Be warned: this isn’t your normal how to get better by learning the rules or play hundreds of games kind of article. Its about something else totally.
Ever forget to take a particular action? Repair an MG, disassemble a weapon or self rally THAT guy.
“Damn, forgot to deploy that squad.”
“Damn, forgot to drop smoke.”
Always did it. Still doing it.
Now back in the day, I used to play ASL with a very casual bunch of friends. There was a good amount of drinking, pizzas and constant ribbing in every game. Now for most of us this worked fine but, when we pushed the envelope too far with our insults, someone would push back.
That pushback would come from our arch nemesis, (for the sake of privacy) we shall call him … Retento. He wouldn’t let us make any out of sequence mistakes, he would hold us to it. “Too late, you need to repair at the beginning of the rally phase.” Because he knew the sequence better than us, he would catch us alot. I used to hate to forget. My blood would boil.
This time, I know better. I vow this to you, never, never again shall I forget! (OK, well maybe a little over dramatic, but you get the idea). Enter the Advanced Sequence of Play.
The Advanced Sequence of Play
The Advanced Sequence of Play in ASL, lists everything that happens in each phase, in the order that it is performed in. The full version runs for 4 pages of continuous pages of text in the rule dividers. It will make your eyes bleed.
It is the ultimate source of what should happen and when. Self rally your own MMC squad before conducting normal rally using leaders. Declare withdrawl attempts from CC after Ambush die rolls are resolved. etc. etc.
Embedded in it is the all those actions you and I often fail to remember at the crucial time.
To recall what is happening when, you have a number of options:
- Wing it, and try to remember it when you can. (See the agony of Retento above).
- Refer to it alot.
- Know it.
Option 2 – Refer To It Alot
Simple solution: You can just read it off the page as you go through the game. There are 2 versions you can use for this:
- Advanced Sequence of Play from rules. The full 4 pages.
- Some abbreviated game aid version, like Jim McLeods “Essential Advanced Sequence of Play” . Cut down to 1 page.
You can have it sitting next to you and be constantly looking down at it … but when the pressure is on for the game, just like your SAN checks it is easy to forget.
The effort involved is low and the payoff is instant, but the usability sucks. And your gameflow is slowwwww if you need to keep referring to the chart. Sure you won’t need to refer to it all the time, but if you are using it to trigger your memory then you are going to miss things unless you check it.
Well … I want to play a game and not have my head buried in a checklist nor do I want to frustrate my opponent with my pedantic nature. I would prefer to frustrate them with my skill 🙂
Option 3 – Know It
You can internalise and remember it. That is what I am going to show you how to do now.
The Aim Is: To recall the essential advanced sequence of play without fail
using your memory alone.
Are you ready to learn it? Then read on …
Keeping It Simple
Firstly lets be clear, we won’t be memorizing the full ASOP. We will be focusing on the 20% of things in the rules that are likely to happen each game.
The aim here is to learn and we are going to use ONLY not AND principles.
We are keeping it to an absolute minimum. We will start building on a firm base of infantry only rules for ETO. Initially not Chapter C,D,E,F,G rules. That means no mortars (for now anyway).
This still leaves us with 41 substeps, embedded into 25 parts, in 8 phases just to cover the infantry play basics (that’s not including any Chapter C or D substeps). Before I couldn’t remember that much of anything. But I am going to show you how you can.
You will be memorising the Advanced Sequence of Play (ASOP) by using mnemonics – memory techniques.
What is a Mnemonic?
For thousands of years we have tried to remember large amounts of things. Stories, knowledge, information, that we wanted to pass from one generation to generation. Mnemonics are memory techniques that we have used to manage that. Whether it is the Indigenous Australians using songlines or Renaissance philosophers using memory wheels.
They basically recognise that there a couple of things we are great at remembering because our lives depended on it. Locations that we have either been to or seen a picture of, faces of others we have met, extreme things we have seen, things that are unusual and stand out of the ordinary. You can find out more about mnemonics here.
There are many different kinds of techniques, the 2 most common are:
Needless to say you can find hundreds of different techniques to enhance your memory.
But I am here to show you how to memorise 1 thing alone … the Advanced Sequence of Play, by use of graphic and extreme: Violence, Ridiculousness, Sex, Bright Colours, Memorable People, Bold Actions, Locations and Manic Humour. So I will stick to that only.
Now firstly, understand my way below isn’t THE WAY. May be other mnemonic approaches that works better for you.
I choose a narrative method so I will follow that approach from here on out.
Create Your Own Mnemonic
Step 1 – Recall Your Phases
I grabbed the nice simple, Jim McLeods “Essential Advanced Sequence of Play“. Which is a 1 page reduced version of the ASOP unlike the 4 page text dense version in your rules.
Then I ripped out any part of it that dealt with Chapter C or D. We will get to all that later.
So for each phase I chose a nationality that I felt best represented that phase and that would stand out in my mind.
For me these are the characters and nationalities that I chose:
- Russian Commissar – Rally Phase (The failing to rally for the commissar means …)
- British Tommy – Prep Fire Phase (Ready, Fire!)
- German Soldier – Movement Phase (Blitzkrieg)
- Italian Soldier – Defensive Fire Phase (Rommel said they were great on defence)
- US GI – Advancing Fire Phase (Always assault firing modifiers)
- French Soldier – Rout Phase (No comment)
- Finnish Soldier – Advance Phase (Stealthy, sneaky)
- Japanese Officer – Close Combat Phase (Banzai!)
The important part is you want to hook the thing you want to remember on to a thought, stereotype, idea that already exists in your mind. You don’t want to create something new but to put your memory on a hook that already exists in your mind. Each of these nationalities for me represents the ethos of that phase.
You should choose your own. (Especially if you are French 🙂 )
Step 2 – Recall Each Part Phase
Each of the phases is broken up into 3 parts, a start, during and end. The only exception to that is the Close Combat Phase (which has 4 parts).
So I have broken each phase into 3 parts. Each part of the narrative will run through the same visual scene. They run in my mind from left to right. Each part in the identical format:
- Start of Phase – The character, walks in a door from the left. If it is a turn where snipers are operating, a sniper opens the door for them. They perform some actions. Then they jump across a big white line painted on the ground to move to the next part of the phase.
- During Phase – The character, now performs the middle phase actions. Then they jump across a big white line painted on the ground to move to the next part of the phase.
- End of Phase – The character, now preforms their end phase actions. At the end they walk out the door, closing it behind them to complete the phase.
Each room with a character taking their actions is a phase completed.
Now, note in some of these parts, there is nothing to be done (normally the end of the phase). i.e. At the end of the prep fire phase, there are no actions for my British tommy to perform.
Your memory won’t fill in blank gaps for you. It is easier to remember that each phase has a consistent 3 sub phases, than to get confused. “Am I missing a step in there or not? Do they do anything at the end of the phase or not. I can’t remember?”
So you want to make sure that your memorisation fills any empty parts (regardless of whether there is something to recall or not). For myself, if there is nothing in that part, they kiss the door as a filler action.
Step 3 – Create The Narrative
We now need a story to run through for each phase.
Relax now, you aren’t going to share this with anyone. Your mnemonic stories are really just your own weird ramblings.
The key to mnemonics is making things stand out in your mind. So what stands out; Extremes, the ridiculous, violence, sex, colours, graphic, bizarre, strange, disgusting, odd, etc etc. Basically all the stuff that your Mum would have scolded you for.
For example for my Prep Fire Phase :
This bizzare and unusual story helps me remember 10 points of information embeded 3 of the substeps. Out of the 41 total substeps in this simplified ASOP.
Now it’s time for you to make your own twisted and memorable stories 🙂
Just copy the document HERE, and make your personalised version.
Step 4 – Walk Through The Narrative
Now time to practice it. There are some other weird ways to help embed it deep into your skull. Using just the narrative you can:
- Read it out loud
- Write it down
- Walk through the sequence of actions (Hey act it out, you don’t have to do the real thing 🙂 )
- Recall it in reverse or out of sequence.
Doing this engages different parts of the brain and can help with recall.
Truth be told, I just used the read it out aloud and out of sequence techniques.
Overall it shouldn’t take that long. In fact this IS the easy part. Thats why you went to the trouble of creating the mnemonic in the first place!
If you are struggling to recall it, then it suggests there is a problem with your narrative. So it’s time to …
Step 5 – Look For Weak Points
No matter what narrative you create, some parts of it will be too weak for your brain to recall it.
This can often happen if you use the same image for multiple purposes. For example, in trying to recall which phases had a sniper, in my original narrative I just inserted a sniper in a gilly suit let them into the room at the start of each phase. The same looking sniper.
What I found was that I was struggling with every door opening. “Was a sniper opening that door or not? I can’t remember?” It was all just melding together in my mind.
To make it more memorable I changed it so tht every sniper reflect the nationality of that phase. So:
- Prep Fire Phase: British sniper in a gilly suit
- Movement Phase: Ed Harris as German sniper out of the movie Enemy at the Gates
- Defensive Fire Phase: Italian sniper with cap with ridiculously large feather in in.
- Advance Phase: The guy out of the American Sniper movie.
Now note a couple of interesting things. NOT historically accurate! Makes it weird and stand out. I don’t even need to know the American sniper movie dude’s name, I just remember he was also in the Hangover movie. Italians during WW2? I can’t think of anything sniper related to them but I do remember hats with big feathers sticking out the top, that’s what I will make my Italian sniper look like.
Just use your memories to jury rig this stuff together with mental wire in your mind. It all has ZERO significance to anyone else. Use what works for you.
If it is a just single element you keep missing, make it more extreme. Not enough that someone farts some smoke to blow down a wall (to remember buildings collapsing if blazing), make them fart out a huge flamethrower blast that blows away a building like in one of those nuclear test videos. Remember: absurd and extreme will make it stick.
Step 6 – Get Beyond Parroting
After working through your narrative, you will quickly start to be able to recall all the elements. As a new player, you have just made yourself a framework to hang all the actions off, “OK, then they can perform mopping up, entrenching or performing a kindling attempt“.
But apart from parroting them off you need to make sure you know how to do those actions. If you have never read the mop up rule, read it, set it up on a board, and see how it works. Practice entrenching on different terrains or work through how a flame becomes a blaze.
There isn’t any substitute for actually knowing the rules.
Step 7 – Applying It In The Heat Of Battle
So now you got it, a memorable mnemonic that locks in the ASOP. You can put that one in your toolbox for the future right?
You must pin it to your actual game behaviours. Otherwise it is like a tool that is in the toolbox and one that you will fail to bring out.
It must be real stimulus response stuff, like Pavlov’s dogs. Someone says new Prep fire phase then BANG, the picture of that British Tommy should pop into your mind. So you need to pin your mnemonic to your physical actions for changing the phase.
Some ideas to pin it to:
- In FtF or Live VASL when someone say Blah phase
- In PBEM mentally trigger it the moment the phase spinner is rotated
In your mind quickly go through that phase, eventually it will just fly through fast. Go the whole way through in sequence, don’t skip parts.
That way, it is more than a placeholder in your memorised list but is now a part of your game repetiore. You become that meticulous player who doesn’t forget stuff.
Eventually the mnemonic won’t even be required any more. It will be truly automatic.
The Big Question: Does It Work? – My Experience
Yes. It took 3 days.
1 day to make the story for the first part. This was the hardest, where there was the most to remember.
2 days to make the story for the second half, from Defensive fire phase on.
3 days to clean up the bits I couldn’t retain. Look for weak points. In particular wall advantage wasn’t sticking.
After that, that was it. I knew it and it worked. In my PBEM game, when the turn counter would flick over I would mentally go through the items for that stage.
So the recall is there.
Other ways I recognised it worked. I spotted a rules question on gamesquad about transferring prisoners and straight away though “You can’t do that it’s in the wrong phase.” Look at me studying at the bar for ASL rules lawyer now. 🙂
Where To Go From Here? Expanding It Out
At this point it comes back to what you want to play. As a minimum you would layer in:
- Chapter C: OBA rules.
- Chapter C: Ordnance rules.
- Chapter D: Vehicles rules.
Just add to your story as you go. As you progress to your next level of learning you interweave new story elements in.
You will need to build on the process above and will need strong images for the new parts inserted into your existing narrative, otherwise you will keep reverting to your old story.
But Enough Is Enough
You have to draw a line though. Only memorise what is necessary.
As for the rest of the ASOP? If you are just going to dabble in the desert, it most probably isn’t worth it. There are paratroops, gliders, PTO, amphibious assaults, snow drifts and the list goes on.
For how often you will encounter them, you are often better off creating or using a cheat sheet and referring to it in game than wasting your headspace by memorising the rest.
You just need to know when enough is enough. After all, you can use all that extra brain power for your next super hero skill.