Things are kind of in a lull right now with my ASLSK games. The Prawn and I are stuck starting up a new semester at school (we are the teachers though...) and my VASLeague game is still stalled at the start of turn 3 (I see now why it takes 2 months to play a game!).
So, what am I thinking about?
There's a bit of chatter on the ASL forum on ConsimWorld about the utility of ASLSK and the possibilities of an ASLSK 4-type product that takes the final leap between full and SK-level. There are some old timers who can't make the cognitive leap back to SK-level and to be honest, why should they? If they are good with full ASL they should teach it. If you have to go about it on your own, you grab ASLSKs.
Regardless, my own thinking is that I've always had full ASL as my eventual goal. ASLSK is awesome, edge-of-the-seat excitment levels of awesome. But part of the interest I have in ASL is in grokking the whole shebang. Is this ego? Is this just the need to say, "Hey you there, playing Agricola! Play a real game -- Advanced Squad Leader!"? Do I just feel the urge to wear an imaginary badge of smugness on my chest that says I play the world's most complicated game?
The funny thing is, once you get a few games under your belt, ASL doesn't seem that hard. Granted I could plop the ASLRB in front of my Eurobuddies and they'd cringe in horror, crossing themselves but I personally don't see it as an obstacle -- it's just an interesting challenge.
A question I sometimes see posted on BGG or CSW or GS is whether a newb could ever comprehend the full rules or should they buy the full rulebook or where's the next step after ASLSK3? My opinion is simply this: if you are satisfied with ASLSK as a full and complete wargame unto itself and don't want to climb the ladder, don't. However, having personally bought the full rulebook and starting to read parts of it I can see that the "gap" between ASLSK and full ASL really isn't that big. At least the divide is no bigger than that between "real" ASL players and us SK newbs.
Let me give you an example. There are holes in ASLSK-level rules. Sorry, I said it. The Tiger tank counter in ASLSK3 has a red movement allowance number. In the ASLSK rules and vehicle notes I found nothing that elaborated on this except that Russian T-34s with the red number required a start-up check and on a DR of 11-12 had to stall for DR MPs before restarting again. [Aside: if you can understand what I just wrote you're ready for full ASL.] Well the Tiger had no notes on this, or at least I couldn't easily locate them. Nor were they in the full ASL Chapter H notes. Instead I had to consult the ASLRB2's section in chapter D (I think NRBH) on mechanical reliability and lo and behold there it was in plain language - mechanical reliability was the same as the T-34s but the DR check was 12 (not 11-12).
This is not an exclusive example. If you have a problem or gray area in the rules in ASLSK, the ASLRB2 pretty much answers it -- fast! The rules are clear, organized and the glossary is terrific. I read a great comment on the rulebook on BGG (I'll try to find the author but BGG is down right now); the writer made the analogy of learning English as compared to learning ASL. You'd use the dictionary as a reference, not a course of study. Just so with the ASLRB2. Learning ASL by reading the rulebook starting with Chapter A, section 1.0 onwards to Chapter D/H's last section is ridiculous. The ASLRB2 is your reference when it comes to learning the language known as Advanced Squad Leader.
So, read the ASLSK rules, richfam's tutorials, get the cardboard down on the maps and just shoot a couple of squads against each other in some terrain following the great SOP playaids out there. Play a scenario. Take it slow, do it solo. Teach it to a good friend. Re-read the rules. Pick up the ASLRB2 if you want to upgrade to full ASL and use it as a reference, not a bloody novel. Enjoy. Challenge yourself.
Off the top of my head, here are some other reasons to get the ASLRB2 if you're just a SK newb:
1. Chapter K. The original training notes that came with the original starter kit (module 2: Paratrooper) is included now with the ASLRB2. It's great. I'd argue that it's a great companion to the SKs.
2. If you have the ASLRB2 this programmed instruction method to get to "full" ASL becomes applicable. Some people taught themselves ASL with this programmed instruction set before the luxury of SKs.
3. Chapter H notes are cool. I find this chapter as fascinating as everyone else. The level of detail boggles the mind here. As a wargamer who loves historical and designer notes Chapter H is like pure gold.
4. The ASLRB2 is basically the result of almost 2 decades of refinement in Squad Leader. It is the "Bible" and its word is law. And you can pretty well depend on it where in certain situations in SK you'd be kind of on your own.
5. This is ironic but it should be obvious that having the ASLRB2 should make you fully aware that you don't always need every part of the rulebook for every scenario. You don't need the majority of edge cases when you play any given scenario. No one, not even the mighty gods of ASL (whoever they may be), memorize the whole book, but use it as the reference it was supposed to be. Dictionary::English - ASLRB2::ASL. It's super well organized with some great illustrations and examples, well worth the $80 or so.
I'll shut up now. Let me know what you think if you're out there.
[EDIT: some interesting posts already. It's nice to hear from readers about their thoughts. Though I don't want to splinter the discussion I also posted a request for comments here on Gamesquad and feel free to post there too if you want. I think it's an interesting question as to whether there needs to be any more SK-level support.]