Multi-Man Publishing (2019)
Country of Origin:
1 8" x 22" unmounted geoboard (84), 1 11" x 16" unmounted geoboard (12a/b), 12 scenarios (AP132-AP143) on cardstock, 1 page micro-campaign game rules.
If you spot one monkey riding an elephant, it’s an occurrence. If you see a second monkey riding an elephant, it’s just a coincidence. But if you happen to run across a third monkey riding an elephant, then, friend, you have yourself a trend.
That’s what we have here with the ASL Oktoberfest Action Packs. The first one–Action Pack #12–debuted at the ASL Oktoberfest (ASLOK) tournament in Cleveland in 2015. Two years later, Action Pack #13 was released at the 2017 ASLOK. And in October 2019 we saw the release at ASLOK of the third monkey riding an elephant: Action Pack #14. These action packs were all designed and developed by ASLOK organizers and their Cleveland-area friends, then published by MMP. Could it be that October 2021 might see the release of another such ASLOK Action Pack? It is certainly pleasing to think so.
As with every Action Pack, Action Pack #14 includes new official geoboards and a two-fisted handful of scenarios to go along with them. However, for the first time in Action Pack history, this pack includes both an 8″ x 22″ unmounted geoboard (84) and an 11″ x 16″ unmounted geoboard (12a/b). Every previous pack included one style of board or the other style, but there was no mix and matching. Action Pack #14, however, offers a bit of both.
The artwork on both boards meets the usual recent MMP standards for quality and crispness. Despite being two different board formats, the boards also work well together and were probably designed to. Both are basically bocage-compatible boards, but are quite different from those offered in Action Pack #4: Normandy 1944, as they are more, shall we say, specialized. The 8″ x 22″ geoboard, 84, is full of hedge-bordered areas, but is also dominated (about 60% of the board) by a two level hill. The hill also is honeycombed with hedges, which blend togther with woods and patches to make an intricate pattern not seen on any other board. However, this very fact also makes the board of limited utility. It doesn’t really work with PTO, nor are there any fields on the hill (there are a few patches of orchard). And much of the bocage country in Normandy was pretty flat. It is possible that designers may end up using the bottom half of board 84 considerably more than they use the top, hill-dominated half.
Board 12a/b, the 11″ x 16″ board, also has a bocage-plus theme; in this case, bocage-plus-village. The center (more or less) of the board features a compact stone-building village emanating outward in several directions from a central square. Hedges and fields pick up where the village leaves off. The board is also distinguished by a super-long L-shaped gully that traverses one long edge of the board and one short edge. Despite being the umpteenth village board, it’s still visually interesting.
Action Pack #14 also comes with 12 scenarios. All of the scenarios are set in Normandy in 1944 and all feature Bocage. If you don’t like Bocage–and a number of ASLers are not crazy about it–this pack may not be for you. If you like variety more than themed products, this may also not be your bag. Eight of the scenarios are American-German actions, while three feature Canadians and Germans and one features British and Germans.
Boards required include: 3, 4, 24, 43, 54, 55, 64, 65, 66, 71, 72, 79, 84, 11a/b, 12a/b, and DASL boards f, i, and k.
The scenarios tend to be either small or large, without a lot of medium ground. None are huge. One scenario has OBA (in the form of a Creeping Barrage), while one uses Night rules. One scenario, it should be noted, irritatingly asks players to “use the British Commonwealth Forces Korea Ordnance Note 16 counter for the 3-in. MTR, meaning that players will have to own Forgotten War just because of one counter in order to play this scenario. This really seems a bit much.
Several of the scenarios have distinctive features. AP132 (Night of Nights) is both an Air Drop scenario and a Night scenario; it features 17.5 American paratroop squads dropping down to fight 14 German squads, 5 AA guns (in AA mode), and some vehicles entering in Convoy. Yes, this is an advanced scenario, to be sure.
AP133 (Two the Hard Way) gives the defending Germans a ton of fortifications (and they can buy even more from a chart), but there is an SSR that states that, when the Americans control more pillboxes/trench hexes than the current turn number, the best German leader must take an NTC or surrender (in the sense of EVERYBODY surrenders). Purchasable fortifications also appear in AP135 (Fuller’s Folly) and AP139 (Emergency Surgery). The German player can buy SW in AP141 (Currie’s Favor).
The pack also includes a DASL scenario, AP134 (Death Takes a Toll), a small playable Canadian-German action which pits mortars against flamethrowers and DCs. I can understand how death is involved here.
Two of the scenarios, AP135 (Fuller’s Folly) and AP136 (Second To None), can be played in sequence in what the designers dub a “micro” campaign. Various accomplishments in the first scenario for each side gives them points that they can use to purchase things in the second scenario. As a linked-scenario campaign game, this is about as small as one can get, but it does offer a little bit of additional play value.
Overall, for ASL players who don’t mind bocage, Action Pact #14 seems like a decent value.