J197 Death On The French Coast

David Goldman

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Today I lost yet another scenario as the Germans, J197 Death On The French Coast. Wes Vaughn (French) and I question the ROAR record. How did the Germans manage to win four times? If you were a participant in one of those four German wins, we'd like to know what the heck happened. Kindly private email me at:

frango1000@sbcglobal.net
 
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Partizan Eric

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Today I lost yet another scenario as the Germans, J192 Death On The French Coast. Wes Vaughn (French) and I question the ROAR record. How did the Germans manage to win four times? If you were a participant in one of those four German wins, we'd like to know what the heck happened. Kindly private email me at:

frango1000@sbcglobal.net
For J192, the EVP provided by prisonners are the key of the scenario. IMHO.
 

David Goldman

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No matter how many prisoners you manage to take, if as I believe the French can effectively cover the exit area and the approaches to it, prisoners that die with their guards don't add up to anything.
 

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Another pro-defender scenario from Journal #13, eh? I found the 3 I have played were really tough on the attacker,
though one was rough on the defense, not impossible but things have to really go right to have a chance at the end.
You often ended up needing at least another turn. A really good player would probably beat my defense in any of
them but if more or less even in skill, bid defender in these for your best chance even though the attacker looks
much more fun, for J203 Death at the Cement Plant and J206 Collect Call, though I had a bad experience as the defender
in J215 Expendable Allies and easily won as the Russians in WO44 Little Village. I still think these are good products
and maybe I'm missing something, I'm a good player but not in the top group for sure but know enough that I would
love to hear how anyone else did in these, they all look fun to play, just seems to favor one side a bit.
 

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Another pro-defender scenario from Journal #13, eh? I found the 3 I have played were really tough on the attacker,
though one was rough on the defense, not impossible but things have to really go right to have a chance at the end.
You often ended up needing at least another turn. A really good player would probably beat my defense in any of
them but if more or less even in skill, bid defender in these for your best chance even though the attacker looks
much more fun, for J203 Death at the Cement Plant and J206 Collect Call, though I had a bad experience as the defender
in J215 Expendable Allies and easily won as the Russians in WO44 Little Village. I still think these are good products
and maybe I'm missing something, I'm a good player but not in the top group for sure but know enough that I would
love to hear how anyone else did in these, they all look fun to play, just seems to favor one side a bit.
This is actually more responding to your WO pack post but does apply here also. As you no doubt know playtesting is an inexact art at best whether for the rules or balance. SSRs and VCs are easier to handle compared to how balanced a scenario is for players of different skill levels than the playtesters. Highly skilled players, whether as playtesters or the end consumer, may see paths to victory not perceived by players who are not as skilled as they are.


Larger playtest groups representing several levels of player capability obviously is the best way to go about it but how large are most playtest groups?

The bottom line for me was if the scenario was fun to play. When playtesting we looked for glitches and oversights and if the scenario was obviously skewed to one side. We usually playtested a scenario four or five times depending on revisions to it. This was in the snail mail days so playtesting a scenario to a point where it could published took a while.
 

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Today I lost yet another scenario as the Germans, J192 Death On The French Coast. Wes Vaughn (French) and I question the ROAR record. How did the Germans manage to win four times? If you were a participant in one of those four German wins, we'd like to know what the heck happened.
I'd be interested to know too. I'd also wonder how the scenario was ever considered to be ready for publication. The only conclusion I can draw is that there seems to be a severe deficiency in knowledge of how to defend amongst the playtesters. Against a competent French player, the Germans have no reasonable chance of victory.

The same is essentially true for J209 "Corking the Chambois Bottle"; the Germans look enticingly tough, until you look at the Allied forces and realise they are just as tough (or tougher), are sitting in excellent terrain with fantastic LOS to everywhere the Germans might be tempted to go, have every machine gun ever made, and generally have no disadvantages at all. The function of the Turn 1 Germans is get tangled in the woods, unable to progress very far (assuming that they don't want to die running down that road). The function of the Turn 2 Germans is to die horribly on the open plains; they don't want to die, but the Poles won't give them any alternative. The function of the Turn 3 Germans is to count the corpses; they're certainly useless for anything else.

I didn't play J208 "Panzerpionere!", but two of my friends did, and they have the same opinions of that one, too. The Americans, as defender, are quite unlikely to have much trouble holding off the Germans -- who again look powerful but in practice will have difficulty getting that power where it needs to be in the short space of time available to them.

It was our collective unfortunate experience to play these three scenarios as the first scenarios we played from the new Journal, and given that clearly none of them were adequately tested, we remain dubious about the remaining scenarios. We waited five years for these?
 

volgaG68

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The only conclusion I can draw is that there seems to be a severe deficiency in knowledge of how to defend amongst the playtesters.
I do not know who the PT'ers were, nor do I wish to offend them individually. Of course, this might on occasion fall upon some post-publication players as well. {{I know that Wes is a very sharp player that always finishes near/at the top of tourneys. From my limited knowledge of the OP's "game", he always seems to be right there in the mix at tourneys, so they are more than likely fairly evenly matched.}} God only knows (and some of my oppos), we all have our ASL shortcomings. However, as a whole, I at least thought I had noticed something similar in the ASL community at large a few years ago. I won't give any future oppos an edge by listing my shortcomings, but I had sensed that a fair few players have an overall defensive shortfall. There were scenarios where the community bemoaned the defensive side as having zero chance, and I managed to pull out a closely balanced win when defending against a pretty evenly matched oppo (almost all of my oppos were evenly matched enough to cause the win one-lose one effect).

In such cases, and the opposite, I came to three likely conclusions.
One, the PT Defenders were real good to the point that the publisher decided to overload the Attacker's OOB/VC/etc in future revisions to "balance" it. Post-publication, this trickled down to many as being impossible/too tough for the defensive side, yet balanced for a very astute Defender.
Two, the PT Defenders were not real good to the point that the publisher decided to overload the Defender's OOB/VC/etc in future revisions to "balance" it. Post-publication, this trickled down to many as being impossible/too tough for the attacking side, yet balanced for a very astute Attacker. Think Singling CG.
Three, the PT Defender/Attacker were fairly evenly matched so few revisions were made. With a fair few post-publication players having shortfalls in defense, this particular scenario would emerge as pro-Attacker.

Believe me, I'm not blaming any publishers. One would almost need a scientific handicapping formula to know how much individual PTer performance affected the outcome. Unless one is intimately familiar with both PTer's acumen, I think one has to assume "evenly matched" as the baseline to further revise it. Otherwise, having PTers play it, then change sides and play it again, might be the only (?) way to truly glean a slight/major mismatch between oppos.

My best ASL asset is my defense. A past oppo once opined that I had "mastered the fighting withdrawal", which I humbly accepted. I'm no braggart however, I still have significant holes in many other aspects of ASL. If I could Defend every time, I might actually stand a chance at a tourney.....but back to reality. Which brings me to my final point that I've deduced after years of play and many varied oppos. Many can formulate a good static defense, few can formulate a good fighting withdrawal, and surprisingly a good amount of players have a hard time formulating a classic staggered, fallback defense which falls somewhere between the two.

One could write a pretty informative article (Journal?) on all these varied aspects of PTing. As an 'outsider' to The Biz, I would enjoy reading it. All of this being said, I am pleased with the output of all the reputable publishers. Their finished products are more often than not worth my money. I don't complain of a dog here and there as I don't really know a foolproof solution either for safeguarding against that. I've yet to play anything from J13, so my comments are not reflective of its actual content.
 

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This is actually more responding to your WO pack post but does apply here also. As you no doubt know playtesting is an inexact art at best whether for the rules or balance. SSRs and VCs are easier to handle compared to how balanced a scenario is for players of different skill levels than the playtesters. Highly skilled players, whether as playtesters or the end consumer, may see paths to victory not perceived by players who are not as skilled as they are.


Larger playtest groups representing several levels of player capability obviously is the best way to go about it but how large are most playtest groups?

The bottom line for me was if the scenario was fun to play. When playtesting we looked for glitches and oversights and if the scenario was obviously skewed to one side. We usually playtested a scenario four or five times depending on revisions to it. This was in the snail mail days so playtesting a scenario to a point where it could published took a while.
Yeah, I had fun to a point, the main thing seemed to be needing another turn BUT one thing I have learned is I would have a much better chance the second time around, still think what I mentioned earlier is valid but if I was more familiar with one that I struggled in the first time I would have a better chance the 2nd time around IF the damn dice cooperate. Too many locations to clear and not enough time, just might be me and there is a better way. Those scenarios look pretty good on the cards, I don't think they are broken, just difficult. That might tilt ROAR one way or another for awhile until people figure it out for the side having problems. ASL is always an ultimate puzzle.
 

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I've played Expendable Allies (Attacker won big, because the Poles did not cover well vs the flanking German force), Corking the Chambois Bottle (Defender won but it was tight, an even more aggressive push might have been necessary early on), and am currently playing Panzerpionier! I think the scenarios are quite cool in terms of their OOB and SSRs, and pose some challenging choices for both sides. Wouldn't be able to comment on balance really so far.
 

David Goldman

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I appreciate the discussion that my post sparked. It is interesting to note that no one has yet to claim any of the four German victories. The original question has not been answered. Although I have my opinion about J192, I remain, as always, under the impression that there was a better way to play it (perhaps having an element of good fortune) that resulted in a German win. I'd really like to hear from one of those victors if he is lurking on gamesquad.

As an aside, I personally do not have a quarrel with the assumed game testing process. The fact that so much product gets produced, there are myriad reasons why only a few scenarios each year achieve lasting exalted status. After all, if you consider that all the scenarios played by every player in a year amounts to one gigantic series of engagements, you win some you should lose, you lose some you should have won and occasionally, everything goes as expected. Be happy with the wins, shrug off the losses and move on to the next engagement.
 

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I am playing Death on the French Coast right now (as the Germans). My regular opponent picked it, we diced for sides and I took a closer look and pronounced that I had lost at that point. We'll see. I am not very fond of it so far, but am playing like it's the last turn and I need to just get someone into CC for the most part. It's going surprisingly well. Better lucky than smart I guess. Updates to follow.
 

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My game of J197 featured some very unlucky French. All of their MGs malfed, typically on the first or second shot, and they experienced a variety of issues. As a consequence I was able to make it to about Turn 5 before packing it in as the Germans. If it hadn't been for the generally awful French DRs, I doubt that I would have made it to Turn 3.

There is no question in my mind, and my regular opponents agree, that J197 and J209 are broken and are not the worth the time it takes to play them. As I didn't play J209 myself and only witnessed part of the game, I can't be so dogmatic about it myself, but my friends who did play it also consider it to be hopeless. While I am a long way from being an "expert" player, I think I know enough by now to recognise a lost cause when I see it. I have played (and won) scenarios that I thought was OK but my opponent hated it; obviously different people have different opinions, and your POV is always skewed by which seat you occupy. I've also played scenarios where I only won because, quite simply, my dice were fantastic and my opponent's were awful. I don't feel great winning a scenario for that reason, and I don't like any scenario that is only winnable under such conditions.

I don't think the phenomenon of a scenario being weighted too heavily to the defender because the playtesting didn't sufficiently reveal the actual strengths of the defence is new; it just seems to me to be a little more common these days than it used to be. (In the cases of these three scenarios the problem is not with the attacking forces, which are all perfectly fine in their own way). I certainly don't have any easy and obvious solutions! I guess the moral is, if you think you've playtested your new scenario design sufficiently, you're probably wrong and you need to playtest it more, particularly with different players.

I should add that, of course, it's not always the OB that's the problem; the final question should always be "are these VC achievable assuming sensible tactics and non-extreme DR?". While I think the French in J197 are too strong, the real problem with the scenario is the VC.
 

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My game of J197 featured some very unlucky French. All of their MGs malfed, typically on the first or second shot, and they experienced a variety of issues. As a consequence I was able to make it to about Turn 5 before packing it in as the Germans. If it hadn't been for the generally awful French DRs, I doubt that I would have made it to Turn 3.

There is no question in my mind, and my regular opponents agree, that J197 and J209 are broken and are not the worth the time it takes to play them. As I didn't play J209 myself and only witnessed part of the game, I can't be so dogmatic about it myself, but my friends who did play it also consider it to be hopeless. While I am a long way from being an "expert" player, I think I know enough by now to recognise a lost cause when I see it. I have played (and won) scenarios that I thought was OK but my opponent hated it; obviously different people have different opinions, and your POV is always skewed by which seat you occupy. I've also played scenarios where I only won because, quite simply, my dice were fantastic and my opponent's were awful. I don't feel great winning a scenario for that reason, and I don't like any scenario that is only winnable under such conditions.

I don't think the phenomenon of a scenario being weighted too heavily to the defender because the playtesting didn't sufficiently reveal the actual strengths of the defence is new; it just seems to me to be a little more common these days than it used to be. (In the cases of these three scenarios the problem is not with the attacking forces, which are all perfectly fine in their own way). I certainly don't have any easy and obvious solutions! I guess the moral is, if you think you've playtested your new scenario design sufficiently, you're probably wrong and you need to playtest it more, particularly with different players.

I should add that, of course, it's not always the OB that's the problem; the final question should always be "are these VC achievable assuming sensible tactics and non-extreme DR?". While I think the French in J197 are too strong, the real problem with the scenario is the VC.
I agree with Bruce, several of the recent scenarios I played favor the defense and the time pressure will make you do some rash stuff to get into those buildings, or exit. I think they just need an extra turn is all to make it a more comfortable game for both sides and balance it in time. Collect Call and the Cement Plant look like great scenarios and lost both times I played them as the attacker, I had reasonable luck but felt a turn short to win either. There are a lot of locations in either scenario to deal with, either you need a little more time or a couple more squads. Just my observations of what I have experienced so far, I could be wrong, but my gut tells me I'm not.
 

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Getting ready to play Cement Plant. From all appearances it looks hard on the Russian. But ROAR has it 12 to 5 in favor of the Russians. I guess maybe it's the time as Vic says. But I just don't see those defenders holding up vs what the Germans can unleash.

Seth
 

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Getting ready to play Cement Plant. From all appearances it looks hard on the Russian. But ROAR has it 12 to 5 in favor of the Russians. I guess maybe it's the time as Vic says. But I just don't see those defenders holding up vs what the Germans can unleash.

Seth
Yes, TIME is the main issue, to a lesser extent those damn Fanatic Conscripts in the main building will put up a decent fight, I concentrated on the big building and fell short on time in it and also wanting the buildings in the rear but just not enough troops GO troops left or time. Germans look like a better force and are more fun to play but beware, this scenario will give you heartburn toward the end...
 

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I am the designer of J197 and J208. I must say that I was quite surprised by the new version of J208. In my initial version, the Germans were a lot stronger (i.e. one more Pz IV) and the VC was easier for them. I still have to play the new version of both scenarios, so I cannot speak about the balance.
 

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Yes, TIME is the main issue, to a lesser extent those damn Fanatic Conscripts in the main building will put up a decent fight, I concentrated on the big building and fell short on time in it and also wanting the buildings in the rear but just not enough troops GO troops left or time. Germans look like a better force and are more fun to play but beware, this scenario will give you heartburn toward the end...
The best kind of scenario!!
 

Vic Provost

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The best kind of scenario!!
Not if one side looks like they will win < 40% of the time... But I hear you for being tight at the end, in my playing, I needed another turn to get there... Also looking at J208, looks like Fun BUT the Bocage makes it tough on the attacker, your AFVs are really channelized. I'll give it a try anyways, I'm a sucker for elite troops trying to do hard things.
 

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Not if one side looks like they will win < 40% of the time... But I hear you for being tight at the end, in my playing, I needed another turn to get there... Also looking at J208, looks like Fun BUT the Bocage makes it tough on the attacker, your AFVs are really channelized. I'll give it a try anyways, I'm a sucker for elite troops trying to do hard things.
Severely skewed scenarios stimulate synaptic sharpness.😉
 

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One would almost need a scientific handicapping formula to know how much individual PTer performance affected the outcome. Unless one is intimately familiar with both PTer's acumen, I think one has to assume "evenly matched" as the baseline to further revise it. Otherwise, having PTers play it, then change sides and play it again, might be the only (?) way to truly glean a slight/major mismatch between oppos.
Have playtested about 80-90 scenarios in average 4-5 times per scenario (400+ in total), and found that the best formula to achieve the balance or close enough is to playtest the scenario solo, but often start with playing with friends first. A few playtested scenarios have only been solo play tested a handful of times.

Keeping a dialouge with the designer about improvements of the scenario as the playtest goes ahead, since playtest is not all about balance, it is also about Good VCs, Order of Battle, set up/ entry, good and wellwritten SSRs and delete the fluff and puff.
 
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