Wednesday, 5 December 2018

ASL Starter kit plus Deluxe boards mash-up

The worlds of the ASL starter kits and full ASL are set slightly apart, with product that has a lot, but not total cross-over. In my renewed journey back into ASL, I find myself with the starter kits while I wait for the Beyond Valor ASL printing.

Of itself, this is not a bad thing, as it makes the journey of re-familiarisation a lot easier. This week I wanted to set something up a bit different for our face-to-face session, so I have pulled down Starter Kit #1 and decided to do a mash-up with the ASL Deluxe large hex boards from the ASL Winter Offensive Bonus Pack 9 for 2018.  

Though not designed for Starter Kit use, they do have some shared function, enough, together with a home made scenario, to allow me to put together a good looking, low complexity, infantry only game, hopefully that Mike will enjoy. I have dragged him across too many different tactical system this year, so this needs to be very playable.

Bonus Pack 9 has four lovely three panel fold out large hex game boards and five full ASL scenarios. It is also a product that donates part of its sale price to charity. This post may interest those starter kit owners looking for potential ways of expanding their product beyond the SK series.

The rest of this post gives way to looking at the home brew scenario designed for our Friday night game and discusses the suitability of Pack 9 for starter kit users.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.

Of the four map boards in Pack 9, two are city boards (my favourite), one is orchard based and the other has multi level high ground, so two remind me of the old Streets of Fire Deluxe module and the other two of the Deluxe Hedgerow Hell module. I am just going to use the two city boards for this session.

Please note I am designing this just around Starter Kit #1 and Pack 9, to give the widest interest to more SK users. A copy of the scenario is available as a downloadable PDF - see the Resource Section below.

The five scenarios provided in the Pack are not going to be usable by Starter Kit (SK) players, but the boards use much of the terrain that is already known to SK owners, with the rest mostly being easy to absorb into SK play. Note the following terrain types and judge for yourself whether these boards could be useful to wherever you are up to;

Stairwells in buildings - these are marked on the city boards as squares instead of a centre dot, but should simply be ignored as SK deals with single level buildings. So treat all city board buildings as 1 level buildings.

Walls - these are marked on the city boards, sitting along hexsides and are best simply ignored. However SK users who have the SK Beyond the Beaches module (comes with map P that has hedges) might want to use the introduced hedge rule for walls, but simply giving the Wall a TEM of +2. The wall TEM is not cumulative with any other positive TEM in the hex.

Crag - these are marked on the high ground board and like orchards are just set out with four symbols per hex. This terrain type does not appear in any SK (yet), so it can either be ignored, or the player can choose to have it represent another SK terrain type such as orchard, grain, woods or brush.

Multiple levels of high ground - these layered hills dominate the hill board. In SK hills are introduced in SK 2 and 3, but only as single level features. The SK player may wish to simply treat the multiple level hills as a single level. Some players understanding how LOS and hills work, may be able to deduce rules that would be suitable to make use of the various heights.

Orchards - these appear on three of the deluxe boards, and the terrain type is featured in all three SK’s, so will be familiar to gamers.

Brush - this appears on one board and is a terrain type that is dealt with in SK 3. SK 1 and 2 gamers could just ignore it or treat it as orchard or woods.

Narrow Street - On one of the city boards, there is a single hexside located between two buildings that has a road running along it. This is an ASL terrain type that is best simply ignored for SK purposes.

Row Houses - On one of the city boards has some linked buildings, which have a thick black bar separating each building hex from the other and look like a row of terraces or town houses as they called these days. The bar blocks LOS and standard movement between two such hexes. This is an ASL feature that works hand in hand with By-Pass movement (another ASL feature), so for starter kit use, just treat the three hexes as separate buildings, as though there is a gap between each of them or one large multi hex building.

It is really only the hill board that is the most problematic to the SK player and even this has work-arounds, so overall the SK player who wants to expand into more product might find this package of some use, but remember the five ASL will not be usable, although players may have some fun in trying to convert them (one is Korea based). The big hex city boards really are nice to play over.

For our home made scenario, I have chosen an action from Stalingrad as portrayed in one of my Osprey books on the subject (see Resource Section below). The Germans are close to reaching the banks of the Volga, just some houses and apartment blocks are in the way. The scenario looks at the assault on a stretch of houses.

Some of the battle attributes I have chosen to highlight are;

That the houses were a tough objective, they were held by relatively small Soviet teams, that defended tenaciously and the survivors of the regiment had become veteran in street fighting action. Accordingly their ELR is raised and they get an extra Self Rally opportunity in their Rout Phase and they also have some ‘8’ morale units. They get three SMG units as this weapon type became one of choice amongst the ruins.

The Germans are well trained and had Pioneer teams mixed amongst their own infantry assault teams, so were well equipped for house clearing operations. Here they get demolition charges, a flamethrower and some ‘8’ morale units to represent the pioneer teams.

The intensity and duration of firefights was significant, which put strain on the ammunition supply and the maintenance of machine guns and so mid game, support weapon breakdown numbers worsen for both sides.

The attacks were typically launched at 0400 hours, which together with counter-attacks went on all day. Just to give a flavour of that, the first two turns have some restrictions to represent fighting in darkness.

Finally, because the fighting went on for many hours, with each side hoping that one more push would do the job, the scenario length may be extended by one turn, dependent upon a die roll made at the end of the game (turn 5).

Here are a few highlight shots of the action from a couple of test games that I ran before the face-to-face game, which has been brought forward to Thursday this week, so testing time is tight. The set-up and need to control several buildings dictates that both sides cover their entire frontage, so both sides are spread relatively thinly, with the Germans having limited capacity to concentrate assault teams.

Play test 1.
Turn 2 - (above) This is the first German assault, for which they must break cover. Previous fire had cleared the L2 building hex. The squad in the triangular building threw out smoke grenades, but due to movement restrictions in the dark could not use it. Instead, a squad from L4 moved out, surviving defensive fire, which left a Residual Fire ‘2’ marker in their hex. Pioneers with a flamethrower followed them, survived the Residual Fire, but Subsequent First Fire from the terrace block broke them. The first German squad does enter the building, but was immediately removed in a swift Soviet counter-attack.

Turn 5 - (above) The Germans had an opportunity to attack the same hex again. Fire had pinned three out of four enemy squads and so a Pioneer squad with a Demolition Charge went forward, surviving fire and attempting to throw the Demo Charge, but the movement to place the charge attracted Subsequent First Fire from the target hex and again the Pioneers broke, cancelling the placement of the Demo Charge.

At the end of the play test, the Soviet line had simply been too tough, only four attempts at crossing the street had been made, with one successfully capturing a house (in the centre) and the other three failing, so for the second game, the German Order-of-Battle was strengthened with two additional pioneer squads, an extra LMG and the 9-1 leader upgraded to a 9-2, while the Soviets were slightly reduced, losing a 7-0 leader and swapping out two elite full squads for half squads.

That may be too drastic, but it will allow the Germans a better chance to concentrate force, creating some assault capacity, while still being able to lay down fire and importantly will increase game tension for the Soviet player, an emotional ingredient that was missing from the first play test.

Play test 2.
The extra ‘oomph’ give to the German force made for a much more dynamic opening. Big fire groups broke four Soviet squads and wounded Sgt. Evich. Six German squads stepped out into the street on the left, but lucky Soviet dice rolls caused three to break, with two German squads also dropping in quality.

Above - In the Soviet part of turn 2, an ongoing melee had developed in one of the buildings on the German left between a rifle squad and Russian SMG squad. In the lower part of the photograph, you can see some German units still re-organising after taking breaking in the first assault.

Just above the melee hex, the wounded Sgt. Evich and his men, who broke and fled the building in turn one, returned to reinforce the SMG unit, but even their intervention did not secure the building and the melee continued!

Above - game turn 3, what a mess! The ongoing melee on the left continued to draw more troops in, the Soviet Maxim MMG in the centre broke and good German prep fire on the right, helped by the arrival of daylight and the flamethrower was now able to target the other side of the street, giving the Germans the confidence to launch an attack on the right with the pioneers leading.

It immediately went to rats! a single 4-4-7 opened defensive fire by rolling two 1’s, getting a KIA. Another squad with the leader stepped out into a different hex, the 4-4-7 fired again (Subsequent First Fire), incredibly getting double 1’s again, getting another KIA and a broken leader.

Further down the street, Major Pigott took two pioneer squads into the attack. A fire group of 6 FP’s used First Fire causing morale checks, Pigott failed, but the two squads passed. Then the squads took their Pin Checks because their leader had broken and both failed, becoming pinned out in the street! The defences had looked ready to fall, but just a handful of men had stalled a significant attack.

The game played on and despite the above reverses, the German situation improved and the die roll caused the game to continue into a 6th turn. In the final two turns, the Germans pretty much cleared the board, taking eight out of the nine building hexes.

Game two worked better at the start, giving a stronger sense of connection for the need to fight hard for objectives for both both sides, but considering the Soviets got a run of magnificently low dice rolls and still lost, I am going to pull things back a tad. The Germans will lose one 5-4-8 squad, the Soviets will upgrade an 8-0 leader to 8-1 and the random 6th turn will be dropped, curtailing German excesses.  I have run out of time for now for more testing and so this will hit the table tomorrow evening. Hopefully the dice will be kind, the rulebook with stay in the box :-) and Mike will be suitably entertained.

A PDF copy of the scenario is available on my Dropbox (thank you DropBox) as a download. You may be invited to join dropbox, but if you don’t want to, you can just click past that invitation and get to the download. LINK

COMMANDERS is my sister webspace that it is more snippet based than here, check out the ‘this week pages’ for what’s new. LINK

Source for this scenario. The scenario is based around an account taken from Stalingrad 1942 - 43, German soldier vs Soviet soldier, in the Osprey Combat Series by Chris McNab and published by Osprey Publishing. LINK

UK supplier - ASL Pack 9 and all of the Starter Kits are presently available from Second Chance Games in the UK. Use both of the keyword search lines that pop up when searching under ‘Manufacturer’ i.e. Manufacturer and then game group, such as ‘Advanced Squad Leader’ tabs. LINK


  1. Two pairs of snake eyes in a row can do serious damage to ones' morale!

    I do like the look of the oversized hexes and helps to eliminate a bunch of unwieldy stacks and enjoy following your scenario balancing act.

    I have begun playing SL and re-introducing myself to the original series. Only a couple of games under my belt but SL has been enjoyable. It has been so very long ago when I last played, my memory has blocked out how bloody SL can be. In one game of Guards Counterattack in which I was an observer, the Russian player eliminated EVERY SINGLE German BMU on the board. Incredible.

    I have yet to try ASL Starter Kits but looking forward to giving it a go.

    Interesting post, Norm.

  2. Thanks Jonathan, we put SL's The Guards Counterattack on the table earlier in the year. I had taken the board to the copy shop and had it enlarged for bigger hexes, which we enjoyed using. A wonderful game!

  3. Very nice post. ASLSK is a wonderful introduction to the system, and a great gaming bargain. ASL is often a game of huge swings in fortune. When playing you have to keep going, even when it looks bad. Enjoy many more ASL games.

  4. Hi Ellis, your comments at CSW and support material that you sent me were a significant influence in me giving things another go.

  5. I think this sort of scenario is a tricky one to be able to get a good balance for both forces involved, whether as a board game or not. Glad you are able to play test the scenario a few times to try and get it right. The second one sounded better, but you cannot never account for some lucky die rolls!

  6. I quite like that events can throw predictability to the four winds, though a fundamental solid basis to a scenario is desirable. I hope after a face to face game, which inevitably throws something new up anyway, will help further smooth out any noticeable imbalance, but I am fortunate that we tend to play the games for the sheer pleasure of doing so, rather than in a competative style, so we tend to help each other out a bit during play and there is definately a gentlemanly aspect to our games.

    In tonights game, the front is long enough to give a few different sectors of influence, so hopefully if something goes to rats in one place, else where there may be a more even beat.

  7. "I am fortunate that we tend to play the games for the sheer pleasure of doing so, rather than in a competative style, so we tend to help each other out a bit during play and there is definately a gentlemanly aspect to our games."

    That is our attitude too Norm:)

  8. I’m going to part with a terrible secret; I’ve never played SL or ASL. I know of it bc everyone else talks about it. πŸ™

    Still I read the post and enjoyed the discussion of the scenario. I think scenario design is something of a dark art and requires knowledge of the system do I can’t comment too much. But I commend you for giving it two play tests to ensure a good balance. Your game mates are lucky to have you. πŸ˜€

    1. Thanks Stew, I got into SL 1977 - 78, when the game was at its height, 4th Edition had just been released and ASL was still some 6 - 7 years away. Having been a fan of tactical boardgames ever since, the importance of SL in influencing future designs is clear and much of what has since followed is often bench marked against SL. John Hill has always been my favourite designer.

      I think it is mostly true that preparation for a face-to-face takes longer than the game does to play, but part of that reason is that we flit a lot between games and new systems, so there is a always a lot of rules reading etc going on :-)

  9. Interesting scenario and good looking board, I'm with Stew in that I've never played it although I remember desperately wanting it in about 1980 in the local games shop!
    Best Iain

  10. Iain, the board is a gem, I have always liked big hexes. The systems artwork in one respect is stuck back in its 1970's roots, so that everything that followed is always compatible - that being a given, I really still like the functionality and look of the game boards and it feels the case that the system matters more than the modern capability of publishers being able to make make something very pretty to supplement a weak system.

    With those 4 boards, it was a hefty package in 1980. I keep my stuff in good nick and stupidly I sold my SL stuff. For nostalgia reasons, I recently got another (used) copy, but it feels a little tired compared to my old pristine stuff ... but then again it is 40 years old!

  11. Norm you seem to do it every time! I hate you for it!
    Now, after giving up ASL about ten years ago, then getting the ASLSK seri s just o have them you hav started me playing them solo again.
    I certainly hope it doesn’t mean I will start again....
    Well I have the rule set....

  12. Dave, I think many of us were ensnared by this siren many years ago, when John Hill gave us Col. Berki lead his SMG units against Cpt. Wetzelberge in Scenario 1 .... The Guards Counterattack.

  13. Greetings, I would like to ask a question, is it possible to start ASL#3 onto the game system and by pass ASLSK 1 and 2, I am more interested in the Armour warfare of ASL.
    Again excellent write up, please continue, you may have found your calling πŸ‘

  14. Hi, thanks. Yes is the basic answer. Each of the three starter kits stand alone. I wrote about this some time ago (link below - it needs pasting into your browser). However, I used 3 as a gateway to infantry because 1 and 2 were out of print and so I actually wanted an infantry introduction, so my article is pitched at that perspective really.

    Set 2 introduces guns, but of course those rules are also in set 3, it just means your 'jump in point' is not so gentle.


  15. I was able to have a face-to-face game earlier this month using this scenario. It is a hard one to balance as even a single unfortunate die roll on either side can throw the advantage to one side (at least until that side has an unfortunate die roll). We found it very difficult for the Germans to get across the street for a variety of reasons and while they took many buildings, they simply ran out of time to take the final ones. Two conclusions we reached:
    1. The Germans need to make a push in one or two spots during the first two turns to make maximize use of the darkness rules.
    2. The Russians should leave one or two MMC behind the front line in order to make movement between buildings in that line more difficult for the Germans once they breach a particular point. The urge is to put everyone in the front line, but there were several times as the Russian that I wished for a 4 shot to interrupt German movement between buildings (and to leave that 2 residual fire marker to further hinder subsequent movement).

    We both enjoyed the scenario and appreciate you creating it.


  16. Tom thanks for both having a go at the scenario and commenting here.

    re 1. We felt that the early move needed to be supported by a couple of decent fire stacks and I suppose out of this simply falls the luck of the dice, as to how well all that goes.

    re 2. They have to set up in the front line, but can then pull a unit back. We found that pretty early on. A Russian leader has to pull back anyway to act as a rallying point for broken units and then these can serve as a flexible reserve.

    Perhaps as a bit of tweaking we could try to give the German player a bit more edge, a Pioneer squad could come on as a reinforcement to be available from turn 3 (daylight) or even 'grow' another MG to reflect better firing opportunities presented by the better light. Anyway, all good, cheers.


Thanks for taking the time to comment