I just completed my 2nd ASL tournament. I started playing ASL around 13 months ago, and I played in the ASL tournament last July and again this past weekend. The tournament is three days at the end of July and offers a total of five official games – two Friday, two Saturday, and one Sunday. i say official games, because many people get a chance to play additional games in between if time permits. I played six games this weekend, winning one for an official record of 1-4. It was only my second win in full ASL, so I am more than happy to get the one. I had fun, I learned, and I got better. I call it a success.
The tournament itself is held in a hotel conference room. Most of the players stay at the hotel, but since I am lucky enough to live 10 minutes away, I return home each night. There is theoretically room for 18-20 games simultaneously, but in reality the room gets pretty crowded as the players’ “kits” – 30 years worth of maps, counters, rulebooks, and accessories – take up a lot of space. We had 28 players this year, so some of the tables were double-booked and it was a little crowded.
The first official games on Friday are open to whoever is there. There are no matchups – just find another player, pick a scenario, and start playing. A super nice guy named Wes Vaughn invited me over to play a Schwerpunkt scenario called Baloons, Cakes, and Ponies (SP274). What a name. I have never played with cavalry before, and there was even a German Stuka that had plans for a flyover so it looked fun to me. I played the German defenders, and he played the Russian attackers. Having never played with Cavalry before, I was not expecting their speed at all and they quickly got behind my defenses. There were some great moments, like when my hidden artillery blasted his unsuspecting riders into oblivion, and when his cavalry tried to throw a demolition charge at my machine gun nest, only to blow himself up. On the other hand, a low percentage shot from long range completely destroyed my reinforcements as they tried to shore up the rear defenses. Halfway through the game, it was obvious how it was going to end, but with a Stuka that was incoming, I wanted to at least wait to drop a bomb on someone. I did and it was great, but afterwards I conceded. It was a great learning experience. Afterwards, more than one person came up to tell me that Wes is one of the best players around, and sure enough, his name is on the back of the shirt several times as a past champion.
With Wes handling me so efficiently, Mark DeVries flagged me down to play a practice game. Mark was looking to play as many games as possible, so we played a small scenario designed by the Kansas City group called The Brickworks (MM47). It is a small Stalingrad scenario on one board, with the defenders responsible for taking three buildings. I played the attacking Germans this time. It was a very straightforward scenario, and I would highly recommend it as a quick one or for anyone that wants to play mostly infantry. In the end, I got two of the three buildings, and Mark’s Russians claimed the victory.
My Friday evening opponent was an unexpected treat. I got to play against Grumble Jones, an ASL blogger that I have been reading for quite some time. Grumble Jones, or Scott Mullins if you prefer, sat down to play Silesian Interlude (ASL J63). I played the defending Russians, and Scott played the attacking Germans. His job was to take four buildings for me and then exit a number of units off the map. I had a nice hill with a good field of fire on which to put an antitank gun, I had two more tanks hidden and all three had boresighted strategic locations. My troops were hidden in the buildings with some in foxholes as well, and the foxholes were positioned to provide fallback points and good counterattacks into the victory buildings. I think I had a good strategy. Unfortunately, sometimes you do need a little luck. On Scott’s first turn of the game, on my first shot of the game, the AT gun opened up on a bore-sighted location and I rolled a 12 (two dice). For you non-ASLers rolling a 12 not only misses but breaks your gun as well. On my first turn, I had a chance to fix that gun. For my second roll of the game, I rolled a 6 (one die). For you non-ASLers, that means that my gun is now permanently destroyed. Oof. After that, things got better and there was some amazing foxhole fighting and I had a couple of heroes emerge that gave Scott the hardest of times. In the end, he prevailed, but it was a good, hard-fought match. I was 0-2 officially, but I got to sit down with a guy I respect and have a great match.
Saturday morning’s opponent was to be John Schneider. John had just arrived, so he was 0-0 to my 0-2. We decided on a Winter Offensive scenario called Checking Out (WO27). This was a strange scenario. We both enjoyed playing, but I think we both agreed that the scenario itself was lacking. I played the German attackers, all elite SS units. He played the American defenders, all elite paratroopers. Every building on the board was stone, and the scenario specific rules added a +1 hinderance due to low light conditions. This meant that almost all of the shots in the game were +4, making it very hard to get any sort of effect. I had to get across some streets, and that led to him being able to take adjacent shots and double strength. Basically, everyone in the buildings was safe and everyone in the street was getting killed. As the attacker, I had to get across those streets, and I never really did with enough force to threaten victory. I enjoyed playing with him but this was my most lopsided loss. I was 0-3.
Saturday evening paired me up with Cary Tyler. We decided to play Koniev’s Finest (FT219), an open ground huge tank battle. In reality, his goal was just to rush the other side, and my goal was to blow him up before he could. It looked like a blast to play (pun completely intended) and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Cary was not really that interested in shooting me for the most part – he just wanted to get off the board. He did take a few shots and succeeded in creating a few pillars of fire, but mostly it was me shooting at him. After I realized that three of his Tiger tanks had armor that I had no chance of penetrating, I started picking off the smaller ones, I was having a decent level of success. I had one tank that refused to start, so that slowed me down, and I had to send a second tank to kill a truck due to the fact that the truck counted the same as the tanks for exiting the board. Other than that, it came down to the last shot of the game. I had one of his tanks facing away from me and I had 2 shots from 2 hexes away – one with a Panzerschreck and one with a 75L gun. Either would have been almost certain kills, and I missed both shots. The Russians escaped and I was 0-4.
Sunday morning was my last chance for a win. I expected to be playing my friend Maurizio, who was also 0-3 and headed toward 0-4 when I went home Saturday night. Maurizio pulled out the victory, though, and I was paired with Rich Burton. Rich and I decided to play Varosmajor Grange (RPT3). I have a soft spot for minor powers, especially the Hungarians, so I jumped at the chance to play the attacking Hungarians against Rich’s Russians. I have a full AAR on this one that I would encourage you to read, but the short version is that his flamethrower tank ran out of fuel, my wounded leader played the action hero role, and I won my first tournament game.
The Saint Louis ASL tournament is one of the best weekends of the year for me, and since it is 10 minutes away from my house, I expect to go every year. I am going to try to make it to Kansas City’s March Madness tournament next year as well, and maybe go to the Texas ASL tournament or ASLOK sometime, too. It’s my favorite game, and getting to play it all weekend makes for a great time.