"If there's a bustle in your hedgerow…"

Wall Advantage & Bocage in ASL
by Peter Young

Part 1 - Wall Advantage

If you polled owners of the 1st edition of the ASL Rulebook as to what were the most confusing rules, the odds were good that the answers would include Human Waves, Bocage and Wall Advantage. These have all been revised since then to clarify things. Human Waves were erraticized with the release of Doomed Battalions, while Wall Advantage and Bocage had to wait until the release of the 2nd edition of the Rulebook.

Wall Advantage (WA) and Bocage are much more understandable now than in their original format. However, they still can be tricky rules to apply. This is a shame, especially if it makes players shy away from certain scenarios. Four of my favorite ASL boards are deluxe boards e thru h, released in "Hedgerow Hell." Unfortunately, these boards (and the scenarios originally released in that module) are most vulnerable to any stigma against WA and Bocage. This will then be a two part article that will attempt to help clarify these rules in the hope that this will help people reevaluate any bias against those boards and scenarios and reconsider giving them a chance.

A more detailed analysis of the WA and Bocage rules, as well as their evolution from the 1st to the 2nd edition of the Rulebook is given in Journal 3. This article should be considered more of a primer, written with the idea that there can never be enough explanation or examples for difficult rules. Besides, it's not enough to just be given a laundry list of when you can declare WA. It helps to have it pointed out to you what the implications of that list are. Hopefully this will fulfill that goal.

What is Wall Advantage? WA refers to a situation where opposing units are in adjacent hexes with a wall or hedge hexside between them. Only one side can claim the TEM of that wall (+2) or hedge (+1) and that side is said to have WA over that hexside. To picture this, it's easy to imagine two combat units with a wall between them. The one with WA would be arrayed against the wall, able to fire over the wall at their opponents but at the same time having protection from the wall against return fire. Obviously this is a significant advantage to the side with WA who receives the appropriate TEM when fired on by the adjacent unit(s) but can fire back without that TEM. It should be noted though that a unit without WA could still claim the hexside TEM against firing units (whether adjacent or not) who do not have WA over that hexside. An important effect of WA is that in ASL, a unit either has WA over all of the hexsides of its hex or none at all. In other words, if a unit has WA over a hexside shared with an adjacent enemy unit, the enemy unit cannot claim WA over any of its other hexsides. Note though that Deluxe ASL is handled differently. Here, WA status is claimed/forfeited on a hexside-by-hexside basis. Thus a unit in DASL could have WA over some of its hexsides, but not have it over others.

Who can claim WA? Generally any infantry unit can claim WA as long as it is not in an entrenchment, pillbox or above wire. The main requirements of the unit itself is that it be armed and not broken (although a broken or unarmed unit can claim WA if other friendly units in the same hex have WA). There are a couple of other exceptions, given in rule B9.32. A vehicle can also claim WA as long as it is not eligible to claim an in-hex TEM of +1 or greater.

When can a unit claim WA? This is somewhat tricky. Rule B9.322 lists five specific times a unit can voluntarily claim WA:
1. During setup
2. At the end of any Rally Phase
3. During the unit's Movement Phase or Advance Phase
4. When a unit loses HIP
5. When all adjacent enemy units lose/forfeit WA over any shared hexsides.

Note that the opponent's MPh is not one of the times listed. Thus a unit cannot suddenly lay claim to WA at the moment an enemy unit moves into the adjacent hex, something that I think a number of players miss. However Mandatory WA (B9.323) helps bail out the forgetful player. While the preceding rule says "Wall Advan" counters must be placed to indicate WA status, this rules states that a unit automatically gets WA status if possible if it is unable to claim any in-hex TEM of +1 or greater. No counter is needed unless an enemy unit moves adjacent, at which point the counter clarifies which side has WA. Thus if you have a unit in open ground and an enemy unit moves adjacent on the other side of a wall/hedge, your unit is already assumed to have claimed WA, even if you forgot to do so.

When is WA lost or forfeited? Note that per B9.323, a unit without an in-hex TEM of +1 or greater cannot voluntarily forfeit WA (not that you'd likely want to do so anyway). Otherwise WA is lost if the conditions of B9.32 no longer apply (i.e., if a unit is no longer armed and unbroken, if it claims an in-hex TEM, or if an enemy unit occupies the same Location, such as an enemy vehicle passing through). Unlike claiming WA, voluntary forfeiting of WA can be done at any time. Thus, if a unit has WA over a wall/hedge, but an enemy unit has LOS to that hexside clear of obstacles (and thus clear of any TEM), the unit may choose to take any in-hex TEM (e.g., if there was a building in the hex) and forfeit the WA so that any attack against it would get that TEM. However, this decision cannot be made after declaration of an attack until that attack is resolved.

So, here are the examples.

Example 1
German MPh. The 6-6-6 is in open ground, while the 7-4-7 is in woods. The 8-3-8 Assault Moves into the building in CC8. The 6-6-6 automatically has WA (B9.323 Mandatory WA) since it has no in-hex TEM of at least +1 (and should now place a WA counter on CC9 so that there will be no confusion). The 8-3-8 would still receive building TEM for any Defensive fire but could not claim WA itself because the 6-6-6 already has WA.

The 4-6-7 now Assault Moves into the church in AA7. The 7-4-7 would like to have WA as it would provide the +2 wall TEM against any fire from AA7 rather than the +1 the woods provide. However, the American doesn't qualify for Mandatory WA (having a +1 in-hex TEM already) and cannot claim WA because it is the German's MPh. The 4-6-7 meanwhile has several choices. It could claim WA immediately upon entering AA7, giving it a +2 TEM for any Defensive fire from AA8. It could stay in the church, receiving a +3 TEM for any Defensive fire and then claim WA during its APh, or advance into BB7 or Z7 and likewise claim WA during the APh. It could also advance into AA8 in which case neither unit would have WA. Finally, it it stayed in the church, or advanced into BB7 or Z7 without claiming WA, then the 7-4-7 would be eligible to claim WA during its subsequent RPh (the German could also claim WA during the American RPh, but only if the American did not claim it first as per B9.322).

All clear? Let's try another.

Example 2
British MPh. The 5-4-8 is in open ground and the 4-6-7 is in grain. The shading on the 4-6-7 indicates HIP. The 4-5-8 assault moves into P3. The 5-4-8 has Mandatory WA since it is in open ground (and again should now place a WA counter), and thus can fire against the British unit with a –1 DRM for FFMO. The German will also receive the +1 hedge TEM for any AFPh fire from the 4-5-8.

The 6-4-8 assault moves into Q5. Now the German has a choice. Unlike the American 7-4-7 in Example 1, the 4-6-7 actually could claim WA once the British unit moves adjacent because a HIP unit becoming revealed is eligible to claim that status. (This seems realistic, indicating an ambush set up by the German.) Thus by revealing itself, the German would have WA and could fire on the British with the FFMO DRM, just like the 5-4-8 could against the 4-5-8. Of course, the German could also simply keep HIP. If the British unit subsequently advanced into R4, the German would be placed under a "?" counter at the beginning of the CCPh, with a –2 drm on its ambush die roll.

Not so bad, eh?

Example 3
Japanese MPh. All units are in open ground except for the 3-3-6 and the 4-4-7 which are in stone buildings. There is a leader (not pictured) stacked with the 3-4-8 squad.

The 3-4-7 assault moves into DD1. The 5-3-7 automatically has WA as it is in open ground (Mandatory WA). The 3-4-7 would still receive wall TEM for any Defensive fire from the 3-3-6 in FF1 if it wanted (although it would likely take the +3 TEM for being in the building instead).

The 4-4-8 assault moves into DD4. The 3-3-7 cannot claim WA since the 4-4-7 in FF3 has WA already, and a unit cannot have WA over some hexsides and not others (except in DASL). The 4-4-8, upon entering DD4, has the option of claiming WA immediately, or may remain in the building to receive the +3 stone building TEM for any Defensive fire. For this example, assume it claims WA immediately. Note that even though the Chinese 3-3-7 unit does not have WA, it would still be eligible for wall TEM against fire from the 3-4-8 in DD2.

Because the 4-4-7 has WA, he cannot claim in-hex TEM vs. any shot. Realizing that the Chinese 5-3-7 in EE1 has a clear LOS (and thus would suffer no TEM on a shot), the Japanese player drops WA for the 4-4-7 so it would be eligible for the +3 TEM for any shot against it. However, despite the 4-4-7 forfeiting WA, the 3-3-7 still cannot claim WA because of the 4-4-8 which now occupies DD4 and which has WA over the common hexside.

The 3-4-8 now declares a Banzai Charge (remember, there is a leader stacked with this squad), and picks the 5-3-7 in EE1 as its target. It survives Defensive fire in EE2 and enters EE1. As soon as it enters that Location, the 5-3-7 automatically forfeits WA. The 3-4-7 in DD1 could then immediately claim WA if it wanted to.

Congratulations. You've finished Lesson 1. Reread the examples in the ASL Rulebook to further reinforce the WA rules. Next up will be the terror of Normandy: Bocage.

Part 2 – Bocage

Okay, now that you've mastered walls, hedges and Wall Advantage, it's time to move on to the next level of difficulty. Bocage was a tremendous impediment to the Allied forces following the Normandy invasion. For the first 15 years of ASL's existence, Bocage was just as much of an impediment to ASL players as well. The original rules were difficult to understand and apply (both for Bocage itself as well as the Wall Advantage rules discussed in the previous article) and many players just stayed away from any scenario involving Bocage. In retrospect, the decision to dedicate an entire DASL module ("Hedgerow Hell") to the topic may have been one of the things (along with the emphasis on miniatures) that prevented DASL from ever catching on with a large segment of the ASL community. Fortunately the revised rules in the 2nd edition of the Rulebook have helped clarify things. Despite this, Bocage rules still require some specialized interpretations of the rules to understand and apply correctly, and it is hoped that this article will help get more players to investigate what can be a truly enjoyable ASL experience.

What is Bocage? These generally represented "hedges" grown on top of earthen and rock walls. These had the effect of subdividing the Normandy battlefield into small areas, ringed fields with very limited LOS beyond that field. The hedgerows were tremendous defensive terrain (in close quarters) and very difficult to traverse quickly. The new version of the Bocage rules do a nice job of bringing these problems to ASL. Note that in the following discussion, a "Bocage hex" generally refers to a unit in a hex formed by a Bocage hexside(s) and with any applicable LOS crossing that hexside(s).

Who can use Bocage? Well, everybody, essentially. The effects of being behind a Bocage hexside apply to any unit. However, movement across Bocage hexsides is restricted to infantry units and fully tracked vehicles. There are also restrictions on Guns (not mortars or vehicular ordnance), which cannot change CA and fire in the same fire phase through a Bocage hexside (due to the difficulty in repositioning these weapons to a new firing position). A vehicle with the famous Culin device can breach a hedgerow (see B9.541) which aids movement across that hexside but otherwise changes none of the effects of that hexside.

How does Bocage affect Line of Sight (LOS)? Here's where the going starts getting tricky. In understanding this, remember that LOS is pretty much always reciprocal (if unit A can see unit B, then unit B can see unit A as well).

1. A unit behind a Bocage hexside can see over that hedgerow only into the adjacent hex (unless it has WA). Thus a unit without WA can only see into the adjacent hex. More importantly, that unit can only be seen from the adjacent hex. More on that later. (Note that this is different from being able to see into a Location. Clearly from the rules a unit without WA and behind a Bocage hexside cannot be seen except from the adjacent hex. A Q&A from MMP has confirmed though that LOS can exist into a Bocage Location from a non-adjacent unit. This means that a non-adjacent unit can see into a Location behind a Bocage hexside [a "Bocage Location"], even if no actual units in that Location have WA and are thus out of LOS. Thus, an entrenchment behind a Bocage hexside can be seen (and thus revealed) by a non-adjacent unit, even though any units in that Location without WA cannot be seen, whether they are in the entrenchment or not.)

2. A unit with WA can see over the hedgerow and beyond the adjacent hex. Again, since the unit has WA, it can now see beyond the adjacent hex, but can also be seen by units beyond the adjacent hex.

3. LOS cannot be traced along a Bocage hexspine. That complicated sentence in B9.2 explaining that LOS can be traced along a hedge/wall hexspine if being traced to or from a hex that that hexspine touches does not apply to Bocage. No LOS.

4. Bocage blocks LOS as a one-level obstacle. Well, well, here is where things get even more confusing. The rulebook recommends treating Bocage like a one-story building. We already know that LOS extends into a Bocage hex under the right circumstances (i.e., if adjacent or when WA exists). However, LOS never extends beyond that hex for same-level LOS, just as if a one-story building were in the Bocage hex. Makes sense so far. What's trickier is how LOS to/from a higher elevation is handled. Again, use the building analogy. Pretend a one-story building were present within the Bocage hex. If a unit could see over that building to a hex beyond, then LOS exists to that farther hex. Thus, a unit on level one (i.e., either on a level-one hill or on the first level of a building) can never see beyond a Bocage hex, anymore than it could see ground-level beyond a woods hex or any other one-level obstacle.

Got it? The example should help.

How does Bocage affect fire attacks? Essentially the same as with walls (thus, a +2 TEM, not the +1 of a hedge hexside). As long as LOS exists, attacks can be made. What changes are the effects of WA status on that LOS, as will be explained later.

How does Bocage affect Concealment? Here's where the cool effects of Bocage really come into play, especially if you are the defender. If a unit would receive Bocage TEM vs. all enemy units with LOS to it (i.e., all LOS would cross a Bocage hexside), then two special rules apply:

1. That unit is treated as being in concealment terrain for all "?" loss/gain purposes. Not a big deal in and of itself. It's in concealment terrain. Fine.

2. That unit is treated as being out of LOS for being able to gain "?" and also for "?" loss purposes related to MPh and RPh activities. This is big. "?" gain when out of LOS is much easier than would otherwise be the case as a quick perusal of the concealment table would indicate. Essentially, when out of all LOS a good-order unit can always automatically gain "?" unless within 16 hexes of an enemy unit while not in concealment terrain. But the first part above already said the unit is treated as being in concealment terrain. Thus a good-order unit behind Bocage can always gain concealment if no enemy unit has LOS clear of Bocage. Wow.

The second part of this means that those pesky RPh activities (e.g., rallying, deploying or recombining) that usually risk "?" loss now no longer affect concealment status, even with LOS. More importantly, movement behind a Bocage hexside does not cause "?" loss, so reposition your troops at will. Of course, firing over the Bocage hexside will still cause "?" loss, but that's okay. As we've already seen, regaining concealment will be very easy once your next CCPh rolls around.

What's the sneakiest way to use Bocage? That's easy. Fire during your PFPh and then drop WA. Your opponent won't have the chance to fire during Defensive fire. You can even reclaim WA during your subsequent APh. Bocage at its finest as defensive terrain! Of course, this only works as long as no enemy unit is adjacent. More importantly, remember Mandatory WA? You can only do this if you have in-hex of at least +1. If you don't, then you can't voluntarily give up WA, even in a Bocage hex.

Now for an example. I only have one, which seems to me to cover most of the major points. Perusing the examples in the Rulebook of course will further enlighten.

Example 1
All hedges are Bocage. Hex E5 (with the German 8-3-8) has woods, the other hexes with units have no terrain other than the bocage hexsides. No other units exist. Both German units have WA.

The 3-4-6 has LOS to both German units, regardless of WA status, because it is in the adjacent hex. The 7-4-7 has LOS to the 8-3-8 (because of the German's WA status) but no LOS to the 4-6-7 because LOS can't be traced along a Bocage hexspine. For the same reasons, the 3-3-7 can see the 4-6-7 but not the 8-3-8.

The 4-6-7 and 8-3-8, because they can claim bocage TEM vs all enemy units with LOS, are treated as being in concealment terrain (even though the 4-6-7 has only open ground in its hex) for "?" gain/loss issues and out of LOS for all "?" gain purposes and for "?" loss related to any RPh activities or MF expenditure. Since both are considered in concealment terrain and out of any LOS, both would automatically gain concealment, and would not require a dr. This is true even with the 3-4-6 unit in the adjacent hex, because the German units have WA and thus the bocage TEM. If the 3-4-6 instead had WA, then the two German units would no longer receive the bocage TEM and the above would not apply.

And of course, the 8-3-8 can drop WA anytime, so could Prep Fire and then drop WA and disappear from view, since the 3-4-6 couldn't claim WA itself (because of the 4-6-7 which still has WA).

Now assume the 3-4-6 in F4 doesn't exist. The 4-6-7 can't voluntarily drop WA because it has no in-hex TEM of at least +1 (per Mandatory WA), so it remains in the LOS of the 3-3-7. The 8-3-8 can give up WA status because of the woods terrain in its hex, and would then be out of LOS of both remaining American units. If there was an entrenchment in the hex with the 4-6-7, that unit could drop WA to enter the entrenchment, and would be out of LOS of the 3-3-7 (but the 3-3-7 could see the entrenchment itself).

Okay, end of Lesson 2. Happy hunting, and don't forget your Culin Hedgerow Cutter.