Critical Hit (2015)
Country of Origin:
5 11" x 16" thick paper/thin cardstock unmounted geoboards (Q, R, S, T, U), 6 pages of rules, 8 scenarios, 368 die-cut counters, play aid
GWASL III: Over There! (hereinafter GWASL III) is the third in Critical Hit’s series of scenario/map packs trying to bring ASL rules to World War I. Before reading this write-up, the write-up for GWASL I, the first in the series should be read, as many of the comments made there apply to this product as well and will not be repeated. At the very least, the main take-away should be that ASL is ill-suited for representing World War I tactical combat and GWASL does a poor job of trying.
Previous packs have introduced the Germans, British and French; GWASL III introduces the Americans. The Americans of GWASL come in these flavors: Elite 5-5-8, 1st Line 4-5-8, 2nd Line 4-4-7, Green 4-3-6. Their broken morale levels are not higher, they have no smoke grenades, they cannot deploy. They have no Spraying Fire (except MG) or Assault Fire. Per the mandatory platoon movement rules of GWASL, the Americans are given the highest level of tactical flexibility, better even than the British, which is something that is certainly not reflected in the historical record (the performance of American troops, mostly inexperienced, in World War I was mixed at best).
The other rules generally repeat rules already introduced in GWASL I and GWASL II (though ownership of GWASL I is required for all the scenarios in GWASL III). There are also seven paragraphs of rules for pigeons. Yes, pigeons.
There are 2 pages of Chapter H-style rules in addition to the 4 pages of general rules. This reflects in part the fact the U.S. in World War I used almost all borrowed equipment rather than its own heavy weaponry. In addition to the rules there is a cardstock “Quick Reference Data Card” play aid much of which was based on Ole Bøe’s popular QRDC–though this was apparently done without permission and without credit (the card says “developed from public domain pdf”).
One and a half countersheets of 1/2″ and 5/8″ counters provide the American OOB, including six pigeon counters, as well as a handful of British and German counters. The full countersheet, containing the 1/2″ counters, was mistakenly not included in many copies of GWASL III. Instead, an American countersheet from a World War II product was accidentally included instead. Critical Hit mailed the correct countersheet to people who had ordered GWASL III directly from Critical Hit, but it is not clear whether or not this problem found its way into copies sold by physical or on-line retailers (including on E-bay). ASLers considering purchasing GWASL III should make sure that their copy has the correct countersheet.
GWASL III comes with 5 11″ x 16″ unmounted geoboards (printed on lighter stock–perhaps heavy paper–than the cardstock of “official” unmounted geoboards) in the style developed originally by Gary Fortenberry for MMP. These boards–Q, R, S, T, U–are mostly countryside/wilderness scenes, with one board featuring a couple of motley collections of houses. Critical Hit has developed a habit of, ahem, repurposing their own previously printed geoboards, often with mild terrain modifications, so it is possible that one or more of these boards may have appeared in similar form in some other product. However, they may also be completely original. Graphically, they look okay. They have the building pixelation problem that has appeared in all Critical Hit geoboards of recent years, but the fact that there are few buildings and they are generally one-hex buildings makes the problem less visible.
More noticeable, however, is the board cutting issue. Though ostensibly 11″ x 16″, the boards are actually a little wider and longer than that, which means that they do not mate flush with other boards, including boards in the same product. Players will either have to carefully overlay the edges of boards over those of others, or put up with mismatched board edges. Or they can physically cut the boards properly themselves, which is what Critical Hit should have done in the first place.
The 8 scenarios are generally large in size. All of them are set in 1918; none in 1917. AFVs appear in a few scenarios but most are infantry-only. OBA is used in 5 scenarios; Air Support in 1 scenario. The fucking pigeons appear in 2 scenarios.
This is what it is. What it isn’t is World War I tactical combat.
2020 Update: In 2019, Critical Hit released, for separate purchase, a set of “HotHex” maps for this product. It is not exactly clear what a “HotHex” map is (Critical Hit released them for several products), but it seems they may be larger-hex versions. Critical Hit claims that “each map found in the module is provided as a 22″ × 34″ set of 4 linking boards.”
[Previous packs have introduced the Germans, British and French; GWASL III introduces the Americans. The Americans of GWASL come in these flavors: Elite 5-5-8, 1st Line 4-5-8, 2nd Line 4-4-7, Green 4-3-6. Their broken morale levels are not higher, they have no smoke grenades, they cannot deploy. They have no Spraying Fire (except MG) or Assault Fire. Per the mandatory platoon movement rules of GWASL, the Americans are given the highest level of tactical flexibility, better even than the British, which is something that is certainly not reflected in the historical record (the performance of American troops, mostly inexperienced, in World War I was mixed at best). ]
Again, your review is valid, however this rule makes sense to me as well (platoon movement factor of 2).
Everything I have read and seen on the Americans performance in WW1 does indeed show a mixed record of tactical proficiency, but the authors and records also agree that the Americans (until late October 1918) were reckless in advance, the contemporary sources (like Gen. George Marshall, among many others – and even the German sources) say this. Therefore Americans always seemed to take too many casualties in the advance, where more experienced and tactically advanced like the British as a whole – would be more cautious and thorough.
So allowing the Americans to try to continue to advance even in small numbers does reflect their spirit and rashness…and will also increase their casualties.
Larry Marak says
Its not doughboy’s and platoons without coming pigeon rules pigeon rules
Really surprised the reviewer didn’t praise that element of the adaptation to the ww1 era.
Larry Marak says
Thick fingers above.
This has been a few years now, but I must ask – precisely why is WW1 not portable to ASL rules system?
The tactics, time frame of turns, movement – etc are all the same at Squad-Platoon level.
The 1917 US Army Infantry Manual show that…. So I don’t understand why WW1 combat is not a fit to the ASL system?
I mean, having been an infantryman trained in the 1980, and read the 1917 Infantry manual – the concepts of movement to contact, deploy, lay down a base of fire to fix the enemy front – while flanking and penetrating the flank or rear of the enemy position by rushes to cover, were spelled out in 1917…nothing has changed in 80 years – except the tools available. So if that was valid in 1917, and still valid in 1980…I can’t see why WW2 Infantry combat via ASL is invalid for a representation of WW1 circa 1917-1918.?
Duplicate reply for GWASL 1
OK, it’s been a couple years now, but I have a researched intelligent answer to the below:
Platoon Formation Number. This is the single most important rule in GWASL, as it is basically the ONLY rule in GWASL that tries to simulate the fact that squads were not the tactical unit of maneuver as well as basically the ONLY rule in GWASL that tries to simulate the evolution of small unit tactics over the course of the war. Essentially this number is a minimum “platoon” size (it doesn’t literally represent a platoon, but is more a vague measurement of tactical flexibility) required to move freely as a “platoon,” the main form of movement in GWASL (although see below).
The PFN values are as follows:
British 1914-1917: 6
British 1918: 3
French 1914-8/1917: 6
French 9/1917-1918: 2
German 1914-1915: 3
German 1916-1918: 2
Other nationalities: not mentioned
The thing is, by 1917-1918, armies had developed in tactical thinking and operation.
The Germans developed their well known Stoss Truppen tactics, allowing the platoon to advance in sections of a platoon (a platoon was generally 5 squads – 2 with a MG15/08 and supporting riflemen each, one with grenade launchers, 2 more with riflemen/hand grenade men) so the German platoon would generally advance in sections – 2 “squads” each with rifle grenade launchers in support – 2 squads as a single unit (one with an MG15/08, and another with riflemen/grenades) is appropriate for a Platoon Formation Number of 2 squads in GWASL terms.
The British divided the platoon in a similar but different way – 2 Lewis guns supported by 7 men each, to support the platoon, the advancing “squads” were 2 of rifle/bayonet men (about 16 men), supported by a couple rifle-grenade teams of 3 or 4 men each – another “Squad”. The British doctrine prescribed a movement of squads by “blobs”, So a Platoon Formation Number of 3 “squads” is appropriate for the British.
The French divided their platoons into 2 half sections each of about 9 men – consisting of 1 squad with riflemen and a Chau-chat, the second squad with a about 7-9 men with rifle grenades and hand grenades . So two “squads as a
Platoon Formation Number is appropriate for the French in 1918.
The Americans divided their platoons into 2 half platoons in the French model. Each half platoon had 2 Chau-chat AR’s and 1 or 2 rifle grenade teams of 3 or 4 men, the other “squad” was 2 8-man units of rifle/bayonet men and another 8-men of hand grenades.
Later, the Chau-chats were replaced with B.A.R.’s by September 1918, and the St Mihel offensive.
Platoon Formation Number of 2 “squads” is appropriate for the U.S. Army as well.