ASL in the Desert: the West of Alamein replacement product

Evan Sherry

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I have been following the modern ASL thread and it struck me that desert ASL is the most under-represented feature of ASL. Soon, there will exist three official products that cover Stalingrad. At that point I will have reached complete Stalingrad saturation. But where is a replacement for West of Alamein? The desert module for ASL is too long out of print.

As a prolific scenario designer, I find the existing ASL desert boards and overlays too limiting to properly portray desert ASL scenarios. So much so that I have abandoned most scenario ideas I have for that theater for lack of official game components needed to portray battles set in the desert.

Hopefully, the eventual replacement for West of Alamein will include several new boards and overlays that will expand terrain possibilities to portray Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and the western desert. The big challenge for designers making ASL scenarios set in the desert is distance. Much desert combat involves engagements that open at ranges well beyond 600 meters. This requires larger map configurations (even though a given ASL order of battle may remain somewhat small) to portray the opening part of an action that may never even reach the claustrophobic distances that typically result in the final phase of an ETO action.

Before MMP and ASL go wandering beyond WWII, I sincerely hope that the desert is given back an official ASL module that includes new and better components that will permit the design of desert scenarios this neglected and forgotten theater deserves.
 
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Eagle4ty

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I think you may have hit the more salient feature of desert warfare that does't lend itself well to ASL, that of ranges involved in engagements and the fact that desert (and steppe) combat were probably more focused upon the vehicle engagements as opposed to an infantry engagement. Perhaps a more operational focused approach would lend itself better to desert fighting as armor/anti-armor engagements were the crux of much of the fighting there. The fact that ASL is an infantry game, predicated primarily upon the close-in fighting more normally experienced by these formations as opposed to the extended ranges of an armor engagement in more open spaces (steppes of the Ukraine also an an example), often tests the boundaries of the ASL experience. ASL's treatment of armored vehicles as a combat element is mediocre at best, and then best presented in a fashion that supports an infantry fight. That is to say the best representation in ASL is when the infantry is the focus of the fight and armor/vehicles are thrown in as the support element and not the other way around.

Regardless of new terrain types presented for desert/steppe terrain (though I too would certainly welcome them), the ASL treatment will normally leave the player somewhat wanting when experiencing the type of engagements fought in these more expansive environments. One need only to look at the relative lack of interest in playability of all armor or current desert scenarios in ASL. Compared to other game system treatments of the same or similar engagements where the treatment of armor/anti-armor capabilities are greatly expanded, I believe ASL has reached its outer boundaries. As always, JMO.
 

Mister T

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I would welcome non-barren boards in which terrain overlays are embedded, which would speed up the set up of a DTO scenario.
EX.
One board with sand dunes
One board with rocky terrain
One board with wadis
One board with hillocks
One board with tiny hamlet
Stuff like this
 

Philippe D.

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I may be wrong, but the Desert boards come from a time when producing boards was expensive (mounted boards, plus my guess is that the cost of printing has gone way down since then), and the idea was that producing too specific desert boards was just not worth the trouble - hence the overlay approach. The situation has changed, and now a set of more varied desert boards might be a better choice.

The question is, how much interest is there in DTO among the player base? I have to admit, I have never played a DTO scenario, even though I bought West of Alamein way back in the 90's. It doesn't mean I'm not interested, though; it's just that DTO scenarios are rather rare, and they imply learning another set of terrain rules (PTO seems to have "worked" much better among players).
 

Vinnie

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I've not played DTO in 20 years. It is a theatre I'm interested in but the scenarios all seemed too big for me. This is no longer true but Mr T's idea of boards preprinted with overlays is a great idea.
The prospect of finding all those overlays and sticking them down was a real turn off.

The CH! Desert series did give some options and had a few (very few) decent scenarios but they were interspersed with so much junk (Fraser's Black Line Dash anyone?) that they failed.
 

witchbottles

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ummm HL v2 is in the MMP production pipeline - albeit other products are before it. One might consider that redesigning from Quark Express graphics-based product to a completely new set of usable graphics in today's world, along with the myriad of requirements such things entail beyond simply play testing, is an important time consideration. I, for one, hope MMP DO take their time with HL v2, so that we receive a well-rounded and mostly error-free product with lots of DTO "bang per buck" as it does finally arrive.

KRL, Jon H
 

witchbottles

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I've not played DTO in 20 years. It is a theatre I'm interested in but the scenarios all seemed too big for me. This is no longer true but Mr T's idea of boards preprinted with overlays is a great idea.
The prospect of finding all those overlays and sticking them down was a real turn off.

The CH! Desert series did give some options and had a few (very few) decent scenarios but they were interspersed with so much junk (Fraser's Black Line Dash anyone?) that they failed.
V1 High Danger, small tourney size scen, plenty of DTO fun - free from VfTT website
 

Robin Reeve

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I would welcome non-barren boards in which terrain overlays are embedded, which would speed up the set up of a DTO scenario.
EX.
One board with sand dunes
One board with rocky terrain
One board with wadis
One board with hillocks
One board with tiny hamlet
Stuff like this
That would be a great idea.
Perhaps, too, steppe terrain with no need to make mental conversions of scrub and hammada.
 

Robin Reeve

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About tank only scenarios, I don't think that they are shunned because the vehicle rules are bad: there has been a lot of progress since SL and since CoI.
Reducing ASL to an infantry combat game is much more open to debate than for SL.
There certainly are better designs for tank to tank combat, but I find that ASL already offers a good level of sophistication.
At least enough after my tastes.

If other players are like me, they like combined arms situations.
Pure infantry scenarios are more frequently played than pure tank ones, but that can be due to the fact that they often are introductory and that players learned chapter A first and are more at ease with the "basics"(of such a word fits with ASL).
I like to have infantry and tanks and guns.
I like toys and I like to make them play together.

I haven't been playing DTO for quite a long time.
As there are not a lot of scenarios coming out, I tend to be lazy not to relearn chapter F all over again (and I still don't grasp all of the Hillock LOS rules, especially when it comes to the [rare!] entrenched infantry on a Hillock).
The fact that I now have switched to the SK style boards, which are very differently coloured than the original mounted boards, I don't like to use the WoA overlays on them: even though an ugly map won't prevent me from playing a good scenario, aesthetics have their little weight when it comes to deciding between two equally interesting scenarios...
It there were more of them - say, an Action Pack on that theme (unsubtle hint) - perhaps would I play more desert scenarios.
Apart from the mantra "Kamsin, Khamsin, Khamsin" that is evoked each time one is asking for a good, well known desert scenario, I don't have the impression that many DTO scenarios reached a high level of success which impressed the gaming community.

That is, I agree with Evan Sherry's question: there should be some reprint of the DTO material and rules in reasonable delays - I would purchase overlays adapted to the new SK boards instantly.

Much of what I express is subjective and I am quite conscious that my appreciation can be different from many players'.
So YMMV, JMO, as usual.
 

Bob Walters

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Desert Forts and Walled compounds are missing. In addition the types of villages and towns along the Via Balbia were quite different from the ones found in Europe. This would be a valuable addition to the board mix. BTW - I am not saying that new terrain types are necessary just that they need to be arranged differently. Indeed, this was discussed in a thread awhile back.
 

zgrose

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For the sake of completeness as I tell everyone that wants customized/specialty boards: Do em in VASL first. If the idea is popular, there will be a ground swell of support for physical copies. If the idea isn't popular then you've minimized your costs. Win-win in my book. Same with customized/specialty counters.

I, too, would like to see DTO refreshed and available.
 

zgrose

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If we had VASL boards we could always print them out as long as the were reasonable size.
True, for desert boards you just need a Chessex vinyl mat and some dry/wet erase markers anyway. Almost everything is an inherent hindrance/obstacle so accuracy is rarely critical. :)
 

Flarvin

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I recently played through the old AH Tobruk's scenarios using ASL. Created a disposable map (black and white only) for them. It was about 60x60 hexes. I was even thinking of creating a more permanent plain desert map about that same size.

I had a great time playing those scenarios. Quite different compared to the CG from VotG I completed before that.
 

TopT

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I think that CH struck on a pretty good idea of having a large blank desert canvas and placing overlays to change the landscapes. Create the overlay(s) you are looking for and you could create whatever terrain looking for.
 

Michael Dorosh

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I think that CH struck on a pretty good idea of having a large blank desert canvas and placing overlays to change the landscapes. Create the overlay(s) you are looking for and you could create whatever terrain looking for.
Yaquinto hit on this a long time ago - it's how their Close Assault game was sold - a big mostly blank map with overlays. It may have been innovative but I don't know that it was popular.
 

BattleSchool

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I would welcome non-barren boards in which terrain overlays are embedded, which would speed up the set up of a DTO scenario.
EX.
One board with sand dunes
One board with rocky terrain
One board with wadis
One board with hillocks
One board with tiny hamlet
Stuff like this
Expanding upon this, DTO might benefit from a couple of dimorphic boards, boards with two distinctive halves that can be configured with other boards. EX: a board with a small settlement of stone buildings and compounds on one half, and "hilly," broken terrain dotted with occasional patches of scrub, brush, and "palms" on the other.

However, I think that DTO double-wide boards were tailor made for DTO. Boards that can better represent uninterrupted lengths of less-linear wadi, escarpments, undulating expanses composed of hillocks and deirs, etc.
 
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