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Subject: Is ASL the Wargame for Roleplayers? rss

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I've often thought that ASL is the roleplayer's wargame. D&D and ASL both feature many large rulebooks, a strong capacity for narrative, and the ability for characters/squads to change and develop (I'm thinking about Heat of Battle). You really get to use your imagination in both sorts of game.

So, do you also enjoy RPGs?
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Not so sure how to answer this one. I haven't RPG'd for quite a while but have done so and will do so again (don't ask about the bedroom ).

FWIW I'm against the idea that RPGs and ASL go hand in hand other than a person who plays one may get exposed to the other. A true rpg should be rules lite concentrating n story rather than ASL which requires a mastery of the technical to play it well. If I wish to swing from the chandelier and crash into the table knocking the vampire to the floor then, if it fits with the story, the rpg should let it happen. It's a cooperative game. ASL is a competitive NE, your argument that your sqd should battle harden there rathe than disrupt will probably fall on deaf ears.
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I've pretty much outgrown RPGs, but I think the system is always secondary to the story in an RPG, the very opposite of ASL. The more legislated an RPG system gets, the less it's about roleplaying and the more it's about combat...which misses the point. That's actually why I gave up on later (read: 3rd and after) editions on D&D. They really seemed in both philosophy and execution to be just (really lousy) tactical games.

And I'm not a big "narrative" guy in ASL. It's just a game for me. No war movie in my head.

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I used to play a lot of RPGs, so much so that I burned out on them around the same time my university gaming buddies dispersed. I doubt I could get back into them again in a serious way. It just doesn't turn my crank the way it used to.
While ASL does have a strong narrative, and there is a lot of self-identification in many of the "war stories" that surround it, there really is no role-playing aspect in the play of the game, other than the usual "I am the commander" role you find in every wargame.
 
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Good question.

Most of the roleplayers I know would (and have, despite my coaxing) run a mile from ASL. In my experience RPGs work best with rules which largely fade into the background, which don't intrude on the emerging narrative. Certainly not a selling point for ASL.

I think the unit development aspect of ASL is very weak, compared to an RPG or even a tactical wargame like Ambush! ASL campaign games have a stronger development aspect, but how many ASLers routinely play CGs? A small proportion of the total player base is my guess - most of us are enjoying the variety the system offers by flitting from scenario to scenario and theatre to theatre.



 
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I haven't played RPG's for quite a while now but I sort of miss them. The trouble is you need the right group and you need to put the effort in (from the GM perspective). RPG'ing tends to be either very good or very bad.

ASL on the other hand only requires two people and gives a lot for less effort. Most of my ASL tends to be campaigns which does give a stronger narrative but its not comparable to a (good) RPG in my opinion.
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One of the draws of the original Squad Leader system was the campaign game where you could include a 7-0 leader in your first scenario and earn elan and cowardice points, hopefully getting promoted (and not demoted) over a series of scenarios. I seem to remember rules that did that for ASL as well, both for infantry and for armor leaders. A huge RPG draw...some players didn't care if they lost, so long as they shot up their opponent's PLC (Personal Leader Counter), killing them.

For me, I got superstitious about certain leaders in the game. Some counters just never came out of the tray because no matter how high their rating, they could not hang in there. Some others I chose because--no matter how lowly they were--they just seemed to perform amazing heroics. I still can relate stories of particular engagements/firefights with those named SMC...which is the sign of an RPG player...for sure!

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I'm an ASL player and a role playing gamer.

And for all ASLers who never rpg'd before, I recommend this one: meeple



Edit: Image correction
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Best wargame for roleplayers is Gunslinger, in my mind. ASL would be great if you could find a like-minded opponent, but I think thatmost people who really know the game well tend to have invested too much time learning it to play it in a fun, role-playish, way... (ie stopping to imagine the scene, etc.)

The Tactical Combat Series feels better for me, maybe because the Op Shet rules force you into a less gamey, more 'spirit of the game', atmosphere.
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I like RPGs with robust rules sets. I never subscribed to the "story trumps all" school of thought. It's a role playing GAME after all. Give me interesting combat rules that cover lots of situations so that when I do something cool, the rules support it.
 
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Rindu wrote:
Poll
Do you also enjoy roleplaying games (D&D, etc.)?
Yes!
No! I'm no nerd!
I've tried them/used to play them/etc...
      127 answers
Poll created by Rindu


I've often thought that ASL is the roleplayer's wargame. D&D and ASL both feature many large rulebooks, a strong capacity for narrative, and the ability for characters/squads to change and develop (I'm thinking about Heat of Battle). You really get to use your imagination in both sorts of game.


I think it goes to why people get into these games to begin with.

If you read Ian Willey's excellent WALL ADVANTAGE blog, one of the questions he asks in his "15 questions" segment is "When you play do you have a movie of the action playing in your head?" I thought everyone did (going to your point about "using your imagination"), but it turns out, many do not, consistent with the notion we are all individuals. The impression I get is that the serious, tournament players are the ones who do not see the pictures, but instead concentrate on rules, mathematics, formulas, etc. The answers to the questions were eye opening. In fact, the first example directly refutes the notion about "using your imagination", which was a surprise to me. The other answers were equally revealing.

Xavier Vitry, publisher of LFT:

Quote:
Depends on the scenario played, but usually I don't have. I don't feel the need to motivate my imagination with some extras: the game itself makes it all.


Ian Daglish, scenario designer and author:

Quote:
No, I get deeply into what is going on on the map board.


Pete Shelling, scenario designer:

Quote:
Sort of. When I playtest, I have an idea of how I think the game should flow, at what point the tough decisions will likely have to be made (but not what decision will BE made), how I hope the SSRs/VCs/OBs will interplay with each other.


Chris Olden, scenario designer:

Quote:
No. My imagination isn't that good. I guess when I'm playing a scenario against people I know well, we'll be silly and do a running commentary, sort of "Beavis and Butthead Play ASL" or "South Park Hosts an ASL Tournament".


Ray Tapio, publisher, Critical Hit!:

Quote:
A movie of the action? Maybe we ought to talk on the phone, I have a few questions I'd like to ask YOU...


Mark Pitcavage, webmaster, Desperation Morale

Quote:
No. What plays in my head is an internal monologue that goes something like this: okay okay now fall into my trap keep moving keep moving that's right keep going no don't move there you're going to bump into my HIP gun don't move there don't move there don't move there don't move, ah f@@@.


And, for what it is worth, my answer:

Quote:
Doesn't everyone?

In all seriousness, there are studies being done into how we relate to our games, so the answer to that is probably “no”. Check out the Bartle test of Gamer Psychology sometime.

https://www.luxurywatchlist.com/

It's written for videogames, RPG in particular, but it would be interesting to adapt something similar to ASL. I think ASL certainly encourages a good deal of imagination and identification with the counters, and is of course its charm. The number of little vignettes that play out in a typical session are what draw me to the game – certainly not the historical fidelity. Sending out a 7-0 with an LATW on a suicide mission and watching him pass, by fluke, 3 or 4 MC in a row and manage to blow the tracks off an AFV is something you can't help but get personally involved with if you have any imagination whatsoever. Some people may only see the mathematical odds in their head of having passed those MC and TH rolls, but I just saw him dodging tracer bullets and hitting the deck, hand on helmet, after the tracks blew off, Sgt. Rock style.

Of course, we can kid about ASL not having historical fidelity, but it was those kind of outliers that earned flesh and blood men Victoria Crosses, Medals of Honor and Knight's Crosses, too. I think Mark Nixon said “war, like baseball, is a game of inches.” (If he didn't- he should have!)

The guys who just see multiplication tables are probably better players than the daydreamers.


There does seem to be a pattern one picks up from reading the responses; I'll leave it to the reader to decide.
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I didn't mean to imply that ASL IS a role-playing game. I just see some affinities between the two sorts of games. And some people are right: not all RPG play is all about "story trumps all." that's a particular style of play, but some people play RPGs because they enjoy the simulationist possibilities, exploring what it might be like to live in a different place and time. See this article.

I started thinking about this when an older ASL veteran one night told me several "war stories" of games he'd played years and years ago. He could remember very specific details and I was blown away that a boardgame could be so rich. Many wargames feel like a contest for position, and ASL is definitely that, but with the potential for cool shit to happen. Like the time my Finns pulled up in reindeer-drawn wagons and threw molotov cocktails on sleeping Russians....
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
The impression I get is that the serious, tournament players are the ones who do not see the pictures, but instead concentrate on rules, mathematics, formulas, etc. The answers to the questions were eye opening.


I understand this from another perspective. I play games with my wife, including some ASL (we do not play much, mostly because not enough time to do all the things you want to do in a day).

In any event, I'm a history geek. My wife is decidedly not. When you tell someone who is into history that a gamer is really not that into history, they tend to assume that means they just do not know the order in which Austria and Czechoslovakia were engulfed.

But my wife is a normal person "not into history." She basically knows there was a Second World War. She has no idea what Austria or Czechoslovakia had to do with it. She has no idea about the general importance of armored doctrine, let alone what a T-34 was.

But what I've found funny is that occasionally, this will lead to my wife doing things in games that I would never thought of, because she is evaluating things on a purely mathematical "game" level, while I'm thinking, "Flamethrowers aren't used that way." I have definitely found that as a history buff, I tend to view games through that lens in a way that can sometimes artificially straightjacket me, where she simply looks at victory conditions and math, because she doesn't have enough of an understanding of the history to have preconceptions about what a particular unit type or weapon should be doing.
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SlyFrog wrote:
But what I've found funny is that occasionally, this will lead to my wife doing things in games that I would never thought of, because she is evaluating things on a purely mathematical "game" level, while I'm thinking, "Flamethrowers aren't used that way." I have definitely found that as a history buff, I tend to view games through that lens in a way that can sometimes artificially straightjacket me, where she simply looks at victory conditions and math, because she doesn't have enough of an understanding of the history to have preconceptions about what a particular unit type or weapon should be doing.


That's an interesting observation. Could you provide any examples?
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Eoin Corrigan wrote:
SlyFrog wrote:
But what I've found funny is that occasionally, this will lead to my wife doing things in games that I would never thought of, because she is evaluating things on a purely mathematical "game" level, while I'm thinking, "Flamethrowers aren't used that way." I have definitely found that as a history buff, I tend to view games through that lens in a way that can sometimes artificially straightjacket me, where she simply looks at victory conditions and math, because she doesn't have enough of an understanding of the history to have preconceptions about what a particular unit type or weapon should be doing.


That's an interesting observation. Could you provide any examples?


The one I most strongly recall (though it has been years, so my memory as to details is growing somewhat vague) was in Totaler Krieg (if you don't know it, it is a big European Theater strategic WWII game). You start the game prior to the beginning of the war. When I played the Germans, I had a tendency to follow the historic path (of course I'm going to go after Poland first, then France, etc.). My version of "mixing up the history" consisted of being daring and getting the Balkans out of the way earlier than historically happened, etc. Things that to a history person seem out of order.

My wife, on the other hand, stared at the game with no idea of how the early war progressed. She knew that eventually it was Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union against Germany (I'm not sure if she knew strongly that Italy ended up allied with Germany or not). But she had no idea how they go there.

So she simply calculated the chances of swaying countries and taking objectives without regard as to how out of character it seemed. Over a few games, it took the character of things like simply attacking France first without the precursors you normally see. Attacking the Soviet Union straight off without going into France or the U.K. Going after Turkey diplomatically and ignoring Czechoslovkia. Things like that.

Now Totaler Krieg is in particular set up for that type of thing, but the point was that from experience I know she was much less hamstrung than I was about doing things that didn't make sense because they "didn't happen that way." Basically, if the game rules allowed it and it made sense mathematically, she did it.

She discovered similar things in ASL that I wouldn't have thought of. Others have thought of them, but my point is that I didn't because they don't necessarily make sense from a "realism" perspective. Why wouldn't she run some single half-squad behind a big mass of enemy troops when in "real life" it would be a stupid and deadly thing to do? In ASL, that half-squad gets LOS and causes failure to rout or interdiction. She doesn't have a tactical concept of not leaving units stranded, it makes sense to her to do it because parts of the game's rules promote it.

Bear in mind, I'm not saying it is always helpful. There are plenty of times when she misses things that are intuitive to me because of my amateur military history interest. Concentration of force, things like that.

But my overall point is, it is interesting to see how sometimes I don't see opportunities that are present in a game's system because my mind blinds me to them because of an innate sense of how to use resources that comes from my readings and knowledge of what "really happened."
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Rindu wrote:
Like the time my Finns pulled up in reindeer-drawn wagons and threw molotov cocktails on sleeping Russians....


Good thing I'm already into ASL, or else I'd have to get into it based on that statement.

I'm a roleplayer as well as an ASLer (well, SK n00b for right now). After a good game of ASL, I 'play back' the 'movie' in my head. I guess to me the game works out to be something like a storyboard for a Band of Brothers episode.

Many other games do not have that effect for me. Something that's too abstract for its particular level usually doesn't. I like Conflict of Heroes but it's not the same... there's not enough detail there to make a convincing movie in my mind. Whereas I can see a movie after a good came of Commands & Colors because the level of abstraction is appropriate for the level (grand tactical) of the game.

Interestingly, in roleplaying games I like them to be rules light. For my upcoming Carcosa game I condensed the 1974 game rules down to 3 pages, including character generation, etc. No classes, no XP, etc. It's all about immersion... the immersion is effected by the fact that the rules get out of the way. That's because you have a bunch of imaginations contributing details in a friendly environment.

While my ASL games are always friendly (I won't play with a jerk!), they milieu is adversarial and there's no Judge. So the world immersion is created by the loving detail of the rules and minutiae.
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ericmwalters wrote:
One of the draws of the original Squad Leader system was the campaign game where you could include a 7-0 leader in your first scenario and earn elan and cowardice points, hopefully getting promoted (and not demoted) over a series of scenarios. I seem to remember rules that did that for ASL as well, both for infantry and for armor leaders. A huge RPG draw...some players didn't care if they lost, so long as they shot up their opponent's PLC (Personal Leader Counter), killing them.


Hey...I used to enjoy the SL Leader Campaign...where can I find the equivalent ASL Leader Campaign rules? Still, I guess it's a pretty easy rules conversion...
 
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dacoutts wrote:
Hey...I used to enjoy the SL Leader Campaign...where can I find the equivalent ASL Leader Campaign rules? Still, I guess it's a pretty easy rules conversion...

ASL Annual '95, as I recall....
 
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I've had a on again off again relationship with roleplaying games over the years. Early on it was original RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, plus some D&D 2nd edition. More recently I bought heavily into the hugely unpopular D&D 4e. I enjoyed the tactical wargamey feel to it (which others hated). I DO enjoy the extensive rules (like ASL) and - dare I say - collecting the minis. Mostly I was the Dungeon Master, though, introducing young roleplayers to D&D.

Multiplayer "roleplaying" ASL variant
I've been working on an ASL multiplayer variant based on the D&D Adventure Boardgames Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game etc. The idea came from reading Tank! by Ken Tout. Take 5 Shermans (including one British Firefly variant, and 1 commander tank, 3 ordinary Shermans) - these are your 5 "adventurers", with one tank per player. Other tanks can be used, according to preference. I like Shermans, especially the Firefly. . Instead of health surges, players can use two reinforcement Shermans to replace destroyed / abandoned / immobilised Shermans. Once these reinforcements are gone, any further Sherman elimination results in all players losing.

Daily powers / Utility Powers etc are replaced by abilities such as "Infantry Support", "air support", "off board artillery" etc.

"Levelling Up"...improve your tank leader(s) from 8-1 to 9-2 etc. Maybe add other abilities like limited re-roll ability.

Enemy squads / tanks (controlled via programmed instruction, similar to SASL) are assigned to individual players and only activate on that player's turn. Except the "villain", who is activated in each player's turn...I'm thinking German tank ace Michael Wittmann here.

Tiger Racing - solo / multiplayer variant

The other crazy idea I have is a "racing game" based using Tiger tanks (one per player) around a two board course (I'm thinking boards 2 and 3). Include some weak ATGs (managed via programmed instructions again) dotted around the course...to take annoying potshots and the CE crew (remember, buttoned up tanks are SLOW on roads). Throw in the existing rules for Excessive Speed Breakdown (worse for red MP tanks like the Tiger), Bogging (e.g. throw in some wire on the course), weak (random) minefields, destructible (weak variant) Roadblocks, Sniper attacks (against CE crews), slower movement "overtaking" Tigers in front, some soft infantry opponents (annoyance factor plus bonus VPs) etc etc. Turn order is determined by highest MP bid (requiring ESB check!). Two or three laps should be enough. Might need some "adhoc repair" rules allowing possible fixing of immobilisation's...

Other races might include horse drawn transports, cavalry, motorcycles, boats etc.

It's early days for both variants...I only post it here to gauge initial reaction to such a "heresy"....roleplaying variants for ASL!!!
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dacoutts wrote:
I've had a on again off again relationship with roleplaying games over the years. Early on it was original RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, plus some D&D 2nd edition. More recently I bought heavily into the hugely unpopular D&D 4e. I enjoyed the tactical wargamey feel to it (which others hated). I DO enjoy the extensive rules (like ASL) and - dare I say - collecting the minis. Mostly I was the Dungeon Master, though, introducing young roleplayers to D&D.

Multiplayer "roleplaying" ASL variant
I've been working on an ASL multiplayer variant based on the D&D Adventure Boardgames Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game etc. The idea came from reading Tank! by Ken Tout. Take 5 Shermans (including one British Firefly variant, and 1 commander tank, 3 ordinary Shermans) - these are your 5 "adventurers", with one tank per player. Other tanks can be used, according to preference. I like Shermans, especially the Firefly. . Instead of health surges, players can use two reinforcement Shermans to replace destroyed / abandoned / immobilised Shermans. Once these reinforcements are gone, any further Sherman elimination results in all players losing.

Daily powers / Utility Powers etc are replaced by abilities such as "Infantry Support", "air support", "off board artillery" etc.

"Levelling Up"...improve your tank leader(s) from 8-1 to 9-2 etc. Maybe add other abilities like limited re-roll ability.

Enemy squads / tanks (controlled via programmed instruction, similar to SASL) are assigned to individual players and only activate on that player's turn. Except the "villain", who is activated in each player's turn...I'm thinking German tank ace Michael Wittmann here.

Tiger Racing - solo / multiplayer variant

The other crazy idea I have is a "racing game" based using Tiger tanks (one per player) around a two board course (I'm thinking boards 2 and 3). Include some weak ATGs (managed via programmed instructions again) dotted around the course...to take annoying potshots and the CE crew (remember, buttoned up tanks are SLOW on roads). Throw in the existing rules for Excessive Speed Breakdown (worse for red MP tanks like the Tiger), Bogging (e.g. throw in some wire on the course), weak (random) minefields, destructible (weak variant) Roadblocks, Sniper attacks (against CE crews), slower movement "overtaking" Tigers in front, some soft infantry opponents (annoyance factor plus bonus VPs) etc etc. Turn order is determined by highest MP bid (requiring ESB check!). Two or three laps should be enough. Might need some "adhoc repair" rules allowing possible fixing of immobilisation's...

Other races might include horse drawn transports, cavalry, motorcycles, boats etc.

It's early days for both variants...I only post it here to gauge initial reaction to such a "heresy"....roleplaying variants for ASL!!!


I think early model panthers would make a more exciting race - they don't just self-immobilize, they also stall or even burst into flames! Exciting stuff!
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aiabx wrote:
I think early model panthers would make a more exciting race - they don't just self-immobilize, they also stall or even burst into flames! Exciting stuff!


I once created an ASL Car Wars scenario: http://www.vienna-asl-club.at/pageID_4166049.html

meeple
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aiabx wrote:


I think early model panthers would make a more exciting race - they don't just self-immobilize, they also stall or even burst into flames! Exciting stuff!


Thanks, I'll look into it. I did notice Russian Vehicle Note M regarding stalling...for example the giant KV-1 M41
 
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PzVIE wrote:
[q="aiabx"]

I once created an ASL Car Wars scenario: http://www.vienna-asl-club.at/pageID_4166049.html

meeple


Excellent, thanks! I used to play Car Wars and Battlecars. I notice that there is a Car Wars Tanks but I've never played it.
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I should add that for the Multiplayer roleplaying variant you use standard SL / ASL boards. As a player "explores" (as per D&D Adventure boardgames) you reveal a half board on that edge and then "draw a monster" (e.g. roll for enemies).

Panzers and Dungeons!
I've also posted a similar idea on the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game forum called Panzers and Dungeons! (maybe that should be Dungeons & Panzers!...). In this game variant you use tank miniatures to explore a dungeon using the D&D adventure board game system tiles.
 
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Rindis wrote:
dacoutts wrote:
Hey...I used to enjoy the SL Leader Campaign...where can I find the equivalent ASL Leader Campaign rules? Still, I guess it's a pretty easy rules conversion...

ASL Annual '95, as I recall....


Damn! I don't have that one...
 
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