Decision at Elst

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I love tactical combat games set in WW2. But even though I think Jim Krohn’s Band of Brothers system (see here) is my new favorite, it hasn’t stopped me from indulging other flavors of the genre, like Decision at Elst. This is a new release in the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit (ASLSK) series, designed by Ken Dunn, and produced by Multiman Publishing. It’s the first of the ASLSK historical campaign games, featuring the British and German units fighting at Elst, Holland, in September 1944, as part of Operation Market Garden.

In the box you get a map of the actual battlefield (no geomorphic abstractions, here) done in the usual style. I like it. It’s clear, easy on the eye, and easy to play on. There are three countersheets (1/2″ counters) with infantry, weapons, tanks, guns, and markers. (ASLSK and its big brother ASL are marker intensive games.) As well as the rules booklet, there is a separate campaign rules booklet, player aid cards, and scenario cards. Although there are only four scenarios, the real focus is on the campaign game; a big, meaty, challenge. I suppose I should confirm that the game is self contained, so you only have to buy this to get a good taste of the world of ASLSK.

Currently I am mucking around with the scenarios to remind myself how the rules work. I think Ken Dunn did a terrific job with the rulebook in cutting the full version of ASL down to a much more digestible size. I do not like the style of writing for the rules, but that’s a personal preference, and hasn’t stopped me getting to grips with the game. My pet hate remains the fiddly tank turret rules, but I will probably use my own house rule and just ignore that for the nonsense it is.

ASLSK is an accessible system, and Multiman do a good job of supporting it (and the hobby). Although I have yet to get to the stage where I can tackle the full version (ASL) – and who knows if I ever will – games like Decision at Elst maintain my interest, and keep me at least thinking about the possibility.

If you are a novice gamer, you might be better off with ASLSK #3, as there are more scenarios in that package. But if you want to try out tactical gaming in a more historical setting – certainly as far as the map is concerned – this is a great place to start.