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Posted on May 4, 2006 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

ASL Starter Kit #2 – Boardgame Review

By Robert Delwood

Comparison to Original Squad Leader

Players of original Squad Leader get to enjoy the same simplicity, too. Many of the rules may be immediately recognizable. The main difference Squad Leader players will see is that the movement and defensive fire phases are more interactive. Squad Leader allowed moving units back after the fact. Now, the unit can be fired on after each movement point and there’s no going back in time. In addition, the non-phasing player has more options. In theory, a unit can fire any number of times, limited only by having moving targets. It becomes harder and more risky to overwhelm a defending unit. Another important change is that infantry are deadly to armor now. A light machine gun can kill poorly armored vehicles. Although armor is not present in the ASLSK’s, Squad Leader players should note that the halftrack is no longer king of the battlefield as it once was. All said, the conversion from Squad Leader to ASL, or at least one of the ASLSK’s should be an easy and enjoyable one.

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The comparison between the ASLSK’s and Squad Leader is valid. ASLSK#1’s 12 page rule book (nine pages of actual rules) matches closely to the same nine pages of the Squad Leader rule book. Given Squad Leader’s smaller text, it covers nearly the same material as ASLSK#1’s rules, from the introduction, movement, combat, morale, fate (breaking machine guns on a 12 or so), along with flamethrowers and demolition charges. Squad Leader even gets to add smoke, concealment, and sewer movement. Overall, the differences are relatively minor. For instance, Squad Leader’s machine guns were given the ability to attack hexes beyond the initial target along the same LOS (penetration). This evolved into an ASL “fire lane.” As discussed earlier, defensive fire is different. But, even for this change, Squad Leader laid a solid foundation. Squad Leader’s optional rule 16 (Squad Leader, page 22, 1977) describes “semi-simultaneous movement and defensive fire” that is nearly identical to the ASL version.

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What’s Next

The similarities do not end there. Squad Leader used programmed instructions to introduce the rules and MMP is returning to that format. The attraction of programmed instructions is that they introduce the rules in small pieces and give players only enough rules for the next few scenarios. Many feel they can digest complicated rules that way. The drawback is that referencing or organizing rules become much harder. Ultimately, after the players learned the game, it was harder to find a rule they needed. Squad Leader had an additional problem because the game was always evolving. The most obvious example is that the armor rules were in four different books. Avalon Hill recognized the problem in Crescendo of Doom when they stated that it “becomes (harder) to incorporate all the many rules which the system has to offer, if only due to the shortcomings of the human memory.” (Crescendo of Doom, page 74, 1979).

MMP’s next project, tentatively called iASL (Introduction to ASL), steps beyond ASLSK and reintroduces the ASL rules in a programmed instruction format. The difference is that MMP is designing a solution with the iASL that Squad Leader never had: a complete set of rules. iASL can now reformat the rules and have a coherency and reference structure that Squad Leader never had. Release dates and module information for iASL have not been announced.

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