27 September 2011

ASL Oktoberfest 1986-2011

I am off to Cleveland again this year. I know, it is hardly a tourist Mecca. But then, I am no ordinary tourist. I know this because I get grilled each time that I cross the border. “You’re going where?” “To do what?” “For the whole week?” “And you need to bring all that stuff?” “Hmmm, I’ll need to have a look inside...” 
Bill and Darryl "on the air"
Along with perhaps as many as 200 other ASL players from around the globe, I will spend a week immersed in the sub-culture of ASL. The ASL Oktoberfest TournamentASLOK, for short—is the biggest and longest-lived ASL tourney on this rock. Co-founders Bill “Fish” Connor, and Darryl “Action Burk” Burk will be there to mark 25 years of ASL history. Mark Nixon, who ran ASLOK for almost a decade, is attending also—must be the free beer on Friday. What are you waiting for, an invitation? Oh, all right, you are invited. 
Another official Perry Sez? Jim Bishop, Dave Kleinschmidt, Perry Cocke, and Bret Hildebran with free Saturday 'za.
Bret Hildebran, the current tournament director, has secured a superb venue for the fourth year running. Devotees of The Game have the entire 6th floor penthouse of the hotel to enjoy for eight (or is it nine) days! The gaming room—or “Skyline Ballroom,” as the hotel staff refer to it—is fronted on three sides by windows. We have our own bar and lounge, complete with a massive flat-screen TV. Bret usually arranges for the bar to serve free pizza on the second Saturday night, following the ASLOK freebie “Happy Hour” the previous evening. Best get in line ealry, as the tap quickly runs dry. 
The ASLOK agenda at the end of this post outlines many of the activities that take place during this weeklong ASL festival. Apart from the gaming—not all of it strictly ASL, by the way—ASLOK is foremost a social event. If you arrive early, I highly recommend that you attend Dave Ginnard’s barbeque on the first Sunday (2 October). Dave and his wife put on a marvellous spread. There is no fee, but many attendees traditionally bring along something special to add to the bounty. The Swedes, for instance, have a reputation for bringing exotic liquor from Scandinavia. For some odd reason, they tend to bring Norwegian akevitt. :p
Akvavit is best served cold
Akvavit, or aquavit, is a traditional flavoured spirit distilled mainly in Scandinavia. Produced there since the 15th century, Akvavit gets its distinctive flavor from spices and herbs. Caraway, dill, anise (liquorice-flavour), fennel, coriander, cumin, and juniper berry are used in various recipes. I rather like it.1 
Cheaper than a holiday in Cuba
There is a lot happening at ASLOK, and it is easy to overlook something. However, with the exception of the time limit on the first round of the Mini tourneys, there is little to get fussed over. Go for the experience. Go! Pencil in next year if you must. Do not pass up the opportunity to mingle with some of the world’s finest, friendliest, and zaniest ASL characters. I defy you to find an ASL event anywhere that delivers this much ASL goodness for $25.00. At current US exchange rates, an ASL holiday in Cleveland is a bargain anyway you look at it. 
ASLOK Agenda 
Friday 30 September: The first players roll into the hotel. (That would be me.) A game or two of WORLD CUP play tends to happen. (That will not be me. After a ten-hour drive, I am content to settle in and start fresh the next day.) “Wild” Bill Hayward, Bret’s right-hand man at ASLOK, is on hand to play anyone itching to get started. (You can contact Bret in advance to arrange a game versus a local Cleveland player such as Bill.)
Saturday 1 October: The very early arrivals roll in. The Skyline Ballroom—the main gaming room on the 6th floor of the hotel—is available as a rally point for early WORLD CUP/OPEN gaming. (Again, contact Bret Hildebran for early gunning.)
Opening Sunday-Tuesday: Early arrivals roll in. All play, starting with Sunday, is in the Skyline Ballroom on the 6th floor. OPEN play and USA vs WORLD CUP play commences as early as Friday and runs through Tuesday. (If arriving at the hotel before Sunday, contact Bret Hildebran [damavs@windstream.net] for early gunning.) This will allow the early local scouts to know when/where to find you for early play. Also do not miss the Annual ASLOK picnic hosted by Dave Ginnard on Sunday evening. The picnic promises good grilling, good company and typically some exotic Swedish alcohol. Newer players should be sure to sign up for Maneuvres slated for sometime Tuesday (and Friday), based on need.
Wednesday: At 08:00, “Mark Nixon” MINI tournament action begins. Wednesday “Mark Nixon” MINIs begin at 08:00 sharp, and do NOT apply towards GROFAZ [EXC: Godzilla King of the Monsters finalists will start Grofaz 2-0 as that mini will finish on Thursday]. Plenty of OPEN action is also available. Pre-register for the Minis that you prefer and do make sure to be there promptly at 08:00. Also note the 14:00 time limit for Round 1 Minis returns [EXC: Godzilla King of the Monsters], which will be strictly enforced. All players exceeding the time limit will be eliminated. So do not delay in finishing Round 1. You DO NOT want to be the first ASL player to be disqualified due to slow play in an ASLOK Mini.
Thursday: At 08:00, gunning begins in GROFAZ and Thursday THEME events where MINI-Tournaments all began. OPEN play continues. Wed. “Mark Nixon” MINI-Tournament winners awarded around 18:00. GROFAZ 2-0 contenders can sign-up for GROFAZ FRIDAY MINI!!!!!
Friday: GROFAZ and OPEN gaming continue. Friday “Mark Nixon” MINIs and GROFAZ MINIs kick-off promptly at 08:00. Awards presented to Thursday THEME Tournament winners around 18:00. Newer players can sign up for MANEUVERS for a grognard tutorial on any rules that may be ailing them. Miss the Minis or get bumped early, look to sign-up for the “Bonus Mini” from the brand new CX Map Pack starting as we can pair from ~10:00 to 12:00.
Saturday: More GROFAZ and OPEN gaming. At 08:00, more “Mark Nixon” MINI-Tournaments kick-off.  Awards made to Friday “Mark Nixon” MINI-Tournament winners around 18:00. ASL Starter Kit Mini kicks off.
Final Sunday: GROFAZ and OPEN gaming surge onward. Add-on MINI-Tournaments start at 08:00, interest allowing. Awards presented to Saturday “Mark Nixon” MINI-Tournament winners at about 14:00. Awards presented to GROFAZ winner, runner-up and other top finishers sometime, probably very late Sunday or early Monday morning.  Congrat-’yawn’-lations guys! 
Monday: GROFAZ and OPEN gaming wrap-up. All out of the arena before noon. Catch the ASLOK going away breakfast for the late departures Monday morning. Many thanks, happy trails, see you next year for the next ASLOK! Already scheduled for Columbus Day Weekend back at the Holiday Inn Airport once again...

My much better half at ASLOK XXV
ASLOK BattleDice
Last year BattleSchool commemorated the 25th anniversary of ASL (1985-2010) with the release of a special set of precision dice. This year, we have created a set to celebrate ASLOK. The ASLOK set features designs similar to those used in the ASL Anniversary set. There are four dice in the set. They are 5/8” (~16mm). There are two white dice with images on the one-spots. One die sports an American soldier, the other a “Tommy.” 
The coloured dice are amber and green. I will not divulge the details of the green die that comes with the American set here. I will say that it has a military decoration on the one-spot. The amber die is adorned with a stylized version of the Victoria Cross (VC). The VC was the highest award for bravery awarded to members of the Commonwealth during the Second World War. It was awarded regardless of rank. In this sense, it was a truly egalitarian decoration, unlike the Distinguished Service Order, or the Military Cross, which was awarded only to commissioned officers.2 
Two sets of these dice will be up for grabs in the 2011 World Cup. In 2010, the Most Valuable Players of the US (Jim Burris) and World (David Longworth) teams each received a set of our ASL Anniversary BattleDice. In addition, the overall winner at ASLOK, the Gröfaz, will receive a Gröfaz set of ASLOK BattleDice. Bob Bendis won the set last year. 
The set of four dice will retail for $35.00. However, if you are attending ASLOK, you may purchase a set at the ASLOK rate of $30.00. We will also have a limited number of Gröfaz sets on hand for sale to former  Gröfaz champions. These sets will retail for $40.00, $35.00 at ASLOK.
Finally, we plan to release our Sniper effects die at ASLOK. The 9/16” precision die will retail for $10.00. To sweeten the pot, we plan to bundle the Sniper die with another special 9/16” die, and sell both for $15.00. 
If you are interested in something else from our KitShop, and would like to save on shipping, we can deliver it to you in Cleveland. We have a couple copies of KGS Cholm left, for example. We also have a stock of map bundles, and some out-of-print material. You may email battleschool@rogers.com for a pdf of our KitShop catalogue.
Acknowledgements
Photographs were pinched from Dave and Jeff of The 2 Half-Squads fame. (EXC: I cannot recall where I found the snap of Dave's cousin in Munich.) I minced Bret's "ASLOK Agenda" before including it in the post. Any errors are undoubtedly that of the original author, and I accept no responsibility for any personal loss or suffering that may occur should you choose to follow this agenda. 
Notes
1. Some suggest that the spices and herbs in Aquavit help with the digestion of rich foods. It is a good excuse as any to have a shot when sitting ‘round the campfire at Dave’s. Rudi, an ASLOK "Cherry," is bringing some Schnapps with him from Germany this weekend. My wife picked up some Pilsner today for Dave. We figured that he would need some beer to wash down all that liquor. See you Sunday!
2. In recent years, Canada and other Commonwealth countries have created their own “national” versions of the award. At least two Australian soldiers have been awarded the VC for acts of bravery in Afghanistan.

23 September 2011

Rendezvous with Roma

Veteran designer Gary Fortenberry delivers another action-packed set of ten scenarios. The publication is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. To begin with, Gary’s latest effort focuses on the Italian Campaign, an underrepresented theatre where “official” publications are concerned. Like its predecessor Action Pack 6: Decades of War, AP8 utilizes the new double-sided series of 11” x 16” geomorphic mapboards. If you have not seen these yet, you are in for a treat.
Gary designed three boards for the pack. Charlie Kibler, an experienced graphic artist from the days of Avalon Hill, transformed these designs into what you see below. The reverse, or “b” side, of each map is identical to the “a” side, with the exception that grid coordinates change, and the half-hexes of the woods along the board edges change position (right). This allows the new boards to mate with standard 8” x 11” geomorphic mapboards, regardless of orientation. It is a brilliantly simple concept that finally has seen the light of day.1 As you shall see, AP8 showcases the versatility of the new format in ways that I had not anticipated. 
Board 4a
In keeping with Gary’s design philosophy, the scenarios tend to include substantial orders of battle (OB), variable Victory Conditions (VC), and multiple challenges. Admittedly, some of the more complex situations in AP8 may appear a bit intimidating, especially to those raised on a diet of beer and pretzel scenarios. But if you parse Gary’s scenarios and examine each element in turn, you will discover nuance, where at first you saw complexity. 
Board 5a
For the most part, Roads Through Rome is a nostalgic return to the time when ASL scenarios took the better part of a day to play. Larger OB and more turns reduced the influence of dice. Each side could suffer a number of reverses and yet remain in the game. Skill, more than luck, would usually prevail. Not all of the scenarios in AP8 fall into this category. But there are no scenarios in the pack that I would characterize as small. Most will take average players about six to eight hours to complete. A few will provide a full day of entertainment. Whatever your feelings on old-school style scenarios, an Action Pack focused on the Italian campaign, or the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations (MTO), breaks new ground for MMP. This in itself is reason enough to take a closer look at Roads Through Rome. 
The scenarios
Board 6a
The majority of the actions in AP8 are American versus German affairs. I will get to the exceptions soon enough. At this point, however, I want to mention that the scenarios often share Special Scenario Rules that provide additional historical flavour. For instance, in order to represent the recent introduction of Shape-Charged Weapons (SCW), only crews may operate Bazookas (BAZ) and Projector Infantry Anti-tank (PIAT) without suffering penalties for Non-Qualified Use [A21.13]. These restrictions apply only to scenarios that take place in the immediate vicinity of the Salerno bridgehead. In some cases, the Germans also get a handful of experimental Panzerfausts (PFk) that they can trial in combat [C13.3]. Gyrostabilizers [D11.1] and other bits of chrome add more shine. Terrain alterations, while common, are not onerous. Happily, none of the scenarios require overlays. In my view, this makes the pack more accessible for players with a limited set of core modules at their disposal—more on what you need to play AP8 later in the post. Let’s have a look at where the pack takes us. 
Down on the farm (AP73)
Awkwardly, Roads Through Rome opens with AP73 “Happy Valley,” a scenario set in Tunisia. Although far removed from the Italian campaign proper, the scenario is a welcome addition to the ASL catalogue. This fascinating battle was the first to pit American tanks against German panzers (and Italian armoured cars). The fight centres on St. Joseph’s farm in the Chouigui Pass. A powerful German-led Kampfgruppe must seize the farm (on board 6a), and its environs in order to win. A troop of Stuart tanks sets up Hidden on the approaches to the farm. 
Autoblinda 41
The terrain is rugged with cactus patches [B14.7] and cactus hedges [B9.7] in play. (Best get used to this prickly terrain early, as the Mediterranean is positively populated with the stuff.) A reinforced platoon of GIs holds the farm, supported by a pair of medium mortars, a small-calibre anti-tank Gun, and three half-tracks armed with 75mm cannon. 
The Axis force is daunting. It consists of nine panzers, two Italian armoured cars, a pair half-tracks and truckloads of infantry—twelve squads in all. Were that not impressive enough, the Axis also receives Air Support [E7]. The scenario looks set to be a real “barn burner.”
Click to enlarge

Salerno slugfest (AP74)
Fully half of the scenarios in the pack recreate the drama of the desperate fighting near Salerno, in September 1943. One of these scenarios portrays the German counterattack on Battipaglia, or “Batty-P,” as the newest residents, the Royal Fusiliers of the British 167th Infantry Brigade, referred to the village. 
The Germans attack across board 5b toward the village on board 1a. The German infantry is an almost even mix of 5-4-8 and 4-6-7 squads supported by a trio of tanks, three self-propelled assault guns, and two armoured cars. The Fusiliers have a carrier platoon, and a pair of “six-pounders” at their disposal. Arriving on Turn 2, is a Stuart III(a) OP tank [H1.46] of the 64th Field Artillery. The Stuart lacks a main armament, but it does offer the Fusiliers some much needed fire support in the form of 80+mm off-board artillery (OBA). A pre-game “rubbling” of “Batty” ensures that no two games will ever play the same.
T-Patchers (AP75)
AP75 board configuration
AP75 “Gabriel’s Horn” depicts another of the reverses suffered by the Allies during the early period of the Salerno bridgehead. The barely tested “T-Patchers” of the US 36th (Texan) Infantry Division were sorely tested in Altavilla when the Germans came a-calling early on 12 September. The board configuration is novel. Board 5a butts up against the middle of board 60, with only hexrows I-Y of the latter board in play. Board 60 is unforgettable, a Mediterranean town perched atop a imposing ridge. The Germans need to clear the heights on board 5a of American troops, take at least four of the seven three-hex buildings on board 60, and inflict twice as many casualties as the Americans inflict. It is a tall order. But the American force is weak. Granted eight squad-equivalents begin the game on the hilltops of board 5a. However, German Infantry can set up on all sides of this doomed American position at start. The GIs in the village are safer, but cannot offer much support to their countrymen on the ridge. The Germans begin with 14 squad-equivalents on board 5a, and an Offboard Observer [C1.63]. The Observer has 80+mm battalion mortars on call. What’s more, he has pre-registered target. The Germans are on a tight schedule, but the arrival of a troop of Sturmgeschutz assault guns on Turn 2 will help. I do not imagine that the Americans on the ridge line will hold out for long. But Altavilla will be a tough nut for the Germans to crack. 
Thunderbirds (AP76)
The aptly titled “Smoke ‘em” is a true combined-arms fight. The defenders—Oklahomans of the US 45th Infantry Division—are holding a tobacco factory. The battle develops slowly. It builds to a crescendo as reinforcements of both sides arrive and artillery begins to crash in and around the compound on the oh-so-cool board 4a (portions of boards 6a and 19 are also in play).
A tobacco factory lay along the road connecting Highway 18 and the village of Eboli to the north. On 13 September, two Kampfgruppe pushed south along this road. The objective was the American rear area. At the time, the Germans believed that the Allies were preparing to evacuate the beachhead, and intended to strike when the Allies were at their most vulnerable. Instead, for the third time in as many days, the factory became the focus of an intense battle. Elements of 1st battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment held the factory compound. The German attack struck battalion headquarters first.
The much fought over tobacco factory near Persano
The Victory Conditions (VC) involve a mixture of Casualty Victory Points (CVP), Exit Victory Points (Exit VP), and Victory Points (VP) for Control of building Locations. The Americans begin the game with a company of First Line Infantry, and a Jeep. A pair of medium mortars and a small-calibre anti-Gun provide direct support. The defenders also have access to 150+mm OBA via a field phone. 
The German vanguard consists of five medium tanks and two armoured cars. The games begins with a one-off, pre-registered, barrage-capable, fire mission directed at the factory compound. Whew, that was a mouthful. German Infantry—mounted in halftracks and trucks—arrives on Turn 2. A pair of towed anti-tank guns arrive at the same time. Before the main German force arrives, however, the “Thunderbirds” receive reinforcements in the form of two Jeeps, another light anti-tank gun, and an Observer for a battery of 100+mm OBA! If you do not have the OBA flowchart down pat by the end of this one, you have had some terrible luck. And just in case the US OBA draw pile dries up, a couple of Sherman tanks, and a pair of tank destroyers arrive on Turn 3. What’s not to like about this combined-arms feast?
More cowboys and Indians (AP77)
At ten turns long, and utilizing six mapboards, “Texas Flood” is—like most things in the Lone Star state—big. The Americans field more than 40 squads, almost 90 percent of which are Green! The Germans with less, albeit better quality, Infantry have a lot to accomplish. The scenario is based on the destruction of the “T-Patchers” of the 2nd Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment near Persano on 13 September. The inexperienced GIs were wholly unprepared for the onslaught of Panzer-Division 16 and Panzergrenadier-Division 29. The Germans struck just as the attack on the tobacco factory on the opposite bank of the Sele River was heating up. 
T-Patcher sniper in Italy 
Needless to say, there is a lot going on in this scenario. The Americans set up in company-sized pockets on boards 16 and 44, with Headquarters Company tucked inside the compound on board 6a. Although the US force includes a trio of anti-tank guns and a sprinkling of Bazookas, the utility of these weapons is restricted by SSR. American Infantry must therefore weather the storm until the “cavalry” arrives on Turn 3. Before this happens, however, the Americans are subjected to powerful combined-arms assaults emanating from the northwest and the northeast. 
A "Priest" 105mm
The northeastern force is comprised of three tanks, three assault gun, six Panzergrenadier squads in half-tracks, and a company of Infantry on foot. The northwestern force is initially composed of a company of Infantry mounted in trucks and half-tracks led by a pair of armoured cars and three tanks. Reinforcements arrive the following turn, and enter from the northwest. These consist of a further seven squads, six half-tracks, and a pair of assault guns.
Both sides have access to OBA. However, American reinforcements also include three towed medium artillery pieces, and three self-propelled artillery guns (“Priests”). In addition to a couple platoons of Infantry, the Americans also receive two tanks, two tank destroyers, and two light anti-tank guns on Turn 3. With so much going on in this scenario, I think it would be ideal for team play. However you choose to play “Texas Flood,” it is bound to provide enough excitement to fill an entire Saturday.
Click to enlarge
Acerno (AP78)
The last scenario to take place near Salerno is AP78 “Crossfire.” Acerno is a mountain village astride a tortuous and winding stretch of road leading north from Battipaglia. The road was one of two that connected the beachhead with Highway 7—the main highway to Rome. On 22 September, elements of the US 3rd “Rock of the Marne” Infantry Division closed on the village.
An American soldier in the church after the battle in Acerno
The German rear guard, a reinforced company, is composed largely of Second Line Infantry. Unfortunately, for the Americans, the defenders are armed to the teeth. Excluding the anti-aircraft weapons on four half-tracks, the Germans have seven machine guns, three of which are “heavies.” The attackers also have to contend with Hidden units, including an anti-tank gun, a pair of infantry guns, a medium mortar, and a squad (or half-squad) potentially armed with a PFk. The entire German force sets up at Level 0 on portions of boards 5a, 10, and 46. 
M2 107mm mortar
The Americans attack with two rifle companies. Each company is augmented by Elite units toting demolition charges (DC). The rifle company that sets up on the hill hexes of board 5a has additional support in the form of a troop of Shermans, and a pair of 107mm mortars. (It is nice to see these mortars getting some play.) The second company starts the game on board 10. The Americans win at game end if they Control all stone buildings. They can also win at the end of any game turn, provided they Control enough stone buildings in the original German setup area. The Steeple in 46AA7 is in play. But with those nasty American mortars on the hill, the steeple is bound to receive some special attention. At six turns, this scenario will provide a full evening of play.
Grim Goums (AP79)
There is a dark side to the pack. AP79 Rude Mood (working title was “Marocchinate”) spotlights the fierce Moroccan Goumiers.2 These French colonial troops, part of the French Expeditionary Force (FEC), were renowned for their fighting prowess. The Moroccans could be an unruly lot both on and off the battlefield. American General Mark Clark praised “the knife-wielding Goumiers” for their aggressiveness and swift capture of towns such as Esperia.The title of the scenario has since been changed to "Rude Mood."
Goumiers dressed in their characteristic striped robes
According to many accounts, the Goumiers did not take prisoners. Although No Quarter [A20.3] is not in effect for AP79, the mountain men are considered Stealthy [A11.17]. They may also initiate Hand-to-Hand Close Combat [J2.31] as if Gurkha [A25.43].
Like “Crossfire,” “Marocchinate” is all about Building Control [A26.14]. A German company of First Line Infantry sets up in the “valley” (Level 0) between the hill masses on boards 2a and 5a. The Infantry are bolstered by two Guns: an anti-tank gun, and a light anti-aircraft piece. A Moroccan infantry company represented by 4-5-7 squads sets up on the heights on board 5a. Apart from a few Bren guns, the Goumiers are armed with US medium machine guns (MMG) and light mortars. (If you do not own Croix de Guerre, I would recommend substituting another “British” support weapon (SW) counter until such time as the Location of the US weapons are known to the Germans.) The Moroccans also receive two Infantry crews, intended, I suspect, to crew the light mortars—nice touch. Finally, a mechanized-infantry platoon arrives on the first turn, escorted by a pair of Shermans
Due to the nature of the VC, it is possible for the Moroccans to win (or lose) during the first three turns of the scenario. This dynamic puts pressure on both parties. Because of this, I am keen to play AP79. “Marocchinate” is one of the smaller scenarios in the pack. Due to its subject matter and size, I expect that this portion of the battle for Cassino (Gustav Line) will see a lot of play.  
FSSF patch
Marines in Italy? (AP80)
Not exactly. But you will need as many as ten 6-6-8 squads if you wish to play AP80 and AP81. Both scenarios co-star the men of the “Devil’s Brigade.” The First Special Service Force (FSSF) was a binational unit recruited from among serving American and Canadian soldiers. The unit was raised in order to conduct commando missions behind enemy lines. However, the “Black Devils,” as they came to be known by the Germans, spent much of their time fighting as conventional infantry. The Force spent three months in the line at Anzio, and had carried out some daring and successful operations during that time. 
The breakout from Anzio began on 23 May, and two days later the FSSF, along with the US 3rd Infantry Division, was pushing hard for the towns of Artena and Valmonte. These towns lay either side of Highway 6. With the Gustav Line shattered farther south, the German Tenth Army would be anxious to withdraw along this axis. If the Allies could close the Artena-Valmonte Gap in time, they would trap the bulk of the Tenth Army south of Rome. The FSSF and elements of the 3rd Infantry Division reached Artena on 1 June. 
M10 GMC tank destroyer
With the support of tank destroyers and Shermans, the infantry in “A Bloody Waste” must assault the prepared positions around the Artena train station. To win, the Allies must control every building within fives hexes of 4aI9, save the tower in J9, which nevertheless must be free of (Good Order) bad guys. The 6-6-8 squads and two leaders are Commandos [H1.24], have an Experience Level Rating (ELR) of five, and use US Marine Corps rules [G17.1]. They also get a couple of DC and a .50 calibre MG to play with. 
Marder III M near Rome
The Germans set up on board 4a. The road running the length of this board is a railroad by SSR. The defenders have a good mix of units and weapons to support the six infantry squads holding the station. A pair of assault guns, a Marder tank destroyer, a couple of mobile anti-aircraft weapons, an “88,” a pair of light anti-aircraft guns, and a medium mortar are one heck of a supporting cast. The Germans also get mines, wire, and trenches. The last may set up in paved road/railroad hexes, and connect to all ADJACENT building Locations per Red Barricades SSR RB6. 
The Allies launch their attack from boards 46 and 16. What likely follows is six-and-a-half turns of carnage. I recommend keeping your blaze counters handy.
The prize (AP81)
After taking the Artena train station several days earlier, elements of the same Allied force are poised to enter Rome. They have a magnificent OB at their disposal. But there is much to accomplish in eight-and-a-half turns. AP81 “Lost Highway” is a “clear-the-road and exit” scenario. The American commander must clear a route across three boards (4a, 6, and 46), and exit 40 Exit VP. His infantry force consists of 14 squads—10 of which are 6-6-8—four leaders, a hero, a “.50,” MMG, Johnson light machine guns, DC, and flamethowers (FT)! For armour, the American commander can call on four tanks, two M10 tank destroyers, two “Priests,” two armoured cars, and five half-tracks. Moreover, four eligible vehicles may be equipped with “gyros.” But as impressive as the Allied force may be, the German OB is nothing to scorn. 
Good view of Johnson magazine
M1941 Johnson LMG
Despite the scenario’s size and length, I expect it to be among the more popular scenarios in the pack due to the German OB. Of all the scenarios in Roads Through Rome, “Lost Highway” is the only scenario that allows a player to choose the composition of an OB. 

In AP81, the German player has four platoon-sized groups of infantry to choose from. One group sets up on each of the three boards. The defender also gets to select which two of three reinforcement groups will enter on Turns 2 and 4. If selected, the DC in the German OB may start the game as A-T set DC [G1.6121]. These tank-killing DC may be detonated when a vehicle enters its Location, regardless of whether the vehicle is using the road or not—ouch! 
The ability to tailor the German OB to a defender’s particular style of play is a major attraction. This freedom also improves the replay value of “Lost Highway.” Are you up for the challenge?
Second time lucky (AP82)
PIAT team
For the last scenario in the pack, Gary takes us across to the Adriatic coast, on the far side of the “boot.” Here we find the Irish Regiment of Canada ready to storm the town of Coriano. It is 13 September 1944, a year after the landings at Salerno. The leaden skies overhead threaten to unleash a deluge. (Fortunately, Mars has decreed that the skies cannot erupt before Turn 3.) Thus begins the Second Battle of Coriano. 
Lying in wait are elements of Panzergrenadier-Division 29, the same formation that had caused the T-Patchers so much grief at Salerno the previous September. Seven First Line squads defend boards 5b and 21 with five MG. Gary has thoughtfully provided a couple of 2-4-8 half-squads to pair with the HMG and FT! The German perimeter on board 5b is fortified with wire and mines. (The OB-given roadblocks may be set up on either board.) A medium tank and a Sturmgeschutz give the defence some added hitting power. 
"Irish" in Italy
The Canadian attack kicks off from board 5b. The Canadian force is built around an infantry company  with a variety of Bren and Vickers MG. The Canadian OB also includes PIAT and DC. The riflemen have a platoon of assault engineers [H1.22], who are also treated as Sappers [B28.8]. A pair of Shermans of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) provides direct fire support, along with a 3” mortar. However, it would not be a typical Canadian attack without the addition of indirect fire support. Indeed, the Canadians not only receive OBA directed by an Offboard Observer [C1.63]—at Level 5, no less! But they also receive a Pre-Registered hex [C1.73] for a Barrage-capable [E12.] module of 80+mm OBA (HE/SMOKE) with an automatic Battery Access at start! The scenario has the makings of a text-book Canadian assault. Having said that, I suspect that the “luck of the Irish” will be put to the test in this attack. 
“Coriano” is another scenario with “sudden death” provisions in the VC. In an interesting twist, AP82 employs an elegant “block control” mechanism, reminiscent of the Historical ASL (HASL) module A Bridge Too Far. Depending on the turn, the plucky “Irish” must secure one or more blocks on board 21 for a win. 
To my knowledge there are few “official” scenarios that showcase the grim battles that occurred along the Gothic Line in the autumn of 1944. And as far as I can tell, “Coriano” will be the first scenario featuring Canadians in Italy to be published by MMP. This is reason enough for me to spring for a copy of this Action Pack.
Getting the balance right
Like AP6, Roads Through Rome includes “Australian Balancing System” (ABS) provisions for each scenario.4 I should point out that these provisions are printed separately (on the back of one of the scenario cards). In most cases, the standard balance provisions on the scenario cards are the same as the first-level ABS bids (EX: A1 for Americans, and G1 for Germans), but never take this for granted. 
What’s in a board?
The boards in Roads Through Rome are undoubtedly a major draw. It is little more than a year since the release of AP6, and with it, boards 1a/b, 2a/b, and 3a/b. Already, these boards have appeared in new scenario designs. One look at the real estate in AP8 suggests to me that it will not be long before scenario designers incorporate these latest boards into their designs. So even if Gary’s ground-breaking scenario designs are not your cup of grappa, the pack has some swell-looking mapboards to drool over. 
I checked the pre-order number for Action Pack 8: Roads Through Rome on the MMP website just before I posted this preview. It was 411. Grappa anyone?
Prerequisites
The original advertising copy for AP8 claimed that all core modules were required to play the scenarios in the pack. But given that all of the maps published in the core modules are currently available separately from MMP, I cannot see any reason why one would need to own Armies of Oblivion, Code of Bushido, or Doomed Battalions. Granted you will need a couple Italian armoured cars (Autoblinda 41) from Hollow Legions if you wish to give AP73 a go. In theory, you will also require some Free French SW counters in British tan, but as I mentioned earlier, there is a simple workaround that avoids the need to own the French module Croix de Guerre. By and large, the counters from Beyond Valor, For King and Country, and Yanks will suffice for 80 percent of the scenarios in Roads Through Rome. Below is a summary of the requirements for each scenario in AP8.
Click to enlarge
Contents
Roads Through Rome includes:
three 11” x 16” double-sided, geomorphic mapboards (4a/b, 5a/b, 6a/b) 
ten scenarios:
AP73 Happy Valley (American vs German/Italian, Chouigui Pass, Tunisia, 1942)
AP74 Batty-P (British vs German, Battipaglia, Italy, 1943)
AP75 Gabriel’s Horn (American vs German, Altavilla, Italy, 1943)
AP76 Smoke ‘em (American vs German, near Persano, Italy, 1943)
AP77 Texas Flood (American vs German, near Persano, Italy, 1943)
AP78 Crossfire (American vs German, Acerno, Italy, 1943)
AP79 Marocchinate (Free French vs German, Esperia, Italy, 1944)
AP80 A Bloody Waste (American vs German, Artena-Valmonte Gap, Italy, 1944)
AP81 Lost Highway (American vs German, near Rome, Italy, 1944)
AP82 Coriano (Canadian vs German, Coriano, Italy, 1944)
ABS (Australian Balancing System) bids for each scenario

Arrived 23 December in time for Xmas! Surprised and happy.

Notes
1. Gary initially approached Avalon Hill with the concept. However, at the time the company was preoccupied with other projects, and did not appreciate the value of the new boards. Although MMP obtained the rights to produce ASL material in 1999, more than a decade would pass before Gary would realize his dream with the publication of AP6: Decades of War in 2010.
2. Goumier is a French variation of the Maghrebi Arabic word Koum, which means “people.” In the French army, a goum was an auxiliary unit of roughly 200 men. Three or four goums formed a tabor, with three or four tabor comprising a groupe. Each goum was a mix of different Berber tribes generally native to the Atlas mountains of Morocco.
3. However, General Clark diplomatically avoided mentioning what occurred in Esperia, and other Italian towns, in the wake of its capture by the Goumiers. “Marocchinate” is Italian for Moroccan. The term has another unfortunate connotation, and is used in Italy to describe the mass rapes and killings purportedly committed by many of these same Moroccans following the fall of Cassino. In this context, the term translates variously as “Moroccanned,” or “Moroccans’ deeds.” The town of Esperia, in particular, suffered terribly. According to one account, some 700 women were raped, or about a third of the town’s total population. According to Paul Gaujac, in his L’Armée de la Victoire, vol. 3, (Paris: Charles Lavauzelle, 1985), 15 Goumiers were summarily executed by the French, some apparently without due process, and another 54 were sentenced to hard labour. 
4. ABS allows players to bid four different levels of balance (0-3), or handicap, for each side. Level zero equates to no handicap. Levels one through three represent increased levels of handicap. Therefore, G0 represents a German bid with no handicap, whereas G3 represents a German bid at the highest handicap level. There are three possible outcomes when bidding:
Players bid different sides
Outcome: each plays side bid, and according to handicap bid
Players bid same side
Outcome: player who bid higher handicap plays side at level bid; other player plays opposing side at handicap level 0
Players bid same side and handicap level
Outcome: players roll dice; low DR plays side at level bid; high DR plays opposing side at level 0
ABS provisions are ideal for tournaments. However, the utility of ABS extends to every day play by giving  players a ready mechanism to balance differences in ability. For instance, if I were playing a very inexperienced player, I could offer to give up the highest balance provision. In theory, this should result in a more evenly contested match. ABS also extends the life of a scenario which, over time, might appear to favour one side strongly.  Unlike a scenario with only one level of balance for each side, a scenario with ABS is more capable of being “fine-tuned” for balance using only the published ABS provisions.


Victory Conditions (some with comments from Gary)
AP73 Happy Valley
VICTORY CONDITIONS: Provided they have ≥ 2 Mobile AFV with functioning MA, the Axis win at the end of any Game Turn by Controlling all buildings within 5 hexes of 6aP10.

This means the Germans win if they control all buildings within 5 hexes of 6aP10 and they control 2 mobile AFV with functioning MA at game end.

AP74 Batty-P

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Germans win at game end by Controlling more stone building/rubble hexes than the British provided no Good Order British Infantry is within 2 hexes of any of hexes 5bV4/Y7/BB10/AA14.

AP75 Gabriel's Horn
VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Germans win at game end by Controlling all level 3 hill hexes, Controlling more three-hex stone buildings on board 60 than the Americans, and amassing ≥ twice as many CVP as the Americans (but at least 8).

Germans win if at Game End:
1) They control all level 3 hill hexes, and
2) They control more three-hex stone buildings on board 60 than the Americans, and
3) They have amassed at least 8 CVP, and
4) They have amassed at least twice as many CVP as the Americans.

AP76 Smoke 'em

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Germans win at game end by amassing more VP than the Americans. CVP are awarded normally. Additionally, all buildings within 4 hexes of 4aH10 Controlled at game end are worth 2 VP per Location Controlled to the side Controlling the building [EXC: the Factory is worth 5 VP per Location Controlled to the side Controlling the building], and the German player earns Exit VP for Good Order units exited off the south edge on/east of 6aH10, but only if ≥ 8 VP of Personnel are exited.

Germans win if at Game end they have more VP than the Americans.

VP are awarded as follows:

1) Both sides earn CVP normally
2) Germans gain EVP for Good Order units exited off the area indicated...provided at least 8 VP of personnel are exited.
3) Building control...with each controlled location of the building controlled worth 2VP (only to the side controlling THE BUILDING)
4) VP for the factory as in #3 above, except the Factory Locations are worth 5 VP each (only to the side controlling the Factory)

AP77 Texas Flood

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Germans win by Controlling all buildings north of the board 3a/40 river and amassing at game end more VP than the Americans. In addition to earning CVP normally, the Germans earn Exit VP for Good Order German units which end the game south of the board 3a/40 river or have exited off the south edge. In addition to earning CVP normally, the Americans earn Exit VP for Good Order Personnel units which end the game south of the board 3a/40 river.

The Germans win by:

1) Controlling all the buildings North of the river indicated (this includes the buildings north of the board 7 river as well), AND
2) Amassing more VP than the Americans.

VP are awarded as follows:

a) CVP normally
b) EVP for Good Order Germans which end the scenario south of the 3a/40 river or exit off the south edge
c) The Americans also earn EVP for all Good Order American personnel units which end the game south of the 3a/40 river.

AP78 Crossfire

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Americans win at the end of any Player Turn by Controlling a number of stone buildings in the original German setup area ≥ 5 times the current Game Turn number or at game end by Controlling all stone buildings.

The Americans win:

1) At the end of any player turn if they control stone building in the original german setup area at least 5 times the turn number, (this means Turn 1 they need 5 or more, Turn 2 - 10 or more, Turn 3 - 15 or more, Turn 4 - 20 or more, etc.) or,
2) At game end by controlling ALL stone buildings.

AP79 Rude Mood

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Free French win at the end of any Game Turn by Controlling building hexes within the German setup area > 5 times the Turn number, or at game end by Controlling all the buildings in the German setup area, provided there is no Good Order German non-Crew MMC on/adjacent-to the 5bY20-U15-2aN14-L10-F5-I1 road, provided that they Control a number of building hexes in the German setup area ≥ 3 times the Turn number, at the end of the first three Game Turns.

Free French win:

1) If they control 6 or more buildings, within the German setup area, at the end of Game Turn 1, or
2) If they control 11 or more buildings, within the German setup area, at the end of Game Turn 2, or
3) If they control 16 or more buildings, within the German setup area, at the end of Game Turn 3, or
4) at Game End they control all buildings in the original German setup area and there are is no Good Order German non-Crew MMC on/adjacent-to
the 5bY20-U15-2aN14-L10-F5-I1 road.

The Free French can also lose if,
a) At the end of game turn 1 they do not control at least 3 buildings in the German setup area, and
b) At the end of game turn 2 they do not control at least 6 buildings in the German setup area, and
c) At the end of game turn 3 they do not control at least 9 buildings in the German setup area.

AP80 A Bloody Waste

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Americans win at the end of any Player Turn by Controlling all buildings within 5 hexes of 4aI9 [EXC: the 4aJ9 Tower], provided there is no Good Order German MMC in the 4aJ9 Tower Location.

AP81 Lost Highway

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Americans win at game end by exiting ≥ 40 Exit VP (at least 9 of which must be non-crew MMC) off the north edge, provided
they can trace a contiguous road from the south edge to the north edge with no Good Order German MMC/AFV on/adjacent-to any hex of that road.

The Americans win:
1) By exiting 40 or more EVP off the North edge, at least 9 or which must be non-Crew MMC, and
2) Tracing a contiguous road from the south edge to the north edge with no Good Order German MMC/AFV on/adjacent-to any hex of that road.

AP82 Coriano

VICTORY CONDITIONS: The Canadians win at the end of Game Turn 4 by amassing ≥ 1 VP, at the end of Game Turn 5 with ≥ 2 VP, at the end of Game Turn 6 with ≥ 3 VP, or at game end with 4 VP. The Canadians receive 1 VP for each of the four areas below if there is ≥ 1 Good Order Canadian Infantry unit and no Good Order German unit within it:
a) 21BB1-BB9-FF5-BB1
b) 21Y1-W2-W5-Y5-BB4-BB1-Y1
c) 21W5-W8-BB9-BB4-Y5-W5
d) 21U3-W2-W5-W8-S6-U3
(For VC purposes, the roads forming the boundaries of each area are not “within” the areas themselves.)

The Canadians win if,
1) at the end of Game Turn 4 there are no GO German unit, and at least one GO Canadian Infantry unit within at least one of the areas, a, b, c, and or d.
2) at the end of Game Turn 5, as 1 above, with at least two of the areas.
3) at the end of Game Turn 6, as 1 above, with at least three of the areas.
4) At Game end, as 1 above, with all 4 areas



AP8 initially went to printers 17 October. Began shipping to pre-orders 12 December. Arrived Ottawa on 23rd.
I played AP79 and AP82 in October. Hope to play more in the new year.