BFF 2021 (Blackpool) Tournament AAR

Toby Pilling

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I had a great time at the Bounding First Fire tournament in Blackpool last weekend, culminating in my reaching the final, where I just lost out to Ian Morris. I thought I'd pen a few lines regarding that final game and give some general thoughts on the tournament itself.

The unusual aspect about the whole tournament, its 'unique selling point', as it were, is that it requires no preparation in advance as all the scenarios are unpublished and have gone through many rounds of playtesting already. Unfortunately, for the first time this year, I came across players who were part of the playtest team of BFF, so was most surprised when in the first round my opponent disclosed that he'd already played earlier drafts of the scenario we were about to play - half a dozen times! He was gracious enough to allow me to choose my side and we had a good game, but I must admit that I found this a development a little disquieting, although I'm not sure there's anything that can be done about it.

What I also observed was that all the scenarios (though not the final one) appeared to my eyes to favour a skilled defender, though they might appear balanced at average levels of play. Perhaps this observation influenced my choice of sides in the final round, which was a PTO scenario called 'Aggressive Response' and featured a Japanese force of second line quality attempting to overcome defending Red Chinese partisans. The Japanese could enter on three different mapboard edges, which I find a great advantage when attacking, but I chose the Red Chinese because I could see a decent defensive strategy for them - my opponent chose the Japanese, so we both got what we wanted.

The funny thing was that, after I set up and walked around the venue looking at the deployments of my fellow Chinese players, I could see that my own strategy appeared unique - every other player had stretched out their forces across the board, whereas mine concentrated the defenders around the jungle mass. I feared for the chances of my Sino brothers-in-arms, for I worried that they would simply be overwhelmed and surrounded in short order - a prophecy that came all too true, as it turned out.

Anyway, my own game started badly as the Japanese advanced blithely into my stealthy defenders but I could not get an ambush for love nor money. I did like the way Ian used his leaders aggressively to benefit from their stealthy status but even so, I should have been doing far better ambush-wise. This provoked a mini-counterattack on my part as I judged that I could take advantage of a numerical imbalance and some concealment to take out some of his vulnerable units - alas, my dismal rolls for ambush continued and I must admit, dear reader, that I did whine a bit.

As an aside, I thought I should mention here my general loathing of any dice that have alternative symbols to a simple 'one' dot on them. Whether it's a roundel, a star or a rising sun, my brain takes a nano-second longer to process the result and the irregularity of the symbol also causes me to notice it more. This means that I have the annoying feeling that such dice roll a one more often that normal dice, even if they are otherwise machine-tooled precision dice. Perhaps part of my antipathy towards them rubbed off on me from the great Gary Trezza, who I seem to recall despised all such dice and actually banned them from his tournament when he ran Albany. Anyway, be that as it may, Ian was using some of those dice and when I mentioned my hatred of them, he did straight away offer to use his other, normal dice - if they'd been precision dice, I would probably have taken him up on the offer. As it stood, I simply asked him not to use the dice with symbols when rolling for ambush - and he still rolled lower than me!

Getting back to my game, my defense was getting chewed up, though at some cost to the Japanese. Happily, one part of my counterattack did work - my last remaining dare-death squad, appropriately. They went on a rampage and led the Japanese on a merry chase across the board to stymie the swathe of carnage they were causing. Neither of us played perfect games - Ian missed out when he could have wholly encircled my remaining strong stack and I mistakenly revealed a concealed unit late on. Regardless, on his last advance phase I had the odds in my favour, but the damnable ambush rolls let me down again and he won. A great game though, hard fought - he'd lost ten of his fourteen squads by game end (I calculated my heroic dare-death squad had eliminated, through fire and hand-to-hand, 3 squads, a crew and a leader.) I look forward to playing Ian again some time.

So there you have it. My only feedback would be that the Saturday afternoon/evening scenario was, I feel, a little too ambitious in rules challenges and size to provide an easily completable experience - most games were abandoned early. Many thanks to the organisers, Martin and Simon, though, as my feelings towards the tournament remain extremely positive - I truly believe it proffers some unique challenges to ASL gamers, that more top players from abroad ought to visit to sample.
 

Tuomo

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The funny thing was that, after I set up and walked around the venue looking at the deployments of my fellow Chinese players, I could see that my own strategy appeared unique - every other player had stretched out their forces across the board, whereas mine concentrated the defenders around the jungle mass. I feared for the chances of my Sino brothers-in-arms, for I worried that they would simply be overwhelmed and surrounded in short or
If I'm Toby Pilling and I notice everyone else has a different defense than me, I think to myself how sad for these wankers, they just don't get it.

Perhaps you're not Pillinging right.
 

Gamer72

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If I'm Toby Pilling and I notice everyone else has a different defense than me, I think to myself how sad for these wankers, they just don't get it.

Perhaps you're not Pillinging right.
😊
I recall someone coming over and looking at Toby’s defence and saying “ah that’s how it’s done, I’m doing that then”.
 

Craig Benn

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I liked 'aggressive reaction' - thought it was an interesting match up between stealthy, non cowering, kind commissars chicoms and step reducing, -1 HTH, banzaing non-stealthy Japanese.

I won as the Chinese - my set up might have appeared linear, but one end was all dummies. I collapsed into a semi-circle with the base the board edge the Japanese couldn't enter. It worked quite well until my Turn3 when I made a schoolboy error and pulled back my line but left one unit in view via a hexside clearing which allowed a banzai. My fire and close combat was pretty ineffective and I was left with remnants after about 8-9 squads crashed into me.

I managed to complicate things by running a squad round the back of the Japanese, and my dare death half squad killing his opponent in CC and running him forward forcing the Japanese to run back men after them. On the final turn there were about five CCs and I had to only win one and survive. Lost the first, my dare death half squad did the business in the second and didn't roll the remainder.
Definitely passed the fun factor test.

Great tournament as always. Nice to see some completely new faces for once - which seem to be people reconnecting with the game during lockdown rather than youngsters but still good. Nice to see old faces too. Martin definitely needed a haircut.

Ian Morris knocked me out in the semis deservedly but the pain was well cushioned by the prizes. I scored a From the Cellar10 ( Naktong pass historical map) for making the semis and battleschool dice for the minis. Some outstanding prizes knocking about.
 

RRschultze

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'Aggressive Reaction' was probably the best scenario i played over the tournament. I played against Joe Arthur in this one in the final of the PTO Mini on Sunday. I took the Japanese in this one and ended up being an extremely close game, going down to the last turn. I had a couple of japanese squads chasing a chinese squad across the map to avoid being next to the stream. Overall 7-1 for the tournament, losing my only game in the group stage to Ian Morris who went on to play Toby in Final. Extremely tense game against Ian, but he deservedly won. Winning 2 mini tournaments and having the opportunity to play against new opponents and meet everyone again after such a long time was good. I echo Craig's comments above re the prizes. I was fortunate enough to win some dice, couple of scenario packs and a signed Ken Smith print of the picture on the front of Hakka Palle. Big shoutout to Martin and Simon for yet another excellent tournament and to all the attendees who were able to attend the event.
 

JoeArthur

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ended up being an extremely close game
Might have been easier for you Ian if we had remembered that the Japanese officers are stealthy and so get the -1 to ambush even if moving in with those Japanese 2nd line squads...............

That Red Chinese squad of mine you were chasing around the board would have been dead earlier.

Fun scenario - it would be interesting to know how many Red Chinese players won though.

Many thanks to Martin and Simon for all the hard work.
 
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