Mike Barton
United States
Spring Valley
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
One of the hard parts about transitioning from Euro-games to war games is the fact that most war games have at least 2 levels a newbie has to achieve BEFORE he really begins to understand AND ENJOY the game.
LEVEL 1 - learning the RULES - this takes a while and maybe even takes a few games before this is completed!!
LEVEL 2 - learning the TACTICS - this may take a really, really long time depending on how you approach the problem. But this is, in fact, the fun part.

Advanced Squad Leader was not designed to be a GOOD GAME as much as it was to be an ACCURATE SIMULATION CAPABLE OF PRODUCING REAL-WORLD RESULTS.

In the real world, soldiers fight in teams, crews, squads, platoons, companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, armies, army groups and theaters of command. In ASL, your pieces are squads, crews, vehicles and critical single people. In ASL there are no rigid platoons, companies or battalions. This has a positive effect in that you don't have to worry about command structure, and a negative effect in that it is not always clear WHAT TO DO.

The rules are only the rules. They only tell you what is legal and what is correct in terms of playing the game, but they don't tell you how to play well, or even how to really size up a situation so that you can 'get started on the right foot.'

Let me try to assist you.

In the real world, units are assigned tasks. Here are some real-world units in ASL terms:

Infantry Platoon - 3 or 4 squads plus 1-3 MGS (typ L or M) and maybe 1 50-60mm mortar, led by a lieutenant and a sergeant

Tank Platoon - 3 - 5 tanks usually (but not always) of the same type

Why do platoons exist? Because when you assign a real task you have to have a metric that answers the question "How much of my force to I allocate to accomplishing that task?"

Because the smallest pieces in ASL are squads, 1/2 squads (you might call them teams in the real world), crews, vehicles and weapons it is practical to group them into platoons or platoon groups so that you can assign tasks.

For the sake of completion, and the big picture view, I will fill out the rest of the units sizes. This will help you in understanding the scale of your event. Please note that EVERY MAJOR ARMY did this slightly differently and this is not a rigid definition. Those of you who study this WILL find errors and exceptions - believe me I know, this is just a starting point - Also keep in mind that this is for WW II era armies, modern armies are QUITE DIFFERENT:

Infantry Company - Almost universally this would be 3 Infantry Platoons as above plus a "Heavy Platoon" consisting of 4 - 8 Heavy or Medium machine guns and 2-6 mortars of 80-120mm size, led by a captain or possibly a major with a staff [referred to as 3+1 platoons]

Infantry Battalion - usually 3 infantry companies plus 'support' in the form of possibly mortars, anti-tank guns, armored cars, engineers - usually platoons of these (eg. an 'Anti-tank platoon' consisting of 3-6 of the lightest anti-tank guns the army uses, or an 'Engineer or Pioneer Platoon' - 3-4 engineer squads armed with assortment of demolition charges, flame throwers and other specialized equipment), led by a colonel or occasionally a major

The larger units I will define loosely:
Regiments at the beginning of the war were usually formed of from 2-4 battalions, but by the end of the war they had all pretty much standardized on 3 battalion regiments - the Germans had divisions consisting of 3x2-battalion regiments and some had 2x3-battalion regiments. Most other armies had 3x3-battalion regiments per division.
Note that in the British Army, a 'Regiment' was not a fighting formation, but instead was a larger home-based organization that fielded a fighting Brigade - For example:
British Divisions contained 3 Infantry Brigades, each of 3 Infantry Battalions (each of 3+1 companies each of 3-4 platoons, etc.); Regiment was led by a colonel or a Brigadier General

In other armies, a 'Brigade' is a non-standard unit size typically consisting of a single regiment-sized force plus extra support [artillery, assault gun, anti-tank, etc]. Brigades are almost always led by Brigadier Generals

A division is normally three standard regiments (infantry, tank, mechanized) plus an artillery regiment, plus support, led by a Major-General

For example:

A German Panzer Division at the end of the war IDEALLY had 1 Panzer (tank) regiment, 2 mechanized or motorized infantry regiments and 1 artillery regiment plus an engineer battalion, anti-tank battalion, reconniassance battalion, anti-aircraft battalion and other typically non-combatant troops.

Corps are from 2-5 divisions, led by a Lieut. General

Armies are from 2-5 corps, Led by a Lieut. General or a Full General

Army Groups are from 1-5 Armies, Led by a General

Theaters may or may not be divided into Army Groups, Led by a General for the allies, this THEATER was SHAEF [Supreme Headquarters Allied European Forces]

Now that you see this, throw this curve into your equation...

None of these units was ever at FULL STRENGTH except usually right before a major offensive, and then usually only in the American Army. NEVER in the German Army, except Poland and France, NEVER in the Russian Army, NEVER in the British Army and NEVER in the Japanese army except before major offensives.

There was always a gap between AUTHORIZED STRENGTH - which is easy to measure - and ACTUAL STRENGTH which many people will tell you is nearly impossible to measure.

Let me be even more specific:
A full strength platoon may be 3 squads of 10 men each plus 2 LMG's and a 50mm mortar.
In the game this is represented by 3 squad counters, 2 LMG counters and 1 50mm mortar counter.
The 50mm mortar is the heaviest thing to hump around and has the least effect, so it was typically expendible if the unit had to move quick. So many platoons parted with their mortar. Most scenarios reflect this.
When a MG breaks (overheats, jams too often, takes damage) it usually gets dumped until it's replaced. This may take awhile.
Ok, so now our platoon is 3 squad pieces and one LMG.
People get lost too. These are called casualties. A military casualty is a soldier who can no longer fight, due to wounding, sickness or death. A 10 man squad at 80% strength (8 men) is still an effective squad, and 80% was a pretty good number for most armies.
So our 80% platoon is now 3 squad counters with about 8 men per counter and an LMG.
If our unit was at 60-50% strength, our platoon may be just 2 squads and an LMG. Early Russian platoons and late German platoons were between 30-60% strength NORMALLY. Get the picture?

Ok, so what.

The main function of an infantry platoon is to deny the use of open ground to the enemy infantry.
When a platoon defends, the best policy is to spread out into adjacent hexes with the machine guns on the flanks. The leader is positioned with the BEST MG. This deployment gives the following benefits:
1. Spread out means the maximum amount of ground is covered - try to find a good 'killing zone' in front of the platoon if possible - it takes away the maximum number of APPROACH LANES from the enemy.
2. If the squads are all adjacent, they have the option to form a fire group against a particularly juicy target.
3. If the squads are NOT stacked, they have the option to fire independently at targets (squads stacked together must form a fire group when firing at the same target). This is a very important flexibility. Work it out. What is better, 1 x 12 FP attack or 3 x 4 FP attacks? Seriously, roll it out. Note the results.
4. True, the leader cannot direct the entire platoons firepower from one hex, but if the leader is with the best MG, it really compensates.

When defending, it is essential to have leaders distributed for rallying. You may even want to put 6+1, 7-0 and 8-0 leaders BEHIND THE LINES.

Attacking with unsupported infantry is hard.
World War I can attest to this.

The way you attack, is you engage the enemy defenses in such a way that you can kill them but they can't kill you. Remember that simple principle. Avoid a fair fight. Engage only when only you can win. force the enemy to REACT to your attack. Maybe he will make a mistake.

Use range. If you have 4-6-7's to the enemy's 7-4-7, then keep the range at 5 or 6 (of course the enemy will be looking to keep it at 4 or less).

Use Offboard Artillery. Spotters have virtually unlimited range.
Use long range MG's and your best leaders to take out a critical piece of the defense, then move your infantry in and defend what you take. Keep your platoons together. Form platoons around leaders. (In the Russian army, form COMPANIES around leaders).

Break up the enemies' fire groups.

Newbie mistakes:
1. NEVER MOVE BIG STACKS INTO OPEN GROUND EVEN IF THERE IS THE SLIGHTEST CHANCE THAT THE ENEMY CAN SHOOT IT WITH EVEN 1 FP ATTACK AND A -2!!!!!

2. Repeat rule #1 to yourself. Call it newbie suicide.

3. A frontal assault should be the VERY LAST THING that you consider. Don't be in a hurry. Work out timing.

4. In a scenario using Hidden Initial Placement (most realistic, BTW) advance with scouts, whatever you have, 1/2 squads, poor leaders, SOMETHING. Never PROBE with STACKS. The scout leads and the platoon follows behind. In open ground, the scout may be 3-4 HEXES AHEAD of the platoon. The scout is EXPENDABLE and the PLATOON IS NOT. In normal ground, the scout may be 2 hexes ahead and in woods maybe 1.
If speed is absolutely required then stack everyone with the leader and book. If not then SPREAD OUT. If you KNOW you are going to be ambushed, spread out. Don't rush it.

5. Try to have a plan and try to envision EACH TURN of the game based on your plan. eg: Turn one, platoons 3 and 4 will be here and here, turn 2 they will be here, platoons 1 and 5 are in reserve, if platoons 3 and 4 are ambushed platoons 1 and 6 will flank the ambusher...

6. Kill enemy squads with position. Firepower does the breaking, surrounding does the killing.

7. Leave a retreat rout for your defending squads. This means a building out in the pasture surrounded by open ground is a death trap. Recognize it.

8. Make lots of little attacks if you don't know what else to do. The more times you roll the dice the more times you can get 2's, 3's and 4's - these are almost always effective whereas 9-12 is almost always ineffective. Making single huge attacks all the time is gambling.

OK NOW - that's a lot of DON'Ts. Here are some DO's.

1. Do minimize the enemy's mobility while maximizing your own. Spread out and cover as much ground as you can.

2. Do keep your platoons together. Do have a leader with each platoon. Leaderless units are 1 break away from death.

3. Do try to engage a SMALL part of the enemy's force with a large part of your force. This is the principle of LOCAL SUPERIORITY. Use a small (but adequate ) part of your force to CUT OFF part of the enemy force and use the large part of your force to DESTROY IT. Patton put it best "Hold 'em by the nose and kick 'em in the ass."

4. Do plan out the entire scenario. This is the only way you can determine if you MUST make some sort of early commitment. For example, you have x number of turns to exit so many units [or take x number of buildings, or inflict x casualties].
a) Do I have to be moving EVERY turn?
b) How much CAN I lose and still win?
c) Is the enemy compelled to attack?
d) Am I compelled to defend?
Without these answers, there can be no plan.
Understand that in most cases the plan will change. Only perfect plans followed by perfect execution don't change.

5. At first, do not be upset. Do not get demoralized. Do not give up.

6. If you see the enemy make a mistake, EXPLOIT IT BEFORE HE CAN CORRECT IT!!!!!! This is how you win consistently. What is the enemy's plan? What are the problems with his plan? Sit in his seat. What scares you [as him]? Do it. Scare him. Demoralize him. Understand that if he is any good, he's doing the same thing to you.

7. Do maintain a reserve, even if it's just 1 squad. Out of reserves means out of options. The task of the reserve unit is to REMAIN IN RESERVE, ABLE TO MOVE IN AN EMERGENCY TO A CRITICAL POINT. This is more important for the longer scenarios. In many cases, the reserves are 'built in' in the form of forces that enter later in the game.

8. Ideal defense is 2 up 1 back (reserve). Ideal offense is 1 unit on the main axis of advance, 1 unit on the flank (right or left depending on enemy disposition and terrain), and one unit in reserve. This applies to all 'triangular' units from division all the way down to platoon.

That is all. Good Luck.

Mike Barton
18 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Brady
United States
Virginia
flag msg tools
Excellent post, Mike. One of the most intimidating things for me, as a relatively new player, is the "now what" moment that comes when it's time for my first turn, as the attacker.

The problem for a lot of people is that it's difficult to know when to prep fire, and when not to. If you've got guys who need to move into areas where they're likely to get shot at, you'd like to try and soften up the opposition. I've seen examples on how to soften up the defenders, but these examples are predicated on rolling a good roll, NOT a 10 or 11 lol. Nothing is worse than making a 12 up 3 attack and getting a high DR...it's so deflating. You now have 3 squads who can't move, and the poor bastards who do move are gonna get pummeled by the guys the prep fire didn't dent.

And, given the horrid results that seem to befall anyone moving in the open with those -2 or worse DRs against them, it can be fairly frustrating to be on the attack. I'd *really* like to see 2 experts play, to see how they handle these situations.

I'm playing a lot of starter kit scenarios...and the lack of the deployment ability means that in most cases, you have to send full squads out in the open, not just half squads..unless you're lucky enough to get a few HS in the battle roster. I'm convinced now that the only way to be the attacker is to try and move so many guys that your opponent can't shoot them all, and hope that you can break *some* of his guys in the advance fire phase. given the time constraints on some of these scenarios, patience isn't really possible. Most of the SK ones are 5/6 turns...not a lot of time if you have to cover a good bit of ground.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin Moody
United States
Edmond
Oklahoma
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
I'm convinced now that the only way to be the attacker is to try and move so many guys that your opponent can't shoot them all, and hope that you can break *some* of his guys in the advance fire phase.
This is where the poker aspect of the game comes in, and why it (IMO) loses so much as a solitaire game. Make sure your plans aren't obvious to your opponent and move out a squad that, if it reaches its final position, will be in a nice spot, but not necessarily the spot. Make sure you never allow a shot to be fired at a squad early on in your movement phase that will become a key hex for further movement in that turn, or else your guys will have to run through the residual (and even a 2 residual in the open can mess up everything). Remember that once a defending unit fires its first opportunity shot it can't shoot at another until it is within normal range and there is no known unit closer to him.

Every once in awhile, if you're really lucky, you can confuse the defender and make him think something else is worth waiting for to shoot at, and he will find himself looking at all of your squads nestled into place...after that, he'll still have a chance to use defensive fire (if his units haven't shot once already) but by then he will have lost the -1 or -2 DRM , which is, of course, like losing one or two column shifts on the IFT. Because of this, it's sometimes worth leaving a leader-led squad as the last one to move, and either don't move them at all or don't move them into a spot where the defender can get a great shot at them...and that's when the defender will wish he could do that part of the turn all over again
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Swan
Australia
Randwick
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nobody seems to be advocating the "pray for dice" strategy...
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Barton
United States
Spring Valley
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Hi John,

One of the great aspects of this game system is that you could discuss strategies endlessly. Every situation is different and requires a different application of pattern recognition, memory, statistics and well, luck.

Please see my second Strategy Article - Infantry in the Attack in ASL
if you thought this article was worth anything.

And I DO appreciate the compliment!

Mike
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Chachere
United States
Portland
OR
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great article, Mike.

I've learned some of those lessons the hard way. Honestly, I'm still trying to get the rules all memorized at this point, but let me ask you: what does all the order of battle stuff at the beginning of your article have to do with the squad level strategies you discuss at the end? In what way does, say company-level tactics influence how you play ASL? Thanks again for the great advice.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Humphries
Philippines
Unspecified
Metro Manila
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
game_boy wrote:
Nobody seems to be advocating the "pray for dice" strategy...


I've found it to be the only effective endgame strategy.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Have faith
United States
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, this is excellent info for an ASL newbie like me.

Thanks, Mike!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Barton
United States
Spring Valley
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Hi Dave,
Good question. It has always helped me to see exactly where my action fits into the big picture. Presenting information on organization may help someone see the problem more clearly. Since ASL is a game system and the scenarios are mostly all designed around real-world events, knowledge of unit org may help to take the experiences you have read about in accounts of battles and help translate them into a better picture for your game.
Also, there is quite a bit of variation in the size and complexity of the ASL scenrios - you'll see this if you pursue the game to it's farthest extent (Historical ASL, Campaigns, etc.). Being familiar with the oganizational system will improve your ability to assign tasks to forces of various (and appropriate) size.
When I started studying military history no one sat me down and went over organizational structure with me. It took me a long time to really understand what I was reading in the history books. Hopefully this clears, rather than muddies the waters!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Chachere
United States
Portland
OR
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Mike,
I've been trying to get my mind around Order of Battle concepts, and your post was a good starting point. I made up a little memory device:

"The Salted Peanut Candy Bar Repels Dave's Celtic Aunt"
(That is: Team, Squad, Platoon, Company, Battalion, Regiment, Division, Corps, Army).

This works for me because I happen to know that the French (Celts) hate foods that include both salt and sugar, like peanut butter and Payday candy bars...

In recent games I've tried grouping MMCs into the kinds of formations dictated by this kind of thinking (military thinking, not culinary), and though it meant making some slightly less than optimal unit placements, it did help my strategic thinking: "These three squads, this leader and this MG have such and such a task, dont let them go running off doing different stuff..." I need to play a few more games before I can tell you what the results are...Cheers, Dave.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Barton
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
ERRATA:
I wanted this article to be perfect, but, alas, there are some errors and clarifications necessary.

1) SHAEF stands for "Supreme Headquarters Allied EXPEDITIONARY Force" or the full Allied (U.S., U.K., France, Belgian, Dutch, Canadian, Czech, Poland, Partisan, Volunteer) Force in Western Europe.

2) Battalions are almost always commanded by Lieutenant Colonels with Majors as chiefs of staff. Sometimes in a Battalion Org the regular companies are commanded by Captains and the Heavy or Support company by the most senior Captain or a Major. There was considerable variation among the allied armies in this standard. And due to losses and lack of qualified leaders frequently units of all armies heavily engaged were 'under led' meaning for example a Lieutenant commanding a Company or even a Battalion (frequent in Soviet Army).

3) Regiments are almost always commanded by Colonels. Regiments also usally form the nucleus of Regimental Combat Teams (RCT's) or Task Groups or Brigade Groups or Battle Groups (Ger.: Kampfgruppe), and frequently the rank of the commander was a factor in the name of the group - If for example an American Armored Division split off a Combat Command (CCA, CCB, CCR) It was frequently commanded by a Brigadier General and sometimes a Colonel. If a regiment was split off and augmented by divisional assets it would be an RCT commanded by a Colonel. But if the division was split in Half, the resulting task group might be commanded by the Assistant Division Commander which was most frequently a Brigadier General. I would label it a 'loose' standard. The Major Generals that formed these teams picked the commander mostly based on ability and experience.

I am sure there are more. Again, I apologize if the errors caught here created any confusion.

Mike Barton (changed my name to WarGamester)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Greg Schmittgens
United States
Wichita
Kansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Here is a list I came up with 'back in the day' (earliest date I show is 2001). It's been around the 'Net in a few places (I know it got into one of the View from the Trenches issues). While not all of it applies to all starter kits, I think the basic principles still apply.

So, let me present:

THE TOP TEN THINGS NEWBIES SHOULD TRY TO DO EACH TIME THEY PLAY ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER:

10. Try to have all but one of your infantry leaders survive. Leaders are the key to ASL. The bottom line is this: without leaders, all broken units are basically useless. Oh, sure, you might get one back per turn (on Self-Rally), and broken units can deny some control, for a while. But, basically, if you don’t have any leaders around for rally, you’re gonna lose. Setting the goal at one leader lost per scenario is artificial, but it will keep your focus.

9. Try to last through two-thirds of the scenario turns before the winner is mathematically certain. Accept the fact that you probably will not win. If you learn to set up well and not do any stupid things early, you should be able to hold on for a while in a well-balanced scenario. The thing you have to learn is how to avoid things like a gaping defensive hole or an overstuffed point of attack.

8. Try to use at least one special weapon per scenario. By “special weapons”, I mean other than basic use of inherent firepower, MA and MGs. Place smoke, fire a Panzerfaust, sustain fire an MG, intensive fire a Gun. Usually, doing these things won’t be decisive in the eventual outcome of a scenario, especially the type of scenarios most newbies cut their teeth on. But, one day, it will be. If you’ve used these options before, you’ll understand the risks and benefits.

7. Try to advance into close combat at least once per scenario. Granted, this may not be consistent with the overall goal of the scenario (i.e. victory conditions). But I think your game will improve when you learn how to safely get close to an enemy unit, and when you learn that being ADJACENT is good for more than point blank fire.

6. Try to leave residual firepower at least once per scenario. Sometimes, a little residual firepower is just enough to throw off an attacker’s schedule. You need to learn how effective residual FP can be. Then you can make an intelligent choice between a MPh shot leaving a little residual FP or a point blank shot during the DFPh.

5. Try to take a shot along a questionable LOS (one that has to be checked) at least once per scenario. Every shot won’t be a clear one across a street or against an ADJACENT unit. I think you should train your eye to see LOS in unusual places. The only way to do this is to try one that looks close and check it.

4. Try to destroy one vehicle (when present). Like number 7 above, this goal may not be consistent with the scenario victory conditions. But you need to learn how to use the tools at your disposal to deal with the steel beasts. You won’t chew up tanks like Prochorovka, but each one killed will be another lesson learned.

3. Try to double time a unit at least once per scenario. It’s easy to fall into the trap that Infantry has 4 MPs, 6 MPs with a leader. Period. Becoming CX is a mixed blessing and curse. You need to learn to appreciate both.

2. Try to assault move a unit at least once per scenario. Similar to number 3 above. Sometimes, the pace of a scenario doesn’t require a headlong sprint. You should learn to appreciate the relative safety of an assault move, when the scenario allows.

AND THE NUMBER ONE THING NEWBIES SHOULD TRY TO DO EACH TIME THEY PLAY ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER:

1. Try to alternate each game between attacking and defending. I understand why many players urge the newbies to play the defensive side in a scenario. It’s easier to be a defender; there are fewer variables to consider, and it is (usually) up to the attacker to set the tempo. But I think the best way for you to learn how to set up a good defense is to try to attack somebody else’s good defense.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Talbot
Canada
Fort Smith
Northwest Territories
flag msg tools
Be seeing you... -Alphonse
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One of the biggest mistakes I continued to make for quite some time in playing ASLSK scenarios is moving an entire stack of units at once rather than one at a time. It's okay to move a stack in order to speed things up, but I had a habit of moving a stack into the enemy's LOS. I had entire stacks break on me that way, and sometimes the scenario was over before it had really begun.

I first played ASLSK1 about three or four years ago, but it's only in the last year that I've been getting more heavily into the game. I currently have two opponents -- one I regularly lose to and one I regularly beat. The difference, I think, is that the one I lose to all the time has a plan in his head, whereas I often don't (or my plan is too simple and I'm waiting to see what he does), whereas with the opponent I generally win against, he's making assumptions about the rules or victory conditions that are often wrong, as well as not really planning ahead. In the second case, I'm the one with the more solid plan (although my plan is often anything but solid).

I also tend to be in too much of a hurry. Instead of dealing with milestones, I aim for the end too early. For instance, I played an SK2 scenario this week where I had to move 9 VPs of units off the opposite side of the map before my opponent could eliminate 11 VPs of my units. I focused on barreling across the map, running out into open ground and hoping for the best. I got cut down, naturally. Afterwards, I realized I should have focused a bit more on tying up his forces and breaking/eliminating them before making that charge. I likely would have had more success.

Thanks for the great strategy article. I'm now at the point where I'm tired of losing to my most regular opponent. The games are still fun, but I want to give him more of a challenge.

Chris
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.