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Posted on Oct 8, 2007 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

ASL Starter Kit # 3 Review

By Robert Delwood

MMP’s Starter Kit 3 is the last of three starter kits for their Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) system. Before the grognards out there complain about another ASL module and stop reading, these kits are introductory modules done right. They are designed, not for the hardcore ASL aficionado, but for the gamer who wants to play World War II squad-level actions in an evening. Gone are the 250 pages of rules, the mandatory three modules and having to adjust one’s lifestyle just to play a game.

The starter kits are scaled back versions of the larger ASL system. Each kit introduces one aspect of the game. For example, Kit 1 is infantry only and has 12 pages of rules; Kit 2 involves ordnance and runs 20 pages in length. This last release is about tanks and features the longest rules book of the three at 24 pages. Each kit is a complete game and independent of any other module. This way, players can choose their level of involvement. New gamers can begin with the first kit and start playing within 30 minutes. Experienced gamers, especially, those having played Squad Leader before, can go directly to the tanks. Either way, if players like what they see, they can expand their holdings with other starter kits or to the complete ASL game.

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MMP did an excellent job with the starter kits. Every player quickly recognizes that not all the rules are necessary for each scenario. Indeed, the ASL rulebook is so large because it covers so many topics. Remove the specialized ones and one can see how the kits get their brevity. In a broad context, if one is using infantry only, one does not need the 60 pages of ordnance and tanks. For infantry, remove desert and jungle, uncommon terrain, swimming and climbing rules, for example. After that, MMP started making hard decisions and removed some of the core’s non-essential materials, such as concealment, and snipers. It’s easy now to see how they get down to 12 pages.

In general, the starter kit components are similar to each other and the full version. A key feature of the kits is that they are fully compatible with the full version. Each kit comes with two or three new maps. Lettered Z – T, the maps are identical in size, quality and artwork as ASL. The only difference is that new maps are printed on card stock. A vestige of Avalon Hill-era games, ASL maps will no longer be mounted. This reduces production costs and saves space and weight for the gamers. Many players have gone to the extreme of ordering un-mounted boards and laminating them themselves. The new maps do not lie as smoothly as the mounted ones players often use.

In the same way, the counters are identical. The new style counters, introduced in 1984, depict three man squads, two man half squads and crews, and single man counters. The backs show the same number of men in distorted broken, routed or just plain scared positions. The only issue with the counters between modules and kits is that the color die may not always match exactly. In an extreme case, the German counters for the KGP approached a sickly purple instead of the German blue of other modules. In the starter kits so far, this does not seem to be a problem.

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