ASL 201: Things to Think About When Playing ASL

by Russ Gifford


  Part 3: Tactical Considerations

New players often get hung up remembering the rules, rather than thinking about playing the game. The following is my list of tactical considerations that beginning players should be considering as they work through a turn! While you need to know the rules to do these things, knowing what you want to achieve decides what rules you need to know!

So here is a shorthand set of things to think about in each game turn. You can always think of them as Russell's Rules, if you like!

Getting Started:

Before anything else - are your reinforcements set up to come on board???

Do the Wind Change - if you've done that, you know you've at least done SOMETHING right this turn!

Rally Phase:

Do leaders first - but before I try an MMC, remember if it is my turn I could do one MMC who is not stacked with a leader. So - who do I need most? Or - who has the best chance?

Do I need to trade equipment between troops?

Do I need to deploy any half squads? (Only possible if it is my player turn.)

Even if I failed to rally - don't forget to get rid of the DM badge (if I am in cover!)

Prep Fire:

Big Note #1:
If I am going to shoot SMOKE, it has to be the FIRST SHOT!!!
(So - where do I need it to cover my troops that will be moving later?)

Big Note #2:
If I shoot with a unit in Prep Fire, I can't move - so ask yourself, does shooting  achieve my objective?


Movement  might be more important than Firing. That is almost always true for the attacker.

If I'm the attacker in a scenario:

I usually have to get somewhere or take control of something. Should I be sneaking closer to my objective hex instead? Or getting closer to trying for a better shot on troops that are blocking my way?

Yes, units that you shoot and break might run away, which is good. But broken units come back, especially if you shot so many of your troops you can't take advantage of the fact you finally broke the enemy, because everyone prep fired!

What do I mean? Think of it like this: If you had enemy troops blocking your troops from moving forward. So, you start shooting to try to break those enemy troops. If you eventually have to fire almost all of your troops to break the enemy, you have no one left to move forward!

And it is altogether possible that your opponent will, in his half of the turn, rally his troops and bring them back to their original location!  Or, more likely, he will shift some other troops into the recently vacated spots - and then rally the broken troops next turn!

Movement, however, can be much more powerful a weapon for you. He has to decide where and when to take the shots. And if you have a lot of troops, that means he might run out of people to fire, or he may miss.

And if you are coming closer, your next fire phase becomes more effective. And that might force him to pull back in fear of you breaking him, since units  that break AND that have your units in front and behind them will surrender (or die for failure to rout) which is much better! (for you!)

If I'm the defender in a scenario:

Would I be better off not shooting Prep Fire so I can duck behind something, preventing the enemy from shooting at me this turn? (If I only move one location, I can Assault Move out, and then advance back into where I was at the end of the turn, minimizing any DRMs for shots coming my way!)

For everyone, there is one question you should be asking yourself:

Is there someone I should shoot? Like that broken guy, so I can put a DM back on him?

Movement Phase:

First Thoughts: What am I trying to ACHIEVE? How will this move help that?

Next First Thought: Did I get SMOKE where I needed it? Or, can I maneuver some troops close and then use their Smoke grenades to cover the next squad who has to move?


Rule 1: Non Assault Movement in open ground is DEATH! (Repeat often)

Rule 2: Assault Movement in open ground is often DEATH! (Repeat often, too.)

And consider: Non Assault Movement in a wood building will still make it likely your troop will BREAK!

And most important:

Rule 0: Moving in a stack is JUST PLAIN STUPID!!! And remember how bad this is when you add in Rules 1 and 2 above....

Your goal for Movement:


Use your movement to get a better TEM


Use your movement to get within Normal FP range for your troops.


Use your movement to threaten to get behind an enemy unit. (See note above about units that can't Rout away!)

But if you don't need to advance fire (for example, the enemy would be likely to laugh off your pitiful half FP Advancing Fire, or you are armed with a LAW) stay behind your intended final location - and advance into it during the Advance Phase.

Now, if you have enough troops, and you can move to good TEM within your normal FP range, especially if you have Assault Fire Bonus, it might be worth it. But think about it first.

Use your movement to set up advances so you will have fire groups of multiple hex locations. (I mentioned moving in a STACK is stupid, right? Well, often, creating STACKS of troops is an invitation for trouble in the form of a single lucky dice roll by your opponent! So SPREAD OUT to make a chain of units in multiple hexes.)

Use your movement to end where you can gain Concealment.

In short,

Use your movement to put pressure on your opponent.

Defensive First Fire Phase:

Recognize often the THREAT of a Def. First Fire SHOT is more powerful than SHOOTING would be! Meaning - if they have to WORRY about you shooting, they change their course, taking safer, SLOWER terrain routes, or using assault movement.

However, if you shoot, now they don't have to worry about that unit again for any later troop movement. Then they take the fastest route, and go where they want. That is BAD!! (If you shot and MISSED, it is REALLY BAD! If you shot and COWERED, it is ANNOYING AS HELL!!!)

So, the idea is, hold unless you have a GOOD SHOT. (Almost anything moving in Open Ground is a GOOD SHOT, by definition - but don't COUNT ON IT. See above list for other 'good shots.').

Cowering SUCKS! And if you do, your opponent might be able to completely run past you since you now have earned a Final Fire badge! If you don't have friends around for more protection, you might find yourself surrounded - so hold your fire unless it is TOO GOOD TO PASS UP!

If you can, use your DFF shots as they pass through locations to leave residual in those locations, This is true of places you don't want them to 'get through' in case you can't shoot again. But remember, TEM still counts for them on later residual fire shots. So: shooting First Fire shots at units moving in stone Bldgs is NOT a GOOD SHOT.

Best thing to remember about shooting - ROLL LOW.

Second best thing to remember - if you aren't named 'Lucky' for a reason, don't count on rolling low!

Advancing Fire:

Do I WANT this enemy to break, or might I rather get into Close Combat with them? (if CC is better, don't fire!)

If you have Assault Fire bonus, you can get a bonus if your troops are Advance Firing within their Normal FP range.

Don't waste LAW shots in the Adv. Fire Phase. If you have an BAZ shot now, you'll have it in Def. Fire, too. (Or you will have made him shoot you in Prep Fire, meaning his guys aren't moving!)


Your DM badge is your 'Ticket to Ride' - What is my NEAREST Woods or building? Can I avoid open ground to get there?

I can't move CLOSER to a known enemy unit - Yikes!

Where is my Sgt when I need him????

Avoid 'dead ends' if possible - up stairs in buildings are often death traps.


I can change one location - but don't do it with too much equipment or you might be CX'd!

Advancing is a great way to move and still maintain concealment! (as long as I am not advancing into an Open Ground location, defined as a location with no TEM. (but don't overlook hinderances!)

And about advancing into enemy occupied locations...

Close Combat

BIG RULE ON HEAVEN'S GATE: Close Combat is a CRAP SHOOT! You can outnumber someone 3 to 1 and STILL DIE!!!

But sometimes, just a chance to tie enemy units up is good enough reason to try CC. (BUT also remember, if he has troops around and can reinforce, well, you will likely have that chance for a Bronze Star posthumanously... if you can roll REALLY LOW.)

Don't forget if you AMBUSH someone, you can LEAVE CC without penalty!

Also remember - statistically speaking, Ambush is NOT a GOOD ODDS die roll!! So even at a -3 differential, DON'T BET THE FARM ON IT!!!! (and see Big Rule on Heaven's Gate for additional details....)

Ending of Player Turn:


Don't forget to remove Pins.


Don't forget to take concealment if possible.


Don't forget to request a free LOS check if your opponent tries for concealment.


Don't forget to get your troops ready for next turn if you have reinforcements.


Don't forget to advance or flip the turn record counter.

Don't forget you are having fun, and remember that no matter how bad your dice may seem.

More on that next issue. Until then - Move out!

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