Random Opinions

Where to start?

This question gets asked a lot on the various ASL-related fora: “I want to get into ASL, where do I start?”. Let me offer my personal viewpoint, speaking as a guy who is just starting to play real ASL.

So you think this ASL thing could be interesting for you. But there are so many ASL products out there, where is the right place to start? Well, with the Starter Kits, obviously! But by now, even the product range of these things can be a bit confusing.

There are, as of now, five games in the Starter Kit series, and every one of them is a standalone product you can simply buy and play without worrying about dependencies. These five products are the Starter Kit 1 (Infantry only), Starter Kit 2 (Infantry + Guns), Starter Kit 3 (Infantry + Guns + Tanks), the Starter Kit Expansion Pack (scenarios of all three levels), and Decision at Elst, a campaign game which I can’t tell you anything about as of now, unfortunately 😦

So, which of these things should an aspiring newbie buy? It doesn’t matter too much, actually. I would recommend the Starter Kit Expansion Pack, because it has some really neat scenarios and covers all levels of play, but every Starter Kit product has at least one infantry-only scenario that allows to get into the rules step by step. Note that some of the aforementioned products are pretty hard to find because they’re temporarily out of print, but if you can get your hand on any of these, you’re covered.

An opponent with some experience is invaluable to actually learn the rules, because the Starter Kit rulebook (about 30 pages in its latest incarnation) can be really confusing at times. If you haven’t got one, Jay Richardson created some excellent tutorials.

Keep in mind you’re not buying a very expensive tutorial, but a full game that will give you months to years of fun. Maybe you’ll just continue to play Starter Kit instead of switching to Full ASL because Starter Kit has everything you want but is cheaper and simpler – and that’s fine.

If you decide to switch to Full ASL eventually, you’ll find it’s a lot simpler than without the Starter Kit preparation. You probably can play Full ASL from the very beginning, but I personally think that is not a good idea and will likely be very frustrating. YMMV of course.

Some other things to mention:

* You can play ASL (full or Starter Kit) online, via a platform called VASL. You’ll still need the game and an opponent, but it’s a viable option if you haven’t got an experienced player who could mentor you in your local area.

* A small but interesting forum for ASL exists at BoardGameGeek, where you can also find lots of play aids, et cetera. There’s also a Facebook group.

You are not convinced ASL is the right game for you and just want to get some impressions? Then best have a look at some After Action Reports in one of the aforementioned forum.

I hope this helps some people to get into the game, roll low and have fun!

Favourite Scenarios – 2013

Stating their favourite scenarios of the year is a thing people are doing, which is why I do it now as well.

As mentioned before, I only played Starter Kit so far, so the list will obviously only contain Starter Kit scenarios.

  • S1 “Retaking Vierville”: My first scenario played ever, with Patrick Ireland, who showed me the ropes when I started. I have since played it once or twice with other players, and even though it is as simple as ASL will ever get, it still manages to be just a bit different every time you play it. Also, nostalgia. YMMV, of course.
  • S49 “Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas”: Played that one two times on different sides. I’m not really sure why I like it, but… well, I like it. It covers everything there is in the Starter Kits, is neither too big nor too claustrophobic and can be played really quickly. By the way, you can read an AAR I wrote over at BoardGameGeek.
Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas, with exploding stuff.

Cooks, Clerks and Bazookas, with exploding stuff.

  • S50 “N-463”: Actually, we did not finish that one for time reasons. But I’d love to have another go at it, due to the interesting Victory Conditions (basically, the German player has to set up a roadblock to win), the Jagdpanthers and the 105mm Sherman (a vehicle I love in World of Tanks, though my experience in ASL so far suggests it is worse than useless here). Again, it’s a single-board scenario. I like single-board scenarios!

On the opposite side, the worst scenario I played was S51 “Enter the Young”. Its premise is interesting, I’ll give you that. But unfortunately, some printing errors make it pretty much unplayable (as a friend and I found out the hard way in the middle of a match) and as far as I know, there are no errata…