I really don’t think there’s a game with a more complicated publication history than Advanced Squad Leader; certainly not if you look at the dependencies required to play any scenario from it.
You see, originally ASL was published as a successor to the incredibly successful Squad Leader. How successful was Squad Leader? Very. Over 200,000 copies of it were sold, according to Greg Costikyan in A Farewell to Hexes. However, as the rules to SL got more and more complex and contradictory with subsequent “gamettes”, reorganisation was needed. Squad Leader became Advanced Squad Leader, with an impressively organised (and complex) rulebook. Funnily, you have to buy the rules separately from the counters and boards! ASL, although based on SL, was its own system, and the counters from SL weren’t compatable with the new system.
So, there’s the ASL Rulebook (which I picked up secondhand for $5), and then you have the first “module” – Beyond Valor. The first edition of BV contained the counters for the Germans and the Russians, along with four mounted geomorphic mapboards and 10 scenarios. But there was a catch: it used more than four boards. In fact, it used ten. Where were the other boards? Oh, in Squad Leader and its gamettes. Indeed, to play every scenario in the initial release for ASL, you had to buy Squad Leader, or order the boards separately!
Luckily for me, by the time I started playing ASL (last year!), the new publishers of ASL had realised that getting the old boards was slightly tricky, and so the 3rd edition of Beyond Valor has all the original counters, a few more, and all ten boards you need to play. They’re no longer “mounted” mapboards, instead they are thinner cardboard. (Quite acceptable, btw). Oh, and it also includes a bonus 14 scenarios originally published in magazines. It was pricey (aus$115), but worth it.
There was a sale recently that offered the third ASL module – Yanks! – which has the American forces in it, relatively cheaply. So, I’ve just picked it up (aus$55) and it’s sitting on my desk next to my computer. Cool!
Of course, there’s a catch: this isn’t a new MMP production of Yanks!… this is the original. So, mounted mapboards. (They’ll be usable, so no problem there). It also wants a couple of boards I don’t have: #7 and #12. Hmm. So, of the eight scenarios included, I can only play five until I track down the missing boards.
This is when it gets amusing: #7 and #12 are originally from two of the Squad Leader expansions: Crescendo of Doom and G.I. Both of these are long out of print. However, the boards did get reprinted in a recent (2004) MMP product – the ASL Module 5a For King and Country. Unfortunately, it seems that that module is also out of print, and probably out of stock as well, though I’ll check if MilSims has a copy left (probably not).
Still, even if I could get For King and Country, to play all the scenarios that it includes would require board 6 from COD, boards 13 and 14 from GI, board 9 from Doomed Battalions, board 10 from Partisan, and boards 11 and 33 from The Last Hurrah.
ASL has complex dependencies? You have no idea!
You may ask why I didn’t get the MMP publication of Yanks! – well, I couldn’t because they don’t have one yet. I get the feeling that Avalon Hill drastically overestimated how popular the game would be – or how popular the Americans were – and printed lots and lots and lots of copies. So, there are still plenty sitting in the stock of MMP and various distributors. It’s a pity, because MMP would probably do a really nice job of republishing it, but there you are.
So, Yanks! Now I have it, what does it have in it?
Chapter E of the rulebook includes a lot of optional rules that only some scenarios use. If you buy the new (2nd edition) of the rulebook, these are already in there. (A lot of ASL modules required the use of Yanks! purely for these rules, so MMP made the wise decision of putting them in the core rulebook.) What rules do we have here?
- Night Combat
- Ski Troops
- Air Support
- Paratroop Landings
- Ammo Vehicles
Now, obviously some of those rules aren’t going to be used much, but they get some use (especially the Weather rules) in the Yanks! scenarios, and I guess in later ASL modules.
The Chapter H Vehicle and Gun notes for the Americans are also included, as well as Armoury sheets for both the now Out-of-Print-and-not-to-be-reprinted Paratrooper as well as Yanks.
The chapter divider for chapter E includes such fun and arcane tables as “Fog Density”, “Interrogation Table” and “Jitter Fire”.
There’s also a new ASL Scenario Aid card, for all those new weather conditions that are added by chapter E, including the amusing “NVR” – Night Visibility Range”.
There are five countersheets in Yanks! The most obvious are those that give all the American forces, which take up the majority four countersheets in all. The fifth sheet has a bunch of utility counters for the new rules, including Finnish, German and Russian counters where appropriate, and some informational counters as well.
If you’ve got the 3rd edition of Beyond Valor, as I do, a lot of the informational counters will be familiar. The American infantry counters are pretty familiar from the ASL Starter Kits, although there a lots of new tanks and guns.
For those interested in numbers, we’re talking 520 0.5″ counters and 528 0.625″ counters.
It’s something of a shock to see these mounted boards after getting really used to the unmounted variety from the Starter Kits and the new BV. Funnily, the boards seem of lower quality to my eye – no doubt due to the different technologies involved, especially to draw the terrain. Alas, a couple of the boards in my copy have suffered a bit of warping. Not too much, but just enough to be irritating.
The boards included, according to the list in chapter E, are described as:
16: Farmland; grainfields
17: Rural Crossroads; ponds
18: Rolling Hills; 7 level 1 hills
19: Open; bordered by heavy woods
Well, here we go… what do you actually get to play with Yanks!?
19: Backs to the Sea – 6 June 1944, 7 turns. Boards 7, 16, & 19. The Americans begin defending a cliff, which the Germans need to advance on and take. The numbers are very much in favour of the Germans, but they have to do the moving, so they’re appropriately vulnerable. Only Infantry and Support Weapons (MG and MTR) are used in this scenario, making it quite approachable – it’s a pity that it’s unplayable without board 7!
20: Taking the Left Tit – 11 May 1944, 7-1/2 turns. Boards 2 & 18. It’s night, so we get the first view of the new chapter E rules. The Germans have set up a defensive position (with wire, foxholes and minefields!) on a hill. The Americans need to both get four or more of their units off the north edge of the battlefield, and also control more high-ground than the Germans! Again, Infantry and Support Weapons for most of the battle… with the American weapons mostly dismantled.
21: Among the Ruins – 17 Oct 1944, 9-1/2 turns. Boards 20 & 21. Tanks (for the Americans) and Guns (for the Germans) enter the contest, and although the Germans are outnumbered, it’s the Americans in trouble as they need to move 10 Good Order Squads from the south of the battlefield off the map to the north. Of course, they have a Flamethrower and 3 Tanks, but the Germans have an AA gun that is exceptionally effective against infantry (IFT 20)…
22: Kurhaus Clash – 18 Oct 1944, 7 turns. Boards 16 & 23. The Germans get tanks, the Americans get support weapons and Off-Board Artillery. This is a “simple” board position game. VPs are awarded to surviving squads only, with double VPs for being in buildings. The German player gets to have fun with SS troops, although the Americans have a numerical superiority (17 to 13 squads), those tanks might end up deciding the battle…
23: Under the Noel Trees – 25 Dec 1944. 6-1/2 turns. Boards 16 & 19. Both sides get tanks this time, but the two American tanks better keep moving, because they have woeful armour compared to the 7 German tanks. Once again the SS forces are in action, and all the Germans need to do is exit four of their AFV off the east side of the map. However, as the German tanks aren’t that fast, and the Yanks have four Bazookas… It’s snowing, and the Germans have Winter Camouflage, so we get to see another aspect of Chapter E.
24: The Mad Minute – 3 Jan 1945, 8 turns. Board 12, 16 & 17. There are quite a few tanks in this scenario, a roadblock, and there’s snow underfoot (which gives the new Weather rules a going over again!) The Germans, with a definite force superiority, need to attack the American position from the north. If they can control enough buildings by game end, they’ll win. However, this is another scenario I won’t get to play for a while, as it needs Board 12.
25: Gavin’s Gamble – 20 Sep 1945, 10-1/2 turns. Boards 7, 16 & 22. A new level of madness descends in this scenario, as the Americans attempt a river assault. The Americans have 26 squads, 9 half-squads, 26 assault boats, and sundry support weapons, tanks and mortars. They’re pitted against 21 German squads – mostly poorly armed – and a few AA guns and mortars. Chapter E rules get a real workout here with “Cloaking” and “River Assault” rules coming into play. All the Americans need to do is get across the river and then off the north side of the map… another one I can’t play yet, due to board 7, although the madness will probably require me to get a lot more skilled in ASL (along with a partner) before I even try!
26: Tanks in the Street – 11 October 1944, 8-1/2 turns, Boards 22 & 17. Are there tanks in the street? Well, there are if you’re the German player. 15 vehicles, although only 6 of them are properly “tanks”. Oh, and a few squads and support weapons as well. Against this, the Yanks only get a few squads, medium machine guns and bazookas. Oh, and the possibility of Air Support… which gives new fun with Chapter E. The Americans do get a lot of fun out of having hidden bazookas. Interestingly, the more bazookas the US use, the Germans find it easier to win. The Germans need to control lots and lots of multi-hex buildings to win.
Actually using the contents of Yanks! looks like it’ll be some time away, although I guess I spend a happy evening punching counters and adding them to my counter boxes. It’s interesting to look at this product and compare it to the later MMP productions; it’s a real blast from the past.
At this point, I note I have 41 usable ASL scenarios (24 in Beyond Valour; 12 Classic ASL scenarios from the MMP website, and 5 more from Yanks!) There are a further 22 ASL Starter Kit scenarios that I’ve been working my way through, so it isn’t like I’m currently starved for ASL scenarios to play…
I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to play some ASL SK scenarios with Randy in the near future; an old SL veteran he. The Starter Kit scenarios have the advantage of not taking that long, so we can play them in addition to playing other games in an evening (like Twilight Struggle, Combat Commander: Europe, Memoir ’44, and San Juan!)