ASL modified

The following changes are designed to remove features of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) that I have found unrealistic over the years, because they encourage “gamey” tactics (ones that work in the game without any counterpart in real life) and break realism-immersion. Some are also changed to speed play and reduce “analysis paralysis” (AP) and overall complexity of the game.

All fire phases

Leader DRMs for fire attacks, IFT or ordnance, are limited to -1 DRM. Higher leader DRMs are ignored for fire purposes while applying normally for other purposes.

Maintaining ROF can never provide more than 2 shots in a single fire phase to any weapon. Ignore the ROF determination for the 2nd shot; there will be no further follow up shots.

IFT and ordnance attacks that have “no result” for a roll of “4” (or less) do not cause DM or prevent removal of DM status.

Defensive fire phase

MG lanes may be placed normally; they use all ROF.

No (other) Residual Fire markers are ever placed.

No second defensive fire or final protective fire is allowed. Each defensive player unit may only fire once in the full defensive fire phase, or twice in succession if and only if it holds ROF.

A moving unit that moves only 1 hex and spends less than 50% of its full movement allowance to do so is not subject to FFMO or FFNAM fire DRMs. If it spends 50% of its movement allowance or more to move into a non-open terrain hex is it subject to FFNAM; if also into an open terrain hex it is subject to FFMO in addition. Units are never subject to FFMO without also being subject to FFNAM.

All defensive fire is conducted after the movement phase player completes all of his movement, not during that movement “hex by hex”. The defensive fire player may “back up” any moving unit to a hex he could see when that unit entered it to conduct fire against said moving unit. If the fire is without effect the moved unit is returned to its planned ending hex. If the fire has any effect it occurs where the defensive fire player conducted the fire.

Each moving unit or hex may only be targeted a single time in the entire defensive fire phase. All IFT fire against a moving unit must meet all requirements for a Fire Group and must be combined into a single IFT fire attack. Ordnance may only fire a single time at a given enemy unit; if it holds ROF if may fire a second time at a different target, or at the same target only in the hex where it ends its entire movement phase.

Advance phase

Units may only conduct Advance if they do so in order to enter an enemy occupied hex to engage the enemy therein in Close Combat. If the enemy occupies a location other than the one first entered, the unit would first have to move into that location in the prior movement phase, and then Advance to the enemy held location in the Advance phase. E.g. There is a defender on the 2nd floor of a 2 story building. An attacking unit could move into the ground floor of the same hex in the movement phase, then either Advance to the 2nd floor to engage in Close Combat in the Advance phase or remain on the ground floor. It could not Advance from an adjacent hex at ground level into the 2nd level defended location.

Change notes

The biggest change to the Advance phase. Instead of 1 free hex for everyone, it is only allowed as a means to enter close combat vs an adjacent enemy hex. This eliminates the whole own-turn defenders’ “skulking” dance, unmerited concealment regrowth, and similar gamey optimizations. In return for this, any unit moving only a single hex in the regular movement phase is not subject to FFMO etc modifiers unless the hex would cost more than 1/2 its total movement allowance. So you can do slow crawling advances without such fire modifiers but not while shooting (as to each unit) and you conduct them in the movement phase, not after all defensive fire has happened.

Leader DRMs for all attacks – to hit for ordnance or IFT fire for infantry firepower – are capped at -1 DRM. Leaders who cancel stone building cover do not exist. The larger leader modifiers still apply for purposes like rally, but there is no additional fire benefit beyond that provided by a -1 leader.

DM for every fire attack encourage long range “trash” shots solely for that purpose; I don’t believe them. The modified rule there is just that an IFT attack only keep a unit in DM if the chance of an M or better is at least 2-4 after all DRMs. If a “4” would miss and do nothing, the fire isn’t serious enough to keep a broken unit in desperation morale.

My last area of personal changes has to do with a pet peave of mine, “optimal stopping problem” tactics and their bailing wire patch, fire residuals and multiple fire opportunities for each defending unit. I hate it when games try to make sequencing of numerous discretionary actions that would actually be simultaneous into a forced, war-winning optimization.

That’s motive, here’s the change –

No residual fire. Fire lanes for MGs still exist, but only those. No second defensive fire. No defensive final protection fire. Defenders fire only once per unit in the defensive fire phase – MGs may place a lane – unless they “hold ROF” for a second shot. Also, no more than a second shot from held ROF – no HMGs rolling 14 1-3s in a row to shoot 14 times in the same phase. Also, anyone firing at the same target in the same phase has to meet all the requirements of a fire group and must be combined into a single IFT attack for the whole phase – no shooting at a moving unit once in every hex after seeing how the last shot went.

But in return for all of that, in the movement phase the phasing player moves all his moving units and the defending player conducts his defensive fire after all of it. He may back up a unit he had clear LOS to (yes this means he “gets to know where it was going” – small potatoes compared to just one fire opportunity per unit). If it survives the fire it continues to its destination.

This gets rid of all the “optimal stopping” sequencing of both phasing movement and non-phasing defensive fire for a single procedural resolution of that phase, instead of an interleaved, thousand-decision-points with perfect-new-information optimization problem every movement phase. If you really want to stop unit X, fire at unit X with enough to stop it with the first shot; you don’t get to see how all the previous shots went to use “just enough” after seeing a half dozen previous die rolls.

This also speeds play and cuts down gamey analysis paralysis a lot. It does make it somewhat easier for N+2 units to attack N units – but that’s entirely OK in my book. The average single unit-shot doesn’t put down an enemy unit to begin with so it ought to be expected.

I do not try to change the phased I Go – You Go aspect of ASL. Too much of its firepower, fire phases, morale, and rally power model is “geared” to the assumption that every enemy will get to activate for itself on its own turn – and get a rally phase – once in every full turn sequence, with only 2 fire phases (from its turn and the enemy’s turn, prep or advancing but not both in the former, defensive and only once in the latter) available to put morale “breaks” onto a given unit before it gets to rout, rally, etc. If you break things up into activations by only portions of a side, all that tuning goes out the window and would need to be completely redone. Not worth the effort. Just keep the scenarios reasonable in scale and I Go – You Go isn’t a major problem.

To me these are all the changes ASL needs. It’s not perfect even with them, but the gamey optimal play methods that completely clog play and make its infantry tactics “game specific” – and simply unbelievable – are out the window, and normal fire and movement principles are back in charge.

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