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Mosse Stenström
Finland
Porvoo
Uusimaa
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Since Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 is the one game that has had the largest impact on me as a gamer, I have feared a bit of writing a review about it, thinking I wouldn't be able to be objective. Therefore I settled for writing session reports on all my sessions. I still don't think I can be completely objective - so keep that in mind when reading.

I won't go through the specific mechanics of the game, as that would turn this short story into a copy of War and Peace with footnotes, at least in lenght. I'll settle for my feelings about the mechanics.

My introduction to the game was rocky. It came at a time I was just starting my journey towards wargames, and I was ecstatic when I heard MMP was publishing an introductory ASL - the game of games. I bought it as soon as it hit the shelf in my FLGS, brought it home, (tried to) read the manual and understood nothing. It was left on my shelf for another couple of months before I took another stab at it, having played (and understood) other wargames.

You see, I had (wrongly so) thought I was buying some sort of simple ASL, or ASL for dummies, which it is not. I was expecting ASL with a rulebook written in the same fashion as the eurogames I was playing at the time. Colorful examples of play, double spacing etc. And as the ASLSK rulebook is nothing like that, I felt robbed. Now I feel different. ASLSK is an introduction to ASL. Had the rulebook been written differently, the leap towards the next step, and ultimately Advanced Squad Leader would be too wide to make.

Quote:
How to make it through the rulebook alive and with your sanity intact?
Print out the ASL_SK1_Abbreviations.pdf-file here on BGG, keep that beside you as an ASL-English-ASL dictionary and just plow through. It will sink in.


What would have been a great help, and a fantastic addition, would be more demos of the game system. I only found one animated demo, about the Movement/Defensive First Fire-phase (on MMP:s site), which was very helpful! One of these demonstrating a complete turn would have cut my learning the game by half! If I was completely sure my interpretation of the rules was correct I would do one in Flash myself...

What I noticed helped me in the learning process was that I thought of it not as a game, with rules to remember, but a simulation of the truth, thinking back to my days in military service. If a street is in the line of sight of an enemy squad armed with a machine gun, don't cross it, even if your movement allowance is good for it, you will be shot at. As opposed to most eurogames (I suspect most of you reading this will be eurogamers, like I was) where most rules are abstract and not bound to logic, when we went through the rules of ASLSK, we would read the rule out loud, look at each other and state "makes sense". This was true about every rule. If your squad is broken in the middle of the street, it makes sense that they would seek cover. This is a great aid when it comes to remebering the game.

Now we come to another thing that sets games like ASL apart from eurogames. You're not supposed to know the rules by heart. This is a game you play with the rulebook by hand. All you have to do is remember what situations are covered by the rules, and then look up the specifics. If you're shot at while in a stone building, you're sure to get some sort of cover from it, so look it up, and see that you get a +3 modifier on the shot.

What I do enjoy immensly about the system that is ASL is the fact that, even though essentially it is UgoIgo (the players take turns activating their units), it feels very simultaneous. During most phases of the turn both players are allowed to take actions. Both players can rally troops in both rally phases. When one player moves, the other player shoots at the moving squads. This combined with the fact that the scenarios are short, and with comparatively few units per side, and the game moves forward very quickly.

If you think this could be something for you, I encourage you to pick up this game, it's quite inexpensive, so even if you decide to pursue other directions, you haven't invested your kid's collegue tuition account on buying the full rulebook and a handful of modules of the real thing.

Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #1 is supposed to be a sneak peak at what the wonderful world of Advanced Squad Leader is all about, and it has peaked my interest. I have already bought Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #2 and will be buying Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #3 when it comes out. If my opinion hasn't changed by then, I'll probably make the leap and buy the full rulebook binder and Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1.
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Hilary Hartman
United States
GLENNALLEN
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Nice review, Mosse.

I have been on the fence about whether my wife and I should buy the ASLSK #1. We really, really enjoy plain, old Squad Leader (in fact, it's one of her favorite games, and the wargame she likes the best). I'll point this review out to her.
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Manuel Pombeiro
Portugal
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Nicely done Mosse.

I as you have been on the fence also. At the start of the year I finally decided to buy ASLSK#1 and #2 and both just gathered dust for months in my shelf because the rulebook was so hard. Finally I decided to take a serious look at the rulebook in 1 game and the all thing just started to fall in the right places!! Just like you told, once started the rules started to make sense, and the last step was to skim through the rules not trying to have them all in my head but with the rulebook at my side to consult while playing. This is one concept many gamers just shy away!!! But is the right way to play it!!
When I found a veteran ASL player I had my learning experience greatly facilitated, but the process was the same, rulebook in hand. This vet still plays like that. He knows a lot more of rules but for the most part he just knows there's something in the ruleset that pertains that situation, and them he just goes to consult the relevant rule in the rulebook.
Than I made the full distance and I've finally bought the 2nd Edition Rulebook, the Beyond Value and Yanks modules and I'm a full converted. I'm still learning but I really enjoy the system. As my friend vet ASLer keeps telling me, the most important part of the rulebook is the index!!! This is so true!

The flash animation on MMP's website concerning movement is really helpfull and they should made more like that. A full turn demo would be great. Mosse, I think if you start that flash project there will be a lot of ASL veterans that will give you one hand, and correct you and help you improve it!! For beginners like myself, that would be a great helping tool!!

Please keep up the sessions reports!! Those have been great!
 
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Matt Kantor
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I too, have appreciated the session reports and look forward to more. Mosse has an interesting blog as well!
 
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Andrew Swan
Australia
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Excellent review Mosse! My experience as a Euro/war gamer was very similar (except I don't think I'll go on to full ASL).

Firepigeon wrote:
Than I made the full distance and I've finally bought the 2nd Edition Rulebook, the Beyond Value and Yanks modules and I'm a full converted.

Beyond Value ... LOL! There's a Freudian slip if ever I heard one...

Andrew
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Manuel Pombeiro
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game_boy wrote:

Beyond Value ... LOL! There's a Freudian slip if ever I heard one...

Andrew


 
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Dean Thomas
Australia
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Great review. As a Eurogamer that is slowly starting to move towards being a wargamer it's nice to know that there is a good entry point into ASL.

This one has been on my hitlist for a little while now, I think that when I get the money to buy it, ASLSK1 will be my next purchase.
 
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