11 September 2014

From Start to Finnish: ASLSK at Ten

In 2004, Multi-Man Publishing (MMP) had been the caretaker of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) for five years.1 The small firm had breathed new life into the hobby. The Game had a future that promised, among other things, a completed core system. But hard-core ASL players would have to wait a little longer for the long-awaited armies of oblivion.2 Indeed, ten years on, the new and reproved Finns are still awaiting their place in the MMP sun. An upstart, ASLesque publication had jumped the queue. 
"So sorry, my island now."
The derivative game that started all the fuss is not, as some suggest, ASL for dummies. However, the sub-system that this “starter” game spawned is a far cry from the stepping stone it once claimed to be. In fact, this sub-system has grown so much over the past decade that it often bewilders the very people it is meant to attract. This, and the following posts in this series, are an attempt to shed some light on what has become an offshoot of the ASL tree.3
Back in the day, the most advanced technological device in my house was a 20-inch, black-and-white television. I took it on faith that Gilligan wore a red shirt, and that Ginger’s hair was, well, ginger—I thought it was blond. It was the late 70s, and the vivid black-and-orange Squad Leader box was a welcome contrast to the grey world of our cathode ray tube.4 Adjusted with care, our rabbit-ear antenna granted access to two channels, one with English programming, one with French. The board game from Baltimore had a different kind of programming, programming that unlocked a turbulent, technicolor world of the early 1940s. 
Second City TV brought lots of colour to my TV
Cross of Iron, 1978
I remember the excitement that accompanied my reading of each “module” in the Squad Leader rule booklet. Every teaching segment concluded with the memorable lines: “STOP! You have read all that is necessary to play...” a new scenario. Squad Leader was imposing. It was a far cry from Risk. Few games of the period approached its level of detail and complexity. Learning let alone mastering the game was a daunting proposition for a 14 year old. Programmed instruction made all the difference. When the sequel appeared a year later, my friends and I dove right in.5 
Chapter and verse
When the Avalon Hill Game Company (AH) released ASL in 1985, it introduced a really big rulebook (ASLRB) to the wargaming hobby. It was so big, and so exceptional, that it was sold separately. At the time, we took this in stride. In retrospect, it was a bold move. The ASLRB retailed for more than the base game! Rules were divided into colour-coded chapters complete with colour chapter dividers that doubled as player aids. The rules came in their own specialized binder, nestled inside a sturdy slipcase. The attention to detail was phenomenal. Absent, however, was anything approaching a tutorial, or a guide to learning the newfangled game.6 
Beyond belief: AH takes the wargaming market on faith
Although ASL was (and remains) a significant departure from Squad Leader, AH believed that it was similar enough to John Hill’s original creation that veterans of Squad Leader would make the transition without much fuss. Avalon Hill was counting on this. The company was also betting that the majority of their established player base would adopt the new game. It was a big ask.7 
Paratrooper
The “advanced” game was not so much advanced as it was different. It was a completely revamped game system. Avalon Hill belatedly acknowledged this with the release of Paratrooper the following year. This so-called “Introductory Module” was aimed at Squad Leader players “contemplating a switch to ASL.” Paratrooper was described as “an inexpensive medium” that would allow these prospective recruits “to sample the rich delights of the ASL game system.” I agree that the module gave players a taste of things to come. But an inexpensive introduction to ASL it was not.8 Nor was Paratrooper a particularly useful tool for introducing players to ASL, least of all players without prior experience of Squad Leader.
The text on the back of the Paratrooper box emphasized that there were few prerequisites needed to play the eight scenarios in the module. The blurb also reassured customers that the enclosed “Squad Leader Training Manual” would help them learn ASL. Despite its name, the manual—better known as Chapter K—was designed to teach the basics of ASL, not Squad Leader
The manual was broken down into six teaching sessions, or days. It took the form of an imaginary, military-training syllabus—some 30 pages long—replete with a cartoon-character, American Drill Sergeant. In order to get the most out of the exercise, trainees had to obey the sergeant’s commands and move pieces about on a map. On the first day, trainees were treated to a forced march across several boards, traversing along the way much of the terrain found in Chapter B of the ASLRB. One board has at least 20 different types of terrain! Subsequent training days used the same “boots-on-the-ground” method to explain lines of sight, fire principles (including the protection afforded by various types of cover), engaging the enemy in close combat, the physical and psychological effects of combat, and the importance of camouflage and concealment. The manual nevertheless falls short of the programmed instruction method that Squad Leader employed to great effect. Jim Stahler’s training syllabus is still helpful, if incomplete.9 Let me explain.
Killer Chapter K
Even the most basic scenarios in Paratrooper include ordnance weapons such as light mortars and bazookas. These weapons use rules found in Chapter C, which are not covered in Jim’s six days of basic training. In addition, three scenarios also feature Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFV), thereby necessitating a careful read of Chapter D as well. To put this into perspective, the first two chapters of the ASLRB run to over 100 pages. Admittedly there is a great deal in these chapters that can be ignored when playing the scenarios in Paratrooper. However, to play any scenario in this module also requires a player to grasp a good deal of Chapter C, which runs to over 20 pages. The Training Manual included with Paratrooper only addresses the salient points of the first two chapters. Therefore, until training exercises for ordnance appeared more than a decade later, beginners were left to decipher Chapter C on their own. Once we factor in another 20 or so pages for Chapter D, we can begin to appreciate the daunting task faced by the budding squad leader. 
In a nutshell, Paratrooper did not provide a progressive introduction to ASL, because in spite of its allegedly introductory nature, Paratrooper contained no truly introductory scenarios. This may have worked for some ASL initiates with prior experience of Squad Leader—namely, the target audience. But for those with no previous exposure to ASL’s predecessor, the subject matter in Paratrooper could hardly be characterized as basic, or introductory. It would be another 18 years before newcomers would have access to a truly entry-level ASL publication.
Chapter why
In 2004, MMP released only one ASL game: ASL Starter Kit 1 (ASLSK1). The small, unassuming box is a marked departure from earlier publications. Until then, ASL had been a strictly, modular system. The ASLRB,  together with the indispensable module Beyond Valor, form the core around which the system expanded. The new Kit is self-contained. It may have been sired by ASL, but ASLSK owes its parent no allegiance. 
Starter Kits target new (and returning) ASL players. In keeping with this aim, the Kits require only a small investment of time and money. Ken Dunn, the lead developer, and MMP accomplished this frugal feat by dramatically reducing the complexity of the game. A simpler game means less components, and in turn, lower cost. Each Kit contains just enough material to play the scenarios enclosed in the box. With a bit of imagination, future scenarios can be designed within the limits imposed by the contents of a particular Kit. Although infrequent, new scenarios fitting the bill have appeared in later publications. 
Each Kit contains playing pieces, mapboards, charts and tables, a pair of dice, and an abridged rule booklet. The playing pieces are standard ASL counters.10 The mapboards, while compatible with ASL mapboards, differ in several respects. The terrain on many ASLSK boards lacks variety; they remind me of the earliest boards from Squad Leader. This is to be expected. Unexpected, however, is the small size of the buildings relative to the hexes. Personally, I think the buildings look more to scale than on many ASL boards. The downside is that the urban boards lack the claustrophobic feel of an ASL city board. There are far too many open Lines of Sight (LOS) due to the greater expanse between structures. 
Boarding school: ASLSK buildings teach newbs FFMO lesson
The other interesting thing about ASLSK mapboards is that they are printed on heavy card stock. Classic ASL mapboards are mounted the same as a Monopoly or Scrabble board. Not only are mounted boards costly to produce, but they also weigh almost four times as much as a card-stock board does.11 The light-weight “Starter-Kit style” boards, as the new boards came to be known, also pack better, because they take up half of the volume of a mounted board. The styling, new board format is tailor made for Starter Kits.12 
The unadorned, largely black-and-white, ASLSK Quick Reference Data Charts (QRDC) charts are functional. Again this keeps costs down. The tables on these QRDC are stripped down versions of the elaborate, colour-coded tables found on the chapter dividers of the ASLRB. In some cases, an ASLSK table bears only a superficial resemblance to an ASL table. The ASLSK To Hit (TH) table is one such beast. Closer inspection reveals that the “beginner” table is designed to simplify play. Each type of weapon has its own TH values, right down to the Final Dice Roll (DR) needed for a Critical Hit, and/or any Special Ammunition. Experienced ASL players may find these “slide-rule” tables awkward to use. But keep in mind that the tables are designed for people approaching the game with no preconceptions. That said, I have two reservations. 
ASLSK To Hit Tables lighten arithmetic
First, substantially different tables make it a bit tedious for an experienced player to teach someone at the ASLSK level. The old hand has to not only “remember to forget” some ASL rules—more on this in a moment—but also has to (re)learn how to calculate a successful hit using an unfamiliar table. (Alternatively, the teacher can dispense with the ASLSK TH table and have the student use the ASL TH table instead.) My second reservation is that a similar relearning process will invariably occur when a beginner transitions to ASL. Neither of these reservations are show stoppers, but one or both may lead to some unnecessary frustration.
No OPP Fire
The publication of a bare-bones version of ASL that captures the essence of The Game is a remarkable achievement. The ASLSK rule set is a distillation of the more fundamental aspects of ASL. On the one hand, ASLSK includes the core principles of Defensive First Fire (DFF): First Fire, Subsequent First Fire (SFF), and Final Protective Fire (FPF). On the other hand, ASLSK excludes less commonly used rules for Opportunity Fire and Spraying Fire.13 Infantry can Double Time in ASLSK, but only if declared at the beginning of a unit’s Movement Phase (MPh). Moreover, Infantry cannot dart across a street (Dash), or skirt the edge of an obstacle (Bypass). These are sensible compromises, as was the decision to make all buildings ground level only.14
No concealment
Culling specific rules keeps new players focused on the most important concepts of ASL fire and movement. Removing entire tracts of rules keeps the amount of reading (and rereading) to a minimum. Excluding the rules for cavalry was an easy decision. Ignoring the rules for concealment was more controversial. Still, it is easy to see why concealment did not make the cut. Even among veteran players, this area of the rules is prone to misunderstandings. Granted concealment adds more to the game than just fog of war. Nevertheless, this section of the ASLRB can be a lot to digest for a beginner.
To be fair, the ASLSK rule set does contain an element of concealment, namely Hidden Initial Placement (HIP). This particular form of concealment is such a fundamental part of how Guns work in ASL that it could not be trimmed. Indeed, concealment, in the form of HIP, has not been overlooked in a more general sense either. Through the artful use of Special Scenario Rules (SSR), ASLSK scenario designers have developed a workaround that allows all or part of a force to set up HIP at start. Even optional rules found in Chapter E of the ASLRB have appeared as SSR in ASLSK scenarios. I point out some of these SSR in later posts. Below is an example of a ASLSK board q (transformed on Virtual ASL per SSR) and used to depict a snowy environment.
Board q cropped and transformed into a winter landscape
There are two obvious advantages to the SSR approach. One, these occasional rules are not found in the ASLSK rule set, which keeps the size of the rule booklets manageable. And two, such SSR (usually) alert new and experienced players alike that a non-ASLSK rule (or variation thereof) is in play. In a similar vein, many scenario Victory Conditions (VC) in ASLSK are verbose by ASL standards. This is another consequence of keeping the rules overhead to a minimum. However, the net result is the same. Beginners get a taste of the fruit without having to splurge for the entire tree.
ASLSK versus ASL Victory Conditions (VC)
Careful pruning, and selective grafting (onto scenario cards, as circumstances demand), has kept the ASLSK rule booklet incredibly compact. Yet, in spite of Kenn Dunn’s horticulture, the booklets have colour illustrations aplenty. The example below is typical of the abundant diagrams that make light work of some concepts that may be hard to visualize. (I added the arrows and terrain descriptions. I encourage players to highlight or otherwise annotate their personal copies if it will aid in their comprehension and retention of the rules.) 
Interaction of hills and orchards in ASL
However, the tiny (by ASL standards) rule booklet included with the first Starter Kit is not without its problems. One thing that continues to confound experienced players—particularly those with a penchant for organization—is the lack of an index. Okay, there is a glossary under the heading “Definitions.” It even includes rule citations. However, these citations are of questionable value due to how the rules are organized. In contrast to the procedure-manual layout of the ASLRB, the bulk of the ASLSK rule set takes the form of a sequential narrative, organized by phase. The most problematic section is entitled “Sequence of Play” (SOP). The same section in the ASLRB runs to less than a page. In the first ASLSK rule booklet, Section 3 is a whopping seven pages long! 
The reason for the discrepancy is simple. In the ASLRB, the section dealing with SOP merely outlines how the game flows, and broadly describes what occurs during each phase. Not so in ASLSK. Section 3 is the heart of the ASLSK rule set. It introduces rules and game concepts in the same order that a player might encounter them in the course of play. Put another way, this section is an annotated SOP that doubles as a repository for roughly half of the ASLSK rule set. 
Sequence of Play
Imagine that you need to prove to your inexperienced opponent that you can recover, retrieve, gain possession of, or otherwise pick up a Demolition Charge (DC) during the MPh. You consult the glossary. But none of these terms is listed. You do find a listing for DC. However, after getting no joy from Subsection 4.3, you flip back through the pages until you find the subsection of Section 3 that deals with the MPh. A half-page of text later you find the reference, in the last paragraph of the subsection. There has got to be an easier way. There is, if you are clever enough to consult Section 4.0 instead. The answer lies in the last sentence of the first “run-on” paragraph. 
Starter Kit is designed ostensibly for beginners, not students articling for the legal profession. Were the ASLSK rules organized differently, a glossary might have sufficed. As it stands, the lack of an index is arguably the second biggest shortcoming of the Starter Kit series. Fortunately, Jonathan R. VanMechelen, a veteran ASL player from Pennsylvania, has compiled a superb INDEX for ASLSK.  
ASLSK Index for ASL Players
The absence of an index also makes it difficult for an ASL coach to quickly assess if a particular ASL rule is in force. Having played ASL for decades, a lot of rules become second nature. For instance, when it looks like the enemy is about to overwhelm a position, it can be prudent to break and run. However, the option to voluntarily break an Infantry unit does not exist in ASLSK. In fact, there are so many minor differences between the rule sets that keeping track of them during play can be tedious. What is needed is an index that cross references ASL and ASLSK rules. Happily, JRV, as he is commonly known on the ASL forums, did not rest on the seventh day. You can download a pdf of the “ASLSK Index for ASL Players” from his website.15 
The biggest beef that I have with ASLSK is that it is not a form of programmed instruction akin to Squad Leader. It undoubtedly helps that ASLSK rules are presented in three, modest bundles. However, a beginner is still required to read a small textbook before commencing play.16 The Starter Kits did not replace Chapter K either, because they are not tutorials. In fact, there is a great deal in Jim Stahler’s tutorials that is not present in the ASLSK rule set. But do not despair. Jay Richardson has produced a splendid series of illustrated tutorials. His most helpful tutorial was published in Operations 49, MMP’s former house magazine. Jay’s tutorials (and a host of player aids) are nonetheless accessible online.17  
For the most part, ASLSK is self-contained. This has certain advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the biggest plus is the low cost. One can forgive a lot of trespasses for the bargain price that Starter Kit 1 retails for. Depending upon your perspective, we have Ken Dunn to thank or blame for the Starter Kit series. I have no hesitation in raising my hand to say thanks for making ASL affordable and approachable to a greater number of people, especially younger generations. Kenn has done yeoman work, and continues to devote a great deal of his spare time to the development of new ASLSK scenarios and publications. However, some are bound to blame him (and MMP) for taking ASL down a different path. For almost two decades Chapter K introduced new players to ASL. Ten years after the release of the first Starter Kit, many longtime ASL players have come to question the rationale behind the new kid on the block. Are they right to think that ASLSK has become a separate book rather than a new chapter in the growth of the hobby? Before you come to any hasty conclusions, I encourage you to read the remainder of my impressions, beginning with the next post in this eight-part series on ASLSK.
Specific scenario dependencies are addressed in later posts
Notes
1. Hasbro Inc. acquired the rights to ASL in 1998 (along with a host of other popular Avalon Hill titles).
2. The Axis Minor states are the black sheep of the system. As early as 1978, the Romanians made a guest appearance in Cross of Iron. Not until 2006, however, did these lesser powers finally have their just due. Armies of Oblivion, reputed to be the “last” core module, brought not only the Romanians, but also the Hungarians, Slovaks, Croats, and Bulgarians to the ASL game table.
3. My choice of metaphor is intentional. An offshoot, inviting unwelcome comparisons with a “sucker,” is a clone of the parent plant. Strictly speaking, ASLSK is not a clone of ASL. It has some unique elements such as its individual To Hit tables for various weapons. However, over 99 percent of the rules in the ASLSK rule booklets come directly from the orange tome. And many of the Scenario Special Rules that appear in ASLSK scenarios are in reality simplified versions of rules found in the second edition of the ASL Rulebook (ASLRB2). By way of contrast, Solitaire ASL (SASL) is more of a departure from ASL than ASLSK is.
4. In 2014, almost 12,000 UK households had yet to switch to colour televisions, largely due to the higher licence fees: £145.50 ($240.00 USD) for colour, £49.00 ($80.00 USD) for monochrome (i.e. black and white). 
The Big Brother Corporation (BBC) is watching you! A 1980s TV detector van used to locate unlicensed television sets.
5. The sequel, Cross of Iron, ended each teaching segment with the phrase: “STOP! You have read all that is necessary to play Scenario [X]. We advise you to play it at least once before advancing to the more complicated and realistic scenarios which follow.” Programmed instruction continued with each subsequent game in the series. While this helped players digest new rules incrementally, difficulties arose as earlier rules were replaced with new ones. By the time GI Anvil of Victory appeared, the rules had become a contradictory mess. Advanced Squad Leader was something of a reboot that incorporated a redesigned game engine. The new game rendered all Squad Leader materials save the boards (1-15) redundant. The hobby has not entirely recovered from the schism that the introduction of ASL created.
6. The first edition of the ASL Rulebook did not include the Chapter K series of tutorials that are now included with ASLRB2. 
7. Many owners of the four Squad Leader “modules” balked at having to purchase virtually everything from scratch. Although the first edition of Beyond Valor utilized boards 1 and 8, grognards were left with stacks of incompatible counters, and close to one hundred, redundant scenario cards (if one includes the scenario packs published separately). Most Squad Leader components were consigned to the trash. But almost all of the scenarios were later recycled by Jim Stahler, the author of Chapter K. The last batch of Jim’s Squad Leader conversions was published as Rivers to the Reich only eight months ago—29 years after the debut of ASL. The scenario pack also includes reprints of overlays originally released in GI Anvil of Victory, the last of the Squad Leader games.
8. The disclaimer on the back of the box made it clear that the first four boards from Squad Leader and “the ASL rules” were prerequisites for play. “All other components necessary to play the game,” were enclosed, and “absolutely no other purchase” was necessary. It sounded attractive enough. Paratrooper retailed for $15, roughly the same cost as one of the Squad Leader gamettes. It was misleading, however, to refer to the $45 ASL Rule Book in passing as “the ASL rules.” At three times the price of the ASL sampler, the rulebook was a hefty price to pay to sample the system. Moreover, some of those looking to test drive ASL also may have had to spend an additional $12 for boards 1-4. Even today, $72 is a lot of money to shell out for an introductory wargame.
9. Unfortunately, Sergeant Stahler went AWOL on Sunday. It would be more than a decade before he returned to the training depot. Day Seven: Light Mortars and Basic Ordnance of Chapter K was not published until 1997, some eleven years after the release of Paratrooper. Inexplicably, the new material first appeared in the historical module Pegasus Bridge. First Lieutenant Tom Huntington was the Drill Instructor for Day Eight: Guns and Advanced Ordnance Principles, which was published three years later in ASL Journal 2. Today, the eight-day Training Manual is included with ASLRB2.
Edit: I neglected to mention that Jim Stahler also published a very useful "Eight Steps to ASL: A Programmed Instruction Approach." The article first appeared in ASL Annual 90 (15-20). The article was reprinted in The General Vol. 30, No. 1 (1995): 19, 42-43, 47, 55-56. Thanks to Enrico Catanzaro of Italy for reminding me of this important article.
10. Admittedly there is some variation. In the ASL counter mix, for example, the flip side of a ½” concealment counter is used to indicate that an Infantry unit is Counter Exhausted (CX). Because there are no concealment counters in ASLSK, the CX status marker is found on the reverse of Desperation Morale status marker. I prefer this arrangement, in part, because when my half-squads Double Time, they invariably draw fire and break. At that point, I simply flip over both counters.
11. Board 16 (from the ASL module Yanks) is about 190 grams, whereas board z from Starter Kit 1 weighs about 50 grams.
12. The reduced weight of the card stock boards has enabled MMP to consolidate smaller modules into larger ones. For instance, in 2006, MMP released a third edition of Beyond Valor that contained six more boards than the previous addition, along with 14 extra scenarios that could now be played using only the contents of this base module (and the ASLRB2). The following year, MMP adopted the new board format for their Action Packs. Since then, all Action Packs have included three boards. (The forthcoming ASL Action Pack 10 is the first of its kind since 1999 to contain only two boards.) The lightweight and compact nature of the new boards has also led to their inclusion in periodicals. ASL Journal 7 was the first magazine to come with a mapboard. “Marders not Martyrs,” was the only scenario in the magazine that used the board. Board v was, in truth, an ASLSK board. It was included in order to promote the new style of board, and signal to ASL players that change was afoot. Board v would appear again in Starter Kit 3 a year later. Issue 5 of Special Ops—MMP’s new house magazine—contains ASL board 68.
13. Opportunity Fire (A7.25) is frequently declared by an attacker when the forces of the opposing side are concealed. Rather than fire during the PFPh at a concealed target using Area Fire (3.2/A7.23), a player may opt to declare Opportunity Fire instead. Should an enemy unit lose concealment during the intervening MPh and DFPh, the attacker can then fire on the enemy at full strength during the AFPh. Given that there is no concealment (EX: HIP) in ASLSK, Opportunity Fire is not a significant omission.
14. In my view, this is an improvement over the more abstract rule that Squad Leader initially employed. In “Guards Counterattack,” the granddaddy of all Squad Leader (and ASL) scenarios, units were considered to occupy all levels of a building simultaneously. The historical module Decision at Elst breaks with ASLSK tradition, but in an unusual manner. See Part 7 of this series for an explanation. 
15. JRV’s site also keeps win-loss records for all ASL and ASLSK scenarios. Players enter their results, and the program updates the win-loss statistics accordingly.  
16. In order to play all but one of the scenarios in ASLSK1, a player must read the accompanying twelve-page rule booklet in its entirety. The exception is the first scenario, which does not include any Support Weapons (SW), and therefore reduces the required reading by almost a page. Still, the first scenario in Squad Leader (see note 14 above) could be played after reading only six pages of rules. Later Kits include one or two scenarios featuring only Infantry and SW. However, these Kits also contain slightly more “advanced” types of terrain such as hills. Ordnance and vehicles add roughly six and ten pages, respectively, to the ASLSK rule set.
17. Such is the popularity of the Starter Kit series that various tutorials—not to mention rules, charts and numerous player aids—have been translated into French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. For ease, I have collected a sampling of this material and made it available HERE. If you know where I might find a copy of the Japanese translation, please let me know. The one that used to be listed on the MMP website is currently unavailable. 

6 comments:

Grumble Jones said...

I began my Squad Leader journey in 1978 and still remember the Christmas joy when Cross of Iron appeared under the tree. Then Crescendo of Doom. I could have played that system for quite a long time. Then for my 18th B-Day, I got Anvil of Victory and was disappointed with everything about it...even hated the boards.

In 1985, I was still in college and still playing Crescendo of Doom rules, having consigned Anvil of Victory's to the sidelines.

I resisted ASL until 1989 out of protest for having to completely start over. Now all these years later, its fun to look back at the journey, but it's hard to imagine how a new player makes that same journey today. In some ways it is easier, but in other so much more difficult. But it's a wonderful journey at any rate.

Thanks for another thoughtful article.

Chris Doary said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Scott.

I am amazed at the dedication shown by newer players who have taken on ASL from scratch, and become ardent advocates of the game. I met one guy at ASLOk a few years ago. He picked up the game after retiring, and has been playing ever since.

ASL can be an incredibly absorbing and satisfying hobby. It's too bad that there isn't an easier way to get highschool students introduced to the game. Maybe MMP should consider donating copies of ASLSK1 to highschool gaming clubs.

I played other wargames as a teen, but I was hooked after playing Guards Counterattack.

Part 2 in this series is scheduled for midnight EST.

Grumble Jones said...

Yeah, the journey into wargaming is different for everyone. My 7th Grade Art Teacher introduced me to using Dice to determine hits for our Airfix Minitature battles, etc. I thought...WOW...what a concept and then a neighbor broke out Panzer Blitz and another WOW moment occurred (that opponent went on to the Naval Academy and led a Marine Tank Platoon in Iraq).
I'm sure every ASL Player has a similar story.

Jon Nuwesra said...

Great article Chris! I thoroughly enjoyed the read. In regards to ASLSK style I have had difficulty using it as a teaching tool to potential new players. The rules are too much like ASL in terms of verbiage (ex: the acronyms). The see the frustration on the new faces of folks trying to read the rules.

I learned the game by myself back in 1987. I had the dual book and paratrooper. I played games like Star Fleet Battles and WWII micro armour. The key for me to learning those rules were the Ch K pages. I still refer to these when I need to relearn and wrap my head around a particular rule that is in it.

I believe that the ASLSK rule book should have been more like Ch K and less like standard ASL. Things like an index I imagine would help the grognard help the newb. So I agree on that point.

Please note my opinions were formed after getting feedback from players that wanted to learn ASL but had trouble with the rules presentation. For example, things like Def First Fire during enemy mov phase seems to get lost in the translation from the page to the game. What I find interesting is that I remember reading the related ASLRB rules section so many years ago to completely understand how it all worked. The movement phase can be a pain for the new player.

Thanks again for the read. I am sure many folks appreciate the time you take to make this all available.

Regards,
Jonathan

Chris Doary said...

Thanks for the kind words and comments Jonathan.

I agree that the MPh/DFF part of ASL is the most difficult for new players to get their heads around. Jay Richardson's article in Operations 49 is a good place to start. Sadly, it is long out of print. Perhaps, in the future, MMP will make it available for download on their website.

Hard at work on the next part in this series. Heaps of interruptions due to family commitments, but should have it published before the weekend.

Thanks for everyone's patience.

Art Brickwood II said...

Thanks for the article. I played SL back in High school loved it for the instructions and ease of play. Have been going backwards in trying to get into ASL, started with RB 2nd BV, SK#3, now SK#1. Have gone back and forth trying to learn with CH k or SK. I think after reading this I will go back to CH k and just get it done with the full RB. I would rather learn complete rules based on scenarios vs limited rules in SK , and then apply new rules over again. How can I be sure I have ALL errata ?