ASL FAQ

Advanced Squad Leader
Frequently Asked Questions

PART 3


INTRODUCTION PART 1 PART 2 PART 3 PART 4 PART 5

[5.0]HOW DO I PLAY BY E-MAIL?
[5.1]On-Line Rating Services
[6.0]I DOWNLOADED THESE STRANGE FILES; WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM?
[6.1]Compressed files: ZIP, ARC, Z, TAR, etc.
[6.2].ps
[6.3].pdf
[7.0]WHAT AND WHERE ARE THE ASL TOURNAMENTS?
[7.1]North America
[7.2]Europe
[7.3]Australia

[5.0] HOW DO I PLAY BY E-MAIL?

Basically, you trust the other guy to roll the dice for you.

Frequency of Mailings:

Most people play at about the same pace -- about 3 or 4 mailings between the players per week. Life often intervenes to create delays in a game, but most games take only 2 or 3 months to complete. However, sometimes you've got to just be patient with your opponent's schedule and let the poor guy take his wife out to the movies instead of working on his Prep Fire, for crying out loud.

Things you and your opponent should agree on before a game:

* Free LOS Checks

The rules specifically state that you cannot check LOS during a game without firing a unit. You are supposed to check all of the important LOS's BEFORE the game. Many people ignore this rule and play with "Free" LOS checks since you can't possibly check ALL of the important LOS's before the game and it's really frustrating to discover that your 8(-2) attack against his 10-3 is blocked by just *that* much. Of course, some people LIKE that kind of tension, so you should be clear on whether LOS checks are free or not in your game.

* IFT or IIFT

See [11.12] for some discussion on the merits or otherwise of the IIFT. Regardless, you should be clear with your opponent about which table you're using.

* ASL Ladder Points

Both players should agree on whether the game is going to be played for ASL Ladder points (see [5.1]).

* General style

How frequent the mailings should be or anything else that seems appropriate. If you're going to Tahiti for a month, it'd be good to let your opponent know before you start the game.

How to start a game:

This is a sort of quick-n-dirty explanation of the On My Honor PBEM rules. Once you've decided on the scenario and the Things to Get Straight that are listed above, here's how the first few mailings will go.

* Pre-Game

If you're using non-free LOS checks, do them now. I've also noticed that it really helps to spend a lot of time before the game just looking at the board and trying to envision how the game is going to progress. Good players probably can do this in a short amount of time, but I need to take HOURS. Just a suggestion. Look at possible attack routes. Look at whether broken units will find safe havens to rout to. Try to look at the game from your opponent's perspective.

* First Mailing

Defender sends his initial setup, showing only the topmost counter in a stack (rule A2.9) since enemy stacks cannot be inspected prior to play. The first mailing would look like

    4K1     8-1, 3 counters underneath
    4M5L1   MMG, 1 counter underneath
    (etc.)
Note that "4M5L1" means the Level 1 location of building hex 4M5. People write this in different ways -- you might see it as 4M5(1), 4M5/1 or something.

If one side doesn't have any units that start the game on the board, all of the other side's units will be able to start Concealed, with ? counters on top of the stack. It works both ways, too -- the side that enters the board will be able to have all of his units enter with Concealed status (A12.12). So the first mailing in this situation will look like

    4K1  ?, 2 counters underneath (sometimes written as ?(2))
    4L5  ?, 5 counters underneath  (or ?(5) )
    (etc.)
* Second Mailing

The Attacker sends his initial setup, following the rules for mailing 1. He also sends the location of his Sniper counter -- read A14.2 CAREFULLY to see the restrictions on the Sniper setup; somehow it seems to be a rule that fools people. The Attacker then starts his first turn. For a big help on just WHAT to do WHEN, follow the Advanced Sequence of Play that is printed on the Chapter D divider [or the new Revised Advanced Sequence of Play that comes with the Chapter N divider in CdG.]

Formats for Turns

People use different formats for recording their turns. Some people are pretty free-form and use a lot of words:

  "Rally Phase -- OK, let's try to have Cpt. Wetzelberge rally those
  broken squads in R5.  They are all DM, so that's a +4 DRM, and
  Wetzelberg's leadership gives a -2 DRM, so ...."
Others are more terse:

  "RPh
  1) 9-2 in R5 rallies units there
  1a) dm468   DR = 5,2  result = no rally
  1b) dm248   DR = 2,1  result = rallies ...."
Others use a kind of grid format:

  ----------------
  PBEM EVENT SHEET
  ----------------

  !Phase !E# ! Action                  !Rg!FP !DRM!DR  !Result
  !------!---!-------------------------!--!---!---!----!------
  !RPh1b !1  !Wind                     !  !   !   !1,6 !No Effect
  !      !   !                         !  !   !   !    !
  !      !2  !228 in S8L2 Self-Rally   !  !   ! +5!4,2 !Remove DM
  !      !   !                         !  !   !   !    !
Feel free to use whatever format you like. Note the Wind Change DR in the above PBEM event sheet. You should always check for wind change, even in a scenario where the wind doesn't seem to matter. The reason is that most scenarios have units that can create Infantry Smoke, and the placement of infantry smoke is affected if the wind suddenly kicks up into a Mild Breeze. Believe me, it can happen and have a big effect on the game -- it happened to me once! The attacker does his actions in the rally phase and moves on to Prep Fire and Movement phases. When he fires and gets a result on the IFT, he applies it to the defenders if he knows what they are:

  PFPh
  1) 8-1 and 467 with MMG in K4 fire at 10-3 and 468 in L6
  1a) Firepower is 9, resolve on the 8 column. DRM is -1
  (leadership) +2
  (wooden building) = +1   DR = 5,3  result = PTC
  1b) PTC vs 10-3  DR = 3,3  result = passed
  1c) PTC vs 468   DR = 1,6  result = passed
If he's firing at Concealed units that he doesn't know the identities of, he'd just say something like

 1b)  You'll have to resolve the PTC against the concealed units.
While it may seem strange to let your opponent do the dice rolling for YOUR units, it really helps speed the game along. If he's going to cheat, he's going to get you no matter who rolls those morale checks, so it's not worth worrying about. Weird events happen in ASL all the time, and the bad luck that hurts you now will hopefully turn into good luck later on (although not necessarily in the same game ...). If you really suspect that your opponent is cheating, you'd have to come up with some pretty convincing evidence to prove it, and even then you might be wrong. Try to cool off and give the guy the benefit of the doubt -- maybe the dice will get hot in YOUR favor next turn. Ultimately, the best thing to do with an opponent who is just too darn lucky in your opinion is to not play the guy any more. Nuff said.

The attacker then moves on to the Movement phase. He will send something in the same mailing that looks like this:

  MPh
  1)  8-1, 467 in L4 move
  1a) Declare Double Time -- place CX counter
  1b) L5 (1 MF)
  1c) L6 (3 MF)
  1d) L7 (5 MF)
  1e) L8  (6 MF)

  2) 9-2, 467, 467 with HMG in K2 move
  2a) K3 (Bypassing K3-K2 hexside, 1 MF)
  2b) K4 (3 MF)
  2c) K5 (4 MF)
  2d) Enter the Foxhole in K5 (5 MF)
Note the cumulative MF expended is listed in parentheses. Some people prefer to write the per-hex movement cost instead of a cumulative total.

Third (and other) Mailing(s)

When the Defender gets the attacker's mailing that contains the attacker's initial setup, he places his own Sniper counter onboard before he goes on to read the Attacker's Turn 1 Rally Phase. He'll notify the attacker of his sniper placement in his next mailing. The defender then reads the mailing up to the MPh. He then reads the above MPh one line at a time and will see if he wants to First Fire at the moving units. He may then send the attacker something like

  First Fire
  1) When the 8-1 and 467 enter L7 , the units in J3 open up
  1a) Firepower is 6 (HMG) + 2 (LMG) + 12 (three 447's) = 18
      DRM = -3 (leadership) -2 (FFNAM/FFMO) = -5
Obviously, that 8-1 and the 467 are in deep trouble. Since their imminent demise might change the attacker's plans for his second move above, the Defender should probably stop reading the attacker's mailing and send him a message telling him about the devastating first fire that just happened and ask him if he should continue reading the movement orders. It slows the game down a little, but not as much as it would if you had to send one mailing for each unit that moved.

Sometimes the attacker NEEDS to do a little probing before he decides what to do with the rest of his units in the MPh. He would then send a Search Mailing where just one or a few units move and try to draw fire or discover where the enemy is lurking. The Defender will respond to each search mailing saying whether or not he first fired at the probing units. This slows the game down some, but it doesn't happen very often and is a very necessary part of the game.

Sometimes the attacker will try to save time by prefacing his movement orders with something like "Here's my moves -- please stop reading and mail me if you fire and adversely affect one of my units." The attacker is saying that he doesn't want to be informed about the defender's first fire shots that have no effect. Or else the attacker may not care what happens in first fire and just say "Do these moves no matter what happens." Basically, the idea is to save time by communicating to the defender what you want to be informed about when you move. Most people appreciate it when the defender stops reading the movement orders and lets them know about the results of each attack. This kind of back-and-forth exchange continues until the attacker has moved all of his units. The Defender then does a mailing for his DFPh where he follows the same kind of firing guidelines as for the attacker's PFPh.

The Attacker then sends a mailing containing his AFPh and RPh, advance phase, and CCPh actions. (Although he may want to see the results of the Defender's RtPh actions before planning his APh actions.) He can even usually specify the actions his side will take during the Defender's upcoming Rally Phase. The Defender then responds with his own CCPh actions and in the same mailing moves on to the Rally, Prep Fire, and Movement Phases of his first turn.

It probably looks like a mess, but it's really not that hard at all. Email is so fast that it doesn't slow the game down to send extra mailings to your opponent if you have a question or want to go slowly at a certain point. The best way to PBEM is to try to recreate the feel of a FTF game -- you should try to allow both players to make the same decisions that they would be able to make if they were in the same room. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be moving the game along as far as possible with each mailing.

Concealment File Format

When you do your initial setup and have concealed units, it can save time if you send your opponent a Concealment file for each concealed stack. That way, if he fires on a concealed stack and gets a result, he doesn't have to mail you and ask for the contents of that stack; he can just open the file and see for himself. Again, you're trusting the guy to not open the file without having a reason. These files are also useful for determining if there's a real unit under a ? stack for various purposes. In that case, all the opponent needs is to verify that the stack isn't a Dummy stack. With these two purposes in mind, a concealment file for a stack consisting of a ? counter (with ID of "x") with 3 counters underneath might look like this:

  --------------------------
  (top of file)
  Contents of ?(x)
  (skip 30 lines)
  Real unit = 4-6-7
  (skip 30 lines)
  Contents = 8-1, MMG, 4-6-7
  --------------------------
You skip 30 lines twice because you don't want your opponent to accidentally open the file and see what's in the stack.

During a game, units may gain concealment, but it's kind of pointless to send new concealment files for these units -- your opponent should be able to remember what the unit under the ? counter is. An exception to this is when several concealed units come together to form a stack and then separate ("the old switcheroo".) In that case, you're not sure st who is where and it might be good to have concealment files for those stacks. [Another way to do a concealment file is to 'grep' on the hex you need to know the contents of. Doesn't work with paper though :-)]

Showing the Game Status

It's possible for either player to screw up and not have a completely correct map set up at home. In order to keep both players' maps "synchronized", it's good to periodically send a description of what your map looks like. Some people do this at the end of each player or game turn; others wait until they feel the need to be sure they've got it all straight. All it takes is a listing of what you see on your map:

  German unit dispositions:
  K7  Sniper
  L4  8-1, 467, MMG, 467, broken 247
  Z4L1  ?, 4 counters underneath
  W5  Foxhole, 9-2, HMG, 467

  Russian unit dispositions
  W3   Sniper
  M4   10-0, broken 447, broken 628, broken 628 (all DM)
  T8   447 w/MMG
Note that "447 w/MMG" is another way of saying that the 447 possesses the MMG. Note too the "(all DM)" for hex M4 can be easier than specifying a DM counter on top of each of the broken units. Also, some people will write "b447" or "dm447" for a broken or DM 447, and "cx447" for a CX 447, or "bz447" for a Berzerk 447, or "f447" for a Fanatic 447, etc. To each his own, but it's in your interest to be clear when you convey this information to your opponent.

By the way, in PBEM it's customary for Snipers to have the "1" side of the counter face the ID number of the hex.

Unit ID's -- Some people list units as 4-4-7, others use 447. No big deal. Others like to specify WHICH 447, as in 447(a), LMG(b), 9-2 (Wetzelberger), etc. The game plays just as well with either system. It's just a matter of taste.

It has been noted that VASL can be used effectively for PBEM play. See Section [4.8] for more information on VASL.

[5.1] On-Line Rating services

The Internet ASL Ladder ("the Ladder") is open to basically any participant on the ASL Mailing list.

The Ladder is something like an on-going tournament. Each member of the Ladder starts with 1000 points. Every time you play a game against another ladder member for "ladder points", the winner is awarded a number of points based on the ranking of his opponent. There's a formula whereby all this is figured, but it boils down to this: you get more points for beating a higher ranking member of the ladder than yourself, and fewer for beating someone below you on the food chain. In addition, every participant in a ladder game gets two points as an incentive to participate. The game can be FTF (face-to-face), PBEM, PBM, or play-by-Morse-Code if you like.

For more details, see the ASLML Ladder website at http://www.msen.com/~sdennis/asl/ladder.html.

An alternative to the Ladder is the Online ASL Rating System (OARS). This is based on Avalon Hill's AREA system, but is exclusively for ASL. For more details, go to http://www.cgocable.net/~dcroome/ASL/ or e-mail the Administrator, Dave Coombe, directly at dcroome@cgocable.net

Other online services run their own Ladder; they all tend to operate in the same way. Check out each individual service for more information.

[6.0] I DOWNLOADED THESE STRANGE FILES; WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM?

[6.1] Compressed files: ZIP, ARC, Z, TAR, etc.

Utilities to uncompressed these compressed formats are available at most, if not all, major freeware and shareware sites on the internet. Hunt around, they're easy to find.

DOS/WINDOWS: The most common software for the DOS/Windows platform is PKUnzip. There are also many Windows programs (e.g., WinZIP) to do the same thing. Many of these programs will also work in multiple formats. For Z and TAR programs, there are DOS versions of the UNIX utilities that will uncompress them. Some of the newer versions of Windows utilities (e.g., WinZIP) will also work with .Z and other formats. A couple of potentially useful compression utilities are:

WinZIP: http://www.winzip.com
PowerArchiver: http://www.powerarchiver.com/download/

MACINTOSH: For the Mac, StuffIt Expander can deal with .z, .tar, .arc, and .zip archives, and it can be downloaded from the Web (free) at http://www.stuffit.com/expander/index.html.

OS/2: Similar situation to DOS/Windows. (Of course, you can always use the DOS versions if you can't find a native OS/2 program to do the job.) The GNU freeware ZIP and UNZIP programs will handle ZIP files just fine, and there are numerous PM applications similar to the Windows programs. Again, most of the UNIX utilities are available in native OS/2 format.

UNIX: There are UNIX versions of UNZIP, and of course .Z and .TAR files are native to UNIX anyway.

[6.2] .ps

PS files are "PostScript" files. PostScript is a printer control language; if you send a file with PS information to a PS-compatible printer, you will get a nice printout. (For DOS, just type "COPY FILE.PS LPT1" for example.)

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have PS printers (they tend to be much more expensive than "normal" printers), so the PS file has to be converted before it can be used. There are many converters around, the most common is GhostScript. GhostScript is free for non-commercial use and is available for all major software platforms. With GhostScript you can display the document on your PC and print it to whatever printer you have available. Check it out!

Information on Ghostscript can be found on-line at: http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/index.html

[6.3] .pdf

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and was developed by, and proprietary to, Adobe. (They're also commonly referred to as "Acrobat" files.) Reading a PDF file is easy for most major platforms; Adobe make free readers available for DOS, Windows, Macintosh, OS/2 and various versions of UNIX. Check out http://www.adobe.com for more information.

A common PDF problem is trying to read a newer file with an older version of the Reader. Make sure you have the current version (v5.0 at the time of writing) - remember, it's always free for the download.

[7.0] WHAT AND WHERE ARE THE ASL TOURNAMENTS?

Upcoming tournaments in all parts of the world are almost always advertised on the ASLML. MMP has a page dedicated to Tourney information at http://www.multimanpublishing.com/tournaments.php?interest=ASL, and tournament directors can use this page to add their listing. You can also check the following sites:

[7.1] North America

The most current listing is at http://www.multimanpublishing.com/tournaments.php?interest=ASL.

[7.2] Europe

Check the UK-oriented "View From The Trenches" website at http://www.vftt.co.uk/, or for gaming conventions in general (i.e., not just ASL) see http://www.wargames.co.uk.

[7.3] Australia

Australia currently has four major ASL tournaments:

CanCon: Canberra's national gaming convention is held every Australia Day long weekend (i.e., the weekend closest to 26 January). The ASL tournament at CanCon is probably Australia's largest regular ASL event, drawing players from all over the country.

ANZACON: Melbourne's Army Group South holds a tournament over the ANZAC Day weekend. ANZAC Day is 25 April.

SAGA: The SAGA gaming convention in Sydney has a regular ASL event. It's held in June (Queen's Birthday weekend) every year.

Octobear: Sydney's Paddington Bears tournament. Held in early October (funnily enough) every year at the Paddington RSL Club in Sydney.

For more information and contact details for these events, check out the Paddington Bears WWW page: http://members.optusnet.com.au/~mmjm1/tourney.htm.


INTRODUCTION PART 1 PART 2 PART 3 PART 4 PART 5