Squad Leader

Squad Leader was published by The Avalon Hill Game Company in 1977, and was instrumental in introducing unique concepts into squad-based tactical games. Considered one of the most complex wargames of its time, Squad Leader was the natural extension of the trend towards greater realism (and hence complexity) initiated by several earlier games, including Avalon Hill's own PanzerBlitz and Panzer Leader. Those two earlier games were larger in scope, with pieces representing platoons and map hexes measuring 125 metres across, compared to Squad Leader's 40 metre hexes and squad sized units.

The original Squad Leader was produced in time to debut at ORIGINS '77. The original print run of 2500 copies had purple boxes which have become in and of themselves a prized collector's item.

Pieces in Squad Leader represent squads, weapon and vehicle crews, individual leaders, support weapons, and vehicles. The original game contained counters representing the German, Soviet and American armies. In actual fact, the name of the game is a misnomer in the military sense, as in some ways the player assumes the role of a company commander (i.e. he gives orders to platoons and squads). The squad leaders in Squad Leader are actually "factored in" to the squad counters, and only exceptional leaders are portrayed separately, by their own counter. Most scenarios give each player, generally speaking, enough simulated men to make up a company, though order of battle is not precise and most scenarios only give a flavour of what the real life battles were like rather than a direct simulation.

The mapboards were divided into hexagonal grids with each hex representing 40 metres of terrain. Time was said to be two minutes per turn, though the developer, John Hill, admits that this is "fudged" and that each game turn should be considered a "module of time, such that the (game's) events can occur and interact with one another."1

The Semi-Simultaneous system of play developed in the mid-1970s can be seen in Squad Leader's sequence of play. Each turn consists of two player turns, each of which is broken into 8 "phases"

  • Rally Phase in which "broken" units attempt to rally and malfunctioning weapons are repaired,

  • Prep Fire Phase in which the player whose turn it is may fire on enemy units; any units that Prep Fire cannot move or fire again for the rest of the player turn,

  • Movement Phase in which the player may move his units on the board,

  • Defensive Fire Phase in which the other player may fire on units that just moved,

  • Advancing Fire Phase in which any units that did not fire in the Prep Fire Phase may fire,

  • Rout Phase in which any "broken" units must flee for cover,

  • Advance Phase in which the player whose turn it is may move every unit one hex,

  • Close Combat Phase in which opposing units ending the turn in the same hex engage in close combat.

One aspect of the game that added greatly to its popularity were the generic isomorphic mapboards, each of which could be aligned to any edge of the same length to any other mapboard. This allowed for an almost unlimited number of combinations to create any terrain situation, including player designed scenarios. The original game contained mapboards mounted on heavy durable cardboard, which was expensive but a design feature long associated with Avalon Hill games. Each mapboard measured 10 columns of hexes high by 32 hexes wide, numbered from hex A1 in the top left corner to hex GG10 in the lower right.

Squad Leader's mapboards were photo realistic but also functional. Through the use of white dots marking the center of the hexes and the use of thread, obstacles to a clear line of sight (LOS) was determined by the actual terrain depictions themselves, not the entire hexsides. Hex co-ordinates on the maps meant that portions of maps could be easily designated as out of bounds - not something easily done, for example, on early SPI offerings. The Squad Leader maps were a great step forward.

The design philosophy that John Hill brought to Squad Leader was "design for effect." He rightly hypothesized that no matter what kind of fire you might bring on a squad of infantry, be it a flame weapon, a grenade, a machine gun, or an artillery shell, there could only be three outcomes; the squad would be eliminated by killing/wounding the men in it; the squad would be "discomfited" to some degree; or there would be no effect. Using this principle, he was able to employ a single table to create combat results of the various weapons systems used in the game.

Innovative in Squad Leader is the idea of representing heavy weapons separately from the squads...The use of separate counters for heavy weapons allows for some interesting rules. Weapons can be captured and used by the enemy, for example. Each machinegun counter has a fire-power and penetration factor, and a range printed on the front. The penetration factor is the number of additional hexes along a line-of-sight that a machinegun can project its fire. This nicely simulates the cross fire effect of machineguns, especially the heavies, and makes a difference in the tactics of the attacking units. The counters also have a breakdown number on them...2

Moves printed a prediction of Squad Leader's success in their December 1977 issue:

Squad Leader (John Hill for Avalon Hill - no relation). I would like to say more about this at a later date (my men are still stuck in the Tractor Works' sewer system), but suffice to say that AH will have a big winner with this. It's a lot of fun, if rather clumsily written and a bit overwrought in places. It is also unusual to see squads hit by fire and, as a result, lose all their money. (The word on the counter should be "Broken," not "Broke"!) And there is a lot of did rolling, but that is the nature of tactical games. John always does a good job in terms of playability and sheer gaming, and AH has backed it with some of their better graphic work. The only thing the gnaws at the back of the mind is the question of "realism" (whatever that is). You could argue forever on that, however.3

Squad Leader is a game system by design rather than just one game. The game itself came with 12 different scenarios, each one introducing more complicated rules in a system called Programmed Instruction. Each scenario card included historical information, victory conditions and play balancers for each side. However, Squad Leader also had a Design Your Own system where forces were selected by drawing playing cards from a standard 52 card deck and comparing the result to a table where different forces were described. There was also a point purchase system for "buying" opposing forces. New scenarios were published in Avalon Hill's gaming magazine, The General, as well as additional scenario packs (the Rogue Scenarios, for example, see below). Third parties also produced scores of SL scenarios.


Squad Leader attempted to simulate many types of battlefield phenomena not addressed before in a tactical board game, and enjoyed a cosmetic treatment unmatched then and afterwards. Some of these strengths include:

  • The effects of leadership on morale is elegantly handled, with extraordinary leaders (only) having direct effects on the ability of men to move, shoot, and resist enemy attack.

  • The rigid turn sequences of war games up to that point in time was dispensed with in favour of the unique eight-phase turns described above. Units could interact with enemy units during the other player's turn.

  • Some weapons could fire multiple times in a phase, and machineguns had "penetration" ability which modelled the advantages of automatic weapons.

  • The system was flexible and open-ended; the geomorphic boards could represent reasonably well many types of terrain, and the use of "Scenario Special Rules" expanded these possibilities even further. Victory conditions were also flexible and imaginative, not being confined to mere shootouts between opposing forces, scenarios could simulate all manners of military missions (especially in the follow-up modules), such as successfully escorting convoys (Scenario 15), parachute and glider assaults (Scenarios 33 and 46), the deliberate assault on prepared positions (Scenario 9), the ambush (Scenario 13), the meeting engagement (Scenario 20), the hasty attack/defence (Scenario 7), the passage of obstacles (Scenario 27), the withdrawal under fire (Scenario 40), and even such things as hostage situations (Scenario 26). In other words, missions that real life company commanders would have trained to perform.

  • The quality of the physical components has rarely been equalled by other games; counters were functional, evocative, well designed (free of clutter), and attractive. Unique components included the red "berserk" counters which added much flavour to the game; Cross of Iron added striking white-on-black counters to represent the Waffen SS. The mounted mapboards (both in Squad Leader and the gamettes) were a hallmark of Avalon Hill and were also photo-realistic, with an attractive top down view that was also functional, with line of sight (LOS) drawn from hex centre to hex centre and blocked only by terrain depictions on the artwork itself, not the entire hex as in other games.


Some of the weaknesses that keep Squad Leader from being a true simulation of the decisions that a Second World War commander would make are well known and attempts were made to address them; others were simply ignored for the sake of "playability". Some of these include the following:

  • Despite some rules for "concealment" and "hidden initial placement", most of the game is played where each player can always see what forces the enemy has and precisely where they are placed, even if out of LOS of his own units. There is little "fog of war." Attempts to redress this - some have suggested using multiple copies of the game and a third party to act as "umpire" - are cumbersome and in some cases book-keeping intensive.

  • Play is not simultaneous but done in predictable turn sequence, one player getting a turn, and then the other. An attempt to redress this was the use of "track" counters introduced in the first section of the rulebook, and the optional rule of "semi-simultaneous movement and defensive fire" which later became standardized in Advanced Squad Leader.

  • There are no partial casualties to either men or vehicles. Squads are considered to be at full strength until destroyed, and vehicles suffer no damage aside from weapons malfunctions or immobilizations; partial penetrations, panicked crews, and other battlefield phenomena are ignored in Squad Leader. (However, the concept of the "half squad" was introduced in Crescendo of Doom, though not as a battlefield result, and further developed with the introduction of special half squad counters in GI: Anvil of Victory).

Nick Stasnopolis, writing in Fire & Movement (Number 73, May/June 1991) made the following comparison:

Few tactical games during this period (mid 1970s) are comparable to Squad Leader,...which is quite popular and is of a similar scale (to Search & Destroy (SPI, 1975) and Firefight (SPI, 1976)), but has a needlessly complex combat system, leadership rules that would be more appropriate for 18th century combat and ridiculously simplistic casualty rules. It also displays the typical American fascination with gadgets while ignoring war's social, political, and logistical aspects. The wargame industry has basically ignored the more accurate portrayal of company level combat in (Search & Destroy) for the more glamorous version portrayed in Squad Leader.

Redmond A. Simonsen prefaced an analysis of the game sytem in Moves issue 48 with the following:

Folks that know better than I have said of Squad Leader: 'It doesn't have anything to do with the realities of tactical combat, but it's a hell of a game.' Others have said that it feels so much like a realistic simulation that it's immaterial that it really isn't (and doesn't pretend to be). Perhaps it could be said that Squad Leader benefits from a kind of Kodachrome 'realism' that doesn't let history stand in the way of having fun and exciting your imagination.


Three expansions (called gamettes by the publisher) were produced, Cross of Iron (COI) in 1979, Crescendo of Doom (COD) in 1980 and G.I.: Anvil of Victory (GI) in 1983.

Early plans (evidenced by the advertisement pictured at right, published in the July-August 1978 issue of Campaign Magazine) called for at least four gamettes. The first was Cross of Iron, set on the Eastern Front and with new rules focused on AFV combat. The second was A Rising Crescendo, set in the early campaigns of the war (Poland, Norway, France and the Low Countries). Promising that "armor once again takes a back seat to the infantry" the plan was to include rules for booby-traps, partisans, scouts, prisoners, and advanced movement rules (presumably Infantry Bypass). The ad mentions including Board 6 but not 7. Two additional gamettes planned at that time (and due to published in 1979...) were Cassino and Airborne. These were described as "fill(ing) out the American AFV ranks, introduc(ing) paratroops & gliders, and present(ing) our most varied terrain boards yet: mountains and rivers." This may refer to Board 7 in addition to Board 8, the former of which was actually introduced in the second gamette, re-titled Crescendo of Doom for release. The mountain board likely refers to Board 15, eventually issued with what became G.I.: Anvil of Victory.

Cross of Iron expanded the German and Russian orders of battle, including also Axis Minor infantry types. The original handful of vehicle and ordnance types in Squad Leader were expanded to include just about every type that saw service on the Eastern Front. Even before Squad Leader debuted, plans were being made to expand the initial release; these expansions would be called "gamettes" and concentrate on particular eras or theatres, all the while developing the basic game system with additional rules, new weapons types, and different terrain. Cross of Iron expanded the armor and artillery systems considerably. The "design for effect" philosophy that had guided Squad Leader's development gave way in the case of tank combat to "actual data" taking priority over "effect data." An initial intention to simply provide a few extras not contained in Squad Leader, such as SS troops, the Tiger tank, and the T-34/85, gave way in the face of requests by playtesters to what amounted to a complete order of battle for both nationalities for the entire war, including dozens of different models of SdKfz 250 and 251 halftracks and PzKpfw I through VI tanks. John Hill and Don Greenwood admitted afterwards that the project got away from them, Hill sensing that he was too easily persuaded by playtesters who probably had a higher threshold for complexity than average gamers, and Greenwood saying that had he known from the beginning that the gamette would end up so large, he would "have broken it into two expansion kits - it simply is too much for one."4

Series 100 was released soon after COI's debut, consisting of 10 additional scenarios for Cross of Iron, direct from Avalon Hill.

Crescendo of Doom provided blanket coverage to the Western Front of 1939-1941, including French and British infantry, vehicles and ordnance, as well as infantry for Finland and the "Allied Minors" including Belgium, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands. Like COI, a complete order of battle of British and French armor and ordnance was included, though American built vehicles in British service were not included (which was consistent with the pre-1942 timeframe of the gamette). Whereas COI had expanded the armor and artillery rules, COD gave new capabilities (or debilities) to the infantry, including such things as cowering and pinning, while introducing Scouts and rules for early war infantry facing off against tanks (COD felt that these troops should be at a disadvantage as far as morale went). Additionally, many new terrain types were introduced on the two new mapboards, including marsh, river, large bridges, and orchards, as well as no less than three kinds of boats to cross the river with.

As COD was finalizing its playtesting, new plans were announced for two further gamettes; the September-October 1979 issue of The General Magazine announced that G.I.: Anvil of Victory would include both American and Italian forces, and that a fifth and final gamette covering the Japanese would be released a year after that.

Lorrin Bird described the current state of the armor game after COD's release in an article in Campaign:

While the original Squad Leader game was a work of art with regard to its fine balance of playability and detail...the gamettes are coming to represent the "masterpieces" of wargamedom due to the unbelievable trivia that is included. From radioless AFV's to the benefits/handicaps of having the commander exposed, the expanding Squad Leader system is investigating and providing rules for many features of WWII armored combat that were previously overlooked in other boardgames and even miniature systems...The end result of the amazing efforts being made to make the SL system as complete as possible is that one is presented with tanks which act pretty much like they did in real life...

GI: Anvil of Victory provided expanded coverage to American forces, as well as US-manufactured equipment as used by the British in the last half of the war, as well as certain British equipment like the PIAT that was not included in COD. The rulebook for Crescendo of Doom suggested that this game would not be available before February 1981; Squad Leader fans still recall that with irony, for the game wasn't released until 1983. The "gamette" was actually bigger than Squad Leader, with 856 more counters and one more mapboard, as well as three more scenarios than the original SL. As well, two sheets of terrain overlays were included in the box. The modelling of infantry was again increased in level of detail, with squads now able to "break to green", or be replaced by lower quality units when morale checks didn't measure up to their Experience Level Rating. Many players were upset that the ELR restrictions were almost always applied to American forces and not to other nationalities as a rule. (ASL would remedy this by applying the restriction to all forces of all nationalities). Point values for US forces were also omitted from the game, restricting DYO (Design Your Own) scenarios to non-American forces. Other restrictions on US troops not present in the earlier SL game also angered some players (the original SL had a rule whereby American troops were not subject to "Desperation Morale" penalties, for example, while GI dispensed with this.) And the Italian forces promised as early as autumn 1979 did not materialize (indeed, would not, until the Hollow Legions module for Advanced Squad Leader was released in 1989.)

Nonetheless, the game system did go forward in many ways; according to James Collier in his history of Squad Leader printed in Issue 34 of The Grenadier:

Like (Crescendo of Doom) before it, GI brought mostly rules changes, including some rather drastic revisions of some of the most fundamental system mechanics. For example, in COD a provision was made to allow whole squads to be deployed into half-squads, but without providing special half-squad counters...GI brought a profusion of half-squad counters and also provided a mechanism where a squad could take half-squad casualties... Some of these changes required a reissue of many of the original infantry counters with new parameters (and a distinctly less dynamic counter art). Many AFVs had to be retrofitted with new parameters, but without counters (the player had to remember which changes applied to which vehicle). Many of the parameters chosen for US components proved to be controversial. The outcome was that GI was a very disorganized game, difficult to play "correctly". Trying to synthesize all the many rules into a coherent whole was virtually impossible, a fact tacitly conceded by (Avalon Hill) in that the GI (rulebook) index was not cumulative and did non cross-reference with the previous rules manuals.5

The end result was that German AFV counters did not represent some of the new changes, such as inferior turret armour, and German squad counters did not have accurate representations for such things as smoke making capability or other abilities introduced in GI. As far as the game system had come, it was clear that much of the foundation on which it was resting had to be redone and/or reorganized. In fact, GI: Anvil of Victory had already reached a point where most of the counters from the original Squad Leader game had been made obsolete, as German, British, French and American infantry counters were redone (with controversial "static" artwork depicting soldiers at rest rather than in action poses) with new information for smoke-making capability, and special weapons and morale characteristics (these characteristics carried over to Advanced Squad Leader.)

Three sets of "official" scenarios were released by Avalon Hill directly. Series 100 was designed for Cross of Iron and released Series in 1979, consisting of ten new scenarios designed by Courtney Allen (SL playtester and designer of Storm Over Arnhem). Series 200 (scenarios 201-210) was designed for Crescendo of Doom, and Series 300 for G.I.: Anvil of Victory (scenarios 301-310).

A rare case of third party scenarios being done by license as an "official" product was the scenario pack released by World Wide Wargames in 1982, offered by The Wargamer, containing Scenarios 81-90 for Crescendo of Doom and released in 1982. The artwork was poorly done on this offering, which was also done on flimsy paper, in booklet style, rather than the separate card stock scenarios normally associated with Avalon Hill SL products.

The Rogue Scenarios were available only by direct mail-order to Avalon Hill, and were so called because ownership of three non-standard boards (also available at that time only via mail-order) were used. The artwork on these boards were of low quality (they were later redone for ASL products to the high standards previously established), and the low hill mass on Board 11 in the earlier version was actually rendered in bright red, indicating it could be simulating either a Level One height, or possibly some other type of terrain such as ground level mud, wheatfield, etc.

Rendered Obsolete? Advanced Squad Leader and VASL

By 1983 and the release of GI, there were four separate rulebooks with sometimes contradictory or poorly integrated rules. For one example, US forces with lower morale were penalized by the fact that morale ratings were used to determine at random the ability to push ordnance through snow or mud. Logically, morale should not have an effect on such an attempt.

James Collier, in a piece entitled "Glass Anvil: A Dissenting View of GI: Anvil of Victory", presented in Volume 20, Number 1 of The General Magazine, described the situation:

By now it should be recognized that the Squad Leader series is virtually unique among WWII board games by being a game in evolution. The succeeding gamettes have not been mere additions to the original, but instead have introduced substantial revisions to the original parameters. This is even more true with GI where the bulk of both components and rules represent revisions rather than new material. There are, for example, only 300 more counters than provided with CRESCENDO OF DOOM, and well over half the GI counters represent replacements for counters previously introduced (only a handful of the original SL counters are still usuable (sic) in their printed form)... Though one must pay the price of forfeiting obsolete materials above and beyond the purchase price, the loss can be accepted as the cost of progress. There are few who would quibble with the appropriateness of the added dimensions of the revised vehicle and ordnance counters presented in CROSS OF IRON. That process is, of course, carried forward in COD and GI to include the relevant nationalities. Now GI introduces a similar order of revision for the infantry counters in addition to a number of new maneuvers and capabilities. As this evolution continues, one is eventually compelled to ask where it is going and why?

It was clear that the system had grown in ways never dreamed of in 1977; large amounts of "nutmail" arriving at Avalon Hill convinced the developers of the need to streamline the rules. Originally this was anticipated as being a simple compilation of the rules in existence, possibly redoing the "To Hit/To Kill" system used to simulate armour protection and penetration in tank combat. In the March-April 1983 issue of Fire and Movement, developer Don Greenwood stated that he saw the next project as being a hardcover or loose-leaf version of the rules, with the "entire game system ... rewritten and revised where necessary" to make one combined "advanced" version. Greenwood also, in one of the replies to Collier in the Volume 20, Number 1 issue of The General, described this project as "...a rewritten, succinct and complete compilation of the entire game system in one rulebook."

Greenwood envisioned the new rulebook as not being available before 1985, and thought it would be followed by a gamette featuring the fighting in North Africa (and allowing a redo of the German armour counters while also introducing the Italians), followed by a Russian Front gamette redoing the Russians, and a final gamette featuring the Far East, with Chinese and Japanese troops. After that, it was expected to release historical offerings with maps modelled after actual locations. In Volume 20, Number 1 of The General, he also anticipated "the Advanced SQUAD LEADER Rulebook will be a major publishing event greater than any of the previous gamette releases."

Greenwood's prediction was correct as far as time frame; in 1985 the Advanced Squad Leader system debuted. Greenwood had stated the following in the Introduction to the GI: Anvil of Victory rulebook:

During the past two years in which G.I. has been under design, I have been simultaneously making copious notes for the project which must ultimately follow it: THE ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER RULEBOOK. Don't let the title fool you. It will not be an even more complex version of what you already have, bound together between two covers. Rather it will improve the final game system by simplifying, cutting, and rewriting. The end result will be both a more comprehensive and a much shorter set of rules.

However, the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook became much more than just a simple rewrite of the rules, it in fact became a complete replacement of the games of the original SL series. Even during playtest, it wasn't clear just how the system would eventually look in completed form. Volume 21, Number 3 of The General described it as "the most ambitious project The Avalon Hill Game Company has ever undertaken" but suggested that in addition to the four basic chapters on Infantry, Terrain, Ordnance and Armor, two other sections on Airpower and Miscellaneous would round out the basic rulebook, with "many auxiliary chapters to augment this enormous system" and plans at that time (1984) called for chapters on "A Basic Squad Leader Training Manual", complete TO&E listings (what later became Chapter H), tactics and strategy analysis (which never came to pass), "Design Your Own" procedures (also combined into Chapter H), campaign games (which also did not come to pass to date in the form discussed, though a different form did appear with the historical modules), a "Desert War" chapter (which was released as Chapter F), a chapter on Deluxe ASL and at "some point in the future, an additional chapter will be added for the Japanese." This latter was actually released in two parts and covered the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO), with rules for terrain, Chinese, Japanese and USMC and early-war American/Filipino troops.

The initial reaction to ASL by our playtesters range from surprise to muffled groans over the extensive nature of the changes to the game system. However, those reservations have given way to rising excitement as virtually all have embraced the new system with enthusiastic praise for the improvements. We think your reaction will be similar. Nobody wants more rules, but ASL is not more rules - it is a better system with a sounder formation, finely organized with far less verbiage than the four gamettes which preceded it. The new counters will allow us to improve the game system with a free hand and insure that everyone will finally have matching colored counters designed and printed at the same point in the evolution of the game system.

The actual rulebook appeared in 1985, and like the playtesters, some fans were much taken aback by the wholesale changes, certainly the financial the need to replace the four modules they had spent so much money on. Only the mapboards of the earlier series would be compatible (indeed, necessary) to play the new games. Squad Leader alone had 520 1/2-inch counters and 192 5/8-inch counters rendered obsolete by the new system (in fact, many had already been made obsolete by the time GI was introduced. GI: Anvil of Victory had 1568 counters all of which were rendered useless by anyone wishing to continue on with the Advanced version. Greenwood's earlier predictions on future gamettes were also inaccurate given the need to redo every counter in the system from scratch; twelve "core" modules would be needed to introduce the wide range of nationalities in ASL. The historical gamettes (called "modules" now) did evolve as predicted.

The new game was also a minimum purchase of two components, the Advanced Squad Leader Rulebook, and an initial module, either Beyond Valor, which contained a brand new counter mix for the German, Russian and Finnish armies, as well as all necessary system counters, or else Paratrooper, which contained a limited counter mix for system markers, US paratrooper units and their German opponents in Normandy. Either initial module also required ownership of boards from SL in order to play the included scenarios. Future modules also made use of mapboards previously released only with SL.

The new game did not feature Programmed Instruction, requiring a thorough reading of at least four chapters of the ASL Rulebook in order to play a game with ordnance and/or vehicles in it. Even the most basic ASL components were no longer introductory in nature, though Paratrooper masqueraded as such. (This would be redressed in 2005 by the introduction of the ASL Starter Kits).


Squad Leader remained in print after ASL was published, presumably as a learning vehicle for the new game system; it was also a necessary prerequisite in order to obtain four of the mapboards necessary for Beyond Valor, starting a complex system of inter-dependencies that would continue during the life of the system. The ASL Annual also continued with support to the original game by publishing six scenarios in the first two issues specifically for original Squad Leader, as well as a campaign game variant. When Hasbro purchased Avalon Hill, and Multi-Man Publishing acquired the rights to ASL, Squad Leader was printed no more. Paratrooper had already been released as an "introductory" module for ASL in the interim.

Nonetheless, many aficionados continued to prefer the simplicity of the earlier design to its more complicated offspring. Projects similar to Virtual Advanced Squad Leader (VASL) for the original game system allow for live online play of Squad Leader in a virtual environment. At least one programmer is working on an Artificial Intelligence (or AI) for the virtual version of SL. As home publishing software and hardware gets more sophisticated, it is possible to produce high quality "unofficial" game components ranging from scenario cards to custom mapboards to personalized leader counters, and a small but dedicated band of third party enthusiasts still exist for the original game. The Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kits have removed any hope that the original Squad Leader might one day see print in its original form. There are enthusiasts working in an unofficial capacity, via online means such as at least one yahoo group, to synthesize the four rulebooks into their own simplified Squad Leader rulebook.


The General

Vol.14 No. 5 Jan-Feb 1978 ►"Squad Leader Historical Commentary: 'The Evolution of Small Unit Tactics'" by John Hill (Analysis)
►"Squad Leader First Impressions" by Bob Medrow (Analysis)
►"Game Design: Art or Science" by Don Greenwood, John Hill, and Hal Hock (Analysis/Comparison)
Vol.15 No. 1 May-Jun 1978 ►"Squad Leader Replay" (Strategy)  - replay of SL Scenario 1.
Vol.15 No. 3 Sep-Oct 1978 ►"Squad Leader Simultaneous Movement" by Mike Chiappinelli (Variant)
Vol.15 No. 4 Nov-Dec 1978 ►"Squad Leader Play by Mail" by Bill Farone (Variant)
Vol.15 No. 5 Jan-Feb 1979 ►"True Line of Sight" by Robert Corbett (Variant)
Vol.17 No. 5 Nov-Dec 1980 ►"An Alternate Movement System: Semi-Simulaneous Movement in Squad Leader" by Courtney Allen (Variant)
Vol.17 No. 6 Jan-Feb 1981 ►"Getting the Lead Out" by Steve Powlesland (Humour)
Vol.18 No. 5 Nov-Dec 1981 ►"Squad Leader Survey: How the Public Perceives the Scenarios" by Joe and Mike Suchar (Analysis)
Vol.18 No. 5 Jan-Feb 1982 ►"Basic Arms and the Man: Squad Leader Theory as it Applies to the Man on the Street" by Mark S. Swanson (Analysis)
Vol.19 No. 2 Jul-Aug 1982

►"Blind Squad Leader: An Extremely Realistic Blind System for SL" by Ed Rains and David Pope(Variant)

Vol. 22 No. 6 1986 ►"Holding the Ridge: An Analysis of Scenario 5" by Martin Shaw (Analysis)
Vol.24 No. 6 1988 ►"Holding Hitdorf: Another Way to Rally" by David A. Schaffer (Humour) - sometimes listed as a variant article, the piece is more of an illustration by fictional prose of the importance of medics on the battlefield, but no rules are presented.


No. 85   ►"On the Path of the Rational Tactical Wargame" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)
No. 87 Sep-Oct 1978 ►"The Weapons and Tactics of Squad Leader" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)
Special Issue #2 1981 Reprints of various articles from earlier magazines, including:
►"On the Path of the Rational Tactical Wargame" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)
►"The Weapons and Tactics of Squad Leader" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)


Nr. 48 Dec-Jan 79/80 ►"The Chrome-Plated Machine Pistol: A Look at the Squad Leader System, Part I" by Jeff Geisler (Analysis)
    ►"The Chrome-Plated Machine Pistol: A Look at the Squad Leader System, Part II" by Jeff Geisler (Analysis)

The Dragon (TSR)

Vol.IV, No.10 Iss.36 - Apr 1980 ►"Squad Leader #1: Fighting in the Streets" by Bryan Bullinger (Analysis, scenario)
Vol.IV, No.11 Iss.37 - May 1980 ►"Squad Leader #2: Large-scale Streetfighting" by Bryan Bullinger (Analysis, Scenario)
Vol.V, No.2 Iss.40 - Aug 1980 ►"Squad Leader #3 and 4: The Battles for Warsaw" by Bryan Beecher (Scenario)
Vol.V, No.5 Iss.43 - Nov 1980 ►"Squad Leader #5: The Fall of Sevastopol" by Bryan Beecher (Scenario)
Vol.V, No.7 Iss.45 - Jan 1981 ►"Squad Leader #6: Skirmish in Austria" by Bryan Beecher (Scenario)
Vol.V, No.9 Iss.47 - Mar 1981 ►"April 1945: The Russians reach Berlin" by Bryan Beecher (Scenario)
Vol.V, No.11 Iss.49 - May 1981 ►"January 1945: Will the German garrison leave?" by Bryan Beecher (Scenario)

Fire & Movement

No. 9 Nov-Dec 1977 ►"Close-up: Avalon Hill's Squad Leader" by Raymond Lowe (Analysis)
►"After Action Report: Hedghog of Piepsk, Russia '41" (Review/Replay)
►"Designer's Notes" by John Hill (Analysis)

The Wargamer

No. 30 Mar 1984 ►"Blood and Sand" by Bill Wilder (Variant)
►Scenarios P4, P6, P9

ASL Annual

ASL Annual '89 ►"The Evolution of Small Unit Tactics: A Historical Commentary on Squad Leader" by John Hill (Analysis)
►"Comprehensive Index: Squad Leader Through G.I." by Jon Mishcon (Play Aid)
►Scenarios A1, A2, A3
ASL Annual '90 ►"Giving it Your Best Shot: A Checklist for Direct Fire in SL" by Ron Shirtz (Analysis)
►Scenarios A4, A5, A6
ASL Annual '92 ►"The Commando Campaign Game: A New Challenge for SL" by Rex A. Martin (Variant/Scenarios)

Additional Articles


  1. Squad Leader Rulebook, Designer's Notes (p. 32 in the Fourth Edition rules).

  2. Geisler, Jeff "The Chrome Plated Machine Pistol: A Look at the Squad Leader System, Part I" (Moves Nr. 48)

  3. Editorial, Moves Nr. 36. The truncated use of "Broken" on the counters was noted again in Moves Nr. 48 when Jeff Geisler wrote about the use of "the irritating pidgin "Broke" (for "Broken')..."

  4. "Designer's Notes" by John Hill, Fire and Movement #16, quoted in MacGowan, Ibid.

  5. "Advanced Squad Leader: The Phenomenon", by James M. Collier, The Grenadier, Issue 34 (J. Tibbetts & Son, 1988). Collier's pique at the US representation in GI was voiced in a scathing critique of the GI: Anvil of Victory gamette published in The General Magazine, which is also quoted on this page. Collier had been one of the playtesters of that game and was unhappy with many of the eventual design decisions taken. Avalon Hill published several lengthy rebuttals in that issue (Vol. 20 No. 1) attempting to address Collier's concerns.


Squad Leader

Developer: John Hill
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Date of Release: 1977
Scale: Squad level
Players: 2
Campaign Type: Personal Campaign Game
Components: ► 4 isomorphic mounted 22" x 8" maps
► 36 page rules book
► two 6-sided dice
► 6 cardstock scenario cards
► 2 cardstock reference cards
► 520 1/2" counters
► 192 5/8" counters
Sequels: Cross of Iron
► Crescendo of Doom
► G.I.: Anvil of Victory
► Advanced Squad Leader

Early print ad.

The final gamette (1983)

Sequel "gamettes"


Listing of Official Scenarios
(including re-releases for Advanced Squad Leader)






1 The Guards Counterattack A Gen 22:6*
2 The Tractor Works B Gen 22:6*
3 The Streets of Stalingrad C Gen 22:6*
4 The Hedgehog of Piepsk D Gen 23:2*
5 Hill 621 E Gen 23:2*
6 Escape From Velikiye Luki H Gen 24:1*
7 Buchholz Station I Gen 24:4*
8 The Bitche Salient J Gen 24:4*
9 The Cannes Strongpoint K Gen 25:2
10 Hitdorf on the Rhine L Gen 25:2
11 The St. Goar Assault O Gen 26:1
12 The Road to Wiltz P Gen 26:1

*Also included in "ASL Classic" scenario release

Squad Leader Clinic


In addition to the articles in The General listed at the end of this article, there was a regular feature entitled "Squad Leader Clinic" devoted to analysis of how to play the game. The articles dealing with the original system included:


Vol.17 No. 6 "The Advance Phase" by Bruce Degi
Vol.18 No. 1 "Discussion Panel" by Bill Nightingale
Vol.18 No. 2 "Bunkers" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.18 No. 3 "Minefields and Booby Traps" by Jon Mishscon
Vol.18 No. 4 "Wire" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.18 No. 5 "Entrenchments" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.19 No. 3 "Quiz on Basic Infantry Tactics" by Bill Nightingale
Vol.19 No. 4 Quiz on Basic Infantry Tactics (cont.)" by Bill Nightingale
Vol.19 No. 5 "Origins COD Scenarios" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.19 No. 6 "Rubble and Roadblocks" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.20 No. 4 "Concentration of Force" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.20 No. 5 "Have Your Own Scenario Published" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.21 No. 2 "Smoke" by Jon Mishcon
Vol.21 No. 3 "Gambit" by Jon Mishcon









































At left: original squad artwork (an SS squad from COI).

At right: 'passive' squad artwork, showing the additional features that necessitated them (a smoke exponent and an individual ID letter).

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