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Subject: The ASL Rulebook: what ASLSK players who are upgrading should expect. rss

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This forum already has about five decent gameplay reviews of this mammoth wargaming thoroughbred, explaining why you should think about getting into ASL. They all manage it more succinctly and with more clarity than I with my green noobness could possibly ever muster. However, what the forum lacks is a rundown of the product itslef; that is, the rulebook. This page and these forums stand in for the whole game, if the photo gallery is anything to go by, but nowhere on the Geek is there a review of what you actually get when you purchase the ASL Rulebook.

Time to upgrade?

If you're like me, you've bought the Starter Kits and loved them, and decided for one reason or another to upgrade to the real thing. Maybe you are tired of not being able to put your finger on that rule amd you want a reference. Perhaps you're just precocious and after only toying with SK #1 you want to jump ahead. Maybe you need a brightly-coloured doorstop. Whatever. You're thinking about outlaying the big dollars for the Bible of the boardgamer battlefield.

First up, everything you've heard about this book is true.

-It's gargantuan. 200 pages long sounds like a slim fantasy novel until you realise it's small font, A4-sized pages, and with a couple of exceptions, it's all rules.

-It's complicated. You will get headaches reading this book. After playing SK #1 and #2, it's easy enough to get through the first three pages, but once you start getting into rules you've never heard of - dash movement, bounding fire, human waves... most rules take two or three reads to fully comprehend, and even then they're complex. It reads like a technical manual, and it's not easy to grok.

-It's comprehensive. There is a rule for EVERYTHING. Gliders, paradrops, air support, night time, snow, wind, fires, telephones, interrogation, swimming, you name it, it's in there!

Bang/Buck Ratio

I recall my first experience of ASL. I was a bright young roleplayer, attending my first SAGA - a gaming convention in Sydney that folded about a decade ago. SAGA was half wargaming, half roleplayng, and I was there for the roleplaying. I saw a bunch of old men playing with what looked like an engrossing game, but one they had to cart around in elaborately contrived hardware or tackle containers. Each of them reverently carried a red and yellow brick. A week later I saw this brick in my FLGS, and picked it up. It looked like a complete wargame - heavy, expensive, oblong... but the guy in the shop warned me off, telling me that that was NOT a complete game on its own, and looking at the $130 pricetag, I put it down and walked off. Even ten years later, it's still a big ask - $80 on just the rulebook? What does it come with, gold-plated D6s?

It's expensive, but worth it. And no more pricey than a good AD&D habit. Here's what you get in the basic package:

- Binder
You can buy with or without the binder. The binder is pretty, and branded. Like everything else ASL, it's hopelessly drowned in information. The inside covers explain the basic counters in exhaustive detail.

And it's a three-ring binder. You can't really store the pages as shipped in anything else. Whether it is an inherent flaw with the three-ringed design, or just that my particular binder was banged up in its trip across the Pacific (a common woe with MMP stuff, I'm finding - the same thing happened to my SK Bonus Pack), my binder's top ring doesn't close fully, and is already beginning to tear up the pages. I'm thus pretty ambivalent about this part of the purchase, pretty or not. After my experience with it, I'd suggest getting it without and making your own.

- Rules dividers
It's kind calling these things 'dividers'. They are colour-coded card reference charts that match the colour-coding of the chapter headings, but they aren't really dividers. they have no tabs or labels, so there's no real reference time-saving until you're used to where in the book you need to be, and arguably while a game's on you'll need them for reference anyway, preventing you from using them as dividers. There's also a few that have odd colour-coding and there's no explanation of where they go, so you could easily just whack them at the front or back and forget that they were ever meant to be 'dividers' in the first place.

The info on them, like everything else in ASL, is almost preposterously dense and incomprehensible, but I'm sure one day it'll all make sense. The IFT is one one, but it's not as convenient as the QRDC from the SKs. You sort of get buried under a rain of data tables, from things like the "Overrun flowchart" (a foldout, two-page spread for god knows what) to the Glider Crash table. There's a rule for everything, and a summary for every rule.

Aaaand finally... (drumroll)

- The Rules
The rules are colour printed on nice heavy stock, and pre-punched for three-ring binders. They are printed in small font, and even smaller font for examples. They are lavishly illustrated. What's more, the illustrations are extremely practical. In fact some are instrumental to the rules. This is something I haven't seen done to this extent in a rule book before. The terrain chapter in particular is a thing of beauty that explains everything.... eventually. Sometimes you have to bury yourself in the index for a while to find a particular rule, but it's all in there somewhere.

There are obvious legacy issues, thanks to the 30-year development time of the game. MMP have done a great job keeping it alive, but they have made some changes that the game itself doesn't quite seem to feel happy with.

The table of contents that ship with the game is somewhat misleading. You don't get Chapter F (North Africa, probably coming in a couple of years in Hollow Legions), or G (PTO, coming soon in Rising Sun). Chapter H, which is a HUGE chapter, is a bit of an oddity. It's called "Design Your Own" and consists mainly of historical notes about different war material and ordnance. Each module after Beyond Valor ships with its own Chapter H pages, so the chapter is growing constantly. I've heard that a full Chapter H needs its own separate binder. Including design-you-own rules seems like something that might be useful down the track, but right now I can't see myself getting a lot of use out of those 20 or 30 pages.

I get the sense from comparing the Chapter H notes on the Germans and Russians, which are somewhat devoid of rules, with those from Doomed Battalions 3rd Ed which have all sorts of rules notes in them, that this chapter has evolved over the thirty years since ASL was first published. Given the designers' note that Chapter N, the "Armory" has been removed from the 2nd Ed rulebook, I feel like Chapter H is a bit of a stand-in.

You also get Chapter K, which is the 'training manual'. I haven't read it through yet, but it looks like a precursor to the Starter Kits. Chapter E, the 'misc' chapter, is included. That means if you want to play a scenario that says it needs Yanks, but doesn't need any maps or counters from Yanks, you can play it - Yanks used to include this chapter, but now it's in the main rulebook.

Finally, there's an index, not just for this book but for the whole system. It refers to things you don't yet have, like rules for the Pacific or rules in specific historical modules. It also functions as a glossary, explaining terms liek 'hexside' that aren't really explained anywhere else.

Conclusions

So, that's what you get. A book that's more work than anything I've ever read for my doctoral dissertation (including some archives!), but somehow it's meant to be a game.

Have the Starter Kits prepared me? I'm not sure. The rulebook feels a little bit like a journal someone's been keeping for forty years. Parts are fresh and simple, others are scrawled all over with layer upon layer of corrections. It's going to take a long time to unravel it, but that's part of the joy of ASL.

Are you going to be disappointed? I don't think so. You will probably be overwhelmed, but I doubt if you've come this far you'll be disappointed.

Links to my other ASL Noob Reviews:
Beyond Valor III
Yanks
For King and Country II
Croix de Guerre
Doomed Battalions III
Armies of Oblivion

The ASL Noob Review Index Geeklist
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Mike Windsor
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Quote:
It's kind calling these things 'dividers'.

Could you just go buy colored dividers (although I guess matching up the colors could be a problem)?
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Andy Beaton
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Quote:
Chapter H, which is a HUGE chapter, is a bit of an oddity. It's called "Design Your Own" and consists mainly of historical notes about different war material and ordnance. Each module after Beyond Valor ships with its own Chapter H pages, so the chapter is growing constantly. I've heard that a full Chapter H needs its own separate binder. Including design-you-own rules seems like something that might be useful down the track, but right now I can't see myself getting a lot of use out of those 20 or 30 pages.

The real purpose of Chapter H is the vehicle and ordnance notes. Rather than filling Chapters C and D with every oddity for every piece of equipment in the game, Chapter H is where you go to find out about twin-turret Polish tanks, Crusader bmg's and FlakPz IV's firing modes. It is absolutely essential for armour play.
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Eddy del Rio
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Fine appraisal! ASL is like a fine woman: inscrutable, complex, perplexing, mysterious, frustrating, speaking a foreign language, but give me nothing less! One correction: the miscelaneous chapter is "E".
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Malcolm Cameron
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I was probably one of those you saw at SAGA all those years ago. Welcome to ASL. There is a pretty active community in Sydney (of which I am one of the least active). Drop me a line if you want to organise a game.

Good review of the book.

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mwindsor wrote:
Quote:
It's kind calling these things 'dividers'.

Could you just go buy colored dividers (although I guess matching up the colors could be a problem)?

Can't see why not, that's precisely what a friend of mine did and his rulebook works fine.

edelrio wrote:
Fine appraisal! ASL is like a fine woman: inscrutable, complex, perplexing, mysterious, frustrating, speaking a foreign language, but give me nothing less! One correction: the miscelaneous chapter is "E".

Don't forget "intelligent". In many ways this metaphorical woman is smarter than I am!

Thanks for the correction! Edited for accuracy.

Malcolm C wrote:
I was probably one of those you saw at SAGA all those years ago. Welcome to ASL. There is a pretty active community in Sydney (of which I am one of the least active). Drop me a line if you want to organise a game.

Good review of the book.

Thanks for the offer - I've got a couple of sparring partners who are skilling-up alongside me, and we're always looking for mentors/opponents, so I might just do that. Consider yourself messaged!
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Richard Weiley
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And he thought we were old then!
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Rich - you and I were always the babies. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
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Think of it more as the memories of a person who was thoroughly too young to know what he was missing out on in the late 90s, but is now old enough to realise (or hope) that 'old' is not the same as 'over 25'!
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Tomas Syrovatka
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Great review! I too feel a bit perplexed with the dividers but learning by using the infantry scenarios is a great tool as well as Chapter K. I bought the first SK, played the first scenario and immediately ordered ASL RB along with BV and VotG. And Yanks module is on the way
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Joao Lima
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Boots01 wrote:
...
-It's comprehensive. There is a rule for EVERYTHING. Gliders, paradrops, air support, night time, snow, wind, fires, telephones, interrogation, swimming, you name it, it's in there!
...

Yeah, a rule for everything, as long as you do not want to play in the Pacific, or in the Desert. Or with the Solitaire version. Or Campaigns which have their own set of specific rules. whistle
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About the rules, the word that "one plays 90% of the time with 10% of the rules" is quite true.

Rules like the strange road LOS thing, SMC overrun or Human Waves (not speaking of cavalry, cycles and skiing) can easily be ignored most of the time, for an example.
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Boots01 wrote:
-It's gargantuan. 200 pages long sounds like a slim fantasy novel until you realise it's small font, A4-sized pages, and with a couple of exceptions, it's all rules.

I wish I'd be A4 but unfortunately it's one of those weird American standards.

A smart thing to do is to buy page protectors (even if you have to order them from the US). This will stop the binder from tearing up pages. A drawback is that it makes the rulebook even thicker but mine still fits in the original binder (albeit barely after an expansion or two).

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Doomfarer wrote:

I wish I'd be A4 but unfortunately it's one of those weird American standards.

Eight-and-a-half-by-eleven (inches). That's what we use for pretty much everything here in the States. School notebook paper, writing tablets, magazines, many wargame rules folders, the phone book, printer paper, you name it.

It's not weird .... it's just eight-and-a-half-by-eleven.

Now "A4" on the other hand. Okay, my ruler has a '4' on it, but no "A". I have no idea what A4 means, unless we're playing Battleship or Bingo
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AARGH yes I just found this out the hard way. I bought some A4 page protectors and a binder for the scenario cards. I printed out the free-to-download ones at work on A4 paper, then I got home and disovered the weird fat and short US paper doesn't fit in A4 sheet protectors!

The height doesn't bother me, it's the width. if it were only 8 inches wide, everything would fit, though it'd be a bit short.

Luckily my girlfriend's parents can post some over, but wow this is frustrating. There may be 300 million of you yanks, and I may be dating one of you, but that doesn't mean you get to do paper all wrong!
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Boots01 wrote:
AARGH yes I just found this out the hard way. I bought some A4 page protectors and a binder for the scenario cards. I printed out the free-to-download ones at work on A4 paper, then I got home and disovered the weird fat and short US paper doesn't fit in A4 sheet protectors!
You can easily photocopy the rules on A4 paper.

I personally made myself a b&w copy of the rules, that I placed in 4 supple binders (chapters A ; B ; C-E and F-G respectively).


To Lewis Goldberg : A4 is the "world outside the USA" paper size standard.
That is 21 cm large and 29.7 cm long.
Here is the wiki explanation of the "A" system : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_216
I do hope you know what centimeters are (unless you never understood the 50 meters measure of the ASL hexes)?
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Robin wrote:

To Lewis Goldberg : A4 is the "world outside the USA" paper size standard. That is 21 cm large and 29.7 cm long.

Here is the wiki explanation of the "A" system : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_216

Robin, yes I know that's the standard elsewhere, just saying that the term A4 never conveyed anything to me. The link was very interesting. It all makes sense now ... but not to say that I am an A-advocate now

Robin wrote:

I do hope you know what centimeters are (unless you never understood the 50 meters measure of the ASL hexes)?

In school, back in the dark ages, they taught us the metric system, saying that we would switch "any time now".

I hear that school kids today are still taught the metric system and being told that we will switch "any time now".

I don't think we'll be switching any time soon.
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Robin wrote:

I do hope you know what centimeters are (unless you never understood the 50 meters measure of the ASL hexes)?
Robin, I think you mean 40 meters/hex
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edelrio wrote:
Robin wrote:

I do hope you know what centimeters are (unless you never understood the 50 meters measure of the ASL hexes)?
Robin, I think you mean 40 meters/hex
Aoh... perhaps was I thinking in yards ?
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p3love wrote:
I suppose the pages wouldnt fit with A4 - also is it the same for the 2nd edition?
They would fit with A4, as I managed to photocopy them 1:1 on A4 format without losing any part of the text or illustrations.
I use the 2nd edition.
When I had the 1st edition, I did laminate EDIT : cut the pages to fit A4 width and put them in A4 page protectors.
Cut the widness difference where the holes for the binder are.

US letter format is 216 mm large and the A4 format is 210 mm large, so that only makes 0.6 cm difference.

The US format is shorter than A4, so you just will have some free space left at the top of your page protectors (if you use any).
 
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p3love wrote:
could you laminate each page? I suppose the pages wouldnt fit with A4 - also is it the same for the 2nd edition? cheers.

Mine is the second edition. They're a different size because that's just the size of paper in the US.
 
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Chris Nasipak
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Regarding Chapter N: You're not missing much.

This was basically a counter inventory. Chapter H has always been Historical notes and obscure rules for individual vehicles (like the german halftrack with the side-mounted flamethrowers, for one example).
 
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p3love wrote:

could you laminate each page? I suppose the pages wouldnt fit with A4 - also is it the same for the 2nd edition? cheers.

I wouldn't, it would make it weigh a ton and you'd have trouble applying all the 'sticky' errata. Plus I profusely highlight my rules.
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Sorry I wrote something wrong : I did not laminate the pages, but I did cut them to fit the A4 breadth (no problem, as the margins of the RB pages are wide enough) and put them in page protectors.
 
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