An ASL newbie (but a veteran wargamer) from Taiwan shares his newfound love for ASL
Author: TouMu / Translator: Hong Kong Wargamer (The original in Chinese starts at the bottom of the translation.)
I’d like to share how I see Advanced Squad Leader (‘ASL’) as a vehicle to gain better insights to military history
First, let’s take a look at ASL’s shortcomings as such a vehicle:
1. Each scenario generally portrays 12 to 20 mins of fighting, offering only a glimpse into the whole battle.
2. Unless it’s a HASL (Historical ASL) module. Geomorphic maps used in most scenarios offer only an impressionistic approximation of the actual terrain.
3. Scenarios generally involve elements from actual fighting forces and not the whole.
With these in mind, let’s talk about how ASL offers a great window (translator: a “Hollywood version” notwithstanding) into historical events.
Allow me to build on the aforementioned “shortcomings”:
1. Precisely because generally each scenario involves less than 20 minutes of the most intensive fighting, ASL puts you right in the midst of the fighting. You get better insights into the actual conditions facing frontline units.
For example: We all read about the intensity at Stalingrad, but how miserable was it?
Operational / strategic games give you stacks of counters that represents thousands/hundreds of people, which gets quickly decimated.
ASL makes you learn what it means to have to battle for the first room and then having to regroup to clean up the next.
2. Yes, ASL scenario terrains are largely a combination of (translator: a huge number of) geomorphic boards and overlays (cost considerations?). However, like miniatures, terrain features are meaningful. Hexes are not all generically designated “Movement +1” or “Defense +3” etc. It’s important therefore to consider your routes in both assault and retreat (translator: routs).
You will also understand why it’s difficult to rally broken troops in the open and why it’s easier to gather your wits in woods and buildings.
3. Although only elements of certain units participate in our cardboard battles, determination of unit combat power reference their real world counterparts. Ordnance and vehicles are also based on real world parameters.
Perhaps ASL is a key to deeper insights into World War II battles.
Look and you might gain better appreciation for the nameless heroes therein – a window into their bloodshed and sacrifices.
Yes, I don’t like being Eisenhower but I really appreciate heros like Major Dick Winters (translator: of “Band of Brothers” fame).
If you hope to play ASL as “Eisenhower”, perhaps this game is not for you. If you look to play ASL as “Winters” or thousands of other unnamed heroes, then ASL is your game.
Here’s another thought: all war games are “simulations”, ie not real (translator: not even close simulations in most cases).
Real wars can’t be played. Only games can be played.
Play ASL as a game, with all that it brings.
War is not a game. (Translator: and ASL is not war.)
Find a game that suits you and have fun playing it. If nothing else, it’s a great platform to make friends all around the world.
ASL is not for everyone but I hope this will give new players proper expectations for what ASL will bring.
Note : Author TouMu is a leading member in the Taiwan ASLer Club, you can find their group on Facebook.