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Subject: FO #5 - Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader rss

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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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Here we have our 5th Forward Observer Topic. I am sure that there will plenty in it to interest people.

In it you will see that ASL caused a bit of a difference opinion between some of our members – maybe that’s not surprising as there’s always been a debate about SL vs ASL.

We also discuss Advanced Tobruk System (ATS) and how it compares to ASL.

We have now started on our next topic – The Best of 2005 and this will be followed by Naval Wargaming in the Big Gun Era.

This will be in more than one posting as I can't fit it all into one.
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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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Discussion Pt 1:

Mike von Ahnen:

I was already wargaming when the original Squad Leader (SL) came out.
There were several teaser articles in the preceding Avalon Hill
General issues (their captive magazine), promising big things out of
their new game to come.

In my humble opinion, they were right.

The state of the art (at least for AH) at that time was the Panzer
Blitz / Panzer Leader series, which while good games in their own
right, were one level up in abstraction above Squad Leader. Units are
at the platoon level, so while getting a feel for the armor, the
infantry units were still these "boxes with X's in them" and there was
no feel for infantry tactics.

Squad Leader changed that. Instead of pieces that get relegated to
defending towns, the infantry units are the key to game in Squad
Leader. Armor does not get introduced until the third scenario.
The basis of the games is squads and leaders, but there are also
machine guns, flame-throwers, demo charges, tanks, artillery, and much

The core rules of Squad Leader are actually quite simple. Fire at the
target, roll two dice, add a bunch of modifiers and see what the
result is. There is only three possible results: No Effect, KIA, or a
Morale check. The first two are pretty straight forward, nothing
happens or the unit is eliminated. The morale check means the unit
rolls against his morale value (again with a bunch of modifiers) and
the unit can either be unaffected, broken, or KIA (if it was already
broken). The armor rules are even easier. Roll to see if you hit the
target and then roll to see the result.

The game turn takes into account action on both sides, with the turn
sequence of:
Fire / Move / Defensive Fire / Advancing Fire / Close Combat / Rally

It sounds more complicated than it is, and it seems natural, so if
flows very smoothly.

The beauty of the game system was that all the added rules built on
the same mechanisms. There were minor additional rules, but they all
followed the same mechanism. As described in the AH General, the
intent was to capture the "feel" without making the game overly
complicated. The other feature that made the game easier to learn was
the "programmed instruction" method of the rules. While making the
rules somewhat disorganized, it made the game easy to learn.

The first expansion to the game was Cross of Iron. It added detail to
the armor rules (including a huge number of different vehicles for the
Russians and the Germans). It also added a few new rules (like
airpower and cavalry). The same flow of the game was there and the
added rules for armor seemed natural additions (modifiers for firing
faster, aiming for the tracks, armor leaders, etc). This was in my
opinion, the Squad Leader system at its best.

The next expansion was The Crescendo of Doom. The poor title was
matched, again in my opinion, with a poor change in philosophy of the
game system. In this expansion, instead of keeping with simple rules,
and getting the "feel", the rules added much more complication. The
theme was the early years of the war against the western Allies and
the neutral powers. There were some good rule additions, like
paratroopers and water landings, but there were some awful ones, like
bypass movement. This was the point where I started buying the games
just for the counters.

The final Squad Leader expansion was G.I. Anvil of Victory. Keeping
with the bad title was again bad rule additions. Snipers, heroes, and
the "weakening" of the American units made another thick rulebook that
added very little to the game. I could not quote most of the
additional rule additions, since again I bought this game just for the
counters. The game system at this point was clearing reaching a
broken state at this point. My definition of a broken system is one
where people start picking and choosing their rules.

So then came Advanced Squad Leader (ASL). I cannot discuss the system in
detail, because I have never bought or played it. The articles in the
General promised a new system, "cleaned up" rules, but all of the
descriptions pointed to a game in the flavor of the later games,
instead of the clean system I learned and loved. Plus, the new rules
would have costed me as much as all of the investment I had in the
games combined. I have not seen anything written since that has made
me change my mind on the game.

In my opinion, the Squad Leader games was best when it was a "game",
giving the players the feel instead of now where it is more of a
"simulation", with rule after rule to accommodate all the little features.

Kim Beattie:
John Hill designed Squad Leader and Don Greenwood designed Advanced Squad Leader. That says a lot right there...

John Hill's designs have always favored playability and are designed to give the "feel" of the situation being depicted without burying the players in detail. Don Greenwood has always been detail oriented, even at the expense of playability.

The original Squad Leader was a great game and I think it should have been left alone. But anything that is successful will spawn sequels and invariably those sequels will drag the original down. This is pretty much what happened with Squad Leader and the expansions. Whatever happened with the notion "leave them wanting more"?

So I agree with Mike von Ahnen's comments. Squad Leader was a great game. I have never played Advanced Squad Leader. I have no interest in the system.

David Seddon:

I enjoy Squad Leader but have never played ASL. It’s probably great, but, I have no desire to, because although SL is fun it is decidedly not one of my favourite games. I reckon it wouldn't get in my top 50 wargames. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just not to my taste as much as some other games are.

Maybe it's the stacking. Maybe it's that if I want that degree of detail with units, I prefer to use figures. It's both of those things plus a little more. So, if I’m so-so on SL, I figure I won’t need to try ASL!

Leo Zappa:

My take on SL/ASL:

I will first say that obviously this is a matter of personal taste -
I can appreciate the many fans of the SL and later ASL system and
cannot deny that these people enjoy these game systems immensely.
However, for me, SL and ASL were the first AH games that crossed the
barrier from fun game to difficult exercise. My wargaming roots were
the AH Classics - Battle of the Bulge, Afrika Korps, and the like. I
advanced through Third Reich to Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader. These
later two games were the height of my early wargaming days, and I
enjoy them to this day. My friend Karl picked up Squad Leader and I
hoped/expected it would be a simple continuation of my progression of
wargaming enjoyment. However, it fell flat for me. I think that SL
(and the later gamettes and certainly ASL) passed into what we would
call now "fiddliness".

It's funny, because when I was introduced to the game system, I had
just returned from ROTC summer camp prior to getting my 2LT bar and
had spent most of the summer practicing infantry squad tactics, so
you would think I would have eaten this system up. However, I think
my recently acquired military experience may have in fact been the
very reason for my dissatisfaction with the game system. For the
first time in my gaming life, I felt that playing the game was
harder/more complicated than doing the real thing. I also noted that
playing out the game took more time than the activity being
simulated, and somehow that just seemed wrong to me. Also - at this
tactical level, I did not feel that the system adequately captured
the feeling of utter chaos on the battlefield - my most vivid
memories of infantry exercises were how confusing the battlefield
became and how difficult it was to communicate or even identify
friend from foe. I felt that at this tactical scale, the SL game
system provided far too much information and too great a sense of
control over the battle. Of course, maybe I was just a lousy platoon

Looking back, I think perhaps I should have given the game another
chance, at least the original SL in its stripped down original form -
it's a shame that SL is a dead system. I believe that had I
approached SL as simply a game, and not tried to approach it as a
strict simulation of squad tactics, I would have been able to enjoy
the experience. In my defense however, I will say that I think AH
marketed SL as a simulation first, hence my original approach to the
game was conditioned.

As an aside, are the ASL Starter Kits more akin to original SL, or

Andrew Young:

Before getting into the broader hobby of boardgaming (about 2 years ago) with being introduced to Euros and such, I was almost exclusively an ASL player. I started when it came out having played many SL scenarios. I can honestly say that since joining communities such as BGG and Consimworld I´ve been exposed to such a wide variety of war and other games. My ASL playing has gone down but this is a good thing for me right now. I will say this though - ASL is an amazing game with endless fun and excitement. There is a large group of gamers that stick their nose to it or claim SL was enough. They are wrong. I do, however, know that it is a game-system that takes a long time to master. So? I´ll be playing games for the next 40 years. I´ve got the time to play it.

Mike von Ahnen:

Some people don't want to invest the time or effort in hundreds of pages or rules, covering this detail and that. Just because a game is complicated, does not make it
good. There is a satisfaction for some in learning and playing a
complicated game system, but it is not for everybody.

I stand by my preference of the original Squad Leader system and I
don't think it is wrong . One of my biggest gripes on ASL was
the way it was introduced. After several years of investment in a
game system that in my opinion was good at the start and was getting
worse, I was instructed by AH to throw it all away and start over again.

I am sure if invited to play a game of ASL I would give it a try, but
that is long way from investing my own money in the game. I doubt
that I would be pleasantly surprised of the experience.

Andrew Young:

Here’s a run-down of what happens in ASL:

ASL is an I go/You go game with some minor exceptions. An exception to my statement rule already with ASL! 8-) The game is played in game turns that are comprised of 8 phases. Each game turn has 2 player turns. The scenarios or CGs are a certain amount of game turns as indicated on the scenario cards, though variable length games are common as well. Let’s take it phase by phase but first start with scenario setup:

Scenario Set up:
ASL uses scenario cards to outline the specific action being played. The scenario card has all the information the 2 players need to fight the battle from Victory conditions to map configuration to units involved (infantry is represented by individual squads of about 10 men, 1/2 squads and crews while guns and armor are individual field pieces and tanks) or to special rules including any weather conditions. The scenario cards even have historical information about what actually occurred in the battle during WWII. Pretty cool.

After determining sides the players review their portion of the scenario card. In this area of the scenario card one has all the information needed about their forces (both the size and types), setup parameters, Sniper Activation Number (SAN) and Experience Level Rating (ELR). The player that is defending sets up first (usually) followed by the attacker.

When both players have setup up the game is ready start with player 1. Its usually the attacker in the scenario that is player 1. He begins his player turn of Turn 1 by executing the following sequence of play:


This phase tends to be abbreviated in turn 1 as it is the phase in which one tries to “rally” their broken troops and fix their equipment. Though, there are many other things one can do in the rally phase. I’ll touch upon a few. If one has reinforcements scheduled, one sets them up to enter the playing surface in the rally phase. Also, the player checks for “Wind Change” which is a roll of 2 dice: wind can pick up or change direction, rain can stop or intensify (if its already raining), etc. There are many other things this DR can affect but those are the 2 major ones. Wind is important because it can affect the SMOKE on the board, blowing it away or into your face! As I said, however, the main purpose of this phase is to have your leaders attempt to talk troops back into the battle- during the game you face attacks from your opponent. These attacks can result in what are called morale checks- i.e. These are DRs based upon the unit’s morale level. If you fail them your units flip over to their broken side and must rout (move) away from enemy units. They stay in this broken and useless state unwilling to return to the front unless a leader rallies them back to the cause! This is done via a DR as well with modifiers for terrain cover and leadership. In addition, during the course of play equipment can break (usually when you roll a 6,6) from use. My machine guns always break the moment the enemy begins an attack! Mortar tubes can jam, 76 long barrel guns can malfunction, etc. etc. Equipment can be permanently disabled as well. Yikes! But, that is the gist of the rally phase.

Next comes the

In this phase the active player chooses which units will fire their respective weapons. This is important b/c if units prep fire they may not move in the next phase- MOVEMENT. There are other things done in this phase as well- radio guys can attempt to gain radio contact and battery access to bring in artillery barrages (its called offboard artillery), equipment that is SMOKE capable can attempt to fire smoke rounds. In all these phases there are strict orders of things as well. For example, if you want to do the above two things you have to attempt SMOKE first, then radio contact. In addition, there are many changes to game counters and the board during each phase that must be done- like flipping counters to their other side to progress their state or removing counters if their affects are worn off. But, again, the main purpose of this phase is to fire your weapons to inflict damage on his units.


This is the phase where the other player may get involved in what is called DEFENSIVE FIRST FIRE. Basically, as you move he may choose to fire his units at you. Again, there is a subsequence of play in this phase as well. For example, you must move all of your berserk units first. Berserk units are ones that went stark raving mad in the process of taking a morale check!! They just couldn’t handle the stress and are now pretty fired up to meet the enemy in close combat. 8-) So, these guys get a berserk counter (raising their morale to a 10 while they charge the nearest enemy stack!!) and have to move first in this phase. Whole scenarios can go by without having any berserk units as it can be rare- one must roll a 1,1 on a morale check and then a subsequent DR that has modifiers to it- Russians, Italians and Japanese having a more likely chance to berserk!). Ok, so those units that did not prep fire are available for movement. One can choose which units to move and in which order. While you move you count out the cost in Movement Factors (MFs, infantry) or Movement Points (MPs, armor, vehicles) for each hex. This gives your opponent time to decide if he is going to fire at you as you move hex to hex. When to fire and when not to fire as someone moves is very key and one of the challenges of the game. The Defender can really affect the moving player’s plans by pumping lead into key hexes or choke points. In addition, one must have fire discipline and not waste one’s ammo on decoys- using 1/2 squads to run up ahead to draw fire is a common tactic by an attacking player. Save the shots for the things you need to kill or impede!

This is the defending player’s turn to fire his stuff at the player that was just moving. You can do very similar things in this phase- drop smoke, check to see if your artillery can come down, etc. Because each player turn represents about two minutes in actual time it makes sense that this phase is included in the sequence. Think of it as all kinda happening at the same time with a lot of chaos ensuing- just like in reality.


The gist of this phase is simple- those units that moved this turn may now fire, albeit in a more limited manner. Units that were PREP FIRED are still not allowed to fire again. But, the units that moved can do so- usually this means their fire is limited in range and in strength (i.e. They must 1/2 their firepower). Again, like in all phases there are other things that can or must be done but I won’t go into them. Well, I’ll share 1 or 2 of them! 8-) This is the phase that you check to see if BLAZES have spread- unlikely or hard to do (again, determined via DRs) but in some CG scenarios of Red Barricades I’ve seen 5 hex stone buildings with cellars, ground, first and second floors totally ablaze! Smoke everywhere with Germans and Russians all over the place. Stalingrad, what a hell hole that was!


Both players (the attacker first followed by the defender) move their broken units to cover (if they can!). Broken units would have become broken in any of the fire phases above due to the attacks. The rout rules can give new players some grief. Determining which hexes one is allowed to go into while moving away from enemy units can be difficult. But, it’s cool!! If units can’t rout they are eliminated. But, that’s never happened to me. ;-)


Once again there are many little things the active player can do in this phase but the meat of it is that every infantry unit that is in good order may advance one hex. This is incredibly important to get units into terrain if they didn't have enough MFs to do it during movement. Sometimes this means jumping into the hex with some enemy units!!


If you are the IJA it is where you make your money! This phase is primarily concerned with conducting an combat between enemy units that occupy the same hex. In addition, and once again, there many other things associated with the phase. The active player may conceal units (a very cool aspect of the game) that meet the criteria for concealment. Also, the active player may attempt clearance on certain things that are in his way- wire, mines (look out!), set demolition charges (look out more!), etc. If playing a Night scenario (which is so cool I can’t even contain myself!), one must remove their Starshells and Illumination Rounds.

After this the next player conducts his turn in this order. Once that is done the Game Turn is moved to Turn #2. Etc. etc. I’ve got to go see a doctor.. My wrists just snapped off. 8-)

Mike von Ahnen:

Thanks for the detailed description, I think this will be very helpful
in introducing ASL to the non-players.

Would it be safe to say that the only difference between the ASL
Starter Kits and the full game system is that the Starter Kits are a
subset of the rules?

Michael Gouker:

This is from the Multiman Publishing site:

There is only Infantry. There are only Germans (no 658s or 838s), Russians (not 628s), and Americans (Army).

The only terrain types on ASLSK#1 boards y and z are:
 Open ground
 Roads
 Woods
 Woods-roads
 Grain (no plowed fields)
 Orchards
 Single level buildings

There is no rubble, no entrenching, no fortifications, no flames or blazes, no wind, and no weather.

The only Support Weapons are Machine Guns, Flamethrowers, and Demolition Charges (placed only, not thrown or set)

There are no:
 Ordnance or vehicles
 Random Selection ties
 Crews or Heroes
 Deploying or Recombining
 Minimum Move, Infantry Overrun, Bypass movement, late Double Time, or Dash
 Overstacking or Recovery from broken unit
 Encirclement
 Opportunity Fire, Spraying Fire, Triple Point Blank Fire, Field of Fire, or Fire Lanes
 Random SW Destruction or dismantled SW
 Voluntary Break
 Withdrawal or Infiltration
 Concealment, Searching, or Mopping Up
 Cavalry, Snipers, Heat of Battle, or Battle Field Integrity
 Disruption, Ammunition Shortage, Surrender, or Prisoners
 White Phosphorous
 Commissars or Human Wave (or other nationality distinctions besides those inherent in the counters)

The only Control definition is Building Control, and Victory Points are not defined outside of a particular scenario.

Andrew Young:
Yes, the Starter Kits streamline the rules and focus on getting people to learn the sequencing and the mechanics. For example, there aren’t levels in the SKs. Everything is ground level so it is easier to calculate line of sight (LOS). Also, Snipers are removed from the SKs- they aren’t that hard at all but again, not necessarily needed to know how to play.

Kim Beattie:

ASL is a game system that tends to bring the extremes in people. Some people love the system and think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread and that all other games should be trashed as one devotes ones entire life to ASL. Others feel that ASL is an overly complicated game that sacrifices playability for complexity.

Personally, I don't care for ASL. I feel the game is overly complex, requires too much of investment to get started (ASLSKs not withstanding) and, in my aging years, I tend to avoid traditional "hex and counter" games. Furthermore, I personally don't like games where the status counters often outnumber the actual unit counters in play. Too many charts, tables and DRMs. That kind of system just doesn't interest me any more.

Oh, and don't bother trying to claim that ASL is an "accurate, realistic simulation." That's BS. No game is an accurate simulation of anything and just because ASL is complex does not mean it's accurate or realistic. (A pet peeve of mine that applies to games other than ASL as well...)

I like Squad Leader because John Hill managed to create the "feeling" of squad level combat without sacrificing playability. How many of you remember when Squad Leader was first published? The game was being played by everyone. It swept through the gaming community as "the hot new game". Boy, those were the good old days. Who thought they'd ever end?

Andrew Young:

Fair enough criticism of ASL.

I´ve played ASL for many years but am not an ASL fanatic as I suck at it. 8-)

I do, though, disagree that it doesn´t simulate squad level combat during WWII well. Of course it does, and the rules are exactly why it does - the game takes into account weather, terrain, levels, range or weapons, varying thickness of armor, differing morale levels of the combats, Russian human waves, American greenness at the start of the war, etc. The game has elite units with better firepower and range down to conscripts that run at the first sign of trouble. This is a Great simulation of WWII. It has most of the different types of tanks used in the war not just general armor units. Again, this makes for a great simulation. The Russian squads barely get smoke compared to Americans who have better smoke grenade capability. This is generally accurate for WWII in that the Russians rarely have this capability or rarely used these tactics favoring others.

Is the game completely accurate or realistic of WWII? No, it´s a game. Perhaps, though, it gets you closer to that 1/100 of a percent more than any other game system while others may get you 1/100000 of a percent of accuracy leaving the rest up to your mind.

And, no one was told to stop making SL scenarios. You can find them on the internet. A business decision was made to invest in ASL from 1985 onward. Though, 3rd party firms (the real strength and breadth in the ASL system, IMO) could have certainly continued to make SL modules, campaigns, etc, they haven´t.

I can´t deny that the game and what it is - large and complex. The rulebook is written poorly which dissuades new gamers from learning it, the cost of entry is larger (though some miniatures systems suck $$ from people at a similar rate) than most (disregarding the Starter Kits), and finding opponents can be difficult.

I don´t think I said that the game was good ‘cos it was complicated... I love all levels and weights of games. ASL is a wonderful game though I play less nowadays due to finding so many other wonderful games. I can always come back to ASL as the system is constantly growing.

Skip Franklin:

I've owned SL, ASL and have the starter kits.

The programmed learning of SL did not work for me. I tried Scenario #1 and
didn't get it. Tried #2 with same result. Tried #3 which is #1 & #2 put
together. It only caused me more confusion. I went to Scenario #12 and it
started to make sense using all the rules. It seemed like too much work and I
sold the whole mess. Due to living in Germany at the time I ended up getting a
second copy and kept it for a while playing from time to time with other gamers
but it never caught on with me. I traded off the second set. Later ASL came out.
I tried again. It seems to me that a solo player will never learn the game
system. One needs help. I did enjoy ASL better then SL due to it having a
revamp. The rulebook was very interesting to me. I did enjoy a scenario (#?)
where my Finns escaped from the Soviets while the town burned down around us.
The infantry is fun to play. Tanks are interesting and I never really got my
head around the artillery rules. I traded ASL off. I have to first two starter
kits and have no idea why.

Mike von Ahnen:

I do feel that ASL did ruin a perfectly fine game SYSTEM in SL. Cross
of Iron was an absolute requirement to take an infantry focused game
and create a good, but still straight forward combined arms tactical
system. Beyond that, Avalon Hill fiddled with a the system and added
complexity and it could be argued, the level of simulation in the
games system.

The reality was Avalon Hill did abandon Squad Leader. The move to
Advanced Squad Leader was not a parallel effort, but starting over.
In a similar manner of how The Russian Campaign replaced Stalingrad,
ASL became the replacement for SL. Absolutely no mindshare was ever
given to SL after the ASL introduction.

It appears to me that Avalon Hill did not feel comfortable just
releasing expansions to the Squad Leader game, there had to be changes
and additions. I guess they felt that if the rulebook was not as
thick as the counter sheets, that the customer would feel slighted. I
feel the MMP has done a much better job of this. They are supporting
the ASL game system without having to gut it and make wholesale
changes. I just wish AH would have done the same for SL.

Who holds the rights to the Squad Leader games? Is it MMP or are they
still at Hasbro. Hum.

David Seddon:

I’ve got nothing against ASL, but I never felt the need to cross over into it. For me, there was plenty in SL as it was. The system was pretty detailed and just didn't want anything extra.

As I've said before, SL is not really that different from a good set of figure rules. And anyone who's played figures of any kind, or simulating any era, will know there is always a big trade-off between playability and depth. For me, SL got that about right. That doesn't mean that I really love SL as one of my fav games. Actually, I don't. Within that level of detail, I prefer to play with figs and a good set of rules.

However, it has to be said, that for those who don't want to play figs, SL about hit a particular nail on the head…playability vs detail.

I know that those who love ASL wax lyrically about it, and since I've never got beyond a glance at those humongous rules, I can't say much more than the above. Who knows I may enjoy it as I try…but you know how it is, as you get older (hey, even in your early 40s!) you tend not to bother getting into something as big as that.

Andrew Young:

Well, this is obvious but needs to be said: ASL is current and is supported. It is a living system constantly expanding and providing. So, it's better than SL in that regard- i.e. it's a living community of gamers. If someone is really looking for a tactical level WWII game and wants to be a part of something current, ASL is a great choice.

Mike von Ahnen:

I guess Squad Leader needed a Curt Schilling equivalent. But it is
doubtful that Avalon Hill then, or MMP now (assuming they own the
rights to SL also) would be interested in selling the rights to a
competing game system to ASL.

Ah what would have been.

David Seddon:

Yeah, good points.

But what was it about ASL that made folks want to trade up from SL at the time? Was it just the extra detail? Scenarios, maps, pieces, maybe?

Ken Feldman:

I loved Squad Leader during my first phase of gaming in the
late '70s and early '80s. My first wargame ever, Starship Troopers,
had programmed instruction and counters representing individual
troopers and their support weapons. The fact that Squad Leader
shared those traits made it a natural for me.

One of the best features of squad leader was the quasi-role playing
rules you could use with the scenarios that came in the game or the
DYO (design your own) scenarios you made up. You could start as an
inexperienced (6+1) leader and work up to a much better leader by
earning points in the game.

Squad Leader featured playability over "realism". It was World War
II as seen in the movies, and remember, this was 25 years
before "Saving Private Ryan". The group I played with was
competitive, but we enjoyed moves made for fun, like squads close
assaulting tanks, even if they weren't going to help win the
scenario. We had 5 like-minded people who really enjoyed the game.

I eagerly awaited Cross of Iron. Although I was disappointed that
the American AFV counters were now obsolete, I felt the additional
rules like armor leaders, forested roads (new terrain on board 5) and
the ability to have the turret covered arc face a different
direction then the vehicle made up for it. I looked forward to a
future module with upgrade Americans.

Instead, we got Crescendo of Doom. Okay, the French and British were
cool, and the river terrain with those scenarios was interesting,
but the additional rules were getting to be quite cumbersome. Games
seemed to take longer, and the Amis were still missing in action.
Our group was now down to the three hard-core grognards who stuck
through CoD. (Our gaming group was still 7 strong, but only 3 of us
were playing the SL series games.)

Then GI came out. The Americans were back! The new rules however
made all of the previous
infantry counters obsolete. So you could play US vs Germans, but
that was it. Plus there were some changes made to the defensive
fire for "realism" sake, but the games were taking longer. One
player dropped out, and the two of us who stuck with the system only
played a few of the scenarios. We no longer did the DYO work or the
role-playing. The joy had left the system.

Finally, ASL came out. We were lead to believe that this would
streamline the system and provide consistency to the rules.
Instead, the rules were an unlearnable encyclopedia. And, once
again, no Americans were in the first module. Plus, all previous
counters were obsolete. My friend who had stuck with the system had
gone to a different college then I was at, and none of the guys I
gamed with wanted to try ASL. So I threw in the towel. After having
ASL, Beyond Valor and Paratroopers sit on my shelf for years, they
all went in the dumpster when I got married and got rid of my old
games. (This was in 1993, before I discovered eBay.)

In 2002, I reacquired Squad Leader. After playing the first 2
scenarios, I told myself, why learn an obsolete system when ASL is
available? So I started collecting modules, got the rules, and
downloaded the programmed instructions from the MMP website. My
New Years resolution for 2003 was to learn ASL.

I got through the first 3 lessons of programmed instructions. There
are exceptions to everything, and random events that can happen on
any almost any roll of the dice (snipers, cowering, breakdowns, heat of battle, etc...)
Sure, the concealment rules are
cool, but they slow everything down. It's a highly interactive
game, but at heart it's I-go, U-go with penalties if you don’t do
things in certain phases. (For example, your infantry fire-power is
halved if you shoot during your fire phase instead of your prep fire
phase, and guns have a +2 modifier if they shoot in the offensive
fire phase instead of the prep fire phase, even if they don't
move.) This leads to some analysis paralysis as you have to plan
when your units are going to shoot and/or move.

I played five infantry-only solitaire scenarios, some several times,
and one face-to-face combined arms scenarios with some experienced
ASL-ers. When I got to the off-board artillery rules, I took a break
and tried a game in the Advanced Tobruk System (ATS), D-Day Rangers.

Compared to ASL, ATS plays faster, is easier to learn and has much
less die rolling. I've been told by people who play both that the
armor system in ATS is much better than ASL, although I don't know
for sure because I never got that far in learning ASL. All I know
is that I find ATS much more enjoyable than ASL.

ASL has a huge following, but when the system adherents tell you
it's the ultimate game, be sure to ask them which other systems
they've tried. Have them give you a good comparison on ease of
learning, time to play scenarios and what it will cost you to get
into the system. If possible, have them teach you, it will save you
a lot of the headaches I experienced.

I did briefly own ASL Starter Kit #2. It has really nice production
values (although the maps and counters are smaller than ATS games)
and looked like it would be a good intro to the system. However, it
leaves a lot of ASL rules out, and going from the Starter Kit to full
ASL will take a lot of work.

Mike von Ahnen:

About 50% of the Avalon Hill mindshare seemed to be focused on this game. Given
the size of the project, it is understandable. But the result was
that most of the General articles that were not on the "game of the
month" were ASL articles. Almost all of the inserts were new ASL
scenarios (some of which I did play with Squad Leader).

But it came down was it worth it to me to invest as much money in one
game as I had in all of my previous games combined for a game system
that was already getting too complex for me. I could not justify it,
given that I had probably only played about a half a dozen games with
an opponent, the rest being solitaire. I was the crazy man for playing
a game as complicated as Squad Leader, let alone ASL.

So in my view, if you liked what was done in Crescendo of Doom and GI
Anvil of Combat, ASL was the natural next step. If you did not, it
was time to look elsewhere for your games.

Andrew Young:

Good thoughts.

I certainly understand those that decided not to get into ASL because of the investment. It is a lifestyle. However, many people weren’t turned off by the $ but by the change to the system - they would have been fine with more SL modules and spending cash on those.
The detail in ASL is incredible. Which does lend to complexity and with the exceptions to many rules be they terrain or otherwise it can turn people off. I understand that but think that, like most things, once you get into it the game becomes de-mystified. But, as many have said its this type of complexity that turns people off.
Some of the scenarios really give the feel for the atmosphere of WWII. The variety of scenario victory conditions is so cool. In you example above you could be the Russians or Americans and need to clear all stone buildings of Germans while exiting off a certain amount of VCs off the north road. Or, you may need to just hold a certain building cluster, or hold a certain LEVEL of a building cluster. You can have scenarios in which you need to clear a road, need to exit infantry, need to kill enemy units, etc. It is endless. And the problems faced are endless as well. You may have armor and infantry but are up against much better armor that you have NO shot of killing with frontal Armor Piercing rounds. So, what did the designer give you those tanks for? Smoke? Machine guns that can be scrounged and ported to upper level positions? Etc.
And, great thoughts, Ken. ASL is a lot of work. And the rules are difficult, indeed. Being taught ASL is the way to go, I agree. I think the Starter Kits will help some but not all. I taught someone the game a few weeks ago with a starter kit scenario and he’s been hounding me to play more. He is an old wargamer and had always wanted to try ASL but never did due to all the issues mentioned in these threads. With direction though, he really loved it and realized concepts much quicker.

Kim Beattie:

I liked Squad Leader and would have been content to play the original game forever. I feel that the expansion games were a mistake. (A mistake that more than one game, *cough* Starfleet Battles *cough*, has fallen victim too. I would have been happy if Avalon Hill had simply continued to support the original Squad Leader with additional scenarios and a FAQ. While I did purchase Cross of Iron, Crescendo of Doom and Anvil of Victory, I never did bother playing COD and AOV is still unpunched. I would not have continued to purchase additional expansion kits. (Have I mentioned my dislike of expansions that simply add complexity to the basic game system?)

Michael Gouker:

For what it’s worth, you are certainly not alone. I have been waiting to make my comments because I thought someone would appear that knew more than I did about ASL, because I am certainly no expert either. But I will say that I really have enjoyed my ASL experience (and not just because the two people that I gamed with were excellent fellows – who (by the way) I miss). I have yet to play any of the starter kits. I am sorely tempted though.
First of all, it is a stunningly detailed game. Rules for nearly every possible aspect of field battle are described in meticulous detail. There are rules for smoke grenades, wire, entrenchments, lumberyards, you name it: it’s there.
The game play is a very simple concept. You have some guys (single soldier counters or small groups), some guns, and a scenario that has detailed geography. The other guy does too. You play “I go – You go”. There are tables and rules for nearly every possible contingency. The scale is 40m to a hex.
This description doesn’t do the system justice, though. There is an unbelievable about of realism (even though it’s not really “realism”, is it?) in the system and tremendous tension. When you play a scenario about cleaning out a city of Nazi soldiers, you move from building to building trying not to get shot. If you have to take out a gun manned by a small group of soldiers, you have to figure out how to penetrate their defense without being crushed. And, it’s funny… with this game it really feels different.
I have tremendous admiration for ASLers who know the rules. I wish my time constraints would allow me that level of mastery. In addition, for those who have taken their time to proselytise the game to me, I am grateful (though I know that I haven’t corresponded to their time investment). I do intend to get better – hey, Andrew, maybe we can VASL this sometime?
Anyway, I just wanted to add my voice (weak as it is) to the small chorus of supporters. Most of the criticism about ASL comes from people that have never played it or played it once. Criticism from a group of people who (despite their knowledge in wargames) do not know ASL means nothing. We are all gaming nerds, one way or another.
Also, people focus on the expense of ASL, but the game has a hundreds of scenarios now. What more can you ask for?
I like the game and wish I could play it more. So little time…

Kim Beattie:
Prior to the ASLSKs, it wasn't really possible to "try" ASL. I mean who wants to take the time to read -- what? two hundred pages of rules, just to try out a game? Not to mention that for a good period of time the base set (and rules, for that matter) were out of print.

I don't need to play ASL to know that I won't enjoy the game or appreciate the design. I can tell from looking at the rulebook, scenarios, and watching a few games played that ASL will take a level of commitment that I am not willing to give. Playing a game where the status markers often outnumber the unit counters is not my idea of fun. I'm just not interested in that level of detail and complexity.

I'm not trying to say that ASL ruined SL. SL was ruined by the trend towards more complexity and detail at the expense of playabiity. ASL is just the embodiment of that trend. I'm just not interested in playing a game as complex and detail oriented as ASL.

A lot of folks like ASL. More power to them. I hope they enjoy playing the game. Some ASL-ers say that it is the best game ever and everything else is crud. I cannot agree with that and will argue against it whenever I see it.
Andrew Young:
Yes, anyone that says ASL is the best game ever and everything else is crud is not someone I would listen to but ASL is a great game.

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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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Discussion Pt 2:

Michael Gouker:

Another thing that needs to be discussed is the overall nature of ASL from a gamer’s perspective. Most prospective players of ASL have no idea what the different components of the system are. They also don’t know how much it is going to cost to build an ASL collection they can play. The Starter Kits are the obvious solution for this, but once they have been digested, the question “What next?” is bound to be raised. To address this, I wish to discuss the different components of the game.

ASL was one of the three “Advanced” titles of Avalon Hill, along with Advanced Civilization and Advanced Third Reich. As Michael and some others mentioned before, it was a redesign of the Squad Leader system, which became convoluted after the gamettes were published. It now consists of a rulebook with these chapters (A, B, C, D, E, H (German/Russian), J, K (Days 1-8)) and 12 different modules:

1. Beyond Valor
2. Paratrooper
3. Yanks
4. Partisan!
5. West of Alamein and For King and Country (5a and 5b)
6. The Last Hurrah
7. Hollow Legions
8. Code of Bushido
9. Gung Ho!
10. Croix de Guerre
11. Doomed Battalions
12. Armies of Oblivion

Beyond Valor is based on the Eastern Front and includes the full order of battle for Russians and Germans, as well as some partisans and Finnish units. Beyond Valor has the following scenarios:

ASL Scenario 1 Fighting Withdrawal
ASL Scenario 2 Mila 18
ASL Scenario 3 Czerniakow Bridgehead
ASL Scenario 4 Commisar’s House
ASL Scenario 5 In the Sight of the Volga
ASL Scenario 6 Red Packets
ASL Scenario 7 Dash for the Bridge
ASL Scenario 8 The Fugitives
ASL Scenario 9 To the Square
ASL Scenario 10 The Citadel
ASL Scenario 123 The Borders are Burning
ASL Scenario 124 On the Borderline
ASL Scenario 125 First Crisis at Army Group North
ASL Scenario 126 Commando Schenke
ASL Scenario 127 Land Levianthans
ASL Scenario 128 Defense of Luga
ASL Scenario 129 Slamming of the Door
ASL Scenario 130 Debacle at Korosten
ASL Scenario 131 Penetration of Rostov
ASL Scenario 132 Hill 253.5
ASL Scenario 133 Block Busting in Bokruisk
ASL Scenario 134 Counterattack on the Vistula
ASL Scenario 135 Acts of Defiance
ASL Scenario 136 Agony of Doom

Beyond Valor has these maps:

1-5, 8, 20-23

Paratrooper: This is now obsolete. It consisted of a different set of counters than BV that allowed scenarios of the Normandy Invasion to be played. There were 8 scenarios and you needed maps 1 & 3 of Squad Leader to play. No maps are included.

ASL Scenario 11 Defiance on Hill
ASL Scenario 12 Confusion Reigns
ASL Scenario 13 Le Manoir
ASL Scenario 14 Silence That Gun
ASL Scenario 15 Trapped!
ASL Scenario 16 No Better Spot to Die
ASL Scenario 17 Lost Opportunities
ASL Scenario 18 The Roadblock

You will occasionally see Paratrooper and the ASL v1 Rulebook on EBay as an alternative to Beyond Valor and ASL v2 Rulebook. Don’t buy it. ASL v2 rulebook and Beyond Valor are the way to go. I will say more about this later, but everything that Paratrooper gave you, the starter kits do as well, and they do a better job of it. Paratrooper doesn’t require Beyond Valor, which was very important when BV was out of print. Now that it is readily available, there is no reason to purchase Paratrooper.

Yanks: This is the American OOB. Along with a bunch of counters, it includes Chapter E & H (American) and these maps: 16, 17, 18, 19. It includes all of these scenarios:

ASL Scenario 19 Backs to the Sea
ASL Scenario 20 Taking the Left Tit
ASL Scenario 21 Among the Ruins
ASL Scenario 22 Kurhaus Clash
ASL Scenario 23 Under the Noel Trees
ASL Scenario 24 The Mad Minute
ASL Scenario 25 Gavin's Gamble
ASL Scenario 26 Tanks in the Street

Note that 3 of these scenarios also require SL maps 7 & 12 to play. You also need Beyond Valor for the German OOB.

Partisan: This is another obsolete module. It is replaced by Armies of Oblivion, which also has the OOB of all minor axis forces. Partisan has the following scenarios:

ASL Scenario 27 The Liberation of Tulle
ASL Scenario 28 Ambush!
ASL Scenario 29 The Globus Raid
ASL Scenario 30 Sylvan Death
ASL Scenario 31 The Old Town
ASL Scenario 32 Subterranean Quarry
ASL Scenario 33 The Cossacks are Coming
ASL Scenario 34 A New Kind of Foe

It has these maps (10, 32) and requires SL maps (1-4) to play.

West of Alamein: This is a module for desert play and includes overlays for Deserts and Escarpments. It has the following maps: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. It includes a chapter H for British units. It concentrates on clashes between the British and the DAK. You get a ton of British units and you also need Beyond Valor (and Yanks for four scenarios) to play. West of Alamein, unfortunately, is out of print, but you can get the British OOB from For King and Country. These are the scenarios for West of Alamein:

ASL Scenario 35 Blazin' Chariots
ASL Scenario 36 Rachi Ridge
ASL Scenario 37 Khamsin
ASL Scenario 38 Escape From Derna
ASL Scenario 39 Turning the Tables
ASL Scenario 40 Fort McGregor
ASL Scenario 41 A Bridgehead Too Wet
ASL Scenario 42 Point of No Return

The Last Hurrah: This module focuses on conflicts between the Germans and Allied Minors like Belgium and Poland. It includes board 3, 11, and 33. It includes the following scenarios:

ASL Scenario 43 Into the Fray
ASL Scenario 44 The Gauntlet
ASL Scenario 45 Revenge at Kastelli
ASL Scenario 46 Birds of Prey
ASL Scenario 47 Rude Awakening
ASL Scenario 48 Toujours L'Audace
ASL Scenario 49 Piercing the Peel
ASL Scenario 50 Age-Old Foes

You need Yanks and Beyond Valor to play this game.

Hollow Legions: The Italians are in focus here, so you get a chapter H for Italy. It comes with boards 30 and 31, but you need SL boards 4, 7, and 12, as well as West of Alamein, Beyond Valor, and Yanks to play. These are the scenarios:

ASL Scenario 51 The Taking of Takrouna
ASL Scenario 52 Too Little, Too Late
ASL Scenario 53 A High Price to Pay
ASL Scenario 54 Bridge to Nowhere
ASL Scenario 55 Retribution
ASL Scenario 56 Half a Chance
ASL Scenario 57 The Battle for Rome
ASL Scenario 58 Ci Arrendiamo

Code of Bushido: Japanese conflicts. West of Alamein, BV, and Yanks are required. You get boards 34-37. You have new terrain types and a chapter H for Japanese. Here are the scenarios:

ASL Scenario 59 Smertniki
ASL Scenario 60 On the Kokoda Trail
ASL Scenario 61 Shoestring Ridge
ASL Scenario 62 Bungle in the Jungle
ASL Scenario 63 Eastern Gate
ASL Scenario 64 Hazardous Occupation
ASL Scenario 65 Red Star, Red Sun
ASL Scenario 66 The Bushmasters

Gung Ho! – American Marine OOB, the Chinese OOB, and a host of scenarios. There are overlays for new terrains as well. You get boards 38 & 39 and these scenarios:

ASL Scenario 67 Cibik's Ridge
ASL Scenario 68 The Rock
ASL Scenario 69 Today We Attack
ASL Scenario 70 KP 167
ASL Scenario 71 Jungle Citadel
ASL Scenario 72 Sea of Tranquility
ASL Scenario 73 Hell or High Water
ASL Scenario 74 Bloody Red Beach

You need West of Alamein, BV, Yanks, and Code of Bushido.

Croix de Guerre – The French OOB, chapter H for the French, Boards 40 & 41. You need Yanks, Beyond Valor, and West of Alamein to play.

Here are the scenarios:

ASL Scenario 75 Strangers in a Strange Land
ASL Scenario 76 End of the Ninth
ASL Scenario 77 Le Herisson
ASL Scenario 78 Encounter at Cornimont
ASL Scenario 79 Bridge of the Seven Planets
ASL Scenario 80 Play Ball
ASL Scenario 81 Fratricidal Fighting
ASL Scenario 82 For Honor Alone

Doomed Battalions: Comes with boards 9, 44, and 45. Scenarios also require boards 42 and 43 from Action Pack #1, board 32 from Partisan, and boards 2 & 3 from Squad Leader. You need The Last Hurrah, Hollow Legions, Yanks, and Beyond Valor as well. These are the scenarios:

ASL Scenario 83 An Uncommon Occurrence
ASL Scenario 84 Round One
ASL Scenario 85 No Way Out
ASL Scenario 86 Fighting Back
ASL Scenario 87 Good Night, Sweet Prince
ASL Scenario 88 Art Nouveau
ASL Scenario 89 Rescue Attempt
ASL Scenario 90 Pride and Joy

For King and Country: Comes with boards 1, 7, 8, and 12. It has Chapter H for the British and the British OOB (which is a good thing since West of Alamein is tough). You need Beyond Valor and Yanks, along with these maps: 2-6, 9-11, 13, 14, and 33.

For King and Country has these scenarios:

ASL Scenario 91: Ad Hoc at Beaurains
ASL Scenario 92: Stand Fast the Guards
ASL Scenario 93: Tavronitis Bridge
ASL Scenario 94: Bofors Bashing
ASL Scenario 95: Descent into Hell
ASL Scenario 96: The Crux of Calais
ASL Scenario 97: A Desperate Affair
ASL Scenario 98: On Silent Wings
ASL Scenario 99: Probing Layforce
ASL Scenario 100: Regalbuto Ridge
ASL Scenario 101: Throwing Down the Gauntlet
ASL Scenario 102: A Point of the Sword
ASL Scenario 103: Day by the Shore
ASL Scenario 104: Hill of Death
ASL Scenario 105: Going to Church
ASL Scenario 106: Kangaroo Hop
ASL Scenario 107: Tettau’s Attack
ASL Scenario 108: Guards Attack
ASL Scenario 109: Dreil Team
ASL Scenario 110: North Bank

The map distribution is especially confusing. This is where you can find the most commonly needed maps:

1-4: Squad Leader
5: Cross of Iron
6-7: Crescendo of Doom
8: For King and Country
9: Doomed Battallions
11: The Last Hurrah
12 & 15: Anvil of Victory
17-19: Yanks
20-23: Beyond Valor
24: Paratrooper
32: Partisan
33: The Hollow Legions
34-35: Code of Bushido
39-40: Gung Ho!
44-45: Doomed Battalions
48-51: Armies of Oblivion

One of the arguments that is generally undisputed is the expense of getting started with ASL. Many of the critical parts of the game were until recently out-of-print, so prices were exorbitant. Right now, however, the Rulebook and Beyond Valor, the most important module, are available. It is worth pointing out that when they are gone, it’s back to the bad old days.

The starter kits are an excellent way to taste the system, so that you will know whether you like it or not. Assuming that you do, what does it take to have a great ASL base? Here is what I would choose:
1. The ASL Rulebook 2nd Edition: The rulebook is purchased separately from the rest of the game. This is the major stumbling block for most prospective ASLers. Their typical reaction is, “I have to buy the rulebook and I don’t even get the game!” This is, inherently, incorrect. The game is not the counters and the maps; it is the rules. The same rules work for every scenario. How many scenarios? Hundreds! You can find the rulebook for about $65 from an online retailer like Bunker Hill Games. Amortize that over the cost of all the scenarios that you can play and you will find that the return on investment is huge.
2. Beyond Valor: If you have the rulebook and Beyond Valor, you already own the greatest squad level game ever created. Beyond Valor includes the OOB of Germans and Russians, and even some Finns. There are 24 scenarios which will keep you playing for a long time. Beyond Valor lists for $95 from MMP, but you can generally find it for about $80. Note that Beyond Valor is now in print, and we waited for this to happen for years. If you have the slightest interest in ASL, you should get this now.
3. Yanks: If you want to get the American OOB, which you need for many scenarios, you need to buy the module Yanks. 8 Scenarios, the American OOB. You need Yanks to play a number of other scenarios. You can find it for about $40.
4. For King and Country: Well, you need the British too, right? You get 20 scenarios here. List prices is $80. You can find it for about $65.

That’s about $250 for 52 scenarios, or about $5 each. You also might need some maps though to play some of the scenarios. These can be ordered from MMP. With shipping and so forth, you can expect to spend approximately $300 to get started. If you can only spend half of that, at least pick up the rulebook and Beyond Valor before they go out of print again.

Now $300 is a lot of money (and so is $150), but in exchange, you get a lot of game. And if you are worried about only having 50 scenarios to play, think again! There are hundreds more, in magazines and player-created, as well as instructions to design your own. Essentially, this game is endless. When you amortize the cost of the components over the thousands of hours you can play the game, it gets very cheap.
My argument probably makes sense to nobody else but ASL-ers though. This wargaming hobby can be very strange. On Consimworld, there was just a listing for 3 games from the GCACW, “On To Richmond”, “Grant Takes Command”, and “Roads to Gettysburg”. I’ve played the first two and they are great games. If I had them, I could see myself playing them a couple times a year. Total price: $250! You think that’s high? Titan is on Ebay now for almost $200 and Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is occasionally well over that. Are they worth the price tag? Well, they are if people are willing to pay that much.
Compared to Hannibal, the ASL package I quoted before is a bargain.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I have 1.0 rules with errata written all over it and the new copy of Beyond Valor. Also, I have maps 1-4 from my Squad Leader game. With just this, I can play a lot. I am going to update my rulebook though.

Ken Feldman:
Great overview of the modules in the system. I think it needs to be
pointed out that Beyond Valour is required to play all of the other
games in the series, because it contains the system markers. You get
a few of them in the starter kits, but it didn't look like enough (or
all of them for that matter) to play most scenarios.

Aside from game play (I just prefer the impulse based system of ATS
to ASL) I find the modular system of ASL the biggest obstacle to the
system. In ATS, if I want to play some desert scenarios, I just buy
Advanced Tobruk. I get 24 scenarios, including Italians, British and
German forces, the system rules, and a basic game for $70 (about $55
through etailers). And there are 6 expansions, a couple adding the
US and French forces, available for $20 to $30 (cheaper through
etailers), each with 12 more scenarios.

To get that in ASL I would need buy, the Rulebook, Beyond Valor,
Yanks and West of Alamein. Oops, West of Alamein is out of print.

Okay, how about some Pacific Action? In ATS, I just buy Semper Fi
(Iwo Jima) or Blood and Iron (Okinawa) for $39 each (cheaper through
etailers) and go to it.

In ASL, those modules are also available. However, to play them, I
need the Rulebook, Beyond Valor (no Germans or Russians on those
islands, but need the system markers), Yanks, West of Alamien (for
the sand terrain rules), Code of Bushido (for the Japanese) and Gung
Ho! (for the US Marines).

Many people who play ASL have invested heavily in the system, and are
therefore reluctant to try other systems that have emerged since
then. They've gotten past the initial investment, learned the game,
and have opponents that they game with regularly. That's great for
them. However, people new to ASL really owe it to themselves to
explore the other systems out there, like ATS, Lock 'n' Load and the
two new ones in development, Combat Commander from GMT and Conflict
of Heroes from L2 Design Group.

Mike von Ahnen:
In comparison, here the Squad Leader games:

Squad Leader:

Infantry: German, Russian, and Americans
Weapons: Machine guns, Flamethrowers, Demo chargers, Bazooka
Artillery: Mortars, AT guns, etc (1/2" counters)
Vehicles: Limited number of vehicles (5/8" counters)

1. The Guards Counterattack
2. The Tractor Works
3. The Streets of Stalingrad
4. The Hedgehog of Piepsk
5. Hill 621
6. Escape From Velikiye Luki
7. Buchholz Station
8. The Bitche Salient
9. The Cannes Strongpoint
10. Hitdorf on the Rhine
11. The St. Goar Assault
12. The Road to Wiltz

1 - 4

Note, even in the original release of the game, the first expansion
was planned, which includes the "real" vehicle rules.

Cross of Iron:

Infantry: SS units, Axis Minors, Cavalry units, AFV leaders
Weapons: Panzerfaust (different versions), German Bazookas,
Molotov cocktails
Artillery: 5/8" counters for non-man portable pieces
Vehicles: All German and Russian vehicles

13. The Capture of Balta
14. The Paw of the Tiger
15. Hube's Pocket
16. Sowchos 79
17. Debacle at Korosten
18. The Defense of Luga
19. A Winter Melee
20. Breakout from Borisov


Added the advanced AFV rules, Cavalry, Partisans, Ground support aircraft.

Crescendo of Doom:

Infantry: British, French, and Neutrals
Weapons: Same as before, but includes nationalities above
Artillery: Same as before, but includes nationalities above
Vehicles: French and British (not including the US built ones)

21. Battle for the Warta Line
22. The Borders Are Burning
23. Silent Death
24. Action at Balberkamp
25. Resistance at Chabrehez
26. Assault on a Queen
27. The Dinant Bridgehead
28. Counterstroke at Stonne
29. In Rommel's Wake
30. Ad Hoc at Beaurains
31. Chateau de Quesnoy
32. Rehearsal for Crete

6 - 8

Added rules for river crossings, paratroopers, and rules such as
Bypass movement.

GI Anvil of Combat:

Infantry: US, Hero's, Snipers, Scouts
Weapons: Same as before, but includes move variations
Artillery: Same as before
Vehicles: US and British (including the US built ones)

33. A Belated Christmas
34. Climax at Nijmegen Bridge
35. The French Decide to Fight
36. Weissenhof Crossroads
37. Medal of Honor
38. The Factory
39. Sweep for Bordj Toum Bridge
40. The Dornot Watermark
41. Swatting at Tigers
42. Bridgehead on the Rhine
43. Action at Kommerscheidt
44. Prelude to Breakout
45. Hide and Seek
46. Operation Varsity
47. Encircling the Ruhr

12 - 15

Added rules for the above mentioned Snipers, Heros, Scouts. Modified
many of the existing infantry units.

Andrew Young:
Awesome. The funny thing is that SL was/is are pretty complicated game as well. I know that many just didn't like the added complexity while others just felt that SL was good enough. But, BGG has SL as a 4.21 weight but ASL as 4.75 - it is a large delta I suppose but a 4.21 is a complicated game, indeed.

Michael Gouker:
This gives the impression, however, that Squad Leader and the subsequent gamettes were a coherent system; but in fact, they were not. By the time GI came out, many of the original counters were already rendered obsolete. As for the rules, there were numerous contradictions. The entire purpose of ASL was to redress his problem. Their success can be demonstrably verified by the fact that the 2.0 rules released by MMP are still very similar to the 1.0 rules released in 1985. It was about 20 years from Beyond Valor to Armies of Oblivion and ASL is still a remarkably cohesive system. This is a stark contrast to the development of Squad Leader.
I can accept a lot of the arguments against ASL. Before the Starter Kits, it was true that you had to read 4 chapters of the rulebook to play and that is about 120 pages of pretty complicated acronym-packed language. That’s a serious investment of time and energy.
It’s true that the games are as expensive - though I think the rulebook and BV are cheaper than Squad Leader and the 3 gamettes.
There is little downtime in an ASL game though. The turns are fast.
There are a wealth of scenarios, and (though you might have to add a few more chapters of the rulebook for desert warfare or paratroops, etc) you can play them all with the same rules.
And, if life style is brought up again, I dare anyone to invite someone who is not a gamer to have a look in your game room and ask them if they think you might have some life style issues. We are all, each of us, enjoying a remarkable hobby. There is no need for marginalization.
Andrew Young:
With some of the excellent 3rd party material out there you can continue to buy ASL stuff as you want more. I’ve spent a lot of money on it over the last 20 years in modules, 3rd party offerings, plano cases, etc. etc.

But, I’ve recently sold some of the rare 3rd party stuff that fetches a pretty penny. No sense in just having it around if I’ve already played them scenarios. There are infinite scenarios.

Kim Beattie:
I am intrigued by what I've heard about the ATS system. Since it’s supposed to have similarities with ASL, I’d like to mention it briefly. Local ASL players who claim to be familiar with ATS say that the ATS rules, to put it mildly, "suck!". They claim that in ASL, the rules may be complex but they are complete and concise.

I'll open up this question to everyone: Are the rules for ATS good, bad, adequate? Are there obvious problems with the ATS rules? Does the ATS publisher have a history of publishing incomplete rule sets?

From what I've seen, ATS and ASL are similar enough to use the same map boards and scenarios are almost interchangeable... Beyond the the fact that ATS is an impluse system, are they many differences between the two systems? Anyone will to do a "side-by-side" comparison of the two systems?

Ken Feldman:
The short answer is "no, the Advanced Tobruk Series (ATS) rules
don't suck". Take a look at the ratings for Advanced Tobruk, the
oldest game in the series, on BGG. You'll notice some people
complaining about the rules, but it's currently ranked around 60 in
the wargame rankings, about equivalent of most games in the Great
Campaigns of the American Civil War series.

More importantly, many people who used to play ASL now play ATS
instead of ASL. Scenario designers such as Pedro Ramis and Dan
Dolan are now designing for ATS instead of ASL and are active on the
ATS section of the Critical Hit Message Board.

Like many other series games, ATS rules have changed over time. As
more people play the games, more input is given on how to improve
the system. Over time, the rules evolve. Look at the Gamers (now
MMP) series games. TCS is currently on version 3.1 with version 4.0
in development. OCS is on version 3.0 with people talking about how
to improve it. Other companies also change series rules. GMT's
Great Battle of the American Civil War is on version 4.5. (Someone
who played Terrible Swift Sword wouldn't recognize the current
edition of Three Days of Gettysburg, but IMHO, 3 DoG is far superior
to TSS.) Panzer Grenadier is on version 3.0 of the rules.

That said, version 1.0 of the Advanced Tobruk rules was reputed to
be very poor. I started playing the games in 2003 with version 1.65
of the rules and had no problems. There have been changes in the
rules, most notably with changed movement rates for infantry in
version 1.95 and a change in the modifier for shooting while moving
for vehicles in version 2.0, but the rules have been pretty stable

The most important thing for the ATS series is that even though the
rules have changed, all of the components in the earlier games are
still compatible with the rules. When Squad Leader changed rules to
Cross of Iron, then Crescendo of Doom and then GI, Anvil of Victory
and finally ASL, all previous counters were obsolete. I believe that
some ASLers even consider the early maps (1-4 and possibly even 5, 7
and 8) to be incompatible with the current state of the map art.

The current version of the Advanced Tobruk System (ATS) rules is
version 3.02 released with Mannerhiem's Cross this month. I've been
told that the only difference between it and the version 3.0 rules
released with Berlin - Red Victory are some minor clarifications.

If I were investigating tactical games today, I'd get ASL Starter
Kit #1, ATS Basic Game 1, and Lock 'n' Load Band of Heroes and try
them out. Then I'd sell or trade the two I liked the least.
Kimbo asked for a comparison of ATS and ASL. It's been four years
since I played ASL, so I cant give a good overview of that system. I
wrote a pretty detailed review of Advanced Tobruk that provides a good
overview of the ATS system that can be found in the reviews for
Advanced Tobruk on BGG.

Brien Martin did a good comparison of the two systems for the Armchair
General discussion boards, but I don't have a link for them. I rarely
read those boards anymore.
For myself, I think most people would find that ATS is easier than ASL. The
infantry basic game is 4 pages of rules and the armor basic game is
same. Basic Game II, Streets of Stalingrad, is a total of 20 pages
because it combines the two, so you get rules for overruns, infantry
close-combat with vehicles, and the terrain for Stalingrad (and lots
of examples). The rest of the rule book just fleshes that out with
extra weapons, terrain, aircraft, night, etc... It covers in 60
pages what ASL takes more than 100 to cover. All of the rules are
concisely captured on 8 charts, so once you've played a few times,
you just use the charts and don't even refer to the rulebook.

If you have the basic game, you can start playing in about 30
minutes. The sequence of play is: Indirect Fire Phase, Move and
Shoot Phase, Infiltration Phase and End of Turn Phase. At the begin
of each phase, both players roll a D10, with the low roller wining
initiative. Players then alternate taking actions during that phase.

In the Indirect Phase, players can use off-board artillery, place
smoke with on-board guns, and use aircraft. Since most scenarios
don’t have these weapons, this phase is usually skipped.

In the Move and Shoot phase, players alternate moving/and or firing
their units. The player not moving can use opportunity (defensive)
fire to shoot units that move within the line of sight of his units.
There are rules that allow platoon movement and combined platoon
movement with both infantry and vehicles, but anyone familiar with
Squad Leader or ASL would be easily able to learn these.

In the Infiltration Phase, players alternate either infiltration
movement (1 hex and the only time you can advance into an enemy
occupied space) and grenade attacks in adjacent hexes. After all
infiltration and grenade attacks are done, players resolve melees.

In the end of turn phase, markers are picked up, smoke dissipates and
players can attempt to rally broken and surrendered units.

Most scenarios are 4 to 10 turns in length and they play pretty
quickly. Since there are fewer random events than in ASL, and since
the turn isn't broken into as many separate phases as ASL, a similar
sized scenario will play quicker in ATS than in ASL.

I struggled to learn ASL through the programmed instructions on the
MMP website and the "lessons" in Chapter K. In comparison, I played
the basic game of ATS within 30 minutes of opening the game. I
played my first full rules scenario a day later and was using off-
board artillery, night rules and aircraft within a month.

Michael Gouker:
>I think most people would find that ATS is easier than ASL.

That was my impression as well, Ken. I have never played it, unfortunately, so I can’t really compare the two.
I’m actually about to teach my son ASL. I was going to use the Beyond Valor scenario, but maybe I’ll spring for the ASL Starter Kit now.

Andrew Young:
I’ve used the SKs and am currently doing an SK scenario over VASL with a guy so as to write up an instructional play-by-play. We’ll be posting it to BGG when done. I think that they are a good way to break into ASL. I think the rules (at least for SK #1) are about 6 pages. SK #1 removes a lot of the rules chrome of ASL (height, weather, seasons, snipers, firelanes, Heat of Battle, etc) and it focuses upon smaller infantry battles. I think it introduces only a few support weapons as well. So, its very manageable while showing people the basic sequence of play and how game turns unfold.

David Seddon:
OK, to more or less finish off:
For those ASL players amongst us, 2 questions:
1. What is your favourite ASL module and why?
2. Which modules would you like to see in the future?

Andrew Young:

Hey David, my favorite is always the one they just printed!

Kidding. If you are talking core modules I actually loved Code of Bushido and Gung Ho as they introduced the IJA, Pacific, and Marines. I think the pacific theatre is _very_ interesting. The rules, the tactics, the situations. The IJA is such a cool country to employ with banzai charges, no breaking (they step reduce instead and keep coming at you), knee mortars, Hand to Hand combat, landing craft, jungle, rice paddies, etc. Just really cool.

Historical modules would be Red Barricades- the first. Its just intense. Kampfgruppe Peiper was fun as well.

I'd love to see more historical modules and studies on specific
battles/campaigns. You name it, if it works within the system, I'd love to see it!

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Jim Cote
United States
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ASL SK#1 Primers:
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Peter Bogdasarian
United States
Dist of Columbia
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Love the parts where people give opinions on ASL (and other titles) without owning the rules or ever having played the game. That's useful stuff right there.

Ken Feldman's advice about trying ATS, ASL & Lock'n Load and keeping the one you like most strikes a chord and would be my recommended route. (with the caveat that you can download a demo of Lock'n Load if you don't want to pay for a full game)
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Jim Cote
United States
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jormungandr wrote:
Love the parts where people give opinions on ASL (and other titles) without owning the rules or ever having played the game. That's useful stuff right there.

Yes, the article should be titled "A comparison of SL and ASL by people who like SL and who have never played ASL". As useful as Fox News doing a comparison of Bush and Clinton.
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Kevin Moody
United States
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Bulbous also tapered?
Why isn't Tom Vasel a contributor to this panel?
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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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I think that's harsh, ekted. Most of the folks here who said they'd never played ASL said that that was because it was a lifestyle and cost choice. I don't think that's putting the game down. I think it's showing some of the rthings folks need to think about before getting into ASL. And to be fair, we've had folks here praising ASL to the hilt.
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Jim Cote
United States
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Admiral Fisher wrote:
I think that's harsh, ekted. Most of the folks here who said they'd never played ASL said that that was because it was a lifestyle and cost choice.

That's fine. But then they have no basis for comparison. The slant of this article is "SL is better because I've never played ASL". Ostensibly you are trying to provide information to people who have played neither and are possibly interested. I don't think you are providing a fair comparison. I haven't played SL myself, so I won't give my opinions. Perhaps if you got a few people who have played both extensively, you could provide a more overall and balanced viewpoint.
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Kevin Moody
United States
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Bulbous also tapered?
I think that's harsh, ekted.

Most of the folks here who said they'd never played ASL...
As in, most of them?

said that that was because it was a lifestyle and cost choice. I don't think that's putting the game down.

Kim Beattie writes:
I have NEVER PLAYED Advanced Squad Leader. I have no interest in the system.
Soon after, he writes:
Personally, I don't care for ASL.

Leo Zappa says:
However, for me, SL and ASL were the first AH games that crossed the
barrier from fun game to difficult exercise.
then admits
My friend Karl picked up Squad Leader and I
hoped/expected it would be a simple continuation of my progression of
wargaming enjoyment. However, it fell flat for me.
suggesting that he played some of SL and never ASL.

Mike von Ahnen writes:
So then came Advanced Squad Leader (ASL). I cannot discuss the system in
detail, because I have NEVER BOUGHT OR PLAYED IT.
Soon after, he proclaims:
I stand by my preference of the original Squad Leader system
I do feel that ASL did ruin a perfectly fine game SYSTEM in SL.

You, David, say:
I’ve got nothing against ASL, but I never felt the need to cross over into it.
and later
I know that those who love ASL wax lyrically about it, and since I've NEVER GOT BEYOND A GLANCE at those humongous rules...

Ken Feldman gives a new, expanded version of his trek from ASL to ATS by saying about ASL:
...the rules were an unlearnable encyclopedia.
and owned ASLSK#2 long enough to comment upon its components, but adds:
I've been told by people who play both that the
armor system in ATS is much better than ASL, although I don't know
for sure because I NEVER GOT THAT FAR in learning ASL. All I know
is that I find ATS much more enjoyable than ASL.

So, David, other than Andrew, would you please inform ekted which of your panel has played both SL and ASL?

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L Myrick
United States
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For those interested, an excellent resource for further ASL info is Mark Pitcavage's Desperation Morale site:
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L Myrick
United States
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Also, I've got to agree with Mr. Moody here--other than Andrew, it sounds a lot like, "I really liked Squad leader, and I don't like ASL because I knew I wouldn't like it and so I never played it."
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M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
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Looks to me like Kevin just got a 16 down 3 on a 7-0 and a stack full of Conscripts.
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Trevor Murphy
United States
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As I neophyte, I found this discussion extremely interesting- thanks, David, for posting it. I thought ASL was defended pretty well by its proponents, and that the fact that some pretty hard-core wargames couldn't even bring themselves to consider playing such a complicated game was telling. Moreover (and maybe this is ammo for the people claiming that the discussion was prejudiced) I do now feel pretty certain that I made the right choice in picking ATS over ASL.
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Jay Richardson
United States
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For a Session Report that does a great job of capturing the feel of a full ASL game, see:

Hill of Death

Perhaps others could suggest representative Session Reports for SL and ATS... giving us another way to compare these games?


To add my two cents to this discussion, I play ASL for one reason: it is more fun to play than any other game I own (except one).

Although I own a copy of SL, I have never played it... and I have not had the opportunity to examine or try out any ATS title yet... so I cannot comment on them.
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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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So, David, other than Andrew, would you please inform ekted which of your panel has played both SL and ASL?

Why certainly - Michael Gouker and Skip Franklin.

And I might add that Michael and Andrew got lots of airspace.

I might also add that I don't see a problem with an argument that affectively goes... "I might have got into this game but I didn't want to spend a lot of money or time."

Don't we make those sorts of decisions and even "less palatable ones all of the time?" I mean, I've never met Mrs Thatcher. Yet, I know that I wouldn't like her if I did. I simply do not need to meet her. It is pointless. Now go ahead and tell me there aren't personalities you've not met yet know you won't like. Go ahead and tell me that there's not games you wouldn't buy because you know you wouldn't enjoy them - Amsterdam Monopoly edition maybe??

Now if you're argument is that a lot of us have said "we've not played this game, but it's pants, so stick with SL or get ATS," then you might have a point. You quote a lot of people there, but aren't they mostly saying what I've just said, and is that wrong? In fact further aren't some of them affectively introducing a spoiler before they state their preference...something like "as for ASL, I haven't played it, so I can only give you an opinion not facts." I really don't see the problem with that. OK, maybe you'd have liked it if there weren't as many of the panel who said that, but hey would you have them say nothing if they had made a genuine answer based on observation if not experience?

Again, maybe it would be wrong if there were no voices sticking up for ASL. In fact there were more than you say and they did it very eloquently and fully. I don't think there is a lengthy attack on ASL anywhere in the post. Just a series of short "it's not for me type comments," which maybe some took a mite further - but not most.

Finally, well if you don't like this FO, wait for the next one. And this one was done in the season of holidays which means that half of our members didn't really say much.
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Michael @mgouker
United States
Pembroke Pines
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I've played both Squad Leader and ASL. I actually even own some of both - I'm just not a "completist" (and am also benefited that my friends owned way more than I could ever buy, though now that they have moved on or away, I don't get many opportunities anymore). I haven't played ATS, so I didn't comment.

Fox News? Well, to be fair (if that is a consideration at all in your argument), I think I said this during the discussion:

I just wanted to add my voice (weak as it is) to the small chorus of supporters. Most of the criticism about ASL comes from people that have never played it or played it once. Criticism from a group of people who (despite their knowledge in wargames) do not know ASL means nothing.

Quite a bit more was said, as well, and I don't mind that David left it out. My intention was to share information, not engage in an "us versus them" argument. I also tried to give good practical advice to prospective ASLers.

I'm often surprised how many people have entrenched likes and dislikes about games they never have played. As odd as it seems, this discussion actually mirrors the reality of many gamers I have encountered. Most of the time, these strong feelings evaporate in a few hours (or even minutes) of play.

In any case, I don't think it's useful to continue this line of discussion. Rather than attack their opinion, I invite you to add your own. About the games, I mean.

[edit: removed the Mr Hannity reference, as it wasn't very nice]
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M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
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I might also add that I don't see a problem with an argument that affectively goes... "I might have got into this game but I didn't want to spend a lot of money or time."

Make that a 6+1.
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(Mr.) Kim Beattie
United States
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Embrace your inner geek!
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
The Forward Observer Group had a discussion regarding Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader. The article is the editor's distillation of that discussion. No where in the articles introduction or body is it said that the purpose of the article was to compare, contrast or review either or both of the games mentioned. Certain readers have made the assumption that the purpose of the article was to compare or review the two systems and that is an erroneous assumption.

The purpose of the Forward Observer articles is to discuss the topic at hand. We never know where these discussions are going to go and we do not attempt to mold, guide or "package" the discussion. In the case of the SL/ASL discussion, it quickly became apparent that some of us in the group were not fans of ASL and we went on to explain why we liked SL. Other members of the group took a lot of time to explain how ASL worked and wrote some extensive message explaining the system. Overall I would say it was a very good and enjoyable group discussion.

The above article is not "slanted" in any direction. What you see is the result of a discussion.

Discussion about wargame related topics is the purpose of the Forward Observer articles. Discovering where those discussions lead is a fun part of participating in the discussion and sharing the results of the discussion with other interested parties.

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Peter Vrabel
United Kingdom
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Well _I_ prefer ASL over SL.

The key thing to remember is that ASL is a lot more complex that SL, and some people don't like complexity that complex. In their case it doesn't matter how good a game is, if they don't want to deal with that much compelxity, they won't like it.

ASL is for you if you want detail, counters to represent every nationality and every vehicle and every gun that fought WWII, more mapboards than you know what to do with, and literally thousands of secenarios. Not only that, you have a whole pile of magazines devoted to ASL, not to mention historical modules, and third party historical modules.

Or perhaps you don't want all that. Perhaps you just want the the rulebook, beyond valor and perhaps another core module. That's fine too, and you'll have an awful lot of game on your hands.

You could play an ASL scenario every day for...(Does some maths)...over 8 years, and by that time, they'll have produced some more. Or you could play 10 or so of the better scenarios over and over again and not get bored.

I don't know how realistic ASL is, but I do know that it _feels_, at least to me, like WWII. It captures the _spirit_ of WWII squad level combat. And it's fun.

As fun as a barrel of monkeys.

As fun as a _fun_ barrel of monkeys.
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M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
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Kim Beattie says:

No where in the articles introduction or body is it said that the purpose of the article was to compare, contrast or review either or both of the games mentioned.

David Seddon, in his introduction to the article says:

In it you will see that ASL caused a bit of a difference opinion between some of our members – maybe that’s not surprising as there’s always been a debate about SL vs ASL.

We also discuss Advanced Tobruk System (ATS) and how it compares to ASL.

We report, you decide.
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David Seddon
United Kingdom
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Hmm...the nature of BGG is to compare and to describe. In one sense, FO mirrors that, but are we talking semantics here, and if so, what's the point? Comparison for me doesn't necessarily mean that one thing is good and the other is bad, but it might mean that one is more liked than the other. I have no problem with this distinction.

The purpose of FO is never to diss one game. Having read through FO#5 again, I can't see how you think that's what happened. A few guys praised it at length and a few other guys remarked, in short form, that they'd seen it, observed it in play and that it wasn't for them. I would have thought the latter was a perfectly valid viewoint - and one that we make all the time in real life - as I said before.

Here is a little from our first thread about FO. It says a little of what we're about:

We only want to start debates, not do them all ourselves. We hope only to be of use in getting folks more interested in wargaming and particular wargames. You may well disagree with some of what we say, but we hope you’ll find some nuggets in there, too, and above all, we hope you’ll find us interesting and worthy of reading, and that you’ll want to carry on the debates we start.

I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time, but I don't think there's any need for point scoring in this debate.

FO#6 is out soon - AH Classics. Feel free to join in that debate and disagree as much as you like...but let's leave it at that.
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Leo Zappa
United States
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Sure seems like some people are getting awfully uptight about this thread! People will hopefully keep in mind that the FO series is just for fun, like the hobby in general. It's just some gamers chewing the fat about wargames, and was never advertised to be anything other than subjective, personal musings on various aspects of the wargaming hobby. I really don't get the defensive (almost hostile) tone of some of the respondents - c'mon guys, its all for fun - no need to get prickly about it!

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M. Kirschenbaum
United States
College Park
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In my view, that something is "just for fun" or a hobby (or a game) does not mean that accurate and informed opinion is not to be valued, or that the demonstrated absence of such is not to be remarked upon.

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Leo Zappa
United States
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mkirschenbaum wrote:
In my view, that something is "just for fun" or a hobby (or a game) does not mean that accurate and informed opinion is not to be valued, or that the demonstrated absence of such is not to be remarked upon.

I don't disagree - I just was a bit taken aback by the tone (rather than content) of some of the responses. There was another post that I saw that really got me thinking about this - I think Kevin posted it, but he withdrew it shortly thereafter. I would just think/hope that a debate about the content of the thread could be conducted in a light-hearted, good-humored manner. After all, we're all wargamers here, brothers in cardboard arms as it were!
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