Squad Leader celebrates 25+ years!
24 participants completed t27 matches in this year's event.
The field included five past Avaloncon/WBC Squad Leader and
Cross of Iron champions numbering 12 plaques amongst them.
The balance of the field was composed of other returning veterans
with eight newcomers added. Matthew Spitznagel (Parkton, MD)
emerged as the top rookie earning an 8th place finish.
This event is run by two co-GMs, Pete Pollard, who takes care
of the scenario selection, pre- and post-convention paperwork
and operations such as event introduction, round schedule, etc,
and Bill Thomson, who runs the event in respect to the player
pairings, match adjudication, etc. In other words, Bill plays
the part of the "bad cop" (making sure that the event
continues as scheduled), while Pete enjoys the tasks of player
interaction and playing the part of the "good cop".
Although initial pairing was randomly determined, later rounds
used tournament record and AREA seeding. Within a pairing, players
were allowed to determine the SQUAD LEADER series rules
level to be used, which in turn defined the scenario played for
that round from a predetermined list. By module, the tournament
scenario breakdown was 24 SQUAD LEADER, three CROSS
OF IRON and one GI: ANVIL OF VICTORY. By source, 11
matches used scenarios authored by the Squad Leader Academy,
eight by The Avalon Hill Game Company, three from "On All
Fronts" magazine; three from the AdvancePhase.com; and two
from Casus Belli. Unlike previous years, this year's scenario
selection spanned many of those on the tournament list. Only
one scenario was played four times, whereas, many of the remaining
scenarios were played either two or three times. This is encouraging
to see the less-played scenarios getting some action from these
seasoned squad leaders.
In round 1, the Streets of Stalingrad saw some action as the
Germans tried to pry the Russians out of the Tractors Works.
In all of these games, the Germans were successful in ousting
the Russians. Jimmy Chau's Russians fell to Eric Filipkowski's
determined assault, those who fell included Jimmy's PLC, who
made a valiant sacrifice for the Motherland.
Round 2 saw action in both SQL and COI level of play. Fighting
on the Western Front was comprised of a game of "Hitdorf
on the Rhine," with Andrew Barry (a newcomer to the event)
and Michael Pacheco, and three games of Bill Thomson's "Reconnaisance
Bill Thomson displayed tactical skill, boardcraft and physical
agility (to avoid salvos of "defective" dice by the
frustrated Russian attacker and scenario designer of ,"Jadhe's
Tigers,") as he defeated Pete Pollard in round 2. As this
was the 52nd match between these two top-seeded players, the
familiarity led to a running commentary of good natured insults
which amused and mystified onlookers.
By round 3, the numbers of players started to dwindle. Five
games were played, including a match between the rookie Matt
Spitznagel (Russians) against Eric Filipkowski's Germans in "Forced
Entry,". Matt's forces overwhelmed the German defenders.
It must have been something about being on the wrong end of an
SU-122,'s gun barrel. Matt utilized his combined arms well to
earn another victory.
Round 4 was the championship round. and decided the placement
for the final standings. In one game, deciding the placement
for third or fourth place, Pete Pollard's Russian conscripts
were no match for Chuck Leonard's mobile force. Needless to say,
it's tough to beat back even conscripts when a couple of them
go berserk! In the end, Pete was able to well fortify the heights
and gain a victory in On All Fronts scenario "Mogilev,"
Leonard had to settle for fifth place, amking him the only new
Laurelist to join the list in 2004.
The Championship match pitted Bill Thomson and Andrew Cummins
in"Tooth and Nail," The Russian's (Andrew) fortunes
rose and fell as the German (Bill) reinforcements initially performed
poorly before turning the tide. Bill's STGIII(75) was immolated
with passengers by a trio of T-34Cs upon entry into the battle.
This unexpected sacrifice allowed halftracks transporting engineers
(not of the Georgia Tech variety) to plant a dud Demo Charge
(the required To Kill roll of 10 and he rolls an 11) on a T34.
Bill then twice failed to convince his troops to close assault
a T34, but survived a T34C overrun (after which the T34 immobilized
and destroyed itself in woods terrain). The Germans used their
superior range to keep the bulk of the Russian infantry at bay.
Good dice allowed the remaining German forces to regroup, earning
Bill Thomson (Austin, TX), who played in the finals of the
previous two years but never emerged victorious, survived four
rounds undefeated to earn the 2004 championship title for his
third wood. This path was through both Andrew Cummins (Cambridge,
UK) the 2002 Champion and Pete Pollard (Bartlett, TN), the 2003
Champion. Both Andrew and Pete accumulated 3-1 records finishing
in second and third place respectively.
A feature of Squad Leader Academy (SQLA) administrated tournaments
is the inclusion of the Personal Leader Counter (PLC) competition
which occurs concurrent to the main event. Players attempt to
earn Elan points and cheat death to earn the top PLC honors and
the corresponding plaque provided by SQLA. Players can remain
in contention for the plaque regardless of their standing in
the primary tournament. PLCs start at an 8-1 rank and are substituted
into the scenario force as an equivalent leader. Aggressive use
of the PLC usually leads to a high casualty rate often meeting
glorious deaths within the tournament. SGT Paul Risner earned
the admiration of his peers before being quickly forgotten, survived
two flamethrower attacks before becoming toast on the third strike.
Chuck Leonard (Muncy, PA) earned the "Pollard Memorial"plaque
by eliminating the previous years PLC winner (SGT Cummins) in
the course of play. The plaque is so named for Pete Pollard who
has achieved PLC distinction by winning this competition so often
it is synonymous with his name. The Pollard Memorial plaque will
be aptly named in the 2005 WBC contest since Pete Pollard won
this event once again. SGT Pollard earned a net +34 Elan edging
out SGT Bryan Van Nortwick (Wake Forest, NC) whose late charge
totalled +33 Elan.
Both new and old participants comment that this Squad Leader
event is both challenging and enjoyable given the demonstrated
camaraderie displayed to both veterans and newcomer alike. This
event has seen some changes through the years, but we are always
open to suggestions for future improvements.