Friday, November 01, 2019

RB/RO CG: Fire on the Volga (Pt. 2)

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.

Specifically, Stewart King and I are undertaking to play a modified CG that combines the Red Barricades and Red October boards and OBs to become a massive, all-encompassing campaign that runs for 30 CG days! I attached the moniker "Fire on the Volga" and undertake here to maintain a blog of the CG as we progress. Stewart is an old friend and has agreed to refrain from reading my blog until such time as I give him permission.

Feel free to leave comments. Let me know if you think my setup is crazy, or if you find my strategy hopelessly flawed. Just be sure not to reveal anything about my game to Stewart (nor vice-versa).

Aftermath of CG Day 1

I'm very satisfied with the results of the day. Behold, the perimeter!

Perimeter, end of CG Day 1.
Not so impressive, eh? Yes, I did destroy his trench-and-wire fortifications, got across the V hexrow and, made progress toward the Chemist's Shop, but that's barely hitting par as the Germans on Day 1.

The real story of the day was the destruction visited upon the Russian forces. As I stated in my previous post, I thought the Reds were set up too far forward. Between that and Stewart's natural tenacity and stubbornness on defense (I've been playing him for years) CG Day 1 was a Russian disaster.

The CVP totals tell the tale. Germans suffered 20 CVP. Russians suffered 63 CVP. The Reds got tripled up! Despite their numerical superiority in the overall CG, that ratio is unsustainable. Stewart will have to find a way to adjust.

In a more or less textbook blitzkrieg manuever, I was able to use my armor to bust through his line at several points (the Workshop Warehouse and his wire and trench line in the U-W hexrows) and follow up with my infantry, cleaning up behind the maurauding AFVs. In that way, I destroyed a lot of his troops for failure to route. My MG kill stack swept his mortar and ATR troops off the rooftops, and I captured a Russian HMG in L5. Stewart mounted a successful minor counterattack from building Z1 and drove me back a couple hexes, and he threw me out of Building K10 in another. But his losses were severe.

The day was punctuated by a 7 CVP score on the last turn of the game, when my Sturm squad placed a DC, rubbling hex F13 which contained 3 squads and a 9-0 commie.

German losses consisted of a PzIIIL and roughly 2 platoons of infantry.

My triumph was somewhat mitigated when I rolled boxcars to have both of my armored platoons recalled. But, as per SSR #6 for this CG (see Prelude) I'm compensated 4 CPP for the next CG day, since the recall involved 4 fully-functional AFV. 

The Reds lost about 2 companies of infantry and a 45LL ATG.

The day that is to come

Although my perimeter does not extend as far into the board as I might have expected, I'm nonetheless pleased that I have established my entry area to the east of hexrow V, which opens up the approach to the riverbank.

As I see it, I've got 3 avenues of attack.

  1. Chemist's Shop and river bank.  This is my default choice. I've mostly destroyed his fortifications by the river and it makes little sense to lay off now and let him regain his strength. And while Stewart may well predict this attack, he's so weak right now that there is not much he can do to stop me from gaining the riverbank and probably even the Chemist's Shop. This will be my primary attack for the coming day.

    But I have enough strength to also mount a secondary attack as well, which will be either of the following two options, depending on how I perceive Russian strength to be deployed.
  2. Bust my way down the railroad tracks and make a grab for the Power Station. This is a safe attack. Reinforcements can join the battle immediately, entering from the western board edge, and any Russians any the area will be overwhelmed quickly.
  3. Into the factories. I don't want to fight in the factories unless I must. The Russian fanatic bonus makes even conscripts (which are sure to be there) dangerous. There is nothing worse than losing a Sturm squad to a Conscript in factory close combat. However, if I perceive the center to be overly weak, I will charge into the factories, if for no other reason than to stretch the perimeter.
My retained forces from Day 1 are these:
  • 10-2, 9-1 x 2, 8-1, 8-0, 8-0 (wnd), 7-0 x 2
  • 548 x 18
  • 468 x 2
  • 467 x 4
  • 447 x 2 
  • HMG, MMG x 3, LMG x 5, Atr, DC x 3
I've got 1.5 companies of Sturm troops, which means the German spear point is still honed and lethal. This bodes well for Day 2.

I'm awarded 17 CPP (remember, in this CG, Stewart and I are ignoring all CPP replenishment modifiers other than the historical modifiers), plus the 4 CPP I received for my recalled AFV, which yields 21 CPP for the day! My purchases are these:

  • I1 Rifle Company
    467 x 12
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Lt. Mtr. Atr
    8-1, 8-0
  • I1 Rifle Company
    467 x 12
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Lt. Mtr. Atr
    10-2, 8-1, 7-0
  • A5 PzIIIL Platoon
    9-1 AL
    PzIIIL x 3
  • O5 Offboard Observer (Hex Q1)
  • O2 80mm Mtr OBA
    Normal Ammo
Two Rifle companies for the day. I'll buy them now, while I can. In my experience, the Germans are rarely afforded such a luxury, and since I have it, I'm going to use it. In the later game, my purchases will be constrained by competing demands for support and manpower.

My AFV withdrawal reimbursement of 4 CPP goes directly to buying another PzIIIL platoon. The net effect of our new SSR, then, is that I came out more-or-less with a wash. Four AFV withdrawn, 3 purchased with the resulting CVP.

The tactics for Day 2 will be much the same as Day 1. Schwerpunkt, aimed at the Chemist's Shop. I'm hoping the momentum of my attack will carry me beyond my primary objective and on to the approaches of the Commissar's House.

And away we go!

Stewart is discouraged after the whipping he took on Day 1. But the Reds can recover from disaster. As the German advances across the board, he moves beyond the effective range of his offboard observers and increases the distance his reinforcements must travel to reach the action. That is, he becomes vulnerable.

When I play the Russians, I find it useful to think of the German forces as a vicious dog tethered to the western and northern board edges. Don't fight the dog inside his tether. Just stay in front of him, back up and nick him where you can. When he reaches the end of the line, which in my experience seems to be at about hex row V on the southern half of the RB board, lay into him with everything you've got.

And know that he still might shred you.

That's life in the Barricades, baby.

To be continued... 

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A long overdue apology

Blinded by Wrath
Dear President Bush,

I write to you today to apologize for wronging you in my thoughts for many years. For excoriating you with the most bitter and hateful thoughts I could muster. I apologize for hating you because, as I saw it, you invoked war and destruction on innocent people.

Eventually, I came to understand that whatever sins I may have attributed to you live within me as well. That, by succumbing to Wrath, I was your brother in folly.

And thus, we being brothers, I can no longer hate you.

God is great.

Please forgive me, my brother.

Dade Ross Cariaga
Humbled by life

Thursday, October 03, 2019

RB/RO CG: Fire on the Volga (Pt. 1)

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.

It has been a while. But, now that fall is rushing like a wave upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, there is no better time for taking up another of those endeavors that both torment and delight its practitioners: an ASL Campaign Game.

Specifically, Stewart King and I are undertaking to play a modified CG that combines the Red Barricades and Red October boards and OBs to become a massive, all-encompassing campaign that runs for 30 CG days! I attached the monikor "Fire on the Volga" and undertake here to maintain a blog of the CG as we progress. Stewart is an old friend and has agreed to refrain from reading my blog until such time as I give him permission.

You can get the specifics of our CG in the Prelude blog post.

Feel free to leave comments. Let me know if you think my setup is crazy, or if you find my strategy hopelessly flawed. Just be sure not to reveal anything about my game to Stewart (or vice-versa).

Back, once again, to the Barricades. For the umpteenth time. It's testimony to the success of the Red Barricades campaign game that, all these years later, and after multiple playings, I still look forward to this all-engrossing, mental tormenter of a game. And this time there is the added twist of incorporating the entire RO module into the bargain. Please refer to the Prelude for the specifics about how we plan to accomplish this.  

Fate has dictated that for this game, I am to play the Fascist aggressors, while Stewart has the part of the Communists. 

So, without further ado, let's get to it.

In past AARs, I have explained my thinking about the importance, in Red Barricades, of the riverbank for the Soviets. It's critical to keep the Germans off the river and out of important strategic locations like the Chemist's Shop and the Commissar's House. (I refer you, dear reader, to "A litany of Red Barricades truths" from a previous AAR.)

Does that mean I should push for the river on Day 1? I'm not sure. First, let's have a look at my given forces.

  • Rifle Coy
    467 x 12
    9-1, 8-0, 7-0
    HMG, MMG, LMG, Atr, Lt. Mtr.
  • Sturm Coy
    548 x 12
    9-1, 8-0, 7-0
    MMG, LMGx2, DCx2
  • PzIIL Platoon
    PzIIIL x 3
    8-1 Armor leader
  • 80mm OBA
    Pre-registered hexes x 2
I have 15CCP for the day. The big choice is whether to buy a Sturm Coy or Rifle Coy as my 3rd company. And, since it's always good to open with a Big Punch, I'll opt for the Sturm company.  These, therefore are my purchases.

  • Sturm Coy (9CPP)548 x 12
    10-2, 8-1, 7-0
    MMG, LMGx2, DCx2

  • StuGIIIB Platoon (4CPP)
    StuGIIIB x 3
  • Stukas (early entry) 2 CPP

80mm Mortar pre-registered hexes
The 80mm OBA pre-registered hexes are set to smoke up the northern approach. Beyond this I cannot go until I see the Russian setup.

And here it is.

Reds are ready
The combined RB/RO map looks impossibly big when it's all laid out. How in the hell are the Germans supposed to conquer all of that?

A closer inspection reveals that Stewart has set up to defend the riverbank in force. But he looks strong all the way across the line. My first instinct is to think that the Russians are too far forward and ripe to be destroyed. But wherever I choose to attack, the fighting will be fierce right from the get-go.

A moment to consider...

And I think the rule of the day is audacity. An aggressive push for the river.

Hier kommen wir, Russen!
Pretty straightforward. My rifle company will enter on the northern board edge between hexrows G and Q. Very slowly, one hex at a time. Their turn 1 objective will be to get setup to engage the Russians on the upper levels and the rooftops. I notice that  Stewart has some Russians on the rooftops. Artillery spotter and light mortar teams, no doubt. My MG kill stack, which I hope to establish in G1, will soon be sited in on them. The PzIIILs will accompany the rifles across the debris field, laying smoke as necessary.

My Sturm company will enter strong on the west edge and push straight for Building F5. They will feint at Building B12, and if the going seems easy, they might send a platoon to take it. But I won't fight hard for B12. I'm pushing straight for the river with these guys. Under no circumstances will I activate the reserves that Stewart has placed to the south across the railroad tracks.

On turn 2, my reinforcing Sturm company will come in full bore at the river fortifications. I hope to maybe catch Stewart flat-footed. My turn 1 attack might suggest that my goal is the Manufacturing Hall or the string of buildings just east of the railroad tracks. But while my Rifles start shooting up his long range teams, and my Sturm company driving eastward, the Reds will suddenly be confronted by an armor-and-Stuka-supported Sturm company busting straight for his fortified area around V5!

I don't necessarily want to reach the riverbank on this day (and it's doubtful I could anyway), but if I can destroy that fortified area and establish my perimeter east of hexrow V, drive the Russians in the center to the south, and maintain a good CVP ratio, I'll count the day as successful.

That's an awful lot to ask, though.

Hey, man. Nobody said Stalingrad was gonna be easy.

Let's see how it goes...

Sunday, September 29, 2019

RB/RO CG: Fire on the Volga (Prelude)

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.


First off let me say thanks to MMP for publishing the Red October historical module for the ASL system. It's the sequel to the most successful CG in the entire ASL system: Red Barricades. I foresee many long hours of obsessive delight in my future.

That being said, it's become apparent to me that the playtesting of the various CGs contained within the module have left a bit to be desired. I've played CG I, X-Tag, and I've studied CG II Hubertus rather thoroughly, and I've concluded that they are both heavily stacked in favor of the German.

(A lack of play testing is a minor lapse, in my opinion. When one considers the time and effort required to play these massive games can we really expect multiple play testings  by multiple players before release? It's we, the players of the game, upon whom the responsibility of play testing must necessarily fall. The publisher gives us the concept, we put it to the test.)

Of course, the original Red Barricades module had balance problems with its CGs, as well. As I've discussed on this blog before, the Barrikady campaign game is about 80% pro-Russian.

But Stewart King and I have an idea that we hope may prove to be a fun CG that involves the entirety of both the RB and RO boards and the entire OBs from both modules. I present our idea here.

All factories, plus 9 of the 12 objectives

Fire on the Volga Campaign Game
Game length 17 Oct - 15 Nov
30 CG days
The entirety of both the RB and RO boards are used

CG VC: The German player wins if at the end of any CG day, there is a continuous German perimeter that includes all factories on both boards, plus the German controls all locations (even if isolated) 9 of the following 12 objectives:

RB board 
  • W9 (Chemist’s Shop) 
  •  BB18 (Commissar’s House) 
  •  GG21 
  •  AA25 
  •  V40 
  •  V42 
 RO board
  •  V1 
  •  Z8 
  •  BB9 
  •  All level 2 hill hexes (Slag Heap) 
  •  GG23
  • CC32 

  1.  No depletion rolls. Purchases at full strength. 
  2.  Whenever a reserve unit is activated by a German attack or by proximity of a German unit, all reserve units within 5 hexes of that unit are activated as well. 
  3. For CCP replenishment, ignore all modifiers other than historical modifiers. 
  4. Disregard the campaign balance provision. 
  5. Each CPP spent on Fortifications is worth the following: German 40FFP, Russian 80FFP 
  6. Whenever an armor platoon is recalled, the German receives 1 CPP for each surviving recalled tank with functioning MA and MGs on the following CG day. 
  7. Russian RO CGI starting forces (including FPP but not any CPP) are deployed on the RO map as reserves starting on 17 Oct. They must be deployed as reserves on that map (though they may be repositioned before each CG day [EXC: Fortifications) until activated or the 23 Oct turn. On 23 October, they may be deployed on-map (either map) as desired. If the Germans enter the RO map at any time before 23 October, all RO reserves are immediately activated. 
  8. The German RO CGI starting forces (though not the CPP from the RO CGI starting lineup) enter as reinforcements on 23 October. The German entry area includes all west edge hexes, plus any north edge hexes as per the RB rules, starting 23 October. Starting 23 October, both sides make 2 CPP replenishment rolls each CG day. Starting on 23 October, both sides may choose reinforcement groups up to the maximum allowed in RB CG III, RO CG I and RO CG II. 

In effect, this CG begins as a normal RB CGIII game and proceeds as such until 23 October, eight CG days into the game. In my experience, 8 days in is just about where the Germans start to lose their steam. But in this case, on 23 October, the Germans get a big infusion of fresh troops.

When Hubertus comes, on 11 November, 3 days before the CG ends, the Germans will get their -3 historical modifier which may be the last bit of fuel they need to attain their objectives or to fall just short of them.

Who knows if this is balanced? But we think it will be fun. It will literally take years to complete this game, but what the hell? We're gamers, after all. If anyone else wants to give this a try, let us know! Stewart and I will be maintaining a blog of our game as we go along, so stay tuned...

Thursday, September 26, 2019

ASL ROCGII: A hopeless case

Note to readersThis post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.


The Sound and Fury desk is mighty dusty. If the boss walked in and saw this, he would not be happy. Let's see if we can spruce things up a bit.

Our return to form is another of our favorites: a write-up of an ASL campaign game. And this time it's for the long-awaited follow up to the best ASL CG of all time (and the only one that really works in my opinion): Red Barricades.

(Valor of the Guards? Give me a break! The Barricades is where real men cut their teeth.)

My joy at finally receiving this module can only be hinted at with words. Escapism! Obsessive organization! Calculating! Recalculating! The agony! The ecstasy! And so, immediately upon receiving the module and lacking an opponent, I set to work creating Russian defenses in anticipation of eventually finding one.

But when I arrived at CGII, the Hubertus campaign I was flummoxed. When I set up the perimeter and looked at the respective OBs I determined that the Russians have no chance to win this game. I'm convinced this is an error on the part of MMP.

(If there are political sensibilities around criticizing MMP publicly, I'm blithely unaware of them. This is just what I see, regarding the game.)

Sorry, Ivan. There's just no way...
Allow me to explain.

When I create a defensive set up for a CG, I try first to determine the most vital points of defense. A look at the RO map instantly reveals that the northeast edge of the board is crucial for the Reds. Their reinforcement groups must enter on or between hexes JJ0 and JJ16 unless these hexes are no longer under Russian control, in which case the Russians may enter on the southern board edge. This makes the approaches to these hexes vital for the Russians. A shrewd German player will extend his perimeter 4 or 5 hexes short of the board edge, then in subsequent CG days, set up a devastating kill zone into which all Russian reinforcements must enter.
German Day 1 perimeter goal. Reds must not let this happen!

So, clearly, the Russian must avoid this situation at all costs. But when you look at the starting perimeter, the Germans are already three-quarters of the way across the map. Indeed, the Russians have been driven from all the factories except for the Martin Ovens in the middle of the board, which is surrounded on 3 sides. In fact, the Germans already have two toeholds toward the eastern edge of the Ovens in hexes X23 and V23. How many resources is a wise Russian player going to dedicate to defending that foregone conclusion?

Oh, hell no!
My initial thought, as the Russians, was to set up a defense of the easternmost hexes of the Martin Ovens, and to fight like hell to protect the vital entry area. But then I looked at the German OB that I would be facing.

The Russians are given 3 elite companies, a heavy weapons platoon, some AT and ART pieces, 85 FPP, and 12 CPP.

The Germans are given 3 elite companies, 4 rifle companies, an infantry battery, a platoon of STGIII smoke-layers, and 17CPP.

That, my friends, is a wipeout.

Consider this German strategy for Day One.


Considering the manpower advantage the German is given to start the game (7 coy to 3 coy), I wouldn't bother purchasing infantry. My purchases would be thus:

150mm OBA w/pre-reg = 7 CPP
80mm OBA w/pre-reg = 3 CPP
HW Platoon = 6 CPP

Total CPP: 16, save 1 CPP for the next day.

Push to set up the perimeter for Day Two.

The German player should recognize the importance of the JJ0-16 hexes to the overall CG immediately. Therefore, the spearhead of this awesome OB should be aimed directly at it.

In this avenue of attack, the vital points are buildings V1 and BB9, plus the Slag Heap. So, I set up a Sturm Company to attack V1, the Pioniers to attack BB9, and the other Sturm company to attack the Slag Heap. Further, in support, I pre-register hex BB11 for the 150mm module and hex AA9 for the 80mm Smoke FFE. Since this attack is so vital, I also add in the StgIIIBs and dedicate my HW platoon to raking the Slag Heap and building BB11. Given that the Russians are stretched beyond their capacity, it's doubtful that they will do much to defend build V1. And whatever they put in BB11 and on the Slag Heap will be vaporized in short order.

Containment and attrition

Everywhere else on the map, it's about containment and attrition. I've got 4 rifle companies that will surround any Russian pockets, advance to contact, and then maintain position. The key is to keep the Russians from expanding the perimeter in the south. Not that it matters all that much. That infantry battery will start pounding away at building GG23 to soften thing up for the next day.

On Day 2, the Rifle companies will man the perimeter in the northeast, to shoot up Russian RGs as they enter, while the Pioneers and Sturm companies will begin reducing Russian pockets in the now-isolated factories.

Contain, don't attack

This is a pretty general description of a German plan, but it's as obvious as the nose on your face.

And, hey, if you think I'm wrong, go ahead, Ivan! Set up your Elite SMG company, and your 2 Guards Rifle companies, your HW platoon, your 85 FPP, and your 12 CPP and see if you can stop me.

Some folks claim that this is an intentional disadvantage placed on the Russians to simulate the desperate situation they faced historically during Hubertus.

Well, that's as may be, but in terms of a competitive game, as printed this is not worth playing.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Comrades Against the Void

Alone or no?
So humanity frets
When gazing at stars.

"If not, are we wise,"
Some wonder, "to seek them out?
Space is deep water."

Worse for me to think
We are alone in this soup:
God's only eyes.

Even conquerors are comrades against the Void.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Things work out

Of late, I've come into the habit of believing that everything is going to be okay.

Somehow. In spite of everything.

It happens that way for people like me. Peace just pops up out of nowhere, overwhelming one's worries. Revealing them as absurd. Like laughter in the face of bigotry.

In mirror of more agitated states, I'm overcome with emotion quite suddenly. As I walk through Creswell Park, tossing peanuts to the crows. As I lay at night beside my wife, watching her shoulder rise and fall with her breathing. In thoughtful moments at the office, watching the nesting mother honker from my window as she sits her eggs next the parking lot.

But nowadays the emotion is joy. Is relief. Is gratitude. Rather than panic or despair.

Life is easier this way. And I know how lucky I am. The world is full of people who will never in all their lives know this kind of peace. Many people. All the way from here to Kabul, Afghanistan. And that breaks my heart.

But things work out. Things work out.