The Truth About VASL

 

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VASL stands for “Virtual Advanced Squad Leader”, a platform created by Mr Rodney Kinney for the enjoyment of ASL’rs worldwide.

On one platform you have most if not all the mapboards, overlays and counters you need.  You can play online versus anyone anywhere in the world (with Skype or Discord).  You can also choose to play via email (PBeM).  I have regular live games sessions scheduled with few of my buddies weekly.  We pick up on a saved game and make a some progress every week.  We also chat about our jobs, our families and our lives – just like face-to-face gamers do.

VASL accelerated the development of ASL communities in Asia Pacific for example, where ASL’rs are spread far and wide.  No matter where you are, for as long as you have an internet connection, you will never run out of opponents.  In fact, you can play some of the most experienced ASL’rs in the world, folks who are delighted to show you how it’s done.  Before some Asia Pacific gamers even met each other in the Singapore, Manila or Siem Reap tournaments, we have already been talking to each other on a regular basis via VASL games.  When we met, we are already old friends.

It’s interesting to note that VASL is (largely) NOT created nor maintained by the companies that publish our ASL modules.  They are NOT part of our purchases.  We don’t have ANY rights to it.  We can’t expect any level of value but yet, it’s one of the best products I have ever used  .. and it’s free, freely updated and lovingly maintained.

VASL program, maps, overlays and counters are made & maintained by a group of ASL gamers like you and me, not game company executives who also play ASL, ASL gaming consumers like you and me.

You know, ordinary people: Dudes.  Bros.  Blokes.  Chaps.

Folks who have lives, families, jobs and aspirations.  Folks who love, laugh and worry.  Folks who sometimes struggle, like all of us do, to find time to play ASL.

Folks who feel compelled to give back to the ASL community, amidst all the conflicting priorities we all have.

Each VASL counter (substitute : overlays, maps) has to be created from scratch.  Two graphics to each counter, four for a nationality that step reduces.  Each piece of info : graphics and numbers are sized for visibility.  After the graphics are done (and info properly put in), intelligence is coded in to make VASL extensions.

We want squads to ELR or Battle Harden properly.  We want Chinese counters to go “Dare Death”.  We want SMCs to go “Heroic” but not MMCs.  We want IJA squads to stripe to the correct numbers.  We want LOS strings to work from any point to any point.  We want terrain to transform properly, or have entire sets of transformation built for specific scenarios.  Should that gun unlimber when you flip it over?  Can that support weapon dismantle?

We want NIGHT to look glorious and it does.  We want SNOWscapes to look chilly.  We want PTO to look unforgiving.

Someone somewhere decided to not do something else but to do VASL, for you and I.

Someone somewhere decided to do this day after day, and to do all this for free.

Versions after versions, bug fixes after bug fixes, modules after modules – one of the best things in life IS free.  There IS such a thing as a free lunch.

Next time you deal with / report issues to the VASL crew, perhaps you can also offer to help?

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Product Review : Broken Ground Design Vehicle Counters

IMG_4491H35 ScanAlan Findlay at Broken Ground Design, followed his sample sheets of German, Polish, Partisan and Axis Minors counters with a sheet of French vehicles last week.  In case you are not aware, Mr Findlay is looking to release an big suite of redesigned Advanced Squad Leader counters which includes “standard” nationalities as well as “new” nationalities.

I took a careful look at the Vehicle counters this weekend.  In the process I placed a few of my Avalon Hill French counters side by side for comparison.

Let me show you a few photos first:

 

 

My first impression is that the vehicle graphics are too small.  When I put the Broken Ground vehicles next to the old Avalon Hill counters, the graphics are indeed smaller.  The smaller graphics is unfortunately combined with a camouflage pattern that completely, well, camouflaged the outlines of these vehicles.

My next thought is then, can I tell which vehicles are Open-Topped ?

You can see for yourself from the upper set of photos where I compared the Avalon Hill counter for the Open-Topped AM Dodge against the Broken Ground one.  You can still tell that the AM Dodge is Open-Topped from the Broken Ground counter but it’s not as easy.

I wonder if it will help if the vehicles are made bigger, the camouflage tuned to a lighter saturation and shading added to bring out the vehicle contours.  Then again, I would be asking Mr Findlay to conform to a different style and would probably be asking too much.  A way to better communicate “Open-Topped” will help though.  Perhaps we can make the Movement Points a light blue (it’s on a white background anyway) like certain SS vehicle counters.

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Flipping over the counters, I like the fact that Mr Findlay decided to use a bold font on the back to improve readability.

The improvements to readability are even more pronounced on the front.  Mr. Findlay decided to put a black outline around the white symbol that is the background for the Movement Points.  Now it’s much easier to tell whether a vehicle is Fully Tracked [D1.13], Half-Tracked [D1.1.4], Armored Car [D1.12] or Truck [D1.15].

OutlinesMr Findlay has also made it much easier to tell, by accentuating the difference and adding black outlines, the difference between Fast Turret [D1.31], Slow Turret [D1.32], Restricted Slow Traverse [D1.321] and a One Man Turret [D1.322].

Both of these improvements will certainly speed up play.

These vehicle counters and the infantry counters that I have previously reviewed are both very well made.  I would even suggest that the printer did a better job with these vehicle counters than it did with the sample batch of infantry counters – evidence that previously mentioned issues are addressed.IMG_4517

Pros

  • A much more readable set of symbology and text on the counters
  • Quality components
  • An affordable way to gain access to full sets of counters

Possible improvements

  • Make it easier to discern Open-Topped vehicles
  • Tone down the camouflage so we can see the vehicles.

(All Photos are Copyrighted to the Hong Kong Wargamer.  Do not use without permission.)

Broken Ground Design

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Product Review: Broken Ground Design Nationality Counter Sets

A designer in Canada, Alan Findlay of Broken Ground Design, endeavoured to rethink the whole (minus Japanese & Chinese) ASL counter set.  In the process, he also expanded into new counter designs as well – Snipers with SAN, Fanatics, Heroic Leaders, Wounded Leaders, Partisans, Berserkers, Free French and more.  Those who know me, know I am as far from a “counter-slut” as you can get – almost all of my games are on VASL.  Not only do I not have the space, I don’t have the patience to deal with physical counters.  I believe if I can do counters, I can be playing.

So I don’t like dealing with counters to start with and having seen the designs that Alan posted, I also thought they are too cartoonish to be part of ASL games.

But you know what?  These counters are NICE.  (Okay … and I was wrong.)

I am going to post a lot of pictures in this review.  I am also going to give you my thoughts and my experience with the Broken Ground Nationality counters, so you can make your own decision as to whether you should make the purchase.

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SS

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Partisans (Balkans) & Axis Minors

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French MMC

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French SMC

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Polish

Now before I continue, Alan stated two known issues :

  • Due to the short run, this batch was digitally printed. This means a higher possibility of mis-alignment with the die-cutting. The full project will use professional offset printing.
  • This batch is too thick. Four of my counters stack as high as 5 official counters. The next sample batch will be corrected for thickness.

Oh, you should also know that I don’t clip counters, not ever.  So chances are if you think these images are nice, your purchased counters will look even nicer than these.

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I mentioned that when I saw Alan’s counter designs earlier in the year, I thought they were too cartoonish.  Now that I’d seen the actual counters – they are not.  They sure look like they belong to ASL games.

I had only made cuts down each side of the rows, took entire strips out and broke each counter off by hand (stop screaming like a little girl).  The high quality of the die cut makes it possible.  However in a few instances, the back of the counters came off and shifted.

The good new is, I was able to “coax” the shifted graphic back in place with properly applied pressure (and meditation).

The graphics look terrific and the numbers are very visible, including the MMC identification letter on the top left.  The issue I have is with the smoke number.  Not only is the smoke number important by itself, the smoke number in a swapped colour set differentiates the Assault Engineers.  Not that it’s any worse that the existing counters we have, but I can’t comfortably see the smoke numbers on Broken Ground’s counters without proper lighting and magnification.

Broken Ground counters laid out a lot of SMCs.  There are:

  • “normal” leaders
  • wounded leaders
  • fanatic leaders
  • wounded fanatic leaders
  • heroic leaders
  • fanatic-heroic leaders.

I have only been playing for 4 years but I can hardly remember a leader going heroic, much less fanatic (by SSR mostly?) or fanatic-heroic.

Having said all that, having “specialised” SMC counters is nice, instead of piling on information counters on existing leaders.  If nothing else, the Wounded Leader counter will be used quite a bit.  Having Assault Engineer full squad and half squad clearly differentiated is nice as well.

Here are the Broken Ground counters against the new MMP Yanks 2 counters …

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French 1st line, Fanatic Elite, Polish Elite

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French Fanatic Heroic Leader, Wounded Fanatic Leader, Jedi Master, Fanatic Polish Hero

A couple of action shots …

A wounded leader huddles in the gully with a broken unit while the 2nd line squad is about to head into the smoke laid down by the neighbouring 1st liner in the woods

 

Here I have my AH French counters alongside the Broken Ground counters ..

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The French MMC & the 8-1 First Fired at the SS HS that Assault Moved down the path ..

I find the Broken Ground Nationality Sets to be attractive and highly visible.  The “extra” counters that Alan added are useful and contribute towards lessening the stacks.

Alan asked :

If your FtF opponent wanted to play a scenario using Broken Ground counters, would you say “no”?

No I won’t.  However the Broken Ground counters are so visible and looks so much better that it’s going to put a positive modifier on my Personal Morale Checks.  Postgame that Flame in my wallet is going to turn into a Blaze and burn a hole right through!

Any questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

(All Photos are Copyrighted to the Hong Kong Wargamer.  Do not use without permission.)

Product Review : Broken Ground Design Vehicle Counters