Advanced Squad Leader as a Window into Military History

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.  

(以下是原稿)

分享一下我怎麼從ASL學到歷史

先說它一般的缺點:

1、幾分鐘的戰鬥,無法一窺全貌。

2、除非是史實模組,否則地圖是用拼的,接近而非真實樣貌。

3、參戰只有某部分單位,而非全部。

有了這些先備知識,進一步來談,怎麼從「毛線棋」學到東西。

一樣是從缺點去思考

1、因為是幾分鐘的戰鬥,當你不是坐在後方,看著投影銀幕決定策略時,你更能體會前線士兵的真實感覺。

例如:我們都耳聞史達林格勒的慘烈,但怎麼慘?

戰略棋的呈現方式:就是投入了好幾萬人的算子

然後丟棄很快。

可是,ASL會讓你體會:才剛佔領客廳,卻又要清理廚房,那種寸土不讓的激烈。

2、雖然地圖是拼的(成本考量),但跟微縮模型一樣,地形是有意義的,不是抽象的移動力花費+1,防禦+3這樣而已

你的進攻與撤退,都是要考慮路線的。

你也會明白:為何潰散士兵,士氣很難重整,但在樹林與建築物,為何可以冷靜下來。

3、雖然是部分單位參戰,但戰力的設計,卻是有參考真實世界,武器、載具,也都是完全參照史實去設計。

而這一切,不妨想成是一把鑰匙,幫你打開通往該次戰鬥的故事大門。

去查,就會發現更多我們不知道的無名英雄事蹟。

而戰爭,正是他們去打,流血犧牲的。

所以,我不愛艾森豪。

我很敬重溫特斯。

當然,如果你是喜歡當將軍的,那麼,這遊戲也不太適合你就是。

還有一個很深刻的體會:所有的戰棋,都只是「模擬」,假的。

真實的戰爭,是不能玩的。只有「遊戲」才可以玩。

所以,就當遊戲去玩,其他,都是附加的。

戰爭的本質,不是遊戲。

找到適合自己的遊戲,開心的去玩它,並非勸退。

不玩,一樣可以是朋友聊天啊!

我是會希望留下來的人,知道自己在玩什麼遊戲,就不會用錯誤的想法,去要求它給你的感覺。

Advertisements

KGS10 Red Ruins Roulette

In this scenario, the Russians win if they control the GPU prison (see the cluster of German concealment counters around KK35) and/or Block 31 (marked on the Map) in 5 turns. Historically Block 31 was notorious for being sniper infested, so any Sniper that situates in Block 31 Pins on a dr of 2 AND 3.

T001 Gavin Take

In this scenario, the US Paras win if they exited 1 or more squad equivalent and more Leader out hex Q10, which is where the road exits in the middle of the map. Any German exits increase the exit requirements for the US.

Who’s Flying Number Seven? (Player Interview)

DD1Dare-Death is the world’s first Chinese ASL magazine created by Richard “Ferguson” Wang and Grandiose Pz.Kpfw.V Ausf G Driver (or “G Driver”. The term “Driver” in Chinese is the equivalence of “Grognard”.) 

Player Interview – “Flying No. 7”

Our interviewee for our Premier Issue is 飞翔的七号 “Flying No. 7”. He started ASL only 6 months ago and had already finished reading Chapter D. Displaying a remarkable grasp of the rules, he took the championship at our recent ASLSK tournament. Today we invite him to share his insights about learning ASL.

It was love at first sight.

Ferguson : First of all, we’d like to thank you for doing our interview.
No. 7 : You are welcome.
Ferguson : If memory serves not only did you stopped playing wargames for 2 years, you have never played ASL before. Is that correct No. 7?
No. 7 : Right, almost 2 years, that’s when I stopped playing “panzer”. No, I have never played ASL before.
Ferguson : Right. I miss you at DAK2 (laughs).
No. 7 : (laughs)
Ferguson : Well, I stopped playing OCS myself. How did you get into ASL? You decided to play again and you got right into a ASL, I can’t think of a better call.
No. 7 : Life got busy before. When life freed up a little, I missed playing again. I guess having played other wargames I have a better feel for what I like. I decided ASL is a good fit for me.
Ferguson: That’s great! I am always curious as to how people hear about ASL. For me, I learned about ASL from the “Science Fiction World” magazine.
No. 7 (“7” going forward): I don’t remember how I heard about ASL. It was probably from BGC(note: a China board game site). Then I went to an ASL coaching session in Beijing and I was hooked ever since.
Ferguson (“F” going forward): That’s ASL for you! What about you, “G driver”, how did you hear about ASL?
Grandiose (“G” going forward): It was BGC for me too.
F: Which one’s your first scenario?
7: S1
F: Hahaha .. it’s S1 for most people, including me.

Play Lots!

F: 7 do you know why we want to interview you?
7: Because I am new?
F: That’s part of it. The other part is because you are the fastest developing newbie that I have ever seen.
7: Thankyou.
G: Absolutely!
F: Any advice for folks learning ASL rules? I think you are well on your way to become a “human rule machine” (laughs). You have a better handle on the rules than I do.
7: You need to read the rules at least once. Those rules flowcharts we find on the internet help a lot as well.
F: Oh yes, those rules flowcharts are a huge help! I really appreciate the grognards who took the time to prepare them.
7: The most important thing is to play. Don’t worry about getting the rules wrong. You learn the most from playing seasoned players.
F: Right. We make rule mistakes all the time especially when we first started playing but if you don’t play you won’t know which rule you got wrong.
7: Agreed. We didn’t even know we were making rules mistakes when we were going through ASLSK until we played more experienced people.
F: I am still discovering points in the rules that I wasn’t entirely clear about and am often reminded of details that I should know with every new game I play. ASL is a game of fine details.
7: My biggest motivation for reading the rules is so that I don’t lose games because of (the lack of) rule knowledge.
F: Hahaha, this is a great motivator!
G: Avoid getting killed by the rules huh?  This is a big one.
F: Well, reality is grognards aren’t always stumbled by the rules because even they don’t always know they made rule mistakes!
7: Yup, that’s why I like studying the rules.
F: True, you do have a deep grasp of the details inherent in a wide section of the rules.
G: How do you remember all that?
7: Well, at the moment, I am really just keeping the ASL rules in my short term memory, that’s why I remember with such clarity.  I think over time I will lose details. I really don’t have a method to it, I just play as much as I can!
G: I prefer to match up the rules I read to actual game situations. The more sense the rules make, the easier they are to remember.
F: G’s right. Understanding the context of ASL and actual situations being modelled helps one learn the rules better.

I Like to Attack!

G: How many games have you played, 7? Which ones do you like better?
7: About 15. I like scenarios featuring complex terrain like in urban battles, and preferably those with a more balanced OB.
F: Out of these 15, which one do you remember best?
7: I’d say S18 Baking Bread. I was really just starting then (although I am still starting..).
F: I see! What is it about this scenario that gives you such a deep impression?
7: That game went all the way to the wire! The fight was a swirling brawl. It’s also my first win against an experienced player.
F: Oh yes, I love those games that teeters on the balance until the end!
7: S18 is also one of those rare scenarios where both players have to attack relentlessly to win.
F: That’s true, most ASL scenarios draw clear delineations between attack and defense.
G: 7 must feel that’s his tactical style.
7: Attack all & fear none! I am not well suited to ASL scenarios that make clear differentiations between attackers and defenders.
F: I actually think ASL’s designed for the attacker. We have an article in this coming issue around that view.
7: Oh I look forward to reading that!
G: Whether warfare favors the defense or the offense is determined by tactical parameters of the prevailing times. “On War” for example, written in the 19th century, describes a tactical world when battles favored the defense.
7: I actually think ASL rules favor the defense as well.
F: Okay, I agree the rules favors the defense when it comes to the IJA, their troops don’t even need to rally.
7: I agree with that.
G: What do you think of F’s and my fighting styles? (Laughs)
F: Hahaha
7: Well, the two of you are of course well experienced.
F: 7 must really like being the attacker right? “Attack all & fear none!”
7: I don’t like playing defense, no.
F: Why’s that?
7: I haven’t been playing too many ASL scenarios yet. Most of the ASLSK scenarios where I played defence pit Germans defenders against US attackers. I win some and lose some but whenever I win as the defender, those battles were never glamorous. They were really just me dragging things out until time ran out on the attackers.
F: Hahaah .. you are saying defense wasn’t as bold and as sweeping as the attack.
G: I think the mental stress is higher for defense.
7: Especially in S3, I have never been able to win that one as the defense. I don’t even know where to start!
F: True. I am more nervous when I play defense.
G: Well, it’s the same with ASL scenarios as with ASLSK scenarios.
7: When there’s too big of a numerical difference between the attacker OB and the defense OB, I feel especially helpless as the defense. Oh man, when I get all 447 and 436 defending against a mass of 666 and 747, the pressure is horrible!
G: Then again if the defense OB has absolutely no issues holding the line, the game will be hard to balance. The ASL rules though do give better mobility vs the ASLSK rules.
7: I haven’t played ASL that much, but I think “concealment” rules give a big boost to the defense.
F: I just think defense is harder with ASL rules. 7 you have played a lot of nationalities, which one do you like the most?
7: I have used about 5 or 6 and I like playing Germans the best. Then again, when I get a better handle on the IJA, that might be a fun choice too.
F: The IJA sure are special.
7: I really like the Step Reduction capabilities of the IJA.
F: Looks like your next port of call is Chapter G then?
7: Actually no, I’d like to learn AFVs first.
F: Oh yes, makes sense!
7: I have never played AFVs under ASL rules.
F: Yes, take it step by step. One last question : what expectations do you have for yourself in the upcoming ASLSK tournament? Have you set yourself any targets? You can be frank about this one!  (laughs)
7: Most opponents there are experienced players. I will just do my best. If I win even half the games I will be happy.
F: I think you are being modest. That wraps up our interview nicely though. 7, I would like to thank you again for doing this interview and I wish you the best of luck in the ASLSK tournament!
G: Thanks 7
7: You are welcome.

(Translated from Dare-Death magazine Issue 01)