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Subject: ASL Noob Review: Beyond Valor III rss

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ASL is a really challenging game to get into, not least because of how hard it is to find individual modules. My experience of it over the last two years has been a lot of expenditure on modules and storage, a lot of screwing about on eBay and the 2nd hand market, and a lot of punching and clipping of counters I might never use.

Now that I have a (nearly) complete collection (only missing DTO and PTO), I feel like I'd like to give the ASL noob community something back. As such, I'm going to try and do a writeup of all the ASL 'core' modules, from the experience of someone opening them up, sorting through the components and appraising their usefulness in relation to the overall system.

These will not be gameplay reviews. I find critical reviews of gameplay more useful than gushing ones, and any review I did of ASL's gameplay would just be gushing. Plenty of others doing that already! These are just componentry and system reviews - what do you get, how does it fit together.

I've already done one such review of the rulebook, which can be found here. Obviously the rulebook is a prerequisite purchase for ASL noobs, so you might want to check that out. Again - it's not a system review,it's a review of the rulebook as a product.

So, on to Beyond Valor...


Thanks to fangorrn and peterk for the images used in this review

Beyond Valor is the core core module for ASL. It contains two full Orders of Battle (Germans and Russians), as well as Partisans, a partial Finnish OoB and the core system counters. Third Edition (the one currently available from MMP) also contains ten maps - numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 20, 21, 22 and 23. These maps are printed in "Starter Kit Style" - that is, they are on thinner cardstock, with crisp computer graphics. I have some in the new style and some in the old style, and I personally find these easier to both use and store - there are fewer possible quibbles about LOS and terrain types, the colours match between maps better, and they are a lot lighter!

A note on Versions
Todd Pytel has this very important piece of information to add:

tppytel wrote:
The currently available BV is the 3rd edition, which is reviewed here. The first edition was published by Avalon Hill in 1985 and is still widely available secondhand. It is the only version with the Avalon Hill logo on it. It included the older, hardback boards, but significantly fewer of them (notably omitting the common boards #1-4), and only included about half as many scenarios. While a used 1st edition is often cheaper than 3rd edition, the lack of the boards and scenarios adds to the effective price in the end. Investing in a 3rd edition BV is recommended.

There is also a 2nd edition BV, published by MMP in 2001. This edition was notable because it included the popular (and valuable) Red Barricades historical module along with the 1st edition BV content. 2nd edition boxes clearly indicate "includes Red Barricades" on the front cover. However, MMP produced relatively few copies of this edition, and it commands a much higher price than 3rd edition due to the RB content. These are not worth hunting for as a new player - their rarity makes them just as expensive as buying BV3 and RB separately, and they're nearly impossible to find in the first place.

The Orders of Battle
Migrating from Starter Kit you will be overwhelmed by the orders of battle. The Germans have a terrifying array of vehicles with ever more infinitesimal distinctions between them. Included are a frankly ridiculous array of rare vehicles modelled in excruciating detail, and there's a good chance you will never use 80% of them!



The Germans in particular present a significant problem to the player - how do you store such a large variety of counters in such a way that finding them for games will be easy? If you're in North America, you can use Planos - that's what most people use - and sort the vehicles by Main Armament (MA). That cuts down the sifting you'll have to do. I ordered a bunch of Hozan B-50GG boxes, seen here:



These have a maximum of 144 tiny, customisable compartments, and with a lot of judicious sorting and re-sorting, I managed to get my whole German OOB into one of these cases. Take note - it took about an afternoon to get them sorted in a way that was both distributing the counters evenly AND useful for finding them before a game. The Germans need all 144 compartments!

The Russians are slightly better. Though they have a preposterous array of T-34 variants, sorting them by MA won't chew through a whole Hozan. Watch out for the Commissars - 10-0 leader-like SMCs that will need to be sorted separately, or at least easily locatable in your storage boxes. They are not the same, in-game, as leaders!

The Partisan OOB consists of two squad types - 3-3-7s and 1-2-7s - and its own second set of leaders. Don't get your partisan leaders mixed in with your normal Russian leaders, unless you don't care about the picture on your leader counters.

You also get a partial Finnish OoB. These are the light grey guys with frankly abusive stats. They almost all have self-rally capability and their firepower is extreme. They are like this, word has it, because making them supermen was the only way to get similar results in Russian-Finnish scenarios as in the battles they represented. I personally have yet to use the Finns.

You're probably wondering what all the "?" counters are for - they are for concealment, a rule/mechanism left out of the Starter Kits. You'll need to store them with your OoBs. Each OoB also has a 1/2" Sniper counter, which has a hexagon and a bunch of numbers on it. Again, you'll need this each time the matching OoB plays, so make sure you know where it is.

The System Counters



There is a bewildering array of system counters for this game! IN addition to the usual DM, Pin, wound, FF and SFF counters, you'll find a large number of acquisition counters in a lot of different colours, as well as counters you've never seen before - trailbreaking counters, odd-looking residual fire markers (these are called firelanes), labor counters, prisoners... Most of the ones with a black background are only used in night scenarios - don't panic about them. The others you'll need to figure out! The rulebook handily tells you what they all are, but some of them take more looking than others. You might also notice the CX counters appear to be missing - in full ASL, they are on the backs of the OoB-specific '?' counters - also called Concealment counters. There are also a bunch of "neutral" counters - these are horses (for cavalry units), motorcycles (with and without sidecars) and horse-drawn wagons.

There is one frustration with this set of counters. Despite being touted as the core core module, BVIII lacks a large number of system counters. Luckily, most of them are situational at best. Boats and gliders aren't here, so no glider landing scenarios for you (you can produce your own glider counters from the rulebook, which reproduces the front and back of the glider counter on the appropriate page). It also has fewer pillboxes than you will need - more are supplied, along with gliders and boats, in Yanks!, which is helpfully out of print. There are a small number of counters simply missing from the game - unbelievable, I know. There are no Opportunity Fire counters, even though the game needs them!

Sorting and storing these counters is hard. You'll probably have no idea what some of them are - the night ones in particular. Play a few games and it'll all become clear - and if you find your storage/sorting system doesn't work, welcome to the "fun" of ASL - re-sorting your counters!

the Scenarios
This is the only ASL module where you will be able to play every scenario out of the box, and there's a lot of them - 24 to be exact. Looking at the ASL Scenario Archive page for Beyond Valor III, you can make a few snap judgements about them.

For starters, they're a good mix of lengths. The shortest is 3.5 hours (Red Packets), the longest 24 hours (The Defense of Luga)! That's a whole day of ASL, with no sleep or food! There's a good mix of attackers and defenders - Germans and Russian both get to be on both sides. Only two feature the Finns.

Looking more closely, there are a couple of useful tidbits for the ASL noob. First - don't play them in order! ASL scenario 1 uses a bunch of rules that will keep your nose in the rulebook in preference to a dice cup - chief among them the more-complex-than-SK fire and smoke rules. You'll also notice how armour-heavy some of these scenarios are.

My recommendations are to start with smaller infantry-only scenarios to get used to the new rules full ASL introduces. ASL 126 Commando Schenke is my pick of the best for this, though the factory defence is hard on the Russians and you'll have to learn factory rules. If you're learning vehicles, ASL 6 Red Packets only has a few per side, but you'll need to learn platoon movement and how motorcycles work.

By now you might be realising something very important about Beyond Valor. It's really not at all noob-friendly! This is one of the greatest shames of the product,. It's high-quality printing, contains a really good set of maps for the beginning player, and the third edition upgraded the number of scenarios substantially, including some real classics.

However, the scenarios are intimidating. The short ones often contain complex situations, while the long ones are too long for quick learning games. There are few infantry-only scenarios without complex extra rules - Mila 18 is infantry-only, but you need to keep track of who has weapons. Fighting Withdrawal has the fire spreading rules. The Commissar's House or In Sight of the Volga are infantry only, but at almost 10 hours it's too long for a learning game. At least you can download ASL Classic, which has some good beginner scenarios. It's just a shame that the included scenarios aren't a little more noob-friendly.

Conclusions
Well, ultimately there's not much to say beyond this: This is the core module, and you're going to have to get it if you seriously want to play ASL. That being said, there are pros and cons, despite how essential it is.

One of the major ones I have encountered that I haven't yet mentioned is that there was a real bias in the early days of ASL, still discernable now, towards Eastern Front actions. Personally I find Stalingrad infantry fights and steppe armour slugfests dull as ditchwater. I barely played full ASL until I got the Brits and could get onto the Western Front. If, like me, you don't really like the Eastern Front, you are potentially paying counters you may not use. Not much you can do about that though, as it's the core module of the core modules. Again, if you want to play ASL, you'll just have to deal with it.

Another problem is availability. This is the only module where availability is NOT a problem, but that might exacerbate the problem of front preference! Its status as the core core module means that most new players will cut their teeth on Eastern Front scenarios because they have no option. Again, only a problem if that's not your cup of tea.

Pros:
+ Two complete Orders of Battle, plus two further partial ones
+ eight maps, of which at least 6 are really frequently used
+ top-notch printing quality on counters and maps
+ 24 scenarios
+ all scenarios playable out of the box!
+ always available!

Cons:
- Only Eastern Front
- Scenario mix not too noob-friendly
- storage is almost unnecessarily difficult

I hope this has been useful to beginning ASL players. I intend to review all the modules I own like this, and when I do I'll link to them all here.

Links to my other ASL Noob Reviews:
The Rulebook
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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Todd Pytel
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Good idea for a review. It should be helpful for new players dealing with the pure physical and logistical mass of the system.

Boots01 wrote:
However, the scenarios are intimidating. The short ones often contain complex situations, while the long ones are too long for quick learning games.
I completely agree, and think it's the one real failing of BV as a product. As I recall, there are only 1 or maybe 2 scenarios vaguely suitable for a first game (for most people, at least). Even if you've played the SK's before, there's more than enough new stuff in full ASL to learn before adding extra detail. As you point out, ASL Classic is the way to go here (and it's free!), but it would still have been nice to get a couple more scenarios out of the box.

More generally, the length of those original (8?) scenarios is typical of the older design style from the first set of core modules. Newer modules and scenario packs tend to be much more compact. Many of those old scenarios, including the BV ones, are very highly regarded, but I just don't find myself wanting to play 10 turn scenarios very often. I suppose I'm just not tough enough. Sigh...

Quote:
This is the only module where availability is NOT a problem...
I wouldn't count on that. BV has been out of print at least a couple of times in recent memory. It tends to get very expensive very quickly.

Good choice on the Hozans, too. I have a set of them and I think they're the best possible cases for ASL. But for the sake of newbies, it's probably worth mentioning that they're extremely expensive - enough Hozans to hold BV cost significantly more than BV itself.
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Boots
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tppytel wrote:
I wouldn't count on that. BV has been out of print at least a couple of times in recent memory. It tends to get very expensive very quickly.

Good choice on the Hozans, too. I have a set of them and I think they're the best possible cases for ASL. But for the sake of newbies, it's probably worth mentioning that they're extremely expensive - enough Hozans to hold BV cost significantly more than BV itself.

Yes, both of those things are worth mentioning. I shudder to think how much I've spent on Hozans, and it is definitely more than the cardboard stored in them.
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Martí Cabré

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Don't mix partisan and Russian leaders. In some scenarios, like the Czerniakov Bridgehead, you have to use them both for rallying different troops.
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I'm pretty sure I'll never get into ASL but I do love reading about it. Thanks for an interesting read!
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Good review.

One aspect that is not often realised is that the longer scenarios often feature two or three turns of manoeuvre prior to contact, often these scenarios play faster than newer shorter scenarios which are instant contact.
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alex w
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Fantastic review. Took the words right out of my mouth.

This module is the most important piece of your collection and thus is also the most 'worn out' set.

I love the first scenario and used it to bring newbies into the game. (Before the SK sets came about). The First scenario can be as simple as you need to be or as complicated (like adding concealment counters, etc) for even vets to win in proper.

Can't imagine how many times I saw the rout in the fall-back tactics and how many times, the Russians stayed and fight it out (with a token some heading for the 'doors'.

Similarly, I have seen games fold within 2 turns of the firepower onslaught of the Finns....

If only I can rate this module 10.1
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nigel stock
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Good review, usefull for a fellow noob.

One thing though how is ASL classic free? Where can I get it?

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Kevin Horner
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nigelstock wrote:
Good review, usefull for a fellow noob.

One thing though how is ASL classic free? Where can I get it?


Nigel ASL classic is referring to scenarios that are available for download from MMP for free. You still need the rules and modules.
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Barry Roy
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Nigel,


http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Support/ASLASLSK/tabid/64/...

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Robert Wilson
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Boots01 wrote:


Cons:
- Only Eastern Front
- Scenario mix not too noob-friendly
- storage is almost unnecessarily difficult

I hope this has been useful to beginning ASL players. I intend to review all the modules I own like this, and when I do I'll link to them all here.



Great review, I agree on the scenario selection, but only eastern front needn't be a hindrance, you can buy Valor of the Guards: ASL Historical Module Number 7 ( ubiquitous Stalingrad) and Festung Budapest ( uber-cool Hungary 1945 and brand new!) and have everything you need to play for along time.

However, if EF is not your bag, then you are correct

oh and for storage, a lot of the ASL'ers I know use Plano 3701 fishing tackle boxes, somewhere there are PDFs for sorting out each nationality Ill dig them out later on and post em if I find em
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Lee Massey
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I prefer the Pacific front myself!! Once you learn the terrain, the rest is exciting!!
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Robert Wilson
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You dont even need the terrain! just the IJA!
 
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Todd Pytel
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One suggestion I didn't think of earlier... prospective ASL players and first time buyers are frequently confused (for good reason) by the various editions of each core module. So you might want to include a summary of the editions and some buying advice in this type of review. Something like the following, which you're free to shamelessly rip off if you like...

Quote:
The currently available BV is the 3rd edition, which is reviewed here. The first edition was published by Avalon Hill in 1985 and is still widely available secondhand. It is the only version with the Avalon Hill logo on it. It included the older, hardback boards, but significantly fewer of them (notably omitting the common boards #1-4), and only included about half as many scenarios. While a used 1st edition is often cheaper than 3rd edition, the lack of the boards and scenarios adds to the effective price in the end. Investing in a 3rd edition BV is recommended.

There is also a 2nd edition BV, published by MMP in 2001. This edition was notable because it included the popular (and valuable) Red Barricades historical module along with the 1st edition BV content. 2nd edition boxes clearly indicate "includes Red Barricades" on the front cover. However, MMP produced relatively few copies of this edition, and it commands a much higher price than 3rd edition due to the RB content. These are not worth hunting for as a new player - their rarity makes them just as expensive as buying BV3 and RB separately, and they're nearly impossible to find in the first place.
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That's very useful, I'll add it in now.
 
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Thanks for posting your elegant review. I remember buying (and still own) the first edition way back in '85. Your review will be very useful for those new to ASL. I hope you will keep writing them.
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Morten Hjelme
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So, where are the OP Fire counters?
Luckily I play most of my games on VASSAL so I never noticed they were missing, but I still feel cheated


-Morten
 
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Nick Blank
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I belive you use the Bounding Fire counters. When they are on vehicles, they indicate Bounding Fire, when they are on infantry, they indicate Opportunity Fire. There are no counters that actually say Op Fire, so far as I know.
 
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nickgb wrote:
I belive you use the Bounding Fire counters. When they are on vehicles, they indicate Bounding Fire, when they are on infantry, they indicate Opportunity Fire. There are no counters that actually say Op Fire, so far as I know.

right, except on Vasl; you have Opp fire 'and' Adv Fire which are so very useful.

We should have these in hard copy as well. A mystery why we havent.
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P3kill wrote:
nickgb wrote:
I belive you use the Bounding Fire counters. When they are on vehicles, they indicate Bounding Fire, when they are on infantry, they indicate Opportunity Fire. There are no counters that actually say Op Fire, so far as I know.

right, except on Vasl; you have Opp fire 'and' Adv Fire which are so very useful.

We should have these in hard copy as well. A mystery why we havent.

They're available, I forgot where I got mine, either from an official module or maybe a LFT or BFP one.
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Brian Roundhill
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Mark_WH wrote:
P3kill wrote:
nickgb wrote:
I belive you use the Bounding Fire counters. When they are on vehicles, they indicate Bounding Fire, when they are on infantry, they indicate Opportunity Fire. There are no counters that actually say Op Fire, so far as I know.

right, except on Vasl; you have Opp fire 'and' Adv Fire which are so very useful.

We should have these in hard copy as well. A mystery why we havent.

They're available, I forgot where I got mine, either from an official module or maybe a LFT or BFP one.

BFP definitely has them, but I do not remember the module. Blood and Jungle, perhaps?
 
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Miikka Sohlman
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Opp Fire and Adv Fire comes in some third party module, but they are not needed at all. Bounding Fire means Opportunity Fire when placed on infantry, says the rules. And you can use Prep Fire markers for Adv fire without ANY problems or confusion since those who've Prepped previously already have them and you remove all the orange fire counters anyway at the end of the AFPh.

I'm actually glad such superfluous counters are not officially included.
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Ryan Powers
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Hipsu wrote:
Opp Fire and Adv Fire comes in some third party module, but they are not needed at all. Bounding Fire means Opportunity Fire when placed on infantry, says the rules. And you can use Prep Fire markers for Adv fire without ANY problems or confusion since those who've Prepped previously already have them and you remove all the orange fire counters anyway at the end of the AFPh.

I'm actually glad such superfluous counters are not officially included.

Exactly. You can use existing counters for them perfectly well. In the physical realm I much prefer that to having even more counters.

I can take or leave them in the VASL world. It's not like I have to buy/sort/store them. They're mildly useful, but I do wonder if the minor usefulness is offset by players moving to the physical version and being confused.
 
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Russ Williams
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Enjoyable review!

FWIW
Quote:
eight maps - numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 20, 21, 22 and 23.
...
+ eight maps, of which at least 6 are really frequently used
it looks like there are 10 maps (you explicitly name 10 of them, and the first photo seems to show 10... right?
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Frank Hastings
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Hozan B-50GG FTW!

I currently have 10 of these, one of the best ASL purchases I've made, that and the 2mm corner cutter, but that's another thread laugh
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