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Subject: Squad Leader Revisited - Play this Game! rss

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しんぶん赤旗
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Closing on two years ago I played my first games of squad leader and posted a review of the game that can be found here. This was one of my first eager steps into the world of wargaming, a wonderful world where I now reside for as much time as real life allows.

Since buying Squad Leader in June 2008 and reviewing it in August 2008 I have played a bunch of other wargames including ASLSK and ASL and this, as well as having become more familiar with Squad Leader, left me feeling like a new review was necessary. So, here goes...

Squad Leader - Why You Should Play This Game

OK, despite people trying to assert otherwise, squad leader is not a "dead game", whatever that stupid expression means. I guess that there are hundreds of people playing this game all over the world and there is an active community of players here on BGG. This is important as it means that there are people that are willing and able to answer questions, suggest missions, and generally just share your enthusiasm for all things Squad Leader. The most helpful people on BGG are:
M@tthijs
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The next assertion that must my dispelled is the idea that ASL and ASLSK have made Squad Leader redundant. I strongly believe that this is not the case. ASL and ASLSK are both excellent games that I am in the process of learning to play. The more I play these games though, the more I feel that there is still a place on my game shelf, and more importantly on my gaming table, for Squad Leader. ASL (and its younger sibling ASLSK) have rules for just about everything and counters and scenarios covering every theatre of World War Two (and a few other conflicts as well). They are both also extremely complex games compared to the original Squad Leader. Squad Leader packs all of the basic rules required to play the first scenario into seven pages! That is closer to the page count of your average euro game rather than a wargame. These seven (admittedly rather dense) pages contain the rules for movement, fire, morale, leaders, and machine guns. A recipe for fun if ever I saw one. The rules for armour are five pages, anti-tank guns are just half a page, as is sewer movement! What this means for new players is that you can jump in without having to find someone to teach you the game or spending literally hours reading the rules, examples of play, and watching incredible resources such as those prepared by ASL legend and all round superhuman Russ Gifford (see http://www.russgifford.net/asl_training.htm for the reason for this high praise). Ten or twenty bucks, a rainy afternoon and a willing partner/friend/neighbour and you can be playing Squad Leader.



Being cheaper and easier are great but they are not the best reasons to play a game. A more compelling reason to play the original Squad Leader is the different feel the game has to its more acronymically blessed descendants. Squad Leader was created using the "design for effect" approach to game design, at least this is what wikipedia tells us. The way I see it is that Squad Leader is a beautifully streamlined game that is extremely deadly, more so than both ASL and ASLSK. Squad Leader has a sequence of play and body of rules that allows the player a satisfactory degree of freedom to carry out their plans without having to refer to the rulebook constantly. I am sure that this is possible with ASL and ASLK but the amount of dedicated play/study/brain power that this would require is enormous. This rambling paragraph could be summed up as follows: Squad Leader finds a perfect balance between playability, depth, and complexity.

The second aspect of Squad Leader that I find compelling is the infantry fire table (which will be referred to as the IFT from now on). In ASL and ASLSK the IFT contains an incredible variety of results. These include no result, normal morale check, modified morale checks, pin task checks, casualty reductions (from K1 to K4), and KIA (from 1KIA to the apocalyptic 7KIA) results. There is also Experience Level Rating (ELR) which causes squads and leaders to weaken as their will to fight is eroded (by failed morale checks). In Squad Leader, the IFT results are limited to no result, morale check, modified morale check, and KIA. The biggest difference between the three systems IFTs is that in Squad Leader KIA means EVERYTHING dies, not just the number of counters that precedes the KIA result in ASL/ASlSK. This means fights can be deadly. Instead of slowly being eroded through casualty reductions and ELR, units just die! I like this high stakes feel and the fact that this means games can be played with fewer counters (just the ones listed on the scenario card rather than all of the additional half squads and additional squads required by the ELR track). It also made the game easier to teach to my neighbour and after playing the first scenario he was hooked.



I guess for me I like games where there is a certain balance between playability, depth, and complexity. Squad Leader, along with other games like The Caucasus Campaignand Rommel in the Desert, finds that balance and is very enjoyable to play. Check it out!
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Doug Poskitt
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Spot on mate ... I've not long come back to Squad Leader after 20-odd years and I agree ... playing SQL gives you the feel that the scenarios as they play out are just that ... deadly!!

I've just finished a game of SQL scenario 1 - "The Guards Counter Attack" and the Germans finished the game with just one broken leader and a couple of malfunctioned LMG's ... deadly!

OK, so the game as a "game" (even solo) ended before the full 5 game turns, but the Soviets pressed on regardless.

Deadly? - for sure! Fun? - You bet!!

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Max Coffey
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Although I started with Squad Leader, the completist in me went allout for ASL. That being said, you have hit on most points why Squad Leader is still such a fine game. Thanx for the good review.

In my case, the tactical WW2 itch is scratched by ASL. I learned it early and was lucky enough to have had plenty of opponents in the critical formative years of gaming. The Toronto ASL Club, and the Canadian ASL Club have been very helpful and fun experiences.

Your recommendations for Rommel In The Desert and The Caucasus Campaign: 1942 are also great games, which I use to introduce people to wargaming. After 22 years of refusing to wargame with me, my wife just accepted a game of Rommel In The Desert with me! I'm so lucky!

I still have an unpunched copy of Fourth Edition Squad Leader ready for the time when there is a neophite gamer who I suspect does not want to "go all the way" with ASL. It will make a great gift to start their collection!
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Brian Crawford
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I am a die hard Squad Leader. I bought and tried ASL but I found it overly cumbersome for the results obtained. I like the level of abstraction SL offers and never liked GI Anvil of Victory or its complexity. I view SL and ASL as coke classic and new coke. Just because a game may be newer does not mean its better. I see Squad Leader, Cross of Iron and Crescendo of Doom as timeless classics.

Brian
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Rick Mathews
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I also agree with the review. I own virtually the entire ASL system but have not played it in many years and am seriously thinking about finally selling it all. The amount of luck given the incredible rules overhead finally rendered ASL no longer fun. Basic Squad Leader also has a high luck factor, but it's acceptable because of the much lower rules overhead. So it's good old basic Squad Leader for me (without its expansions), because as you say, it's just plain fun.
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Stephen Stewart
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Rick Mathews wrote:
I also agree with the review. I own virtually the entire ASL system but have not played it in many years and am seriously thinking about finally selling it all. The amount of luck given the incredible rules overhead finally rendered ASL no longer fun. Basic Squad Leader also has a high luck factor, but it's acceptable because of the much lower rules overhead. So it's good old basic Squad Leader for me (without its expansions), because as you say, it's just plain fun.


Agreed...Some parts of ASL are more cumbersome than needed.

However, that being said. I do believe the progression of the SL gamettes are loads of fun. Some of my fav games are in Crescendo of Doom.

The funnest games are from SL though.
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Dave Sinclair
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I was never much of a wargamer. I always preferred the other offerings that A-H had to offer. That being said, I played Squad Leader many times and always found it tense and enjoyable without being overwhelming.
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Rob Rob
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Quote:
squad leader is not a "dead game"

Certainly no more than any other of the many OOP yet regularly played wargames here on the BGG.
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M@tthijs
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Great review. And thanks for the kind honorific mentioning of my name. Although I have to correct something: I'm very active on BGG but only occassionally read the SL List and am barely present at Yahoo's SL group(s). Also, all my SL games are face to face (yeah, lucky me), meaning I'm not really an active member of the international SL community. But because of my great love for SL I try to answer each SL Q here on BGG promptly and accurately.

I have a great respect for ASL, but indeed, as you stated, the thickness of the manual overshoots the target of playability. For me, SL does a great job in giving as much realism as can be expected from a game with as little rules as possible. ASL, in my opinion, probably does a better job at the former but ignores the latter. It's the first time I read that even with all those rules, ASL feels very dice dependant. That gives me a Blackbeard shiver*)

If I want to lure people into wargaming in general, or SL in particular, I still use the TTS-scenarios, which are even easier to play than scenario 1, with the added bonus that you can play 2-3 scenarios in an evening, even with Analysis Paralysis suffering newbies (like myself).

There's nothing as addicting as being shot to pieces by the Germans in your first game and then your opponent/tweacher says: "now we'll switch sides and play Alpha-1. I'll be the Russians now, with some extra targets for you and we'll add some MGs for the Germans too."


*)I rated that game a 4 with the comment "Could've been fun, but far too many rules for too much luck". Capturing a merchant is something like a 21 steps process, while the next instant, you suddenly die of scurvy.
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Erik Syvertsen
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I agree completely; I recently was able to find a couple of deals and repurchased SL and COI and am thrilled to have them back. Many years ago I tried ASL and simply could not find anyone to play with me.

That said, though, I do own several ATS modules which I find does take care of the complexity urge quite nicely.
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j b Goodwin

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Still playing it. First got my copy in the early 1980's. Great game.
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Kenneth Stein
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I love SL because my buddies and I are IN the GI: Anvil of Victory game! Stein, Nixon, Nicely, Fuchs, Hall. Named counters as a reward for playtesting.
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Tony Cape
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I have a question... what are the TTS scenarios? I have the Squad Leader game and I never got to play it yet.... I'd like to try these....

Thanks


Tony
 
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M@tthijs
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Tactical Training Scenarios.
Made by some dedicated SL players, who where unhappy about the normal step-by-step learning the manual uses. So they made the TTS, where the steps of learning are smaller and more how a 'real' soldier would be trained: first in the 'great outdoors', using rifles. Then adding MGs, etc. While city fighting is 'advanced stuff' (unlike the regular manual, where you start in the city - and thus, was the complaint, you are never trained to maneuver properly)

You can find them on the advancephase website, under scenarios. Then click on the green block 'SquadLeader' and scroll down, it's all the stuff from 'Tactical Training Series INTRODUCTION' till 'ZE3 Hitting the Wall - 3'

Have fun!
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Scott Whiting
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I bought SL in 1989 and thought it was great. My friend also had it so we played it and it was very playable with only a bit of rules checking and great fun. I thought there was enough freedom in the game to cover most aspects of Infantry combat.
Eventually my froend went out and bought ASL rules binder, Beyond Valour,Paratrooper and Yanks. None of which ever got played. Its just too time consuming and complex. I found it a real turn off.
Why couldnt they just have expanded SL giving us more maps,units,Brittish,French,SS etc without adding loads of rules. Only the combat result table needed changed too give 1KIA 2KIA 3KIA 4KIA etc and the odd rule here and there.
Even cross of iron started adding far too much rules changes.
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John Hooper
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certa cito wrote:

Why couldnt they just have expanded SL giving us more maps,units,Brittish,French,SS etc without adding loads of rules. Only the combat result table needed changed too give 1KIA 2KIA 3KIA 4KIA etc and the odd rule here and there.
Even cross of iron started adding far too much rules changes.


Agreed. I have all 3 expansions (COI, COD and GI) and basically use the additional counters and maps with the base Squad Leader rules. The only new rules we use are for new terrain and weapon (such as ATR) types.
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Scott Whiting
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Whats needed is a few expansion packs for basic SL. One for the western front with 4 new maps ,British,French,US OB and more tank types,weapons,German Para/SS/PZgrenadiers. One for eastern front and one for the Pacific. Job done, New rules are only for the new terrains,weapons and a bit of a jazzing up of the CRT.
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M@tthijs
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certa cito wrote:
Whats needed is a few expansion packs for basic SL. One for the western front with 4 new maps ,British,French,US OB and more tank types,weapons,German Para/SS/PZgrenadiers. One for eastern front and one for the Pacific. Job done, New rules are only for the new terrains,weapons and a bit of a jazzing up of the CRT.
About the CRT:

what I miss most is anything like 'suppressing fire'. It's either a) No Result, b) KIA or c) morale check. And the morale check leads to either a) or a temporarily variant of b). While, what I hear from ex servicemen, is that fire is often to suppress the enemy fire. Take care the other side ducks and only returns fire occasionally and probably not well aimed.
This does not happen in the CRT, while it would be easy. It really surprises me in this game which the designer claims to be designed 'for effect'

Any thoughts?

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Scott Whiting
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_Kael_ wrote:
certa cito wrote:
Whats needed is a few expansion packs for basic SL. One for the western front with 4 new maps ,British,French,US OB and more tank types,weapons,German Para/SS/PZgrenadiers. One for eastern front and one for the Pacific. Job done, New rules are only for the new terrains,weapons and a bit of a jazzing up of the CRT.
About the CRT:

what I miss most is anything like 'suppressing fire'. It's either a) No Result, b) KIA or c) morale check. And the morale check leads to either a) or a temporarily variant of b). While, what I hear from ex servicemen, is that fire is often to suppress the enemy fire. Take care the other side ducks and only returns fire occasionally and probably not well aimed.
This does not happen in the CRT, while it would be easy. It really surprises me in this game which the designer claims to be designed 'for effect'

Any thoughts?


I think a squad that fails a MC isnt necessarily cowering in the corner of room/trench/wood etc but is maybe suppressed enough to warrant it not being able to return effective fire or advance towards an enemy.
When an already broken squad fails another MC after recieving enemy fire i dont think it should be wiped out like a KIA result, but these are the rules of SL. It would be a big change to start tampering with those rules. Maybe if you fail the first MC the squad is broken ,fail another MC then it is suppressed and broken and then takes 2 rally attempts to get back to fully fit.
 
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しんぶん赤旗
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Good to see SL getting a bit of attention. I agree with those reluctant to change the IFT - the deadliness of the results is one of strong points of the game. I also think that failed morale tests destroying broken units is fine. For me I imagine that the time frame of a scenario is actually very short, between 10 or 20 minutes, and that rather than somehow being destroyed the unit is just so badly shaken as to be no longer combat effective.
 
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M@tthijs
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I was more thinking along this lines: (for example, the '8' column)

Curr New
CRT CRT

8/70 8/70

1 KIA KIA
2 KIA KIA
3 KIA KIA
4 2 2 / +2
5 2 2 / +1
6 1 1 / +1
7 1 1 / -
8 M M / -
9 - -
10 - -


As follows:
You roll a 5 result. Opponent has to make a MC with a 2 modifier (as per rules) But if he succeeds, he'll still get a +1 penalty with these squads in their next turn's fire phase.

This way, you will be able to suppress enemy fire (make it less effective) without changing the core of the game. We all know how deadly it is to cross the street (moving in open penalty) so we spend turn after turn after turn trying to get the other side to miss his MC. This way it would be more open to squad leader decisions: do we run now or do we keep shooting, hoping to suppress them even further?

I haven't entirely though this through, let alone: tested it, but is seems like a nice idea to me.
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Barry Ingram
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Hi Guys.

I quite like the pinned rules introduced in CoD

You can always back-port the later gamette rules as you see fit...

142.6 Any non-berserk infantry unit (except heroes) fired on by Prep Fire resulting in an IFT MC which is passed by rolling the highest DR possible still resulting in a passed MC is pinned and has its inherent FP halved for the remainder of that player turn. Mark such units with a Pinned counter. The halving of FP of a pinned unit in CC would apply only to its attacks, not to its defense. Remove all Pin counters at the end of the current player turn. Being pinned more than once in the same player turn has no additional effect.

142.61 A pinned unit would fire a MG as Area Fire. A pinned unit could not attack with a FT, DC, ATM, SCW, ATR, RCL, or molotov cocktail while pinned. All other ordnance whose manning infantry is pinned must add +2 to their TO HIT roll (CaseD). A pinned unit may not attempt DF AFV immobilization, nor may it use sustained or intensive fire. Being pinned has no effect on leadership DRM's. A pinned sniper could not fire during that player turn.

142.62 CE crews of enclosed AFV's which are pinned must button up immediately and remain buttoned-up during that player turn. The AFV's subsequent MA fire would be subject to Case D (pinned) and Case I (but¬toned up) TO HIT DRM's for the rest of that player turn. Pinned CE OT AFV's are subject to TO HIT DRM D for ordnance, and the halving of all MG (and IFE) FP during that player turn.
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