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Robert Kurcina
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I received a copy of ASLSK #1 (Advanced Squad Leader, Starter Kit #1) from a friend and he asked me to learn it for him. I figured that a review would be helpful for others so that they could decide whether or not to take the Advanced Squad Leader plunge. This review is a bit detail-oriented but I do that to show the depth of game-play that ASLSK #1 provides.

DISCLAIMERS
Disclaimer #1:
I'm a former ASL player from back in the 80's and I was completely enamored by the rules system. I did collect the first-edition ASLRB (rules book), and the ASL modules up to #5; West of Alamein. I played perhaps a dozen games using the Beyond Valor and Paratrooper modules against novices like myself. Most of my experience was otherwise acquired by playing solo because I couldn't find opponents willing to get further into the system.

Chagrin; I actually found more opponents willing to dig deep into Star Fleet battles thereby kicking off a decade-long habit ... but I digress! laugh

Disclaimer #2:
One of the reasons I took up the challenge to re-learn some of the fundamentals of ASL as presented within ASLSK #1 is because I recently learned how to play Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles, and I wanted to compare the two systems. I have in my mind a decent comparison now which I'll post soon.

Disclaimer #3:
Uh ... I've only played scenarios 1, 2, and 4 of ASLSK #1. Solo. whistle I saw the amount of potential tracking required for Scenario #3 ("Simple Equation"; Americans win immediately if they control 25 or more building hexes) and decided that for solo-play it was too much effort.



EXECUTIVE REVIEW
OVERVIEW
Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #1 (ASLSK #1) is a thematic, "design for effect", tactical simulation of squad-level combat set in World War II. Players may control the forces representing Germans, Russians, or Americans. The game is scenario-based with smaller quick-playing missions, and larger involved affairs. Depending on the scenario selected, players are assigned 8-16 units representing squads, leaders, and support weapons. These are place upon a map with a hexagon grid measuring 10x36 hexes. Larger scenarios use two maps side-by-side while the smaller scenarios use half of a map. Each hex is about 40 meters across and the amount of game time each turn is about 2 minutes. Terrain includes woods, buildings, and roads. When it is a player's turn he may move some, all, or none of his units either in groups or one at a time. At any time the other player may interrupt with ranged attacks. Line-of-Sight (LOS) and range is very important here; if the line between the centers of the attacker's and defender's hexes crosses intervening terrain there is no attacking allowed. Attacks mostly cause the target units to perform morale checks which normally they'll pass. However, concentrating effort against these targets will eventually pay-off and those defenders will become broken and not very useful. Maneuver is also important in this game. Depending on the scenario, players may be required to capture building, exit units off the map, or merely be in a better position to survive battle by the end of the game. Smaller scenarios end after about 5 game-turns which translates into about 45 minutes of real-world time. All of the scenarios have their own force configurations, victory conditions, and set-up rules to keep things interesting.

SUMMARY
I would be amiss if I stated that the game wasn't interesting. It is very interesting to play. This is a very fun and tense game. However, there are many rules to keep track of and many conditions which can be triggered with various dice rolls. Luck plays a moderate factor during game-play but this is mitigated by good planning. A losing situation within the game can turn very quickly depending on the poor choices of the opponent, the roll of the dice, and a keen positional understanding of the game-play area.



DETAILED REVIEW
I'm going to get into a bit more detail with a deeper review of the game system now. I know I'll miss numerous rules, but this review is not meant to be complete - merely comprehensive enough to cover the more salient aspects of the game. If I get something wrong, please correct me and I'll edit this entry.

COMPONENTS
The components within ASLSK #1 and the series in general is minimalist but have an effective design. The game comes in a brightly coloured low-profile box with a silhuoette of a German soldier about to toss a stick bomb and this is upon an orange gradient backdrop. The mapboards (two) provided measure 8" x 22" and are thick enough to deal with wear-and-tear. I remember that the original Avalon Hill games had mounted maps but those days are gone. I suggest using plexiglass when playing any wargame these days any how; the result looks better and adds more protection for your mapboards. The game comes with a red and white die of good quality. I think each are 12mm. Nice!

As for the counters; they are typical cardboard counters measuring 0.5" square. My friend clipped the corners of his pieces which gave them a nice shape and made it easier to pick up. A word of note on the mapboard hexes; they are roomy enough to hold a single counter but when those counters have their corners clipped there is even more room. This is useful for when multiple adjacent hexes have stacks of counters within them. The number of counters provided with the game is just about right to cover status information and unit identification.


RULES
Rules Organization
The rules are written clearly but organized poorly. What I mean is that everything necessary to learn to play is right there but in multiple places. For example, Section 1.2.4 describes what Support Weapons (SW) are, how to read such counters, and then throws in some rules regarding their use for Rate-of-Fire (ROF), malfunction, and repair. It is Section 4.0 that describes the main body of rules for Support Weapons (SW), which is where I think those other rules should have gone. Additionally, one-liners dealing with use of SWs are scattered through-out. Regulation of SW recovery (in case of being dropped, or if remaining after a squad is eliminated) is in the middle of Section 3.3 Movement Phase. In the case of SW rules, and some other key game features; I would have preferred them collected into a single section.

Rules Chrome
Chrome are itty-bitty rules meant to attempt simulation of some real-world aspect. When used together, these rules help with immersion into the game-world. ASLSK #1 has lots of small rules for that. It's one reason why I like the game, but also a reason why the game puts a lot of cognitive load upon its players and by extension causes a barrier to entry for recruiting new players. It's a steep learning curve.

The heart of the game is the relationship between the units and how they deal with morale. The basic unit is a full-squad - about 10 soldiers - represented by a counter showing three silhouettes. These "multi-man counters" have on their faces printed values for Firepower, Range, and Morale stats which vary by nationality (German, Russian, American) and quality (Elite, 1st-line, 2nd-line, Conscript/Green). There are also half-squad counters showing less Firepower and range with but two silhouettes. Lastly, to compliment those Multi-man Counters (MMC) there are Single-man Counters (SMC) representing the squad leaders themselves. These SMC - if one is stacked in the same hex as MMCs - provide bonuses for attacking, for resolving morale checks after taking fire, for melee, and for encouraging stacks of MMCs to scoot across the maps faster than normal. SMCs are rated with two stats; Morale, and a Leadership modifier such as -2 (very good), -1, 0, or +1 (poor).

By those features alone one could get a lot of game-play out of varying combinations of the pieces. But wait; there's more! All units have a full-strength side and a "broken" side; that latter is displayed face-up after a unit has been wounded or damaged. So instead of a unit being eliminated from play immediately after being attacked, it could linger around a bit. Units that are broken basically can't do a thing until they are rallied by performing a rally test; this is done at the start of each game-turn by all players beginning with the ATTACKER (the active player). MMCs normally can't do this unless they have a boxed Morale rating. It normally requires a non-broken SMC to be in the same hex to attempt what are known as unit-rallies for each of his friendly MMCs. The rules do provide for the ATTACKER to allow one of his broken MMCs to perform a self-rally test in spite of the earlier limitations.

Okay, but there's more. Units that have been attacked have various ways of becoming broken. Usually it is as a result of a Morale Check (1MC, 2MC, or 3MC) or a Normal Morale Check (NMC; essentially the same as 0MC). That prefix number - the 0, 1, 2, or 3 - is the penalty modifier to add to the sum of two six-sided dice when rolling for the check. The total must be less than a unit's Morale rating or it becomes "broken" and is flipped-over. If the sum matches the Morale Rating, the unit is instead Pinned; can't move, advance, not use Flame-throwers (FT) or Demolition Charges (DC), and when attacking it is at half Firepower. Regardless, all units that become broken receive a Desperation Morale (DM) counter that causes its first rally check to be penalized by +4 on the dice.

But wait, there's even more. BTW (by the way); have you noticed the use of the acronyms? There's lots and lots and lots and lots of them. Its technical game here and unless you like acroynms in your wargames you're going to have a bad time.

Continuing. Morale and rally is yet a wee bit more complicated. If a unit rally test results in an original 12 (6 + 6 on two dice) the MMC instead breaks (a 'casualty reduction'). Full-squads that are already broken become half-squads, and half-squads that are already broken become eliminated from play. And if a morale check fails by an Experience Level Rating (ELR) of some value 2 or 3 or more, the result is that the unit also suffers a casualty reduction. And yes. There's more. If an MMC performs a self-rally and scores an original 2 (1 + 1 on two dice) the player has a chance of acquiring a new SMC leader counter in that same hex.


TURN SEQUENCE
I'll attempt to show an overview of the Turn Sequence and identify any key features that are easily missed. I know it might seem silly, but I give a star rating for how the rules for each phase are written and how well they affect the fun-vs-theme balance in the game.

The Turn Sequence has eight phases, but the game begins with setting up the map, acquiring units and support weapons, and deploying forces per the scenario that players want to play. ASLSK #1 comes with two geomorphic maps and six scenarios.

Set-up
Each scenario is backprinted two to a card with nice historical details as to why the player's forces are fighting. These scenario cards also include a historical aftermath at their footer to show the actual result of the encounter. Each scenario is presented with a nice track for identifying game-length, rules for reinforcements, notes on who sets up first, and identifies who goes first. There's also a diagram of which map boards (y or z) are used, which portions of those maps are in play, and which direction points to the map's north. There's also larger sections for identifying the pieces and counts of each player's forces.

Easy to miss : the "Balance" section. Experienced players may want to give an advantage to newbies by utilizing this section's recommendations for play-balance.

Rally Phase
This is the first phase of eight in the turn sequence. Each player gets to do quite a bit here. Check for provisional reinforcements (scenario-based), repair broken weapons, transfer weapons between units, self-rallies, unit rallies (leader SMC pro MMCs), and removing DM counters if qualified.

Easy to miss : Broken MMCs are essentially useless until rallied by an SMC in the same hex, but the ATTACKER (the active player for this turn) receives a free self-rally for any one of his broken MMCs.


Prep Fire Phase
This phase allows the ATTACKER to decide which of his units - if any - will shoot now but forego movement during the Movement phase later as well as forego attacking during the Advancing Fire phase after that.

All of the rules for how to resolve an attack are explained in this section. Essentially the ATTACKER declares a target hex and identifies all of his units that will attack from a hex which is within range and can draw an unblocked line between those two hexes. The effectiveness of the attack starts with the sum of all MMC and SW Firepower (FP) ratings within a hex. This is a basic Fire Group (FG). So 2 MMC units with a stat line of 5-3-8 have 5 FP each will have a total of 10 FP that can attack any target within 3 hexes. The rules allow for the formation of Fire Groups (FG) between adjacent hexes of units each lead by an SMC. Next, the attacker rolls two dice and adds the defender's Terrain Effects Modifier (TEM) for the target hex to the total, and any one SMC Leader bonus (such as -2 or +1) if such is in the attacker's hex. Terrain hexes like Woods provides a +1 TEM penalty while a hex containing a Stone Building provides +3 TEM. Other modifiers are added as necessary and the sum is cross-indexed upon the Infantry Fire Table (IFT) chart to the nearest lower value. This is something odd to note. It's a chart with a limited set of values representing FP ratings 1-2-4-6-8-12-16 etc. If your FP total is something like a 9 or 11, you must use the FP 8 column instead.

So a situation arises where a player might want to min-max his decision. Either go for a big attack roll which might not pay off, or go for numerous smaller attacks. I found that in solo-play because I'm talking/thinking to myself this chart made me fret too much about break-even math and so I decided to use a variant of this table known as the IIFT or Incremental Infantry Fire Table which has columns for each FP rating from 1-2-3-4-5-6 etc. upwards including some values like 1.5 and 2.5. I prefer the one created by Ole Boe located at the Texas ASL site here.

OK, so the dice index to the FP column on the IFT shows some result. Or not. The best results are when the dice score low, like twos and threes. The results (outside of no effects) can basically be:

* 1KIA, 2KIA, or 3KIA (that many units are immediately eliminated). KIAs automatically force a morale check on all remaining defenders in a hex.

* K/1, K/2, or K/3. These cause a casualty reduction of a single defender. All remaining units suffer 1MC, 2MC, or 3MC Morale Checks (see way above).

* Other results are NMC, 1MC, 2MC, or 3MC, or Pin Task Checks (PTC).

* PTCs basically are morale checks but the negative effect for failing is to place a Pin counter instead. A unit with a Pin counter may not move at all and any attacks by it are at half FP.

Easy to miss : The first is a matter of stacking. Stacking is what happens when more than one counter is placed into a hex. Visually, it looks like a stack of pancakes; small, square, cardboard, pancakes with ink on them. The rules allows up to 3 MMC full-squads (or half-squad equivalents) and 4 SMC to be in a single hex. The hex is also allowed to be stacked with one or more support weapons which would be used by one unit each, including SMCs though at reduced power. Doing the math; a player could form within a hex what is known as a "Killer Stack" containing a Fire Group with a really, really, really big Firepower total. In game-play this is a sub-optimal decision because all weapons have limited range and many scenarios involve large amounts of terrain to be invaded, protected, or conquered.

Easy to miss : Machine Gun Support Weapons (MG) have a ROF score such as 1, 2, or 3. When rolling against the IFT one of the two dice thrown is red. If that red die shows a value equal to or less than the ROF score, the player may opt to attack within a given phase again and continue to do so as long as the red die works its charm.

Easy to miss : This is something that takes a bit of getting used to; cowering. ASLSK attempts to simulate inter-leaved activity between all players' units during the course of a turn. The attacking MMC units "cower" when attacking and roll doubles, unless stacked with a non-broken SMC. Cower represents - I suppose - firing from head-down, panic fire, or poorly planned attacks. The effects of Cower is to reduce the IFT column used by 1 leftwards.

Easy to miss : The ATTACKER is allowed to perform an attack with any units during the Advancing Fire phase later on but only if those units haven't attacked during the Prep Fire phase. This might be useful to keep in mind because it allows units to move within range of a target - best be a broken one - an attack it within the same turn.

Easy to miss : There's always more stuff. If a Fire Group comprises several hexes, the worst TEM applies to the entire roll. If there are several SMCs - at least one per hex in the FG - the worst Leadership rating is used. And, units and SWs may extend their attack range up to double normal but must lost half of their Firepower score.

Easy to miss : Point-blank Fire (PBF). Any time a target is in an adjacent hex the FP of attacks are doubled. I discovered that this situation occurs frequently enough in buildings terrain.

Movement Phase
This phase allows the ATTACKER to move units that didn't use Prep Fire. Units may move together or individually. The DEFENDER player may interrupt with range attacks at any time; this keeps both players engaged. If any of the moving units are attacked (see below); they are attacked together if they moved together. Units are assigned 4 Movement Factors (4 MF) to spend to cross terrain but can receive more if stacked with a SMC, and more if using Double Time movement to received Combat Exhaustion (CX), and an additional +1 MF if moving entirely on Road terrain. There's a big chart for this in the rules. Elite MMCs moving Double Time with SMCs, or SMCs alone get 8 MF. Entering Clear terrain costs 1 MF, while something like Woods or Buildings is 2 MF. So a quick moving Killer Stack can cross 8 Clear or Road terrain hexes of movement during this phase. It is a good thing these maps are quite large; 10x36 hexes with playable half-hexes. To keep something like that in control the DEFENDER should interrupt using Defensive Fire which I'll describe a little later. Suffice to state now that movement in the open into the line-of-sight (LOS) of a DEFENDER unit is not very wise.

Easy to miss : MMCs are sometimes rated with a Smoke Exponent such as 1, 2, or 3. A player can state that he'll attempt to place a Smoke counter in a unit's hex for 1 MF, or for 2 MF if adjacent. Smoke causes a +2 dice modifier for any attack through, into, or out of its hex ... cumulative per such hex. These Smoke counters are removed at the end of the Movement phase.

Easy to miss : A player may decide to use Assault movement instead. This displaces the moving units no more than 1 hex. This, when combined with the later Advance Phase, allows a unit to move across two hexes in relative safety.

Easy to miss : Units that move during this phase may not enter the hex of an enemy unit; that is reserved for the Advance Phase which comes much later. Advancing into the hex of an enemy unit initiates Close Combat which is very brutal. Just being in a hex adjacent to a broken unit will cause that unit to run away during the Rout Phase.

-- Defensive Fire (interrupt actions)
This is a difficult section of rules to get through. Here's what the DEFENDER gets to do whenever the ATTACKER moves a unit within LOS and range. The same rules for resolving attacks as for Prep Fire is used here. Remember that if the DEFENDER has an MMC using a Machine Gun SW it will have an ROF value, so keep an eye on the red die!

* Defensive First Fire. (mark with First Fire counter). Attack any units that moved using Firepower at full-strength. Units in the open are especially vulnerable, as are often units that moved but did not perform Assault movement. These provide -1 bonus to the DEFENDER's attack each and are known as FFMO and FFNAM respectively. Uh, First Fire Movement Open Ground and First Fire Non-Assault Movement. Love them acronyms. Those -1 bonuses are no joke. Consider that a target in a Stone Building receives +3 TEM, but targets in the open could instead provide a -2 total modifier; this is a swing of 5 pips on two dice!

* Subsequent First Fire. (flip First Fire to Final Fire side). Units and SW that already performed First Fire may attack again but at half FP against any new moving target that is no further than the closest enemy unit.

* Final Protective Fire. The DEFENDER is allowed to perform (FPF) attacks any number of times against ATTACKER units that move adjacent to his units which have already been marked with Final Fire. These attacks are essentially at full-strength (really it is half FP but double via Point-blank Fire because targets are in adjacent hexes) and must use all available Firepower including optionally any FP from adjacent defending Fire Groups not necessarily qualified to use FPF. However, after each time a defending unit attacks using FPF it must perform a Normal Morale Check on the same Infantry Fire Table column using dice modifiers solely from the leadership rating of any SMC in the same hex.

Easy to miss : Residual Firepower. This really a cool game mechanic which serves to clutter the target hex of any attack by the DEFENDER with a counter representing half of the highest FP used in any attack there thus far. The actual amount is actually half of the FP of the IFT column used, rounded down. The idea is to restrict movement through the same hex; any units that do are attacked separately with the residual FP value. So if 12 FP was used for an attack, a counter representing 6 residual FP is placed in that target hex. Any units that enter that hex get to be attacked at 6 FP. Line-of-Sight here is automatically "Yes, of course!". After the Movement phase is completed, these counters are all removed.

Defensive Fire Phase
I dislike the naming of this phase and the name of the action it allows called "Final Fire". These are too similar to the Defensive First Fire and Final Protective Fire names used earlier. Regardless, here any DEFENDER units not already marked with a Final Fire counter may attack again and can target any enemy units within LOS and range. Units already identified with a First Fire counter attack at half FP and then become marked with a Final Fire counter. After this phase is completed, remove all First Fire and Final Fire counters. My opinion otherwise of this phase is that it really is hard to get next to non-broken units and survive. Don't do it. Really. Hard.

Advancing Fire Phase
This phase allows those units and Support Weapons belonging to the ATTACKER which have not been identified with a Prep Fire counter to attack at half FP if the targets are within their printed range. Units with an under-lined FP "Assault Fire" rating get a bonus +1 FP after halving and other funky math.

Rout Phase
Both players perform this phase for all of their broken units starting with the ATTACKER. Basically, any broken units that are adjacent to enemy units or that are in LOS and the normal range of an unbroken enemy unit not already in Melee (thus "Good Order") must move away towards the nearest Building or Woods terrain hex using no more than 6 Movement Factors. The path selected must not - if possible - cross into open terrain hexes that are in the LOS potential attackers. The chrome bit deals with using Low Crawl and Interdiction. Basically a unit that is using Low Crawl moves not more than 1 hex and as a result expends its 6 MF. Low Crawl avoids the possibility of Interdiction. Interdiction is when a unit routs into an Open terrain hex that can be attacked. If Interdiction does occur, the routing unit must perform a Normal Morale Check.

Advance Phase
This is a free hex of movement given to the ATTACKER. There is also some chrome here. If the unit being moved needs to spend all of its movement factors (MF) to enter that hex, it becomes Combat Exhausted (CX). I didn't clarify what that meant earlier, but a unit identified with CX must add +1 to its dice rolls. CX status goes away at the start of a units next activation during the Prep Fire or no later than the Movement Phase. Units that enter in a hex with enemy units automatically initiate Close Combat; identify them with a CC counter.

Close Combat Phase
Close Combat in ASLSK is brutal. I only encountered this phase about four times in the three scenarios I soloed and so I'm not sure if I'm truly missing anything. The basic situation is this; players divide their forces within the hex into groups and designate which will attack whom. Starting with the ATTACKER, both players resolve all of their attacks by comparing their group's total FP value as a ratio on the Close Combat Table (CCT) against a targeted group. Scoring less than the Kill Number listed on the CCT for the calculated ratio eliminates the target group at the end of the Close Combat Phase. If units from both players remain after all attacks have been resolved, identify the hex with a Melee counter; this hex will need to be dealt with in the next Close Combat phase. Any Pin counters are removed at this time as well.

Easy to miss : If the hex where Close Combat is to be resolved is not already identified with a Melee counter and contains Woods or Building terrain; the units identified with a CC counter are subject to possible Ambush. Each player rolls a die; the victor has scored three or more higher than his opponent. That player gets to resolve close combat first during the phase; any target units that are eliminated are removed from play immediately and may not respond with their own attacks.


SUMMARY REVIEW
I really like this game. I like the level of immersion it provides. There are some crazy levels of details required to learn how to play properly, but it is surmountable. The rules are somewhat jumbled with exception cases for certain actions or weapons identified out of their main blocks. The scenarios play fast enough, at least for solo-play. If I remember correctly (IIRC) from my ASL days; face-to-face is also very quick. I'd certainly buy this game if I knew that I could have a steady opponent willing to "go to" this game system instead of diverting attention to the many other wonderful games out there. Looking further out; I know that ASL is an old-timer that has a large support network. This main system has many adherents, many expansions, and many many (over 2,000) scenarios. It can be a life-style game but doesn't have to be; it is small enough to allow small bursts of tactical fun at least six times.

Components
Rules
Game-play
Immersion
Complexity
Support.
Replayability (not sure)



RESOURCES
I found the detailed tutorials by Jay Richardson are tremendously informative and helpful. He's got some links here that are worth going through step-by-step. Start here for ASLSK #1.

I also found that Russ Gifford has some free Powerpoint slides with voice-over and animations that help clarify ASLSK even though his materials deal primarily with ASLRB. These brought back many memories and reminded me of some rules that I now use while playing ASLSK such as Bypass Movement, Dash Movement, Voluntary Break, and most importantly Random Selection. That latter one is a cool mechanic and a doozy to have been missed for inclusion within the rules.

EDITED 20120912-2200 ~ kurectid gramer but! taipoes.
EDITED 20120912-2355 ~ nickgb correctly identified the K/# means to have one unit suffer a casualty reduction and the remainder must perform a #MC morale check.
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Eric Walters
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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Modest review, nothing--this is one of the best reviews of a game I've read: accurate, comprehensive, and complete.

One thing that bears some emphasis--there is nothing in ASLSK that isn't in the full ASL game. In other words, should a player want to "graduate" to full ASL, nothing need be unlearned.

But ASLSK is so good, I can understand why some players don't feel the need to progress beyond this system. It brings a lot of the tension and excitement of full ASL to a more manageable format.

ASLSK#1 has the worst written rulebook of the three Starter Kits. It's okay to learn with, but once a player gets to using onboard ordnance in Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #2 and vehicles in Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #3, you'll use those rulebooks which are far better.
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Antonio B-D
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A very modest recommendation. If you are going to play solo I cannot recommend ASLSK 2 and 3, and you should avoid the Bonus pack. In fact,for solitaire gameplay ASLSK 1 is fantastic but you cannot do anything with the rest.

In ASLSK2 concealment is introduced, and it is used in almost every scenario since, so there is not much possibility for us there.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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abendoso wrote:
In ASLSK2 concealment is introduced, and it is used in almost every scenario since, so there is not much possibility for us there.

To be precise, HIP is introduced (typically for guns), not concealment. Concealment is a whole different thing in full ASL; the rules overhead for it prevent its inclusion in ASLSK.
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Nathaniel GOUSSET
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If you consider I played the #1 scenario more than a dozen times against about 8 different people I would say the replay value is quite good in fact as I am still interested to playing it again
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Gordon Watson
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ASL - other tactical wargames call it Sir.
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An excellent and comprehensive review. I would concur with Ikerensky above that the replay value of the scenarios is high - different approaches to try for each side and swapping sides to play (obviously not if playing solo).

I also think you are a little harsh on the rule book. The rule book is intentionally written as a tutorial approach to the game rather than a 'reference' book - which is what the full ASL rule book is (albeit supplemented by detailed examples). You are correct though that this has the effect, when you are trying to find something about a particular topic, e.g. like support weapon recovery, that it is not consolidated in one section with all the other rules for that topic.

This is a problem for all rules book writers of complex games: do you go for a tutorial rulebook, or a reference one - the latter are very hard to learn a game from, but the former are very hard to look individual rules up in, unless particularly well indexed.

In the case of the ASLSK rule books I often use them to gen back up on full ASL topics rather than trying to digest the ASL rule book - I am in a similar position to yourself of having played ASL back in the 80's and am now returning to play it and started again with the SK's.

I wish OBA was covered by the SK's - I believe it will be in a future release.
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Nick Blank
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Excellent review, although I have only played full ASL. One rules note:

Quote:
K/1, K/2, K/3 (casualty reduction of 1, 2, or 3 defenders)


Only one defending unit suffers casualty reduction (picked randomly), the rest of the units in that hex suffer a 1MC, 2MC, or 3MC as appropriate.

So if you have a hex with three squads, and you shoot at them and score a K/2 result, one squad randomly selected is casualty reduced to a half squad, then that half squad and the two remaining squads all suffer a 2MC result.

Note that random selection can result in multiple squads being casualty reduced, but normally it will only be one.

Unless starter kit is different? This is how it works in full ASL.


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Ryan Powers
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nickgb wrote:

Note that random selection can result in multiple squads being casualty reduced, but normally it will only be one.

Unless starter kit is different? This is how it works in full ASL.




The only trick is that as far as I know "random selection" is not defined in the SKs, and so if someone unaware of how it works in full ASL tries it, I suspect whatever method they devise will not allow for more than one to be chosen.

In practice, we always play using the ASL random selection rules which would make what you wrote completely correct.
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Robert Kurcina
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Quote:
K/1, K/2, K/3 (casualty reduction of 1, 2, or 3 defenders)


Yikes. Nick Blank (nickgb)You are correct. I'll amend my latest amendments.

EDIT: 20121213-002 Done!
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Robert Kurcina
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ericmwalters wrote:
Modest review, nothing--this is one of the best reviews of a game I've read: accurate, comprehensive, and complete.


Thanks!

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One thing that bears some emphasis--there is nothing in ASLSK that isn't in the full ASL game. In other words, should a player want to "graduate" to full ASL, nothing need be unlearned.


I concur.

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ASLSK#1 has the worst written rulebook of the three Starter Kits. It's okay to learn with, but once a player gets to using onboard ordnance in Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #2 and vehicles in Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit #3, you'll use those rulebooks which are far better.


I'll need to look into that. The friend who let me borrow his copy of ASLSK #1 was considering doing just the ASLSK series and nothing further. And so I may have a chance to look at box 3 some time in the future. In the meanwhile I've been reading up on trivia and visiting places like Mark Pitcavage's Desparation Morale.
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Robert Kurcina
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domus_ludorum wrote:
An excellent and comprehensive review. I would concur with Ikerensky above that the replay value of the scenarios is high - different approaches to try for each side and swapping sides to play (obviously not if playing solo).


Thanks and you are correct.

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I also think you are a little harsh on the rule book. The rule book is intentionally written as a tutorial approach to the game rather than a 'reference' book - which is what the full ASL rule book is (albeit supplemented by detailed examples. You are correct though that this has the effect when you are trying to find something about a particular topic, e.g. like support weapon recovery, that it is not consolidated in one section with all the other rules for that topic.

This is a problem for all rules book writers of complex games do you go for a tutorial rulebook or a reference one - the latter are very hard to learn a game from, but the former are very hard to look individual rules up in, unless particularly well indexed.

In the case of the ASLSK rule books I often use them to gen back up on full ASL topics rather than trying to digest the ASL rule book - I am in a similar position to yourself of having played ASL back in the 80's and am now returning to play it and started again with the SK's.


I absolutely agree with the general assessment of the quandry that rules writers encounter and I wasn't intending to be harsh. I think that if the ASLSK #1 rules were to go to a second edition it would benefit from an extra sheet (4 pages) of layout space. With that the writer could re-organize the rules completely.
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Lawrence Hung
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I actually found more opponents willing to dig deep into Star Fleet battles thereby kicking off a decade-long habit ...


I hope you can write the same piece with same depth and details for Star Fleet Battles some day! I am more a fan of that game than ASL. Every time I want to re-ignite my interest in SFB, I lack the motivation. Your insight certainly helps!
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keethrax wrote:
nickgb wrote:

Note that random selection can result in multiple squads being casualty reduced, but normally it will only be one.

Unless starter kit is different? This is how it works in full ASL.




The only trick is that as far as I know "random selection" is not defined in the SKs, and so if someone unaware of how it works in full ASL tries it, I suspect whatever method they devise will not allow for more than one to be chosen.

In practice, we always play using the ASL random selection rules which would make what you wrote completely correct.


I remember a Perry Sez on this: Do not use Random Selection. Do select randomly. So a K/1 against a stack will only CR one unit in the Starter Kit rules.
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Perry Cocke
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ASLSK was written so that a player would randomly select only one element.
Feel free to use the full ASL "random selection" method if you prefer.
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James Mackenzie
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A modest review. Well, very comprehensive that's for sure.

The replay value for scenarios is immense

VASSAL changes everything

I'm a full ASLer but decided to go back to polish up on some oft overlooked, misused rules that even experienced players are guilty of.

I actually blow my lid when my opponent doesn't know a basic rule. I'm like are you kidding me?

I suggested we go back and go through the whole SK system. The rules can be read through in 40 mins max.

Get the boards out AND counters and move the darn things around with the massive in your face examples. Someone went to a lot of trouble (and very colourful inks) to get them across.

Once again. Get out a few counters and the mapboard and copy the examples. The examples are excellent and the game more so.

This game is awesome and has no equal. Period

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