13 September 2014

From Start to Finnish: Part 3

ASLSK2 (2005)
Uncle Buck
I have a soft spot for ASLSK2. I like the variety it brings to the game table. As with its predecessor, the Kit contains two boards. Board x features extensive tracts of farmland, while board w adds tree-lined roads and level-one hills to the Starter Kit landscape. More interesting, from my perspective, is the debut of new nationalities. Granted half of the eight scenarios in the Kit are your garden-variety American versus German affairs. But the contrast between the tanned Australian, British, and Free French forces, and the brooding Italians clad in dark-grey is more memorable. Mussolini’s men can be found battling Yanks and Tommies in Sicily, or the passionate, pastel-green Greeks—represented by Allied Minor counters—in Greece.
Nationalities featured in ASLSK2 scenarios
However, the main purpose of the Kit is to introduce ordnance. In ASL, ordnance is any weapon that uses the two-stage To Hit (TH) procedure. In order to affect a target, players first must make a TH dice roll (DR) in order to determine if a target is struck. Once a hit is secured, players must make a second DR in order to determine the effect, if any, on the target. Some SW are deemed ordnance weapons, as are most Guns. Certain Guns with a high rate of fire have the option of foregoing the TH procedure, altogether. These weapons may attack directly on the Infantry Fire Table (IFT) using their Infantry Firepower Equivalent (IFE). The IFE firepower (FP) value is noted in brackets after the calibre size. 
IFE-capable AA
Guns differ from SW in a number of ways. To begin with, Guns are manned by dedicated Infantry crews, whereas most SW can be manned by ordinary Infantry. Guns also have a number of special characteristics that can increase their effectiveness on the ASL battlefield. For example, a Gun usually begins play emplaced, which provides additional protection to its crew, regardless of the presence of any Gunshield. Unless noted otherwise, a Gun always sets up hidden, with its Location secretly recorded on a side record. And unlike SW, most Guns can Intensive Fire, which effectively allows Gun crews to fire a parting shot at the enemy, although not without some attendant risk. 
ASL Starter Kit 2 introduces ordnance and target acquisition
It is easy to recognize a Gun because it is printed on a ⅝” counter. Starter Kit 2 comes with 14 different Guns, each of which belongs to one of four major classifications: Anti-Aircraft (AA), Anti-Tank (AT), Artillery (ART), and Mortars (MTR).1 The Kit also includes ⅝” SMOKE and White Phosphorus (WP) counters, two of several types of special ammunition (Ammo) available to specific Guns. How to use Special Ammo, move Guns (manhandle, in ASL parlance), and acquire targets are just a few of the subjects covered in the new Section 6, two-pages of text and diagrams dedicated to ordnance.
Much of Section 6 applies equally to ordnance SW such as Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LATW), and light Mortars. These SW nonetheless merit their own subsections in Section 4. Two of the more famous LATW—the handheld rocket launchers known colloquially as the Bazooka (BAZ) and the Panzerschrek (PSK)appear in ASLSK2.
Mind the Backblast! Step outside and save yourself the pain.
The inclusion of rocket launchers in the second Kit may appear strange. After all, there are no tanks to hit. I nevertheless think that it was a brilliant idea to include them. Both rocket launchers use their own, unique TH tables located on the reverse of each counter. Although there are no armoured targets to engage, there are plenty of hard targets that will do in a pinch. The High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) munitions fired from a rocket launcher can prove extremely effective against Infantry huddled in buildings. A successful hit by a PSK, for example, will result in a 12 FP attack, three times the FP of most German squads. Rocket launchers likewise can do a number on Guns and their Elite crews. Starter Kit 2 is also a good time to learn that firing a BAZ or PSK from inside a building is risky business. The effects of Backblast are best discovered early in your ASL training, not when a tank is barreling down on your position. All this is to say that I am pleased to see that LATW are introduced before tanks—a great example of programmed instruction.
The addition of ordnance weaponry required the expansion of earlier rule sections. Indeed, Section 1 through 5 all contain significant additions. The new text appears in salmon highlight (a kind of muted pink) for ease of identification. This highlighting also serves to identify any rule changes, or corrections, that differ from the rules found in the earlier printings of ASLSK1—the errata that I mentioned previously. The addition of rules for ordnance led to a 30 percent increase in the size of the ASLSK rule booklet. Add another two pages of Chapter H ordnance notes (for the 17 types of light mortars and Guns found in the Kit), and the ASLSK2 booklet runs to 20, generously-illustrated pages.
Chapter H come to ASLSK
Two of the scenarios in the Kit are Infantry-only. If ASLSK2 is your first ASLSK purchase, I recommend beginning with scenario S10. “Paper Army” can be challenging for new players once the Greek and Italian squads begin to lose experienced personnel, and are replaced by Green and Conscript squads. However, the general rules overhead for this scenario is the lowest of any scenario in the Kit. I would follow up with scenarios S9, which adds hill terrain, and S11, which adds a single light Mortar. Hills add a dimension not found in ASLSK1. The ability to see over and beyond grain when on higher ground has significant tactical advantages. However, there are more important things to concentrate on when playing your first ASLSK scenario. In my view, it is better to master the terrain on board x, y, and z before adding new terrain features to the mix.

Area Target Type Firing and Acquisition Practice
Scenario S11 is a good place to start when you are ready to test fire ordnance. Unlike medium or heavy Mortars, light mortars cannot Intensive Fire, and do not need to be Manhandled, or Pushed, from one hex to another. Moreover, mortars, in general, are only permitted to use one kind of Target Type. “A Long Way to Go” therefore keeps things simple by allowing players to concentrate on learning the TH process, and the Area Target Type. Mortars are not especially accurate. They generally are used to blanket an area (in this case a hex) with fire rather than attempt to strike a specific target within a hex. Even when they do strike a target, Mortars do not deliver the same punch as a direct-fire weapon such as an AT Gun. Players may also discover how devastating mortar bombs can be when they detonate in the treetops, what ASL terms Airburst, or when they achieve a Critical Hit. Notwithstanding the foregoing recommendations, I urge new players to begin with the scenarios in ASLSK1 first.
ASLSK2 includes boards w and x
This Kit also contains several apparently extraneous Russian Guns and crews. They are not used with any of the scenarios in ASLSK2. Instead, they are provided for scenarios published in Operations magazine. For example, the 45mm PTP obr. 32 AT Gun and crew are needed to play S18 “Baking Bread” in Operations 49. (See the MMP ASLSK Scenario Prerequisites Table in Part 8 of this series for more details.)
The eight scenarios of ASL Starter Kit 2
Notes
1. Strictly speaking, any “ordnance-capable weapon depicted on a ⅝” counter is termed a Gun, while any [ordnance-capable weapon depicted] on a ½” counter is a SW.” There are actually six classifications of Guns. Infantry Howitzers (INF) are Guns that were often outdated artillery pieces relegated to use by the infantry, hence the description. These Guns appear later in the ASLSK series. Recoilless Rifles (RCL) are the least common Gun. American versions of RCL are treated as SW, and are therefore depicted on ½” counter. German RCL were bulkier, and therefore are treated as Guns. Because RCL have a number of special characteristics, they have their own rule section in Chapter C of the ASLRB. To date, RCL have not appeared in ASLSK.