Sunday, October 26, 2008
Just a quick post to let people know that the richfam (Jay Richardson) Tutorials in the list of links in the upper right hand corner of the blog have been updated to the original threads on BGG where Jay has now included illustrations.
Way to go Jay and thanks!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
- http://countzeroscorner.blogspot.com/ - Right here on blogspot there is at least one other ASL player blogging his experiences. "Josh" runs countzeroscorner.blogspot.com 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.
- http://banzaipipeline.blogspot.com/ - 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.
- http://aslok.blogspot.com/ - (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.
- http://www.winhaven.net/TRAC/ - 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.
So, you're curious about ASL and, like me, found the idea of learning and playing the game a daunting task without anyone to tutor you in its finer points -- or even how to get started... Perhaps you've even picked up an ASL Starter Kit (#1-#3) or the ASLRB itself, but it's still not clicking.
For me, I found that the Internet has been a godsend in terms of aggregating information on how to start playing this wargame. Here is an annotated web bibliography for total newbies (and people who found the search term ASL on google to be a little less than expected):
1. "Richfam"'s ASL Tutorials #1-3 - (And #4 here with graphics even!) As mentioned in my last post, Boardgamegeek user "richfam" (Jay Richardson) has created the obsolutely best introduction to ASL that I've seen. If not for his tutorials I doubt I would have ever picked up the Starter Kits or even understood how to begin playing. Mr. Richardson has used a very easygoing, narrative style, to explain and break down the reasons for the rules. After reading his tutorials you can easily visualize the action. For example, his explanation for residual fire left by defensive first fire totally makes the system comprehensible. The Starter Kits just give you the rules and not the whys and wherefores. If you've picked up the official ASL Rulebook or perused the Starter Kits you'll understand the difference between legalese and narrative rule writing style immediately.
I'm not putting down the "ASL-ese" of the official stuff, since an experienced player would find that much more useful, but being introduced to the game with the richfam Tutorials has been basically akin to having an expert player around to show me the ropes. Kudos to Mr. Richardson! Many on BGG eagerly await the final installment of the tutorials (#5) which will address Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) aka TANKS!!!
(In my last post I wondered why richfam wasn't hired by MMP but I understand now that he has been employed in some capacity by them in their periodicals -- way to go!)
1.a. Boardgamegeek Files - Proceed immediately to these files and print them!
- ASLSK1 Sequence of Play - Step by step sequence of play (or get this one that includes SK1-3 -- it is the one I use). Those feeling brave should check out the ASOP!
- ASLSK1 Tip Sheet - Another sequence of play file.
- ASLSK1 Errata - Everybody makes mistakes!
- ASLSK1 Abbreviations - Better start getting use to the abbreviations!
2. An Introductory Guide to ASL - I found this .pdf file hosted on the "View from the Trenches" website (VFTT being the long running British ASL newsletter) though it is also on BGG. It's not the easiest thing to absorb in order to learn the game but it's "official" in that it was ostensibly written by MMP, the publishers of ASL itself. Unless you have mucho experience in wargaming and/or have had at least some exposure to the game I don't see total newbs as gaining much other than having a very short but somewhat comprehensive summary of the game as a whole. The best reason to check out this guide is the FREE print and play stuff incorporated into it. A little bit of printer ink, glue and elbow grease will get you a small functional introductory scenario to start. As for View from the Trenches itself, all of its issues from the very very beginning are available on their website and fearless newbs should check them out.
3. EIGHT STEPS TO ASL: A Programmed Instruction Approach By Jim Stahler - Found on the MMP website itself, the document/article appears follow the standard wargame-style learning convention of "programmed instruction". That means that you are slowly given short chunks of rules to absorb and learn in increasingly more complicated scenarios. Hopefully, by instructions' end you'll have the full ruleset (or at least most of it) under your belt. Now, to be honest, this method isn't best given that the Starter Kits have superceded it and that this eight-step approach requires the financial commitment of at least the official Rulebook (~US$65 versus the Starter Kits' ~US$20-35 each) and the first module Beyond Valor (~US$90). I've included the link here though because I find it interesting how learning the game in the past without an experienced player would have been tediously and almost impossibly obtuse for the total newbie.
4. The 2 Half-Squads Podcast - Podcasting has finally come to the world of ASL. Of particular note is the sixth episode where they do a more concentrated job of focusing on how total newbs can learn the game. However, the 2 Half-Squads always make an effort to explain things in their broadcasts. Spontaneous and entertaining, Jeff and Dave's podcast is an easy listen -- I've burned the first ten episodes to MP3 to listen to on the daily commute and have enjoyed them immensely. For newbies, Jeff and Dave do a good job making ASL fun. The only caveat I have is that the first two episodes (possible three) have some serious technical issues (ironed out by the later episodes).
5. The ASL Webdex - The Webdex is a great, albeit slightly dated, compilation of web resources for ASL. It certainly shares a bit of the roughness of some of the early hamhanded efforts of ASLers on the Internet in its presentation. However, there is a LOT of good stuff there that is sub-divided into areas corresponding to the ASL full Rulebook. For newbies there is a dedicated page here.
6. ASL Forums on Gamesquad.com - Of course, no list of links would be complete without the obligatory site for forum goers. It seems that Gamesquad.com has garnered the most traffic in terms of sheer numbers of people (players and designers) who frequent its pages. There are a couple of other forums (such as on BGG) that are useful but Gamesquad is the most familiar in its usage and conventions and thus the most newbie friendly. Check out the Starter Kit-dedicated forum for best support.
7. Daniel Savarese's ASLSK #1 Programmed Instruction - I discovered this site after I had bought and played SK1 with the richfam Tutorials (here is the whole of the Savarese document in .pdf format). It is an excellent resource that complements the Tutorials. I highly recommend it with all the resources from BGG above as you start the SKs.
Well, when I started this post I didn't think it would get so big so I'm splitting it up into two! The second post will deal with stuff for the "less" total newbie (does that make any sense?!) ...
As an ASL neophyte I found that simply skimming the stuff on ASL available on the web was a valuable experience. Sometimes I imagine learning ASL on my own pre-Internet or pre-BBS days and I cringe in horror -- no wonder there are so many posts by people who talk about buying ASL when it was first published but never actually playing it due to its practically insurmountable learning "cliff". All hail Al Gore's creation! Part Two up soon...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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...
http://www.matrixgames.com/ - Publishers of computer wargames like War in the Pacific, TOAW3, and Steel Panthers which some argue is a direct electronic descendent of ASL.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/ - 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.