|Unofficial ASL Products|
|Sherry Enterprises (Schwerpunkt/Tampa ASL Group)|
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|World of ASL Main Page|
|Producer Name: Sherry Enterprises (Schwerpunkt) (1996- )|
|Still Active?: Yes|
|Commentary: Don't mess with
success. A familiar refrain, yet in the ASL world it applies to none
better than Sherry Enterprises, more familiarly known as Schwerpunkt, the
name of the ASL-related magazine it annually produces. The eponymous
Sherry is Evan Sherry, a Tampa-area ASLer who began running an ASL
tournament in the early 1990s. After several years, Sherry decided
to take advantage of the pool of players in central Florida and in 1996
used that talent to help him design and hone a group of scenarios that
were published as the first issue of Schwerpunkt. Intended for the
Florida ASL tournament (which it eventually outlasted), it actually
debuted a month earlier at ASLOK, the world's largest ASL tournament, held
every year in Cleveland, Ohio. From that point on, an annual
Schwerpunkt premiere at ASLOK became a much-anticipated tradition (broken
only in 2000, when Schwerpunkt released a spring issue as well).
From the first issue through the eleventh, the formula behind Schwerpunkt has rarely wavered. Each issue contains a set of 12 varied scenarios (most of them ostensibly tournament sized, but see below). Only in 2000, when the two issues of Schwerpunkt published that year were themed, featuring Medal of Honor holders and Victoria Cross holders respectively, did that formula vary. The look of Schwerpunkt has remained remarkably constant, changing only once, when the Copyright Wars of the late 1990s finally reached the doorstep of Schwerpunkt and Sherry switched the magazine to a style without counter art.
Over the years, Schwerpunkt has threatened other products or a more frequent publication schedule, but until 2006, this never actually materialized. For example, a reprint of Volume I had a back-cover announcements of a new publication, Objectives, which would reformat Schwerpunkt scenarios for use with WWII miniatures. Volume 11, similarly, announced a Spring 2006 release of Volume 12 and an October 2006 release of Volume 13. However, the spring release never materialized. Schwerpunkt has never published a historical map or module, or a geomorphic map or even overlay. It has never published die-cut counters or play aids or Red Barricades or Platoon Leader style campaign games. It has never even published a scenario designed for a DASL map or a historical map. It was only in 2006 that Schwerpunkt released anything other than its annual issue, when it released its first scenario pack, called Rally Point. So its range of activities has been quite limited. Within its narrow realm, however, it has shined.
At the heart of Schwerpunkt is Evan Sherry, a dynamo of an ASL designer who has designed almost half of the 132 Schwerpunkt scenarios published to date (Volume 11). However, the key to Sherry's success is that Schwerpunkt has not been a one man show. He has been blessed with a coterie of talented and dedicated scenario designers and playtesters (see scenario designer list in Schwerpunkt section). Over the years, some have faded away while others have joined, but important throughout have been Michael Faulkner and Brian Williams. Faulkner eventually moved from Florida to Ohio, but this just helped him develop a new set of playtesting minions for Schwerpunkt. More than anything else, it is a firm dedication to playtesting that has made Schwerpunkt successful--and very worthy of emulation in this regard.
The impact of Schwerpunkt on the ASL world has been considerable, particularly through the development of a Schwerpunkt style. Schwerpunkt was really only the second third party publisher to develop a truly distinct identity for its scenarios (the other is Kinetic Energy). When the first volume of Schwerpunkt debuted in 1996, one purchaser remarked that its scenarios were, "Short, small--some are shockingly so." At first, Schwerpunkt just had a reputation for smallish scenarios, but as the years went by, it became more obvious that size was not the key element of Schwerpunkt scenarios--the key element was time. Schwerpunkt scenarios are deliberately truncated in the number of turns compared to older scenarios. The longest Schwerpunkt scenario--and it is truly an aberration--is 9 turns long. But a 7.5 turn Schwerpunkt scenario is actually very long. The average Schwerpunkt scenario is just under 6 turns in length.
This truncation means several things. It means, first of all, that certain types of scenarios will just never see print in Schwerpunkt--especially large map scenarios in which players actually deploy and maneuver before really coming to grip. The typical Schwerpunkt scenario starts with opposing forces already arrayed against each other, or quickly about to be so. But more importantly, the truncation of scenario length means that the typical Schwerpunkt scenario must be played aggressively and quickly by the attacker, or he will simply run out of time. Many Schwerpunkt scenarios have limited numbers of approach routes for the attacker; anything too long and the attacker will not have time to press home his attack. Attackers will rarely have the advantage of being able to recover from a strategic mistake, and sometimes may not have the ability to recover from a tactical mistake. Inexperienced players would be much better off playing the defender in Schwerpunkt scenarios, until they can develop an effective aggressive playing style.
The so-called Schwerpunkt style of scenario has become quite influential. Because Schwerpunkt scenarios typically take less time to play, they are played more often, at tournament environments and elsewhere. For more than most other third party publishers, Schwerpunkt scenarios are played, even though none have ever become official scenaros. This in turn has influenced other scenario designers, even those who have never submitted a scenario to Schwerpunkt. Schwerpunkt helped cause a trend towards smaller, faster-playing ASL scenarios that is obvious throughout the ASL world today.
An analysis of Schwerpunkt scenarios, though, reveals that its scenarios themselves have evolved over the years. In particular, Schwerpunkt scenarios are growing in size. The initial issue of Schwerpunkt featured very small, very short scenarios. The next couple of issues showed considerable variability. However, after that, Schwerpunkt has displayed a demonstrable evolution towards scenarios with greater numbers of squads and AFVs. The Schwerpunkt "style" has remain consistent because the scenario length has remained relatively steady, but the size of the forces in those Schwerpunkt scenarios has grown (Volume 11 shows a significant drop-off in the number of AFVs per scenario, but this is due to an unusually high number of PTO scenarios with no vehicles at all; the remaining scenarios are consistent with the trend).
The average number of squads per scenario in the first three volumes of Schwerpunkt was just shy of 18; the average in the most recent three volumes is 22.5. The average number of AFVs per scenario in the first three volumes of Schwerpunkt was 6.7; in the most recent three, it has grown to 8.5 (the number of Guns has basically remained steady throughout). If this trend continues, Schwerpunkt scenarios may be played less at tournament settings simply because many of the scenarios will have grown too large.
For now, though, Schwerpunkt scenarios are played, and played often. Evan Sherry boasted in Volume 11 that since the first issue, there had been over 3,400 recorded playings of Schwerpunkt scenarios on ROAR, the on-line database of ASL scenario play results. At the time, this probably would have amounted to close to 8% of all of the playings recorded to ROAR--pretty significant for a third party publisher. In its decade of existence so far, Schwerpunkt has produced a number of truly classic scenarios.
Periodicals 1: Schwerpunkt Issues #s 1-13
Click here for Schwerpunkt Issues #14+
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (1996- )||Product Type: Magazine (published annually)|
|Contents: Magazine, inserted scenarios on cardstock|
|Commentary: Because to date
Sherry Enterprises and Schwerpunkt have been essentially synonymous, much
information about Schwerpunkt is contained in the
producer commentary above.
Schwerpunkt debuted at the ASLOK ASL tournament in 1996 and a new issue has appeared at that tournament each year since (in 2000, there were two issues, with one also appearing in the spring). Each issue of Schwerpunkt is essentially the same: a short magazine consisting largely of designers' and players' notes for each scenario, and one or two articles, and 12 scenarios on 6 cardstock inserts. The magazine gradually changed to a glossy cover, then glossy interior pages, and finally glossy scenario cards as well. It has always been solely black and white.
The scenario cards originally resembled official ASL scenario cards closely. By 2000, however, the Copyright Wars had reached Schwerpunkt and its 2001 issue (and all subsequent issues) debuted a scenario card style devoid of counter art (squads are designated merely as 4-4-7, while AFVs are identified solely by name). For some reason, Schwerpunkt has not gone the route of other third party publishers (including Critical Hit, Heat of Battle, Lone Canuck, Fanatic Enterprises, and others) and developed alternative artwork. Because of this, the scenario cards now look a little primitive. Moreover, AFVs specified on scenario cards are frequently difficult to locate, because the scenario cards provide no additional information such as movement points, gun size, and so forth (they do sometimes provide MG values if there is more than one variation). In the future, it would be nice if Schwerpunkt either obtained its own counter artwork or at the very least included more information on the vehicle counter representations (strangely, Schwerpunkt does provide gun size for Guns, but not for AFVs).
Schwerpunkt scenarios tend to be very straightforward, using only geomorphic mapboards (including ASL Starter Kit maps but not DASL maps). SSRs are usually few, and tend not to be chromey (Volumes 5 and 6, featuring Medal of Honor and Victoria Cross recipients, are notable exceptions). Similarly, SSRs that provide variable reinforcements, purchasable units or reinforcements, fortification points, or similar innovations will not be found. Exotic situations are also quite rare, though not nonexistent. About half of all Schwerpunkt scenarios are designed by Evan Sherry (they typically are the first scenarios in every issue); the remainder by a cadre of Schwerpunkt designers (particularly Michael Faulkner and Brian Williams).
Many issues of Schwerpunkt have gone through more than one printing. Volume 1, for example, debuted at ASLOK, where players found several pieces of errata. Later copies of that volume included updated scenario cards. In particular, Volumes 1-6 were reprinted after 2000 with revised scenario cards that replaced the old, copyright-violating artwork, creating two different-looking versions of these scenarios.
Schwerpunkt is a magazine without flashy production values, but possessing a considerable amount of quality. For sheer gaming pleasure, there may be no better dollar value than the issues of Schwerpunkt. Every ASL player should try Schwerpunkt.
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 1: Axis Minors Special Study|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2006)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
|Country of Origin: United States|
Commentary: After more than a decade of doing nothing but producing an annual issue of Schwerpunkt, Evan Sherry and his Schwerpunkt crew finally broadened their scope to tackle something new, although a scenario pack is not really much of a stretch for them. Rally Point is basically an issue of Schwerpunkt, minus the articles. However, for devotees of Schwerpunkt scenarios--and there are a great many of them--the release of Rally Point in October 2006, at the same time as the release of Schwerpunkt #12, was an exciting event, as it almost doubled the number of Schwerpunkt scenarios annually released.
The genesis of the first issue of Rally Point can be traced back to the scenarios in Armies of Oblivion. That module, which finally provided vehicles for the Axis Minors, was quite well done, but almost all of the scenarios included in it were very large--too large for tournament play. Ironically, at the same time it was finally possible to play Axis Minor scenarios, most of the available scenarios were too large to conveniently play in most ASL playing situations. Several third party publishers released Axis Minor scenario packs, but many of those scenarios, too, were very large. Brian Williams and Evan Sherry realized that there was a real need for playable tournament-sized actions featuring Axis Minor forces, and this was the impetus for Rally Point. That there really had been such a need became clear at ASLOK 2006, when Rally Point scenarios were probably more played than any other new release appearing at ASLOK that year.
Of the 10 scenarios, most are small or medium-sized; a couple are large, but none are very large. Most are easily playable in a tournament setting. Many of the scenarios take place in Budapest 1945 (Sherry relied heavily on Krisztián Ungváry's book on the siege of Budapest). The scenarios include 2 Hungarian vs. Romanian actions, 3 Soviet vs. Hungarian actions (one of them featuring the "Europa Flying Squad Battalion"), one Soviet vs. Romanian action, one Soviet/Romanian vs. German action, one German/Romanian vs. Soviet action, and one German/Slovak vs. Soviet partisan action. One of the scenarios, RPT8 (Well Taught), uses Map w from ASL Starter Kit 1.
Most of the scenarios look promising; if there is a weakness, it is the same one that afflicts most ASLers wishing to design scenarios using the Axis Minors, and that is the lack of readily accessible English-language source materials. Schwerpunkt handily includes at least one scenario design source on each of its scenario cards, and every one of the sources in Rally Point 1 are among the well-known handful of such sources. This lack of sources has several detrimental effects, one of which is a greater likelihood of scenario duplication. Thus one of the scenarios in Rally Point, RPT10 (Slovak Salvation), designed by Pete Shelling, is the exact same scenario situation as RBF33 (Brought Low in Lojev), from Heat of Battle's Recon by Fire #3, designed by Steve Swann. The scenarios themselves are quite different in conception (the Rally Point version looks much better), but the duplication occurred because there are only two books currently in print on the Slovak armed forces in World War II and one can only derive a limited number of scenario situations from them. There is no easy solution to this problem.
In any case, the first Rally Point seems to be a success in terms of quality, and if more Rally Points appear as promised, ASLers will no doubt be pleased.
2009 Update: Two and a half years after its release, the following scenarios appear to be among the most popular and balanced: RPT3 (Városmajor Grange), RPT4 (Transylvania 6-5000), and RPT9 (Shelling the Sivash).
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 2: A Starter Kit Special Study|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2007)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
|Country of Origin: United States|
Commentary: The second iteration of Rally Point, Schwerpunkt's collection of themed scenario packs, has a rather unusual theme. Rather than depicting scenarios related to a particular unit or conflict, the unifying "theme" here is the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit. The 10 included scenarios are designed to be played using either the ASLSK rules or the full ASL rules; the pack claims that the scenarios have been "fully playtested with consideration for both rules systems." Moreover, all of the scenarios in the pack can be played using maps and unit counters found within the three ASL Starter Kits. A player who has all three Starter Kits can purchase this product and immediately have 10 scenarios they can play without needing any other components. SSRs in italics apply only when the full ASL rules are used; other SSRs apply to both rules systems.
Given that some ASL players are hostile to the ASL Starter Kits, which they tend to view as "not real ASL" or as competition to ASL that distracts MMP from the production of ASL products, and given that newbie ASLSK players are not likely to be familiar with third party publishers such as Schwerpunkt, it will be interesting to see how successful Rally Point #2 is in "fusing" the ASLSK and ASL audiences. It certainly is a worthwhile effort, though, particularly if it will help lure ASLSK players into trying full ASL.
Because only a few nationalities are represented in the ASL Starter Kits, and even then only with a partial counter mix, and because all the scenarios must draw from a pool of only seven maps, there is a built-in limit in terms of the variety able to be offered. One of the scenarios is playable only with the rules (but not necessarily only the components) of ASLSK1, while two more can be played with the rules of ASLSK2. All other scenarios have vehicles and so require knowledge of the full ASLSK3 rules.
The scenario actions include U.S. vs. German (3 scenarios), Soviet vs. German (4 scenarios), and British vs. Germans (3 scenarios). Half are small or medium-sized (mostly small), while the other half are large. One scenario, RPT11 (Butchers and Bakers) introduces AP Mines. One particularly large scenario, RPT16 (Miracle at Sinagoga), strains the limits of the countermix, forcing Starter Kit player to use an American FT and some Soviet tanks to help complete the British OB.
Scenarios that look as if they might be interesting include the aforementioned RPT16, as well as RPT20 (The Trouble with Tigers) and RPT19 (Mercury Rising), an all-infantry Crete 1941 scenario. After a year of playings, the latter looks pretty balanced.
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 3: Relics from the Schwerpunkt Archives|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2008)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
Commentary: Originally, the third Rally Point scenario pack was going to be on a quite different subject, but playtesting on that project took far longer than expected. Rather than not release a new Rally Point at ASLOK 2008, Schwerpunkt decided to, as Evan Sherry put it, "search the archives for some of our older, unconventional scenarios that we had previously playtested, but that had not made it into the pages of Schwerpunkt." The Schwerpunkt guys dusted them off, finished their playtesting, and printed them. Thus Rally Point 3 is, in a strange way, a scenario pack of factory seconds from Schwerpunkt.
Rally Points usually have a theme, but for the above reasons, that is not true for this pack. The 10 scenarios include actions involving Soviets vs. Gemans (Bessarabia 1944, USSR 1944, Germany 1945), Canadians vs. Germans (Italy 1944, Normandy 1944 ), British vs. Germans (Germany 1944), Americans vs. Germans (Germany 1945), American USMC vs. Japanese (Kwajalein 1944), and Poles vs. Germans (East Prussia 1939).
In contrast to the scenarios released in the issue of Schwerpunkt that appeared at the same time, the scenarios in Rally Point 3 (RP3) tend to be much smaller. Only 2 scenarios are large; 3 more are medium-sized, while 5 are small (in some cases, quite small). Most of the scenarios use the standard 1-52 geomorphic mapboard set, but RPT29 (The Sound of Hoofbeats) uses ASLSK map v, while RPT30 (Knocking on the Front Door) uses AP4 maps 53 and 54 (apparently this was not one of the old, dusted off scenarios).
Despite Sherry's statement that the scenarios are unconventional, most are not all that odd. Some certainly would be considered unconventional, though. One scenario that does have an interesting SSR is RPT27 (Sycamore and Succotash), which takes place on Kwajalein Atoll. The SSR represents a massive Japanese torpedo munitions dump that will explode (equally massively) at some point during the scenario. RPT21 (Gotterdammerung!) has very unusual VC: the Germans essentially destroy all of their AFVs (some in certain hexes) and exit 2 vehicular crews off the board. The novelty aspect of this scenario might prove attractive. RPT23 (The Bavent Recce) has the Canadians (who are on a patrol) gaining VP for revealing enemy HIP units and entering certain hexes.
In early playing the scenario that seems the most popular is RPT25 (Cornwalls' Rum Ration), which is a tourney-sized contest between small British and German combined arms forces.
RP3 may not end up being as popular as its predecessors, but it doesn't seem to be a bad pack, all things considered. The plethora of fast-playing scenarios is a definite plus, as many of the releases of 2008 had a number of large scenarios in them.
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 4: Ruins of the Reich|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2009)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
Commentary: Released with little fanfare at ASLOK 2009 was the fourth in Schwerpunkt's Rally Point series of themed scenario packs, Ruins of the Reich. The pack is so-named because its uniting theme is that all the scenarios in the pack are set in the very last days of World War II in Europe--they are all set in May 1945. All of the scenarios in the pack were designed by guest journeyman designer Mark Pitcavage, who coincidentally is the maintainer of this Web site and the author of this descriptive commentary, so caveat lector.
The last days of the war is an interesting subject for a scenario pack, because events were so chaotic in those final hours that a lot of unusual situations developed. Former friends were sometimes now foes, while all sorts of old or captured weapons were brought out of the cupboards by the Germans in their desperate attempt to slow the Allied onslaught. Desperation is indeed a subtext for the scenarios in this pack, as even the Axis attacks in the pack are often attempts to escape capture or decimation by the Soviets or other Allied forces.
The pack includes a mixture of East Front, West Front, and Mediterranean Front scenarios, though it should be noted that the Axis were so squeezed by May 1945 that the Allies were really not all that far apart from each other; the "East Front" was very far west, the "West Front" very far east, and the "Mediterranean Front" very far north. Actions include two scenarios set in the vicinity of Trieste, Italy (one featuring Yugoslavs vs. Germans; the other featuring Yugoslavs vs. Germans, Italians, and Croatians); two scenarios set in the Austrian Alps (one featuring Americans vs. Germans; the other featuring Americans, French, and Germans against the Waffen SS); five scenarios set in Czechoslovakia or just across its borders (one featuring Soviets vs. Germans; two featuring Americans vs. Germans; and two taking place during the Prague Uprising, one of which is Czech partisans vs. Waffen SS and the other of which is Czech partisans, the Russian Army of Liberation, and the Soviets against the Waffen SS); and one set in the Halbe Pocket outside of Berlin (featuring Soviets vs. Germans).
The scenarios all have a fair number of SSRs; though none are particularly complicated, it is definitely a departure from the typically SSR-light regular Schwerpunkt scenarios. However, no scenarios feature OBA, Night Rules, or Air Support. One scenario, RPT31 (Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba), uses ASLSK board z. In terms of size, about half of the scenarios are large, while the remaining ones are small or medium-sized. Several of the scenarios feature "rainbow OBs," in that the mix of nationalities and/or SW require players to use a number of different colored counters. Some ASLers will find this irritating, though others may appreciate the realism.
Scenarios designed by this designer tend to have a fair number of "flavor" or "chrome" SSRs, and this pack is not an exception. So, for example, in RPT36 (The Kings are Dead), there is an SSR that states that broken German units that start the Rally Phase in a building location without a friendly leader present have a small chance to be casualty-reduced. This represents the German civilians who took the child-soldiers (kindersoldaten) of the last days of the Third Reich, provided them with civilian clothing, and helped them desert during the fighting. The presence of these SSRs tend to give some of these scenarios a "feel" different from that of a stereotypical Schwerpunkt scenario. Some ASLers like such flavor SSRs, because it gives them more of a sense of fighting in a non-generic action, while other ASLers would simply prefer that such SSRs not clutter up the scenario cards. It is basically a matter of taste.
Though only time will tell as to how many of the scenarios are well-balanced, or will be considered by the ASL audience to be fun to play, certainly several of the scenarios are worth remarking on. One interesting scenario is RPT31 (Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba), which actually contains rules for both two-player and three-player play (and both cooperative and competitive versions of the three-player option). This makes it one of only three published scenarios (all third party) that are specifically designed with three-player rules. It is a fairly meaty scenario that would be good for three ASL friends on a weekend day, or a long evening.
RPT36 (The Kings are Dead) is interesting for several reasons. The Germans get some King Tigers to play with, while the Soviets must choose (pre-game) the order and entry locations of three reinforcement groups. Also present in this scenario (and to a lesser degree in one other scenario in the pack) is the concept of Gas Points. The Germans in the Halbe Pocket were down to their last few gallons of gas, and many AFVs simply ran out of fuel during the fighting. This scenario allows the Germans to "gas up" their vehicles before the scenario, choosing how many Gas Points are put in each AFV. When a vehicle runs out of Gas Points (expended during movement), it becomes immobilized. Between the Gas Points and the Soviet reinforcement options, this scenario has a considerable degree of Fog of War.
Perhaps the most unusual scenario situation in the pack is that of RPT4 (Last Stand of the Besotten Jenny), which actually features a group of Americans (a tank crew and some African-American soldiers), re-armed French prisoners, and German former guards holed up in a castle trying to hold off angry Waffen SS troopers until the American "cavalry" can come and rescue them. It is a pairing of combatants that has never been seen before in ASL. The fighting is an interesting tactical situation, as the SS must choose how to divide their forces between the two "fronts."
One other interesting tactical situation is worth mentioning; the situation in RPT35 (Sword of Damocles), which is a late-war Soviet-German combined arms city-fight that will appeal to "traditionalist" ASLers who like the down-and-dirty East Front actions. In this scenario, the Soviets are immediately confronted with an opposed bridge crossing situation. There are three bridges, at least one of which they must get across. However, they have plenty of toys to help them get across, including (unusually for the Soviets) a good amount of Smoke. Once across, they must exit 20VP off of one part of the map and 20 more VP across another part (which means the Germans can concentrate on defending one area, if they want to). The Germans have a mixed force of defenders ranging from elite to conscript, along with some pesky panzerfaust-wielding tank hunting units, and some toys of their own, including an 88mm AT gun.
The scenarios in this pack are likely to appeal most to ASLers who are looking for scenario situations a bit different than standard ASL fare, but not something truly exotic or "way out there."
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 5: Thunderbird Pack|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2010)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
Commentary: The fifth volume of Rally Point, Schwerpunkt's series of themed scenario packs, is the Thunderbird Pack (TBP), a collection of scenarios dedicated to the U.S. 45th Infantry Division, a National Guard division (originally composed of units from Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) with one of the longest WW2 resumes. Oddly enough, this is only the third non-HASL scenario pack for ASL that focuses on an American infantry division (the first being the older Hell on Wheels Battle Pack, by the first iteration of Bounding Fire Productions, which depicted the 2nd Armored Division; the second being Heat of Battle's Buckeyes!, which depicted actions of the 37th Infantry Division). It is also only the second time that an outside designer has collaborated with Schwerpunkt on an entire scenario pack (the first being Rally Point, Volume 4: Ruins of the Reich). In this case, the designer is veteran ASLer Bill Sisler. Various delays in the playtesting and development of TBP resulted in the project repeatedly being postponed, but it saw the light of day in 2010.
The 10 scenarios trace the combat history of the 45th Division from its inauguration into combat in Sicily in 1943 through its hard fighting in Italy (including Anzio), southern France (as part of Operation Anvil/Dragoon), and finally deep into Nazi Germany. It will be interesting to see how much interest the pack creates. Buckeyes! created only limited interest, largely because the division was a workhorse division rather than an elite unit, and because the division operated in secondary theaters. The same is essentially true for the 45th Division, so TBP may not create a lot of immediate gamer lust (though this says nothing about its quality).
Of the actions, one is set in Sicily in 1943, three more are set in Italy during its initial slog up the Italian peninsula, one is set on the Anzio beachhead in 1944, another is set in France in January 1945 in the wake of Operation Nordwind, a failed German counteroffensive, and three more are set in Germany in March-April 1945 in the final offensive of the 6th U.S. Army Group. U.S. Paratroopers and French Maquis make brief guest appearances.
The vast majority of scenarios in the pack are small or medium-sized; only two are large. Most of the scenarios in the pack are suitable for tournament play. Three scenarios utilize Air Support; three scenarios use OBA. No scenarios are set at Night. Three scenarios use ASL Starter Kit boards: RPT41 (Sicilian Debut) uses board x, RPT42 (Piccolo Peak) uses board v, and RPT46 (Ghosts at Meximieux) uses board z. One scenario, RPT 49 (Spring Cleaning), uses a post-board-52 mapboard, board 57. Four of the scenarios feature German attacks; six feature U.S. attacks.
Several of the scenarios feature interesting actions. RPT42 (Piccolo Peak) features a force of 10 German AFVs accompanied by 8 first-line squads, who can win immediately if they can exit 29 CVP (5 of which must be infantry/riders) off the map. They are opposed only by 7 2nd line and Green U.S. squads (representing troops from an artillery battalion), three Stuarts, and two 105mm artillery pieces. That doesn't sound like much opposition for the Germans, but the problem is that the Germans must cross a river, and there are only a few ways across. This can result in some tense bottleneck battles. RPT46 (Ghosts at Meximieux) feature a desperate American/Partisan defense of a town against a concentric German combined arms attack. The Americans have some French Maquis to help them out, as well as a HIP platoon with bazookas and, to sweeten the deal, a pair of tank destroyers. On the other hand, the Germans have 6 MK IV tanks and a 150mm self-propelled gun to help their 16 squads take the town.
The largest scenario in the pack is RPT47 (Black Edelweiss), a meaty 3-board 9-turn scenario that depicts a multi-pronged Waffen SS attack against an American hill position. The scenario features two of the nastiest geomorphic boards--47 and 39 (the third board, the wooded 52, is no slouch, either)--for attackers. The Germans have 28 Waffen SS squads (6-5-8s and 5-4-8s), loaded with MMG (and a DC), and an 80mm OBA module (plus a one-time 150mm rocket OBA attack). The defending Americans have 16 elite and (mostly) 1st line squads, also loaded with MMGs (and other toys); they are reinforced by 7 more squads, loaded for bear, and bringing with them a 100mm OBA module of their own. Both sides are also loaded with good leaders. This scenario simply features a ton of firepower on both sides.
One toy-filled scenario is RPT48 (Firestorm), featuring a March 1945 American attack against a varied collection of hastily-gathered German defenders. The Americans have 16 squads, 4 AFVs, a 4 good leaders, a .50 cal HMG, 3 MMG, 3 '45 BAZ, 2 DC, and, what the heck, a FT. The Germans, though, to buttress their infantry force (6 4-4-7 Waffen SS squads, 7 4-4-7 2nd line squads, and 3 4-6-7 first line squads), have a 10-2 leader, a hero, a 9-0 Commissar-like Waffen SS officer, an HMG, 2 MMG, 3 LMG, a PSK, three FBL, and a handful of guns and vehicles. You want more? Well, the Americans get fighter-bombers with napalm. That not enough? Then German sniper attacks can potentially generate Partisan half squads and heroes with MOL capability.
TBP may or may not generate a ton of interest, but the pack does contain some interesting scenarios and situations, more so than one might think at first glance.
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 6: Starter Kit Special Study II|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2011)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, one page of scenario notes|
Commentary: The 6th iteration of Schwerpunkt's Rally Point series revisits the scene of an earlier volume. All of the scenarios of this volume, as in the 2nd volume, are "dual" scenarios, compatible with both full ASL rules and ASL Starter Kit rules.
In the introduction to the scenario pack, editor Evan Sherry says that player requests caused him to produce another Rally Point volume with the dual ASL/ASLSK theme. However, he also warns that future ASLSK compatible scenarios will be a low priority for Schwerpunkt in the future. In part, this is due to the Tampa ASL group's belief that "SK players should take the training wheels off and play regular ASL if they want more gaming past [ASLSK]." Sherry argues that there comes a point where the SK product line should reach its limit; in fact, if it had been up to him, ASL Starter Kit #3 would have been the final product in that line. Many ASLers would agree with this assessment, happy with ASLSK as a bridge to ASL, but not crazy about the notion of it being an independent product line of its own, taking up resources that could have been devoted to ASL.
In any case, Rally Points of whatever theme will be more limited in the future. In the latest issue of Schwerpunkt, Evan Sherry notes that Rally Point will in the future come out every two years rather than every year. Even though this means fewer scenarios, ASL players should applaud this decision. It is very easy for an ASL crew of developers and playtesters to get stretched too thin, which can result in imperfectly tested scenarios on the one hand, and playtester burnout on the other hand. Moreover, the later Rally Point packs have also not had as much playings as the earlier Rally Point packs (even taking time into account), suggesting a bit of market saturation for Schwerpunkt scenarios. Limiting Rally Points to every other year might well both make it easier on the Tampa crew as well as whet the appetites of ASLers for Rally Points when they do come out.
This particular Rally Point, Volume 6, contains 10 varied scenarios that use the maps and counters available in the current milieu of ASL Starter Kit products (at the time of this writing, essentially Starter Kits 1-3, the Starter Kit "bonus pack", and ASLSK Expansion set #1). What this pack offers (as well as the first ASLSK Rally Point pack) for ASLSK players that almost none of the "official" products do is the ability to combine the components of the different products. Except for the "bonus" mini-pack, all of the ASLSK products released so far have been stand-alone, meaning they use only their own components. So no product from ASLSK#2 uses boards from ASLSK#1, for example. This pack allows those sorts of combinations.
It does not appear that the scenarios were actually playtested specifically for ASLSK. Rather, the playtesting seems to have been done for ASL. However, the rules are compatible with ASLSK. Schwerpunkt accomplishes this by including ASL-only rules in italics, so that each scenario may be played either as an ASLSK scenario or an ASL scenario. These sorts of scenarios make the perfect sort of bridge to full ASL; moreover, once someone makes the jump to full ASL, the old scenarios are not "wasted"--they can still play them in full ASL. It is somewhat inexplicable why MMP has not done the same.
The 10 scenarios represent a variety of actions, though of course they are limited by the subset of counters appearing in ASLSK products. The situations include Americans vs. Germans (France 1944, Germany 1945), Spanish Republicans vs. Spanish Nationalists (Spain 1937), Poles vs. Germans (France 1944), British/Indians vs. Germans (Italy 1944, Germany 1945), Soviets vs. Germans (Soviet Union 1941 & 1943, Hungary 1944), and Canadians vs. Italians (Italy 1943).
The scenarios are a good, even mix of small, medium and large-sized actions. No scenarios have OBA, Night Rules or Air Support. In looking at the SSRs, it is interesting to note a difference in design philosophy between Schwerpunkt-designed ASLSK compatible scenarios and MMP ASLSK scenarios. With one minor exception, the Schwerpunkt scenarios simply subtract SSRs from the full ASL version in order to make them ASLSK compatible. Thus Schwerpunkt basically does not try to represent ASL concepts within the context of ASLSK SSRs. In contrast, MMP is far more open to creating simplified versions of different ASL rules (such as OBA, for example) for its ASLSK scenarios, in the form of SSRs.
Most of the scenarios in this pack are straight-forward, bread and butter scenarios (this is not a criticism). Many of them contain the pseudo-building "control" VC that have become frequent in Schwerpunkt scenarios, where the attacker is not actually required to control buildings to win, but merely to eliminate enemy Good Order units from them.
Among the scenarios, several look interesting. RPT53 (Tiger Blood), despite its dubious Charlie Sheen reference, pits a force of attacking Americans, mostly elite and accompanied by a bunch of Shermans, against a smaller and less able defending force, buttressed by two fearsome weapons: a King Tiger and an 88mm Flak gun. The Americans must clear the Germans (see above para) from a key building and from a hill; these are on two separate maps, so the Americans at the outset have an interesting decision. They must divide their forces, taking into account that the forces that accomplish their objective first may have only a limited ability to contribute to the end game. They also have to contend with two weapons that can easily eliminate every one of their tanks (except that the 88mm gun could have problems against the frontal armor of the Sherman "Jumbo"). However, with all of their tanks (including a 105mm Sherman), their 1945 Bazookas and 1945 60mm mortars, the Americans have an unbelievable amount of smoke, in various forms, to help them.
RPT54 (An Italian Civil War) uses Soviet and Italian counters to represent contending Italians in the Spanish Civil War (an Italian International Brigade supporting the Republicans and an Italian Fascist unit supporting the Nationalists). Both sides have some tin cans to help them; it's a straightforward early war battle. RPT55 (Coudehard Cache), in contrast, features late war AFVs, including Panthers and Tigers. This scenario depicts a group of Germans trying to escape from the Falaise pocket, attempting to overrun units from the Polish Armoured Division in place to stop them. The scenario offers the Germans two ways to win. They can win immediately if they can exit 4 of their 6 AFVs off the board. They can win at the end of the game by clearing Polish units from two different parts of the playing area. With just 4.5 turns, the action will be fast and furious, with the prospect of immediate victory conditions adding an extra bit of tension.
In RPT58 (Sikh Defiance), Indian and German troops contend in a "king of the hill" situation, with both sides feeding reinforcements into the fray. One of the smaller scenarios is the all-infantry RPT51 (Arrivederci Nembo), in which 11 Italian squads (well-led) must attempt to get past a 6-squad force of Canadians (also well led) and exit 8 VP off the map.
One of the larger scenarios is RPT59 (Hungarian Hopscotch), interesting despite the bad title. What makes this city fight scenario interesting is that either side may potentially win at the end of any game turn. The Germans and Soviets each have troops at each other's doorsteps, and each have a reinforcing group a bit farther away. Either player may win at the end of a game (not player) turn if they control six or more multi-location buildings in the center of the map area (otherwise, the Soviets win if they control at least 5 at the end of the game). As a result, each turn could potentially see a desperate struggle for one or more key buildings. It is an interesting way to build intensity into a scenario.
Overall, the pack looks like a very interesting one, and one doesn't have to be interested in the Starter Kit in order to enjoy the scenarios herein. It looks worth getting.
|Title: Rally Point, Volume 7: Schwerpunkt's Greatest Hits|
|Publisher/Date: Sherry Enterprises (2012)||Product Type: Scenario Pack|
|Contents: 10 scenarios, 2 pages of designers' notes|
Commentary: Rally Point 7 is the first Schwerpunkt product to contain non-original material. The rationale for the product is to allow people who have not previously tried Schwerpunkt a chance to sample a variety of its wares. However, it has also been no secret that producing a volume of Schwerpunkt and an original Rally Point pack each year was taking its toll on the Tampa crew and issuing a reprint pack in lieu of an original Rally Point gave the Schwerpunktians a bit of breathing room and perhaps allowed them to escape a bit of burnout.
Despite its title, the pack doesn't really contain Schwerpunkt's "greatest hits." In fact, it only contains scenarios from the first 10 issues of Schwerpunkt--one scenario from each issue. Obviously, some issues (and this means YOU, Volumes 5 and 6) were not as good as others, which means that some excellent scenarios were left out of this pack.
What was included in the pack? Here's the list:
All of these are quality scenarios, playable and balanced (except perhaps Wollerscheim!), so ASLers can't go wrong with them. Scenarios that did not appear in this pack, but easily could (or should) have, include SP2 (Holding the Hotton Bridge), SP14 (The Green House), SP34 (Frankforce), SP65 (Ayo Gurkhali!), SP80 (Die Gurkha Die!), SP95 (Burn Gurkha Burn!), and SP96 (Husum Hotfoot). It is odd that almost all of the scenarios selected are either American vs. German actions or Soviet vs. German actions. Not a single PTO scenario was selected.
Anyway, for ASLers who have not yet tried the taste of Schwerpunkt, this is a can't-miss way to get your grub on.
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