A Journey into Advanced Squad Leader – Part 2

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In the span of time from my previous post to this writing, I have played three games of the ASL Starter Kit #3’s first scenario. In all three games, I had underestimated the playtime and the match was left unfinished. There are a few qualities I have learned about Advanced Squad Leader since my initial impressions.

The first revelation I have had about ASL is that the game is surprisingly playable. Despite the third starter kit’s rulebook being bigger than 90% of my other boardgames’ rulebooks, the game does in fact, make sense. The sequence of play can be summed in minutes rather than the hours you’d expect. The core principles of ASL are straightforward; the complexity and depth of the game rises from the myriad of situations that can come to play.

After realizing how playable the game is, the next noticable quality of ASL is how long the game can go on. Although relatively short in comparison to many other war games, ASL does take up an entire evening to play with most of its scenarios. Include rules explanations (something I had to do each play so far), and the result is the reason I could not finish the first few games I had started. This length of play is acceptable for me, however, in that it would be a waste of rules and mechanics to have a shortened play. Why learn a game this in-depth if the experience is cut short? In other words, though ASL is a somewhat lengthy game, it deserves that playtime.

Despite me saying that the game is playable, however, there is a daunting hurdle to jump; going into the full game. I have only been actually playing with the regular rules so far, but the full game’s rulebook is still a monstrosity. Although the tome of the rulebook is readable, it is nonetheless massive and needs some serious investment to even dent! I think if I can breach the first chapter, things will go much more smooth, but until then, ASL has not revealed its final form, so to speak. Then again, if this game could remain popular after decades of play, I have doubts that the game will remain incomprehensible.

If I could sum up my impressions of ASL beyond “surprisingly playable,” I would relate the game to an onion. The shape of ASL stays the same, but as you cut into it you see layers and layers of content. And after a while you may start to cry….

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