Sure, it may have been seventy degrees outside, but this past weekend in Bowie, Maryland, it was Winter Offensive 2013 inside, as Multi-Man Publishing‘s annual Advanced Squad Leader tournament and all-around gamefest took place.
Attendance at the East Coast’s premier ASL event initially seemed a bit off from years past (though no complaints from a table-space perspective), perhaps owing to the slightly changed date. Typically, Winter Offensive is held over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, but the proximity of the Presidential Inauguration put paid to those plans this year. Saturday, however, saw a major influx of gamers, bringing the total up to 126 over the course of the event, pipping 2012’s 125 gamers.
The old gang was all in attendance, and, as has become my wont, I managed to play a total of zero games of ASL, though my resistance weakened somewhat when I saw a beautiful scenario featuring bicycle-mounted Japanese troops supported by some of the most obscure tankettes in the game in the Phillipines facing U.S. Army cavalry. Early war, PTO, junky tanks, and bicycles? Yes, please! Time to dust off the ol’ rulebook, I think.
I managed to game aplenty, though. After spending much of Thursday catching up with people, I spent the vast majority of Friday playing a huge scenario from GMT’s Bloody April, a World War One grand tactical air game, with my Germans (including von Richtofen himself) facing off against Doug Bush’s British pilots.
Though the Germans tallied far more British flights shot down (the Baron himself had four kills), the Brits were able to accomplish more than enough of their objectives to see them win handily. The system is nice, though a bit cumbersome given the need to track nearly ten variables per flight counter on the map. Still, by the end of fifty turns, we had the climbing, diving, and dogfighting down pat.
Friday evening was given over to GMT’s Twilight Struggle against Chris Chapman, who took the Soviets against my Americans in a replay of the Cold War. Honors were even until the mid-war phase, at which point the Soviets scored quite a few regions. With a +16 VP lead, Chris seemed in control, so I started to play around with DEFCON, but the gamble led to an unfortunate end for the planet when the Soviets were able to push DEFCON to zero owing to my own card play. A rematch has been demanded!
Far too bright and early on Saturday, I faced off against Mike Vogt in MMP’s No Question of Surrender, taking the Italians as they besieged the Free French in their desert fort. This was my first experience with MMP’s Grand Tactical System, a company level, chit-activation wargame. While I like the underlying system—it’s simple to learn but difficult to get all the parts working synergistically—I was underwhelmed by the tactical situation portrayed. The Italians pretty much just crashed like weak waves against the French fort, and Mike was probably getting tired of rolling so much opportunity fire against them. Still, it was nice to see the rules in action, and always a pleasure to match wits with Mike.
By Saturday afternoon, a bit of heavy-gaming fatigue had started to set in, so lighter fare became the norm, and I played through two games of FFG’s Battlestar Galactica. Much to my dismay, I was never a Cylon traitor, though I was accused of such in both games (and even sent to the brig once). The Cylons won the first game without much fuss, but the second saw cagier play by the humans, leading to a narrow escape from the toasters. I’d gladly play this one again, but you need a good-natured group for it—the potential (nay, necessity) for offense in this one requires playing against gamers who enjoy gaming more than they enjoy winning.
Winter Offensive always leaves me drained in the aftermath, but for three days of gaming, I’m ready to put it on the calendar for next year. After I catch up on my sleep, that is.