Recommendation for Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #1
There are those who lament the passing of Avalon Hill's old Squad Leader game (1977) and it's follow on gamettes. Those nationalities and even all the scenarios from this old series has been rolled up under Advanced Squad Leader, so it's no suprise all these favorites have been left to go Out Of Print (OOP) forever. The problem is, how do new players get into the ASL system?
To do this, MMP continued with the original Avalon Hill Paratrooper module for a while; while the module itself was inexpensive, it still demanded prospective players purchase the very expensive ASL Rulebook. While a lot of us ASL die-hards enjoyed that module and used it to recruit new players, it didn't seem like a lot of new ASL players took the plunge with it. So MMP hit on a new marketing idea to get people into the ASL genre by publishing a series of "Starter Kits" to slowly introduce players into ASL.
It worked, but possibly not for the reasons MMP originally had for the series. It was so good in and of itself, offering low-cost stand-alone games that nevertheless had the tension, excitement, and a great deal of the tactical color of the bigger game, that many wargamers just decided to stick with it and not go further into the full ASL game. I certainly can see why; once players get to master the tank rules and get hold of all the scenarios available for the system, there's plenty of tactical lessons to be learned and great stories of victories and defeats to be told.
There are a great many squad-level World War II tactical board game systems out there, but I confess this one is my favorite. The others have their strengths and often contain features that ASL Starter Kit does not possess. Some of them are far more graphically gorgeous. But the ASL Starter Kit has two major things going for it: (1) a great deal of support for the series from both the company and the players, and (2) a very large opponent base within which to find someone to play the game with.
The game is very much in the "design for effect" school; that is, while the individual discrete processes may not precisely replicate or simulate what happens in the real world, the overall effect seems realistic in most cases. While tactics learned on the ASLSK gameboard won't necessarily work in real life (and, given the huge amount of knowledge and control players have in the game compared to reality, this is no surprise), tactics that work in real life usually translate quite effectively into the game and are essential to winning.