Alternative Titles/Edition History:
(descended in concept from Operations and Operations Special Issues)
Multiman Publishing (2011)
Country of Origin:
36-page magazine; ASL content typically includes a small number of ASL scenarios and/or ASLSK scenarios, articles, and the occasional extra. Issue #5 for the first time included a geoboard (board 68).
Special Ops is the confusingly named successor to MMP’s former house magazines Operations and Operations Special Issues, which ended in 2008 and 2010, respectively. The new Special Ops basically resembles a significantly down-sized (at only 36 pages) Operations Special Issue. MMP announced its plan to make them twice-yearly, but in wargaming, most such plans falter. Its content typically includes a small wargame or mini-game, articles about various MMP games, and perhaps some ASL content.
Special Ops Issue #1 (Summer 2011)
The inaugural issue of Special Ops, Issue #1, included only a small amount of ASL-related content: two ASL scenarios, two ASLSK scenarios, an “ASLSK Corner” column, and an article on the Singling mini-CG. In associational content, it includes a non-ASL mini-game on Stalingrad, Savage Streets, designed by Tom Morin (designer of Valor of the Guards) that uses the Valor of the Guards map artwork, miniaturized, as the basis for its map.
ASL and ASLSK scenarios:
- O1 (Go Big or Go Home). France 1940, French vs. Germans
- O2 (Breaking the Ishun Line). Soviet Union 1941. Soviets vs. Germans
- S37 (Breaking the Panzers). France 1944. British vs. Germans
- S38 (Raiders along the Wall). Germany 1944. Americans vs. Germans
This issue of the magazine has relatively little to interest the ASL gamer.
Special Ops Issue #2 (Winter 2012)
Issue #2 of Special Ops includes an ASLSK Sequence of Play (which ASLSK players will probably appreciate very much), two ASL scenarios (03, O4), and two ASLSK scenarios (S39, S40).
Special Ops #2 also includes a rare treat for SASL players: SO (Soldiers of Orange), a Netherlands 1940 SASL campaign designed by David Meyler and Stephen Jackson. SO contains four Initial Missions: Hold the Line, Scouring the Polders, Streets of Rotterdam, and Burning Bridges. The novel aspect of the campaign is that a campaign uses only one of these initial missions. Following that mission, which in the campaign will represent the 1940 campaign, the player must then select one of four future paths to follow (each of which has its own missions): the player can “join the resistance,” “become a Marine commando,” “flee to Great Britain and end up on the Western Front,” or defect to the Nazis and fight with the Waffen SS. Each mission (24 total) is a variation on one of the existing SASL missions. SO thus provides a wealth of SASL play value.
O3 (A Frosty Morning). Tunisia 1942, British vs. Italians/Germans
O4 (Ain’t Running Away). France 1944, Americans vs. Waffen SS
S39 (Use Your Tanks and Shove). Tunisia 1943, Americans vs. Germans
S40 (Island Retreat). Italy 1944, Americans vs. Germans
Special Ops Issue #3 (Summer 2012)
Issue #3 of Special Ops includes a preview of the ASLSK HASL on Elst, an article on ASL etiquette by Dave Ramsey, and two much-needed play-aids on halftracks. These play aids are useful because they finally make clear the removable MGs (and who can remove them) for all of the American and German halftracks (a subject on which the rulebook is quite confusing). There is also an article on halftracks by John Slotwinski and Phil Palmer.
O5 (The Tsar’s Infernal Machines). Russia 1914, Russians vs. Germans
O6 (Third Time’s the Charm). Soviet Union 1942, Soviets vs. Germans.
S52 (Extraordinary Bravery). Poland 1939, Poles vs. Germans.
S53 (Workers Unite!) Soviet Union 1941, Soviets vs. Germans
Also included are 14 1/2″ counters and 10 5/8″ counters. The 1/2″ counters, and 2 of the 5/8″ counters, are existing ASL counters that did not previously exist in the ASLSK countersets (and are used for one of the ASLSK scenarios). The other 5/8″ counters are armored car counters for scenario 05.
That scenario, O5 (The Tsar’s Infernal Machines), warrants a bit more discussion, as it has the potential to be controversial. This is because O5 is not a World War II scenario; it is set 25 years before World War II even began. O5 is set in 1914, in the first year of the First World War. It thus comes from an era in which fighting tactics were totally different from the tactics used in the World War II era. For most nationalities for most of World War I, the squad was not even the basic tactical unit employed. Instead, it was the company or platoon (depending on nationality and year). ASL was most definitely NOT designed to represent World War I era tactics.
Over the 25+ years of ASL, a few third party designers have released the odd ASL scenario set in or around World War I. By their very nature, they were extremely ahistorical. But for that quarter century, no official ASL scenario had ever tried to transgress the “tactical barricade” between the two eras. Until now. Moreover, the scenario was not even an outside submission, but rather was designed by two key MMP figures: Brian Youse and Ken Dunn.
Needless to say, the scenario resembles World War I not at all. They did not even mandate a form of platoon movement for the infantry; instead, they gave infantry the ability to do optional banzai charges–in other words, giving them more tactical flexibility rather than less!
This was an unfortunate decision, representing a lapse in MMP’s otherwise solid stewardship of ASL. It is one thing for some person out there in Lalaland to design a World War I scenario using the ASL rules (or, for that matter, a Hundred Years War scenario using ASL rules). It is quite another for the stewards of ASL themselves to so casually break the bounds of the World War II era and force ASL into the World War I era. What is next, a Gulf War ASL scenario?
Special Ops Issue #4 (Summer 2013)
Special Ops Issue #4 includes minimal ASL content: 2 ASL scenarios and 2 ASLSK scenarios, as well as an article detailing how Rising Sun differs from Code of Bushido and Gung Ho.
O7 (Broken Wings). Soviet Union 1944, Soviets vs. Germans. Uses ASLSK board s.
O8 (Crucifix Hill). Germany 1944, Americans vs. Germans
S54 (Operation Natzmer). Soviet Union 1943, Soviets vs. Germans
S55 (The Fire Brigade). Romania 1944, Soviets vs. Germans
Special Ops Issue #5 (Summer 2014)
Special Ops Issue #5 includes one article on ASL, “Nippon Panzerfaust: A Guide to Using Tank Hunter & DC Heroes Effectively.” Despite the article’s title, it is essentially simply a rules article on tank hunter heroes (though it neglects HIP THH entirely). Its only references to tactics are basic and generic, so anybody who already knows the rules can skip this article altogether.
The issue comes with two ASL scenarios and two ASLSK scenarios. Unfortunately, they are not printed on the same 11″ x 17″ sheet of paper in the magazine (allowing the scenarios to be removed from the magazine itself), so players must either cut the scenarios out of the magazine or photocopy them (in color, if one wants to keep the colors). It would have been much nicer to have simply included two scenario cards with the magazine (which typically comes with inserts anyway).
Scenario O9 (Behind in the Count), designed by Chas Argent, is a small half-board scenario that takes place on board 68 (see below). It pits a dozen U.S. squads and a trio of Shermans against 9.5. German squads and two AFVs. At only 5 turns, it ought to play fast. The scenario includes an interesting SSR in which both sides set 4 1/2″ counters from their OB in a certain building (secretly), then place them on board. Thus units in that building might actually start in the same hex and begin in melee. Another interesting SSR gives the Americans a small chance of getting a free half-squad if they gain control of a multi-hex building (this represents some soldiers cut off by a German attack the day before). It looks like it could be an interesting tournament scenario.
Scenario O10 (City on the Edge), also designed by Chas Argent, starts with Bones McCoy having accidentally been injected with cordrazine…no, wait, wrong City/Edge. This scenario is another American/German scenario, also set in Germany in the fall of 1944 and featuring the 30th Infantry Division. It is also smallish and uses board 68, along with 63, but features a German attack. Ten German squads (and a flamethrower) and a quartet of AFVs (including a King Tiger) must attack 7 American defending squads, who are accompanied by two Shermans. Essentially, the Germans have to clear all American MMC from within three hexes of a key hex.
The first ASLSK scenario, S56 (In Pursuit of the French), is a France 1940 scenario using boards z and r. It is an exit scenario, though not actually a pursuit scenario. The French have 9 squads and 4 AFVs; the Germans have 10 squads and 4 AFVs.
The other ASLSK scenario is S57 (Haase to Hold On), and is an East Front scenario using board q. It features 17 Soviet squads (6 of them conscripts) attacking 12 German squads and a little AA gun. A lengthy SSR allows a German player to HIP an MMC.
For ASLers, however, the real “lure” of this issue of Special Ops is the inclusion of a geoboard, board 68. Board 68 features a fairly dense cityscape in its “top” half, with a be-buildinged one-level hill in the middle (which includes a church half on the hill, half off of it, which is a bit hard to imagine). The urban density tapers off at mid-map and the other half of the board is a more suburban area, dominated by one-hex wooden buildings. It also features a valley and some interesting configurations of hedges and orchards, perhaps simulating parks. All in all it is an interesting board and one that should get the juices flowing in many a scenario designer.
It should be noted that the inclusion of a geoboard in Special Ops has been somewhat controversial among the hardcore ASLers who dominate on-line forums like Gamesquad. A vocal minority have attacked MMPs decision to include the board in Special Ops (or, for some, including any ASL material at all in the magazine). Essentially, they argue that they shouldn’t have to buy the whole magazine (most of which is not ASL content) in order to get ASL content. Rather, the board, or all of the ASL content, should be included instead in some ASL-only product, like the ASL Journal.
This sort of attitude stems primarily from an unusual aspect of ASL. The ASL audience, in sharp contradiction to the audiences of almost every other wargame, contains a fairly large proportion of people for whom ASL is the ONLY wargame they play, at all. Most wargamers play from some to many different wargames throughout their lives. This is true for many ASLers as well, but not for the mono-gamers. The mono-gamers play ASL exclusively and thus sometimes exhibit an unusually parochial attitude at times, as here. Some have gone so far as to claim that MMP was deliberately including the board with Special Ops in order to cynically profit from those mono-gamers who they knew would be “unable to resist” buying the magazine.
Another vocal minority have defended MMP from such claims, with some suggesting that it is a good thing for ASL material to appear in as many venues as possible (for greater exposure) and that it is a very natural thing for MMP to want to include material for ASL, its flagship game, in its own “house” magazine.
Perhaps the majority of ASLers did not have strong opinions on the subject, primarily because MMP had announced that Board 68 would be made available for separate purchase for those people who wanted the board but not the whole magazine.
There is probably only one theoretical downside to the inclusion of this board in Special Ops. Because many copies of this board will, by the very nature of Special Ops’ audience, end up in the hands of non-ASLers, it may be possible that, in years to come, there will be a “shortage” of copies of Board 68 in the same way that there was for some years (until the release of Action Pack 3 in 2007) a shortage of boards 42 and 43. However, this is very speculative and it remains to be seen if that will happen or not (if it does, MMP will probably have to include board 68 in some future product as well).