11 July 2013

Rats in the Kitchen!

A player aid just released by Le Franc Tireur (LFT) has sparked controversy among the ASL faithful. The 28-page flip chart contains a handsome collection of ASL tables and flowcharts. The controversy stems from the inclusion of original Avalon Hill artwork, and portions of MMP flowcharts. 
The fellow who ignited the controversy contends that there are two issues. One centres on intellectual property, and copyright. The other is a question of ethics. I will let readers decide where they stand on Mark Pitcavage’s criticism’s.1 My purpose here is to describe what can be found between the laminated covers of the LFT Rat Pocket Charts.
May I present the LFT Rat Pocket Charts
Pet project
Bertrand Guillou-Keredan is a game nut. His home in Nantes, France is positively brimming with games of all kinds. Like many hard-core gamers, he enjoys reading rule books at bedtime.2 Years of study notwithstanding, he cannot possibly keep everything in his head, especially when it comes to ASL. Perhaps it came to Bertrand when he donned his aviator “thinking cap.” Perhaps not. But Bertrand was definitely on to something. The editor of LFT agreed. Fast forward to 2013, and the Pocket Charts are born. 
Où sont les hexagones?
One size fits all
The Rat Pocket Charts (RPC) are formatted to fit effortlessly between player and playing area. When closed, the RPC measure roughly 5” x 12” (13cm x 31cm). The pages are spiral bound. This keeps the table footprint small, while still allowing one to view two pages concurrently, as required. Players will find this latter feature useful when consulting the Off-Board Artillery (OBA) Flowchart shown below. 
Check out the Nationality Chits Table below the playing card
All of the charts are printed on coated cardstock. They are about the same thickness as the chapter dividers found in the ASL Rule Book (ASLRB2). As with their larger brethren in the orange tome, the pages inside the RPC are unlaminated. Each RPC weighs in at almost 5.5 ounces, or 155 grams. The RPC is definitely slim and light-weight. Pocket-sized it is not. 
Is that a desert rat?
Le menu
You will not find every ASL table in the RPC. That is not its purpose. But you will find almost every commonly-consulted table from chapters A through G. You will also find the odd new table—the range table for Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LATW), for instance. A selective summary of several key rules pertaining to the desert is another welcome addition. In most cases, the tables are laid out on one page. There are two general exceptions. The first is the chapter B terrain table, which is spread across two pages, and the To Hit Table, which straddles the left side of two pages. The second exception is the flow charts. The OBA Flowchart runs to four pages, while the Overrun Flowchart occupies two pages.  
Helen's ASL tweezers are NOT for sale!
Below is a rough guide to the contents:
  • (Incremental) Infantry Fire Tables
  • Ambush, Close Combat Table
  • Leader Creation, Heat of Battle
  • Concealment Loss/Gain Table
  • Sniper Attack, Concealment drm, Searching
  • National Capabilities Chart
  • OBA Firepower Chart, Control (A26.1)
  • Chapter B Terrain Chart
  • OBA Flowchart
  • To Hit and TK Tables, AFV Destruction Table
  • LATW Range Table, and most chapter C Tables
  • Overrun Flowchart
  • selection of the chapter D tables
  • Beach Terrain
  • select chapter E charts, including page devoted to night
  • Desert Terrain, and a few chapter F tables
  • PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations) Terrain
  • Tank Hunter Hero tables, and PTO Date-Dependent Rules
No fear at Alligator Creek
There is a lot crammed into 27 pages. (There are no tables on the back cover.) If you are like me, and are having difficulty reading the fine print on a menu, you will want to keep your reading glasses at the ready. Reading the notes of the redesigned National Capabilities Chart, or the reduced Concealment Table can be a challenge in low light.4 Another downside of the RPC format is that it can take time to find a particular table. Although the pages of the booklet are colour-coded, there are no tabs. The oft-consulted To Hit Table, for example, is seven “flips” below the IFT. Therefore, I plan to add some colour-coded tabs to my copy.
These shortcomings aside, the layout and design of the RPC shows some forethought. The flip chart is small enough to fit between the player and the playing area, without ever intruding upon the map layout of most scenarios. Unlike its bigger cousins—the chapter dividers of the ASLRB2—the RPC can be kept directly (and comfortably) in front of you during the course of a game. Moreover, most ASL tables are now at your fingertips, no longer spread across a dozen or more chapter dividers. 
The liberal use of cartoons is also a nice touch. More practical are the laminated covers. Granted the flip chart is not beer-proof. It is nevertheless modestly beer-resistant. I also draw some comfort from the fact that the charts and tables have been proofed by ASL players whose first language is English. Any errors, including absentee vowels, must invariably be the fault of these intrepid Americans. Seriously, three fine gentlemen5 have helped to insure that typos and grammatical missteps have not crept into these new player aids. For all these various reasons, I think that LFT’s Rat Pocket Charts will make a fine addition to your ASL kit.6   
1. Refer post 76.
2. I maybe exaggerating, but Bertrand has admitted to being a “rules addict” on BoardGameGeek. Whether or not he actually reads rules before he puts head to pillow, I cannot say.
3. The circumference of the spiral binding makes the flip chart a bit awkward to ship as letter mail, which generally has a maximum shipping thickness of ¾” (20mm). If you are concerned about damage during shipment, I would recommend that you have the RPC shipped as a parcel rather than a letter.
4. Another problem is that some tables have printed lighter than usual. For instance, the type on the Canister FP and the Anti-Tank Magnetic Mine Tables is lighter than that of the other tables on the same (chapter D) page.
5. Spencer Armstrong, Jim Bishop, and Jim Brackin were instrumental in proofing the RPC. Norwegian Ole Bøe is also credited. He gave LFT permission to use the Infantry charts that he created some years ago.
6. Available from LFT, Gamer's Armory, and in our KitShop. Email battleschool at rogers dot com to order.


Ian said...

Nice review Chris, until the other day I was not even aware that this was available


Event Horizon said...

So what artwork is taken from the ASL rulebooks?

Chris Doary said...

Thanks Ian.

@ Zac,

I would be speculating to say what artwork has been copied. The ATMM Table, for example, certainly looks like a copy and paste job. But only LFT and MMP could say for certain. The Nationality Capability Chart is definitely NOT a copy. The layout is different than that found on the chapter divider.

John Carrington said...

For me,these charts are a real boon. Well worth the price. Thanks to Elen and Chris for making them available in North America. I know you can order them directly from LFT but it is so much more convenient to be able to get them here.

Kudos to Xavier for producing them.

Unknown said...

This is great. My birthday is comming soon.