Another year already? Seems like just yesterday I was walking the halls of the Bowie, Maryland, Comfort Inn for Winter Offensive, the East Coast’s premier Advanced Squad Leader tournament and all-around game fest. The time between these confabs flies by, or perhaps that’s just a side effect of getting older.
As ever, hosts Multi-Man Publishing put on a fine show, with Winter Offensive 2014 seeing a record 134 attendees by Saturday afternoon, eight higher than last year’s record of 126. All three ballrooms were open from Thursday’s start, and the extra initial space was much appreciated. Quite a few people were already there by Thursday evening, more than I had seen in years past. The crowd was mostly the same as ever, with familiar faces in abundance and a smattering of new (to me) players.
I started festivities with a playing of Three Crowns/MMP’s A Victory Complete, an operational-level look at the Tannenberg campaign. Chris Chapman, a long-time gaming compatriot, took the overwhelmed yet qualitatively superior Germans against my overwhelming yet qualitatively inferior Russians. The chit-draw game system felt like a comfortable fit for the situation, and we took the game almost to the end before we called it, with the Germans managing to push the Russians out of Prussia, but not enough for more than a marginal victory. Nice graphics overall on this one, though the corps colors for the Russians were nigh indistinguishable from one another in some circumstances, leading to much confusion in a system dependent upon corps-by-corps activations.
The main event (mine, at least) came on Friday, when I matched up with another of my long-time opponents, Doug Bush, in a playing of SPI’s BAOR, part of the Central Front Series focusing on operational-level battles in a thankfully hypothetical WWIII. I had the doughty British Army of the Rhine, holding the Weser River with considerable help from the Belgians and West Germans, while Doug drove the first and second Soviet echelons against my thin line. Neither of us had played the series before, but we soon got the hang of the rather unorthodox attack-as-movement system and the tracking of units’ gradual-then-sudden deterioration via friction points. By the end of the day—we put in a good twelve hours—the Soviets had achieved a substantial victory, with several more turns (and another echelon) to go. They hadn’t breached the Weser, though, so I’ll chalk up a moral victory.
The system plays smoothly, particularly for the highly mobile contemporary forces involved. I don’t know that I’ll break this one out again anytime soon, but I’m quite pleased to have finally gotten this old gem (from 1981) off the shelf and onto the table.
For me, this Winter Offensive will probably be remembered as the year I finally broke down and played ASL again, for the first time in years and years. Regular gaming chum Mike Vogt graciously faced off against me and my absurdly dusty rule book in an all-day Saturday scenario, the Chas Smith-designed “The Shan Capital,” featuring Chinese GMD troops holding a town against Thai (!) forces in 1942 Burma. Gotta play something like that, no question, so I took the plunge back into the tactical game system. Mike held on for the victory with a very cagey fighting withdrawal, limiting me to two of the four required victory buildings by scenario’s end. I even managed a Thai hero creation. That’s a feather in any gamer’s hat.
It was good to get some ASL under my belt again. I might have to start playing a bit more—there’s a reason the system is going strong almost thirty years after its release.
No Winter Offensive would be complete without some late-night gaming. I played in fewer than usual this year, only managing one play of Sierra Madre’s Pax Porfiriana, my current card game of choice, and one of FFG’s Battlestar Galactica, a game that has become something of a cult favorite with my gaming crowd. The humans lost in the latter, coming a single jump away from reaching Kobol, but the toasters prevailed, as is their metallic wont.
My thanks to the team at MMP for another great three days of gaming. Now if only I could get three days of sleep to compensate.