Alternative Titles/Edition History:
Bill Wilder/First to Fight Variants (2009)
Country of Origin:
5 scenarios, 160 (homemade) counters, 9-page rulebook, 2-page historical commentary, 1 "mini-map" (#02, appr. 8" x 10"). Overlays (? see below)
CONSUMER ALERT: These products, which are typically available only for high prices on E-bay, are of extremely poor quality and most ASLers would find them more or less unusable. There appears to have been little to no proofreading, rules development or playtesting. THESE ARE VERY POOR PRODUCTS; BUYER BEWARE.
One Wild Ride! (OWR) is one of a series of homemade ASL scenario packs created and marketed by Bill Wilder and Tom Tietz on E-bay. Perhaps “churned out” would be a better verb phrase to use to describe their release, as the number of such packs produced in 2008-2009 was startling. In and of themselves, the rapid succession of releases were prima facie proof that none of them had adequate proofing, playtesting, or development. A close examination of OWR confirms this hypothesis easily. The unfortunate fact is that Wilder and Tietz are taking advantage of the existence of a relatively small number of compulsively completist ASL collectors who are willing to pay ridiculous prices for ASL-related products of extremely low quality. As these First to Fight items are produced only in very low quantities, they sell on E-bay for very high prices, a fact that should NOT be taken as an indicator of quality.
Before he began creating these infamous packs, Bill Wilder was almost unknown in the ASL community and does not seem to have participated in competitive ASL play nor have a track record of playtesting or developing ASL products (he did play and design things for Squad Leader). The rules in OWR almost make it seem as if Wilder owned the ASL rules but did not necessarily play ASL, perhaps preferring the older, simpler Squad Leader series instead. His products mostly seem to be designed (perhaps that word should have quote marks around it) to be played using either ASL or SL rules, which as experienced ASL players know, would be extremely difficult, given the vast differences between the original Squad Leader and its evolutionary descendant.
One Wild Ride is a smallish pack with only 5 scenarios, each featuring the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. The question of whether ASL is even a suitable tactical wargaming system for Vietnam era combat is a controversial one, but in this case the point is moot as these products are hardly likely ever to be actually played by anyone.
OWR comes with a 2-page historical commentary. Its first page is a virtually fact-less “history” of cavalry from the dawn of time to the modern day. The second page sketchily traces the history of the 11th Armored Cavalry, which, if the commentary is to be believed, was virtually the best unit to ever fight in Vietnam (insert skepticism here).
OWR also has a loose-leaf rules booklet that provides rules for the U.S. Army in Vietnam, the Viet Cong and NVA, medics, radio telephone operators, infiltrators, the “Mad Minute,” helicopters and air support, mini-guns, and alternative rice paddy rules–all in just 9 pages.
For most ASL players, the rules are migraine-inducing at best. Nowhere present is the sort of rigorousness, completeness, and attention to detail that any new ASL-compatible rules always require. To say they are slapdash would be a compliment, especially insofar as the rules are basically intended to be for both SL and ASL at the same time.
Curious? Let’s explore. Opening the rules booklet, the first thing we come to are rules for U.S. troops. “The regular US Army infantry,” the rules tell us, “is represented by two units with their appropriate half squads.” Which units and which half squads? Your guess is as good as ours. There is only one U.S. squad represented in the countermix, an 8-5-7 squad. No factors are underlined, there is no smoke exponent. What is the other unit? Apparently it is invisible. And with only one non-underlined squad type, what happens to this squad when it fails its ELR? Is it disrupted? In a sense, it’s an academic question, because none of the scenario cards actually list ELR values for the combatants, just as they do not list SAN numbers, or provide environmental conditions or wind direction, among other AWOL features. Take a Tylenol and move on, it’s a long trip. The US units also come with a fascinating option called “full automatic,” which involves them rolling additional dice for really not much effect at all.
We soon come to the NVA and Viet Cong. The VC seem to use British-colored counters and come primarily in 6-5-7 and 6-5-8 varieties. They have a fascinating attribute called “withdrawal,” which is something that happens “whenever a full squad is broken and rallies as a half squad.” What does this even mean? How does a broken full squad rally as a half squad? In a sense, this too is an academic question, because even if it is possible to figure out how a unit qualifies for “withdrawal,” the withdrawal rules themselves are hopelessly broken. Withdrawing units must “move toward the edge of the playing board not controlled or occupied by the enemy.” Where are the rules in ASL that say how a board edge is “controlled” or “occupied?” But wait, it gets better. If a unit can’t withdraw, it is considered “surrounded.” It must either (its choice) move towards the nearest enemy unit and surrender, or “revert to a berserk state and remain in that state for the remainder of the game or until they are eliminated.” So let’s see, permanent berserkosity or surrender? As Eddie Izzard might say, “Cake or death?” How the rules might handle a permanently berserk unit, of course, is something best left to the imagination.
Next up are the Medic rules. The medic is a beauty. First, any units with the LOS of a medic receive “+1 to their rally factor and also for any DR to rally a broken unit.” Let’s parse this. First off, as written, it includes both friendly and enemy units, but let’s presume the author meant friendly only. What is a “rally factor?” Is this “morale?” Is it a leader’s modifier to rally? If so, adding a +1 would hurt it. Similarly, a +1 to rally DRs would also penalize the unit. But that’s only bush league goofiness. Medics do not take morale checks. Instead, if fired upon, “a DR of 9+ instead eliminates him.” Does this mean the DR that was just rolled against him? Is that a subsequent DR? There’s additional goofiness in the Medic rules, but of a more minor sort.
A beautifully useless unit is the radio telephone operator or RTO. It is used in place of a radio, must be stacked with a leader, dies as a leader does, allows the leader to use his modifier for “combat” while “still establishing or maintaining radio contact,” loses radio contact if the RTO breaks, and if eliminated is replaced by a radio counter. So can anyone explain how this is different from putting a leader counter with a radio in the scenario? It is 6 paragraphs of perfectly superfluous rules.
Speaking of superfluous, Bill Wilder clearly considers many of the rules in the rulebook to be unnecessary. There is a specific rules section on “Night Fighting Rules.” Here is the rule: “As many of the following rules may be imposed as the players think feasible for night battles. A particular scenario may provide exceptions or additional rules.” Below it are night rules references for SL and ASL (“See ASL rulebook section E.1”). So apparently there is a rule in this module to tell players that it is up to them what night rules they wish to use. Again, though, the whole section is moot, as there are no night scenarios in the module.
One does get a sense that Wilder has not read the ASL night rules, because what follows the “Night Fighting Rules” section is a section on “Infiltrators,” which essentially reads like an alternative version of the cloaking rules as if it had been come up with by a punch-drunk fighter. These rules include modifiers for “dog units” (non-existent in the module) and the possibility of “Silent Kills.” Although the rules, naturally, never come right out and say so, what this apparently is supposed to do is automatically kill enemy units in CC with a dr of 5-6 (!).
Next is a section on VC/NVA sappers, which is mostly non-bizarre, though it does give them a superfluous +2 to the “attack factor” of demo charges and flamethrowers, which is perhaps nice if one is using the IIFT (something Bill Wilder may not have heard of) but otherwise useless. This is followed by a section on “Elite Troops,” which are not subject to desperation morale and which do not break “but instead are turned over and reduced to a half team,” whatever that is (perhaps a half squad??). Which units are elite? Who knows. The rules section mentions US, USMC, and ANZAC units, but the latter two are not even present in the module, and the 8-5-7 squads can’t be elite because they have a broken side. The only units marked as elite in the countermix are the 6-5-8 VC squads.
Up next are the special ambush rules, “suggested due to the fact that both the NVA and the VC were masters at ambush.” These beautiful rules allow ambushes in any “non-open ground hex on any level…as long as there is some other type of protective terrain (bushes, trees, rice paddies, buildings, etc.). Bushes? The Desperation Morale archivist tells us he does not know in which ASL module the shrubbery rules were introduced. No matter, figure that one out on your own. How are these especially deadly ambushes performed? Whenever an enemy unit enters the “ambush site,” a die is rolled. On a dr of 1-3 (1-4 for NVA and elite units), “the ambush is a success.” In that case, the rules say, “consult the following and use the rules that best suit your playing style.” This gives the player an option of SL ambush or A11.4, the ASL ambush rule. Now, the use of these two rules together can be parsed in two different ways. First, the dr mentioned above takes the place of the standard ASL ambush dr. Or, the standard ASL ambush dr occurs, but only if the above dr was a success. Either way one parses it, it will screw the would-be ambusher. Parsed the first way, the ambusher never gets a chance to take advantage of ambush dr modifiers such as concealment, leadership, enemy CX status, etc., which often can provide a near certain ambush. Parsed the second way, the would-be ambusher must succeed with two drs, not just one, in order to ambush. Either way, it potentially makes ambushing more difficult than the existing rules rather than less.
We can skip the “Mad Minute” rules and go straight to the Sniper rules, which reveal that the author is not even familiar with the ASL sniper rules and only uses the original SL series sniper counters. Enough said. On to the weather and climate rules. Here’s an interesting one: “Any vehicle moving at more than three quarters (3/4) of its speed must roll two dice for its breakdown check. A roll of 12…means that the unit has broken down and is immobilized. Use immobilization rules for restoring movement to the vehicle (ASL rule D8.1).” We hardly know where to begin. Where in ASL is a vehicle’s speed mentioned? Is this movement? And where do ASL immobilization rules allow for “restoring movement to the vehicle”? The rules reference he provides specifically states that immobilization cannot be repaired during play, something all ASL players know to begin with. It is the rules such as this one which suggest that the author has not actually ever played ASL. In addition to what is included, the rules are made useless by what is not. There is not even a single confirmation, for example, that PTO rules are in effect in scenarios set in Vietnam (nor do the scenario cards never mention things like jungle, though they do mention rice paddies).
We could go on to helicopters and mini-guns, but life is too short. Enough with the “rules.” The five scenarios are all smallish, but what is the point of even describing scenarios that are unplayable? The “historical descriptions” are so brief and so close to generic that it is not clear even if the scenarios represent situations that actually took place.
The small map is mostly open ground, with a small hill and some woods (or jungle, if PTO is in effect?) and brush (or bamboo?). There’s a hamlet (are huts in play?) and some rice paddies. The artwork is not atrocious, but it is cookie cutter (all the one hex woods, for example, are clones of two specific hexes. Some of the woods hexes go considerably across hexsides into adjacent hexes; it is not even clear if FF1, for example, is supposed to be a woods or open ground hex. Even the hex numbering is wrong. The map is laminated. Ostensibly there is an overlay in the pack, but it was missing from the review copy.
The counters are the most attractive part of the product, and, indeed, its only draw. The artwork on the counters is not bad. The counters come in pre-cut baggies (as they were produced and cut by hand). In the end, though, they are as useless as the rest of the product. Are these units supposed to have spraying fire? Assault fire? Who knows? There are no Chapter H rules for any of the vehicles. There is an M-48 tank in the countermix with a 90LL main armament. Curious what the To Kill # of a 90LL gun is? So are we, but apparently we are doomed to disappointment. Another vehicle that appears is an M125A1; this vehicle was an 81mm mortar carrier. The 81* gun on the counter has no overscore or underscore. Does that mean it is treated differently from other mortars, or was the designer simply so clueless that he does not know how to represent mortars in ASL? We report, you decide.
Overall, this product is so comprehensively flawed that it is hard to imagine anyone aware of its nature who would actually want to obtain it, except for the compulsive completists and people who might be obsessed with the Vietnam War. It’s not playable except for people who are willing to make up all the rules themselves, and such people don’t need a product like this to do it. In almost every way, this is the exact opposite of what an ASL third party product should be.
DO NOT GET THIS.