?!"

I managed to get my first bunker as the Russian positions on the left were overcome.

On the right, Dan's single 4-4-7 was messing with my time-table!!!

The fight for the center bunker would be intense.

The fight for the center pill box would be tough.

About mid-game, I was in a good position to assault the remaining two pill boxes.

Ever the aggressive player, Dan's HMG squad bails out of the center pill box and jumps into CC with me. I would manage to win the close combat.

Dan's boys came down the trench and brought the fight to me.

The center fight would rage on as I tried to make my first assault on the right side pill box. My attempt to place a DC would meet with failure.

Dan's boys on the right would put up a hard fight!

Dan would suffer two inconvenient Berserker squads. One would go down hard, but his second would cause me a bit of grief and take down a half-squad. This single squad stands by Dan's Russians were seriously impacting my timetable. I could ill afford to lose opportunities to move...especially in this difficult terrain that ate MP's like Skittles!!!

Earlier in the game, Dan's broken squads from the far left had retreated deep into the woods. Well they finally rallied and a single squad began moving towards the left side pill box. I quickly sent a a half-squad back into the bunker. I couldn't take a chance that Dan would recover one of the pill boxes.

With time running out, I had control of 2 pillboxes and was trying to move into position to assault the final pill box on the right.

The PFZ's were a welcome terrain after the forested slopes.

My final movement phase would place another unit to protect the left flank pill box from Dan's oncoming squad. And on the right, I would go into close combat with three Dan's last pill box group. I would win the CC and claim the third and final pill box. 

Turn 8 - Russian - Dan sends his single squad towards the left side bunker. I only had a half-squad in it, so if Dan could get there, he might actually succeed it taking it back. So he moved, my fanatic squad fired and got a normal morale check on Dan. Dan would pin and that was game. My Finns had won a tough fight. My thanks to Dan for a great final game of the week. It was the toughest of the three scenarios played this week and perhaps the most fun. It came down to the final close combats, which is always a great way to finish a scenario.

My boys could enjoy a hard fought victory. Fortifications always stress me out personally and I was exhausted at the end of this scenario.

And now for Dan's Post-Game Comments:

"The plan did not work.  The Finns Schwerpunkt  came on the north board edge.  By turn four they had the first pillbox.  The OBA kept the middle pillbox fixed in place while the OBA did not damage the fortified positions much but did not allow for the Russian to move out.  The Russian ELR came to play reducing two leaders and three squads on breaks.  The Finns kept up the attacks had good rolls on the CC attacks to clear the last pillbox.  The only remaining Russian force was pinned on counterattack and the Finns had the win.  Well played by Grumble Jones.  This scenario has a great deal of replay value as the fortifications give options for set up.  Congrats to Grumble Jones for a great win!"

Whew...that's enough for's 7:30 PM as I finish this...and I started at 12:30 PM. 
I might need to play a little Call of Duty Black Ops 5...cause...that should be relaxing!!!

As always, thanks for spending your valuable time at Grumble Jones! 

Dan and I will return next week for more Cardboard Carnage!

We will see YOU then!

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