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Jay Richardson
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(Note: An expanded version of this article, complete with full color examples of play, was published by MMP in their magazine Operations, Issue 49, which is now out-of-print. Please do not re-post or re-use this article without first obtaining permission from MMP.)

Because players learning to play ASL Starter Kit #1 continue to have questions about how ROF works, especially during the complicated defensive fire sequence, I've decided to put together this detailed look at both ROF and defensive fire. In addition to explaining how these rules work, I'm also going to discuss the rationale behind the rules. If you understand the rationale for the rules, so that when you play the game you can visualize what's happening on the map, you should then find the rules themselves easier to understand and master.

In ASL Starter Kit #1 the only weapons that have ROF are the MGs (LMG, MMG, HMG). Other starter kits will introduce additional SW with ROF, such as the light mortar, and Guns and AFVs also usually have ROF. I will use the HMG in my examples, as it has the highest possible ROF combined with a high FP, making it a very deadly weapon indeed.

During an ASL turn, there are three phases in which a unit may fire: the Prep Fire Phase (PFPh), the Advancing Fire Phase (AFPh), and the Defensive Fire Phase (DFPh) which – for the purposes of this discussion – will also include shots taken against moving units during the Attacker's Movement Phase (MPh). I'll explain how ROF works in each of these cases, beginning with the simplest and working up to the most complicated.

But first, let's explore what ROF in ASL actually represents.

One turn in ASL covers the passage of two minutes of time. A lot can happen in two minutes at this scale, so the rules must, of necessity, have some level of abstraction built into them. ROF is one of those abstractions.

Suppose a HMG prep fires at a squad, causing a Morale Check. What really happened in this situation falls between one of two extremes: (A) the HMG fired continuously for two minutes before finally causing enough damage to have an effect, or (B) the HMG scored some lucky hits after maybe only 10 seconds of firing, affecting the target almost immediately. The ROF mechanism allows for both possibilities, or anything in between, without the tedium of actually counting bullets and seconds.

If the HMG does not make its ROF, that would be situation (A): it spent the entire phase firing at the target, so it has no time left to try any additional shots.

If the HMG makes its ROF, that is situation (B): the target was affected very quickly, so the HMG has plenty of time remaining to engage another target, or to continue to shoot at the original target to try to cause even more damage.

Whenever a weapon fires and makes its ROF, that indicates that the weapon is firing accurately and getting effective hits quickly, allowing it the possibility of making several attacks in one turn. But if the weapon does not make its ROF, that indicates that the attack is less effective, so it will spend the rest of the turn shooting at that target and will only resolve a single attack against it.

ROF really is an inspired game mechanism. HMGs in WWII were particularly effective weapons... but how do you represent that in a game? If you give the HMG a huge FP number, then the weapon is only effective against a single target per turn, which is not historical. If you allow a HMG to fire 10 times per turn while squads can only fire once, that is more historical, but then you might spend 90% of your playing time firing MGs... and players probably would end up hating the game. The ROF rules give the HMGs the potential to fire repeatedly within a single turn – which makes infantry realistically fearful of facing them – but the game still moves along at a reasonable pace because extra shots do not occur in excessive numbers.

Now here's how ROF is actually used in the game.

ADVANCING FIRE PHASE

The simplest case to handle is the attacker's AFPh. There is no ROF at all. Any unit that did not fire in the Prep Fire Phase can fire once with 1/2 FP, and that's it.

The AFPh is how ASL handles units that fire while moving. Soldiers firing weapons while running are not going to be very accurate with their shots, so ASL penalizes them by cutting their firepower in half and by delaying their attacks until after all defensive fire is complete (so squads that move and break don't even get a chance to shoot). ROF is not allowed during the AFPh because advancing fire is inherently inaccurate.

Note that FT and DC do attack with full FP in the AFPh.

In the full ASL rules, there is a way that units can fire in the AFPh with full FP and possible ROF for their weapons, as well as a reason for them to do so. But in the starter kits, there is no way to do this, and no reason to want to do it.

PREP FIRE PHASE

The PFPh is also an easy case. If a weapon prep fires and makes its ROF, it does not get a Prep Fire marker (although the squad firing it does if it also attacked)... so the weapon can shoot again, at the same target or a different target. As long as it continues to make its ROF, it can continue to shoot until it either runs out of targets, breaks down, or voluntarily stops.

If the weapon stops shooting before it loses its ROF, it will not be marked with a Prep Fire marker. But, because it did fire, it will not be able to move during the Movement Phase, and it will not be able to fire during the AFPh.

DEFENSIVE FIRE

Now things get a little complicated. There's really no way to explain how ROF works with defensive fire without explaining how defensive fire itself works.

I think that a key to understanding defensive fire is to realize that a defending squad can fire an almost unlimited number of times... something the rules don't really make plain. These multiple defensive shots come with increasing restrictions on when they can be taken, and increasing penalties to the firing unit, but there's no limit on how many can occur.

This seems odd at first glance, considering that attacking squads are limited to a single attack each. The reason for allowing multiple defensive shots is to recreate the reality of a WWII battlefield, where if you simply charged an enemy position you risked suffering fearful casualties... even if you greatly outnumbered the defenders. Limiting defending squads to a single shot would make it far too easy for the attacker to charge a defender's location and overwhelm them in close combat.

Here's a summary of what a defending squad can do during the attacker's MPh:

Shot: First Fire
Restriction: target must be moving, defender must not have a First Fire or Final Fire marker
Penalty: none
Result: place First Fire marker on defender, but not on any weapon that makes its ROF

Shot: Subsequent First Fire
Restriction: target must be moving, there must not be any other known enemy units closer to the defender, and the defender must not have a Final Fire marker
Penalty: Area Fire (1/2 FP), Sustained Fire (B# –2, no ROF)
Result: place Final Fire marker on defender and any MG defender possesses (even if the MG was not previously marked, and even if the MG did not fire with the squad)

Shot: Final Protective Fire
Restriction: target must have moved ADJACENT to defender
Penalty: MGs must fire, Area Fire + Point Blank Fire, Sustained Fire, IFT DR is also a NMC roll for the defender
Result: Final Fire marker remains on defender and any MG defender possesses, unless the defender fails the NMC and breaks

A squad can take one First Fire shot, one Subsequent First Fire shot, and an unlimited number of Final Protective Fire shots, but all of these shots are triggered by the attacker moving a unit. If the attacker doesn't move, the defender can't shoot.

These shots can also be taken in combination against a single target, if its location and MF expenditure allows it. For instance, if a unit spends 3 MF to move ADJACENT to an unmarked defending squad, the defender can take a First Fire shot, followed by a Subsequent First Fire shot, followed by a Final Protective Fire shot (3 MF = 3 shots) – but if the moving unit was not ADJACENT then only two shots could be taken, since Final Protective Fire is only allowed against ADJACENT targets. If the moving unit was ADJACENT but the defender was marked with a First Fire marker, three shots could still be taken: one Subsequent First Fire shot, and two Final Protective Fire shots. Note that all shots against an ADJACENT target always receive the Point Blank Fire bonus, even if they are not Final Protective Fire.

ROF is only applicable to a First Fire shot. If a weapon takes a First Fire shot, and makes its ROF, it is not marked with a First Fire marker (but, just like in Prep Fire, the squad that fired the weapon would get a First Fire marker if it also attacked). The weapon can take additional First Fire shots as long as it makes its ROF and the attacker continues to move units.

Note, however, that when a squad takes a Subsequent First Fire shot, it must use any MGs it possesses or forfeit their use for the remainder of that Player Turn (except for Final Protective Fire). Such MGs will fire using Area Fire/Sustained Fire even if they are not marked with a First Fire marker. In other words, the squad cannot fire as Subsequent First Fire while its MG fires as First Fire. Both must fire as Subsequent First Fire, and then both will be receive a Final Fire marker. The same applies to a squad taking a Final Protective Fire shot, except that MGs must be always be used.

Subsequent First Fire penalizes MGs by forcing them to be marked with a Final Fire marker, regardless of their previous status, regardless of the IFT DR, and regardless of whether they even fired. I'm not sure why the rules do this, but presumably it is to keep MGs from being too effective on defense.

***

Here's an example to illustrate the defensive fire rules in action. Assume that the defender has one squad with a HMG, and that the attacker has two squads, the first one 4 hexes away from the defending squad, and the second one 5 hexes away. It is the start of the attacker's MPh.

The first attacking squad spends 1 MF to enter a hex 3 hexes away from the defender. At this point the defender interrupts the attacker's move to announce a First Fire shot with both the squad and the HMG. The result of the shot is that the attacking squad breaks, the defending squad is marked with a First Fire marker, and the HMG makes its ROF (1, 2, or 3 on the red die on the IFT DR) so it is NOT marked.

Now the defender has to decide whether or not to accept the HMG's ROF. If he chooses to retain ROF, the HMG will not be marked and will remain eligible to take another First Fire shot, but the Residual FP left in the target hex will be calculated using only the squad's FP. If he chooses to give up the ROF, the HMG will be marked with a First Fire marker and the Residual FP will be calculated using the squad's and HMG's combined FP. Whenever a MG retains ROF it leaves no Residual FP at all. The defender chooses to retain ROF.

Since the attacking unit only spent 1 MF to enter its hex, it cannot be fired upon again by the defending squad or its HMG in this MPh.

Now the attacker moves his second squad, spending 2 MF to enter a hex 4 hexes away from the defender. The defending squad cannot attack using Subsequent First Fire, because there is a known enemy unit that is closer (the first attacking squad, now broken, 3 hexes away). But the HMG, which is not marked, can attack using First Fire and does so. The result of the shot is no effect to the attacker's unit, and the HMG again makes ROF and is not marked.

Because the attacking unit spent 2 MF to enter the hex, the HMG could take a second shot at it, but it must decide immediately whether or not it will do so. If the additional shot is not taken at this time, the opportunity to do so is forfeited. The HMG declines to take the second shot.

The attacker continues moving his second squad, spending 1 MF to enter a hex 3 hexes away from the defender. Again the HMG, because it has made its ROF on all of its shots and is not marked, can take a First Fire shot on the attacker's unit.

But the defender decides to instead take a Subsequent First Fire shot with his squad, possible now because there is no known enemy unit that is closer, and also fire the HMG with the squad. The shot is Area Fire for both the squad and the HMG, Sustained Fire for the HMG, no ROF is possible, and both squad and HMG will be marked with a Final Fire marker.

Even if the HMG did not participate in the Subsequent First Fire with the squad, it still would be marked with a Final Fire marker. If you wonder why you would not fire the HMG, since it's going to get a Final Fire marker either way, the answer is to avoid the extra chance of a breakdown from Sustained Fire... thus ensuring that you will have a functioning HMG for at least one Final Protective Fire shot.

Once the defending squad and its HMG are both marked with a Final Fire marker, they cannot shoot any more in that MPh unless an attacking unit moves ADJACENT to them, at which point they may take a Final Protective Fire shot. There is no limit to the number of Final Protective Fire shots that they can make... as long as the defending squad keeps passing its NMCs, and the attacker keeps moving units ADJACENT, it can keep shooting.

***

And now we come finally to the Defensive Fire Phase itself. Just like the attacker in the PFPh, the defender in the DFPh can shoot at any of the attacker's units (even those that were also attacked during the MPh), and any weapons that make ROF can continue to make additional attacks.

But some of the defender's units might have First Fire or Final Fire markers on them, that were placed during the MPh. Units that are marked with a Final Fire marker cannot shoot at all in the DFPh; units marked with a First Fire marker can only shoot at enemy units in an adjacent hex with Area Fire/Sustained Fire.

I hope that this will help you understand how ROF and defensive fire works in ASL. Keep in mind that even expert players cannot always agree on how the defensive fire rules are applied in every situation... in researching this article I read through some rules discussions that made my head spin from the complexity of their arguments and counter-arguments! If you find that I have made an error in my analysis, please let me know so that I can make the necessary corrections.

EDIT: corrected some errors; see my post below for details
EDIT: corrected yet another minor error... blush
EDIT: publication note added
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Mark Humphries
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Kudos Jay, I'm sure this will be of great help during my next ASLSK session.
 
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Yiu Fai Adrian Lui
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It really helps me a lot. I have to save your passage in my words so I can review it frequently. Great thanks!
 
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Andrew Swan
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Dear Jay,

Please run (don't walk) to MMP (I don't care which city/state you or they are located in), bang on their door, and demand to be allowed to rewrite the rulebook for them!

Seriously, you've explained everything the rules should have:
- what the options are (OK, they did that, but not as clearly)
- what the various game concepts are trying to model (as you said, this helps enormously with understanding and recalling the rules)
- why you might choose one option over another

Top work and many thanks! Now, how nicely would we have to ask for you to explain the Rout Phase with the same level of helpfulness?

Andrew

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Laszlo Somoskôi
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Jay, great help for beginers like me. Thanks for the support
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Miikka Rytty
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Jay, thank you very much. That was an amazing article. Now, is there any chance that you could write similar article about every other rule in ASL?
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Laszlo Somoskôi
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Great idea!

 
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Jay Richardson
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Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I'm glad that the article is proving to be useful.

In looking back over the article, I have so far found a couple of inaccuracies:

* A squad may only take one Subsequent First Fire (SFF) shot. Any additional shots after that must be Final Protective Fire (FPF) shots.

My confusion here occurred because FPF shots are technically a form of SFF... and the ASL rules refer to them as such. So there are rules referring to multiple SFF shots, but they are actually talking about a single SFF shot and then possible additional FPF shots. You'll notice in the article that I have treated SFF and FPF as two distinct and separate things; the confusion that would result from referring to FPF as SFF would just be too great.

* There is no way that a squad taking a Final Protective Fire shot can have a MG that has not been previously marked with a Final Fire marker... so the parts in the article that directed you to mark such a MG with a Final Fire marker were unnecessary – it will always already have a Final Fire marker on it.

I have edited the original post to correct these errors, and added one new paragraph explaining taking multiple shots (when the target has expended multiple MF entering a location) in more detail.

***

To address Andrew Swan's comments: This article is more properly described as a tutorial... and not a rewrite of the original rulebook. If a tutorial was written that covered the entire rulebook, it would certainly make the game easier to learn for many people, but it would be frustrating to use as a reference to quickly look up rules during a game, or as a way of discussing the rules online.

Complex games really need two rulebooks: one designed for learning the rules (i.e., a tutorial) and one designed as a reference for use during games. Many players complain that the ASLSK #1 rulebook is poorly written because the rules are difficult to learn, but players who have mastered the rules probably think the rulebook is just fine the way it is. I doubt that you can write a single rulebook – for any complex game – that can both make the game easy to learn and serve as a useful reference for players who have learned the game.

So, will I write a tutorial covering the entire ASLSK #1 rulebook? Sorry, no. As a spare time project it would take many, many months to complete... and there's no telling how MMP would view such an undertaking. The rules are their intellectual property, and putting the complete rulebook online in any form might lead to people using it and VASL to play the game via computer without ever purchasing any modules at all.

For the same reasons, I also will not take Miikka Rytty's humorous suggestion of writing an explanatory article for every rule in ASL... patch them all together and it would make a rulebook – of sorts – and again MMP might not be happy. In any case, I'm not qualified: I'm not going to be able to explain Off-Board Artillery to anyone else, for instance, because I don't completely understand it myself; the same goes for Gun duels (...you don't suppose they're going to put Gun duels in SK3, do you? Oh no, surely they wouldn't do that...); and the Pacific Theater rules are... are... well, I don't want to talk about them!



The Rout Phase was suggested as a possible topic for another article, and that sounds good to me, as new players seem to have a lot of trouble with it. After that, it might be a while before I tackle another big explanatory article.

***

It's more interesting to wonder if MMP will choose to produce their own full in-depth tutorial for the Starter Kit rules. There are two key things that we don't know: (A) What percentage of Starter Kit purchasers are having trouble learning the game, and (B) How many "fence-sitters" are there? That is, how many people are interested in buying ASLSK #1, but haven't done so because they are afraid it will be too complex to learn?
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Laszlo Somoskôi
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And what about the Ordnance? I don't understand exactly when phase and how many times can fire a Gun or Mortar specially in the DFPh. If you have time , maybe you can update with Guns and other SW your explanation of ROF (and Defensive Fire) article... After the Rout Phase article, of course
 
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Scotty Pruitt
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Thanks so much for taking the time to write this!
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Manuel Pombeiro
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First of all let me congratulate you on this fine article and if possible keep them coming.

richfam wrote:
It's more interesting to wonder if MMP will choose to produce their own full in-depth tutorial for the Starter Kit rules. There are two key things that we don't know: (A) What percentage of Starter Kit purchasers are having trouble learning the game, and (B) How many "fence-sitters" are there? That is, how many people are interested in buying ASLSK #1, but haven't done so because they are afraid it will be too complex to learn?


For a long long time I've been on step (B), and finnaly I decided to buy the game, and now I'm squarely on step (A)!!! For all that I just have to thank you for all your effort!!

Could you put it up as a PDF file to be available to download here in the Geek? I know that even without you doing so I'll do it for my private use, because I really am in need of this and more like this!!

Once again a big THANK YOU!!!

Manuel Pombeiro
 
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Laszlo Somoskôi
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Maybe we would make a Starter Kit FAQ (unoffical of course). Here, in the BGG forum are a lot of helpful info for beginers. Somebody who have a great experience with the rules (Jay? devil ) could make the content of the FAQ. I can make the layout and the pdf.

Does somebody know how many ASLSK1 / SK2 was sold?
 
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Jay Richardson
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somoskeai wrote:
And what about the Ordnance? I don't understand exactly when phase and how many times can fire a Gun or Mortar specially in the DFPh.

MGs (ASLSK #1), mortars & Guns (ASLSK #2), and tanks (ASLSK #3) all handle ROF similarly. Whenever a weapon with a ROF rating makes ROF, it is not marked with a fire counter. Because each turn is two minutes long, most of the time a single shot by a Gun in ASL represents the firing of several actual shells in real life, just as a single shot by a MG represents the firing of many actual bullets. When a Gun makes ROF, it means that the first actual shell was accurate enough to require a To Hit check... leaving plenty of time in the turn to either continue firing on the original target or to engage a new target.

If a Gun fires and loses ROF, it means that you fired several actual shells, but were only accurate enough to require a single To Hit check.

Guns, however, do not get Final Protective Fire shots. The only exception are the Guns with IFE capability. If they fire using IFE, the MG rules apply and they can get FPF; if they fire as ordnance (using the To Hit process) they can only take one intensive fire shot after losing ROF.

This is a MAJOR difference between Guns and MMC/MGs. If you don't make your ROF, your Gun will get only two shots: regular shot, lose ROF, intensive fire shot, done.
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Michael Decker
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Jay Richardson and I played our first game of ASL back in 1986. I must echo another player's comments, Jay, if it wouldn't mean you moving so far away, you would be an outstanding addition to the staff of MMP. I have yet to meet anyone who can grasp a complex topic as easily as Jay can, and then quickly apply it while teaching others in plain English its full ramifications. Several years ago ASL players would ask Perry Cocke to clarify certain rules that would crop up in rare situations, and the saying "Perry sez" quickly became the standard by which rules questions would be judged. Between you and me, I'd take Jay Richardson's interpretation of the ASL rulebook over anyone else's I've ever played with or against.
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Jay Richardson
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Whoops! I've just had another error pointed out to me.

It's a rather minor error, in that it does not affect the description of how ROF and Defensive Fire work, but it is a big error to me personally because it is something that I have done wrong for a long time... a very long time... like maybe since I first learned how to play!

I thought that, if a weapon fired in the Prep Fire Phase, retained ROF, and then stopped shooting – which means it is not marked with a Prep Fire counter – it could then also fire in the Advancing Fire Phase. But the rules clearly state that only units that did not FIRE at all in the Prep Fire Phase may fire in the Advancing Fire Phase.

I've edited the original article to correct this error.

This shows how easy it is to make incorrect assumptions about how the game is played. And it is doubly frustrating because I checked and checked every part of this article (or so I thought) against the rulebook to insure that it was completely accurate... but I sure missed that one.

***

This would, of course, come up right after the previous post by my old friend Mike Decker... it pretty much refutes everything he said (not that you should have believed any of it to begin with).



It is even more ironic when you consider who it was that pointed the error out to me: Perry Cocke of MMP.

blush I am completely humbled! blush
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Mark Humphries
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>If the weapon stops shooting before it loses its ROF, it will not be marked with a Prep Fire marker.

I recently read a post on the Consimworld ASLSK folder that, if I understtod the gist of it correctly, seems to contradict this:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@165.NDOYb4iXQrB.13@.1dd0...

see messages 1213-1217.

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Jay Richardson
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Yes, my statement is not correct... it reflects a misconception that I've had for a long time, and I suspect other players have it as well.

What the rules say about Prep Fire markers is simply that you mark each unit & weapon that fires. PERIOD. Nothing about when you mark them; nothing about ROF. (ASLSK #1 rule 3.2.2, ASLSK #2 rule 3.2.5, ASL rule A3.2)

As players, it is natural to assume that you mark a unit AFTER it has fired, and indeed, not marking a MG that retains ROF helps you to remember that it can still fire again... but then it is just a simple misstep to also assume that a MG that retains ROF to the end of the PFPh never gets a Prep Fire marker. But that's wrong. None of the assumptions discussed in this paragraph are in the rules themselves.

So, while it is a very good idea to NOT mark weapons that retain ROF, at the end of the Prep Fire Phase, when all firing is completed, you still need to put a Prep Fire marker on every unit & weapon that fired, regardless of any retained ROF... exactly as the rules tell you to. This then reminds you that these units cannot move, and cannot fire in the AFPh.

Note however that the Prep Fire marker is not what prevents a unit from moving or using advancing fire... it is the fact that the unit fired in the PFPh that prevents it. The Prep Fire marker is just a memory aid that has no power of its own... nowhere will you find a rule that defines a Prep Fire counter or that gives it any specific power.
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michael dorazio
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Excellent breakdown. Thanks a bunch.
 
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Mark Humphries
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Can a MG that fires during the Defensive Fire Phase (i.e. Final Fire) retain ROF and Final Fire again?
 
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Jay Richardson
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Sure. As I stated in the original article:

Quote:
Just like the attacker in the PFPh, the defender in the DFPh can shoot at any of the attacker's units (even those that were also attacked during the MPh), and any weapons that make ROF can continue to make additional attacks.

Assuming, of course, that the defender's weapon did not start the DFPh with either a First Fire or Final Fire marker already on it.

During the PFPh and the DFPh, there is NO LIMIT to the number of times a weapon can fire... as long as it retains its ROF. You could sit there for hours, watching your opponent's MG take hundreds of shots, annihilating your entire force many times over... as long as that red die keeps coming up as ROF!

There is a limit when shooting during the attackers MPh: you can only shoot when the attacking units expend MF. But if the attacker expends 100 MF within range & LOS of your MG, it can shoot 100 times... as long as it retains ROF.

However, it's rare to see any weapon get more than three or four ROF shots in a row. The odds are against it, and the game itself will teach you very quickly not to give your opponent's weapons (especially HMGs) the opportunity to make that many shots! And also, in full ASL, players tend to pass on some ROF opportunities for fear of activating their opponent's sniper.
 
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bestia immonda
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For mortars and ordnance as long as you keep the ROF you can keep shooting for every single POINT of enemy movement in your LOF ( line of fire )
 
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Mark Humphries
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Thanks Jay, I had a sudden lingering doubt shake

>For mortars and ordnance as long as you keep the ROF you can keep shooting for every single POINT of enemy movement in your LOF ( line of fire )

Ouch! Although we already have ASLSK#2, my local group plans on not moving to it until every subtlety of the ASLSK #1 rules becomes second nature to us. We've recruited six new players in the last three weeks so it might take while cool
 
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Mark Humphries
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Thanks Jay, I had a sudden lingering doubt shake

>For mortars and ordnance as long as you keep the ROF you can keep shooting for every single POINT of enemy movement in your LOF ( line of fire )

Ouch! Although we already have ASLSK#2, my local group plans on not moving to it until every subtlety of the ASLSK #1 rules becomes second nature to us. We've recruited six new players in the last three weeks so it might take while cool
 
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Mark Humphries
Philippines
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Metro Manila
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I just noticed rule 1.2.4.1 in SK#2 says that a MG loses ROF when its manning infantry is marked with a Final Fire counter.

Wouldn't that imply that to retain ROF in the DFPh the MG would have to fire before its manning infantry?
 
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Dan Nunuyerbiznez
United States
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Nevada
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All very nice, but what about the CL counters?

[inside joke -> CL = "Cigarette Llighter"]

I think only C++ programmers play ASL...
 
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