The "Physics" of ASL (counter-intuitive rules/mechanics)


[Editor's Note: Wayne Hadady posted this list of ASL weirdness to the ASL Mailing List on December 20, 2000 (before the publication of the second edition of the ASL Rule Book). So with Wayne's kind permission here are the "Physics of ASL."]

Some of us rely on "reality fantasies" to help us remember the game mechanics. For the most part, these work. However, the ASL rules can seem to defy nature at times. Here are a few of the situations that, on first encounter, had me thinking, "Yeah, right." Some of these will doubtless be pointed out as misunderstandings on my part; others may be rendered "historical curiosities" upon publication of ASLRB v2. They are all a bit interesting, though, at least to me.

Soft hinderances?

Soft hindrances effect IFT shots but do not reduce the residual FP left by such shots. Residual so-created can be more dangerous than the shot that created it. [EX: 467 fires at long range in Heavy Rain at moving Infantry (FFNAM, FFMO, +2 Mist, for a 2-flat, leaving 1 residul FP). The attack has a 25 pct chance of effecting 7-morale Infantry. Follow- on Infantry, moving though the same Location will take a 1-2 residual FP attack will be effected 37 pct of the time.]

A blast at the past

ASL's "abstraction of time" includes shuffling of sequential events.

After entering a hex and taking (possibly effective) defensive first fire, a unit can be targeted with a Snap Shot at the hexside it crossed to get where it already is [A8.15, Q&A].

That'll teach 'em...

One of a number of suspension-of-disbelief problems with the Unarmed unit rules. Inexperienced Personnel suffer several penalties, including being easier to Capture than to kill in CC. Once captured (i.e., after they become Unarmed), they are no longer Inexperienced [Q&A on A20.5]. So, if you end up in Melee with an Inexperienced 1 FP HS and a free Unarmed HS, it is easier for you to Capture the armed guys than it is to Capture or kill the unarmed ones.

Ice Nine meets the 50mm Nuke

I wonder if the BV reprint will include hole-in-the-ice markers? Given enough vehicles (of gradually increasing weight), you can "test up" the weight limit of frozen river ice (on board 7 or 8, say) to support any vehicle in your OB (potentially 70 tons), but a 50mm HE Original Effects DR of 2 blows a 40 meter hole in ice of any load-bear- ing capacity.

Invisble Fences and "Posted: No Tresspassing" notices everywhere

Infantry starting in 2D3 can move via Bypass to 2D2 on the C5 hexside, but have no 3 MF path, from there, into the D1 building. A vehicle on the same course could not avoid a Bog check in D2 or C2.

Walking on Air

A unit Bypassing 2L8 on the M9 hexside is at Level Two.

Transit sit-in

Another Unarmed unit puzzle. Having unpossessed hostile units (i.e., Escaped or Abandoned Prisoners) as Passengers of your vehicle prevents you spending MPs (that would re- quire the Passengers to spend MFs, and they cannot do that during your MPh). Such Passengers may not Unload (that would require your vehicle spending MPs, and it cannot do that during an enemy MPh).

Real Track and Field Olympians Wear Webgear

A hex is 40 meters across [A2.1]. A Game Turn represents two minutes of real time [A3]. Given a run of dice on steroids, an Infantry unit could conceivable spend those two minutes as follows:

Total hexes/distance traversed: 33h/1320m (about a 2:30 mile pace)

Bruce Lee-der and trusty sidekick

It's been said that ASL is a better simulation of war films than of war. A Gurkha 10-3 and 7-0 are POWs in an enemy platoon stack. By the CCPh, all three enemy squads (4 FP each) have broken. The leader passes his NTC to Escape (5/6ths chance) and helps his 7-0 do the same (at the same odds). The 10-3 and 7-0 attack at 1-6 odds (All on All) in CC. The expected result (a DR of 7) is that the 10-3 and 7-0 will eliminate the enemy platoon without getting their hands dirty. If it's one of those grimy HtH days, a 9 or less will suffice. The sorry defenders have no chance of harming the dynamic duo.

2:12-1:6 (#s 2b/4r); broken -2, directed -3, Gurkha, -1: net -6 DRM

Serious updrafts

Military chemical smoke agents are designed to sink to low points and billow smoke from there. That is why, in ASL, a smoke hit on an upper building level, say, places smoke at the base of the building. Smoke in 2I8, however, does not hinder LOS from I9 to H7.

Early Viper technology

It surprises some, but a vehicle can grow concealment in open ground. A 26 ton JgdPz IV (with a -2 Armor Leader) grows concealment in open ground as readily as would a SMC. On a hindrance-strewn battlefield, that can be useful.

The newer models really catch your eye

Time abstraction in ASL vehicle combat mechanics is especially bizarre. An Armored Car moving at 50 mph (33 MPs) and in LOS of your ATG for just one hex adds +4 to your TH attempt (since you only had a bit under two seconds of real time to make the shot). A WWI-vintage British Infantry tank (6 MPs, road rate NA) moving flat out at under 4.5 mph and in LOS of your ATG for just one hex adds +4 to your TH attempt (because you had only twenty seconds of real time with which to take the shot).

The circular probability of error of OBA is (dotted) circular indeed

I've heard official moaning that OBA scatter should be fixed, but as ASL is a game (not a simulation), I don't expect these rules to change. A Russian SR corrected 1-3 hexes is almost equally likely to land in any of the seven hexes defined as the AR hex and the six hexes adjacent to that hex. A Russian SR corrected 4--6 hexes is about as likely to land in the AR hex as it is in one of the radial hexes two hexes from the AR, but much less likely to land adjacent to the AR hex. [C1.31]

Solid rubber tires, perhaps?

I remember the Colonel pining for some oddball solid-rubber-wheel AFV. Seems to me that we already have them in droves. A MG (not even a .50-cal) may not make a Deliberate Immobilization attack versus the tires and wheels of an AC.

All-weather mines [EXC: do not use near Streams of running ice water]

Maybe the upcoming Finnish module will finish the winter warfare rules? Mines may not be placed in Water Obstacles, but they can be placed in a Stream hex (because such is not defined as a Water Obstacle and is not otherwise prohibited from being a minefield hex). If, in a CG, say, it snows overnight, but the Stream does not freeze, it becomes a Frigid Stream (defined as a Water Obstacle, and therefore no longer minefield terrain). So any mines that may have been in that hex are presumably gone, until the snows melt, or the Stream freezes, making the hex no longer a Water Obstacle. Or something like that.

Captives as management consultants

After reading Luck's memoirs of POW life in Russia, this is not so odd. A Sangar that contains a Gun may never also contain more MMC than a HS or Crew. So a full squad that happens upon an unmanned Gun in a Sangar cannot possibly gain possession of it. Unless they have Prisoners with them (who, presumably, help the squad sort itself out). [Russian troops planning sub-squad missions are notoriously reliant on POW advisors.]

Dum dums?

Residual FP generally has no memory of the LOF that created it. This leads to a number of bizarre effects. A D1F attack from outside a stone Factory leaves residual FP in the Factory hex. Another unit entering that hex from inside the Factory gets in-Factory TEM (+1). A unit Bypassing outside the factory (even if in LOF of the units that left the residual) gets building TEM (+3). Bypassing Infantry hit with D1F in an OG CAFP can get the OG TEM (-1). Follow-on Infantry Bypassing through the same hex (even at that CAFP) get obstacle TEM versus any residual FP left by that earlier shot.

The negative air pressure gradient going into RB factories.

The rules say "no Wind inside factories" but are unclear (IMO) WRT smoke that drifts into Factory hexes, from an outside source. Smoke placed inside a RB factory cannot drift out at ground level because it is always "no wind" in such hexes (O5.411). Smoke placed outside a RB factory can drift into the factory at ground level (that being the normal case for buildings, and there being no EXC to prevent it in this case).

What is their motivation?

WWII account tell how moving POWs slowed down their captors. In ASL, POWs in no way hinder the movements of their guards. [Double Time and Assault Movement should, IMO, be disallowed to guards.]

Maybe because vehicles exude some Zen of movement about them?

I picked this one up from some Nixon scenario analysis. A bore sighted MG can get a -2 DRM vs Infantry only for a D1F attack. The DRM does not apply (vs Infantry) in any other phase. If the target is PRC, however, the -2 DRM applies in any fire phase. So if a vehicle with vulnerable PRC ends its movement in your bore sighted location, you can get that -2 DRM by waiting until Final Fire or your PFPh.

Enjoy risking AFVs via VBM freeze? Double your pleasure...

Riders are not allowed to voluntarily bail out off of tanks. If the turreted tank changes TCA, though, they must bail out. So, in the hands of an aggressive player, a tank w/riders might enter an enemy-occupied hex (while declaring a 360-degree TCA change) so as to place an eight- morale squad, say, on top of the enemy position (expected result: squad doesn't break owing to bail-out). Broken or not, the Bailed Out unit is not subject to D1F after bail-out (per Perry Sez). So the tank might drive on (leaving the position "frozen" owing to target-selection limits) to "freeze" a second location in the same MPh.

The tree surgeons must enjoy full employment.

To the delight of ground-support pilots and machine gunners in high places, there are no canopies over the roads of ASL woods-road hexes.

You can't take it with you

If the fight gets too hot, there may be the option to just leave. If a vehicle gets into trouble, it can conceivably "save" itself by its inherent Crew deliberately malfunctioning its MA, thus Recalling the vehicle, allowing it to possibly exit before contributing toward a CVP tally.

PPKs from heaven

Another Unarmed unit head-scratcher. Two opposing HSs, each guarding two full squads worth of POWs, are in CC. If one eliminates the other, there are no weapons to rearm any freed prisoners (because the POWs were not attacking: A20.551). If the two HSs eliminate each other, there are enough weapons to rearm all four unarmed squads (leaving them in melee) [A20.221].

Are FTs loaded with flammable magnetic jelly?

Drive-by flamings are cool. If a vehicle equipped with a FT is in Motion and fires that FT for an IFT attack, FP is halved. If it fires instead on another vehicle for a TK attempt, there is no penalty for the FT vehicle being in motion.

Pre-war Circus men?

I think this maneuver deserves a standing O. Cavalry cannot enter Woods while Galloping, but can declare Gallop (to gain the 4 MFs for a dismount in their present location) while in a Woods hex. This maneuver leaves their horses breathless, but not their cool, calm, collected riders.

Swamp Thing

I expect this one is invalid, but it is easy to see how it could be misplayed if one relies on A.8 and does not check the Index. A hex is ADJACENT to another if there exists an LOS between them and if hypothetical Infantry could advance from "that" hex to the other in an APh [A.8]. Infantry may not advance into Swamp in the APh [B16.4]. So a broken unit in Swamp, adjacent to an enemy unit at the edge of the Swamp, would not need to rout (no Adjacent enemy), but a broken unit next to a Swamp would have to rout away from Adjacent enemy in the Swamp. [The Index definition of ADJACENT differs from A.8 enough to remove this "directionality" problem.]

Glass Houses?

In-hex geometry is frequently non-Euclidean in ASL. After Infantry in a partially walled building hex claim Wall Advantage over the wall, they are normally treated as being in Open Ground versus fire that does not cross a wall of that hex, even though the center dot (aiming point) is in the building and the shooter may have no LOS, free of building depiction, to any wall depiction.

Put those cleared mines behind you, son

A single squad spends ALL its MFs to enter (in its MPh) and clear (in its CCPh) an AP minefield. If Clearance fails, the squad places a partial TB on the entry hexside and may move off, across that hex- side, free of mine attack, during a future MPh. If it succeeds, it may place a full TB across =any= two hexsides. Assume it does not chose its entry hexside as one of those two. If, for some reason, it needed to leave that hex, in a future phase, across the original entry hexside, it =would= suffer a minefield attack, as a consequence of its successful Clearance and choice of hexsides.

Scalene lines in two-space?

A unit which enters a minefield/rubble/woods hex on a trailbreak may leave the hex without bog/attack risk only by exiting on one of the hexsides connected by =that= trailbreak counter. Two trailbreaks crossing in that hex do not intersect---to enter by one TB, and leave by another, would put the unit at risk of mine attack and/or bog.

Macro application of gradient particle physics...

Sometimes, no amount of VBM clearance is enough. VBM is prohibited along a hex/hexside if there is a vehicle (or wreck) in the adjacent hex in Bypass along that same hexside [D2.31]. Even if it is a wall hexside, with ample Bypass clearance in each hex [EX: the 10X6/Y7 hexside].

Gravity well?

I usually slow down only for the traffic I can see. The +1 MP penalty for moving a vehicle into a vehicle-overtstacked hex applies even if the vehicle causing that overtstacked condition is out of LOS in Stationary Bypass of an obstacle in that hex. [D2.14]

Bullet-proof Ghurkas

Per the ASOP and informal Q&A, a unit moving onto a Climb counter may not be first fired upon until after it makes its Falling DR. Infantry crossing a hexside to make a 2 MF move INTO a gully may be subject to a Snap Shot on that hexside before they vanish out of LOS [A8.15]. If that side of the gully were a cliff, though, Infantry who first declare Climbing (at a cost of ALL MFs) may cross the hexside (safe from Snap Shots) onto a Climb counter and, using Hazardous Move- ment, Climb one Level down that depression cliff (and out of LOS) INTO the gully. They may not be targeted while on their Climb counter before making their Falling DR and descent (assuming success) [B11.4; ASOP]. [EX: Infantry who Climb (successfully) from 24D6 INTO E7 could not be targeted by fire from F3. If, per SSR, E7 were an ordinary gully hex, the same move (2 MFs) would be subject to a Snap Shot.]

The Jem H'dar evolved from Nazis

Fans of space-based games might enjoy how ASL weapons can materialize. Late war German prisoners who rearm themselves (i.e., change from an unarmed counter to a Conscript counter) acquire all inherent weaponry (PF, ATMM) if the date is right. Vehicle Crews who survive the destruction of their vehicles are also so-armed. [C13.2; Q&A on A20.551 & A20.552]

Is there an intact door or window anywhere in this burg?

Chemical smoke agents, in ASL, diffuse at the speed of light and permeate anything. A three-level high building is three hexes long and less than a hex wide. Two-level high smoke, placed in bypass on one side of the middle hex, appears immediately on the other side of that building. [A24.2] [EX: Infantry or an AFV in Bypass of 1N4 on the O5 hexside place Smoke in N4. When other Infantry subsequently enter N3 from O4, defensive fires from M5 are hindered by the Smoke in N4---even if N4 is a three level high building in every hex.]

What did they know at Jericho that we don't?

The walls in ASL must be rooted to the Earth's core. A building may be rubbled or breached. An ordinary wall may not be damaged in any way. Infantry entrenched behind a wall are immune to all forms of level, non-adjacent direct fire through that wall, no matter what the caliber or FP of the attacking weapon. Not even WP placed by such direct fire can effect them. [B9, 3.4]

Leaders are stout

They certainly carry their share. An SMC can carry two ATRs five hexes over open ground without effort. A squad of ten men, carrying nothing, making the same move (without a leader), would be exhausted.

Sharpshooters can't miss the broad side of a tank

A CH is sometimes "so well placed" that it can have no effect at all. A CH on a non-HD AFV always hits the hull, even if the turret/upper armor is inferior. This means an ATR can't wreck some tanks unless they are HD.

Sir, your reputation precedes you

Opportunity Fire supposedly abstracts actions spanning the PFPh through the AFPh [Footnote A10]. A leader arriving on his last MF in the MPh in the location of an opportunity firing squad can direct that squad's AFPh shot as though he had been there all along, opportunity firing with them. {If the squad had a SW and got rate, though, leader direction should not be allowed for subsequent shots from the SW, because leaders who direct are treated as if firing [A7.531] and a non-opportunity-firing unit (the leader) cannot use ROF in the AFPh [A7.25]. JMO. Requests for a ruling on this have so far gone unanswered.}

Rod Serling's House

Sometimes, no caliber is large enough to obliterate a building. On level ground, a wall, one hex away, blocks your LOS to a hex two hexes beyond that wall. That hex contains a one story house. The house (a level-one obstacle to LOS) blocks your LOS to a Level 1 hill just behind it. You cannot hit the hill, owing to the house, but neither can you hit the house that is blocking your shot at the hill. [EX: A 150mm self-propelled Gun is parked in 2T8 in Bypass on the T7 hexside (CAFP T8/T7/U8). It has no LOS to any Location in W7 owing to the Wall at U8/V7. It has no LOS to X6 because its LOF is blocked by the house in T7. It cannot hit that LOF-blocking house, though.]

What's the B# on those site-to-site teleporters?

Teens tumbling from a backfiring truck should be easier to detect. Concealed, Stealthy, Elite Infantry who Assault Move into a building or woods (2 MFs) can be hit with Defensive First Fire by bore-sighted, leader-directed machine gunners and possibly cut to ribbons. Conscript Passengers who drive up in a noisy vehicle, Stop in Bypass, and unload (at a CAFP out of all LOS), enter such a house, at the end of their MPh, at a cost of no MFs, making them immune to all First Fire versus their entry of the obstacle [D6.5], and immune to bore sighting DRMs [C6.44].

Smooth, slow ride

When towing, ASL trucks move at seemingly relativistic speeds. A truck towing a Gun over Open Ground can make up to 80 pct of its rated speed for that terrain. A truck towing on a road can make only 33 pct of its rated road speed. [Credit to Jim Stahler for this observation.]

Use the Force, Luke

ASL vehicles are equipped with tractor beams as well as towing winches. A vehicle attempting bog removal can get help from another vehicle in its location---even if the two vehicles are in Bypass on opposite sides of an obstacle and with no LOS to each other [D8.3].

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