Lone Canuck Publishing (2019)
Country of Origin:
24" x 35" historical map, 20 pages rules, 5 scenarios, 1 campaign game, 28 5/8" (loose) die-cut counters
If you thought, upon first glance, that Race for the Meuse (hereinafter RM) is an ASL product dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge, you’d be wrong, but understandably so, because the Battle of the Bulge has been the focus of far more attention in ASL than the same geographic area was four years earlier, in 1940, when German Panzer divisions swept through the Ardennes to cross the Meuse and make their stunning drive to the English channel. Mostly, that’s because the Ardennes were largely empty in 1940. But they did contain the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais, who fought an ultimately unsuccessful delaying action in the Ardennes against the vanguards of the German Army. Race for the Meuse depicts one of these delaying actions, involving the 5th Company of the 1st Regiment of Chasseurs Ardennais at the village of Bodange on the opening day of the German offensive.
So, to begin with, RM has the advantage of a little exoticism, in that Belgian forces are pretty darn rare for ASL historical modules (basically limited to this and this). However, the Chasseurs Ardennais themselves are actually significantly over-represented in ASL, something that Desperation Morale has pointed out in the past. Many ASL scenarios set in Belgium in 1940 actually feature this unit. One reason for this is that this unit is almost the only Belgian unit for which there are reasonably substantial English-language sources. The main fighting done by the Belgian Army in 1940 is actually hardly covered in ASL at all, but this one unit has a number of ASL scenarios featuring it. So in this sense the exoticism has a certain limit to it.
The main feature for RM is its largish 24″ x 35″ historical map. There is only one map, so it can still fit on a sufficiently wide gaming table. The map is dominated by the narrow Sûre river, several streams that feed into it and the large but low hills that surround them, and the two hamlets of Wisembach and Bodange along the river. Bodange is hardly bigger today than it was in 1940; Wisembach a little bigger. Today, most of the open ground, even on the slopes, is farmland; if it was that way in 1940, it is not represented as such here. Although there is a small and out-of-the-way patch of -1 level terrain, and the streams, of course, are also at -1, most of the map is at level 0 or, for the hills, up to level 3. The hills have an odd orange hue to them, giving the map a bit of a pumpkiny vibe.
The artwork on the map is crisp and in general the map is attractive as well as functional. The hues are, overall, a bit dark, so a well-lit playing area would be helpful. There are two types of woods in the module–“normal” and pine woods–but their colors are so similar that some players will need to look closely to make sure they have the right type of woods. The map features barbed-wire fences and, unfortunately, a fair number of slopes. The slope rules in ASL are complicated and, in some cases, counterintuitive (or even just odd), which makes some designers understandably reluctant to use them, but they appear here.
The module also has counters, but don’t get your hopes up. RM comes with two mini-baggies, each containing 14 loose (i.e., separated) seemingly die-cut counters, for a total of 28. There are 14 German counters and 14 British counters. All but two of the German counters are trucks, so, yeah, that sucks. The other two counters, however, represent a rare German AFV: a half-track with an 88mm gun mounted on top. Now that could blow a hole in something. The British counters are all airplane counters, which is a bit of a mystery, as no explanation is provided for their appearance, nor do they seem to be used by any of the scenarios or the campaign game. The quality of the counters seems relatively high; the artwork is okay (though the vehicles are more or less dark rectangle thingies) and the die-cutting seems satisfactory, though the counters all do have a slight raised bump or ridge on the top of the 6 o’clock edge of each counter. It seems unlikely that would impact play.
The module comes with 5 scenarios, but they are, for the most part, not very satisfactory, as they are very small. Even RM5 (Battle for Bodange), the one so-called “large” scenario that uses the entire map area, is only a medium-sized scenario. Moreover, there is not much variety to the scenarios–though set on different areas of the map, the Belgian OB tends to be more or less the same from scenario to scenario.
|Scenario||German Forces||Belgian Forces|
|RM1 Wisembach Roadblock||6 squads, 2 leaders, 4 SW, 6 motorcycles w/sidecars||4 squads, 1 leader, 2 SW, fortifications|
|RM2 Prelude to Bodange||9 squads, 3 leaders, 5 SW||5 squads, 1 crew, 1 leader, 3 SW, fortifications|
|RM3 Forcing the Sure||7 squads, one crew w/INF gun, 3 leaders, 6 SW, 2 armored cars||4 squads, 1 crew, 2 leaders, 3 MG, fortifications|
|RM4 The Final Stand||8 squads, 3 leaders, 4 SW, 2 armored cars||4 squads, 1 crew, 2 leaders, 3 SW, fortifications|
|RM5 Battle for Bodange||15 squads, 2 crews, 2 crews w/AT guns, 5 leaders, 1 armored leader, 12 SW, 2 armored cars, 1 halftrack, trucks and motorcycles||10 squads, 4 crews, 3 leaders, 7 SW, 1 tank, fortifications|
RM does come with one campaign game, TM (Race to the Meuse), a four-scenario campaign game that in total span a time period of only 6 hours, making it one of the “fastest” (in calendar time) campaign games out there. Given this some standard campaign game rules, like the MMC & Leader “Battlefield Promotion” rules, seem a bit out of place. To win, the Germans have to prevent the Belgians from having any Good Order MMC or AFV within 2 hexes and LOS of the main road that spans the map area.
“Replenishment” rules are static, so for each scenario (except the first), a DR is made and the Germans will get from 20-30 points with which to buy stuff and the Belgians will get from 10-20. The purchase options for both sides, but especially the Belgians, are limited. Leaving aside fortifications, SAN, Reconnaissance, etc., the actual units the Belgians can purchase throughout the campaign are limited to 1 x “Company HQ section (squad, 50mm mtr), 4 x Rifle Platoon (4 squads), 4 x Machine Gun Section (2 MMGs), 4 x Machine Gun Pillbox (HMG, pillbox, wire), 3 x Anti-Tank Section (3 T-13 AFVs), and 4 x “Replacement Crews.”
The Germans may purchase several types of infantry platoon, MG sections, AT or INF guns, a few armored cars, and a FlaK 18.
Of course, being so small, the campaign game promises to play quickly.
The small size of the scenarios and campaign game may be a turn-off for some ASLers. This product may have appeal mostly for people who prefer small campaign games and for fans of early war actions.