Learning ASL isn’t easy. There is alot to learn. When you go on a forum to ask a question about being a better player or trying to find out how to use better tactics, it is like taking a drink from a high pressure water hose.
Some people ask for simple truisms to just cut through everyones differing opinions to get at what is important. But nothing can really be summarised in a few quick maxims or principles without ending up with the words “except when …“. We all know there is no single principle applies all the time to any situation.
Some give advice for tactics that are vague, others talk about rule knowledge being critical but can’t explain how to really recognise and apply in that in a tactical situation in the game. Let along the arguments about Tacticians or Lawyers?
The other extreme is just receive the advice that you just need to play alot. There is truth in that obviously, but I want to get good and don’t have 20 years to master anything.
I’ve been thinking alot about how to become a better player faster. Is there a way I can shorten my learning curve?
Some of the issues as I see them to me learning faster are:
- No time, even now. To carve out a one big block of time is difficult. I only have time for 1 game session a week. About 3-4 hours.
- It took ages to learn last time. I still got smashed (lost) alot. And I never really got to use vehicles etc or other theatres until I right at the end of my playing spurt in my younger days.
- I want it all NOW. My monkey mind demands it! I am impatient for some of the rarer and exotic parts of the rules like paratrooping donkeys, fighting in sewers with flamethrower tanks.
- I have a life too. IKR, its tough, this family thing is really an obstacle to this hobby 😀
But I still want to be better than last time. I want to be a good player, not just competent.
So I’ve been taking note of other veteran players advice but also what has been going on when I am playing scenarios. What’s going on in my head.
Giving Up On Trying To Understand It All
SK Disclaimer: What follows may be applicable to some ASLers. It all depends on your starting point. I am not sure how useful this method could be for SK people upgrading.
As a newly returned play player, I am still getting the bare game mechanics and basics half right. “Dang, forgot to self-rally a squad again.” “Oh yeah, thats right, sorry to call out SNIPER, it’s rally phase, what was I thinking?!?”
It’s a thinking game and there is alot to think about. So rather than drink from the firehose that is the rulebook, let me breakdown what I feel are some of the competing headspace demands & expectations. Especially for new players like myself. I view it as a heirarchy.
I believe that each of those higher level expectations are blocked by the layers further down. You are using cognative bandwidth at the lower levels that just overrides the upper level thinking. “Ah what do I do a the start of this phase again?” instead of “He is crossing the woods over there, why? and how will I counter that?“.
Imagine if I was playing a defensive scenario where I needed my opponent getting off the board. It goes something like this:
|The Expectation||Could be thinking||Actually thinking||The reality|
|Know Everything||I could be thinking: “I know that. Thought he would do something like that. I have a counter to that.“||But I’m actually thinking: “What the hell is going on here?“||I am wondering how this guy across from me is so good. How do I get that good?|
|Awareness of Your Opponents Meta-Game|
[Being aware of your opponents psychology]
|I could be thinking: “I get the idea that he feels under pressure for time because he is pushing hard now and taking unnecessary risks.“||But I’m actually thinking: “Why would you be sending them across there? Is that a baiting move?“||I don’t know what he is thinking. I’ve got too much to do just watching what he is doing on the board.|
|Awareness of Your Opponents Moves & Plans|
[Being aware of your opponents intentions & actions]
|I could be thinking: “This is a solid push. He really is trying to breakthrough here.“||But I’m actually thinking: “Am I going to have time to fall back from that position later?”||How would I recognise their plan? I don’t even know what I am thinking or what my plan is! I’m not really thinking about him at all.|
|Understanding the Gameflow & Pace|
[Understanding the ebb & flow of the attack or defence in relation to how many turns]
|I could be thinking: “He has 3 turns to go, I can trade time for space, no prep fire next turn. Starting next MPh is a good time to fall back. “||But I’m actually thinking: “What is the best way to fall back without collapsing the defense by loosing this squad? I guess I will wait and see what happens.“||I’ve got no idea. Am I getting steamrollered or am I slowing him down? What’s normal here?|
[Tactical principles more or less disassociated from rules: i.e. concentrating forces, how to recognize weak spots in a defense]
|I could be thinking: “This squad will stay there to threaten his movement across that road, while this squad I will pull back through the woods to the next stone building fallback position, that I had marked down on my notes.“||But I’m actually thinking: “Where will I fall back to? I don’t know. To the wall or the woods?”||I haven’t put any forethought about how to manage the defence and the interplay of knowing when to move back over time. I’m just going phase by phase and doing actions.|
|Tactics & Technique |
[Knowing what to do and the best way to do it in relation to the rules]
|I could be thinking: “I will shoot at that moving squad with my SW and laydown a firelane, but will keep my inherent firepower for this other squad if he pushes through with him.“||But I’m actually thinking: “I will fire everything at that squad moving.“||I am really just clunkily walking through my vague recollections of what I should be doing based on the rules. But with no real insights into the best way to go about it.|
[Know what you can do and can’t]
|I could be thinking: “If I shoot that squad moving now, he can still move that other squad further away across without me getting a shot at it because I won’t be able to subsequent first fire because there is a closer unit. So …“||But I’m actually thinking: “I will shoot at this squad close to me, then I will get the other further one with subsequent first fire. Oh, I am not allowed to do that … err what now?”||How can I remember any of this stuff! Are you kidding me? The basic rule book is 728 pages long. I didn’t do law.|
[How to do what you are trying to do]
|I could be thinking: “I can always take this first fire because I can subsequent fire on any one else coming close by.”||But I’m actually thinking: “Can I subsequent first fire in MPh, or is that Final fire? I get those two confused all the time?!? ||Without the rules in front of me or some player aid telling me what to do next, I am struggling to remember how I should be doing things.|
|Probabilities & Skills|
[The likelihood of your actions having an effect]
|I could be thinking: “No chance on that shot, not worth the sniper. I am better preserving my fire for when this other squad attacks. Its not that desperate.“||But I’m actually thinking: “Should I take the shot? Can I get him? OK, lets have a crack at him. What have I got to loose. Oh, rolled a 3 and its only a possible PTC on him, but an SAN check. Oh he rolled a 1 on his SAN. Oh, its on top of my prize leader now.“||Its a game of odds. I have NO IDEA of how likely it is that my 2FP +3TEM -1FFNAM attack will effect his 8 morale unit especially when their SAN is 6. Is that risky? or a sure thing?|
[What happens when]
|I could be thinking: “Time to fire, he is adjacent. And I get to fire at him again in Defensive Fire phase. Glad I fixed that MG in rally!”||But I’m actually thinking: “Oh my MG is broken! When was I supposed to repair that!”|
“When will I ever know what I am doing in this game!!!”
|I am still struggling with what happens when, and in what order.|
Now I know alot of this can be helped with by a mentor with a gentle guiding hand to help and playing alot over time. But as I mentioned, I don’t have that much time.
People who have played the game for years and years have internalised the game and it is intuitive for them. They don’t even realise the amount of pattern recognition they are doing on autopilot. Thats why it looks easier for them. Cause it is. It’s that deep experience. They are playing at those higher levels most of the time.
I Have A Small Brain
So enough with the firehose. I am turning it off. I am trying a different way.
In line with the approach I am using with both Chapter K Training Manual and Jim Stahlers 8 Steps to ASL (see The Grand Plan). I am keeping things to the absolute minimum. I am going to get some basic mastery of my infantry game, then add, then add some more.
With that in mind I am just focused on:
- Infantry only. For a while anyway. Its the basis of 80% of the game.
- ETO only. Stop my natural want to do it all. No Wadi’s for me. Just be good at the basics.
- Russians vs Germans only. Keep it simple.
- Game aids that remove complexity, don’t increase it. I don’t need to know what the panji stake die roll modifiers are. Cut out the noise.
- Start with the rule, don’t dwell on the exceptions. The brain remembers in positive not negatives. That will change as I build up my skill. I can deal with the what if’s then.
- Speed up the experience of play, or walking through the mechanics. Increase the amount of gameplay time by whatever way possible. For repetition also breeds familiarity. Conversely …
- Slowdown the experience of play, by PBEM. Decrease play speed by playing PBEM but walking through rules and mechanics to internalise them better.
- Breaking down skills to the lowest possible levels. Do drills of the actions to be learned, don’t wait for them to come up in a game. Dumb it down.
- Play against your worst opponent.
Check here for the full list: ONLY not AND
From The Ground Up
To build competency from the ground up I am going to work these levels in reverse. Get the basics down pat. Once I get a skill down that I can demonstrate in a live game against an opponent who isn’t mentoring me, then I can move on.
So I will reduce everything down to its smallest essence and then build back up over time when I master each stage. There will be time for tanks, for jungle, for desert, for campaigns and for the paratrooping donkeys.
The rules are important, but they aren’t all there is to the game. You can know the rules and be a player that consistently loses too.
To read is OK, to watch a video is better, to practice something on a board better still and to play using the technique or concept, best of all.
Start Climbing the ASL Lethality Ladder