Multiman Publishing (2015)
Country of Origin:
1 8" x 22" unmounted geoboard (52), 17 scenarios, 50 pages rules, 884 die-cut counters, 5 chart pages.
Hakkaa Päälle!, hereinafter HP (you’re welcome), is two things. First, it is a Finnish phrase that translates roughly as “That meatloaf went down the wrong way.” Second, it is the unspellable and unpronounceable title to the latest ASL core module, as well as a powerful testament to the difficulty MMP has had in naming scenarios and products throughout the history of the company. In the interests of brevity, please assume that you have just read six additional paragraphs of text decrying the decision to give HP this particular title.
HP provides expanded treatment of the Finnish armed forces in World War II. Astute readers will no doubt have noticed that the Finns are the only “minor” nationality to get their own module, despite the fact that fewer Finns fought in World War II than did many other nationalities. This is partly due to the mythologizing of World War II era Finns that is commonplace among wargamers (and military history buffs in general, it must be noted) and also due to more practical reasons.
There certainly was an argument for a new or expanded treatment of the Finns, who appeared in the very first ASL module, Beyond Valor, but almost as an afterthought. Where the main combatants introduced, the Germans and Soviets, received full treatments, little research or effort was done on the Finns for Beyond Valor, with the result that they were portrayed with no vehicles and virtually no weapons. Moreover, what was portrayed was, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. Beyond Valor, and thus ASL, portrayed Finns as supermen, with squad types of 8-3-8, 6-4-8, and 5-3-8. That’s right, the worst Finnish unit in the game still had a higher morale than the best American unit, and equal to the finest troops anywhere in ASL. Did I say “equal to?” I apologize; I meant “better than.” Because Beyond Valor also gave ALL Finnish troops the capability to Self-Rally, made them immune to Cowering, provided them with the ability to deploy without a leader, and made all but Green troops Stealthy. Also, according to the ASLRB, all Finnish soldiers have very large penises. Pretty much everything about the Finns in ASL was incomplete or bad or both.
Consequently, from the early days of ASL, different players put different pressures on Avalon Hill, then MMP, to do something about the Finns. Finnfanatics wanted a full OB for their precious winter wonders, while Finnophobes wanted something done about the unrealistically powerful way in which Finns were portrayed in the game. Note that these goals, while not necessarily mutually exclusive, were not exactly synergistic. Originally, Avalon Hill planned to include an expanded Finnish treatment in its Axis minor allies module, what would eventually become Armies of Oblivion. However, Armies of Oblivion was one of those infamous ASL projects that everybody wanted out, but nobody really wanted to have to do, and when Avalon Hill bit the dust, Armies of Oblivion was not even remotely ready for publication (it would not see print until 2006).
MMP had already been grappling with the problem of Armies of Oblivion, while producing ASL content under the mantle of Avalon Hill, and by the late 1990s MMP was openly considering separating the Finns from the other nationalities and doing them in a separate module, which theoretically would make Armies of Oblivion easier to produce. In 2000, MMP formally made the decision to split the Finns and concentrate on Armies of Oblivion. After an apparent overdose of Molly, they announced that the name of the module would be called Hakkaa Päälle!, a name they stubbornly stuck with even after being ridiculed over the choice for the next 15 years.
Finnaficianados were thus given a mixed blessing. While on the one hand their Finns would get an entire module on their own (though it was planned to be a very small module, with just one geoboard, board 52), on the other hand, the Finns were back-burnered behind Armies of Oblivion, itself a module MMP was in no hurry to produce at all. So they would have to wait. And wait. And wait. Of course, you know the end of the story: HP, considerably expanded from the initial conception in many respects, finally came out in 2015, a decade-and-a-half after its announcement.
The two main people behind HP were Swedish ASLer Lars Thuring and Finnish ASLer Tuomo Lukkari, though a whole host of other people participated in some way. Thuring and Lukkari had a major task on their hands and what they had to go through illustrates the difficulty in “re-doing” an integral, even if small, part of the ASL system. In order to re-introduce the Finns, HP had to include an amazing 50 pages of rules. That’s not 50 pages of new content; only about half the content is new. But 25 more pages had to be re-issued because of relatively minor additions or changes related to the Finns. And don’t think that MMP did this for every page; HP also comes with a page of “errata” consisting of twenty-something other Finn references that it wants you to pencil in on your own. Similarly, HP comes with a (to use the Finnish word) shitload of re-done charts and tables, simply to accommodate the new additions. It is not easy to re-do things in ASL.
So what did Thuring and Lukkari re-do, if anything? As already noted, they were faced with the fundamental tension between making the Finns more realistic and expanding the Finnish OB. One decision they apparently made at the beginning was not “take back” anything. So, all the Finnish supermen? Still totally there, basking in their testosterone. Instead, the designers just layered on more Finns over the existing Finns, introducing three new Finnish squad types: a boxed 1st-line 5-4-8 squad, a 2nd-line 4-4-7 squad, and a conscript 4-3-7 squad (making the Finns the only nationality with both green and conscript troops). As a result, the tiny Finns now have 6 different squad types (more than the British or Soviets).
Though the rules provide no explanation for those squad types at all, other than to say they “allow designers to better portray a broader range of actions,” it is fairly easy to come to the conclusion that they prefer these squad types to the original 6-4-8s and 5-3-8s that made up the bulk of the original Beyond Valor Finnish forces. Certainly they are more realistic. They also added an 8+1 leader type (originally, an 8-0 leader was as bad as the Finns ever got). Conscript squads are exempted from the Self-Rally capability and are not Stealthy. The rules also now allow Finns to use certain captured Soviet MG, plus starting in July 1944 they get Panzerfausts.
The Soviets, opponents of the Finns, get some changes to their rules as well, though not as dramatic. Now, prior to 1941, Soviet 4-2-6 squads battle harden to 4-4-7 squads, not to 5-2-7 squads (unless there are 6-2-8 or 5-2-7 squads in the OB of the scenario). There is also a new rule, A25.212, dubbed “Russian Early War Doctrine,” which can be invoked by SSR (no time frame is mandated). This rule gives a -1 to CC attacks against Soviet 4-2-6 squads (not cumulative with capture attempt drms). It also–in a very interesting decision–requires Soviet AFVs to all move before non-Berserk infantry does, depicting a lack of coordination. Needless to say, with this rule, Armored Assault is NA. Soviet Artillery and Air Support are also weakened.
HP also introduces new terrain types. The first is Light Woods, which exist by SSR. Essentially, they are similar to Woods but are a hindrance to LOS rather than an obstacle (with a +2 DRM rather than +1). This is similar to SSR-based light woods rules that have been used in the past.
The second new terrain type is provided by counters: Prepared Fire Zones. These counters are given to players by OB, sort of like mines or Wire. There are two types: Open Ground PFZs and (oddly) Vineyard PFZs. What Vineyard PFZ counters do is transform woods, Forest, pine woods, Light Woods, jungle, and bamboo hexes into the equivalent of Vineyard hexes (yes, you’ll have to look them up). Open Ground PFZs transform brush, vineyard, orchard, cactus patch, olive grove, grain, palm tree, and kunai hexes into Open Ground. This is a generally good idea and scenario designers can use them to advantage, but the rules do have one serious limitation, in that they did not address how the Japanese used prepared fire zones in jungle fighting. What the Japanese often did was not to chop wide swaths of vegetation down to create a crude, large fire zone. Rather, they often very carefully removed very small areas of vegetation to create non-apparent fire zones through terrain types like kunai. In other words, the attacker would not typically be able to detect such fire zones until they had blundered into one; they were essentially HIP (and would typically only work across a single row of hexes, in ASL terms, sort of like a fire lane). This needs to be added for the PTO (a Chapter B footnote does raise the possibility of HIP zones).
Chapter D rules now include around a page of rules dedicated to a new type of vehicle, the Aerosan (described as a “motorized sledge”), which was previously introduced in third-party ASL products. All things considered, that is probably where this rule should have stayed, as it provides a bunch of new rules for a vehicle type for which there can only ever be a mere handful of scenarios. Chrome, chrome, chrome.
In Chapter E, the Soviets (pre-1941) now appear in the Extreme Winter rules. Skis and ski counters are now changed, so that ski counters are always on top of their owners, but now ski counters have two sides, “on” and “off” (you can figure that part out on your own). Dummy ski counters are now also provided for, yes, dummy counters. So now for the first time in ASL, non-existent troops have non-existent gear. The chapter also introduces equipment sledges called ahkios.
A few other little changes also appear in the rules, some the addition of errata or clarification that have nothing to do with the Finns. For example, Romanians troops with ATMMs may now use them even when Berserk (the rule now reads “unbroken and unpinned” rather than “unpinned, Good Order.”
Chapter H is where the bulk of the new material is added. First, the Soviets get a bunch of new stuff, generally rarish Soviet vehicles (indeed, ASLers may be seeing here much or all of the content from the announced but never published “Russian Rarities” pack from MMP). So, if you ever wanted to get your mitts on a Soviet bridge-laying tank, well, this is the module for you. A number of the vehicles are early Soviet AFVs, some of which fought in the Winter War, some of which apparently did not. Some of these inclusions are pretty ridiculous. Included, for example, is the SMK, a planned heavy tank designed to replace the T-28 and T-35. A SINGLE PROTOTYPE was constructed, which was sent to the Finnish front for THREE DAYS, where it became immobilized and abandoned. Really, this is just the waste of a counter. HP does the exact same thing with the T-100, provide rules and a counter for a single prototype vehicle. Why? Is ASL not filled enough already with wondrous vehicles that actually existed? (Both of these counters have counter errata, by the way).
A number of other Soviet counters consist of trucks, because if there is one thing that ASLers demand a full accounting of, it is every possible make and model of truck. So now we have counters for the STZ-3, a truck on tractor treads, and the STZ-5, its successor. We are also treated to three different models of Aerosans. The remaining new Soviet vehicles are all Lend-Lease vehicles, so now the Soviets can have amphibious jeeps. Two new guns are also introduced, a crappy experimental mortar used during the Winter War and a 203mm artillery piece.
And then there are the Finns, of course. HP provides about 17 pages worth of Chapter H material on Finnish vehicles and ordnance. To understand how, well, over-the-top that is, the Italians in ASL only get 14 pages. The Japanese get less than that. The French actually get 18 pages, barely beating the Finns. All of the Allied minor nations together get fewer Chapter H pages than the Finns, as do all of the other Axis minor nations together. If you think that there might be bloat in the Finnish Chapter H rules, you’d be right. After all, the Finnish Army started the Winter War with a single AFV ready for combat and by war’s end had only a single, cobbled-together armored division that was mostly kept in reserve. The Finns had no armor production of their own and, in any case, they frequently fought in situations in which armor provided no real advantage.
Consequently, the Finnish AFVs of HP are mostly Soviet AFVs, captured in small numbers throughout the war. For example, the Finns captured 30 T-37As, which they distributed to various army corps in three-vehicle driblets. HP even includes entire entries and counters for single tanks, such as the single T-50 captured by the Finns in 1941. One has to wonder whether all of these were needed, or if some could have been represented by Soviet counters and SSRs. It is very specific for a core module, as opposed to an HASL or other specialized module.
In addition to the many counters representing the small numbers of Soviet AFVs captured by the Finns, the countermix includes a few Vickers tanks from the Finns’ original complement of armor, a couple of interesting Swedish AFVs (an “anti-aircraft tank” and an armored car), and some German StuG IIIGs.
HP also includes a variety of Finnish guns and mortars, including the 1/2″ 47 KrH/41, a mortar with only a 4-hex range as well as the Savunheitin M/42, a dedicated smoke mortar with unlimited smoke (!). Generally speaking, the Finnish ordnance mix, unlike some of the Finnish AFV mix, is reasonable, as most of the items here were acquired, by hook or by crook, in large enough numbers to justify inclusion.
One figure may be useful in trying to understand what MMP has done here with Finnish vehicles & ordnance, especially the former. During World War II, Nazi Germany produced a 105mm AA gun dubbed the 10.5 cm FlaK 38. This gun, essentially a larger version of the famous “88,” was used primarily to defend the Reich against Allied bombers, but contained the sights and ammo necessary for an anti-armor role. In 1944-45, as Allied armies poured into the Reich, many of these guns indeed found themselves playing such a role. At the end of the war, there were over 1,800 of these guns in German service. Now this German gun, which by no stretch of the imagination was some sort of “rare” piece of ordnance, is completely absent from ASL. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And yet here comes HP, which provides counters and rules for single vehicles in Soviet and Finnish service. Does HP suffer from a bit of bloat? You bet your Aunt Bea’s reindeer it does.
HP comes with four full countersheets. Now all ASLers love to add more official counters to the system, but that’s a lot of new counters to squeeze into your preferred method of storage. One entire countersheet is taken up basically by Finnish MMCs–all six squad types. In case you were curious, MMP decided to stick with the light gray color scheme of the Finns that debuted in 2nd Edition Beyond Valor, despite the similarity to the Italian color scheme. The sheet also includes not just one but two Finnish turn markers, one with a Soviet reverse side and one with a German reverse side. Apparently, if you put a Soviet and a German symbol on the same side of a counter there is an explosion similar to that created by contact between matter and anti-matter.
A second countersheet is half-filled with Finnish SW and SMC, plus a few AA guns. Some Axis minor crews appear here as well. Are they lost or are they errata counters? Not explained. There is also a third turn marker on this countersheet, with Finnish and German symbols on one side and a Soviet symbol on the other. Did we mention that this module was bloated? I think we may have. The other half of the countersheet includes Prepared Fire Zone markers, Soviet SW, some port and starboard turret counters and TKO counters for various vehicles, as well as no fewer than 40 ski counters and 15 dummy ski counters. There are also six Ahkia counters. There are also counters for vehicles with searchlights, because ASL.
The third countersheet is a Finnish 5/8″ countersheet, about equally divided between AFVs and Guns. The fourth countersheet is the Soviet 5/8″ countersheet, which also contains a host of German AFVs on it. Some of these are the German AFVs that appeared in Pegasus Bridge, while others are vehicles that have appeared in at least two other official ASL modules before this one, such as the Sturmtiger. Note that only 18 Sturmtiger were produced in World War II, so there are basically now half as many Sturmtigers in the ASL countermix as actually existed in real life.
After so many charts, rules, and counters, we come to the boards. Well, board. HP comes with only a single 8″ x 22″ unmounted geoboard, board 52–a board that many ASLers will already own, because it was available through separate purchase (and as part of the “map pack” collection of ASL boards) for many years. This was the board that, way way back when, MMP announced would be included in HP. The fact that, even as every single other part of the module grew in scope, the number of boards remained the same at a meager one, is the most disappointing aspect of HP. The world of ASL geoboards has for some time had a shortage of “wilderness” boards representing unsettled or sparsely settled areas and this would have been a perfect opportunity to bulk up ASL’s stock in this regard. But ASLers will have to settle for board 52, a heavily wooded board similar to board 5.
Finally, we come to the scenarios of HP. Yes, HP has scenarios–a full 17 of them, in fact (the game box claims only 16, but it is wrong). Finland essentially fought in three related conflicts during the World War II era. The first was the Winter War, in 1939-1940, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland after the latter refused to agree to a territory swap to provide more protection to Leningrad. Initially, the Finns humiliated and embarrassed the hastily-mobilized and ill-prepared Soviets, but Soviet might eventually won the day and the Finns were forced to agree to conditions worse than the agreement the Soviets had originally asked for. This defeat in turn led the Finns to become allies of Nazi Germany (though they claimed to be “co-belligerents” instead) and to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. The Finns fought with Nazi Germany against the Soviets from 1941 to 1944, when the Soviets crushed the Finns and launched a new invasion of Finland. The Finns called this the “Continuation War,” for propaganda purposes; that is, until they decided not to continue it and sued for peace in the late summer of 1944. The Soviets, focusing on the main enemy, Germany, agreed, but not without imposing more conditions on the twice-beaten Finns. One of these conditions was that the Finnish Army force the German army to evacuate Finland. This led to the so-called “Lapland War,” which was essentially a fake war between the Germans and the Finns, in which the Germans and Finns essentially pretended to fight each other so that the Finns could technically fulfill Soviet demands and the Germans could safely evacuate. However, a few skirmishes and relatively minor actions between the Finns and Germans did occur.
HP’s 17 scenarios include 6 actions from the Winter War, 8 from the invasion of the Soviet Union, and 3 from the Lapland War. None of the scenarios use any geoboards published after 2006, interestingly enough. However, they do require boards from a wide variety of products: 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 16, 17, 19, 24, 26, 27, 28, 32, 34, 35, 37, 39, 40, 42, 44, 50 and, of course, 52. A variety of overlays are also required. Some boards in particular are heavily used by this module: 17 (five times), 19 (three times), 32 (four times), 37 (three times), 42 (four times), and 44 (three times). Board 52, which comes with the module, is used four times. The repeated use of these boards is another indication that HP could have benefited by more than one board.
Almost all ASL core modules were released in the 1980s or 1990s and, as a result, have scenarios that tend to be large, long and slow. Armies of Oblivion, though released in 2006, was a throwback to the early days of ASL and also featured large and long scenarios. Even though it appears in 2015, HP is yet another throwback, especially in terms of scenario size. Of the 17 scenarios in HP, fully 11 of them are large in size (many of them featuring a horde of Soviets and a smaller number of Finns). About 4 scenarios are small in size and the remaining two squeak somewhere in-between. Half of the scenarios go into or past the 8th turn, with three scenarios being 10 turns or longer.
Three scenarios use Night rules, while five scenarios have OBA. No scenarios use Air Support. The vaunted Aerosans show up a grand total of once. The designers must have searched for every action mentioning Finnish AFVs, because the little buggers end up in 8 of the 17 scenarios.
Of the scenarios, a number of them portray more or less “stock” situations, such as a Soviet attack on a Finnish fortified line, or a Finnish attack through the woods on a surprised Soviet force. Scenario 166 (Skiing in Lapland) is a little more novel, featuring two actions on separate boards, with the Finns able to split up their forces between the two boards. Since it is designed by one of ASL’s best scenario designers, Swedish ASLer Mattias Rönnblom, it has a strong chance to be as good as it is unusual. Scenario 168 (Forest Bastion) provides a bit of a switch, with a Finnish attack on a very strong Soviet fortified position. Scenario 169 (Night Fans) is, as its title suggests, the one Aerosans scenario, using desert boards to represent frozen Lake Segozero, but it is also one of the Night scenarios, rendering it less likely to see play.
ASLers in search of meaty action might gravitate towards 171 (Retaking the VKT Line), because of the large number of AFVs on both sides. A more tournament friendly scenario is 175 (Hunters at Ylimaa), which features a large Finnish attack designed to exit forces past a relatively small German force with OBA. An early popular and balanced scenario is 170 (11th Company Counterattack).
One scenario, 165 (Nothing But Courage), is exhibiting the early signs of a dog, with only one Soviet win recorded on ROAR half a year after the publication of HP, against 13 Finnish wins.
It should be noted that only a single 8-3-8 Finnish squad shows up in the entire module–a real sign of how the Finns are being reconsidered here. Of the 17 scenarios, 6-4-8 squads comprise the dominant Finnish squad type in 6 scenarios, while 5-4-8 squads are the dominant squad type in 10 scenarios (and 4-4-7 squads dominant in one scenario). In other words, 6-4-8 Finnish squads are now the de facto elite squads, even though their “legacy” status has them technically as 1st-line squads.
With all the stuff that is in HP, it is easy to overlook the one thing that is NOT in HP: the SASL materials required for the Finns. The lonely SASL fans out there will have to wait even longer.
So what’s the bottom line? Well, it’s out, finally. There’s that. But HP is to some degree a mixed bag. The physical quality is generally high and it has the usual MMP attention to detail. Fans of the Finnish, and there are quite a few in the ASL community, will no doubt rejoice at all the new counters and scenarios. Other ASLers may be more relieved, with the “last” of the original core modules now complete. There is no doubt that HP is a somewhat bloated module, with rules and counters dedicated to some things below even the low bar set for ASL inclusion. And, at the same time, it is in one respect a skeletal module, in that it only adds one new board to the system. Though many ASLers would be loath to pass up a core module, even one they are not interested in, it is a fact that if you already have Board 52, you could probably give a pass to this module and not have it come back and make you regret it. The appeal of this module is largely limited to fans of Finn fun. And at $96, it ain’t cheap.
2016 Note: In 2016, MMP released the 2nd edition of Yanks, which contains, in addition to its normal counters, 4 Soviet AFV counters that are corrected counters for HP AFVs with errata.
P. de Quant says
Very nice Mark, well written and balanced.
Personally, I gravitate towards including the common German gun rather than excluding the single Soviet tank: I find such oddities much fun. Your comment on the missed chance to include some wilderness terrain boards is one with which I wholeheartedly agree.
I laughed a lot reading this and kinda secretly wish you’d not cut those many paragraphs of banter you’d probably already written on MMP naming this module Haakka Paalle. If only there were more modules like this coming out so I could read your reviews on them!
Keep up the productivity,
Don’t know if you’re aware, but the historical use of “Hakkaa Päälle” is from the Finnish Light Cav units under the employ of King Gustav of Sweden during the 30-years war. They were known as the Hakkapeliitta and their cry of “Hakkaa Päälle” translated to the equivalent of “Cut them down!” and/or “Show no quarter!” at the time.
Tim Hundsdorfer says
Mark: Your analysis of this is dead on. Thanks for making this available. Obviously, every ASL player is going to buy this module, but as far as value goes, I think this one is far, far below products like Crucible of Steel.
Doghouse Riley says
Nicely summarized – thank you for going into such great detail.
BUT, please don’t refer to yourself as “we” when “I” will suffice. That’s for the Queen of England. And “Because ASL”? This cutesy writing is for 15-year-old girls and well below the standards of this site.
John Mundie says
I very much appreciated this review. Unlike the observation of one of your respondents, I am a hardcore ASLer (owned everything, but a handful of errata counters in a General, made by AH & MMP) and this was my tipping point.
I did not buy this module and I will think very long and hard about buying future products. I have to ask myself: will I ever play it? These things are not inexpensive.
And I could play the many thousands of scenarios i already own.
As always, merci beaucoup.
Great review and enjoyable to read. Just bought it on eBay because I just can’t resist.
Like you I was pretty skeptical of the Finns, and I think the desire to not “fix” anything done in the past (the Finns in Beyond Valor were really just a half-hearted remake of the Finns from Crescendo of Doom, who were really there just as a quirky variant) has contributed to the bloat of the module. But in fairness “fixing” everything that had gone before would have been a huge hassle and risked stirring up the ire of the fans who really wanted this module. I think the way they went was fair.
I think my opinion on this is probably influenced by the fact that their big Finnish re-make does work really well. The Finns aren’t just another standard nationality, they really do play quite differently and manage to capture some of the super-aggressive hit-and-run and raiding tactics the Finns used. They’re a bit like the USMC (IMO), they don’t make ton of sense outside of their narrow context, but when you’re playing the emblematic winter war stuff the high ratings and copious self-rally combined with massive numberical inferiority do make for an evocative game. And now you’ve got some more rataional squad types for more traditional engagements.
Paul Synnott says
Very entertaining review. I’ve started to make a habit of reading reviews here first when considering purchases, because you get such a “warts and all” report…a bit like when buying on Amazon I read the bad reviews first.
Please keep up the entertaining and informative work.
Another counter not in ASL that ought to be is the German Panzer IC and 1F, very different tanks from one another and more powerful then the little Panzer IA & IB’s of the early years.
The best line ever-“Also, according to the ASLRB, all Finnish soldiers have very large penises.”
I damned nearly fell out of my chair!
Made my day…