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Subject: More than just a starter rss

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Mike Kozlowski
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I've come to believe that the ASL Starter Kits aren't getting their proper due, what with people thinking they're just cute little intro things, training tools for the real game of full ASL.

And, okay, I can see why it looks that way. For one thing, there's the name, with "Starter Kit" right there on the front of the box. And then there's the inevitable comparison to ASL. ASL's first module, Beyond Valor, has 2400 counters, two dozen scenarios, ten maps, plus the 200-ish pages of the ASL Rulebook. The entry point into the ASLSK series, the aptly named Starter Kit #1, has 280 counters, six scenarios, two maps, and a whopping 12 pages of rules. These really aren't on the same scale.

But the thing is, as obvious as the ASLSK/ASL comparison is, it's not fair to ASLSK, because ASL is an insane behemoth of a game system. So for the moment, let's pretend like full ASL doesn't exist, and see how "starter"-like the ASLSK series is when it's compared to, say, Combat Commander.

To start off with, let's do our best to compare apples to apples. It's not meaningful to compare the $20 Starter Kit 1 to the $50 Combat Commander: Europe base game, so how about if we compare the full (more or less) ASLSK system -- ASLSK #1-3 plus Expansion Pack 1 -- with Combat Commander: Europe and Combat Commander: Mediterranean?

Well now, that looks like it's a better comparison. You've got comparable scope, for sure -- both systems have orders of battle for America, Russia, Germany, Britain, Allied Minors, Italy and the Axis Minors. And, even better, you've got comparable prices, with both systems coming in around $100 online (a little under for ASLSK, a little over for CC).

So let's see how those stack up, then. And just to be clear, this comparison isn't about which system is "better"; it's about seeing how the ASLSK system compares to a full-on, large-scale system, and whether it really deserves that "starter" label. So, breaking it down, we've got:

Counters: The ASLSK series has 1600+ counters; this portion of the CC series has 1100+ counters. The CC counters are larger (5/8" for infantry instead of 1/2") and slightly better illustrated, but we're not talking about aesthetics here; in gameplay terms, ASLSK has 500 more counters, with attendant flexibility and variability for scenarios.

Scenarios: ASLSK has 30 scenarios here; CC:E & CC:M together have 24. A six scenario edge for ASLSK.

Maps: There are 10 maps in ASLSK, and 24 in CC. Which looks like a big advantage for the CC system, but isn't quite as much as it seems -- the ASLSK maps are geomorphic, so can be combined together in various ways, with two or three maps being put together to form larger battlefields (which some scenarios do). So the CC system has an edge for goodies in the box, but in terms of variability and flexibility of play, it's something of a wash.

Rulebooks: CC has a 24-page full color, illustrated rulebook with plenty of examples. ASLSK has a 28 page full color, illustrated rulebook with plenty of examples. In terms of the complexity and depth of the system, ASLSK isn't giving up anything to CC. And as a nice plus, the ASLSK system also comes with 12-page and 20-page rulebooks that are subsets of the full 28-page rulebook, to make it easy to learn the game with basic infantry scenarios.

System Scope: Did I say "infantry scenarios"? Both ASLSK and CC can play scenarios with infantry and artillery. But that's where CC ends, while ASLSK also has tanks in it. Which is where those extra pages of rules are going, giving you the extra complexity and depth of vehicles in your combat.

So apples to apples, you have to admit that these systems look more alike than different. If anything, the ASLSK series looks a little bigger and more complex than the Combat Commander series, with more counters and scenarios, and with more complex rules that handle vehicular and infantry combat both. In a world where full ASL didn't exist, it'd be pretty clear that the ASLSK series was a direct alternative to Combat Commander, and not just a "starter kit."

And if you're wondering why I'm all emphatic about this, it's because I've finally finished punching and organizing the ASLSK games, and when I looked at the result that you see below, I had a Han Solo moment: "That's no starter kit!"


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mkozlows wrote:
Scenarios: ASLSK has 30 scenarios here; CC:E & CC:M together have 24. A six scenario edge for ASLSK.


You are forgetting Combat Commander brilliant random scenario generator. Still, a nice review. I've been wanting to give Starter Kit#1 a go for some time now but can't seem to find it anywhere.
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Full S
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Thanks for the review! It's a comparison I hadn't really thought of, although it's blindingly obvious in retrospect.
DeePee wrote:
mkozlows wrote:
Scenarios: ASLSK has 30 scenarios here; CC:E & CC:M together have 24. A six scenario edge for ASLSK.


You are forgetting Combat Commander brilliant random scenario generator. Still, a nice review. I've been wanting to give Starter Kit#1 a go for some time now but can't seem to find it anywhere.

If there was an ASLSKRSG half as good as the CC one and properly integrated into the rules, I'd be placing an order for the series right now.
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Robin Reeve
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BTW Schwerpunkt published "Rally Point 1", which is a series of scenarios which work with SK as well as full ASL.
The SK Expansion Kit also contains nice scenarios - and is self-sufficient.

BTW, random scenarios are not exactly what fits to most ASL players.
There have been polls on dedicated forums which show that the majority of ASLers are looking for some historical basis behind scenarios.
CC seems more adapted to "fantasy" situations - still set in a global WW2 tactical combat historical background.

Now, SKs are meant to help one move up to full ASL.
Well, they were meant to... but it seems that MMP answer a demand of some players who want to keep with the SK level, and are developing supplemental modules and scenarios to (try to) keep them happy.
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R. Marsh
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Robin wrote:

Well, they were meant to... but it seems that MMP answer a demand of some players who want to keep with the SK level, and are developing supplemental modules and scenarios to (try to) keep them happy.


That's good to hear. And it makes a lot of sense.

Entry-level customers are better than no customers at all. I've enjoyed my experiences with SK#1, but full ASL still intimidates me a bit. As it seems right now, I may never graduate to the big leagues.
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Gregory Smith
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Quote:
Maps: There are 10 maps in ASLSK, and 24 in CC. Which looks like a big advantage for the CC system, but isn't quite as much as it seems -- the ASLSK maps are geomorphic, so can be combined together in various ways, with two or three maps being put together to form larger battlefields (which some scenarios do). So the CC system has an edge for goodies in the box, but in terms of variability and flexibility of play, it's something of a wash.


In the balace, it should be noted that the ASL maps are larger (in that they have a lot more hexes), so a one for one comparison isn't really equivalent.

Quote:
If there was an ASLSKRSG half as good as the CC one and properly integrated into the rules, I'd be placing an order for the series right now.


A "good" scenario generator would be good for the Starter Kits.

Full ASL has so many interesting scenarios (literally thousands) with very unusual situations (often unlikely to be generated by a generic random scenario generator) that full ASL doesn't really need one; but it would still be nice anyway.

Quote:
I've enjoyed my experiences with SK#1, but full ASL still intimidates me a bit. As it seems right now, I may never graduate to the big leagues.


By the time you master starter kit #3, you are 85% there for any basic full ASL scenario. More advanced stuff would just require reading a few additional rules before playing a partcular scenario. AND, the outstanding index in the full ASL rules puts you about 15 seconds away from reading about any rule you might have to look up.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Mike,
Nice review and as this is your third wargame review you have been added to the wargame reviewers geeklist here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/127822/in-praise-of-bg....
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Perry Cocke
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In my opinion, the reason that ASLSK does not have a good random scenario generator is the same reason that full ASL does not have a "good" random scenario generator: there is no need. There are too many great, historical scenarios to choose from to to require a RSG. Granted, there are not nearly as many SK scenarios, but then I think the demand there is much less, and the conversion opportunities are great. I really have not heard of anyone getting bored with the scenario selection at either level.
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Andrew Laws
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You are absolutely right that ASLSK 1-3 should be compared to CC:E and CC:M combined. That is clearly how they're intended to be played and used and have simply been broken up to bring the costs down.

I do take issue with a couple of your points but otherwise a pretty good comparison regards the components.

mkozlows wrote:

Counters: The ASLSK series has 1600+ counters; this portion of the CC series has 1100+ counters. The CC counters are larger (5/8" for infantry instead of 1/2") and slightly better illustrated, but we're not talking about aesthetics here; in gameplay terms, ASLSK has 500 more counters, with attendant flexibility and variability for scenarios.


We should talk about aesthetics. I'm going to have to stare at that board for 3 hours and maybe I'm spoiled coming to the hobby late, but I'd prefer it if the whole thing didn't look like it was designed by a Computer Science student c. 1993. Which ASL definitely does.

mkozlows wrote:
Maps: There are 10 maps in ASLSK, and 24 in CC. Which looks like a big advantage for the CC system, but isn't quite as much as it seems -- the ASLSK maps are geomorphic, so can be combined together in various ways, with two or three maps being put together to form larger battlefields (which some scenarios do). So the CC system has an edge for goodies in the box, but in terms of variability and flexibility of play, it's something of a wash.


You're absolutely right that the geomorphic boards can be put together to form bigger maps but they are smaller in size to begin with. Plus, you get that curse of geomorphic boards; roads that MUST exit in the middle of the board. You want to fight in a mountain valley, or a wooded swamp, or a featureless desert? wellll too bad because the road has to leave through the middle of the board edge.

mkozlows wrote:

"That's no starter kit!"


No it ain't, now if they could just release upgraded components that look like they were made in my lifetime, and somewhere would stock it for more than five minutes I'd be right on board.

EDIT: As a complete aside, what about the scale of the map? ASL always looks like it's more zoomed out than Combat Commander. What distance is a hex supposed to represent?
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Miikka Sohlman
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
What distance is a hex supposed to represent?

One hex in ASL is 40 meters wide.
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