Absolutely fresh off the printing press from those military-minded mavens of Millersville, Maryland, Multi-Man Publishing, comes the much awaited ASL Journal #13, a magazine dedicated to Advanced Squad Leader.
No longer just a plain periodical, the Journal has long since turned into a multi-media affair, and in addition to the usual assortment of articles devoted to everyone’s favorite tactical level World War II conflict simulation, the fifty-two page Journal #13 features Board 77, a whopping thirty-three scenarios (including four in the new “pocket” format) separately printed on cardstock, and a replacement for the long rowhouse overlay, X20, that was misprinted in the ASL Overlay Bundle. The cover art, by Terence Cueno, depicts minefield clearing at El Alamein in 1942.
The articles in this issue of the Journal hearken back to some of the earliest ASL Annuals put out by Avalon Hill, with extensive tactical and statistical analyses of scenarios and rules sub-systems, with a particular focus in this issue on off-board artillery (OBA). Two of my old gaming buddies, Jim Bishop and John Slotwinski, have articles in this one, Jim on alternative OBA systems and John with a look at changes in a scenario updated by MMP when they re-released Yanks! several years back. It’s an in-depth set of articles this time, perhaps more for the seasoned player looking to wring a slight edge out of the counters and dice than the newcomer just getting to grips with the game, but decent reading all the same.
Board 77, in the now-standard “Starter Kit” style, finally makes an “official” appearance after years of being available only in the Supplemental Map Bundle (and with no official scenarios that used it). To put it kindly, it is a board only a mother could love, as they say, a long, multi-level grain-festooned hill with crags and buildings scattered around haphazardly. That it comes from the imaginative mind of Ken Dunn explains much! Care has certainly been taken to make it playable, with contour lines popped out clearly via artistic openings in the hilltop grain fields. One seldom sees grain covering multiple levels, or indeed in that much profusion, and it’s a striking board that will take some getting used to, but it’s a worthy addition to the lineup all the same.
The scenarios, of course, are the star of the show, and new with Journal #13 are the “pocket” scenarios, PK1-4, featuring a full-color map printed on the card itself, measuring between six to eight standard map hexes tall and roughly ten to eleven hexes wide. I lack an encyclopedic knowledge of the map boards by sight, but they appear to be cut-down versions of existing maps with overlays, if any, pre-printed. It’s a brilliant concept, ideal for a club meeting or quick match. Even though the forces deployed by each side are surprisingly hefty in each of the four scenarios, they have short turn lengths; the constrained scope for maneuver will see sharp actions from the off. There’s no map or overlay info printed, making reproducing these scenarios via VASL more complicated, but that’s not a major concern. I can only hope that we see far more of these self-contained cards, encouraging as they do in-person play.
The remaining twenty-nine scenarios cover a wide range of actions and fronts, from a dense action between the Japanese and Nationalist Chinese in 1937 Shanghai, a waterfront fracas pitting Albanians against Italians in 1939, Partisan action in Yugoslavia on Deluxe boards, and a full seven cards depicting Korean War confrontations to go along with the two KWASL articles in the Journal. Even the standard, near-mandatory German vs. Russian slugfest scenarios, the bane of many an ASL product and seldom proving interesting, look rather sharp this time out, including one set in far Northern Norway. I’ve already had to reorganize my scenario play list to fit several of these scenarios into the top of the queue.
As ever, to play it all you have to own it all, but even people just starting out with Advanced Squad Leader will find material of value here, and while it’s true of most MMP ASL products, this one is a necessary purchase. There’s really something for everyone in ASL Journal #13, and the scenarios, both “pocket” and regular, will undoubtedly be seeing heavy rotation on 2023’s convention schedule.