27 January 2015

Four of a kind

Dice have no memory. Players do. 
I bet you can recall uncanny dice rolls that have cost you a game. Have you encountered an opponent with unbelievably charmed dice? I am not talking about crooked dice, or dubious rolling techniques. I am referring to a player who always seems to get the ideal dice roll, at the most opportune time. Have you ever stared in horror as your opponent’s rocket salvo is directed to the margins of the battlefield? Watched as the rockets are drawn like magnets to the steel plate of your half-tracks cleverly moving out of sight? When these rare events occur a second or a third time, we tend to question the odds. How can this happen? 
Dice have no memory. Only players do.
So it is with the winner of our year-end contest. He is a previous raffle winner, having won an earlier raffle before with the lowest roll of seven dice. Almost 300 Squad Leaders participated in our last draw of 2014. I used four dice, and rolled once for each person following Sitrep. A pair of boxcars were not among the results. Nevertheless, four contestants had four of a kind, including our winner. Before I get to this august individual, I would like to introduce the runners up in our “random-selection” process. And before I do that, I would like to congratulate three Squad Leaders who tied with low rolls of five.
Three Squad Leaders tied for second with a sum of five
Chris van Wyk of Cape Town, South Africa, and Reg Plummer and John Carrington of Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario, respectively, have each won a pair of dice. It is a timely coincidence that a South African should win a pair of 12.5mm Crown Jewels, which include a South African die with a Springbok on the ace. The other die sports a Star of India, the insignia of the Order of the Star of India. The star features prominently on the Ensign of the British Raj. The die is used to represent the British Indian Army (1903-1947). Both dice were released last October.
No offence to the Canadians who also won, but it would have been sweet if one of our Spanish Squad Leaders had won a pair of Los (Inter) Nacionales. This pair of dice is designed for the Spanish Civil War (SCW). A disproportionate number of SCW scenarios published to date include elements of the International Brigades. These foreign, primarily communist, volunteers adopted the three-pointed star of the Popular Front, hence the red star on the Internacionales die. The Nationals (Nacionales)—better known outside Spain as the Nationalists—adopted the Cruz de San Andrés (St. Andrew’s Cross) as a generic symbol. I will let Reg and John decide which of these new pairs they prefer to have. 
Panzerkampfwagen IA 20mm Breda variant - Spain c. 1938 

Binary Stars and Bypass
Two hundred and ninety-odd dice rolls notwithstanding, I was surprised that four of a kind appeared as often as it did. Robert Hynes, an Associate Professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, yahtzeed with fives. I know little about Rob, other than that he is a physicist intrigued by the interaction of Low Mass X-ray Binaries—LMXB for the astrophysicists among you. These binaries consist of a low-mass star (the companion) feeding an accretion disc around a neutron star, or a black hole. An accretion disc is a collection of gas, dust, and asteroid-size chunks of matter that has accumulated in orbit around a star. A neutron star—the product of a massive star that has undergone a gravitational collapse during a supernova event—is a tiny, dense stellar remnant smaller than Manhattan, but with a mass greater than our sun. Accretion discs orbiting neutron stars and black holes are not visible to the naked eye, but can be detected in the X-ray part of the spectrum, hence the LMXB designation. Why some of these accretion discs emit jets along their polar axes remains a mystery. Our universe is awash with mysterious, unseen forces. So apparently is ASL.
ASL force fields and Vehicular Bypass
Ultraviolet (UV) light is another form of electromagnetic radiation normally invisible to humans. Closer to the visible spectrum than X-rays, a segment of UV light can be seen by birds, insects, and young humans, which pretty much excludes most ASL players, including Dr. Hynes. Never mind, the vivid green and red pips on our newest specialty die are hard to miss, even in the visible spectrum. The pips do, moreover, fluoresce. They glow under black light (Ultraviolet A). As a token of our appreciation for following Sitrep, Rob has won a colourful, 16mm Wound-Severity and Sniper-Effects die.
16mm Wound-Severity and Sniper-Effects Die
Beach Bum
Nadir Elfarra likes to get his feet wet. Most weekends, he hits the beach. Although a resident of southern California, Nadir is not your typical beach bum. I have no doubt that he is as gung ho and fanatic as any of the neoprene-clad surfers who populate SoCal’s coastline, but this marine animal prefers to come to ashore in a landing craft.
Nadir may not have worn an eagle, globe, and anchor, but he is a littoral creature of habit. If his name sounds familiar, it is because Nadir has been involved with The Game for decades. In 1996, for example, he and Brian Abela produced an impressive historical pack called Baraque de Fraiture: The Battle for Parker’s Crossroads. Front Line Productions proved to be a short-lived enterprise, and BdF, its only publication.1 But Nadir is probably best known for designing the Edson's Ridge campaign game included in Operation Watchtower (2003). He is also credited with designing several of the scenarios in this out-of-print historical study.2
In 2012, Nadir provided feedback on the designs for a pair of 16mm USMC dice. As a small gesture of our appreciation, we provided him with a complimentary set from our initial production run. We were disappointed by the stamping of these dice, however, and were reluctant to produce more. Others felt differently. Suffice it to say that when our second, much improved batch arrived at the end of that year, we sent Nadir a replacement pair. The dice arrived in time for the West Coast Melee, an annual ASL tournament hosted by the SoCal ASL Club. Nadir brought his new dice with him to Irvine, California, where the tourney takes place. He never used the dice though. Instead, he gifted them to a fellow club member Scott Thompson, a Marine turned school teacher. Scott had to leave early in order to grade papers. Before he did, he took time to admire the big, three-dimensional map of Gavutu-Tanambogo that Nadir and five, fellow PTO fanatics were playing on. Check it out in the spread below!
Sand and Blood: Gavutu and Tanambogo CG
Nadir is a class act. His result in our raffle was classic ASL. He yahtzeed with four fours. 
Anyone who plays the Japanese knows how brittle their leaders can be. It is probably fair to say that no leader in ASL takes more Wound-Severity Checks than a Japanese leader. Nadir has won a Wound-Severity and Sniper-Effects die. I am certain that he will find it useful. I am even more certain that he will readily lend it to the opposing Japanese team whenever the need arises.           
Budapest Bill
On 2 December 2014, I learned that MMP had sold its last copy of Festung Budapest (FB). I was surprised, and dismayed. Had MMP printed fewer copies than I had assumed? Or had György Gattyán suddenly taken an interest in this historic siege of his hometown?
It made no sense. The historical module debuted at Winter Offensive in 2012. Less than three years later it was out of print. The news was a wake-up call. 
I have played three games from the module, and thoroughly enjoyed them. I played both sides in FB11 “Boy Soldier.” So really, I have played only two scenarios, all with the same opponent. Nor have I had much success encouraging other local players to purchase the game, let alone test drive it. It is a shame. Bill Cirillo, the designer, has created a HASL environment unlike any “official” publication to date. The counter density is never such that the game bogs down into a push-and-shove match dominated by high-firepower attacks and Assault Movement. The scenarios in FB are fluid affairs, with plenty of opportunities to display your tactical acumen, or not.
Snippet from the second version of the FB Player Aid
Bill continues to support his offspring with new scenarios. For example, ASL Journal 10 included FB18 “Red Banner Days,” along with a (very) handy player aid. Another scenario, FB19 “Waffenbrüderschaft,” will likely appear in the next Journal. Work also continues on a Campaign Game (CG) designed to utilize all four mapsheets at once. If you are a CG grognard with heaps of free time on your hands, Bill could use your help playtesting the quintessential, urban campaign.
In our contest, Bill had four threes. It is tempting to give him a black Panzerknackern die as a prize. It is in keeping with the back-in-black theme that I will get to in a moment. However, a Wound die is a better fit. I will consider it payback for a Sniper-inflicted, mortal wound that my best leader suffered in FB10 “The Return of the Black Company.” 
For those who have not played this scenario—and an awesome scenario it is—a Scenario Special Rule (SSR) treats all Sniper attack die rolls of “1” as either a normal “2” result, or as a Heat of Battle (HOB) result, at the option of the player who made the “attack.” The ingenious part of this SSR gave my opponent an opportunity to select one of his own units—using the A14.2 Target Selection process—to undergo HOB. During the course of our game, the Axis created three heroes. One hero was born of a Hungarian squad that Battle Hardened for bonus style points. The other heroes sprung from a pair of SS squads that, unhappy with the sudden discrepancy in Morale Levels, instantly became Fanatic. When at last my opponent’s dice appeared to cool, he rolled an Original “2” result. Crack, went the rifle, and down went my 9-2 leader. His death was an omen. The Black Company was determined to fight to my last man.
FB 10 "The Return of the Black Company"
The HOB SSR made for a thrilling match. However, this is but one aspect of a scenario that has tremendous replay value. The Rubble (and Debris) Generation Check that precedes play invariably creates a different cityscape to fight in. But it is the interplay of the variable orders of battle (on each side), and the three ways in which the scenario can be won, or lost, that make FB10 so much fun to play time and again. I played it last December, as part of the scenario-selection process for the Canadian ASL Open (CASLO), which brings me to the winner of our year-end raffle.
Boots and Braces
You may recall seeing our two-time winner before. He won a Sitrep raffle in 2012. Still, I doubt that many have seen him like this. Gone are the trademark braces. (Or are the suspenders Cloaked beneath the suit.) The disarming aw-shucks image has been traded for that of an elder statesman.3
Last summer, I stopped by a mutual friend’s place to catch up. When our talk eventually turned to ASL, Mark’s name came up. My friend said that he had pitched in to help with Mark’s communication plan, and that, well, Mark was running for the New Hampshire State Senate. Mr. Evans came up short on election day. He did, however, garner about 40 percent of the vote, which is a darn sight better than what my ASL record was for a very long time.
After graduating from Plymouth State University, Mark headed west. He worked in Denver for a number of years, and befriended many local ASL players. If I recall correctly, he participated in ASL events as far west as Portland, Oregon. Mark moved back to his hometown of Berlin, NH seven or eight years ago. He started a natural-heath practice, and from 2008 to 2012, he served as a city councilor. Those who know Mark will agree that he likes to get involved, be it with his local community, or with the gaming community. He is in a consistent contributor to BoardGameGeek, for example.4
In addition to his unabashed online presence in gaming forums, Mark is a familiar sight at tournaments throughout New England. Last year, Mark took on a leadership role with the Tussle in the Tundra. Despite the name, the tournament is only an hour’s drive north of Boston. Each summer a regular contingent of gamers gather in Manchester, NH for a weekend of ASL.5 
Which way to Manchester?
The convivial, low-key atmosphere is one of the charms of the Tussle. Sure, there is a competitive aspect to the event. But my wife and I found it to be more like a reunion of old friends. Another Tussle is planned for this July, and Mark will undoubtedly be there.
Muncipal Man of Mystery - World famous in NH
Mark not only had the lowest sum in our raffle, but he also had four aces. I had considered giving the winner of our year-end raffle a selection of our newest BattleDice. However, when I told my wife who had won, she asked if Mark was coming to the Canadian ASL Open. Good question, I thought. When the CASLO is held in Montreal or Ottawa, Mark frequently attends. So what better way to reward him than by covering his registration fees for the tournament? Let's just say to say that if Mark claims his Sitrep prize, we have his registration fees covered for CASLO XIX, compliments of BattleSchool. And given Mark’s fondness for his dayglow pink “dice cup,” we will include a couple of dice with glow spots. That ought to brighten his random-selection rolls. 
The Canadian ASL Open XIX ~ Ottawa 15-17 May 2015
Congratulations to all! And good luck to everyone in our next contest! 
Speaking of contests, it is never too late to become a Squad Leader. Join Sitrep today and be in to win when the next raffle comes around. 
Sitrep turns four on Canada Day. Sounds like an excuse for another contest. 
Thanks for reading.
How to claim your prize
It’s easy.
1. leave a comment at the end of this post
2. email us at: battleschool at rogers dot com
1. The battle for Parker’s Crossroads is not to be confused with a battle of the same name that occurred during the American Civil War. The ASL battle brings to cardboard the desperate defence of an important crossroad in the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge. From 20 December to 23 December 1944, a mixed bag of roughly 300 Americans faced repeated attacks by 560. Volksgrenadiere-Division, and 2. SS Panzer-Division Das Reich.” Major Arthur C. Parker III, acting commanding officer of the 589th Field Artillery Battalion, decided to make a stand at the junction of the main road that connects Bastogne to the south with Liège, some 50 kilometres to the north, and a second paved road running east-west. Together with remnants of the smashed 106th Infantry Division, and small detachments from the 3rd Armored Division, and the 82nd Airborne Division, Parker’s command made a historic stand. The mapsheet that came with Baraque de Fraiture replicated the immediate area of this vital intersection. Two of the scenarios in the pack require geomorphic boards, however. 
A second edition of the pack was released by Critical Hit! a number of years ago. The pair of scenarios that do not use the historical map were included in the first issue of Out of the Attic. The first, OA13 “Brief Breakfast” (BdF4), occurs in the village of Fraiture—about a kilometre northeast of the crossroads—on 23 December. The second scenario, OA14 “Across the Ainse and into Frieneux” (BdF9), takes place the next day in Frieneux (Freyneux), some seven or eight kilometres west of Parker’s crossroad. Nadir is credited with the design of both scenarios.
2. Nadir also designed three of the five scenarios played on the “Hell’s Corner” map. This map depicts the area around the mouth of the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal. It was developed as part of the Operation Watchtower Historical Study. However, as Perry Cocke reflected in January 2013, MMP had always liked the HC map but “didn’t want to burden Operation Watchtower with the additional cost for only a few scenarios.” Instead, the HC scenarios and map appeared in Operations Special Issue No. 3 seven years later.
Nadir's "affection for the USMC stems from two uncles." One saw combat in WW2 and Korea. The other taught Nadir how to shoot. Nadir regrets not having served in the Marines, although he tried twice to join, once while in college. However, the intensity of his university program was a poor fit with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). When he tried later to join the USMC Reserve, he learned that active duty was a prerequisite. The upside is that Nadir has been able to dedicate a lot of his spare time to the design and development of wargames, many of which star the USMC.
A few years ago, Nadir created an interactive map that display’s the location of ASL players around the world. Players are encouraged to pin their names to the map. Each additional player added increases the usefulness of this unique ASL resource.
3. At a pre-tourney get-together a few years back, Mark entertained us with his rendition of the Yankee “(you) can’t get they-ahh (there) from hee-yahhhh (here)” schtick. Although a staple of Maine humour, “Which way to Millinocket?” could apply to any number of out-of-the-way places in New England (or the Maritimes, for that matter.).
4. Check out Mark’s video of Festung Budapest, or one of his other unpretentious, out-of-the-box reviews.

5. Chuck Tewksbury has been running the Tussle since Steve Anderson stepped down as Tournament Director several years ago. When my wife and I were at the Tussle in 2013, there was some discussion between Chuck and Mark regarding the future of the tourney. Attendance is usually modest, seldom more than 20 participants. It takes a lot of work to plan and run an event, and Chuck was beginning to wonder if it was worth the trouble. Mark and other participants assured Chuck that it was indeed worth it.


Nadir_E said...

While I always enjoy reading SitRep blog entries, this particular one was a nice surprise - learning I'd won some precision ASL dice! :) Your work here is always exemplary, Chris - top quality production, but equally important, top quality content and research. Many thanks to you (and Helen ;) ) for all you do for our hobby.

Chris Doary said...

Hi Nadir, Thank you for reading and following Sitrep. Thanks too for the kind words of praise. Helen mailed your prize this evening. It should be in SoCal well before the West Coast Melee. Enjoy the tourney! Helen and I wish we were headed there too.

Steve Slunt said...

Congrats to the winners. Reg I hope to see those dice at Caslo 2015

Martin Hicks said...

Chris, I think out play of Return of the Black Coy went much the same way in terms of hero creation, and leader termination. I remember that I HOB rallied the one squad, but I don't remember how your 9-2 went down. Was it sniper (followed by everyone else failing LLMC?)

FB Bill said...

Chris and Helen,

Thank you very much for the gracious surprise! I always enjoy the highly informative content on Sitrep and am constantly amazed at the uniqueness with which it is presented! I hope you guys are surviving the winter in the great white north!


FB Bill said...


One more thing. With regard to the nature of the SS-unit counters contained in Festung Budapest. While MMP was fully on-board with creating certain Festung Budapest specific counters (e.g., 13. Panzer, Hungarian Arrow Cross Militia, etc.), there was a desire to keep the SS units consistent with the rest of the system, so no 6-5-8s and 4-6-8s with underlined Fire Power. This was discussed, but ultimately not accepted as beneficial. Can't say that I disagree given all the rest of the chrome in the package. :-)


Chris Doary said...

@ Bill,

Thanks for the feedback Bill. It never occurred to me that the SS 4-6-8s might be entitled to Assault Fire, but it would have made sense.

FB Bill said...

The package arrived safe and sound! Thank you again for running these contests and the countless hours spent creating such great content!

Chris Doary said...

Thanks for the note Bill.

I have been neglecting Sitrep for several months now. Busy with the scenario lists, and admin for the Canadian ASL Open this May.

I hope to post another ASLSK article this spring before getting back to some grognard stuff. :-)

Also working on some Stalingrad dice. The first ones will support Tom's VotG.

hongkongwargamer.com said...

Hahahhah .. LOVE this post .. and of course the portraits of these ASL folks. Nadir I deal with often and Mark Evans I met in Albany.

Congrats to all ... and another terrific writeup Chris!!

Warm regards,

Chris Doary said...

Thanks Jack.

Very busy with preparations for the CASLO XIX. Otherwise I would have had another post out by now. :(