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.

Revised 1914

The old Avalon Hill classic “1914” was one of the first portrayals of fighting in WW1, and tried to get the attritionist nature of the fighting (even before the trench phase) with several innovations like step losses and a CRT that varied with the best defense strength defending unit. It also had a notion of “stance” from best defense factor only toward 3 hexsides while attack had to face its target (the other way). While clever, the execution wasn’t great, with the CRT in particular almost always resulting in just 1 step loss to each side, pretty much regardless of other parameters of the combat.

I think the game is worth saving, and since designing CRTs is kind of my thing, I took on the challenge of “fixing” classic 1914. Besides a new CRT, the game also needs some revisions to its step loss system, since e.g. the original gave the British cavalry division 7 steps, compared to 4 for a first line German infantry corps. Since the combat system trades step losses this hilariously presented a 3 brigade barely armed cavalry formation as more resilient than about 6 German infantry divisions.

To start with, here is the new (two sided) CRT –

New CRT for 1914

This 2 sided CRT uses the best defense factor of any defending unit to determine the left hand side column, which governs attacker losses. The ratio of total attacker strength to this same best defense factor unit determines the odds column used on the right hand side of the CRT, which governs defender losses and retreat results. The results are 2-12, but 3D6 are actually rolled, of 3 different colors. The white die is shared by both totals on the two sides of the table, while the red die is only used for the right side result and the green (or blue) die is only used for the left side result. E.g. a roll of white 3, red 2, green 4 would use the “5” row for the RHS result and the “7” row for the LHS result. Notice, this doesn’t change the expectation on either side of the table, it just establishes a weaker correlation between high attacker losses and low defender losses than you’d get from just 2D6. Sometimes you will get higher losses to both sides, and sometimes lower losses and an indecisive combat.

The way terrain works with the new system is also different. Either all attackers crossing a river or defenders in rough gives 1 column left, but these are not cumulative. Defenders in rough also allows them to ignore R1 results; R2 results still apply.

Last, if attackers attack from either any front-3 hex faces or from 2 non-adjacent hexes, the defender uses its lower first combat factor, not its higher second “prepared defense” factor. This is a revision from the original which required attacks from fully opposite directions (180 degrees apart) to get the flanking bonus. Now attackers being 120 degrees around the defending hex suffices to earn this benefit.

Note that all attacker factors always contribute to odds, but defenders use only their single highest defense strength. In addition, as in the original game cavalry defenders facing infantry only attackers may retreat before combat 1 hex without loss to either side. Attackers get the hex in that case (advance after combat).

In addition, German 210 artillery brigades grant 1 column right on the RHS only if any are supporting a given attack. Any number can contribute their attack factor, but only 1 column shift is available, and only when attacking. German siege artillery only destroys forts as in the original game. French AL artillery brigades do not have this ability.

In addition, each artillery unit can only destroy a single fort with each attack on the artillery table, not all present in a given direction. Each artillery unit may attack only one fort, but if several artillery units are available more than one fort may be attacked at the start of a given combat phase. German 1st Line Corps can also fire using the 150 line if that suffices against a given fort. Forts destroyed before the standard combat phase (“assault” if any forts remain) have no effect on regular combat in that same phase.

In assault combat, forts defend on the “6” DF column if alone, or give 1 column left on the LHS if a unit with at least 6 DF is present, while adding +2 to their DF for odds determination purposes. One fort also absorbs the first step loss in any combat result (though that fort is destroyed in the process) and all fortified defenders ignore R1 retreat results if any fort was intact before the combat resolution step (i.e. not destroyed by artillery beforehand). R2 results must still be taken by any units present. Attackers may not advance into any hex still defended from that direction by an intact fort.

Movement changes – as in the original, for 1 extra movement point in the full movement phase any unit can move in any desired direction and end in any facing. However, the restriction of moving in an exactly straight line without facing changes to use all movement points is relaxed somewhat. The rule instead is that a unit may move to any of its front 3 hexes – maintaining original facing – without spending an extra movement point. Then at the end of its move, it may change facing a single hex spine if desired. Note this means a unit must move within a 120 degree arc in the direction it is facing to avoid the 1 MP cost for arbitrary changes in direction.

The following changes are also made to the step loss system on the unit counter charts.

German R corps – 5-8-3 to 4-6-3 to 2-4-3, 3 step units. 3-5-3 step is skipped.

German LW corps – 4-4-2 to 2-2-2, 2 step units. In addition, a step loss can be assigned to any LW corps stacked with a reduced German A or R corps, increasing that corps 1 step.

German cavalry division – 4-3-4 to 2-1-4, 2 step units.

French R corps – 6-9-3 to 4-7-3 to 2-3-3, 3 step units. 3-5-3 step is skipped.

French T corps – 6-6-2 to 3-3-2, 2 step units.

French cavalry – 2-1-4, single step units, eliminated if they take a step loss.

British cavalry division – 7-4-4 to 4-3-4 to 2-1-4, 3 step unit.

British cavalry brigade – 2-1-4, single step unit, eliminated if it takes a step loss.

Belgian corps – 6-8-2 to 4-6-2 to 1-2-2, 3 step units.

Belgian cavalry – 2-1-3, single step unit, eliminated if it takes a step loss.

Dutch LW division – 2-2-2, single step unit, eliminated if it takes a step loss.


New OCS is a full set of modifications to the extremely popular games series from MMP, a special favorite at large gaming conventions like Consimworld in Phoenix.  OCS stands for the Operational Combat Series.  This has far more detail about supply and logistics as well as unit operating “modes” than simply systems like SCS (“Standard” combat series), as well as a fully treatment of air operations and unit quality differences.

I introduced the modifications on the Board Game Geek site first, and you can find the main proposals in that original form in the following thread –

New OCS modest proposals

Here I will both summarize the changes and explain some of their motivations.

I should also say I plan a major playtest of this system at Consimworld 2019, using the specific game “Smolensk – Barbarossa Derailed”, one of the most recent titles in the series.