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Subject: ASL - How realistic? rss

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Is ASL a fairly accurate simulation of WWII combat, or it is just a great (albeit complicated) wargame?

(I'm sure this has been discussed previously, so feel free to post some links if you prefer.)


For example, did morale break as often in real combat? Are the weapon strengths and their range/accuracy roughly accurate? Did troops usually fight the way they do in the ASL phases? Is terrain and LOS pretty realistic? Stuff like that.

I'm more interested about the realism question in general terms, not so much about minutia like weapon caliber, etc. And I guess I'm most interested in the Starter Kits, since I don't know if I'll ever "graduate" to full ASL.


I have a chance to play a game of SK1 this weekend, after a long time, and I'm also getting excited that my SK3 preorder might arrive before Christmas. So I'm thinking about ASL these days...
 
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Seth Owen
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ASL's realism (or authenticity) hs been long debated. For what it's worth I'll give you my experience and opinion.

In general, ASL does a pretty good job of modeling tactical level World War II combat. Like combat, it's controlled chaos. Weapons interact in historically appropriate ways. Historical tactics are recreated. National characteristics are captured nicely. The game database is extensive. There's very little left out at this point. ASL is probably the most comprehensive tactical manual wargame achievable.

That said, there are two aspects of actual combat that ASL does not do a particularly good job of modeling.

First is the fact that combatants at the tactical level have very limited information about the dispositions of their own forces or of the enemy (and often even the terrain). The player's birds-eye view is quite unrealistic. Most players use the given scenarios, which gives them much more information about the enemy OB and goals than any actual tactical commander would enjoy. Some scenarios use hidden setup and many use concealment counters, which mitigate the problem, but do not solve it.
(Try Up Front for a very different game system that is much better at capturing this aspect of warfare)
Secondly, players have much more command control of their forces than is realistic. Various aspects of the game system (such as broken morale) serve to mitigate this to some extent, but the bottom line is that the player has much more detailed control over his soldiers than reality would allow. (As an aside, this is true of just about every wargame, however. Napoleon issued less than a dozen orders during the whole Battle of Waterloo, but few wargamers would find that level of control entertaining). Still, even by wargame standards, ASL allows players to reach far far down into the minute details of the fighting. Typically the ASL player is representing a company or battalion commander, yet he is getting to decide the exact path of a squad (corporal's work) or the precise allocation of an AFV's machinegun fire (tank commander's work) See MMP's TCS system for a tactical game system that attempts to put the player at a more appropriate command level.
ASL is realistic, but not perfect. It's popular in large part because it provides its enormous detail while still being very entertaining to play. Most other games that have attempted similar levels of detailed realism are drier than the Sahara during play.
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Peter Vrabel
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Realistic enough for me.

Realistic enough to be entertaining.
 
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Brien Martin
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Mark,

No game can capture the "realism" of WWII. The best that any game can do is to give you the flavor of the conflict, and attempt to portray units/weaponry as closely as possible to the real thing.

ASL is a pretty good game, which gives a realistic flavor, even though it is not "realistic" in certain senses of the word. ASL is sometimes a bit "Hollywood" in what units can do, but the game's value is not diminished by this.

That all having been said, ASL does a good job giving you the same decisions to make as your real-life counterparts would have made. Do I charge that machine gun nest? Do I sneak my way up to it? Do I dash across that road? Who should I fire at? How to best deploy and utilize support weaponry? Do I need this guy to rally, or can I rally someone else, instead? Do I advance into close combat?

I think you'll enjoy *any* wargame, as long as you know that no game is an accurate simulation ... they are all more like accurate "representations". A facsimile, if you like ...

Brien
 
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Jeff Thompson
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I have never been killed or killed anyone while playing ASL. So, no, not very realistic.

It's more like a WWII Hollywood movie than real combat I expect. So you can tell a good story afterward.

If you go looking at real world examples and try to fit the rules to your examples you will fail. However, if you take the action and then retrofit that into a real world story you'll be fine.

Do you use real world tactics? No. You use game tactics that somewhat represent real world tactics. You have probing forces, holding forces pinning forces, flanking forces, and powerful punching forces. You make gambits, feints and attack from strength, etc.
(Sounds more like a game of Go than ASL).





 
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wargamer55 wrote:
First is the fact that combatants at the tactical level have very limited information about the dispositions of their own forces or of the enemy (and often even the terrain). The player's birds-eye view is quite unrealistic.

Don’t the full ASL rules include something like hidden unit placement, which the Starter Kit rules have left out for simplicity? And if so, how hard would it be to include this rule back in when playing the Starter Kit scenarios?


 
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Thanks for all the comments so far.

I don't expect to feel like I'm in combat when I play ASL.


I was just wondering how realistic it models soldiers' general movements, combat, and the results. If 10 Americans attacked those 8 Germans in those buildings, would the results be somewhat what would have happened in real life? Could the attack have "gone down" in the way the ASL game models it?
 
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Brien Martin wrote:
Do I dash across that road?
Based on my limited ASL game experience so far, I would say definitely NEVER, if I'm under fire.
 
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Rob Rob
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Seth's comments are well put and accurately reflect the conflict of adding 'fog of war' to a single human player controlling many units representing single humans (kind of a hive mind). Unless you play a man to man game (Melee, etc...) you jsut have to deal with it. OTOH: SL/ASL/ASLSK, etc... do a fairly good job of showing you just how bad an idea it is to charge a machinegun nest across an open field. This is my gripe with computer 'first person shooter' games. Using the simulation's flaws, unrealistic results can be achived. Maybe SL/ASL/ASLSK, etc... aren't "realistic" but it enforces realistic tactics.
 
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Brien Martin
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cull wrote:
I was just wondering how realistic it models soldiers' general movements, combat, and the results. If 10 Americans attacked those 8 Germans in those buildings, would the results be somewhat what would have happened in real life? Could the attack have "gone down" in the way the ASL game models it?


Yes. In fact, you'll sometimes be amazed that the 36-firepower attack you've stacked up against that single squad in the stone building actually fails to do *anything* to the unit in the building. It's not likely to happen but, when it does, as Jeff pointed out upthread, you have a great story to tell ... just like you might have in real-life:

"Son, the Jerrys were all around us. And they let loose with a terrific blast of machine gun and rifle fire. We hid behind anything we could find, while the bullets ricocheted around us. When the firing stopped, we whispered to each other to see who might have survived. We all did, said a prayer, cried a little, then started to try and figure a way out of that building in safety."

Just listen to ASLers talk about games in the post-mortem ... you'd swear these guys had just come back from a real-life war. If that doesn't tell you how "realistic" the game seems as you're actually experiencing it, I don't know what any of us could say to convince you.

Brien
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wargamer55 wrote:
...combatants at the tactical level have very limited information about the dispositions of their own forces or of the enemy (and often even the terrain). The player's birds-eye view is quite unrealistic. Most players use the given scenarios, which gives them much more information about the enemy OB and goals than any actual tactical commander would enjoy. Some scenarios use hidden setup and many use concealment counters, which mitigate the problem, but do not solve it.

Another unrealistic advantage enjoyed by players is that they know the general sequence of events, thanks to the turn sequence. This gives rise to gamey tactics like skulking, wherein the defender "assault moves" out of his cosy stone building to the open ground behind it (out of the enemy LOS) in order to avoid their defensive fire. A real defending unit would have no idea when they were going to be shot at, and would stay put.

This isn't a criticism of ASL (or any game that uses phases), just a further example of how such games are often less than realistic.

OTOH, I think the MF mechanism does a good job of representing the time a unit takes to do things (move, lay smoke, pick up SW, etc.) and therefore the amount of time for which it's exposed to enemy fire.
 
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I wouldn't use the word "realistic" for ASL, but then again, I wouldn't say any wargame is "realistic", exactly.

I think ASL does a pretty good job, though, of portraying some of the aspects of WWII tactical combat. I think the various kinds of firepower you can bring to the combat - squads, machineguns, artillery, etc. - are well done in terms of their various battlefield roles. The tactical importance of historical techniques like finding open flanks, and concentrating firepower, are critical in the game as well. The different troop types, ELRs, and leader ratios give different forces very different feels which, while probably exaggerated, are still pretty evocative. The sequence of play models how infantry assaults worked.

If you drill down on details, you can tear the game apart, I think: the ratings on squads have come in for endless controversy; one could argue that the morale states (which are either broken and totally worthless or completely good order) are much too stark and just getting pinned down or suppressed was the more usual result of fire while a pin is quite rare in ASL; many effects (like leadership) seem overstated; and, of course, you do have much finer control and greater knowledge than any combat commander would.

But it's a game. I think what it tries to do, it succeeds at.
 
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John Brady
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I'll echo the "no game is realistic" sentiment, since pushing little paper counters around a mapboard in no way represents what goes on in a war/battle. Having said that, I'd say ASL does provide an entertaining look a small unit combat tactics (if you throw out skulking).

There are lots of different areas where you could argue it's not very realistic (and other games aren't either, really). For example, in ASL, it takes 2 MF to attempt to place smoke in an ajacent hex. In real life, how much time/effort does it take to have 3 or 4 guys toss smoke grenades out the door or windows of the building they're in? Are they really any more exposed to enemy fire than if they didn't do that? What is an "assault move" in real life? Could 3 full squads of guys firing all their weapons at once at a target 50meters away really fail to injure/destroy/suppress that target at all??

There are lots of ways where ASL could be considered unrealistic, but it's nevertheless a fun game that captures the flavor of WWII combat and tactics, with lots of variables and freak occurances to keep you on your toes.
 
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
Could 3 full squads of guys firing all their weapons at once at a target 50meters away really fail to injure/destroy/suppress that target at all??


Why not? They were shot at from somebody in the shoemaker's shop but what they saw was something move in the bakery next door, so that's where they returned fire at. That's why we roll the die -- there's no sure thing.

"Is it realistic" is both an interesting and a strange question to ask about a board game. ASL is one of the ultimate attempts for design for cause games while at the same time being a design for effect result. Does it present the players with the same problems and same set of potential solutions and outcome probabilities as their "real world counterparts" is the assumed question, but also what is realistic at the macro level is different from what is realistic at the micro level -- ASL might be better at modeling a firefight over a corn field than Blue and Grey is at modeling the battle of Gettysburg but it's probably also as complete a failure at modeling the emotional aspect a company leader faces during a firefight as FTP is at modeling the emotional aspect Lee or Meade faced as they issued orders that resulted in the deaths of 10s of thousands of their men as they fought over a couple of hills.

For me, it's what I get out of it that matters. But it's also why they make flame throwers, so even if it wasn't the bakery where the real targets are the shoemaker's shop next door will still probably burn to the ground anyway.

 
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Andrew Young
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ASL is real, man.

Stop it.

zombie
 
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Jay Richardson
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Mark Christiansen wrote:
Don’t the full ASL rules include something like hidden unit placement, which the Starter Kit rules have left out for simplicity? And if so, how hard would it be to include this rule back in when playing the Starter Kit scenarios?

Hidden Initial Placement (HIP) is actually introduced in ASLSK #2, where Guns are allowed to begin the game completely hidden.

It would be easy to extend this HIP setup to all of the defenders when creating an ASLSK scenario, given the small size of the forces usually involved in ASLSK scenarios. A defending force of five or six squads, a couple of MGs, and a couple of leaders would not require too much bookkeeping to set up entirely hidden... and the tension that the attacker would feel as he approached his objective – with no enemy forces sighted – would be incredible. As an ASLSK #2 scenario, it would simply reference the Gun rules; an ASLSK #1 scenario would need a couple of short SSRs to explain how HIP works.

Full ASL contains all the tools needed to create scenarios with excellent fog-of-war: HIP, concealment counters, and the sadly under-utilized cloaking displays from the night rules. But few, if any, non-night scenarios make full use of these tools.

Mark Christiansen wrote:
Brien Martin wrote:
Do I dash across that road?

Based on my limited ASL game experience so far, I would say definitely NEVER, if I'm under fire.

Brien was possibly referring to an ASL dash, a special infantry movement in full ASL that allows units to run across a road with much less risk than a similar move in ASLSK would entail. So while dashing across a road is a bad idea in ASLSK, in full ASL it becomes a "realistic" useful tactic.

Seth Owen wrote:
Secondly, players have much more command control of their forces than is realistic.

Even though this is an ASLSK forum, it might be interesting to note that a group is working on a major ASL variant that addresses the command & control issue called "Burden of Command":

http://home.earthlink.net/~frank9999/

The problem with adding command & control rules is that they can easily turn a game into a simulation. The appeal of ASL is that it is a fun, elegant, playable GAME combined with a level of realistic detail normally only found in a simulation.
 
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Mark Walker
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I believe ASL is a brilliant design. I enjoy playing it and believe it creates a reasonable fascimile of small unit combat. I'm not, however, a big fan of it's phases. In my WWII tactical game Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes (www.locknloadgame.com), I use impulses, to better portray the ebb and flow of combat at this level.

Neither am I a big fan of HiP. I think that's a easy way out to create confusion and uncertainty. I prefer the events in BoH, and the unique reinforcement schedules that we have used that allow players to actually place reinforcements during a players' turn. By eliminating HiP, we remove a major roadblock to solitaire play. It's easy on the eyes too!

Best,

Mark


 
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Chris Farrell
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richfam wrote:
The problem with adding command & control rules is that they can easily turn a game into a simulation. The appeal of ASL is that it is a fun, elegant, playable GAME combined with a level of realistic detail normally only found in a simulation.


Actually, if you want good command & control rules, just play an ASL scenario with Night rules. A friend once said that that the ASL night rules made combat more like he imagined it would during the day! I think the night rules are great, although they are a pain and they do make things even more chaotic than usual.
 
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Andrew Young
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NIght is a wonderful way to play ASL. I wouldn't change day scenarios to night as they would unbalance the scenario.... or, come to think of it, perhaps, it would balance some of the unbalanced dogs out there.



But, I love Night. And they are easy rules once you get into them.
 
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Mark Walker wrote:
I'm not, however, a big fan of it's phases. In my WWII tactical game Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes (www.locknloadgame.com), I use impulses, to better portray the ebb and flow of combat at this level.

When discussing the realism of ASL, the question of the "impulse system" cannot be avoided. Fans of ATS and LnL are always quick to try to claim an advantage over ASL by stating that the impulses used by those games are better than ASL's alternating multi-phased turns because:

(A) impulses are more interactive than alternating turns, and

(B) impulses are more realistic than alternating turns.

That an impulse game is "more" interactive than ASL must be conceded, but ASL is highly interactive itself. The Movement Phase, in which my opponent makes a move, and then I decide whether or not to shoot, and then my opponent makes another move, and then I decide whether or not to shoot, etc. is only a couple of steps removed from a true impulse system and arguably has a higher level of detail than an impulse system: the focus passes from attacker, to defender, and back again to attacker NOT on a unit-by-unit basis (as in an impulse system), but rather with each hex entered by the attacker's unit (because a defending unit can often continue to fire as an attacker continues to move).

Whether or not an impulse system is more realistic than ASL's system is open to debate. I had several questions about how an impulse system would handle certain situations, so I posted these on the Band of Heroes forums to see if anyone there would be willing to discuss them. I think the resulting discussion is quite interesting:

Lock 'n Load Impulses and Realism
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/134832
 
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