Dare Death 3 Preface (Original) “What ASL is to me”

Dare Death 3One day in February 2013, I chanced upon a copy of Squad Leader on eBay. I was a Squad Leader player back when I was in high school. Unfortunately when I went to university, I found a few other things more interesting and I forgot about wargames all together. So, decades later, while I stared at the screen, memories of great times came back and I bought myself that copy. The internet connected me with some very active Squad Leader groups. I planned to learn the game again and get back into it.

I then came across the tiniest military bookstore one day. It’s the size of a small walk-in closet, except that it’s wall to wall military books. There it was, up on a shelf near the ceiling, a shrink wrapped copy of the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook v2. I asked to have a look at it, and I never put it back down.

The ASLRB is not an easy book to read, so I asked to see a live game one Sunday afternoon. The local ASL’rs would have none of it. Erwin Lau & Lorricount Hall shoved a Pz IV my direction and said “Here, you are in charge of this one.” They then proceed to tell me what to do with my Pz IV every step of the way. I couldn’t fathom why people who I have just met would let me break into their Sunday game and spend that much time teaching me the mechanics, but they did.

It was a fun afternoon but it’s not an event I can attend on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the rulebook became a lot easier to understand now that I have context.

One day I got an email from Don Lazov. He said if I want to learn ASL, he could teach. I know then it’s choice between continuing to read the rulebook and solo’ing scenarios or having a mentor and actively playing. It was a choice between being a tinkerer and an active player.

I said “Yes but give me a few weeks to finish up Chapter A and Chapter B.” I wasn’t sure why I wanted to push it off. He asked again “Do you want to do this or not?”

I jumped in with both feet. Our first scenario was “RPT1 Ferenc Jozef Barracks”.

After that I ran into Witchbottles, who helped me get permission from Rodney Kinney (who created VASL) for permission to use VASL graphics in my blog. To me, Witchbottles is the embodiment of the modern day Renaissance man. We play ASL and we spent countless hours chatting about history and about life.

I don’t remember how I heard about “Malaya Madness” the 2014 ASL tournament in Singapore. I didn’t give it any thought at first but both Don Lazov and Witchbottles thought I absolutely must go. I struggled with it for a while. I mean, paying for flight and hotel to play a boardgame is crazy! I brought up the topic to my wife, expecting her to kill it (for good reasons). She thought about it for a minute and said “Yes”.

I rented a bunk bed in a hostel to save money but I went to Singapore for the tournament. There’s something truly magical about ASL that ties people together. Playing 1 on 1 on a weekend is one thing. Being in a room with other ASL’rs and playing games after games is definitely something else!

I got a bigger group of opponents after the Malaya Madness. I went on to help organise and to promote the 2014 Hong Kong ASL tournament, “The Gin Drinkers’ Revenge”. I was in New York City on Dec 2014 and I jumped on the train and stopped by Albany. It is THE Albany, the New York State ASL Championship. Joe Loece and Gary Trezza are simply some of the best hosts I have ever met. I met so many people at Albany. I met a lot of the best known names in ASL. I decided to shoot a video for these guys and leveraged on that to chat with as many people as I could.

That of course open me up to more venues and to more people. I picked up a chat from Carl Nogueira when I was walking down the street at lunch one day and he wanted to know if I want to play and to learn. I was getting so used to jumping in at that point I said “yes” immediately.

So you see, ASL is about people. ASL is about the guy on the other side of the table. ASL is one of the few good reasons in life that pulls guys together periodically, to share identical experiences and to chat about other thing as well. If you do solo play most of the time, you are truly missing the best thing ASL has to offer.

ASL is about playing. That rulebook is not for reading. It’s for referencing and as such, the INDEX is the command central for the ASL rulebook The value of an ASL kit is much higher when used and played than it will ever get on eBay.

ASL is about self discovery. As we compete with others, we learn more about our fears and shortcomings. We learn about our risk management and our decision making processes. The man to overcome game after game is yourself. This not something you will realize from ASL not played or ASL played solo.

Dare Death is an effort to arouse and to maintain that interest. Dare Death is the embodiment of a group of ASL’rs who play on a regular basis and discuss rules and tactics on live chats when not playing. If enthusiasm sells then Dare Death is a powerful force in ASL.

And enthusiasm sells.

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How to Watch Live ASL Games on VASL & the Code of Conduct

Image from page 5 of "The Life of Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America" (1840)I watch live ASL games on VASL like people watch TV.  There’s almost always something going on and it’s a good way for new folks to get some context for understanding the ASL Rulebook or simply to see how they can expand their opponent horizon from local to global.

Von Marwitz” on GameSquad recent wrote a great “Step by Step” to do just that.  So the following is posted with his permission.

#1. Don’t be afraid to try. Only the question that is not asked is dumb.

#2. To find an opponent, you can post in the “Opponents Wanted” section of this forum:
http://forums.gamesquad.com/forumdisplay.php?42-ASL-Opponents-Wanted
Describe your situation and chances are that you will find someone to play with in short order.  (Hong KongWargamer : plus the ASL Groups on VASL – https://www.facebook.com/groups/advancedsquadleader/https://www.facebook.com/groups/vaslmeetup/, https://www.facebook.com/groups/27083456599

#3. If you log on to the VASL server, you will find yourself in the “Main Room”. The actual playing goes on in the other rooms, often titled by the name or ID of the scenario. You can join a room by syncronizing with one of the players in it. Personally, I send a short Personal Message to ask if it is ok to sync before I do so. Usually I get a “Yes, sure.” in short order. Once synced, you will see the playing area, the log and counters moving about. Common etiquette is not to move their counters (you can do a mouse-over to expand stacks depending on your settings which they will not see on their screen). You do not hit any dice-roll buttons etc. Normally, you would not type anything into their log unless you previously by Private Message inquired if it is ok to do so. This is the basic etiquette.

Most VASL-players use a combination of VASL and Skype because communication is quicker. As an observer, this makes it a bit more difficult to follow the game, especially as a newbie, because you might not be able to glean what the reason for some dice rolls in the log were. If players don’t use skype, they will (necessarily) type that into the log. Sometimes, people are willing to add observers to their Skype call so that you can listen in (which you could find out by inquiring via private message). If they do, usually you would listen and not take part in the conversation. This might be different if you have become familiar with the players.

While being an observer, regardless whether via log or Skype, you do not give tactical tips to the players in an ongoing game. Usually, I would not point out rules mistakes to the players either unless I know they do not mind. And even then I would point out an illegal move via PM only to the player that just got a rule wrong.

In case you do not “see” the maps, then you might not have them in your “boards” folder and need to download them first (and resync). Same is true for overlays. Then there are some “extensions”, that might expand VASL with some extra counters or gadgets. Most of this stuff can be found in the downloads section of the vasl.info website.

What are ASL Campaign Games and What should I expect?

When I first started with Advanced Squad Leader, I was quite baffled by this whole business about “Campaign Games”.  I was keeping an eye out for any available ASL modules and invariably I ran into titles like “Red Barricades“, “Festung Budapest“, “Valor of the Guards“, “Kampfgruppe Peiper I” etc.  They have the usual stack of scenarios and they also have “Campaign Games” or “CGs”, but ..

What are CGs?  More importantly, what do CGs offer that scenarios don’t?

There are tons of ASL articles out there but very few talks about CGs.  I tried reading Chapter O but I couldn’t exactly wrap my head around it.  I wanted to know why I should get into CGs to start with.

I looked for the answer by jumping into it.  I started with the linked scenario-CG A19 Cat & Mouse and moved onto a few others, the latest one being “China-Burma-India : The Lost Theater“.

I then asked the question on GameSquad.  What follows is a very well written piece about ASL campaign games by Jon Halfin aka “Witchbottles”.  I followed that with a piece from John Knowles aka “SunofTzu” that laid out his impressions of the more popular CG games.  I round this all up at the end with select impressions from different players.

I waited a bit before responding myself.. I am a CG fanatic. There is nothing about them I dislike, from a design perspective. If I dislike a CG , it is based only on the merits and weaknesses of the design itself.

Here is my take on CGs, ASL, and the players of the best game ever invented….

Why try a CG?

Campaign Games in ASL are a niche within a niche. For the player, they offer some unique challenges not seen in regular scenario play. They also offer some difficulties for players. This review of HASL, HSASL, and CGs is designed to acquaint the unfamiliar with many of the precepts, both good and bad, about Campaign Game play and HASL map play in ASL.

Let’s look at the terminology. A Campaign Game is any series of linked scenarios. These may be played on one or more Geo – boards, they may be played on multiple geo – board configurations. They may also occur on a portion or an entire HASL map, depicting in ASL terms at least part of an actual battle area as it existed at the time the campaign was occurring. A HASL Module is a Historical ASL Module. That is , it will include at a minimum both a set of scenarios concerning fighting around a specific geographical location at some given time, and a map that is fairly accurate in representing that location at the time of the fighting. Many also include specific rules that will apply to all scenarios played on that historical terrain map. A HSASL Module is all of the above in an HASL module, with some nice additions. It will typically include an analysis article of the battles / campaign as it occurred, another set of geo- board scenarios that represent fighting near and around that depicted on the historic location map, and some background as to how that battle series in the area fit into the larger picture of the war. All Three of these may , or may not, have included system and / or unit counters for specific units to that module or CG.

Campaign Games. These come in two basic flavors, and can be subdivided in both cases into specific sub – groups. The first is the simplified linked scenario CG. It is played on geo boards, or a combination of geo board setups, or even on differing portions of a HASL map. The actions of each scenario award some type of VCs to the prevailing player in each of the scenarios. Those higher level VCs then determine, after all the scenarios are played in a prescribed order, who has won the entire CG. The second is the traditional, multiple date CG. These are more commonly found on HASL maps than on geo boards, but the author is aware that at least three exist in geo board format as well. In these, each scenario is played from the ending position of the previous scenario, with determinations being made for how / where each side sets up. Those determinations occur in a cycle of rules that are followed in between each CG date.

In both cases, players may be provided a method of “purchasing” new units as reinforcements in between each scenario. This represents the first stage of player involvement over and above a regular ASL game. (One of the nicest developments in stand – alone ASL scenarios over the last 3-5 years has been the “ buy your units” presentation being added via SSRs to many scenarios..) Having an ability to construct or add to a specialized fighting force you have committed from various available units of the time period and location places each player in a position more akin to Regimental command vice a much more common Battalion or Company level action typically portrayed in ASL. Now players add another level of difficulty as well. All of a sudden, a player might gack the setup, and loses big in the game or he may gack the purchase choices, and find himself without the tools needed to achieve victory because of it. This “ meta – game” is one of the main allures that CGs have to many players. It function on much the same level as how Australian Balance System would function in creating a “ meta – game” above the board game.

Finally, Campaign Games can in every case be subdivided into one of two basic characteristics. The first is the “ stay put and play it again” versions of the special rules that occur in between scenarios. This concept limits the ability of units to move, shift, or relocate, during the period in between each scenario, and is often used when the CG is representing several actions in the same area over a finite span of time such as a single day or a pair of days. The other major subdivision is the “ Pick em up, and re- arrange at will, then build a new line” versions of CG special rules. These are more commonly found in CGs depicting battles over a longer period of time, typically a week to a month. In both cases, there are usually some restrictions, and some risk, built into the rules for re-positioning units.

The overriding factor, and the major draw of CGs of any type, for ASL players is the elimination of the : last turn suicide rush” to try to win irrespective of losses. Now, in a CG setting, what you lost today is not available tomorrow, making each unit have a relative worth over and above its own intrinsic value in any given scenario. This may appeal to some players, but there are some major disadvantages to CGs as well.

A player may not have the space to leave a large game set up, and many of the available CGs utilize larger map areas. Given the need to play several scenarios in turn, it will likely take players more than two separate sessions to complete a CG. The second major item dissuading players new and old alike, is that CGs require large amounts of side note bookkeeping. Not every ASL player is fond of scenarios that require the level of note – keeping that CGs require. Last, many ASL players do not have the available time to commit to multiple long spans of gaming to complete a CG. This can cause many ASL players to back away from the majority of CGs available.

A parting concern in Campaign Games, and their associated HASL and HSASL modules, is quality of product / playability of product. When a publisher creates an unplayable monster of a CG, or creates a very nice visual product that is unplayable due to rules gaffes or unintelligible instructions, it creates a mistrust for CGs that can cause some players to simply walk away. After all , we each have well over 5,000 published stand alone scenarios of at least a decent quality to choose from. In the end, the choice to play CGs is not a case of “ you don’t fit in cause you do, or don’t play CGs.” It is instead a case of whether or not you enjoy the meta – game aspects, the larger designs, the more varied terrain and maps and special rules, and the bookkeeping to create the “ extra layer” that CGs give an ASL player.

KRL, Jon H

From John Knowles :

I’ve done a number of CGs over the years. Here are some of my thoughts:

Red Barricades CG III: I played this CG about 3 times. 2 of the games petered out after 7 dates or so. My impression of Red Barricades CG III (remembering that I’ve never done the smaller CGs I, II, and IV) is that it comes down to whether or not the Germans can attrition the Russian at a better rate of 3:2. Its a great historic map to be using, and an okay CG. I never really considered it the last word in the ASL experience, although there seems to be plenty of others that do…..

Kampfgruppe Peiper CG I: I’ve played this one 6 times (with half the games going beyond the halfway mark), for me the most of any CG, and perhaps this is my Nirvana. I think CG I is very balanced, if the Americans focus more on getting out the way rather than just trying to take as many Germans with them as they are overrun on 19am. Hook up the guns; you won’t miss them much during Very Heavy Mist (not to mention the SSR CA restrictions), but you might miss them more on later dates after the mist thins. It doesn’t matter if the Sanatorium catches fire (and is therefore reduced to rubble); I would expect that to happen anyway. The same fate will probably befall the Steeple location in j19. The Americans pretty much gain the strategic parity when they have a 3:2 ratio in squads, which increases to a strategic advantage as the numbers close on a 2:1 squad ratio.

Kampfgruppe Peiper CG II: I’ve played this one twice, and it too seems very balanced. Much more limited choices for both sides, compared with the other 2 CGs, which also makes this an easier CG to start with. The Germans are at their most vulnerable during the night date, and I think that a lot rests on how much the Americans can hurt the SS during this time. I would unswervingly point to this as an ideal CG to start with, but only on the condition that both players are well versed in the night rules of Chapter E.

Kampfgruppe Peiper CG III: I’ve played this one four times, but with 2 of the games ending early. The Americans really need a bit of help here; the Germans simply have too many squads, and the Americans have to wait right until the end until the big green wave shows up. It’s a very fun map to play on, but if I were to do it a 5th time, I would recommend reducing the CG RG Maximums of German groups I2 and I4 from 4 to 2. I would also give the American infantry who show up before 22AM a -1 DRM/drm on all Leader DRs and Platoon Quality drs.

A lot of ASL players seem to get the impression that the mist and the slope hex sides makes KGP overly complicated. Slope hex sides are easily grasped; after a while, you come to miss them when you return to the regular ‘billiard table topography’ of ASL. As for the mist, it actually simplifies most of the tactical situations by moderating the deadliness of long range fire.

Pegasus Bridge CG I: I’ve played this once (as Germans). This was a thoroughly enjoyable CG, and went as close as close goes with a Germans HS surviving a CC WD attempt to reach the VC area in GO on the final turn of the final Date. The British need to guard against attrition, or its all over. My opponent (Peter Palmer) experienced some anxious times, but hung on to the last Date, where an epic battle was concluded.

Pegasus Bridge CG II: I’ve played this once (as Germans). This could be a good CG to start with, it would pay to have the more experienced player take the British. Our playing ended in failure for the British when Lord Lovat’s Commandos failed to get across the bridge. In spite of the abrupt end, it was still a fun CG to do.

I’ve also done 3 of the Platoon Leader CGs, which whilst being plenty of fun to do, have more bugs in them than an unmarried man’s kitchen. It’s a shame that such a clumsy mess was made of the Platoon Leader series; it had the potential to be something really awesome.

Campaign games appeal to those who don’t find meticulous planning tedious. I enjoy being rewarded for my patient planning, so CGs really appeal to me. There is a bit of work involved, but if you’re able to enjoy the long-term planning of it all, then the work isn’t much of a burden.

Here’s my 2 hints for playing CGs:

Hint 1: Infantry and Fortifications are invariably the best bang for your buck in CGs. Get as many (if not all) of these as you can.

Hint 2: Read Hint 1 at least a couple more times.

John.

Here are an assortment of quotes from other players that might help you decide :

From Blackcloud6 :

I like the concept of the CG, the macro-planning, the long view, fighting to achieve something a CG days down the road. But in practice, I find the play, like Jim B. does, to be tedious. I’ve only played two: Hart Attack and CG1 from FB. If a game is going to take a long time, like the CGs do, they have to be very exciting to hold my attention; and I have to be involved with it constantly to keep my motivation up (which is why I only like to play very large scenarios at a setting like ASLOK). So far, I have found CGs a difficult thing to do. I’d like to try one again, but don’t know if I want to invest the time.

I like the planning aspect “between days” but I don’t like the force purchase method. Commanders don’t do that, they work with what they have and what their next higher HQ decides to give them. Maybe purchasing units was the best way to do the force structure in a CG and it might represent you, the playing stepping into a higher level of command to select the forces to accomplish the task, but it does not seem right that you get to go to “Soldiers-R-Us” and purchase your toys for the next day of gaming.

I would like to see smaller CGs.

From BattleSchool :

The forthcoming Hell’s Highway from Lone Canuck might fit the bill.

It is is short, a maximum of six “dates.” The counter density is very manageable too.

But it is the nature of the CG that makes this one more engaging than most. The map is neither open like Riley’s Road, nor urban like Stalingrad. Both sides get to attack during the day.

The Germans (Panzer-Brigade 107) are on the offensive to begin with, but later must face counterattacks from opposing directions. The German force features heaps of AFVs, including many specialised halftracks that players won’t want to throw away on VBM gambits. Panthers vs Shermans, some of which are Firefly variants. “Screaming Eagles,” Guards Armoured (including OP tanks), and 44 RTR (under command of 101st Airborne) provides for some interesting force mixes.

I have not played the CG. But I enjoyed playing the scenarios, especially those involving a lot of German AFV. Not much Assault Moving going on in those scenarios. I doubt that this would change much during a CG. Appears challenging for both sides.

At less than $30, HH is a low risk purchase. Did I mention how cool the map is?

From ecz :

May be I’m not experienced enough to judge CGs in general, but everytime I approach a CG I think that in the same amount of time needed to setup and play the first date I could probably play three ordinary scenarios. Any excitement of HASL vanishes in front of the cruel lack of time to commit myself in something absorbing all my ASL time for months.

ASL time is too short to waste it with CGs

From Sparafucil3 :

I have played PHD. I have Ozerekya Bay. Pegasus Bridge is not much different than RB/VotG/FB. It has some chrome, but seriously, CG’s are like a Buick. They will get you from point A to B, but they are boring as hell. Can’t stand them.

The biggest problem with CG is they are SLOW. They feel like they drag on forever. Here’s a hint: if you ever really want to be beat me, slow down. Make it take forever. I will resign and move on eventually. Life is too short to play bad ASL (and CG’s are the worst part of ASL IMO. YMMV). — jim

From Michael R :

Although I have done a few CG, I do not play them often because they remove a desirable feature from my ASL experience: variety. I enjoy going from early war to late war, ETO to PTO, Allied minors to Finns, with each play session. A CG removes that variety.

From Binko :

I tend to dislike the standard style of large CGs. Stretching a squad level game up to a large multi-day campaign is simply out of scale, in my opinion. You just have a long string of tactical actions without any of the command and supply constraints that larger formations had to suffer. It’s like moving a mountain of dirt using 100 guys with wheelbarrows and no supervision rather than using a few well managed excavators. 🙂

I also can’t wrap my head around the concept of sweeping the board clear between campaign dates. It feels like it negates any advantage you are building up, adds to the CG logistics, and makes it impossible to make long term plans.

What I DO like are some of the innovative things that 3rd Party Publishers are doing with small CGs. Lone Canuck’s small CGs on historical maps that feature a series of engagements over a single day is much more in keeping with the scale of ASL, in my opinion. The new Burma pack from the St. Louis guys also looks great with a series of linked scenarios on a smallish historical map. I’d like to see more stuff like this.

But many players I know simply love big CGs. And I think that’s great. ASL is a big expansive gaming tent and one of it’s strengths is that there are a multitude of different types of scenarios and CGs to play.

From Grumblejones :

I’ve played the Pegasus Bridge and Purple Heart Draw campaigns and enjoyed them both immensely. CG’s do take a huge time commitment, but if you and your opponent are focused and stay on track, it can flow nicely. Watching Pegasus Bridge unfold from the time the gliders landed until the British reinforcements arrived on the Dusk Turn was just awesome. It’s one of the few ASL experiences where I felt like I saw the historical event unfold before me.

I certainly hope to play a few more before my ASL days are over. Bloody Buron and Crossing the Moro are high on my list to do some day.

From Delirium :

Primarily, CG play allows for additional player agency:

  • Whether to attack;
  • When to attack (night or day);
  • Most CGs have fairly broad VC objectives for a given date (such as 20 stone locations) which allows for considerable player latitude in determining precise objectives; and if course,
  • Crafting one’s force by making reinforcement purchases. A few assault engineers or many conscripts? Air support or INF guns. Delicious dilemmas.

Another aspect which just occurred to me:

  • As the defender, with HIP, mines, and other fortifications available, it’s possible to lay quite complex traps for the enemy by inviting an attack in a certain area which is seemingly lightly defended. Fantastic when it works.

A further advantage is the extent to which CG play emphasises studying and learning the topography. A well placed pillbox can be a thorn for several dates, for instance.

And of course, the importance of force preservation. Losing that 9-2 to a sniper becomes all the more devastating

From Lobster :

With getting myself into VASL 2012 I got the chance to start playing CG again, as my regular FTF opponents in my area do not like them due to length etc. PHD came into my hand not long before, and with the relative small dimension of the CG it was attractive to start with it.

Since then I played PHD twice and FB CG1 once. None on the CG came to last date. PHD into Mission 3 and 2 respectively, FB Date 3.

At the moment I play KGP CG III (date 5 so far) and Cholm CG I (just starting date 2). I am quite sure that both will not come to the last date.

But this does NOT reduce the fun of playing them.

The decisions about choosing the right reinforcements, developing a strategy etc. makes them definitely worth playing, giving a unique experience, even when knowing they will be decided most of the time (at least in my experience) earlier that the designers hoped for. As Delirium mentioned before, the possibility to lay quite complex traps for the enemy by inviting an attack in a certain area which is seemingly lightly defended (or staging a faint attack to distract the defenders) is a dimension that is only possible in a CG where you have much more freedom to act and react.

For me Campaign Games are wonderful part of the ASL-Cosmos.

I hope this helps you in your quest into the world of campaign games.  What are your thoughts?  Please let me know.

Game Designer Carl Nogueira was asked “What do you like about ASL?”

FullSizeRender-1Likes, damn near all of it, but I’ll try to focus:

The way in which the game is layered: The rules are complex, master that, the tactics are complex, master that, the psychology of the game can be challenging too. Even then, there is no one way to win at this game. I know many top players with very different styles, who all have had enjoyed a good deal of success with the game. There are many ways to skin a cat. Everyone can succeed by refining their own approach to the game.

Obviously, because it is fun: If it wasn’t for this, there isn’t a thing I could list that would make it worthwhile. Of course what is fun for one person may not be for others, but there is room for many at the table. I am a competitive cuss, so I love the challenge of competing against my fellow gamers. Others approach it from a beer and pretzels perspective, but everyone who comes to embrace the hobby, ends up having fun with it.

The people: The camaraderie in ASL is unparalleled in wargaming. It is a niche hobby within a niche hobby and you can strike up a conversation with any player from here to Hong Kong, and immediately be speaking the same language. Because the bond between players forms quickly, many of my closest friends over the years are fellow gamers. I do not hesitate if I can extend a helping hand and have not encountered many who won’t the other way around either. There really is a bond. Certainly not on a level of military compatriots or police officers or others who have dangerous occupations, but certainly more than most with merely a common interest linking them. Such has been my experience.

The game itself is varied and handles moving from theatre to theatre VERY well: If you play many operational games, the difference between playing in the desert or the hills of Italy is pretty superficial. Here, moving from the Winter War, to the desert to the jungle to the steppes is absolutely worlds apart and FEELS like it is worlds apart. Put simply, ASL is the ultimate triumph of design for effect and there are literally thousands of scenarios and well north of one hundred CG’s. If you can’t find something to play, then you would quite rightly be likened to a little kid sitting in his room surrounded by toys screaming “I’m Bored!!!”

Finally, to succeed at this game you have to be very detail oriented and know how to plan on the fly when the best laid plans go up in smoke. Very challenging indeed!

The accessibility of the hobby in terms of helping new guys: With everything from questions, advice on everything from purchases to game tactics.

What I don’t like:

Some of the rules can be gamey, but then, it IS a game. Also, there is always the magic of the SSR to fix that which truly galls you.

– Carl Nogueira, May 6 2015

Link to the Original Text on GameSquad

Shanghai 1937 in Flames!!!

"Shanghai 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze" by Peter Harmsen

(This is an interview conducted via email, where I talked to Peter Harmsen, the author of “Shanghai 1937 – Stalingrad on the Yangtze” about Advanced Squad Leader.)

Iacta Alea Est!

Wargaming is a method for historians, professionals and hobbyists alike, to get inside the minds of the actors of past conflicts. The games, or simulations, can take place at the grand strategic level, as described in a previous post about the game Dai Senso. They can also offer a more intimate look at combat, putting the player in charge of just a handful of soldiers and facing him or her with difficult tactical decisions. The Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) system is an example of the latter. It has thousands of fans around the world who use its flexibility to play scenarios from a range of theaters during World War Two and the years just before and after – including the Second Sino-Japanese War. We asked Jackson Kwan, a veteran Hong Kong-based ASL player, to introduce the system and especially describe how its versatility facilitates scenarios from the war in China. (The Q & A was performed by email, with special thanks to Jon Halfin for editing.)

Very briefly, what is the Advanced Squad Leader system?

Advanced Squad Leader is a detailed tactical gaming system that models company to battalion level combat in the Second World War period.  It simulates an amazing range of combat parameters: from weather to terrain, national characteristics, leadership and morale, different weapon systems and artillery support.  This allows the examination of engagements from the Pacific theatre to desert terrain, to European theatre and even tundra conditions.  It’s detailed enough to have rules for night battles and for vision effects under differing moon phases.

A short synopsis can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Squad_Leader

How do you generate new scenarios?

Scenario designers from all over work with Multi-Man Publishing and other third party publishers to produce scenario packs and/or entire new modules (settings) that includes map boards and new counters that represents new nationalities, troop types or weapon systems that did not already exist in the system. Scenario designers combine detailed research of certain engagements and various elements including weather, terrain, troop types, conditions and morale, weapons available and ammunition supply into an abstraction that may or may not completely parallel historical outcomes. The best scenarios often have a creative feeling of the historical events, yet balance out asymmetric conditions, allowing both sides equal chances of winning the engagement.

How good is the system at simulating the Second Sino-Japanese War? Are the results realistic, i.e. are they similar to what really happened during the war?

This is a game system that reflects the feel of the position the opposing commanders faced. It seeks to address asymmetric conditions that battles often are while giving both sides a balanced opportunity to prevail through specific winning conditions and other parameters.

T6 Axis Move-procFor example : if you look at the battle at Shanghai’s Sihang warehouse*) alone, you will find at least four scenarios from different designers that put their own interpretation to the events.  My favorite of the four is a scenario named “Shanghai in Flames” where the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) battles top quality Chinese troops (who were still around at the time) across a generically represented map reflecting the terrain styles, into the warehouse. Some of the buildings start already on fire and may spread according to wind conditions as the battle progress. As the Chinese fight a desperate withdrawal through the streets against the IJA pushing aggressively in, as the spreading fire almost becomes a third player, routing friends and foes alike.

Producing realistic results is not the primary objective of Advanced Squad Leader designs.  Putting players under similar decision making parameters and operating constraints to reflect the feel of combat command is the bigger goal.

But making these battles competitive and fun is the biggest objective!

What are the main differences between scenarios based on the war in China and, say, scenarios from Europe 1939-1945?

Obvious differences are weapon systems that the IJA uses (vs various European combatant). Differences in national characteristics, leadership styles, training and morale level – of the Japanese, Chinese, Gurkhas etc vs the Germans, Soviets, partisans plus the myriad of Allied and Axis minors. Differences in weather and terrain – jungles, kunai, caves, beaches, marshes, palm trees and huts in the Pacific Theatre of Operations vs woods, brush, buildings, rubble etc in the European Theatre of Operations.

If people want to get into the ASL system, what should they do?

The heart of the Advanced Squad Leader system is the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook (version 2).  There are various modules for different nationalities and theatres.  The more modules you have therefore, the more variation you will have in the scenarios you can play.  The best thing to do however for new players is: Get in touch with Advanced Squad Leader players in various cities (and there are tournaments held almost every month around the world  http://aslladder.com/asltournaments.html) and/or on online forums.  Advanced Squad Leader is primarily about the chap across the table and definitely not meant for solo play.  (Although a well-developed Solitaire ASL system does exist, it has been out of print for some time. It does indeed make solitaire play possible.)  Most people in the ASL community are willing to teach new players and proficiency in the basic rules usually requires 3 to 6 games before you are ready to move into the various spectra the system can provide.

The Advanced Squad Leader Starter Pack 1 is designed as an initial step to see if this game’s for them. The Starter Pack is a small, self-contained system that will help any new player make the decision as to whether to dive into the full system headfirst, at a minimal cost – and was designed to replace the long out of print original “introductory” module for Advanced Squad Leader “Paratrooper”.

*) An incident during the 1937 battle of Shanghai when during a general retreat about 400 Chinese soldiers stayed behind, defending the Sihang Warehouse next to Suzhou Creek. The decision to make the stand at the warehouse was mainly motivated by a wish to demonstrate to local and foreign opinion China’s willingness to continue the fight.

(Original of this interview can be found : China in WW2)