Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Combined Arms, take two, turn one

As the previous game of S23 ended as quickly as I'd expected - Ender's last German platoon didn't manage to take out the gun or make it across the street before being broken and I didn't even need to reveal my squad in L8 to stop them - we decided to tackle something bigger. This time he picked S26: Last Ally, Last Victory and gave me the challenge of attacking the village and taking nine of the multi-hex buildings with the Germans.

It's a late-war 1944 scenario set in Hungary, so the Germans are outgunned despite having two Tigers at their disposal; the Soviet main armaments range from 76L to a nightmarish 122L although their armor can't compare with the 26 To Kill of the Tigers' front armor. It's a complicated setup, with two German formations coming in from the east and west, and Soviet armored reinforcements arriving from the north. As the German commander, I had to decide which group would enter in Turn One and which in Turn Two, SchwerePanzerAbteiling 503rd platoon in the west (top) or a company from the 1st Panzer Division in the east(bottom) prior to the Soviet setup.

I assumed the Soviets would focus on stopping the larger, well-led company, plus the open fields gave them the opportunity to set up a deadly killzone to the east, so I decided the focus of my attack would have to come from the west and thereby decided to make my Turn One entry and subsequent push for the village there.

I decided I'd use my armor to screen the platoon, but kept my Panthers out of the line of sight of the anti-tank gun and lone T-34 by daring them to take on the Tigers and their massive front armor. The Panthers took up positions to the north, where I hoped to slow down the coming Soviet reinforcements and prevent them from disrupting the infantry before they could reach the safety of the stone buildings. So, there was virtually no fire exchanged during the first German turn, which ended like this.

I was a little surprised by the placement of the two Soviet platoons in the woods to the north, which gave me some degree of encouragement that I'd be able to quickly take the two multihex wooden buildings with the 1st Panzer when they entered from the east on Turn Two. My armor wasn't able to take out the one T-34 defending the western approach, but with two 88Ls and one 75L trained on it, I was confident it wasn't going to survive for long, after which the big cats could turn their attention to the single platoon of the 6th Guards and give me easy entry to the village.



Blogger jeffrey takada March 01, 2016 6:36 AM  

These are great posts. Reminds me of when I would play GDW's Blood & Thunder. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous Millenium March 01, 2016 7:19 AM  

I wish I had learned this game as a child. My education, like the rest of my generation, am sadly lacking in strategic thinking skills. I expect, unfortunately, that being able to plan a battle is a skill that will be useful in the next decade or two.

Anonymous VFM #6306 March 01, 2016 7:53 AM  

Looks like the Soviets are accepting a pincer and are content to keep the Northern "palm" from ever sealing and unifying the German push.

If so, that is a rather Russian thing to do! Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

Anonymous Robert L March 01, 2016 8:04 AM  

For those who lack a gaming partner but want the ASL experience, I'm just going to leave this here..
Less mechanics, more brewing up, most fun.

Blogger Andre B March 01, 2016 8:18 AM  

Vox, you should give XCOM2 a shot. It's a fantastic little game for strategic-minded people.

Blogger frenchy March 01, 2016 9:30 AM  


I just picked up several of the ASL kits ans scenarios. What's the normal learning curve with the genre by MMP? From looking at the Rule Book and other documentation, it seems like I'd need a spread sheet and a calculator (sarcasm) to keep score with so many attributes to keep track of.

Anonymous Anonymous March 01, 2016 9:36 AM  

These posts make me want to find a local ASL group to watch and learn how to play. It's like chess on steroids.

Blogger VD March 01, 2016 9:49 AM  

What's the normal learning curve with the genre by MMP?

Months to years.

Blogger CarpeOro March 01, 2016 9:57 AM  

With the name being Advanced Squad Leader there was of course a per-cursor named simply Squad Leader. Also complex but not on the same level. I think I had a used set at one time, but recall playing ASL instead with a buddy back in the day (three decades or so ago).

Blogger CarpeOro March 01, 2016 10:00 AM  

Oh, and there was a computer game for the TRS80 Color Computer back in the early 1980s that was similar to Squad Leader. Graphic were minimal, but play was actually decent with a computer run side and the opportunity to have a promotable (and saveable to floppy disk) character.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 01, 2016 10:12 AM  

Vox, your previous post convinced me to get the Starter Kit 1 and teach it to my son. I had a large collection of SL modules (though I'd never played ASL very much, but I loved SL) that were badly damaged by a pipe break years ago. So I'm rebuilding the army, so to speak.

We played S1 and S2. S2 (War of the Rats) was interesting. I was the Russians, defending some building with a mix of decent to conscript troops. He was the Germans attacking with much better troops and leadership.

He was way too tentative and static. The game devolved into the two sides shooting at each other across two streets. Eventually my conscripts to the west folded and he started rolling that flank up, but it was too late and he only controlled one of the three buildings he needed at games end.

But he's very enthusiastic, and I could see the gears turning as he pondered his mistakes ("I needed to get across that road quicker"). We've ordered the full rules and Beyond Valor. I'll get the new Yanks module when it's released.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous Olav Plankwell March 01, 2016 10:14 AM  

I remember the original Squad Leader well. My favorite leader was Lt Stahler, "The Hero of Stalingrad" to single-handedly destroyed two T-34s by close-assault in the streets of Stalingrad.

In many ways, I think the original Squad Leader (with the Cross of Iron and GI, Anvil of Victory expansions) was a better game than ASL. With the programmed learning rule book, it was much more accessible.

Blogger VD March 01, 2016 10:25 AM  

Thanks for the encouragement!

NP. It's entirely normal to be too tentative and get beaten by the clock. That's actually a good sign. The sort of player who just charges into the open doesn't tend to improve as quickly.

Blogger Panzerdude March 01, 2016 11:06 AM  

Thoughts on Learning ASL - Have played on/off for years. Love the game and enjoy these posts, much better than typical AAR's that are pages long.

If you enjoy problem solving, mixed with frustration, plus a cup of battling whits and a pitch of luck, then ASL is for you. It will take quite a long time to achieve competency; but that's why the game endures.

Step 1: Get the rules.

Step 2: VASSAL and VASL are definitely helping to keep the game alive and active. Find an opponent willing to teach on GameSquad (in the ASL forum) and then plan to play a few times a month. You'll be referencing the rules A LOT in the beginning. Play small scenarios and prepare to lose, I mean learn...

Step 3: After some number of games with your instructor, you'll no longer feel like a total noob. Reach out to play other opponents on GameSquad. You'll run across some great guys (and occasional grumps) but will begin to learn this great game.

Step 4: When you reach the point of "seeing" the battle, as opposed to needing to look at the rules all the time, start adding elements to the scenarios you play, i.e. armor and guns, off-board arty, etc. In the beginning, keep the scenarios small. When you're still learning, a big scenario can literally take months to complete (if you're only playing a few times a month) which can really bog down your learning the game. Small scenarios can be finished in 1-4 sessions.

Advice to beginners - Do not concede too quickly. The point is to learn the rules. Often, new guys will get hit with a set back and immediately want to quit. This is wrong thinking for at least 2 reasons. 1. you often have your most creative thinking when you're in a tough spot, and; 2. you won't experience the occasional thrill of the miracle comeback.

Step 5 - enjoy the game for years to come.

Anonymous Anonymous March 01, 2016 11:51 AM  

Looks like a ton of fun. Speaking as an old time Risk enthusiast.

Blogger frenchy March 01, 2016 12:36 PM  

@ Vox,

Thanks. Sounds a bit like Janes 688i/Dangerous Waters in terms of learning curve, but harder...which I did not think was possible for any game.

@ Sigbouncer,

The games I've picked up look like fun. The rule book...THAT rule book. Well, it seems like they thought of everything. I got the binder, it's about and inch and a half thick. Seems that all that is needed is some small ziplock bags to hold the punched out pieces. I changed out the dice (I have a preference for larger dice).

Anonymous Anonymous March 01, 2016 1:43 PM  

Thanks for the detailed feedback, frenchy. Appears like something well worth getting involved in.

Anonymous Olav Plankwell March 01, 2016 2:06 PM  

I have played the original Avalon Hill Squad Leader many, many times. I have just started with the ASL Starter Kits to learn the current game.

In many ways, I think the original is a better, more accessible game (if he expansions Cross of Iron and GI: Anvil of Victory are included) due to the programmed learning approach of the rulebook and somewhat simpler system with far fewer special rule cases.

Blogger Were-Puppy March 01, 2016 2:46 PM  

These kind of games are so fun - if you have some others to play them with.

Blogger Sean Carnegie March 01, 2016 4:22 PM  

@15 LOVED 688i. Wow, makes me think of high school all over again.

Would love to get started into (A)SL sometime soon.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab March 01, 2016 4:32 PM  

Are you playing on a physical board?

Blogger VD March 01, 2016 4:36 PM  

Are you playing on a physical board?

We were, until the Ridgeback puppy ate two German tanks. So we switched to VASL.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 01, 2016 5:06 PM  

That's the problem with naming your tanks after cats.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab March 01, 2016 5:46 PM  

VD wrote:Are you playing on a physical board?

We were, until the Ridgeback puppy ate two German tanks. So we switched to VASL.

You need a Berger Blanc Suisse. White Shepherds would never eat German tanks.

Blogger Kull March 01, 2016 8:45 PM  

The starter kit is only 25 bucks and you can start having fun immediately. After punching all the counters of course!

Anonymous Daniel H March 02, 2016 3:44 PM  

Naive question: Can ALS be learned/enjoyed playing solo?

Anonymous VFM #6306 March 02, 2016 10:45 PM  

Daniel H, you want Ambush! Same company, solo rules, very, very simplified for squad tactics. More of a solo board game with some tactical flavor plus chits and a paper map.

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