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"Advanced Squad Leader?" Topic


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Action Log

14 Apr 2018 10:51 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Advance squad leader" to "Advanced Squad Leader?"
  • Crossposted to WWII Media board


856 hits since 14 Apr 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

sgt Dutch Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2018 3:40 p.m. PST

Anyone still play this game? I'm getting back into it. But finding used games at reasonable price seems to be the problem.

28mm Fanatik14 Apr 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

ASL still has a strong following and support group, but many have gotten into newer and simpler alternatives such as Company Commander, Conflict of Heroes, Lock N Load, Old School Tactical and the like.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2018 5:03 p.m. PST

Still play it almost daily. There is a great ASL community here in New England

Was an SL / ASL playtester.

Dynaman878914 Apr 2018 5:06 p.m. PST

Many have gotten into newer games but there are BY FAR more ASL players then any other game out there. A look at the VASSAL engine games played statistics will bear that out.

Resources for ASL on the net.

the GameSquad ASL forums (good place to ask for some basic kit).
The Facebook ASL group. And the VASL group.
The consimworld ww2 asl discussion board.

Usually you can find someone willing to sell Beyond Valor to a new or returning player for a reasonable price.

MMP has the rules available currently in 3 ring binder and Pocket Edition versions.

OOP modules – usually takes up to a decade for them to come back in print, they keep a couple a year in stock usually.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2018 9:15 p.m. PST

The ASL community seems a pretty welcoming bunch. I bought into the cult, I mean hobby, this last year and got a lot of help from people on various ASL boards and such.

TacticalPainter0115 Apr 2018 1:18 a.m. PST

It's just a shame the core game mechanics and principles are so dated and flawed. To invest that much time and money in a system well past it's used by date no longer makes any sense to me. I did it, back when it came out but would never consider doing it now. It will remain a great, two player tactical game, but is a poor representation of tactical combat in WWII and has long been left behind by developments in game theory and mechanics better suited to representing this level of combat. A friend who has played ASL for over 25 years and still does, calls it a parody of WWII.

Normal Guy15 Apr 2018 4:29 a.m. PST

So which game systems for this period are more up to date in game theory and mechanics?

Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 4:45 a.m. PST

On sale – print and play.

link

Dynaman878915 Apr 2018 5:07 a.m. PST

> I bought into the cult, I mean hobby

Cult is probably the better term. I can say that since I'm in it. Your right though, the typical ASL gamer is very open to helping others into the game. I've found that true for wargamers in general however.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Normal Guy: +1

stephen m15 Apr 2018 6:56 a.m. PST

I found it was harder to find ASL players in my area when first starting to look. Frankly wargamers in general seemed a little scarce, or more accurately hidden. For ASL it seemed like the old prohibition speakeasys, which door and what secret knock was required to get in in the first place.

I tried to locate the Detroit group for the OP just by Googling it and trying to follow links from ASL sites but to no avail. They either are well hidden or defunct. There was a lot of activity from them in the 2000s but nothing recent.


I am not a combat vet or even been in any military so what is flawed or inaccurate about the game mechanics? I agree about the not up to date as the thing that turned me off was the endless phases. My experience is wrt Conflict of Heroes. It's attempt towards a more flexible approach to dealing with turn sequence/phases and the action points system which I find much cleaner, clearer but more time consuming. It also limits game size to maybe a dozen "units" per side. I have also played a few games of Chain of Command which is totally limited to a platoon plus support by its command design and the buckets of dice combat resolution.

Jeigheff15 Apr 2018 7:08 a.m. PST

Last year, a friend of mine devoted his Saturdays to learning and playing ASL with a group here in Austin, Texas.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 7:17 a.m. PST

Canadian ASL Association:

https://canadianasl.org/about

No idea how active this group is but it took .5 seconds to pop up after searching for 'Canadian ASL Groups'.

Again, my area is very active with a Bi-Annual Newsletter and several small mini-cons.

Sometimes you have to actually 'search' for what you are interested in or go beyond 'Google'.

stephen m15 Apr 2018 7:32 a.m. PST

Joe

I did make contact in the end but it wasn't as easy as that. I still say it requires the secret handshake!

I have noticed there are pockets of ASL enthusiasts like any game system. If a few guys can get others interested in their area it builds. Back in the Day for me it was Air Superiority. We had a very strong and active gang around here.

Dynaman878915 Apr 2018 8:16 a.m. PST

> I am not a combat vet or even been in any military so what is flawed or inaccurate about the game mechanics?

I'm not a combat vet either, but am an ASL player so take this from that perspective.

1 – Tanks maneuver like a dance. And winning many scenarios REQUIRES intricate AFV maneuver.
2 – No real chain of command. For the most part any leader on the board can help any squad. Squads are not formed into platoons nor platoons into companies. A squad is a squad is a squad.
3 – The penalty for being buttoned up is not making it harder to spot an enemy, it is making it harder to hit an enemy.
4 – Morale is almost all or nothing, a squad is either all OK or broken and running. Pinning is possible but breaking is more often the case and a pin only lasts a short while.

Take the 2nd item alone and combine it with the insane amount of detail covering fire principles or types of movement and you have the problem of the game in a nutshell, it goes to great lengths to cover the possible in regards to mechanics but almost never into the realm of doctrine and chain of command.

stephen m15 Apr 2018 9:11 a.m. PST

Dynaman8789

Thank you for those examples. A few friends and I are looking for rules for micro armour scale (infantry centric) and SL/ASL is one of the choices, along with CoH, CoC and a few more.

It is very interesting to hear current gamers thoughts on the pros and cons of their favorite systems. It seems too many people take the stand of my favorite rules are perfect, no issues at all. Or are unwilling or unable to discern problems.

As an example I prefer CoH but find getting hits very hard especially when under cover except at point blank range (infantry combat only so far). But I do like the simple combat results system of chits versus seemingly endless tables and math. I am also adverse to the multitude of phases of (A)SL versus the near simultaneous action point system of CoH. CoH's biggest drawback is that it covers very little time and place so far. There are no third parties providing additional materials and the publishers are very slow in releasing new product. They seem to prefer to update and reissue existing titles over expanding the system. Hopefully they feel they have gotten it right now and can start expanding it further. Of course this could be due to their size and resources available.

Thank you for being frank.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 10:21 a.m. PST

Stephen M: understood. I agree that the level of participation and enthusiasm will vary greatly.

My point is that if your ('you' being anyone) level of enthusiasm and drive is high enough you can/will find a group or form your own.


___________________


I'm a retired combat vet. with more than my fair share of trigger time: no game / simulation comes even remotely close to simulating any form of combat.

As far as ASL goes: I enjoy the game – because – that is what it is – a game.

I enjoy the feeling(s) it produces. I enjoy the confidence from playing a system for years that I am completely familiar with.

I enjoy playing with like-minded individuals.

I am under no illusions as to what ASL – or any other game – represents.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

I am going to give "Valor & Victory" a try soon. It is supposedly a lot more playable than ASL. You will find the rules, counters & other downloads at boardgamegeek.com.
link

Doctor X15 Apr 2018 12:16 p.m. PST

If you play ASL online at VASL there is a gentleman by the name of Patrick Ireland whose sole passion in life appears to be teaching people ASL online.

I've dabbled on VASL a bit with a friend and found it to be easy to use and very convenient. Patrick has dropped into our games several times to make sure everything was running smoothly and also has a number of documents he will email you to help you learn.

Here is his email address:

ireland94@embarqmail.com

Trust me that he will be thrilled you emailed him. He is a great guy.

So if you are looking for an opponent and have none, go to VASL. You'll be overwhelmed with opportunity in a few weeks.

sgt Dutch Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 2:18 p.m. PST

I have just bought from Critical Hit their new on the Arab Israeli wars. The game is ASL based game. Plus critical hit has a system called ATS. ATS is easier system to play. I have tons of miniature I have been collecting over the years. In the long run ASL is a cheaper way to game. No Miniatures need, along with people pissing over the rules one wishes to use. How many of us end up with home rules to play Black powder or John reb because one person cries about the feel to the rules.

Thanks Doctor X and Joes shop

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 4:32 p.m. PST

Sgt. Dutch: I know you are not in New England but I strongly recommend joining:

link

You get great issues packed with scenarios, how-to, historical info and gaming tips.

R ' / Joe

TacticalPainter0115 Apr 2018 5:30 p.m. PST

I am not a combat vet or even been in any military so what is flawed or inaccurate about the game mechanics?

ASL purports to be a game about tactical leadership in combat in WWII. It isn't just a ‘game', it's designed to be a game that reflects something of the command issues of WWII. It is called squad ‘leader' for a reason. So we are entitled to ask, how well does it do this?

I challenge anyone to find a single rule in the enormous ASL rule book that doesn't attempt to reflect a ‘real world' situation. The reference point for every rule is the real world. Try using this argument in the ASL forums and you will be mocked and derided for using the, ahem, ‘reality argument'. A bit weird.

So, in this game about leadership and command, the first major flaw you can find is in the chapter in the rule book on command and control. There isn't one.

As Dynamo8789 points out there is no chain of command, no platoon structure, in fact no structure at all. The war is run by corporals and their squads. The leaders are unassigned die roll modifiers free to roam the battlefield at will. The overall commander, you, is everywhere, magically issuing orders and assigning those leaders to whatever task pleases you. And those orders never go astray, never get misinterpreted and are always acted upon. In fact the only thing that prevents an order being executed exactly as you wish, when you wish, is if the unit is fired upon and fails a morale check.

The rigid phase system means that battle unfolds in an orderly and predictable fashion. Many of the best players I know are mathematicians, engineers, actuaries and systems analysts, and it's no wonder, the game rewards calculation. I know my squad can move x many hexes each turn, therefore I know they will arrive at a certain destination at a certain time and so, like a complex piece of choreography, I plan my turns. Only the enemy can interfere with my plan, there will be no other surprises. The very minimal bit of fog of war in ASL normally means I know exactly where my enemy is and therefore I can move with impunity in certain areas of the battlefield without any concern.

ASL players spend a lot of time counting hexes, that's what makes it much more of a game. Platoon and company commanders spend most of their time trying to deal with the unknown, but in ASL you spend your time calculating what is needed to deal with the known.

So while the ASL rule book dedicates pages to Panji sticks or the slope of a beach for a beach landing, it neglects to deal with the mechanics of command and control. To me that's a major flaw in a game that calls itself ‘squad leader'.

TacticalPainter0115 Apr 2018 6:00 p.m. PST

So which game systems for this period are more up to date in game theory and mechanics?

The biggest shift since the design of ASL is the recognition of the impact of ‘friction'. As Clausewitz said, everything in war is simple, but the most simple things are difficult. It's a recognition that the human factor is just as significant as the mechanical.

What do I mean? The first Tiger tank captured had been abandoned by its crew. It had received several AP rounds from a six pounder gun in a Churchill. If we look at this purely mechanically we can say that the chance of a 6 pounder AP round penetrating the frontal armour of a Tiger is almost zero. Therefore the Churchill cannot and should not have ‘taken out' the Tiger.

So what happened? The Churchill rounds caused some damage by jamming the turret and mantlet and this was enough to so discomfort the crew of the Tiger, that they abandoned it.

Combat is full of these stories, the unexpected, the surprise and the unpredictability. War may be simple, but these simple things become difficult.

Rules have reflected this with non-sequential activations, unpredictable turn length, variable movement rates and a greater emphasis on the human factor (units that don't respond like robots to every whim of the gamer for example).. ASL assumes morale is the one key determining factor, if all is well with morale then nothing else can go wrong with a plan.

ASL has its origins in the 1970s and while it was a big leap forward for its time, it is still of its time. It was an era when tactical gaming was dominated by the mechanical. Lengthy, detailed charts covering firing in great detail – penetration charts, armour charts etc in a desire for greater ‘realism'.

More recent rules have moved the emphasis to the chaotic and unpredictable nature of warfare, where the man behind the gun is just as important, if not more important, than the gun itself. Where training, command and control and leadership all play a critical part in determining how men and units respond to the uncertainty of war.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP15 Apr 2018 6:33 p.m. PST

Sgt. Dutch: PM Sent.

R'/ Joe

Dynaman878915 Apr 2018 6:39 p.m. PST

> Try using this argument in the ASL forums and you will be mocked and derided for using the, ahem, ‘reality argument'. A bit weird.

Not really (weird that is) – the vast majority of the time reality arguments are brought up to try and justify changing the rules. For good and ill the ASL rules are nearly(*) the same now as they were when first published in 1985, except for the additions for things like night, air support, the PTO and Desert (among others). This is bad since wacky consequences that were not intended are now etched in stone (MTRs firing more than one smoke a turn) or since the game does not change fresh ideas are not incorporated. This is a good thing since once learned players don't have to keep buying an endless repetition of "updated" rules editions to keep playing. Exhibit A there being the latest version of Flames of War.

(*) – There was a second edition of the rules that made a couple of very minor changes, mostly clarifications and it is very possible to keep playing with the first edition rules.

> So while the ASL rule book dedicates pages to Panji sticks or the slope of a beach for a beach landing, it neglects to deal with the mechanics of command and control. To me that's a major flaw in a game that calls itself ‘squad leader'.

That pretty much sums it up!

TacticalPainter0115 Apr 2018 7:06 p.m. PST

This is a good thing since once learned players don't have to keep buying an endless repetition of "updated" rules editions to keep playing. Exhibit A there being the latest version of Flames of War.

You make a very good point. I certainly invested a huge chunk of my gaming life learning those rules. Although, we should not forget that the reason the ASL rule book was originally published in a ring binder was to enable players to add updates and replacement rules and was intended to allow the rules to be dynamic and evolve.

One crazy argument I heard was that you wouldn't want to change any rules because then that would "unbalance" many scenarios. Talk about the tail wagging the dog! The ‘game' has taken precedence over any attempt to better reflect the period the rules are supposed to cover.

Trajanus16 Apr 2018 6:59 a.m. PST

Still play it almost daily.

Joe, you need help. Seriously! ;o)

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP16 Apr 2018 8:52 a.m. PST

I'm sure I do…just not sure it has anything to do with ASL!

Andy ONeill16 Apr 2018 10:58 a.m. PST

There's an awful lot of rules.
I don't know about other board games, but more modern tabletop vames are way simpler and easier to learn.

TacticalPainter0116 Apr 2018 5:45 p.m. PST

John Hill, the designer of the original Squad Leader (who wasn't involved in the evolution to ASL) would talk about ‘design for effect'. There is little value in finely detailed rules and mechanics if the overall effect does not reflect the issues you want the game to represent.

If you take the time frame of any platoon or company level game then anything that causes a tank to stop functioning is as good as a tank destroyed for the purpose of that scenario or game. In terms of rules you can make this very simple if the ‘effect' you want to create is to present the player with the command dilemma of having lost a key asset.

One rule designer has said on many occasions that he considers every time a game pauses to refer to the rules or a chart is an interruption. If you are referring to the rules you are not focusing on the tactical solution. Your gaming time should be absorbed in the tactical situation and every pause to refer to the rules is a rude interruption to that process. That might be an extreme view, but it is not without merit.

There was a time when long and detailed rules gave a game some sort of credibility, that it somehow needed these to be more ‘realistic'. I think that no longer applies and John Hill had it right in aspiring to design for effect. Surely if you can get that same effect with shorter, simpler rules you have been just as successful at reflecting that period of warfare as the longer, more detailed rules.

crazycaptain16 Apr 2018 9:20 p.m. PST

I quit. I still have all of my modules, but I have a lot of fun playing Retro! with the kit. It basically makes the ASL modules play more similar to the original Squad Leader. It has a cool mechanic to add more "chaos" to the game without completely creeping out ASL guys.

Its called hesitation. Basically if you move a squad into an Open Hex that is within LOS of the enemy you roll 1d6 add or subtract an odd modifier, and if you fail the roll the squad will not move into the hex. Same with vehicles. Less rolling as there is less defensive fire, setting up AT guns and MGs are just as important (It applies to armor too). It creates some tense moments too as a stack can slowly become, one by one, unstacked moving across open ground. Its not quite command and control, but it speeds up play and adds unpredictability to boot!

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2018 4:33 a.m. PST

CC: you are referring to Minden Games Retro!, correct – ?

Our group has had a lot of fun using that as you describe!

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