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Subject: ASL: SK #1 vs CC:E vs BoB vs CoH as a First Wargame rss

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Dom D.
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Hello fellow gamers.
From time to time I get the urge to get into World War II wargaming but I've yet to decide on which game to get. Many times I've heard of the acronym ASL but thought that it was just an overcomplicated, out of print and extremely expensive option. With the recent discovery that it was not out of print and that their were starter kits to introduce new players at a decent price, I started reading more about the game and quickly added it to my list of candidates for a first wargame.

Apart from ASL, three other games have caught my eyes: Combat Commander: Europe, Band of Brothers and Conflict of Heroes. Combat Commander is highly rated and is often praised for the narrative it creates, however I do not know if I'll like its chaotic lack of control or not. Band of Brothers looks simple, yet realistic with the way the system encourages historical tactics. However, I often read that some find its scenarios uninteresting. And Conflict of Heroes has astonishing visuals and physical qualities, but I'm not sure about it's system of exchanging turns while still playing the same unit.

Of course, asking the question here on an ASL forum, I understand that there'll be a certain bias. But still, I'm interested in hearing your opinions and advices about those games and why I should pick one over the other. Regretfully, getting them all isn't an option (except maybe over a really long time and then they would, individually, not get that much table time).

Thanks in advance.

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Mark Evans
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I have played ASL SK. I like it. It isn't too complicated and captures the ASL feel. It is quick to play as well. You get full command and control. Some people don't like that. I like it.

I have played Conflict of Heroes and didn't care for it. It didn't feel right in the way it played.

I have played Combat Commander and I think it is a great game. It has the appearance of wild randomness, but once you get used to the game, it settles in and you start to feel like you have some control over the game.

I have never played Band of Brothers.

I played another one, I lost the name of it though. It has little plastic tanks and infantry pieces. You pull the pieces off the base as the infantry die. I was OK with the game until my Panzer IV got killed by a machine gun. I couldn't swallow that.
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Merric Blackman
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As games, I really enjoy both ASL SK1 and Combat Commander: Europe.

Band of Brothers I've played, but not enough to fully appreciate the system. Conflict of Heroes I thought was just "ok".

Mark, you're thinking of Tide of Iron, I expect. I didn't enjoy that at all.

Cheers,
Merric
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Mark Evans
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Yep, Tide of Iron. Right on target. Now I can sleep tonight.
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Lionel Jacques
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Game wise I've played all of them except Band of Brothers.

ASL: ASLSK/Full ASL: greatly enjoyed my foray into the system and it was my first WWII game but a lot of scenarios do take more time than I have to invest.

Combat Commander: All versions - great fun, VERY narrative, good play time but can be frustrating when your troops get 'stuck' at times due to cards.

Conflict of Heroes [2nd ed] - great fun, reasonable play time, the alernating system is improved from 1 ed I tried and it is a solid game.

So sadly my suggestion is....any of the three as they are all good games. =)
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Jim Jackson

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I have played, and own, all of the games that you have mentioned.

I would start with CC:E. It is infantry only, if you want tanks involved, I would go with Fighting Formations.

Both, CC:E and Fighting Formations, are good WWII tactical games.

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Merric Blackman
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Here's a summary of some key points. The scenario times are accurate for ASL, M44 and CC:E; I think they're in the ballpark for the others, but I'd appreciate any correction.

ASL Starter Kit #1
* Scenarios: 6 scenarios (others available for purchase or download). ASL scenarios tend to be very good - a lot of attention to balance and playability.
* Time to play: approx 1-2 hours per scenario (ASL has much, much longer scenarios, but most of the SK1 ones are quite short).
* Units: Infantry only, but SK2 adds Guns and SK3 adds Tanks.
* Rules: Fair presentation. Relatively complicated.
* Components: Rudimentary. Small cardboard counters with minimal graphics. Cardboard maps are good - fit together as geomorphic designs.

Squad Leader arrived in 1977. Advanced Squad Leader replaced it in 1985. It has hundreds of scenarios and is very expensive to get the entire set, but it's a great game that covers almost every land-based theatre of World War II. Against that, it's a very complicated game. The Starter Kits reduce that complexity to a manageable level, and you don't need to go into the full game. It's still a challenging game to learn, but the tutorials by Jay Richardson on BGG will help greatly. There's a large player community for the game, which also helps.

Gameplay involves players taking turns to move all their units (full control), interrupted during movement by enemy fire.

Combat Commander: Europe
* Scenarios: 12 scenarios (others available). Have variance in victory conditions.
* Time to play: approx 2-3 hours per scenario
* Units: Infantry only.
* Rules: Excellent presentation. Moderate complexity.
* Components: Rudimentary. Cardboard counters with minimal graphics. Thick paper maps, each individual to scenario.

Chad Jensen's masterpiece. It's very much like a combination of Advanced Squad Leader with the card game Up Front as cards are used to activate units. An inspired event-trigger system on the cards allows a lot of the chrome of ASL without needing the same rules space - it's a lot easier to learn. In addition, the way scenarios are designed, you're never quite sure of exactly what objectives your opponent needs. Against that, you lose a lot of your control over when units activate - they can be "paralysed" for several turns when the cards don't go your way. This might actually be more realistic. Or not.

Gameplay involves players playing 2-5 cards and activating squads/units before passing control to the other player (number of cards played depends on scenario and faction). Movement is interrupted by defensive fire if the reaction card is available.

Conflict of Heroes
* Scenarios: 12 scenarios (others available).
* Time to play: Approx 1-3 hours per scenario
* Units: Infantry, Guns and Tanks
* Rules: Excellent presentation. Simple-Moderate complexity
* Components: Good. Thick cardboard counters with excellent graphics. Geomorphic thick cardboard maps.

Hailed as an excellent game for introducing newcomers into hex'n'counter wargaming, CoH is a pretty good game, and has got better with its second version. Unfortunately, I already played both ASL and CC:E when it came out, so I haven't played it that much. I did find some of the gameplay quite frustrating, but that might be just my lack of tactical nous.

Tide of Iron
* Scenarios: 6 scenarios (others available). The basic game has awful, awful balance in the scenarios.
* Time to play: Approx 2-6 hours per scenario
* Units: Infantry, Guns and Tanks
* Rules: Moderate presentation. Simple-Moderate complexity.
* Components: Excellent with caveats. Plastic figures and thick geomorphic cardboard maps. Figures snap into bases and are removed when damage taken, but may break.

Tide of Iron looks great, but takes a very long time to set up and play. The basic game also had incredibly bad balance in its scenarios. I played two or three games and abandoned it for better games.

Band of Brothers
* Scenarios: 16.
* Time to play: Approx 1-3 hours per scenario
* Units: Infantry, Guns and Tanks
* Rules: Good presentation. Simple-Moderate complexity
* Components: Rudimentary. Cardboard counters with minimal graphics. Thin geomorphic cardboard maps with so-so graphics.

A new release, and one I've only played a couple of times. The initial reports are pretty good, but my chief opponent has been away for the last three months, so I haven't been able to expand my knowledge of the game. Unlike ASL, you don't have full control over all your units - a Morale check must be made to see if they'll do what you want them to or just cower. As they are fired on, their morale levels get worse. It's a pretty inspired design, but I'm not sure how good the scenarios are.

Gameplay involves activating 2-4 units (depending on scenario) before the opponent does the same. Defensive reactive fire on moving units. A turn ends once all units have been activated once.

Memoir '44
* Scenarios: 12 (plenty more available).
* Time to play: Approx 30-60 minutes per scenario
* Units: Infantry, Guns and Tanks
* Rules: Excellent presentation. Simple expanding to Moderate complexity
* Components: Excellent. Plastic figures and mounted mapboards with thick cardboard terrain to create variance.

A real beginner's introduction to wargaming (and not really hex'n'counter wargaming), but the numerous expansions that have increased complexity and range of scenarios keep this as one of my favourite games. You probably don't want this if you want to play more traditional wargames, but I include it just as a good game that can appeal to non-wargamers.

Gameplay involves alternating turns where one card is played which may activate differing numbers of units.

Cheers,
Merric
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David Williams
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Excellent, excellent overview Merric.
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killy9999
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Merric has done a great summary*. In case you decide on Combat Commnader I encourage you to consider Combat Commander: Pacific. It's third volume in the series with a slightly different system than CC:E & CC:M. IMO modifications of the system introduced in Pacific make it a better game than in CC:E, mostly because randomness is slightly reduced (battlepacks for CC:E & CC:M port some of Pacific rules to Europe).

*) I think CC:E has 12 scenarios, not 10.
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Merric Blackman
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killy9999 wrote:
*) I think CC:E has 12 scenarios, not 10.


Corrected. Thanks - been a while since I've been able to play it.

Cheers,
Merric
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Dom D.
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Thanks guys, really appreciated.
You've help me eliminate CoH (and Tide of Iron) from the candidates. It might still be a good game (and that Guadalcanal version looks gorgeous) but I believe there might be a better one for me. I had heard of all the other one you mentioned. M44 looks like a great "intro" but I want to go for something more classical. I've heard great thing about Fighting Formations but heard that the scenarios are llloooooonnnnngggg.
I've read many reviews between CC:E and CC: P but had settled on Europe since (from what I've read) it includes simpler scenarios for newbies. Also many seem to like that it is more random, I do not know however where I stand in that respect. I wish I could find Fat Lipki (the first CC:E scenario) to try it on VASSAL.

Lastly it is hard for me to evaluate ASL/ASLSK at the moment since the rules (as opposed to the other games) are not available online. Are the tutorial available here on BGG a good starting point or are they only useful once you've gone through the rules once?

Thanks once more.
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Jay Richardson
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Dom D. wrote:
Lastly it is hard for me to evaluate ASL/ASLSK at the moment since the rules (as opposed to the other games) are not available online. Are the tutorial available here on BGG a good starting point or are they only useful once you've gone through the rules once?

Although the tutorial was written specifically to help players who already own the game learn how to play it, it's quite surprising how many people have read through parts of the tutorial first and been intrigued enough to then go out and actually buy the game.

So yes, absolutely, check out the tutorial to see if ASLSK sounds like a game that you might enjoy. The tutorial is fully illustrated, and everything is explained in enough detail that you should have no trouble following along even if you don't own a copy of the game.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/157922/an-aslsk-tutorial...
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Ruben Rigillo
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I played just ASLSK and CC:E so my opinion is less valuable than others.
I have to say that CC:E is a Great game, I'll play it again for sure BUT it is a game.
When I discovered ASLSK (and I read Mr.Richardson tutorials) I've found the right system for me....(I bought full ASL too then, but have not yet played...)..I feel it like the best SIMULATION out there.
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Merric Blackman
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Qwirz wrote:
I feel it like the best SIMULATION out there.


The trouble is that the god-like knowledge you have and full control over people's movements doesn't actually simulate really well. Above all else, ASL is a game: its scenarios are created to be game scenarios and thus artificially balanced. (Compare with the scenarios of the Great Battles of History, which are often terribly unbalanced... as they were in history).

Band of Brothers does the simulation thing a little better, with units occasionally refusing to obey commands. It's worthwhile having a look at some of Jim Krohn's posts about his game and the problems he had with ASL and others of its kind: when the tactics you are encouraged to use in ASL don't follow the way tactics worked in WW2, then the simulation ain't working so well. (There's one rule in ASL that is called out in the footnotes as being unrealistic for the sake of gameplay: the breakdown rolls for vehicles. The reason vehicles break down during scenarios is because making a roll BEFORE the scenario to see if you have the vehicle or not, which would be more realistic, doesn't make for an enjoyable scenario).

Despite that I really, really enjoy ASL. I'd love to play more of it - it's just finding opponents that is hard here in Ballarat (and, for various reasons, online play isn't really an option). ASL is a superbly detailed game, allowing a wide range of events during the game. It's a fascinating game to play, and you need to play well to defeat the masters of the game.

Cheers,
Merric
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Bryan Martin
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I've played them all, and really love ASLSK. Combat Commander is fun, but I like the extra detail of ASL better. I did not enjoy the action point system of CoH. I found BoB to be very vanilla and boring after playing CC and ASL.
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Merric Blackman
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GreyKatana wrote:
Lastly it is hard for me to evaluate ASL/ASLSK at the moment since the rules (as opposed to the other games) are not available online.


Here's a basic overview of how basic infantry play works in ASL:

Squads are rated for Attack, Range and Morale. Leaders have Morale and a leadership modifier, which aids their squads in various tasks (firing, succeeding at morale checks, etc.) All squads and leaders have an inherent movement speed.

Units in battle are generally either fine or broken (flipped and only able to flee or to be rallied by a leader). Some results will reduce a squad in quality, or in number (to Half-Squads). There's also the Pin result which makes them unable to move for the rest of the turn and act at half strength.

Units can possess Support Weapons (Machine Guns, Demolition Charges), and some have inherent smoke grenades.

The turn structure is as follows - one player acts as the ATTACKER while the other is the DEFENDER - with one player going through all the steps before they swap roles.

1) Rally phase (broken units can attempt to rally)
2) Prep Fire phase (ATTACKER units can fire; they can't later move)
3) Move phase (ATTACKER units can move)
-- after each hex of movement, defending units can fire at units in range. It's easier to hit someone who is moving, especially if in the open.
-- of note: attacks leave "residual fire" which will affect any other units moving through hexes that turn, and defending units are limited as to how many times and at whom they can fire. First fire is free, Subsequent fire is only at closest units, but they can always fire at units moving adjacent, though with a possible penalty.
4) Defensive Fire phase (DEFENDING units may fire if they haven't already)
5) Advancing Fire phase (ATTACKING units may fire at half strength)
6) Rout phase (broken units may try to run away)
7) Advance phase (all ATTACKING units may move one hex, including moving into a hex occupied by enemy units)
8) Close Combat phase (all opposing units in the same hex fight)

Fire Combat involves rolling 2d6, modifying for terrain, obstacles and movement modifiers, and checking the result on the CRT (Combat Results Table) according to the combined firepower of the units. Results include kills, breaking, morale checks or break, pin results, and straight up misses.

The difficulty of ASL comes from the number of special cases and modifiers in the game. The Starter Kit keeps these down to a generally manageable level, but there are still elements that might confuse you.

For instance, if you roll doubles when firing, the unit COWERS unless being directed by a leader - the attack is resolved as if it were the next column worse on the table. Inexperienced troops cower TWO columns worse. However, green troops cower only one column if stacked with a leader even if they're not directed by it...

It's these little details that can really trip you up, but help make ASL a game which is really enjoyable to play.

One addition: ASL is a game of manoeuvre. Firing is all well and good, but games are generally won by players who can get their units into the right places. The first scenario in SK1 is particularly good at demonstrating this, with several waves of reinforcements entering the battlefield and both sides needing to redeploy to face the oncoming challenges. I've played it several times now and it's always been very interesting and enjoyable to play.

Cheers,
Merric
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Christopher Taylor
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MerricB wrote:
It's these little details that can really trip you up, but help make ASL a game which is really enjoyable to play.

So true! Full-blown ASL is intimidating, but the Starter Kits are very playable, even to a new wargamer.
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Dom D.
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Wow, thanks MerricB for the detailed explanations.
I had read Jim Krohn's designer's notes some time ago and they are really interesting/enlightening. At first, I thought that if Band of Brothers encouraged the most realistic tactics that it must be the better game. However, I have come to understand that I'm not necessarily looking for the most realistic game but instead for the one which gives me the best impression/feeling of realism.
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Pierce Ostrander
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MerricB wrote:

The turn structure is as follows - one player acts as the ATTACKER while the other is the DEFENDER - with one player going through all the steps before they swap roles.


Short version: Fire, Move, Fire, Move, Fire

MerricB wrote:
One addition: ASL is a game of manoeuvre. Firing is all well and good, but games are generally won by players who can get their units into the right places.


+1

WWII was a war of Manoeuvre. So, on the macro scale, a fine simulation.
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Dom D.
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I've just seen this screenshot http://boardgamegeek.com/image/1460305/advanced-squad-leader.... Is stacking that many squads common in ASL? Are there risk for doing so? When an enemy squad shoot at that hex, are every squad damaged? What about a gun shooting at it?

Thanks for the precisions.
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Merric Blackman
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GreyKatana wrote:
I've just seen this screenshot http://boardgamegeek.com/image/1460305/advanced-squad-leader.... Is stacking that many squads common in ASL? Are there risk for doing so? When an enemy squad shoot at that hex, are every squad damaged? What about a gun shooting at it?

Thanks for the precisions.


Firing is done against the hex (for infantry in the hex). One attack roll is made and its result might be one of the following:

#KIA: Kill the # of squads listed
K/#: One unit is casualty reduced, all units make morale checks at +#, breaking on failures
#MC: Make a morale check for each squad, breaking on a failure
PTC: Make a pin check for each squad, pinning on a failure

(Already broken unit squads take damage).

Firing against tanks works differently - in general, to affect a tank you need to hit it with specifically aimed fire, though strong enough off-board artillery could also affect it.

Basically, stacking units together allows them to combine firepower and attack more effectively, but makes them a lot more vulnerable to fire in return.



In this photo, the stack consists of a leader on top, with several squads, support weapons (probably machine guns) and some informational counters - most likely "First Fire", "DM", and "Pin" counters.

You can see "Prep Fire" counters on the German (blue) troops - these mark when they fire during that phase.

The "DM" counter on the Russian squad in the middle indicates that the squad is not only broken, but is still disordered. The +4 is a modifier to morale rolls to rally; squads gain DM (Desperation Morale) when first broken and on taking fire later.

A "First Fire" counter is used to indicate the unit has fired defensively during the movement phase and has limited options thereafter.

If you look carefully, you can just make out a "Pin" counter to the far right... a result of Fire Combat.

Cheers,
Merric
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Brian Roundhill
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GreyKatana wrote:
I've just seen this screenshot http://boardgamegeek.com/image/1460305/advanced-squad-leader.... Is stacking that many squads common in ASL? Are there risk for doing so? When an enemy squad shoot at that hex, are every squad damaged? What about a gun shooting at it?

Thanks for the precisions.


The rule of thumb in ASL is do not stack, so this should be unusual.

Any IFT results are applied to every unit in the stack. Enemy squad fires for a 1MC, every unit takes a 1MC. Gun fires, hits, and gets a PTC, every unit takes a PTC.

Two normal exceptions to the do not stack rule - rally locations for broken units and kill stacks with a good leader (9-2 or better). Experience helps you know how to use these exceptions.
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Dom D.
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Many thanks to both of you. I have no problem with a game not having stacking limits as long as it is dangerous to do so. Having some exception cases where it is worth it to take that risk is IMHO a nice tactical dilemma.
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Dom D.
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I'm about ready to make my move. It'll either be ASL SK#1 or CC:E.
The thing is, ASLSK1 seems to be out of print everywhere. Only NWS mentions pre-order that should ship in March or April but they seem to be the only to know. My FLGS said that they have no idea when it'll be available again.

Do any of you guys have a reliable source/information about when the SK1 will be available again? If it's a matter of a couple of months I'll probably wait. Otherwise I'll probably go for CC:E which is readily available.
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Jay Richardson
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Dom D. wrote:
Do any of you guys have a reliable source/information about when the SK1 will be available again?

MMP has stated that they are trying to get ASLSK #1 back into print, but no target dates have been mentioned or hinted at.

You might think it odd that MMP can't just pick up the phone and order another printing of ASLSK #1, but it doesn't quite work that way, especially for printing jobs with expensive components such as counter sheets. MMP's status as a small company with limited capital and limited warehouse space could also be a factor. A lot of diverse elements may have to align favorably to get ASLSK #1 back into stock. (If I remember correctly, ASLSK #3 was out-of-print for well over a year before it was able to be reprinted.)

Dom D. wrote:
If it's a matter of a couple of months I'll probably wait. Otherwise I'll probably go for CC:E which is readily available.

My guess is anywhere from two months to a year before ASLSK #1 is back in stock. But that's just a guess.

You could buy ASLSK #3 instead, which is currently available. It's a little harder to start with for a beginner, because there is only one scenario that uses just infantry, and the scenarios in general are designed assuming that the players already have experience with the rules from #1 and #2. However, some people actually recommend starting with ASLSK #3, as it gives you the full ASLSK experience (infantry, guns, and tanks) and has a better rulebook than the first two modules.

Or you could buy CC:E now and get ASLSK #1 later after it is reprinted. Playing both games is the only way to know for sure which one you will like best, and the games are different enough that some people like & own both.
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