Panzerschreck Design Studio

Journey of a Wargamer – Comments welcomed

ASL: Bocage: back to the hellish hedgerows

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2008, July 31


It’s very seldom I get to obtain two recent ASL products in a timely fashion. Admittedly Valor of the Guards was a tad late in arriving (heh) but Action Pack 4: Normandy 1944 is very much going to see my tabletop within a few days of it’s official retail release by MMP. Milsims again to the fore – less than AU$40 landed as opposed to something like US$45.

As I mentioned on VASL last night in a discussion with Commissar Piotr, I’ve not been overly impressed by MMP’s more recent offerings (AoO and VotG excepted because they’re modules and I’ve nothing but praise for the physical components) as I do think that their production holdups and necessary and justified focus on ASLSK have influenced the usual hands-on aspect of ASL production.

It seemed to me that the recent Journals and the last AP (Few Returned) have lacked that imprimateur, and in some cases have been more codifications of TPP designs (Le Franc Tireur and On Top in J7 for instance). Because my personal take on ASL play and indeed  focus of ASL design philosophy differs diametrically from some of the principals of MMP, I’ve always felt that MMP have done some designers a disservice in the way they run roughshod over the original design in their subsequent revisions.

It’s now at the point where I tend to look at the original provenance of a scenario and prefer to play it as originally designed: again Le Franc Tireur comes to mind. Sometimes I feel that there is a definite shift in play style paradigms outside of the North American continent which doesn’t always translate well when undergoing MMP transformations.

But back to Action Pack 4. Normandy is one of my major interest areas in both miniatures and boardgames. It’s an area of history that I’m reasonably well read in at the small unit level, and so I’m very appreciative of the focus of the new action pack.

Now when I initially heard of AP4, I admit that I was dubious, not wishing to see an action pack that consisted only of an American perspective. This proved to be unfounded thankfully as Chas Argent has taken the role of AP development to a new level of efficiency and I’m going to be seeing a selection of actions and terrain configurations that should keep me going for some time.

The new boards just look very nice indeed:

Board 53

Board 53

Board 54

Board 54

Board 55

Board 55

There’s nothing really to criticise on these boards in terms of the ASL depiction of Bocage, although I’d have preferred perhaps a couple more boards along the lines of board 54 without the village or hills of the other boards. I also would have liked to see perhaps a more naturalistic depiction of the Normandy farm holdings which should  really be multihex stone buildings with possibly rowhouse bars separating the individual buildings rather than actual separate constructions. All minor quibbles really though and something to ponder creating an overlay sheet for or SSRing anyway.

The scenarios are the gravy on this pack though with the boards a sine qua non and the revised Bocage rules a serious step forward in clarity. The preliminary reports I’ve read from ASLers whose views on play balance and excitement level have all been very upbeat and positive which is a good sign.

As for the breakdown in subject matter, well here’s a brief look at the featured actions:

  • A Lesson for Lehr: US vs Germans
  • Raff’s Dilemma: US vs Germans
  • The Head of the Mace: Poles vs Germans
  • Old Hickory: US versus Germans
  • Infiltrators: British vs Germans
  • Bocage Blockage: US vs Germans
  • First Cristot: British vs Germans
  • Second Cristot: British vs Germans
  • Second Crack at Caumont: US vs Germans

I’ve missed one scenario I think. However it’s still a little mystifying to see no Canadian actions featured, but at least we’re spared an over-representation of US paras this time around.

The new bocage rules may well get me to look at getting out the old hedgerow hell scenarios again (but using the McGrath/Chaney modifications as a starting point) and it’ll certainly mean revisiting some of the classic tourney/VASL scenarios that originally kept me going with the Bocage rules as they once were (Hornet of Cloville comes to mind for some reason).

Really though, AP4 is going to satisfy my requirement for geo-map scenarios for the foreseeable future, with VotG and more RB taking care of the HASL map side of things. With a return to regular face to face play via the Paddington Bears, a resurgent PbeM schedule and now a willingness to play live on VASL (as soon as I can get Skype up and running in a manner condusive to resources on the PC), I shouldn’t have many problems getting a lot more games under my belt in the next couple of months.

P-J

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