Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who am I?

I thought that I'd talk a little bit about myself to try to provide a little context to what this blog will be about and how ASL fits into this new player's recreation time.

I am a life-long game fanatic. I've played boardgames, computer and console video games, role playing games and collectible (and non-collectible) card games of all shapes, sizes, complexities and themes. I'm not sure where it started really; it's not like my parents pushed me into this hobby. Certainly I was always interested in games as a test of skill and intellect but I think the "fun factor" and vicariousness of gaming in a certain "role" was a huge draw. For example, playing chess evoked the image of a mighty general-king at war with an opponent. It was "fun" to picture yourself in that position and "fun" to win. Later, chess turned into Risk and Monopoly, then to Axis and Allies and Dungeons and Dragons, and then Magic: The Gathering, and so on.

Fast forward past getting married, having two kids and playing A LOT OF GAMES... In the past couple of years I have been playing a lot of computer games and games on my XBox 360 along with the "Euro" boardgames that had been garnering a massive North American presence since The Settlers of Catan burst into the hobby in the mid-90's. Burnt out a bit on MMORPGs on the PC, the non-stop shooter parade on the 360 and the feeling that I had played every conceivable Euro-mechanic in existence, I started to look for a new gaming outlet.

As a history buff, especially of the Second World War (and being a high school teacher of it), I started to combine my interest of games with this fascination. I had always had a soft spot for wargames, be it Risk or Supremacy on a table, or Combat Mission or Call of Duty on the computer, so I went looking for the latest and greatest. I visited developers and publishers like Matrix Games and the like. I actually picked up a bunch of titles like Steel Panthers: World at War, The Operational Art of War III, and War in the Pacific. Through it all was the looming presence of grognards who passed judgement on "realism", complexity and whatnot. They'd complain like it was the worst of times (yet still the best of times).

A lot of wargamers mentioned something called ASL. I found out that their hushed whispers were due to the game's lengthy history and legendary complexity. Not one to shy away from a challenge I researched this thing called Advanced Squad Leader and recognized it from my days of collecting and playing a lot of Eurogames. I remembered hobby shops carrying the massive bookcase games of Avalon Hill and the lengthy shelf space reserved for ASL's huge rulebook and seemingly unending copies of modules. I remember thinking how anyone could possibly spend so much time and money on such a hobby. Ridiculous!

On one of my favourite websites, BoardgameGeek, I'd read comments on games and wargames about how ASL wasn't so much a hobby as an obssession. Many said that once they had played it, they didn't need to play anything else. It's funny how things come full circle. My interest in history had pushed my interest in games to WWII and to the one game many said was the game, the best in the field. ASL was not my first wargame purchase in this revival period for me and it certainly won't be my last. However, a few learning games in, I think ASL is definitely here to stay on my gaming table.

I've already written too much about me. But I think it's instructive to know the profile of the person who is attracted to ASL these days and picks it up and marvels at it and takes the plunge to play. I'm certainly not a lapsed original Squad Leader player from the "old days" -- not that that's a bad thing! Reading about other players and trying to suss out who the "typical" ASLer is interesting, I think. Gamers, history buffs, competitors, whatever -- we're all just trying to have fun!

With this post and the previous mission statement I think I've established a firm context from which to approach this game called Advanced Squad Leader. So, let's see if I can post some of the initial experiences with the game out next...

Links: - Publishers of computer wargames like War in the Pacific, TOAW3, and Steel Panthers which some argue is a direct electronic descendent of ASL. - In my eyes the best boardgame-centric website on the Internet. It's where I found the majority of the information when I started looking for ASL stuff. ASL newbies, check out the ASLSK page where a lot of help can be found including this file that is "richfam's" ASL tutorial document in pdf. Hands down it's the "bestest" thing for a new player ever. How MMP hasn't given this man a fricking job yet I'll never know.

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