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Doomed Battalions: ASL Module 11» Forums » Reviews

Subject: ASL Noob Review: Doomed Battalions III rss

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My ASL module review series continues with Doomed Battalions (3rd Ed.), a comprehensive treatment of the "Allied Minors".

Allied Minors - Not a Coalition of Children



Image courtesy of http://www.desperationmorale.com

The various Allied armies that history generally regards as 'minor countries' - Holland, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Greece and from time to time and scenario to scenario other nations as well - have been in ASL since Squad Leader's second module, Crescendo of Doom. In ASL, they have been the subject of four modules - The Last Hurrah, and three editions of Doomed Battalions.

ASL is a preposterously comprehensive system, and Doomed Battalions highlights this comprehensiveness. Though all these nationalities are represented by the same basic squad types, each and every quirky multi-turreted tank and WWI relic artillery piece is represented in excruciating detail.

Versions again

For new players, the Third Edition is such an improvement over the others that I wouldn't suggest buying anything else. The first and second editions had only three mounted maps and eight scenarios, while the third edition has eight updated, crisp, "SK-style" cardboard maps (in my opinion vastly superior to the hand-painted, overly heavy mounted ones) and all the scenario content from the Last Hurrah. In short - if you're new, buy only the Third Edition. That being said, the maps and counters are more important than scenario content, so if you can only find a 2nd edition, get it and buy the maps separately from MMP.

One colour, many Armies

Thanks to Rindis and Lesulm1 for these images

The Doomed Battalions order of battle is an odd beast. You get a very basic, three squad-type infantry OB that is identical to the French, which is expected to stand in for all Allied Minor infantry. Augmenting this is a huge array of vehicles and guns, heavily weighted towards artillery.

Sorting and storing these is a nightmare. Though the infantry is generic, the guns in particular are extremely granulated. The huge variety of artillery pieces come in many calibres, though 75mm is the most heavily populated calibre, and there are so many different types of 75mm gun that there is no easy way to sort and store them.

The tanks are complex despite their paper-thin armour. There are so many variants of the Vickers Independent tank (and various other multi-turreted tanks) that DBIII comes with special Port and Starboard turret counters. Unlike the Chapter H pages for the 'Major' Allied powers, the Chapter H notes for Allied Minors are complex and rules-heavy, with plenty of diagrams of Covered Arcs and various tank and vehicle-related rules. Several vehicles are reprints in Allied Minor green of vehicles form other OBs. There are plenty of quirky vehicles beyond tanks, including the 'Nimrod' motorcycle and sidecar mounting a 20mm cannon.

DBIII also comes with a bunch of Russian-coloured counters for representing the Yugoslav army, which I store with my Russian counters (since if I need them I'll need partisans and 5-2-7s anyway, and that's where they're stored). It also comes with a set of early-war SS counters, mainly it seems to increase the difficulty of storing the already complex German infantry OB.

 


There are a few handy system counters thrown in too, the most useful being markers to show when a gun or tank has run out of a particular type of ammo (smoke, APDS etc.). You also get a pile of Human Wave counters that are not explained anywhere, and seem very similar to the ones that shipped in BVIII. Apparently they are re-designed to let you flip them to their white side after the wave is over to remind you of the ongoing effects of the wave, before being removed in the APh.

Maps and Overlays - Co-Dependent Tendencies
In Avalon Hill's modules, you could usually rely on any module needing all of the modules before it, so if you bought the modules in order you'd be OK. It's in MMP's 'mega-modules' that dependencies really start to show up, because the 'older' modules are re-written to take advantage of established collections. Thus while the maps are not a problem (since the newer modules all come with more maps), the scenario dependencies are the worst I've seen yet.

For example, to get all the maps needed for all 24 scenarios in this module, you'll need Beyond Valor III, Yanks and For King and Country II as well as Action Pack 1 (or 3) and 2. You'll almost certainly never find Action Pack 1 or 2, and though you can get maps 42 and 43 from Action Pack 3, the only way currently to get Map 46 is straight from MMP as Action Pack 2 is long gone, has only mounted maps and is almost never seen on the secondary market.

The overlay dependencies are (as usual) worse. One scenario uses only overlays from DBIII, but in addition to those overlays you will need overlays from Code of Bushido and Croix de Guerre. The overlays that come with DBIII are also not the best - they depict Railroads and buildings, and while a few of the building overlays have got a bit of use, I've only very rarely seen the railroad overlays used. The overlay system greatly over-emphasises the Code of Bushido and Croix de Guerre overlays. Last but not least, you'll need the Italian OoB to play one scenario. That's six modules (one of which was produced AFTER this module) and two actions packs (one of which is will never be available again) to get everything you can out of the scenarios. This is about the peak of ASL's terrible dependencies.

The Scenarios
This module has as many scenarios as Beyond Valor III, and they are of mixed provenance. Some are reprints from the Annuals and the General, some are from the original DB module, and others are from The Last Hurrah. In this they are typical of MMP's offerings in that they are generous in number and selected from a much larger pool than in the Avalon Hill days.

The downside is that they are still not particularly noob friendly. Going back to the excellent ASL Scenario Archive listing for DBIII, even once you have all six modules required to play these 24 scenarios, they are an odd selection. At first glance they seem a good spread of play lengths - 10 of them are under 6 hours, with the shortest being only around 3 hours long. Compared to BVIII's 24 hour scenario, the longest in DBIII is 'only' 13 hours long. The remainder are around the 8-9 hour mark. Only one scenario is a night scenario, which on first blush keeps down complexity. So far so good.

Now, the downsides. Of those 10 scenarios under 6 hours (thus the ones you are most likely to play), one of them requires overlays from Code of Bushido, and one requires the Italians. Six have tanks - one of which has 19 tanks! One of the remaining four has Stukas, requiring learning the Air Support Rules. Of the three left, one (Piercing the Peel) is a reknowned 'dog' (ie terribly unbalanced scenario) despite its rebalancing. Not a great start - two short infantry-only scenarios.

I can't really speak for the others - I tend not to look too closely at anything over about 6 hours myself, because it's very rare I'll be able to play it. There are quite a few in there that have piqued my interest,
including "Round One", which is an early-war city fight between Germans and Poles. But there are also a few really odd ones, like "Revenge at Kastelli", which puts Greeks on the attack against encircling Germans, but gives the Germans no real incentive to do anything (from the AARs I've read anyway). On the whole, I remain disappointed with the scenarios from DBIII - they are overlay, armour and rules-intensive, which is really my personal trinity of turn-offs when browsing scenarios.

Conclusions
This was the second module I purchased along with the rulebook and Beyond Valor III, and that colours my attitudes somewhat. I've got a fair bit of use out of the maps, and occasional use out of the OoB. As much as I tell myself I like the idea of early war actions, often I pass them up because they are fortification intensive (trenches, mines) or rules-intensive (OBA, night, air support etc.). As much as I claim to like the idea of "early war tin-cans", I don't know the armour rules well enough, and I shy away from masses of armour (anything over three per side, really). So I've played precisely zero of the scenarios from DBIII, always passing them over for something else.

I really want to like DBIII, and it is worth having the Allied Minor OoB, as there are some real gems that use it. See for example Friendly Fire's scenarios "Totensontag" and "Raid into the Reich". However, for the first time in this review series, I think you can afford to put off purchasing this module. Compared to Yanks or For King and Country, or my personal favourite Croix de Guerre, there just isn't as much bang for your buck in this one. No matter how much you think you like early war actions, think again, and spend the money on some good scenario packs to make use of what you already have - Friendly Fire and Le Franc Tireur, for example.

Pros
+ Eight very useful maps
+ Some occasionally used overlays
+ Versatile OoB

Cons
- Horrendous dependencies
- Scenario selection not great

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

The ASL Noob Review Index Geeklist
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Andy Beaton
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There's a partial solution to the problem of dependencies - VASL. Play online and you're free from map, counter and overlay restrictions. All you need is the rulebook and the scenario card.
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alex w
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Thanks for the insightful review. I have yet to play this module. Am afraid I have the earlier version. But no matter. Seriously, I can't remember playing any scenarios with air support! Slight shame.
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Andrew C
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Only the second review of this game - and a very good review too! Thanks - I hope you don't mind but I posted a thread with a link over here to get it some well deserved visibility.


edit: hear-here, is-it, whatever. If I didn't have piss poor typing and spelling skills, I wouldn't have any skills at all.
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Cleitus the Black wrote:
Only the second review of this game - and a very good review too! Thanks - I hope you don't mind but I posted a thread with a link over hear to get is some well deserved visibility.

I don't mind at all! Thanks for the kind words.
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Martí Cabré

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I just group the guns in baggies sorted by their Chapter H index. It's the fastest way to store them and to find them.
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Dan Fielding
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How does this module relate to the Partisan! module #4?
 
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No relation. Partisan contained axis minor couters which are now available in Armies of Oblivion. The scenarios are yet to be reprinted.
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Martí Cabré

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Gronak wrote:
How does this module relate to the Partisan! module #4?

Mark Pitcavage holds this site with all the information you need to know to return into ASL: http://www.desperationmorale.com/worldofasl/worldmain.html
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Dan Fielding
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But AoO is extremely expensive when available (one just sold for $250 on Ebay).

Are the Allied partisan counters in Doomed Battalions 3?
 
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Gronak wrote:
But AoO is extremely expensive when available (one just sold for $250 on Ebay).

Are the Allied partisan counters in Doomed Battalions 3?

No, they are in Beyond Valor. Partisan 3-3-7s and 1-2-7s are all in Russian colours, and the Russian-coloured troops in this module are Yugoslav additions to their lineup.
 
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Boots01 wrote:
Gronak wrote:
But AoO is extremely expensive when available (one just sold for $250 on Ebay).

Are the Allied partisan counters in Doomed Battalions 3?

No, they are in Beyond Valor. Partisan 3-3-7s and 1-2-7s are all in Russian colours, and the Russian-coloured troops in this module are Yugoslav additions to their lineup.

Which module is "this module" for Yugoslavs?

Let me restate the question: what unique counters are in Partisan, counting those in AoO because is hard to obtain?
 
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"this module" is Doomed Batallions III.

I'm still not entirely sure what you are after in an answer. Partisan is really confusingly named because it really doesn't contain any partisans at all.

As you can see in this image:



Partisan contains a single countersheet, and on it there are only 5 half-squads, two commissars and a leader.

Everything else on that countersheet is Axis (not Allied) Minor infantry and support weapons. All of those Axis Minor counters are reproduced in Armies of Oblivion, and many of them would also be reproduced in Festung Budapest.

So, if what you are asking is: "Does partisan contain any unique counters unavailable anywhere else?", the answer is no.

If what you are asking is: "Does Partisan contain any counters for partisan forces that I can't get elsewhere?", the answer is no.

If what you are asking is: "Is Partisan a possible replacement for the Axis Minor counters in Armies of Oblivion?", the answer depends on which scenarios you want to play. I looked into it when I was deciding whether to buy AoO and found very few scenarios that didn't require tanks, and as you can see, Partisan contains no Axis Minor tanks.

There are, however, no real connections between Doomed Battalions III and Partisan. They have no counters in common, and represent different forces. The confusion seems to have been aroused by the fact that DBIII contains some tanks and lend-lease vehicles in Russian brown, which were primarily used by Yugoslav forces. In ASL, Yugoslavs are often represented as partisans. They are in DBIII not because DBIII is a partisan module, but because the Yugoslav army is officially one of the allies.

Does all of that make sense?


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Dan Fielding
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Yup you covered all the bases.
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