Patch made it over for some FtF gaming yesterday. I was a little shocked that he’s feeling a little burnt out on ASL. But he seems okay since he was wanting to play Up Front, which he got a copy of last year. I’ve known of it since it came out, and I can remember a couple people at the Vista gaming group playing it a bunch, but I’d never really looked at it myself.

It is pretty ingenious. Each scenario specifies the forces each side gets (which are individual men with associated weapons on small numbered cards with all their details), and the victory conditions. There’s a main deck with ‘actions’ (fire, movement, rally…), terrain, and some other events. Scenarios modify the general ‘feel’ of the terrain by making you toss out the first few instances of a terrain type that doesn’t fit. There’s a fairly simple system for keeping track of how close various groups are to the enemy, with complications allowing a group to flank the enemy, get behind them, etc.

Patch had only ever soloed the game, and was wondering about the time limits the scenarios impose in terms of multiple play-throughs of the main deck. Seemed like it was unlikely get more than halfway through the deck once.

Well, our games went longer, but the initial scenario (“A Meeting of Patrols”) is short, so it didn’t go much longer. We played it twice, swapping sides (and which Allied force was involved), and I managed to win both times by getting groups up to Range 4 in cover while keeping Patch tied up with streams and similar movement blocking cards.

After that we tried “City Fight”, which is slightly bigger and more complicated, and Patch just completely disassembled my force in that one, ending with multiple men infiltrating my positions and taking me out in Close Combat.

Then we went for “Elite Troops on the Attack”, a two-round scenario with Patch’s SS attacking my green Americans. Patch took the first round after a drawn out fight that again saw my guys go down pretty hard. The defender gets exactly the same force for the second round, but the attacker only gets his surviving guys (including anyone who routed out of the game), but I’d only managed one kill the first time. However, the second round went much better for me, with a drawn-out fight coming down to the wire that left both of us with shattered forces, until Patch no longer had the men for a victory.

We didn’t have anything else going on yesterday, and so went a couple hours later than normal with one more game, “Rear Guard Action”, with the idea of trying out the ordnance rules. Sadly, they didn’t get much of a workout, as Patch’s mortar (the only ordnance in the scenario) malfunctioned on the second shot. Patch came on strong for a while, but I got both of my oversized Russian groups on hills, and the extra firepower effect from them helped grind him down, along with the deck. The scenario finished on time (three play-throughs of the deck) with the Germans in seriously bad shape.In all, it’s a fun and fast game. Everything is necessarily abstract, so all the scenarios are generic ‘situations’, which causes me to miss the ‘history’ of SL/ASL scenarios. It’s also at the man-to-man level, where I tend to prefer higher-level games. But, we’ll certainly be playing more of it in the future, quite likely as part of our Vassal rotation.