Routing Rules Explained

Routing 101

by David Ripton

Rules Sections Dealing with Routing [small boxed sidebar]:

A10 Morale
A20.21 RtPh Surrender, Encirclement
C1.51 OBA effects
E1.54 Routing at Night
E4.33 Wearing Skis
E9.5 NA for Paratroops
F.1C Desert
G11.77 Caves
G14.41 LC/Amphibian during Evacuation

Of the eight phases of a Player Turn, seven have brave and powerful names. Moving, firing, advancing, and rallying are the stuff of which late-night war movies are made. But routing is, well, wimpy. An afterthought. Something you hope happens to the other guy while you grab some nachos. And the rout rules do nothing to change this perception. They're longwinded yet sometimes imprecise, and they allow the usually omnipotent commander far less control than normal over his units.

Yet the rout rules do allow options, and a player with a firm grasp of them can legally do things that will make his opponent (and probably his own broken units) howl in disbelief. Just as importantly, a player without a good feeling for the mechanics of routing will miss opportunities and possibly let his opponent get away with things he shouldn't.


Only broken, DM units, and leaders stacked with them, may rout. All routing units have 6 MF. Light stuff (<=IPC) must be portaged; heavy stuff must be dropped. Only broken units in a Blaze, in an Open Ground hex in the LOS and Normal Range of a Known enemy unit (in the desert, also within six hexes), or ADJACENT to an unbroken, armed, Known enemy unit must rout. Such units become DM if they're not already.

Once it is determined that a unit will rout, it must establish a target hex. The initial target is the closest (in MF) woods/ building/pillbox(/cave at the unit's option) hex. A hex must be eliminated from consideration if it's:

  1. ADJACENT to a Known enemy unit (unless the routing unit is leaving that unit's hex) or
  2. Closer to a Known enemy unit than the current hex.

A hex may be eliminated from consideration if it:

  1. Contains an FFE or a Known minefield.
  2. Equidistant to a Known enemy unit from the current hex.
  3. On the other side of a Blaze or unbridged water.
  4. Part of the same building in which the unit began the RtPh.
  5. More than 6 MF away (not counting entrenchments/pillboxes).
  6. Equidistant (in MF) to a target that the routing player prefers.

Once the target is selected, the routing unit must rout toward it, i.e., it must end the RtPh closer to the target than it started, and at no time may it increase the distance between itself and its target.

Certain things may influence the rout once the target is determined. An enemy unit that becomes Known to the routing unit enables it to avoid hexes equidistant to the Known enemy unit and forces the routing unit to avoid hexes ADJACENT or closer to the Known enemy unit. Entering entrenchments along the rout path will reduce the MF remaining to the unit from what was originally calculated. A Low Crawl allows the unit to stop its rout after one hex and to forego Interdiction. Otherwise, if the unit has a required target hex, it must attempt to reach it in one RtPh. It is not required, however, to take the quickest path; any path that will get the unit to the target hex in 6 MF or less is acceptable, as long as the unit never increases the range to its target hex on its way there. Once the unit reaches its target, it may continue only directly to other building/woods/pillbox hexes (EXC: A unit in a cave complex can't leave it).

Routing through Open Ground within the LOS and Normal Range of an enemy unit that could (if it were the MPh) apply a FFMO shot at full FP with no positive DRM causes the routing unit to suffer Interdiction and take an Interdiction MC. Any voluntarily-routing GO leader dies if the unit stacked below him fails an Interdiction MC.

If No Quarter is not in effect, then a broken unit ADJACENT to a GO Known armed enemy Infantry/Cavalry unit must surrender, unless it can rout away without risking Interdiction or using Low Crawl. (Disrupted or Encircled units will surrender even if they do have a safe rout path.) Certain he-man-class units never surrender by the RtPh method: Fanatics, Japanese, Gurkhas, Commissars, Partisans, and SS vs. Russians. They get to Low Crawl or risk Interdiction, and die if that fails. If No Quarter is in effect, then any unit (even a Disrupted or Encircled one) can rout away, risking Interdiction or Low Crawling to its heart's content.

A lot of attention has been paid to the ASL Annual 93a rule change involving voluntary break. It's no longer legal to break voluntarily unless ADJACENT to an unbroken enemy unit or within LOS and Normal Range of an armed and unbroken enemy. So you can't voluntarily break units far from the enemy, rout them forward, and rally them. Voluntary Break is, however, still quite legal and useful for its intended purpose: getting doomed units out of harm's way.

At Night, everything changes. Nobody surrenders in the RtPh, nobody is eliminated for Failure to Rout, and a DM unit can Low Crawl (only) anywhere it wants as long as it doesn't move toward a Known (keeping Night LOS in mind) enemy unit. Staying ADJACENT to a Known enemy unit is legal. A DM unit cannot lose its DM until it makes an Original Rally DR <= its printed morale.


The idea behind the RtPh is that broken units need to run away from the scary enemy and toward cover, where they can regroup, rally, and return to the fray. This is what your broken units want (as represented by the lack of total control of their movement during the RtPh) and usually what you want as well. In simplest terms, broken units rout away from the enemy, and toward woods or buildings. Both of these are beneficial to their survival, since being further away from the enemy reduces the chance of being harmed, and since woods and buildings provide both cover and rally bonuses.

Ideally, you want to rout into a woods or building hex that is out of the LOS of all enemy units, and near a friendly leader. This maximizes rallying chances in two ways. Most units will usually have difficulty rallying under DM, and a unit out of enemy LOS cannot be placed under continual DM by potshots. A leader allows rally attempts every Player Turn (as opposed to the one self-rally attempt per side per Game Turn). Furthermore, such rallies will not have the +1 self-rally DRM and may have a further helpful DRM if the leader has a negative modifier. Unfortunately, a player often has many more broken units than leaders, so some planning is important.

Your units will break. It's an unfortunate fact of life. The key is keeping the broken units alive and returning them to the fight. That means planning rout paths as part of an attack or defense. For the defender, an important factor is checking out the rearward woods and building hexes that can provide rallying points. Large expanses of woods or multi-hex buildings are good because a broken unit can keep routing backwards to the limit of its 6 MF, and the terrain in the intervening hexes will often block LOS. One-hex clumps of woods or Single Story Houses often indicate bad routing terrain, because a unit may be forced to rout to such a hex and then not allowed to move farther from the enemy until it's DM'ed again on a subsequent Player Turn. It may be useful for lesser leaders (or Commissars, if one is lucky enough to have one) to be stationed behind the lines if a hex looks like a definite rally point. Ideally, such a point should be screened from the likely direction of enemy advance by several friendly units and some nice LOS-blocking terrain, so that a single leader can rally a bunch of units without risking a mega-DM from a single 1-FP shot.

For the attacker, rout paths are also important, but since his forces are in motion they're less predictable. The key is to avoid sending in isolated units to spots where they're doomed if they break. So avoid "surrender or die" situations such as those where your unit will be surrounded on all sides if it breaks or, if No Quarter is not in effect, where your unit can't rout without incurring Interdiction or resorting to Low Crawl. Maintaining a couple Good Order units near your broken guys is helpful to avoid a prisoner seeking counterattack, and often easier for the (usually numerically superior) attacker than for the defender. Unfortunately for the attacker, his units are usually routing the wrong way, while the defender's broken units often fall back just behind his Good Order units. The attacker must balance speed versus safety; voluntarily routing a unit and a leader 6 MF back to a safe rally point may be a good idea near the beginning of a longer scenario, but it's rarely worth it near the end, when it has little chance to get back to the front.

Sometimes you have the chance of Low Crawling or risking Interdiction to get to a safer spot. There's no absolute rule of which to choose. Obviously, you don't want to risk giving your opponent his winning CVP by blowing an Interdiction roll that you weren't required to take. But an overconservative Low Crawl can be more dangerous than a bold run for freedom sometimes, especially in your own Player Turn. In that case, your unit will get no Self-Rally attempt (unless it's a leader or crew, of course) and may well be surrounded during your opponent's MPh without a fight. Better to risk Interdiction than to be faced with certain death or (sometimes worse) surrender. Consider the chance of making the Interdiction MC, the consequences (including those to any leaders along for the ride), and the relative positional advantage gained by the extra hex(es) of movement if you avoid Low Crawling. Balance the gain against the risk, and hope for the best if you decide to risk it.

Remember the most commonly successful rout/rally pattern: rout away out of LOS, fail to rally under DM, lose DM, rally successfully without DM. This requires that the unit first manage to rout totally out of enemy LOS or range, and then that the enemy can't get there during the next Player Turn. Note that a unit that breaks and routs out of LOS during the enemy Player Turn will almost certainly get a rally attempt without DM, since the enemy can't move into LOS during the friendly Player Turn. (The sole exceptions are routing or Withdrawal from Melee; note that DMing a "safe" unit can be one of the most dastardly uses of a sleaze-rout.) Units that break during their own Player Turn should try to get to a position not only out of current enemy LOS, but out of LOS of likely enemy positions after the next MPh and APh. Having large buildings or expanses of woods is helpful here, as is having Good Order units nearby to thwart enemy counterattacks seeking to DM or capture important (albeit temporarily) broken units.


For starters, remember that although the usual purpose of routing is to get broken units away from danger to a spot where they can rally, that's not all it can be used for.

In the last few turns of a scenario, broken units without leaders nearby don't have much of a chance to run away, rally, and come back. So rout them to a legal Location where they can block enemy movement, or leave them where they are if they're doing a good job. A broken (but non-disrupted) HS sitting on a crucial hex will stop the enemy from going through it for the turn--which may win a scenario that requires your opponent to exit through a particular hex. Or sometimes there's only one good path around wire, mines, or bamboo. A stubborn broken unit who refuses to budge from that spot until forced to do so may hold up the enemy advance for another crucial turn.

In the cases where a routing unit ends its MPh in Open Ground and has the option of retaining DM, it's generally a bad idea to do so if the chance of rallying right there is high. Also, such a unit can regain DM to rout again if within LOS and Normal Range of an armed enemy unit, so in cases where the enemy has a MG position with limitless LOS you know you'll be able to regain the DM after a failed rally attempt, so there's no point in keeping it. On the other hand, a unit doesn't want to be stuck in the open, without future routing possibilities, just a few hexes away from a friendly leader in better rally terrain. It's important to balance the better chance of immediate rally without DM with the benefits of being guaranteed another chance to rout next Player Turn. If the unit isn't stacked with a leader, and it either surely isn't the best one on which to use the one Self-Rally attempt or the next turn is the opponent's, then the DM counter really doesn't hurt.

When your opponent has a vast CC advantage coming up, especially if he has good Ambush odds, don't forget your opportunity to voluntarily break and rout. Unless the beleaguered unit defends a key victory hex, such a move is smart for two reasons: it keeps the unit alive (albeit broken), and it prevents your opponent from executing an Ambush Withdrawal for a free hex of movement. But check for a legal rout path before breaking the unit; it's illegal to Voluntarily Break if that would cause immediate elimination or reduction. The corollary is not to leave your opponent's units almost-surrounded, with a way to squeak out. Consider his rout paths away from CC, and try to send somebody around the flanks to deny them. Also, voluntary rout is sometimes a good idea for the extra strategic movement, though its use for such has been restricted by errata to cases where there's an enemy nearby. Don't do it unless the rallying odds are very favorable or the unit is useless where it is, and check the rout paths carefully; once the unit is broken it will stay broken even if it can't legally go where you wanted to send it. Also, remember the implications of voluntarily breaking for Japanese units: a squad becomes two broken HS if full-strength and only one if reduced-strength, a crew becomes a broken vehicle crew, and a leader has no way to break at all. These factors, combined with their extra prowess in CC, make voluntary break a rarer choice for the Japanese than for other nationalities.

A broken, DM, low-morale HS without a leader nearby just isn't likely to rally soon. Wouldn't it be nice to inflict the same status on the enemy's nearby non-DM stack of higher-quality broken units? If they're out of LOS, try to find a legal way to rout ADJACENT to them, inflict DM, then rout away. (Oops! Didn't see those guys.) Remember: Find out where you want to rout, find all closer target hexes, and then find enemy units that will allow you to disqualify each of them. It works more often than you'd expect. See for an example of this situation.

Let's say you're gunning for CVP, and your concealed unit runs up ADJACENT to an isolated non-DM broken unit. You could shoot it in the AFPh without losing concealment (assuming no nearby GO witnesses), but why give the unit a free DM counter and an excuse to rout away if you fail to eliminate it? Instead, refuse to give your opponent an opportunity to rout, and then move in for CC. The -2 vs. a broken unit helps a lot, and the ambush odds are decidedly in your favor (-2 for your concealed unit, +1 for his broken one). If you miss, you get another chance in your opponent's turn, with an extra -2 CC DRM since the broken unit will be forced to withdraw from Melee. Heck, you might even feel confident enough to try to capture the broken guys rather than killing them.

Sometimes your enemy's broken units can help you out quite a bit. If your skulking opponent has a big concealed stack nearby, forcing one of his broken units to rout that way will take care of that concealment without firing a shot, through the magic of overstacking. Even without forcing an overstack, any acquisition on the broken unit will follow it to the hex-full of his concealed buddies. Figure 2 illustrates an example of such a circumstance.

As the Scenario Attacker in a Night scenario, your broken guys may be DM for quite a while. But that also means they get almost-free one-hex routs every turn. Don't stop moving forward just because you're broken--keep moving at a steady two hexes per turn, and let the leaders catch up to do their RPh magic.

Got an obnoxious broken enemy unit still hanging on in the upper level of a victory building? Stick a unit on the staircase(s) below it. Instant Encirclement. Now move anybody ADJACENT, and you have a prisoner. Conversely, do not put your broken units in upper-level buildings in staircase hexes, since an enemy can Encircle them and be ADJACENT for the capture in one fell swoop. Broken units in rowhouses are particularly susceptible to this move so don't rout upstairs in a rowhouse unless you have absolutely no other choice or you are confident your opponent's forward progress (especially his progress towards the ground level of that rowhouse) can be checked for several turns by covering units.

Don't invoke No Quarter without a good reason. Prisoners with a total US# <= that of their Guard aren't much of a burden and allow instant Deployment, even to Russians and other nationalities that ordinarily cannot deploy. Moreover, once No Quarter is in effect your enemy's scared squads can Low Crawl their way out of traps and risk Interdiction to avoid your barbaric troops. And, of course, you lose any VP or Interrogation advantages to taking prisoners. See Figure 3 for an example of how invoking No Quarter can affect routing.


The rout rules are dense, tricky, and pretty boring. But at least they're short, and they're consistent. Most ASL players know the basic ideas presented here, but it's entirely possible to play for years without getting all of the technicalities right. What's even more important than knowing the rout rules, though, is planning for the safety of your broken units before they break. Don't put your units where breaking equates to certain death, at least without a really good reason. Planning your rout paths during setup allows a masterful fallback defense where broken and unbroken units move together, rallying to support one another. Spreading your leaders and using the terrain correctly on the attack means that an entire flank won't stop cold for want of a 7-0 leader to rally three squads, or because all of the broken squads can't link up with a single leader. Since what happens during the rout phase is so regular and predictable, it's possible (indeed necessary) to plan for it ahead of time. The dice can thwart most of your plans most of the time, but a clean rout to a safe rally point is the next best thing to not breaking.