To most people, Oktoberfest conjures up notions of Bavaria, beer halls, and bratwurst, and all fine contributions to human culture they are. To aficionados of Advanced Squad Leader, however, Oktoberfest means a week-long celebration of wargaming in some nondescript hotel in and around Cleveland, Ohio, the longest running (and arguably finest) ASL tournament going. In celebration of this carnival of camaraderie and competition, Multi-Man Publishing, stewards of ASL, just released their fifth scenario-and-map Action Pack in conjunction with ASL Oktoberfest.
ASL Action Pack #18: Oktoberfest XXXVII features two geomorphic mapboards (91 and 92) in the now-standard “Starter Kit” style of thick cardstock plus fourteen ASL scenarios, AP191-204, all on traditional cardstock, sandwiched between front and end sheets on glossy stock with cover art depicting a Crocodile blazing away by Nicolas Eskubi. In keeping with the general “tournament” nature of this Action Pack, the scenarios tend towards the compact, with only two clocking in at seven or more turns and three at a mere four-and-a-half turns. Unit density likewise reflects an emphasis on the manageable, and all should be playable within a six hour span, assuming reasonably punctual players.
The new maps, 91 and 92, hail from the talented Charlie Kibler. Board 91 is a riot of greens, with woods and brush everywhere and a long Level -1 Valley that runs the length of the map. It’s a striking board, one of the strongest in recent years. Board 92 depicts a more normal crossroads village, though curiously dominated by stone row houses more often seen in purely urban settings. Two roadside hills offer intriguing defensive opportunities.
All fourteen scenarios were designed Pete Shelling and the late Bill Sisler, both hailing from the Buckeye State, making this an all-Ohio affair. The Germans appear on quite a few of the cards, against American, Russian, Partisan, and British opposition, with a single scenario set in the Pacific and, pleasingly, four actions taking place during the Korean War with the North Koreans facing American troops from the 1st Cavalry. The latter quartet might be considered a continuation of sorts from Action Pack #17, the entirety of which covered the actions of the First Team in World War II and the Korean War. It’s good to see MMP continuing to support the Korean War module with additional scenarios. That conflict represents the furthest extent the ASL system can really cover, chronologically, being so close to World War II as it was in terms of weapons and tactics. Hopefully more gamers will give those scenarios a try.
My personal picks from the scenarios include AP191 East Wind by Bill Sisler, with its rarely seen Extreme Winter conditions making life miserable for Russian and German alike; Pete Shelling’s AP194 Not Fade Away, pitting a German defense on the two new boards against American infantry backed up by some Shermans; and AP204 Southside Seesaw, also by Shelling, with a thin force of North Korean defenders holding against a mass of US 1st Cavalry infantry lugging a recoilless rifle up Alpine Hills on Deluxe maps, not something you see every day. Honorable mention goes to Sisler’s AP197 Killer Cats & Easy Eights, an all-AFV affair in the snow that gives 11th Armored’s CCB a total of sixteen up-gunned Sherman variants against half as many German tanks and tank destroyers.
As ever, to play it all you need to own it all when it comes to Advanced Squad Leader, and Action Pack #18 proves no exception. For the player with everything, though, or at least close enough thereunto, Action Pack #18 is yet another automatic purchase. The two new maps, particularly 91, give scenario designers even more options, and the scenarios avoid being big, tedious slugfests, the time, space, and force constraints that are inherent to “tournament” scenarios forcing players to use what they have to the best of their abilities, while still having room for a beer and another scenario right afterwards—which, if we’re honest, is the whole point of a tournament anyway…