Saturday, August 3, 2013

Two games in a week feels like luxury these days (ASL and Hail Caesar)

As the average wargamer often sports some grey hair in addition to a well earned beer belly, I suppose many of you have been where I am right now. Taking care of a small child seems to take a lot out of my hobby time budget. That's why getting to play on two days of the week when it's not a convention week seems like a rarity and a treat. On the other hand, I'm in a very nice place in my life right now as I have taken four and a half months off work to take care of my heir and give my wife a chance to return to her career a few months early. It definitely is a nice change of routine and I get to paint some figures during naptime if the house is in order (which it is not as I write this).

Now where did I put that mapboard...
The first game of this week was even more rare as I got to play a game of Advanced Squad Leader for the first time in little less than a year. ASL is one of those games that gets a pitiful amount of play compared to the amount of modules and expansions I have stockpiled. The phonebook sized rulebook just keeps scaring away any potential opponent recruits.

Anyway, we played PB4 - Killean's red from the Pegasus Bridge module. In the scenario, the Brits have taken the bridge and are sweeping a village nearby to get rid of some pesky snipers. The Germans get good sniper activation rolls but their troop quality isn't anywhere close to the British paratroopers. I'll just post a couple of pictures from the game to give anyone interested an idea on how it went.

Opening setup. The Germans have troops in two hidden hexes in addition to what you see.
After the British creep slowly forward the Germans are quick to give away their hidden troops' positions for easy shots. This enables the Brits to move with more confidence. They quickly advance and melee several German positions with success.

The British take the church held by the Germans. The sniper in the tower is taken out but the best British leader falls casualty in the effort.

The German resistance breaks and the British secure the village.

At the end there are no German troops left in the village.
The scenario went a bit too well for the British, and I checked the stats from ROAR where people can record their plays. The British have won roughly double the amount of games compared to the Germans in this scenario. It's definitely imbalanced though not impossible for the Germans. No Victoria Crosses for me for this easy win.

The second game of the week was a game of Hail Caesar. As you might have noticed I finally kicked off my Greek project. My opponent is also busy doing some Carthaginians, so I suppose we have some common ground to fight over in Sicily. We don't have that many troops completed and played just a small game with some empty stands and the few figures we had so I didn't bother with more than one photo. I used the Hoplite Greek list and my opponent used Early Carthaginian with a couple of Elephants thrown in for fun.

The match went pretty smoothly and since it's my second game of Hail Caesar, we got the rules running pretty quickly. I think the rules suit demo gaming pretty well as they seemed quite easy to teach, especially to someone familiar with Warhammer Fantasy.

The dynamics and the pacing of the game oddly enough remind me of Commands&Colors. It is improbable that a divisional commander is able to activate all his troops in a single turn and the turn might sometimes pass without the division doing anything. This leads to the situation where the general must prioritize which units he wants to move and try to keep a coherent line going knowing he'll probably fail a command check before everyone moves. This reminds me of C&C in the way that the battle sometimes develops quickly on one section of the field and remains static in another. The player can take care to try and even out the successful activations in the line but this can lead to losing the initiative in another portion of the field. The Move/Countermove dynamic of C&C seems to be present here. It will definitely drive players used to having full control nuts. For me, it's ok. I just have to adjust my tactics accordingly.

In the match, the superiority of the Hoplite heavy infantry versus the African medium infantry was clear. For our next match I think I'll switch to the proper Syracusan list to even things out a bit. That list has worse hoplites and a chance to field some barbarian mercenaries. Don't be fooled into thinking the Hail Caesar lists are balanced for competitive play as they are not. You need to work together with your opponents to get enjoyable games.

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