Monday, July 4, 2011

Learning ASL one stupid mistake at a time

This scenario is taking place in September of 1942 in Stalingrad. The first scenario I played I was the Americans and in this one I wanted to learn more rules so I took the Germans. Mainly for the smoke usage but also I wanted to try demolition charges and flamethrowers.

This game was on VASSAL with a friend of mine in Belgium that I had met through playing Fighting Formations. So this was a morning session for me, evening session for him and we only had time to get through the first German half of Turn 1. I wanted to discuss some things I learned.

First off Assault Movement is a nice thing. Previously I had not used it in my first game because...well...I accidentally skipped over it in the rule book. This time around, after a liberal assault on my rulebook via a pink highlighter (yeah...pink) I was ready and knew the options I had before me. The thing about Squad Leader is that it is a lot like John Tillers Squad Battles put on a board with chits and made more complex. If you have played John Tiller's Squad Battles on the PC then you can get the idea of Squad Leader. I know what I WANT to do in ASL, I just need to know the rules to do it.

When I go to do something, I bust out the big ASL Binder Rulebook I have and look it up in the index. For example even though Smoke is in the Starer Kit Rulebook it is buried deep in a wall of text. I want to know more. I thirst for knowledge! So I turn to the ASL Binder and look up smoke. Now in the binder there are more in depth rules such as wind and dispersal etc etc.

Now I have my knowledge. It is putting that knowledge to use that makes ASL hard because you do not want to mess up the rules.

Above was my setup. I am the Germans (light blue-grey). Terrible. Now looking back at it and realizing I have the first move I should have put my men IN the buildings and here is why: It takes a lot to move and get through the buildings and around them. In the Starter Kit there is no bypass movement. So I have to go in or move around buildings. Right off the bat my setup was poor.

My plan was to drive across the gap and assault the building in hex E8.

The thing about this game is there are so many options and ways to do things it did not occurr to me to just race across the road and assault the building. I would take a lot of fire but I could have fired and tried to take out that Russian machine gun. Instead I chose to get fancy and here is how:

I wanted to pop smoke, move across the lane, and occupy the building.

I guess that is the beauty of Squad Leader in that it lets you PICK how you want to do something. Ultra Realistic yes, but to me no different than playing John Tillers Squad Battles like I mentioned.

So off I went.

I decided to use movement to move up into the buildings across from the Russians. I took some sporadic fire. Now I threw smoke and failed on one placement (even though in this scenario some German units needed a 4 to place I rolled terrible)

I managed to get some smoke out and now I went to execute my plan. My opponent was silent on my Skyped in headset. He was letting me learn as I babbled to myself.

Ok, time to cross that gap. I will Assault movement and go into the building in front of the smoke, then get across the road! What a brilliant plan right? Not really.

Before that you will notice I put one German squad up north and to the right. His main job was to suppress and hold that Russian MG in place and keep it pinned or routed. In my Prep Fire Phase this worked to perfection. It was about the only thing that did go right for me. I put a NEG 1 leader with him in case he got hit and broke or something. Since I am new to this game I am not sure what the best deployment is for certain things but I have years to learn and have to catch up. Most Vets have been playing for 20 years.

Anyway back to the smoke crossing. I laid out everything and prepared to move.

My opponent likes to let me go until I do something wrong, then he mentions it.

I laid out the smoke and went to move. Unfortunately for me I forgot that Assault movement was one hex of movement and then done. I started too far back by not being IN the buildings and had to use Assault movement to get into a building (I used that to avoid the FFNAM bonus a player gets shot at with for moving and not being cautious)

Problem is all my movements were a hex off because I deployed so badly. So I ended up one hex short on everyone because I didnt plan ahead and thus could not even get INTO the smoke hexes I had created.

Well the best laid plans I guess. I watched in dismay as my movement phase ended and my opponent mentions that he was going to tell me to take my deployment back but he wanted me to learn the hard way.

So as the minutes in the battle went by there lay my pretty smoke clouds...in the middle of the gap just sitting there as I failed to move forward and use them

All this happened and it was only my part of the FIRST turn. Now I also could have DOUBLE TIMED it, I could have opened fire more and not moved, I could have seperated my stacks and all sorts of combos.

Thats the thing about this game. You need to really plan out how you want to do something ahead of time and just go for it and stick to the plan. There are however many many ways to accomplish a goal. I think that is what keeps me addicted to learning this game.

I also had trouble in VASSAL remembering how to mark that a squad was CARRYING a support weapon and had to go back and redo a lot of my stacks. It is the little things you need to go over again and again before moving over to the other Starter Kits. One hand it is a learning curve, on another you get hours of playtime out of one Starter Kit.