Designers' Response to Desperation Morale Review of "Death To Fascism" scenario pack

Jacometti

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Mark Pitcavage’s commitment and dedication to the ASL hobby is beyond debate: through his publication of the Scenario Designers’ Guide, his many scenario designs including two complete MMP Action Packs, the maintenance of the extensive Desperation Morale website, and the use of his car license plate to promote the game, he is an iconic figure. He is also known for well-expressed opinions and a high level of engagement on various ASL forums, of course.

Personally, I have had the pleasure of playing ASL with the Pitman at many ASLOKs, and have always thoroughly enjoyed this gamesmanship and sense of humour.

It was therefore with great appreciation that I read Mark’s review of the 2008 Death To Fascism Pack, which I produced with my friend and co-designer Chris Mazzei. I think it is great he has taken the time to present his views and opinions on our product, on a website that should be of interest to anyone who loves the game. So first and most of all: thank you Mark!

Now, knowing the nature of Forum exchanges, you all expect that I will now turn around and use this occasion to flame war, argue desperately; and progress rapidly to the level of personal insults.

Unfortunately, I have to disappoint the reader in that regard.

I think Mark’s review of the Death To Fascism pack does it justice, setting it in contrast with other similar products and especially Friendly Fire, where a total of 17 of our previous scenarios were published. I think his conclusion that the pack, like Friendly Fire, is aimed at “advanced players” is certainly true: Chris and I have always aimed at creating the most complex puzzles, which are not to everyone’s taste.

Mark’s comment that the DTF special rules require quite a bit of additional record-keeping is also true: we tried to help players by providing a separate free set of Player Aids (see the Resources page on Gamesquad – downloaded 120 times so clearly of use to some), but recognize that this is not for everyone. At the same time: most of the scenarios will take 4-6 hours to play….so I hope an extra 15 minutes of record keeping will be worth the time. After all, the reward is a significant increase in Fog of War, which is key to the “more advanced” games we wished to offer.

On the purchase of SWPP, I think I disagree with Mark’s view that “an optimal set of SW purchases will soon be found for each side”, which would “remove much of the flavor”.

I would be keen to find an answer to that question, by asking players who have played most of the scenarios in the Pack (especially competitively), whether they can pretty much guess what each side would buy for the most popular scenarios, such as Death To Fascism, Blitzkrieg, and True Grit.
 

Jacometti

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My final response is to the conclusion of Mark’s review, which states “Overall, the Death to Fascism pack is interesting, and the pack rules and relatively large size of the scenarios certainly distinguish it from its Friendly Fire forebears, but your Humble Author could easily do without the pack rules.”

It is often the case that one starts a journey without knowing its final destination. In the case of Death To Fascism, this project started “accidentally” and its final scope only became clear after the completion of the first Pack.

One fine day, Chris and I were playing a Friendly Fire Scenario (Panzer Shield) on VASL. After a few Turns, all but one of the Russian SW and SMC had become known to me – so I knew for certain that the concealed 3-counter stack in a grainfield was a squad with light mortar. So I just drove up with my Panzer and Overran the poor blighters. We then said to each other “this type of situation sucks in ASL – someone should design a Scenario Pack where this should not be so easy.” We understood that this would only work as a Pack with its own set of rules for all scenarios, otherwise the SSR for one would be too much to bear.

So we set out to pull together a set of Special Rules, which had three main aims:

1) Bring the Fog of War on enemy units/SW for daytime scenarios at par with Night Rules – ie every defending stack will be two counters high, and it could be a dummy or a real Kill Stack.

2) Add as a standard a high level of uncertainty over the SW in possession of the opposing side – a FT or a HMG is a completely different weapon, especially if you do not know which the other side may have purchased

3) Include some “general” rules, which aim to reduce extremely “gamey” solutions to the puzzle, so as to make these simply standard of play. Mark calls these “grudge rules” and I do not object to the term. Anyone who disagrees with us if free to play without these “General” rules – just do not blame the designers if Kindling or the intentional Rubbling of victory buildings ruins your game. Those shenanigans are difficult to design-proof against, we say from experience.

Chris and I decided to present this set of Rules across a wide range of historical situations, just like the Friendly Fire pack – so as not to confine them to any theater or battle. We just love the variety ASL offers and wanted to exploit that to the maximum.

The result, our first Death To Fascism Pack, therefore asks the player to a) commit to and invest in our philosophy of “increased complexity/fog of war” and b) preferably play multiple scenarios from the Pack, so as to be familiar with them and play them correctly.

This year, at ASLOK, Chris and I will publish the second pack in the DTF series, called Not One Step Back. Once again, it is our joint venture with an exceptional set of Danish playtesters, organized by Michael Hastrup and Bo Siemsen, our long-time friends from within the European ASL tournament scene. After this, we intend to publish one final instalment in the DTF trilogy, with 9 more scenarios.

Along the way, it has become our clear goal and commitment to provide the ASL community with a complete set of 25 varied and complex scenarios, all based around a single set of DTF special rules. We hope many players will find our basic concepts appealing and worth the extra effort required. So in our view, the DTF Special Rules ARE the Pack, even if Mark feels he could just as well do without them.
 

Jacometti

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OK, that's nice and all and 25 is a good number but then what are you going to make for us?

I mean, that's what everyone is going to want to ask, so I'm just getting ahead of the game here. ;)
I suppose we will retire with grace from scenario designing.......after 50 scenarios (25 before DTF and 25 under it) I think we have done our best, we have no wish to rehash or drop quality......
 

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I've enjoyed DtF and eagerly await the next installment, special rules and all. But I admit to not being all that fond of hidden SW. My sense is that, at most, it only makes a modest difference to the outcome of the game which doesn't justify the extra record keeping and increased possibility of something being misplayed. ("Oh, crap, I forgot that guy had an LMG."). Also, combined with pre-game purchases it can slow setup time quite a bit. I freely admit this is mostly a matter of taste on my part.
 
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Jacometti

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I've enjoyed DtF and eagerly await the next installment, special rules and all. But I admit to not being all that found of hidden SW. My sense is that, at most, it only makes a modest difference to the outcome of the game which doesn't justify the extra record keeping and increased possibility of something being misplayed. ("Oh, crap, I forgot that guy had an LMG."). Also, combined with pre-game purchases it can slow setup time quite a bit. I freely admit this is mostly a matter of taste on my part.
Completely understood....and should you decide to play it with all SW and SMC on board, it should have a minor if not insignificant effect on balance.

Maybe play it with Defender Balance in that case.....
 

aiabx

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As long as you're playing players who can keep track of where their hidden stuff is, I think the leader and SW rules are outstanding, and I would be happy to see them as official optional rules.
 
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Good, generally balanced scenarios with fog of war is a good thing that should happen more often.

How can someone from 600 yards away know that is where officer X and support weapon Y is located?

Eventually you pretty much know where everything is located, it just takes time and actual use to be known to your enemy.

Similarly, I am also a big fan of pick group A or group B or group C rather than a fixed OB so that you have variety and a reason to play a scenario a second time.
 

Cult.44

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Completely understood....and should you decide to play it with all SW and SMC on board, it should have a minor if not insignificant effect on balance.

Maybe play it with Defender Balance in that case.....
I could do that but, being a tournament goer, I play scenarios as designed regardless of my grudges and pet peeves. And I suppose it's not entirely inconceivable that, once in a great while, my complaints are misplaced.
 

Jacometti

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I could do that but, being a tournament goer, I play scenarios as designed regardless of my grudges and pet peeves. And I suppose it's not entirely inconceivable that, once in a great while, my complaints are misplaced.
I can only say that I experience a great sense of joy and wargaming realism when I see a defense made up only of two-counter stacks with a concealment counter on top, with the knowledge there must still be some HIP around as well.

It pushes me out of the comfort zone of counter-counting and closer to the sheer terror of assaulting the unknown.
 

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Dinan CG has purchasing your reinforcement. But the French have t buy them a turn ahead. Before the 1 scenario they have to buy their reinforcements for CG Date 1 and also for CG Date 2. At the end of each turn you purchase reinforcement.
we put this in to make the French player suffer from slow and inaccurate intelligence.
 

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Dinan CG has purchasing your reinforcement. But the French have t buy them a turn ahead. Before the 1 scenario they have to buy their reinforcements for CG Date 1 and also for CG Date 2. At the end of each turn you purchase reinforcement.
we put this in to make the French player suffer from slow and inaccurate intelligence.
Early in my ASL days I once designed a couple of longer scenarios where I allowed players to purchase units each turn for several turns, but based on what the reinforcements were, they would come in some turns later. Nearby reinforcements would come faster, while others would take longer. I felt that would make players make strategic decisions. Is something less good but sooner to arrive better? Or is it better to hold out until the heavy cavalry comes? And other questions of that nature.
 

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I have often toyed with a scenario idea based on the idea of a breakthrough into operational space along a Highway. The idea would be to require the attacker to cross the length/width of a board on a certain pace and cross some number of boards by game end. The DEFENDER would get random units and random quality each board to represent the cooks and such thrown into the fray. To me, it sounds pretty interesting but playtesting it would be a beast. Add to that, the drive towards tournament scenarios suggests this would see little play. Still, I have been eyeing some 1941 ideas. I have more time now in Stuttgart but I have a lot of interests. Perhaps something will work out. -- jim
 

Jacometti

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I have often toyed with a scenario idea based on the idea of a breakthrough into operational space along a Highway. The idea would be to require the attacker to cross the length/width of a board on a certain pace and cross some number of boards by game end. The DEFENDER would get random units and random quality each board to represent the cooks and such thrown into the fray. To me, it sounds pretty interesting but playtesting it would be a beast. Add to that, the drive towards tournament scenarios suggests this would see little play. Still, I have been eyeing some 1941 ideas. I have more time now in Stuttgart but I have a lot of interests. Perhaps something will work out. -- jim
Hi Jim,

I would not think you should worry about scenario size and play time, just design away ! There are real opportunities to play large scenarios at tournaments, including the full day Thursday games at Albany and the Godzilla at ASLOK.

For the DTF Pack, the largest scenario Blitzkrieg! now has 31 recordings on ROAR, the second highest number of all. So I think if the scenario is fun, even large ones will see a good amount of play, tournaments or friendly.

One bit of advice: make sure the action starts on Turn 1. Making scenarios with very large maps can lure you into lots of movement without much happening in the way of contact. That is generally not why people play big scenarios, they want loads of action everywhere on those big maps.
 

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One bit of advice: make sure the action starts on Turn 1. Making scenarios with very large maps can lure you into lots of movement without much happening in the way of contact. That is generally not why people play big scenarios, they want loads of action everywhere on those big maps.
For sure. There are plenty of scenarios I have played where I think "why didn't they cut two turns off this and start each side right in each other's face". Playing two turns of counting each other's movement isn't engaging at all. -- jim
 

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I've enjoyed DtF and eagerly await the next installment, special rules and all. But I admit to not being all that fond of hidden SW. My sense is that, at most, it only makes a modest difference to the outcome of the game which doesn't justify the extra record keeping and increased possibility of something being misplayed. ("Oh, crap, I forgot that guy had an LMG."). Also, combined with pre-game purchases it can slow setup time quite a bit. I freely admit this is mostly a matter of taste on my part.
I have played a scenario recently wherein my defenders were allowed to set up with the leaders and SW kept off-board and recorded on a side note. Although I liked the 'fog of war' aspect of these rules, I have to admit that I did occasionally lose track of the locations of these units/weapons during the game. I would attribute this mainly to my unfamiliarity with these rules, and I would be willing to try the initially hidden leader/SW system again in the future.

The only drawback with these rules which I could see was that it somewhat slowed our gameplay, with me having to frequently refer back to my notes, along with looking up boresighted locations. This certainly had a more profound game slowing effect than the position of my leader counters at the bottom of my stacks.
 

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Early in my ASL days I once designed a couple of longer scenarios where I allowed players to purchase units each turn for several turns, but based on what the reinforcements were, they would come in some turns later. Nearby reinforcements would come faster, while others would take longer. I felt that would make players make strategic decisions. Is something less good but sooner to arrive better? Or is it better to hold out until the heavy cavalry comes? And other questions of that nature.
In the Dinant CG the French have to balance the fact that if they buy infantry early on they’ll have to move almost 50 hexes to,get to the cliffs. Buying vehicles will get you there faster but can get knocked out by Germans firing from across the river.
The,German have their own problems. They have to balance buying troops to replace those lost in crossing the Meuse in addition to the Pontoon Bridge sections and the engineers to assemble them. They are in the fight from the first hex on board and they have to meet up in a place where they can get the bridges built. Down the hill through narrow streets. Traffic control is a german problem
 

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I've enjoyed DtF and eagerly await the next installment, special rules and all. But I admit to not being all that fond of hidden SW. My sense is that, at most, it only makes a modest difference to the outcome of the game which doesn't justify the extra record keeping and increased possibility of something being misplayed. ("Oh, crap, I forgot that guy had an LMG."). Also, combined with pre-game purchases it can slow setup time quite a bit. I freely admit this is mostly a matter of taste on my part.
That was basically my conclusion after playing one of them. It was a good scenario, by the way. But yeah, the juice didn't seem worth the squeeze on the hidden SW. I could take it or leave it.
 
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