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Subject: Tell me about ASL rss

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alex w
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I would like to state here, that I'm not an expert in ASL, But I do like the game VERY much. I have a significant collection of most modules and play it frequently. What follows are my own personal opinion of the game.

This short review is a simple attempt to give an idea to all ASL newbies about what they are in for.

COMPONENT

(1) There are more than 10 modules (sets) besides the rules binder. You need just the basic rules and Beyond Valour to begin. BV has all the components you need and counters from 2 countries. (Germans and Russians) It is sufficient for you to play for hours if not days.

(2) There are over 2000 scenarios from various resources, covering nearly every nation that was involved. And the numbers are ‘still counting’....

(3) Scale is 1 man leader, 3-5 men crew/half squad and 8 to 12 men squad. (Roughly) Individual Gun, Weapons (like Machine Guns), Tank, Truck, plane, landing craft etc.

(4) Maps are geomorphic, that could come together in various ways to make a completely different battlefield. Each Hex is about 40meters across. Individual house/ level, cluster of woods, orchards, grain; including walls and hedges neatly within a hex.

(5) Each turn is 2 minutes of ‘real life’ battle time.


THE GAME

(6) It is an easy game that builds up as you play more/different scenarios. Basics are repeated. It will strengthen with more plays and you will not need the rule book soon.

(7) You will get the idea that each rule is structured in an (A) to (B) to (C) way. There are however, quite a few exceptions.

(8) You only need to remember the basic rules, special rules applying to specific situations/weapons/terrains etc, can be read just before you play that specific scenario.

(9) The player aids is all you need, eventually. (after perhaps a few plays on the first scenario)


Playing ASL

(10) Each player has forces and scenario objectives, it is all in the scenario card.

(11) Each player plays according to Step 1 (Rally Phase) to Step 8 (Close Combat Phase), then the other player does the same, except the roles are changed. 1 turn is over once both have done their steps. Basically speaking, they are shoot/move/close quarter steps that you will get to familiarize with after 1 or 2 plays.

(12) Once the stipulated number of turns are completed, victory/lost are usually counted. (some scenarios may have sudden death rules)


STRATEGY

(13) I have played this game since it was first launched, the strategy is immense. A single scenario could be played countless of times and the strategy to me.....is endless, though it is either a win/lose situation in the end. Unlike some games, a repeat of what happened in previous game is never the same in the next.


IS IT GOOD?

(14) It depends......if you like to play a game over and over again, than, YES it is. ASL option is tremendous. Every game is tense to the end. With that number of scenarios, you feel like playing a different game every time for the price of one.

(15) If you like repeated strategy that always does the trick to win........then this may not be a game for you. If you like to count cards......this may not be for you. If you like complete Chaos/randomness........this may not be for you.

(16) If you like to outwit, risk on potential percentages for an action and the intricacies of experiencing tactical warfare........THAN, this is the perfect choice. (none other, IMO.)


Seriously, I have not even completed 10% of the scenarios out there with approximately 60% of the rules digested. I’m brain drained every time I finish a scenario, and the kick and excitement I get out of it, is beyond your dreams. As one may say, ASL is not a game, it is a lifestyle. And I intend to continue this lifestyle.

Cheers
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Jem Ruggera
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Hear hear!
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Caleb Wynn
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Nice little overview for this great game!
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Eric Walters
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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As one of the original playtesters for the ASLRB 1st Edition and 1st Edition Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1, who has been playing ever since, but who also is involved in the "other" squad level tactical games out there such as Advanced Tobruk, Combat Commander: Europe, Valor & Victory, Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes, and Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42, I thought I'd pitch in my perspective.

Before I launch into this, there's a few biases I have that readers should be aware of. First, this is my favorite tactical wargame for the subject and scale. Quite probably it's because I've spent the most time with it ever since I began the playtest in 1984, having to unlearn all the knowledge I'd accumulated playing basic Squad Leader, Cross of Iron, Crescendo of Doom, and G.I. Anvil of Victory. The problems with the old system had grown to be so unwieldy, it was high time for the kind of redesign ASL offered. But it's important to know that none of these other games existed back in 1984-85. Only the old Tobruk: Tank Battles in North Africa 1942 game had roughly the same scale, but a very different (i.e., miniatures-based) approach and you could only simulate the Gazala battles on a flat, featureless board. AH had been talking about doing a game on Arnhem using the TOBRUK system, but that never came to fruition. So, I played ASL because there wasn't anything like it at the time. It got a lot of attention and so, of course, it's natural that I am predisposed towards it.

Second, I am a Marine, and third, I'm a military historian and writer. So I have a somewhat different perspective regarding what to expect out of a tactical game. I've laid that out in my quite controversial thread in the Wargames/Forums/General section called "ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER As Immersive Sergeant Rock Comic Book" and won't repeat that here.

With all that said, let me try to discriminate ASL from all the other games that are out there, both positive (pros) and not so positive (cons):

Unique Advantages of ASL:

-- Audience. Perhaps most importantly is the player base. It's huge. There are a LOT of ASL players out there. This means it is very well supported by both the company that produces it and by the players themselves. No other tactical game system for the period and scale comes anywhere close to this, at least as of this writing. The "fanzines" and clubs ON AN INTERNATIONAL SCALE devoted to the game ALONE are a rich source of ideas, player aids, and interesting people. Yes, ASL is indeed a lifestyle for many of them and it shows. You'll find balancing records and advice, tactical analyses and tips, more home-brewed scenarios, tons of websites and opponent lists, after-action reports and so much more. If you are of a competitive bent, there's a good number of regional and national-level ASL tournaments out there to get involved in, and they take players of ALL skill levels! For me, going to these even if you aren't a competitive player is the best way to learn different tips and tricks of the game; you will always walk away being very glad you went...and dreaming of how you will now thrash your typical opponents with all that you've learned!

-- Width of historical coverage. There's a lot of material out there, not all of it currently in print, admittedly, dealing with a very wide range of scenarios and situations. The system handles Finnish ski troops attacking road-bound Soviet columns in the deepest snows of Karelia to Soviet-Japanese clashes around the Mongolian border to partisan actions in Yugoslavia to amphibious assaults in the Pacific and far more besides. Indeed, scenario designers are coming up with more materials dealing with esoteric World War 2 tactical actions all the time as the more "popular" battles have all been repeatedly and extensively covered.

-- Narrative richness. Even without the width of historical coverage, the game experience has a LOT going on. Indeed, that's the challenge of learning it; there are a lot of subsystems and exceptions. But once mastered, the variety of things that can go wrong are amazing. Game sessions tend to be quite memorable to a high degree of detail. ASL grognards often sound like D&D players when they talk about their games for that reason--we can regale our audiences with "blow-by-blow" stories with a very high degree of (what seems to us to be) exciting fidelity.

-- Seductive illusion. The game feels so "realistic" given all the well-considered detail in so many ways that is manifest in the narrative richness of it. It's easy to forget it's a game. It's equally easy to think of a particular scenario--particularly the ones in the Historical ASL modules that replicate specific engagements on terrain maps drawn to closely replicate the actual ground--to accurately portray the forces and possibilities open to our historical counterparts. But that's mere illusion as typically forces are really only "representative" and action happens at a far faster rate and with constantly dramatic results than what happens in real life. Still, who cares? It's so damn entertaining!

-- Versatile scalability. There are small/tournament scenarios and really big "monster-sized" ones and campaign games that can keep you occupied for months, if not years (the "full monty" of Red Barricades: ASL Historical Module 1 anyone?). You can tailor your play to whatever suits you and easily find like-minded souls to test your wits against.

-- Acceptable role of luck/high competitive value. Sometimes you'll feel the dice gods are against you no matter what you do in this game, but--overall--the role of skill separates the truly excellent players from the rest. That said, there's nothing that laser dice won't cure in a particularly sticky situation. This is important because even the experts won't take anything for granted because of this and makes gaming in ASL always a tense contest. Sure, luck plays larger roles in smaller scenarios than it does in the big ones; my advice is that if you feel you got blown out in a small scenario because of the dice, play it again. Most likely it will come out differently for different reasons. And there's always the balance provisions if you think the situation is too far stacked against one side or another.

-- Satisfaction At Mastery. I'm not sure even the national champions will be completely confident in saying that they have mastered every nuance of the game system, but they all will say that the game really rewards a degree of mastery. ASL is very satisfying to play when you get the basics down. Even if you aren't as adept in some of the more esoteric details and lose a scenario because of it, you'll feel good enough about your performance and tell yourself, "just a little more practice at this and I'll have gotten it!" Good ASL players have every reason to feel a very high level of accomplishment and personal satisfaction.

-- Ground-Breaking Design. When ASL debuted in 1985, there was nothing else like it (save for it's basic SL gamette predecessors, but even then the difference was substantial). It's still considered the standard that most players refer to when making comparisons between game systems, either positively or negatively. So this is pretty much the PanzerBlitz of tactical World War II games for this scale.

Some real disadvantages of ASL, especially compared to other squad-level World War II ground tactical games:

-- Systems learning curve. The biggest investment you must make in ASL, bar none, is TIME. And once you have learned the basic infantry, ordnance, terrain, and vehicular rules, you have to keep playing the game to keep them fresh in your mind. If you stop playing for more than a month or two, you'll find you need to spend a lot of time reacquainting yourself with the system. Getting into the system for the first time is quite a daunting prospect and is best done with an experienced player who can guide you through it. Sure, the ASL Starter Kit series is a sorely needed help and is perhaps the best way to initiate yourself if you are coming at ASL "cold." But make no mistake, getting into this game system is a major commitment of your time--to a degree no other tactical system can match. ASL is a jealous mistress--she does not take well to your going out and playing other games. The price for doing so is losing her; you must spend much extra time to get back in her good graces.

-- Financial expense. This is also quite considerable. There's a lot of pressure to get, if nothing else, all the core modules. Trouble is, these are not all in print and much of the OOP stuff is very expensive. Just getting started with the ASLRB v2 and the latest version of Beyond Valor: ASL Module 1 is a very, very substantial investment; no other game system at this scale requires such a huge initial outlay (and I'm not even counting the ASL Starter Kits which are the best bridge to this). It also gets worse when you realize that most modules are not "stand alone"--they require ownership of other modules to use all the scenarios contained therein. This sets up a chain of "dependency" that can really irritate people who have scarce dollars to apply to their hobby, or feel gypped that they have to buy certain modules they would otherwise not play much just so they can get to other modules.

-- Tough Initial Accessibility. The two items listed above together comprise perhaps the biggest hurdle new ASL players must overcome and is worth characterizing as the biggest disadvantage of the game system: difficult accessibility for the uninitiated, particularly compared to the competition. It usually takes a zealous player to lure in and maintain new player interest. Fortunately, there's not much problem for zealous players to do that--they love to spread their ASL addiction around--but they may not be collocated in an ear where new players are. VASSAL is a help, but even with it's near-FTF experience, it's not ideal for teaching/learning ASL for a newcomer.

-- Risk of Being Overwhelmed. This can be considerable, especially if aren't constantly playing the game. There's so much to the system. Advocates will so that nobody plays a perfect game, remembering every rule and applying it exactly as intended in every scenario, but one does feel compelled to try. My advice when this begins to happen is to ratchet back to some of the more simple scenarios that don't require a lot of "add-on" rules and exceptions. If you feel overwhelmed by that amphibious assault against Japanese Cave Complexes complete with parachute landings, air support, off-board naval gunfire, etc., that's quite understandable. Don't bite off more than you can chew and find something you won't have to constantly be consulting the rulebook when playing. That's such a drag. But it's a real risk in this game if your ambitions exceed your capabilities with regard to rules mastery.

-- Relative interactivity. ASL is basically I-GO, U-GO, with a lot of phases where both players do things even when it's the other guy's turn (Rally Phase, Rout Phase, Close Combat Phase) and the Defensive Fire options, particularly doing "opportunity fire-like stuff" when your opponent is moving, is nevertheless pretty interactive. But it's not as interactive as lot of other game systems out there. I don't find this hugely significant but some of the advocates for the other tactical combat series games may bring it up as an advantage of their favorite system compared to ASL.

-- Personal Logistics. If you end up getting seriously into this game, you are going to need some real shelf space for all the stuff you'll collect and you'll puzzle like so many of us on the ideal counter storage and labeling solution for all those thousands of counters. Don't even worry about counter clipping all of those damn things--not yet, anyway. Oh, and let's not going into packing and transport "systems" to get you through those ASL conventions/tournaments you'll be going to.... Don't laugh, this is an art form in and of itself and many players are constantly intent on their own personal "product improvement" for their storage, transport, and playing solutions....

-- Ground-Breaking Design--For Its Day? ASL has been slightly refined since it first came out but hasn't gone through major improvements, although one could argue that the Solitaire ASL module, Deluxe ASL modules, and Historical ASL modules expanded the system in particularly cool ways. But some of the other game systems have taken what worked from ASL, much as was done with platoon-level games that followed PanzerBlitz, and left out what was not desired or refined things substantially. One can easily argue that design methods have passed ASL by. Certainly none others can lay claim to the wide variety and depth of the ASL system--the advantages of the newer games lay in different realms. I am particularly sensitive to this and confess that were I to get into tactical-level wargaming at the squad level today, I'm not sure ASL would be my first choice. But when I began it in 1984, there was really nothing else at that time. Today's wargamers thankfully have that choice. Hopefully the discussion above helps in making decisions regarding whether to get into ASL or not.

There you have it. I'm sure there's much I've missed, but this will give you a better idea of what you are in for--both good and not-so-good--if you "take the plunge" with ASL over the other competing squad-level WW II tactical ground wargames.


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alex w
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Thanks for the detailed add-on, Eric.

The reason why I wrote the above is that there are too many gamers that ask the same question when they see us play ASL.....

The 'fear' of jumping in seem enormous for most of them....

In Singapore, I believe there are less than 10 wargamers that are into ASL.A small group indeed.....I sincerely hope, I'm wrong about that number.

I'll continue to soldier on and bring in new blood where ever I can, using the starter kits, of course.
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H G
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I've tried all the rest...and keep coming back to the best.

ASL is a better game than anything out there currently....period.
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Leong Yew Lam
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alexisW wrote:
In Singapore, I believe there are less than 10 wargamers that are into ASL.A small group indeed.....I sincerely hope, I'm wrong about that number.


Oh ...u r in Singapore. Am from Kuala Lumpur ...but so far have not found any ASLers hers. Sure ..there are some who have dabbled with ASLSK but they found even the SKs daunting not to mention the whole kaboozle of ASL! My only regular opponent is my son.
 
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alex w
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Hi Lamskiy,

So near but yet so far! If you are ever in town, would be nice to meetup and chat.

have a game too if possible.
 
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Jim F
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ericmwalters wrote:


Second, I am a Marine, and third, I'm a military historian and writer. So I have a somewhat different perspective regarding what to expect out of a tactical game.



Do you mean writer or blogger? I'd be interested in reading one of your books if you meant the former.
 
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