Author Topic: FOCUS ON.....Advanced Squad Leader (ASL)  (Read 4411 times)

bob48

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on: July 30, 2021, 05:38:23 AM
Focus On.....Advanced Squad Leader (ASL)

I'm sure a few of you have heard of this one.......
Its been around for a long time and I think I'm safe in saying that its probably has more expansions, modules, maps and scenario's than any other game in the history of wargaming.

I have to be honest here and say that I only played a very little of the game when it came out, but I and the small gaming group to which I belonged did play an awful lot of its predecessor, Squad leader. At that time, (late 1970's), it was probably the only WWII squad level game available and thus spent many an hour on the gaming table. Lots of scenario's and 'geomorphic' maps added much to the replayablilty of the game, and no doubt, that is still true now.

The variety of units / nations / theatres etc. that are covered is immense, so I suspect that you would be hard pressed to find a situation that is not covered somewhere amongst all the material that has been published over the years. As far as I'm aware, there is still material being published for it even now.

Are there any modules for periods other than WWII? I don't know but no doubt someone can enlighten me on that.

OK, so, tell us about the game and how YOU feel about it.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2022, 09:44:21 AM by bob48 »

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trailrunner

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Reply #1 on: July 30, 2021, 07:36:03 AM
The variety of units / nations / theatres etc. that are covered is immense, so I suspect that you would be hard pressed to find a situation that is not covered somewhere amongst all the material that has been published over the years. As far as I'm aware, there is still material being published for it even now.

MMP is publishing 4-6 products a year, including bonus packs, reprints of major modules with significant updates, starter kit expansion packs, and historical and campaign modules.  There are also several third party publishers (TPPs) producing modules.

A couple of years ago MMP released a pocket version of the rules.  You'd have to have a large pocket for it, but it was still a nice soft-bound book that would easily fit in a backpack.  It was a big step forward from the 3-ring binder rulebook.  Earlier this year MMP finally released an electronic version of the rulebook.  It's a PDF, but there are links throughout.  Now I can carry my rulebook around on my iPad.

There has always been a dedicated group playing ASL on VASL, but when COVID hit last year, it exploded.  The face-to-face tournaments are starting again.  Our club held our small tournament earlier this month, and there are two more larger tournaments coming up next weekend - one in Atlanta and one in New Hampshire.

I'd say that ASL has had a minor revival in the past 5 years.  Preorder numbers of 600-800 are usually reached within a month.  Still, the fanbase is aging, and most players are probably over 50.  Another trend has ben the rise of the starter kit (SK).  It was originally intended as a programmed approach to learning the game (first infantry, then guns, then armored vehicles), but it has grown into a pretty legitimate game system on its own.  MMP has published close to 100 scenarios, and SK now covers the Pacific theater.  It's 80 percent of the fun of the full game but with only 50 percent of the rules (or something like that).

Are there any modules for periods other than WWII? I don't know but no doubt someone can enlighten me on that.

Forgotten War is a major module set in the Korean War.  I have it, but have not had a chance to play it yet.  I don't hear much talk about it, so I'm not sure how much it is getting played.





Above is a photo from the end of the game I played last week.  I was the defending Russians, and my opponent had the attacking Germans.  The scenario was set in Smolensk in July 1941.  The Germans started at the top and had to wrest control of three large buildings, including the one you can see with both German and Russian units.  The initial German force was strong, with numerous quality troops, and MGs.  The defending Russians were weak conscripts, but they were fanatic so they were a little more robust, and they were in stone buildings.  On turn 3 the Russians received some good reinforcements, so the trick with playing the Russians was to trade casualties to buy time and hold off the Germans until the reinforcements can come in and fortify the last large building.  In particular, the Germans couldn't get too far down the map and set up fire lanes with their MGs.

The Germans started off with some bad luck, breaking their heavy MG, and losing a 5:1 close combat.  I managed to get 6 Russian squads and a medium MG into the last building, so I thought I had built an impenetrable fortress, but then in a string of low firepower attacks, he managed to break 5 out of the 6 squads by rolling low over and over.  The dice giveth, and the dice taketh.  He also took out a light MG I had positioned to cover any advance he would have to make to enter the building.  In the end, he managed to get two squads into the building, but I had one unbroken squad left in the building, which denied him control, and the Russians held on to win.




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bob48

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Reply #2 on: July 30, 2021, 07:48:47 AM
Excellent - lots of interesting info there  :bigthumb:

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bayonetbrant

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Reply #3 on: July 30, 2021, 08:01:47 AM
I'll have to go back and get some pictures of the Wall of ASL from The Gamer's Armory

if you start at about the 27:30 mark or so, you get a few minutes of a slightly-choppy video reveal


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Undercovergeek

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Reply #4 on: July 30, 2021, 10:24:21 AM
Part of me would love to spend a weekend in a game bunker with this and come out blinking into the the sunlight - before my ascension to nerd-dom but if lived to have played it



judgedredd

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Reply #5 on: July 30, 2021, 11:05:26 AM
I bought the ASL Starter Kit #1

The rule book was decently laid out but honestly each time I go to look at it - and it does draw me in - I realise I just can't play with counters that small anymore.

I'm not an authority on games or their mechanics - but I was left wondering why I should give time to it when I have other squad level, more modern games to play. You know? Kind of wondering what specifically is the draw.

Is it the amount of modules and gameplay? Is it something specifically in the rules that makes it stand apart from other modern squad level games?

Maybe I'll give it a go before the eyes get worse.....  :whistle:
« Last Edit: July 30, 2021, 11:07:35 AM by judgedredd »

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bob48

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Reply #6 on: July 30, 2021, 11:25:29 AM
Small counters are defi8nitely a problem area for me these days.

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trailrunner

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Reply #7 on: July 30, 2021, 12:12:02 PM
I have trouble reading some of the very small print on the 5/8 inch counters, which are for vehicles and guns.  The combat factors are usually large enough to read, but the vehicle types are tiny and I have to break out a magnifying glass to read them.

I like the old-school map boards and simple counters, but this is a personal preference.  Some of the other tactical games a great, but I think the counters are a little cartoonish.  It's sort of like watching a GI Joe cartoon vs a black and white documentary with actual combat footage.

ASL is popular for several reasons.  It has a large following, so it's not too hard to find opponents.  There is a massive range of scenarios set in just about every theater and every time with just about every nation represented.  The rules allow a lot of tactical flexibility, and some games ebb and flow with drama.  I often don't care if I win or lose, but I play for the narrative that a game can produce.  Having said all of this, the rules could use an overhaul, updating, and streamlining, but this would be a massive job, and I don't see it happening.

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judgedredd

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Reply #8 on: July 30, 2021, 12:35:55 PM
It must be nigh on impossible to get a decent foothold on ASL now though - with most of the major sets and "DLC" being swiped by such a huge following though.

I also like the graphics - just wish the counters were bigger.

I'm going to commit. I had Holland '44 out on the table waiting to be setup - but I'm going to push it to the side and get ASL on the table for a game or two. I've been convinced (I don't even think I've punched or clipped them yet!)

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bob48

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Reply #9 on: July 30, 2021, 12:41:35 PM
One of our idea's for 'Focus On' is that it will provide a place where experienced players can offer advice on rules questions or help with gameplay issues.

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bbmike

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Reply #10 on: July 30, 2021, 12:54:23 PM
I have the Pacific starter kit. Might be a good reason to open it up.  :bigthumb:

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DoubleDeuce

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Reply #11 on: July 30, 2021, 12:57:41 PM
For anyone with limited table space, small kids or cats I would highly recommend getting the VASL mod for VASSAL. That way you can play at your own, and opponents pace, leaving the 'game' up and not have to worry about mishaps. Personally I only play SASL these days, and rarely get a chance to do more that a full turn or so at a sitting, so VASL is idea for me.

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bbmike

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Reply #12 on: July 30, 2021, 01:02:30 PM
That's a good idea. Also, Tabletop Simulator would be good if nothing else than for the zoom feature. It would make reading those tiny counters even easier!

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DoubleDeuce

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Reply #13 on: July 30, 2021, 01:10:56 PM
From what I hear TTS zoom is really good. With VASL, to help, you can use Deluxe Size boards (all are available in that size iirc) and 150% zoom (gets kinda fuzzy though). I've used VASL for so long it just want I'm comfortable with/used to.

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trailrunner

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Reply #14 on: July 30, 2021, 03:27:02 PM
I have the Pacific starter kit. Might be a good reason to open it up.  :bigthumb:

Not to be discouraging, but you'll be jumping in the deep end of the SK pool and eating the whole SK 1, 2, 3, and 4 elephant with one bite.  Nothing wrong with that, but PTO has some significant differences from ETO.  These differences are really cool, but you have to change your playing style a little bit with PTO, so if you start here you'll have to learn some different things when you go back to SKs 1-3.  For example, Japanese generally don't break when they fail a morale check, and they are lethal in close combat.  SK4 also introduced concealment, which is only in effect in PTO.

Having said that - jump in - the water is great!

I also think you live in the DC area.  I've been active trying to get SK players into DC Conscripts, the local club.  Our next game day is tomorrow, and one of the veterans is going to give a little tutorial on close combat before the games begin.  I won't be there, but let me know if you want more information, or if you want to join my merry band of SK players for other game days at our houses (we had two games going on at my house last Saturday).  Or even if you want to play 1 on 1 sometime.

I’ve spent half my life’s earning on wargames, women, and drink. The rest I wasted.