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Tabletop Game / Advanced Squad Leader

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Advanced Squad Leader, or ASL for short, is a Wargame set in World War II and first released in 1985 by Avalon Hill. Today, it is maintained by Multi-Man Publishing (MMP). As the name suggests, it is based on a previous game called Squad Leader. Along with Victory in the Pacific, it's one of the last few Avalon Hill wargames to still support multiple national face to face tournaments.

ASL is notable for being quite rules-heavy and is often cited as one of the most complex wargames ever. The basic game consists of a three-ring binder containing rules for infantry, tanks, paratroopers, landing boats, artillery support and even basic air combat plus a big box called "Beyond Valor" containing some geomorphic mapboards, German, Finnish and Russian unit counters and several scenarios. Additional modules expand the game with more boards and scenarios and with units for basically every country that fought in any theatre of WWII. Some modules focus on campaign play around a single historical battle, while others offer a less steep learning curve for beginners or improved solitaire play.

The game is played on a quite detailed level, with a single counter representing up to 15 soldiers, a single commander or a single vehicle and scenarios usually depicting ten to twenty minutes of a skirmish in a small village or block of houses.

Some years ago, MMP introduced a new product line called the Starter Kits, which were originally meant as a tutorial for new players. Since then, the Starter Kits have taken on a life of their own with many players opting to play only the Starter Kits as opposed to switching to "Full ASL".

This tabletop wargame provides examples of:

  • A-Team Firing: Often, your infantry fire won't do anything. If it does, it's mostly reversible (sending troops on a rout or just pinning them). Right-out killing a whole enemy squad in firefights is something that happens only very rarely.
  • Dual Mode Unit: Tanks can be Crew Exposed (they can fight better, but their crew is vulnerable) or Buttoned Up (they lose some combat effectiveness, but Infantry can't harm their crew and potentially take out the tank anymore).
  • Fog of War: Called "Concealment".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first ten scenario cards produced for Beyond Valor in 1985 had a number of redundant Scenario Special Rules which only make sense when one realizes they were written for a brand new game, and the publishers wanted to be sure that key concepts crucial to playing the rules correctly were properly applied.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Seeking cover in buildings is a core mechanic (Type 1), and some scenarios allow pillboxes to be placed before play starts (Type 2). They only make troops inside them harder to hit, though. Demolition Charges and Flamethrowers counter their defensive bonuses.
  • Hold the Line: Pretty much all scenarios have a time limit after which the defender wins.
  • It's Raining Men: Paratroopers, obviously. Gliders also allow Infantry and even vehicles and ordnance to drop from the sky.
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: As mentioned above, the rules are in a three-ring binder, consist of several hundred pages in very small font and even more of them are added by many of the modules.
  • Non-Entity General: The player. However, the "telepathic communication" part is zig-zagged: Most of the time your troops will do what you want from them, but, for example, Snipers work on their own (that is, mostly based on chance), the player has very little control over routing units and artillery needs a lot of dice-roll based communication before any bombardment.
  • Playing with Fire: Flamethrowers, vehicular flamethrowers, molotovs.
  • Rite of Passage: The scenario "The Guards Counterattack" is widely considered to be this.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel: Zig-zagged. Tanks are usually destroyed by the first successful attack against them, while fire at infantry that hasn't been damaged before usually has no effect other than sending them on a rout and keeping them out of combat for some time, or reducing their effectiveness by partial elimination (ELR and Casualty Reduction, in game terms). But if you don't have any specialized anti-tank weapons handy, tanks are nigh-invulnerable.
  • The Cameo: Single-Man Counters (SMC's - leaders and heroes) are sometimes named after people working on the game (scenario designers, rule designers, playtesters et cetera). Other SMC's are named for historical soldiers.
  • Weather of War: Simulated by some basic rules. Scenario rules state which weather the scenario takes place in, but this is subject to change.