Basic Tactics


From: Matthew Shostak mbs@ZYCOR.LGC.COM
ATTENTION GROGNARDS: You may want to delete this message right now.

Evil Minion Advice to Newbies (Take it for what it's worth)


I have seen several messages lately from newbies asking for generic tactical advice. Even one of my regular face to face opponents is often asking for the same type of thing. So I thought I'd throw out some of my wisdom, garnered through about 140 or so hard-fought games. A much better treatment of this subject is given by the noteworthy Mike McGrath in a recent copy of the General. I asked Dade Cariaga, Tom Repetti, and Tim Hunsdorfer to look over my thoughts and give me some feedback. So their ideas are represented here as well. In fact, after incorporating their ideas, the size of this post about doubled. I hope you find it of some use.


General Tactical Tips
This list could probably be a mile long, since tactical tips seem endless. They may seem obvious to most of the readers of this group, but they are worth repeating. I will limit it to just the three most important ones, IMO.

1. Gain concealment as much as possible. Even when it looks like you won't need it, such as when you have a unit that is well out of the fighting, DO IT ANYWAY. It is a good habit to get into.

2. Learn to skulk. This was probably my single most valuable ASL lesson, brought home to me in a big way by Mike Seningen in one of my first games. You will use this technique incredibly often.

What is skulking, you ask? At its most basic, it is assault moving a unit back and out of LOS of the enemy, then advancing it forward again in the advance phase. It sure cuts down on how much fire the unit is subjected to. Basically, you are trading th e value of firing the unit that turn for the value of ensuring that it is alive and in place at the beginning of the next turn. Taken to its highest art form, skulking involves moving unconcealed front line units back, and leaving them back, while second line concealed units advance forward to man the positions again. The ones that fell back then gain concealment and are ready to do the same thing next turn. It also provides the opportunity for the defensive player to play a "shell game" with his units to confuse the attacker.

3. Don't move in stacks. This one has been beaten to death also.

It should be mentioned that there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes you simply must get your troops there as fast as possible, and the leader bonus is crucial. But remember the dangers, and make _dang_ sure there are no -2 shots with your stack 's name on them.


Subtler Tips
1. Deception and intelligence. Try to give your opponent as little, or even misleading(!) information about your own force, while learning as much as you can about his. This little head game begins before the first dice roll, with the setup. If both s ides start onboard, so you can't count on concealing all of your units automatically, put your leaders on the _bottoms_ of their respective stacks. This is because the opposing player cannot inspect the stack until the game begins, and even then only for stacks that he has LOS to. He can therefore only see the top unit. No need to tell him where your best guy is so he can put his sniper close to him. Try to hide your best weapons too. Have the leaders possess the machineguns at first, with a squad sta cked on top of them. Transfer in the first rally phase. It can be useful to keep your opponent guessing about which group has the HMG and which has the MMG. Consider deploying a squad, and stacking the two half-squads together under concealment. Maybe your opponent will think there is a SW in there. Maybe your opponent counts counters. Consider _not_ using all of your given ? counters, just to throw him off.

By the same token, gain as much information about your opponent's force as possible. Count the counters. It may pay off.

Once the game has started, try to make your dummies look like real units and vice-versa. Beginners often tend to strip concealment at every opportunity, thus giving away some information. Consider letting your opponent keep his concealment once in a whi le when moving around in your line of sight. He may decide that the unit is a dummy and get careless. Then whack him.

You can play all sorts of mind games with your dummies, and we heartily encourage you to experiment. Consider using dummies to encourage your opponent to attack into your strength, rather than your weakness. You could put most of your dummies on one sid e, giving the illusion of strength, while your main line of resistance, augmented by any HIP you may have, is on the other side. If your opponent guesses wrong, he could be in for a big surprise.

Also, when one of your units loses concealment, move him out of LOS and into a hex containing a dummy stack. When he regains concealment, you can move him out and keep your opponent guessing as to which stack is the dummy and which is "live." A sort of dummy stack shell game, if you will.

2. Fire discipline and rules-of-thumb. Before the game begins, you must have a plan, containing some very broad "rules of engagement." If you are the defender with a weak force, and you generally can't win firefights with the opposition, you might want to tell yourself beforehand, "I will only fire at point blank range or when I get a negative modifier shot." Such rules of engagement, of course, will vary with the scenario, but you get the idea. It can help you from getting carried away during the gam e.

Also, don't take the first shot that presents itself if your opponent still has a lot of units that have yet to move. Grognards usually feint with a squad or HS at the beginning of movement to draw fire, then pursue their real objective with relative imp unity once a First Fire marker is placed on the defender. As an example, in a recent game of Valhalla Bound (vs. Carey), my (Dade's) infantry held their fire against infantry targets, no matter how tempting. This made Carey reluctant to move his armor, fearing PFs. At the end of his move, my infantry fired at the opposing infantry if they weren't marked with Final Fire. I gave up the FFNAM modifier, but it was worth it to hold his tanks off for fear of getting fausted.

Make a strong effort to understand first/final fire. New players often fire too early at the enemy's weaker decoy units. It's often better to hold your fire and wait for the better target; remember your opponent is trying to get you to fire at his lesser moves. Remember that units marked with a first fire counter can still final fire at adjacent enemy units in the DFPh. Resid, resid, resid. Fire lanes. They are SO important.

3. Be meticulous. Hey, we're talking about details, right? Get in the habit of remembering your SAN, and calling it out every time your opponent rolls it. I'd bet that snipers are missed in nearly every ASL game that gets played. Remember and call ou t your opponent's SAN too. It's good sportsmanship, and he'll start to do the same for you.

Sportsmanship is the be-all, end-all to this game.

4. Set rough intermediate goals. Understanding the pace of a scenario is one of the most difficult things, for beginners and experienced players alike. One thing that can help is to try to determine roughly how your forces should be doing at the midpoi nt of the scenario, and shoot for that goal early on. It can help give you an idea whether you are ahead of schedule or behind.

5. Never give up. This may seem obvious, but it's a rule that I have a hard time following myself. Why is it a big deal? First of all, you will never experience one of those "miracle wins" if you always give up when things look bad. You will only be able to read about them. Second, it is important to know what it is like in the endgame portion of a scenario. A large portion of my games have resulted in concessions before the final turn, many, in my opinion, before all hope was lost. If you rarely p lay a game to conclusion, you will be at a disadvantage whenever you play someone who regularly does.

Luck in this game is SO weird that most situations can be instantly turned around by a lucky shot or sniper kill.

6. Leaders are for rallying, not for directing fire (EXC: -2 leaders or better). This one may be subject to debate, but I am coming around to the school of thought that even -1 leaders should generally be busy rallying troops, not directing fire. Most players, including me, tend to want that extra -1 modifier, so they stack squads with an 8-1 or 9-1. But the dangers of stacking, and loss of rally capability, may very well outweigh the advantage of having an extra -1 DRM to a few attacks per turn.

This is where my colleagues disagreed with me, pointing out the importance of avoiding cowering, and the necessity of the extra modifier on attacks. All of us agree that it depends on the situation. I guess if you can form a strong opinion on this issue, you are no longer a beginner.

7. SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE. Infantry smoke. Vehicle smoke. Mortar smoke. You cannot win some scenarios without it. It is vital.

8. Generally I try to make my opponent shoot at me with as many half-FP situations as possible. I grow concealment when I can. I Dash when I can. I make him hit me with Advancing Fire.

9. Plan out your rout paths and rout havens. You need to try to find spots where your boys will get out of the enemy's line of fire so they can lose those DM markers and get a good chance to rally. On the other side of the coin, coin, keep broken enemy units under DM and out of the game. Kill them for failure to rout - it's so much easier than getting KIA or double-breaks on the IFT.

10. When trying to figure the odds of a unit breaking, remember that firing at a ML 8 unit on the 8 column of the IFT with a 0 modifier has a roughly 50% chance of breaking the unit. Adjust up or down by 10% for the first DRM's either way. That is, an 8( +4) vs an 8 ML unit has a roughly 10% chance of breaking it. Since one column shift on the IFT is the equivalent of one DRM, that 8(+4) vs the ML8 unit is the same as a 6(+3), a 4(+2), a 2(+1), or a 1(+0). Or a 12(+5), etc.

Also, since a difference of one morale level does the same thing, that 8(+4) vs the ML8 unit is the same as an 8(+5) vs an ML7 unit or an 8(+3) vs a ML9 unit. 8(+0) vs ML8, 4(-1) vs ML7, 20(+1) vs ML10, all have 50% chance of breaking the unit.

11. Learn to love the DFPh. That is where you hurt the enemy and set up your next turn's move. He is using his turn to get himself prepared for your next Prep Fire early Prep Fire. - 12. Use halfsquads to do the dirty work like drawing enemy fire, probing for hidden or concealed enemy units, etc. Searching ith HS's can be a powerful tool.

12. AVOID/TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NEGATIVE MODIFIERS FFMO, with the FFNAM is a nasty combination. Very nasty. A 4FP squad effectively doubles his firepower firing at a FFMO/FFNAM target. If you get a chance to take this shot, you'll rarely find an exception to the rule that you take the shot. Air bursts are bad as well. You've got a 60MM mortar shooting 4FP-1 shots with a 3 ROF (the equivalent of a HMG). Sure, he has to hit, but with a -2 acquistion (which he'll probably get in the first fire phase) makes a hit pretty damned likely. The corallary, of course, is avoiding negative modifiers like the plague. If your opponent has a -2 leader, there's not much you can do about that, but FFMO/FFNAM, air bursts and hazardous movement are headaches you can do w ithout. Use smoke. Stay in cover. Assault move. Do what it takes, but don't let your opponent amplify his FP by taking negative modifier shots.

13. REMEMBER THE BELL CURVE Rolling two dice for almost every ASL action produces a bell curve of likelihood. Are you more likely to roll a 5 or a 6? Good squad leaders know and remember that you are much more likely to roll a 6. SS squads are so tough because they pass a 1MC better than 50% of the time. Americans and Italians are weenies because that 1MC will break them 75% of the time. Should you shoot that 8FP shot first, or the 4FP? If you know the likelihood of the results, you'll know.

14. ASK YOUR OPPONENT WHY THEY DID SOMETHING YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND Most players will be happy to give you pointers during the course of the game.

15. REMEMBER YOUR ROUT PATHS It's been said a million times, but having your leaders in a position to rally broken troops, and having your troops in a position where they can legally rout back to your leaders is the mark of a good squad leader.

[Please note this article shamelessly stolen from Jeff Shields. I wanted to add the reply below.]


In response to the estimable Mr. Shostak, (no offense intended).

ATTENTION AR's: You may want to delete this message right now.

Beer a Squad Advice to Newbies (Take it for what it's worth)

I have seen several messages lately from newbies asking for generic tactical advice. Well, who the hell am I to give advice? I go to conventions with the theory that it's not how many you won, but how many you played. Sure, it's nice to go 5-0 at winter offensive, but I get a lot more pleasure going 4-12 in the same span of time. Anyone can give you their two cents on how to try and win, I'm here to tell you how to have a good time.

>General Tactical Tips
>---------------------
>This list could probably be a mile long, since tactical tips seem endless.
>They may seem obvious to most of the readers of this group, but they are
>worth repeating. I will limit it to just the three most important ones,
IMO

1. Avoid concealment as much as possible. It slows down the game and even when you could truly benefit from it, your men are tough and don't need it.
>It is a good habit to get into.

2. Charge. Right down the gut. Scares the snot out of the true experts as they aren't ready for that. Learn to maximize the number of hexes you can move in one turn. Skulking leads to no firing, leads to boredom. The more often the dice are rolled the more entertaining the game becomes.
>You will use this technique incredibly often.

3. Keep your troops in stacks. How else are you going to get those great 36FP shots?
>This one has been beaten to death also.

Subtler Tips:

1. Give your opponent as much information as possible. Knock over that stack so he knows exactly where that HMG is. Show him that boresighted hex. Confidence works wonders over actual ability. This little head game begins before the first dice roll, with the setup. If both sides start onboard, so you can't count on concealing all of your units automatically, put your leaders on the TOPS of their respective stacks. Show your opponent you're a real man. Maybe your opponent is anal and counts counters. Consider not using any of your given ? counters, just to throw him off.

You can play all sorts of mind games with your opponents, and we heartily encourage you to experiment.

2. Fire discipline and rules-of-thumb. If it moves, shoot it.

3. Be meticulous, not! Hey, we're talking about details, right? Get in the habit of remembering your SAN? Hell, I can't even remember my phone number, let alone a SAN. Use the player aid chart compulsively. NEVER try to memorize any table in the game. It keeps your mind more focused on the important stuff, like where you left the bottle opener.

>Sportsmanship is the be-all, end-all to this game.
Ooh, can't argue with you there.

4. Set rough intermediate goals? You'll be lucky if you can remember the victory conditions. Look at the scenario card often. Ask your opponent about the victory conditions, often. Remember subtle hint one.

5. Never give up. This may seem obvious, but the scenario will be over soon enough. Besides, if you clean up as you go, the post game goes a lot quicker.

6. Leaders are for rallying, because most of the time they are broken. Therefore, stick them in the front line in case you get lucky.

7. SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE. Camel unfiltered. Cheap Cuban Cigars. Unless your under 18. You cannot win some scenarios without it. It is vital.

8. Generally I try to make my opponent shoot at me in as many situations as possible. Remember: ACTION!

9. Don't worry about routing. If your soldiers break, they deserve to die. Maybe you can get taken prisoner, and a sniper will break your guard and in the ensuing CC you generate a leader, and you capture the enemy MG and hold out in a stone building for three turns against the brunt of KGP. Ahem. I digress. Besides, DM markers are a pain.

10. Don't try to calculate the odds of anything, because the dice will prove you wrong.

11. Learn to love the DFPh, if that's your sort of thing. This is ASL, and as long as we have opponents, that makes us all happy.

12. Use halfsquads to do the dirty work like beer runs, and cleaning up after the game. Counter boy!

13. Remind your opponent of overlooked NEGATIVE MODIFIERS. Nothing shows sportsmanship than stating, "Hey, thanks to me pointing out that extra -1 modifier you were able to get that 7KIA. But don't tell Jeff, cause he'll be jealous."

14. REMEMBER THE BELL CURVE? You'll be on the bottom end of it. No problem, you played lots and drank lots.

15. ASK YOUR OPPONENT WHAT RULE THEY USED OR SOMETHING YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND. You probably have a hundred questions, and won't even remember the answer to the question you asked, but its better than silence while cleaning up the remnants of your forces. Besides, it makes your opponent feel happy.

16. REMEMBER, AS ALWAYS, BEER A SQUAD. It's been said a million times, but having enough beer iced for the occasion is critical. And hard pretzels, because they have no grease.