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Subject: The Tactical Wargamer: What ASL Isn't rss

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Michael Dorosh
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In 1974, SPI published a revision of their earlier squad-based tactical game, Grunt, entitled Search & Destroy. It received favourable attention at the time. Even after the publication of Advanced Squad Leader, a reviewer writing in Fire & Movement magazine had the following to say:

Quote:
Of all the optional rules, those for leadership are the most impressive. Mr. Young adeptly shows how different cultures and a disparity in technology created two very different leadership structures. Instead of flitting from unit to unit enhancing combat rolls, the leaders become conduits for information and control. For instance, to use their full capabilities the NLF units must be within eight hexes of their cadre. This reflects their lack of modern communications equipment, which produced a reliance on written messages and sound signals, thus limiting operational radius. It also resulted in units that tended to be more autonomous and were less severely affected by a loss of leadership. So the hardcore NLF units retain their full combat abilities but halve their movement when outside command radius or when their cadre unit takes casualties. This is in direct contrast to the U.S. forces.

The Army's more bureaucratic command structure lead to a very different set of leadership problems. Units, because of the myriad radios they possessed, could operate as far from their leaders as their radios could transmit and still be able to get specific instructions. Unfortunately, this also produced a dependence on contact with higher headquarters that made units less capable of functioning once the umbilical cord was cut. Thus a disturbance in the flow of information, either through loss of a radio or loss of a leader, was far more devastating to the Americans. In the game U.S. squads can be paralyzed for up to three turns if the squad radioman is hit or their headquarters takes casualties...

Few tactical games during this period are comparable to Squad Leader which is quite popular and is of a similar scale, but has a needlessly complex combat system, leadership rules that would be more appropriate for 18th century combat and ridiculously simplistic casualty rules. It also displays the typical American fascination with gadgets while ignoring war's social, political and logistical aspects. The wargame industry has basically ignored the more accurate portrayal of company level combat in S&D for the more glamorous version portrayed in Squad Leader.

Stasnopolis, Nick "Search & Destroy, Winning Hearts and Minds" Fire & Movement Magazine No. 73 May-Jun 1991(1)
There is no debate around the fact that Advanced Squad Leader occupies - and shall for the forseeable future - a unique place not only among tactical wargaming titles but perhaps among wargaming in general (perhaps even any kind of board gaming). The system is without a doubt commercially successful behind anyone's wild dreams in terms of diversity of product, supports a unique third-party industry in addition to its official complement of releases (which show no indication of drying up) and is still, despite recent downgrades in components in recent years, still admired for its physical quality (in equal measure with those who snicker at antiquated or quaint unit and map symbols).

What sometimes becomes more open for discussion, however, is the degree to which the level of detail in ASL's rules synchronizes with a perceived "realism". By that, we can define "realism" as the ability to faithfully recreate battlefield results, permit players to adopt similar decision-making as historical combatants, and generally replicate historical engagements using real world data (order of battle, table of organization and equipment, technical data, morale, etc.)

In other words, for all the things ASL gets "right" - detailed armour penetration model with accurate armour thickness ratings for just about every vehicle on the front, little details like the 92mm anti-personnel grenade dischargers on German tanks, special rules to account for everything from cement anti-magnetic mine paste on tanks to camouflaged snowsuits on infantrymen, there are a number of "big picture" omissions and distortions.

These omissions and distortions aren't necessarily a big deal; ask anyone who has ever played ASL what he thought about the experience, and if he was brave enough to make it through the 300 page rulebook and the steep learning curve (and you never, ever really stop learning the rules), he'll tell you about the quirky game play, how fickle the dice are, and how things start to happen on the board that almost seem patterned or 'real' somehow - a squad standing firm by passing multiple morale checks, a leader becoming killed at a crucial moment, an AFV knocking out several others at an opportune time. An ASL game rarely fails to provide entertaining narratives, which provide nourishment to the imagination and have contributed to its longevity and reputation as, despite the gargantuan costs in time and money associated with learning it, fun above all.


There is no denying that for anyone with even a shred of imagination, the jumble of counters on the board quickly creates its own narrative during the course of each scenario - but that is exactly the point; ASL is a game first, not an accurate simulation of World War II combat.


And yet many of ASL's fans remain oblivious to the distortions and omissions, perhaps because the core audience has shifted subtly. In the 1970s, when the original Squad Leader debuted, I would argue the average beginner wargamer may have been, on average, exposed to more war-themed literature. While information is far more accessible today due to the internet, greater selection of television channels, and proliferation of mobile devices, popular culture's obsession with the Second World War has waned. If today's beginner is reading material related to World War II, it probably is not of the same level of research or writing as one would have found in, for example, Strategy & Tactics magazine.


Is today's gamer getting the benefit of high-quality historical information as found in magazines like this?


The earliest version of ASL, Squad Leader, in fact was designed as a light-hearted game heavily reliant on narrative. The designer, John Hill, had the following to say in the pages of Fire & Movement:

Quote:
John Hill on SQUAD LEADER:


Squad Leader was a success for one reason: it personalized the boardgame in a World War II environment. Take the "leaders," or persons, away from it and it becomes a bore. Though this may sound surprising, the game has much in common with Dungeons & Dragons. In both games, things tend to go wrong, and being caught moving in the street by a heavy machinegun is like being caught by a people-eating dragon. Squad Leader was successful because, underneath all its World War II technology, it is an adventure game, indeed Dungeons & Dragons in the streets of Stalingrad.
Squad Leader itself might be said to have had a narrative; it revolved around the effects of small-unit leadership and morale. Technical matters like artillery and tank support were simplified and made generic in order to concentrate on what Hill thought was a more interesting subject. At the time of release (1977), few games had been published dealing with tactical warfare in the Second World War, though miniatures players had been dealing with the subject for decades. In fact, the first advertisements actually appealed directly to miniatures players in an attempt to market Squad Leader to them as well.

The developer of ASL, Don Greenwood, was interviewed by the Guns, Dice, Butter podcast and expressed regret at how ASL turned out. (2)
Quote:
Don Greenwood on ASL:


Greenwood: The problem with each of those (gamettes) was that we were building on the success of the initial game because it sold so much. And in each initial version of course added more complexities and more layers to it and made it more complicated and more convoluted, the point was even I couldn't keep track of it.
GDB: Right.
Greenwood: And I was devoting 24 hours a day to it so we decided to do it all over again. And, probably one of the worst decisions I ever made really....
GDB: Really? Why?
Greenwood: Well, the hobby was going in an entirely different direction. The hobby was starting to go south at that point, in terms of volumes, sales and so forth. And tendencies were towards simpler games. And I went in exactly the opposite direction. At that point in time there was just so much competition out there, everyone and their mother was making wargames, because they were, they had been at least, pretty popular. So in one of my less than brilliant moments, I decided the only way to beat that competition was to put out a supergame that the others couldn't match. You're still talking about, back in that time period, four-colour printing order, still very rare and still very expensive and most games just plain didn't have it, other than counters and so forth, or maps, to do it, to do a great big rule book like ASL and do the whole thing in colour, was just an immensely expensive proposition, far more so than it is now...spent a lot of money doing it, and the sales nearly never approached the real Squad Leader game. We put an awful lot of work into it - I mean I virtually lived in that office for two years getting that ready to go. One of my biggest regrets actually.
GDB: But, come on, you must have had...obviously you had enough fire or some kind of view, you had to tell this or that kind of story, I mean, that's why it is what it is, you didn't do it to sell more games. Right?
Greenwood: Sure we did. (laughs)
GDB: Fair enough. (laughs) That was a part of the decision, but still, there's something else that kept you in that office for two years. Right?
Greenwood: Well, what kept me in that office for two years was love for what I was doing.
GDB: There you go. That's what I mean. I mean, there's a reason you put the complexity in, besides no one could duplicate it. You thought...it had to have that granularity or something, and about the story?
Greenwood: That kind of detail...the hobby was moving in a different direction at that point and I took it in the wrong direction. So I sort of blame myself for that. I didn't really see that coming. I was more concerned about the...competition. It wasn't so much about the competition as it was the games themselves....I predicted SPI was going to have problems long before we were as they were just putting out too much stuff. And out management wanted to make up for declining sales by putting out more stuff.
So what does ASL actually get "wrong"?

Command, Control and Leadership

Despite hyper-detailed rules for all kinds of situations that infantry might find themselves in - running across a street ("Dash" rules), being shot at from two different directions ("Encirclement" rules), complex rules for fighting at night ("straying", "jitter fire", and several pages of complex game mechanics) - if one were to try and evaluate how infantry was organized and led in the Second World War by examining a typical ASL scenario, they would walk away with no idea of what a platoon, company or battalion was. There are no reporting lines, no chain of command, command radius. The leadership modelling is a legacy of the original Squad Leader, in which only the outstanding leaders on the battlefield are recognized in counter form - dominant personalities that exert their control at key places on the battlefield. The designer was influenced by the work of researchers like S.L.A. Marshall who felt that "natural fighters", making up perhaps 10% of any military, might go above and beyond the normal call of duty in exposing themselves to hazard. Only these leaders are depicted on the board.

Compare to the depiction of leadership in Search & Destroy, as discussed at the start of this review. The computer game Combat Mission also addresses leadership and C&C issues, for example, in their new game engine. Infantry squads, platoons and companies are realistically organized along historical lines, and are rated for communication based on type of equipment - i.e. line of sight (voice) or radio. The ability to pass orders from one unit to another impacts unit effectiveness. In ASL, of course, units move as quickly as the player wishes, and the only disruption comes if a leader happens to be "broken", wounded or killed in the same hex as another unit, causing that unit to undergo a morale check. Unlike in life, leaders do not step up readily to take over in ASL, but battlefield promotions are treated instead as a random event. There is an argument to be made that the frequency with which random events occur in ASL is actually far more "realistic", and better at portraying the chaos of the battlefield, but there is no escaping the fact that command & control and the personality-driven leadership system in ASL is a legacy of John Hill's "adventure game".

National Characteristics

Much of the flavour of ASL is in its portrayal of individual nationalities - something even the ASL Rulebook itself concedes is "patently unfair" and a practice most other designers and developers have refused to adopt, either in whole or to the degree ASL has.(3) While there is little to object to in regards to historically accurate portrayals of equipment and doctrine - ASL simply doesn't do this. The national characteristics focus, again, on questions of morale and personality (for example, mistakenly noting that all Canadian soldiers were volunteers (they weren't, in fact)) while ignoring more practical considerations. The largest example would be artillery support. Despite five pages of complicated procedures for calling off board artillery (not including the flowchart that explains the whole thing), the process is homogenized and stands in for every nationality across the board. In reality, calling indirect artillery support was a different matter for each nation. A British Forward Observation Officer was a relatively senior officer with the authority to immediately bring down gunfire and could do so fairly rapidly. Using the Parham system, a selection of code words, he could get the guns of a battery, a field regiment, the entire divisional artillery, or even an army corps onto a single target within minutes. The Americans, while having a similarly flexible system, had relatively junior Forward Observers who had to get permission from fire direction centers. German and Russian observers did not enjoy as sophisticated a system, and their response times were longer. None of this is depicted in ASL. The rationale, no doubt, is that ASL is a game about infantry - though a look at the now hundreds of pages of vehicle notes tend to mitigate against that argument.

Tank combat

Which brings us to those very vehicles. Few scenarios seem to feature infantry in and of themselves. Wargamers being what they are, tanks will always seem to be the main attraction. The success of the Combat Commander Series may be an encouraging exception. There is no doubt that ASL had modelled AFV combat extremely well, effectively welding a miniatures-friendly system into a boardgame format. The problem is that the vehicle combat tends to overshadow everything else going on in a scenario. The generic medium tank types of Squad Leader, with the simple rules, were easy to play and much less of a distraction. Using AFVs in ASL requires not just an entire chapter of basic rules but each vehicle has its own paragraph of special data and abilities specific to that vehicle, including but not restricted to smoke dischargers, rear-facing machine guns, gyrostabilizers, side-skirt armour, special ammunition types, hedgerow cutters, etc.

There isn't much of an argument against this detail on its own - if you can remember all the special notes, then go ahead. There are also plenty of third party player's aids to assist you. But the other issues here also come into play. There are no real command and control issues - ASL only knows what a platoon is when it comes to radioless vehicles; otherwise, tanks run about willy-nilly and are free to do all manner of things. Strangely, some moderation was taken with regard to national characteristics as far as supplemental armour, and the British and American predilection for sandbag and spare track armour is not reflected in the game. And for all the detail that is included, there is no real sense that national or historical doctrine is aped. Tank platoons don't fight as tank platoons - scenario designers throw in strange mixes for "balance" because that is the culture of ASL scenario design - and there is no benefit for fighting in ways familiar to historical counterparts. There is some overlap; a 76mm "Firefly" Sherman in the game will be used to good advantage in providing protection for 75mm Shermans on an advance (what we call "overwatch" today), but these are coincidences rather than a result of deliberate game design. SL to ASL was designed as an infantry game that ended up being a reasonable simulation of tank combat that will often reward historical tank combat tactics and practices.


How did ASL miss getting a rule for this?


Conclusion

This isn't an argument against anyone buying ASL; my journey begain in 1986 and I have every core module on my shelf, every HASL and every official scenario offering. I can't say that I play much anymore. I admire the physical quality of the system, the research that goes into individual scenario offerings, and have great respect for some of those in the community that keep the system alive. Their dedication, knowledge and expertise is inspirational. I also think that once you've made a commitment to the system, particularly if you're the type of gamer that lets his imagination merge with the happenings on the board (and not everyone is that type - there are many types), ASL can be a very rewarding and fun experience, in large part to the number of random events, turns of fortune, and general quirkiness related to the personality and narrative based core of the game, dating back to John Hill's original in 1977.

However, for those who have read about the detail-rich, technical-laden rulebook and are expecting a manual about infantry combat in the Second World War, you will be disappointed. ASL is simply not a simulation of any value - there are just too many pieces missing and too much distorted, thanks to the "design for effect" philosophy that has been much discussed elsewhere. This isn't a criticism, it's a bald fact. The designer, John Hill, and the developer, Don Greenwood, both quoted above, have acknowledged this. Squad Leader was intended as a "beer & pretzels" game first and foremost, and ASL was intended as a follow-up to compete in a crowded wargame field by being so big and bloated that nothing could compare. In that regard, ASL has certainly succeeded, as no one can deny that for sheer size and complexity, there is no single game, or game system, like it.

Notes

(1) http://tacticalwargamer.com/boardgames/grunt/searchdestroy.h...
(2) http://gunsdicebutter.libsyn.com/ - Season 2, Episode 3: http://traffic.libsyn.com/gunsdicebu...an_30_2013.mp3
(3) ASL Rulebook, 2nd Edition, p.A59
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Andy Beaton
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What your analysis fails to cover is how incredibly fun ASL is, once you have the rules down. It's not realistic, it's a game, but within the game context it feels realistic in the same way a good war movie does.
A realistic wargame would be a bore, but when things happen in ASL - a hero leading a charge across a road, a captured gun malfunctioning just as the Russian tanks turns to face you, a key fortified building collapsing under rocket fire - these are things that we have seen or read about in real life, and we can fit them neatly and vividly into the narrative unfolding in our heads.
Every week I read someone at BGG posting about how ASL is bad at this, or bad at that, or isn't as good as game X, but I'll tell you the truth - I just don't care. I have more opponents than I can play, and my gaming time is more fun than with any other game I've played by such a huge margin that I can't begin to quantify it.

You guys sound like the killjoys in my film studies class who would get really angry when they found that people enjoyed Star Wars, when it was so obviously flawed and Tarkovsky made better science fiction anyways.
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Michael Dorosh
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aiabx wrote:
What your analysis fails to cover is how incredibly fun ASL is
Did you even read it?

Hint: type "fun" in your browser's search function and tell me what you find on this very page.

Edit two: The intent of this review was to provide a counter-balance to a review section almost entirely devoid of, for lack of a better word, criticism. I saw exactly one review in this sub-forum that didn't contain fawning praise - and the only critical review was deleted by the original poster (the responses are still up and readers are left to judge for themselves what exactly happened to merit the treatment he received).

In other words, I see several reviews gushing about how much "fun" ASL is, so I don't see any need for "analysis" about that aspect. Even at that, I use the word twice in my article (positively). Nor do I think this review is all that critical. I do have a session report in another sub-forum, if anyone wants my opinion on how much fun ASL is, they could probably get it from that.
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Perry Cocke
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

And yet many of ASL's fans remain oblivious to the distortions and omissions, perhaps because the core audience has shifted subtly. In the 1970s, when the original Squad Leader debuted, I would argue the average beginner wargamer may have been, on average, exposed to more war-themed literature. While information is far more accessible today due to the internet, greater selection of television channels, and proliferation of mobile devices, popular culture's obsession with the Second World War has waned. If today's beginner is reading material related to World War II, it probably is not of the same level of research or writing as one would have found in, for example, Strategy & Tactics magazine.
I don't have to defend ASL. It's record stands for itself. And I don't think I need to defend "today's beginner". They have different, not lesser, origins than I did.

But I think it is not accurate to say that "many of ASL's fans remain oblivious to the distortions and omissions". I think the vast majority ASL players (and "fans") are well aware that no game can encompass ALL of the elements of WWII tactical combat, and they are well aware of the many compromises ASL makes for the sake of playability--it being a very playable game.
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Perry Cocke
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

The developer of ASL, Don Greenwood, was interviewed by the Guns, Dice, Butter podcast and expressed regret at how ASL turned out.
I also don't think the quote provided expresses "regret at how ASL turned out."

I think Don was lamenting sinking so much time and effort into a game that did not fly off the shelves, because of the direction that the hobby was taking. It seems to me that Don blames himself for not noticing and acting on this trend, not for any flaws in ASL. YMMV
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I have to agree with Perry here. When I listened to the Greenwood interview, it really seemed like he was talking about sinking a TON of time and effort into a game that flew in the face of the direction the hobby was taking at the time. There's nothing inherently wrong with that analysis.

The thing that stands, to me, as one of the greatest accomplishments of ASL compared to any other game or game system is the longevity of the creation of third party original content. Journals, Action Packs, and releases are typically full of non-MMP designed content. Scenario designers and module developers have risen from the ranks of ASL players. Their work at creating content, releasing unofficial releases that rival the scope and quality of official releases like Blood & Jungle for example are prime exemplars of this trend.

This simply isn't seen with any other game system. It has faults. All games do. But the upside is far beyond what other systems offer.
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Gregory Smith
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Quote:
An ASL game rarely fails to provide entertaining narratives, which provide nourishment to the imagination...
This and fun and excitement are why people play ASL.

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And yet many of ASL's fans remain oblivious to the distortions and omissions,
Really?? I've Never met anyone who thinks ASL or really ANY other WWII tactical game is perfect. And who would want that anyway. People just want to play a fun game.
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Thank you. I've wanted to write this review for years, and you did a better job than I could do. About the only quote you missed was John Hill discussing on the 2 Half Squads podcast what a mess ASL was and how it had completely diverged from his original vision for the game.

I frequently hold up ASL as the mark of everything that is wrong with wargames--it conflates complexity with realism while in fact badly missing the mark when it comes to the infantry combat it is trying to model; hell, it's central conceit of the leader counters is a fatally flawed means for representing how command actually works at the tactical level, and I always bow my head in frustration when I see the leader trope work its way into newer tactical designs that should know better.

I get it--people have fun with ASL. Despite that, fun is not really the point of the design. Is ASL fun once you know the rules? Probably. Is it significantly more fun than basic SL, enough to justify the inordinate increase in complexity? Absolutely not. Moreover, there is no real reason for that increase in complexity, BECAUSE IT DOESN'T IMPROVE EITHER THE GAMEPLAY OR THE SIMULATION VALUE! It's utterly without purpose. If the end result ended up making people happy, it's essentially by accident, because an examination of the design concepts and focus reveals a hopelessly unfocused mess that reads like a bad postmodern novel.
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Michael Dorosh
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seanmac wrote:
Thank you. I've wanted to write this review for years, and you did a better job than I could do. About the only quote you missed was John Hill discussing on the 2 Half Squads podcast what a mess ASL was and how it had completely diverged from his original vision for the game.

I frequently hold up ASL as the mark of everything that is wrong with wargames--it conflates complexity with realism while in fact badly missing the mark when it comes to the infantry combat it is trying to model; hell, it's central conceit of the leader counters is a fatally flawed means for representing how command actually works at the tactical level, and I always bow my head in frustration when I see the leader trope work its way into newer tactical designs that should know better.

I get it--people have fun with ASL. Despite that, fun is not really the point of the design. Is ASL fun once you know the rules? Probably. Is it significantly more fun than basic SL, enough to justify the inordinate increase in complexity? Absolutely not. Moreover, there is no real reason for that increase in complexity, BECAUSE IT DOESN'T IMPROVE EITHER THE GAMEPLAY OR THE SIMULATION VALUE! It's utterly without purpose. If the end result ended up making people happy, it's essentially by accident, because an examination of the design concepts and focus reveals a hopelessly unfocused mess that reads like a bad postmodern novel.
Thanks, and well-stated. I've been enjoying your posts and outlook on tactical games for a long time so it's a great compliment.

You mention ASL being fun by accident. It's an interesting proposition. I don't know if I was clear enough in the review, but certainly, the detailed - and not unrealistic - tank-to-tank combat model works out, and I think it is largely accidental that tank combat modelling has been so successful since it was clearly never the original intent. So a lot of things about ASL seem to have worked out by accident rather than by design.

The "third party publisher" phenomenon is mentioned above, and surely that too is not an intended application. If it was, there probably would not have been the lawsuit involving Critical Hit, Inc. and, as I recall, the cease and desist request with regards to artwork.

I do have to agree with you that the "danger" is not that people have fun with ASL - to each his own, and I number myself in that category - but in the number of other publishers who think that because of the apparent commercial success of ASL, their infantry modelling, etc., is somehow a guide to "how to design games on World War II tactical combat." This is why I keep banging the Search & Destroy drum. There, you have a small, efficient design that took a serious look at the factors that drove decision making at the small unit level, and analyzed how the different nationalities really differed down where the squads and platoons did business. I genuinely don't think ASL does that, or even attempts to. For that matter, I'm not aware of many squad-based games that try. I'd love to see a game that does for the Second World War what S&D did for Vietnam.
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Good read. It would be interesting if you could comment on what tactical level game you do consider a simulation of value.
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For what it is worth, this is a snippet:
The enemy was very strong and shortly afterwards put in several attacks, and the company was overwhelmed through lack of leaders. No doubt parachute troops or commandos would have made short work of the Huns in Thomashof, but our experience is that once the leaders get hit, the attack pegs out.

...from the second last paragraph of this URL:
http://51hd.co.uk/accounts/martin_lindsay

This to me is an example of why tactical combat games must include leaders as on-board units and have dire consequences if they are lost.

Also, the only other thing that comes to mind to add to the 'ASL as model' discussion is that the Command & RE rules from SASL go a long way towards being a simple fix to what is missing for command and chaos.

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Michael Dorosh wrote:


I do have to agree with you that the "danger" is not that people have fun with ASL - to each his own, and I number myself in that category - but in the number of other publishers who think that because of the apparent commercial success of ASL, their infantry modelling, etc., is somehow a guide to "how to design games on World War II tactical combat." This is why I keep banging the Search & Destroy drum. There, you have a small, efficient design that took a serious look at the factors that drove decision making at the small unit level, and analyzed how the different nationalities really differed down where the squads and platoons did business. I genuinely don't think ASL does that, or even attempts to. For that matter, I'm not aware of many squad-based games that try. I'd love to see a game that does for the Second World War what S&D did for Vietnam.
I think the game that makes the best attempt to examine at how decision making happens at the tactical level is probably Fields of Fire, and in reality, I think a solitaire design is in many ways the proper approach when it comes to modeling the uncertain environment that small unit leaders had to make their decisions in. I also think FoF presents leaders in the proper way--they make it possible to disseminate orders and to exercise some level of control over units that are engaged, but they don't suddenly morph squads they are stacked with into super killers who traipse around the battlefield dealing death and destruction.

I'll have to look into Search and Destroy; it's a design I was unaware of.
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As a guy who loves the first 12 scenarios and still suspects I've got SL tanks all bollixed up, I've still moved into ASL and ASLSK.

I appreciate there are deep feelings on both sides of the love/critical divide, but the depth of feeling is always a bit surprising. ASL is crazy, but the scenario descriptions alone are beautiful. And the longevity with active support really is something esp. with such a changed cultural landscape.

I look at all three as related cousins. Close enough for the internal brawls to be tough, but at the end of the day true family. There's something to be said for all three as gripping entry points into the wargame fold.

Ticket to Ride isn't going to pass THAT morale check (or MC).
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WBRP wrote:
For what it is worth, this is a snippet:
The enemy was very strong and shortly afterwards put in several attacks, and the company was overwhelmed through lack of leaders. No doubt parachute troops or commandos would have made short work of the Huns in Thomashof, but our experience is that once the leaders get hit, the attack pegs out.

...from the second last paragraph of this URL:
http://51hd.co.uk/accounts/martin_lindsay

This to me is an example of why tactical combat games must include leaders as on-board units and have dire consequences if they are lost.

Also, the only other thing that comes to mind to add to the 'ASL as model' discussion is that the Command & RE rules from SASL go a long way towards being a simple fix to what is missing for command and chaos.

Except there are many ways to skin a cat, regardless of the level of abstraction that you are willing to use. Look at a very simple design like Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42. The effectiveness of your leadership is abstracted through the use of CAPs, which you use to activate units that have already moved and/or to perform more complex maneuvers. As you take casualties, your CAP allotment goes down, thus representing the loss of small-unit leaders, with no need for leader counters whatsoever. Of course, having the ability to spend a cap to add +2 to your firing rolls ultimately is as distorting as running a 9-2 leader over to a position you want to lay down some effective fire from, so you can still end up with some gamey effects.

In any event, taking effective fire that breaks or suppresses units could just as easily represent the death of an NCO as it could the death of 3-4 privates. And it slows down an attack every bit as much as killing off a leader would. So you can get the effect of officer casualties without leaders on the board, but if you are going to go through the bother of having them there, they should be in service of something real, like representing how the chain of command works.
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von wildensee wrote:
Good read. It would be interesting if you could comment on what tactical level game you do consider a simulation of value.
In the John Hill interview I quoted (available here: http://www.c3iopscenter.com/document...ohn%20Hill.pdf) he also says:

Quote:
The whole hobby of wargaming is one gigantic fudge. In absolutely no way can we simulate the horror and fear and confusion of a battlefield. Any person who believes we are obtaining "realism" in any game of ours has very little understanding of war. On a realism scale of 1 to 10, the highest possible rating we can hope for with paper and cardboard is a 2. Since the whole effort is such a monstrous fudge, it seems amazingly silly to scream that some little nuance is fudged. The only way you could possibly approach an accurate simulation of the battle environment and its tension would be if both players had the clear understanding that the loser would be shot.
I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, particularly his conclusion. I'd be interested in Sean's opinion and would certainly consider it more worthwhile than my own with regards to that question.

Nonethless, I thought the original Combat Mission game engine had great promise, with just the right mix of abstraction and detail. Panzer Command promised to continue in the same vein, but it hasn't seemed to resonate with a large audience. Not that I think individual national doctrine, communication issues, etc. were necessarily well modelled either, but there was certainly a potential for infantry not to be absorbed by a game where players spent their time studying armour stats and simply employed the various vehicle types as tank support. At the very least, command delays for artillery support varied a bit for the different nationalities, which was a start.

I think, as Sean may, that a lot of the boardgames have been so heavily influenced by ASL that their value as a simulation is negligible. That's not really a criticism either; as mentioned correctly above, not many people are interested in paying money for simulations, particularly boardgame sims.
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An interesting discussion.

The realism arguments outlined above are all nothing new in the debate of how well ASL models the 'reality' of tactical combat.

I've never equated the complexity of the ASL system as contributing to a greater level of 'realism'. I think of it more as a well realised Hollywood movie (something akin to the opening 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan).

What the complexity of the ASL system delivers for me is a more intense gaming experience and the best examination of the Clauswitzian concept of 'friction'in a board game.

Finally on the issue of the original Squadleader versus ASL, I'd say that the redesign of the defensive fire mechanism in the latter was enough to lift it qualitatively above its predecessor.

Rich
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Michael Dorosh wrote:


Nonethless, I thought the original Combat Mission game engine had great promise, with just the right mix of abstraction and detail.
Thanks. I remember playing Combat Mission to death when it first came out!

I do realize a paper and cardboard game can never be a simulation, I thought it would be interesting, since you have such a well informed opinion about the subject of c2 in ww2, which tactical boardgame you feel comes close to capturing the essence of what you write about.

I only ask because recently I have been dabbling in a couple of systems at the tactical level and my mind is not quite made up.
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I was there from the beginning in 1977. The original Squad Leader quickly became my favorite game, and I purchased all the expansions. Tragically, because of the large number of rule changes in each expansion, it became nearly impossible to play a face-to-face game because one could never be sure both players were assuming the same set of rules.

I hesitated to get into ASL when it arrived in 1985 because of its added complexity. However, I eventually jumped in with the hope that, regardless of complexity, here at last was a standard set of rules everyone could play under. I played it for several years, but shelved it over 20 years ago because the incredible complexity (and constant rules learning/checking) was not worth the effort in a game with such a high luck factor.

However, I kept the components, and in recent years have been able to make use of them via the Retro rules set by Minden games. It presents an alternative set of rules that is far simpler than even basic SL. The resulting games are much faster, and the system has essentially the same "feel" and narrative as SL/ASL without the horrendous rules overhead. It is also very solitaire-friendly. The realism level is no less than SL/ASL, for all the reasons stated by the OP and others in this thread. Retro recaptures the primary reason we played SL to begin with: fun, without the heavy rules burden of ASL. Retro also provides an easily agreed upon standard, which solves the problem that plagued SL with its expansions. For these reasons, I would encourage anyone who has some of the misgivings about SL/ASL described in this thread, or an experience with SL/ASL similar to mine, to take a serious look at Retro.
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Fields Of Fire might be worth a look for a tactical game which appears to have quite a bit going for it in the realism department.

Fields of Fire

The modelling of leadership is fantastic.
Squad behavior is unpredictable and difficult to control
Knowledge of terrain/expected enemy is imperfect.
Concealment also well handled.
Organization of unit is strictly modeled

It is a solo game, however, and doesn't try to provide the same experience or compete with ASL.
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

However, for those who have read about the detail-rich, technical-laden rulebook and are expecting a manual about infantry combat in the Second World War, you will be disappointed.
This part of the conclusion I agree with. The game certainly does not teach you to be a squad leader, nor a company leader for that matter.

The next sentence however...

Quote:

ASL is simply not a simulation of any value


seems a tad extreme.
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Rich Weiley wrote:

Finally on the issue of the original Squadleader versus ASL, I'd say that the redesign of the defensive fire mechanism in the latter was enough to lift it qualitatively above its predecessor.

Rich
I would agree, which is why I always retrofitted the defensive fire mechanism onto SL. It's literally the only change that I found to significantly improve the basic game play.
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seanmac wrote:
Thank you. I've wanted to write this review for years, and you did a better job than I could do. About the only quote you missed was John Hill discussing on the 2 Half Squads podcast what a mess ASL was and how it had completely diverged from his original vision for the game.
if John Hill doesn't like it, he doesn't have to play it. Elvis was pretty scathing about the Beatles, but that didn't make him right and them wrong.

Quote:
I frequently hold up ASL as the mark of everything that is wrong with wargames--it conflates complexity with realism while in fact badly missing the mark when it comes to the infantry combat it is trying to model; hell, it's central conceit of the leader counters is a fatally flawed means for representing how command actually works at the tactical level, and I always bow my head in frustration when I see the leader trope work its way into newer tactical designs that should know better.
Who says it's realistic, other than the imaginary ASL players in your head? You want a realistic game, include 10 turns of waiting for every turn of action.

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I get it--people have fun with ASL. Despite that, fun is not really the point of the design. Is ASL fun once you know the rules? Probably. Is it significantly more fun than basic SL, enough to justify the inordinate increase in complexity? Absolutely not. Moreover, there is no real reason for that increase in complexity, BECAUSE IT DOESN'T IMPROVE EITHER THE GAMEPLAY OR THE SIMULATION VALUE! It's utterly without purpose. If the end result ended up making people happy, it's essentially by accident, because an examination of the design concepts and focus reveals a hopelessly unfocused mess that reads like a bad postmodern novel.
This is a boardgame. A game. The only possible point is fun. It's not educational, it's not realistic, it doesn't make us better or wiser or more compassionate. It is fun. And the excessive detail and pseudo-realism make it more fun - much more than old SL. Go to one of the many ASL tournaments, and you will hear people laughing and enjoying themselves, because the point of playing a game is to have fun. Nothing more.

I know, you're angry because we're having fun wrong. And you would like us to smarten up and be serious because wargames are serious business. But it's not going to happen.
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seanmac wrote:
Is ASL fun once you know the rules? Probably. Is it significantly more fun than basic SL, enough to justify the inordinate increase in complexity? Absolutely not.
Shouldn't ASL players be the judge of that? Because we're the only ones having to navigate that complexity. And for us, it's clearly a worthwhile exercise. Because otherwise we might be mooning over some forgotten tactical game from the 70s which nobody's ever heard of, or some flash in the pan, published-yesterday-and-forgotten-tomorrow, tactical game dujour.

I get that you think the game is flawed, but it's massive presumption to state that other people's preferences are incorrect, which is what you're doing right here.

As for John Hill and Don Greenwood's post-publication utterances, I think it sometimes can be useful to apply a concept from literary criticism - the fallacy of authorial intent. It doesn't particularly matter if John Hill thinks we've got it all wrong.

We like it for what it is, not what he may have intended it to be.

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pessimisticbob wrote:
So what can be done to make ASL a better simulation?
WBRP mentioned above using the SASL command rules - he showed me how his variant works in a game we played together (I posted it in my session report) and I enjoyed it. I wasn't too concerned though about making ASL a "better simulation" and I'm not sure it's possible. Or, for that matter, desirable. As has been pointed out above - and by no less than ASL's current publisher - you don't put ASL on the table to simulate an infantry company commander's dilemma with any kind of granularity, it's a game. Certainly in my experience you wrestle with the rules - WBRP, IIRC, described it as two guys against the rulebook. It was said with some affection, and I don't disagree.

I mentioned there are different kinds of players. If you go to the Wall Advantage blog, Ian Willey was interviewing various "personalities" around the ASL world and he asked the question "When you play do you have a movie of the action playing in your head?" I thought for sure the question was a waste of time since how could the answer not be the same for everyone? My answer was 'Of course, doesn't everyone.' But human nature being what it is, individual responses varied greatly.

One example directly refutes the notion that ASL is a gateway to daydreaming, which was a surprise to me, since I thought everyone did it:

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.
Others also denied it:

Ian Daglish, scenario designer and author:

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No, I get deeply into what is going on on the map board.
Pete Shelling, scenario designer:

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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@@@.
The point here is that ASL is seen by some also as just a way to compete. The cardboard does not represent men and tanks, but pawns no more alive than a chess piece, and the game is mathematics and rules. But obviously, for some people, that is fun. But you can't go messing with their well-memorized rule books without causing an uproar because to them ASL isn't about simulating anything, or transporting them to the adventure that John Hill talks about, I get the sense it's about mastery. ASL is hard, and they take pride in learning it, getting good at it, and playing it for its own sake - i.e. applying the rules to the cardboard pieces on the table. They are the ones who talk about ROAR listings and "balanced scenarios".

Which is completely alien to my experiences with it, when I would gather on weekends with high school friends, set up massive DYO, with landscapes covering entire dining room tables, and then set out on 'rescure the maiden' missions of our own concoction. All that was missing was the dragon, but the fire-breathing Crocodile was a pretty close approximation, and he made many appearances along with the King Tiger and other monsters. I am positive John Hill would have approved of our nonsense, reading now his comments about SL and D&D.
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
There is no debate around the fact that Advanced Squad Leader occupies - and shall for the forseeable future - a unique place not only among tactical wargaming titles but perhaps among wargaming in general (perhaps even any kind of board gaming). The system is without a doubt commercially successful behind anyone's wild dreams in terms of diversity of product, supports a unique third-party industry in addition to its official complement of releases (which show no indication of drying up) and is still, despite recent downgrades in components in recent years, still admired for its physical quality (in equal measure with those who snicker at antiquated or quaint unit and map symbols).
there is, and has been to a more marked degree in the recent past, a certain discordance between its effulgence and what passes as OK at MMP, but to the company's credit this has been recognised and dealt with as far as they are able. The HASL concept is laughed at by some for the simple reason that its not ASL -- obviously -- and that its buyers haven't quite worked this out for themselves and show no sign of doing so. But the money is welcome.

Quote:
What sometimes becomes more open for discussion, however, is the degree to which the level of detail in ASL's rules synchronizes with a perceived "realism". By that, we can define "realism" as the ability to faithfully recreate battlefield results, permit players to adopt similar decision-making as historical combatants, and generally replicate historical engagements using real world data (order of battle, table of organization and equipment, technical data, morale, etc.)
Its generally acknowledged that simulation of this subject isn't possible. The reasons why also suggest that a genuinely successful simulation would not be useful to humans, as their senses can't comprehend the real thing in toto, and therefore cannot learn from it nor draw any useful conclusions. So-called fog-of-war may not have been an expression coined to deal with this type of sensory overload, but nevertheless the better commanders at this level and at higher levels in earlier wars, which had poorer methods of communications, used this incomprehensible chaos as a protection from their enemies, whose threat was reduced by it.

Quote:
In other words, for all the things ASL gets "right" - detailed armour penetration model with accurate armour thickness ratings for just about every vehicle on the front, little details like the 92mm anti-personnel grenade dischargers on German tanks, special rules to account for everything from cement anti-magnetic mine paste on tanks to camouflaged snowsuits on infantrymen, there are a number of "big picture" omissions and distortions.
The armour system is too simple to be called 'detailed'. I'm unaware of rules for Zimmerit, but it sounds very MMP. White cotton capes in snow is tactically significant enough for this game -- a factory down the road from here made most of the Russian ones.

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These omissions and distortions aren't necessarily a big deal;


Lets go one step furtehr and question their raison d'etre.

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and if he was brave enough to make it through the 300 page rulebook
This remark normally & regularly comes from non-players. Presumably they believe it because they haven't considered the question or had it explained to them. Is it possible to play a game actually requiring 300 pages of rules? No it isn't, and again this is obvious.

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There is no denying that for anyone with even a shred of imagination, the jumble of counters on the board quickly creates its own narrative during the course of each scenario - but that is exactly the point; ASL is a game first, not an accurate simulation of World War II combat.
All games are a mix of history and game design [obvious to some I guess]. There are no simulations of modern tactical ground combat because the subject is too complex to usefully attempt.

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And yet many of ASL's fans remain oblivious to the distortions and omissions, perhaps because the core audience has shifted subtly.
The question is whether these shortcomings are significant, for if they are not...

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If today's beginner is reading material related to World War II, it probably is not of the same level of research or writing as one would have found in, for example, Strategy & Tactics magazine.
S&T often published a lot of crap. Getting both the game and the text right wasn't easy for a small operation and sometimes both were faulty. I recall all those cancelled subs as a result of Armada. And they reproduced the same articles in boxed boardgames, like the odd stuff in Agincourt: The Triumph of Archery over Armor, 25 October 1415.

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The earliest version of ASL, Squad Leader, in fact was designed as a light-hearted game


! it wasn't when we played it.


Quote:
John Hill on SQUAD LEADER:


Squad Leader was a success for one reason: it personalized the boardgame in a World War II environment. Take the "leaders," or persons, away from it and it becomes a bore. Though this may sound surprising, the game has much in common with Dungeons & Dragons. In both games, things tend to go wrong, and being caught moving in the street by a heavy machinegun is like being caught by a people-eating dragon. Squad Leader was successful because, underneath all its World War II technology, it is an adventure game, indeed Dungeons & Dragons in the streets of Stalingrad.
yes, but this an aspect of game design, and a rather imponderable one. It has no connection with the historical side.

Quote:
Squad Leader itself might be said to have had a narrative; it revolved around the effects of small-unit leadership and morale. Technical matters like artillery and tank support were simplified and made generic in order to concentrate on what Hill thought was a more interesting subject. At the time of release (1977), few games had been published dealing with tactical warfare in the Second World War, though miniatures players had been dealing with the subject for decades. In fact, the first advertisements actually appealed directly to miniatures players in an attempt to market Squad Leader to them as well.
The game's morale rules have a meaning wider than the word's dictionary defintion, so its use here requires more care. You could insert the word 'badly' after 'decades', which points to the difficultly of the subject. SL was about leaders, squads and machineguns, and ASL still is.

Quote:
The developer of ASL, Don Greenwood, was interviewed by the Guns, Dice, Butter podcast and expressed regret at how ASL turned out.
But it was a critical success, and those who understand its proportion ralise we haven't had anything of similar magnitude before or since. Another way of putting it is the evolutionary leap between SL and ASL: there's no other comparable hobby phenomena, and nothing that comes close. Certain other highly successful games, however, are amorphous messes of the SL variety where everyone has his own rules [apart from the poor sods who have just bought the game], and here trhe best example is Paths of Glory. PoG2 is overdue.

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So what does ASL actually get "wrong"?
What do the commentators get wrong? well we've done the 300-page thing already.

[
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b]Command, Control and Leadership[/b]

Despite hyper-detailed rules
rubbish

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for all kinds of situations that infantry might find themselves in - running across a street ("Dash" rules), being shot at from two different directions ("Encirclement" rules), complex rules for fighting at night ("straying", "jitter fire", and several pages of complex game mechanics) - if one were to try and evaluate how infantry was organized and led in the Second World War by examining a typical ASL scenario, they would walk away with no idea of what a platoon, company or battalion was.
by the same token they wouldn't know much more about Indian politics for thats not what the game addresses. The weaker-minded may think Indian politics is about fine upstanding men acting with honour and integrity, but they'd be just as mistaken. ASL is primarily about weapons interactions.

Quote:
There are no reporting lines, no chain of command, command radius.


thank god

Quote:
The leadership modelling is a legacy of the original Squad Leader, in which only the outstanding leaders on the battlefield are recognized in counter form - dominant personalities that exert their control at key places on the battlefield. The designer was influenced by the work of researchers like S.L.A. Marshall who felt that "natural fighters", making up perhaps 10% of any military, might go above and beyond the normal call of duty in exposing themselves to hazard. Only these leaders are depicted on the board
Its a minor point but not quite. A 6+1 leader isn't overly heroic. The type and numbers of leader counters also represents the characteristics of the unit depicted. How they are used is down to the player.

Quote:
Compare to the depiction of leadership in Search & Destroy, as discussed at the start of this review. The computer game Combat Mission also addresses leadership and C&C issues, for example, in their new game engine. Infantry squads, platoons and companies are realistically organized along historical lines, and are rated for communication based on type of equipment - i.e. line of sight (voice) or radio. The ability to pass orders from one unit to another impacts unit effectiveness.


is it any good?

Quote:
In ASL, of course, units move as quickly as the player wishes, and the only disruption comes if a leader happens to be "broken", wounded or killed in the same hex as another unit, causing that unit to undergo
a morale check.
the loss or wounding of your top leader can lose a scenario.

Quote:
Unlike in life, leaders do not step up readily to take over in ASL,
Which army is this? In life, they have a tendency to step down and run away when things go wrong!

Quote:
but battlefield promotions are treated instead as a random event. There is an argument to be made that the frequency with which random events occur in ASL is actually far more "realistic", and better at portraying the chaos of the battlefield, but there is no escaping the fact that command & control and the personality-driven leadership system in ASL is a legacy of John Hill's "adventure game".
Funny how well it works though, compared say to game with command radii. I wonder why that is?

Quote:
National Characteristics

Much of the flavour of ASL is in its portrayal of individual nationalities - something even the ASL Rulebook itself concedes is "patently unfair" and a practice most other designers and developers have refused to adopt, either in whole or to the degree ASL has.(3)
yes, its racist as hell. A British police officer once said he was trained to regard everyone as a distinct individual, but on the job he found all teenage car thieves wore shell suits.

Quote:
(for example, mistakenly noting that all Canadian soldiers were volunteers (they weren't, in fact))
thats the scenario designer's job. The game can portray good or bad Canadian soldiers, though the conscripts were too few to be significant alongside the cooks and signallers used as tank crew in 1945.

Quote:
while ignoring more practical considerations. The largest example would be artillery support. Despite five pages of complicated procedures for calling off board artillery (not including the flowchart that explains the whole thing), the process is homogenized and stands in for every nationality across the board. In reality, calling indirect artillery support was a different matter for each nation. A British Forward Observation Officer was a relatively senior officer with the authority to immediately bring down gunfire and could do so fairly rapidly. Using the Parham system, a selection of code words, he could get the guns of a battery, a field regiment, the entire divisional artillery, or even an army corps onto a single target within minutes. The Americans, while having a similarly flexible system, had relatively junior Forward Observers who had to get permission from fire direction centers. German and Russian observers did not enjoy as sophisticated a system, and their response times were longer. None of this is depicted in ASL. The rationale, no doubt, is that ASL is a game about infantry - though a look at the now hundreds of pages of vehicle notes tend to mitigate against that argument.
are you confusing tactical and operational artillery support? The usual condition of an ASL scenario is to have none, and rarely anything big, and then not for long, perhaps because a Parham request has come in miles away.

Quote:
Tank combat

Which brings us to those very vehicles. Few scenarios seem to feature infantry in and of themselves.
there's more in the core modules than you might think. Very few Panzers in the French module scenarios, for example.

Quote:
Wargamers being what they are, tanks will always seem to be the main attraction. The success of the Combat Commander Series may be an encouraging exception.
Alas alack!

Quote:
There is no doubt that ASL had modelled AFV combat extremely well, effectively welding a miniatures-friendly system into a boardgame format.
can't seem to find the word 'simple' here, Michael...

Quote:
The problem is that the vehicle combat tends to overshadow everything else going on in a scenario. The generic medium tank types of Squad Leader, with the simple rules, were easy to play and much less of a distraction. Using AFVs in ASL requires not just an entire chapter of basic rules but each vehicle has its own paragraph of special data and abilities specific to that vehicle, including but not restricted to smoke dischargers, rear-facing machine guns, gyrostabilizers, side-skirt armour, special ammunition types, hedgerow cutters, etc.
Again this is the sort of mistake a non-player would splurt out. Looking at the back of the counter is indeed a good idea.

Quote:
There isn't much of an argument against this detail on its own - if you can remember all the special notes, then go ahead. There are also plenty of third party player's aids to assist you.




Quote:
But the other issues here also come into play. There are no real command and control issues
how do you rally without leaders? Its a game-ending problem.

Quote:
- ASL only knows what a platoon is when it comes to radioless vehicles; otherwise, tanks run about willy-nilly and are free to do all manner of things.


and?

Quote:
Strangely, some moderation was taken with regard to national characteristics as far as supplemental armour, and the British and American predilection for sandbag and spare track armour is not reflected in the game.
and there's a reason why.

Quote:
And for all the detail that is included, there is no real sense that national or historical doctrine is aped. Tank platoons don't fight as tank platoons
this is too sweeping and meaningless a statement to have much meaning. German tanks always fought in pairs at least, that co-ordinated rather more closely than which the poor ASL player will be able to manage. Bu tits not a sim and was never intended to be. This is the fundamental error of the HASL concept, and its players keep making it.

Quote:
- scenario designers throw in strange mixes for "balance" because that is the culture of ASL scenario design - and there is no benefit for fighting in ways familiar to historical counterparts. There is some overlap; a 76mm "Firefly" Sherman in the game will be used to good advantage in providing protection for 75mm Shermans on an advance (what we call "overwatch" today), but these are coincidences rather than a result of deliberate game design.


Is it not an outcome of accuracy?

Quote:
SL to ASL was designed as an infantry game that ended up being a reasonable simulation of tank combat that will often reward historical tank combat tactics and practices.
and in so doing pisses all over the less-advanced 21st century stuff.

Conclusion

Quote:
This isn't an argument against anyone buying ASL; my journey begain in 1986 and I have every core module on my shelf, every HASL

Quote:

and every official scenario offering. I can't say that I play much anymore.


I play rarely also.

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particularly if you're the type of gamer that lets his imagination merge with the happenings on the board (and not everyone is that type - there are many types)
this is the most important & significant remark here. Other games lack this quality, indeed they degrade it.

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ASL is simply not a simulation of any value
perhaps you'd consider writing at similar length on your understanding of what ASL is. We knew already the Pope isn't Protestant.
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