An ASLSK Tutorial (Part 4) Ordnance and the To Hit Process
This is the fourth entry in a series of tutorial articles that are designed to help new players learn the ASLSK rules. Links to other entries in this series may be found at the end of this article. This article assumes that the reader has read, and understood, all of the previous articles. Rules and concepts discussed in the earlier articles will be used here with little or no explanation.
This article will primarily cover ASLSK #2, although the relevant parts of ASLSK #3 will occasionally be mentioned in passing. I think it's a little easier to explain Ordnance if one does not have to pretend that tanks do not exist.
In ASLSK #1, all non-CC attacks are resolved in the same way: the attack is announced, the FP and DRMs are calculated, and then a DR is made on the appropriate column of the IFT to find the result of the attack. All such attacks automatically hit their targets (assuming a LOS exists).
The introduction of Ordnance in ASLSK #2 brings with it a whole new method of resolving attacks. These weapons are relatively slow firing, large caliber weapons that must first make a "To Hit" (TH) DR to see if they have hit their target. Only if a hit is scored do they then make a second DR to find the result of the hit.
TH DRs have a large number of possible DRMs, as listed on the back of the To Hit Chart. Many of these DRMs are the same ones you have been using in resolving small arms attacks on the IFT, while others are specific to Ordnance. The long list of DRMs appears daunting, but it is not really difficult to learn: simply check through the list, top to bottom, every time you fire Ordnance. While your first attempts at firing Ordnance will be slow going, with repetition the process will speed up considerably.
The introduction of Ordnance brings other changes as well. Some of these weapons may have multiple types of ammunition to choose from when making an attack, including Smoke, White Phosphorous (WP), High Explosive (HE), Armor Piercing (AP), High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT), Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR), and Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) shells. Ordnance can appear either as a Support Weapon (SW) on a 1/2" counter, or as a Gun on a large 5/8" counter. Guns must be manned by specially trained crews to fire at full effectiveness, so MMC crew counters have been added to the counter mix, and Guns also introduce the concept of facing: when a Gun is placed on the map, it must be positioned so as to indicate the direction it is aimed.
Ordnance that appears as SW are small weapons that are commonly carried into battle by the soldiers themselves. Their use is very similar to that of MGs: they can be used by any unit, they have a weight expressed as a PP number, some can retain ROF and thus possibly fire several times in the same fire phase, they can suffer breakdowns, and some can be repaired if they do malfunction.
SW Ordnance introduced in ASLSK #2 includes Bazookas (BAZ), Panzerschrecks (PSK), and Light Mortars. ASLSK #3 adds Anti-Tank Rifles (ATR), Piats, and Panzerfausts (PF). Panzerfausts are a special case in that they were used in such numbers that they are treated as an inherent SW and never appear as separate SW counters.
Bazookas & Panzerschrecks
Place the following units on board w:
- wBB2: American 6-6-6, BAZ 44
- wAA4: German 4-6-7
- wBB5: German 4-6-7
- wEE5: German 4-6-7
The BAZ 44 (the model introduced in 1944) has a FP of 8 and a range of 4. The X11 breakdown number reflects the limited amount of ammunition that would be carried, rather than just the weapon's mechanical reliability. The back of the counter shows the BAZ 44's To Hit table: for each possible range from 0 to 4, the corresponding To Hit number (TH#) is given. Shots longer than range 4 are not allowed.
BAZs, Piats, PSKs, and PFs fire HEAT rounds. These weapons were not intended to be used against infantry, so no HE rounds were ever produced for them. They are collectively referred to as Shaped Charge Weapons (SCW) – "shaped charge" being a more generic name for HEAT – and they are also classified as Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LATW) along with the ATR.
HEAT rounds produced a special explosive effect that was designed to punch a hole in a tank's armor plating. Such rounds could be used effectively against infantry only under certain conditions. Therefore, the only non-tank targets that SCWs can be fired at are buildings and Guns.
In our example, the Americans in wBB2 can fire their BAZ 44 at wAA4 because it contains a building. The range is 2 hexes, so the basic TH# is 8 (from the back of the BAZ 44 counter). The TEM of the target hex, +2 for a wooden building, applies as a DRM to the TH DR. The shot would thus be TH8/+2, so a DR of 6 or less is required to score a hit.
If a hit occurs, a second DR is then made on the IFT to find the result of the hit. This IFT DR would be made using the BAZ 44's FP of 8 with no DRMs at all. An 8/+0 roll on the IFT has a good chance of causing damage: a DR 7 gives a 1MC.
If Ordnance shots are compared to regular shots, they are both less effective and more effective. They are less effective, because if they do not score a hit, nothing happens to the target. They are more effective, because if they do score a hit, the full FP of the attack is applied to the target with no DRMs: Hindrance and TEM DRMs only make a hit harder to obtain... they do not reduce the effectiveness of a hit when it occurs.
When Ordnance is fired using the To Hit process, the possibility exists for a Critical Hit to occur, which can greatly increase the amount of damage done. Whenever a SCW rolls an original DR 2 on a TH roll, it scores a Critical Hit (CH, rule 6.1). A CH doubles the FP of the attack, and the target hex TEM applies as a negative DRM.
If the Americans had scored a CH in firing the BAZ 44 at wAA4, the IFT DR would be 16/–2... giving a 3MC on a DR of 7!
Because a CH reverses the normal TEM, suffering a CH while in a stone building (–3 DRM) is more dangerous to you than suffering one while in a wooden building (–2 DRM). One example of why this occurs would be that while a stone building normally offers much better protection than a wooden building, if a section of a stone building is blown into your troops, they will likely suffer more severe injuries from the flying pieces of heavy stone than they would from flying pieces of wood in a wooden building.
Ordnance can never be part of a Fire Group (FG), so the American squad must fire its inherent 6 FP separately, even if they fire at the same target as the BAZ.
The BAZ cannot be fired at wBB5, because that hex does not contain a building, Gun, or tank.
The BAZ could be fired at wEE5 at a range of 4 hexes, but the shot would be TH4/+2. This is a really bad shot, because a breakdown is more likely than a hit: only a DR 2 will score a hit, but a DR 11 or a DR 12 will result in a permanent breakdown.
Now add an American 8-1 leader to the stack in wBB2. This leader could be used to direct the BAZ shot, giving it a greater chance to hit. With leader direction, a BAZ shot at wAA4 would be TH8/+1 (+2 TEM, –1 leadership). If a hit is obtained, the IFT roll would remain 8/+0, because leadership does not affect the IFT roll for either normal hits or CHs.
Remember, however, that a leader may direct the fire of only one unit or FG per player turn. If the leader directs the BAZ, he cannot be used to direct the squad's 6 FP shot.
Remove the 8-1 leader, and place the 6-6-6 squad and BAZ 44 in wZ2, which contains a wooden building.
If the American squad now fires the BAZ at wAA4, they must either accept a +2 TH DRM, or suffer a backblast attack. If they fired without the +2 TH DRM and rolled a DR 5 (colored dr of 3), they would score a hit (5 + 2 is less than the TH# of 8), but they would also suffer a 1MC themselves from the backblast (3 on the 1 FP column of the IFT). Had the squad accepted the +2 TH DRM they would have avoided the backblast attack, but the shot would have missed.
Firing a rocket-propelled projectile from within a building was extremely dangerous to the occupants of that building, and would only be attempted in desperate circumstances (or by poorly trained troops who didn't know any better). If you choose to accept the +2 TH DRM, what happens is that the soldier with the bazooka actually steps outside the building, fires a quick shot, and then ducks back into the building to reload. Running outside and back for each shot means there is less time for careful aiming, so a +2 DRM is applied.
Note that the TH DRM lists in both ASLSK #2 and ASLSK #3 incorrectly assign the backblast DRM to LATWs (Piats and ATRs have no backblast), and the definition of LATW in those two rulebooks is not quite correct either (ATRs do not have their own To Hit tables). BAZs, PSKs, and PFs are the only weapons affected by backblast.
If you were to go to an ASL forum and post the question: "What is the least useful weapon in ASL?" I think a lot of players would nominate the Light Mortars.
If you changed the question to: "What is the most annoying weapon in ASL?" the Light Mortars would probably be the overwhelming choice.
Light Mortars combine a high ROF with a weak attack, a combination that often proves frustrating to the players. Whenever Light Mortars are present, you'll see seemingly endless mortar shots which, for the most part, will have no effect. Add to this the fact that Light Mortars are some of the heaviest SWs in the game, so they really slow down your troops' movement, and you have a weapon that many players will readily describe as "useless."
What are Light Mortars good for? They are effective against units moving in Open Ground, and they are especially effective against units in woods hexes... but a competent opponent will never willingly give your Light Mortars those kinds of shots. And all mortars benefit from a CH far more than other weapons (because their normal attack is so weak), but, considering that you are as likely to roll a breakdown as a CH, that's not exactly a significant advantage.
Light Mortars were used in such quantities that they should be as common as MGs in ASL/ASLSK scenarios, but you will find that they appear only occasionally, which is a clear indication that players and scenario designers alike often find them to be more trouble than they are worth. Even ASLSK #2, a module that is all about Guns and mortars, only uses Light Mortars in three of its eight scenarios.
ASL's portrayal of Light Mortars as weapons of limited effectiveness would seem to be pretty accurate: although in real life they were widely used, they were also seen as being rather ineffective weapons, and many countries steadily reduced their use of Light Mortars as the war progressed.
There are a number of special rules that apply to all attacks by mortars, whether they are large mortars (Guns) or Light Mortars (SWs). The actual use of mortars in combat, and the ways in which they differ significantly from other Ordnance, will therefore be covered later, in the discussion of Gun-sized mortars.
For now, here are the main differences between Light Mortars and the larger, Gun-sized mortars.
- Do not require a special crew.
- Do not have a facing.
- Can have their attack directed by a leader.
- Can be carried by infantry like any other SW.
Weapons that use the larger 5/8" counters are called Guns. These are large weapons that are normally transported to a battle by being towed behind a vehicle (example: an anti-tank gun), or by being dismantled and carried within a vehicle (example: a large mortar). Once they are set up on the battlefield, they either don't move at all, or they can only be moved slowly by infantry units that attempt to manhandle them.
Guns are classified by function: anti-tank gun (AT), infantry howitzer (INF), artillery (ART), anti-aircraft gun (AA), and mortar (MTR). These Gun types are always found in the upper righthand corner of the Gun counter.
A Gun's caliber (shell diameter in millimeters) is found in the lower lefthand corner. The Gun caliber may include a suffix that indicates the Gun's barrel length. Barrel length is important, because longer barrels fire shells at a higher velocity. Guns with higher velocity are usually more accurate, and their AP rounds will be more deadly against tanks.
The barrel length suffixes are not actually used in ASLSK, because the barrel length effects are already calculated into the To Hit charts that ASLSK uses. But for those who might be curious about what the various suffixes mean, here is a list showing the designations for 75mm guns of each length:
75* – short barrel/low velocity
75 – normal
75L – long barrel/high velocity
75LL – very long barrel/very high velocity
All four of these 75mm guns would have identical HE attacks, because HE power is based on the size of the shell and not its velocity. But they will have vastly different AP capabilities: a 75LL is devastatingly effective when firing AP rounds at enemy tanks, while a 75* is so ineffective with AP that it might not even be supplied with any AP rounds!
All of the Guns included in ASLSK #2 have a Breakdown Number of B12. If a Gun rolls an original TH DR of 12, it malfunctions. A Gun that malfunctions is either flipped over to reveal the R and X numbers that will be used in subsequent repair attempts, or, if its back side is labeled "limbered," it is marked with a Gun Malfunction counter instead. Note that some of the Guns that can fire while limbered do have a Breakdown Number of B11 while in that mode, but the ASLSK rules do not allow the use of limbered Guns.
Gun counters, with the notable exception of mortars, do not have any range printed on them. In game terms, the range of most Guns is essentially infinite... the American 57L AT Gun, for example, has an maximum range of nearly 250 hexes!
We'll now take a close look at how each of the different types of Guns function in ASLSK.
AT Guns were the primary defense armies had against enemy tanks. Some of the smaller caliber AT Guns may not have HE ammunition available, as noted by a black line underneath their caliber number.
Place the following units on board w:
wR6: German 2-2-8 crew, 75L AT
wU4: American 6-6-6
wV8: American 6-6-6
All Guns (weapons depicted on large 5/8" counters) must be possessed by specially trained crews in order to fire at full effectiveness. Crews are HS-sized MMC that depict two kneeling soldiers. Crews are always Elite, have the ability to self-rally, and are not subject to ELR. They can operate any Gun or SW without penalty. Their inherent FP is weak and short-ranged because they are not as heavily armed as regular infantry, and they have little experience in fighting as regular infantry.
The AT Gun in wR6 is placed on top of the crew counter, to show that the crew possesses the Gun. But Guns must also be placed to show the direction the Gun is facing. This is done by rotating the Gun counter until the Gun barrel points at one specific corner of the hex. This facing direction is noted by listing the two hexes that are adjacent to that corner.
In our example, place the Gun in wR6, on top of the crew, and facing wS6-wS7 (that is, the Gun barrel is pointing directly at wT6, wV6, wX6, etc.). The Gun is said to be pointing at hexspine wS6-wS7. A hexspine is the common side shared by two adjacent hexes, and it can also be called a hexside.
A Gun's facing defines its Covered Arc (CA), the area in which it may fire. In our example, the 75L's CA includes the hex rows wS6-wDD0, wS7-wZ10, and all hexes in between these two rows. The 75L could fire at, to give just a few examples, wU5, wU7, or wV8. But wU4 is outside its CA... to fire at wU4 the crew would have to turn the 75L to face the wR5-wS6 hexspine prior to the shot, and suffer a penalty TH DRM for doing so. Likewise, to fire at wS8, the 75L would have to be turned to face wR7-wS7.
To fire the 75L at the American squad in wV8 at a range of 4 hexes, the Infantry Target Type section of the To Hit Chart is consulted. This chart shows that, at a range of 3-6 hexes, the 75L's basic TH# is 8, with a CH occurring on a final TH DR of 3 or less. The shot would be TH8/+3 (+3 TEM for the stone building); a CH cannot occur on this shot, because the final TH DR will be at least 5 (lowest possible DR 2 + 3 TEM).
A German leader in wR6 could not direct the firing of the Gun. The 75L does, however, have a ROF of 2, which works exactly like a MG's ROF: if the colored dr of the TH DR is 1 or 2, the Gun can shoot again.
If the 75L scores a hit on wV8, the resulting IFT DR would be 12/+0. The 12 FP value can be found in two places: in the FP column on the To Hit Chart, and in column headings of the IFT itself. The 12 FP column on the IFT includes the designation "/70" to show that Guns with a caliber of at least 70mm will use this column. A Gun would have to be at least 80mm to use the 16 FP column.
After firing at wV8, regardless of whether or not a hit was scored, place a 1/2" –1 Acquired Target counter in wV8 (rule 6.10). If there is more than one Gun present, make sure you select an Acquired Target counter with the same letter designation as the firing Gun, so that there will not be any confusion as to which Acquired Target counter belongs to which Gun. The next shot the Gun takes at this target will receive a –1 DRM to the TH DR, after which the Acquired Target counter will be flipped over to its –2 side.
Thus, the first shot made by a Gun at a specific target will have no Acquired Target DRM; the second shot at that specific target will have a –1 Acquired Target DRM; and all subsequent shots at that specific target will have a –2 Acquired Target DRM. The Acquired Target counter can follow the target as it moves, as long as it remains in the Gun's LOS.
If the 75L fired at wV8 with a –2 Acquired Target counter in place, the shot would be TH8/+1 (–2 Acquired Target, +3 TEM), and now a CH could occur: DR 2 + 1 = final DR 3.
If the 75L decides to fire at wU4, it must change its CA as part of the firing process. After announcing the shot, remove any existing Acquired Target counter for that Gun that might be on a previous target. Turn the 75L counter to face wR5-wS6, a change of one hexside. This CA change will result in a +6 DRM to the shot: +3 DRM to change CA by one hexside, doubled because the Gun is in a woods or building hex. If the Gun had changed its CA by two hexsides, the DRM would be +8 (+3 and +1 doubled); and by three hexsides, +10 (+3 and +1 and +1 doubled).
The shot is therefore a TH8/+8 (+6 CA change, +2 TEM). The Gun would have no chance of scoring a hit, but it would still place a –1 Acquired Target counter after the shot. The Gun's ROF would be lowered from 2 to 1 because of the CA change. The lowered ROF and CA DRM only apply to this shot. Subsequent shots, assuming no further CA changes are made, would have no CA DRM and full ROF, so the next shot at wU4 would be a TH8/+1 (–1 Acquired Target, +2 TEM) with a ROF of 2.
Note that, even though the shot had no chance to score a hit, a TH DR must still be made to see if the Gun retains ROF or suffers a breakdown. The Germans could also have chosen to not fire the Gun at all, thereby allowing the Gun to freely change its CA at the end of the fire phase with no risk of a breakdown... but not firing would also mean that they would lose any chance for multiple shots and would not place an Acquired Target counter.
Gaining acquisition greatly increases the chance of scoring a hit on future shots, so it is common to see Guns taking shots that have little or no chance of hitting, just so they can place or flip an Acquired Target counter.
Guns handle Defensive First Fire shots somewhat differently than do personnel units. A Gun may First Fire until it loses ROF, and then it may make only one additional Intensive Fire shot. Turn the 75L's facing back to wS6-wS7 and we'll see how this works:
The American squad in wV8 declares normal movement and expends 1 MF to enter the Open Ground hex wU8, at which point the Germans decide to take a First Fire shot at them. The shot is TH8/–2 (–1 FFNAM, –1 FFMO), and the DR is 8 (colored dr is 4), which scores a hit but ROF is lost. The IFT DR at 12/+0 is then 9, resulting in a NMC.
The squad's MC DR is 5, resulting in no effect. Place a First Fire counter on the 75L, a –1 Acquired Target counter on the American squad, and a 6 Residual FP counter on wU8. Note that if the 75L had retained ROF, or if no hit had been obtained in the first place, no Residual FP counter would be placed.
The American squad now expends another MF to enter wT7. The –1 Acquired Target counter moves with it, but the 6 Residual FP counter remains in wU8. The Germans declare an Intensive Fire shot in order to fire again. Place an Intensive Fire counter on the 75L. Guns that use Intensive Fire must add a +2 DRM to their TH DR, and their B# is reduced by 2. The 75L will thus have a B10 for this shot, and the normal B12 becomes a X12: if the original TH DR is 12, the Gun suffers a permanent breakdown that cannot be repaired.
The Intensive Fire shot at a range of 2 hexes is a TH9/–1 (+2 Intensive Fire, –1 Acquired Target, –1 FFNAM, –1 FFMO), and the TH DR is 5, resulting in a hit. The IFT DR at 12/+0 is 4, resulting in a 3MC.
The squad's MC DR is 6, which breaks the squad. Flip the First Fire counter over to the Final Fire side, flip the American squad over to its broken side and place a DM counter on it, and flip the –1 Acquired Target counter over to its –2 side. Intensive Fire shots never leave Residual FP.
The German 75L managed to stop one American squad, but now it cannot fire again in this MPh (or in the following DFPh). The American squad in wU4 could move to wR5 with nothing to fear other than a couple of rather feeble 2/+1 FPF shots from the Gun's crew, and then it will be in position to hit the crew with PBF Advancing Fire followed by advancing into wR6 for CC and/or to capture the Gun. Even if the 75L had broken the squad with its first shot, the second squad would still likely make it to wR5, given the TH DRM penalties that result from changing the CA and possibly having to use Intensive Fire if the first shot did not retain ROF.
Guns are powerful weapons, but they are vulnerable if they are not protected by nearby friendly infantry.
When a Gun uses Intensive Fire, it is desperately firing shells at a faster than normal pace, with a corresponding decrease in accuracy and an increased chance of suffering a breakdown. But the mechanics of the Intensive Fire rule don't seem to make much sense at first glance.
For example, a Gun fires in the PFPh, does not retain ROF, and then declares Intensive Fire to take one more shot. If the Gun is firing faster in order to have time to take an extra shot, why doesn't the Gun have to declare this at the start of the PFPh, before it knows the results of its normal fire? And why don't the Intensive Fire penalties apply to all of the shots in that fire phase, instead of only to the last one?
These questions become even more interesting when you realize that this is exactly how Intensive Fire worked in original Squad Leader system (rule 70 in Cross of Iron): a Gun had to declare Intensive Fire at the start of the fire phase, and the penalties applied to every shot it took in that fire phase.
Squad Leader's Intensive Fire rule is very logical in theory, but it had major problems in practice. Applying the breakdown and To Hit penalties to every shot in the fire phase meant that sometimes the overall chance of scoring a hit was actually reduced when using Intensive Fire, and the overall chance of breaking the Gun was extremely high. SL players were apparently reluctant to ever use Intensive Fire.
The ASL version of Intensive Fire solves these problems. By applying the penalties only to the Gun's last shot, the rule insures that Intensive Fire always gives a Gun an increased overall chance of hitting a target, but with less accuracy and more chance of breakdown than a Gun that takes the same number of shots by maintaining ROF. And because the breakdown penalty only applies to a single shot, players are much more likely to use Intensive Fire in ASL than they were in SL.
Allowing a Gun to wait until its ROF is lost before declaring Intensive Fire also keeps an attacker facing a defending Gun from knowing the defender's intentions ahead of time. This is a common theme in all of the Defensive First Fire rules: the attacker must move without knowing for sure how the defender will respond. Declaring Intensive Fire after a Gun has taken all of its normal shots is pretty unrealistic from the point of view of the Gun itself... but it is very realistic from the point of view of an attacker who is maneuvering a tank or squad in sight of that Gun.
There are three situations in which a Gun may use Intensive Fire:
- When a Gun loses ROF in the PFPh and is marked with a Prep Fire counter, it may take one more shot as Intensive Fire during that PFPh.
- When a Gun loses ROF during the opponent's MPh and is marked with a First Fire counter, it may take one more shot as Intensive Fire (at any moving target) during that MPh.
- If a Gun starts the DFPh already marked with a First Fire counter, it may take one Intensive Fire shot during that DFPh, but only if it fires at an adjacent target. This is the only instance in which a Gun may use Intensive Fire during the DFPh.
Note that Intensive Fire is always voluntary: a Gun is never forced to take an Intensive Fire shot. There is no consensus among players as to whether taking an Intensive Fire shot is a good idea. Some players will use Intensive Fire freely, while others will hardly ever use it. It depends upon the situation in the game, your personal playing style, and how much risk of breaking your Gun you are willing to accept.
The German 75L AT has four types of ammunition available. On the front of the counter, the "75L" does not have a line above it or below it, so it has an unlimited supply of the standard HE and AP rounds. On the back of the counter, the 75L has two special ammunition depletion numbers: one at the top for APCR (with separate numbers for 1942, 43, and 44), and one for Smoke right above the X6. Whenever you have some doubt as to what a complicated ammunition depletion code means, check the historical notes for that Gun (example: the "*HE7 J4E" on the American 57L AT Gun).
AP and APCR are really only useful against tanks, so they will not be discussed until the next part of this tutorial series. Smoke, however, can be fired using the Area Target Type.
There are three target types that can be used when firing Ordnance using the To Hit process: Infantry Target Type (ITT), Area Target Type (ATT), and Vehicle Target Type (VTT). VTT is only used when firing at vehicles such as tanks, so it also will not be discussed until the next part of this tutorial series. The To Hit Chart in ASLSK #2 does not contain a VTT section.
ITT is by far the most commonly used target type... all of the shots taken by the German 75L AT in the previous examples have been ITT shots. (Note that some SW Ordnance, such as the BAZ 44, have their own custom To Hit tables included on their counters. These weapons never use any of the three standard target types.)
When you fire using the ITT, you are aiming at a non-vehicular unit/stack. When you fire using the ATT, you are aiming at the target hex itself, spreading out your shots to cover the entire hex. Hits are easier to achieve with the ATT, because the target hex TEM is not applied to the TH DR... but the hits will do less damage, because the FP used for the IFT DR is cut in half, and the target hex TEM is added to the IFT DR. In addition, a weapon using ATT will automatically lose ROF, regardless of the colored dr, unless it is a mortar.
ATT must be used if the firing weapon is a mortar, and it must be used by any weapon that fires Smoke or WP. It may also be used when firing HE, but may not be used with any other type of ammunition.
Under the ASLSK rules, the ATT will probably be little used except by mortars and when firing Smoke/WP: the two situations in which its use is mandatory. Having a better chance of scoring a hit is rarely worth having your FP cut in half and TEM added to the IFT DR. One notable advantage of using the ATT is that it allows you to fire at an empty hex, either to place Smoke/WP in that hex, or to place/flip a 5/8" Acquired Target counter there. This Acquired Target counter can then be used to increase the chances of successfully firing into that hex in some later turn, or it can be switched to a 1/2" Acquired Target counter if you fire using the ITT at a unit that enters that hex (see rule 6.11).
Here's an example of how the ATT is used when firing Ordnance Smoke. Place the following units on board w:
wC5: American 6-6-6
wC8: German 4-6-7, 9-2
wD7: German 4-6-7
wF8: German 2-2-8, 75L AT (facing wE8-wF7)
There are two hexes of Open Ground separating the German attackers from the American position. They risk being cut to shreds if they try to cross that Open Ground with the intent of engaging the Americans in CC. Smoke grenades won't help much, even if the Germans succeed in placing any with their Smoke Exponents of 1.
The 75L, however, has a Smoke depletion number of s7, so it will try to fire Smoke into the American position during the PFPh. The range is 5 hexes, which gives a TH# of 7 on the ATT. There is a –2 DRM for firing Smoke at a range of less than 13 hexes (hitting a target with Smoke is relatively easy), and the +2 TEM does not apply to ATT TH DRs, so the shot is TH7/–2. This guarantees that, if the 75L has any Smoke rounds available, a hit will be scored and the Smoke placed.
The s7 depletion number works like this:
- If the original TH DR is less than 7, the Gun fires Smoke and may try for Smoke again on a future shot.
- If the original TH DR equals 7, the Gun fires Smoke, but it may not fire any more Smoke for the remainder of the game... it used up all of its remaining Smoke rounds in this attack.
- If the original TH DR is more than 7, the Gun had no Smoke rounds available, so the shot did not actually occur (that is, the Gun is free to select another type of ammunition and redo the shot with it). Note, however, that if the original TH DR was 12, the Gun does suffer a malfunction in addition to being noted as having no remaining Smoke rounds.
The TH DR is 4 (colored dr was 2), resulting in a hit. ROF is lost because the ATT was used. Place a +3 Ordnance Smoke counter on wC5 and a Prep Fire counter on wF8. The original TH DR was less than 7, so the 75L may try to use Smoke again on a future shot. No Acquired Target counter may be placed when firing Smoke/WP (even if the Smoke shot fails to hit).
Ordnance Smoke differs from Smoke grenades in two ways: It is much thicker (+3 instead of +2), and it lasts much longer. Smoke grenades create a smoke screen that lasts only until the end of the MPh in which they were used, but Ordnance Smoke, if fired in the PFPh, will last two full turns:
Current Turn, start of your PFPh: Fire Ordnance Smoke and, if successful, place a +3 Smoke counter.
1st Subsequent Turn, start of your PFPh: Flip the +3 Smoke counter over to a +2 Dispersed counter.
2nd Subsequent Turn, start of your PFPh: Remove the +2 Dispersed counter.
Note that Smoke/WP is normally only fired in the PFPh. If Smoke/WP is fired in the DFPh, it is placed dispersed side up, so it will be much less effective and it will disappear quickly.
With the +3 Smoke counter in place on wC5, the best defensive fire shot the American squad can get against German units using normal movement will be 12/+3, if they hold their fire until a German unit moves adjacent (6 FP doubled by PBF, +4 for firing out of a Smoke hex, –1 FFNAM, Smoke Hindrance cancels FFMO), which will only result in a PTC on a DR of 7. This shot would not leave any Residual FP (6 Residual FP shifted left four columns on the IFT for the attack's +4 Smoke Hindrance is off of the chart).
Without the +3 Smoke counter, the best American shot would be 12/–2 (–1 FFNAM, –1 FFMO) which would result in a 2MC on a DR of 7, and 6 Residual FP. Blanketing the American defenders with Ordnance Smoke effectively added a total +5 DRM (from –2 to +3) to the attack they would have without Smoke being present! Note that any unit that fires OUT of a Smoke hex has to add +1 to the total Smoke Hindrance.
Smoke grenades are nice... when you can get them. But having a Gun that can fire Smoke? Priceless!
Let's see how this might play out: The 4-6-7 in wD7 moves to wC6, where the American squad makes its 12/+3 First Fire Attack. The DR is 9 resulting in no effect and no Residual FP. The 4-6-7, 9-2 stack now moves to wC6. The American squad's Subsequent First Fire attack, 6/+3, rolls a DR 7 for no effect.
In the AFPh, the combined German stack attacks with 8/+3 (4 FP doubled to 8 by PBF, –2 leader, +2 TEM, +3 Smoke). The DR is 7 for no effect.
The Germans then advance into the American hex for CC. They get a –2 drm on their Ambush roll from the 9-2 leader, and succeed in ambushing the Americans. The German CC attack is 9-6, for 3-2 odds, with a –1 DRM for Ambush and another –2 DRM for leadership. The DR is 5, which eliminates the American squad.
The Smoke counter has no effect on CC or Ambush, but by blinding the American defenders, it allowed the Germans to get into a position to use CC to win easily.
White Phosphorous, which some Guns have instead of, or in addition to, Smoke, is used just like Smoke. It is less dense – a +2 when placed and a +1 when dispersed – but it is nastier: placing WP on an enemy unit forces that unit to suffer a NMC.
INF Guns were used in the front lines to provide direct fire support to the foot soldiers. They are identical to AT Guns in terms of how they function in the game. The only practical difference between the two types is that INF Guns are usually short barrel, low velocity Guns which limits their effectiveness when firing AP rounds. The primary use for INF Guns is firing Smoke and HE... they were not designed for dueling enemy tanks.
ART Guns were designed for long range, indirect fire missions against an unseen enemy, where their firing would be directed by an artillery observer via radio or field telephone. Because their role was not to engage the enemy directly, these Guns will not appear in many scenarios.
When they are present in a scenario, ART Guns are used in much the same way as AT and INF Guns. The major differences are:
- ART Guns are normally much larger than AT or INF Guns, so most of them cannot be moved by manhandling under the ASLSK rules because they usually are not Quick Set Up (QSU) Guns.
- ART Guns will often not have any AP rounds available, as noted by a black line above their caliber number. They were not intended to engage enemy tanks with direct fire.
- ART Guns are too large to set up in a building hex. (Only small target Guns, and AT/INF Guns that are not large targets, may set up in, or be moved into, a building hex.)
The notable exception to these ART rules is the Russian 76L ART: a multi-purpose Gun that served equally well in both the ART and AT roles. Thus the 76L ART does have QSU ability, which is unusual for an ART Gun, and scenarios that use it will often grant it the ability to set up in a building hex via a Scenario Special Rule (SSR), making it nearly identical to a regular AT Gun.
With the ASLSK rules, AA Guns will never have aircraft to shoot at, but AA Guns can be used quite effectively against ground targets. In fact, the most famous AT Gun of the war – the German "88" – was actually an AA Gun!
AA Guns have a mounting that allows them to spin around rapidly, which is a necessity for a weapon that must track fast-moving aircraft. This is indicated by a large white circle on their counter. This 360 degree mount means that AA Guns only suffer a +1 DRM for each CA change of one hexside, and their ROF is not lowered when they do change their CA.
The downside to the 360 degree mount is that it makes AA Guns physically much bigger than AT/INF Guns of similar caliber. This means that AA Guns will have a larger target size, which makes them easier to hit, and they will not have QSU ability, so they cannot be moved by manhandling.
Small caliber AA Guns that are capable of rapid fire also have the ability to attack using their Infantry Firepower Equivalent (IFE). When a Gun uses IFE, it rolls directly on the IFT using its IFE FP, which is printed in parentheses next to the Gun's caliber, and ignores the To Hit process completely. In effect, it is firing like a large MG.
A Gun's ROF is reduced by one when IFE is used, but it gains the ability to use Subsequent First Fire and FPF. Note that CA change DRMs also apply to IFE shots; this rule was accidentally omitted in the ASLSK #2 rulebook, but it is present in the ASLSK #3 rulebook.
Trying to decide between using the To Hit process or using IFE can often be a difficult decision. My personal rule of thumb is: if the target is in high TEM terrain, and/or if there is a lot of Hindrance, then I use the To Hit process, because it provides the highest ROF, allows the use of Acquired Target counters, and, if I get a hit, it's a straight roll on the IFT at full FP. Otherwise, if there is little in the way of TEM or Hindrance, or the target is moving in the open, I use IFE to avoid the necessity of having to roll a hit for the shot to have any effect.
Mortars are short barreled, high trajectory weapons that have a number of unique features. Mortars operate very differently than normal Guns.
Small caliber mortars appear as SWs (Light Mortars), while large mortars (76mm and up) appear as Guns. All mortars function identically in the game, except as noted previously in the Light Mortar section.
Mortars are indirect fire weapons: instead of firing shells directly at their target in a flat trajectory, they fire shells in a high arc. This characteristic is the main reason that mortars differ so much from the other types of Guns. In theory, this high arcing trajectory would also allow mortars to fire over LOS obstacles... but this is not possible in the ASLSK rules. Mortars cannot hit a target unless they have a LOS to that target, so they work exactly like all of the other Guns in that respect.
Mortars can never fire from a building hex (another rule that was omitted from ASLSK #2 but is in ASLSK #3). So, while there are no specific restrictions against placing a mortar in a building, or moving a mortar into a building, there is no reason to ever do so unless you are simply moving through the building.
Unlike most Guns, mortars do have a range printed on their counters, in brackets in the lower righthand corner. Mortars have relatively short ranges when compared to other Guns, and their high arcing trajectory means they have a minimum range as well as a maximum range. The American 81* MTR, for example, can fire at any target that is at least 3 hexes, but no more than 75 hexes, distant. The mortar tube cannot be elevated enough to fire at a range of 1 or 2 hexes (it would have to fire almost straight up!).
Mortars never have AP rounds, and they must always use the ATT when firing. The ATT accurately depicts the nature of mortar fire: instead of firing directly at an enemy unit with precise aiming, mortars simply lob many shells into a general area. However, unlike other Guns, they can retain ROF when using the ATT... even if they are firing Smoke/WP.
76mm-82mm mortars do not have their ROF reduced when they change CA (although they still have the CA change DRM applied to their TH DR). These mortars, even though they are on large Gun counters, were still small enough to be easily turned.
Some mortars list "IR" as an ammunition type. This stands for "Illuminating Round." This ammunition is not used in ASLSK; in full ASL, these rounds can illuminate an area of the map when fired during night battles.
Because they must use the ATT to fire, mortars can only place the large 5/8" Area Acquired Target counters (rule 6.11). Note that SW mortars can also place these Area Acquired Target counters. But, because mortars can never convert these 5/8" Acquired Target counters into 1/2" Acquired Target counters by firing on the ITT, they can never retain acquisition on a unit that moves into another hex.
When indirect fire weapons attack a woods hex, the shells come down through the tops of the trees, and they can occasionally be detonated in the air by a tree branch or trunk. These "Air Bursts" are particularly deadly to infantry targets, as they spread shrapnel over a wide area and can hit personnel that are otherwise well protected against direct fire. Whenever a unit in a woods hex is attacked by a mortar, the normal +1 TEM is ignored and the –1 Air Burst TEM is used instead. This –1 TEM, combined with a mortar's high ROF, makes even the smallest mortars deadly when used against units in woods.
Place the following units on board w:
wAA4: American 6-6-6
wBB2: American 6-6-6
wBB5: German 4-6-7, 50* MTR
It is the German PFPh. The 50* MTR fires at wBB2. The shot is a TH7/+0 and the DR is 3 (colored dr is 1), resulting in a hit and ROF. A 50mm HE hit uses the 6 FP column on the IFT, which is then cut in half due to the use of ATT, so the hit is a 2/–1 (–1 Air Bursts TEM), and the DR is 9, which results in no effect. Place a 5/8" –1 Acquired Target counter on wBB2.
The 50* MTR fires again, and the shot is TH7/–1 (–1 Acquired Target) and the DR is 5 (colored dr is 3), resulting in a hit and ROF. The hit is a 2/–1, and the DR is 6, which results in a NMC. The American squad's MC DR is 8, which breaks them. Flip the 6-6-6 to its broken side, place a DM counter on it, and flip the Acquired Target counter to its –2 side.
The 50* MTR fires again, but this time at wAA4, so the Acquired Target counter on wBB2 is removed. The shot is TH7/+0 and the DR is 6 (colored dr is 3), resulting in a hit and ROF. The hit is a 2/+2 (+2 wooden building TEM), and the DR is 5, resulting in no effect. Place a 5/8" –1 Acquired Target counter on wAA4.
The 50* MTR could continue to fire until it loses ROF, but this is enough to show its effectiveness against the different targets. When firing at the building in wAA4, a hit of 2/+2 means that the German player would need a DR of 3 just to cause a NMC, but when firing at the woods in wBB2, a hit of 2/–1 means a DR of 6 will cause a NMC.
Guns as Targets
Guns that do not set up on a paved road hex are automatically emplaced (that is, they are protected by sandbags, etc., rule 6.3). Emplaced Guns have a +2 TEM, but this Emplacement TEM cannot be combined with any other TEM (except Air Bursts, see ASLSK #3) or gunshield DRM. If the Gun is moved to a new hex, the Emplacement TEM is lost and cannot be regained.
Some examples of emplaced Guns:
- A Gun emplaced in Open Ground has a TEM of +2.
- A Gun emplaced in a woods hex has a TEM of +2, but if it is fired upon by a mortar the TEM drops to +1 because of the –1 from the Air Bursts.
- A Gun emplaced in a stone building has a TEM of +3, because the Gun's owner will obviously choose to use the building TEM rather than the Emplacement TEM.
AT and INF Guns have gunshields (rule 6.6) that can also provide a +2 TEM (+1 TEM if attacked by a mortar), but only if the attacker is within the Gun's CA. This gunshield TEM cannot be combined with any other TEM. Gunshields rarely come into play, because Emplacement provides the same level of protection regardless of the direction the attack comes from.
Gunshields are most likely to come into play when a Gun is attacked by Ordnance: if terrain or Emplacement TEM is applied to the attacker's To Hit DR, the +2 gunshield TEM can then be applied to the IFT DR if a hit is scored. If, however, the gunshield TEM is instead applied to the attacker's To Hit DR then it cannot be applied to any resulting IFT DR.
Emplacement TEM and gunshield TEM can only protect a crew that is manning that Gun. They provide no protection to any other units that may be in the Gun's hex, including any non-crew unit that might be manning that Gun.
Each Gun has a target size which is either small, normal, or large. Small Guns have a white circle behind their manhandling number, while large Guns have their manhandling number printed in red. When a Gun is attacked by Ordnance, a small Gun receives a +1 DRM (it's hard to hit) while a large Gun receives a –1 DRM (it's easy to hit). Note that the TH DRM list in ASLSK #2 has these values reversed; the ASLSK #3 TH DRM list is correct.
When resolving an Ordnance hit on a Gun, a CH or a subsequent IFT result of KIA destroys both the Gun and its manning unit. An IFT result of K results in a malfunctioned Gun and Casualty Reduction to the manning unit. If the IFT result is not a KIA or K (not a direct hit on the Gun), the Gun is undamaged and the gunshield TEM (if applicable) can then be used to modify the IFT DR before finding the result that applies to the manning infantry. Direct hits are always judged before adding any applicable gunshield TEM to the IFT DR.
An emplaced Gun and its crew can set up using Hidden Initial Placement (HIP, rule 6.4). To do this, the opposing player leaves the room while the Gun's owner places his counters on the map. After he has set up his counters, he writes down the location and facing of each HIP Gun, and then removes each HIP Gun and its crew from the map. When the opposing player returns, he has no idea where the hidden Gun(s) might be located. If a HIP Gun was not set up in Open Ground or on a road, he may never see the Gun until it fires.
The use of HIP adds a realistic element of uncertainty to a scenario, but the technique is of somewhat limited usefulness when fighting infantry, since the Gun(s) are unlikely to remain hidden very long, and the first surprise shot taken against an infantry target may not be decisive. The most important use of HIP is with AT Guns that expect to be dueling enemy tanks. Whether or not the tanks will survive the AT Guns often depends upon how well the Guns' owner made use of HIP. Tank vs AT Gun battles will be covered in detail in a later article.
Place the following unit on board w:
wEE7: American 6-6-6
It is the American MPh. The American squad, seeing no enemy units nearby, announces normal movement and expends 1 MF to enter wDD6. The German player interrupts the American move at this point and places a 2-2-8 and 81* MTR in wBB2, with the 81* MTR facing wBB3-wCC3. The mortar and crew had been set up there using HIP, so the German player reveals his written note of their location and facing so that the American player can verify that they have been placed on the map correctly.
The 81* MTR takes a First Fire shot at the moving American squad. The shot is a TH7/–1 (–1 FFNAM, the orchard cancels FFMO), and the DR is 8 (colored dr is 3), resulting in a hit and ROF. The hit is 8/+0 (no TEM), and the DR is 11, resulting in no effect. Place a 5/8" –1 Acquired Target counter on wDD6.
The American squad continues to move, expending 1 MF to enter wCC6. The –1 Acquired Target counter cannot follow the moving squad; 5/8" Area Acquired Target counters always remain in the hex in which they were placed (only 1/2" Acquired Target counters can move along with a target).
The 81* MTR can now fire another First Fire shot, which would again be a TH7/–1. If it took this shot, the Acquired Target counter in wDD6 would be immediately removed, and then a 5/8" –1 Acquired Target counter would be placed in wCC6 after resolving that shot.
Red/Black To Hit Numbers
The ASLSK To Hit Charts include both red numbers and black numbers. The use of red numbers indicates less accurate shots. There are a number of different reasons why a Gun might use the red numbers, including inferior gunsights, poor quality ammunition, poorly trained gun crews, etc., although with the ATT section I think all the numbers are red simply because firing on the ATT never involves precision aiming at a particular enemy unit.
Firing at Range 0
Firing at Range 0 (at a target in the same hex) is not possible in ASLSK #2. The only time that opposing units can occupy the same hex during a fire phase is if they are all broken, or if they are under a Melee counter. And in both of those cases, those units are not allowed to fire at one another.
With the introduction of tanks in ASLSK #3, firing at range 0 will become possible.
Manhandling a Gun
QSU Guns can be moved during a scenario by manhandling (rule 6.5). Manhandling a Gun is pretty much a desperation tactic: it is slow, dangerous, uncertain of success, and cancels HIP and Emplaced status. It occurs so rarely in full ASL that I was surprised to see it included in the ASLSK rules.
Given the length of this article – and the number of rules and conditions that I have completely ignored in spite of that length – I think I should repeat a statement from Part 1: This tutorial does not replace the rulebook. I hope that I succeed in making the main rules more understandable, but reading and understanding the full rulebook is still a requirement in order to play ASLSK with Ordnance.