The following is a quick guide to the various nationalities represented in Advanced Squad Leader and their various traits according to the game system. The ASL Rulebook itself admits that in one sense these nationality traits are an unfair oversimplification, and so they are: after all, in their own words, every army has its share of heroes and cowards. Yet it is true that these traits also serve to give the game much of its flavour and make it interesting. Also, while most tactical game systems normally allow you to play Germans, Russians or Americans, fewer give you the British, Italians or French, and fewer still the Finns, Poles, Hungarians, Japanese or Chinese.
Mention should be made of Rick Lubbens, webmaster of the GSASL website. Rick kept the torch burning for SASL for some years between the 1st and 2nd editions, including a wealth of different nationality table before the 2nd edition covered these. He still has material on the site and (I believe) runs group campaigns should you wish to participate.
Put crudely, a lot of gamers still seem to view the Germans as the most attractive side to play, dare I say it, even the "sexiest"? This is no doubt due to a mixture of the Germans' reputation for battlefield prowess, the legend of the panzers (including of course the Panthers and Tigers) and a certain romanticism that has crept over the German soldier. Looking at the Germans in ASL game terms we find that the picture is slightly more complicated. It is true that the predominant German squad, the ubiquitous 1st line 4-6-7, has a better range than any of the early war enemy squads, and that the early war ELR of 3 or 4 dependent upon date compares favourably with the British (about equal) and is normally higher than the French, Allied Minors or early Russians (most of these latter nations having an ELR of 3 or 2). Leadership throughout the period remains good, with a LG# of 4. At the same time it should be noted that despite the panzer legend, early war German tanks were actually inferior in armament and armour to their opponents. The Pz I and PzII, for example, are both lightly armed and armoured and no match for any gun-armed French or British tank, while even the early Pz IIIs and Pz IVs fare poorly in the armour stakes. Most scenarios or SASL play will see the German player received light tanks of some description armed with 37L or smaller weapons and with an armour factor of 3 or less. The only areas in which German armour remains superior in the 39-41 period are those of radio equipment and turret layout, especially when compared to the French. The German AFVs also have the advantage of being able to fire both AP and HE, something the French and particularly British often cannot do. The standard anti-tank gun, the 37L, is good enough against light armour but falls short when confronting any French, British or Russian AFV with an AF of 4 or more, particularly Matildas, Char B1s or T-34s. On such occasions the German has to rely on 88L AA guns or Stukas if either of these are available, or failing that, infantry close combat.
The Russian T-34s and KVs appear in 1941 and gives the Germans a nasty shock, although in game terms the menace of these Russan AFVs is somewhat negated by their usual lack of radios and poor turret layout and ROF. Thus in the period 6/41 to 6/43 we find the Germans receiving more powerful tanks and AT weapons, mainly the 50L AT Gun and various upgraded PzIIIs and PzIVs, especially the latter with the long 75L cannon. These tanks manage to put the German player on a more or less equal footing with British, Russian and later US AFVs, but the 50L still struggles against heavy tanks and against such it's once again dependency on airpower or 88L AA Guns. With the introduction of the Tigers and Panthers the situation swings in the German's favour, at least in tank-vs-tank situations. However it's easy to forget that in the 44-45 period, while German tanks are superior to most of their opponents, the ELR of the infantry drops to 3 and then (in 45) 2, and the 4-6-7s are supplemented and sometimes replaced by 4-4-7s and 4-3-6s, while enemy infantry squads begin to rise in ELR and number of elite units. Also the Panthers and Tigers still face some fairly dangerous enemy weapons, such as the British 17pdr (76LL), the US M36 and the Russian JS-II series, and often enemy airpower, which comes to predominate the battlefield as the Luftwaffe disappears to defend German airspace. On the AT side the 75L/76L guns arrive in 43, followed by the dreaded 88LLs in 44 which are usually sufficient to account for any enemy AFV other than possibly the Stalin tanks or rare "Jumbo" Shermans. A high number of quality tank destroyers such as the Hetzer, JgPzIV or Jagdpanther are also available in this period, although in terms of rarity the old Sturmgeschutz III with its 8 AF and 75L is the mainstay.
If there's one thing the German needs to remember, it's the quality of his infantry, which is usually well led and armed with SW even in 1945. If Panthers or Tigers, or PzIIIs or PzIVs in the 42-43 period, are available, then it's a very useful bonus, but the infantry can normally be depended upon. Even while the ELR and squad quality drops slightly in 44 and then declines steeply in 45, the number of LMGs, MMGs and HMGs increases as a sort of counterbalance, and leadership remains constant. Don't forget also that from 9/43 onwards the German squads are usually armed with inherent PFs (lethal to almost any AFV in the ASL armoury) and often the equally dangerous PSK SW. This makes German squads in built-up terrain, particularly cities, a dangerous proposition for any attacker dependent upon armoured support.
Finally, a few special cases need to be covered. 42-6-8 squads, Elite units, are often used in scenarios or games depicting early war Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers), mountain troops or the Afrika Korps in 1942-43. Paratroopers and other elite units are normally represented with 52-4-8s in the period 44-45, which for one extra point of FP trade in a lower range and a quicker drop to 2nd line status (a 4-4-7). Engineer units, the 83-3-8s, are invaluable in city scenarios but are fabulously expensive if being purchased in DYO or SASL scenarios as Assault Engineers. Finally, the notorious SS are represented in the later war years by the 62-5-8 counter. These compare favourably, either in terms of FP or morale, with enemy counters but once again are half as expensive again as the ordinary 1st line squad. A full SS side, including both infantry and elite-crewed German heavy tanks, can nevertheless be a tough nut to crack.
In the period 41-45 it was the Soviet army, an army often badly led, poorly fed and brutally used by some of its political masters, which inflicted the most heavy casualties on the German armed forces and, despite casualties of some 20 million people, including a large part of the civilian population, forced the invader back from the gates of Moscow to Berlin itself. This is nicely reflected in ASL, where despite an initially low ELR and a handicapping LG# of 8, a Soviet player can win many of his scenarios against a German opponent.
The two main advantages of the Russian/Soviet player are a mass of cheap infantry (if human life can ever be considered cheap) and sturdy armour. Taking the infantry first, the mass of it is made up of the 1st line 4-4-7 squad, for the first half of the war handicapped by an ELR of 2 (after which it drops to a 4-3-6 Conscript unit) and a dearth of SMC counters. To offset this, most ASL scenarios provide a considerable number of Russian infantry units, while in DYO/SASL actions their BPV of 7 makes them fairly inexpensive to purchase. The 6-2-8s and 5-2-7s are useful in a city scenario but with their low range are somewhat ineffective in open country. The infantry get a few small compensations for their disadvantages: Human Wave tactics allow fast movement and an increased morale in the face of enemy fire, while the Heat-Of-Battle modifier of +2 means that on average a Russian infantry squad is more likely to go Berserk, which although usually culminating in the loss of the squad is often an advantage to the friendly side due to the distraction it causes. Finally, in leadership terms swopping an 8-0 SMC for a 9-0 Commissar SMC is very advantageous, despite the danger of HS elimination should a squad fail its Rally MC while stacked with the said officer. The Russian cannot depend too much on his SW: the LMG and MMG have a B11 factor, the heaviest AT SW is the ATR or (rarely) the Molotov projector, and all SW are extremely rare in the first half of the war.
One thing the Soviet player should never suffer from is a lack of Guns or AFV. From 1939 onwards there is normally at least one Gun or tank with a .9 rarity factor, thus guaranteeing the Russians some sort of armour or artillery support in any DYO scenario. Early war Soviet AFV are reasonably well armed, most carrying at least a 45L weapon (including all the T-26 and BT series) and a CMG. Where they fall down is their mediocre armour protection (usually 3 or less, often 1 or 0 in the case of the BTs or early T-26s), their poor turret layouts which increase fire penalties and nullify ROF, and their lack of radio which necessitates crawling along in Platoon formation or else risking being stranded all over the battlefield, unable to pass their Movement TCs. Nevertheless against the Finns they normally have only the occasional AT gun or ATR to fear, while even against early war German AFV these tanks can often hold their own, especially if on the defence. With the introduction of the T-34 the Soviet has a huge ace in his hand as long as he remembers the vehicle's limitations common with other Soviet AFVs, ie no radio, poor turret layout and ROF. The KV series are even more formidable, especially if they do not have to move too far. As the light tanks, T-28s and T-35s are phased out and the T-34s and KVs are gradually improved, however, the German vehicles also get better, and usually have the advantage of radio and good turret layout. With the introduction of the Tiger and Panther tanks the Russians once again have to employ mass to overwhelm their enemy, at least until the arrival first of the T-34/85 and then, better, of the JS-II series. This packs a fearsome weapon (122L) and a 26 AF, but has the drawback of limited ammunition supplies. Soviet AT capability also improves throughout the war, although the usefulness of the most common weapon, the 45L AT, drops severely from 1943 onwards. Nevertheless the 76LL, 76L and 57LL Guns are all good anti-tank weapons as well as being effective against infantry. The SU-76s are useful against infantry and lighter vehicles, while the later SU- tank destroyers are all formidable against any tank, especially the SU-100 and JSU-122L. Without any form of armoured troop carrier, the Russian will find that he may need to resort to using Riders to move infantry quickly from A to B and to protect his vehicles against enemy CC.
In sum it is not easy to play the Soviet side in ASL. Units are often hard to rally owing to lack of leadership, while the problems of radioless AFVs and low ROF may nullify some of the advantages that Soviet tanks often have over their German (and Japanese) opponents. The large mass of Soviet units demands that some be sacrificed almost wantonly to achieve the desired goal, something most players instinctively balk at. Nevertheless with a good quantity of infantry, T-34s and either KVs, JS or SU vehicles, a Soviet player can often overcome the opposition.
The US are an interesting side to play in ASL. They get reasonable leadership (LG# of 5.5), lots of SW including the latest BAZ, heavy and accurate OBA support, and usually plenty of tanks and other AFV. In DYO scenarios they can often count on air support as well. What's the drawback? Their unbroken morale is usually one lower than their opponents'. As John Hill, the original designer of Squad Leader, put it, the American soldier instinctively felt that being under fire (as opposed to dishing it out) wasn't part of the job, and didn't feel obliged to hang around. Paradoxically, though, broken-side morale of US infantry counters is often 8: thus Hill went on to characterise the US infantryman as 'quick to break, but quick to rally'.
These traits make the US side in many ways the ideal side for a player new to ASL. The US 1st line squads come with at least 6 FP, while even the lowly Green squads merit a 5. All of them get Smoke or WP, so firepower and possible concealment is never a problem, particularly when coupled with the abundance of MMGs and HMGs. There are usually enough leaders to go around. The challenge, particularly in an offensive situation, is to move the entire force forward without losing steam due to units breaking all over the place. (It should be noted that in SASL, US squads get a -1 Command TC bonus to compensate for this). ELR, a lowly 2 up to about 5/43, increases to a respectable 3 and then 4, so the quality of US squads does not normally deteriorate too rapidly even during a crisis. The stumbling block for most US OBs is the morale of the 6-6-6, which often fails where a German, Russian or British unit might stand fast. Nevertheless if a leader is available and DM can be restricted, the unit should get back into the fight reasonably quickly. Elite units are represented by 6-6-7s (eg Rangers) and 7-4-7s, the latter almost always representing combat engineers or paratroopers. 7-4-7s are obviously more useful in close terrain, whereas the 6-6-7s are more advantageous in the open.
Tanks and artillery are another interesting area for a novice ASL player. The US AFV are simple to understand but well-armed and often have useful gadgets such as Gyrostabilizers. The difficulty comes when confronting a German panzer force, especially one consisting of Panthers, Tigers or the later and heavier tank destroyers, any of which are almost impervious to the 75 carried by most Shermans while able to account for the latter from a long way off. Getting in close by using Smoke and Gyrostabilizers is often the only way to deal with such enemy vehicles. Don't depend too much on the infantry BAZ weapons, as while these are fine against side armour or older AFVs, their 15 penetration factor won't do much damage against some of the German behemoths. The US tank destroyers are marginally more useful, particularly the M36 with its 90L cannon. I say 'marginally' because all of them are relatively lightly armoured and open-topped, making them vulnerable not only to German cannon but also German infantry. In any case due to the German PFs and PSKs the US should avoid offering his AFVs at close range despite the advantages of point-blank and Acquired fire. In artillery terms the US player has a wide range of weapons to choose from, although again on the AT front he may find that against German AFVs his AT Guns, even the 76L, falter. Against the Japanese they will be more than sufficient, however.
A final consideration for the US player is that no side in ASL is better equipped with Smoke. Virtually all squads, Guns and AFVs can use Smoke or WP, and have it in quantity. It should be used profligately to Hinder a German opponent.
The US Marines are a somewhat different case to the above. With their underlined 8 morale, ELR of 5 and usually high FP, they might almost be considered supermen. Certainly in any conventional firefight with Japanese squads, USMC firepower should carry the day. However, lest the Marine player be carried away by this, it should be remembered that a lot of PTO combat is in close terrain, where Japanese can attempt Ambush or try to close the gap quickly in Hand-To-Hand Combat before the USMC can bring their FP to bear. As Steven Swann also pointed in his article on GUNG HO!, the Marines were also to be used in opposed amphibious landings. In game terms, any unit on an assaulting (or evacuating) side that breaks as a result of fire suffers Casualty Reduction instead. In such situations, an 8 morale is the main defence against heavy casualties before getting off the beach. Don't forget too that often the Japanese are well entrenched in Pillboxes or Caves, often necessitating both high firepower and close assault.
The Phillipine Army is an often-overlooked but interesting part of the game system. Its squads (4-4-7 1st Line and 3-3-6 Conscript) handle like normal US/European squads, but often have extra penalties, eg lower ELR, higher breakdown numbers on SW. Nevertheless their FP is still equal with that of the Japanese, and they can make a fair showing.
Rommel characterised the British as being tactical plodders but excellent on the defence, while another writer (Charles Whiting) has pointed out how 'Tommy Atkins' stoically put up with mediocre food and mediocre weapons, accepted the orders his officers gave him and later looked back on his war service, no matter how difficult, with pride. To a certain degree the ASL system has managed to embody these characteristics in the British side. Despite the ups and downs of the struggle for technological mastery of the battlefield, one thing remains constant: the endurance of the British MMC. Although the 4-5-7 is slightly inferior in range to the German 1st line MMC, the British ELR usually manages to match that of their opponents. In a fine representation of the British phlegmatic attitude, all Elite and 1st line units are also exempt from Cowering. The HofB modifier is a -1 bonus, making both Battle Hardening and Hero Creation the usual event. Leadership is also good, with an LG# of 5. MMGs and HMGs tend to be a bit thing on the ground, but by way of compensation the British seem to abound in Light Mortars and LMG. Finally, from 5/43 onwards, the much-disliked Boys ATR (by then useful against little else heavier than an armoured car) is replaced by the PIAT, a more effective weapon.
The British effectiveness in defence is also emphasised by their artillery. The 40L AT is normally sufficient against the German AFV until the Germans begin uparmouring their PzIIIs and PzIVs, and is still more than adequate against the Italian and Japanese AFV until the end of the war. The next AT Gun, the 57L, is a considerable improvement, but the British did not rest on their laurels and, alarmed by the advent of the Tiger, introduced the 76LL (17 pounder), which in game terms can account for practically any German vehicle, even the King Tiger if a lucky turret hit is gained. This weapon was so effective that it was mounted in the Sherman Firefly and also in the unusual backward-pointing Archer. Both of these AFVs are quite virile if they can get the first shots off. In many desert scenarios, the 88 Art (25 pounder) can also be used effectively as a dual-purpose weapon, especially as the 40L does not fire HE.
The British AFV park is a bit of a mixed bag. It has its good moments (Matilda II, Sherman Firefly) as well as its mediocrities (Cromwell, 40L-armed Valentines). To be fair, most British AFVs have good points and are rugged and reasonably armed. Unfortunately the German AFV are often better armed or armoured, while the 40L and 57L weapons usually cannot fire HE and are thus vulnerable to infantry assault, even in the desert. Matilda II, when available, is a good weapon but lumbers along and is vulnerable to mechanical breakdown, as are the various faster but lighter 'cruisers' (A9, A10, A13 and various Crusaders). Churchill tanks suffer from the same strengths and weaknesses as Matilda. The British used Shermans a lot and suffered the virtues and faults of this vehicle (which in game terms against the later German AFVs are definitely faults), while Cromwells present a lower target but otherwise have got even less going for them other than speed. Other than that the British have a plethora of armoured cars, Bren carriers and the occasional oddity such as AVRE, Crocodile or some other engineer's delight. Even the Comet, by far the best British tank of the war, was really nothing special compared with the T34/85, the Panther or the M26.
In sum the British side is another good one for the novice ASL player to take. More than the Germans he may have to depend on the qualities of the British infantry, protected by AT Guns. British squads and weapons are more than a match individually for the Italians but find the Germans and the Japanese a tougher proposition, although Japanese AFV should be nothing to worry about. Nevertheless as the war progresses British ELR remains steady while a few better weapons (76LL AT, PIAT, Churchill) become available and air power is also increasingly on hand. More 4-5-8s and 6-4-8s fill the ranks, both in Europe and in Asia.
Finally, it should be remembered that the British counter mix in ASL also covers Commonwealth and other forces fighting under the British flag, especially the Free French and Free Polish. Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Free French and Free Polish are almost always Elite, with all the ensuing benefits of SW and Leader allocation.
The Italian soldier of WWII has often been the butt of much unjustified ridicule. While Italian arms were mostly unsuccessful in this period, and spectacular defeats were inflicted on Mussolini's armies, it should be remembered that the Italians laboured under several handicaps at once. Despite Mussolini's fascination with Hitler the ordinary Italian had no love for the Germans and was not highly motivated by Fascist ideology, nor was there much desire to pick a fight with the British. Furthermore the regime's industrial base was insufficient to engage in a protracted war against the major powers, especially as it was dependent upon other nations for its raw materials. The Italians could and did fight well when leadership, motivation and decent weaponry were supplied, but usually one or more of these was lacking.
In the ASL game system the Italian player is similarly handicapped. He has a LG# of 8, while SW allocation is not generous, with the 45* Lt Mtr being the heaviest weapon most commonly available. Perhaps worst of all, the firepower factor of most of his squads (1st line and Conscript) is 3, while the morale of the ordinary 1st line and Conscript squads is 6. To make matters worse, the broken side morale is decreased by 1, usually resulting in broken morale levels of 5 or 4. Other handicaps are the low ranges (4 or 3), the penalty on PAATC attacks, and the +3 HofB modifier and special rule which means that Italian squads undergoing Heat of Battle will surrender most of the time. Nor may Italian units, even Elite squads, attempt to escape once captured. There are of course the 1st line 3-4-7s, representing Bersaglieri squads, and Elite 4-4-7s, but even with these the FP and Range are only comparable with the bulk of ordinary European squads while suffering badly against the US. Furthermore Elite squads are usually rare since these normally only represent formations such as engineers, paratroopers or San Marco Marines, and the chances of receiving any via Battle Hardening are slim indeed.
Looking at artillery and armour, we find a situation that is just about tenable in the early war years but which worsens dramatically in 42-43. To take artillery first, the most common weapons are the 81* MTR, the 47 AT and the 65* INF Guns. While all of these can fire usefully in the infantry support role, especially the mortar, only the 47 AT is really useful as an anti-tank weapon, and even then only against the lightly-armoured early war British cruisers. Against the Matilda II, barring a Critical Hit, it is useless. In the 42-43 period it can still account for AFV such as the Crusader but is powerless against the Sherman, the T-34 and the Churchill, and then not much use against such tanks as the PzIII and PzIV of their German former allies. Players hoping to receive more powerful weapons such as the 90L AA gun or the 75L ART should note both the period and rarity factor of these Guns, making it unlikely that any will be received in a DYO or SASL scenario.
The situation is not much better with armour. Although the Italians do receive a considerable amount of AFVs, most of these labour under an arms and armour handicap compared to those of their opponents. The most common AFV in 1939-40, the diminutive L3 tankette, usually mounts only a machine-gun and is easily swept away by any British tank, its only virtue being its very low silhouette. Even its speed (not overly high) is nullified by the penalties of being radioless. The M11/39 mounts only a feeble limited traverse 37* weapon, and in any case most of these disappear during the early British offensives. The M13/40, with a 47 armament and AF of 3, is somewhat better and can hold its own against the early British cruisers, but once again is no match for the Matilda and can be easily knocked out by the British 40L AT and then 57L AT. The subsequent M14/41 and M15/42 show only marginal improvements in firepower, protection and mobility and have to deal with Grants, Shermans, T-34s and PzIIIs and PzIVs. The P26/40 was Italy's only tank that could hold its own with its contemporaries, being roughly equivalent to the PzIV or Sherman, but all were seized by the Germans in 9/43 and are thus supplied in ASL only in German colours. (It would nevertheless be interesting to play an Italian side with their late designs in a hypothetical scenario to see how they fared). The Italians put a lot of effort into self-propelled gun designs after the failure of their tanks and produced the Semovente series, which are certainly better armed with a 75*, 75 or even 105 weapon. For the most part they also present a Small Target but once again are poorly armoured with a factor of 3, although the Semovente 105/28 is a powerful design with an AF of 8. All of the Semovente designs also have limited AT capability apart from the L47 which mounts the less than adequate 47L, and the very rare Semovente 90 which only sees action in Sicily, 7-8/43.
In sum the Italian side is a hard one to play in ASL. Labouring under a multitude of disadvantages, the Italian player has to carefully husband his scarce SW and leaders, maximise his use of terrain and avoid armoured clashes on equal terms if possible. Nevertheless most scenarios involving Italian forces are roughly balanced: it is in DYO and SASL scenarios that the Italian player will find his toughest challenges. Finally it should not be forgotten that many Italians enthusiastically joined the Co-Belligerent forces after 9/43 to free their country from German occupation, and in 1945 the Italian player is allowed to use British weapons, including some AFV.
The French, like the Italians, labour under a somewhat unfair reputation, in this case of an army that collapsed in chaos once the Germans had thrust decisively across the Meuse. In fact not only did the French of 5-6/40 fight well on many occasions, but both Vichy and Free French laboured on after the Armstice, and the Free French were active in Syria and then North Africa, Italy and finally Northern Europe. Under the old Squad Leader system, good as it was, players were largely limited to the 4-6/40 period, but under ASL all the subsequent periods of action can also be represented.
Taking the French infantry first, while their 1st Line squads are a respectable 4-5-7, these suffer in several ways compared to their German 4-6-7 counterparts. Most seriously, broken side morale is one lower, making Rally that bit harder. Coupled with this is the usual ELR of 2 for the 5-6/40 period, meaning that under pressure the French infantry defenders may become a mass of broken 4-3-7 Green squads. The French LG# is 6, which gives less leaders per squad than the Germans or British. Support Weapons are reasonably well provided, but the French have no infantry anti-tank weapons, not even the ubiquitous ATRs found in most other early war armies. 4-5-8 Elite squads also suffer from the broken morale penalty and are usually rare, most commonly representing the forces fighting in Norway during this period.
French AFV and artillery are a mixture of strength and weakness. Looking at the artillery first, the French are well provided with weapons such as the 81* MTR (which practically every army carried in one form or another), the 65* INF and the 25LL AT. This latter weapon is normally adequate to cope with the thin-skinned German PzI or PzII, although it falters somewhat against heavier AFVs. The 47L is more dangerous to German AFVs but is rarer (1.4 RF) and suffers from limited supplies of its APCR ammo. Finally the French introduced the 75 ART mounted on a pedestal to give a better AT capability, and this is a formidable weapon if available. To introduce a degree of mobility the French also mounted the 47L on a Lafayette tractor, and this embryonic tank destroyer is available in 6/40. As it is very lightly protected, however, it cannot sustain a long firefight. Ordnance such as light AA Guns are also found mounted on various trucks, not only in 1940 but throughout the Vichy period and beyond.
French tanks are frustrating. Mostly well armoured, usually with an AF of 4 but sometimes with 6 or even 8, they are tough nuts to crack for the German 37L Guns. At the same time their own AT capability is even worse as most of them mount the puny 37*, although the Somua and Char B are armed with the 47. What severely handicaps the French perhaps even more than the early Russian AFVs is the combination of One-Man Turrets (giving a low or non-existent ROF and a tendency to STUN and Recall) and the lack of radios. The latter, coupled with the generally low speed of French AFVs, means that on the offensive French tanks will crawl into action. Nevertheless they can be quite effective against German infantry, particularly if there are AT Guns to deal with German panzers.
Beyond 1940 Vichy and Free French diverge. Vichy forces kept only a bare minimum of AFV (certainly no Char Bs or SOMUAs), and their light tanks are badly outmatched by both Allied and German vehicles in 1942. Indeed, the Vichy player will find it a struggle against US forces in particular in 11/42. The Free French fare somewhat better. Now fighting under British colours (and counters), they receive British SW and Guns, and then a few AFVs. By 1944, when the US begins their re-equipment, they are using standard Allied AFV, and after the liberation they ironically get to use some of their old vehicles of 1940, recovered from the Germans. Free French infantry have the definite advantage of being almost always Elite 4-5-8s with no reduced broken morale.
The Japanese are fundamentally different from the other nationalities in ASL. They have strengths and weaknesses which make them extremely difficult to play at first.
Japanese infantry squads and crews (as opposed to half-squads) have one basic, unique characteristic that sets them apart from the rest of the ASL squads: they never break as a result of enemy fire. Instead they are "Step-Reduced", flipped over to reveal a reduced-strength squad. If Step-Reduced again, the squad is replaced by a HS. If a HS fails a morale test it breaks. Replacement (A19.) is suffered normally. Similarly, Japanese SMC never break: if they fail a morale test, they suffer Casualty Reduction (ie Wounds) instead, rather like Heroes. Japanese units do not need to take a PAATC and can create "AT-Heroes", a sort of Hero SMC that attacks the nearest enemy AFV and is eliminated in so doing, regardless of the outcome. Japanese infantry units can also declare Hand-to-Hand CC (J.) in their attack phase, giving them a good chance of destroying both themselves and the enemy unit(s) they are stacked with.
These rules have a profound effect on play. They were created in order to encourage the Japanese player to use his forces as in real life, ie attack with a view to closing with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat and physically destroying him, or defence with the intention to die standing in position rather than yield ground. In fact these options are not as crazy as they might seem. The Step-Reduction rule means that Japanese units remain unbroken for longer than their opponents but then often become a mass of broken and reduced-quality HS, while their leaders are rapidly eliminated due to the Casualty Reduction role. Thus it makes sense for the Japanese player to use at least some of his units in a sacrificial role by throwing them into a charge (possibly using the Banzai Charge rule), entering Hand-to-Hand with the enemy and making what in chess would be called an exchange. This is especially so against the US player, who usually wields greater firepower and, with the USMC, an underlined morale of 8, making breaking and replacement more remote. Should a Japanese player attempt to rely on firepower alone, he will probably find himself engaged in an unequal struggle. The highest Japanese squad FP is 4 for 1st Line and Elite units, while 2nd line and Conscripts have a lowly 3. Support weapons are not abundant apart from the Lt Mtr (actually quite a useful little SW), and the MGs usually have a breakdown number of 11. MMGs, HMGs and ATRs also require crew counters to man them, so if these are eliminated then ordinary Japanese MMC suffer penalties for using them.
Staggering as it may seem today, in WWII the Japanese industrial base was inefficiently organised and in any case greatly dependent upon the outside world for raw materials. With the Navy and Air Force receiving priority, the Army had to make do with a few basic weapons. In artillery there are a variety of useful infantry support weapons available, such as the 81* MTR and the 70* INF, both of which are good and usually available. On the AT side, however, Japan lagged dangerously behind. The most common AT Gun, the 37L, is fine for dealing with thin-skinned Russian AFV such as BTs and T-26s in the wastes of Mongolia in the 37-39 clashes, or for seeing off rare Chinese vehicles. By 1942 however, with its AP of 9, it is struggling even against the M3/Stuart light tanks, and by 1944 it is almost useless barring a lucky side shot against Grants, Shermans and (in 8/45) Russian tanks. The rarer 47L is a better weapon but its AP performance is only marginally improved, still not enough to deal with late war Allied or Soviet AFVs. the If he is lucky the Japanese player may receive a 75L AA Gun or 120L or 140L ex-naval weapon, but usually he must depend on AT-Heroes, especially if they can get a DC or roll for an ATMM.
The above industrial situation was exacerbated in the case of AFV production by the fact that Japan had virtually no cavalry tradition, so the design and use of AFV was always going to be problematic. In fact the Japanese started well in the twenties and thirties but then complacently allowed themselves to be rapidly outstripped by Allied and Soviet designs. The very early Japanese AFVs are adequate against the Chinese (although even then a 37L AT Gun can account for any of them easily), but the CHI-RO and CHI-HA tanks will struggle even in 1941-42 against M3/Stuarts and will be hopelessly outclassed by Grants, Shermans and T-34s. Even in an infantry support role these tanks are not brilliant, being mostly fitted with 37, 47L or 57* weapons, and their usefulness is further cramped by lack of radios, poor turret design and the bizarre angling of rearward-firing machine-guns. The most powerful tank in the Japanese armoury is the HO-NI tank destroyer, an open-topped design with a 75L Gun and an AF of 3. With an RF of 1.6, and restricted to use in the Phillippines and vs Russians in 8/45, don't expect to receive it too often. Instead the Japanese player is most likely to receive the HA-GO light tank (AF 1, main armament the 37 Gun) and later the slightly better CHI-HA. Belatedly the Japanese did realise the need for better armed and armoured vehicles, but apart from slightly uparmoured CHI-HA tanks (the rare CHI-HE), the few experimental vehicles that they did build (some of which were reasonably impressive) remained in Japan, not least because by that time virtually all Japanese marine shipping had been sunk.
In sum, then, an enigmatic but interesting side to play. For getting a feel for the Japanese, try the scenarios in Code of Bushido or do some SASL against the Chinese before attempting to go up against the US Marines.
The Finnish Army in WWII fought against one enemy, the Russians, apart from a brief final conflict with the Germans as they evacuated the country. Despite a small population and industrial base, the Finns in 1939-40 inflicted some serious defeats on the invading Red Army before bowing to the inevitable. In 1941 they took part in Barbarossa as a means to regain their lost territories, but after initial successes refused to participate in active operations against the Soviets. In the summer of 1944 they struggled to contain a Russian offensive and finally sued for peace, ordering the Germans out in September. Stalin, strangely enough, respected the Finns and made a reasonably moderate peace with them.
The Finns are another interesting and yet occasionally frustrating side to play in ASL. The Finnish player in the Winter War of 39-40 receives virtually no AFVs, artillery or air support, and faces large numbers of attacking Russian infantry and tanks. In 1941 the situation is somewhat improved as the Finns used captured Russian ordnance and vehicles (not yet available under "official" ASL), and in 1943-44 the Germans supplied them with 75L AT Guns, panzerfausts and about 60 StuGIII assault guns. At the end of the day, however, the Finnish Army is about infantry. And what superb infantry! The 1st line squad is a 6-4-8, while even the Green squad is a 5-3-8, and the fearsome Sissi commandos are represented by 8-3-8s. All of these units have Self-Rally capability - the only nation in the ASL pantheon to possess it. For this reason leaders are less necessary, and so the Finnish LG# is 8. As long as the Finns are fighting within their own borders (A25), individual Finnish units will always try to get back into the fight. For support weapons the Finnish player uses the German SW Table, which is reasonably generous with MGs and also supplies him with the Lahti ATR, a 20L weapon which has a reasonably good chance of knocking out early war Russian light tanks. Aiding the Finnish defender, of course, is usually dense wooded terrain, snow and bad weather, and the low ELR and radioless AFV of the Russians, at least in 1939-40. Against the summer offensives of the more experienced Red Army in 1944, things get a bit more difficult.
The downside, of course, is that the Finns usually have to rely on their infantry alone. Occasionally a Finnish OB may get a 37L AT Gun (usually Captured), and if you purchase the Jatkasota module from Critical Hit, then you can experience a few other guns and AFVs. Having said that, most of the Finnish armour in Jatkosota consists of captured T-26 light tanks of various marks and armaments, which obviously against the likes of Soviet T-34s, KVs and Stalin tanks were hopelessly outmatched. For those players without Jatkosota, 1943-44 DYO scenarios would be justified in using StuGIIIs and 50L or 75L AT Guns, but otherwise in an open firefight against an armoured attacker the Finn is at a disadvantage unless well fortified. There are only 2 20L ATRs in the Finnish counter mix, and these will usually be unable to deal with T-28s, KVs and any Russian medium or heavy tank in the Continuation War period (1941-44). Panzerfausts may be used by the Finnish player from 6/44 onwards, but again in open terrain a canny Russian player will usually keep his armour at a safe distance. Nevertheless, especially during the bitter months of the Winter War, the Finns offer a different gaming experience to the usual temperate European firefights offered in most scenarios.
Armies of Oblivion contains some updated notes on SASL campaign rules for the Finns, including Company Organisations and possible use of MOLs in Winter War scenarios. The ASL community still awaits the official Finnish extension to the system. Jatkosota is a decent module from Critical Hit that will fill the gap for some people, although one suspects that the official module Hakkaa paalle will have a more generous allocation of counters.
In ASL the Allied Minors comprise a number of nations: Poland, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Denmark, Yugoslavia and Greece. Until recently all assumed a sort of corporate identity, with a generic LG# of 7 and three squad types (Elite, 1st Line and Green). Thanks however to David Meyler's article "Broken Swords", reprinted in the "ASL Classic" issue, the Allied Minors have been provided with their own LG numbers and SW Allocation Tables. An article by Charles Markuss in the ASL 1992 Annual also gave an interesting historical insight into the armies of these nations.
Before looking at the individual nations, it is worth taking a quick look at the infantry squads used by all of them. There are three types: Elite (4-5-8), 1st line (4-5-7) and Green (4-3-7). The last two are an improvement on the old Squad Leader, which offered 4-4-7 and 3-4-7 squads respectively, and in all respects the Allied Minor infantry squads are stronger than their Axis Minor counterparts (partly reflecting their motivation and partly an often stronger industrial base). The only weakness of these squads is their broken morale level, which is one less than unbroken, and the requirement for 1st line and Conscript squads to take a 1PAATC. Heat of Battle DRM is +2, meaning that an Allied Minor infantry will normally go Berserk should HofB occur.
Before looking at the individual nations, it is worth reprinting the Allied Minors table from David Meyler's article:
|SUPPORT WEAPON ALLOCATION **:
* +1 for Elite; -1 for 2nd line; -2 for mobilising unit
** +1 for 2nd line; +3 for mobilising unit
*** per Assault Engineer equivalency
+ 20L ATR
Of all the Allied Minors, Poland is perhaps the strongest, possessing a reasonable artillery park and a good number of AFVs, although the most common one, the TK tankette, is easily swept away by the Germans' 37L weapons. While the LG# is not over generous and LMGs are lacking, the Poles do possess a Lt. Mtr (the 45*) and a .50cal HMG and ATR. 4-5-8s may come into play more often as the Polish Army contained a large amount of cavalry, which was considered the elite arm. The 37L AT Gun will also be able to account for most German AFVs.
In terms of ordnance and AFVs, Norway is badly off. She possessed no armed vehicles, no anti-tank guns and no ATRs. LMG allocation is not generous, while the the LG# of 7 is third lowest of the Allied Minors. All the Norwegians really have going for them in ASL, their historical bravery notwithstanding, is their Skis, plus hopefully some British or French support.
Despite its small size and tiny army (two divisions), Denmark is actually somewhat better off than her larger neighbour Norway, at least in terms of SW Allocation (note the LMG number of 4). They also get the delightfully idiosyncratic "Nimbus", an armed and armoured motorcycle. What lets the Danes down is their abysmal LG# of 8 and low ELR of 2, which should ensure that in a prolonged firefight Danish squads are soon mainly broken 4-3-7s. The Danes in fact did not resist much, and historically casualties numbered just 26. If this sounds harsh, I should redress this by pointing out the protection that the Danish population gave to the Jews among them, and that in 1942 the Danes sunk their own ships rather than allow the Germans to incorporate them into their navy.
The Dutch Army does reasonably well under ASL, with the highest LG# of the Allied Minors (5.5), reasonable SW allocation and a 20L ATR which gives them a good chance against German panzers. More Dutch AFV were in the Dutch East Indies than in Holland itself, but the Dutch player also has ordnance available to him.
Belgium is on a par with Poland as the strongest Allied Minor side, at least in terms of ordnance and AFV. Both have the same LG# (6), neither possess LMGs and both have Lt. Mtrs (the Belgium getting twice as many per the SW Allocation Table as the Poles). The Belgian MG allocation is slightly more generous, but the Belgians lack both a .50cal HMG and an ATR. They do however possess the effective 47L AT Gun, which is also mounted in some of their light tanks. Although Belgium possesses fewer AFVs than Poland, in some ways they are more effective than the Polish ones.
Yugoslavia can be placed with Denmark in the category of weakest Allied Minor power. The Yugoslav LG# of 7.5 is only marginally better than the Danish, and both share a low ELR (2). The Yugoslavs do get LMGs and a .50 cal HMG but lack Lt. Mtrs and ATRs, and ordnance and AFVs are rare. The few tanks possessed by the Yugoslavs seem to have been the obsolete French FT-17s. The low ELR and leadership reflect the fact that politically and racially the country was unstable. Under Tito many Yugoslavs showed how they could fight.
Greece on the whole is better equipped than her neighbour to fight, although the LG# of 7 leaves a bit to be desired. But at least the ELR of 3 gives mobilised 1st Line squads reasonable stability against the enemy, and the reduced broken morale rule does not apply against the Italians. Greece had a slightly better artillery park, although again AFVs were in extremely short supply.
For an overview of a few vehicles not included in Doomed Battalions, go to View From The Trenches
The Axis Minors in ASL are mainly associated with the Balkan states of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, plus sometimes Slovakia and Croatia and occasionally Iran and Iraq during the insurgency against the British in 1941. Axis Minor counters (mostly 3-3-6s) are also suggested for use as Japan's less than enthusiastic allies such as Manchukuo and the Indian National Army. Charles Markuss offered another of his historical articles on the European Axis Minors in the ASL Annual, although this was necessarily incomplete as ordnance and AFVs could not be covered (Armies of Oblivion was not to be released until many years later). Briefly, it should be noted that for the most part the Axis Minors actually disliked one another and threw in their lot with Hitler out of a desire for political advantage and territorial gains. The ordinary soldier did not share this enthusiasm for the war, particularly against the Russians, and in any case these Balkan armies were ill-equipped for mechanised warfare. There was no love lost between Romania and Hungary in particular, who ended up fighting each other in the last few months of the war. All the Axis Minor nations suffered relatively heavy losses in 1942-44 and were eventually overrun by the Red Army, being forced to accept authoritarian or totalitarian regimes that lasted until 1989.
Like the Allied Minor nations were before the advent of individual SW Tables, LG#s and Doomed Battalions, the Axis Minor nations were somewhat amorphous until the release of Armies of oblivion. Simply put however, the infantry comprises three squad types: 4-4-7 (Elite, rare), 3-4-7 (1st line) and 3-3-6 (Conscript). Armies of oblivion adds the 5-3-7 1st line/Elite squad which is comparatively rare as it represents Romanian or Bulgarian infantry in a few favoured formations. All usually suffer from the reduced broken morale (one less than unbroken side) and the requirement for a 1PAATC. The generic LG# is 6, making leadership on a par with the French and one better than the old generic Allied Minor LG#, while quite healthy compared with the Russians' LG of 8. If it were a simple matter of squads and leaders, the Axis Minors would be well placed. Unfortunately the SWs usually suffer from the B11 syndrome, ie they will break down more often. Annoyingly there was no allocation table for the Axis Minors until Armies of oblivion was released. Also working against the Axis Minor infantry under the pre-aoo system was their low ELR, normally 2 less than that of the Germans, so an Axis Minor ELR would normally never be greater than 2. AOO corrected this to some degree, and ELR varied between the different nations and periods of the war. In a prolonged and heavy firefight the Axis Minor should nevertheless beware of ending up with a mass of broken Conscript units. Finally, the Heat Of Battle penalties and modifiers mean that under HofB conditions an Axis Minor infantry unit will often surrender, except in the case of Romanians and Hungarians fighting each other. Only when the Axis Minors are fighting to defend their homes do these squads stiffen.
Fortunately for the Axis Minor, many of the published scenarios put his OB against that of a Partisan enemy rather than the Russians. Even here skill and finesse are called for, as the Partisans are usually equal in firepower if not in range, and are Stealthy and often Concealed. The best introductory scenario for the Axis Minors is ASL 28, "Ambush!". Alternatively try a brief SASL campaign against Partisans or Russians to get a feel for these interesting if challenging armies.
Romania was in some ways the most efficient of the Balkan Axis Minors, and her defection to the Soviets in August 1944 was something of a blow to the Germans, not least because she had accepted a fair amount of heavy equipment from them. The DYO charts reflect this, with an LG of 6 (fair for a Minor power) and ELR of 3, which falls to 2 in 1943 to reflect the slump in national morale after the disasters at Stalingrad and on the Don River. ELR is higher for Assault Engineers and also against Hungarians, reflecting the national animosity between these two nations. Romanian infantry also receive certain AT benefits from 1943 onwards, reflecting post-Stalingrad training. Romania had little indigenously-manufactured war materiel, unlike Hungary, and thus used AFV and artillery from France, Germany and Russia (both pre-war purchases and wartime seizures). The TACAM tank destroyers were a fairly reasonable design in terms of firepower if not protection, being comparable to the German Marder series, and their Resita 75L anti-tank gun was in fact slightly more potent than the German PaK 40. A number of German Pz IVs were received before and after Stalingrad, and the Romanians were the only Axis Minor nation (other than Croatia) to use the German SPW 251 and 250 series, albeit in small numbers, and also used early-war German armoured cars. Most of the captured Soviet material was taken back by the Soviets after Romania switched sides. The Romanian artillery park contained a bewildering array of weapons, especially in the area of light field artillery.
Perhaps surprisingly for a nation with a long military tradition, the Hungarian LG# is only 7. However her ELR remains a steady 3 throughout the war, whereas that of her neighbours is lower or falls later on. Hungarian mountain squads receive certain capabilities and field a greater number of light mortars, but otherwise the SW allotment is adequate rather than generous. The Hungarians fielded a number of homegrown AFVs during the war and of all the Axis Minors were the most advanced in AFV design, although still lagging behind the major powers in this area to a similar degree as the Italians. Nevertheless in AFV terms their tanks are if anything better than the Italian vehicles, although still outclassed by their Soviet opponents. The lightweight Toldis predominate until the appearance of the Turan I in 1942 and the Turan II in 1943, neither of which nevertheless is a match for the T-34. The Zrinyi SPG is roughly comparable to the Semovente 105 and German 105-armed StuG IIIs, and while its AT value is limited against the T-34 and heavier vehicles it is otherwise an efficient vehicle. The Nimrod is in some ways a modern AA tank but was not suitable for the AT role for which it was also envisaged. The Csabas are light but reliable armoured cars. In contrast Hungary produced few ordnance designs and was dependent upon the Germans for much artillery, especially in the AT role.
Of all the Axis Minor nations, the Bulgarians appear to have been least prepared for a major conflict. Bulgaria avoided commiting any forces to the war with the Soviet Union and instead sent units to those areas of the Balkans she had occupied after the war with Greece: hence ELR is highest when fighting Greeks, including Partisans, and lowest after 9/44 when fighting outside Bulgaria alongside the Soviets and Romanians. The LG remains 7 throughout, although SW allocation is not too bad considering her meagre resources. Prior to the outbreak of war Bulgaria had few AFVs, and these mostly of obsolete British type and Italian design. For most of the war Bulgaria received training and equipment from the Germans (mainly assorted Pz IVs and StuG IIIGs), only to use them against her former allies after switching sides in the changing political circumstances of the final year of the war. Although Germany was the principal supplier of artillery, especially as the war progressed, the Bulgarians had a mixture of German, French, Danish and Czech designs, some fair, some outdated.
Despite their reluctance to fight their fellow Slavs in Russia, the Slovakians are depicted in Armies of Oblivion as fairly competent fighters with an initial LG of 5 and ELR of 4 and a quite generous allocation of SW. However the LG and ELR fall later in the war, notably after the disasters on the Eastern Front, until the point of the Slovak uprising, after which the Germans disarmed remaining Slovak units. The Slovakians were inheritors of much of the fairly useful Czechoslovak equipment following the breakup of the country by Hitler, especially variants of the PzKpfw 35 and 38 series. Like her neighbours, however, heavy losses meant that Slovakia became dependent upon Germany for AFV and artillery.
The unpalatable nature of the Ustachi regime set up in the wake of Germany's destruction of Yugoslavia make it difficult to speak objectively of Croatia in the war years. However it has to be accepted that many Croatians flocked to join the German-Croatian Legion (also known as the 369th Regiment) in Russia, including many of their best soldiers: hence LG and ELR numbers for this unit and for the remaining Croatian units are rather different. The Legion uses its own ELR, LG and SW numbers but uses German counters. It was destroyed in January 1943, but Croats continued to serve in the East in some numbers. The Italian Croatian Legion is similar but uses Italian ordnance and 3-4-6s. Back at home Croatian units had to make do with cast-off Polish and Yugoslav equipment (TK tankettes, wz. 34 armoured cars and artillery, including obsolete mountain guns) with a post-9/43 windfall of Italian light AFVs and a handful of German vehicles, the heaviest being the Pz IIIL.
Whilst ASL is primarily a game, the genuine sufferings of the Chinese people in the period 1933-45 should not be forgotten. Well-publicised massacres such as the Rape of Nanking were just part of a backdrop of general brutality and deprivation visited upon the population by the Japanese invaders, while Nationalist leaders and local warlords seemed to care more for their own "face" than the wellbeing of those they were supposed to protect. Even tough pro-Chinese leaders like the US General Joe "Vinegar" Stillwell found it hard going with the GMD troops, particularly their generals.
Along with the Italians and the Minors, the GMD Chinese must qualify for the title of Most Difficult Side To Play. Their 1st line squad, the 3-3-7, is about equivalent to a Partisan unit but less motivated (broken side morale is one less than unbroken) and more prone to breaking, and ELR rarely rises above 2, thus inevitably causing many 1st line squads to be Replaced by Conscript 3-3-6s. The LG# of 8 for non-5-3-7 OBs (including the elite 4-4-7s) means that few leaders will be received, while the SW Allocation Table is one of the worst in the entire game: a Chinese player in DYO scenarios will normally just receive Lt. Mtrs and LMGs if not using 5-3-7 squads. There are no ATRs, and 1st Line and Conscript squads are required to take a 1PAATC before attempting to tackle AFVs. Heat of Battle modifiers, perhaps surprisingly are 0, possibly reflecting the stoicism of the Chinese peasant and allowing for an average result of Battle Hardening with possible Hero Creation. On the other hand, the Leader Generation drm is +1, reflecting the shortage of able leadership. The only two "secret weapons" that a Chinese player has are the Human Wave and, unique to the Chinese, Dare-Death squads. The Human Wave will be useful if the Chinese squads outnumbers the Japanese, given the latter's shortage of automatic weapons, while Dare-Death squads will be valuable in close terrain especially, given their special rules. The only drawback is that both these weapons require an unbroken leader, and leaders are generally few in a Chinese OB.
The situation improves somewhat with a 5-3-7 majority side (reflecting US-trained and -equipped troops in Yunnan and Burma). The SW allocation is much better and also gives more reliable weapons, including the bazooka, while the LG# drops to 6, giving more leaders. The only drawback is that in such an OB, Dare-Death squads may not be used, but this is more than offset by the above advantages.
Looking at GMD ordnance and vehicles, we find a similarly depressing picture. The early war AFVs are a mixture of lightly-armed and -armoured foreign designs, all of which are extremely rare and suffer Mechanical Reliability and increased MA breakdown problems. To be fair, in a straight fight against early Japanese AFV these vehicles are not badly matched, but a 37L AT Gun can easily account for any of them. To reflect the dire shortage of Chinese armour, the GMD player may not even purchase a Motorised OB to increase his chances of receiving any vehicles. The situation once again improves in a 5-3-7 majority OB, since M3 light tanks and M4 Shermans may be received, both of which are superior to Japanese AFVs. The Sherman is also virtually invulnerable to a frontal shot from any Japanese AT Gun. Ordnance wise, the pre-43 GMD artillery park is a similar mixture of miscellaneous designs, some hopelessly obsolete and many suffering from Ammo Shortage rules. Again, even the most basic weapons (80+ calibre mortars) have a RF of 1.2 and have a maximum quantity of 3, so the GMD player should not expect to see much artillery support in the course of several DYO or SASL scenarios. Heavier weapons such as AA guns are even rarer and more limited in quantity. While the provision to 5-3-7 OBs is not much more generous, they at least receive reasonably good Guns when available such as the 37LL AT and 75* ART (M1A1 pack howitzer), but it will be noted that even these have a B11 factor.
In sum, anyone who takes on the GMD Chinese cause in ASL is fighting under several disadvantages. Nevertheless there is one bright spot: in BPV terms, the GMD troops are much less expensive than their Japanese opponents, reflecting the fact that the invaders, despite their successes, were always outnumbered by the defenders. If the Chinese player can husband his resources carefully, including his SMC, and keep the Japanese from closing in close combat except with Dare-Death squads, he may well carry the day.
The Partisans generically reflect the armed resistance movements of many countries that sprang up in the wake of German, Italian and Japanese invasion, and occasionally also against the Soviets. While the 3-3-7 counters are mainly used to represent partisan squads, Russian 5-2-7 squads are also employed with special rules to represent those partisans armed with automatic weapons.
A brief look at the Partisans shows an interesting mixture of strength and weakness. On the positive side, Partisans normally have an ELR of 5 (with underlined morale) so cannot be Replaced. They are also Stealthy and get movement bonuses in woods, reflecting their local origins and knowledge. On the negative side their firepower is usually low, the LG# of 7 does not give much to rally or direct fire with, and the SW Allocation (the '42 line of the Russian table) is miserly in the extreme. Couple this with SSR that normally do not permit Partisans to create multi-hex Firegroups or to Entrench, and it would seem hard for the Partisan player to hold his own against any regular OB. What the Partisan player needs to do, then, is to avoid firefights wherever possible and retain Concealment, hoping for Ambush opportunities. Couple this with the fact that many scenarios pitch Partisans against an enemy such as 2nd line Germans or Axis Minors and often grant SSRs bestowing MOLs and Fanatic status on the Partisans, then with patient play the Partisan can often achieve his Victory Conditions.
It should also be noted that Partisans may purchase limited amounts of ordnance, although the chances to do so are decreased by Rarity Factor penalties (H1.27). A Partisan Enemy in SASL may generate a wider variety of ordnance and even receive AFVs via the Random Events table.
All of the above applies to the Red Chinese partisans, except that Red Chinese do not Cower and may use Human Waves, Commissars (who do not eliminate broken units, unlike their Soviet counterparts) and Dare-Death squads.
Realising that a lot of ASL aficionados found it hard to find opponents (or time to play opponents), Avalon Hill realised a very fine solitaire module for the game, SASL. Check the Solitaire ASL page for more details.
UK-based ASL site View From The Trenches
Jacques Cuneo's ASL Crossroads - contains a host of material, plus many links
Tom Repetti's Tuomioland - Finnish-American ASL page full of useful bits that doesn't take itself too seriously
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