Saturday, October 18, 2008

Starting Up - Web Resources Part Two


So here is part two of Web Resources... I'd like to thank the Wiggles for coming to Toronto and delaying this post! I've tried to put the links up in a nice progression so that the further down you go from number one, the more complicated the content will be to newbs:

8. ASLOK - This is the official website of the ASL Oktoberfest "convention". It's basically considered the World Championship of ASL and hosts a week-long series of ASL events and tournaments. Though I haven't had the pleasure of attending (yet!) the tournament organizers run a mini-workshop/tournament for newbies called "Maneuvers" that is Starter Kit friendly. I suppose that learning ASL from the experts at ASLOK would be the best option around. More likely though us newbies will get a bigger benefit from their fairly up-to-date links page. The page has links to clubs, third-party publishers and miscellaneous resources.

9. Desperation Morale - Early on in my research on ASL before picking up the Starter Kits I ran across Desperation Morale which is a website dedicated to the wargame by one of the hobby's well-known scenario designers Mark Pitcavage. The actual first attraction to me was the ASL Museum that hosts a wide variety of photos of ASL-related objects -- things like dice towers, 3D-maps, miniatures, storage methods etc. It's nothing short of fascinating. The website has an attached forum, downloadable (FREE!) scenarios, play-aids and an advertisement to buy Mr. Pitcavage's ASL scenario design guide. What is probably most useful to the newbie however, is the "World of ASL" pages which are a virtually comprehensive guide to every ASL product ever published (by Avalon Hill, MMP or third parties). Practically every publication gets a rundown by Mr. Pitcavage of its contents and a small evaluation as to its usefulness. There is no question that a newbie without any idea of what to buy (or even figure out what is what) to get into the hobby would find the website invaluable.

10. Miscellaneous blogs/club websites: TPBF is not the first blog to focus on the experiences of an ASL player or the hobby. There are quite a few club and individual websites out there that are current and "living". Check out the links page on the ASLOK site (above) and the clubs listed. Here are a highlighted few:
  • - Right here on blogspot there is at least one other ASL player blogging his experiences. "Josh" runs which also doubles as the Spokane ASL club's website. Josh was kind enough to comment on TPBF's first post and we'll see if we can't all make a concerted effort to sell others on this fine wargame and hobby.
  • - Ostensibly the most current form of the Texas ASL club whose Banzai magazine has run for years and years. The Banzai Pipeline is updated quite frequently with AARs (after action reports -- short comprehensize debriefings of playings of ASL scenarios). Some of the Banzai back issues contain interesting strategy articles. The Pipeline AARs are great for newbies to see what full rule ASL is like.
  • - (not to be confused with ASLOK above) Another ASL blog run by Todd Wiley from Michigan. His tournament AARs are great for newbies who are curious about the more competitive world of tournament ASL.
  • - The Tri-State ASL Club's website which is not on the ASLOK links page probably due to the fact that it doesn't seem to be very active anymore, has a few interesting links for newbies, especially on their ASL Basics web pages.
Those are only a small sampling of the clubs and blogs out there or even aware of.

11. - The VASSAL Engine is an open-sourced Java-based software application designed by one Rodney McKinney that allows users to import boards and game pieces into its format and play boardgames over the Internet remotely. It leverages the advantages of the computer like easy set-up, takedown, saving games, chat capability, match-making etc. VASL is the module that allows VASSAL to simulate the boards and pieces of ASL. It has, reputably, led to a major upswing in the ASL hobby as being "face-to-face" is no longer a requirement to play. Most major boardgame publishers, especially the wargaming ones, see VASSAL as an extension and competitive advantage to their products. Best of all VASSAL and VASL are free. How is this possible? As mentioned, the project is open-sourced and Mr. McKinney derives no commercial benefit outside of the donations he receives and the engine itself does not have an Artificial Intelligence or programmed opponent. It merely hosts a method of display of boards in a virtual manner for opponents to manipulate via mouse and keyboard -- in other words, you still have to buy the rulebooks and know how to play, VASSAL just let's you do it with someone across the world at the same time. VASL is worthy of a series of posts all by itself so I'll leave it there. Newbies can find the best use of it immediately by finding players who are willing to teach them in the game lobbies and saving board set-ups while learning.

12. ConsimWorld - This website is famous for its hosting of very old school chat forums dedicated to wargames (CONflict SIMulations). More web savvy users may find that ConsimWorld's unusual conventions of having a continuous discussion per topic rather than threaded posts archaic and user-unfriendly. For example, contrast ConsimWorld's forums to BoardgameGeek's -- it seems that the "divide" between new Euro-gamers and wargamers of the past is alive and well in this communication methodology. That being said, newbies who are unafraid (or just want to lurk like me) should check out the MMP folder, the ASLSK folder and the ASL-proper folder. It takes a bit of effort over a few days and then you'll be able to follow the conversations a little more easily. Be aware of course that in-jokes, personal familiarity and occasional snobbery make for an intimidating community to break into for some. I've found however, that CSW's greatest strength is its unparalleled involvement of wargame designers in the various discussion folders. If you want to get closer to the people who make wargames and ASL, go to CSW.

Well there you have it. Some of the most useful websites out there for aspiring ASL players. I hope it was useful.

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