Tuesday, March 21, 2023

An Epic Weekend at Kansas City's 2023 March Madness Tournament

It was 2019 when last we met...the last good year before a Global Pandemic changed things for the foreseeable future. Gathered together in Kansas City, we had no inkling that we would not see one another for years. Even now it's difficult to fathom that so much time has passed since my last tournament. The March Madness 2020 Tournament would be cancelled and 2021 would be virtual. Then 2022 came and I sat on the sidelines, out of work and still nervous to be in a group setting. So I would miss the 2022 Tournament season. As last Thursday rolled around, I was eager to erase the past disappointments and get back together with my ASL friends and opponents. And I must tell you, this tournament weekend would be more than I could ever hope for in many, many different ways. 

My first order of business upon arriving on Thursday was to meet up with an old co-worker/friend from my days in Quincy, IL working for GatesAir. My Sr. Buyer, Chris has just relocated to Kansas City from Quincy. We had lunch and I got caught up on all the happenings at GatesAir after I was laid off. Chris had gotten a much better position and his future looks great with his new company. It was great to see Chris again after almost two years. And I hadn't realized how much I had needed that. Since leaving GatesAir, I've been a bit hesitant to make friends again at my new companies. I just couldn't handle losing people again (sounds weird I'm sure). But those feelings of loss can really weigh you down.

Since it was a bit early yet to check into the hotel, I decided to kill some time and hike around Shawnee Mission Park, which is just up the road from the hotel. Place is absolutely huge, with a ton of trails and other things to do. 

The venue for March Madness is the Shawnee Holiday Inn Express. It's a great hotel with plenty of restaurants nearby. 

It would snow Thursday night and stay pretty chilly for the remainder of the event. 

I couldn't convince my wife to come with me this year. She thought, there would be nothing to do. But the hotel has a nice pool and exercise room. With shops nearby and the awesome park, I believe I'll get my wife to come with me next year!

As I mentioned before, the room is very spacious and gives everyone room for kit and to move around without blocking an aisle. This would be my third time in this venue and I have enjoyed all three times. 

The theme for this year's March Madness was the 10th US Mountain Division. Dave Mareske's (TD) father served in the 10th and recently passed the century mark. He got to see the scenario pack and I overheard Dave and Dan talking about it. Dave said his father felt like the scenarios captured a bit of his experience. I believe this will be one of the best scenario packs put out by Encircled Productions.

The March Madness Trophy.

A great example of Keven Adams' work on the tank. 

Each Wal-Mart bag was packed by Round with the counters and maps needed to play all the scenarios in that particular round.

As in previous years, I always set up in the front corner by the window. A little chilly this year, but still my favorite spot. My backpack is a Plano backpack designed to hold Plano boxes for fishing lures.

ROUND 1 vs. Paul Works: Paul and I would play ASL Scenario WO43 Hell's Headache. This is a tight Russian Front scenario, which was included in the Any Round Scenario pack for the tournament. Having already played many of the Round 1 scenarios, I recommended we play WO43 and Paul was down for that scenario. Paul and I had played together in some three and four player scenarios, but never one on one. So, I was really looking forward to playing against him. We  had a fun game, but my Germans simply couldn't slow down the Russian attack. My dice were like normal...bad to catastrophic. My defense wasn't bad and I think I could have done well in this scenario, but honestly my dice were just killing me. On the other side, Paul's Commissar would kill nearly three squads in Rally Phases. He would also throw a track on his T-34 when it attempted to leave Platoon Movement with a boxcars. So, it wasn't all roses for Paul either. 

Fun game and I look forward to playing Paul again soon.

Now, in this tournament Round 1 is a free round. You get to pick your opponent. The subsequent rounds are in a bracket maintained by the Tournament Directors. This year, everyone made it into the bracket, which began with Round 2. 


ROUND 2 vs. Reid Roubidoux: Reid and I would play ASL Scenario O4 Ain't Running Away. Set in France, 1944, my Germans would have to exit 25 VP for the immediate win against Reid's Americans with three Bazookas and 4 x 76LAT Guns. Sounds pretty easy for the Americans right? Well no...the Germans have 5 x Panther Tanks and the weather would be Extremely Heavy Mist...so a +1 per hex between you and your target. What a nightmare! 

Reid defended as best he could, but getting hits was difficult in the mist and when he did get hits, they bounced off the Panthers. By Turn 4, I had exited four Panthers for the win. Reid is fairly new to the hobby with about 50 games under his belt. The future of our hobby will be in his capable hands!

ROUND 3 (Saturday)

ROUND 3 vs. Keven Adams: Keven and I have known each other for years now, but never been matched up at March Madness. We would be matched up for Round 3. We would go with a DASL Scenario, ASL Scenario J206 Collect Call. In this scenario both sides set up in a large building with German SS and Tito's Partisans. 

What a game! This would be the most fun game that I would play during the tournament. Lots of close combat action. My Partisans would prevail as they held the second floor against every SS attack. Keven's SS Grenadiers never faltered, but they couldn't survive the 28 and greater factor shots as they came up the stairs. 

After our game, Keven and ran to get some lunch. And on the wall would be a sign from Dick's Brewery in Quincy, IL. Very cool! Enjoyed sharing work stories with Keven and the trials and tribulations of raising children. Look forward to seeing Keven again next year!

The Kansas City Club always has a great selection of prizes and sponsors like Alex Key, Lone Canuck, LFT and BFP are much appreciated!

Round 4 vs. Wes Vaughn:  My Round 4 opponent would be Wes Vaughn. I had never had the opportunity to play against Wes, because normally I never made it to the final four. It was pretty awesome to play against two Tournament Champions in the same weekend (Paul and Wes). 

Wes and I would choose to play Heat of Battle Scenario NQNG-6 One Eye to the West. We had looked at the balance and the ASL Archive showed ROAR stats which made it look pro-German. As it turned out, it was very pro-Russian. But we didn't realize it and therefore, Wes would take the Russian balance of a third Stalin II. Dan and I discussed later and discovered that Dan had intended to scan the All Time Favorites version of the scenario, which gave the Germans two more squads and clarified the victory conditions, which are slightly confusing in this scenario. Suffice to say, this was probably not the best scenario to play against a Tournament Champion. As I was certainly outclassed in skill and tactics, I would also be outnumbered 18 to 6 in squads and 6 to 2 in tanks. Yep...that's not good.

The scenario has the German SS trying to hold two bridges in 1945 Vienna. The trick is for the Germans to hold these bridges and keep the Russians from crossing for as long as possible. I would hold only for a single turn. 

Now, as I was preparing my defense, Dan and Dave came by and saw where I was considering placing my 20L (20) Flakvierling. They pointed out that I wouldn't be able to retain HIP in that location and should consider a building location. We all failed to remember that this gun is too big to place in a building. Yep...this was going to go badly for me. 

As Wes crossed the bridge, I decided to fire the Quad 20L and put down 10 residual on the bridge exit hex. Wes, pointed out my gaff and so I pulled the gun off the board and tried to hide my embarrassment at such a stupid mistake. Wes offered to let me place it farther back on a random roll, but as the victory conditions were awarded for units in the back area, I felt that this would be wrong and just took the gun out of the game entirely. Sadly, for me, I would lose one of my most important assets for slowing down his infantry.  I also knew at this point in the game, that I was probably going to lose and lose hard.

I did my best to juke and jive with what force I had left and try to keep my King Tiger from an untimely demise. I didn't play badly, but Wes' force was just unstoppable. He pushed hard around my right flank. I had a squad and a half there. The squad would attempt to dash to safety from a wall of Russians, but one of his Stalin's would hit me 4 down 1 and he rolled snakes. UGH...a 6-5-8 KIA'd in the street and the only unit there.

ON Turn 3, I would get my Panther Tank with a 10-2 Armor Leader. I thought to myself, you're still in this. I moved to a hull down position behind a wall with LOS to two of Wes' Stalins. One of them fired, rolled a 4 and a one on the colored die. A hit and 25 to Kill against a 14 Turret. Yep...Panther was knocked out. With that, I gave my concession. My right flank was completely gone and Wes would simply flood into my rear and surround my boys on the left. With no chance to win, I knew it was time to concede. Despite my embarrassing gaff with the gun and the hard loss, I enjoyed the game and am really glad to have finally had the chance to play against Wes. I hope too again someday.

So that was my March Madness 2023 Tournament. I got to play four awesome games against four new opponents and two of those themselves Tournament Champions. It just doesn't get any better. 

I would pack up after my game with Wes and head back to Tulsa. I had a lot to think about on the dark drive home through John Brown's part of Kansas. 

It had been a really fun tournament. I enjoyed all of my games and want to thank Paul, Reid, Keven and Wes for the games we got to play. 

After almost four years without tournament play, it was really nice to have been able to attend this year's tournament. It feels like life may be returning back to some bit of normalcy. 

And I am so very happy about that.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice group, nice venue and nice swag! I wish I could have attended.