Le Franc Tireur (2018)
Country of Origin:
104-page magazine, 32 scenarios (FT237-FT256) on cardstock, 474 die-cut counters (410 1/2" and 64 5/8"), Italian Nationality Chart [chart may not be present in all copies; see text for explanation]
If you’re anything like Desperation Morale, you like your ASL products like you like your sandwiches: meaty. If so, Le Franc Tireur No. 14 certainly delivers the goods, as it is an ASL magazine with more than 100 pages of content, 32 scenarios, plus counters to boot. There’s a lot of there, there.
Le Franc Tireur is a French ASL third party publisher, but for many years, its products, including its eponymous magazine, have been printed in English. This is good, not just for native English speakers, but for ASLers around the world for whom English may be a second, or third, language. Still, the fact that much of the content is written by non-native English speakers, and all the editing is done by non-native English speakers, often means that the quality of the writing is not up to the standards of a publication like the ASL Journal. For some articles, this particular issue saw Italian writers translated and/or edited by French translators and editors in English! Where have we seen that before?
Magazine content includes:
- Overview by Sebi Caltabiano of Advancing Fire, a new ASL third party publisher based in Italy that will be releasing its first products in 2020 (theoretically; the article itself says 2019, which is just days from being over as of this writing).
- Interview with Enrico Catanzaro, an Italian ASLer who runs the VASLeague for online ASL play.
- Promotions for ASL tournaments on mainland China and in Singapore (Two thumbs up for ASL in Asia!)
- A summary by François Boudrenghien of the 2018 ASL Ring, a French ASL tournament
- An article by American Steve Swann on Bulgarian armor in 1944 (based on *extremely* limited sources)
- A historical article by Alan Hume on the Decima Flottiglia MAS, the elite Italian unit that continued fighting for Mussolini’s puppet regime and the Nazis after the Italian surrender
- A historical article by Philippe Naud on Italian units that were raised and organized by the Allies after the Italian surrender in 1943
- A historical article by Torsten Cumberland on the Folgore Parachute Division; also contains a page on representing Folgore troops in ASL
- An article by Laurent Closier & Laurent Forest (that is really too many Laurents) titled “Birds of Prey,” essentially a rules article explaining Air Support, AA, and Dogfighting but also containing a few tactical tips
- Pieces by Italian ASLers Andrea Pagni, Paolo Cariolato, and Luca Martini with varying views on ASL representations of Italians
- A detailed Series Replay article featuring FT214 (A Grain of Sand) as the scenario played, with Philippe Rohmer as the Free French player, Guillaume Mailhan as the German player and Lionel Colin, the designer of the scenario, as the neutral commentator
Overall, an interesting mix of articles, although it would have been preferable to have more articles related to ASL play & tactics rather than historical articles. It’s odd, though, that there is no article explaining the included counters.
Now, what about those counters? There are two countersheets, one with 1/2″ counters and the other containing a mix of 1/2″ and 5/8″ counters. The counters are well die-cut and look nice, but some are a bit misaligned with the die and have very little bottom margin or, in other cases, top margin. As many third party publishers do these days, LFT uses color for infantry figures, AFVs, and planes.
The first sheet is an Italian infantry sheet and contains an odd mix of new and existing Italian squad types and weapons. Squads and half-squad are provided for Italian 4-4-7 Elite squads, 3-4-7 1st line squads, 3-4-6 1st line squads, and conscripts.
In addition to those existing squad types, there are also new squad/half-squad types, including a 5-4-8 squad, a 4-4-8 squad, a 5-3-7 squad, and Assault Engineer variants for all those squad types. There are also Assault Engineers for the 4-4-7 squad type.
The 1/2″ counters on the second sheet provide crews (including 2-2-8 crews), Italian and German SW in Italian colors, leaders and heroes.
Other 1/2″ counters include 10 Allied-minor colored SW (most of them British), 35 Soviet-colored SW (mostly of American Italian, British, and “Axis” derivation), and 5 0-0-6 counters of women wearing dresses (see below).
Most, though not all, of the 5/8″ counters are American, British, French, Soviet, German, Japanese, and Italian plane types. The artwork is admittedly very nice indeed.
The nature of some of the counters is explained in an “Italian Nationality Chart” that was meant to be included in Le Franc Tireur No. 14, but was not (at least, not for initial copies; it is possible that the chart was added to later copies sold after its absence was noticed). LFT has made that chart available as a PDF and has also included it in From the Cellar Pack 9.
The chart reveals that no fewer than four of the squad types on the countersheet are for the Folgore parachute division (4-4-7, 4-4-8, 5-3-7, and 5-4-8), with one of those (5-4-8) also intended for Decima MAS (aka X-MAS).
There are no counters here for the Italian units that were raised by the Allies, or for those, like the elite 1st Battalion of the X Reggimento “Arditi” that fought for the Allies. There’s also not even a mention of the elite Alpini divisions or the Monte Cervino Ski Battalion or other elite Italian units. Nor is there any mention of the many partisan units (often armed by the Allies) that fought against the Axis in Italy (though some appear in scenarios).
One might think that the counters here, given all the squad types and SW, might serve as an Italian infantry alternative to having the official Italian counters from Hollow Legions, but the absence of Italian concealment counters and 81mm MTRs pretty much precludes this. It’s worth noting that third party publisher Broken Ground Design decided to provide these counters, and some others, in a special counter supplement designed for use with this product; see here for details.
The Italian counters are used in many of the scenarios provided in this product, of which there are 32 (!) in all, almost all of them representing Italian combat actions spanning many theaters and years (somehow a couple of non-Italian scenarios snuck in). These include France 1940 (French vs. Italians), Greece 1940 (Greeks vs. Italians, Greeks and “Villagers” vs. Italians holding “Greek schoolgirl prisoners”), Eritrea 1941 (Free French vs. Italians [2 scenarios]), Somalia 1941 (British vs. Italians, South Africans vs. Italians), Abyssinia 1941 (British and South Africans vs. Italians), Ethiopia 1941 (Ethiopians vs. Italians, Belgians vs. Italians), Yugoslavia 1941 (Communist Partisans vs. Italians and Albanians), Soviet Union 1941 (Soviets vs. Germans and Italians), Egypt 1942 (Free French vs. Italians), Tunisia 1942 (French vs. Italians and Germans) & 1943 (British vs. Germans and Italians), Sicily 1943, (British vs. Italians [3 scenarios], Americans and British vs. Italians, Americans vs. Italians), China 1943 (Italians vs. Japanese), Italy 1943 (Italians vs. Germans), Albania 1943 (Italian communist partisans and Albanian partisans vs. Germans and Albanian nationalist militia), Yugoslavia 1944 (Bulgarians vs. Germans), Italy 1944 (Americans vs. Germans and Italian fascists), Slovenia 1945 (Yugoslav communist partisans vs. Italian fascists), and Italy 1945 (Americans vs. Germans, Allied Italians vs. Germans and Fascist Italians, Americans and Italian partisans vs. Germans and/or Italian fascists [2 scenarios], Italian fascists vs. “Germans”).
Whew. That’s a lot of scenarios in a lot of exotic and far-away places. For those ASLers who love ASL for the flavor and the off-the-beaten-path scenarios, this is a scenario mix sent straight from heaven. The scenarios are all in glossy color cardstock (but European paper length, not American paper length) and are attractive. Many scenarios are two-page scenarios, so make sure you don’t accidentally put only one page of a two-page scenario in your travel bag.
For so many scenarios, you need a lot of boards. To play all the scenarios, the following boards are required: 2, 3, 7, 8, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 33, 35, 38, 40, 41, 42, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 66, 67, 69, 80, 1a/b, 2a/b, 3a/b, 9a/b, and ASLSK boards t, v and y, as well as third party DASL boards d3, d5, and d6 from LFT’s Deluxe Pack #1, board LFT1 from Le Franc Tireur No. 11, and board LFT2 from Le Franc Tireur No. 12. Okay, you pretty much need all the boards.
The scenarios skew towards the large in size. Slightly over half the scenarios in this product are large, while the remainder are equally divided between small and medium. Quite a few scenarios (8) use OBA, while three use Air Support. No scenarios use Night rules.
Scenarios FT238 (El Himeimat Ridge), FT235 (Once More Unto the Breach), and FT229 (A Push in the Bush), the latter not to be confused with the very different ASL News scenario of the same name, use desert boards and provide a relatively rare opportunity for DTO play.
For amphibious phans, FT240 (Commando Beach) offers a manageably-sized Seaborne Assault.
A number of other scenarios offer situations interesting in their own right:
- FT227 (Damsels in Distress…) literally offers damsels in distress. In this scenario, 9 Greek squads and random partisan reinforcements (angry villagers) are on a mission to liberate Greek schoolgirls for some reason held hostage by a group of Italians.
- FT226 (Veni Venezia!), another Greek-Italian action, features that classic ASL situation of a horde of crappy troops attacking a smaller number of better troops. Will quantity win out, or quality?
- FT228 (Last Charge at Umbrega), a scenario set in Eritrea in eastern Africa, features a quite unusual situation: cavalry vs. cavalry. In this action, 10 Free French (though treated as regular French) cavalry squads attack a camp held by 15 Italian cavalry squads. This was allegedly “the last French cavalry charge of the war.”
- FT229 (A Push in the Bush), one of the DTO scenarios referenced above, is a rare very small DTO action that can help people get used to the DTO rules. Here 12 British squads launch an attack on 6 Italian squads and two AFVs. Interestingly, Brush is treated as Ambush Terrain.
- FT230 (Italian Behemoth) offers sarcastic behemoths, it seems. This tight little eastern African actioner features 12 Italian squads and 4 L3/35 tankettes attacking a South African force of 6 squads and a MTR, with a late-arriving armored car showing up to lend a hand. This is one of those scenarios where every piece is important and, if balanced, can offer a tense, quick-playing situation.
- FT233 (Surprised Gideon) offers an exotic situation if there ever was one, featuring part of the British-Ethiopian attempt in 1941 to liberate Ethiopia from the Italians. Here an Italian cavalry and armored counterattack takes place against Gideon Force, depicted here by 8 Axis minor 3-4-7 squads and 10 partisan squads.
- FT234 (‘Meat-Meats’ Attack!) is so exotic it makes Surprised Gideon look like a neighborhood soccer game. This is a scenario featuring colonial troops from the Belgian Congo who marched 2,500 miles to Ethiopia to help the British oust the Italians. Here 18 green Belgian squads (buttressed by a hero) take on an Italian force of 12 1st line squads and 4 crews with MMGs. The Belgians can even declare Hand-to-Hand CC if they get close enough. Now that’s exotic.
- FT235 (Once More Unto the Breach) is a fairly meaty desert action, depicting an April 1943 Italo-German attack on a British fortified position. The Germans have 6 elite squad and 4 tanks, while the Italians contribute 15 squads (elite ‘Folgore’ types from the included countersheets), an 81mm MTR, and many SW. There’s also flamethrowes, OBA, air support, Heroic leaders, Bayonet Charges, and Hand-to-Hand CC.
- FT237 (Roma Victor!) is a meaty East Front action featuring an Italian attack out of a bridgehead in 1941. The attacking Italians have 21 squad-equivalents and 14 SW, assisted by 6 tankettes (maybe) They are also supported by 3 German squads, two German Guns, and an armored car. The defending have 15 squad-equivalents, a third of them conscripts, a Gun, many trenches, anda reasonable number of SW (but only two leaders). They get random reinforcements on turn 4. There’s a lot of stuff flying through the air here, too. Both sides get Air Support (with the Axis Air Support being conditional). Both sides also get OBA. The trick here is that the German forces set up on the non-bridgehead side of the river and can’t cross. However, they can build a Pontoon Bridge across the river–only if they complete it, do the Italian tankettes appear and get a chance to cross the river and help their buds.
- FT239 (Armored Probe at Sidi-Nsir) is a rare scenario allowing French-Italian combined arms combat. Taking place in Tunisia in late 1942, it features an Italo-German attack with 10 squads (combined) and 6 Italian AFVs against a (not-quite-yet-Free) French force with 16 squads, two Guns, and 7 AFVs. At first glance, it looks a little tough on the Axis.
- FT241 (Commando Beach 2), the sequel to the Seaborne Assault scenario mentioned above, is a DASL scenario that uses the DASL boards from LFT’s Deluxe Pack #1. It depicts an Italian action against the British commando force., with both sides having varying objectives. The Italians get 4 guns, 14 squads and other stuff (including the choice of an OB alteration), while the British get 11 squads, all elite, a gun, and their own OB alteration choice. The British also have OBA, but the Italians are Fanatic and treat all HoB as Berserk.
- FT243 (Send More Pigeons II) features a very interesting situation. Set in Sicily in 1943, it features a small U.S. airborne force of 6 7-4-7 squads entering an urban area from the north edge, and a British force of 9 4-5-7 squads and a Bren carrier entering the urban area from the south edge. Sandwiched in-between them are 25 Italian squads. To win, a British squad and an American squad have to meet–they have to occupy the same or adjacent hexes (as long as the Italians have not caused too many casualties). Though not a 3-player scenario, the inherent situation offers possibilities for 3-player play, for which the scenario decrees that no communications should be allowed between the Allied players.
- FT244 (Venturi Effect) is another Sicily scenario, one of a number in this product that allow each side to make a choice from among 2-3 options that will change their OB in some way. In this scenario, a force of 10 U.S. squads, three halftracks and 3 Shermans have to cross some hilly terrain and exit off the other edge of the map. Trying to prevent his are 11 Italian squads and 3 Guns. Both sides get some OBA to help (given the relatively small size of this scenario, failure or success in OBA-related rolls and decisions could be very important).
- FT245 (Ciao Cina!) is another Extremely Exotic Effort, an Italian-Japanese combat in China in September 1943. Like many European powers, the Italians had troops in China to protect their concessions and trade dealings. However, after the Italians changed sides in September 1943, the Japanese decided to brook their presence no more and took action against them. This is a little-known oddity of World War II, but one that has actually previously been covered in ASL, with two (good) scenarios designed by David Lamb and published in Critical Hit’s Total Axis Pack II. In LFT’s take on this incident, the attacking Japanese get 17 (2nd-line) squads, 2 guns, 5 AFV, and a gunboat. The Italians defend with 14 squads, 2 Guns, 3 AFVs, and some fortifications.
- FT247 (Roter Mann) is a large and unusual action set in Albania in late 1943, just two months after the Italian surrender. In Yugoslavia and Albania, all sides rushed to disarm Italian forces in those countries to seize weapons for themselves or prevent their enemies from getting them. Most Italians ended up as prisoners of war, but some chose to fight alongside the Yugoslav and Albanian communist partisans and were allowed to form units themselves. This action features a German attack against Italian and Albanian partisans. The Germans have 15 squads, a Gun, and 5 AFV (three of them Italian), and are supported by 10 3-4-7 Axis Minor squads representing Albanian nationalist forces. Opposing them are two groups of Italians (one with 15 squads, the other with 5 squads and 2 guns) and one group of Albanians, with 7 partisan squads. Some of the Italian forces are considered partisans, others not.
- FT249 (Winter’s Fury) is a scenario set in Italy featuring an unusual situation–a combined German/Italian fascist attack (with 18 squads and a gun) against a much smaller American force (10 squads and 2 leaders). As with Send More Pigeons II, above, the Italian and German forces set up on opposite edges of the board, while the poor Americans are stuck betweeen them. The Axis have to clear the Americans out of all multi-hex buildings. Ground snow and the hilly terrain will hamper the Axis attack.
- FT250 (Decimation) is one of the largest scenarios in this product and features a very rare type of situation: a major partisan attack against a heavily fortified position. Here the Yugoslav partisans get 37 squads (3-3-7 and 5-2-7), 3 Italian guns, 7 leaders, and 13 SW. The Italians have 16 elite squads (6 x 5-4-8 and 10 x 4-4-7), 2 Guns, 6 leaders (including a 10-2), a hero, 13 SW, and lots of pillboxes, fortified building locations, trenches, foxholes, roadblocks, wire, and mines. With the partisans able to enter from any direction, the Italians have to construct an all-around defense.
- FT252 (Fratelli…) is a rare scenario featuring Italian troops fighting for the Allies in Italy in April 1945. Here 18 such squads (represented by 4-5-7 Allied Minor squads) and a handful of Bren carriers attack a defending Axis force consisting of 11 German squads, 8 Italian squads, and 2 Italian AFVs. Another Exotic Effort.
- FT253 (Axis and Allies) is so named because both sides’ OBs are a hodgepodge. In this very large scenario set in Italy in April 1945, two Allied forces–a U.S. force of 13 squads, 1 Gun, and 4 AFVs, and an Italian partisan force of 18 squad and 1 Gun–take on two Axis forces: 11 Italian squads, 2 Italian Guns and 1 Italian AFV, and 10 German squads, along with one German Gun and one German AFV. The Italians and Germans have two boards to set up on, but must put the Italians on one board and the Germans on the other (except for vehicles and guns, which may set up on either). Meanwhile, the Americans and partisans also set up in separate areas. This scenario looks as if it would work well with team play–2 players against 2 players.
Note that only some of the scenarios in this product are described above. Speaking generally, Le Franc Tireur No. 14 has one of the most fascinating scenario mixes that have ever been included in any ASL product. If all you like is standard German-Soviet East Front action, this may not be your cup of java, but if you are an ASLer who really loves seeing the width and breadth of what ASL can actually portray, well, this product is for you. So far the scenarios have not gotten enough play to determine how balanced, on whole, they are, but early playing has not yet brought up any dogs. Hopefully such canines will remain far from this product, because scenarios this interesting deserve to be good. Let’s hope LFT has delivered on that promise. This product gets a rare provisional DM High Recommendation Tag based on the scenario content alone. With luck, its scenarios will be balanced enough to allow it to retain that tag permanently.
Update: After LFT14’s publication, Broken Ground design released a supplementary countersheet for it with additional Italian counters (see image).