It has been a difficult year and half of gaming if you don’t VASL. My wife threatened to sell my games because I wasn’t using them anymore. And, I missed the regulars at the Greenfield Bunker. So, when the Tussle was going live, I knew I had to be there despite not being an ASL player.
With encouragement from Chuck and Joe Gochinski, I signed up to play the Saturday Starter Kit mini-tourney. Joe said the rule book is only 12 pages. Chuck said he needed the entrance fee to pay for the room rental. So, in addition to reading, I listened to some great Youtube tutorial videos on gameplay while commuting to work and my hour drive to the venue..
Arriving at about 8:30 AM, I was impressed with the number of tables with players pushing chits all over the place. As my opponent was not there, it gave me a chance to say hello to many familiar faces. The room was full. Ralph McDonald said it was the biggest TITT he had seen. Seeing all the T-shirts from past events told me that there are a lot of experienced TITT players.
Emery Gallant was my first challenger and we did a learning game with the aptly named Welcome Back scenario. If we never rolled a die or moved a counter we could have spent hours “catching up” (which is odd because we just met) and talking about our favorite games. Because Emery had to return home sooner than expected, I won the game by default. But, the reality is that it would have been, at best, a draw as I think he had a slight advantage as to position.
Welcome Back is a simple game of German exit. Basically, the Americans have 5 1/2 turns to prevent the Huns from getting 10 or more victory points across the map. I played the U.S. and Emery took Fatherland. Good and bad dice were evenly shared. We never rolled snow. We spent time going through the rule books and trying to confirm that we were doing things correctly. Both Mitch and Chuck were a shout away when we had a question.
Having won the game and, now, in a three way tie for first, with Steve Oliver and Scott Hamilton, I was going into my second game. I was hoping to play Workers Unite, but my opponent, Mark Dennehy, said that was the only game he did not want to play. As I had no armor or artillery experience, we selected Joe Gochinski’s Battle in the Ardennes. It was another stop the exit scenario and I had a 100% win ratio with them, so I was feeling confident. BitA is an interesting game as it allows the American player to select from one of three victory conditions after the Krauts set-up. The Americans can exit 13 or more victory points, destroy 14 points of Germans, or a 17 point destroy and leave split. Based on the selected victory conditions, the Germans get additional supporting troops. Figuring the Germans only needed to deny the Americans, I took the blue counters.
Mark was out of the running for the championship trophy as he lost his first game.
Playing with Mark was different from the mellow casual style of Emery. Mark is five Red Bulls before breakfast intense. He is direct and precise. I found out later that he is a Mathematics major software engineer. I set up my units, Mark did the same and selected the exit victory condition. Midway through my first turn, I lost the game. My additional troops broke upon board entry from the burst of a distant machine gun that cut my team in half based on its position. These men never fully recovered.
Mark used the American smoke to flank his pieces right and through the woods. I was getting high rolls on 2 and 4 IFT charts. If I was “lucky” or I could get a higher table, I was able to roll a pin check or plus one morale check. Two turns in, I lost my medium machine gun. Mark used it to effectively keep DM status on my easily broken men. My only opportunity (short lived) in the game was that his board splitting machine gun malfunctioned and I was able to quickly goosestep them across its death path using the additional CX movement factors. Mark was unstoppable. My cowering leaders and half squads just watched the Americans Yankee Doodle right past.
Mark crushed me with kindness as he had me slow down to explain the calculations and correct some of my die roll modifiers (usually in my favor). He also provided some play advice as he got closer to the map edge. All helpful for “next time.”
Mark dropped a lot of smoke, including one where he was adjacent to me. As the action consumes two movement points, it raised the question whether I could get a defensive fire against him for merely dropping smoke. He expended movement points, but was already adjacent to me and did not move. We stumped Chuck and Mitch on that one. But, the instructions appear to require actual movement. (Editor’s note that Cole is referring to Final Protective Fire here and didn’t ask me about it!)
Scott Hamilton went on to win the ASLSK mini.
On the way home, I called Joe to talk about what I thought were weaknesses in the scenario. Having played two games and come in second (as did everyone else) in the tourney, now makes me an expert. To which, Joe quibbed it’s the player not the scenario. We are going to play it next time we see each other sometime in 2026.
It was a great time. The Manchester Best Western Plus (because no simple BW will do for this group) was perfect. The people were great. Both Mitch Abrams and Chuck T. made you feel like you were returning TITT veterans. A lot of great swag, raffle prizes for everyone, nice prizes. Unfortunately, I missed the custom playing cards.
With six ASLSK players ultimately in the tourney, I hope it will be a permanent addition.
I can say that I love TITTs! I am looking forward to the 2022 Tussle in the Tundra!