What does ASL do better/worse than any other Game?

Michael Dorosh

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I'm putting together some compare/contrast notes on all the tactical warfare games that have been released since 1969, and thinking about all the different ways different aspects of combat have been portrayed in the various games. ASL obviously has strengths and weaknesses. From a realism/fidelity to detail standpoint, what does ASL do better than, say, Tobruk, Panzerblitz, Panzergrenadier or any other game in which counters represent squads or platoons? Aside from the sheer scope of special rules for just about every situation; climbing, swimming, unarmed men, captured vehicles, mouseholing, etc.

I'll go on a limb and say the following:

BEST: I'd say ASL tops all other games in its portrayal of armour rating on vehicles, giving the most detailed armour modelling system of any game in its class. But, it has the advantage of modelling tanks individually where many "tactical" games do not.

Firepower: I think the firepower factor "formula" for ASL squads seems pretty well thought out and appropriate for all the nationalities. If not scientific, they at least "feel" right.

WORST: Artillery. ASL's artillery model is horribly simplistic and uses the US model for every nationality. Every leader in the game is an FO, and imagine the horror of making a British FO have to "request" artillery. In reality, a British FOO was a captain or even a major, who gave "orders" to his battery - not requests - and could draw on greater weights of fire as needed. For playability reasons, this is all naturally simplified.

Leadership: The simplistic leadership counters of ASL seem to be borrowed from earlier Civil War designs (Gettysburg?) and owe more to those designs than any kind of realistic study of modern battlefield command.

Command and Control: Companies and Platoons don't exist. In tandem with the above, there are no leaders for the subunits - leaders can rally anyone they wish without penalty and flit from pile of men to pile of men. Do other tactical games model "hard" command and control at this level in greater detail?
 

Aries

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I will avoid techy sounding input, and go with ASL delivers such a wealth of unpredictable variability per playing, that the games replay worth likely exceeds any other wargame on the market.

A downside, the manual has perhaps become too unreadable. It probably could do with a full stop, gather it all up, and do for it, what ASL did for Squad Leader.

There is no reason the manual should be spread all over several modules, it just is. The modules should only need to provide the OOB, not be a source for rules sections, charts and other forms of reference that belong to the manual.
 

Michael Dorosh

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Your points are well taken, Aries. I was hoping for techie answers, but your answer is a good one and raises a good overall point. ASL really is schizophrenic in conceptual design; the entire game is predicated on gross simplifications and abstractions, and then is executed on grossly complicated procedurals - a legacy of the entire production history from the original beer and pretzel original to the advanced game. On the one hand you have the really slick system of firepower factors and "design for effect" stuff, in the same system where on the other hand you have a handful of LMGs represented on board with a separate counter in such a manner that no two players can agree on what it is supposed to represent - additions to the order of battle? Hotshot machinegunner? Who cares, let's just play? The infantry fire table neatly sums up John Hill's assertion that you can have only three results of a fire attack - no effect, elimination, some degree of discomfiture - and then muddies it up with doubles, column shifts, colured-die dominance, snake-eyes and box-cars, all of which have specific and sometimes multiple meanings which will call for additional die rolls, all of which can also be affected by doubles, snake-eyes, or box-cars.

None of which I'd change, incidentally, just interesting to note the development flow. But for all that detail, we still don't see a lot of historical decisions forced on the player. Platoon movement for infantry, for example; splitting squads into teams seems to be done rarely; historical usage of LMGs seems to be abandoned in favour of ASL's LMG rules; the problem of player omniscience and command and control - all of which reinforce the idea that ASL is a game (the premier game, if the hype is to be believed), rather than a simulation.
 
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RobZagnut

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>What does ASL do better/worse than any other Game?

Better

* The freaking edge-of-your-seat excitement/tension that is hard to find in any other wargame. In fact, I'm still looking.

* The wild swings of emotion from despair to exhilaration to agony in a single sitting.

* The ability to sit down with a complete stranger and be able to talk the same language in a few seconds.

* The ability to suck you in, hold you and never let go.

* The comradery of those who play the game. Many of us have found best friends for life from ASL.

* The individual efforts of some many different people from tourney drectors, to designers, to publishers, to playtesters, etc to each make the world of ASL a little better. I'm not sure if there are many other games out there with that much effort from so many.


Worst

* The ability to suck you in, hold you and never let go. I have known a couple of guys who have got divorced or were threatened with divorce over ASL.
 

Michael Dorosh

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>What does ASL do better/worse than any other Game?

Better

* snip*.
Thanks, Robert, but you missed the point entirely. I was hoping for something less fanboy and more substantial in the way of actual game mechanics and the way real world procedures/decision making is portrayed. Everything you said about ASL could reasonably be said about, say, TOBRUK or any other game ever made, for that matter.
 
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The best is an actual game mechanic, yet isn't a model of reality.

The construciton of the MPh/DFPh that allows both players to remain involved in the game. It removes the 'play by mail' feel of most of other games that are turn based, where one player sits and watches while the other moves and sets up attacks, then rolls a bunch of dice, then the roles are reversed.

I've seen some games with variant length turns (GW's The Civil War) but none that work like ASL.
 

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I might have never seen much of the following if I had never gone online, but, from a Techy angle, ASL does suffer from a lot of what is called "gamey" and "sleeze".

It's in the extreme wordiness of the rules, the exactly language where upper case or lower case lettering is actually relevant.

It's not impossible to make a fun squad level board game, as that is exactly what Squad Leader was, a very fun squad level board game.

And it went from 7 simple pages of quick easy reading, to hmm hell I have no idea how many pages are involved now.

Some games set out to clone ASL, and they do it at their own peril. I think ATS is rapidly heading there for instance. Some games might avoid this fate, but that is hard to say. Lock n Load might remain straight forward and simple. Then again, it might just be the 3rd in a line of games ASL -> ATS -> LnL.

Oh what I would give for a complete set of counters from every ASL module, but with no data that hadn't been invented post Cross of Iron.
 

Michael Dorosh

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The best is an actual game mechanic, yet isn't a model of reality.

The construciton of the MPh/DFPh that allows both players to remain involved in the game. It removes the 'play by mail' feel of most of other games that are turn based, where one player sits and watches while the other moves and sets up attacks, then rolls a bunch of dice, then the roles are reversed.

I've seen some games with variant length turns (GW's The Civil War) but none that work like ASL.
That's an interesting point nonetheless; the mechanics of First Fire, FPF, Bounding First Fire et al are all unique taken together, not to mention MOTION status. Thanks for bringing it up; it wasn't what I intended to discuss with my original question but is definitely a good answer.
 

DaveStory

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Options/Choices. No other game that I've played delivers even close to the amount of choices you have in any given scenario. Albeit, most choices are obvious (or at least obviously in the good or bad camp), but nonetheless they are there, en masse.

You can argue as to how great the system is as far as playability, realism, randomness, etc, but that too would ultimately creep into 'opinion territory'. The big draw for me is ASL's depth, and it's depth is undeniable.
 

Michael Dorosh

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Options/Choices. No other game that I've played delivers even close to the amount of choices you have in any given scenario. Albeit, most choices are obvious (or at least obviously in the good or bad camp), but nonetheless they are there, en masse.
Huh? I don't understand what you mean by choices. Anyway, not really the direction I wanted to go with this. What aspects of Second World War combat does ASL do the best job of simulating, particularly with other game systems in mind that are set at the platoon or company level? And in what ways does it suffer by a direct comparison?

Granted, ASL has a lot of "choices" from the sublime to the ridiculous - I guess if I really wanted to list all the choices, from climb the walls (literally), ****, go blind, jump in board 7 and swim the river, you have a point, but again all games have choices - that's what makes them games. ;)
 

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Micheal,

I've not kept up with other tactical game systems since discovering ASL, so as a comparison my view is incomplete.

But what ASL does well, IMO

#1 I second Santino's assertion that the Defensive First Fire mechanic is one that sold me on SL then ASL

#2 Fog of War, while not perfect the concealment, dummy stack and HIP rules add a good element of FOW I've not found in other games.

#3 Chapt H notes!

#4 DYO

#5 Campaign games.

#6 Compared to PB/PL where it seems AFV's are king (hign move, firepower, etc), there is much more of a focus on the strengths and weaknesses of various types of units. ASL is more "balanced" so to speak.

Things I wish ASL did better

#1 OBA

#2 A "optional" rules section for, battle field integrity, command and control, Historical unit orginization, platoon movement etc, player omniscience reduction.

Etc. I'd be intrested to hear what the other systems do well.
 
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I'm putting together some compare/contrast notes on all the tactical warfare games that have been released since 1969, and thinking about all the different ways different aspects of combat have been portrayed in the various games. ASL obviously has strengths and weaknesses. From a realism/fidelity to detail standpoint, what does ASL do better than, say, Tobruk, Panzerblitz, Panzergrenadier or any other game in which counters represent squads or platoons? Aside from the sheer scope of special rules for just about every situation; climbing, swimming, unarmed men, captured vehicles, mouseholing, etc.

I'll go on a limb and say the following:

BEST: I'd say ASL tops all other games in its portrayal of armour rating on vehicles, giving the most detailed armour modelling system of any game in its class. But, it has the advantage of modelling tanks individually where many "tactical" games do not.

Firepower: I think the firepower factor "formula" for ASL squads seems pretty well thought out and appropriate for all the nationalities. If not scientific, they at least "feel" right.

WORST: Artillery. ASL's artillery model is horribly simplistic and uses the US model for every nationality. Every leader in the game is an FO, and imagine the horror of making a British FO have to "request" artillery. In reality, a British FOO was a captain or even a major, who gave "orders" to his battery - not requests - and could draw on greater weights of fire as needed. For playability reasons, this is all naturally simplified.

Leadership: The simplistic leadership counters of ASL seem to be borrowed from earlier Civil War designs (Gettysburg?) and owe more to those designs than any kind of realistic study of modern battlefield command.

Command and Control: Companies and Platoons don't exist. In tandem with the above, there are no leaders for the subunits - leaders can rally anyone they wish without penalty and flit from pile of men to pile of men. Do other tactical games model "hard" command and control at this level in greater detail?

Well, I’ve played many different games in my day and the one thing that separates ASL from every other 2-player strategy board-game is its excitement factor. In no other strategy game are the dice so "loaded" with unpredictability ... from HOB hero creation, berserk, sniper activation, the concept of turret/hull hits, Chs, leader creation, etc. The way ASL models this is just too kool, and it comes out perfectly in the playing. There’s a reason why ASL is like the only survivor of the 70/80s strategy board-game era. Now, IMO, there are a few multi-player games that are just about as exciting, but that would be comparing apples to oranges.

The concepts that I most like about ASL:

- The integration of fire & movement (in terms of DFF, ffnam etc) & the two-player interaction it generates as a result (neither player becomes an "observer").

- I agree with you about the AFVs. The original SL modeling of AFVs was weak, but fair. The upgrading of the AFV system through ASL turned fair to excellent.

- I love the concept of the IFT .. a much better method than the old "odds" columns of PB/PL.

- The concept of concealment & HIP is excellent, this is one of the things I most like about ASL

Things I think could be improved:

- in general the rules: too long, too complex. Some sections are overly-detailed such as LCs, others are not done well (OBA).

- Leadership, I agree with the simplistic leadership modeling. There’s no reason that alternate leaders could not be integrated into the system. The standard rank structure for just about every nationality (10-3 to 6+1) is obsolete. I would love to have seen more variation in the different nationalities rank structure (along the lines of Japanese & Finns). However, the time to have done that would’ve been at the inception of ASL. I still think it can still be done, but along the lines of a variant alternate-leader concept.

- I have to totally disagree with you on the CnC thing. CnC rules in strategy games is the biggest enjoyment-sucking concept ever created by strategy-boardgame designers. CnC restrictions significantly reduces the enjoyment of games I’ve played that include them; the concept of "command radius," in a word, stinks. One of the most innovative and greatest creations with ASL was modeling CnC through the mechanism of rout, rally, & limited-to-no control over broken units (I just love it).

- Generally I dislike the complexity & overly-detailed length of the rules & errata. All the concepts are great, from caves to LCs, swimming, air support (it would be nice to have a little more variation among aircraft, along the lines of VFTT, which would add no new rules ), frozen drifts, skiis, wadis, night, etc ... but taken in their totality, it’s impossible to ingest all the details and play each game 100% accurately .. which bugs me.

- Although not an aspect of the ASL system directly, I dislike the trend toward increasing player control & the drive away from randomness (as was talked about in another thread). In time, I can see foresee changes being made to the ASL rules such as no kindeling unless specifically allowed. All OBA removes a black chit pre-game unless otherwise specified. No HOB unless expressly stated by SSR ... this is the direction I see ASL heading, in 20 years I predict there will be more limitations in the rules-set than currently exist, thus reducing ASL (and the enjoyment of) accordingly.

- One other dislike I have about ASL is the concept of "Hidden DR/drs." Any kind of DR/dr should be made known to both players, otherwise model the rule differently. This is a total enjoyment-sucking type of concept to me, and, in fact, makes me feel bad when I get a good "hidden" DR such as 1,1 when I otherwise would want to jump for joy.
 
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MLaPanzer

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>What does ASL do better/worse than any other Game?


Worst

* The ability to suck you in, hold you and never let go. I have known a couple of guys who have got divorced or were threatened with divorce over ASL.

Damn if only it was that easy. Hel( I went to officefest on our anniversery and THAT wasn't even enough to do it.:confused:
 

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From a realism/fidelity to detail standpoint, what does ASL do better than, say, Tobruk, Panzerblitz, Panzergrenadier or any other game in which counters represent squads or platoons?
GOOD:

National Characteristics – Playing the Americans is distinctly different than playing the Germans... and playing the Italians is completely different from either of them... and playing the Japanese is really completely different than... well, you get the idea! Each nationality brings its own set of challenges, strengths, and weaknesses that goes far beyond one side being "better" than another.

Night Rules – Playing a night scenario is almost like playing a completely different game from regular ASL, and the night rules do a good job of recreating the "feel" of a night action.

NOT SO GOOD:

The Armor Rules – which suffer somewhat by being forced to operate within an infantry-game framework. Note the number of ASL players who won't play an all-armor scenario, and the general lack of interest in armor-heavy desert battles. But, I still prefer ASL's armor game to that of any other system I've tried (and I do like all-armor & desert scenarios).
 

Roadtogundagai

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Immersion factor

ASL provides immersion in the subject matter - in this case WW2 tactical combat - better than any other system I have seen. Is it a great simulation? Perhaps not - but it is a fantastic game. Taken in isolation, it is easy to poke holes in many areas of the game - the OBA and armour systems for example - but viewed from a 'design for effect' perspective it is excellent.

For example - the OBA system rewards cover & unit dispersal while also punishing exposed & bunched troops severely. The armour system shows the near invulnerability of heavy armour from the front, while almost any medium tank / LATW can wipe out the heaviest armour from the flank/rear.

Flexibility, scope and uncertainty are key strengths - want to play the Vichy French vs Japanese in a city fight? Can do. How about a penetration of a fortified line CG? Onslaught to Orsha is for you. OtO is worth a few words - this HOB module really shows the strengths of the ASL system, I think. The attacker must consider and solve some very complex and realistic problems. How much to commit as covering force vs assault force? Have I got enough SMOKE to cover the breaching action? Will my OBA be enough to suppress that strongpoint on my flank? If not, what else can I do about it? Perhaps shroud it in SMOKE or pound it with direct fire? Perhaps both? What will that do to the timeline of the advance?

Just when you think you have everything sorted - BAM - the sniper bags your 10-2 and the LLMC waxes your firebase. Or a HIP unit just came out of hiding to smack your JS2m with a PF in the side and BBQ the thing. :mad: Or you roll a HOB result that sends your boys on a berserk death charge, leaving a gaping hole in your line. :surprise: Fun fun fun... :laugh:
 

Michael Dorosh

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GOOD:

National Characteristics – Playing the Americans is distinctly different than playing the Germans... and playing the Italians is completely different from either of them... and playing the Japanese is really completely different than... well, you get the idea! Each nationality brings its own set of challenges, strengths, and weaknesses that goes far beyond one side being "better" than another.

Night Rules – Playing a night scenario is almost like playing a completely different game from regular ASL, and the night rules do a good job of recreating the "feel" of a night action.

NOT SO GOOD:

The Armor Rules – which suffer somewhat by being forced to operate within an infantry-game framework. Note the number of ASL players who won't play an all-armor scenario, and the general lack of interest in armor-heavy desert battles. But, I still prefer ASL's armor game to that of any other system I've tried (and I do like all-armor & desert scenarios).
Good points; I agree on night and armour - in fact I've not seen any other rules treat night combat in detail; this is an excellent point.

As for the nationality differences. Let's look at the US and German matchup - I agree ASL has national "flavour" but I wonder if it does it in the right ways?

How does ASL provide national "flavour"?

You have different leadership mixes - only a few nationalities have radically different leadership values, so let's ignore them for purposes of this discussion of just the US and Germans. I think if we are going to criticize the ASL leadership model as fairly conventional as far as wargames go, the nationality flavouring here tends to be a step in the wrong direction.

Squad characteristics I have stated seem to be more scientific and based on reality - underscored values and broken side morale are part of this, signifying such things as semi-automatic weapons, the BAR, training in their use, etc., so this seems like an accurate reflection of national "characteristics".

Other characteristics seem mainly to be (as far as infantry goes) essentially drm and DRM to such things as HOB rolls - nothing major such as order of battle, command and control, tactical requirements of commanders. Indirectly, I suppose you get this - i.e. so many squads per a single leader may indirectly reflect a loose type of order of battle but its nothing as definite as saying a US company had 12 men per squad, 3 squads per platoon, plus weapons det, 3 platoons to a company, vs. the German 9 man squad, etc. In game terms, one doesn't even see a difference between a 10 man German squad and a 9 man German squad (arguably the 4-6-7 1st Line and the 4-4-7 2nd Line squad can stand in for these, but there are no hard and fast rules, and many, many scenarios set in 1944 include 4-6-7 squads).

It would appear to be more of the "do what feels right" school of game design shining through. As far as national characteristics go, I've only seen a marked tendency to try and capture them in other tactical wargames when those games are on the man-to-man level, and usually with such things as activation chits in impulse driven turns (and interestingly enough, those games usually have very generic small arms modelling - Firepower was an exception - certainly nothing like a laundry list of small arms type akin to ASL's Chapter H vehicle/ordnance notes).
 

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This might qualify as a negative (as I see it).

DYO. McFinn listed it as a "done well" but I disagree.

DYO is fundementally flawed. It allows massively ahistorical situations.

Here is an example, I have used it before. I use it often, as it does the job so well.

A past player friend aaaaaaaalways had to insist on using DYO as if it was somehow necessary for him to have exactly his say on what he could use.
I thought it a waste of my time. Always led to badly mismatched unbalanced day killers.

He proceeded to select some reeeeeeally nice uber squads. SS with all the trimmings basically. Uber tanks etc etc etc.
As Russians I just wanted to make a point that game. I started at the bottom of the bucket and worked my way up. All 26 counters of the lowest possible crud, then all 26 squads of the next lousiest crud. I had an incredible array of total crud. No armour, no special bonuses for the squads.

It's simple math. A dozen super squads and a few tanks against a sea of crud, the crud wins each time. Granted, he got to shoot an incredible number of crud squads up. I still won. It was disgusting.

DYO is worthless. By the time you have added a lot of houserules, you likely should have just picked a decent play tested balanced scenario.

It's a design feature that wasted several pages.
Now, on the other hand, all the specific vehicle notes are an incredibly cool informational resource for purposes outside of the actual game.

On the matter of simulation. Hmmm

Command Control simulation. Is there actually any in ASL in the first place?
The ability to inspire troops with leader counters of note is interesting.
But in real life, control is often more about dealing with the maddening lack of control.
In ASL, a leader counter can always lead each turn. He might not always succeed in a dice roll, but he always has the chance to try.

In Up Front, you have the same leader function of ASL, but Up Front has additionally the need to play cards. You can't KNOW your men will move or fire in advance. the randomness of the hand of cards and the luck of the draw adds something ASL missed.

I have seen games that use chit draws to simulate the unpredictable nature of combat as well.
The rigid never changes sequence of play of ASL is so firm, that the players simply know, when it's my turn, it's my turn.
With chit draws, you don't really know if a move or decision to fire is a good idea or will be timed right.
 
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Portal

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Aries,

As much as you have some extensive opinions, sometimes you're completely out to lunch, dude. Several of the Winnipeg ASL guys, for example, are serious about their DYO and are designing some interesting home-brew actions. They love their DYO. The ASL DYO MS Windows software out there is also a helpful, useful tool.

I think you're letting a few bizarre bad incidents totally cloud your judgement.
 

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I have to agree with Portal here, I have have played well over 100 DYO scenarios. Almost all CGs are DYO with a framework. The first tournaments I ever played were DYO.

The particular match-up of quality vs quantity is a classic contest. If done right, quality can easily match quantity.

DYO done right works very well. By done right, the players know the objectives and the terrain. They buy forces to accomplish those objectives within that terrain. If done wrong, you get the results you are describing. The setup for a good DYO game takes about an hour extra, usually done before the game so that both players can get right to it.

The ahistorical aspect is also what is so appealing about DYO. Want to see how Pershings and Tigers play -- DYO. Also I would recommend the PBDYO system put out by Tactiques. It creates an excellent framework for DYO.

ASL does DYO much better than any system I have ever played with the possible exception of Star Fleet Battles. Battletech is an example of DYO done poorly, for comparison.

The only complaint I have about ASL DYO is that it is missing Combat BPV versus Economic BPV. For example, the Combat BPV of a panther is 89 points and the Combat BPV of a sherman is 70 points. However, the cost of losing a panther is much more than the cost of losing a sherman. This should be reflected by an Economic BPV. The sherman's Economic BPV would be the same as its Combat BPV, but the Panther's might be as much as double.

The Combat BPV would be used to purchase forces, but the Economic BPV would be used to evaluate victory. This type of system would be better than the Rarity Factor system currently used. As a simple minded calculation, one could just multiply the RF by the BPV to get the economic value. However, I don't think that RFs are normalized with regards to actual production values.
 

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The other think that ASL does much better than other games I have played is double-blind (i.e. two players and a referee). Couple this with DYO and you have a situation that keeps both players on the edge of their seats for the game. I have run many DYO double-blind games and everyone always had a great time.
 
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