12-Point Facing in Advanced Squad Leader:
Exploiting the Grid

by Dirk Walker

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Table of Contents

How would 12-point facing work in ASL?

Introduction [top]

It is an exaggeration, not to mention a cliché, to say that I have a love-hate relationship with the hex grid (the “Grid”). But it is neither an exaggeration nor a cliché to say that I have a like-dislike relationship with this, the most significant characteristic of serious war games (at least board war games).[1] I like the Grid. It provides a nice compromise between realism and playability. But, like any compromise, there is something lost, something to dislike. While I envy miniature figurine gamers, and what I can only assume is the most realistic simulation of movement and facing (as well as visuals) available, I recognize that I will never be one. I am stuck with the Grid. I see no reason, however, why game designs fail to use the Grid to its fullest, and I’ll admit to secretly disliking it when rules designers seemingly arbitrarily forfeit available realism without gaining commensurate playability.[2] Thus, my like-dislike relationship. ASL is, in my opinion, a game that screams for a better use of the Grid. Which brings me, finally, to my point: Why isn’t there 12-point facing in ASL?


Before I go further, let me confess to having long ago strayed from the path of Rules Fiddling. When I was much younger (long before there was an A in ASL), I began modifying (fixing?) game rules the moment I opened the box. My recollection is that, in those days, games were in greater need of fixing, or at least I had more time on my hands, than they are, and I do, now. In fact, 12-point facing is something our group implemented for Squad Leader during those confident heady days.


I would also like to say at the outset that I recognize that, what used to be called “creeping featurism,” is among the greatest obstacles to game design.[3] I say this so that I am not misconstrued as just being just a blind feature-pusher or for not having immense respect for the achievement of the ASL rules.[4] I have never knowingly modified an ASL rule (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).


But, back to my point, why doesn’t ASL use 12-point facing? I cannot count the number of times during scenarios when I have been forced to choose between two facings, both of which were thirty degrees or so off of where I wanted (nay, needed) to face. Why should the fact that the designers of a specific scenario had scheduled the attacker to enter along the long board edge, as opposed to the short board edge, automatically result in the defender having to cant his weapons arbitrarily to one side or the other of the line of advance? I can see no reason for this. I clearly recall a tournament game in which, as defender, I had a half dozen pillboxes to spread out along the length of a board to stop the attacker entering somewhere along the long edge. Not being sufficiently familiar with the pillbox rules, I had faced all my pillboxes directly at the line of advance, which because it was from the long board edge, meant they were facing directly down the hex row. I was, naturally, informed that this was illegal and was required to twist my pillboxes this way and that in ridiculous herringbone fashion, a requirement based in no way on realism nor, I argue, needed solely to accommodate the Grid.[5]


I am sure there are myriad rules that I am not very familiar with (or that just didn’t occur to me when I wrote this) that might need to be thought about in order to decide how they would work with 12-point facing. And, if there is any real point to this article it is probably to illicit input from those aware of what those rules might be.

How would 12-point facing work in ASL? [top]

I envision 12-point facing to permit vehicles, guns, and, above all, pillboxes(!) to face directly down hex rows as well as down hex spines, thus permitting 12 points or facing instead of the current six. More fundamentally, it would permit a unit to directly face all four, instead of just two, board edges.


While facing down a hex row, the covered arc would remain 60 degrees, but would be measured from hex spine to hex spine (rather than from hex row to hex row as with spine facing).[6] Front target facing and rear target facing would remain 120 degrees each, but would be measured from hex row to hex row (rather than hex spine to hex spine as for spine facing). Similarly, side target facings would remain 60 degrees on each side, but would be measured from hex row to hex row rather than spine to spine. Sound confusing? It’s not. A casual glance at the Grid shows how readily it accommodates “down-the-row” facing without changing any of these angles or the ease of identifying them.


There are some who will point out here that down-the-row facing changes the number of hexes in a given covered arc at a given range.[7] Although they would be correct, I submit that permitting a player to face his units in such a way as to take advantage of terrain and the known or expected position of the enemy, including by considering the number of close-in hexes in a given covered arc, is in fact an improvement to the system, not a loss from it.

Changing covered arc

For changes in covered arc, any change up to 60 degrees incurs the one hex covered arc change penalty/cost. Thus, changing from hex spine to adjacent hex side, or from hex side to adjacent hex side, would incur the same one hex covered arc change penalty/cost.


Down-the-row facing units would be permitted to move only into the single hex the vehicle or gun is facing, or reverse movement into the single rear hex unless, of course, they first change their covered arc to spine facing. Even the most resistant must admit that rules permitting a vehicle to move only the direction it is facing represents at least some improvement in realism over rules that permit a vehicle to move only in directions 30 degrees off from where it is facing.

Vehicle bypass

For vehicle bypass movement, a vehicle would still be required to be facing such hex side. That is, it would still have to change covered arc from a hex row to hex spine facing before it could bypass along the hex side.

Conclusion [top]

Like I said, I’m sure there are other rules that would have to be thought about (crest status?), but I am confident that the Grid, by its nature, would easily provide for a way to accommodate such rules into a 12-point facing environment.

[1] While it is unknown to me when it was first employed in board games, the Grid, to me, is the most obvious and consistent outward sign of a serious board game, a game that seeks a higher degree of realism (as much as I might have loved Tank Battle and Feudal).

[2] Playability is key, but if the game isn’t realistic, what’s the point? For me, a difficult game that yet provides great realism is vastly superior to a very playable game that has little realism.

[3] It has been responsible, I’m sure, for defeating every (and there have been countless) game design quest I have ever embarked on. And, if I ever successfully complete a game design, I have no illusion of creating a game of the caliber of ASL.

[4] But do not get me started on those amazing Flank-Expanding VBM covered arc rules! One opponent suddenly had a flank shot on my Hetzer when it backed up directly from a hex that he only had a front shot to. Geometry-straining, disbelief-suspending, Panzer flambé. [See example of Panzer flambé - Ed.]

[5] Now, before someone starts sniping “angling your pillboxes to create overlapping fields of fire is desirable,” let me assert that such a comment is completely beside the point. The point is that a defender should be able to aim his units in the direction he wants, subject only to the limitations of the Grid and the cleverness of the rules, and my point is that down-the-hex facing is easily accommodated by the Grid. The fact that my herringbone defense became a herringbone of death was due more to the mistaken air attack by the attacker (which strafed right up his crowded hex row of advance) than to any device (inadvertent or otherwise) of mine.

[6] Bisected hexes would be within the CA.

[7] For example, for spine facing, there are two hexes at one hex range in a unit’s covered arc, whereas for down-the-row facing there is only one such adjacent hex in a units covered arc.