ASL: Learning to Like Beach Landings

This was written in an airport lounge — please forgive the typos and lack of images.

ASL players are a bit masochistic. Part of the the joy of the game is the insane rules overhead — in fact, the promise that this was the most complex (but good!) game ever was one of the things that first attracted me to the game. So, as soon as I was not making horrendously egregious errors, I was keen to try cavalry, en portee guns, night, gliders, and so on. Almost without fail, these are not as bad as advertised. Night is especially over-sold as being difficult (at least with the mechanical sugar of using VASL). It’s not that bad and it’s fun. Not so fun as to be the only way you would ever play ASL, but fun for the odd game. Which is half of the appeal of ASL; the huge variety of situation (and accompanying ruleset). That said, I still don’t really get how air support is supposed to work, but I’m sure I just need to play a scenario with it.

The most difficult rules, however, are supposed to reside in the PTO. Not the bog standard PTO, (jungle terrain, the IJA), which I make enough mistakes with to begin with, but Seaborne Assaults and Caves. Given that I apparently like being embarrassed but my incompetence, I was eager to mess these rules up in front of a fellow ASLer as soon as possible. Caves could wait,I wanted to see some boats.

To that end, Sebastian and I recently played And Then They Landed (FT98). It’s a tiny, 4.5 turn, scenario set in French Indochina, 1940. A handful of French Troops and two LMGs and a .37 INF gun, are defending against 10 2nd line IJA w/ LMGs loaded on landing craft. The scenario uses board LFT1, which is basically a pre-canned beach, attached to board 38. If the IJA exit enough VP, they win.

FT 98, from Le Franc Tireur 11

FT 98, from Le Franc Tireur 11

Misunderstanding the rules for slight-slope beaches, I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to see the boats while they were still in the water and instead just tried to keep as loose as possible. On Sebastian’s first turn two of his boats ran aground early, which slowed him down. He also committed to the left side of the water, which I don’t believe helped him much, given the density of the terrain. I fired my LMG at the LCs, but couldn’t get much in the way of collateral.

What really destroyed him was that once he got aground I couldn’t not wound his leaders. He was a bit diced. By the end of the game he was still slogging his poor IJA through heavy rain, without the (healthy) leaders required to get anywhere. The end.

I am not really sure that the Japanese can reliably win this one. The time is so tight that a single boat being slowed down could be enough to prevent them from winning. So if you want to play this one, I’d put all the French LMG & INF where they can see boats and just get in a few turns of shooting up the LC. It’s small enough that you can get it done in a night, you’ll learn more, and look, it’s ASL, it will still be fun. Embrace that this is a LC learning scenario and don’t worry too much about the outcome. Or maybe give the Japanese another turn to keep the French honest.

Keeping in the seaborne assault vein, we’re going to do Mike Red (A 79) next. Pray for me.

3 comments
  1. Yeah….when I saw how complicated ASL was I thought, “well, I obviously have to get this!”

    Regarding the scenario…four and a half turns seems to short to make a good scenario precisely because it’s too easy for one side to get diced. But I’ve been playing all these old scenarios which are pretty long and I’ve started getting used to them and thinking 6 or 7 turns is short.

  2. Mike Red is not an experience I would like to repeat. It’s very difficult for the Canadian player to make any kind of headway. Be very aware of the Beach sand conditions and the effect on movement it has. These days I actually recommend people try a Critical Hit scenario (Shock horror) CH38 Orange Beach 3 from Critical Hit Magazine #3. It’s a much better introductory scenario and is reasonably balanced (I know, I know, CH stuff balanced? but CH38 was from the period when people actually played CH stuff and submitted stuff that had been playtested to a much more rigourous schedule.).

    If you can, try it out. In the meantime, Mike Red may just cause nightmares.

    • Mark said:

      Thanks for the advice, Pete! Honestly, I am a bit concerned that my playing of Mike Red might be scuttled by the simple fact that the ocean/beach overlays don’t appear to work quite right in VASL. But I will take a look for CH38. I have heard goodish things about the earlier days of CH.

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